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Author Topic: Tread Heads: The story of Schaller's Shellbacks  (Read 1594 times)

Wereling

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Tread Heads: The story of Schaller's Shellbacks
« on: 15 November 2018, 17:07:43 »
Hi! This is the first fan fiction I've written in quite some time! I've tried to do my best to keep everything compatible with canon, but I am certainly likely to have gotten something wrong. Please feel free to point these error out, but please also be patient.

I am also giving a content warning. These stories are likely to be quite dark. The life of a tanker in the Battletech universe seems quite grim, and I would like these stories to reflect that. While I intend to treat darker subject seriously, I apologize if I offend anyone. Again, please let me know if I post anything you find objectionable. If I got something wrong, I would like to know.

This is (hopefully) the first entry in the story of Schaller's Shellbacks, a mercenary armored unit that begins life shortly after the War of 3039. I intend for their unit history to extend to the Jihad, but I don't know if I'm up to writing that far into the story. If you have any questions about the unit, feel free to ask. I am going to try to post at least one entry of 1500 words or more per week. There will likely be more than that, but that is the minimum goal I want to strive for. This is as much to get me back into writing as it is because I have a specific story to tell.

Prologue

July 12, 3039
Diverse Optics Primary Manufacturing Plant
Sverdlovsk, Kessel


Kommandant Thomas Schaller heard the incoming attackers before he saw them. Mechs, even light ones, make an astonishing amount of noise while at a run. The wham-wham-wham of tens of tons of equipment hitting the earth was hard to miss even at a distance.

This whole damned invasion had just gone south. High command had sent him and is tank battalion here to command a garrison force against a conquered world. With combat operations against the Dracs in high gear, battlemech forces were being assigned elsewhere.

The 11th Lyran Regulars were off hunting the saboteurs and bandits who were making life outside the capital miserable. The 4th Skye regulars were guarding the spaceport against potential attack. God knew what the 2nd Donegal Guard were up to. All of them had found reasons not to be assigned to protect the Diverse Optics plant.

And so here he was, alone and unsupported.

Intel said that the incoming mechs were painted in the colors of the 12th Sun Zhang cadre. The cadre they had also assured local commanders had left the planet. Thomas wasn’t certain the information he was getting was accurate, but it was all he had.

He tucked his head back under the cupola. Whoever they were, he had to defend against them.

“3rd Battalion, stand by to fire.” He said, putting the order out over the comm.

The order was redundant, and he knew it. He also knew that his men needed to hear his voice. A calm commander meant a calm command.

There wasn’t much else to do at the moment. Recon had given him enough notice to array his forces against the incoming threat. He;had put his men in a position to succeed as best they could.

And it might not matter. A full battalion of mechs that weren’t supposed to exist were about to hit his tanks hard. Tanks might be tough, but mechs were tougher. He’d tried to get his units into as defensible a position as possible, but short of destroying parts of the factory complex for cover there wasn’t much he could do.

Not that he hadn’t been tempted.

The wham-wham-wham noise through the open hatch was getting louder. Thomas pulled it closed, then adjusted his respirator gear as he sat back down in the tank commander’s chair.

He hated this planet. Even the air tried to kill you here.

He barely had time to get his hands on the sensor controls before the first mech appeared. A fast moving Jenner came sprinting into view, blazing white against the drab brown dirt of the ridge it crested.

“White,” he muttered to himself, “how the hell do you hide something 10 meters tall and bright white?”

“Sir?” asked the driver sitting to his left.

“Never mind,” said Thomas. He thumbed the transmit button on his radio.

“All units,” he ordered, “fire as you bear.”

Long ranged missiles flew from launchers as soon as the word “fire”’ passed his lips. The rest of 3rd Battalion had been ready, and the white trails of rocket motors carved a ragged arc towards the intruder.

Thomas heard his gunner curse as nearly all the missiles, including his own, flew past the incoming Drac mech without detonating. A scant few impacted the legs of the oncoming mech. They didn’t even slow it.

Time for more gunnery practice, Thomas supposed.

“Roberts,” he said, slapping the gunner’s leg. “Keep it together.”

The Jenner was joined now by two more ‘mechs, both moving at a run. Thomas knew one as a Spider, but the other he didn’t recognize. He thumbed the comm suite to address the rest of his platoon.

“Charlie, Delta, target hostile left. Brave, right. Alpha, center”.

Two of his tanks shifted fire on to the unknown machine. A third one spat autocannon fire at the Spider. He felt the turret of his own tank shift to track the Jenner. A moment later the chattering roar of his tank’s autocannon drowned out everything. Thomas watched a line of armor splinter off of the Jennier’s legs. It briefly stumbled, but kept moving.

That seemed to have gotten his attention. The Jenner turned to point its stubby arms in his tank’s direction. Thomas saw a flash from them as the Jenner’s pilot triggered laser fire. A series of dirty grey smoke puffs signaled the launching of missiles.

Thomas felt the sudden spike of cabin temperature that came with la laser hit. A moment later a trio of impacts rocked the tank. Damage warnings bloomed on his display, but nothing critical had been hit. The impact had bounced him around in his seat, and he shifted himself back into place, finally thinking to buckle in.

After a moment, Thomas was suddenly aware of the sudden stink of the local atmosphere. He spluttered a cough as he pushed his ill-fitting breath mask back in place. The sulphurous smell from the poisoned air lingered in his mask.

