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Battletech Last To Know

1

Harlock

I should have expected that really
Comrade
Joined
Aug 9, 2019
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First attempt at a B-Tech fic, how hard can it be... :p
Oh, right :D






Grimgerd VIII Alpha

Resource Moon

Lyran Space

December 3027




These things never worked out the way they were supposed to. Without fail every single time they were paid for an easy assignment or a cakewalk or a no risks guaranteed mission it always turned out to be the opposite. That it happened once was forgivable but by this point the boss really should have learned that clients don't offer truckloads of cash for easy assignments.

So it was today. On paper it was guard duty for a rocket fuel refinery, a large assembly set up on a moon orbiting the gas giant Grimgerd VIII acting as base for mining operations nearby. The moon was of course airless so the whole thing was situated under a giant glass bowl, the refinery, the storage tanks, the decent sized town housing the workers and their families, everything.

The dome looked fragile but was surprisingly tough, he didn't really like being up here but that wasn't the big concern. While quite a decent sized operation there wasn't anything inherently rare about mining the components of rocket fuel, it was mostly just oxygen afterall, which was why it was odd that the Brucker Corporation had hired a full mercenary combat group to just sit and watch it for a few hundred thousand bills per day.


“Standby for airlock access.” A crackly voice announced behind a curtain of distorted static. “Cargo sled one, moving.”

The cargo sleds was how the heavy machinery was moved around the complex, a massive maglev rail network between several domes, facilities and launch pads. Normally they carried fuel tanks or parts for various drop ships but today their cargo was substantially more intimidating.

“Breaker Leader to Overlord, approaching airlock. Estimate six minutes to colony access.”

“Copy that Breaker Lance, deploy to pre-registered positions once you are clear.”

“Affirmative.”

He flipped the comms switch to receive only with a long sigh. This was becoming a chore, something he never believed could possibly happen. He was a mechwarrior, a career soldier who by skill and fortune had the honour of storming across warzones in the finest warmachines yet created by mankind. Not so vulgar as a nuclear missile nor as reliant on scientific method as a warship, the mech was the pinnacle of the warriors art. It was something which stirred the soul of any true blooded son or daughter of man, and yet here he was just waiting to get out again.


It wasn't a discomfort, his machine was as trusty as ever, the cockpit more familiar to him than anything else he had ever known. He knew every button by touch, every control and quirk, for four decades he had fought with this one machine and he loved it like family.

Maybe it was age, his hair was white, his skin becoming lined and heavy. Maybe at sixty years old without any of the longevity treatments available to the better elements of society he was starting to wear down? No, no it wasn't that. Perhaps he just didn't like talking orders from people half his age.

Right now though it didn't matter, he was a man with a job to do and a bundle of cash dangling in front of him for when he finished.


“Heidle Company heavy support, do you receive?” A new voice broke his dour musings. “This is west gate control, please send your authorisation.”

“Gate team stand by.” He inputted the six digit code each of the team leaders had been given. It was a bit redundant, he thought, afterall who else would be showing up at the airlock with four massive bipedal war machines? “Transmitting now.”

“I have it, Colonel Thomas Owens commanding Lance group Breaker. Welcome to Grimgerd Alpha.”

“Pleasure to be here.” He told an obvious lie and made no effort to disguise it. Guard duty inside a dome did not need this much firepower, in fact it was in his view a bloody terrible idea. The last thing anyone wanted was for someone to start popping off mech grade weapons inside a giant glass bowl filled with rocket fuel.

“Airlock cycling.” The voice said again. “Cargo sled moving.”


At least it was a hell of an entrance. The massive airlock doors parted for them allowing the sled to move forward with the four battlemechs of his Lance standing two by two upon it. The movement was smooth and steady requiring no effort to keep balance letting Thomas do a quick systems check while the airlock did its thing. Finally the inner doors ground open, massive steel slabs sliding apart with an almost universal squawk of alarms and flashing yellow lights.

The mechs were carried forward through this, the illumination dazzling like some sort of pop concert with his team as the main attraction. A good sized crowd was waiting for them made up of various off duty miners and workers along with their kids pushing at the edge of the cargo yard to get a look at these great mechanical beasts. Mechs were well known but not often seen, especially in a backwater like this making the arrival extra memorable.


“Take a look Colonel, we have fans.”

His second in command sounded a little gleeful as he eyed up the gathering.

“It's a mining outpost, they've probably never seen a mech before Sandy.” Thomas looked over himself, eyes dwelling on a man lifting a small child up in each hand for a better view. Admirable strength.

“They're hicks. They've probably never seen someone with all their natural teeth either, don't get too carried away.”

The barb was from his number three who was also scanning the crowd.

“Don't worry Henry, I'm sure there'll be at least one miner's daughter who'll be acceptable.”

“After three weeks on that jump ship I'm not fussy. I'll just put a paper bag on my head and think of Avalon.”

“If it wasn't for people like this we'd all be rowing between planets.” His number four mechwarrior interjected sternly. “Show some respect for the hard working men of the Commonwealth.”

“Yes mein herr Beck.” Henry made a slight bowing move with his mech. “Let it never be said Lyrans are anything but doughty men and buxom women.”

Thomas waited for the rest of it, he knew there was more.

“Who all possess a full set of teeth. Maybe even their own.”


This was his team, his own little band of brothers thrown together by circumstance but held together by comradeship. All of them were skilled warriors who had proven themselves in a dozen battles over the years and owed each other their lives several times over, they were in Thomas' view far too good for a mediocre merc group like this.

His second was Major Alexander 'Sandy' Shaw, a man who had been at Thomas' side for almost his entire career as a mechwarrior. Both had fought for House Davion in the Third Succession war before arriving at Mercenary work and Sandy had always been ready to back his old friend. His mech was equally robust, a well worn Archer that served as the Lance ranged support component.

His Third man was Captain Henry Cross, callsign Dapper thanks to the excessive attention to appearance and appetite for debauchery. Cross was a little younger being somewhere in his forties unlike Sandy who was like Thomas past sixty. Cross piloted a Rifleman fitted out with a quartet of pulse lasers as its main weapon, an extremely impressive loadout for its job of keeping the skies clear and deleting smaller hostile mechs.

Last was Captain Johan Beck, callsign Helmut because it was the most Lyran name the rest of the team could think of. While the other three pilots had originated from the Federated Suns Beck was a Lyran sick of never getting to see real action under useless officers. Mercenary work had given him ample opportunity to fix that. He piloted a Warhammer with its classic twin particle cannons, a suitable heavy mech responsible for forming the core of the Lance's combat strength.

They were a motley enough crew with plenty of rivalry and banter, but when it came time to do the job they were a damn fine team.


At the head then was Thomas Owens himself also piloting a Warhammer which had been passed down father to son for five generations. It was a fine piece of art, an heirloom and walking record of his family's past glories. To deploy it here as an over sized security guard was almost degrading to such a proud machine but such was fate. Even the finest of warriors needed to eat.

“Alright Breaker Lance time to get to work.” Owens shifted in his chair and tightened his restraints. “By the numbers, after me.”

With a few taps to his controls the mech came to life whirring and humming its familiar symphony of activation. All systems showed green, no hiccups or problems, no obstacles. He settled in and advanced taking a deliberate step off the cargo sled and onto the loading yard. About two thirds of the dome's interior was a large city stretching a few miles across housing tens of thousands of people. Most were just transitory, contractors coming in for work before moving on after a few weeks or months. Some were permanent, the workers and families plus support businesses. There were decent bars, then not so decent ones out toward the edges of the dome. No doubt they'd be seeing plenty of business with mercs in town.

The remaining third was the refinery including a dozen massive storage tanks holding the components of the rocket fuel made here, mostly liquid oxygen but with some space set aside for liquid hydrogen and various mixtures of the two. Beside that was the loading yard and main cargo airlock the team had arrived through.


One by one the mech team stepped off the sled to cheers and waves from the civilian crowd, Sandy waving back with the massive metal hands of his Archer. The four mechs were still wearing plains and savannah camouflage from their last mission, a mix of dark yellows and greens which really didn't do much in the industrial surroundings they now inhabited. It didn't matter to the crowds of course who still cheered with every thump of a mechanical foot and whir of machinery.

“Do they look rich?” Henry wondered. “And bad at cards perhaps?”

“Remember what happened last time you tried to get rich playing cards?” Sandy moved up to follow Owens' lead. “We had to drag you put of that dumpster feet first.”

“Capellans just don't have a sense of humour, we all know this.”

“I thought it was funny.” Beck cut in.

“You're Lyran, you don't get to have a sense of humour either.”

“Sure we do.”

“Then why have you never laughed at my jokes?”

“Because they are terrible.” Beck scoffed. “I never understand why you Davion people think you invented humour.”

“Simmer down team.” Owens imposed a little order. “We're here, take up overwatch positions.”


With a chorus of acknowledgement the four mecha split up and spread out to assume guard positions on the edge of the refinery some five hundred metres apart. They each found a good spot, turned themselves outward looking over the town, and then went into standby mode.

“Overlord, Breaker Leader.” Owens connected to his company commander. “Breaker Lance in position.”

“Very good Breaker.” The voice returned. “Hold station until further orders.”

“Affirmative.”

And that in theory was that. He put his machine into standby mode and broke out a box of snacks.

“Tom?” His close range comms cut in.

“Yes Sandy?”

“Why the bloody hell are we standing here with thirty million Quid's worth of mechs looking at crappy housing blocks?”

“Because the boss told us to.”

“Right.” His old friend paused. “Permission to accidently step on him?”

“Not until we get paid.”


“No complaints here.” Henry made his own position known. “If they want to pay us for nothing let them.”

“According to the boss we are a deterrent.” Owens sought to clarify. “He thinks we will intimidate any ne'er do wells into turning tail and running away at the mere sight of us.”

