Hidden 7 mos ago Post by Bork Lazer
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Bork Lazer Chomping Time

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News of the Heavenly Sword’s arrival rippled through the comms chatter like someone throwing a stone into a still pond. They had stood vigil at the dam for an hour and a half, Greta and Ansel chatting about which system they would go to once they had finished up their contracts with the company and Takka chain-smoking several cigars. They all fell into position like a well oiled machine, Greta and Ansel manning the controls for Merry-Go-Round’s SRM silos and MGs. Takka flipped a switch and the barrel briefly moved back into and out of the turret as the autoloader fired up. Flipping open the hatch, Aroxy scanned the horizon through his binoculars and a cloud of exhaust interspersed with black ant-like dots tstared back at him. He tweaked the focus and scoffed at what he saw. Civilian vehicles. Modified. It was a common practice in urban, guerilla warfare. The trucks would likely be carrying the heavy material whilst the smaller ones would be lucky to have man portable anti-vehicular weaponry. It would be a cakewalk under normal circumstances but the sheer volume of vehicles was a problem. The Heavenly Sword were going in for an all or nothing tactic. In the meantime, staying back and firing at them would be the most advisable course of action.

Aroxy was about to bark an order to begin firing before he saw Family Man sprint forward and lurch upwards, dim trails of burning fuel emanating from its trio of jump-jets. The gangly mech descended and crashed down into the vehicle column, sending clumps of dirt and asphalt everywhere. The flashes of explosion on the other side of the river bank only confirmed that the mechwarrior was engaging. Aroxy resisted the urge to throttle the mech pilots. Exposing themselves like this wantonly would only make them more vulnerable to enemy fire, not to mention, the fact that they were down-range of Merry-Go-Round’s cannons.

“ Order received. Calling out to all infantry units, fall back. To all those engaging in close-quarters, keep a minimum distance of fifty meters away from enemy material. ” Aroxy then spoke into private crew comms. “ Takka, you heard the drill. Recommending elevation 30 degrees. Adjust for 20 wind speed. Greta and Ansel, LRMs on the trucks.”

His crew heeded his commands, adjusting the aims of their respective weapons. Propellant charges were detonated, fuel salvos were ignited and a blossom of death erupted from the Von Luckner’s cannons. The first shell smashed diagonally into the truck, almost slicing it in half, and then, veered through into a quartet of scrap-modified SUV, sending them all flying. Takka reloaded again and fired once more. The LRMs came down like meteors, swallowing the column in swirls of fire and shockwaves of dirt. The mass of vehicles was so great that Takka only had to adjust minutely every second or so before firing once more. Aroxy could see through the Von-Luckner’s integrated thermo-opticsthe heat trails of flailing occupants exiting their flaming vehicle and staggering away in shock.

Meanwhile, there was a bigger problem. Namely, the motorcycles racing towards them. Training the AC on them would be like attempting to hit a fly with a baseball bat. This would require a more finessed approach. Aroxy signalled to Takka inside the tank to begin moving them forward.

“ Helma, gun the MG. Ansel, man the flamethrower if they get within a hundred meters of us. Takka, take over the LRMs. We got hostiles closing in at a klick.”

Green snakes of tracer rounds and orange geysers of flame followed soon after. The volley of lead and napalm collided with the motorcyclist. Several had their stomachs or chests excavated open or heads disappear in puffs of rusty red. A few that made it through the machine gun fire dove into the heat of the Von Luckner’s flamethrower and emerged on the other side, burnt to screaming crisps.

“ Keep them alive? Nah, fuck that. I haven’t had this much fun since the Free Systems since clamping down on those insurgents in New Valencia,” Takka barked over the comms much to Aroxy’s embarrassment. Clearly, the heat of the battle had gotten to his driver’s head.

“ It would be prudent to do so after the battle.” Aroxy’s voice came soon after. “ We can have our medics patch up the wounded and interrogate them for information.”
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Hidden 7 mos ago Post by Pilatus
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Pilatus Delightfully Unrefined

Member Seen 19 hrs ago

The Sword Bearer drummed his fingers on the console in front of him. If he felt any sort of emotion in regards to the complete slaughter of a large number of his compatriots at the hands of Gaiwan’s Green Knights, it wasn’t discernable. His first reaction at the initial report of mechs defending the dam was not concern for the success of the operation, it was that there was a mole within their ranks. Someone had tipped off Cassandra Jeong and that someone was from considerable rank in the organization, equal to or above his own position. It was very likely someone he knew personally and had met face to face. His face let slip the tiniest scowl. There was no time at the present. It would have to wait. The radio blared more horrid screams and cries as the first wave was literally torn to pieces, or worse, burned alive. He didn’t have a sensor screen or any direct camera feed from his position in the staging area to the south and he needed a clear picture of what was going on in front of the dam, other than the frantic shooting gallery, before he launched the second wave.

By the Throne! Would someone give me a status report and be quick about it!"

The chaotic chatter on the radio seemed to die down for a moment before a quivering voice finally came up. The man sounded like he was curled up in a drainage pipe. Damned coward. The Sword Bearer thought.

There’s one mech, he’s right here with us! He’s insane!” An explosion crackled the speaker and the man released the button temporarily before jumping back on the channel. “Another one on the far river bank and a damned HUGE tank!

Is that all?

No! There’s ground troops everywhere and something else is firing at us from the dam. We-

The Sword Bearer cut the volume knob. He needed to think and he knew every precious second wasted would make it that much more difficult for the second wave. He was not a tactician, but he did understand numbers. They were still continuing their attack as if they were meeting the expected level of resistance. He needed to change the game. They had one mech mixed in with them along with a spread force of ground support. The other mech and the tank were on the opposite side of the river, which meant they were unsure about crossing. The mech could probably make it, while the tide was low, but it would be slow going. The tank would be too low to the ground and the other mech taking pot shots at them from the dam wouldn’t matter if the gambit forming in his mind worked. He turned up his broadcast power so he could break through all the desperate clamor. He wasn’t even sure how many were left to hear the command, but only a few would be enough to change the dynamic of the Knights’ defense.

Anyone within the sound of my voice, begin attacking civilian targets at will. We will not have your sacrifice wasted at the guns of these mercenary dogs. There are none innocent to the eyes of the Throne on this day, let them try and defend the entire field of battle from our wrath!"

He changed to the high frequency channel of the second wave, a mix of buggies with mounted rocket pods and armored cars, still close to him and ready to leave the staging area. He could hear their engines revving outside the cabin as they overheard his last command to the broken first wave and they seemed reinvigorated at the sound of a new plan. The Sword Bearer could feel his confidence swelling at the sound as he came onto their channel: “Attack the lead mech directly, ignore the others and force him to withdraw. We will be as angry hornets. While they struggle to defend every piece of filthy property these ungrateful Espians have built for themselves Gonggoog will arise and teach them all true atonement
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Hidden 7 mos ago Post by Th3King0fChaos
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Th3King0fChaos The Weird

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Task Force Charlie: Recon Between Friends

"Mission Charlie: the spaceport near the capital city of Balya Gora has been under the control of the NPDRE, but some transmissions indicate at least one DropShip has arrived from off-world since the coup. It is very likely that whoever the Crimson Fists are working for, they're also providing new hardware for the Espian Guards. We need to know what is coming off of that ship, and who is sending it to them.

"Task Force Charlie will consist of Alley Cat and Desperado. The Raven can scout out the spaceport at range, with the Phoenix Hawk providing cover if needed. If a full scan of the spaceport proves not possible from a distance, or there is no approach without giving away your position, ditch the 'Mechs somewhere safe and approach on foot. Your priorities are to get sensor scans, photographs, captured documents, anything to give us an idea of who is supplying Federov and his cronies, and what they're sending against us. This is strictly reconnaissance, so do not engage the enemy unless absolutely necessary."

Ziska had listened to the Colonel’s briefing with the carefully cultivated disinterest of a professional soldier. Which wasn’t disinterested so much as the open mind required to fully absorb the complex information doled out by command. At least that is what she told herself. Some monk had told her that. Some washed-up MechWarrior spouting Zen Buddhist catechisms. Hiding behind four walls, growing a wizardly beard, and cultivating a spirituality Ziska had found grating. She’d just wanted a place to sleep, not a lecture.

Tarak listened to the briefing and collected the brief information he needed for his mission. Even if it seemed simple he had a bad feeling about the operation, for some reason, there has been a lack of annoyance with the briefing, so obviously, there is going to be some catch. Tarak looked to Ziska, ”Well guess we are going to be running recon,” Tarak said with a chuckle as he began to leave to prepare, ”-make sure to bring a coat. Might get a little cold”.

“What is a little reconnaissance between friends?” Ziska pantomimed in reply, as she stalked out of the room in search of someone else’s jacket to borrow for the mission. There was too much blood on the jacket that Kesi had wrapped her in following the good doctor’s careful administration of antibiotics and a neat line of stitches.

Tarak shook his head and laughed as he left to collect his own equipment, he grabbed his combat gear from his small sleeping area. His arms, his warm clothing, his boots, and gloves, with his bag and gear. Once finished, Tarak loaded up, as the long road to the spaceport begins.

Noise. Noise. Noise and more noise. Ziska swore loudly in the cockpit of her battered, but functional RVN-3L Her techs had done some proper work. A combat rush job, no doubt, but an exceptional one at that. A few loose armor panels, a few grinding joints, and striped paint were nothing. Nothing given the damage she had taken from the Crimson Fist Longbow. She had paid them back though. Scratch one RVN-3L. Scratch one Crimson Fist pilot, probably. Something was interfering with the souped-up sensors of her bleeding edge war booty and Ziska didn’t like it. In fact, she hated it. She couldn’t burn through the jammer. Not unless she wanted to paint a giant target on her and Tarak. Mech. Spaceport. Ground-based Vehicle. Aircraft. The options were endless and they didn’t have time to sit around measuring radar emissions. Not anymore, they’d waited long enough already.

Tarak sat in the cockpit of Black Phoenix, leaning back after he ran basic diagnostics while waiting for a callback. He sat and waited, again and again, he just tried to keep himself busy while he was on watch for Ziska. Tarak eventually called out to Ziska on a direct pulse transmission, ”Aye, got anything? We sit here too long our mechs might be turned into landscape”.

“Jamming,” Ziska practically hissed back, making no effort to hide the disgust and annoyance in her voice. “ECM, but I can’t ID it. Could be a BattleMech. Could be a combat vehicle. Or hell, it could even be some souped-up ECM setup some busybody had time to set up to blanket the spaceport. Fancy a midnight stroll? I know, I know, you’re busy trying to win the heart of the utterly immaculate Miss Wyatt, but you’re not going to make much progress attaching yourself to the corporate nobility if we don’t bring back any intel for the Colonel.”

Tarak sighed as he began to adjust his gear, lacing his boots, and tightening his jacket as he took off his cooling jacket. Tarak pinged back to Ziska, ”Eh, I’m always ready for a midnight stroll, just hope that lovely Miss Wyatt won’t be too jealous of another woman taking me on a date before she does”. Tarak chuckled before he adjusted his helmet, ”Let’s get going, don’t want our entire convos recorded, Colonel might have an aneurysm on the playback”. As Tarak began to scout for a good place to hide away their mechs.

Stepping into the cold, Ziska pulled the jacket she had borrowed from Kan tighter. The leather jacket was worn, but comfortable, and smelled faintly of lavender. Kan was too nice, Ziska reflected. Too calm. Too Free. Ziska could never quite understand how the Capellan woman had decided repairing BattleMechs was her calling in life.

As she moved, a strange change took hold of the MechWarrior. Her banter ended. Her eyes shifted instinctively across the surrounding landscape, never settling, always looking. Ziska moved slowly, and efficiently, each step, quieter than the last.

Minutes of walking later, the two dismounted MechWarriors stood at the edge of the shrub forest. Crouching low, Ziska laid down on her stomach, edging forward until she found a small break in the foliage. From her combat pack she brought out her rangefinder binoculars and wordlessly watched.

The spaceport was busy. Transport vehicles were darting to and fro, laden with heavy crates. Laborers, tiny bees even with the rangefinder binocular magnification, buzzed around, busying themselves with matters of logistics. Ziska let out a low breath, a busy spaceport was what she wanted to see. Busy was good. Busy meant that unfamiliar faces would stand out less. Busy meant deadlines. Busy meant everyone was too busy to pay attention.

Tarak crouched next to Ziska as he stood on guard, his heavy gear that normally made him seem like he had a death wish came in handy today as he was covered from head to toe against the cold. He had his rifle in hand as he made sure the coast was clear, then he went right next to Ziska and put his hands over his eyes and made fake binoculars with them as he said, ”I found snow, rocks, a big cat eating a rodent. So I guess I found dinner if this goes for long. What you got cat?”

Ziska shot an amused look at Tarak from the corner of her eyes, keeping her gaze locked in the viewfinder port, “Three objects. Big. Very big. Vehicles it looks like, maybe aircraft. Can’t really tell, everything is covered by tarps. They're either very lucky or they are trying to keep things stealth.”

Handing the rangefinder binoculars she had ‘recovered’ from a dead NPDRE officer, Ziska bristled with irritation. “Take a look, maybe you can spot something. Otherwise we might have to get closer.”

Tarak takes the binoculars as he said, ”Let’s hope I can see something your beer goggles can’t”. Tarak began to look as he saw much the same, 3 large objects, each covered by tarps. He saw how a couple of hands passed around it, yet just their luck, it was mostly technicians who neared there. Tarak sighed as he lightly passed the rangefinders back, ”Well, looks like we’ll need to get closer. We can take out some eggheads and sneak on in. Get close on those 3 mysteries, take some pictures, and maybe if we get lucky do some acquisition of a couple of things. Maybe even see if they left keys in the ignition?” The last thing made Tarak smirk as he turned to Ziska.