There were more enemy mechs now. A full dozen of them could be seen between his perimeter and the ridge. Several of them witn longer ranged weapons were directing fire at his own forces. Time to reduce his exposure.

“Charlie, Delta, Move to position 2,” he ordered. Bravo and his own  tank stayed in place, spitting covering fire at the incoming enemy units. There were quite a few of them now.

“Roberts! What’s the holdup with that Jenner?” he called to the gunner.

“I’m working on it sir!’ came the reply. “Damn thing’s slippery. Having trouble keeping the gun on it.”

Thomas fought the urge to sigh, or yell, or even weep at the reply. He’d taken Roberts on because the man was a wizard with guns against heavier opponents. He’d always somehow known just how to bring down the big boys. Medium, assault or heavy mechs with heavy armor always seemed to fall to him.

A Jenner was none of those things. Somehow one of the weakest mechs on the field might kill them all. Roberts could find a weak point like no one he knew, but he couldn’t lead a target so save his, or anyone else’s life.

“Let the computer lead for you,” Thomas ordered.

“But...” came the reply from the gunner’s seat

“Do it!” Thomas ordered again. “I don’t care if you think it sucks. Right now it knows how to lead a target.”

Thomas knew the gunner would sulk, and didn’t care. He returned his attention to the tactical display. The trailing element of his platoon had reached their secondary positions.

“Alpha, Bravo, move to position two,” he ordered. His tank and its mate began to move under the covering fire of Charlie and Delta. Above him he heard Roberts curse as the sudden movement of the tank threw off the aim of another autocannon burst.

“Hold the curs’t tank steady!” the gunner bellowed.

The driver wisely ignored him as he reversed the tank to a more defensible position. Ahead of them Thomas saw the unknown mech sprawl to the ground, dropped by the paired fire of two of his other tanks.

“Good shooting, Charlie and Delta,” said Thomas into the comm. “Free fire on the newcomers.”

All around him the battlefield was a swirl of chaos. Thomas felt the noise and lights of the battle beginning to cloud his mind. He needed to concentrate.

On the tactical plot a bright white mech caught his eye. It appeared to be a Charger with some sort of decoration added to it.

“Roberts, target the Charger,” he ordered.

“Sir?” asked the gunner. Thomas looked up and saw Roberts’ confused face.

“The Charger! The one that looks like it’s got a helmet!!” he shouted. “Fire on the Charger!”

Roberts rotated the turret and sent all of its fire towards the enemy mech. Explosions rocked the huge machine as the autocannon and missiles impacted all over it. A tank from another platoon subsequently sent own fire into it.

The mech wobbled like a drunkard and fell. It hadn’t been knocked out yet, but the combined fire had been more than the pilot could handle. It struggled again to get upright, only for more fire to reduce its head to a wreck.

Robert felt a moment of jubilation, followed by the feeling he’d forgotten something.

The Jenner! Where was the...

The whole tank shook as the Jenner landed its 35-ton bulk beside the tank. Thomas felt the heat spike of the laser fire against the tank’s hull, then braced himself for what came next.

At such a short range it was nearly impossible for the missiles to miss. Two of the missiles blew chunks of armor from the side. One more impacted the side of the tank’s main gun.

The last found a space between the rear of the turret and the top of the tank. The explosion lifted the turret from the turret ring, slamming it down again off-center. Chips of shrapnel flew around the inside of the tank, showering men and equipment with razor sharp fragments.

Thomas felt a tug as though something had grabbed him by the nose and yanked. A red spray and a grey cloud appeared at the edges of his vision. He frantically looked around the tank to assess the damage.

Roberts was screaming. The turret’s off-center landing had crushed his leg between the lower edge of the turret and the frame of his seat. Next to Thomas, the driver was gasping, a crimson river of blood pulsing through the fingers the drive held clamped to his throat.

After a moment Thomas realized that his own breath mask had been smashed. He reached feebly for an emergency oxygen container, only to see an indentation in its side and hear a hissing noise from a hole at the center of it.

As he passed out an odd thought struck him. Why couldn’t he smell anything?

snakespinner

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Re: Tread Heads: The story of Schaller's Shellbacks
« Reply #1 on: 16 November 2018, 01:52:25 »
Good start. I like how you have gone with tanks an underrated force in BT.
What type of tank were they in. :thumbsup:
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Wereling

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Re: Tread Heads: The story of Schaller's Shellbacks
« Reply #2 on: 16 November 2018, 07:15:13 »
In this case, Schaller's platoon was composed of Pattons.

mikecj

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Re: Tread Heads: The story of Schaller's Shellbacks
« Reply #3 on: 16 November 2018, 09:11:59 »
Nice, that's a new point of view
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DOC_Agren

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Re: Tread Heads: The story of Schaller's Shellbacks
« Reply #4 on: 16 November 2018, 13:03:28 »
 :thumbsup:
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Wereling

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Re: Tread Heads: The story of Schaller's Shellbacks
« Reply #5 on: 08 January 2019, 20:42:52 »
November 9th, 3039
FCNS Sharon Farragut
Heaven’s Gate Spaceport, Ryde

Thomas had an itch, and tried desperately not to scratch at it.

That happened a lot these days. It had taken him weeks to stop himself from scratching at them.
 When he was tired, or stressed, or just bored a tickle would start along the angry red lines that marked where his sutures had been.

Unfortunately, that was a lot these days. The invasion of Kessel had not gone as planned, and plenty of blame was flying around. Most of it seemed to be directed at other units within the invasion force, but more than a few officers were simply striking out at anyone in the vicinity they could get away with snapping at.