“Same effect Dapper has on any normal woman then.” Beck took an easy shot. “He does know that we should be stood outside to intercept any trouble right?”

“I did suggest that to his eminence yes.” Owens smiled. “But he informed us we wouldn't be very intimidating if no one could see us.”

“So now we look scary but if we start shooting then we crack the dome and everyone dies.” Beck exhaled in exasperation. “I thought I'd left behind bad officers when I left the standing army.”

“We probably just can't fathom his genius.” Henry reasoned. “That's why he's the boss. Nothing to do with his daddy owning the company.”

“I miss the last boss. Dieter was a proper soldier.”

That got murmurs of support from the whole team.

“Since he bought it and the firm got bought out it's gone downhill.” Owens agreed entirely. “Been thinking of getting out.”

“Must be some better groups hiring.” Beck agreed. “If you go I go.”

“Same.” Henry added his voice. “It would be no fun without you chaps.”


It was something to contemplate as he opened a second pack of snacks. Owens watched a pair of sentries walking the perimeter as the actually meaningful component of this security detail, the two soldiers glancing up at the mechs every so often. Heidle was a fairly well balanced mercenary group with a decent sized mechanised infantry component, its own drop ships and even some covert agents in addition to its mech unit and had earned a decent reputation under its last director, Dieter Lindemann. Unfortunately Lindemann had been killed a year ago and the new owners were not nearly so talented.

Many of the better members had already left for better opportunities and there weren't many of the old skilled mercs left. Fortunately there were enough left among the infantry to ensure that the three hundred or so troopers were deployed sensibly to protect the refinery.

“What are we defending from anyway.” Henry piped in ruining the silence.

“Didn't you read the briefing?” Beck fielded. “Pirates.”

“Why would they bother with this dump?”

“Because pirate ships need fuel too.”

“So they're going to steal it from inside the dome?” Henry returned. “That's stupid. They're pirates, rob a ship. I mean that is sort of their point isn't it?”


“Mark this on a calendar but Dapper is right.” Beck remarked. “It is stupid.”

“Brucker who owns this place has been having disputes with some rival corporations.” Sandy offered his theory. “Was in the news, been some sabotage. Odds are these pirates we're looking for are being hired by his rivals.”

“So its not theft, they want to sabotage this place?”

“Blow up some pumps, smash the docks.” Sandy guessed. “It would delay business and drive them to bankruptcy.”

“At which point the rivals buy out Brucker's assets and take over.” Beck realised. “Sounds right, and if they have friends in Lyran high society...”

“The authorities do nothing and it is up to we noble cash hungry mercs to fix it.” Owens rounded up. “A very dangerous game because I don't think the boss is smart enough to handle this.”

“So these pirates are just crunchies right?” Dapper checked. “No mechs?”

“I don't know but better hope so.” Owens looked over at the huge spherical tanks containing tens of thousands of tons of fuel. “We really don't want to be shooting in here.”

The lines went quiet again giving Owens time to appreciate the view. The housing blocks and buildings were dull of course, just standard concrete tower blocks and cheap structures, but up above it was incredible. The dome gave a clear view of spac e beyond, the tapestry of stars which never gre old or any less mesmerising to him. More than that though was the blue gas giant of Grimgerd VIII itself cresting the horizon as it slowly began to cross the black sky.

He'd seen a lot of things in his life and travels, some good, a lot bad, and every now and then something that was still breathtaking.


*


“All teams, Overlord, be advised unauthorised access detected at airlocks one, two and three.” The voice of the Company Commander shook Owens from his daydreaming. “Local security is responding but be on alert.”

He did a quick check of his map uploaded earlier that day and overlaid with his sensor screen identifying the airlock locations.

“Far side of the Dome across the city.” Owens saved his team the hassle of looking it up. “Passenger transport access.”

“Not big enough for a mech then?” Sandy checked.

“No, nothing for us to worry about. The infantry can handle it.”

Outside alarms suddenly began to sound, the ubiquitous long droning howl unchanged in centuries of use. The sound was almost culturally wired to get an immediate response from anyone who heard it without any possibility of mistake. Find shelter now.

“Sounds like its the real deal then.” Henry fidgeted. “If they had deployed us outside we could have vaporised those fools by now.”

Owens could see a column of smoke rising up on the other side of the dome marking where business was in the process of getting interesting.

“All teams, Overlord, standby to engage hostiles. Air units deploy and identify targets. Anton Company load up and advance. Breaker Lance prepare to advance and support Anton.”


“What?” Beck stuttered on the Lance frequency. “Was that for us?”

“Sounded like it.” Sandy sounded equally bemused.

“Let me check.” Owens connected to the command frequency. “Overlord, Breaker, did you order us to advance?”

“Affirmative, advance and support Anton Company.”

“Overlord, we're a heavy mech lance armed with the biggest guns not mounted on a battleship. We kill other mechs and heavy armour, we're not set up for anti infantry work.”

“You have machine guns on those things don't you?” His commander was getting irate.

“Machine guns are best used to sweep from ground level, from an elevated position they are far less useful.”

“You have your orders. Advance to support Anton, no heavy weapons.”

“If those infantry have anti armour weapons and you send us into an urban environment without heavy weapons...”

“Just do it or you can say goodbye to your pay packet! Am I clear?”

Owens bit back his initial response.

“Affirmative. Breaker Lance on the move.”


He cut the channel and waited a few moments in silence, the rest of his team already aware of what was happening.

“Colonel?” Sandy was first to speak. “I request again permission to step on that silly bastard.”

“Should have done it while we were unloading.” Beck voiced his regret. “Getting accidentally on purpose squished by a giant robot is a leading cause of death among Lyran officers.”

“This is going to go to hell and is going to happen fast.” Owens gritted his teeth. Sending heavy mechs unsupported into an urban setting was virtual suicide. The buildings offered cover and concealment to mech hunter troopers, small hard to spot infantry hauling armour piercing missiles. One or two good hits from nowhere could really ruin their day.

Standard procedure was to remove the urban environment with prodigious amounts of firepower, can't ambush you from a building if the buildings are all smoking ruins. Sadly this was not an option.

“Alright we'll do this carefully. Avoid the tower blocks, we'll deploy near the warehouse and retail districts. The buildings there are fairly low and close to the ground, we should be able to see over them.”

He brought up the map and assigned a position to each of his team.

“Advance in broad line formation, keep visual contact with each other, slow and steady. By the time we arrive Anton will probably have mopped up anyway.”

He exhaled, this was not how professionals did things.

“Machine guns and melee only. The civilians are evacuating so if you have to punch a house or step on a shop go right ahead.”

“Here we go again then.” Sandy chuckled darkly. “Charge of the Light Headed Brigade.”


His mech rumbled as its systems engaged, the bands of synthetic muscles tightening up as the joints moved. He was in no hurry so didn't push beyond a steady walking pace keeping alert to civilians dashing around. Last thing he needed was to be scraping miner out of his heels.

They left the refinery via the main gate following the main road out toward the town. It was fortunately wide enough for mechs though not really designed for them, the maintenance teams were going to have plenty of overtime filling in the dips and cracks in the asphalt the Lance was going to leave imprinted in the surface. A lot of mechs in urban settings used rubber on their soles to minimise damage but nobody here had actually expected to go trampling along a highway today.

One thing the Dome had an abundance of was shelters, some underground, others sitting on the surface encased in steel and concrete. All were particularly hardy and airtight designed to resist the possibility of an asteroid or badly piloted dropship cracking the dome or falling into the city. While not designed to keep people safe in a pitched battle they would probably work pretty good provided people could get themselves inside.


There were a few vehicles dashing about, civilian cars and buses dropping people off at shelters. They were at least well practiced in emergency drills and wasted little time in finding safety clearing the way for the Heidle Company to go do its thing. While Owens' attention was on the ground ahead of him he did note a trio of helicopters thrumming into action as the mobilisation continued, the air support component of this mission.

Again it wasn't ideal, helicopters like most VTOLs wanted a lot of space to manoeuvre in which just wasn't happening inside this oversized birdcage. Like their mech brethren the pilots were probably cursing the Commander with as much creativity as they could muster. Two of the aircraft were gunships with a shark like profile laden with missiles and a respectable autocannon, the third was a scout chopper armed only with advanced sensors and whatever blessings the pilot could coax out of his god.

They were in the same predicament Owens faced, urban settings were bad for gunships with the similar possibility of man portable missile launchers or a cluster of light autocannons hidden among the structures ready to ambush them. Unlike the mechs though the gunships had very few options to handle it, their normal routine of dumping flares or chaff and then accelerating away was severely hampered by the Dome above them which although quite tall in the centre was much too close for comfort out on the fringes. Consequently the gunships were dragging their heels and lurking more toward the middle of the Dome until the Scout confirmed what the opposition looked like.


The Lance meanwhile reached its deployment point and spread out, each of the four vehicles fanning out with about a hundred metres between them. The town was built on a neat grid system meaning the roads and streets were all mostly parallel, that would make it easier.

“Hold here.” Owens ordered. “Lance Leader to Anton Company, we're in your sector ready to support.”

“Taffy?” The Captain of Anton Company answered. “I thought heavy weapons were restricted? What you gonna use? Harsh language?”

“Might come to that McMurdock.” Owens grinned. Like him Anton's commander was a veteran who knew the game inside and out and had little faith in the overall field Commander. “Overlord wants us out here, so here we are.”

“Overlord. Bet he gave himself that callsign self important prick.” McMurdock sneered in a harsh Scots accent. “Well at least you get a ringside seat to watch how actual soldiers do the job.”

“I'll break out the popcorn.”


