Author Topic: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star  (Read 46136 times)

PsihoKekec

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Re: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star
« Reply #360 on: 20 February 2024, 14:07:03 »
Don't Black Warriors also have a beef with Eridiani Light Horse?
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DragonKhan55

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Re: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star
« Reply #361 on: 20 February 2024, 15:42:52 »
Don't Black Warriors also have a beef with Eridiani Light Horse?

Per Sarna:

https://www.sarna.net/wiki/Black_Warriors

The Eridani Light Horse moved to Circinus in 2853 to launch raids against the Lyran Commonwealth. Both groups, as old Star League units, worked together, launching raids against their common foe. However, when the Light Horse uncovered that the Warriors were really pirates, at the end of the war they parted ways. The Warriors saw this as a betrayal, and since then keep a deep hate toward the ELH. The Light Horse landed at the behest of Charles Marik who saw an opportunity to both destroy the Warriors and attack the Commonwealth. The Black Warriors were eventually destroyed by the Light Horse. The ELH then moved on to attack the Lyran Commonwealth, leaving the world to be garrisoned by the Free Worlds League Military. Actions taken by these garrison troops fanned the flames of hatred for the League. Though destroyed in 2864, the Black Warriors would rebuild.

So this timeline has the Black Warriors running into Niops and the SLDF before the ELH had a chance to meet them.

Giovanni Blasini

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Re: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star
« Reply #362 on: 20 February 2024, 15:58:14 »
Per Sarna:

https://www.sarna.net/wiki/Black_Warriors

The Eridani Light Horse moved to Circinus in 2853 to launch raids against the Lyran Commonwealth. Both groups, as old Star League units, worked together, launching raids against their common foe. However, when the Light Horse uncovered that the Warriors were really pirates, at the end of the war they parted ways. The Warriors saw this as a betrayal, and since then keep a deep hate toward the ELH. The Light Horse landed at the behest of Charles Marik who saw an opportunity to both destroy the Warriors and attack the Commonwealth. The Black Warriors were eventually destroyed by the Light Horse. The ELH then moved on to attack the Lyran Commonwealth, leaving the world to be garrisoned by the Free Worlds League Military. Actions taken by these garrison troops fanned the flames of hatred for the League. Though destroyed in 2864, the Black Warriors would rebuild.

So this timeline has the Black Warriors running into Niops and the SLDF before the ELH had a chance to meet them.

It also sets the stage for the eventual meeting between the Light Horse and Niops, though, which, I'll be honest, I've been waiting for since the beginning of this story.
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Wrangler

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Re: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star
« Reply #363 on: 20 February 2024, 18:02:24 »
It also sets the stage for the eventual meeting between the Light Horse and Niops, though, which, I'll be honest, I've been waiting for since the beginning of this story.
Yay, that's something I'm interested in seeing.
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Daryk

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Re: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star
« Reply #364 on: 20 February 2024, 18:48:27 »
I'm still wondering how the quote at the beginning of one of the earlier sections (where Niops replaced Comstar in the FWL) is going to come to pass...

Hotpoint

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Re: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star
« Reply #365 on: 25 February 2024, 08:39:57 »
SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT

After being nominated earlier this month in its category Best Timeline Based on a Work of Fiction in the 2024 Turtledove Awards over on Alternate History Forums (where I also post this story) I'm happy to announce that Guided by the Light of a (Red) Cameron Star has won in its category.  azn

I honestly didn't think that a story set in the universe of a relatively niche franchise like Battletech would get more votes than the ones set in more mainstream ones like  Star Trek/Star Wars/Harry Potter etc. but here we are!
"A dread fear rests deep in the heart of Clan Coyote that one day a lawyer will arrive on Tamaron talking about intellectual property rights, the Mercury II and the Coyotl omnimech and this will herald the end of the Clan as the Not-Named sue their asses into bankruptcy for patent infringement" - The True History of the Clans (Dark Caste Press: 3050)

Hunted Tribes - Hotpoint's Battlestar/Battletech Crossover Series


PsihoKekec

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Re: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star
« Reply #366 on: 25 February 2024, 09:13:37 »
Congratulations on your victory.

I remember back in the day when I was still a member, even more mainstream universes had no chance against ASOIF fics because AH was as obsessed with it as SB was with Worm.
Shoot first, laugh later.

Daryk

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Re: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star
« Reply #367 on: 25 February 2024, 09:27:32 »
Congrats, that's fantastic news! :)

Shadow_Wraith

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Re: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star
« Reply #368 on: 25 February 2024, 10:27:05 »
Yay, Congratulations!!!

novastorm76

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Re: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star
« Reply #369 on: 25 February 2024, 10:32:51 »
Congratulations!  :cool:

Mister Spencer

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Re: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star
« Reply #370 on: 25 February 2024, 10:33:52 »
Congratulations, my good sir! Well deserved, in my opinion.

mikecj

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Re: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star
« Reply #371 on: 25 February 2024, 10:44:30 »
Congratulations!
There are no fish in my pond.
"First, one brief announcement. I just want to mention, for those who have asked, that absolutely nothing what so ever happened today in sector 83x9x12. I repeat, nothing happened. Please remain calm." Susan Ivanova
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Romo Lampkin could have gotten Stefan Amaris off with a warning.

Hotpoint

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Re: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star
« Reply #372 on: 25 February 2024, 10:46:48 »
I remember back in the day when I was still a member, even more mainstream universes had no chance against ASOIF fics because AH was as obsessed with it as SB was with Worm.

Yeah, they had to split the ASOIAF into its own separate category because of that issue.

Coincidentally enough a Game of Thrones/Rome crossover I've been writing a while won the AltHist 2016 Turtledove in its category before they made the split (it's certainly possible that a few of my readers there from that followed me over to Battletech fic which helped get my votes up this time).
"A dread fear rests deep in the heart of Clan Coyote that one day a lawyer will arrive on Tamaron talking about intellectual property rights, the Mercury II and the Coyotl omnimech and this will herald the end of the Clan as the Not-Named sue their asses into bankruptcy for patent infringement" - The True History of the Clans (Dark Caste Press: 3050)

Hunted Tribes - Hotpoint's Battlestar/Battletech Crossover Series


drakensis

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Re: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star
« Reply #373 on: 25 February 2024, 16:44:21 »
Well done.
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DragonKhan55

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Re: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star
« Reply #374 on: 26 February 2024, 12:46:31 »
Congrats Hotpoint!

Artifex

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Re: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star
« Reply #375 on: 26 February 2024, 13:25:50 »
Yeah, congratulations for the award. Well deserved I think.  :smilie_happy_thumbup:

Wrangler

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Re: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star
« Reply #376 on: 26 February 2024, 16:30:20 »
I do hope we see some action soon, the Wolverines are going get rusty!
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richard3116

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Re: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star
« Reply #377 on: 26 February 2024, 22:21:57 »
Bravo

Hotpoint

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Re: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star
« Reply #378 on: 27 February 2024, 10:24:22 »
Part XXXIX - Section 1 of 2

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"The Ironborn from the clan breeding program that Nicky K put into high gear in 2819 are going to form the backbone of the SLDF for the next thirty years, and they're arriving just in time because most of the 295th like yourselves are starting to move like they need to see a chiropractor. Accept that a lot of your people need to retire and just put our kits in a cockpit to replace them."

saKhan Trish Ebon speaks an uncomfortable truth to the senior officers of the 295th Battlemech Division - 2837CE

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Illyria III – Illyrian Palatinate – 2839

Typically the flight path of an Overlord dropship through the atmosphere was strictly an up/down affair from surface to orbit or vice versa. If you wanted to travel in a rather more horizontal direction than normal a more streamlined aerodyne type vessel such as a Leopard or a Triumph tended to be a much better choice, mostly because they didn't have to follow a flight-path like a gigantic mortar bomb in order to make rapid transit from Point A to Point B. A spheroid dropship was more aerodynamic than a brick if ploughing sideways through the air, but not by nearly as much as you'd want if you planned to do it for very long.

It was all very well saying that with enough thrust you didn't need to worry about what shape your craft was to make it fly, if you wanted it to fly well it was still a good idea to take account of drag because all the atmosphere between you and your destination had to be pushed out of the way and at supersonic velocities air compressibility was best not ignored.