Tarak and Ziska both set off down, taking a bit of a short yet steep and shadowy path, allowing them to dodge a few of their spotlights. Tarak and Ziska took similar paths down, they pushed their way over to what seemed to be a terminal area where they found a technician working on a panel outside of a small shack. Tarak looked to Ziska and gestured to himself and to the tech as he began to make his way closer to the technician. Once Tarak had made it close he quickly kicked the technician’s knee out from him and grabbed his head with both hands before he shifted the man to one side before he took a grip of their hair and the bottom of their jaw before pulling both violently to force their head to turn in a strange way and snapped the neck instantly. A clean kill, Tarak set them next to the shack as he turned and gave a thumbs up to Ziska before he entered the shack.

“Dead men tell no tales, I suppose,” Ziska said indifferently. What was one more body? What was one more casualty? War was war. Innocent or guilty, it didn’t matter.

Following Tarak into the corrugated metal shack, Ziska smiled at their good fortune. Tools. And spare jumpsuits. Props for their deception. She didn’t bother waiting and tossed her jacket aside, stripping out of her clothes, and zipping into a mech tech jumpsuit that looked sufficiently used. No name. No rank labels. Perfect for a civilian. Which she was. They both were. Just simple technicians trying to get a difficult job done.

“Ready?” Ziska asked, holding a toolbox in her hand with some authority, her pistol stuffed carefully within, glancing through the door that she faintly cracked open.

Tarak was in a tight fit for his suit, yet he had fit well enough in. He slid his gear within his own toolbox, a pistol within, a photography device, and a few stray wires and circuits in case they find certain items. Tarak looked to Ziska with a nod as he said, “Eh, as I’ll ever be”. They both began to make their way out, in search of shinies, their first target is going to try and see what is under the tarps and go into the storage bays, while trying to avoid any real detection. Tarak is a sore thumb, so he decides to try and stick a little in the shadows, his height makes him very easily seen.
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Hidden 7 mos ago Post by Pilatus
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Pilatus Delightfully Unrefined

Member Seen 19 hrs ago

Sgt Dalton & The 'Boys

Sgt Dalton looked around. His hard glance scanning like a sensor pack on a mech. The ‘Boys were having a good day sharing some of the ammunition stolen from the Espian Guards with the formerly unacquainted members of the Heavenly Sword. They were spread out in good defensive positions that crossed multiple killzones and amplified the presence of the big guns on Knights’ mechs and the Von Luckner. Even in the deep dark of the valley before first light, there was nowhere that their haphazard attackers could hide from them. The enemy were not soldiers, just fanatics and some broke in the face of the withering wall of fire that had suddenly changed the terms of their would-be glorious appointment with the afterlife. Others pressed on with crazed devotion straight into their guns. The machinations people’s minds could be twisted into believing never ceased to amaze. When the call came in for a flare down range, Dalton had barely lowered his binoculars and turned in his position on top of the APC to see the trooper behind him quickly loading an illumination round into the mounted mortar on the rear decking of the vehicle. The shot went out, rocking the APC gently as it launched out of the tube. After a few seconds the tiny star had barely erupted before another pair of PPC bolts streaked overhead close enough that Dalton could feel the electric heat rip through the air, illuminating the surrounding area for a split second in hot blue-white light. Two more drones erupted into molten rain and Dalton took another look through the lenses. Heavenly Sword fighters were actively avoiding the drones. He could see them running and driving away frantically to get clear, apparently feeling their chances were better in some way with Marit’s missile barrage, Steel Rain’s variety pack of death, being literally stomped underfoot by Raven or just mowed down by the ‘Boys' machine gun positions. He gave a snort of approval watching them flee.

Gently falling from the top of its trajectory, the flare cast a ghostly white over the field, mixing deep shadows with burning orange and the curling black smoke of destroyed vehicles. Tracers arced and cut through the night amid the smell of burning tires, cordite and faintly the hot sizzle of something he knew was most definitely not bacon.

It was almost a lull, he could feel it in his gut, a brief quiet, but like most of the long-timers he’d known when he was just a recruit himself, there was a sort of developed sixth sense for the energy in a battle and when it was about to shift. Like the change in wind when a sudden rainstorm approached. “Eyes up ladies.” He said grimly into the mic fastened to his shoulder. Even though the battle still continued around him, he knew the ‘Boys would understand his skeptical tone. ‘The only easy day was yesterday’ as the saying went. The Knights weren’t even close to finished business at the Tie Shan River Dam and his instincts were proven right only a few seconds later when the first buggy came skidding down the broken highway in the distance. A mix of more buggies and armored cars came behind the leader, and more headlights behind those. The morning was breaking slightly and gentle orange curves were beginning to form under the cloud layer. He glanced through his binoculars. “Round two comin’ up…

He had barely got the words out before an explosion buffeted the air not far from his position. Having listened to cars, trucks and high explosives detonate in the open air all morning. This sound was different, almost muffled, like something had struggled to contain the blast and quickly failed. He had hardly turned his head to look before one of the ‘Boys came on the channel:

Holy Shit Sarge! Bastard just ran through a house and exploded himself!

Dalton turned to see what was left of a burning farmhouse as a confetti of debris fell around the destroyed structure. Another explosion sounded then another. An angry shout from one of the ‘Boys came on the radio, but Dalton already knew what he was going to say. “Fuckers are goin’ after the civie houses!

Hold position!” Dalton barked.

But Sarge!

If they get past us, then we’re gonna lose every house!” He barked. And our own asses with them.. His mind quietly completed the thought. “Now hold Goddamnit! You remember what the Colonel said, every shot’s gotta count, This is it!

Dalton understood what was going on. Whoever was commanding this force of zealots was just upping the stakes, like pushing chips into the center of the table for a high hand. The gambit was that the Knights would break position, even just a little, from covering the dam to protect civilians. He wasn’t going to do that. The ‘Boys, and likewise the mechs and Von Luckner would have to make the most of their advantage and protect what they could, but the pathway to the dam absolutely could not be left in jeopardy. It sucked. It was a fucked choice to have to make and he understood people were going to die as a direct result of his decision- This was the true face of war. Nobody really won and often innocent people got caught in the middle. As he had done many times before, he would make peace with it, but in due time. For now he had to save who he could and do his best to keep them all from dying.

He looked back at the rapidly approaching second wave as the ‘Boys opened up again with renewed determination, ripping out short bursts of fire at as many targets as they could. This new column looked much more purpose driven than the previous gaggle and they all seemed to be focused on a single point, like a giant arrowhead swarming over the battle-shredded terrain. “Check six, Family Man, looks like you got their attention.

Raven Rivers

We’ll search for survivors when this is over…” Raven said, answering Marit. It was the closest thing he could think of to “reasonably doable” as the Colonel had described. He hosed down another group of vehicles with his laser when another pair of Jon’s shots came racing overhead so close he had to resist the involuntary reflex to duck his head in the cockpit. He gritted his teeth, not sure if the man was doing it on purpose, but he also couldn’t dispute that the sensor screen was clearing. It’d be worth mentioning to the Colonel later. The Knights didn’t need another PPC hotshot like Golden Boy.

The first bomber to claim a civilian structure exploded on the edge of Raven’s periphery, followed by another then another in quick succession. He could hear the ‘Boys pleading with Sgt Dalton and sympathized with them. Like him, several of the infantrymen had wives and children and the thought of them being left to the random chance of some brainwashed psychopath on a motorcycle or a truck laden with high explosives made his stomach twist in knots, the fact that he was in a position to do something to stop it just worsened the feeling. Like the troopers on the radio, Raven’s first instinct was to help, but he had to concede to himself that the sergeant was right and hoped that after all the fighting thus far, maybe the occupants had ran for the hills for safety. As a mechwarrior and lance leader, he had the authority to override Dalton’s decision, however such a notion was simply not entertained on the battlefield within Gaiwan’s Green Knights. Dalton’s field experience was worth more than any amount of medals, rank or campaign badges. It still stung though, same as it always did. He knew he couldn't save everyone but unlike many within his chosen profession, his compassion for his fellow man never degraded into the callousness for humanity that many exhibited. He still valued life and “better them than me” was no way to live.

Brimming with anger at the desperation of the Heavenly Sword, Raven turned at Sgt Dalton’s warning call and put a full alpha-strike into the head of the new wave of attackers. The Shadow Hawk shuddered around him at the release of all its weapons and the reload timers immediately began refilling for another salvo at the corner of his HUD. The front of the Heavenly Sword column of armored cars and buggies rippled like one mass reacting to his attack and the explosion in front of him erupted from the ground lighting up the sky and low cloud of the breaking morning. Still they kept pressing and Raven knew he was being swarmed. It was the only tactic they had left. He could see his leg armor beginning to register hits from rocket fire as they raced around him and he literally kicked a buggy like a soccer player putting the ball back in play from a corner of the field. The small vehicle cartwheeled away headlights flipping end over end through the dim morning as the Shadow Hawk’s jump jets ignited again and Raven performed a small hop while his legs twisted beneath him and he hit ground already moving towards the river bank. The trick maneuver cleared his blindspot momentarily, but the armored cars and buggies continued to pursue him vigorously, firing the whole way. Like the ‘Boys he couldn’t abandon his defensive position around the main road leading to the dam, but he could at least draw them closer for Aroxy and Marit to do some damage. “Looks like I’m really popular today.” He grumbled, checking his speed. “I’m gonna try and swing them around for a broadside. When I cut back, let’em have it!

For a moment, Raven’s Shadow Hawk looked more like a Javelin as he kicked the jets again and rotated his legs back the opposite direction, finessing the machine into what would be an inhuman contortion. It was one of his favorite maneuvers and was as natural for him on the controls as hitting the ball with the bat. The footpads hit the ground running again, biting into the terrain like giant metal cleats. He fired at the angry gaggle pursuing after him and they likewise turned to give chase sending rockets soaring around him.
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Hidden 7 mos ago 7 mos ago Post by AndyC
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AndyC Guardian of the Universe

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'Diamond in the Rough' Bar
NPDRE-Occupied District
North Nui Awa
March 26th, 3030

"...and that's when I say to him, I say, 'look, motherfucker, you quit reaching into your pocket or I'm gonna blow your fuckin' head off!' Got my TK right in this asshole's face, and he just keeps nodding, going 'yeah, uh-huh, uh-huh,'" the half-drunk Espian Guardsman, a captain by the rank on his fatigues, continued, "half the platoon is shouting at me to just drop this guy before he pulls a gun on us. His wife is screamin', his kids are crying, but I stay cool as a fuckin' cucumber, just keep my rifle trained right on him. Finally, his wife pulls the guy's hand out of his pocket for him, and you know what he had?"

"I can't imagine," the dark-skinned, green-haired young woman at the bar humored him, not even making an effort to maintain interest.

"His fuckin' papers," the captain chuckled. "Stupid fuckin' refugee had no idea how close he was to gettin' blown away..."

While the young man laughed at the expense of some poor family he and his platoon had terrorized that day, the woman had to make a concerted effort not to roll her eyes.

More than once, the girl who operated under the codename 'Stiletto' had compared her line of work to fishing, or perhaps like an ancient Terran prospector panning for gold. It took a tremendous deal of patience, casting out her line and waiting for hours for any kind of bite, sifting through the worthless flotsam and jetsam in the hope of seeing that sparkle of gold flake among the grit and the mud. She had trained for years to pick up on subtle cues, so parse out useful information in even the most inane of conversation. One never knew when some bit of idle gossip could lead to invaluable intel.

Tonight, however, had been painfully dull.

Ever since the stranger had come in a few nights ago, who had caught onto her use of Spacers' Cant, Stiletto knew she was onto something. The girl was clearly by herself, looking for someone. She'd left graffiti on the side of the wall when she left, and while Stiletto couldn't decipher it to save her life-- a fact that annoyed both herself and her superiors to no end-- she could tell it was a code of some sort. The only reason someone would leave coded messages was in the hopes someone else would see it.

Couple that with how she'd reacted when Stiletto brought up Battlemechs, and the conclusion was an interesting, not to mention potentially extremely valuable. Despite what the propaganda reels from Malenkov and his stooges told the public, Gawain's Green Knights were still very much alive, and likely operating in the area.

"So whaddya say we get out of here and I'll show you the officers' quarters?" the soldier said as he blatantly copped a feel, his uniform and gun giving him a sense of invulnerability to get away with whatever he wanted.

"Mmmm, can't wait," Stiletto purred outwardly, while internally squirming from this little creep. "Just one more drink before we go."

"You got it, babe," the captain nodded with a triumphant smile, then shouted at the barman. "Two drinks over here! A Timbiqui Dark for me, and-- hey, babe, whaddya want?"

Stiletto ignored the captain pawing at him, and said directly to the bartender "A Naranji Fizz, Canopian-style."

With a knowing grin, the bartender the bartender nodded, and poured the two their drinks. Stiletto humored the captain a while longer, reciprocating his advances as if she too couldn't wait to get somewhere private.

The captain was so engrossed with this that he never noticed her hands rifling through his pockets.

Nor did he notice the sleight of hand as the barman slipped a small white capsule into his drink.

When the bartender slid him their drinks, Stiletto raised her cocktail, a fluorescent purple concoction that crackled like someone had put a million volts through it, in a toast.

"Here's to an interesting evening," she said, downing a mouthful. Naranji were sharply tart, acidic fruit that most people couldn't handle without making a face, and when paired with peach schnapps and Canopian citrus liqueur, made for a drink that kicked hard before even getting to the alcohol. Stiletto downed it as if it were tap water.

"Fuck yeah," the captain said before pounding down his bottle, not even bothering to savor the complexity of the expensive Timbiqui beer. He had no time to sip and sample hints of oranges or notes of chocolate or any of that shit; he was about to score with the hottest girl he had ever--


Laughter rose from the other soldiers in the bar as the captain's head hit the bar. As far as any of them knew, he was another puffed-up officer who couldn't handle his beer. The barracks would be alive with stories the next day about how the captain got trashed and blacked out right in front of everyone.

"We got another lightweight!" the bartender shouted to the bouncer. "Let him sleep it off in the back room!"