The bulk of the mercenary force consisted of three companies of infantry designated Anton, Bruno and Caesar. The latter two units were pure foot soldiery and deployed around the refinery in fixed positions, Anton Company however was a mechanised unit taking its hundred men into action in the back of wheeled APCs. Under Captain Ian McMurdock it had proven to be a very effective force and was the usual support element for Owens' mech team in most engagements. They both knew how each other operated and made for a damn fine combined arms team, though this time it was going to have to be mostly infantry work.

The command suite in Owens' Warhammer let him tap into the various data feeds allowing him to watch video filtering down from the scout chopper. Apart from a few bursts of machinegun fire there hadn't been much anti air action so the scout was able to go about its business in relative peace watching events unfold.

This gave Owens his first look at the opposition as they secured the loading docks and freight yards around the airlocks. While smaller than the big cargo dock and rail sleds near the refinery there were still a lot of containers and boxes stacked up in multiple yards and warehouses. These were mostly deliveries for the town, food fuels and other day to day resources offloaded from the closest inhabited planets closer to the sun. They were less volatile but still quite important so naturally Anton Company was going to have to be careful.

Unfortunately 'careful' was not a word McMurdock paid even the slightest attention to.


The apparent pirates were moving quickly and with a plan. Their gear appeared varied but was functional and by his guess the inbound platoons were arranged by weapon type to give at least roughly uniform ability across each squad. It was a little like securing a Landing Site, once the infantry was secure the rest of the force would roll in and begin the real attack. Break this perimeter and perhaps they could curtail or avoid more fighting entirely.

McMurdock certainly seemed to think so and decided to get stuck in with as much gusto and fury as possible, which was a lot. The APCs thundered down the roads leading to the loading yards and smashed through the chainlink fences before squealing to a halt in a particularly loud and impressive display. Subtlety was also apparently alien to the Skye born wrecking ball. Even as they slid to a stop the APCs opened up with roof mounted heavy machine guns, the thud and clink of heavy calibre rounds disappearing downrange toward the invaders.

While it would be nice to think the gunfire alone would fix the problem mostly it was just to keep heads down while the infantry unloaded and scattered left and right throwing themselves flat and looking for cover. A few shots met them but quickly stopped when they drew fire from the armoured taxis.

“Move up, move up.” McMurdock ordered over the radio. “Kick them loose before they get dug in. No hanging back, just get in there and start killing!”


His men were as good as their orders and stormed forward weaving from cover to cover taking the fight into the maze of containers and buildings. It was a bad place to try and execute a battle and the best bet was to attack with such speed and fury that the enemy had no idea what was happening. From his vantage point half a mile away Owens could see the puffs of grenade smoke and hear the clatter of gunfire mixed with a hiss and whiz of laser rifles. His sensors could tell him very little as the infantry melted into the yard beyond any reasonable vision but Anton Company knew their game and seemed to be nudging forward.

This was when the airlocks began to open again.

“Murdo, Owens here.” He quickly voiced a warning. “Second wave on the way.”

“Copy that, composition?”

“Scanning.”

He had to wait a while for the gates to open but as soon as they did a veritable swarm of vehicles rushed out from all three.

“Where the hell did they all come from?” Henry snapped over comms. “Don't tell me they just smuggled those in on container ships!”

“Keep it down.” Owens rebuked, this was the time to get real. “Murdo, multiple technicals, twenty plus on the move.” He described the swarm of fast moving wheeled vehicles veritably pouring from the airlocks, barely a metal frame of a chassis with a machinegun or missile pod mounted on top. “I'm seeing armour too. Oh, tanks.”

“Tanks?” McMurdock checked.

“Affirmative, look like Chevaliers. Twelve so far.”

“Copy that.” Came the answer, those two words delivered with the tone of a man no longer enjoying himself. “I might need some back up afterall.”


It didn't matter how they had managed to get a squadron of wheeled tanks down here, who they had bribed or paid off, all that mattered was they were about two minutes away from ripping into Anton Company who had precious few options to respond with. Sure they had some anti tank missiles but with most of their number engaged sweeping the freight yard they wouldn't be able to redeploy fast enough to meet the new threat.

“Breaker Lance, time to get busy.” Owens didn't have to weigh the options, measure the consequences. He was going to be in trouble no matter what he did, if he acted he'd be hammered for breaking orders, if he stood still a lot of people he liked were going to die. No contest.

“Sandy, Helmut, flank left and engage enemy armour on that side. Dapper, flank right with me. We clear both sides and meet in the middle.”

“This mean we're going weapons hot?” Beck asked pointedly.

“It does, I'll take responsibility.” Owens confirmed as team leader. “Keep your shots low and double check before you shoot. The Dome can take a few holes melted in it but not too many, it'll probably come out of our paycheck anyway.”

“Ready on your order Colonel.”

“Very good.” No turning back now. “Commence.”


Time was short and if he'd learned anything from his decades of experience it was that it was better to act than second guess himself. With a shudder the mech broke into a run from a standing stop, not an easy feat to pull off without falling flat. Up ahead things were on the brink of getting bad, the video feed from the scout chopper showed one of McMurdock's APCs erupting in a flash of light as one of the inbound Chevalier tanks cooked it with a direct laser hit. The team was responding, moving to a better defensive position, but they wouldn't make it alone.

To his approval and mild surprise the gunships ripped past too at low level travelling much faster than the Mech team. They swept in and over the freight yard blasting missiles as they went and spitting fire from their autocannons leaving ragged chains of smoke behind them. At least three tanks were hit and put out of action before the helicopters peeled off and popped flares as a fistful of missiles chased the gunships roaring over the rooftops.

It was a damn ballsy move and put the gunships largely out of the fight until they could re-arm. They were lucky not to eat a faceful of tracer fire on the way in or missiles on the way out, the shots made against them unable to track against the clutter of buildings and flares. It helped, but two choppers weren't going to stop a full tank squadron even on their best day.

“Range six hundred, designating targets Alpha one through nine.” Owens ran through the data from the scout tagging each blip and making sure everyone knew what and where to shoot. “Once we clear the buildings engage at will.”


That took only a matter of moments, Owens and Henry breaking clear and into the maze of containers, the multicoloured cubes and spheres representing modules from across the sphere. There wasn't time to be gentle about it and if something got stepped on then so be it, he just hoped there was nothing volatile hidden in them.

“Tank, bearing three zero low!” Henry called. “Make that three!”

Owens rotated his mech's torso to face the threat without altering his path, the targeting computer picking out the incoming vehicles and blinking a warning. Against relatively light vehicles like this his odds were good, but nothing was ever certain and those laser cannons rolling his way could still kill an overconfident mech.

Henry was closer and opened fire an instant before Owens, the chatter of his four medium pulse lasers crackling across the freight yard. Most chewed into various containers the tanks were weaving through, but several caught the lead tank punching through its side armour with minimal effort.

The first vehicle swerved hard as the crew were flash fried by the laser cannons, the incandescent vehicle bouncing off a concrete barrier before digging into a loading platform and coming to a stop. Bright flames jetted from the holes melted in its flank as its interior was consumed.


The rest was up to Owens, the remaining two tanks turning away from Henry's attack which put them on course for the bigger and nastier Warhammer Owens' was putting in their path. The tank crews weren't fools and they took evasive action launching missiles and engaging with their turret mounted laser cannon as they accelerated, perhaps seeking to storm past the mech and get into the relative safety of the town.

Against a less experienced warrior it may have worked but not Owens, not a man with four decades in the field. The missiles and lasers were both a threat if they connected, that much concentrated fire wasn't necessarily lethal but it was certainly going to sting. The attackers had so far being exploiting the terrain for their own advantage, now it was time to turn that around.

He ably dodged the first salvo of laser fire, the crews rushed and shooting on the move hurting their initial attack. The hefty Warhammer skidded to a stop then shifted its weight and swept an armoured leg round to connect with a stack of containers, the strength of the kick lifting and throwing the metal boxes and whatever was in them into the path of the incoming projectiles. The hail of boxes didn't go far enough to hurt the tanks but did neatly screen the Warhammer from a second salvo of lasers and the inbound missiles, the munitions detonating in clouds of smoke and vapour as they obliterated the containers, half a luxury hovercar bouncing off Owens' flank armour a sit was explosively redistributed.

He didn't have time to work out how much that was going to cost him in damages, the torn containers dropped with a squeal and crash to the ground clearing the line of fire. Now it was his turn and he took it, the mighty PPCs mounted as each arm were already ready and waiting for their chance to make themselves known. Before the smoke even cleared the bulky warmachine opened up, crackling blue particle beams swirling and stabbing one each into the incoming pair of tanks. It was a perfect shot, the light vehicles succumbing to the direct hits immediately and rolling to a burning stop.


“Left flank clear!” He called out, the adrenaline still pulsing despite his age. Whatever questions and doubts he had about his future he couldn't deny that here and now he was living for this.

“Right flank clear!” Sandy echoed moments later. “Advancing on the centre.”

“Murdo, status?” Owens checked in with his infantry brethren.

“Still in the fight but enemy mobile units are breaking through.” The response game. “Two tanks and some technicals, sorry Taffy, couldn't get them in time.”

“I better go mop it up then.” He grunted a slight laugh. “You owe me a bottle of Scotch for this one.”

“Sounds fair, I have some real Northwind blend with your name on it.”

He twisted his mech and began to head back into the town, the scout helicopter following the events and shifting to track the invading light tanks.

“Sandy, keep Helmut and back up Murdo. Nothing else gets past.”

“Affirmative.”

“Dapper, stick with me. We'll cut off their advance.”

“Are they going for the refinery?”

“Looks like.” A glance at the map seemed to confirm it. “Nothing else worth shooting around here. At the bounce Dapper, best speed.”


Both mechs took off at a gathering sprint digging their heels into the concrete surface beneath them sending crumbled stones and aggregate into the air behind them. Despite their size and rather ungainly nature the machines could move when they had to and right now they really had to.

