Author Topic: Renegades  (Read 32039 times)

Deadborder

  • Lieutenant Colonel
  • *
  • Posts: 7882
  • Technical Victory!
    • Elmer Studios Blog
Re: Renegades
« Reply #270 on: 03 January 2024, 03:50:35 »
Guest Chapter by Zogster

Note: This chapter takes place between Knight Star and Titanfall

Summer Camp

Ahmer forests, Alwain
Esteros


“What have we got?” Jakub asked, eyeing the structure on the distant rise. Comet company’s recon lance followed him through the dense purple forest, pushing deeper into Mandragov’s territory. Thus far it had been quiet. Quiet enough to make him worry.

Rowan focused her Firestarter’s Beagle Probe on the hill, examining it for a brief moment. “Looks like a group of light wooden building under a broad shade. There’s a few smaller structures, but I can’t discern their purpose. Also got a watchtower just a bit removed. It’s not military though.” They could hear the confusion in her voice. “Kinda of outdoorsy, but not too much.”

“Scout camp,” Darsh said from his Firefly’s cockpit. “I used to go every summer back on Cajamarca. I bet they’ve got a climbing wall.”

“Huh. That checks out,” Rowan said.

“Sounds real cute,” Wen added from the Nighsky’s helm. “What do you think boss, do we investigate?”

Jakub’s answer was supplied for him. Before he could respond, a flight of missiles shot from the top of the watch tower, streaking towards his lance. “Scatter!” he called out over the comms. They all simultaneously activated their jump jets, launching in different directions. The missiles arced upwards and slammed into his Shadow Hawk’s legs, peppering them with impacts. He shifted the BattleMech’s weight in mid-air, bringing it to a controlled landing and almost immediately launched from the ground again.

The four ‘Mechs in the recon lance bounded over the trees, closing in on the formerly innocuous scout camp. Machine gun fire opened up from the lower buildings, raking across the approaching BattleMechs. At the same time, a truck pulled out from behind the camp, making its way down a dirt road through the forest.

The battle was swiftly joined. Jakub and Darsh closed in on the camp’s low-lying buildings, raking them with laser fire. Jakub sent a short-range missile streaking into a barracks’ open door, which blew out the windows with a satisfying explosion. Rowan bounded towards the watchtower, licking its wooden supports with her OmniMech’s flamers. Surrounded by the fire, a couple of troopers ditched their missile launchers and jumped. Wen dashed past the compound and took to the dirt road, baring down on the fleeing truck. Its back opened up revealing a squad of infantrymen who opened fire on the approaching Nightsky.

For all their efforts, the infantry’s resistance was short-lived. The Nightsky surged ahead, pulling alongside the truck. A mighty blow from its hatchet separated the cab from the trailer. The trailer tipped over, sending the infantry sprawling across the ground even as the cab veered off and slammed headlong into a tree. Back at the camp, the Shadow Hawk and Firefly’s lasers seared across the light wooden buildings, stripping the men inside of cover. Once the Firestarter turned its attention to the camp, the infantry quickly laid down their weapons in surrender.

“All units check in. What’s your status?” Jakub requested. He got a round of confirmations from his lance. Nobody had suffered anything beyond light armour damage, due as much to the speed of their response as the light opposition they faced.

Rowan scanned the remaining buildings with her OmniMech’s Beagle Probe. “Nothing to be found,” she declared after a moment. “No supplies, no munitions, nothing.”

“What do you reckon they were doing?” Darsh asked, eyeing the assembled infantry at their BattleMech’s feet.

“Delaying us,” Jakub replied. As short as the battle was, it would take them much longer to secure the infantry and scour the countryside in case of other surprises. “And it worked. Let’s hope that’s all they’ve still got out here.”
Author of BattleCorps stories Grand Theft Agro and Zero Signal



How to Draw MegaMek Icons the Deadborder Way. Over 9000 so far. Determination or madness?

Deadborder

  • Lieutenant Colonel
  • *
  • Posts: 7882
  • Technical Victory!
    • Elmer Studios Blog
Re: Renegades
« Reply #271 on: 03 January 2024, 04:02:26 »
Guest Chapter by Zogster

Note: This chapter takes place between Knight Star and Titanfall

By The River

Kamir, Alwain
Esteros


According to the Star’s intel, the town of Kamir was an important waypoint for Mandragov’s forces. Straddling the river Yorel, the warlord had moved much of his troops and materiel across its three historic stone bridges to the western expanse of Alwain. As such, once Van der Kriel’s forces had been broken, it was vital to hold Kamir to prevent further reinforcement of the region.

The situation was not what they expected.

Determined to make and impression on the no doubt battered defenders as well as bring her biggest guns to bear, Lana had strode into town with her command lance. Isaías’ heavy tanks came up the rear, followed by a squad of Battle Armour. And yet, for such a vital position, the streets were empty. No tanks were dug in awaiting their arrival; no infantry were encamped in the low brick buildings. The citizens had cleared the streets, no doubt fearful of getting caught in any ensuing conflict. But it seemed there was none to be had.

“What happened here?” Lana mused, as much to herself as to her forces.

“Could be they bugged out,” Isaías replied. “We hit them pretty hard at Abbeville. May be there wasn’t much left to reform.”

“I don’t know... We don’t wipe them out. A lot of troops just up and fled from both battles. This would be a natural rallying point.”

“We’ll keep our eyes open,” Isaías replied.

They fell silent as they advanced through the streets. Lana surveyed the town as they passed. It was a curiously old-fashioned place, all rustic brick and stonework. Even the wind turbines on a nearby hill had a quaint charm to them. As her Battlemaster passed through the town, she caught glimpses of curious onlookers poking their heads out of the buildings.

“Heat signature,” Peyton suddenly reported. The signal registered on Lana’s monitor, equating to a heavy BattleMech. It was coming from the town’s center, just this side of the river, and the most built-up part of Kamir.

“Command lance, with me. Isaías, take your tanks to the river and circle around.” An idea was forming in her head, both about the situation in the town and its last defender.

The BattleMech’s under her command picked up their pace. As they approached Kamir’s center, they fanned out, ready to box in their prey. No doubt seeing them coming, the sole enemy BattleMech revealed itself, stepping from behind the town hall to advance on Lana.

It was an Axman, or at least what was left of one. While still clearly functional, it was heavily damaged. The BattleMech’s left arm was missing, and much of its left side was torn apart. Thermal sensors showed excess heat leaking from its reactor. Lana couldn’t help but notice mush of the head’s armour had be slagged by laser fire, including melting off one of the BattleMech’s distinctive head fins.

Lana cut in her Battlemaster’s external speakers. “I am Ugala Lana Kotovski of the Star of Sumer. You are outnumbered and outgunned. Surrender.”

The only response the enemy ‘Mech gave was to brandish its hatchet. Peyton’ s Gallowglas brought its gauss rifle to bear on the damaged ‘Mech. “Do we fire?’

“No,” Lana replied over the radio. She turned back to the speakers to address the Axman. “This isn’t a fight you can win. Stand down.”

“Mandragov charged me with the defense of Kamir,” came a voice over the Axman’s speakers.

He sounds so young... Lana thought. “Where did you come from?” She said.

“I was in the battle near Abbeville, by the river,” came the reply. “We had you pinned.”

Before the Iron Knights intervened and routed your forces, Lana thought. “Before that. Where are you from?” She said. Her Battlemaster lowered its massive particle cannon, and after a moment’s hesitation the Gallowglas did the same.

“I’m from Kamir,” the Axman’s pilot admitted after a moment.

“It’s a lovely town,” Lana said, as much to her foe as to the crowd of onlookers that was beginning to gather. “All a battle is going to do is damage it. Neither of us wants that.”

As they were talking, Isaías’ tanks rolled into position. His own Challenger MBT parked itself in the Axman’s rear, angling its cannons up at the ‘Mech.

A quiet message from Isaías pinged on Lana’s console. She glanced at it, and nodded to herself. Just as I thought.

“I have to hold the line for Mandragov’s forces to return,” The Axman’s pilot said.

“That won’t happen,” Lana replied. “I saw what he did here. You’re cut off. He’s already abandoned Kamir and he’s abandoned you.” She gave it a moment to sink in, then added “You’ve got nothing to fight for.”

There was a long, tense silnece before the Axman moved. The heat signature faded as the ‘Mech powered down. Its remaining arm lowered, leaving the hatchet to droop to its side. Lana breathed a sigh of relief.

The Battle Armour squad moved forward, intercepting the Axman’s pilot as he clambered down from his BattleMech. The locals however crowded around the town hall, eager to get inside. In her cockpit, Lana glanced down once more at Isaías’ message. Footage from his tank’s battleroms clearly showed where Kamir’s three bridges had been destroyed, their rubble choking the Yorel river.

Lana sighed. This was going to be a considerable delay. But at least nobody was hurt.


Author of BattleCorps stories Grand Theft Agro and Zero Signal



How to Draw MegaMek Icons the Deadborder Way. Over 9000 so far. Determination or madness?

Deadborder

  • Lieutenant Colonel
  • *
  • Posts: 7882
  • Technical Victory!
    • Elmer Studios Blog
Re: Renegades
« Reply #272 on: 07 January 2024, 02:03:09 »
Guest chapter by Zogster

Playing with Fire

Jakub couldn’t recall when he’d last been to Ur’s machine shop. It was a miracle of miniaturization, with a comprehensive array of equipment tucked away in a tiny corner of the ‘Mech bay. What’s more, it could be easily compacted away for when the dropship was under microgravity, everything packed up to the point that it was almost unnoticeable.

But for now, it was busy. Repairs were underway after the battle for Tirana, and numerous ‘Mechs, Tanks and Battle Armours needed servicing. Faraji, the Star’s chief technician was leaning over one of the instruments. The only downside of the machine shop’s effiecient construction was that it always seemed too small for their towering mechanic. Still, he ground away at the vital parts needed to keep the unit running.

Faraji straigtened up for a moment, wiping his brow. A brief glance aside brought Jakub to his attention. He snapped off a salute to the young officer, which Jakub immediately returned. “Need an update?” he asked.

“No, nothing like that,” Jaub replied. He smiled nervously, trying to compose his words. “Rather, I’ve got an odd request.”

“A special order?” Faraji asked, his curiosity piqued. “We’ve got all our orders in, so if you need anything for the Princess, it’ll be in queue.”

Jakub shook his head. “It’s not for my BattleMech. It’s for a friend.”

“Something I can make for you?” Faraji asked.

Jakub pondered for a second, then said “I think it’s something I should make myself.”



“Do you know what I hate about this planet?” Rickie David asked nobody in particular. Nestled in the cockpit of Flammenwhurfer, his custom Hunchback, he could see little more than the lush purple foliage that surrounded them.

No answer was forthcoming. Truth be told, his Miscellaneous Detachment was far from the deepest of thinkers. But they were all reliable MechWarriors, and more importantly they were not too discerning about the kind of mission they took on.

“It’s the bloody colour,” Rickie answered himself. The Hunchback swatted at a tree ahead of it, splintering the trunk and sending its top half scattering into the forest. He gave a satisfied grunt and pushed on ahead.

“It’s dry,” came Karloff’s voice from the Calliope behind him. “Lights easier.”

Inwardly, Rickie braced himself. Karloff was perhaps the exception to his lance’s reliability, due to his inordinate love of setting things alight. And he was just as likely to remain silent as he was to launch into one of his oddly poetic recitations on the nature of fire.

Fortunately, he seemed to settle on the former. After a moment’s silence, Rickie let out a sigh of relief. He needed to focus, and Karloff was a distraction he didn’t need.

Soon enough the forest thinned out and gave way to the outskirts of Tirana. Towering blocky industrial plants spread out around them, making for excellent cover as they entered the city. The region was quiet, industry being shut down after years of neglect and isolation. Rickie lead his lance through the twisting maze of passages under the shadow of the industrial wasteland, masking their approach.

Already, their objective loomed large in the distance. Beyond the blocky structures that engulfed them, the conical forms of the enemy mercenaries’ dropships towered above the city. Violetta’s little pup may have gone silent, but before that he had reported their foes had moved into Tirana. And while the dropships were parked in the city’s massive drop port, the usual civilian camps had sprung up around them.

Technicians. Workers. Families and friends. The soft underbelly of any mercenary unit, usually dragged along from planet to planet but kept safely away from the conflict. It was an unspoken rule that they were left alone, and any student of mercenary history could point to the disastrous consequences of breaking this rule.

Rickie knew his history. He also knew leverage when he saw it.

“We’re almost there. Remember, we get into position, weapons armed, but we don’t open fire unless I say so.” Rickie thought a moment and added “That means you, Karloff.”

Ay reply the Calliope’s pilot could make was cut off by a sudden shout. Daria called out from her Firestarter’s cockpit “I’ve got interference on my probe. It’s ECM.”

“Where?” Rickie replied. His Hunchback cast about, scanning the terrain around him. Just as the industrial blocks hid his lance, they could easily conceal any number of attackers.

Panic clear in her voice, Daria called out “It’s on top of us!”



Faraji looked down at the tangled mess that Jakub was standing over. He’d heard the story of how the Iron Knights’ scout had brought in an enemy scout, disabling his vehicle with a single well-placed shot. Even if the motor was replaced, the ATV would never run again. It had tumbled down a hill, smashing itself on the rocks and beating its body well out of shape.

“So why do you want to use this? It’s junk,” Faraji said.

“It’s, uh…”” Jakub paused, chewing on his words. He was still working through a lot of new ideas, things he’d learned recently from Iulia Dragan. But this was one of his own. It was hard to explain, especially with the skepticism he expected to face. Yet he had to try.

“This is something that was forced onto him,”’ Jakub said, looking down at the mangled wreckage of the ATV. “Something  from the worst part of his life. But I feel if I can make something… Well, good from it, then I can turn that fortune around.” He looked up at Faraji, his eager expression meeting the technician’s gaze.

Faraji didn’t know what to make of it. MechWarriors tended to be a superstitious lot, and mercenaries doubly so. He’d seen his share of different types come and go, and their little ways and rituals seemed harmless enough. But this?

He studied Jakub for a moment. He’d know the youth for most of his life, and had never found him other than decent, straightforward and honest. And now there was nothing but an earnest desire to help on his face, as weird as it may seem.

“Alright,” Faraji said eventually. “What are you making?”



“We’ve been made!” came the call from Rowan’s Firestarter.

Jakub responded by kicking his jump jets into action. “All units, spring the trap!” He called out. It was telling that his lance moved as one, engaging their jets when he did without waiting for the command. The four BattleMechs of Comet Recon soared into the air, arcing over the cluttered industrial blocks that had shielded them and rained fire down on the enemy lance.

The Firefly’s froglike form squatted atop a tower, its lasers burning into the back of the Koshi. Darsh grinned in his cockpit as he saw heat blossom in the enemy ‘Mech’s reactor. The Koshi spun and fired, short-range missiles tracking their way up the tower as it raised its arms. They impacted across the structure, causing the tower to collapse under the assault. But the Firefly was already airborne, leaping as much as gliding to a new perch.

Wen’s Nightsky came in from above, tracing fire down on the Hunchback. Solid beams and burning darts of light seared across the Hunchback’s body. Wen raised the Nightsky’s hatchet and brought it down in a massive swing as he landed. The Hunchback barely evaded, swaying back from the blow and coming back around with one of its own, driving a blocky fist into the Nightsky’s side.

“I’ve scrapped with better than you!” the Hunchback’s pilot yelled out over his speakers. The Nightsky leapt into the air, but he followed, engaging his own jump jets. They exchanged fire as they climbed, laser pulses digging into the Hunchback’s chest even as a pair of plasma cannons belched fire. White-hot plasma cut into the Nightsky’s body like a scalpel. Wen lost control and his ‘Mech went crashing into the upper floor of a former factory, disappearing under the rubble.

“Amateur,” The pilot spat and turned to look for more prey.

“Wen! Report!” Jakub yelled from Princess’ cockpit as he twisted above the battlefield. His autocannon and missiles peppered impacts across the Calliope’s body, staggering the ‘Mech and drawing its attention.

“I’m… okay,” they replied with a pained grunt that suggested anything but.

