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No worries mate, life's a priority.
The hubub that followed the raid and Hugh’s appearance had wound down somewhat, once again replaced with more monotone routine with the exception of the Lumberjack retrieval sortie, and even that was disappointing in a petty way as none of them got to drive it back. On one hand it would’ve been an interesting entry in the logbook, on the other she’d have paid to see Ingrid driving an IndustrialMech. Fortunately one of Lister’s buddies from supply found two fairly fresh decks of cards in the captured trucks and organized a poker game with whoever felt like joining, once they carefully scrubbed the markings off the cards. Just a few overturned crates for seating with a pile of garbage from MREs in the middle of the ‘table’ - empty coffee packets were one tenth of a C-Bill, jam packs stood for a fifth, empty creamers for a half and gum wrappers for a whole C-Bill.

The day’s topic of idle chatter was news from Portveyn and the Heavenly Sword broadcast. Though the maniacs weren’t wrong calling them capitalist sellswords - like there was anything wrong with that - their actions shook up the state of things. She thought of an alliance, or rather a continuation of their contract with the loyalists as a done deal. Well that went up in flames. Literally. Had uncle Kjell been there, he would’ve given her no small amount of shit for calling a hit before the salvo landed so to speak, and would have been absolutely correct. Now the Fists knew they were still capable of fighting and their most effective potential ally had been badly maimed. Xiu was hardly a strong or popular leader, that much was clear even before it all went to shit, but how long would it take the loyalists to get back on their feet, if they would at all? Not bad for a group their briefing before the supply raid labeled a non-threat. And with the content and phrasing of the proclamation, they earned themselves a place pretty high on Marit’s shitlist. Maybe even higher than the Fists themselves.

The Colonel’s call to action stations put an end to both her thoughts and the game. With everyone dropping what they were holding and making a beeline toward wherever they would be most useful, Rimmer made sure to knock the table over as he passed, making it impossible to tell who had what and how much he lost. Fortunately, it was a false alarm. Old lady had some balls to walk in there, that was for sure, but she could’ve said she was friendly earlier so Marit wouldn’t have pulled an achilles tendon trying to get around the table-crate. ”Think she’s thrown her lot in with the NPDRE and realized the best way to get rid of us is to give us our people back, pack us into our ships and send us on our merry way?” Marit asked the room, getting several shaking heads in response. ”Yeah, me neither, but it would’ve been nice.” Still, the woman’s offer was interesting - and a lot more appealing than trying for the FPA - so she hobbled closer to hear where it will go, hoping the Colonel won’t take the negotiations somewhere private.
The plan worked. Few reasons it should’t have, it was simple enough, but fuck improvizing like that. With the help of an offered hand, she made it into the car and nothing held them back from leaving the local welcoming committee in the dust. Of course if anyone with a rifle in that crowd wanted them dead, the car would do them no good. It was like a child feeling safer in the bed than standing in the middle of the room. It was certainly better than getting trampled by a mob or having your face smashed with a brick because someone wanted your jacket. But once they rounded the first corner, they seemed to be in the clear. So much so she stretched her legs as much as the truck bed would allow, shoved the backpack under her head and tried to get at least some rest now that they were - however briefly - in control of their own fates.

Until Sean’s warning cry jolted her out of her stupor, the Russian rolling over to her side with the rifle pointing out of the car as if on autopilot. Given the speed at which they’d pass the checkpoint, she moved the fire selector to the middle position and sent a single long burst perpendicular to the car’s direction of travel, rolling back to her back once they passed and moving the selector all the way down where it belonged, ready to trade fire with any of the outpost defenders that would try their luck as they sped away. They didn’t seem to be in fighting mood, leaving her to try and rub away the ringing in her ear from a near miss.

“Put it in first gear so they can’t push or tow it and put the keys into a pocket we can easily reach if you get shot. Good luck to any would be thief moving this out of the alley without them.” Yekateina said as she bent down in front of the truck, taking thirty seconds to observe the underside, “Doesn’t look like anything’s leaking, I was a bit worried about the radiator.” She changed magazines, making sure there was still a round in the chamber. 31 to work with and back to shooting in a way that allowed her to keep track. “Once more unto the breach, dear friends…” the Russian muttered as she stacked up behind Hayden, “Let’s do this place a favor.”
”...aaaaand look at the time, it looks like the ambush will have to wait until after the debriefing.” She silenced the buzzer which was almost immediately drowned out by protests.
“You can’t leave us hanging with a Longbow cresting the hill and a Raven negating Miss Ziska’s jamming!”
”Patience, guys. I’m not doing 200 pushups because I was debriefing the next generation of Green Knights.“ The looks in their eyes left her with no doubt that they thought that was a pretty good deal, ”I know: How about you take the time to think about what you would have done if you had been there instead of one of us and we’ll compare against what really happened when the briefing’s over?” That had always worked on her when she was that age and badgering her mother for the latest war stories. ”Best answer gets the candy bar from my next ration pack.” She added on her way out for better effect.