The flickering map display on the screen to his left showed a pair of blips representing the last two tanks, both running down the main highway between increasingly tall buildings.

“I can't get a clean shot, too much in the way.” Owens cursed under his breath. Normally he would have blasted through the buildings but he couldn't guarantee all civilians had evacuated. “I'm getting closer.”

“Be advised Breaker Lance, enemy technicals also on the move.” The scout chopper issued a further warning. While they were less dangerous some of them still carried assorted missiles which couldn't be easily ignored.

“Understood, keep me informed.”

He slowed a little to make a turn digging up more sections of road as the massive machine swung about. With buildings in the way he was going to need to be almost on top of the tanks to engage. It wasn't going to be pretty.


“Target coming up on your three.” Dapper called, Owens already on it. “You'll intercept in a few seconds.”

The Chevalier tanks were faster but the mechs had a head start with the two groups about to converge. Henry's Rifleman was somewhere behind moving to try to drop on the enemy from behind while Owens hit from the front, but he already knew he wasn't fast enough to head them off. Instead he turned parallel to the main road and pushed up his speed rotating his torso right to aim at where the tanks would be. He focused charging down one street with only a single line of buildings between him and the hostiles, his only chance to engage presented by the gaps flashing by between the tall structures.

The tanks had no such restraint swinging their turrets left and blasting laser volleys at the rushing mech. Most tore into the buildings in jets of steam and dust accomplishing little with only one landing a glancing blow turning a strip or armour bright yellow with heat. Owens didn't react, didn't wildly shoot back. He held up using the brief glimpses of his opponents to line up his guns, time his attack, wait for the last building to pass by and only then did he shoot.


The instant the side of the building passed by he opened up, the stream of blue particles hitting the tank on its forward quarter blasting off its forward wheels and punching through the weak armour behind. The tank reared up, its return shot missing completely, then crashed down and dug into the road flipping the vehicle over onto its roof where it skidded to a halt.

He barely registered the spectacular crash, chunks of road half a burning wheel bouncing past as he focused on changing direction. The Warhammer's heel dug in hard cutting a furrough in the asphalt and pulverising an abandoned car left in the middle of the street. The machine complained at the sudden force, its joints trembling like an olympic runner approaching his limit as warnings urged caution. It was enough, Owens knew the mech could take it, he bled off the speed and kicked into a halt levelling his guns as the second tank skidded to a stop to avoid slamming into the shattered hull of its comrade. It stopped exactly where Owens predicted staring down both of his PPCs, the two beams lashing out in unison before the enemy vehicle could throw itself into reverse. It was almost cruel.


“Breaker Leader, all units destroyed. Report status.”

“Breaker Two, freight yard under control.” Sandy replied. “Mopping up now.”

“Breaker Three on your flank, no contacts.”

“Breaker Four, looking good. Gunships are finishing hold outs.”

Owens checked back to see the helicopters circling and swooping like vultures using their cannons to pick off any last resistance. That was good enough, they didn't need mechs for the mopping up.

“Breaker Lance return to stations.” He changed channels. “Overlord, area secure, returning to overwatch.”

“Negative Breaker Lance! Negative!” A panicked voice responded immediately sharpening Owens' senses. “Enemy contact at the loading bay! Main airlock!”

That was where they had entered the dome, an airlock big enough for a mech. That was not good.

“Breaker Lance, move on the Main airlock! Make it quick!” He threw himself around, only he and Henry were going to be in position to intercept whatever was at the airlock, it would be another couple of minutes before his two comrades could join them. In a crisis that brief time could be an eternity.

“Overlord, do you have a visual on the new contact?”

“It's another tank, missile tank!”


Within seconds the scout chopper was overhead and swinging around giving Owens a look at the vehicle entering the dome. It was a tank only in the loosest sense of the word, its boxy upper hull marking it as an SRM carrier loaded up with a massive stockpile of projectiles that could fill the sky with high explosives. They deserved respect but weren't the most dangerous of vehicles especially in an urban environment where buildings would absorb most of the missiles.

Unfortunately it wasn't targeting the mechs.

“It's going for the refinery.” Owens watched it begin to turn toward the facility and its rocket fuel storage tanks. “Where are the infantry? Who is in range?”

“There's no one near the gate!” His commander responded frantically. “You're the closest! You have to stop it!”

Owens swore harshly, there was no way he could get a clean shot from his current position with so much clutter and structures between him and the missile truck and no way to run past them in time. The gunships were throttling up to join them but had the whole dome to cross first, it would only be seconds but it was seconds they didn't have.

“Dapper, jump jets!” He made the call. “Get airborne and hit it on the bounce!”

“Going for it!”


Owens didn't wait, his mech was bigger and heavier than Henry's Rifleman and much less easy to handle in a jump, especially one that was going to be almost purely vertical, but if he didn't try and those missiles hit the refinery the results would be disastrous.

He braced, exhaled, then hit the activation switch launching the mech a hundred metres straight up. It wasn't gentle, he had no time for a controlled ascent and even in the fairly low gravity of the moon it was still a brutal feeling crushing him down into his chair. It got him above the buildings and after a couple of seconds orientation he spotted the target, the missile truck raising its launchers on the brink of firing. He had one chance, one shot and he wasn't going to blunder into it. He waited, waited until his mech reached its apogee when upward momentum was perfectly cancelled by gravity. That moment, that heart beat between rising and falling, that was when he would take the shot.

He couldn't wait for the target lock to align his guns he would be firing from the hip making this a difficult shot. Once he engaged recoil would throw him off so he only had one opportunity. The mech slowed, the force on him lessened, the moment arrived.

Calmly, coolly he cleared the safeties, lined up and fired both PPCs at once. More than enough power to kill the SRM carrier outright especially firing down into its launcher and ammo storage.


Except he missed.

He missed.

How did he miss?

He watched in disbelief as the two blue beams dug into the ground in front of the missile launcher carving up the concrete just a couple of metres short, the heat scorching the paint but nothing more. He had a clean shot, something he'd done countless times before and he'd never missed. He didn't miss. Yet he just had done, it didn't follow.

There wasn't time for another shot as his mech dropped back toward the ground giving him a grandstand view of the SRM carrier ripple firing a dozen missiles at its target. He had the only window to stop it, just a few seconds of opportunity and he failed. The vehicle didn't survive for long, a storm of pulse laser fire chewing it up as Henry got airborne and made the shot that Owens had failed to but it was too late. Killing the vehicle didn't stop the dozen swirling missiles it had managed to launch first as they arced over the factories and dropped into the massive fuel storage tanks.


“All stations! Take cover!” Owens hit the broadcast button on his comms and sent the frantic warning. “Brace for heat and shock!”

He didn't know exactly what was going to happen but following the protocol for a nuclear blast sounded like a good precaution. His mech hit the ground and he immediately dropped getting as close to the surface as possible and protecting the machine's cockpit. The other mechs did the same throwing themselves flat with as much speed as several dozen tons of warmachine could manage flattening whatever happened to be beneath them at the time. There was no time to be careful.

What happened next was something like the gates of hell opening, a brief glimpse over the threshold into the inferno. It was over in moments, surprisingly fast indeed as the missiles struck their targets and caused a detonation of spectacular scale. The expected fireball and blastwave barely materialised, the air that would have transferred that energy consumed in an instant by the conflagration and unable to be replaced. The dome was shattered, armoured glass fractured and metal supports twisted and ruptured like they were nothing. Whatever atmosphere that wasn't consumed by the flames vanished into the airless void of space leaving the colony as cold and desolate as the rest of the moon.


After the adrenaline and relentless movement of the last several minutes the sudden peace was extremely disconcerting. It was absolutely dead silent, there was nothing except the usual background whir of the fans keeping the control panels in the cockpit working. Owens hung in his seat harness, the Warhammer still prone waiting for the blast that never materialised. Slowly he began to move, the seals keeping his machine pressurised apparently undamaged.

“All stations, Breaker Leader.” His voice was quiet but sounded thunderous. “Report status.”

He waited for a response as he climbed back to his feet. There weren't any fires in the town, just a few puddles of burning rocket fuel that carried their own oxidants. Everything looked crystal clear with no atmosphere in the way distorting his view, the buildings mostly still standing though many seemed hollowed out with their contents scattered across the town. Furniture, possessions, some bodies.

“Breaker Leader, this is Two. Shaken but operational.”

“This is Three, sensors damaged but otherwise operational.”

“Four here, no damage.”

“Very good, begin searching for survivors.” Owens felt sick like his stomach was entirely empty. Whoever wanted this facility destroyed had got their wish but at immense cost. His hands were trembling on the controls and he lost track of how long he had just been stood there. Seconds, minutes, longer?

“Overlord, come in.” He tried. “Overlord?”

No answer.

“Murdo? Anton Company? Bruno? Caesar?”

Nothing.

“Any stations?”


He started to move, sweeping back and forth to look for any signs of life. None were visible.

“Think the civilians got to the shelters in time?” Johan called in as much to break the silence as anything else.

“Not all of them.” Owens had seen enough bodies to know that. “If they did they should be fine, they were built to survive asteroid hits.”

“None of our guys had pressure suits.” Henry showed up beside Owens. “The choppers didn't have a chance.”

“We need to get some help over here Colonel.” Sandy tried to push them forward. “Colonel? Taffy?”

“Yes, yes I heard.” Owens eventually answered. “Minerva, this is Breaker Leader, are you receiving?”

“This is Minerva.” The commander of their assigned Dropship replied. “What happened over there, did we see an explosion?”

“Affirmative. Contact Grimgerd system control, declare an emergency and request any ship in the vicinity assist with rescuing civilians.”

“Is the dome damaged?”

“The dome is gone.”