Anyone that needed convincing on this point should be directed towards any aerospace fighter pilot that had flown both a Stingray and a Hellcat through the air at supersonic speed and low altitude and ask them their opinion on which ride was the least pleasant.

The SLDF Overlord had blasted off from where it had originally set down at the militia base near the capital Dalmatia and had entered a ballistic trajectory which would carry it over the ocean to its destination on the southern continent. This was an even less pleasant ride than an outside observer might assume because, thanks to being in a gravity well, there was a 'down' which was not the same direction as the axis of thrust, and the angle of that down changed throughout the arc.

Naturally the worst part was when the Overlord had to flip stem to stern so it could use its main engine to deaccelerate and then set down as gently as possible. This all being left to the last possible safe moment in order to make the trip with the necessary haste that combat operations required.

Describing the journey as uncomfortable, hair-raising and tooth-rattling would be to drastically understate the reality, fortunately the SLDF trained its personnel to deal with such situations and had provided the necessary equipment.

Thanks to all the harnesses designed to hold everyone and everything in place multiple serious injuries were avoided, while mouthguards prevented several tongues being bitten off during the rollercoaster ride of a trip.

It was still disconcerting as all hell of course, especially for the mechwarriors who made it strapped into the cockpits of their machines for rapid deployment on arrival.

Looking out from the cockpit of his Highlander secured within one of the mech bays within the Overlord, Major Robert D. MacArthur noted with satisfaction that the six huge external doors of the dropship were already starting to open even before the ship set down, and soon after that the landing was surprisingly smooth given the circumstances.

Spitting out his mouthguard MacArthur took a deep breath as magnetic clamps holding his Highlander and the other machines disengaged. "GO GO GO!" he bellowed into the microphone fitted to his neuro-helmet as soon as the doors had opened, the first four mechs already heading out through the doors before he had even finished the order.

The last time MacArthur had done an actual combat drop like this was on Terra while fighting against Amaris decades before, but General Romanov had sure-as-hell made sure her people practiced regularly for these kind of deployments into a potentially hostile LZ, and the lights and then medium mechs under his command tore off the dropship to secure the area like they did this every day.

The Overlord should have touched down far enough away from where the pirates had landed that they couldn't possibly hit his forces before they fully deployed, but Major MacArthur wasn't prepared to take any risks. While his two companies of battlemechs could be all off the ship and ready for action in minutes that was not true for his armoured unit and he wanted that company of Manticore tanks crewed, down the ramps and formed up before he ordered his forces to advance.

According to the locals the presumed pirates had a Union, two standard model Leopard mech carriers and an old Jumbo. The latter dropship was unlikely to be carrying battlemechs or vehicles, it was probably just mostly along to transport loot, but there might be infantry aboard it and between them the two military dropships could be carrying some twenty mechs.

MacArthur himself had some twenty-four mechs plus twelve tanks to support them, plus whatever the local militia had of course, which would have made him a great deal happier if he didn't know that his command was light on heavies and heavy on lights, to coin the old mechwarrior joke.

As his Highlander followed the smaller battlemechs off the ship, tank crews visibly already running to their own machines behind him in the vehicle bay, MacArthur wished he had come to Illyria to fight a war not to train militia. "Suck it up Robert" he said quietly to himself, 'If wishes were mechs we'd all be riding an Atlas II" he observed wryly as he cleared the dropship and the only other assault battlemech under his command, a Stalker, appeared at his side.

The Overlord had set down on a small hill on what was otherwise mostly a wide open plain, with some farmland nearby and the town where the dropship plant was located visible on the horizon. Not too far to the north, just out of line-of-sight from here should be where the pirate dropships were and once his tanks were ready MacArthur intended to go for the throat pin them down with his tanks and larger, slower mechs in the centre with his lighter machines screening his flanks.

It was a fair assumption that if these ****** had known there was a full battalion of mechs and tanks from Niops on the planet they wouldn't have landed at all, and while they would have seen the Overlord heading their way the sight of three company's worth of heavy metal heading right at them was still unlikely to do their morale any favours.

Things were more equal in terms of aerospace fighters. An Overlord carried a full squadron of six, while their Union and pair of Leopard dropships would have brought two apiece to the fight, so numerically they were matched.

Where they weren't matched was in terms of equipment. According to his fighter-pilots currently jockeying for position in the sky above, the other side was using standard model Sparrowhawk light and Ironsides medium fighters which weren't actually bad machines but they were no match for the souped-up Tomahawk and Rapier fighters that the SLDF had brought to the fight. Even if his pilots had 'only' been flying royals it would have been a mismatch, but as it was the SLDF had upgraded their machines still further with improved clan technology and more armour.

It would have been nice if some of his mechs, not just his Tomahawk fighters, were packing Enhanced ERPPC's but his mechwarriors had been there to act as a OpFor and the pirates they were training the Illyrians to fight wouldn't have that kind of firepower, nobody this side of Strana Mechty apart from Niops actually did. As such what he had for the ground fight was strictly 'B Team' equipment, Star League era gear or weaponry such as the Improved Large Laser that hit just like an ordinary Large Laser, it was just lighter and more compact.

From what he knew of the clans those clowns would have bid away a couple of lances to make it an even fairer fight but that just went to show how stupid and/or insane they were in MacArthur's opinion. Back during the war a good day was the one where you arrived with a whole division and found the enemy waiting for you in battalion strength or less. If they were smart enough to surrender then great, if not you ordered a whole company to engage a single mech and after the hilariously lop-sided fight you praised their bravery while simultaneously mocking their utter stupidity for not waving the white flag or running away.

Given that their jumpships would take nearly a whole week to recharge their drives it wasn't like the pirates could just climb back in their dropships and flee themselves, well they could but they wouldn't get any further than the Lagrange point. Given that Niops was widely known by now to possess armed jumpships, as well as actual warships, MacArthur assumed that the opposition would prefer to make a fight of it on the ground rather than in space, even if they hadn't yet detected the Tramp at the zenith point which had transported his people here from Niops.

A Tramp class jumpship was no warship, but compared to a couple of Invaders it was still pretty formidable and it could jump from the zenith point to where they were any time it liked, having already fully recharged its own K-F drive while MacArthur's Overlord made its way from the jump-point to Illyria III.

If the Tramp had more armour MacArthur would have considered having it make the jump, shoot the pirate jumpships up for a while then use its Lithium-Fusion Battery to jump back to the zenith point but that would have been risking damage to the Tramp. The Invaders weren't totally unarmed, they usually carried a couple of Large lasers or PPC's, and they might also be carrying some fighters in their small craft bays as the Tramp itself happened to be.

It was unlikely any of their fighters were packing nuclear ordnance as the two Ahab aerospace fighters docked aboard the SLDF Tramp were, but MacArthur knew that while just jumping in and nuking the pirate jumpships would be an easy win General Romanov would have his balls on a plate for doing it. Trying not to look as WMD happy as the Successor States was part of the image Niops wanted to project to its neighbours, the Association freely admitted possessing a large nuclear stockpile but publicly stated this was only maintained as a strategic deterrent.

Most of his mechwarriors that day were from the 331st, the Amaris War veterans of the 295th tending to be found driving heavies and assaults these days where fast reaction times weren't nearly as important as experience and discipline, but many of his tank crews however were comprised of soldiers his own age hailing from his own division. Romanov had felt that instructions being given to the Illyrian militia on how to operate a Manticore would be better received coming from older more experienced tread-heads than snot-nosed kids and so she had selected tank crews primarily on that basis.

It all showed in just how much more excited and enthusiastic the radio chatter was between the mechwarriors compared to that between the tankers as MacArthur listened in. The Manticore crews were mostly long past the stage where they yearned for glory, or promotion, they just wanted to blast the enemy with PPC's and LRM's from range and then grind under their tracks, quickly and with minimal fuss and ideally minimal losses.

That wasn't to say that the tankers were blasé or unmotivated. They clearly wanted to get at the enemy and teach them a couple of lessons, these being that the SLDF was still the finest military that had ever taken the field, and that old warhorses could still kick ass, they just much preferred not to get killed doing it. In their youth losing their lives to help rid the galaxy of Stefan Amaris had seemed a sacrifice worth making, doing so this close to retirement just to dispose of some pirate rabble not so much.

