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Battletech Welcome to the Jungle

Prologue

Speaker4thesilent

Crazed Deplorable
Joined
Aug 19, 2019
Reaction score
2,671
Location
An undisclosed bunker in Flyover Country.
Crossposting from SB.
AN: Why should you read this? After all, there are several BT SIs out there right now. The short answer? The SI is clueless, since he is based on me before I got into Bruce Quest. Helm. What's that? New Dallas. Where? Never heard of it. BattleTech. Isn't that a tabletop game that wants to be Robotech?
If you want the longer version, well I hope this prologue will make my case.


Prologue​


Repair Depot Gamma, Sh-&$*#[Data corruption detected, location unrecoverable.]

Apollo Province, Rim Worlds Republic

4th J%$*&&[Data corruption detected, date unrecoverable.]


Jason Maxwell cursed as he carefully extracted himself from the left side-torso of the Mackie his crew had been working on for the past week. It was the first of the Assault-weight Militia Battlemechs that they’d worked on, and the theoretical refit their engineers had designed was proving somewhat problematic in practice. The primitive machine with its unfamiliar structure and clunky internals might have been a mainstay of the Hegemony, but the Mechs the Rim Worlds Republic had obtained for its Militia second- or third-hand were some of the first production models. And at more than two centuries old, they were showing their age.

“So what’s the verdict boss?” The inquiring voice that greeted him as he emerged belonged to brown-haired Anne Thompson. She served as his second for their shift, was well liked by the rest of the crew, and was probably his most intuitive tech. Part of that was sheer talent, but the rest was the fact that she’d been working on or around Battlemechs since she was a preteen, and she had the scars on her lithe frame to prove it. When he’d first met her, he’d assumed the angry-looking burn mark that covered most of her left cheek was just one more of those. He’d learned better.

House Amaris’s less-than-gentle touch had affected all of them, or they wouldn’t be where they were now.

“There’s a damn strut in there that isn’t on any of the plans,” Jason replied after his moment’s thought. “I think it was a support for that hunk of junk Fusion Engine they pulled to put the modern 300 in, which means it should already be out of there. It’s no wonder the ammo feed for the LRM launcher doesn’t fit. I’ll have to check with the engineers to be sure, though, so by the time they’ve double-checked, we’re probably going to lose a day of work.”

“Shit,” Anne replied succinctly, a disgusted expression flashing across her face momentarily. After the slow buildup and then the last few months of frantic activity everyone was ready to kick things off and finally take their pound of flesh from Amaris’s government.

Jason shrugged and pulled himself to his feet as he responded, “We knew these old heaps were going to be a pain in the ass to upgrade. It’s why we left the Mackies so late.”

“Well, that and the Administrator is more likely to notice one of the big boys missing or with new gear than an old Commando.” Anne shot back with a lopsided smile, the less mobile skin on her left side only sufficing to give that edge of her lips the faintest hint of a curl.

Just like the curl in her hair. Jason grunted in the affirmative before starting to descend from the maintenance gantry. “See if you can start on the ammo bins for the autocannon while I try to wrangle some eggheads,” he called back up as he descended.

A called, “Yes, Boss!” chased him down before less distinctly-heard commands got his crew up and moving again.

The quickly vanishing island of calm around the opened-up Mackie was the exception to the rule for the rest of the shop. Two Phoenixes were getting worked on in the next set of bays down the line while the last pair of Wasps were being sealed up, their familiar updates complete, in the last two bays on the end.

SLDF’s coming. Jason considered with a deep breath before he set off at a jog. If Amaris’s goons are still in charge when they show up, who knows how much damage they’ll do rooting them out? It barely even bore considering. He’d seen the news imagery from the other Periphery powers back during the war, with Taurian and Canopian cities in ruins after heavy fighting. On another world that might be survivable, but here? Where the planet itself seemed to be out to kill the trespassers that had come to colonize it or been dumped on it? It would be a death sentence. We’ve got to push the Administrator and his people out. We’ve got to.

XXXXX​

Two weeks later.

A pair of gunshots spilled a torrent of adrenaline into Jason’s system and he jumped from ‘fast asleep’ to ‘wide awake’ without bothering to occupy any of the usual intermediate steps. He was out of bed and scrambling for his discarded pants before his brain had caught up. As soon as he had them on, he dashed out into the hallway bare-chested in the cool underground air. He paused, listening as a couple other doors around him slowly began to open before darting left in response to the sound of raised voices.

Then he accelerated when he recognized one of the voices. Damn it, Anne, what the hell did you get into now?