Stiletto grinned with grim satisfaction as a barrel-chested bouncer lumbered from the front door, scooped up the unconscious captain, and carried him out towards the back of the bar. She knew there was no 'back room;' what the bartender had meant was 'take this asshole to the truck out back, drop him off in an alley a couple of blocks up the road, and let the scavengers deal with him.'

"Cash or card for the drinks, Miss?" the bartender asked Stiletto, who was perusing the contents of the captain's wallet.

"Looks like card," she said. "Put everyone's tab tonight on Captain....Brendan Yang."

As the bartender took the unfortunate captain's card and began ringing up every drink for the rest of the night on his name, Stiletto turned to the front door and saw two figures enter.

Two women, out-of-towners by the look of them. Judging by their clothes they were trying to pass themselves off as refugees; one of them might have escaped her notice if she hadn't been on the lookout since the first stranger had come through, but the other held herself like she was an alien who had only now just heard of the concept of 'acting casual.'

Stiletto made an effort to conceal her excitement. Maybe they'd read the graffiti outside, maybe they were friends of the stranger from the other night. If so, they might be able to lead her to the Green Knights, and from there her superiors could--

....calm down, she caught herself. You came on too strong with the last one, and you ended up scaring her off before you could learn anything useful. Play it cool. Let them find you first.

With a deep breath to collect herself, she sat back down at the bar, turning slightly towards them, and angling her body against the lights of the bar just enough that the light glinted off the stiletto she wore on her necklace.

Cast your line out enough, she thought, and eventually something will take the bait.
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Hidden 6 mos ago Post by Starlance
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”Understood.” She replied to Raven’s clarification before the first distant detonation. Marit directed the rangefinder in the town’s direction, but even if it wasn’t too far away, LRMs would do just as much damage to the town as the suicide bombers. She almost turned to make for the city on autopilot, but that would’ve been a mistake. If they ignored the attack on the town, those people would die. If they broke off to try and protect it, they could succeed in protecting both the dam and the town, with a probability of that happening somewhere between ‘tiny’ and ‘none’. But if they tried to help the town and the fanatics took out the dam, then everyone in the town would die, they would die, and who knew how many more would be killed by the lack of power. No heating, no fresh or running water, no power in hospitals, emergency services unable to communicate... Fuck. Her father once explained this to her as ‘calculus of war’ - Sacrifice 100 over here to save 1000 over there. If by the end of it more people survived than died, you did okay. It was the best they could do given the situation, but that didn’t mean one had to be happy about it. Knowing they were driving the Heavenly Sword maniacs to desperation was a small comfort for the price the locals would pay, and not even that surprising. Three ‘Mechs, a tank and a few squads short of an infantry company of the meanest fighting bastards within five lightyears. If you were facing that in a truck, you had to be afraid unless you were functionally braindead, although the average Heavenly Sword schmuck was approaching that definition.

Seeing how much the Heavenly Swords hated him, Marit considered asking Family Man if he needed help, but stopped halfway to the PTT. He'd probably spent more time in a ‘Mech than she had as a sapient being, he knew she was there and that she had almost a quarter of his 'Mech's tonnage worth of undamaged armor. If he needed help, he'd ask. Instead, Marit focused on offense. She started pacing her launchers, creating a continuous hail of ordnance, but taking care not to aim too close to Family man or in the 180° arc around his current heading. By only using both LRM 10 launchers and two medium lasers, and with the river’s help, Archie was sinking more heat than he produced and at that rate, she had some 220 seconds of fire, with 10 missiles every five seconds. Fortunately, unlike the depot raid, there weren’t supposed to be any nasty late-game surprises this time around according to the briefing, so she didn’t see any reason to conserve ammunition, aside from making what they had last longer than three sorties. She caught herself with the heretical thought that Archie was better at this than a Catapult. True, with 15 heat sinks, four of them in the legs and a smaller profile, it had its strengths, but with the same laser armament, two LRM 15s and only half the missile capacity, it’d be dry in a little over half the time.
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Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by AndyC
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AndyC Guardian of the Universe

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"Sword Bearer, the second wave," an attendant said as he approached, "they're getting--"

The Sword Bearer held up his hand to silence the attendant.

"They are performing their sacred duty to the Celestial Throne," he said, his voice calm and even, "one that we will all perform in our own time, with gladness in our hearts for furthering the purpose of Heaven."

"Y-yes, Sword Bearer," the attendant acknowledged.

For a moment, the Sword Bearer studied his young servant, a teenager barely out of school. When he had pledged himself to the cause, the attendant had been full of fire and righteous certainty. Now, he saw doubt in the boy's eyes.

Could he be the mole? he found himself wondering. Has his faith in the glorious crusade faltered? Even if it has, does the boy have the spine to act on it?

"You are afraid?" he asked the attendant as the radio behind him buzzed with the screams of dying men.

"I.....I am nervous, Sword Bearer," the boy answered.

"Of dying?"

The attendant shook his head.

"Of failing," he answered. "Of dying without performing my service to the Throne."

Slowly, the Sword Bearer nodded.

"The mercenaries and their Battlemechs may be formidable," he began, "but ultimately they are useless things. They have no purpose, no duty in their existence, no loyalty to anything but coin. You, my boy, were given a mandate from Heaven. They cannot possibly stop you."

"Yes sir," the boy said, still shaky, but a bit more confident. The Sword Bearer smiled.

"You will not die uselessly today," he said. "Take up a weapon; you will be one of the fortunate aboard Gonggong."

"....G-....Gonggong?" the attendant gulped.

"Go now," he ordered, "it is nearly time to depart!"

As the boy ran towards the enormous armored mass some fifty meters away, the air itself trembled from the roar of massive fusion engines.

"Looks like the second wave is starting to break," Lieutenant Lyons reported as they looked at the tactical readout on the screen.

"What were they thinking?" Cadet Windham asked, the question more rhetorical. "I mean, a couple of up-gunned civlian trucks and dune buggies, against a heavy 'Mech lance? Why didn't they just turn around when they saw they couldn't win?"

"Who knows," Cadet Higgins shrugged. "Fanaticism can make people do crazy things."

"They're trying to clear the way," Colonel Wayne stated, his eyes firmly on the monitor. "The first wave was to make us scatter, to throw us off our game. Now they're trying to clear a path, make us spread out to protect civilians or take cover from the rocket fire."

"Make way for what, sir?" Lyons asked.

"For the main event," the Colonel answered.

"Incoming transmission on open comms," Higgins reported. "Sounds like it's coming from the OpFor command."

"Put it through," Gaius ordered.

Higgins nodded, then switched on the speakers.

"....said that in ancient times on blessed Terra," came a voice over the open channel, "that the great serpent Gonggong caused disasters on a cosmic scale. In a display of his omnipotent rage, the serpent smashed his head into the side of the Buzhou Mountain, one of the eight Pillars of Heaven, a blow so mighty it shifted the axis of Terra herself. This blow caused rivers to change course and flood the land, filling the world with death and suffering.

"Today, mercenary scum, you have invoked the wrath of the serpent. The god of disasters moves in the world of mortal men once more, and will bring about a mighty flood to cleanse this world of its sinners. Today, we rattle the pillars of Heaven! Today, the hierarchy of the multiverse changes! Say hello, mercenaries, to Gonggong! And say goodbye to existence!!!!"

As the transmission cut off, a new blip appeared on the Mobile HQ's sensors.

"New contact, Colonel!" Lieutenant Lyons said, "Looks like a big one!"

"Seismic sensors are picking it up," Windham chimed in. "Looks like it's something in the range of....frackencrack, 500 tons?!"

"A land train," Colonel Wayne surmised. "Probably packed with explosives. If that thing gets within half a kilometer of the dam, even if we disable it, it'll have too much momentum to slow it down."

"So we just focus-fire on it until it--"

"Shit, radiological alert!" Windham interrupted. "There's a big spike in the center of the mass!"

Colonel Wayne's eyes went wide, then he immediately opened up a channel to the Green Knights.

"Green Knights, Gawain Actual!" he shouted, his composure slipping just a bit. "Large enemy unit inbound, there is a nuke on-board! Repeat, active nuke on the field! Intercept and immobilize before it reaches 0.5 kilometers. Sergeant Dalton, prepare your team for a boarding action!"

"A boarding action?! Are you f--"

Before Higgins could finish his sentence, Lyons clamped her hand over his mouth.

"Sir, shouldn't be ordering a withdrawal?"

"I'm not letting them kill an entire city," the Colonel said. "If they're throwing everything they've got into this, then so are we. Now it's all or nothing."
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Hidden 6 mos ago Post by Starlance
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”And if my gods didn’t want your kneecaps dusted, they wouldn’t have allowed your gods to give you any.” Marit gave a curt reply to the lunatic raving on the open channel. A land train with a nuke on board. So much for no surprises at the end of the mission. They were just lucky the Heavenly Swords had paced themselves instead of going all at the same time. Where did they even get that? Some CCAF stockpile? Why would they keep nukes here of all places? Uranium from an old fission reactor somewhere? Or was it powder from some radiation therapy source like that one city eons ago on Terra - a salted bomb? Couldn’t be, that wouldn’t harm the dam. Either way, she had a feeling the ‘interrogation’ of any survivors would include a pipe wrench and a drill. And kneecaps.

”Let’s not all end up like the Blackwatch.” Marit muttered as she took stock of remaining munitions. All lasers working, 165 missiles left. Four volleys of 35 and then 15 plus 10. ”Lance lead, Giggles, I’ll get a head start while you finish the leftovers here, though I’m almost winchester LRMs.” She advised and started moving downstream, feeling Archie leaning side to side once every few steps as he compensated for his feet slipping on the muddy riverbed. Reaching a strip of the river where the Heavenly Sword presence was light on the other side, Marit made a ninety degree turn and headed across the river. She was gonna kick the damn thing if she had to. All light from the outside disappeared as Archie’s low-slung cockpit plunged into the murky depths, leaving nothing but the glow of instruments and the HUD in her neurohelmet illuminating the cockpit. She knew the ‘Mech was sealed and could operate in a vacuum, but diving like that still felt weird, especially since the Sons secured her first BattleMech when it fell into a lake after a hit breached its cockpit and its original pilot drowned. Navigating solely by compass, she felt upward acceleration after a few seconds as Archie started climbing the right bank. Feeling the feet start slipping even more, she pulled back on the throttle to reduce the shearing force exerted on the riverbed, the cockpit eventually breaching the water on the other bank, Archie coming out with a full laser salvo directed at a few nearby trucks while the leg heat sinks were still submerged.

Still moving through the river in order to be able to use all four of Archie’s lasers with impunity, she made a brief stop to take more careful aim at a dune buggy that somehow got past Raven. For a moment, Marit thought she felt the ‘Mech sink. But when she didn’t notice the movement again, she chalked it up to Archie automatically leaning into the current and let it be. The front half of the buggy disappeared after the laser hit, but when she moved the throttle to get going again, instead of moving, an alarm bell notified her of unusual stress on the myomer bundles in both legs and automation pulled back on the throttle. She tried advancing it slowly, but it didn't help. Neither did trying to reverse, turn the legs, leaning to any side or any combination of the above. Archie’s fruitless dance lasted a few seconds, accompanied by a series of quiet, yet increasingly frustrated ”Oh…”s as Marit realized what she’d just done. ”Uhh, problem. Someone’s going to have to be my eyes for indirect fire, I can’t move.” She let the lance know of her blunder and went back to picking off anyone she could reach just by twisting Archie’s torso.
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Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by Pilatus
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Jonathan McCord

The second wave was beginning to break up as it was evident the Knights were not going to give up their defensive positions like the Heavenly Sword had gambled. It was a hard call, but Jon knew it was the right move, though Raven’s erratic tracks across the field had caused him to miss once or twice when the Shadow Hawk careened in front of his sights attempting to draw his vigorous pursuers into the guns of the Von Luckner and Archer. An offroad bike swerved and jumped a ditch line where some Sgt Dalton’s troopers were operating a heavy machine gun. Jon was on the verge of a trigger pull, tracking the suicidal zealot, seeing the man cut the handlebars and work the throttle when the back of the Shadow Hawk suddenly filled the zoomed window in his visor, jump jets blazing. He flicked the column to keep from putting a round into the mech’s back and tried to reacquire a quick snapshot, but the AC5 slug zoomed over the bomber’s head, kicking up a mound of dirt before the biker roared through the front door of a farmhouse and detonated himself.

Jon grit his teeth and his lips twisted in disgust. Even though the zoom on his visor disappeared with a swift motion on the control stick, he still tilted his head as if peeking around a rifle scope. He shook the stick causing the mech’s torso to tilt and bob like he was shaking off the bad shot, found another target, this time an armored car, zoomed again and loosed a PPC bolt after it. Still off. The bolt clipped the back of the vehicle, sending it spinning like a toy. Jon took a breath as the heat fell away. Relax. He thought to himself. You’re rushing them… Concentrate… Smooth. Normally after taking a shot or two from position, he would move and fire again, using the terrain to break sensor locks and cover the bulk of his form from return fire. Having taken so many shots from the same place was a strange, creeping sensation, almost unnatural, like someone was constantly sneaking up behind him and he likewise kept an eye on his sensors. He shook the column again, more seriously and deliberate in the motion and the heavy mech seemed to react more positively, like a horse shaking off a bothersome insect.

He was lining up to fire again when the familiar voice of the Heavenly Sword operator came over the wide band, talking to the whole river valley. It sounded like the same guy from Yuzhny Portveyn. Jon listened, but the haughty words about ancient Terra, monsters and threats didn’t stir anything in him other than further contempt. His expression was flat and stoic and he was ready to shoot something else. However the staunch voice of the Knights’ Colonel on the line gave him some pause and he gave the com panel a scrutinizing glance at the words “active nuke” as it seemed, “reasonably doable” had become a lot less reasonable.