Momentarily relieved, Jakub returned his attention to the battle just in time to see the Calliope return fire. Princess twisted in mid-air, letting the searing lance of plasma slip past it. A swarm of missiles burst around him, coating the Shadow Hawk in burning hot gel. Jakub grimaced as the cockpit flushed with heat, and warnings lit up across his board. He brought his ‘Mech down to the ground, in clear sight of the Calliope. Even as it turned to track him, Jakub thumbed the fire selector and sent a solid stream of shells from his autocannon crashing into the enemy ‘Mech’s kneecap. It was enough to throw off the Calliope’s aim, the ‘Mech spraying more inferno missiles downrange but fortunately not near him. Jakub stepped aside behind the cover of a cargo elevator to let his ‘Mech cool off.

The Firefly arced above him, leaping from rooftop to rooftop with the Koshi hot on its tail, spraying missiles wildly from its arms. They impacted across the uneven industrial rooftops, weakening the structure under the Firefly’s feet. Darsh nimbly leapt ahead, soaring the Firefly to its next perch. As he jumped, he twisted his ‘Mech around and fired. Lasers and missiles tore into the rooftop he had just left, even as the Koshi came to land on it. The rooftop crumbled beneath its feet. The Koshi’s plot tried to fire its jets to escape, but it was too late. Darsh watched as the enemy’s BattleMech plunged into the building which rapidly collapsed around it.

Jakub eyed his heat gauge. The inferno gel had burned itself out and his BattleMech’s heat sinks had kicked in, bringing things back under control. He could feel the change in the cockpit already. A quick check on his battle map showed that the Calliope was otherwise engaged, and he was free to move. “Comet Recon, check in. What’s your status?”

“I could do with a hand,” Rowan reported. Her Firestarter fed his ‘Mech a position for the enemy’s Firestarter, moving in amongst a field of long-empty oil tanks. Jakub spotted Rowan’s location amongst the tanks and he smiled. “On my way, Recon Three.”

He turned and accelerated the Shadow Hawk in their direction. His screens flickered briefly as he entered the familiar field of Rowan’s ECM before his ‘Mech was correctly excluded from its effects. Rowan’s active probe kept him updated on the enemy’s position, while her ECM blanked out their own.

Closing in, Jakub kept an eye on the enemy Firestarter’s movements. Just as it stepped into a path between the oil tanks, Jakub accelerated Princess to meet it. He snapped off his weapons, peppering the Firestarter’s flank with missiles and autocannon shells. The Firestarter rocked under the impact and twisted to face him. Its lasers seared bright blue furrows into the Shadow Hawk’s arm, while the mech’s flamers fell just short of reaching him.

“Now!” Jakub snapped out. Rowan’s own Firestarter popped out from cover behind the enemy. Brilliant darts of energy leapt from her ‘Mech into the enemy’s back. Reacting on instinct, the enemy pilot pulled their Firestarter around to face Rowan’s, raking laser fire across the oil tanks before bringing them to bare on her opposite number. Jakub took the opportunity to send a solid stream of shells into her back, even as Rowan retreated from her fire.

“Forget this,” The enemy pilot said out loud, her comment somehow coming over an open channel. She kicked the Firestarter’s jump jets into gear, shooting straight out of the trap into another one. Darsh’s Firefly opened fire from its perch as soon as she cleared the oil tanks, tracing laser fire straight down her ‘Mech’s torso. She returned fire even as she struggled to keep stable mid-air, managing to tag him with one of the large lasers before he launched from his perch.

A pair of searing white beams cut up from the ground, cutting clean through the Firefly’s body as if it wasn’t there. Jakub watched in horror as Darsh’s telemetry vanished from his screens. The squat ‘Mech rolled forwards as it fell, coming crashing down to street level on its back.

“Two down,” The Hunchback pilot announced as his ‘mech strode past the Firefly’s downed form. It leaned forward and fired, plasma cannons cutting into the oil tank right by Jakub’s cockpit. “I don’t know why I brought the rest of you bludgers,” he growled as the Calliope and Firestarter formed up on his flanks. “I can do this all myself.”

Jakub didn’t wait for them to join the fire. He pushed Princess’ throttle, surging it into cover behind a solid brick tower. Missile and laser fire impacted into the building, while some caught his Battlemech’s trailing arm. Warning lights flicked on across his board, but instead he focused on his map. Seeing where his lancemates were, he smiled.

He surged out of cover, bringing his weapons to bear on the Firestarter. Even as the enemy ‘Mech fired, he leapt away. One laser traced up and bit into his leg, but the other went wild. Instead, focused as she was on Jakub, Daria didn’t see Rowan’s own Firestarter emerge behind her. An array of laser, machinegun and flamer fire drilled into the BattleMech’s already weakened rear from point-blank range. The enemy Firestarter spun drunkenly, trying to draw a bead on Rowan’s ‘Mech before it simply collapsed backwards against a building.

A stream of laser fire cut through the gloom behind the remaining ‘Mechs, tracing across the Hunchback’s arms and legs. The battered form of Wen’s Nightsky jetted down from one of the industrial stacks, coming to a land on the street. “Deal with it!” The Hunchback pilot spat at the Calliope as he tracked the fleeing Firestarter, sending searing plasma streams after it.

The Callipe’s MechWarrior spun on the spot. His MML fired straight down the street, spreading inferno gel all across the Nightsky’s body. It momentarily vanished in the firestorm before emerging, covered head to toe in the burning gel. Karloff stood transfixed for a moment as the Nightsky advanced, watching the flames dance across the ‘Mech’s body as it strode towards him.

Then it accelerated. The Nightsky’s myomers kicked into high gear, giving it a surge of power. It dashed down the street, faster than ever before, drawing back its hatchet arm. Only too late did the Calliope’s MechWarrior react, enthralled as he was by the sight. He tried to turn away, but it was too late.

Wen swung. The axe, still coated in burning gel, bit hard into the Calliope’s flank. It cleaved through armour, coming to a halt just beneath the BattleMech’s missile launcher. The massive force of the impact tipped the Calliope over even as the burning axe ignited the inferno missiles stored in its hull. The Calliope vanished in a titanic fireball, vapourised from the inside out.
Author of BattleCorps stories Grand Theft Agro and Zero Signal



How to Draw MegaMek Icons the Deadborder Way. Over 9000 so far. Determination or madness?

Deadborder

  • Lieutenant Colonel
  • *
  • Posts: 7882
  • Technical Victory!
    • Elmer Studios Blog
Re: Renegades
« Reply #273 on: 07 January 2024, 02:05:24 »
----

Rickie twisted his Hunchback’s body away from the blinding fireball. He cursed out loud, seeing the last of his lance go up in flames. To his side, the enemy’s Firestarter came to a land. It opened fire, licking his ‘Mech with lasers and flamers. Rickie gritted his teeth as heat flooded the cockpit, only intensified by his own return fire. A blazing spear of plasma cut into the Firestarter’s leg. He saw it stagger and sway, barely managing to remain upright despite the leg locking in place. More laser fire cut into his side, tracing up the torso and searing into the Hunchback’s arm. It cut off above the elbow, dropping the useless limb to the ground. He saw the Nightsky advancing slowly, its body blackened from the inferno and its laser emitters still glowing.

“I don’t care! I’ll bring you all down!” he hollered. He locked onto the Shadow Hawk even as it turned to face him. His plasma cannons spat fire, even as its own autocannon barked out, smashing into the Hunchback’s weakened shoulder. The delicate cannons were ripped apart, shells detonating within its structure and tearing open the Hunchback’s distinctive weapon housing. A thick gout of black smoke poured out and the Hunchback staggered, off-balance, before crashing down to the ground.

“It’s over, Rickie,” the Shadow Hawk’s pilot said over his speakers. “You have to surrender.”

Suspended in his command couch’s restraining straps, Rickie David spat and cursed. He’d been bested, lost his men and his beloved Flammenwhurfer was severely damaged. Three enemy ‘Mechs were poised over him, ready to cut him down if he made the wrong move. No, as much as it galled him, there was only one option.

“I give,” he said. The Hunchback seemed to slump in place, as if the ‘Mech itself knew it was defeated. The enemy commander’s orders washed over him unheard, as one small matter nagged at him.

“Now how’d you know my name?”



“Yasir!” Jakub called out as he strode across the camp outside their dropships. The young man looked up to see the mercenary pilot approaching and snapped to his feet. He was amazed just how forgiving and even accommodating his captors had been. He’d essentially been released, and given free reign of their unit And in exchange…

“How did it go?” Yasir asked nervously as Jakub stepped up to him.

“Your intel was spot on,” Jakub replied. “Numbers, composition, even their likely approach. We were able to intercept and eliminate them before they got here.”

Yasir gave a sigh of relief. He felt nothing for having betrayed his unit, the people who had abducted him and pressed him into service. If anything, he was grateful that the Miscellaneous Detachment had likely met its end. They would not hurt anyone anymore.

“There’s something else,” Jakub said. He fished around in the pouches of his pilot suit, before he drew out a small bare metal badge. It was teardrop shaped, with two chevrons and a star engraved in it. The Star of Sumer’s unit insignia.

He handed it to Yasir who turned it over in his hands. “Wait, is this…” he trailed off, trying to understand the implications.

“It’s nothing official,” Jakub said. He paused, trying to figure out just how to explain it. It didn’t feel right to call it magic or a charm, especially since it was something he’d made up himself. Instead he said “It’s for luck. To remember us when you get home.”

Out of nowhere, Yasir lunged forward. Before Jakub could react, the youth had wrapped his arms around him and buried his head in the pilot’s shoulder. “Thank you! Thank you…” Was all he could hear. Coming out of his momentary stupor, Jakub gently returned the embrace and patted Yasir on the back. Now, more than ever before, he felt like he was doing good.

Author of BattleCorps stories Grand Theft Agro and Zero Signal



How to Draw MegaMek Icons the Deadborder Way. Over 9000 so far. Determination or madness?

Deadborder

  • Lieutenant Colonel
  • *
  • Posts: 7882
  • Technical Victory!
    • Elmer Studios Blog
Re: Renegades
« Reply #274 on: 11 January 2024, 06:15:42 »
Guest chapter by KayEmm

Greene Room

Outside Tirana
Alwaid
Esteros


In many ways, Greene was glad to be in the field at the controls of his Chameleon. Out here in the field it was just him and his lance and nothing else, which was a position that he was glad to be in. Here he didn’t have to play politics within the unit or, for that matter, deal with their supposed allies.

The situation within the combined Screaming Demons/Red Reapers camp was one that he found distinctly uncomfortable. There was no way around it; he simply didn’t like the Red Reapers at all, not as a unit or as individuals. He saw them as opportunistic thugs, ones who were more like pirates who had given themselves a veneerer of legitimacy than anything else. Some of them even seemed to be revelling in that point.

A good example was the lance that he was supposed to be working with. Rickie’s ‘independent operations’ unit were supposed to be a dedicated raiding lance that could operate behind enemy lines. What he actually had seen of them was a bunch of bandits who had been given carte blanche to do whatever they wanted by their commander. They were the sorts who would engage in wanton attacks on civilians and rampant looting. The sort of mercenaries that sullied the reputation of everyone else.

On the upside, Major Guise had been good to him as a reward for his efforts. The salvage they’d taken from Mandragov’s forces had allowed the Demons to make good some of the losses they had suffered earlier on. Right now, his own Recon Lance was back to being an actual Recon Lance, and no longer was dragging around the deadweight of a Violator that they’d been lumbered with. And Greene would much rather have had his lance at his back than the mixture of leftovers that he’d been commanding for the last couple of months. And he knew that no matter what, Major Guise would have his back and not leave him in the lurch, unlike their so-called allies.

His lance was moving through the hills around Tirana, aiming to learn more about the new threat that Demios had steered them towards. Here it was just the four of them, no unit politics, no dubious allies or anything else. Right now they were moving through the fringes of the purple woodlands on the city’s north-east side, the skyline of central district visible in the distance. Even this far off, he could see signs of the recent fighting that made it clear that that there had been recent fighting within the city.

That had been one of his objectives; find out the full strength of the forces that had taken Tirana and to see how badly damaged they were. He remembered their first engagement months ago, and the forces that they had been up against back then. He wasn’t sure if that unit would have been enough to defeat Mandragov’s forces given what the Demons and Reapers had faced so far, which was concerning to say the least.

“Contact!” Leminoke called out over the communications network. He had lost his original ‘Mech at Red hills, and replaced it with a Stiletto was that had been salvaged from Mandragov’s forces. As an advantage, it now had the best electronics of all the lance. “Looks like an enemy lance headed in our direction.”

“It’s what we’re here for,” he replied. “Let’s try to get a better look at it.”
He opened the Chameleon’s throttle, his ‘Mech charging forwards through the undergrowth, scattering purple foliage as he went. The rest of his lance joined in formation around him, pushing forwards. A quartet of red icons appeared in his display, indicating the enemy units. However, as he closed, the symbols on the screen began to shift and distort. “Enemy jamming!” He called out. “Keep your eyes open!”

----

“Okay team, you know the plan,” Leon Mackinaw spoke over his command channel as his lance advanced towards the enemy. “Keep them out of the city and stop them from getting away.” The first part was to simply reduce the amount of information the enemy could gather and report back on about their forces. The second objective, however, was twofold. If the enemy got into Tirana, it would make them a lot harder to track down and eliminate. At the same time, he had no desire to inflict any more damage on the already war-torn city.

Leon opened fire with his Large Laser at the edge of its range, more snapping off a shot than aiming to do any damage. If nothing else, it would give them something to think about and possibly throw off their own plan. Beside him, Chai's Wolfhound let fly with a blast from its Extended-Range PPC, adding its own searing blue beam to the mix. “Looks like we've got a bunch of light ‘Mechs and maybe a medium,” he added as the icons continued to update on his display.

Leon knew that his lance was the lightest of the Iron Knights' BattleMech company and was the least capable in a fight. However, this battle was not going to be about firepower as much as it was mobility, with outmanoeuvring his enemy being the key to victory. “Try to keep them penned in,” he continued as enemy missile fire scattered around him. “Don't let them use their own speed.” A Large Laser shot scored some armor off the Phoenix Hawk's side without penetrating.

He fired his jump jets, twisting the Phoenix Hawk in the air to keep it trained on the enemy force. At the centre of their formation was a Chameleon, a ‘Mech that was usually used as a trainer and was a close match for the abilities of his own. “That's probably their commander. I'm gonna try and keep him pinned down.”

Leon landed in a run, firing his PPC as he went. The weapon flared at the muzzle before unleashing a bold of brilliant blue energies that slammed into the Chameleon’s side, peeling through armour. The enemy ‘Mech did its best to return fire, another large laser blast flying just past the Phoenix Hawk. “Come on, get closer. I dare you,” Leon commented as he continued to close down the distance between the pair of them, adding his medium lasers to the fray.

The rest of his lance were also closing in, with Sterling and Wash's BattleMechs bounding over the landscape on pillars of fusion fire. The pair fired as they moved but had little chance of hitting; their shots were more aimed to distract than damage. Lacking jump jets of its own, Chai's Wolfhound was at the back of the pack, adding its own fire in support as she continued to push forwards.

For their part, the enemy force was doing their best to react to his aggressive approach, something they probably were not expecting from another scout lance. Aside from the Chameleon, a Stiletto and Firestarter were also charging forwards, the former spraying long-range missiles at whatever it could find. A Wasp (a different model to Bob's, Leon noted) hung back, trying to act more as a light sniper than anything else. “Wasp's yours, Dagger two,” he called out. “I've got their lead.”

He pushed forwards towards the Chameleon at ninety kilometres per hour, quickly eating up the distance between the two ‘Mechs. As soon as he could, he unleashed another volley of weapons fire, acutely aware of the heat washing into the cockpit as he did. His PPC smashed into the side of the enemy ‘Mech, while lasers further scored into its armor; not penetrating, but at the same time clearly worrying it. The Chameleon replied in kind, its Large Laser going wide as it tried to keep him in his sights.

Behind him, Bogerman and Wash were taking advantage of their mobility to get around the Firestarter and Stiletto, harassing the enemy ‘Mechs with laser fire. While they weren’t doing much actual damage, they were keeping the enemy MechWarriors occupied and unable to focus on a single target. Chai was following up with her own long-range firepower, but her lack of jump jet was slowing her advance compared to the rest of the lance.

Another burst from his own jets allowed Leon to pivot around the Chameleon, keeping it separated from the rest of its lance. As soon as he was down he broke into a run, opening up again on the enemy ‘Mech. Once again, his PPC flared brightly before smashing into the enemy machine, flaying more armor from its flank. The enemy MechWarrior responded with their own lasers, the large further drilling into the side of the Phoenix Hawk's chest.