“What happened over there? Where is...”

“Just send the distress signal.” Owens cut him off. “There must be some survivors here and we can't waste time.”

“Alright, but whatever happened the boss will want to know.”

“I'll tell him in person and take full responsibility.” Owens resolved, it was all he could do. “Send the signal, then get us out of here.”
 
2

Harlock

I should have expected that really
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2


Six Months Later

Marik Space





Every day had started to look the same blending into one another as an unending blur of dusty yellow. Deserts were not his natural habitat and while admittedly the rolling sands and rocky hills were quite magnificent in their own way the arid dry heat was alien to a son of Avalon. Still at least nobody bothered him out here and with about a hundred miles to the nearest settlement he was free to spend his days in contemplation.

Which had gotten really boring really fast.

With little more than a trailer and a truck so old any identifying marks had been worn smooth by age he had kept mainly to himself with only a few visitors and the odd supply run into town. He didn't seem much different from the usual drifter or hermit apart from, of course, the gigantic warmachine dormant under a tent by the side of a nearby cliff.

He didn't mention it of course, no point drawing unwanted attention to something so valuable, but it was hard to deflect question about what was under the hundred foot tall tent. Therefore he just stayed out of the way and tried to figure out what to do next. He rather quickly ran out of ideas and ended up just waiting for something, he didn't know what, just some change.

In the end he just gave up.



This day though was different, the almost complete silence disturbed by the approach of a helicopter which popped over the rocky ground and circled overhead looking for a good landing site. It found a spot near the trailer and lighted very gently on the sand in a cloud of dust, its fairly quiet engine suggesting it was a fairly expensive fuel cell powered chopper. That made it somewhat unusual on this backwater.

Even more unusual was the passenger who stepped down from the rear compartment, a slender woman with tied up bouncy blonde hair and an extremely sharp dark blue business suit. She looked entirely out of place trying to walk in high heels across the sand, her only concession to the desert a pair of black sunglasses as sharp as her shoulder pads.


“Colonel Owens.” She greeted with a smile so bright it had probably cost more than his mech in maintenance. “You weren't kidding when you said you were in the middle of nowhere!”

“Nice VTOL.” Owens stepped down from his trailer home with an attempt to look smart. Isolated as he was he still had a little pride and that meant clean ironed clothes and a close shave no matter what. “Did you bring it with you?”

“Yes I did.” She nodded. “Anne Janus.” She extended a hand. “We spoke by mail?”

“I remember.” He took her hand with a single shake. “Welcome to New Nevada.”

“Is errr...” She nodded to the huge tent. “...That it?”

“Yes. Care to take a look?”

“It's why I'm here.” That illuminating smile again.


The two began walking, Owens noting the pilot remaining with his helicopter. He was by nature a cautious man and particularly so when inviting strangers to his abode. He had a sidearm concealed at his ankle and a small arsenal hidden around if he needed it but so far things seemed relaxed.

“I'm glad you agreed to the meeting.” Janus kicked up some small talk. “Not everyday a mech like this comes up for sale.”

“I expect not.”

He pushed aside the fabric flaps at the front of the tent letting her enter, keeping them away from her six hundred C-Bill haircut before following himself. Towering above them was the Warhammer, his Warhammer, shrouded in the dull haze of whatever light filtered through the fabric.

“Oh my.” Janus was smiling again but this time it wasn't the forced glowing smile of a businesswoman. It was the look of someone about to fulfil a personal goal. “Now that is a real mech.”

“It is in perfect working order, I can fire it up if you want a demonstration?”

“That won't be necessary.” She turned to him. “Six Million you said?”

“Six million and final approval over who gets to use it.” Owens corrected. “That's my deal, I'm not going to see this machine used by anyone I don't think is worthy.”

“Worthy?” She raised an eyebrow behind her shades but then smiled again. “Alright.”


“This isn't about the money.” Owens spoke firmly. “My Great Grandfather piloted this machine and all his line down to me. I want it to be respected, to be used for the right reasons.”

“For a righteous cause?” She smiled again, it was starting to get irritating. “That's the knight speaking isn't it? Relax, your accent is obvious.”

“I am Federation born, and yes I do still have a commitment to their ways. But it isn't that.”

“I'm the third person to visit here aren't I?” She asked plainly. “I did my research, the first to answer your advert was a mercenary group from the Capellans. You refused even when they offered you ten million.”

“They were a no good outfit, they'd probably have lost my mech on their first mission.”

“The second was Viscount Guillard. He was from the Federated Suns, why not him?”

“He was buying it for his son. Far too young and inexperienced for a machine like this.”

“So what about me?”

“You seem very slick, like a broker. Who are you working for?”

“A reputable organisation.” She answered. “Who will pay you well.”

“I don't care for the money.”

“We'll pay double for a machine in this condition.”

“Then we have no deal.”


She smiled.

“Are you sure?”

“Very.” He parted the tent entrance for her. “Pleasant flight home Miss Janus.”

“I came a very long way to make this deal Colonel Owens. A month of travel. I don't want to leave empty handed.”

“I have a nice bottle of Scotch you can have.”

“Not my meaning Colonel.” She smiled again. “Aren't you worried someone will just steal this machine? Shoot you and walk off with it?”

“Not at all.” Owens took his turn to smile. “I have three very good very well armed friends who would make sure anyone who tried that wouldn't get off this planet alive.”

“Ah yes, Alexander Shaw, Henry Cross and Johan Beck yes?” She savoured his expression. “Your former Lance mates, or are they still current? I'm hazy on who has and hasn't retired yet.”

“I'm the only one who has retired, the others are between jobs.” Owens kept an even expression, she had done her research.

“Liar.” The smile returned. “You haven't retired. You can't retire. It isn't in your nature.”

“Time for you to go Miss Janus.”


She didn't move.

“If you wanted to retire you wouldn't care as much as you do about ownership. I mean sure, don't sell to piss poor Capellan mercs, but Guillard was a perfect option. You're just finding excuses not to sell.”

“Don't try to get in my head Miss Janus. We're done.”

“You've had six months, you could have been on Canopus by now with a nubile young thing hanging off every appendage. Yet here you are drinking scotch in a trailer on dust planet.”

Her stance shifted, her entire aura and presence became much colder. Gone was the businesswoman.

“You think you want to retire but you don't, your problem is you can't see any other way forward. Nobody will hire you after that hiccup on Grimgerd and you can't go home.”

“I took responsibility for my actions.”

“Yes I saw your report, the blame clearly was with your field commander who didn't deploy you outside the dome as a perimeter.”

“How did you see that report?”

“I do my research.”

“That isn't what I mean, it was never published.”

“Your old employer did a good job slandering your name, putting the blame on you. Of course he was rich enough to bury the truth and suppress your side of things. The Lyrans wanted someone to blame and the field commander was the owner's son. Bad luck for you there.”


“Exactly who do you work for?” Owens narrowed his eyes. “A rival company? The Lyrans? The owners of the refinery?”

“None of the above.” Janus removed her shades to make real eye contact for the first time. “And I'm not here to assign blame or drag you over the coals, as I said I know they made you a scapegoat. I wanted to meet you face to face, see what kind of man you were.”

“Why?” He remained alert to the man by the chopper. “What do you really want? Not the mech.”

“That is actually my secondary objective. If I fail in my first I will buy the mech. But in truth what I want is both of you, the mech and you Colonel. Ideally your entire Lance too.”

Owens grinned widely.

“This is a job offer? Really? All this messing about just to say you want to hire me?”

“Yes.” Her reply was simple and blunt. “I know your record Colonel, you and your Lance are far better than most Merc units because you were all highly decorated members of the Federation or Commonwealth military. On paper you are what I need, but I don't hire based on paper. I hire people, not resumes.”

“You're no businesswoman, you don't own a merc company or some sort of facility that needs protecting.”

“True.”

“Based on this little game and the expensive clothes and gear, you're probably intelligence.”

She smiled again, honestly this time.

“You are definitely looking like a good prospect.” She bowed her head slightly. “Anne Janus, Ministry of Information, Intelligence and Operations.”

“MIIO? Oh that's wonderful. Thanks for your time. Goodbye.”


“Are you not even a little bit interested?” She tilted her head. “Just a little?”

“The Federation and I parted ways long ago, and I really, really want nothing to do with their spooks.”

“The pay will be good, plus we'll provide free spares and munitions. And mechanics, I understand your usual team stayed with the company after you got fired.”

“I didn't trust your lot when I was with the Federation, I trust you even less now.”

“It doesn't matter, it isn't an intel operation. You'll be serving as an auxiliary force to the regular army.” Janus informed. “Extra mech support for a Regimental Combat Team, that's why I'm hiring professionals ideally with a military background.”

“Where?” Owens remained wary. “Why are you short on mechs?”

That was the hook. “This is a secondary operation, the Armed Forces can't deploy major assets for this mission so we're bulking up with mercs. It's not unusual in the circumstances.”

“What planet?”

Then he took the line. “A small world in Draconis space. We'll be conducting a short term attack to destabilise the region.”

“Why now?”

And the sinker. “Because that world is on the brink of revolution and we're going to help them overthrow their leaders and achieve independence.”


He paused, the intel officer sensing victory approach.

“So they are freedom fighters?”

“Yes but obviously they don't have access to heavy weapons, just some defectors from the garrison. Our goal is to go in, give them some backbone against the local forces, then leave when they win. Four to six weeks we estimate.”

“Opposition?”

“Moderate, this isn't going to be a cakewalk. If it were I wouldn't need veteran mechwarriors. But we can win and in the end give that planet its freedom from the Combine.”

She stepped up to him, expensive perfume wafting, but there was nothing seductive in her manner. This was business.

“We both know you don't really want to retire, not yet anyway. In addition to the money I can provide something you can't buy. A pardon for the crimes which saw you flee the Federation.”