Marit nodded at the critique, in full agreement and having expected worse. Although Archers were fairly well armored, the Colonel was right in a way - just because you could didn’t mean you should. Not if she could help it anyway. She didn’t expect they’d try to salvage the Raven though, despite the benefits. They might even go back for the container she abandoned. ”Will there be a sortie to escort the salvage crew?” She asked when the opportunity arose. Not that she was volunteering, but if it had to be done, it had to be done, and surely there was no way the Ostroc or the Raven would be ready that quickly. ‘And it’s free time in the cockpit.’ The pragmatic part of her brain chided its lazy counterpart. After all, if they could attempt to go get it, why wouldn’t the bad guys? Especially since they’d also be looking for their pilot in that area. At least she assumed, she didn’t know enough to decide if they were the type of people to leave the poor bastard to figure out a way home by himself.

As Hugh was led in, an amused grin slowly grew on her face before transitioning into barely stifled laughter as Dalton held up the mason jar. ”Booze really is the mortar that binds humanity together, isn’t it?” She whispered to whoever was standing next to her, ”Think he followed our tracks?”
Marit safed all the weapons, set the feed systems to unload the launchers and backed Archie into the ‘Mech Bay, the BattleMech leaning on the scaffolding to take weight off the actuators. Once the reactor had shut down and the gyros had spooled down safely, she untangled herself from the cables connecting to the neurohelmet, the six point harness and the tubing from the cooling vest. Taking the helmet off was always a relief, especially after eleven hours, and she took a few seconds to revel in the ability to roll her shoulders again. Setting a 50 minute timer to make it to the debriefing in time and uploading the BattleROM data, she went over the past eleven hours in her mind, looking for anything the Colonel might chew her out for to prepare for it: Some lapses in comms discipline, getting so fixated on one aerial threat she missed another. On the other hand fate decreed she called attention to the threat of Meteors just before the Warriors arrived, so maybe that would go unnoticed, and looting the extra containers was something she said, even if it was an obvious thing to do. She also took the time to note down a Striker, a turret and a Warrior, as well as an assisted Raven, into her logbook.

Next up on the agenda were the post-deployment checks. Two minutes later, her side of those was almost done and she climbed out of the ‘Mech. Lovett was already waiting for her at the hatch with a towel and a bottle of water to rinse off the crust of sweat she’d built up during the mission, while the rest of the technical team were pinning the actuators and doing preliminary visual checks. Retreating back into the cockpit to get dressed somewhere warm, she finished the last item on her checklist by reading off the runtime clocks to Lovett.
“So how are we looking overall?” The senior technician of the ragtag team asked, checking what she reported against his notes.
”Dents from LRMs in armor plating, legs and center torso, but nothing breached it. Others had it way worse. How are we looking on regular maintenance?“
“Next up’s the gyros, 2804 hours left on those. Everything else is 4k plus.”
”By then we’ll be long gone.”
“One way or the other.”
”Oh shush, yee of little faith.” She jokingly chided the ‘MechTech, a wagging finger rising up from the hatch, ”Anyway, as far as Overhauls are concerned, we’re laughing. You need me here for anything else?”
“No, we’re fine. You brought him back in good condition.”

With her responsibilities out of the way, she set about climbing down the scaffolding, stopping at the ‘hip level’ where the techs were busy preparing to start removing the damaged armor plating. When they set out in the morning, she hadn’t noticed Rimmer’s swollen lip. ”Afternoon, guys. Dave, how long will this take?”
“It’s only a few sections, less than a ton. Two hours, but more if the mountings are damaged, why?”
”When you’re done here, I’d like you to head on over to Alleycat and Ramrod’s bays, see if they need extra hands. Those two got beat up pretty bad.”
“Yea, I saw. What did you piss off that could do that?”
”A Raven, a Jenner, a Wolfhound and a Longbow.”
“Smeg… Alright, will do”

Despite the deaths, she still felt good about the mission. They lost four of their number, yes, some food and ammunition and had been forced to abandon some of the cargo containers. But still, there was some good news too, in addition to the nine trucks of loot and surviving an ambush by the Crimson Fists. ”We got one!” She called cheerfully to a crowd of onlookers with a thumb up as she set out to take a walk around the ‘Mech Cave. She’d go check on Ziska once the doctors were done with her. The Colonel was correct - she was hungry and thirsty alright, but most of all, after eleven hours in a chair, she needed to stretch her wooden legs.
”Eat shit!” Marit held a short, private celebration in Archie’s cockpit when she saw the left arm - and with it the dreaded NARC launcher - fly off the Crimson Fists scout ‘Mech. The enemy Raven guy must have seriously hated her by that point, having taken off both his arms already with assistance from her lancemates. A bunch of SRMs followed, the Raven shuddering to a halt in a blaze of inferno gel before being cracked open like a walnut, Marit even managing to catch a glimpse of the purplish-white glow of the plasma from the breached fusion chamber as it rapidly cooled down and dissipated in contact with air.