Before Leon could respond, a PPC shot hit the Hawk, further shaking the ‘Mech. A smattering of missiles went wide of him, making their intended target clear. Glancing to his side, Leon could see the Wasp pivoting around, keeping its weapons tracked on him. Didn't see that coming, he scolded himself as he reconsidered his options.

That problem was solved for him as Chai's PPC smashed into the Wasp's torso, tearing apart the missile launcher built into it and leaving its arm bent awkwardly to one side. That seemed to have made the MechWarrior inside reconsider their options as they fired their jump jets, vaulting backwards into the trees in an effort to disengage.

“Nice shooting Dagger Two,” Leon commented. “Now let's see about the rest.”

-----

Green was gritting his teeth as he continued to run and fire his Chameleon's weapons, trying to figure a way out of the current situation. The enemy lance was doing a good job of keeping his hemmed in and locked down, especially now that Mizrabekyan had decided to make a break for it rather thank keep fighting in a badly-damaged BattleMech. It didn’t help that the enemy ECM was doing a good job of cluttering his display with noise, making it hard for him to get an accurate read on the situation.

He fired his lasers again, managing to score some more armor off the Phoenix Hawk that he'd been duelling with. In response, it struck back with its PPC, blasting into his side. Greene could see the damage display turn a very angry red as the armor on his flank all but vanished under the assault. Leminoke and van Vilet weren't doing too much better, the enemy Wasp and Spider having done a good job of keeping them pinned down while dancing around their weapons. It was all van Vilet could do to simply flail away with his flamers at the edge of their useful range and hope he hit something.

To make matters worse, a PPC shot struck the Stiletto's side, the enemy Wolfhound having decided to join in the fray as it closed in on the pair of them. However, that also gave him an idea, one that could yet get them out of this mess. “All units, target Bravo Wolfhound,” he called out over the command channel as he pivoted his own ‘Mech, opening up on the enemy with his lasers. Shots scored into its armor, clearly grabbing the MechWarrior's attention.

A PPC hit from the Phoenix Hawk tore into the armor on his leg, but Greene ignored it for the moment. Instead he fired his own jets, leaping away from the medium enemy ‘Mech. “Form up on me and focus fire,” he ordered, with the other two members of his lance doing their best to comply. Several missiles pockmarked the Wolfhound's armor, followed by a single laser from the Firestarter, both of which at least managed to stagger their target.

He fired again, this time having an appreciable effect. His large laser hit the Wolfhound’s leg, causing the light ‘Mech to stagger and then stumble. Several more shots from his lancemates had the desired effect, knocking the enemy ‘Mech to the ground and creating a hole, if only temporary, in the enemy formation. It wasn't much, but he'd take it. “All units, fall back through arid Echo-Six. Engage targets of opportunity but maintain formation.” Getting his men back alive with the information he'd gathered took priority over everything else.

He jumped backwards towards the treeline, with van Vielet's Firestarter joining him. Lacking jump jets of its own, Leminoke's Stiletto was left to run after them, the birdlike ‘Mech making up the distance with its impressive speed. “Recon Two; as soon as we're inside the treeline start burning us a break. The smoke will give us cover and give them something to focus on.”

“Roger that,” van Vilet confirmed, probably eager to actually contribute to the battle.

Several shots flew at his lance as they pulled back, most of them flying past them or hitting with little damage. But just as they came down at the treeline, a shot from the Phoenix Hawk's PPC smashed into the back of Leminoke's Stiletto as it was running. The shot blew through the armor, causing the ‘Mech to tip forwards, its front end ploughing into the ground, kicking up dirt and purple undergrowth as it went.

“Status?” Greene called out.

“I think my gyro's blown,” Leminoke replied, fear obvious in his voice. “I can't get it to stand or even move.”

“Damn it,” Green spat as he considered his options. Only he and Mizrabekyan had hands, and the latter had already taken off. “Sit tight and-"

His order was cut off as a flight of missiles peppered the Chameleon’s chest. Glancing up, Greene could see a pair of Calvary VTOLs heading towards his location; the enemy pilots having likely used the combination of the ECM and terrain to mask their approach.

“What are we going to do, boss?” van Vilet asked.

Green quickly glanced over the situation. “Fall back,” he reluctantly ordered.

-----

“I'm sorry I let them get away, Major,” Leon admitted as he stood in the Iron Knights field headquarters.

“Why?” Kailtyn Farris replied, her tome more curious than anything else.

“Because now they know where we are,” he admitted. “And I could have done more to stop their forces.”

She shook her head. “What's important is that you kept them out of the city and stopped them from doing any damage to our strength or the people,” she explained. “Yes, they are aware of our location, but I suspect they knew that already. This was likely more of a probe than anything else.”

“I guess so,” he admitted.

“And you bought back your entire lance alive with only light damage,” she continued, an encouraging smile on her face. “While they lost one with nothing to gain from it. We salvaged a mostly intact ‘Mech and we now have a prisoner.”

Leon paused. “You're going to set Iulia on him.”

She shook her head and held up a finger. “I'm going to get her to ask him some questions, that's all.”

“Sure,” Leon nodded, figuring it was best if he didn't think about it too much. “And thanks.”

“For what?” She asked, a curious tone in her voice.

“For having realistic expectations of me and my lance, I guess,” he shrugged. “And not, I don't know, micromanaging us at every level.”

Kaitlyn smiled and nodded. “You're good at what you do,” she explained. “And I'm not going to tell you how to do your job.”

Leon chuckled. “Now that's a pleasant change from my past experiences.”

Author of BattleCorps stories Grand Theft Agro and Zero Signal



How to Draw MegaMek Icons the Deadborder Way. Over 9000 so far. Determination or madness?

Deadborder

  • Lieutenant Colonel
  • *
  • Posts: 7882
  • Technical Victory!
    • Elmer Studios Blog
Re: Renegades
« Reply #275 on: 11 January 2024, 06:19:19 »
LIC Surveillance Log 553-29F

Baroness Giana Sigonella: Thank you for accepting my invitation to this meeting. While I was hoping that it would be face to face, this will have to do.

Merchant Deneel: And thank you for being willing to listen to us, Baroness Sigonella.

Sigonella: So I will get to the point, Merchant Deneel. What is your Clan's interest in Esteros? If you'll forgive my blunt approach, but so far you have not been acting in a Clan-like manner.

Deneel: Clan Jade Falcon is dead, Baroness. I am here on the behalf of the Alynia Mercantile League.

Sigonella: I see.

Deneel: Do not mistake us for the fallen Clan. We are not here to conquer, merely to secure what we want. And unlike Warriors, we are open to negotiations.
Sigonella; And I presume then that what you want is the mines on Alwaid?

Deneel: That would be correct. They possess mineral resources that we need for our own purposes.

Sigonella: And that's why you sent mercenaries to secure it.

Deneel: Correct.

Sigonella: Hm. And your... League has no designs on the rest of the world?

Deneel: We do not. The primary value of Esteros to us lies in this one facility.

Sigonella: I see. Now I will be honest here, Merchant Deneel. As you are doubtless aware through your mercenaries, the Esteros Assembly is set on ‘reclaiming' the entire world from the mess the Falcons left us with. And to many in the assembly, having an enclave of a foreign power sitting on one of our continents will not sit well.

Deneel: Then what are you suggesting? Further military action would be wasteful to both of us.

Sigonella: I agree entirely. That is why I am proposing that the AML leases the mine from the Esteros Assembly.

Deneel: Interesting. You guarantee us autonomy to run the mine as we see fit and extract and export the minerals we want, and we would be more than willing to provide financial compensation in return. It is a lot less... complicated than the other options.

Sigonella: With options for renewal or even expansion as you needed, of course.

Deneel: Of course. Countess Sigonella, I feel that we can come to some form of mutually beneficial agreement here.

Sigonella: Naturally. I just want to make sure we both get what we want.
Author of BattleCorps stories Grand Theft Agro and Zero Signal



How to Draw MegaMek Icons the Deadborder Way. Over 9000 so far. Determination or madness?

Deadborder

  • Lieutenant Colonel
  • *
  • Posts: 7882
  • Technical Victory!
    • Elmer Studios Blog
Re: Renegades
« Reply #276 on: 17 March 2024, 05:19:30 »
Guest Chapter by Zogster and KayEmm

Reap the Whirlwind

Dropship Red Son
Outside Tirana
Alwaid, Esteros


It was cold, dark and raining. She was hiding in a hollow, behind a rock, gripping a pistol for dear life. She was cold, tired and afraid, knowing full well what was at stake. Around her, she could hear voices shouting, calling out to each other in a language that she didn’t understand. However, she also knew what they were saying. They were hunting for her.

Kaitlyn Farris blinked awake, taking in her surroundings. She was in her bunkroom on board the Red Son, which was still in its ‘night’ cycle. A glance at her chrono told her that it was still the small hours of the morning, but yet she was wide awake. Sighing to herself, Kait quietly climbed out of her bunk as not to wake anyone else in the room, heading out to the small bathroom located between the three bunkrooms.

Not even bothering to turn on the light, she activated the tap and splashed some water on her face. Then she took a handful to drink just to clear her mind. The water was stale, a flavor she had become accustomed to from the ship’s decrepit systems. Still, it was enough.

She turned around, only to see Iulia standing in the hallway behind her. She took a deep breath before she got started, knowing exactly where the conversation was going anyway. “I dreamed about the mountain again.”

“It is expected,” Iulia simply replied. “It was an important moment, one where the world turned. It was what made you who you are today.”

“I know.” She shook her head. “ I just…” she sighed. “Given that we’re now engaged with another new opponent, it feels somewhat ominous.”

“It could be,” Iulia nodded. “But think of it this way. It is also a moment when you faced a great threat and were able to triumph. You came out stronger for all you had been through.”

“And you think that applies here?”

Iulia nodded. “Yes.”

“Right.” Kaitlyn nodded. “So what do you suggest?”

There was a pause. “Use that moment,” Iulia suggested. “Do not dwell on the hardships, but what you gained from it. Yes, it was a hardship, but think of all that you gained from it.” She nodded. “And one other thing.”

“What?”

“Get some sleep,” Iulia finished.

Kaitlyn chuckled a little. “Thank you for that.”

“Besides, we have a lead,” Iulia continued. “We know who these opponents are and we have faced them before.”

“That does help,” she admitted. “What do you think you can make of it?”

“A lot,” she finished confidently. “But that will come later.”

—--

“No,” Jakub said firmly.

“You need me out there,” Wen replied. They sat up in the med bay bed, ready to stand. Jakub gently put a hand on their arm, his eyes flicking from the MechWarrior’s face to the bandage around their head.

“What I need is for you to get better,” Jakub replied. “Besides, Axe Gang is still being refitted after the last battle. We don’t have anything for you to pilot.”

A flood of emotions crossed Wen’s face, their mouth scrunching up. After a long moment, they replied “Fine. It’s just without Darsh and I…”

They trailed off, seeing Jakub wince at the mention of their lost pilot. It can’t have been easy, Wen thought, realising that Darsh was the first MechWarrior to die under Jakub’s command.

“No, we talked about it,” Jakub said, his voice stuttering almost imperceptibly. “Rowan and I are being seconded to Mackinaw’s recon lance for the time being.”

Wen nodded their understanding. The lanky MechWarrior could only imagine it would be a relief for Jakub to step back after the harrowing fight with the Red Reaper’s Miscellaneous Detachment. “I’m still gonna worry about you, you know,” they added eventually.

“Hey, I’m your commanding officer,” Jakub replied. “It’s my job to worry about you.”

“You’re pulling rank on me here?” Wen said, the mock offense obvious in their tone.

“Yeah, and I’m ordering you to get some rest,” came Jakub’s final command.

Wen gave an expansive shrug. “Well, if you put it like that…” They leaned back into the bed, wincing a little as their head hit the pillow.

The two said their goodbyes and Jakub turned to leave. Katarina was waiting outside the med bay, although he couldn’t tell just how long she had been there.

The two assessed each other for a moment. Katarina wore a look of concern that Jakub knew all too well, whereas Jakub realised that his own worries must have been painted all over his face.

“Does it get easier?” Jakub asked out of the blue.

“Hey, you did better than I usually do trying to keep Lana in bed,” Katarina replied. A nervous smile crossed Jakub’s face, which Katarina matched. She threw an arm around his shoulders and guided him towards the ‘Mech Bay. “The hard part’s over. Now all you’ve got to do is fight the enemy in your giant robot.”

“Oh yeah, easy,” Jakub replied, his smile becoming genuine. With that, the pair headed out.



Dropship Inferno
Alwaid, Esteros


As he looked over the map of the region, Lewis Guise couldn’t help but feel a little bit pleased with himself. The map was displaying the known locations of the identified enemy forces, along with their dispositions. What made this important to him was that this information had been bought back by his men through his efforts.

It had been hard not to be openly pleased when he’d heard the full report of what had happened. Greene’s recon lance had made contact with the enemy and skirmished with an opposing BattleMech lance before withdrawing. While they had lost a single ‘Mech (albeit one that they had salvaged from Madragov’s forces) they had gathered considerable information while also damaging one of the enemy ‘Mechs.

Conversely, the Red Reapers had sent out their special operations lance, a group that Major Vujvic seemed to be considerably invested in. That force had failed to return at all, with all four of its ‘Mechs either lost or, even worse, salvaged by the enemy. Furthermore, the members of that lance would have been able to provide a wealth of information to the enemy while costing Vujvic one of her major supporters.

In short, he had come out of it all looking good while she had taken a few major blows. And after she’d rejected him at their victory celebration, he couldn’t help but feel that she’d been put in her place by this latest development. Whatever was going to happen next, he would be the one calling the shots.

The best part of it was that Demios was also aware of how everything had panned out and had made it clear that he was a lot happier with how the Screaming Demons had fared. The agent had come to them and made it clear that the next step would be the elimination of the mercenary forces that were presently occupying Tirana. That would in turn leave the entire Alwaid continent unstable and without any central authority, which would suit Demios’ plans.

And Lewis Guise and the Screaming Demons would be the ones to do it.
He had called the Screaming Demons command staff to a briefing to plan his next move. “Thanks to Lieutenant Greene’s efforts, we now have an open path to the enemy. Furthermore, we’ve got a good measure of their forces and have been able to verify that one of the two mercenary units present in Tirana is the same ones we faced at Red Hills.”

“The same ones that defeated us,” Markov noted. “And left us where we are now.”

Lewis shot him a glare, angry as much for the reminder of what had happened as he was for Markov throwing off his good feelings. “Different circumstances,” Lewis shot back. “They surprised us thanks to Major Russel’s tactical failings, and we knew nothing about them at the time. This time we’re on the offensive, have better intel and have better leadership.”

Markov’s only response was a small grunt. Dismissing that, he looked over the map again. “Our armour units will stretch of woods that Greene’s lance burned, which will give them a clear path through to the city. That will grab their attention while our ‘Mechs use the woods as cover for their advance, which will allow us to take them by surprise.”

He looked over his command staff, ignoring the look Captain Grana was giving him at being assigned the role of ‘distraction’. “Recon lance will take the lead and flank the enemy once they’re engaged. That will then allow our main force to move in and take them.” He smiled to himself. “At the same time, the Reapers will move in from the other side and we will have them.” He was confident that Major Vujuvic would be receptive to his plan, especially now that she was on the back foot after her recent defeat.

“With a bit of work, we’ll be in Tirana by tomorrow night.” He finished.

“Assuming everything goes to plan,” Markov noted.

“Of course it will,” he finished. And as confident as he felt, there was a lingering feeling of doubt in the back of his mind, one little thing that he couldn’t put aside. The red Marauder that had killed Major Russel.

And then he shook it off. “There’s nothing for us to worry about.”

-----

Lewis and Violetta had met half-way, at a temporary camp where their ‘Mechs were staged. He had explained the plan as he saw it, watching for her response. The other commander was carefully neutral. Her hair was already bundled up to go with her neurohelmet at hand, giving her a stern aspect. She had listened impassively to his briefing, waiting until he was done.

“You’ll be taking the lead, of course,” Violetta said.

“Of course,” Lewis agreed, his tone more than a little self-important.

“You have direct experience against this unit,” she stated simply. “You know better what we’re up against. And, well…”

Inside Violetta seethed. The thought of prostrating herself before this worm was almost too much to bear. But she bit down. She needed this to go well, and she needed Lewis to play his part. She had no illusions that he would be victorious, but at least he could do some damage.