She deployed her secret weapon.

“You could stay here eroding away like your mech in the sand, or you could come home. Come back to Avalon Colonel either to live out your days on your own lands, or maybe to serve with us once again.”

That caught his attention.

“I can't guarantee you'll be reinstated at the same rank as you left, but take my word for it, the way things are going there will be plenty of promotion opportunities on the way.”


“It would take a Royal pardon.” Owens stared at her. “For all of my unit.”

“This mission was approved by the First Prince himself. If the cost of hiring you is his name and seal on some paper, it's done.”

“A pardon? Money?”

“Yes, and more than that, a righteous cause. Helping to free a world, supporting courageous people striving for freedom. We need your help, they need it.”

“And afterwards if I do retire?”

“Then the AFFS will buy your mech and it will serve with distinction defending the Federation, as it always should have. If you chose to retire. If you refuse this job then I'll still offer to buy the mech, the army is always in need of good machines. I trust you have no objection to the AFFS?”

“I don't.”

“Good, but I hope you will join me.” Janus looked out to her craft. “We do need you Colonel, will you talk to your Lance?”

“I can.”

“Good. In that case I'll head back. You have my contact details, the drop ship I arrived on can carry all four of your team's mechs and we can go in twenty four hours. Sooner the better.”

“I'll talk to them, and you'll have an answer tomorrow morning.”

“Alright.” She nodded. We'll all be waiting, Colonel.”


*


She hopped back into the helicopter and belted up, the rotors whirring into life picking the vehicle off the ground. She gave a wave to Owens who watched her leave, Janus' eyes taking in the scene for a final time.

“Any luck?” Her pilot asked.

“Of course. He'll be on the ship tomorrow.”

“You sound pretty certain.”

“I am certain. Everyone has something they can't ignore, a temptation.”

“What was his? You give him the big eyes and innocent smile?”

“No, he's far too smart for that. I gave him something better. A purpose. A chance to fight the good fight.”

“Ahh, you told him this was a battle for freedom?”

“A noble battle supporting Freedom Fighters overthrowing tyranny.” She nodded with a smile. “He's an old knight, that sort of thing always gets them.”

“He'll be pissed when he figures it out.”

“Far too late by then. We just need to get him on the ground. Alright, back to the spaceport. Deserts give me a rash.”


*


“So what do you think?” Owens refilled the four glasses of Scotch set on the table, his brothers in arms clustered into his trailer home.

“All looks in order.” Johan flipped through the contract and gave his assessment. Janus had faxed over copies of the paperwork that afternoon as Owens invited his team round for drinks and to put the idea to them. They'd spent some time reading through and were broadly happy with it.

“It is our usual rate of pay, free spares and munitions.” Sandy approved. “Free food and a Rum ration too.”

“They knew Henry was coming.” Johan launched a friendly barb at his colleague.

“Rum?” Henry popped up an eyebrow. “I'm an officer and a gentleman my good man, Rum is for the enlisted, Port is for the gentry.”

“In either case it is a good contract.” Sandy returned to the topic. “Four to six weeks no including travel, any idea which planet it is?”

“She didn't mention specifics in case we refused. Just that it is on the Draconis border.” Owens took a swig of the admittedly cheap drink. “Operational security and all that.”

“Mission sounds fair.” Johan nodded. “And any excuse to do a bit of dragon slaying is good for me.”

“So you're on board?”

“I am.”

“Henry?”

“Money is good so I'm good.”

“Sandy?”

“No reason why not.”


In turn they all signed the documents and left them to Owens to deliver. It hadn't taken much to convince them, like him they were all at a loss as to what to do next. Smashing things in mechs was their life and none were quite ready to give it all up yet. The reasons were different but the result was the same.

“Did you get the part put in about pardoning all crimes against the Federation?” Johan asked. “Doesn't really affect me but I guess Henry has a laundry list of offences.”

“I was young and often drunk.” He defended. “But this is for the old men.”

“He's right, Sandy and I had a bit of trouble which is why we had to leave.”

“Ah, I see, which is why you became mercs.” Johan nodded. “Always thought you were more career military, not natural mercs. Not greedy enough.”

“More or less.” Sandy confirmed. “We'd be arrested on the spot if we went home, spend the rest of our days in jail. Or maybe just a firing squad.”

“Sounds serious.”

“It was, also a long story. For now let's just enjoy not having to make our own fun anymore.”


“Very well then.” Owens raised his glass. “Then here's to getting the gang back together.”

He grinned.

“As the old man said what's the worst that can happen?”

In unison the other three raised their drinks and responded to the call.

“We explode and die!”

All four downed their shots and took a refill.

“Alright, let me go tell her we're on.”

Owens stepped outside into the night air with his data pad waving the thing around trying to get a stable signal.

“Your own fault for living out here like some crazy hermit.”

Owens glanced over to Sandy who stepped out to join him.

“Nice to keep a low profile.”

“Any lower and you'll be buried.” Sandy sipped some of the Scotch. “This stuff is like bull piss, did you pay money for it?”

“It was a gift.”

“Who from? Why does he hate you?”


The pad beeped as it made a connection and uploaded his response. Within ten seconds an answer came confirming their pick up at the local space port.

“That was fast.” Sandy observed. “She must have been sat waiting by the line for you.”

“Been a while since I could say that about a woman.” Owens chuckled. “Did I mention she was a spook?”

“MIIO? Yes.” His old friend nodded. “Which means she's only told us about a quarter of the truth.”

“If that.” Owens nodded in absolute agreement. “We had one attached back in the Burgundy campaign, remember?”

“I remember he threw up taking off, and landing, and driving, and eating.” Sandy grunted at the memory. “Terrible traveller, guy was an office boy to the core.”

“He did get us that intel on the Capellan defences though.” Owens shrugged. “Messy how he did it though.”

“Never met anyone from MIIO who wasn't some sort of mental disorder on legs. But I suppose they all have a use.”

“Do you trust them to deliver?”

“Probably, it's nothing to them.”


They both stood for a while in silence running their own thoughts, both along the same lines.

“It would be nice to go home.” Sandy eventually spoke.

“Yes.” Owens echoed the sentiment. “Wonder if my house is still there?”

“Lilah got it in the divorce didn't she?”

“She did.” Owens recalled his former wife. “She was quite happy with it.”

“If I recall her cooking skills from when I used to visit she's probably burnt the place down years ago.”

Owens scoffed a laugh followed by a long smile. “I suppose I'll need a new one then. Somewhere green, a forest.”

“Be careful getting all wistful, doesn't suit you old man.”

“No.” Owens allowed. “Has it been fifteen years since we left? Sixteen?”

“More or less.” Sandy nodded. “You regret it?”

“No, you?”

“Never. We did what honour demanded. But it would be nice to go home.”

“It would.”


Sandy finished the last of his drink and then turned aside.

“We've been waiting for you to get back in the game old man. You got shafted in the last mission but so do a lot of mercs. We need one more mission so we can end on a high note.”

“You're right.” Owens drained his own glass. “I don't want the last battle of my career to be that shit show. At least we can make this one a real fight to finish up on.”

“It'll clear our reputation and let the other two get hired again.” Sandy nodded. “Least we can do for the greedy bastards.”

“The very least.” Their leader chuckled. “Course we could all get massacred.”

“Better than drinking any more of this damn booze of yours.” Sandy winced. “And better than just wasting away out here like grumpy old men regretting the fact we didn't take that one last chance to fight the good fight before we got too old.”

“Old age hath yet his honour and his toil.”

“Don't start with the poetry again!” Sandy laughed. “That's all I need, I thought you grew out of that in your twenties.”

“Yes, as soon as the girls stopped being impressed by it.” Owens laughed. “I've been looking back a lot, we should keep looking forward. Doesn't help to live in the past.”

“I'll drink to that, but not with that bloody awful stuff you buy.”

“You come to my home, insult my hospitality...”

“Have to keep myself amused somehow.” Sandy retorted before exhaling a long breath. “You sure about this then?”

“I'm sure. If we all fade away afterwards at least it will be a good note to end on.”

“Better make sure we win then.”

”That'll be the trick of it.”
 

PsihoKekec

Swashbuckling accountant
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This is going be interesting, I reckon MIIO is using them as some sort of distraction in the opening shots of the 4th SW.

Cross piloted a Rifleman fitted out with a quartet of pulse lasers as its main weapon,
Pulse lasers on IS mech in 3027?
 

Harlock

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You are not wrong :)

I have pulse lasers down as existing but very rare, though I'm getting dates for that from the wiki
Easy to swap them for an alternative if needed
 

Spartan303

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You are not wrong :)

I have pulse lasers down as existing but very rare, though I'm getting dates for that from the wiki
Easy to swap them for an alternative if needed

They're pretty much lost tech by this point. The rarest of rare. The only thing more rare would be an extinct Mech like the Nightstar.
 

The Whispering Monk

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You are not wrong :)

I have pulse lasers down as existing but very rare, though I'm getting dates for that from the wiki
Easy to swap them for an alternative if needed
They are exceptionally rare but certainly available per plot.

I had thought you had placed 4 Large Pulse Lasers on the Rifleman. Thus replacing ACs and Large Lasers.

What is the actual configuration on the Rifleman?
 

PsihoKekec

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Four large Pulses would melt down the Rifleman, unless you had an XL engine, to allow for tonnage so you could install additional double heat sinks, but both are lostech in 3027. Perhaps the alternative would be that Cross replaced the large lasers with more mediums and heat sinks, making his Rifleman more of brawler, a risky decision giving Rifleman's thin armor.
 

The Whispering Monk

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I could see dumping the Large Lasers for 4 medium pulse lasers. Put the extra tonnage straight into the armor.

Maybe dump the medium lasers for additional armor or sinks.
 