The inbound contact was so large that it registered an unknown blip on the perimeter of the sensor screen even though it was far outside of standard detection range. Jon relocked the arms for a focused shot though he wasn’t completely sure what was on the way or what they were going to do with it when they found it. His eyes did a quick scan of the morning, checking the windage in the wafting smoke pillars that creeped up toward a heavy blanket of glowing orange sunlight. In the distance he could see Marit in the river, not far from the L-shaped bend in the road where the highway followed the natural lay of the terrain towards the dam. Whatever was coming was going to have to take that route, same as all the rest had done and she and the others were already moving to position. Jon reached behind and grabbed the small radio again, as the Marauder rose, he worked the controls with his free hand, the machine bucking and pivoting beneath him, It actually felt good to move around in the straps. There had been too much sitting still. “AVC3, this is Mudcrutch, ya copy?

“Yea, go ahead, Mudcrutch.” The nervousness in the voice was now unhidden. They had been waiting to hear from him.

Got somethin’ inbound. I’m goin’ to check it out, y’all sit tight.

“Uhh-hh, roger… I mean copy.” The person on the other end replied unsurely. They had apparently heard the threatening message.

There was a narrow access road that led up to his position, then diverged at the top of the hill where it picked up large, A-framed spires that carried power lines away from the dam. Jon started down the unpaved utility path and keyed the mic for the Knights’ frequency. “Movin’ up,” He said, not sure if any of them were paying attention to him at all, but if they were, they’d notice he was no longer at the hilltop and the heavy contact on their sensors was moving east. He throttled the machine up as he spoke, feeling the familiar motion of its steady trot beneath him and keeping an eye on the power lines within the narrow lane. The large unknown still loomed on the edge of his sensor screen, but he couldn’t get a visual beyond tall Espian pines on both sides. Occasionally, he could catch a glimpse of Marit through the tree line as the morning continued to glow brighter and more often, Raven bobbing over the top on his jump jets mopping up the stragglers. He was about to cut through someone’s backyard when he heard Marit calling out that she was stuck.

Ossie’ broke out of the tree line only a couple hundred meters from Marit and Raven’s forward position. Jon could see the Von Luckner moving up on the far side of the riverbank, across from where the Archer had lodged itself next to the sharp bend in the highway that led back to the dam. Right next to Marit, on the shore was a yellow caution sign with speed recommendation and a green mileage billboard that seemed to have comically survived the carnage completely untouched. Jon rotated his torso, eyeing the Knights’ mechs for a moment. It was the first time he’d seen them since the cave and in decent enough lighting to make out their markings and general condition. Marit’s camo pattern, the top half that he could see above the water line, still looked fairly new, while Raven’s Shadow Hawk carried a well-aged stock gray that had been scorched by rocket fire. The tank was too far to get a steady look at, but all three undoubtedly had the tired look of equipment that had been in the field for some time.

Jon again opened his magnified targeting reticle and for the first time got a look at their newest attacker, trundling towards them in the distance, climbing and descending over the terrain just like some giant snake. His expression twisted a bit in contemplation. He’d seen a land train before. Out on the frontier they were fairly popular with the wealthier terraformers and prospecting companies, especially the ones that included a crane arm, though from what he could tell, this particular one looked like it’d been stripped down for the sole purpose for which it was currently engaged. How they got it on planet and out in the open unnoticed was another question that begged for an answer, but that revelation would have to wait. Behind, he could hear some of the infantry platoon’s vehicles moving up and keyed the mic: “Buckshot, if you’re gonna jump on board, this is the place, they’ll have to come through here,” He said. Now it was time for the bad news. “Best we can do is slow’em down, every track is a drive axle. You’ll have about a mile to get in the cockpit.” He looked again at the lumbering machine. Thankfully it wasn’t fast, but it was going to be head-on shooting until it was almost right on top of them. They were going to have to be careful what they fired at which meant no missiles and no heavy cannon that might set off the warhead. He glanced over his shoulder at Marit, the Archer precariously angled n the river’s current, but still able to fire. Ironically, her being so low to the ground would probably help once she got in range- something else he’d noticed about all the Knights’ mechs. All their beams seemed to glow hotter and reach farther. The burn time might’ve even been shorter too, but he wasn’t sure. Whatever the case, he hoped they could shoot tight groups.

Steel Rain, if you got smoke, let’s have a spread. They gotta be able to see to drive that thing.” He said. From what he’d observed thus far, the typical Heavenly Sworder wasn’t exactly carrying much in the way of personal tech and he seriously doubted anyone about to check out in a mushroom cloud would be wearing a lot of expensive kit. On the other hand, he’d noticed more than a few of the Knights’ commandos with helmet mounts when he and Cassandra tracked down the cave.

The Marauder stalked with its characteristic swagger from Jon’s neural input past Marit to get at the best angle he could without being in her firing lane. With one hand he adjusted the main weapons’ trim through several presets on the fire control. He couldn’t risk any drop or deviation from the autocannon. All three would have to strike together, every time then he would open up with his beams when they came in range. “We’re on thermal,” He said. “At least until they get close, try to keep your shots tight and don’t let your beams walk. It’s a left turn, concentrate on his right tracks.Osceola seemed to shimmy a bit in its stance, like golfer about to make a long drive or a boxer getting ready to throw a heavy strike before all three main guns fired as one at the approaching Gonggong.

@Bork Lazer
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Hidden 6 mos ago Post by Bork Lazer
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Bork Lazer Chomping Time

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Before Aroxy could even process the reply, Helma directly connected the crew comms to the Heavenly Sword channel and proceeded to rant in it.

“ Why don’t you goose-stepping, jobbie jabber, baw bag, cludgie Heavenly Sword chickenshits come over here so I can shove that limpdick pussy ass GongGong up your asshole - “

Aroxy immediately shut down Helma’s comm privileges and grimaced at what he saw through the Von Luckner’s periscope. Radical insurgents and dirty bombs were like mixing oil and fire. The Free World Civil War thankfully never had guerillas who had access to enriched nuclear material. Through a twisted lens, Aroxy had to begrudgingly respect the insanity of the stratagem. The dam was the utilitarian nerve cluster of Nui Awa and silencing it would not only contaminate Nui Awa’s water supply for generations but likely blow them back into the Stone Age. It was a brilliant heartless tactic that only madmen could have come up with.

“ Turn 10 degrees to the left. 30 degrees up. Load smoke and fire on my signal.”

“ Only problem with that one, sir,” Ansel replied whilst loading a firing belt of 50 cal into the Von Luckner’s auxiliary Ramseys. “ We’re out of smoke.”

“ Acknowledged.” Aroxy blinked and then, peered out of his periscope in disbelief. “ I’m sorry, Lieutenant. Could you repeat that again?”

“ I said, we’re out of smoke.”
Aroxy wordlessly nodded and then, at the speed of a slug, slowly craned his neck over towards Takka who had taken command of the auxiliary MG mounted to the Merry Go Round’s turret to bisect a dazed insurgent who had been launched from their motorcycle.

“ Correct me if I’m wrong, Lieutenant Takka, but I remembered I specifically said to requisition new ammo from the quartermaster at HQ?”

“ Well……….,” Takka shrunk in his seat.

“ So, like….. So like…” Takka teetered on the edge of his seat as he stared at the reflection of himself in the puddle. His bloodshot eyes squinted, shifting towards the deconstructed tank shell cuddled in his hands. The gunner wasn’t sure how he managed to screw the top of the shell off and insert a rubber hose into it but in all honesty, the last 4 hours of his life was a total maze. He took a puff off the noxious mixture from the shell and breathed it out in sputtering gags.

“ Get this. Got a wild theory for you. What if we’re all just puppets controlled by cats. Cats with laser eyes. Think about it. That fucking Kerensky little shit thinks he can fucking jack my body at night and pilot it to rewire the quantum strings of the universe, he’s got another thing coming…”

“ Goddammit.” Aroxy slammed his fist against the hull of the tank. “ Guess we’re doing this the hard way. Helma, we still got incendiary?”

“ Aye, aye, cap.”

“ Takka, aim downrange of Echo-1. We’re gonna keep firing until all that goddamn truck can see is a forest fire.”

Takka and Helma worked together like a well-oiled machine, Helma chucking shells into the autoloader and Takka scattering the subsonic projectiles down a quarter of a klick from the front of the truck. The rounds splashed a sea of fire onto the plains, lighting the dry spring grass orange, as a cloud of black smog rose up to swallow the big rig.
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Hidden 6 mos ago Post by Pilatus
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Raven Rivers

Raven snorted in amusement. Suddenly the man who rarely spoke a word to acknowledge the existence of the Knights had something to say about everything. Part of it he could understand. The dam was AVC property and as the Colonel had described, its protection was Jon’s mission, but the way he just sashayed his way into “command” at the critical moment was more than a little uncouth. However, the real sting of it was how the others just went along with it, and further, given the conditions, how it was a pretty decent plan on the fly. Jon knew what he was doing and a part of Raven lamented that he hadn’t spent more time rebuilding lost faith in some of the others, but he stored that thought away quickly. He had to think maturely, as commander of the lance, not as a competitor for the best idea. Discretion was the better part of valor as the old cliche went. Maybe Jon was expecting a protest out of him, maybe not, but debate at this stage of the battle would be suicidal. He glanced at Marit, she was at least still able to fight and in a good position. After doing as much damage as they could, hopefully without blowing up what was left of the river valley, they could work on getting her unstuck as quickly as possible. Full day would break soon and he didn’t want the Knights out in the open for more scout helicopters to spot them like they had at the raid.

Sounds like a plan.” Raven replied calmly, almost authoritative in his response like he was channeling the Colonel and as if it was his approval that made Jon’s plan actionable. His eyes shifted from Marit momentarily to his ammo count and then out ahead where the land train was approaching. He shook his head a little at the thick brush fires being whipped up by Steel Rain’s “smoke screen” and hoped that the homes they’d just helped defend didn’t get caught up in a wind shift that carried the flames away from the river. Before switching his sensors over to thermal, he trotted by Marit to make sure she wasn’t sinking any further as well as to get an idea how hard it would be to get her mech free. He opened a direct line to her: “Try to lean your balance forward, like you’re standing in the sand at the beach and the tide is pulling you out.” He said, seeing her somewhat awkward list and the high weight of her deadly missile racks making things even more precarious. They needed to make sure she could keep all her lasers on target. The arms would be fine, but her torso mounts would walk dangerously if she lost her footing in the persistent current. Thanks to Reya’s work on the beams, they’d get in a few more volleys than stock and hopefully give Sgt Dalton as much time as possible to get onboard. Every shot was truly about to count, just like the Colonel had said.

Try to follow my shots,” Raven said. There was a firmness and confidence in his voice and he took up a position near her, crouching the Shadow Hawk in a classic shooting stance so they could fire together and he could help guide her aim. “Stay cool. We’re gonna get you out of there.” He said, switching his sensors over to thermal and watching the colors of the battlefield, quickly filling smoke, flash away into a piercing white and black contrast. He wasn’t equipped for sharpshooting like Jon. If anything, his AC5 had probably shifted some in its mount after all the jumping, but he had fired it enough times to know when it was true. He took a steadying breath and aimed down the side of the behemoth’s massive tracks, still glowing from where Jon’s shots had struck. There was no decision left to make but to shoot and hope for the best.
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Hidden 6 mos ago Post by Starlance
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Having demoted herself to a turret for the remainder of the mission, Marit did the only thing she could and aimed at the bend the train would have to round to approach the dam, cursing her luck. She shouldn’t have stopped, that was the crux of the problem. Though she had been standing in the river before and managed to move afterward, what gives? She’d been standing a lot closer to the dam, where the river had to have been altered to build the dam itself. It was probably paved with just a thin layer of silt over it, enough to slip and slide a little, meaning she hadn’t noticed any difference over the unmodified riverbed, but not enough to get stuck in. And when she moved further away, there was nothing stopping Archie from sinking deep into it once she stopped moving, the momentum of the 70 ton - 64 ton given her liberal use of the LRM launchers - machine being enough to yank the feet out of the mud and the ‘Mech didn’t have enough time to sink as deep while he was moving. In hindsight she could’ve seen that coming. At least the empty missile racks made Archie a bit less top-heavy. As Jon’s Marauder walked by, Marit’s mind drifted far across the stars into Davion space, where - as far as she knew - her mother was now saddling a similar BattleMech and briefly wondered what, if any, modifications they'd made to it.

”You’re gonna have to explain that to me, Family Man, I’ve never even learned how to swim, much less stood in the sea.” She replied on the lance channel, as somewhere along the line, she decided that swimming was a useless skill. After all, the parachute had a dinghy attached to it and you couldn't swim in the shower. She knew he meant well and couldn't have known, but those instructions were wholly alien to her.
”And I am cool. That's why I went into the river in the first place.” Since it had little effect on whether she would live or die in the next 10 minutes, being stuck didn't worry her that much. Even if retreat was called, she couldn't have outran a nuke anyway and if Archie fell down, the cockpit was still sealed and the riverbed evidently soft, so the worst thing she could see happening were bruises and whiplash.

Switching to thermal like the others, now guided by the heat of previous strikes against the self-professed doom snake, Marit let her lasers do the talking as she thought about recovery. Where were the tow points for when the maniacs were dealt with? Bottom of the pelvis - underwater, of course. Lower back - facing away from dry land. Up top - too high up, even higher than shoulders. Looked like Archie would just have to grab a tow rope and hope pulling that high up wouldn’t topple him, that’d be just a cherry on top of an already embarrassing cake.

…She didn’t have any tow cables. When the Colonel would review the CVR tapes, he’d get a lovely sampling of Swedish curses. Could she get one break today?
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Hidden 5 mos ago Post by Pilatus
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Reya & Ingrid

The earlier disruption had thrown off Ingrid’s attempt at acting natural, as much as she tried to course correct. She would’ve been better off forgoing the previous casual air, trying to act like she was enjoying all of this, and instead just acted cool and collected. Instead, uncertain after her partner’s own unpleasant break, she was off in a way that didn’t take much of a trained eye to read through. Ingrid was now on edge.