“Your unit has had the best track record so far.” She could almost see the overstuffed peacock swelling before her.

“No, it all makes perfect sense,” he agreed, his tone condescending in its air of superiority. “And I have devised a plan that will allow us to make the most of the information that my men gathered.” His emphasis of the last part was intended to be a clear reminder of the comparative losses their units had suffered in the last skirmish. “Just follow my lead, and we have this.”

“Very well, Major.” Violetta held onto her last shreds of self control just long enough to snap a salute to her opposite number. Without giving him a chance to reply, she turned on her heel and headed to her Gunslinger.

----

Between the battle at Barandov and rounding up stragglers from Mandragov’s forces, the Screaming Demons had been able to rebuild to a full BattleMech company. Lewis Guise had done well from this arrangement, having restructured his command lance to a proper fire lance rather than the combined grab-bag he’d been left with. With two other fire ‘Mechs, his lance could stand back and control the battlefield with more focus than he’d had before.

As Greene and Markov’s lances had engaged the enemy, he’d kept his lance at the back of the formation, providing support to their advance. His Archer was in the midst of their formation, the foundation stone on which not only his lance but the entire unit depended. With the woods serving as cover, he was reasonably shielded from enemy fire. And the data coming from the other Demons gave him ample targeting information.

“Target alpha, Thunderbolt,” he called out over the command channel as he locked up the target BattleMech. A moment later, he triggered his Archer’s missile launchers, sending two flights of long-range missiles towards the enemy ‘Mech. Missiles peppered its shoulders and torso, clearly making their mark. Moments later, the other members of his lance followed through, sending a rain of missiles towards the target. That was enough to stagger the Thunderbolt, keeping it off-balance.

So far, things were going well. The Screaming Demons had been able to break through to Tirana using the route that he’d picked out. Their forces had been able to drag out the mercenaries according to his plan, allowing him to get the opening that he needed. All that they had to do now was simply eliminate them.
Glancing at his tactical display, he could see the way that the battlefield was unfolding. His forces had pushed deeply into their lines and had established a firm beachhead that would be hard to dislodge. All he needed to do was to capitalize on that initial success. “Demon Lead to all units,” he called out over the command channel. “Keep pushing and do not hold back!”

He triggered another volley of missile fire, targeting a Catapult that had been trying to position itself for its own counter-battery assault. Missiles peppered the enemy ‘Mech, forcing it to step back in to find shelter. We have this, he confidently told himself.

—--

Kaitlyn did her best to ignore the shaking of her BattleMech as a flight of missiles impacted into the body. Her armor was only lightly damaged so far, giving her little to worry about. Rather, her focus was on the battle as a whole and how it was unfolding.

They had identified the enemy unit as the Screaming Demons, the same ones they had fought months ago. The enemy had come in through the stretch of burnt forest that they'd left in their wake after the last skirmish. They'd headed up with their light armor units before committing their BattleMechs, doing their best to tie up her forces. And now they had a trio of missile-armed ‘Mechs lurking in the woods at the back of the field, laying down a rain of long-range missile fire.

All of which was going exactly how Iulia had predicted it would.

Her second had been allowed to talk to the prisoners they had taken from their previous skirmishes, using what she had learned from them to form a portrait of the leadership of the two enemy forces they were facing, with the information she'd gathered on the Screaming Demons leader being very useful. He thinks that he is a genius, she had noted. And that nobody recognizes him for it. If you make him think that he has won, then you have defeated him. She had also noted that there was a rift between the two forces. They work together, but they are separate. Two halves, not a whole.

If there was one thing that Kaitlyn had learned over the years, it was to trust the insights of her second, as they had proven to be uncannily accurate. And right now she could see how those predictions were unfolding. Her forces had been holding back, letting the Screaming Demons over-extend their own advance while their leader had been deliberately staying at the back of the field, limiting his own effectiveness. And now was the time to strike.

“Knight Lead to all units,” she ordered over the command channel. “Close the noose.”

Her Warhammer IIC pushed forwards along with the rest of the Iron Knights, advancing on the flanks of the Screaming Demons formation. As she advanced, Kaitlyn dropped her sights onto the first available target, a Goblin Infantry Tank that was cutting across her path, turning its turret towards her. She fired first, her Extended Range Particle Cannons unleashing a pair of hellish blasts that smashed into the Goblin's side.

The tank spun under the impact, leaving a trail of parts and slagged armor in its wake before stopping dead by a rock. A moment later, the top and back hatches opened as both the crew and the infantry inside bailed out of the doomed tank.
She didn't waste any further time on it, instead continuing her advance and seeking out her next target. A Demons Exhumer was in among the rocks, the BattleMech spitting missiles from its broad chest as it advanced. She wasted no time in firing off another pair of shots, the heat from her weapons fire washing into the cockpit as the PPCs again unleashed their assault. One of them went wide of the mark, but the other smashed into the Exhumer's side, staggering it a moment under the impact.

The enemy MechWarrior recovered quickly and snapped off his own fire. One of the lasers scored armor from her leg, while the missiles scattered damage across the Warhammer IIC's body. A quick glance at her display told Kait that her thick armor was holding, and that she had little to worry about for the moment. Confident, she pressed forwards, continuing her assault.

More heat hit her as she unleashed another assault on the Exhumer. Both of her PPCs struck home, smashing into the board torso and arms of the ‘Mech, causing it to falter for a moment. One of her lasers did the most, however, slicing through the exposed bones of the Exhumer's arm, sawing it in half at the elbow. Unbalanced by the assault, the enemy BattleMech's return fire went wide, spraying the area around her with missile fire.

An alarm gave Kait a moment's warning before a volley of autocannon fire struck her ‘Mech, rocking the eighty-ton machine under the impacts. Glancing at one corner of her screen, she could see the source of the attack; a dome-headed Koschei that was advancing on her flank with a surprising speed for a heavy ‘Mech. A glance at her display told her what they were trying to do by attempting to bracket her between them and the wounded Exhumer.

In response she fired her jump jets, the massive Warhammer IIC leaping backwards and around a rock formation, landing in the midst of a collection of purple scrub. That had clearly thrown her opponents off as the Koschei wheeled around to try and keep its weapons trained on her. Behind it, the one-armed Exhumer tried its best to follow her.

She and the Koschei opened fire on each other at the same time, but it was very much an uneven exchange. Her PPCs smashed into the enemy ‘Mech's arm and side, tearing huge chunks out of its armor. Her pulse lasers followed up, slicing armor off and digging into the exposed wounds. In return, she was battered by a volley of autocannon fire and an accompanying PPC strike, but they did little to penetrate her protection; even then, however she couldn't help but spare a glance at her display.

Further back, the Exhumer tied to bring its weapons to bear, but instead found itself under attack from an unexpected direction. Leon's Phoenix Hawk sprinted past the ‘Mech, unleashing a volley of PPC and laser fire into its already damaged flank. Clearly he hit something as the Exhumer staggered forwards, black smoke pouring from its rear.

Glancing at her display, Kait could see how the battle was unfolding. “Knight Lead to Knight Two,” she began over a closed channel. “We're closing the noose. You know what to do.”

—--

“Waiting is bad,” Maeve muttered to herself. She’d read it somewhere, or had it quoted at her by a million people that thought they were better commanders than her. There was truth to it at least, as if nothing else, waiting led to frustration.

Her cavalry lance waited in the wings, accompanied by the Red Reapers' strike vehicles, ready to engage. Violetta had graciously let Lewis take the lead, with the aim of drawing in the enemy’s forces. Once they were directly engaged with the Demons’ forces, the Reapers would pounce, descending on their flanks.

Only… They hadn’t. So Maeve had waited here. Waited while the enemy mercenaries had held off the Demons’ skirmishers. Waited while Lewis had let his forces get strung out. And waited while their opportunity to strike slipped away.

She could commit. Throw away the plan and reinforce the Screaming Demons. She’d have to angle around to face the enemy mercenaries head-on, or lose even more valuable time creeping around the fringes of the battlefield to come in on their flank. And who knew what state the Demons would be in by then.

Her fingers drummed on the Scourge’s console. Neither were good options. She had to hope that Lewis could turn this around and play his role. And so she waited.

-----

From his vantage point, Lewis Guise could see how the battle was unfolding, watching his tactical display with ever-increasing concern. As planned, the Screaming Demons had advanced towards the enemy and formed a salient within their lines. However, the enemy had apparently planned for that, and had instead manoeuvred around them and were now encapsulating his forces. How did they know my plan? He asked himself. It’s like they were ready for it.

“This is Demon Zero Two,” the voice of his lancemate came over the command channel. Glancing to his side, Lewis could see the salvaged Crusader standing in the purple woods next to his own Archer. “I'm at the edge of effective range for my missiles. Should we advance?”

He glanced again at his display. The battle had moved away from his command lance, substantially reducing the effectiveness of their missile support. However, they were already on the edge of the forest cover, and to get closer they would need to move out into the open where they would be vulnerable to enemy fire. “Negative, Demon Zero Two. Maintain position.”

He launched another pair of missile volleys, the warheads scattering among the enemy forces with little indication of actual hits. “Keep firing!” He ordered, with the Crusader and Cobra at his side contributing to the attacks.

“New contacts!” Came another voice over his command channel. “Incoming VTOLs!”

Looking up, Lewis could see a pair of Cavalry attack helicopters barrelling towards his position, coming in fast and low. The front ends of both craft erupted with smoke as they fired off their own missiles before peeling away. However, the weapons weren't aimed at him or his men. Rather, they exploded in mid-air, spraying gel all over the woods around him.

“Infernos!”

In an instant, the woods were ablaze, flames eagerly devouring the trees and enveloping Lewis' lance. He could feel his heat spiking as the temperature around him soared, while black smoke obscured his view of the battlefield. Without even thinking, he pushed his Archer forwards, desperate to escape the blazing heat and all that came with it.

As his forward view cleared, he took in the situation. He was now out on the rocky plains that separated the now-burning forest from the rest of the battle, leaving a fair distance between him and the rest of the battlefield. Even then, he noticed a single red marker popping up on his display as an enemy ‘Mech stepped around from behind a rocky bluff.

The red Marauder.

Wasting no time he dropped his sights onto it, but the enemy MechWarrior was faster. They lashed out with their twin particle cannons, one of which slammed straight into the Archer's cockpit.

-----
Author of BattleCorps stories Grand Theft Agro and Zero Signal



How to Draw MegaMek Icons the Deadborder Way. Over 9000 so far. Determination or madness?

Deadborder

  • Lieutenant Colonel
  • *
  • Posts: 7882
  • Technical Victory!
    • Elmer Studios Blog
Re: Renegades
« Reply #277 on: 17 March 2024, 05:33:53 »
In the cockpit of his Koschei, Markov's priorities were rapidly shifting. He was no longer concerned with bringing down the Warhammer IIC that he was convinced was the enemy commander. Nor was he concerned with even winning the battle that he was in the middle of. Right now, his priority was to simply stay alive.

His autocannon roared as it let out another stream of shells, with Markov momentarily ignoring the overheat warnings coming from the weapon, as well as the heat wafting into the cockpit. As soon as he let up on the trigger he stepped back, twisting his torso to the left as the Warhammer's return fire came in. PPC hits smashed into his left arm and flank, all but destroying the already depleted armor and setting off even more warnings.

“Demon Lead is down!” A panicked voice came over the command channel. “Repeat, Demon Lead is down.”

Markov wasted no time at all as he pushed the throttle into full reverse. “This is Demon Two-One to all units. Pull back, repeat, pull back.”

As his BattleMech stepped backwards, a single thought made its way to Markov's mind, one that he realized he did not regret at all. Lewis Guise's death might just have been the best thing that could have happened to us.

-----

Lana let out a loud sigh as the Battlemaster’s cockpit cooled. The retreating enemy ‘Mechs were well beyond her particle cannons’ effective ranges, and she doubted her fire had done little more than annoy them. Still, it was working. The Iron Knights had broken the enemy’s advance, and her own units had at least managed to harass them on the way out.

She ordered her unit to form up and set the massive BattleMech into motion. A moment later she opened a channel to Kaitlyn Faris, commander of the Iron Knights. “Excellent work,” she began. “They moved just as you predicted.”

Kaitlyn's voice was a little weary, but still confident. “Prior experience with them, really,” she explained. “We had a good idea of what they would do after our last two engagements.”

“Although their forces seemed lighter than expected,” Lana mused. “Do you think the two units might have been operating separately?”

“I think so,” Kait agreed. “They really don't seem to be cooperating to the same degree that we are. But now that the Demons' leader is dead, that could change.”

“Well keep on their heels while you rearm. If all goes well, they’ll still be on the back foot when you catch up.” Lana smiled to herself. If all went well, she and Kaitlyn would be able to put an end to this campaign today.

—--

The Iron Knights had pulled back to their dropships to rearm for what Kaitlyn saw as being the inevitable next battle. While they had come out of the skirmish with no operational losses, many of their ‘Mechs were battered and had burned through their ammunition supplies. Her Warhammer IIC was foremost among them; being the largest ‘Mech in the Iron Knights' forces, it had drawn a lot of attention from the enemy. However, she could tell that others had seen their share of damage. Valliki’s Thunderbolt had a blackened and battered upper body, having been subject to several volleys of long-range missile fire, and others had drawn their own share of the attention.

As soon as her ‘Mech was stopped, Kait clambered out of the cockpit and headed over to their field headquarters. Leon met her along the way, looking about the same as she was feeling. “Well I don't know what happened there, but it really feels like the Demons and Reapers weren't exactly getting on.”

“Agreed,” Kait nodded. “Which worries me”

“Because they let us win?” Leon asked.

“Exactly,” she nodded. “I'm just concerned that there might be some bigger play here,” she admitted. “Like the Reapers wanted us to be overconfident or that they have more in reserve waiting for us.”

“Possibly,” Leon considered. “But can I offer you an alternative based on my own experience?"

“And what's that?”

“Sometimes seemingly incompetent leadership is just that,” he shrugged. “Just because we and the Star are getting along doesn't mean that they are. For all we know, they could hate each other's guts.”

“Which would fit with what we learned from their scout,” She nodded.

“Lady Dragan comes through again,” Leon smiled. “So that aside, how are you doing?”

“I, uh…” Kait paused and then smiled. “Tired, but okay, I guess. Give me a few and then I'll be back in it.”

Leon nodded, with the arrival of Iulia cutting off anything else he might have said. Kait's second had wrapped her head entirely in a scarf, leaving only her eyes visible, a look that only added to her intensity. “It is done,” she simply stated.

“Nice shot,” Leon nodded.

“Your read of them worked,” Kaitlyn added. She'd deployed her forces based on Iulia's assessment of the Demons’ leadership and likely tactics. “So how did you figure out what Major Guise was going to do?”

Iulia nodded in thought a moment. “I could tell from what the prisoners had said that he had made a bargain with a spirit, one that he thought would help him.”

Kaitlyn looked thoughtful for a moment as she considered her friend’s words. She had long accepted that this was how Iulia read people, possibly due to her own upbringing or possibly as a part of who she was, or even both. None the less, she had also learned to not only take those assessments at face value, but also that they could be incredibly accurate. “Like how Mandragov had bargained with death.”

“Yes,” she nodded. “But his spirit was different. This was some form of trickster.”

“What makes you say that?”

Iulia smiled knowingly. “Trickster seems to be a powerful spirit. It will give you all that you want, and make you feel powerful. In Guises' case, it made him feel like he was a genius leader, who had the respect of his men.”

“But I imagine there's a downside,” Kaitlyn noted. “There always seems to be one with these things.”

“Yes,” Iulia agreed. “Trickster will build you up, but he will also let you down at the moment that he thinks it is the most amusing.”

“Hm,” Kait considered. “And so when Guise thought he was winning and that he would come out of this battle looking like a hero, that's when his spirit turned on him.”

“Yes,” she nodded. “Trickster always has to have the last laugh, no matter what.”

Kait paused in thought. “So if I can ask, and if it's not too personal, how do you keep your own spirit from turning on you? Death demanded a price, and Trickster was always going to fail Guise because of its nature. It’s just that these things sound... dangerous?”

“They are,” she agreed. “And there is always a price. When I ask... hunter for its aid, I do such knowing that what it wants. When we do battle, I sate hunter's need for prey. Every opponent I defeat is not for me, but for it.”