Harlock

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My thought was medium pulse, his role is mostly to stand at the back and fire bursts at either aircraft or light vehicles while the two heavies handle mechs. Mainly I want the visual of a bunch of tracer fire from this chap, so medium autocannons I guess work too?

I mean naturally when things get entertaining he'll have to fight more dangerous enemies too but anything that can give good damage works for me
 
3

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3


Makeshift Depot

Somewhere in Federated Suns Space



It was a long journey getting from the Free Worlds to Federation territory without drawing any attention. The jump ship stopped off in a few places to load or unload cargo making sure to avoid anywhere they might come under scrutiny, the generic dropship hauling Owens' team and their equipment carrying no markings or indication of its cargo.

It was certainly dull but also nothing particularly unexpected, as old soldiers everyone on the team was familiar with long journeys in variable gravity and kept busy exercising and conducting training simulations. They were an experienced unit but six months of down time was bound to have an effect.

In the end though the jumpship arrived at its destination within the Draconis March, the region of Federation space closest to their old rivals in the Combine. It took another few days for the dropship to actually arrive at the selected world with the clock ticking ever closer to the starting time for the operation.


The dropship avoided both the spaceport and any centres of population arcing down over oceans to centre on a chain of temperate islands laying off a sparsely populated coastline. The planet was attractive but not particularly developed, its location near the border perhaps keeping colonists and immigrants from settling.

This turned out to be ideal for the gathering of forces who wished to remain as unnoticed as possible. The ship slowed itself down, thrusters rumbling and making final corrections to touch down on a cleared plain scorching the grass beneath it before cutting off.

“Finally.” Owens rolled his head back and forth to exercise the muscles getting used to the pull of true gravity again. “Load up and move out.”

Deploying went smoothly, the four mechs spinning up and standing free of their transport cradles, the gantries inside the dropship cargo bay retracting to clear the mechs.

“Lance, prepare to disembark.”

“Two ready.”

“Three ready.”

“Four ready.”

“Load Master, Lance Leader, open bay doors.”


Light flooded into the bay as the massive door fell open temporarily blinding Owens until his eyes adjusted. After so many weeks on a ship natural daylight was something his body had almost forgotten, the enveloping brightness painful for those initial few seconds.

“Breaker Lance, advance.”

One by one the mechs stepped out of the cargo bay, the crews keeping their distance as the heavy machines clanked down the ramp and onto the ground outside. This wasn't a combat deployment so there was no hurry nor a need to spread out and take up a defensive posture. Instead the team took a leisurely place, a stroll in a meadow under the afternoon sun inside a multi million C-bill mech.

“Taffy, contact.” Henry flagged up something on his high end sensor suite. “Looks like the welcome wagon.”

Owens looked from the side of his armoured canopy and spotted a small vehicle heading their way, a standard off road utility truck used by militaries across the galaxy. Two people were within, a driver and their new MIIO friend.

“Hold station.” He ordered bringing the four machines to a halt. “Anyone recognise this planet by the way?”

“No idea.” Sandy answered first. “They haven't dropped a name this whole journey, very cloak and dagger.”


The Jeep pulled up by the feet of Owens' machine, from his height he could see Anne Janus, or perhaps more accurately Agent Janus picking up a radio from the rear seat of the truck and raise it to her head.

“Colonel, are you receiving?”

“I hear you Agent, go ahead.”

“How was the flight?”

“I was locked in a metal box with these reprobrates for weeks. If those doors had opened into hell itself I'd have jumped out with or without my mech.”

“We had to play cards with Dapper, there was nothing else to do.” Sandy chipped him. “I owe him six hundred million bills.”

“Might be a little above the wages we negotiated.” Janus giggled which sounded a touch unnatural. “I have a briefing scheduled in three hours, do you see the beacon locator on radar?”

“I have it, three miles north west.” Owens confirmed.

“That is our base camp. Head up there, grab a hot meal, maybe say hello to the other teams.”

“Other teams?”

“Of course.” Janus grinned, the expression visible from forty feet up. “Didn't think you were the only ones did you?”


The mechs took their time moving to the base camp arriving well after the jeep. It was located inside a rich green valley with a crystal clear stream running through it with forests rolling up the valley sides. Where the forests thinned near the floor of the valley a dozen large tents were spread out surrounded by crates and stacks of supplies with various support vehicles dotted between them.

More notable were a quartet of mechs standing idle a short distance away, presumably one of the other hired teams.

“Park up then gentlemen.” Owens found a decent spot and brought his machine to a halt. Within moments a handful of vehicles drove up from the camp carrying the assorted equipment and mechanics necessary to make sure their kit was in prime condition. The first of which was an elevating scissor platform which rose up to cockpit level and saved him having to deploy a ladder to get to the ground with.

The whole experience was like the return of a fond memory. Ground crews in the tan and green of the AFFS buzzed around the mechs running diagnostic checks and refreshing the coolant systems. NCOs barked orders while mechanics and techs focused on the task at hand. After so long working with variable mercenary crews it was an absolute joy to see a professional army support platoon in their natural habitat. It was like he'd never left.

“Go on ahead, find some food and save me a spot.” Owens turned to his comrades. “I'm going to check out our competition.”

“Are you going to draw obscene pictures on their machines.” Henry checked.

“Of course not.” Owens picked up his pace. “I don't have any paint.”


*


He barely got close enough to take a look when he felt a massive hand drop down onto his shoulder.

“And what do you think you're doing here eh?”

Owens froze for a heartbeat before his brain connected a couple of dots and told him he knew this voice.

“Tartan?”

“Taffy!” A second giant hand slapped his other shoulder before spinning the older man around. “Not dead then?”

“Working on it.”

Now standing ahead of him was a man big enough to be classed as a light mech all by himself. Donald Campbell was in every way larger than life, enthusiastic in all things standing well over six and a half feet tall with the most heavily muscled arms and legs Owens had ever seen. He bore a weather worn red cheeked face besieged by a tangle of orange hair merging into a thick beard. He was quite simply the most Scottish person ever born and he rejoiced in it.

“They said you blew up some mining dome somewhere but I didn't believe 'em.” The huge man spoke, his normal conversational tone a bellow. “No way you'd let yourself do something that fun!”

“And they said you were in prison, something to do with a concubine and five gallons of grease?”

“Man has to keep amused when he's not stamping on fools too fat to run away.” Donald probably wasn't joking. “Must have been what? Two years since we had that trek out on the Periphery?”

“Don't remind me. I thought you Northwinders were yokels.”


Donald barked another earshaking laugh.

“Good times! I still find bits of Taurian stuck to Daisy, only a couple months ago there was a tooth in the ankle covers.” He paused. “Might not have been Taurian, wasn't yellow.”

Daisy was of course the Marauder mech standing not far from them, a machine as venerable as Owens' own Warhammer. It was a formidable presence painted in green, brown and tan camouflage reflecting wherever their last deployment was. Up by the cockpit it also carried a rather artistic looking painting of a wild Highland woman stabbing someone with a sword and looking really quite pleased about it.

“How are your people anyway?”

“Ahhh, bit of bad news there.” Donald winced. “We lost Mike ten months or so back.”

“Really? Sorry to hear that. Man could move metal.”

“Aye he could. He always smelled of vegetables but he was a damn good mechwarrior. From up wind.”

Owens stifled a laugh. “Who is the new guy then?”

“Now that is a better question than you know.”


Donald pointed a meaty finger toward base camp where his team had intercepted Owens' people. Donald's squad was a bit more eclectic in dress wearing a mixture of styles and colours while Owens' were all wearing khaki shirts and shorts topped by a red beret. Except for Johan of course who had retained his grey Steiner peaked field cap.

“Tall guy in the middle.” The Scot singled out. “Evan Lee. That's virtually all I know about him.”

“Any good?”

“Good? That fella down there is the best I've seen. I'm glad he's on our side because otherwise the only way we'd beat him would be to find out where he sleeps and set fire to it.”

“That so.” Owens weighed the man. “How did he end up with you walking disasters?”

“Says he was one of Wolf's Dragoons. I mean that was enough to hire him on the spot and he is good enough to be one. Had a difference of opinion he says.”

“What difference?”

“Never said, didn't ask. He's here now and that's enough.” Donald shrugged. “Also you see his mech? There.”

“The Marauder?”

“Nah, it ain't a Marauder.”


Owens looked again on what he'd registered as a Marauder heavy mech and noticed that in truth it was bigger. The profile from his angle was very similar but it was something else.”

“Nightstar.” Donald grinned.

“Bullshit.” Was the instant response.

“No, really is. I had to look it up in a book, an actual paper printed book in a library. No idea where he got it from.”

“They haven't made one of those in centuries, even then they were rare as a Canopus virgin.” Owens shook his head. “Looks brand new.”

“Says it came from outside the Periphery.” Donald continued. “You know what they say about what's out there.”

“Old wives tales.” Owens grunted. “Probably dragged it out of a lake by accident.”

“Everywhere we go someone offers him a fortune for it but he never accepts. Guy's a mechwarrior to the bone.”

“What about Tiny and Arabia? Are they still well?”

“Yes, yes.” Donald confirmed the other two members of his Lance. “Bit sad they don't look so scary now we have the new guy, but we get hired for better jobs.”

“Like this one?”

“So they say.” The big man shrugged. “Lets eat, see what they tell us later.”


*


In the time leading up to the briefing two more Mercenary groups arrive, neither of them familiar to either Owens or Donald. One was named the Red Rovers, the other Bracken's Blades and both were much larger than the mere single Lance formations the others had brought. Only their leaders had shown up to the briefing, their combat strength remained with their dropships and apparently included a full Mech company each plus regular infantry and light armour. It did make Owens feel slightly inadequate but ultimately it wasn't important. His people were damn good and while they no longer had any conventional support he'd still back them against any other mech unit out there. Donald clearly felt the same and was less quiet about it.