It would’ve been much harder if their contact’s hair wasn’t lit up like a flare. Working her way past the drunks and the tired, she heard a call from one of the tables - a local lad making some comment about warming up next to her. She was still visibly suffering from the cold more than the locals were, yes, but she held her tongue and made no rebuke in return. She sat next to the woman with a smile.

It’s been a while, hasn’t it?


The shock of the roughly etched message that had been left behind was still pulsing through Reya’s mind as they entered the ’Diamond; however as the image displayed itself again and again in her consciousness, her initial apprehension had begun to fade rapidly. Her rational mind was taking over, pushing away the cloud of sorrow that had followed her ever since the Knights had fled from Balya Gora. All those nights working alone and unable to sleep, all the distractions she’d put in front of herself to try and move on, all the tears and grief she’d held back to look strong and the times she couldn’t- It was a chapter of her life that was over, DONE. Lena was alive. Sunny was right. With every step, she could feel a growing well of affirmation burning up from her heart. A small voice clamored that maybe it was some coincidence, or some sick scheme of their enemies in the Espian Guard. Maybe they had found the sign on some captured equipment and just splayed it everywhere because they thought it was cool, but that notion was quickly silenced. Her rational mind had evidence. With evidence she could build a conclusion. The chances of anyone else copying that coded language so perfectly were next to zero and the chances of them putting it somewhere with the intention of it being seen were even more remote. Lena was out there, not far from this place. Reya knew her friend could take care of herself. It was just a matter of time now. She could feel a welling smile growing and she had to fight to restrain it. They were still on the mission. She did her best to channel it as confidence and it wasn’t hard. The wave of positive energy made her feel strong and smart. She was ready.

On the other hand, incontrovertible proof that one of their fellow mechwarriors was still alive and trying to communicate didn’t seem to mean a lot to Ingrid any more than recovering a lost family pet. It was more like a mildly amusing inconvenience and she seemed more annoyed that the unexpected revelation had caused her strategy of forced composure to be derailed. Reya was unperturbed though and walked behind her through the bar with a gliding step among the professional drunks, ogling soldiers and wistful older men like she was nineteen again. The fact that the woman described in Lena’s message, that was correctly interpreted, was also right there in plain view, just put a button on Reya’s whole vibe. It was amusing watching Ingrid go straight after the prize without question, though subtlety wasn’t exactly her partner’s strong suit. Reya sat down quietly next to her and gave the barman the local sign for “two” using her index and little finger. The sharp but playful look in her eye meant “nothing cheap” without her having to speak. It was a glance she honed over time that seemed to involuntarily cause people, particularly men, to start doing what she wanted. A bottle of the more rare Timbiqui branded wine was produced in a tasteful ice bucket along with two glasses and placed before them.


“Ohmygod, it’s been for-ever!” Stiletto played along, letting the newcomers lead for now. She’d been overly eager last time, scaring off a potentially big catch, and been reprimanded for it. This time, she’d let them tell her what they wanted before playing her cards.

The first of her guests had established the premise that they were acquainted, and by phrasing it as a question, now put the onus on Stiletto to keep the ruse going. This put her on the back foot, giving the guest a slight edge. She had underestimated the two newcomers; despite the momentary break in her composure, the first had recovered without a hitch. If she hadn’t spent years training her perception to pick up on small details at a glance, she might not have ever noticed that the visitor was out of her element to begin with.

As the server placed drinks in front of the two guests, Stiletto raised her own in a toast. Rather than be sly and propose a toast loaded with connotations, she played it safe with a simple “Cheers,” and took a long sip from her powerfully sour cocktail. With the opening pleasantries out of the way, she began. ”I’d heard you were in town; how’s everyone been?”

It was an innocuous enough question, one that they could choose to read into or not. While Stiletto was reasonably sure she was correct that the newcomers weren’t alone, she had to confirm it.

This initial stage was always tricky, measuring up your mark. Figuring out how much they know without giving away too much yourself. Don’t give them enough, and they lose interest. Give away too much, and you lose leverage. Come on too strong, and you scare them off like she had done with the previous visitor. Stonewall them, and you never get anywhere. The girl who had come in the other night caught onto the fact that she was using Spacers’ Cant. Maybe one of these two could talk the talk as well.

”Didn’t know you’d gotten a taste for cold Timbiqui wine,” she remarked at the visitors’ drinks. ”I always thought you preferred something more fruity. Something like peach tea, right?”A couple of bits of ancient slang tied together, a few different dialects of the cant from various regions of the Periphery. All of which roughly translated to “you’re here looking for information, aren’t you?”


Ingrid’s eyes caught on the drink as it sailed towards them, and she just couldn’t seem to pull them away for a moment. Though nowhere near the shock to the system that Reya had just experienced, it was like she had seen her own apparition: Timbiqui…the instigator of many terrible things. If there was a reason for someone to get wasted in her presence, it was probably due to its insidious influence. Hell, that ‘businessman’ she mentioned earlier probably ended up in his position because of his love of the brewery! It was hard to find an upper end bar, or just about any place that served military folk, that didn’t carry a bottle or two hailing from that planet in Lyran space.

Stiletto was inadvertently right though. Ingrid preferred fruitier things. Her attention ripped back to the conversation at hand after that little drip down memory lane, and to get things out of the way she popped off the cork of the drink without much trouble and poured one out for herself and Reya. It was in a way that suggested a little less familiarity with the bottle and its nuances, with how she briefly struggled to place her fingers along the back edge to make the pour go smoothly, but whether this warranted attention wasn’t clear.

Yeah, no, seriously,” she said at the tail-end of her pour, “things have been wild lately. We’ve had, what,” she looks at Reya briefly, “a lot more business than usual, I’d think? At least for this time of year. We’re barely able to keep up with demand, just us and a few dozen employees.” She pushed the bottle back into the ice. “Sooner than later, we’re going to need a leg-up if we’re gonna expand off Espia.

She managed to sound natural enough, though she was basically reading from a script. Her eyes came into contact with Stiletto’s for a moment as she asked about the drink, and for a split second she really was prepared to answer with her real preference - she was from just far enough away from the Periphery border to miss the subtext, though she figured something was up still.

There’s always a time for trying out new things,” she managed to get out, before looking to Reya for salvation.


Something about knowing that Lena was alive was rapidly uniting the two identities Reya had seen in the shop window only a few minutes before they had entered the ‘Diamond, however the product being reassembled in the back of her mind was going to be different than the parts that formed it. She could feel it in her gut. Lena’s message had indicated that the contact spoke in code, which Reya could accept given the circumstances and Ingrid had done a good job of getting the conversation started, but for some reason, once the careful exchange had begun, the entire nuance and overly-cutesy theater left her with a nagging feeling of revulsion. Irreverent was the first descriptor to come to mind and she hid it as naturally as she properly held the wine glass by the stem while Ingrid uneasily poured. Having grown up under the strict adherence to traditional customs associated with dining and libations, sitting properly for a faux, by-chance, “business” meeting while keeping a straight face was effortless.

Our cost per hour has never been better, it is true.” She said, picking up Ingrid’s segway. It was easy to say because it was completely accurate. Employees working as a matter of survival were obviously more productive than those working by the clock. She had encountered enough of her father’s business associates to emulate how they spoke: The haughtiness of salesmen and the tedium of production engineers. She was naturally partial to the engineers and efficiency mechanics, but it all felt so inconsequential now. People were dying. The Knights were presently trudging through centuries old underground tunnels to stay ahead of a malicious enemy that was actively hunting them night and day while others were languishing in a fortified prison. Reya didn’t want subterfuge and fake pleasantries with a stranger, she wanted blood. The sentiment was burning behind her cool glance of semi-feigned professional acumen, but the line of thought had given her an idea to test the chops of their contact herself. “In the interim, we’ve had to temporarily expand into a larger facility,” She continued, a slight arch in an eyebrow forming towards Stiletto. “but it’s not easy when your competition doesn’t have to play by the rules.


At the mention of expanding to larger facilities, Stiletto raised an eyebrow, a small but noticeable slip in her composure. Everything she had been reading indicated that the Green Knights were hanging on by a thread. Sure, they had raided an NPDRE supply depot, but out of desperation. If they had access to larger facilities, they may have gotten new backing. Still, if they were sending out operatives in the hope of a chance encounter, they were likely still in a tight spot. She still had leverage, and could use that to her advantage.

”Well, you know what they say,” Stiletto said, commiserating over the competition, ”if it weren’t for double standards, there’d be no standards at all. I’ve got some friends who’ve been doing some similar work down south, and they’d run into the same sort of snags.”

This was dangerously close to tipping her hand too much– anyone listening intently might hear about this ‘work down south’ and connect it with the fighting in Yuzhny Portveyn. A risk, but a necessary one, Stiletto believed, if she were to steer the conversation in the direction she’d hoped for. ”They’re in more or less the same business,” she continued, ”but a slightly different approach. They’re not so big on hardware, so they focus more instead on people-based solutions. Right now their competitors dominate the market, but they’ve got the numbers to make a difference. They just need that one big breakthrough product.”

A sly smile crept onto Stiletto’s face, as if a wild idea just crossed her mind. ”You should really meet my friend Mary K,” she said, her eyes and smile growing more enthusiastic with each word. ”You guys have so much in common– ohmygod, I can’t even imagine the kind of trouble you’d get into together.”


Though largely on the back foot, Ingrid did pick up on that bit of forwardness from Reya. It was welcome; she couldn’t imagine holding up much longer with this level of indirectness. Still, it passed by mostly well - these people had plenty of manpower, but not the materiel needed to make more decisive strikes. Just that alone made the possibility of partnership seem like a perfect match. However, she made a real stumble for once, though it wasn’t the end of the world - once the name came up, she briefly looked like a deer in the headlights as she tried to place the name Mary K to someone, like it was a name she was supposed to already know. She still smiled right after.

“Really? Well, shoot,” she said, her accent coming on a little stronger and rendering it more as ‘schüt’. “I’m not really the wildest girl, you know. We’re pretty serious about our hardware business; that kind of, what, ‘young gun’ attitude isn’t going to cut it. It’s a transitional period, we’re looking to expand, taking a risk on an unknown, you see…”

“...unless she happens to be really good at her job.”


”Her whole team’s capable,” Stiletto nodded, ”Just running into the same difficulties as your team. But they’ve got vision, and they’ve got big plans for renovation. And what they lack in hardware, they make up for in manpower and in logistical solutions, particularly when it comes to thriving in an asymmetrical market. You’d be pretty impressed at how much they can get done with their unconventional approach. And the best part is? They’re all locals, so they know the market, they know the neighborhoods, the proverbial lay of the land.”

Once again, she likened the conversation to fishing. It wasn’t enough to cast out the line and expect a big fish to throw itself on the hook. You had to make the bait look enticing, let the fish come and nibble at it for a moment, only pull on the line once you’ve gotten a bite. Of course, in such a competitive climate, they’re a little skeptical about doing any collaborations she added, ”I mean, who wouldn’t be? Still, I think Mary K might be down to chat if she thinks you’re on the same wavelength.”


Reya was unimpressed with the cliched remark about standards. Such a canned expression wasn’t the language of a high level player. This woman presented this character for money or protection or maybe both; It was a cover for others that could not operate in the open, plausible deniability. Whatever the case, she wasn’t mining Espia’s dive bars for free and whoever the benefactor was, was the person they really needed to be talking with. She kept dangling the identity of this “Mary K” figure who was undoubtedly a ranking FPA fighter and that lined up with what the Colonel had described about the nature of the contact, however Reya’s gut instinct kept telling her it was something else. It was a nagging feeling, just like she had about Cassandra. She recalled the image of Lena’s low sign message: “could be friend or enemy, be careful”.

In the Combine it was considered etiquette to begin any business conversation with small talk and less consequential topics. The first to press forward with more serious topics lost face. This was a similar game, but the business was hidden behind fluff and innuendo. Reya could tell Ingrid was already tiring from the dance. The indirect nature of the meeting was about as counter to her nature as Espia’s cold climates and Reya could sense the restraint in her partner like water being held back by a dam. She considered her next words more carefully, still sitting properly and holding her glass. Even though she felt much like Ingrid on the inside, she could sit there and hold her peace for hours, it was the Way and she had done it before. Reya looked at the other woman as she replied to Ingrid, finding her green hair more unpleasant the more she tried to sell them on the FPA. It was a natural turning point in the conversation. Both parties had something the other wanted. Now it was a matter of semantics without losing face.

I think we can talk more about our current expansion and added revenue stream if Miss K was willing to discuss amicable terms.” Reya replied coolly. She had noticed the small arc of surprise in the other woman’s brow when she mentioned the Knights’ move before. Now she had added another sweetener to the deal. She didn’t trust Cassandra, but her backing was another card to place on the table and she knew the FPA wasn’t exactly loaded with C-Bills either. “Keep in mind, we do hear this pitch a lot. Our last associate made similar claims and we all know how that ended.” She continued as casually as if she were remarking on the weather, though it felt right to level the conversation with a reference to the ill-fated Governor Xiu and their other mutual enemy that the Knights’ were facing at the dam.


”Oh, don’t even get me started on that guy,” Stiletto said with a chuckle. ”He had all the organizational skills of a Vegan slug-rat. It’s a shame his business fell apart as spectacularly as it did, but it was bound to happen one day or another.

Her employers had known full well that Governor Xiu’s grasp on Espia was tenuous at best, but even they had been surprised by the arrival of the Crimson Fists. Their plans had been to make the best use from a long, protracted civil war, not a coup that was all but wrapped up overnight. And given Federov’s desire for centralized control and Malenkov’s bombastic zeal, the new regime was unlikely to cooperate with her employers’ ideas. It was decided they needed to go. The FPA had the conviction, but lacked the firepower to deal with the Espian Guard and Crimson Fists. Conversely, the Green Knights had the hardware to get the job done, but their conviction was questionable. Getting the two to cooperate would be ideal, combining those who had motivation with those who had the means. And she was tantalizingly close to convincing these two.