In that moment, when the Fists Raven’s ECM was silenced and Ziska’s own ECM coverage came back up, the threat of long range missiles from the Longbow was somewhat diminished, if only temporarily, allowing Marit a second or two to look around in relative peace. The Wolfhound was looking rough and preoccupied with Family Man. That was the first time she noticed Ziska’s Raven was covered in mud and missing an awful lot of pieces on the surface. She keyed the mic and broke her radio silence. ”Alleycat, you alive in there?”

But the Longbow needed something else to shoot at. Left to her own devices, of course the Fire Witch didn’t pick a target with thirteen tons of armor and barely a scratch on it, she wasn’t braindead. Ziska was right - she did talk too much, especially for that rotten shot. ”What’s the matter, hard to aim without your tattletale scampering about?” Marit giggled to herself, not bothering to transmit that. No point tempting the fates so. But she would eventually land a solid hit, the convoy was practically a turkey shoot and another savlo would almost certainly kill Ziska, and the Fists were aware that losing either the latter or much more of the former would be a crippling blow to the Knights. Thus, Archie turned on his heel, coming to a stop facing the Longbow in the distance as he walked backwards to keep up with the convoy. Despite looking like a person carrying a keg under each arm, knowing what was in those kegs still made it an intimidating sight. ”Pay no mind to the trucks or the Raven, you big ugly bastard, look at me.” She muttered to herself as she let another volley of two times ten missiles fly at the Longbow. 50 missiles left.

It was strange, she thought as she took a few steps away from the convoy in anticipation of incoming hellfire, but close enough to double back and soak up the hate if the Longbow went for the water trucks. Throughout the entirety of her - admittedly brief - career as a MechWarrior, she always thought of long range missile carriers as something that was standing a fair distance away from the fight and being annoying. What the Crimson Fists Longbow was doing right now. And yet here she was, trying to draw fire to herself.
The flight of long range missiles that slammed into Archie was a bit of an inconvenience, rattling her about a bit, something that was fortunately easily corrected, and a cursory glance at the damage control display quickly put any fears at ease. Rimmer would probably bitch and moan about having to fix the paint, blissfully unaware that winging about a simple task was a sure way to be given that task the next time over. But more importantly, every missile fired at her was a missile that didn’t hit one of the light ‘Mechs or the critical cargo trucks. It could’ve been a lot worse on her end

“Displace the water in its path, Reveal the cannons; Align the guns, unleash their wrath;”

The enemy light ‘Mech was bobbing and weaving, thus managing to avoid half of the disco death show Marit threw at him. Shame. He also didn’t avoid a lot of other things, and more of Marit’s lasers would join the parade any second. And then an icon appeared on her HUD next to the enemy Raven, and in that moment, an uncontrolled grin grew on Marit’s face.

“Unopposed under crimson skies; Immortalized, over time their legend will rise;”

She raised Archie’s right arm to try and shield the cockpit from the Longbow, waited a few seconds for a good tone and with the press of three buttons, Archie’s missile doors opened and two volleys of ten missiles streaked toward the stricken Crimson Fists Raven, guided by Ziska’s NARC beacon. A glance at the thermometer confirmed she was in the clear, the three additional heat sinks allowing her just enough extra breathing room to keep it heat neutral or very close if she fired only missiles or only lasers. 7 volleys left.

“And their foes can't believe their eyes, believe their size, as they fall; And the dreadnoughts dread nothing at all.”

In the heat of the moment, she hadn’t even noticed that Ziska - their personal Huginn - was in a world of hurt herself, only slightly better off than the other Raven in fact, nor that Family Man had lost his grip on sanity, his rambling on the silenced channel coming out of the speaker as mumbling that was easily lost in the noise of motors as the feed system loaded new missiles into the launchers.
It went well. Initially. Then three contacts popped up almost right on top of them. One she could’ve ascribed to a phantom. But three in a formation? No, no, that could only have been...