While the new groups were relatively unknown which suggested new, or at least new to the Inner Sphere, they were obviously bringing a lot of hardware which showed people were taking this mission seriously. Paying and moving such a force would not be cheap and for such a major investment someone somewhere was clearly expecting big things.

The hour arrived and the assorted mercenaries trickled into the briefing tent which was just as makeshift as everywhere else. Folding chairs sat behind folding tables which the group filtered into just in time to greet their sponsor.

Agent Janus was just as perky as usual and still dressed in a business suit squeezing a data pad in the crook of her arm. Accompanying her was a far more stern looking man, jet black skin matched with snowy hair wearing the uniform of a Federation General.


“Welcome, hope the trip here wasn't too excruciating.” Janus opened, fully aware that it probably was. “I assure you it will be worth your while. I've already told you this is a mission into Draconis space to back up some rebels. If you don't want to go into the Combine then walk out now, last chance.”

Nobody moved.

“Alright, good. From now on all information you hear is classified. Compromising classified information will result in termination. And I don't just mean contract termination.”

She opened her folder and spread the papers over her folding desk at the head of the tent.

“You will be taking part in Operation Clydesdale. Your target is the planet Amagi six lightyears behind the Combine border in the Galedon District.”

“Never heard of it.” One of the other Mercs called out.

“No reason you should have. It used to be a decent industrial planet until it got nuked back to the stone age during the First Succession war. A lot of the old cities are still no go areas but fortunately the rest of the planet recovered enough to become an Agri world. Population of about two hundred million, no major strategic value.”

“So why spend money on invading it?”

“Two main reasons, one, we want to help the rebels there overthrow their oppressors. Two, we want to give the Combine a bloody nose.”


She shifted to a new piece of paper.

“The planet is under the influence of the Mikumo family, minor nobility who seem to be popular with the local Warlord for some reason. By all accounts they are brutal arrogant bastards even by Combine standards which has caused Amagi to decide it no longer requires their services. Some of my colleagues made contact with the man organising a revolt and promised him support. We are it.”

“So we go in. take the planet, then what?”

“Then we hold it.” Janus replied bluntly. “Mikumo will counter attack and they'll throw everything they have at us. That's why we're hiring plenty of firepower. We break their forces, hold the planet, then help them join the Federation where the local Governor won't behead you for missing your rice quota.”

“What forces do the Mikumo have?” Donald piped up.

“A reinforced regiment of mechs plus support.” She answered. “Fortunately the Mikumo are raiders by nature, their forces are relatively light and not suited for sustained battle.”

“If we do beat them what's to stop the Warlord from just throwing more units at us?”

“High Command believes the world is too unimportant for Draconis to deploy additional more valuable units. Further we also think Draconis will have more pressing needs for its forces by then.”

“What pressing need?”

“That is classified.”


She shuffled her papers.

“That is the official reason, we are helping bring freedom to an oppressed population who will be welcomed into the Federation with open arms. But as you may expect it is not the actual reason we are committing this level of resources. For the past several years Mikumo raiders have been attacking Federation border planets and facilities. They are annoyingly talented at jumping in, hitting a target, and then leaving before we can adequately respond.”

“We responded to one of their raids once.” Donald nodded. “Not even close to intercepting them.”

“Now and then we catch them in an ambush but it doesn't faze them, these raids are a test for their warriors and remain popular. Plus their home base is too far inside Combine space to mount an effective punitive raid. What we need is to bring them to a place of our choosing.”

“This planet.” Owens nodded.

“We will lure in the Mikumo Clan, they will of course be unable to refuse battle if we hit one of their planets. Even a worthless one.” Janus smiled coldly. “Honour demands it.”

“So we draw them in and wipe out their mobile forces.” Donald nodded.

“The shame of their defeat plus material losses should end them as a Noble family. The Warlord or even worse the Coordinator himself will strip them of power and title, the whole thing gets buried in disgrace.”

“And the people of Amagi get a chance at leading a decent life.” Owens nodded.

“Looks good on TV but also serves a practical military goal.” Janus beamed. “What's not to love? General, if you please.”


She stepped aside for the uniformed officer to take over, heavily lined with sharp eyes he was an intimidating presence even in a room full of warriors.”

“I am Major General Maurice Soult, I am your commanding officer for the duration of the operation. I will give orders, you will obey them.”

He waited for any wisecracks, nobody was that stupid.

“The AFFS is deploying a heavy Armoured Regiment to form the backbone of this operation, the Nineteenth Strike Regiment designated 'Caliburn' for this campaign. We will deploy a tank battalion, two mechanised infantry battalions, a VTOL airmobile battalion and various support units including artillery and engineers. The Navy is loaning us an Aerospace fighter wing and we can apparently rely on most of the planetary militia to side with us. You note this force has no mechs, which is why we are hiring you.”

“Where are the Federation mechs?”

“Busy.” Soult snapped back, unaccustomed to having his briefings interrupted.

“High Command doesn't want to deploy such high value units to a backwater.” Janus cut in. “It may also draw in heavier opposition if they see a major Federation attack. That's why we are keeping this limited and contracting out.”


“Yes.” Soult took back control. “We will deploy to secure an area near the rebel homme territories, from there we eliminate the loyalist garrison and secure key areas. Spaceport, HPG facility, government centre, military depot and the planet's only war factory making light combat vehicles.”

He raised his chin.

“Specific assignments will be given to unit commanders as we approach. While Agent Janus is correct in that Mikumo forces are relatively light and mainly raiders do not underestimate them. They will put up a fight and are unlikely to surrender. You are also aware of the Combine policy regarding Mercenaries?”

“Yep.” One of Bracken's people stood up dramatically drawing his thumb across his neck. “Off with our heads.”

“All the more reason not to lose.” Donald pointed out to murmured agreement.

“Breaker Lance and Jericho Lance will be attached to Caliburn Regiment.” Soult informed. “You have military experience and should be able to integrate well with our conventional troops. I know Colonel Owens here is an AFFS veteran but I hope Major Campbell is at least his equal.”

“No contest.” The big Scot grinned. “We'll be there General, say the word.”

“Good. The other combined arms units will deploy to other targets. In addition to the groups here we have a fifth group already heading in, High Impact Combat Solutions.”

“Sound like a bunch of Pansies.” Donald scoffed.

“Time will tell.” Soult didn't directly contradict him. “My quartermaster will speak to your leaders individually to arrange transport. Any questions address them to him. That will be all, dismiss.”


The General walked out without a further glance at the mercenaries, the assembled groups dissolving into conversation.

“Bad tempered Generals and battles against the odds.” Sandy turned in his chair to Owens. “Like we never left.”

“Same old AFFS.” His commander nodded. “Which isn't so bad, I remember him when he was a Leftenant. Tanker.”

“How do you remember that?”

“He was a sour bastard back then, never drunk, never smoked, never laughed.” Owens shook his head. “Stuck in my mind. But he was good, efficient if not overly imaginative.”

“So he's not a damn fool then?” Donald made sure.

“No he's good enough. He'll get the job done, just don't expect anything clever.”

“As long as he doesn't Light Brigade us I'll be happy.” His counterpart accepted. “Together again then eh? Good, would have hated to end up shooting at you one of these days.”

“Yes, a terrible tragedy when you miss us and hit the orphanage we were standing next to.”

“One time that happened! Once! And how do you know I wasn't aiming for that orphanage?”

“Were you?”

“No.” Donald grumbled. “But who cares about Taurian orphans anyway?”

“Whoever had to mop them up.” Henry cut in with a cheeky smile. “Good to see you again you cross eyed barbarian.”

“You too ya pasty bastard. Still cheating at cards?”

“Yes. Still tossing the caber?”

“Only until I get a ride to Canopus!” He blasted a laugh. “Ahh, it's good to be killing people with folks I like. And none needs killing more than Draconis nobility.”

“I'll drink to that.” Owens agreed. “Got any decent drink by the way.”

“You think every Highlander carries a crate of booze with him?” Donald feigned shock. “Course I have! Come on over and you can tell me how that dome got busted then listen to some stories from a successful merc!”

“Oh, you know one?”

More laughter blasted.

“This is going to be the best contract!”

“Definitely going to be the loudest.”
 

PsihoKekec

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Yeah, this has interesting times written all over it [checks the popcorn reserves]
High Impact Combat Solutions.
Why do I hear banjos?

He was a sour bastard back then, never drunk, never smoked, never laughed.” Owens shook his head. “Stuck in my mind. But he was good, efficient if not overly imaginative.
So far it seems like killing officer, instead of murderin' one.

“Nightstar.” Donald grinned.
Original configuration or downgraded?

So a very heterogenus force against a veteran light-medium mech regiment (probably not much supporting forces) that will most likely use their mobility to try split them up and defeat them in detail.
 

Harlock

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Probably an original Nightstar, the implication being this chap was tied to the Clan recce mission but decided to go solo and earn some personal glory. Bit of a chip on his shoulder but very capable.
 

Conflict-Solver

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Hmm glad to see you writing again!

Wondering about the timeline we wouldn't happen to be close to August 3028 would we? It sounds like a front seat on the DCMS border for the 4SW.

Couldn't find the planet they are heading to but this smacks of running into a dragon or two they didn't expect!
 

Harlock

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I made the planet up for flexibility :p I figure it is very low value so likely not important enough to show up in great histories. Well thats my excuse anyway.

Landing should happen around July, so yes, what a coincidemce :D
 

Conflict-Solver

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Oh so many butteflies and plots that can happen from this small little pebble you have tossed into the IS pond!

Thanks for some real entertainment!
 

Spartan303

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Isn't this right around the time of Operation Rat and Gotterdammerung?
 
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