Rather than risk pushing too far, Stiletto decided to put the ball in their court. Producing a small paper notepad, she scribbled something down. ”I’ll be honest, Mary K can give you a better idea of what they’ve got in mind than I can,” she said with a shrug. ”If you’re interested, just follow up on this number.”

She slid a note to them.


Ostensibly, it was a comms number, but the digits were laid out all wrong for a landline, and only an idiot would attempt calling over an unsecured line, even if they were speaking in code. ”If you want to get serious, give her a call,” Stiletto said as she rose from the table. ”I’ve got to run, but it was great seeing you two; glad to know you’re still in business.”
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Hidden 5 mos ago Post by Th3King0fChaos
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Th3King0fChaos The Weird

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Task Force Charlie: Recon Between Friends

"Mission Charlie: the spaceport near the capital city of Balya Gora has been under the control of the NPDRE, but some transmissions indicate at least one DropShip has arrived from off-world since the coup. It is very likely that whoever the Crimson Fists are working for, they're also providing new hardware for the Espian Guards. We need to know what is coming off of that ship, and who is sending it to them.

"Task Force Charlie will consist of Alley Cat and Desperado. The Raven can scout out the spaceport at range, with the Phoenix Hawk providing cover if needed. If a full scan of the spaceport proves not possible from a distance, or there is no approach without giving away your position, ditch the 'Mechs somewhere safe and approach on foot. Your priorities are to get sensor scans, photographs, captured documents, anything to give us an idea of who is supplying Federov and his cronies, and what they're sending against us. This is strictly reconnaissance, so do not engage the enemy unless absolutely necessary."

Approaching the first of the three large covered masses, Ziska noticed the pungent, oily smell that stung the nostrils, the tell-tale scent of jet fuel. At first blush, this wasn’t a surprise in and of itself– they were in a spaceport, after all– but most of the fuel tanks surrounding planetary DropShips didn’t carry combustible chemicals. Those ships typically used water as the reaction mass for their massive fusion engines; ethanol and other combustible fuels were typically reserved for atmospheric craft.

Airplanes, then. But why were they being serviced here, and not at the airfield hundreds of kilometers away?

Acting like she belonged, Ziska walked onwards, lugging the heavy toolbox with set gait of a seasoned MechTech, familiar with the burdens of carrying nuts, bolts, and heavy wrenches.

Tarak looked onto the scene and thought about what could be being done. He looked forward and said in a tone only Ziska could hear, ”Wonder if they are worried if that airfield will get hit soon. Either way, seems fun”.

A quartet of NPDRE soldiers patrolled between the three covered planes, maked an approach difficult. Tarak watched their patrol pattern as he gestured to Ziska on an area they can both sneak into without being seen while they figured out the pattern as he quietly said, ”We go there and maybe we can move around like we are some techs. They might just think of us as some eggheads”. Tarak said with a slight shrug as he began to wait for a moment when the guards were looking away and slipping into an area near the possible airplanes. Yet their movements were quite tight, enough so where there was no way to sneak in without being seen.

”--will have your head on a spike if these craft aren’t operational by sunrise! Is that understood?!” The voice was coming from the main path towards the planes, accompanied by the rhythmic tromp of heavy boots.

”Y-y-yes, ma’am,” whimpered the voice of a harried crew chief that followed behind.

At the sound of the approaching voices, the soldiers patrolling between the covered aircraft all suddenly found themselves very motivated to continue their patrol as far away from the approaching footfalls as possible. A risk, but an opportunity.

The once tight movements of the guards slowly fanned more and more out until it opened a large enough gap for them to sneak in. Tarak motioned for Ziska to go first, as he watched the patrols continued. They slowly shifted more and more, as he found time for himself.

At last, Ziska reached one of the huge tarps, opposite from the raging voice that dressed down the humiliated crew chief. Ziska raised the tarp to look inside.

Confirming suspicions, it was in fact an aircraft, and not just any. The main fuselage of the plane was narrow and almost cylindrical, with a pair of winglets flaring out from either side of the cockpit, and a pair of wide, flat delta wings spreading out towards its tail. It was an ugly, ungainly plane, one that looked like it had been built completely around a single gun…which it was. The sight of one of these things in the air was enough to make the hair of any Mechwarrior that had read their technical readouts turn white.

A Mechbuster.

They knew that the Espian Guards already had a squadron of Meteor conventional fighters, but Mechbusters were something else. While it mounted hardpoints for missiles, bombs, and other external weapons, the plane only carried one onboard weapon: a Zeus-75 Mark IX Autocannon, a beast of a gun equal to the cannon mounted on Merry-Go-Round. A single burst of fire from a Zeus-75 was enough to cripple most light or medium Battlemechs, and a well-struck hit could destroy one outright. If there was any saving grace, it was that Mechbusters were notorious for having precious little ammunition. Even then, it made for a terrifying dive-bomber.

”--should already be bearing down on the Green Knights, not waiting for your pathetic technicians to keep fumbling about with assembly and complaining about ‘skilled labor shortages.’”

”Y-y-yes, Ma’am,” the crew chief sputtered, ”b-b-but the laborers being brought in from F-F-Fort Tie Shan haven’t b-been trained on this equipment! We n-n-need time to–”

”Make another excuse, and I’ll hold you down and step on your face.”


Despite the voices, Ziska made no sudden movements to dart into cover of the shadows. Instead Ziska moved towards the voices. Moving just like she had seen her MechTechs Ziska raised the second tarp, finding another Mechbuster waiting beneath.The Espian Guard were a third string planetary garrison at best. Mechbusters. A pair of Mechbusters, fresh enough at a glance, were not something the Espian Guard were supposed to be able to field. Not without some serious help. And not without some real support by the way of under the table C-Bills.

Tarak sighed as he quietly said to Ziska, ”Seems like they have quite a trouble with these, how about I make it a little harder”. Tarak said as he began to open his tool box and began producing items as he said to her, ”You go see what else they got, I’ll start fucking with this one”.

”--don’t care about your excuses, you simpering peasant!” roared the first voice, getting closer. The voice sounded oddly familiar. ”The Crimson Fists have come to this world to bring an unholy wrath upon those we deem our enemies. And the more you test my patience, the more I’m beginning to see you as an enemy. Do I need to explain what will happen to you if you continue to annoy me?”

”N-n-no, Mom– err, Ma’am!”

”What was that?!?!”

”M-m-Ma’am! I said ma’am!”

Waving to Tarak, Ziska walked calmly forward, trying to get close enough to the third plastic enshrouded figure. The Colonel owed her, she decided. She was going to find out what the Espian Guard had acquired. He had asked for recon. And by the grace of the Magistrix herself, Ziska was going to deliver, come hell or high water.

The third aircraft, still obscured by the tarp, had a different shape from the first two. It was wider, flatter than the two Mechbusters, and Ziska could make out enough of a profile to assume it was a flying wing. Moreover, the craft was surrounded by heavy crates, also covered by tarps and camo netting, though these tarps were festooned with warning signs suggesting high explosives.

Along the ferrocrete deck, a thick fuel line ran underneath the tarp to a large water tanker. Unlike the two Mechbusters, this craft had a fusion engine. If Ziska could just get close enough to see–

“You there!”

Turning slowly, Ziska saw a woman in dark red military garb and a long black coat, the lower half of her face covered by a scarlet scarf.

”Come here,” the woman said, her voice burning with a hateful cruelty. ”I wish to demonstrate to our dear crew chief what happens to those who displease the Fire Witch.”

The Fire Witch, the pilot of the Longbow that had nearly destroyed Ziska’s Raven, approached Ziska, reaching into the inner pocket of her coat. From it, she pulled a length of cord, about two feet in length tipped with a metal ball. With a flick of her wrist, the cord began to buzz with electricity. A neural lash, one of the most barbaric forms of torture in the Inner Sphere. Even owning one was considered a war crime in most civilized nations…

Summoning a face of careful fear, Ziska resisted the urge to reach for the pistol she had shoved into the toolbox. She approached meekly, timidly lowering her head, letting panic seep deep into her throat. She had seen a neural lash before. She had felt the sting as her nerves burned with lightning. What did some soft Inner Sphere mercenaries know about cruelty? She had seen worse. Periphery pirates were not known for their compassion.

But she had to pretend. Information was more important. Ziska would kill. Ziska would shoot without hesitation. A pirate for a mech commander. Not a bad trade. Not a poor exchange in most circumstances.

However, the Green Knights desperately needed information. And the Colonel needed intelligence even more. She wouldn’t make it out of the spaceport if she started blasting. She couldn’t be Ziska. She had to be someone else. Someone afraid. Someone unimportant. She was nobody. A civilian mech tech. Afraid. Uncertain and completely terrified of the woman standing in front of her. She had heard the stories about the Crimson Fists. And she knew the rumors.

“This is the sort of miserable lot your planet has to offer?” the Fire Witch jeered, her voice thick with contempt. ”It’s no wonder your crew is late getting the planes airborne. Had you done your job properly, we would be raining death on the Green Knights’ hideout this very minute. How many days do you expect the delay?”

”Th-th-three days, Ma’am.”

”Three days,” the Crimson Fists’ lance leader growled as she toyed with the neural lash in her hand. ”I believe one for each day should be plenty.”

Before Ziska could even see she had moved, the Fire Witch struck with a backhanded blow from the electrified lash. The steel ball on the end of the cord caught the pirate across the eyebrow, splitting the skin of her forehead. In the split-second the lash made contact, it made an angry crackling sound, pouring hundreds of volts into her victim, and sending Ziska crashing to the ground with a pained scream.

”Take comfort in small blessings,” the Fire Witch mocked at Ziska’s agony. ”A few millimeters lower, and I would have taken your eye. Now then…”

As the enemy Mechwarrior raised her arm for a second strike, the crew chief spoke up.

”W-w-ait!” he spouted. ”I c-c-can’t stand to see my workers punished for m-my responsibility. If you’re going to p-punish someone, p-punish me.”

The Fire Witch regarded him, then lowered her scarf to spit at the ground in front of Ziska. Even in her immense pain, Ziska saw something…off about her face. The scar running down over her eye looked appropriately fearsome, but it quickly tapered off, and she could swear she saw a seam at the bottom…

”Thank your chief for his sacrifice, worker,” she said as she quickly covered her face again. ”However, I expect the planes to be operational in two days now. Otherwise I might not be so merciful.”

As the Fire Witch turned to storm away, the crew chief lingered behind for a moment.

”Sh-she’s not k-kidding,” he said to Ziska. ”For the n-next two days, it’ll be d-double shifts for……wait……who the hell are you?!”

Pulling herself onto her knees, Ziska looked up at the crew chief, letting herself shake with a deep series of sobs as heavy tears ran from her eyes, “I- I’m not even supposed to be here. I was just on leave. I was just supposed to grab some more supplies and then they told me they needed every technician. I told them! I told them I was just a civilian, but they didn’t care.”

Burying her face in her hands and channeling all the terror she could imagine, Ziska cried for a solid minute before looking up again, making sure that her hands were suitably streaked with blood.

“Please, I need a med kit.”

The crew chief frowned; changes in the roster were supposed to go by him in advance, especially around the valuable new air assets. It had to have been Nizitsky, grabbing one of the conscripted civilians so he could slack off. He’d make sure that slacker had hell to pay for it on the next shift.

“You stay right here,” he told the injured civilian before turning back to the Fire Witch. “Err, Ma’am, her injury does look severe. If you’ll excuse me, I’ll head to the infirmary to grab a medkit.”

The masked Mechwarrior nodded slowly, still toying with the neural lash. “Tend to the wound enough to ensure she is not rendered useless, but make sure it leaves a scar. I want everyone this woman works with to see the price for shoddy work.”

“Y-yes Ma’am,” he nodded. “D-don’t go anywhere,” he said to Ziska as the two turned and walked away.

Ziska waited only until she was sure she was alone to stop her sobbing. Practically jumping to her feet, any hint of fear or sorrow was gone, instead her eyes glittered with cold anger. Blood ran slowly down her face. The Firewitch had made her bleed. She’d made her bleed again. Faced with thoughts of vengeance, Ziska retreated to icy professionalism.

Lifting the tarp, Ziska repressed an unwelcome laugh. A gull-winged aerospace fighter, heavier and far more armored than the fragile Mechbusters. A Shilone, a deadly aircraft that any experienced MechWarrior could recognize. The bunker buster bombs arrayed neatly next to it, ready to be loaded, promised nothing good for the Green Knights or anything else that they hit.

Satisfied, Ziska moved quickly away from the three unveiled aircraft. She retreated into the shadows, heading back towards where she had entered the spaceport with Tarak. She had no intention of being there when the crew chief returned. Her story wouldn’t survive any serious investigation or probing questions. She trusted that Tarak would manage by himself. His sabotage mission was his own. She couldn’t help him. Time was up. She had learned enough. It was time to get back to the Green Knights.

Tarak had spent much of this time under the tarps of one of the planes. He had spent a majority of the time rigging the plane for when it was to fire their guns. The electrical signals will be instead routed to ignite within the fuel lines. Tarak hoped that when they tried to take off, they would crash and burn with the pilots. A dream for sure, but it should buy time with one of the planes being down, they’d need to take a serious look at the engineering crew.

Once Tarak finished rigging the first plane he had slowly crawled out from under the tarp and slowly moved between the planes. He saw the scene unfold, as Ziska was bashed in the head by this witch. Yet he could not respond, him being seen is the worst case, as once he made it under the next plane, he tried doing the same thing before, but began to hear the conversation wind down and knew he didn’t have the time. He decided once a panel was open, to shove one of the repossessed tools into a cramp set of wires and pipes, and try to wrench out as much he can to damage what he could. It was a small thing, but it would at least make them second guess what they were working on.