…Indeed, a Raven, and two other anklebiters out for blood. Marit set the container she was carrying down as fast as she could without dropping it outright, hoping that whatever was in there wasn’t too fragile and opened up on the Raven, firing her four medium lasers at the light ‘Mech’s legs one at a time to avoid a heat spike and maximize her chance to get at least some hits on target. Her first thought even matched that of an experienced MechWarrior to her infinite delight, as obvious as that action was. Unfortunately in the time it took her to ditch her own cargo, one of the captured trucks changed its state from solid to vapor. Then the fourth BatleMech came to view, rounding out a whole lance. Nice of him to skyline himself like that. Cocky bastard.

Being talked to by the Colonel was somewhat expected at this point, but a message from the other side was not. Especially not… this. It was like a villain escaped from an Immortal Warrior episode. One of the weird ones. ”Gutless scum? Hi pot, I’m Kettle, för fan i helvete…” Marit grumbled as she turned the volume of the channel the inflamed bitch was being extra on way down. She had half a mind to send a LRM volley his way, but she also had a feeling all that would do is bring the hammer down on her head next, aided by that scarlet magpie running circles around her.

Speaking of which, she took a few steps to put Archie between the nearest water truck and the Longbow, ready to unload into the offending corvid’s legs again as soon as the cooldowns elapsed. She didn’t know what sort of ritual Reya performed to get their lasers to do what they were doing, but the decreased heat generation and beam duration were perfect for an Archer driven by a novice MechWarrior.
Hayden’s call to action perhaps should’ve been expected, but still made her sigh in frustration. Fuck’s sake, always something in this fucking country. What were the odds they were Edgar’s people and could just be told to fuck off? Yekaterina made sure she wouldn’t crush anyone’s fingers, slammed the hood shut and swung her rifle into her hands. “Sean, get the car going, start moving North-east and take the first turn North. We’ll move alongside until we’re out of sight, then we mount up and scram.” She didn’t want to be in an unarmored car in plain view of multiple firearms, “If the shooting starts before then, park it across the street and tear into them. Beth, come with me.”

She jogged over to Hayden to get a look at what they were facing, “I’d rather not waste rounds on them, but if they get within 150 meters and Sean isn’t moving yet, we’ll light them up while they’re still out of their effective range. If any weapon gets pointed our way, go loud. Once Sean’s moving, get in the bed, we’ll cover you.” It wasn’t quite a turret, but with one of the 100 round pan mags in Hayden’s BREN, it should be good enough to allow him to cover their retreat, provided she and Bethan could keep the skinnies’ heads down long enough for him to get on and get set up.

She made a point to switch her rifle to semi in plain view of the locals and waved them away with her hand, not really thinking it would have any effect, but it couldn’t hurt to try. Then she moved behind cover and shouldered her rifle in low ready, keeping an eye on the guy with the bubba-fucked shotgun. He would have to be the first to go. At 100 plus meters, the melee brigade was a non-issue and she trusted the others to pick targets accordingly. One thing she didn’t understand was why they were this intent on taking them on when half of them couldn’t even fight at range. They couldn’t be simply stupid, could they? That would be too easy. She leaned back behind a wall brace and turned her attention to the North-east end of the street. Having friends flanking the people who outgunned you would’ve been a valid reason for their behavior. It would also put the brakes on her improvised little plan.
That was that taken care of, though someone would miss them eventually. All goes well, they’d be long gone. Only five more hours of walking now stood between them and a good meal. Hopefully a shower. Or so it seemed, until…

"Green Knights, this is Gawain Actual, Hostile mechs inbound, rendezvous at nav-point Echo! Repeat, hostile mechs inbou-"

Enemy ‘Mechs inbound. To quote an immortal classic: ‘Cock…’ How? Was their intel that off? Did they just happen to be moving toward the depot at the same time as they had? Bad luck, this planet, that was the problem. Can’t have anything nice around here. She closed the missile covers again and hauled ass to get away, lamenting Archie’s wide shoulders and short upper forearms which prevented her from dragging the container behind her like everyone else.

”Straight for the nav-point or zig-zag?” She asked, not wanting to lead any pursuers straight to it. Having turned Archie’s torso as far right as it would go, she was now able to look forward out the left hand side of the canopy and more importantly, able to look behind them out the right hand side. After a moment of deliberation, she armed and loaded the second LRM-10 launcher, setting it as a fourth weapons group. Reasoning that if the Meteors were to arrive, they’d have been here already and if they launched in response to the lost gunships, the Knights would be long gone by the time they reached the depot, Marit switched her focus to detecting BattleMechs. As soon as the depot was clear of jamming, they would no doubt start telling everyone what just happened and where the Knights went.
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