Now Thomas found himself in a waiting room outside the headquarters office hoping that Hauptmann-General Von Frisch was not such a man. Thomas greeted his summons to the office with both dread and optimism.  After weeks, months really, of inactivity he might finally be allowed to return to his unit. Or he might find himself up on charges of dereliction of duty, if the Hauptmann-General was feeling vindictive.

The man’s aide appeared in the hatchway.

“Hauptmann-General Von Frisch will see you now,” she said. She stood aside to allow Thomas to pass. He nodded his acknowledgement and proceeded past her into the office beyond.

Von Frisch was a surprisingly youthful man. He appeared to be little older than Thomas himself. He stood as Thomas entered. Thomas tried to read the man’s expression. Unfortunately, it seemed than Von Frisch was an excellent poker player.

“Kommandant Schaller please have a seat,” said the Hauptmann-General, waving Thomas to a nearby chair.

Dutifully, Schaller took a seat. The sense of dread he had not realized he was hanging on to deepened.

Von Frisch said nothing for a moment. The two men sat in silence for a moment.

Finally, Von Frisch slid a folder across the top of the desk.

“These,” he said, “Are your reassignment  papers. You are being assigned a billet as logistics officer for the 5th Skye Rangers.”

The mass of dread in Schaller’s stomach turned sour, and he felt the need to vomit. He took a moment to get his emotions under control, and then spoke,

“Reassigned, sir?”

Von Frisch nodded.

“I’m afraid so,“ he said. “You are medically unfit for line service. I am told you are an exemplary administrator, and so you will be placed into a role in which I expect you to succeed.”

“Medical, sir?” asked Schaller. “My injuries are mostly healed and...”

Von Frisch shook his head.

“This isn’t about your injuries, Major. I’m told you’re healing quite well. Aside from a slightly reduced sense of smell, you should be able to live a quite normal life.”

Despite himself, Schaller could not help from interrupting his commanding officer.

“Buy why?” he asked.

“I have reviewed your file,” said Von Frisch. “I wondered why an officer with your contacts and schooling was relegated to the armored corps. It seems you are unable to pilot a mech due to a congenital defect of your inner ear.”

“That is true,” said Thomas, “but...”

“It seems,” continued Von Frisch, “that that same disorder can make if difficult for someone with it to process information when given too much stimulus.”

Thomas has a sudden realization of where this was going.

“This is about the Diverse Optics plant.” he said. It was not a question.

Von Frisch nodded.

“I have reviewed the ROM taken from your tank following the battle. It seemed impossible to me that you could allow a mech to ‘sneak up on you’ in the middle of a firefight. Especially one you had previously targeted.”

Thomas started to protest.

“I judged the heavier mech to be a bigger threat.” he said.

Von Frisch looked Thomas straight in the eye. He shook his head.

“Do not ever,” he said “lie to me again. You lost track of that Jenner. You got two of your crew members, and almost yourself, killed. You very nearly left your battalion without its commander during a surprise assault.”

Thomas wanted to shout that he had done his best.  He wanted to point out that he had some of he most capable armor officers in the AFFC ready to take over for him in the even he was not available. He wanted to cry that this just wasn’t fair.

He said nothing,

Von Frisch continued. “You are a good officer. I would even say that you are a good commander, if it were not for your infirmity. You deserve to continue with the AFFC and retire with full honors.”

Von Frisch placed a hand on Thomas’s shoulder.

“You’re a good officer Thomas, But you are a danger to yourself and others in a combat situation. Take the position. You will doubtless be the greatest logistician in the Inner Sphere before long. I know the lengths you have gone to to maintain your own battalion, and i want those talents used for my command.”

Doubtless Von Frisch thought the gesture would be comforting. Thomas, however, felt only shame and anger at a move he felt was condescending.

It seemed that Thomas’ time as a tank commander for the Federated Commonwealth were over.

“I will have my resignation to you by the end of the day,” he said.

He was a tanker at heart, and would always be one. If the Federated Commonwealth did not want his services, there were other options.

mikecj

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Re: Tread Heads: The story of Schaller's Shellbacks
« Reply #6 on: 09 January 2019, 04:55:47 »
Nicely written.
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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Wereling

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Re: Tread Heads: The story of Schaller's Shellbacks
« Reply #7 on: 09 January 2019, 17:09:35 »
January 1st, 3040
Mercenary Review Board Registration Bureau
Galatea City,.Galatea

A short, stocky woman came jogging up to Thomas and his companion, a lawyer from Bismarck and Family, Ltd.

“Sorry I’m late boss,” she wheezed. “Got held up at the bank.”

“Not a problem Ronnie,” he said. “Mr. Freydrich and I are going through a few final details before our appointment.”

After a moment his curiosity got the better of him.

“What did you need at the bank?” he asked.

Sergeant Rhonda “Ronnie” Rickert gave a wide grin, and the held up a roll of coins.

“Had to do some currency exchange. Kroner for C-bills.”

Thomas’ curiosity grew. He arched an eyebrow.

“C-bills?” he asked.

Ronnie nodded. “Don’t know where we’re going next. Can’t get a good exchange rate for Kroner outside Lyran space, so I did it here.”

Thomas gave her a cool look.

“You couldn’t have waited until after our appointment for that? he asked.

She shrugged. “Never know when you’re going to need currency. Besides, this is a ComStar facility. What if they don’t take Kroner? What if I want to use a vending machine or something?”