“I think I understand,” Kaitlyn considered. “When you eliminate an enemy commander, you're claiming a trophy for hunter.”

“Exactly,” she nodded. “But as much as hunter aids me, I am careful not to depend on it for everything. I know the price hunter can demand.”

A thought crossed her mind. “So what can happen if you lean into it too much?”

“There is a story of a powerful hunter spirit, one the lurks in the depths of space between the stars. A creature of darkness, it gives great power to those that pledge themselves to it. But at the same time, it demands much of them, including that they constantly supply it with prey. And, eventually, it devours those that serve it.”

—--

“How bad was it?” Maeve asked from the cockpit of her Scourge. The Red Reapers had fallen back from the forest and were regrouping among the rocky outcroppings of the broken badlands beyond. She quietly surveyed the assembling units. Much like her own ‘Mech, there was a scattering of light damage from long-range fire, suffered as they had beat a hasty retreat. But at least there were no casualties amongst their own unit.

“The Demons didn’t do as much damage as I’d hoped,” Violetta replied. Her own command lance was in position for the second part of the battle, atop a wooded ridge that afforded a commanding view of the likely upcoming battlefield. Undamaged, she couldn’t help but note. “Still, there’s plenty of them left, and we can use that.”

“Lewis bought it,” Maeve added flatly. There was a pause in which she could vividly imagine a malicious smile creeping across her commander’s face. “Markov took charge and got the remaining units out.”

“Then he’s already a better leader,” Violetta replied. There was a clear note of amusement in her voice, one Maeve hadn’t heard since their strike on Chort. Although given how well the two commanders had gotten on, she wasn’t entirely surprised.

“Speak of the demon,” Maeve said. Her Scourge turned to take in the sight of Markov’s battered Koschei making its way through the badlands. A trail of other BattleMechs followed after it, the Screaming Demons apparently having accepted their temporary commander already.

“Cute,” Violetta replied with a snort of amusement. She strode her Gunslinger out of cover, standing at the edge of the ridge. From here, the barrel-chested BattleMech towered over the field, and most importantly over the remnants of the screaming demons.

She switched over to a private channel, speaking directly into the cockpit of the Koschei. “Markov. Glad to see you made it.”

“Things did not go to plan,” Markov simply replied. There was a clear anger in his voice, with some of that obviously directed at Violetta. He knew what had happened, but he didn’t want to press it. “We suffered… losses, as you can clearly tell.”

Violetta couldn’t help but smirk at the outcome. “Let’s be fair. Lewis was no great loss. But we’ve still got a battle to win here. And the Red Reapers could still use your support.”

“He was not,” Markov agreed without a moment’s hesitation. “But I managed to keep the rest of the Demons alive. And I know they will follow me.”

Violetta nodded to herself. If there was talent to be had in the Screaming Demons, Markov was it. And while she wouldn’t exactly be devastated by his loss, she was glad that if anyone had survived, it was him. She could afford to give him some leeway here.

“Then I’d be happy to bring you onboard,” she told him. “If your men agree.”

“So here’s what I want, Major,” he continued. “I want a company command in your unit. I don’t need to be second; I don’t care what you and Captain Cullen have going on. In return I’ll make sure the Demons are loyal to you and your unit. They won’t hang you out to dry.” The implication in that last part was clear.

“Very well, Captain,” Violetta replied. “Demon Company is yours to command.” She took a moment to lay out her revised battle plans, whereupon the former Screaming Demons spread out to take their positions. As Violetta returned her Gunslinger to its former position, another channel opened up in her cockpit.

“You were planning for that, weren’t you?” Maeve said sharply. “Hoping they’d take out Guise.”

Violetta frowned at the accusatory tone. “Let’s say I considered it a strong possibility.”

“Okay, so he was filth, but he was our ally,” Maeve continued, her voice still sharp.

Whatever response Violetta may have given was cut off by another report. She quickly glanced at her monitor to confirm, then returned her attention to Maeve. “The enemy’s arrived. Get to position.”

The Scourge looked up at the towering Gunslinger, looming over the battlefield. The heavy ‘Mech paused a moment, their pilots’ gazes meeting. Then it turned, and headed for the rocky field beyond.

—--

The reformed Demon Company was a pure BattleMech affair, a situation that suited Markov fine. The Screaming Demons’ remaining vehicle and infantry assets, as weak as they were, had been unloaded onto the Red Reapers’ officers to deal with. He’d been left with just the former Demon BattleMech company, now reorganized and under his command. And even though they were now down a pair of ‘Mechs due to past losses, it was still enough for him.

He was fine to let Violetta take control of the combined unit, and not just because she was the ranking officer. He knew that she had enough loyalists within the Reapers that would make any attempts by him to take control pointless and drastically shorten his lifespan. Getting this position, a company commander with a promotion to Captain was exactly what he wanted, especially given that he had subordinates that he knew he could rely on.

They still needed to win the battle, of course. However, Markov was more confident about their situation now that Guise was out of the way and Major Vujic was given to complete (and unopposed) command of the battlefield.
“Demon Recon,” he ordered, “Flank the enemy force and look for weaknesses. Demon Strike, you are with me.” Both Greene and Goric gave brief affirmatives in reply.

“Oh, and if I order you to fall back, do it,” he added. “Don’t wait for Major Vujic or one of the other Reapers to make the call.” Because I won’t forget how I got here, he mentally added.

—--

The Iron Knights had not had nearly as much time to turn around their units as Kaitlyn Farris had wanted. At best they had been able to restock some ammunition and repair some armor, but she was well aware that they were going into the battle at a lot less than full strength. They had born the brunt of the fighting during the last engagement, with Kait suspecting the Screaming Demons had targeted them directly for two reasons. The first was that their commander was more familiar with her unit after their last two engagements. The second had been to get some measure of revenge against her unit for their prior defeats.

That latter choice had cost him heavily, thanks to Iulia's intervention.
Fortunately, there had been one other upside to the situation. The Star Of Sumer were still comparatively fresh, with far less damage and less crew fatigue. However, it was also clear that the Red Reapers had also held back from the last battle, letting the Screaming Demons absorb the brunt of the damage. That last part concerned her, as to her mind it seemed wasteful to hold back completely while your allies were whittled down. “Do we have eyes on the Reapers' commander?” She asked over the command channel.

“She has eluded my sight for the moment,” Iulia replied. “But I am still seeking her.”

“Contact!” Leon called out over the channel, interrupting Kait's thoughts. “Large body of ‘Mechs and armor moving through grids Echo-Foxtrot-Eight.” There was a crackle of static form weapons fire in the background, making her wince with concern. “They're definitely aware of us.”

“Roger that. Pull back and reform with us,” she replied as her ‘Mech advanced across the rocky ground, closing the distance to the enemy force. Ahead the red icons on her display took form as hostile ‘Mechs, their forces moving to close in with hers. “All units, fire at will.”

A pair of BattleMechs among the enemy force drew her attention. One of them was a Koschei, which judging from the battered state of its armor, was the same one that she had fought in the previous battle. The other was a Hound that seemed to be a lot fresher. Zooming in her display, Kait took a quick note of the two BattleMechs. While they both wore the same sandy yellow and purple colors, they had different patterns to their camouflage. Furthermore, the two were clearly split; not just separate lances, but something else.

“Looks like two different units,” she considered as she fired, the static from the PPCs discharge crackling over the communications channel. One of the shots smashed into the Hound’s side, battering the enemy ‘Mech but not stopping it by any means. The Hound replied with its own PPCs and autocannons which did little beyond chipping away at her armor. The Warhammer all but shrugged off the attack as it continued its advance.

“Agreed,” Iulia replied as her Marauder advanced at Kait’s side, firing as it did. “The Demons and the Reapers as we expected.” The captured scout had proven to be an invaluable source of information, and had clearly been glad to turn on his former employers. She recalled Iulia's assessment of him, and how Jakub Day had helped the young man to open up by simply being nice to him.

Other members of her lance also opened up on the enemy force, a scattering of long-range missiles and other weapons flying at the enemy ‘Mechs. The enemy replied in kind, their shots less about killing and more about whittling down armor and slowing their advance. “So like we are, but I suspect that there’s a lot less trust,” she considered as she fired again, the Warhammer’s cooling system keeping the heat from the PPC discharge under control for the moment. “Especially given how reluctant the Reapers seemed to be to engage last time.”
“Something we can use,” Iulia agreed.

Kait nodded then switched over to her command channel. “Knight Lead to Shield Lead. Move through Golf-Nine and engage.” In the distance she could see the clouds of dirt and sand being kicked up by the hovercraft of Shield Company as they wheeled around the flank of the enemy advance. Scattered missile fire fell among the enemy force, helping to distract them and keep them off-balance. With how they’d planned the battle, Shield Company would then make a break to deploy Khasyanov’s Battle Armour forces to further throw off the enemy.

Returning her attention to the situation at hand, Kait quickly pivoted her Warhammer’s torso as she selected a new target. She opened fire again, aware of the heat of the weapons as they lashed out at the Koschei. One of them went wide, but the other drilled into the BattleMech’s claw-like left arm. Staggering for only a moment, it replied with a shot from its own PPC that did little more than score armor from her leg.

On her tactical display, Kaitlyn could see the battle quickly shifting as the two forces came together. The Demons were doing their best to respond to the attack on their flank, trying to keep their formation together while not exposing their backs to either force. However, she could also see that what she presumed was the Reapers were still advancing, but doing such while remaining distinctly separate from their allies. “It would seem you were right,” she noted over the command channel before the sound of her PPCs drowned out her voice. The shots smashed into an Argus, stripping armor from its side as it tried to dart past her. Immediately thinking better of it, the pilot ducked their birdlike ‘Mech back out of her line of fire.

“Aren't I always?” Iulia replied in a factual tone.

Kait gave a small chuckle in response before the rattle of autocannon fire from the Koschei cut her off. Turning her attention back to the domed ‘Mech, she pushed towards it as her weapons recharged.

—--

Katarina didn’t much care for their new battleground. There was too much cover, too many tight spaces. The remaining enemy mercenaries had ample time to set up and use the broken ground to their advantage. She advanced cautiously, leading her lance among rocky ravines.

It was the Star’s turn to take point. After the Iron Knights had held off the enemy’s first wave, her own unit was taking the lead, pushing into the opponent’s territory. Despite the terrain disadvantage, she knew she was well covered. The Iron Knights would be following on the flanks, navigating around the worst of the region to lend their support.

There was little warning that they were under attack. Alarms sounded moments before a flight of long-range missiles descended, scattering across her BattleMech. Katarina stepped back a moment before a particle cannon struck, leaving it to impact against the cliff face next to her. She swept her sensors upwards, following a pair of jet trails that lead to a Lynx and a Griffin, already repositioning to strike again.

They’re too light, was Katarina’s first thought. She advanced through the ravine, trying to draw a bead on the pair of medium ‘Mechs. “Stay on your toes, people. There’s more to this,” she said to her lance.

And she was right. Just as her lancemate’s Rifleman drew up alongside her, more fire rained down from above. A concentrated stream of lasers lashed across her Warhammer’s torso, followed by a gauss rifle slug that smashed into the BattleMech’s shoulder. Caught unawares, Katarina stumbled, managing only to twist in place so the Warhammer fell back against the ravine wall. She looked to see the Rifleman take a similar beating, with a dazzling array of laser and particle cannon fire spreading across its body. At the same time the Lynx and Griffin took advantage of their distraction, hitting home with their own long-range fire.

It took her a moment to take stock of the situation, but by then it was already getting away from her. A Verfolger and Scourge were perched on the top of the ravine, firing down on them from either side. At the same time, they kept ahead of Katarina's lance, effectively using her lead ‘Mechs as cover against the trailing pair. Even as Katarina struggled to right her Warhammer, the two heavy ‘Mechs were repositioning themselves, finding a new angle on her.

Katarina quickly barked out her orders. “Eye two, Eye three, topside. Eye four, cover them.” The Rifleman responded immediately, spraying both sides of the ravine with cluster fire from its autocannons. Behind it, her lance’s Thunderbolt engaged its jump jets, rocketing up to the top level of the ravine to join their attackers. Their final member, a Caesar, used the distraction to clamber up the cliff face, hauling its ungainly body over the rim.

The Scourge and Verfolger opened fire, smashing into the vulnerable Caesar. Their shots all hit home as it clambered to its feet, but its hardened armour seemed to barely be affected by the onslaught. The Thunderbolt landed to the side, unloading its full arsenal into the Verfolger’s flank. Katarina angled her weapons upwards, trying to get a bead on the enemy ‘Mechs. She snapped a pair of particle cannon shots at the Scourge, but only caught the lip of the ravine.

It was frustrating. She knew she should be doing more. She weaved her Warhammer through the ravine, trying to track the fireight going on above. The Rifleman maneuvered around her, taking shots at the two medium ‘Mechs and keeping them at bay.

—-
Author of BattleCorps stories Grand Theft Agro and Zero Signal



How to Draw MegaMek Icons the Deadborder Way. Over 9000 so far. Determination or madness?

Deadborder

  • Lieutenant Colonel
  • *
  • Posts: 7882
  • Technical Victory!
    • Elmer Studios Blog
Re: Renegades
« Reply #278 on: 17 March 2024, 05:50:33 »
Once the battle was joined, the value of a Scout lance changed completely. With the enemy located, there was little need to try and find the enemy. Rather, now their value came in their use of harassers and flankers, helping to both contain the enemy’s movement and keep their forces distracted. It was a duty that Leon had taken on himself, while also making sure that the enemy didn’t try to do the same.

As Captain Morrison’s lance had engaged an enemy force, Leon had noted the presence of an enemy force moving on their flank to support them. They were trying to do the same thing that he was, and as he closed in it became obvious that they were dealing with the same force that he had encountered before. And while his lance was down a ‘Mech, with Chai’s Wolfhound still undergoing repairs for its savaged leg, he knew that they were similarly impaired.

His Phoenix Hawk took the lead, vaulting over the rocky ground and purple shrubs with its jump jets as it closed in on the enemy lance. He lashed out with his Large Laser as he did; not expecting to score a hit, but glad when it still managed to score some armor off the Chameleon’s side. Bogerman and Wash followed after him, their smaller ‘Mechs using their greater jump capacity to try and close down the distance.

Not too worried by the hit, the Chameleon continued to advance with the two other members of its lance at its side. Its own laser fire came close to the Phoenix Hawk, but not close enough. A PPC shot from the Wasp had a little more effect, singing armor but not penetrating by any means.

“Break them up and don’t let them get close to anyone else,” Leon ordered as his ‘Mech landed and immediately broke into a run. “The Firestarter can’t reach out too far,” he added. While the enemy ‘Mech could unleash a devastating firestorm at point-blank range, its weaponry beyond that was very limited. However, for the moment, Leon’s focus was on the largest of the three enemy ‘Mechs, the one that was almost certainly their leader.

A pair of affirmatives came from Bogerman and Wash as their ‘Mechs took off, leaping across the battlefield. As they did, Leon ran towards the Chameleon, opening up with his PPC and Medium Lasers on it, acutely aware of the surge in heat as he did. The heat was worth it, with the shots smashing into the Chameleon’s flank, tearing into the armor. Its return fire consisted of a single laser hit that seared most of the protection from his left arm.

With little option but to accept the hit, Leon twisted the Hawk to one side, making sure that it was running between the Chameleon and the rest of the battle. His plan seemed to have worked, with the enemy ‘Mech turning to follow him, clearly intent on keeping him in his sights. Passing between a couple of rocky outcroppings, he opened up again, again keeping up the volley of laser and PPC fire on his opponent. The PPC was the only weapon that made its mark, but definitely had an impact; the beam boring through the Chameleon’s wounded side.

Despite the hits it had taken, the Chameleon continued to follow him, replying with a volley of laser fire. Several hits lashed the Phoenix Hawk, one of which cut through what was left of the armor on the left arm before slicing into the bones below. Leon’s ‘Mech lurched as the lower arm, complete with its weapons, was torn away by the enemy laser fire.

Gotta keep moving. Losing the arm was a blow, but Leon could not afford to let up. Instead, he quickly changed direction, ducking back to a stand of trees as he took in the situation around him. The enemy Firestarter was being harassed by Bogerman and Wash, their ‘Mechs dancing around just outside of its weapons range, stabbing at it with their own lasers. Behind them, the enemy Wasp was keeping up its distance, trying to snipe at the battle with its PPC and missiles.

