"PLANCOM, this is Rat 1-6. Orders acknowledged. Over."
The radio orders were broadcast from the Captain's comm circuit to the rest of the lance and the other officers in the Task Force to keep them up to date on the new orders.
"Rat 1-6 here, we're redeploying the mechs from planned patrol to focus on sensor anomalies in the Pitt basin. Burns, von Wulfhart, Mattlov, use jets to obtain overwatch positions and maintain security. Rall, Bjornson, Eichberg and myself will push through along to grid 5-Bravo-9'er-Delta from here. Lieutenant Mazigh will oversee drone deployment and security to cover the flank approaches."
Captain Hart had the typical Davion 'school' accent; like the BBC of ancient Terra, Davion school-ships and broadcasts emphasized a common accent, and the Captain had it. He was some part of Draconis March gentry, but a career officer and NAIS cadre instructor, tasked with finishing off mechwarriors that were deemed ready to start their careers before they graduated and were placed in units. It was a shakedown for cadets that transitioned them from the rigid structure of the academy to active duty and, presumably, command in the future.
The man was in an Enforcer, a very standard type of Davion mech, though his was fitted, as all the mechs here were, with advanced technology. Steelton was near the periphery, had lots of environmental factors to deal with and so it was an ideal place to train new mechwarriors and test new equipment. They ran exercises against the Star Guards, an elite unit, and learned things the hard way alongside and against some of the best Mechwarriors in the Inner Sphere. The Captain was well-respected with these men and women, coming from McKinnon's Raiders, in the 7th Crucis Lancers. He'd fought the Dragoons and lived to tell the tale. He'd fought in the Fourth Succession War and the War of 3039 and had a good professional reputation among fellow mechwarriors; even Crab Carraza, the Star Guards' commander. The rest of them, however, just fresh from the academy, were firmly made aware of their position on the pecking order by the Star Guards personnel they ran into -- they were greenies.
Mattlov had a very similar accent was the product of good schooling and NAIS, though he was not an aristocrat, more of a man-at-arms from a family, on the maternal side, of Mechwarriors who weren't title-holders. The distinction didn't matter that much; a mechwarrior was a mechwarrior, at least in the Federated Suns, and they all fancied themselves knights defending their realm. His Shadow Hawk happened to be painted a dusty desert pattern to match the terrain, and it didn't shine, but that didn't dull the romanticism of being a mechwarrior for Mattlov. He bought the Hanse Davion cult, the image of the great savior of their civilization, a man and a cause to fight for. His Caph upbringing was supposed to make him cynical of the mass media manipulation, even in a constitutional state like the Federated Suns, but he followed his mother's path, a warrior's path.
PLANCOM's regional sensor net had gone down about a day ago, which meant that geographic data was not being updated realtime and commos depended on onboard systems alone. Mechs were fine, but a lot of vehicles weren't. As a result, the Star Guard sent out one of their engineer detachments along with the task force in the area to check on the backup sensors system and stand by to activate them to keep the navigation networks going. It was an ideal time to send out a lance, preferably a green one, to pick up some good training in the field doing maneuvers with their mechs while providing an escort (and a tie-in to the planet's commo net) for the engineering, infantry and other elements in the area. Steelton was a hub of anti-piracy operations near the Periphery in Lyran Space, but it was unlikely that a raider element would hit a planet with an elite garrison. All the same, standard operating procedure in the Star Guards, and Mattlov approved, was to take it all seriously.
After all, Caph didn't expect to get hit in 3039, but he was there for it when the Ryuken regiments landed. They were beaten bloody by the ready reserve for the Federated Suns push into the Combine, but it taught Mattlov a valuable lesson; don't assume. He vaguely monitored the lance's internal commo net, but maintained relative silence. They had a lance leader and commo discipline could be hard to maintain at times on boring 'milk run' operations, but Mattlov learned the hard way through NAIS discipline to keep it professional in the cockpit. He had a mouth, so the lessons were reinforced with a lot of company punishment before he finally got it.
As the lance started underway, he stowed the mental chatter and focused on visuals; his Shadow Hawk had good sensors and comfortable life support, but he wasn't relying just on the sensors. Sensors could lie, after all and the eyes were needed. Once upon a time, Star League Mechwarriors were rumored to fight inside a sealed cockpit with sensors only. Mattlov couldn't see it, even though his neurohelmet was an old Star League model, provided by his parents as an early graduation gift; his mother knew how to pick the most utilitarian equipment and his father had connections through the family import/export company to get their son that, even if they could not afford a Mech.
The interface was wholly different; the SLDF model neurohelmets had a different system architecture and OS than the newer-made stuff. This one was vintage, SLDF-issue rather than a remake with familiar Davion-style screen layouts on his HUD using the old Star League tech; lostech, they once called it.
It was also a different color than the usual gold that he was used to, with different shapes and indicators for features to get his attention. He used the settings in live-training in the mech and in the simulators, but noticed a subtle difference in how the mech handled with this neurohelmet's interface.
The mech had a smoother than usual gait, and he owed it to the interface of the neurohelmet. Always a deft, delicate 'twitch' hand with the controls of a mech, which included a control stick that was set between the legs (not always the case, depending on the mech type) he marveled at the slightly elevated performance the helmet afforded. He'd gone out in a spare neurohelmet, a regular one, just because Senior Technician Reginald, his mech's crew chief, wanted to know if it was the mech or the helmet. They ran the data, crunched out a comparative report and made the SLDF neurohelmet's performance another piece of all the reports they were generating on this test equipment.
The Shadow Hawk had a restricted field of vision in some ways, which was a criticism of the design; the autocannon was overhanging the left shoulder, and there was a Streak-SRM-2 on the right side of the head, which was, quite simply, a reality of the design. Other mechs had far more expansive views, but he always liked the feel of a Shadow Hawk. The hum of the engine and power systems, the slight whine of the actuators and myomers, different in every mech, was to his liking in this particular type of Mech. He felt like he had the extra touch in one of these, and it had nothing to do with the new neurohelmet, though that helped.
There wasn't much of a view. Steelton was a dusty wasteland with mineral riches. It had jutting rock formations with a very specific hexagonal sort of characteristic that spoke of ancient geological activity of some sort, but it was mostly sand. Some extra heat, but nothing the sinks on his mech couldn't cope with. It was shades of sand, clay and slate out there, but at least the skies were clear and the horizon extended a ways. It was a desert vista that sung to his mother's heritage, and totally unlike Caph or New Avalon.
Weapons were not hot, but they could be very quickly. That was another operational rule of the Star Guards. They'd loaded with live ammo, not training stuff, just in case.
As their orders were given, he shifted his Shadow Hawk into a faster run as a prelude to a jump; with the rumble and roar of the jets beneath him, he used the neurohelmet to balance the Mech as it came down, to position the legs just so on the high ground he and the two others were told to ascend. There was a crunch of landing, as the myomers in the legs absorbed the landing shock and the arms splayed out to help the mech maintain balance just as a human would, with assistance from the neurohelmet interface.
Meanwhile, further below, the non-jumpers were making their way forward, sensors out...