Thomas stifled a sigh. He took a moment to look her over.

Ronnie had been a career noncom with the AFFC before agreeing to become his senior NCO. Her method of dress for the occasion of the founding was somewhere between “job interview” and “court appointment”. She was wearing what appeared to be a standard business suit so new it still smelled faintly of polymer. It was close to her size, but obviously had not been tailored,

“No weapons?” he asked. Weaponry on the grounds of the MRB’s home offices was strictly prohibited.

She shook her head.

“Nope. Left the big iron behind. Not even carrying my knuckle dusters.”

Thomas nodded, trying not to show his relief. Ronnie was tough, but small. She had won every fight he was aware she had ever been in, largely through the impressive array of weapons she tended to keep on her person.

“In any event,” he said, “it’s time. You’re still in?”

Her smile go wider.

“Working for you? Not anyone else? Being senior NCO? You bet. Mercenary armor’s mostly garrison work anyway, and that ass Von Frisch doesn’t know what he’s missing.”

Thomas reflexively started to admonish her for demeaning a superior officer, and then stopped. There was no need for that anymore, was there?

The three of them stepped through the double doors of the hiring hall, to be immediately greeted by a woman in the robes of a ComStar Adept. She smiled warmly and held out a hand.

“Colonel Schaller?” she said, “I am Serena Aguilar. I will be assisting you in the formation of your company today,”

“Thank you,” said Thomas, “But I’m afraid I am properly referred to as a Kommandant or Major, rather than as a Colonel.”

“Well,” said the Adept. “That will change very soon. This way, please.”

She led the way through the lobby and down a short hallway. She, the two soldiers, and the lawyer eventually stopped in front of a small, glass-doored conference room. Aguilar held the door for the others, then took a seat on one side of the table while the rest sat on the other side.

“So,” she began, “Your bond has been posted, and so you are a few details away from officially forming a Board-certified mercenary company. First, I will require that you read and certify that you understand the contract that you are signing with the board. This is the same contract that you were asked to review during the period that your bond was pending, so I don’t expect that there will be any surprises.”

She slid a clipboard with a disconcertingly large stack of papers on it to Thomas, who then slid them to Mr. Freydrich. The lawyer paged through them, checking for inconsistencies.

Thomas mostly ignored him. ComStar had been in the business of bonding mercenaries for literally centuries. They were the only game in town, as it were. Even if the lawyer found something he disliked, there wasn’t much that he, Thomas, or anyone outside of ComStar could do about it.

There also wasn’t much reason to worry. There were hundreds of mercenary outfits throughout the Inner Sphere. While many of them ended up going under, the MRB contract was only really a concern for those that didn’t understand its contents. Thomas had hired a law firm specifically to help him navigate its clauses, and they had come highly recommended.

After a few long minutes of silence the lawyer looked up from the stack of papers. He nodded, and handed the clipboard to Thomas. Adept Aguilar spoke once again.

“Both you, as representative of your officer corps, and your Master Sergeant will be required to sign. You for your understanding of the contract requirements, and both you and Sergeant Rickert to assert your understanding of the Laws of War.”

Thomas flipped to the last page of the document, affixing his signature to the proper locations with a provided stylus. He handed the clipboard to Ronnie, who made an energetic show of signing her own name. She handed the document back to the Adept.

“Congratulations Colonel,” said the ComStar representative. “You have one last hurdle, and it is a minor one. You will want to register a name, symbol, and livery with the MRB’s offices at some point. Technically only the name is required, but the rest are valuable pieces of information to prospective employers that choose to contract with the MRB.

Thomas nodded. “Thank you, Adept. I have a livery scheme in mind, and I’ll have a name and logo submitted within the week.”

With that, Aguilar stood, holding out a hand two the two soldiers.

“I expect that we will be doing a fair amount of business with you in the future. I wish you the best of fortune with your new enterprise. Make Blessed Blake smile upon you.”

Thomas took the offered hand, shaking it firmly. The grip was extended to Ronnie, who pumped it vigorously before the group was led out of the conference room and back to the lobby.

Mr. Freydrich turned to the other two.

“For the moment I believe that concludes our business,” he said.

“Thank you, Mr. Freydrich,” said Thomas. “Your firm has been most helpful.”

The tall, brown haired lawyer bowed slightly in acknowledgement.

“It was a pleasure doing business with you, Colonel. If you will excuse me.”

With that the lawyer turned away, heading for a row of communications booths.

“Got a name in mind Boss?” asked Ronnie as the two soldiers headed to the exit,

Thomas shrugged.

“A few,” he said. “But nothing terribly catchy. I considered naming us after my home planet, but ‘New Earth Armor’ isn’t terribly catchy, and might get us sued by NETC for trademark infringement.”

“That,” said Ronnie, “is a terrible name.”

“I haven’t thought of anything better. I considered ‘Armored Solutions’ as a name, but it turns out there’s a corporation using that name already. I’ve barely had time to consider a name between getting our finances squared away and working with the lawyers.”

The two walked through the doors of the MRB building and headed back towards their hotel. Thomas was now several hundred thousand C-bills poorer, and thinking about how much the simple, but clean and respectable hotel was costing him had him fretting about money already.

“I’ve got a name for you,” said Ronnie after a bit, as the two walked along.

Thomas turned to regard her. He was about to ask her for her suggestion when a bit of motion from the alley they were passing caught his eye. A hand flashed out of the darkened alley, grabbing Ronnie by the collar and dragging her half into it. A kitchen knife flecked with what Thomas hoped were rust spots appeared at Ronnie’s throat.