They were in the right vehicles if they wanted to stay alive while dishing out the punishment at least, MacArthur considered with satisfaction. A regular Manticore was pretty tough to start with, but if you swapped out the original PPC and LRM launcher for the lighter improved versions of both, and then devoted that spare tonnage for even more armour, well if nothing else it certainly did wonders for tanker morale.

It still looked and handled much like the regular version, and the controls were the same so they were just fine for training the locals how to operate the Manticore, it was just even better at taking a hit now and that suited MacArthur just fine because so many of his mechs weren't exactly designed to soak up a lot of incoming fire.

With a screen of light mechs scouting a little ahead of the main force Major MacArthur ordered the advance, making sure that his recon units knew that if they made contact they shouldn't try to be heroes, they should wait for the tougher machines to catch up. Like his mother liked to say, nobody ever won a war by dying for her planet, you make the other poor, dumb bitch die for hers.

It was good advice, but she might have been invited to more social events in refined company if her language had been a little less salty when mixing with polite society he knew.

As for the fight to come, some artillery would have nice to soften the foe up before the fight of course, as would having a Stuka squadron as air support, but MacArthur guessed that those under his command of the Wolverine persuasion in particular weren't phased too much by the idea of going in without them. During their days with him as their cult leader Kerensky Junior had apparently frowned upon proper combined-arms warfare, so they thought of arty and airstrikes as something that was nice to have, not an outright necessity on the battlefield.

Many of them were still a bit weird in his opinion, even after a decade of living on Niops with normal, albeit more than a little nerdy, people, but you certainly couldn't fault them on their ability to pilot a battlemech. The genetically-engineered ones were still an unknown quantity as far as he was concerned however, and he didn't think his reservations were entirely due to being aggrieved that his granddaughter was involved with one, a ****** Hallis no less. By messing with their fight-or-flight reflex their creators had made them react to stressful situations in a way that the vast majority of sane humans did not, which made them potentially unpredictable and undoubtedly difficult to relate to or always understand.

This would be the first time any of them had seen combat, and MacArthur was certain how they acted and behaved would be studied in depth for quite some time afterwards but he didn't think this would really answer any of the big questions about them.

MacArthur expected to win this fight decisively, perhaps not bloodlessly but decisively nonetheless. The great unknown that would be faced at some point in the future was how the Gamma and Zeta 'sibkits', or whatever the hell it was they called themselves, would handle defeat, or even just being ordered to retreat.

They handled their machines wonderfully though, he had to give them that. Ethical considerations aside, if you started teaching your people how to fight at kindergarten age by the time they were in their late teens or early twenties they really knew their trade. MacArthur himself had been younger than any of the kits currently were when he fought his first battle, having been a mere nineteen years old when as a second lieutenant he first followed General Romanov across a battlefield on Apollo, and with only a fraction as much time spent in a mech cockpit when he got to do it for real the first time as they had, he certainly expected them to perform better than he had at least. The neurohelmet you wore used your own sense of balance and reactions to stimuli to keep your battlemech upright when something was trying to knock it down, and to stop you falling over when moving across broken terrain at speed, and it took years of practice to be really good at it.

Watching the Locust, Wasp, Commando and Stinger lights leading the advance, each with some gene-spliced weirdo barely out of their teens at the controls effortlessly dealing with any obstacles the encountered as they kept formation and maintained spacing MacArthur hoped they could shoot as well as they drove, rightly assuming that they probably could.

They knew their jobs well enough that they didn't think scouting just meant looking out for the enemy at least. As the light mechs advanced they reported on the terrain and the state of the ground so that the units following behind took the appropriate route. This was particularly important when you had a mix of different platforms working together such as mechs and tanks. Ground that was tricky for a mech could be easy for a tracked vehicle and vice versa, wide tracks and low ground pressure per square metre meant that a sixty ton tank like a Manticore could traverse soft ground that the foot of a twenty ton mech would just sink into, while conversely a mech could step over or jump obstacles that would utterly stymie a tank.

That was just another reason why combined-arms formations were just objectively better in the majority of situations, they just weren't so stuck in the way they had to operate, stuck being the operative word in this particular example.

Was the raw skill of the kits and a careful study of their trade in the academic classroom sense a match for actual combat experience though, Major MacArthur wondered, knowing that he would be finding that out sooner rather than later?
"A dread fear rests deep in the heart of Clan Coyote that one day a lawyer will arrive on Tamaron talking about intellectual property rights, the Mercury II and the Coyotl omnimech and this will herald the end of the Clan as the Not-Named sue their asses into bankruptcy for patent infringement" - The True History of the Clans (Dark Caste Press: 3050)

Hunted Tribes - Hotpoint's Battlestar/Battletech Crossover Series


Hotpoint

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Re: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star
« Reply #379 on: 27 February 2024, 10:25:23 »
Part XXXIX - Section 2 of 2

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A few kilometres away Major Angelica Cirion was counting on experience. Judging from the Overlord dropship's IFF It looked like she was about to be facing some kind of expeditionary force from the Niops Association, maybe there to train the Illyrians she wondered, but how good could they really be?

She had heard the stories of course, even if you weren't connected to the HPG network like Circinus both rumours and actual news tended to spread fast from the Inner Sphere to the near Periphery, and Niops was close enough to Circinus for her people to have paid attention. A self-styled Star League and Terran Hegemony remnant, Niops had apparently been a high-tech scientific research station that was technologically sophisticated enough to not only make its own HPG's but even keep a small number of warships and an unknown number of battlemechs operational.

It was supposedly Niops that had loaned the Palatinate the money they were using to buy the shipment of military equipment from the Magistracy that was expected to start to arrive later in the year, so the Association wanting to make sure the money wasn't being squandered made a certain amount of sense if they were conscientious, but the timing was pretty unfortunate from her perspective.

Raiding Illyria before they had the new gear and couldn't put up meaningful resistance was the whole reason why the Black Warriors had chosen to strike now, only idiots wanted a fair fight after all, but assuming that damn Overlord was fully loaded she could be facing thirty-six mechs, or perhaps a mix of mechs and combat vehicles, to her twenty.

It was best to assume the worst and plan for it, Cirion knew. The 295th Battlemech Division which had somehow ended up on Niops wasn't a royal formation, so they wouldn't have the best gear the old SLDF had boasted, but they wouldn't have worn-out junk either like most forces you encountered in the periphery.

It was a good news/bad news situation, the two actually going hand-in-hand. The good news was that it was a reasonable assumption that the opposition hadn't really fought anybody since Aleksandry Kerensky put a bullet into Stefan Amaris, so they wouldn't have anybody much under ninety with combat experience. The bad news being that because they hadn't fought anybody since then they could well be bringing factory-fresh machines to the party, ones with all the fancy bells and whistles still working. Guardian ECM systems, Beagle Active Probes and command mechs where all the electronics still worked just weren't a thing these days, particularly not way out here, and the other side having potential force multipliers like that wasn't exactly great.

At least she had a fair idea of how they were likely to fight, or at least she assumed so given that the people that would have trained the opposition were almost certainly old SLDF regulars who had served in the 295th against Amaris. Most of the actual veterans would be retired by now of course, maybe excepting the senior officers and a few grizzled non-coms, but they would have taught their kids and grandkids the way they were taught and given that SLDF doctrine had triumphed over the Rim Worlds Republic it seemed unlikely they would have tried to re-invent the wheel in the intervening years.

That could be their undoing. The Black Warriors knew Star League Defence Force battlefield doctrine as well as anyone, in fact during the Amaris War they had actually been involved in training new recruits to Kerensky's cause in how the SLDF did things, thanks to Zachariah Cirion and his mercenary regiment siding with the anti-Amaris cause and doing what they could for the Star League.

The people that trained Angelica and her generation of the Black Warriors had trained a lot of the people that went on to retake the Terran Hegemony, the SLDF units at the sharp edge needing a constant stream of replacements as they took battlefield casualties. It was in fact one of the reasons why the Black Warriors weren't your typical pirate rabble, they were professional soldiers with proper training and the instilled discipline you would expect from that. They just happened to want a better pay check and a laxer uniform code than a regiment with less flexible morals would get, and you couldn't even accuse them of being only out for number one. If somebody invaded Circinus the Black Warriors would fight for their home just as hard as any soldier anywhere in the Inner Sphere would, excepting perhaps the Dracs but those lunatics seemed to go out of their way to martyr themselves for the dragon.