Ignoring the heat spike for the moment, Leon triggered both his Large Laser and PPC, targeting the enemy Wasp while it was trying to draw a bead. His weapons fire worked out better than expected, with the PPC smashing into the smaller BattleMech’s side. The shot tore through its right side, destroying the missile launcher while sending its right arm crashing to the ground. The light ‘Mech staggered under the blow, only barely keeping its feet. The return fire from the Chameleon sliced armor from the Hawk’s leg, but it was very much an unequal trade.

The Wasp’s MechWarrior managed to recover quickly enough and was obviously aware that their ‘Mech was now disarmed. Firing their jump jets, they vaulted away from the battle, leaving their two comrades behind.

Clearly the enemy commander was thrown by this development as they seemed to second-guess themselves, the medium ‘Mech stopping and stepping back from its pursuit of Leon. It lashed out again with its lasers, with the Large slicing into the Phoenix Hawk’s leg and further worrying the armor. Taking advantage of the confusion, Leon stepped around to keep himself in the Chameleon’s damaged side before lashing out with his PPC and remaining medium laser.

Both weapons hit the ‘Mech, burrowing through the damaged side before tearing onto the structure and systems within. The Chameleon staggered and then suddenly crumpled up as its gyro failed, robbing the ‘Mech of any sense of balance. The fifty ton BattleMech crashed face-down on the ground, kicking up a cloud of dirt as it did.

Further back, the Firestarter’s MechWarrior was clearly aware of what had just happened and had realized just how bad their situation was. They fired their own jets, leaping back in the direction that the Wasp had gone.

”Should we pursue?” Sterling Bogerman’s voice crackled over the command channel.

“Negative,” Leon replied as he glanced at his display. “We’ve got other things to deal with, and I suspect those two have had enough.”

—--

The Warhammer was not the most agile of BattleMechs, and Katarina’s opponents knew it. The enemy Scourge and Verfolger had managed to keep ahead of her and her lancemate’s Rifleman, keeping the fight on the ridges above. Try as she might, she had been unable to draw a bead on either of them. At the same time, enemy’s Lynx and Griffin had been annoyingly elusive.

She snapped off a pair of PPC shots at the Griffin just as it ducked back into cover. The rock formation it was hiding behind exploded into a shower of dust and fragments moments before the Griffin launched into the air. She tracked it as the particle cannons recharged, only to have the Mech land behind a waist-high rise. She fired as soon as she could, one shot hitting the BattleMech’s lower body while the other cut into the rock beneath. Its own flight of missiles scattered around her ‘Mech, while a shot from the Lynx’s own particle cannon tagged her Warhammer’s arm.

At the same time, she kept an eye on the battle above. Her lance’s Thunderbolt was keeping pace with the enemy’s heavy ‘Mechs, who had dealt with the seemingly indestructible Caesar by simply leaving it behind in the broken terrain. She was losing, ever so slowly, but needed something to change.

And then her saviour arrived. “Eye command, this is Dagger Lead. Need an assist?”

Backup. And Katarina knew just how to use them. “Sending you targets on a Lynx and a Griffin. Can you get them off our backs?”

“Roger that,” Leon replied, his tone confident. “You heard her, Dagger Lance. Mark targets and don't hold back”

Even as the Griffin was getting ready to reposition, a lance of light speared out from behind it, cutting into the BattleMech’s rear. Leon Mackinaw’s Phoenix Hawk jetted into view, following up with a blast from its particle cannon. The Griffin seemed to panicking, launching into the air and twisting to face the newcomer, seemingly forgetting about Katarina’s lance. At the same time, a Spider and Wasp seemed to appear out of nowhere, catching the Lynx between them.

“Eye four, with me.” Katarina pushed up the Warhammer’s throttle, bringing it out into open terrain. With the Rifleman alongside her, she turned and angled her weapons up to the top of the ravine. Even though the Lynx and Griffin were at their backs, she was confident in their allies to keep them occupied.

Above them, the Verfolger was closing in on her Thunderbolt’s flank while it faced down the Scourge. They opened fire on the Verfolger, particle beams and autocannon shells slamming into its side. The ungainly ‘Mech was blown off its feet, crashing onto its side and barely avoiding dropping down the ravine. The Scourge responded immediately, turning to face her Warhammer while breaking into a run along the top of the ridge.

“Oh no you don’t,” Katarina declared. She kicked her Warhammer into gear and ran parallel to the Scourge, their torsos angled to face each other. They both opened fire, exchanging shots with little regard for safety. The Scourge raked laser fire across her torso and legs, melting rivers of armour off her ‘Mech. A gauss slug smashed into her damaged arm, sending warning lights across the board. At the same time her particle cannons smashed into the Scourge’s body, nearly causing it to stumble. She followed up with a flight of missiles and her lasers, not caring about the heat flooding her cockpit.

Out of the corner of her eye, she could see the enemy’s situation deteriorating. Her own Rifleman and Thunderbolt had turned the tables on the Verfolger, driving it back and further isolating the Scourge. Katarina cycled her weapons again and fired, feeling a new flush of heat soaking into her. Fire shot between the two ‘Mechs, neither faring better for the exchange.

The Scourge’s lasers tore into her damaged arm, severing it below the shoulder a moment after she fired. The gauss slug caught her in the chest, knocking her off balance and sending her massive BattleMech crashing to the ground. At the same time, her own lasers scored across the enemy’s upper body, while the particle cannons struck at the BattleMech’s hip and leg. Finally, her flight of missiles peppered across its body, the last one crashing into the damaged hip. Something gave in the Scourge’s leg, and the ‘Mech careened forwards, tumbling down the ridge and coming to a stop in an undignified heap at the bottom.

All was quiet for a moment. Katarina could hear little more than her own heavy breathing as the Warhammer’s heat sinks kicked into gear. It would be easy enough to just lie here for a while. But no, there was work to do. She could almost feel her BattleMech’s myomers strain in process as she righted it, noting that across from her the Scourge was staggering to its feet as well. While the damage to its leg was expected, what surprised her was seeing the arm carrying the Scourge’s massive gauss rifle was bent out of shape.

Reports came in from around her. Leon had driven off the two medium ‘Mechs, and the Verfolger hadn’t survived. If their duel continued, there was no doubt in Katarina’s mind who would emerge victorious. The enemy pilot seemed to agree. The Scouorge flicked its stubby left arm up over by its cockpit for a moment before jetting off, putting another rise between their BattleMechs. Katarina stood confused for a moment at the enemy pilot’s gesture - almost like a salute.

“Did they just…” She muttered, then shook herself out of it. “Eye command, reform and advance. We’ve got a battle to win.”

—--

Violetta looked out over the brawl below her. A diverse array of BattleMechs were tangled up with each other, although by this late stage both sides were beginning to thin out. As many ‘Mechs had fallen as had retreated from the field, giving her room to pick out her targets.

Her eyes fell on the towering form of a Battlemaster, flanked by a battered Gallowglas and Crusader. Not only was it the heaviest enemy ‘Mech on the field, but the way the others positioned themselves suggested that it was their commander. It would not be an easy target while it was shielded by its lancemates.

“Go,” she said simply, indicating to the Battlemaster on her display. Beside her, Jurgen’s Helios kicked into flight, soaring from their wooded rise. It arced over the river separating them from the rest of the battlefield. Jurgen fired as he descended, his gauss rifle and lasers slamming into the side of the Gallowglas. Jackson’s Longbow unleashed a tide of missiles which arced overhead, raining down on the same ‘Mech.

Violetta waited a moment for the Crusader to turn in response,  exposing its side to her position. She tracked her gauss rifles down and fired, twin slugs punching through the BattleMech’s thigh with deadly precision. The Crusader tumbled as it turned, careening off the injured leg and crashing down onto its back.

She watched the Gallowglas tangle with Jurgen’s ‘Mech as her gauss rifles cycled back up. The Battlemaster was already backpedalling, disengaging from the battle. Jackson targeted it with another hail of missiles, only to be caught in return with a fusilade of particle cannon fire. The boxy Longbow staggered in place, but managed to remain standing. Jackson wisely backed away from the onslaught, retreating to better cover.

Her rifles charged, Violetta returned her attention to the Crusader. Despite its severe damage, it had struggled back to its feet and was aiming its long-range missile launchers up at her. She fired again, sending another pair of hypervelocity slugs through the same damaged leg. It snapped off underneath the Crusader’s weight even as it fired. Missiles scattered across her Gunslinger’s body, doing little more than annoying her.

She hovered her reticule over the fallen Crusader for a moment, but it seemed content not to fight back. Satisfied, Violetta turned her attention to the rest of the command lance. She was annoyed to see the Battlemaster had dropped out of sight, although the Gallowglas was still visible, trading fire with Jurgen’s Helios as it fell back.

“Find that Battlemaster,” Violetta ordered. “I want its head.”



“Good as dead,” Jurgen replied as he kicked in the Helios’ jump jets. It soared up and over the enemy Gallowglas, raining laser and short-range missile fire down on the enemy ‘Mech. Jurgen was pumped. This was his time. He’d engaged the enemy commander’s bodyguard, the mirror to his own position. The Battlemaster was retreating, but he’d catch it in time. For now, he was dueling with his counterpart. His alter ego.

His nemesis.

The Gallowglas’ return fire came precise and measured. It delayed until he landed, utilising the brief pause before he started moving again to land accurate fire on his BattleMech’s torso. A brief glance at his readouts showed that his armour wasn’t threatened yet. Instead, Jurgen was more excited than afraid. He circled the Gallowglas, raining fire across its body. The two of them were evenly matched. His missiles gave him an advantage in firepower, while the Gallowglas’ armour was heavier. The enemy pilot seemed to be relying on that fact, maneuvering only to keep tracking him and letting him run around.

“I’ve been waiting for a fight like this,” Jurgen called out over his BattleMech’s speakers. The only response from the Gallowglas was a stony silence. He snarled in frustration in his cockpit and pressed in closer, raining fire across the enemy’s body. His counterpart staggered and began angling back, putting a solid gauss slug and precise laser fire into his torso as they retreated.

“Come on!” Jurgen yelled over his speakers. “Come back and fight me!” He kicked in the jump jets, soaring over their battlefield. He angled the Helios’ body down and fired again. The lasers opened up a gash in the Gallowglas’ arm above its gauss rifle, while the missiles came perilously close to detonating the volatile weapon. Jurgen came to land in the enemy BattleMech’s path, cutting off its retreat.

“Yeah!” He called out. “Got you!”

Before the Challenger X and Hanse tanks, lying in wait, opened fire.



“Peyton?” Lana asked from her Battlemaster’s cockpit.

“Armour’s depleted, no critical damage,” came the calm response from the Gallowglas’ pilot. They both spared a moment to watch the blasted wreckage of the Helios collapse to the ground.

“How’d it go?” Isaías asked as his Challenger X advanced.

“Not well,” Lana admitted. “We drew off her bodyguard, but her position is too solid. It’s well covered from a conventional assault, and she’s got an easy line of retreat. Worse still, Andreas is out of the fight.”

“And he was our best counter-battery fire,” Peyton added.

“What now?” Isaías asked. “We can’t just give them free reign of the battlefield. That Longbow’s just too heavily armed.”

Lana scanned her tactical map for a moment. Her troops were tied up, and sending more against the Red Reapers' commander would just weaken their position. She spotted an icon on the map, on its own off to one side of the battle, and smiled. Of course, she had more than her own troops to call on.

“Get back to the battle. Isaías, we need you in there. Peyton, make yourself scarce. If they think I’m with you, all the better.” She received a round of confirmations from her troop.

Lana scanned the battlefield again, double-checking the terrain. She could use their positioning to her advantage. She just needed one more factor in her favour.

She eyed the lone ‘Mech on her map and switched over to a private channel. “Captain Dragan, this is Ugala Kotovski. I require your assistance.”



“You lost it?” Violetta hollered over the radio. “It’s a Battlemaster, how do you lose it?”

Before anyone could reply, Jackson cut in. “Incoming missiles,” he said. Violetta checked her scope even as she backpedalled her Gunslinger into the woods. Several flights of missiles were coming from the far end of the battlefield, well beyond their effective range. Even without their cover, there was very little danger from the missiles. So why…

Her musings were answered when the missiles arced downwards and detonated across the battlefield. Thick black smoke spread out before them, obscuring her view. Violetta immediately switched over to her active probe, peering through the smoke clouds as if they weren’t there.

“Jackson, tie targeting to my ‘Mech. They’re going to use the cover to advance on us.” Jackson grunted his acknowledgment. The pair peered through the thick clouds, waiting for the inevitable.

Nothing came.

Violetta frowned at her monitor. Her gauss rifles were ready to fire, set to impale whoever thought they were hidden from her sight. But there was no sign of the enemy. Soon enough, the smoke was dissipating and yet still, nothing was in sight.

Something was very wrong. If they weren’t using the smoke as cover, then it must have been….

Before she could finish the thought, a barrage of particle cannon fire struck the rear of her ‘Mech. The enemy commander’s Battlemaster emerged from the river behind her, steam pouring off its body from the massive heat of its volley. Warnings lit up across her board. She struggled to keep the ‘Mech from teetering over under the massive impact.

Before Jackson could respond, he was struck from the side. A pair of particle cannon beams arced across the battlefield from extreme range. He swiveled the Longbow’s torso to track the attacker, only to catch a glimpse of a black and red Marauder fading into cover.

Violetta righted her Gunslinger and fired. A pair of snap-shots from the gauss rifles crashed into the Battlemaster’s body, shattering armour but leaving the ‘Mech intact. Before it could fire upon her, Jackson dutifully interposed his bulky ‘Mech between them.

The Battlemaster rushed him. Caught by surprise, Jackson unloaded his missile bays straight at the enemy’s commander. Without time to lock on, the missiles scattered wildly with only a handful of them pepperring across the Battlemaster’s body.

It returned fire, splashing particle fire across the Longbow’s body at point-blank range. Before he knew it, the Battlemaster was upon him, lashing out with its blocky fists. Brutal body blows battered the barrel chest of the Longbow, rocking it back and forth under the impacts. He struck out with an awkward kick, going wide as the Battlemaster stepped in. A right hook from the command ‘Mech caught the Longbow in its small head turret. Jackson let out a gasp of alarm as the impact threw him around the cockpit. His head connected with something and he blacked out. Unguided and off-balance, the Longbow toppled over with a mighty crash.

—--

The sound of his autocannon was still ringing in Markov’s ears even after he had eased up on the Koschei’s trigger. The weapon’s ammunition supply was nearly empty, while his armor was reduced to shreds and the BattleMech’s cockpit felt like an oven from all his weapons fire. And yet, for all that effort, his opponents were still standing.

A glance at his tactical display told him that Demon Company were still going, but only in the most technical sense of it. Greene was down, and the rest of his lance were scattered. All the BattleMechs in his and Goric’s lances were still standing, but he could tell that it was only a matter of time before something gave. Given the condition they were in, he suspected that they’d all start falling at once, the dreaded combat loss grouping that commanders feared so much.

He pulled the Koschei back behind a row of rocks before triggering the autocannon again. Several shots smashed into the side of a Thunderbolt, staggering the boxy BattleMech before the roar of the cannon quickly turned into an empty whirr. As the weapon wound down, the Thunderbolt seemed to shake off the attack before replying with a volley of laser fire that savaged his already depleted armor. Several red lights went off on his damage display, only adding to Markov’s irritation.

Acutely aware of his situation, he kept moving, looking for some cover. A snap-shot PPC went wide of the Thunderbolt, doing little to deter the heavy BattleMech’s approach. Taking the chance, he spared the display another glance, noting the positions of the Reapers’ forces. His unit and the rest of their company were caught up in battle with the defenders, but Violetta’s command lance were still well back. They’d been hanging there all the way through the battle while Demon company were in the frontlines.

And now there was a single hostile red marker among them, further disrupting whatever it was that Major Vujic thought she was doing.

A pair of PPC blasts smashed into the Crusader near him, tearing the BattleMech’s right arm off before eating into the flank. The barrel-chested ‘Mech staggered and all but toppled forwards before retaining its balance. Even then, he could tell that it was badly damaged beyond the loss of the arm even without any more information from the pilot within. And even worse, he could see the source of the attack.