“Turn out your pockets,” said a hoarse voice. “Gimme your money.”

 A tall, gaunt man wearing the close-cropped hairstyle of a mechwarrior but ill-fitting clothes that were obviously not purchased for him stood behind the Sergeant. 

Thomas held up his empty hands to show he was unarmed. He began to reach into his coat for his wallet when Ronnie made her move.

She abruptly stepped to the side, the chipped edge of the knife drawing a thin line of blood on her throat as she did so. She reached behind her between her attacker’s legs, gripped, and squeezed.

Thomas winced. He’d seen Ronnie break free bolts with one hand that he could swear required a spanner. The would-be mugger squealed in pain and dropped the knife, stumbling backward into the alley.

Ronnie fished in her pocket for the roll of coins she had gotten from the bank. She tucked it solidly into a fist, kissed the fist, and the lept into the alley.

Thomas did not watch what happened next, but the meaty thud of Ronnie’s fists and the yelps of the muggers pain could be heard as he walked to a call box to call the police.

After filing his report, and be assured that a patrol was on its way, Thomas returned to the alley. Ronnie was wiping blood off of her hands with a scrap of what had been the mugger’s clothing. A pile of coins rested at her feet, near the broken plastic wrapper that had contained them.

“You all right?” asked Thomas. He removed a handkerchief from his coat pocket and knelt next to his senior noncom, dabbing at the shallow wound across her throat.

“I’m fine,” she said. “Genius here must be desperate, hitting us so close to the ComStar compound. Dispossessed scum.”

“The police will be here shortly,” said Thomas. “They’ll take care of him.”

Ronnie took the handkerchief from Thomas and held it to her own throat, still muttering unprintable things about the now unconscious body in the alley.

“Out of curiosity,” asked Thomas, “What was the name you had in mind?”

Ronnie looked confused for a moment, and then smiled.

“Schaller’s Shellbacks,” she said.

“That,” replied Thomas, “Is a terrible name.”

Daryk

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Re: Tread Heads: The story of Schaller's Shellbacks
« Reply #8 on: 09 January 2019, 21:53:15 »
+all the points for hiring a law firm!  :thumbsup:

Wereling

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Re: Tread Heads: The story of Schaller's Shellbacks
« Reply #9 on: 09 January 2019, 21:58:07 »
+all the points for hiring a law firm!  :thumbsup:
It seems indispensable to me. The law will likely pop up several times in this series.

Daryk

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Re: Tread Heads: The story of Schaller's Shellbacks
« Reply #10 on: 09 January 2019, 22:01:16 »
Me too... I'm kind of surprised they aren't specifically called out in Campaign Operations.  The lawyers I've worked with in the military have ALL been indispensable.

DOC_Agren

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Re: Tread Heads: The story of Schaller's Shellbacks
« Reply #11 on: 09 January 2019, 22:37:22 »
I have always figured that of the Negotiation Team hired for contracts included a lawyer on staff.  Part of the reason you use them not just trust Capt Billy Bob Johnson to understand the in/out of legal contract you are signing, to make sure you are not getting screwed, well unless they have a better lawyer writing it for them
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snakespinner

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Re: Tread Heads: The story of Schaller's Shellbacks
« Reply #12 on: 10 January 2019, 03:49:58 »
Negotiators are all different for each state, but if they can't get you in the negotiations they will really screw you in the fine print.
There are a lot of stories where incompetent negotiators have really caused trouble for their state.
Remember how Rasalhague got screwed.
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mikecj

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Re: Tread Heads: The story of Schaller's Shellbacks
« Reply #13 on: 10 January 2019, 04:47:57 »
Ignorance of the Law is some lawyer's opportunity to screw you.
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.

Esskatze

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Re: Tread Heads: The story of Schaller's Shellbacks
« Reply #14 on: 11 January 2019, 16:13:44 »
Wereling, I love your take. There are too few stories with armor anyway. Please keep the chapters coming!

Wereling

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Re: Tread Heads: The story of Schaller's Shellbacks
« Reply #15 on: 17 January 2019, 15:39:34 »
January 4th 3040
Spaceport
Galatean City, Galatea

The cargo dropship was still ticking faintly as the parts of the hull superheated during re-entry slowly came down to the ambient temperature. Already spaceport utility vehicles streamed towards it, ready to relieve it of its passengers and cargo.

Thomas sat and watched the entire affair from the arrivals lounge. In its own way the cargo that ship carried was as important to the success of his business as his charter with the Review Board.

He was forming a mercenary armor unit, and to do that would require armor. He also required an officer corps. That ship brought both to him.

He could have obtained both here, of course. Galatea was known as the Mercenary Star for good reason. Literally anything you needed to form a mercenary unit could be found here, from weapons, to people, to the MRB, to prospective employers.

Coming here for jobs and the MRB was unavoidable, at least for a newly begun outfit. Thomas knew better than to rely on Galatea for soldiers and equipment. Quality for either here varied wildly, and prices for quality versions of either were abnormally high. Galatea was, after all, a world of opportunists.

Including him, he thought to himself. He snorted slightly in self derision as he considered that he had used his own contacts on Hesperus to get equipment at prices more favorable than usually available to mercenaries. He had also used his contacts within the LCAF to get soldiers he was sure would be better than the common dog of war.