It was annoying that her aerospace fighters were too busy dancing around the sky looking for a positional advantage in the dogfight to come to do some better aerial observation but as the Niops people advanced it was obvious from altitude by the tank tracks many of them left behind that it wasn't a mech-only formation.

How Cirion handled this would depend on what tanks they were. The SLDF had relied heavily on the Manticore and the Von Luckner as their main tank strength and they needed to be dealt with in a very different way.

The Von Luckner was the heavier of the two machines, and the harder hitting thanks to its massive AC/20 that could utterly wreck a mech in one blow, but the AC/20 lacked range so as long as you weren't stupid enough to get close those things could be dealt with. The Manticore was more of a problem at longer range, it didn't have the same knock-out punch but it's PPC used in conjunction with its LRM launcher could tear the hide off you if you gave it the time to do so.

As the enemy approached her scouts made note of their composition before withdrawing back to her lines.

Just the Manticore then, and the vast majority of their mechs were lights and mediums, Angelica Cirion considered as her scouts relayed on their findings.

They had more hardware, but the average tonnage of her mechs was considerably higher, with armour plate to spare. If she tried to fight at range then it would play into the hands of that company of PPC and LRM toting enemy tanks, but if she went right at them, concentrating fire on anything that could be knocked out fast to even the odds, and was clinical in her target selection after that, this could work.

Assault wise they did have a Highlander and a Stalker, the gauss rifle on the former being another particular reason not to want to shoot it out with them at long range. A lucky hit from that thing could blow the head of her Battlemaster clean off, and her ride being a command mech it would surely be gunning for her. Cirion wanted to be up close where she could put all her medium lasers and her SRM launcher to work against it, burn the thing down with weight of fire in a brawl where the Highlander didn't have the advantage.

That Stalker would have to be dealt with differently, it had a weapons load-out that meant it would hit you progressively harder the closer you got to it, but the Black Warriors could tackle that thing after thinning out the herd.

This was going to be bloody but it was winnable, Cirion decided. Bigger mechs and undoubtedly more experienced mechwarriors should be enough to get the job done, especially if she could shake their morale by taking down a few enemy machines in the first few minutes.

There was an area of more uneven and broken terrain nearby, and Angelica Cirion immediately ordered her mechs to move into it. If they had been fighting against Von Luckner tanks instead that would have been a bad idea but in terrain like that where you could only get line-of-sight relatively close the PPC on the Manticore wouldn't get a chance to shine, at least metaphorically. Being a blindingly bright charged particle beam with lightning flashing around it a PPC always shined literally.

Issuing her instructions over the encrypted command channel Angelica Cirion told her troops what she expected of them, how she expected the fight to go, and what they needed to do in order to win. This wasn't turning out to be the battle they had expected against poorly equipped militia, but it wasn't like they had a battalion of heavies and assaults heading their way, those Niops machines might look shiny and pristine but that was because they hadn't fought a battle since her grandfather commanded the Black Warriors.

As the opposition approached and the scout's observations were confirmed that there was indeed an awful lot of diminutive 'bug' mechs among them, Wasp, Locust and Stinger twenty-tonners, as well as a couple of the slightly heavier Commando, the Black Warriors started to feel more confident and a ripple of laughter over the comms followed Major Cirion's joke that she should have brought along a can of insecticide.

It would be folly to completely discount even the smallest of mechs of course. They might not be able to take much punishment, and they didn't mount the firepower to dish it out either, but they had a speed and manoeuvrability advantage over heavier machines and if they could flank around and shoot you in the rear where the armour on your own ride was thinner they could be a literal pain-in-the-ass. For that reason Cirion told her own lights not to fully commit to the action until theirs were, they might be needed to counter a sudden piece of tactical chicanery.

Ideally she would have moved her forces into the town for the fight, tanks with specialised long-ranged armament sucked at urban warfare, but the need to defend her dropships, and also the risk of local militia armed with shoulder-launched SRM launchers equipped with Inferno warheads, ruled that one out.

As she formulated last-minute plans and issued final orders her comms gear flagged up an incoming radio transmission from the other side over an open channel.

"This is Major Robert MacArthur of the Star League Defence Force issuing the first and final warning you will receive from me" the transmission began. "Given your failure to identify yourselves it is assumed you are unlawful combatants entitled to no protections under the Ares Conventions or any of the other rules and customs of war. As such we will treat you as pirates, showing no mercy unless you immediately lay down your arms and surrender, thus preventing unnecessary bloodshed on both sides."

Cirion grinned. "There's no such thing as the Star League Defence Force anymore" she signalled back. "No Star League either for that matter, so I guess you're operating under a false identity. As such it is assumed that you are unlawful combatants entitled to no protections under the Ares Conventions" she retorted sarcastically, laughing.

"The SLDF as constituted serves the government of the Niops Association as the lawful continuation of both the Star League and the Terran Hegemony. Regardless of that we're not here to bandy words with criminals. You can surrender your arms and face a fair trial, or you can face us in battle, choose the latter and any of you that survive will then face a hangman's rope."

"I have a counter-offer" Cirion responded. "You all turn around, get back on your dropship and just leave because if you don't then after I've beaten you and taken your mechs as salvage I'll leave your corpses rotting in the sun to feed the carrion eaters" she said. "In case it's not clear, that's me saying that I won't be meekly waving the white flag."

"Thank God. I was worried for a moment you might not want to make a fight of it. MacArthur out."

Well, he was certainly out of his league anyway, Angelica Cirion thought to herself confidently as the enemy formation continued to bear down on her position.

As with most ground battles in the twenty-ninth century the festivities began with a massive storm of LRM's from both sides, missiles raining down like hail in a mostly indirect-fire engagement that made up for in fire and fury what it lacked in accuracy.

It was all so spectacular that it took Anjelica Cirion a couple of minutes to register what her aerospace fighter pilots suddenly started screaming about.

Two planes down already? How the hell did that happen, Cirion wanted to know before the fighting on the ground took up all her available attention.

It still itched in the back of her mind however, where it was soon joined by another thought as her mechwarriors started yelling about the first enemy machines taking direct fire not reacting to solid hits like they should, and their return fire being unusually unflustered and precise, as if the man or woman at the controls was on a firing range not in a battle.

As the world became missile salvoes, streams of autocannon tracer, PPC bolts and laser beams lit up by clouds of smoke and dust Angelica Cirion wondered if there was more to these Niops people and their machines than met the eye.


----------

Note from the Author:

The force dispatched to Illyria to train the locals in operating the Manticore is not properly balanced and it's not ideally equipped to take on the Black Warriors (it would obliterate the average pirate battalion though). Despite numerical superiority they have smaller mechs on average and the Manticore tank specialises in long-range engagements that Cirion isn't stupid enough to given them. If the SLDF's tank company had been a mix of the Manticore and Von Luckner then the Black Warriors would have been less happy at a close-in fight but as it is they prefer to brawl rather than get shot up by PPC's.

Thanks to the first 'full production run' Ironborn coming of age the SLDF is now leaning younger. particularly in terms of those sat in the cockpits of light mechs. Although the first use of the Iron Womb by the clans dates to 2816 it wasn't until 2819 that numbers were significantly ramped up as Kerensky embraced the technology fully as part of his breeding program.

MacArthur would have much preferred to fight with some good artillery support, the kind that the SLDF used so effectively before against the Blood Rain on Algenib, but they don't have any Vali or Thor batteries so they're fighting with what they do have.