Despite its armor being pitted and scored from the damage it had taken, he immediately recognized it as the same Warhammer IIC he had fought before. And in the state we’re in, it could take us down easily. A volley of missile fire smashing into a Cobra served to emphasis the point. And it’s not alone.

“Demon company, pull back,” he ordered as he yanked on the throttle, throwing the Koschei into full reverse. A shot from his PPC smashed into the Thunderbolt’s arm, but it seemed to only bother the enemy ‘Mech, as if to make his frustrations manifest.

Whatever you’re planning, major Vujic, you had better make it work.



“Surrender,” Lana called out over Gilgamesh’s speakers. The Battlemaster stepped back from the fallen Longbow, bringing its massive arm cannon to bear on he Gunslinger. The enemy commander fired first, lasers burning across the Battlemaster’s torso even as the massive gauss slugs smashed into its arm. Something broke under the fire, and the heavy particle cannon skewed to one side, its shot going wide.

“It’s over,” Lana said, pressing her attack. She circled around to the right, keeping her damaged arm away from direct fire while opening up with her light particle cannons and missiles. “Your scout turned on you. You’ve lost your protectors. There’s nobody left.”

“I don’t need anybody!” The Gunslinger hollered back as it pressed in on the side, weathering the weapons fire. Another pair of gauss slugs punched into the Battlemaster’s flank, impacting the armour. Lana’s cockpit filled with alarms as systems failed across the board. The damage readout showed structural loss dangerously close to her ammo bays.

“I’ve fought for everything I have, on my own,” the enemy pilot spat out over her speakers. Lana pressed her fire, crashing the chest-mounted particle cannons into the Gunslinger’s boxy torso. She tried to bring the heavy cannon to bear, but the damaged arm would not respond.

“I pity you,” she said over the speakers. This elicited a strangled roar from the other pilot who strode forwards and lashed out with a heavy kick. Caught off-balance, Lana couldn’t keep her ‘Mech upright. It pitched backwards, crashing down on its damaged side. More warnings sounded through the cockpit, and she felt a spike of heat wash over her as the reactor took the brunt of the fall.

Lana looked up to see the massive assault ‘Mech towering over her. Battered as it was, it still brought its gauss rifles to bear on her fallen ‘Mech. Out of the corner of her eye, Lana spied movement in her cockpit. It was the odd little figure, shaken loose from the many impacts she’d suffered, but still hanging on strong.

Lana smiled up at it. “And I’m never alone,” she announced.



Violetta stopped for a brief second, but that was all the distraction that was needed. A pair of particle cannons smashed into the Gunslinger from extreme range, eating away at the last shreds of armour on her torso. She turned suddenly, raising the gauss rifles. That Marauder! she thought. The enemy sniper had finally exposed itself, and she could make out its distinctive red and black paint scheme. She vaguely remembered Guise mentioning something about this ‘Mech, but dismissed it as she took aim.

The Marauder fired its top-mounted gun, sending a spray of ballistic pellets across the distance at her. Violetta could almost see them as they went wide, scattering to all sides of her Gunslinger. All but one. It entered her sight, for a moment barreling straight at her before she realised it wasn’t going for the cockpit. Even as the gauss rifle’s charge peaked, the pellet flew unerringly down the rifle’s barrel, impacting into the delicate coils. Violetta felt as much as she saw the gauss rifle tear itself apart from the inside. She cried out as the feedback coursed through her neurohelmet, her ‘Mech staggering as much from the impacts as from her own lack of control.

The Battlemaster fired. The fallen BattleMech’s free arm had reached over and propped up the other, letting it aim the massive particle cannon. The impact punched into her damaged torso. Still reeling from the gauss rifle’s detonation, Violetta was nearly overwhelmed by the rush of heat from her fractured engine.

The Marauder was tracking her. The Battlemaster was clambering to its feet. She had no option left. Cursing loudly, Violetta kicked in her jump jets and soared off the ridge, landing in the dense trees below.

Author of BattleCorps stories Grand Theft Agro and Zero Signal



How to Draw MegaMek Icons the Deadborder Way. Over 9000 so far. Determination or madness?

Deadborder

  • Lieutenant Colonel
  • *
  • Posts: 7882
  • Technical Victory!
    • Elmer Studios Blog
Re: Renegades
« Reply #279 on: 17 March 2024, 05:57:55 »
Guest Chapter by Zogster

Face To Face

Violetta stepped out of the back of the APC and immediately shielded her eyes from the glare. Ahead of her, the Star of Sumer, one of the mercenary units she had recently fought, had set up camp. A temporary pavillion had been established, providing shade to the numerous people assembled inside, all standing and waiting for her. Behind it, the unit’s Battlemaster and Warhammer towered over the proceedings. They had been repainted into a gleaming white and blue parade scheme, no doubt to impress her.

These meetings were a regular part of life as a mercenary commander. Mercenary units rarely fought to the death, preferring a negotiated surrender when it was obvious who would prevail. And as much as it galled her to admit, Violetta could not keep fighting this campaign. She had contacted the Star to arrange the final details; a return of prisoners, surrender of salvage and other compensation, and finally safe passage off the planet.

She was not in a good position. Their direct confrontation with the two opposing forces had been just short of a disaster. In other campaigns, they came to a cease-fire during a battle and were able to reclaim men and machines that had fallen. But in this case her forces had fled the battlefield, and had nothing to show for it.

Violetta stepped up to the pavilion with Maeve at her side. Once under its shade, the pair of them unwound their headscarves and stepped up to face their opposite numbers. A quartet was arranged before them; two women, both around her age, a grizzled bearded man and a younger one, barely over twenty.

Behind them was a lineup of familiar faces, flanked by guards. Jackson stood tall over the other prisoners, his eyes downcast in shame. Kavya, one of Maeve’s pilots, cast a nervous glance at her company commander, which was met with a reassuring nod. And Rickie, former leader of her miscellaneous detachment seemed to be one big scowl. She couldn’t help but notice absences among the remaining prisoners; her lancemate Jurgen in particular seemed not to have survived. She couldn’t say she was entirely sore about his loss.

And then there was Greene. She realised that she’d barely met the scarred MechWarrior standing in amongst the Red Reapers’ personnel. He was one of Lewis’ - No, Markov’s lieutenants now, and under her command thanks to the deal she’d brokered on the battlefield. Annoyingly enough, due to the depleted state of her own forces she was more reliant on Markov’s goodwill than she ever was on Guise’s. It galled her that she’d have to prioritise him over her own men.

Violetta eyed her opposite numbers warily. The officers before her wore crisp white uniforms, somehow impossibly clean despite the rigours of the campaign. Her eyes fixed on their commander who stood ahead of the others. She was shorter than Violetta, but somehow her bearing brought them eye to eye. She was at attention. Upright. Refined. Poised. Immaculate. Noble, even.

“BattleMech princess,” Violetta growled through her scowl.

“Behave,” Maeve muttered beside her.

Introductions were quickly handled, but when their commander offered a hand, Violetta refused to shake. Instead she silently locked her gaze with the woman. There was a tense moment before the other commander, Lana, lowered her hand and stepped back. She caught a quiet question pass between the young man and the other woman, but after that was silence.

“Business then,” Kotovski said. Her face was set, clearly disappointed in the response she’d received. “We are here to accept the formal surrender of the Red Reapers and Screaming Demons and negotiate terms for the return of prisoners.”

“The Screaming Demons no longer exist,” Violetta replied, a small amount of satisfaction in her voice. “Their remnants have been incorporated into the Red Reapers; as such I am the only one you will be negotiating with.”

“That makes it easier,” Kotovski said.

Violetta knew the drill by now. The victor had the upper hand, and was able to set terms for the return of prisoners and safe passage from the field of conflict. This usually meant extracting a price from the loser, often in C-Bills or battlefield salvage, although the former was used far less these days. And while the Red Reapers had been on the losing end of the salvage race with the Screaming Demons, Guise’s demise and Markov’s new allegiance had brought the campaign’s spoils into her possession. Of course, she was now likely to trade it all away.

She cast her eye across the prisoners once more. There was no question that she would be getting Jackson back, even if she had to strip the unit bare. Greene had to be brought back to placate Markov, lest she lose the only reward this disastrous campaign had netted her. He would be worth more in salvage due to his rank, but it was a price she’d have to pay. There were a bevvy of other useful MechWarriors there as well, and she could only imagine the cost to reclaim them all. But Rickie… She had to admit, the Miscellaneous Detachment would be difficult to replace, and while a capable pilot, Rickie was too much of a loose cannon to fit into a regular command. Perhaps it was best if he was left behind.

“I’m sure we can come to a fair arrangement for my regular MechWarriors and Lieutenant Greene,” she began. “But unfortunately there’s no place in the reorganised unit for Lieutenant David. I presume there will be concessions if he’s not included?”

It seemed everyone had a different reaction to her offer. Across from her, Lana Kotovski seemed taken aback. Could she not believe that someone would abandon a precious officer? Her second, Morrison, was studying Violetta closely. Possibly the cannier of the pair. Behind them, Jackson caught her eye, shaking his head ever so slightly in warning. Whereas Rickie started forwards only to be restrained by the Star’s soldiers.

“You could-hearted bitch,” Maeve muttered beside her. Violetta couldn’t tell if the note in her voice was approval or not.

Kotovski found her voice soon enough. “That’s not an option,” she said. “You don’t get to pick and choose who you take with you.”

“It’s just that he no longer has a place in my unit, and I should not be penalised for taking back someone I cannot use,” Violetta responded.

“That’s your problem,” Morrison flatly replied.

“We’re not going to put aside the resources to take care of one of your MechWarriors, and we’re not abandoning him on this planet,” Kotovski stated.

“You’ll be taking them all,” Morrison confirmed.

Violetta frowned, and caught Rickie’s glare from behind the assembled officers. Her opponents were adamant, and as much as she hated to back down, she needed to keep them happy. A breakdown in negotiations could easily lead to more fighting, something her unit was ill prepared for. Without his unit, Rickie was dead weight that would cost her salvage. But it was a hit she had to take.

Still, if that was how they wanted to play it…

“Very well. I’ll take him.” She paused, and looked Kotovski straight in the eye. “And my scout,” Violetta added.

“No,” Lana immediately replied.

Violetta cocked her head and smiled. It was a small victory, but still a chance to get one over her infuriatingly perfect opposition. “All or nothing, you said. He’s one of my soldiers. And I do miss him so.”

And yet, this was the point that managed to rile up her opposition. “Yasir Malik has requested asylum with our unit. And after hearing how he was recruited-” And Lana seemed to struggle to keep her calm at that word, “-we will be granting him shelter.” The shorter woman locked her gaze with Violetta’s, and she swore she could see the ghost of a smile cross Lana’s face. “Before we return him home.”

Realisation flooded over her. How they knew her forces so well, how they were able to predict her moves. The perfectly executed ambush that cost her the Miscellaneous Detachment and the opportunity to force a surrender before the battle even started. Yasir had flipped on her. She could imagine the boy begging for sanctuary, spilling her unit’s secrets in return for protection from her.

She had to admit, she was impressed.

Violetta nodded, struggling to keep her face neutral. “If that’s what you want, I suppose I have to accept it.” Clearly not how her opposite number would have phrased it, but they agreed nonetheless.

And then it came to the minutiae of assigning salvage. As she had suspected, much of the reserve the Screaming Demons had accumulated went to placating the victors. She struggled to secure the return of Jackson’s Longbow, as it had been captured mostly undamaged. Jurgen’s Helios would have been a prize in the negotiations, if only there were more left of it.

It was arduous, and served as a painful reminder of just how much this campaign had cost her. While her unit had expanded by claiming the Screaming Demons’ assets, by the end of this exchange she would have very little to support them with. She would need work again, fast, and had a feeling that after this disaster, Demos would be less than willing to provide.

Eventually, it was settled. She’d had to yield much to her opponents, but had at least managed to reclaim the Longbow. With the matter settled, Kotovski extended her hand once more to seal the deal. This time, Violetta wordlessly accepted.

“Very well,” Lana said. She nodded to one of the soldiers standing alongside the prisoners, who in turn nodded to Jackson. He stepped forward, passing around the Star’s officers and marching slowly towards Violetta. Around him, the other prisoners stepped out, winding around the assembly and making their way towards the Red Reaper’s camp.

Violetta caught a glimpse of Kayva muttering something to Maeve, before Maeve patted her on the shoulder and sent her on her way. Greene carefully avoided either officer’s gaze and made a beeline for the APC. Meanwhile Rickie cast Violetta a searing glare, but she ignored it. Instead she faced Jackson as he stood before her, eyes downcast, not quite catching her gaze.

“Sorry boss,” he said in a low voice. “No excuse.”

Emotion welled up inside her. Looking up at Jackson, she remembered all the older man had done for her; sheltering her as they grew up together and backing her as she made a play for the unit’s command. And for all that he’d asked for nothing, preferring to stay by her side. She wanted to reach out to him, to reassure him. To let him know that she understood, that the failure was hers alone, and that she held him blameless for what had happened.

That she needed him.

But the world was watching. The last thing she could do was appear weak in front of these other mercenaries. She caught a glimpse of Kotovski’s curious gaze, then turned her full attention back to Jackson. Her words caught in her throat for a moment, so she simply indicated over her shoulder. “Get back to base, soldier,” was all she could find to say.

“Major,” Jackson said. He shot a sharp salute then passed by her, out of sight.

Rickie stepped up after him. He took a moment to hiss “We’re not done,” in her ear before joining the others at the APC.

Silence returned to the gathering. Violetta cast a glance over the Star’s officers once more, before returning her attention to her opposite number.

“That’s everyone,” she said.

“As agreed,” Lana replied. “We will expect you and your forces to vacate the planet with all possible speed.”

So formal. So proper. So insufferably correct. “Of course. My men are packing up as we speak. We should be able to depart shortly.”

“Very well, Major.” Kotovski said. She snapped a salute to Violetta who returned it. “I hope when we next meet, it will be under better circumstances.”

“Couldn’t be worse,” Violetta said, and turned to stalk off.



Author of BattleCorps stories Grand Theft Agro and Zero Signal



How to Draw MegaMek Icons the Deadborder Way. Over 9000 so far. Determination or madness?

Deadborder

  • Lieutenant Colonel
  • *
  • Posts: 7882
  • Technical Victory!
    • Elmer Studios Blog
Re: Renegades
« Reply #280 on: 17 March 2024, 06:01:58 »
Guest Chapter by KayEmm

LIC Surveillance Log 553-31D

Major Kaitlyn Farris: Baroness Sigonella. Thank you for your time, even if I had not expected to hear from you.

Baroness Giana Sigonella: No, thank you for your service, Major Farris. Right now, Graf Kayserling is focused on other matters, and has delegated matters of the Alwaid reclamation to me.

Farris: I see. I assume that you have been bought up to speed on the current situation.

Sigonella: I have, and I wish to commend you and your unexpected allies on your work. Your efforts against Mandragov and the other warlords, not to mention our unexpected off-world raiders, have allowed us to effectively secure a path across the entire continent. We have reclaimed a proverbial path from sea to sea.

Farris: Thank you, Baroness Sigonella. We are currently engaged in refitting and repairing, but we are getting ready to make our next move. Once we're done, we'll be turning towards warlord Christoforo Salera, who’s holdings border on the former Mandragov territories.

Sigonella: While I do commend you on your dedication to duty, Major Farris, that will not be necessary.

Farris: May I ask why?

Sigonella: The Esteros Assembly has chosen not to extend your contract, Major. As such, it will expire at the end of the month. Furthermore, we will not be providing support for further operations against Salera, Panja or any of the other warlords at this time.

[Pause]

Farris: I see. And is there a reason for this?

Sigonella: Your efforts have significantly cowed the remaining warlords to the point that they were willing to negotiate a settlement rather than continue to fight. As such, your unit is no longer needed. We will be bringing in other mercenary commands that will be better suited to policing and garrison duties while we build up our own forces, but for now, your work here is done.

Farris: Of course.

Sigonella: There will be a formal hand-over in the capitol, complete with a reception for you and your unit. After all, you are the heroes of Esteros and you have helped to deliver us from threats from both without and within. Your efforts have greatly aided in the rebuilding of our world, and we cannot thank you enough for that. However, the situation has changed in ways that we could not have predicted at the time we hired you.

Farris: If I may, Baroness Sigonella?

Sigonella: By all means.

Farris: Is this because I declined your offer to switch sides and support you earlier?