Ahead of him he saw the passenger tram pull away from the bulk of the DropShip. He stood and headed for the main arrival area. His new executive officer Freddie Marsden would be arriving soon.

Immigration control on Galatea was surprisingly tight. One would think that on a planet where nearly anything was legal they they wouldn’t be all that concerned with a customs detail. This was not in fact the case.

Thomas waited on the other side of the customs desk and surveyed the incoming group of travelers. They were almost all soldiers, he was sure. Most wore some kind of clothing with a military appearance, and most of those that didn’t wore the sort of outlandish clothing he had learned to associate with enlisted personnel wanting to stand out on a night out.

Two people in particular caught his eye. The first was a swarthy skinned man wearing a sharp business suit and a tie pin engraved with the emblem of the Free Rasalhague republic. The second was the unusually tall and lanky form of the man he expected to see.

Freddie Marsden struck a strange figure among the rest. He stood at least a head taller than any of them, and wore what appeared to be a LCAF uniform stripped of any sort of unit or rank insignia. His “uniform” was immaculate and his hair and nails were nearly trimmed. He was every inch the image of a professional Lyran Officer...except for the goatee.

Freddie caught Thomas’ eye, and grinned. The wispy mass of the beard stayed stock still on his face as he did so, giving the impression it had somehow been affixed there with glue. He waved gaily and then stepped to the front of the customs line, transferring his grin to the agent there.

Both Thomas and Freddie maintained reserve ranks with the Lyran armed forces. Even a resignation didn’t remove that. That meant that even fewer of the regulations that normally applied to arrivals on Galatea applied to them. Accordingly in less than a minute Freddie ambling over..

“Heya Tom,” he said. “How are we doing?”

Thomas shrugged. “That depends on you,” he said. “What were you able to bring me? Other than that ridiculous paintbrush you’ve pasted to your chin.”

Freddie laughed, a full-throated belly laugh Thomas would have been embarrassed by in such a public place.

“Do you like it?” he asked. “Now than I’m not commanding a LCAF unit I thought I’d celebrate. No more grooming regulations, right?”

Thomas attempted to give Freddie a stern look but failed, unable to stifle a small smile. “There will,” he said, “be grooming regulations.We’re going to need to work harder than a mech based unit for contracts. I expect part of that to be a higher level of professionalism.”

“Sure, sure,” said Freddie, waving his hand dismissively. “But they’re not going to be as strict as the LCAF’s, are they? Most of our boys will want to let down their hair a bit.”

“They won’t,” admitted Thomas. “Though I might put in one just to get rid of that ridiculous thing on your face.”

They both had a chuckle at that.

“How many of ‘our boys’ did we end up with?” asked Thomas.

Freddie shrugged. “More than I was afraid of,” he said, “but less than I’d hoped. We got about half the personnel we’re going to need, including all of the officers and about two thirds of the noncoms. A few general enlisted too.”

Thomas was surprised, “Two thirds  you say? And all of the officers?”

That was a considerably better turnout than he had hoped for.

“Officers weren’t hard,” said Freddie. “Officer pay in merc units is generally a lot better than what a Lyran armor officer makes. And more than a few aren’t thrilled at the idea of working for the Davions. Noncoms are harder. They can’t just resign. They need to either retire or reach the end of their enlistment.”

“No, no” said Thomas, “That’s better than I dared to hope.”

Freddie shrugged again. “You never understood how popular you were. For most officers armor is where the washouts end up and they never get over it. You always took the job seriously.”

“I suppose,” said Thomas. “Still, it’s better than I’d hoped. Ronnie has been scoping out a few prospects locally and with whoever she dredges up we should be in good shape.We can recruit either here or wherever we end up for the rest of the enlisted. What about equipment?”

Freddie’s grin widened. “Even better there,” he said. “We’ve got two fill companies of equipment. Enough to outfit both a maneuver and a primary combat company.”

Thomas nearly gaped. “How did that happen?” he asked.

“I...might have thrown your family’s name around with the Defiance sales department.” said Freddie. “They gave me a good deal on a few factory refurbs, and I took a couple of trade-ins off their hands at near cost by mentioning we didn’t need them to do any repair work of their own.”

Thomas felt his happiness melt away. Suddenly the prospect of having purchased little more than piles of burnt out parts had his stomach churning.

“What,” he said, breath catching in his throat,“did you get us?”

Freddie placed a hand on Thomas’ shoulder.

“Relax,” he said. “They let me inspect them before I ever agreed to buy them. There’s nothing there we can’t fix.”

The sour feeling lessened but didn’t go away. Freddie was an aggressive commander, but he had never been the most technically proficient officer. The tanks were unlikely to be complete junk, but they could still be ruinously expensive to repair.

“Would it help,” asked Freddie, “If I told you that Dieter was the one that had recommended them to me?”

The contents of Thomas’ stomach stilled. That did, in fact, make it a bit better. Dieter Mendelssohn and Thomas had been friends since they were both in the Defiance-sponsored primary school they’d first been educated in. They had been close friends for years. Dieter was one of the most talented engineers in Defiance’s employ.

“Dieter, hmm?” he said, “I suppose I can trust him not to cheat you.”

“He sends his best,” said Freddie. “You’ll likely be receiving a letter from him if you haven’t already. He asked me to give you this.”

Freddie handed over a short silver cylinder. Thomas recognized it immediately as a key fob, similar to the sort used as an ignition lockout on a luxury vehicle.

“What is it?” asked Thomas.

Freddie’s smile was now a Cheshire-cat grin.