The biggest edge they do have is in terms of aerospace fighters, and its technological. The ASF's belonging to the Black Warriors are so outclassed by upgunned Royal
Tomahawk and Rapier fighters it's not funny.
"A dread fear rests deep in the heart of Clan Coyote that one day a lawyer will arrive on Tamaron talking about intellectual property rights, the Mercury II and the Coyotl omnimech and this will herald the end of the Clan as the Not-Named sue their asses into bankruptcy for patent infringement" - The True History of the Clans (Dark Caste Press: 3050)

Hunted Tribes - Hotpoint's Battlestar/Battletech Crossover Series


Daryk

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Re: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star
« Reply #380 on: 27 February 2024, 18:17:10 »
Just waiting for the hammer to fall here... Cirion has NO idea! ;D

Wrangler

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Re: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star
« Reply #381 on: 27 February 2024, 20:25:46 »
This is what I've been hoping to read! Good stuff!
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Daryk

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Re: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star
« Reply #382 on: 27 February 2024, 20:29:24 »
Quote
MacArthur would have much preferred to fight with some good artillery support, the kind that the SLDF used so effectively before against the Blood Rain on Algenib, but they don't have any Vali or Thor batteries so they're fighting with what they do have.
I daresay MacArthur is going to be asking for a Fortress the next time he has to do one of these missions... ;D

DragonKhan55

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Re: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star
« Reply #383 on: 28 February 2024, 19:51:26 »
I daresay MacArthur is going to be asking for a Fortress the next time he has to do one of these missions... ;D

I'm thinking a Colossus, with a Titan as a aerospace backup along with a pair of Achilles to act as bodyguards...

Daryk

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Re: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star
« Reply #384 on: 28 February 2024, 20:06:46 »
But only the Fortress has installed artillery... ;)

DragonKhan55

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Re: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star
« Reply #385 on: 28 February 2024, 20:13:43 »
But only the Fortress has installed artillery... ;)

Colossus has two Arrow IV launchers to the single Long Tom the Fortress has. And with 72 (!!!) Heavy Vehicle bays, you can bring a full mech battalion, a full armored battalion, and then two companies of Long Toms with another dozen spotter VTOLs and light hovercraft too. :D

Daryk

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Re: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star
« Reply #386 on: 28 February 2024, 20:59:00 »
Wait, what?  I totally missed the Arrow launchers on the OG Colossus...

David CGB

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Re: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star
« Reply #387 on: 28 February 2024, 23:51:00 »
I'm thinking a Colossus, with a Titan as a aerospace backup along with a pair of Achilles to act as bodyguards...
Someone is thinking along the right lines……
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Hotpoint

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Re: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star
« Reply #388 on: 05 March 2024, 10:45:07 »
Part XL - Section 1 of 2

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"Circinus? I like to think of it as Niops dark twin, or perhaps the evil alternate universe version of Niops. Niops with a goatee if you will."

Giles Olson, Former High Associator - 2844 CE


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Illyria III – Illyrian Palatinate – 2839

Cackling like a lunatic after his initial whoop of triumph Nils Rayson brought the nose of his Tomahawk aerospace fighter around towards the next target on his scope as the wreckage of the pirate Sparrowhawk he had just shot down fell to earth, or rather the surface of Illyria III where the largest remaining chunk of the plummeting thirty-ton airframe would make an impressive crater.

While you could often salvage a defeated enemy battlemech, that didn't tend to be an option when it came to downed aerospace fighters. Generally they hit the ground very, very hard after being knocked out of the sky, and while some of the armour plate might still be intact enough to re-use the valuable weaponry and electronics tended to end up a broken, tangled mess.

If they hadn't been able to eject what was left of the pilot was inevitably also a broken tangled mess mixed in with what was left of their ride, but in this case the Sparrowhawk pilot had successfully managed to punch out when their engine failed. Slowly drifting down by parachute Rayson correctly assumed that they would be bemoaning all the way down to the ground the fact that they had been suckered but good.

This wasn't Rayson's first aerial victory, but it was the first one in many years. Coming up nearly two decades ago now as a rookie pilot he had shot down a couple of Trident ASF's belonging to one of the rebel groups over Circe, and a couple of years after that over Strana Mechty he had splashed a Zero being flown by a pilot from Clan Wolf, the Kerenskysite bastard spiralling into the ground just outside Bearcat while still in his cockpit, but it had been a long dry spell ever since.

Now in his forties Rayson had been starting to think that maybe he should consider swapping his beloved light fighter for something more suitable for middle-age, a Rapier or even a Stuka maybe, as his reaction times definitely weren't what they used to be. On the other hand however, despite that enemy Sparrowhawk having clearly been flown by some twitchy, hyperactive kid who must have downed several large cups of espresso judging by how they had been throwing it around the sky, it wasn't Nils Rayson dangling from a 'chute right now was it?

There was indeed a lot to be said for youth, but guile and being a sneaky underhanded SOB with a plan and an ace hidden up the sleeve also had its merits.

The Sparrowhawk was lighter and nimbler than a Tomahawk, with a superior thrust-to-weight ratio that meant trying to outturn or outclimb it would be an exercise in futility unless the Sparrowhawk pilot was either a klutz or a complete idiot. The Sparrowhawk wasn't well armed or well armoured, its advantage lay in its speed, and as they had started to tangle it had become obvious to Rayson that his opponent was the type that liked to play with their food.

Using the superior performance of their machine the Sparrowhawk pilot had danced around the sky, making sure to stay out of the effective range of the large lasers that the standard model TKH-63 Tomahawk mounted as its primary armament. The enemy pilot effectively taunting Rayson by occasionally getting just barely close enough to hit, Rayson obliging by firing his lasers that missed by a mile each time.

That the Tomahawk might be deliberately shooting wide apparently didn't occur to them.

One of the ironies of 29th Century aerial combat was that in many ways it resembled that of the World Wars of the early-to-mid 20th Century more than it did some slightly later wars, such as the Second Soviet Civil War of the early 21st, when fire-and-forget guided missiles launched at well beyond visual range had rendered old-school dogfighting an anachronism. The swing-back to gun-fighting in the skies had largely been as a result of the development of the aerospace fighter, these being powered by a nuclear fusion reactor that could generate an obscene amount of electrical power as well as the ability to take off from a runaway and reach orbit.

The sheer wattage you could push into your electronic countermeasures, particularly brute-force jamming, could so overmatch the capabilities of the seeker head in an incoming radar-guided missile that they just stopped being effective. Ironically the very same reactors that had allowed for excessively powerful ECM had also made laser weaponry practical, quickly bringing back the age of the aerial gun-fighter and they had reigned ever since. Self-guided fire-and-forget BVR missiles small enough to hang under an aerospace fighter had been in effect just a short-lived historical oddity, a flash-in-the-pan that lasted only a few decades.

Gradually as the Sparrowhawk pilot reached the conclusion that the incompetent schmuck in the Tomahawk couldn't hit the side of a barn if they were inside it they let themselves get closer and closer, taunting their opponent though still making sure that they were far enough away that only both the best-aimed and luckiest of shots could hit them.

The Sparrowhawk was already within effective range, if barely, when the pirate in the cockpit reduced speed slightly more to let the Tomahawk on their tail catch up slightly more as if mocking their skills. If any incoming laser fire did get too close they would simply gun their engine again and leave the slower fighter behind to eat their dust.

Eventually they would have likely gotten bored with their sport, but they never actually got the chance. If Rayson's Tomahawk had been a regular THK-63 model the Sparrowhawk pilot would have gotten away with it but it wasn't, not anymore.

Two years before the fusion engine in Rayson's fighter had been pulled out and replaced with a XL powerplant, one originally designed for the Stag battlemech that had been put back into manufacture for the Hussar. With the same power-output as the original engine it didn't make the Tomahawk any faster, but it was considerably lighter, freeing up some weight for more weaponry and heat sinks.

The upgraded machine was effectively now a THK-63b, a 'Royal' Tomahawk, the type that the SLDF had mounted an ERPPC on.

Except that it didn't mount an ERPPC, it mounted an Enhanced ERPPC. Not only that, by swapping the Large Lasers for Improved Large Lasers an additional two tons of weight was available that was used to install an extra pair of double heat sinks so it could actually use all that firepower more often without overheating so quickly, a problem the THK-63b had been known for.

The Sparrowhawk might have been far enough away from the Tomahawk that a Large Laser fired at its maximum effective range would have to be lucky to hit it, but as far as the eERPPC was concerned this wasn't even long-range shooting.

Taking careful aim for the first time Rayson line up his shot on the rear of the Sparrowhawk and fired all three of his guns the instant it levelled off for a split second between manoeuvres, the Improved Large Laser in each wing and the eERPPC in the nose of his Tomahawk discharging all their stored energy immediately. One of the lasers missed, Rayson was good but for even one of them to make a hit at that range was pretty lucky.