FInally once that was done and he heard the final remarks of each person, Tarak slowly came out of the tarp. He looked to Ziska and said, ”What we got….oh boy, now that is a fun thing, Colonel will love to hear this”. Tarak sighed as he thought for a moment, he knew he didn’t have enough time to jerry rig something, and knew he couldn’t get enough time to do anything without being seen, it was Ziska who broke the silence as she said, “We got the info, no need to start some fireworks”. Tarak sighed before agreeing.

With the assistance of Tarak, Ziska moved quickly as they began to backtrack. They needed to move fast, and little time could be wasted. Their get away was nowhere near as smooth as their entrance, yet that wouldn’t matter within moments. They had to move quickly, and slightly without worry. Tarak was approached a few times by security, he had used his larger body and suppressed firearm to quickly deal with them, not worrying too much about the bodies left. For Ziska, she was able to sneak by because of her injury, using it to excuse herself from the multiple guards moving. Once they had made it back to the maintenance shack the two grabbed their gear they stashed and began to make their way back to their battlemechs.

Once they were able to mount up, the race was on. The Phoenix Hawk and the Raven were both extremely fast mechs, yet they couldn’t fully use it without giving themselves away, so they had to move quickly yet quiet. They had little time before the base would know that an intruder was once there, but it was enough time for them to get away. It was maybe 20 minutes when they began to enter traveling speeds and began to head back to base.

During this escape a direct pulse transmission came through to the Raven, ”I think we did okay”.
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Hidden 5 mos ago Post by AndyC
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AndyC Guardian of the Universe

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The Buckshot Boys

"You've gotta be joking," Private Liebowitz muttered under his breath, gripping the steering wheel of the Armored Personnel Carrier as it rumbled toward the target. Given the roar of the engine and the chaos of the battle around them, he was sure no one could hear his grumbling.

"Yeah, Liebowitz," snarled Sergeant Dalton, causing the private to go white with surprise, "I'm a real comedian. Stop me if you've heard this one: double-PT once we get back."

Liebowitz nodded, then gulped. The Sarge's wrath put more fear into the hearts of the Green Knights' infantry platoons than any amount of enemy fire.

"Now then," Dalton said, his voice booming even over the din of battle, "once we get alongside the train, we disembark two by two. Ortega and I take the lead car, Bronson and Jaffee take the next, then Okamura and Dautrieve, Morris and Azizi, Vasquez and Drake, with Borden and Shida taking the rear. Breach the entrances all at once, then sweep and clear. Needler pistols only, understood?"

"Understood, sir!" the Buckshot Boys responded in unison. Needler pistols were short-range but extremely vicious anti-personnel weapons designed for boarding actions on spaceships. Using compressed gas to force polymer-composite blocks through a fine screen at immense speed, they fired a spray of tiny flechettes that could not penetrate hard surfaces, but would utterly shred flesh. While this made needlers inefficient against enemies behind hard cover, they produced almost no sound or recoil, and the gunman could use them without worrying about creating an accidental hull breach-- or, in this case, accidentally setting off a nuclear warhead.

"Once we find the target, the APC will line up to the right car, allowing Francis to board and begin disarming, while the boarding party provides cover."

Corporal Francis nodded, her confidence very clearly just an appearance. While she had the most training and certs in demolitions, there weren't any courses for something like this. It was an a complete shot in the dark that she would be able to disarm the bomb at all.

"Now, if there's any--"

"Contact, five o'clock!" shouted Private Duffey from the seat of the .50 cal turret. Letting 'em have it!"

The cabin of the APC was hammered with the roar of the twin machine guns. Against Battlemechs, these weapons wouldn't do much more than scratch the paint. Against soft targets like the Heavenly Sword's technicals, however, the .50 caliber bullets ripped through them like a vibro-knife through butter.

"Get some, you cultist fucks!" Duffey shouted, an almost insane glee in his voice. "Get some, get some, fuckin' GET S--"

The APC shook from the impact of a stray rocket blast, and the cabin filled with smoke pouring in from the gunner's hatch. As the scrubbers cleared the air, the Buckshot Boys could see Duffey's legs slumping back down from the turret, everything above the waist a charred and gory ruin.

"Fuck me," Dalton grumbled, then shouted "Plan remains the same! Time to mount up!"

The life of an infantryman in a battlefield dominated by 'Mechs was usually measured in seconds. Their presence would always be necessary for actions just like this-- boarding craft, clearing structures, securing targets-- but nearly everyone who signed up to serve as a mud-marcher for a mercenary outfit knew that the odds were their paycheck would be going to their next of kin. It fostered a strange sort of esprit de corps among the infantry, but also meant one had to be at least a little heartless in action. Mourn later, act now.

"Coming up on the target, sir!" Private Liebowitz called out. "Everyone hold on!"

"Time to earn your pay, Boys!" the Sarge said, a hungry smile on his face as the left side door slid open.

The Heavenly Sword land train was a beast of a sight, a chain of six cars covered in extra layers of bolted-on armor. The front of it was fitted with a massive plow, and each car was fitted with a machine gun turret, which pinged bullets off of the side of the APC as it approached. Neither the train or the APC was particularly fast, but heading at each other head-on was going to make this maneuver tricky.

"Here goes!" Liebowitz shouted, turning the steering wheel to the left, allowing the land train to pass along the right side. As soon as they were past the plow, he slammed the brakes and threw the steering wheel as hard as he could to the right, causing the rear of the vehicle to fishtail out. Inside, the infantrymen lurched, holding on for dear life to not get flung out of the open door.

Liebowitz prayed to whatever gods might be listening as he fought for control of the APC. This sort of move would be considered risky for a high-performance sports car; for a 10-ton armored combat vehicle, it was goddamn ludicrous.

But when Sergeant Dalton wanted something done, you didn't waste time wondering about trivial things like whether it was possible.

As the APC's brakes screamed and the frame itself groaned in protest, eventually, the vehicle righted itself, then Liebowitz slammed the accelerator. Now with the open door facing the side of the land train, Dalton and the Boys readied to board the armored beast, a climbing axe in one hand and a satchel charge in the other.

"Ortega, we're up!" Dalton shouted to his second as the APC gained on the lead car. Before Corporal Ortega could respond, Dalton hurled his massive frame out the side of the APC, digging his climbing axe into the side of the land train.

By the end of the Fourth Succession War, the playbook of anti-'Mech infantry tactics first pioneered by the Gray Death Legion had made it into circulation among mercenary commands. While the concept of ambushing a 'Mech, climbing its frame, and planting explosive charges along its weak points was feasible in theory, in practice it had a survivability rate so low that no one would dare try it apart from the desperate, the insane, or the very, very good.

In this situation, the Buckshot Boys were a mix of all three.

Of the twelve infantrymen who leapt from the APC, ten of them made it onto the train. Dautrieve fell short and was dashed along the rocky ground, while Borden's axe slipped and he went under the train's massive wheels. The rest managed to gain holds along the sides of the cars, working their way around to the front and back of each one, and set their charges.

The entire train shuddered as the satchel charges, designed to penetrate 'Mech armor, obliterated the armored doors of the train cars, the shock and shrapnel ripping through several of the Heavenly Sword's fanatics outright. The smoke and the confusion turned each car into utter bedlam as a half-dozen firefights broke out.

"You wanna make yourselves martyrs?" Dalton roared as a dozen half-trained fanatics pointed their guns in his direction. "Lemme help you with that."

As pistol and rifle rounds pinged and whanged at random through the cabin of the lead car, Sergeant Dalton and Corporal Ortega put their Needler pistols to work. Every time they pulled the trigger, one of the Swordsmen went down in a bloody heap, their chests, limbs, and heads ripped to bloody shreds by the high-velocity flechettes. With the gas-powered guns making so little noise and no muzzle flash, the Swordsmen had trouble seeing where Dalton's fire was coming from, and he cut them down with no trouble.

Up and down the train, it was the same story. The Heavenly Sword were fanatics, but they were mostly untrained partisans, poor souls who had been indoctrinated by political radicals that put guns into their hands without bothering to show how to use them. The Green Knights First Infantry Platoon, however, were professional soldiers, with body armor and extensive training. Even outnumbered a half-dozen to one, the Buckshot Boys cleared the train cars with an efficiency they'd be proud of, if it weren't for the fact that each second they spent fighting was another second closer to being reduced to atomic vapor.

"Found the bomb, Sarge!" came Private Okamura's voice over comms. "Third car!"

"Acknowledged," he responded, before hailing the APC, "Third car, Liebowitz. Francis, you're up!"

As the rest of the Boys advanced on the third car to cover for Corporal Francis, Corporal Ortega moved to the driver's cabin of the lead car.

"Hey Sarge?" Ortega called. "Got a problem here. The brakes are cut, and the steering's jammed. We can't slow this thing down or change course."

Dalton grunted. "Francis, how much time do you need?"

"Ahhh....two minutes, maybe three?" came the Corporal's response as she broke out her demo tools.

As the dam loomed large ahead of them, Sergeant Dalton knew they didn't have nearly that much time. At best, they had a minute before impact, maybe thirty seconds before they'd be too close to slow down in time.

He hated it, but he knew it'd have to be done. He'd have to call in for help from the Mechwarriors.

Opening a channel on his comms, Dalton called out to the 'Mech lance.

"Green Knights, this is Buckshot leader!" he said. "The boys need some time to work. Thirty seconds to put the brakes on this train, three-zero and counting!"
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Hidden 5 mos ago Post by Bork Lazer
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Bork Lazer Chomping Time

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The fields outlying Tie Shan Dam burned of brimstone and bullet smoke. The forces of the Heavenly Sword were like flies throwing themselves against a windshield in the hope of blinding a driver. To many in their small little platoon, it would have seemed a miracle that they had survived thus far but to Aroxy, it was textbook. The Heavenly Sword were guerilla fighters first and foremost and the bulk of their forces simply weren’t made for open-field engagements. Having two mechs on their side made it almost seems like child’s play.

The only problem that remained was their last-ditch tactic that reminded Aroxy of a chess player who flipped over the table instead of resigning in defeat. As much as Aroxy would have liked to wipe the Takka and Helma were working the Von Luckner’s auxiliary turrets, raining down suppresive fire, whilst Ansel had taken over the role of gunner. So far, there had been no need to fire any shells or their SRMs yet. To do so would be overkill and one didn’t expend their strength at first contact.

Peering through the Von-Luckner’s periscope, Aroxy noticed a black dot hovering around the Heavenly Sword’s land-train. He switched the focus, lens compensating for him to see 12 men leaping from the side of an APC onto the train track. Aroxy wondered what ploy Command was pulling with the dirty bomb. A few minutes later, his question was answered.

"Green Knights. The boys need some time to work. Thirty seconds to put the brakes on this train, three-zero and counting!"

“ Let’s position ourselves a little closer, Helma,” The female driver quickly moved back to the driver’s seat and shifted the gear forward. The Von Luckner trampled soil and grass into a smooth expanse under its weight. Everything was reduced to mulch under its treads as the poor whimpering soul six feet of its chassis was beginning to find out. Gripping his cut-open belly, he barely had time to scream before he became a red smear under the tank’s treads. The only indication the crew had of his existence was a slight jolt in the crew compartments.

“ What the hell was that?,” Ansel asked.

“ Just a little speedbump,” Helma continued to drive the tank forward, stopping on a little mound. The land-train was 3 quarters of a klick away from them. Well within range of their turret and close enough to ensure that neither wind or gravity could make them miss their mark.

“ Load a HEAP in there and start fucking up the treads. I want them spaced out nice and even. We don’t want to hit our own men, got it?”

“ Yes, sir.” Takka mumbled dissapointedly at the thought of being unable to cause a nuclear explosion. The turret of the Von Luckner began following the journey of the land train, angling slightly forward to adjust for its speed before firing its payload downrange. The shells tore apart the massive wheels of the land train like butter one by one, crippling its pace to a visible slug’s crawl. Aroxy could only hope that it would be enough to give the infantry time to disarm the dirty bomb.
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Hidden 5 mos ago 5 mos ago Post by Pilatus
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Pilatus Delightfully Unrefined

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Jonathan McCord

The autoloader dropped in another AC5 slug with the muffled, yet satisfying clang of the magazine pushing the next round into place right behind Jon’s shoulder. He shifted a little in the straps and the machine beneath him reacted with his neural input, shifting its armored shoulders and weapon-laden gauntlets slightly like a fighter staying loose in his stance. The difficult tracking shots on the technicals earlier had been a healthy warmup so much so that putting rounds into the suspension of the massive, slow moving, Gonggong was like shooting at a barn door. Shot after shot, steel and energized particles striking as one. He was feeling his oats and every trigger pull was hitting like a fastball hitting the catcher’s mitt tearing into the unarmored suspension and heavy gearing. The temperature in the cockpit built up heartily and outside the massive turbines on the back of the Marauder’s insectoid body whirred angrily, distorting the smoky air with dissipated heat. Having spent a vast swath of his life piloting Ossie, Jon knew where the gauge was without looking. The next volley put him right on the edge of shutdown and Bitchin’ Betty’s digitized voice calmly noted as much in his helmet, but he held his rhythm briefly watching Sergeant Dalton lead the APCs alongside the train.

There was an odd twist in the lead car and the whole train shifted trajectory as the Knight’s APCs went out of view behind it and the giant train veered off the road and started plowing angrily across the open landscape as if it were trying to steer clear of the mech lance and take the most direct route possible towards the dam regardless of terrain. Jon reckoned whoever was driving must’ve been bodied by Dalton’s troopers or had locked the controls on the new path or both. The colossal machine pressed forward doggedly dragging the mangled undercarriage and carving out waves of earth and stone beneath it. For the first time, Jon really thought it looked like something mythical and he could feel his adrenaline surge at the prospect of possible death. When the satchel charges erupted, he felt himself a little bit jealous of the Knight’s infantry, climbing on the side of what was probably the Inner Sphere’s biggest suicide bomb and throwing down with a bunch of fanatics at close quarters. He smirked a bit at their sheer refusal to lose and equally fanatical boarding action. When a turret popped up, aiming down the line at the third car to harass the ‘Boys, he zipped an AC5 slug right over the top of the train’s hull, decapitating the position like plinking a beer can off a tractor fender and he felt satisfied that he had made up for missing the dirt bike earlier.