“Let’s go inspect our cargo,” he said. “You’re going to love this.”
« Last Edit: 18 January 2019, 09:55:00 by Wereling »

Esskatze

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Re: Tread Heads: The story of Schaller's Shellbacks
« Reply #16 on: 18 January 2019, 06:29:20 »
Good read, as usual. I really like armor stories. There are too few of them in BT. One thing I'd like to mention: The guy's name is not "Deiter" but "Dieter", pronounced as "Deeter". Hope you can fix that.

Wereling

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Re: Tread Heads: The story of Schaller's Shellbacks
« Reply #17 on: 18 January 2019, 07:08:20 »
Good read, as usual. I really like armor stories. There are too few of them in BT. One thing I'd like to mention: The guy's name is not "Deiter" but "Dieter", pronounced as "Deeter". Hope you can fix that.

Good catch. I don't know how I missed that. It has been changed.

VhenRa

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Re: Tread Heads: The story of Schaller's Shellbacks
« Reply #18 on: 18 January 2019, 08:42:08 »
Should be LCAF, not LAAF. Wouldn't be long until its AFFC instead.

Wereling

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Re: Tread Heads: The story of Schaller's Shellbacks
« Reply #19 on: 18 January 2019, 09:54:17 »
Should be LCAF, not LAAF. Wouldn't be long until its AFFC instead.

You are correct. I will correct this.

Sir Chaos

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Re: Tread Heads: The story of Schaller's Shellbacks
« Reply #20 on: 18 January 2019, 13:02:14 »
Your avatar, is that the Shellbacks´ unit logo?
"Artillery adds dignity to what would otherwise be a vulgar brawl."
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Wereling

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Re: Tread Heads: The story of Schaller's Shellbacks
« Reply #21 on: 18 January 2019, 13:16:09 »
Your avatar, is that the Shellbacks´ unit logo?

Not really. I just found it online and thought it was a neat image. Their logo will likely be similar, but more cartoonish.

Dave Talley

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Re: Tread Heads: The story of Schaller's Shellbacks
« Reply #22 on: 18 January 2019, 15:01:26 »
need more!
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Wereling

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Re: Tread Heads: The story of Schaller's Shellbacks
« Reply #23 on: 22 January 2019, 19:04:59 »
(posting from a mobile device. Will check formatting and do additional proof-reading when I get home. Apologies for any strangeness.)

They walked to a nearby warehouse that Thomas had leased. As they arrived, huge transporters were still carrying armored vehicles into the warehouse. The vehicles were shrink-wrapped with white plastic to protect them and the things around them during transport in a standard cargo bay.

Freddie’s long legs carried him forward in energetic strides. Thomas found that he periodically had to jog to keep up.

“Here’s the breakdown,” said Freddie, “I picked up a platoon of Bulldogs on the cheap. Some merc outfit had to liquidate their armored company and Defiance didn’t want them. “

Thomas grunted in response.

“What’s wrong with Bulldogs?” asked Freddie.

“Nothing is wrong, per se,” said Thomas. “Bulldogs are fine, just a bit fragile. They’re also thirsty.”

“Well,” said Freddie, “They were a good deal and if we want to get rid of them later some planetary militia will almost certainly take them off our hands.”

Freddie’s pace quickened as he talked. Soon Thomas found that he was having tp jog almost constantly.

“I got a platoon of Drillsons for my recon company,” said Freddie. “They weren’t cheap, but the Drillson’s about the best tank out there for a heavy scout.”

Thomas didn’t even bother to respond as he found himself getting short of breath.

“I got you a platoon of LRM carriers for fire support. They’re Quikscell, which I know you hate, but they’re dead simple and we need the indirect capability.”

They had made it through the doors of the warehouse. Thomas stopped short, breathing heavily after a few minutes of trying to keep up.

“Dammit Freddie,” he shouted, “Slow down!”

Freddie’s rambling gait slowed to a stop and he looked back at his friend.

“Oh, sorry.” he said. “Didn’t mean to rush. There’s more, but we can go over the rest later.  I wanted you to see this.”

He gestured deeper into the warehouse to a quartet of shrink-wrapped vehicles. Their huge, blocky outlines were ones that Thomas was very familiar with.

“You got Pattons?” he asked.

Freddie gave an enthusiastic nod. “Three of them. The one in the back’s a Rommel. I thought you’d want a big gun somewhere in the mix. But it gets better One of the Pattons is special.”

Freddie produced a pocket knife and strode to the closest of the shrink wrapped tanks. He made an incision into the plastic, and then began to peel it away from the hull.

“Come on,” he said. “Give me hand with this.”

Thomas approached and did as he was told, pulling the glossy white wrap away. After a few minutes of work the two men had freed the vehicle from its cocoon. Freddie pulled the remains of the plastic away with a dramatic flourish.

Thomas looked it over and realized that the profile of this Patton was slightly different than expected.

“What’s with the gun?” he asked. Freddie’s smile threatened to remove his head from his neck.

“It’s not a normal autocannon,” he said. ”Say hello the Defiance Disintegrator!”

The weapon fit the profile of a heavy autocannon, but it was slightly off. It was smaller, and looking down the barrel Thomas could see that it was smoothbore. There was no sign of the typical rifling of a class-10 autocannon.

“It’s Lostech?” he asked.

“Yup!” chirped Freddie. “What you’re looking at is a technology demonstrator. Defiance used this thing as a testbed back in ‘37 when they were first getting the Disintegrator’s bugs worked out. They tried to sell this as an upgrade to the LCAF but the Quartermaster Corps wanted the new tech on battlemechs first.”