The lone Enhanced ERPPC did not miss.

Since light travels somewhat faster than a particle beam, the beam from the Improved Large Laser actually struck the Sparrowhawk a tiny fraction of a second before the eERPPC did, but as far as the pirate in the cockpit was concerned it happened simultaneously.

A Sparrowhawk is not a well-armoured machine, and like most aerospace fighters it had less armour in the rear aspect than the front anyway, as such having both large laser and an eERPPC bolt suddenly, and extremely unexpectedly shot up its ass came as a very unpleasant surprise as an impressive chunk of armour plate was instantly vapourised and every warning light in the cockpit of the thirty-ton fighter lit up.

"Got you now you slippery jackrabbit son-of-a-bitch" Rayson said gleefully, hitting his overthrust to close the gap still further before the other pilot could get his act together and recover from the shock.

To give them some credit the pilot of the Sparrowhawk didn't take all that long to hit their own overthrust, making them faster than the Tomahawk again, but Rayson managed to get in a couple more good hits with all his guns before the Sparrowhawk managed to use its superior performance to get out of the effective range of Rayson's lasers, and even after that the pirate was still in eERPPC range.

It wouldn't have worked nearly so well if the Sparrowhawk pilot had known they were up against a 'Royal' of course, but assuming that they were up against a regular Tomahawk where the third gun in the nose was a titchy, short-ranged and weak small laser, not a massive long-ranged particle beam cannon, had likely seemed a certainty at the time. The SLDF that ended up on Niops weren't a Royal Division with that kind of fancy gear were they? No, they were not.

Playing games with the relatively sluggish Tomahawk had seemed like it would be fun and so instead of being a consummate professional the young Sparrowhawk pilot had ****** around, and then they had subsequently found out, the universe being no great fan of hubris.

As mentioned before Rayson had whooped in triumph as his eERPPC hit something that must have been vitally important for the Sparrowhawk to stay in the air, the pilot inside punching out fractionally before a large internal explosion sent a hefty part of its fusion powerplant flying out of the engine's exhaust, but he had still kept his head in the game. Radio chatter on comms informed him that another pirate Sparrowhawk had been swatted but also that the SLDF Rapier pilots were having fun with the enemy Ironsides.

The Ironsides had punchier guns, it's twin PPC's hit harder and had more range than the Improved Large Pulse Lasers of the upgraded Rapier in Niops SLDF service, but when they had tried to use that advantage they had found themselves being absolutely pummelled by seemingly endless salvoes of LRM's that were hitting far too often for comfort thanks to Artemis IV guidance.

By replacing the original armament with 'Improved' types enough tonnage had been freed up for the Rapier to carry considerably more armour, two additional double-heat-sinks and also a lot more LRM ammunition, the latter being of particular interest to the Ironsides getting constantly pelted with the things.

With the Rapier tanking what PPC fire managed to strike home at long range better than the enemy pilots thought it should, which was disturbing in itself, the Ironsides closed so they could get more hits and eventually bring their multiple SRM launchers to bear, wanting to be the one giving not receiving the gift of missiles for once, but as they did so they started to take fire from Large Pulse Lasers which were nasty in a dogfight because they spread the good news around, increasing the chance of a hit against a manoeuvring target.

It was all still far too much of an even fight for Rayson's liking so he slotted in behind the nearest Ironsides that was shooting it out with a friendly Rapier and started blasting.

Nicholas Kerensky might have wanted to bring back honourable single-combat, but just because modern aerospace fighters might dogfight like it was the First World War the 'knights-of-the-sky' crap went out with Manfred von Richthofen, this wasn't a game and unlike the Sparrowhawk pilot he had already shot down Nils Rayson wasn't playing around.

As his Tomahawk and the Rapier ganged up on the unfortunate pirate Ironsides, Rayson idly wondered if the army guys and gals on the ground were having as good a day as he was so far? He knew they didn't have the benefit of all the equipment upgrades and improved weaponry he did, but if the pirate mechwarriors were as overconfident as their aerospace pilots had been then they were likely in for one hell of a shock he decided as the enemy fighter desperately tried to shake him.
"A dread fear rests deep in the heart of Clan Coyote that one day a lawyer will arrive on Tamaron talking about intellectual property rights, the Mercury II and the Coyotl omnimech and this will herald the end of the Clan as the Not-Named sue their asses into bankruptcy for patent infringement" - The True History of the Clans (Dark Caste Press: 3050)

Hunted Tribes - Hotpoint's Battlestar/Battletech Crossover Series


Hotpoint

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Re: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star
« Reply #389 on: 05 March 2024, 10:48:14 »
Part XL - Section 2 of 2

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Even more so than most light aerospace fighters, light battlemechs like the twenty-ton Locust, Wasp and Stinger tearing around on the ground far below the aerial dogfight relied upon their speed for protection, not their armour. As such if forced into a pitched battle they would keeping moving as fast as they could, almost as if the life of the mechwarrior in the cockpit depended upon it, which of course it did.

In the chair of a slightly upgraded LCT-1V Locust, the original armour plate had been replaced by ferro-fibrous and switching out the machine-guns for lighter clan-tech ones freed up half a ton that was then devoted to a concealed flamer, mechwarrior Dave Robertson was moving at nearly 130kph as he looked for a potential enemy target he might actually be able to handle, or at least annoy enough to draw its attention from someone else that wasn't so hard to hit.

The problem with that approach was, of course, that while going at maximum speed meant you were much more difficult to hit, it was also much more difficult to hit back. This intrinsic problem was amplified by the fact that the weapons mounted on a light mech tended to be incapable of the sort of one-punch knockout that was possible for something like a heavy mech carrying a gauss-rifle or massive AC/20 autocannon. Light mechs had to nibble the enemy to death, one tiny bite of armour plate at a time until something mechanically critical underneath was exposed, and if you weren't even hitting a high percentage of your shots anyway because you were running around like a lunatic, then chewing up anything that wasn't another thinly-skinned light mech like yourself was like trying to consume a cauldron of soup with a teaspoon.

I need to remember not to skip dinner before a battle, Dave Robertson thought to himself as he dodged autocannon fire from a pirate Centurion, a machine he had never seen before in real life, the metaphors in my internal monologue are all about eating today, he realised firing back with his single medium laser before veering away to avoid getting lit up by a JagerMech that had taken a sudden interest in him.

These guys sure do have an interesting mix of machines, Robertson considered. It wasn't even that they were a motley collection of various salvaged battlefield scrap, you wouldn't really expect any kind of uniformity from a band of periphery pirates even one this size, the curious thing was that their eclectic collection of battlemechs all seemed to be in pretty good condition.

If he had known at the time that he was facing the Black Warriors, formerly a mercenary regiment who had been given the job of training replacement personnel for the SLDF during the Amaris War it would have made a lot more sense. Aleksandr Kerensky had needed new recruits who could operate most, if not all, of the machines in SLDF service and this had resulted in the Black Warriors being assigned a wide selection of machines for that purpose, including some of the less common or more modern types. Add in what they had later captured from raiding worlds in the Free Worlds League, an occasionally the Lyran Commonwealth, and their extremely varied TO&E made a lot of sense.

As Robertson turned and put some fire into the flank of a pirate Rifleman that had been near the Jaegermech, presumably they were part of an air-defence lance, it was all too obvious that what the other side lacked in numbers they made up for in the average weight of their machines. The company of Manticore tanks on his side that were just now arriving and throwing their firepower into the fray helped a lot but they would have been much more of a decisive factor in a long-range engagement rather than a messy, close-in brawl, their PPC and particularly their LRM launcher being sub-optimal for this kind of battle.

Although lighter and more compact than a standard LRM launcher the Improved LRM system shared its big flaw of having an effective minimum range. It was an indirect fire weapon that launched salvoes off in a ballistic arc and that meant at certain ranges it just wouldn't depress enough to hit something right in front of it. A volley of LRM's passing harmlessly right over an enemy target might look spectacular, it would and leave them wreathed in smoke from all those vapour trails, but it wasn't all that useful.