Jason burst into the corridor outside the communications room in time to hear, “-didn’t manage to send it, but she had the damn message typed up. If she hadn’t had to wait for the terminal to encode it …”

Jason made the turn into the little annex where the base’s radio and network communications systems were set up and froze as a sea of red caught his vision, pooling around a trio of bodies on the floor. Holy shit, those are-. Two were in the uniforms of site security. One’s throat was cut and the other was missing his face and much of his skull, probably a wound from a subsonic flechette gun like the one laying on the first guard’s corpse. The last was a woman in unfamiliar body armor who’d presumably been shot in the back of the head, because she didn’t have much of a face left anymore. A few years ago, that alone would have been enough to make him throw up. Nowadays, he was pretty sure the scene was still in the top ten, but it wasn’t top five material.

“Geoffrey?” A familiar voice asked and Jason finally dragged his eyes away from the bodies on the floor to take in-

Yeah, his voice would be familiar, Jason acknowledged. Major Ryan McCaulley had retired from the RWR’s armed forces to take care of his youngest daughter after his wife and his other two children were killed in a traffic accident. And then gone underground after the drunken bastard that did it got off because he was a favorite of one of Amaris’s deputies.

According to rumor, McCaulley had seen the writing on the wall and vanished before the final verdict was read, and a good thing too. His apartment was targeted by “outraged citizens” who were “enraged by his false accusations against a member of the Amaris government.” He’d spent the last decade covertly suborning the local militia and recruiting civilians, like Jason, similarly disaffected with the Republic’s government until finally his network of contacts expanded enough to move into his endgame.

“Not sure what to tell you, Sir,” the technician at the terminal, apparently Geoffrey, replied. “What I can see here fits her story, but I can’t confirm anything. Somebody monkeyed with this thing to cover their tracks, but...” he trailed off.

Finally Jason’s eyes made it to Anne, wearing a long red shirt and shorts with no shoes. She was being held at gunpoint by another member of site security and her right hand was covered in flecks of blood. She was also looking at him with an eyebrow raised. “You in a bit of a hurry there, Boss?” She asked, and Jason realized he was without shoes or even a shirt himself as the Major turned away from the terminal to look at him.

Hoping his face wasn’t glowing too badly from embarrassment, he tried to explain. “I heard the shots, and …” he trailed off. He’d been reacting, not thinking.

“I take it you’re a Tech, then?” Major McCaulley inquired. “If we didn’t need every competent technician we could lay hands on, I’d suggest joining the combat arm. You’ve got the instincts for it,” then the Major shook his head and turned back to Anne.

“And you said you followed her here?” He continued with what seemed to be a pre-existing line of questioning.

“Yes, Sir,” Anne replied. “She woke me up when she shut our door.” At McCaulley’s raised eyebrow she explained, “We’re … we were roommates. Sharilla was pretty new and I was helping her settle in.”

McCaulley cursed at the name which drew surprised looks from everyone but the tech working on the electronics. The Major almost never lost his composure. “This would be Sharilla Moore?” When Anne nodded her confirmation he continued, “I remember her name. Sought us out after she lost her son and husband to Amaris’s thugs. We were able to confirm her son’s death, but not her husband’s.” He shook his head, “Thought if they were trying to insert a plant that they’d have done it the other way around.”

He took a deep breath and waved off the guard. “If Miss Thompson were the responsible party, she’d be wearing combat gear like Miss Moore was.” When the guard closed the door behind him as he exited, the Major lifted his off hand and Jason realized he was holding a short-barreled revolver by the cylinder. “Though I really ought to confiscate this. You know the rules about keeping weapons in barracks …”

Anne stiffened before she answered. “It was my father’s, Sir,” she replied tensely and met McCaulley’s eyes with a stubborn expression.

Some understanding passed between them in that moment and the Major nodded. “Well, you’ve certainly proved that you know how to use it. Congratulations, Miss Thompson, the traditional reward for a job well done is a harder job. You are retroactively being promoted to counterintelligence, which means you can and should keep a firearm even in quarters. I’ll have the accountants update your records,” he stated with a faint smile for Anne’s expression. Jason, too, found himself grinning as the Major turned to leave with one final remark.

“Better try to get some sleep, Agent, Foreman. It’s already tomorrow and there’ll be more than enough work to go around.”

As the two of them walked dazedly back to the technician’s barracks, past the small crowd that had gathered, a thought occurred to Jason, “So, Agent, does this mean you outrank me now?”

“Shut up, Boss,” she said and elbowed him in the ribs. But she smiled when she did it.

XXXXX​

Sixteen Days Later.

“Ammo bins are filled!” Anne yelled up at Jason from the ground as he and his assistants finished applying the last of the armor patches the Mackie had needed to its center torso. Getting the big bastards ready in time had been a copper-plated bitch, but imagining the looks on the 31st Amaris Dragoons Rampage pilots’ faces when the Militia’s old Mackies turned out to have not just heavier armor but also better weapon loadouts than them? That was enough to warm the cockles of his heart.

“All done here too!” Jason called as he and the two less experienced techs working with him abandoned their position and the field gantry was pulled away from Assault ‘Mech’s torso. The Mackies were the first priority for servicing; they needed the extra time to compensate for their low top speed. On the other hand, their relatively small engine meant that they could pack in a lot of weapons in space that would otherwise be taken up by, say, a Rampage’s 380 engine.