“It’s a prototype?” asked Thomas. He frowned slightly.

“Hey!” said Freddie. “Hey, don’t be like that. It’s almost identical to the production version. And that’s been vey popular with the Quartermaster Corps.”

“What about ammo?”  Thomas asked.

“What ABOUT ammo?” asked Freddie. “Dieter sent along plenty, and we’re going for garrison contracts.”

Thomas gave his friend an arch look.

“Come on Feddie,” he said. “You know better than that.”

“Fine, fine.” said Freddie. “Ammo might be a bit more expensive.”

“More expensive? Thomas asked. “More expensive implies we can get it at all.”

Freddie shook his head.

“Dieter says the slug ammo is pretty much the same as the old Killer the tank originally came with. Just need a self-stabilizing projectile.”

That was something at least. It meant that Thomas should at least be able to fire the thing once he ran out of what Dieter had sent. It didn’t solve everything though.

“What if it gets damaged?” he asked.

Freddie shrugged. “Then we repair it. Or, if we can’t, replace it with a Killer. Plenty of those around.  Just have to pull those to get the mass back.”

He pointed to two clusters of canisters growing wart-like from the sides of the turret.

“Grenade launchers?” Thomas asked.

Freddie nodded. “Dieter swears by them. Says that popping smoke and going hull-down is the best way to keep a tank alive.”

Freddie shrugged. He was a born recon commander. Speed was his life, and he obviously disagreed with a static emplacement. He wasn’t about to disagree with the sentiment on something as slow as a Patton.

Thomas looked at the launchers dubiously. Dieter might think that they were indispensable, but Thomas wished he had used the mass for something more useful. More armor, perhaps.Or another gun.

Freddie poked him in the chest with a long, bony finger.

“Your second best friend sends you a brand new gift, with technology not seen since the Star League, and you’re grumpy about it?” he asked.

With a start Thomas realized that Freddie was right. Dieter was his closest friend, had been since they were both small enough to idolize soldiers, and he had obviously pulled a lot of strings to get this special tank here.  He’d even thought enough ahead to coach Freddie through what he knew would be Thomas’ misgivings about the thing.

Thomas sighed, and then smiled. “You’re right. Dieter was a good friend to send this to us. But, what’s with the key fob?”

Freddie shook his head.

“Not us,” he said. “You. That tank is yours, and Dieter made me promise you’d be the one commanding it. Hit the remote starter.”

Thomas frowned again, looking at the fob in his hand. The “starter” in this case would do nothing of the sort. The Patton was fusion powered and its power plant did not shut down under normal down-time storage. It would have been completely offline during shipping, but he could hear the faint whine of the reaction mass pumps and knew it was active.

Hesitantly he raised the fob, pointing it at the tank. He hit the “remote start” button. The tank’s running lights lit, flashing through a diagnostic sequence. The gun raised and lowered, and the turret swiveled slightly from side to side.

He heard the distinctive “chunk” of the lock on the commander’s cupola disengaging, and it swung open. Abruptly the PA speakers on the hull crackled to life, blaring the strains of the classic “We are the Champions”.

Freddie was no longer grinning, but now holding his sides and bent over. He was busy laughing himself short of breath.

Thomas was going to need to kill someone.
« Last Edit: 23 January 2019, 07:25:06 by Wereling »

snakespinner

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Re: Tread Heads: The story of Schaller's Shellbacks
« Reply #24 on: 23 January 2019, 01:21:06 »
I was expecting a holovid of Freddie Mercury rising out of the commanders cupola at the same time. :D >:D
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cklammer

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Re: Tread Heads: The story of Schaller's Shellbacks
« Reply #25 on: 23 January 2019, 03:07:43 »
Boys will be boys and all that  :D

Note for spellchecking: "fragine -> "fragile" and "Deiter" has returned  8)

Nav_Alpha

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Re: Tread Heads: The story of Schaller's Shellbacks
« Reply #26 on: 23 January 2019, 05:47:42 »
Freddie nodded. “Dieter swears by them. Says that popping smoke and going hull-down is the best way to keep a tank alive.”

I can assure you... that’s the truth!

Loving this so far


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Wereling

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Re: Tread Heads: The story of Schaller's Shellbacks
« Reply #27 on: 23 January 2019, 07:20:26 »
Boys will be boys and all that  :D

Note for spellchecking: "fragine -> "fragile" and "Deiter" has returned  8)

There were some other spelling errors as well. Those should be fixed now.

Freddie nodded. “Dieter swears by them. Says that popping smoke and going hull-down is the best way to keep a tank alive.”

I can assure you... that’s the truth!


You know that, and I know that, and Thomas does, in fact, know that. He's just not sure it's worth a full ton to have a pair of one-shot smoke grenades rather than getting smoke by other means. I'm actually a little surprised you don't see them on more Battletech vehicles.

Freddie is a hovertank commander. They're all crazy.

cklammer

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Re: Tread Heads: The story of Schaller's Shellbacks
« Reply #28 on: 23 January 2019, 14:27:33 »
Wow: one-shot-half-ton smoke grenades - what is Freddie going fog up then? An Area the size of Texas in one go ::)?

mikecj

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Re: Tread Heads: The story of Schaller's Shellbacks
« Reply #29 on: 26 January 2019, 02:56:57 »
Nicely written, thanks for sharing!

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