The Particle Projector Cannon also had a minimum range, though that was pretty much point-blank by comparison being half that of the LRM, which being due to the need to protect the machines own electrical systems from the PPC hitting something closer than ninety metres away. The lightning that seemed to crackle around a PPC beam wasn't just an amusing light-show, it was absolute hell on electronics if you didn't try and mitigate the problem.

That was another reason why the SLDF had always liked to use mixed companies of Manticore and Von Luckner tanks by preference, the former combat vehicle wasn't good at brawling up close, the latter absolutely rocked at it.

Major MacArthur had told his mechwarriors that a priority task was to stop the enemy closing on the Manticore tanks, this being due not only to the need to make sure they were far enough back from the action to use their weaponry effectively but also because one thing that battlemechs so-equipped loved to do against tanks was use their jumpjets to leap upwards and land on top of the poor bastards.

Tanks were built tough, but their turrets, and the crews inside them, did not appreciate having fifty-plus tons of weight come suddenly crashing down on top. This was actually a move which MacArthur would have always thought about a lot as he drove a Highlander which specialised in the tactic, though massing ninety tons and despite that mounting jumpjets which could send it high into the air the Highlander would do it to everything, including mechs, and at every possible opportunity.

They called it the 'Highlander Burial' because if the ninety-ton assault jumped on a light mech, for example, it could literally drive it into the ground like a tent-peg.

It was risky for the mech too of course, unless the landing was performed perfectly it could result in serious damage to the jumper as well as the jumpee with the latter potentially toppling over and crashing into the ground hard, but it remained one of the quickest ways to end a fight and something tank crews rightly feared.

Rolling into what had already become a confused mess of brawling mechs before they arrived the tank company rolled in guns and missiles blazing, Robertson happy to see that the experienced tank crews knew their trade with a whole lance of them throwing everything they had at a pirate Awesome. The assault mech in question mounted three PPC's, almost as many as the whole lance of tanks between them, but like the Manticore it was a long-range specialist and unlike them it didn't have a SRM launcher to help it cope a little better with these less-than-ideal combat conditions.

As Robertson kept his Locust moving, speed was life, he noted other pirate mechs including the Rifleman he had just shot at quickly coming to the aid of their beleaguered comrade in the Awesome, indicating that they knew their trade as well.

What they didn't know was that while a standard Manticore carried eleven tons of regular armour plate, these ones had not only been refitted on Niops with superior ferro-fibrous armour, a type that nobody else in the Inner Sphere had been able to manufacture in nearly thirty years, they carried three more tons of it as well.

The tanks weren't the only ones soaking up considerably more incoming fire than they should have been able to take. Most of the SLDF battlemechs had been retrofitted in much the same way, with thicker plates of tougher material which was slowing their descent towards a fateful combat-loss-grouping scenario.

The outnumbered pirates had needed to even the odds, and their best way of doing that was to use their bigger, heavier mechs to knock a few of the smaller, lighter SLDF machines out of the fight quickly. Even if they weren't actually destroyed, a tank or mech stripped of most of its armour would usually seek to pull back from the middle of the action before it was, unless it was one of those 'glorious death' seeking maniacs from the Draconis Combine in the cockpit anyway. Objectively it was a perfectly sound tactic, and their commander's choice of ground synergised very nicely with it as these ranges worked in her favour as well.

The problem for the Black Warriors as the battle continued was that these Niops people just weren't starting to fall in droves like they should have been by now. Even the primarily autocannon and missile armed SLDF machines that should have been more heedful of losing armour because of the risk of taking a hit to their ammunition magazines, and subsequently going up like Krakatoa from the resultant internal explosion, seemed far too content to take the hits and keep on firing back.

Unlike the machines belonging to the Black Warriors their firing rate wasn't noticeably dropping off after the first few minutes of frantic action either. Normally, as internal heat levels rose due to waste heat from firing your guns more attention had to be paid to keeping mechs from overheating and potentially shutting down, something that tended to result in battles starting as a crescendo of fire which gradually petered off as cockpits started to get uncomfortably warm and warning lights started to blink.

Watching a Warhammer that was painted up in regulation SLDF olive drab, one of the small handful of Niops mechs larger than a medium in the fight, deliberately move to take on a larger Zeus assault, one that the Black Warriors had captured a few years earlier during a raid into the Lyran Commonwealth, something else became quickly apparent to Angelica Cirion. That son-of-a-bitch must be using double-heat-sinks because otherwise it simply wouldn't be able to keep firing at that rate without overheating and shutting down, she realised.

Cirion quickly assessed the other Niops machines as best she could, paying particular attention to those like the Warhammer that were usually thought of as 'under-sinked', unable to dump anywhere near as much waste heat as fast as their weapons generated it, and quickly concluded that the Warhammer was not an isolated case.

Double Heat Sinks had been getting rarer over time, there were very few factories in the Inner Sphere left that could still make them after so much of the former Terran Hegemony had been blasted to rubble, and the Great Houses carefully husbanded their available supplies. They weren't actually lostech yet, but they were certainly scarce enough that you wouldn't expect to run into an entire battalion of machines that all seemed to have them.

Bringing the guns of her Battlemaster assault mech to bear on an Orion that was hosing its AC/5 autocannon, SRM launcher and lasers at one target, while volleying LRM's at a more distant one , Angelica Cirion opened up with her PPC and massed battery of medium lasers, aiming for the armour above where the internal ammunition stores were situated on the opposition heavy.

Sitting in the cockpit of the Orion Jennifer McEvedy winced as a big chunk of her armour plate was scorched off and instantly manoeuvred so that the Battlemaster wouldn't be able to hit the same place again with their next volley. Her Orion was no faster than the pirate assault mech so she wouldn't be able to just outpace the thing and get away, but she could at least make the thing work for it.

Thanks to the retrofitting of CASE protection around the ammunition magazines McEvedy didn't have to fear a catastrophic internal explosion that might have scattered both her machine and herself in small chunks over a wide area but that Battlemaster was still a lot more mech than you would want to duke it out with in an Orion and she was about to request assistance when a PPC lanced out and caught the Battlemaster in the flank.

Katrina in her Griffin medium, too close to the Battlemaster to use her LRM launcher as well but just her PPC made for a nice distraction.

"Annoying little shit" Cirion growled as the particle-projector-cannon seared armour off her left torso. It wasn't that the Griffin was really a realistic threat to a Battlemaster from where it currently was, it was that she couldn't give her full attention to the Orion if she had to worry about the medium potentially working its way around and put shots into her rear where that PPC would hurt a great deal.

Another enemy medium, this one a Shadow Hawk, arrived on the scene and opened up on Cirion's Battlemaster before a volley of SRM's caught it in the chest, these being fired by one of Cirion's lance-mates in a Crusader who followed it up with their lasers.

The Shadow Hawk switched targets and fired back at the Crusader as more mechs arrived on the scene from both sides and the area immediately surrounding Cirion turned into a maelstrom of fire, the enemy mediums and occasional heavy seeming only too willing to go head-to-head with larger machines bearing the skull and crossbones insignia of the Black Warriors.

Anjelica Cirion wasn't inexperienced or inept and she had always been able to keep a clear head under pressure, analysing the situation dispassionately despite being in the middle of a firefight. Logically she wasn't up against actual SLDF royal mechs, for one thing that Phoenix Hawk over yonder with the red Cameron Star on it that was shooting at one of her pair of Ostsol heavies would have a visually very distinct ERPPC instead of a large laser on its right arm if it was an PXH-1b instead of a regular PXH-1. Nevertheless, it very much looked like these Star League stragglers had spent the decades since Kerensky picked up his toys and left upgrading their machines to a sort-of pseudo-royal with DHS replacing the original sinks and, judging by the damage they were soaking up, presumably Ferro-Fibrous armour plate as well.

Cirion wondered if the reason she was finding that so hard to believe was her innate bias against anything so financially extravagant. The Black Warriors were mercenaries and privateers, pirates if you were going to be blunt about it, and they fought battles intending to make a handsome profit from them. Ferro-Fibrous armour was inarguably superior to regular armour, something like twelve-percent better at absorbing incoming fire per ton if she was remembering correctly, but it cost twice as much per ton so if your priority was the bottom line on the accounting ledger you just wouldn't use the stuff.