Sigonella: My dear, if anything I should thank you for your loyalty. My losing our little civil war allowed me to be bought back into the fold as a matter of political expediency. If anything, I have done better than I would have as the actual Margrave of Esteros.

Farris: I see.

Sigonella: However, Major Farris, you are a hero to our world. Enjoy your victory. I will send you the details for the hand-over, and I look forward to seeing you in the capitol. Until then.

Farris: And likewise.

[Pause]

Lieutenant Leon Mackinaw: Let me guess, screwed over by the nobles?

Farris: Not us personally, but the assembly seems to have opted for an ‘expedient' option.

Mackinaw: Of course. But as long as we get paid, right?

Farris: I suppose so.

Author of BattleCorps stories Grand Theft Agro and Zero Signal



How to Draw MegaMek Icons the Deadborder Way. Over 9000 so far. Determination or madness?

Deadborder

  • Lieutenant Colonel
  • *
  • Posts: 7882
  • Technical Victory!
    • Elmer Studios Blog
Re: Renegades
« Reply #281 on: 14 April 2024, 03:08:28 »
Guest chapter by Zogster and KayEmm

Departure

And at long last, it was time to leave.

The expansive Tirana drop port was a hive of activity. The tent city that had sprung up around the two mercenary companies’ drop ships was being rapidly disassembled and packed away. It was an efficient and practiced process, a habit instilled into the two groups’ workers and families over countless deployments.
Walking through the Iron Knights’ rapidly vanishing settlement, Lana Kotovski watched the work with a thoughtful smile. Alongside her, Katarina Morrison glanced at her commander, then followed her gaze. A technician with the Star’s badge on his jumpsuit was helping a couple of the Iron Knights’ support crew break down a temporary shelter and pack it away into a much more portable form.

“Okay, what’s on your mind?” Katarina eventually asked.

“Just thinking. For our different origins and histories, when you dig down, our units are more alike than anything else.”

Katarina shrugged. “I mean, it’s part of the business, right? You’ve got to pack up and leave sometime.”

“Still,” Lana said. “I’m just glad we could find common ground and work together.”

“Just wish it hadn’t taken my rookie mistake to make it happen,” Katarina replied.

“Quit beating yourself up about that,” Lana told her. “It worked out.”

Katarina had come to rue that phrase. There was something almost naive in her commander’s optimism, especially in the cut-throat profession they both worked in. The dirty tactics employed by their most recent adversaries had thrown that into sharp relief for her, and yet as Lana said… Things had worked out.

They strolled in companionable silence for a while. There was a positive air in the work around them, knowing that this was the conclusion of a successful campaign. Everyone here had contributed in some way, and they would all benefit from the spoils. Even Katarina had to admit it was uplifting.

Eventually, they felt reality catching up with them. As the blazing sun rose higher into the sky, the pair turned back towards their own drop ship. Katarina was the first to speak up.

“Fun though this has been-”

“No, you’re right,” Lana cut in, seemingly reading her subordinate’s thoughts. “Plenty to do before lift-off.”

“‘Mechs to load, supplies to secure…”

“And seeing off our new allies,” Lana added.

“True.” Katarina thought of a pricy bottle of gin she’d acquired in Tirana. “Lots of catching up to do.”

They paused on the field and turned to face each other. Lana and Katarina gave each other a crisp salute.

“See you back on board,” Lana told her second.

“Take your time,” Katarina replied. The pair nodded to each other, then turned to go their separate ways.

—--

It had taken Jakub Day a while to approach Kaitlynn Faris, for a wide number of reasons. As a lieutenant of course he had his own duties, organising his men and preparing them for departure. Added to that of course was that Major Faris had plenty to deal with herself, especially this close to departure, And as much as he didn’t want to admit it, the final point was simply working up the courage to consult a superior officer for what he felt was such a small matter.

But finally he steeled himself for the task. After a while of searching, he’d found the Major on the floor of Red Son’s BattleMech bay, overseeing their units as they were secured for departure. He hovered for a moment, telling himself he didn’t want to interfere, before finally finding a chance to approach.

“Major Farris?” he said, stepping up. He came to attention and offered her a crisp salute.

“Lieutenant Day,” she replied with a smile. “And please, call me Kaitlyn or Kait. We're not on the clock here.” There was an easy familiarity to her voice, her tone a lot more relaxed than it had been for the last few weeks.

Jakub dropped the salute, but his posture seemed no more relaxed. “I had a request Major - uh, Kaitlynn. Um…” His words caught in his mouth for a moment, before he found them. “It’s not a formal request, rather something of a personal matter.”

Kait looked thoughtful for a moment, as if there was something on her mind, but she clearly shook it off, returning to that same friendly tone she had adopted before. “By all means. What is it?”

The young man chewed his lip for a moment as he found the words. “Iulia - Captain Dragan has been a great help to me during this campaign. Her advice and guidance were invaluable. So I wanted to make her something as a way of saying thanks.” He paused for a moment, his confidence faltering. “Thing is, I’m not sure what would be appropriate. And as you’re her friend, I thought that… um…” Jakub trailed off, his doubt plain to see.

That seemed to take her by surprise, but again she quickly returned to her same familiar, friendly tone. “That's very kind of you Jakub.” Kaitlyn looked thoughtful, clearly considering the matter carefully. “Honestly, I think it's more if it was something that came from you that she would appreciate the most. But what I think she really would like is a history of your unit. She likes to read and learn.” That bought a smile to her face. “It wouldn't need to be the most detailed account, but something that would teach her more about your people and their background and culture.”

Jakub nodded slowly in response. “I think…” he began, before trailing off. He took a moment to ponder, before snapping his attention back to Kaitlynn. “I think I’ve got something like that. Yeah.” He smiled broadly and shot Kaitlynn another salute. “Thank you, Major. Um, Kaitlynn.”

“No, thank you,” she nodded. “It's very kind of you.”

 “I need to see if I can dig this up. Excuse me.” With that, Jakub turned and all but dashed away.

—--

When Katarina Morrison had asked to meet with Kaitlyn, she wasn't sure what to make of the offer. Realizing that it was meant to be an end-cap to their first meeting in the Ur had made it clear that this was an informal affair, which had helped to clear the air. That had left Kait with the issue that the Red Son really had nothing like Ur’s improvised lounge, due to its being a much older and less well maintained vessel. So instead she improvised.

“Not bad, huh?” She asked with a smile. The pair of them were on deck chairs at the front of one of Red Son's fighter bays, the bulky form of a Gotha squatting behind them. With the bay door open, it offered a great view out over the landscape to the horizon, as if they were looking back on all that they had accomplished. A small table and a pair of glasses just added to the atmosphere.

“Okay, wow,” Katarina said, looking out at the purple-tinged view. “This beats my musty lounge chairs any day. I’ve got to step up my drinking game. Speaking of…”

Katarina proffered the bottle. “It’s called New Dawn gin, from a local distillery. Picked it up here in Tirana. Of course, that means local ingredients, so I’ve got no idea what it’s going to be like. Or I’ve got the bottle from Sudeten on hand in case you want to play it safe.”

“Let's try the New Dawn then,” Kait replied with a smile. “Given that it's local, it feels more like we earned it.”

“I like it,” Katarina replied. “Plus it means I’ve got someone to test it on.” She poured a measure from the bottle into each of their glasses, before handing one to Kaitlynn. “Cheers,” she said, raising her own.

“To unexpected allies,” she suggested before taking a sip. The gin was nice, leading to Kait imagining that it was meant to be a premium brand for the planet's nobles. Regardless, it felt good more because if was a shared experience than its actual flavor.

“You know, I was against this,” Katarina mused. “We could have just parked ourselves in the mine we landed at and sat out the conflict. Of course, there’s no telling how that would have turned out.”

“Well I'm glad you didn't,” Kait replied. “And I'm not just saying that because it meant we could win a military victory against Mandragov's army and then the Red Reapers a lot faster than we would have alone,” she explained. “But for two other reasons.”

“First of all was the alliance we formed,” she explained with a small smile. “Which means a lot to me, really. My unit are… strangers in a strange land, is the best way to put it. We spent years rotting away in the Periphery before I took the chance and uprooted us into the Inner Sphere, but it was a big risk. Making allies is going to help us a lot, especially given that you're a part of something bigger.”

“The second is that it was the right thing to do,” she explained. “And I appreciate it a lot. Ours is a somewhat cynical profession where people often think in terms of pure bottom line above all else. That you were willing to stick your necks out to do what was the right thing rather than the expedient one spoke volumes about the people that you are. So thank you.”

“No, thank you,” Katarina said, raising her glass to Kaitlynn. “It’s not what I expected, running into another mercenary unit out here, and to be honest I’m not entirely sure I would have taken that risk. Fortunately, Lana was making that call. But given how things… worked out, I guess, I’m beginning to understand her way of doing things more.”

Kait took another sip, enjoying the flavor, even if thoughts were running through her head. It seemed to be a bit cynical to try to get something personal for herself now after talking about selflessness, but at the same time, there was a burning question in my mind. “Now speaking of, I am curious about one thing. I admit it's a bit of my prying into other people's business, and if it's not my place then I apologize.”

“Ask away. I’m an open book here.

“Jakub mentioned another mercenary unit called King's Tigers,” she considered. “He was making a video for one of their members. I'm guessing your units have a bit of a relationship there.”

Katarina paused. Truth was they were closer to King’s Tigers than anyone realised, since joining up with Maygari’s Renegades coalition. But of course, that wasn’t the kind of thing she should be sharing with an outsider, no matter how much she thought Kaitlynn would be a good fit for the group. Instead, she decided to stick with the facts.

“King’s Tigers hauled out of arse-nowhere in the Taurian Concordat about fifteen years ago. Way I hear it they’d been basically rotting there since the Jihad ended.” Her mouth dipped into a frown as she pressed on. “As I understand, they worked for the Word right up until the fall of the protectorate. So you know, not the most popular of people.”

That definitely resonated with Kaitlyn on a number of levels. “I can relate to that experience,” she admitted.

“Their commander, Lanie, is a good, honest person. She really tries hard to keep everything straight and above board. We worked with them a bit, and it really impressed me how much she takes care of her people.” She gave Kaitlynn a wink and added “She’s one of the good ones. You’d like her.”

She gave a genuine smile, even if she was not being entirely clear in her motivations. “It sounds it.”

“Lanie took a huge risk getting her unit to Galatea. I mean, she could have just sat around with a safe contract to do nothing forever. But she wanted to do better by her people.”

“Plus, Jakub gets along well with her daughter, Angela.” She swished the liquid in her glass as her mouth stretched into a grin. “Which I might have encouraged. A lot.”

That bought on a chuckle. “I can imagine. It sounded like he really likes her.”
“How do I put it?” Katarina pondered for a moment. “It’s like, they’re both going to inherit mercenary units - hopefully not any time soon, mind you. And if, say, the Star’s leader is married to another mercenary commander then all that dynastic bullshit I mentioned is going to matter a whole lot less around here. Plus, they are really cute together,” she added with a shrug.

Kait smiled broadly. “Well that just makes it perfect.” She raised her glass. “To Jakub and Angela.”

—--

Feet pounded on the pavement as Jakub ran across Tirana’s drop port, clutching a thick folder in his arms. The curved form of the Red Son towered over him, its landing ramps still down for now. The grounds were clear, and a last few officers and crew were milling around, completing their final preparations for departure.
Jakub slowed his pace as he scanned the crowd. He quickly picked out Iulia’s distinctive figure in amongst them. Coming to a halt, he called out “Captain Dragan?”

“Lieutenant Day,” Iulia replied with a smile as she turned. “It is a pleasure to see you one last time"

“I wanted to grab you before you left,” he said, still catching his breath. There was a lot to do, and it took me a while to make this and…” He trailed off, glancing down at the folder. “Sorry, let me start again.”

“I wanted to say thank you,” Jakub said. “You’ve taught me a lot while we were here, and really opened my eyes.” He paused, picking his words carefully. “There’s a whole lot more to the Inner Sphere than I ever imagined.”

She nodded ever so slightly in response. “You helped me so much as well. You taught me about your people, their history and their culture. I learned so much from you in our short time working together.”

He brought the folder up between them and patted its cover. From here, Iulia could tell that it was crammed with a variety of papers, and what looked to be notebooks and photographs. She clearly looked thoughtful as she was studying it, as if pondering what exactly it might be. “Mary-Rose Day founded the Comets mercenary unit in 3010, and became its first commander. By all accounts she was a bit um… Flighty?” He shrugged slightly, unsure of the correct term. “Anyway, she wasn’t so good on keeping records, but preferred to, well… Scrapbook.”

Jakub patted the bulging folder. “Her son made it into a unit tradition, and that passed down through the Comets’ commanders. When they joined the Star of Sumer in 3085, it became more of a family tradition, but also expanded to cover the reformed unit as a whole.”

He continued, his voice a touch quieter. “Dad gave it to me just before I lost him and I’ve been keeping it up to date ever since. So I spent all night making copies of everything in there. Kaitlynn said you’re interested in histories and things like that, so I thought you’d like to have it.” He opened the folder to the most recent entry, which included a photo of the Star and Iron Knights’ officers side by side. “After all, you’re a part of it too.”

Iulia gently took the offered folder, looking over a few of its pages, turning them with a slowness that bordered on reverence. “Thank you, Jakub,” she finally spoke. “This is… beautiful. I will treasure it.”

“There’s like… official records and dry histories in our archives and things like that, but this really felt more…” He paused, looking at her with an earnest smile. “Well, more you.”

—--

And finally, it was time to leave.

The Tirana drop port stood quiet and empty, save for the monolithic forms of the waiting drop ships. The former hive of activity had vanished, leaving no trace of the makeshift villages that had sprung up around the massive space craft. BattleMechs and combat vehicles were packed away, personnel were loaded on board, and all was ready for departure.

Save for two figures on the tarmac. They were dwarfed by the titanic ships, yet stood out for the emptiness that surrounded them. Lana Kotovski in her crisp white uniform stepped up to Kaitlynn Faris and saluted.

“Major Farris,” she began.

“Major Kotovski", Kaitlyn replied with her own salute.

“I think it’s fair to say this has been a roaring success. Our mission turned out to be much larger than we had anticipated, but with your unit’s assistance we came away victorious.”

“I have to agree,” Kaitlyn nodded. “All of this was far more than we expected. We could not have achieved as much as we had without you, and I cannot thank you enough for your aid.”

“I’m glad you found us. A lot of other commanders would have stayed out of that fight, or just let both sides exhaust each other. But you came to our aid, and I’m grateful.”

“Your people needed help,” she simply explained. “It was not even that you were fighting our then opponents that mattered. I wasn't going to leave you hanging out to dry because it was convenient to me.” Her tone made it clear that this was something important to her, beyond just simple battlefield expediency.

“There’s another thing.” Lana’s characteristic smile vanished. “My unit is part of an alliance of different mercenary commands operating out of Galatea. It’s not a formal matter or unified command, rather a group that shares information and other resources and works for mutual support.”

That seemed to take Kaitlyn by surprise, but she nodded on reply. “Go on.”
“I’ve been impressed by the way you’ve handled yourself, the way you’ve managed your troops and conducted your campaign. But more than that… It’s clear how much you care for those under your command. I think our group would benefit greatly to have you with us.”

“I see,” she continued. “We were operating out of Kadersteg when we got this contract, but…” as she trailed off, it was clear that she was considering all the implications of what Lana was saying.

“We’re called the Renegades.” She paused a moment, studying Kaitlynn for a reaction. “Find Irisz Maygari, of Maygari’s irregulars. This whole thing was her idea. Of course, with interstellar communication being what it is, she may not be on world at any given time, or it could be hard to get a message through to her. There’s other member units who can help you out; The Dark Suns, King’s Tigers or the Krymzon Guard in particular. I’ll reach out to them when I can.”

“King,” she mouthed, ever so slightly audible before she continued. “I greatly appreciate this, Major Kotovski. My unit are… outsiders would be the best way to put it, although you probably figured that out by this point. An alliance like this would help us a lot.”

“Mercenary commands are solitary by nature,” Lana replied. “I feel too much of the job requires us to be competitors. Suport beyond our own units is hard to come by.” Her genuine smile returned, beaming at Kaitlynn. “I just hope we can support you going forwards.”
Author of BattleCorps stories Grand Theft Agro and Zero Signal



How to Draw MegaMek Icons the Deadborder Way. Over 9000 so far. Determination or madness?