Copy that, Buckshot. Lead car is danger-close.

Now that the location of the bomb had been determined, it was essentially open-season on the lead car and the bellow of the Von Luckner’s main gun signaled the end of the Knights’ patience with the Heavenly Sword. With its new heading, the land train had shown them a full broadside and the tank’s salvos smashed into it like mighty swings from a car-sized sledgehammer. Jon followed the tankers’ fire with his medium lasers, giving his heat sinks a chance to catch up and cutting into where the undercarriage had been opened up. His thumb dabbed at the AC5’s singular trigger, putting in another round every time the reloader cycled behind him. Being a precision shooter, he couldn’t come close to matching the broad swaths of damage dealt by the AC20. When the heat had fallen off enough, he looked quickly for something more exposed to make his next combined shot hit for more than the shredded linkage the Von Luckner was tearing off. Large chunks of hastily attached armor and debris were flung away as the machine’s sheer momentum began to destroy it as much as the combined fire of three mechs and a tank. Gonggong plowed hard into a small depression then nosed up sharply again on the subsequent rise as if breaking a wave, showing its dirt-caked and smashed underside for a moment. The frame twisted slightly with the impact and Jon flicked the reticle under the dark shadow of the suspension, unsure of what he might have been aiming at, if anything important at all, and loosed a salvo straight into the belly of the lead car.
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Hidden 5 mos ago Post by Starlance
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”Buckshot, which cars should we avoid?” Marit wasn’t sure what she was scared of more: Striking too close to the nuke or too close to Dalton. Though she didn’t say anything on account of the hectic situation, she did wonder why, even if controls were locked out they didn’t just decouple the tractor. Though the carriages’ treads were driven, they relied on external control inputs and power supply and the brakes were designed to engage when decoupled to be fail safe, right? Or could these peasants have enough technical understanding to tamper with it? No matter. For now she’d focus her lasers on the tracks of the rear cars, guessing based on no evidence whatsoever that the nuke would be placed around the middle, like putting VIPs into vehicles in the middle of a convoy. Fortunately Archie had settled into the silt by now and nothing except the undulating land the train was crossing messed with her aiming, unbothered by heat, return fire or ammunition expenditure. Marit could only hope Steel Rain’s DIY smoke screen wouldn’t turn against them, but so far it seemed to be doing its job.

“From the southeast came the second attack; Threat of tomorrow unveiled
11:02 a.m. on the 9th of august; Over the valley, like ball lightning.

The bomb detonates and the land turns to waste; Barren for decades to come
The factories burning, the steelworks destroyed; Surrender your war else you'll perish in flames.

Second attack, B-29s turning back.”

By now the train was shedding shattered and half-melted pieces of armor and running gear, leaving a trail of debris and carved earth in its wake like some slug. Marit was reminded of Völuspá, at first read to her by her mother, edited to be more easily digestible by the mind of a five year old, and later the original text minus the six stanzas worth of Dwarf names. The poem speaks of the end of the world beginning with the sea flooding the world as the world serpent Jörmungandr that encircles Midgard releases its tail from its mouth and comes ashore. From a certain point of view, a rising tide could be thought of as a swelling sea and a nuke certainly qualified as a localized apocalypse, but fortunately the Heavenly Sword didn’t have enough money to bring an actual serpent and had to settle for a slightly overgrown earthworm. ’Maybe if you’d embraced the ways of us capitalist swine, you wouldn’t be poor and could actually afford the check your big mouth is writing.’ Marit giggled as the adrenaline rush from the encroaching doom hit. She just hoped the Knights could take more than nine steps after defeating this thing.
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Hidden 4 mos ago Post by AndyC
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AndyC Guardian of the Universe

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4 Km away from Nui Awa Hydroelectric Dam
24km East of North and South Nui Awa
March 26th, 3030

"What do you mean Gonggong has been boarded?!" The Sword-Bearer shouted into his comms. "That train was reinforced with tank armor and its hatches were welded shut!"

One of the few remaining attendants in the Sword-Bearer's camp heard their leader's composure begin to falter for the first time he could remember. It was disturbing to see such frustration and anger on his face, given his unwavering conviction and unflagging confidence at all other times.

"Sword-Bearer," the attendant hazarded getting his leader's attention, "If the wisdom of Heaven has decreed we should not see victory this day, perhaps it is time we regroup to--"

"They're shooting its wheels off?!" he ignored his attendant. "But their own men are on board! Are they insane?!"

"Perhaps we have underestimated the convictions of--"

The attendant's vision went white for a moment as pain exploded across his face, the back of the Sword-Bearer's hand connecting with his cheekbone at blinding speed.

"They are mercenaries!" he hissed. "Capitalist prostitute scum! They know nothing of conviction! And yet they have slowed Gonggong to a crawl!"

"A thousand apologies, Sword-Bearer," the attendant cowered. Part of him was regretting having ever gotten roped into this group of political radicals at university. If he had only majored in electronics like his father wanted instead of political science...

"Well, line up some of the rocket buggies and focus fire on--....all dead?" The Sword-Bearer swore under his breath. "What about the bikes? Some of them were carrying Inferno launchers, and-- no, of course, all dead too. What do we have left in the vehicle bays?"

".....ahh, nothing, Sword-Bearer?"

He looked at the attendant with accusatory disbelief. "Nothing?!"

"Well...err....there is a small two-stroke dirtbike, but it is hardly--"

"It will have to do," the Sword-Bearer said with renewed purpose. "You. Command of this station is yours for the time being. I will see to these matters myself."


"You heard me!" he barked with contemptuous impatience. The attendant watched with awe as the Sword-Bearer, brimming with confidence, strode away from the comms station towards the vehicle bay.

A minute later, the attendant heard the sound of a small two-stroke engine sputtering to life...

...and quickly after that, he saw the dirtbike and its rider speeding off, away from the battle, as fast as it could go...

Nui Awa Hydroelectric Dam
20km East of North and South Nui Awa
March 26th, 3030

"Jesus shit!" Corporal Jean Francis cursed as the entire land-train rattled and shuddered. Defusing a bomb was delicate work even under the best conditions, much less when she was getting shot at by a lance of her own side's 'Mechs.

"There goes another wheel," Corporal Ortega called out over comms. "ride's about to get a lot bumpier!"

"Oh good," Francis sighed to herself, before turning her attention back to the tangle of wires, power packs, and circuit boards, an unholy jumble that looked like it was cobbled together out of everything from military noteputers to civilian video game consoles. At the center of it all was a large metal case, about the size of a 'Mech ammunition crate, inside of which was a warhead that would vaporize them, wipe out most of the Green Knights, and flood two cities if she screwed this up.

"Right...right," Francis said as she worked, a screwdriver in one hand, a pair of clippers in the other, and the name of every god she'd ever heard of running through the back of her head. "This has to be the proximity sensor, which means that these wires should connect to....yeah, that one's the power source, and that one's the warhead, but what the hell are the other three--FUCK!

Another impact threw Francis and the jumble of electronics hard to one side. Panic began to set in on the Corporal as she desperately tried to untangle herself from the mess of wires. "I don't wanna die, Christ, I don't wanna die."

"'Want,' hell, Corporal!" Sergeant Dalton bellowed. "You don't have permission to die til I say so!"

Once again, the fear of being converted to radioactive vapor was somehow less than the fear of the Sarge's wrath.

"Yes, sir!" Corporal Francis responded, a fresh new motivation running through her. "Right. Undo this coupling here....right, now this keypad has a passcode to access the warhead's triggering mechanism. If I crack it open, though...yes, I can cross these wires and bypass it altogether..."

Francis walked herself through the process, panic giving way to purpose, following the electronic clutter and making her way towards the heart. Conventional wisdom said to double- and triple-check every step in the case of something this important. This wasn't the time for conventional wisdom; the only thing for it was to just get everything right in one go.

Everything lurched hard to the other side.

"Everyone grab onto something!" Ortega shouted over the comms. "We're augering in hard!"

As the Green Knights outside pounded the lead car into scrap, the land-train veered off-course and plowed into a ditch.

For several seconds, everything was noise and confusion.

Focus, Francis! the Corporal ordered herself, bracing against the wall of the car and holding on for dear life to a circuit board connected to five wires.

Hang on, she realized. This is the master board! One of these wires will disarm the warhead...but the rest will blow us all to hell! Okay, think, Francis, think...

The side of the train car impressed in with a horrible screeching noise as the car ground against a large boulder.

Five wires....the black one goes to the initiator...and that's the thermal switchgear...but those two aren't supposed to lead over---.....okay. Blue or green. One of these works, the other we're all dead.

Francis placed the blades of her wire cutters on the green wire, closed her eyes, gritted her teeth....

Here goes...

...then quickly moved to the blue wire and cut.

Then everything was dark.

Everything was silent.

Everything was still.

"Whooooo!!!!! Holy fuck, we're alive!"

Corporal Francis realized she still had her eyes closed, and that the land-train had finally ground to a halt.

"Wait....I was right?!"

Francis looked up at the bomb, and saw all the electronics around it had gone dead.

"Hell of a call, Corporal," Sergeant Dalton said, with a smirk that was the closest thing she'd ever seen to him smiling. "You just got us our very own nuke."

The Corporal finally allowed herself to breathe, and shook her head. "I, ah...thank you, sir."

New People's Democratic Republic of Espia Spaceport
12km West of Balya Gora
March 26th, 3030

"Unbelievable," the Fire Witch snarled as the deck chief sputtered and cowered before her. "These assets are going to help us flush out and annihilate the Green Knights, and you cannot even be bothered with basic security detail! Who knows what those intruders managed to do while they were sneaking about unnoticed!"

"W-w-we have guards stationed all through the spaceport, M-Ma'am!" the chief pleaded. "I d-d-don't know how two p-people who aren't on the p-p-personnel roll were able to g-g-get into--AAAAAIIIIEEEE!"

The deck chief screamed in agony as the Witch's neural lash came down across his back.

"I want the names of every security guard on duty tonight," she demanded. "And I will see to it myself that they are punished for this--"

"Fire Witch Actual," a voice came over her personal comm. This is Witch Lance Three. We just picked up some unusual seismic activity heading away from your area. The signal was spotty, but there were a few tremors that match the signature of Battlemech footsteps."

The Fire Witch gripped her neural lash so tightly the leather of the handle began to creak.

"The Green Knights..." she growled.

"B-b-but that's i-impossible!" The deck chief sputtered. "The s-spaceport has a p-p-powerful sensor dome! We would've d-d-detected 'Mechs in the area if they--AAAAAAAH!!!!"

"They have a Raven in their ranks," the Crimson Fist Mechwarrior told him. "That 'Mech has a state-of-the-art electronic warfare suite that can override even the most powerful sensors, let alone the pathetic civilian models at this port."

The Fire Witch's blood boiled. She had nearly destroyed that damned Raven during their battle earlier. If she had finished the job then, they would have never been able to sneak into this spaceport and cause trouble.

The Crimson King would have her head for this.

"Witch Lance, prepare to move out," she called to her fellow Mechwarriors. "We won't likely catch up with them, but we're going to find their trail and start tracking where they went. I'll take that Raven and its pilot if I have to burn every inch of ground on this miserable planet!"

Rooftop of the 'Diamond in the Rough' Bar
NPDRE-Occupied District
North Nui Awa
March 26th, 3030

"No, I'm not being followed," Stiletto said into her personal communicator, checking the one door to the roof for the twelfth time to make sure no one was up here with her. "All due respect, this is not my first outing."

Her rendezvous with the two visitors in the bar earlier had proven far more fruitful than she could have hoped for. Still, her superiors would want a full debriefing and assess the situation before deciding on the next course of action.

"I can confirm much of what we've already suspected," she said. "The propaganda reports from Malenkov are completely false. Gawain's Green Knights are still alive, and are still a combat capable unit. They still have access to their Battlemechs, and they are actively working against the NPDRE."

Stiletto's superiors had been working with Governor Xiu on long-term plans that had far-reaching implications for Espia, and the coup that had deposed him couldn't have come at a worse time. Not only was Premier Federov unfamiliar with any long-term plans for Espia beyond his own, but he had no interest in sharing the planet's future with anyone but himself and his inner circle.

"I believe they will prove a most valuable asset," Stiletto continued. "By introducing them to elements of the Free People's Army, the combined force can prove to be a powerful destabilizing factor. They must be made to see that they need to cooperate in order to survive. Without the firepower of the Green Knights, the FPA will be ground to dust. And without the FPA's connections and logistics, the Knights' power will wither and dry up long before their fight is over."

Stiletto had to admit, she had taken a liking to the two that had come to the Diamond in the Rough. The one who had wandered in a few days before, she could talk the talk, but had no ability to keep it cool. She had no future playing the great game. But those two, if they ever tired of the mercenary life, had potential...

"Yes, sir, I will see to it," she responded to her orders. "No sir, they don't suspect a thing. My cover remains intact. The plan remains intact as well."

Regardless of who won the overall battle between the FPA and the Espian Guard, and the titanic 'Mech struggles between the Green Knights and the Crimson Fists, the survivor would be too severely weakened to maintain any effective grip on Espia. Bloodied and spent, the supposed winner would have to either play by their rules, or be easily replaced.

"I will continue to work with the Green Knights and the FPA," she said, "and I will lead them to their inevitable fate."

This was a game that Stiletto had only recently learned to play, but she had taken to playing it well. Perhaps, though, that was just because it was a game her superiors had rigged to always win.

"Expect my next communication after they have made contact," she concluded.

Looking around once more to see the coast was clear, she ended her call,

"And may the Peace of Blake be with you."
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Hidden 4 mos ago Post by Starlance
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