Thanks to the need to protect against directed-energy weapons, lasers and PPC's, armour had to be ablative, burning off to dissipate incoming fire. Even autocannon shells and missiles tended to carry HEAP (High Explosive Armour Piercing) warheads rather than other types because they whittled down such armour faster than pure kinetic impact or shaped-charges did. This meant that armour was effectively a consumable item, one that was used up in battle, and Ferro-Fibrous was expensive.

Even the Star League with its immense military budget had never up-armoured all its war machines with the superior, but pricier, armour type Cirion knew. But then they had armed forces so large that they could sacrifice a little quality for quantity.

If you didn't have vast armies, but did have good technical know-how, weren't planning on feeding your military continually into the grinder like the Successor States and had the money to do it then you could go all Ferro-Fibrous like Niops apparently had. On the other hand, holy crap you must really want to punch above your weight class to take that approach!

Ferro-fibrous replacing standard plate alone couldn't explain just how many hits they were taking without being brought down, so they must be enjoying a lot of luck as well and that would inevitably run out at some point, but this was not how she had wanted or needed the battle to go in the early stages.

It clearly wasn't just luck that was keeping their light mechs in the fray though, Cirion had to concede. This wasn't good ground for fast-moving machines that being why she chose it, the terrain was uneven and rocky in places as well as being littered with features like ravines and depressions that restricted line-of-sight. Despite that the olive-drab twenty and twenty-five tonners were somehow rushing around like maniacs, dodging incoming fire as they went without tripping or stumbling, all while making an unlikely percentage of their own shots as they went. It wasn't freakishly skilful piloting, Cirion had known a number of light-mech specialists in her own Black Warriors regiment who could have done it too, it was just odd that they could all apparently drive their machines so hard and so fast on unsuitable ground.

In any military command there was always a gradient of abilities, a few aces at the top, a few people at the bottom who just barely scraped in, and the majority somewhere in-between. If that rule was also true of Niops then either they had left all their mediocre mech-jocks at home or their average performance was bizarrely higher than could be expected. Again, the latter wasn't entirely unprecedented for an SLDF unit, the veterans that trained Cirion would occasionally mention with a degree of awe regiments such as the Black Watch who had put their entire roster through the old Gunslinger Program to hone their skills, not just their elite mechwarriors as was the norm, this resulting in a frankly epic level of battlefield effectiveness, but the 295th Battlemech Division was not the Black Watch.

They weren't unbeatable either, far from it. Cirion watched as one of her Victor assaults blew the head right off a Niops Wolverine with its AC/20, all the fancy ferro-fibrous in the world unable to stop that happening, and she herself pulverized that annoying Griffin, the mechwarior inside ejecting after the battery of lasers on Cirion's Battlemaster scorched off enough armour for its PPC to breach the engine compartment of the medium mech, but her losses were mounting faster than hers and they had more machines to start with.

The crunch-point came when a pair of Rapier heavy fighters came in on an apparent strafing run, her air-defence lance doing their best to try and ward them off by opening up with their autocannons firing flak shells, only to start taking what seemed to be ERPPC fire from elsewhere in the sky.

The Rapier heavy fighters had seemingly drawn fire so that other fighters above could get a bead on the Rifleman and Jaegermech air-defence mechs and pin them down from beyond the range of their own guns. Accuracy wasn't great at that range, particularly not from a fast-mover in the sky, but it didn't exactly do wonders for the aim of the mechs being plinked at with particle-beam-cannon fire either.

Coming around for a second pass, a real one this time, the Rapier duo strafed anything in front of their guns that wasn't painted olive-drab and then pulled up, climbing into the sky.

At the same time the SLDF Highlander avenged the Wolverine that had gone down earlier to the Victor by blowing the latter's own head off with its gauss rifle.

By this point broken and fallen mechs littered the landscape, most belonging to the Black Warriors and the situation was continuing to degenerate for Cirion's people. They could take a lot more of the Niops mechwarriors and tankers with them, but they weren't going to get out of here alive if they did.

Fighting valiantly to the last man in a glorious defeat surrounded by the corpses of the foe may sound romantic but that wasn't really what the Black Warriors were ever about. Fortunately the Cirion family had always planned for what to do if an operation went spectacularly sideways like this one had, a contingency plan that relied upon the fact that they weren't your typical pirate band.

"This is Major Anjelica Cirion offering my surrender and that of my unit to the commanding officer of the Niops forces on Illyria" she signalled on multiple frequencies. "In order to save lives on both sides I request a cessation of hostilities."

"You had your chance to surrender before the battle, pirate" came the immediate response.

"We are not pirates" Cirion replied. "We are the armed forces of the Circinus Federation conducting a pre-emptive strike against the Illyrian Palatinate on the orders of my government" she announced. "If we lay down our arms we insist we are taken as prisoners of war with the customary protections afforded by the Ares Convention and the other rules and customs of war. I have official documentation with me to prove my claim and you can verify our identity with the government on Circinus who will confirm sending us on this mission."

A long pause at the other end of the line indicated her opposite number was thinking about it. "Bullshit" they said eventually.

"If I'm lying you can still hang me as a pirate" Cirion pointed out. "I also insist that you not turn me over to the Illyrian militia, we're your prisoners not theirs."

"This had better not be some kind of ****** trick because if it is you'll wish you died in battle, trust me. With the proviso that if this is a ruse I'll put the rope around your neck personally I accept your surrender."

"Of course I trust you, you're the SLDF" Cirion replied smirking. Dad back home was going to be really pissed off about this monumental ******, but he'd get over it, and the current president was well aware of the deal her grandfather had done with his predecessor whereby the government of Circinus would go along with the cover story for a raid gone all to crap.

Actually their 'just-in-case' pre-planned cover story for this particular mission was better than most, being at least vaguely plausible. It wasn't what you'd call convincing, but hopefully it was at least good enough to spare her the hangman's noose.

When he heard it later as Cirion formally handed over her sidearm Major Robert MacArthur described the cover-story as 'bullshit', that quickly becoming his word of the day, but it wasn't quite bullshit enough for him to not decide that this was a problem for someone higher up the chain of command than him to deal with.



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Note from the Author:

The Royal and/or 'Early-Clan' versions of the Tomahawk and Rapier are considerably better than the standard models. If the Sparrowhawk pilot had any idea there was a fighter with an ERPPC on his tail they wouldn't have played with them like they did.

Ferro-Fibrous armour became lostech in the Inner Sphere in around 2810. It was superior to standard armour (about 12% more effective per ton at absorbing damage) but cost twice as much meaning that it doesn't make good sense financially if you're trying to maintain a very large military (or are trying to turn a profit by raiding). Niops uses a lot of Ferro-Fibrous (quality over quantity) in their machines and since a lot of their Improved Weaponry is lighter and more compact than normal they can also carry a greater weight of it.

Double-Heat-Sinks (DHS) mean that a mech can keep firing for longer without overheating. They're not actually lostech by 2839 but they're increasingly rare and you certainly wouldn't expect to see them retofitted universally to machines that didn't have them originally. A rolling program of upgrades since they arrived at Niops in 2827 (weapons first, then armour and heatsinks as manufacturing was spun up) means that an awful lot of SLDF machines can dish it out and take it to a excessive degree.

Cirion actually chose her ground very well and there was no way she could have known that her opposition were a bunch of genetically-engineered freaks piloting mechs that were pseudo-royals armed with weaponry that she didn't know existed. For example, autocannon and LRM armed machines such as the
Orion and Shadow Hawk save so much weight on weaponry (thanks to the lightweight 'Improved' gear) that they carry far more armour than anyone would expect. Meanwhile a Warhammer with DHS to deal with all the heat generated by its PPC's is a very different beast than a regular Warhammer (plus the Improved PPC is a ton lighter so you can up-armour it too).
"A dread fear rests deep in the heart of Clan Coyote that one day a lawyer will arrive on Tamaron talking about intellectual property rights, the Mercury II and the Coyotl omnimech and this will herald the end of the Clan as the Not-Named sue their asses into bankruptcy for patent infringement" - The True History of the Clans (Dark Caste Press: 3050)

Hunted Tribes - Hotpoint's Battlestar/Battletech Crossover Series


 

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