“Got some scuttlebut from the front,” Anne bragged, interrupting his thoughts as the field repair unit pulled up to the next unit in line, a Phoenix that looked to have been absolutely hammered by missiles. They were going to have to replace three fourths of the armor panels on its torso and at least half of the ones on its left arm. The pilot was lucky he hadn’t lost any of the lasers there.

“Oh?” Jason responded, trying not to sound too interested. By Anne’s there-and-gone grin he’d failed.

“The Major guessed right about how Amaris’s commanders would respond to ‘terrorists in industrial Mechs’ taking out the ASFs at Landing’s starport,” she began, using the original name for the field. No one in the resistance cared to remember which reeking asshole among the Amaris dynasty it had been renamed for. “The Dragoons sent in a lance each of Rampages and Warhammers …”

She trailed off. She was baiting him, and he knew it, but everyone was on tenterhooks hoping for success. “Well?” He finally demanded after a long moment.

“Whooped their asses!” Anne’s expression which had been remarkably grave melted into a grin. “That Mackie we were just working on? That was the only damage we took. A lance of them baited the Dragoons out onto the runway and then called in artillery. Pounded both enemy lances to scrap!”

Jason felt a vicarious thrill. That was good news. Trading about an hour’s worth of repairs and some ammo for eight enemy mechs? The 31st Dragoons couldn’t afford many disasters like that. “I take it from the bait they used that we got the ASF’s at Landing on the ground. Have we heard anything about the rest of their air wing?” he asked. That was probably the one question on everybody’s minds, because while they’d managed to refit almost all of the Militia’s Mechs, their ASFs were a different story. They had too few of those for any of them to go missing long enough to get any useful update.

“Good news there too,” Anne responded quickly as they observed their crew stripping damaged armor plates off of the Phoenix cradled in the mobile repair bay, “That Wasp pilot who got his ride’s arm blown off? He said he’d heard from the Captain of his Scout company that the Dragoons only got four fighters in the air before they had a Company of Phoenixes hit them at Fort Amaris. Wrecked everything they had there too, and our ASFs cleaned up.”

“What about-”

Anne knew him too well. “Haven’t heard anything about the Sausage-Maker’s space station yet,” she answered before he could even complete the question.

Jason knew his own expression had congealed just thinking about the bastard. Amaris’s governor made sure to never so much as come within the planetary atmosphere. Might as well call him Warden, it’s what he is. Half prison Warden and half industrial-level Butcher, the Sausage-Maker fed human beings into the meat grinder of the planet’s ecology. Who cared if more than 100 people died a day in the Germanium mines as long as they produced their quota of ore? Who cared if a worker was executed whenever a factory’s shift failed to meet their quota?

Well, we care, bastard! And you’re about to get what’s coming to you. It seemed entirely fitting to Jason that the very abuse and neglect that had created so much hatred for the Governor was also what had allowed them to build up the reserves of the new materials they’d needed. As long as the quota was met, no one bothered to inspect the factories, not even to see if there was extra product being smuggled out. If only we’d gotten more of the kinks in Gauss Rifle production worked out. They had been able to appropriate unfortunately few of the weapons. They were just too difficult to produce.

“Well, all we can do is do our jobs and trust that the flyboys will do theirs. That means I need to go check to make sure nobody tries to cut corners on the armor replacement.” Jason shot Anne as fierce a look as he could muster.

“Since you seem to be so good at talking to Mechwarriors, you can go remind this one that the Phoenix is meant to bully lighter Mechs and flank heavier ones, not get into fair fights with Mechs carrying enough missile tubes to do that to it.” He waved his hand at the injured Medium which now looked even worse than before with a couple of armor segments removed for replacement.

“And if I should just so happen to gather some intelligence at the same time …” Anne met his eyes with a commendably severe expression.

“You have your mission, Agent,” he ordered with mock severity even as the grin was turning up the corners of his lips.

“Yes Boss!” Anne’s own smile broke free as she bounced away.

XXXXX​

Twenty days later.

Their intelligence apparatus had screwed them. Or, not exactly, but Jason wasn’t in a fair-minded sort of mood as he coughed. The system kept us safe from Amaris for years. Did the job it was built to do. It had still doomed them in the end; the system had been built with an eye toward secrecy and keeping messages from being intercepted or traced. That meant it had sacrificed speed for security.

It also meant that they’d had no idea a Warship and a small convoy of Jumpships had finally showed up to transport the backlog of components that had built up on the planet over the last year. Six and a half hours before they’d launched their rebellion. Their ASFs had still managed to kill the Corvette, but it had done a number on the old birds, and they hadn’t quite been enough to also take out the orbital station as well. Hurt, yes. Kill? No.

And the Sausage-Maker had taken his revenge.

Jason took the handkerchief away from his mouth and folded it again to keep the blood on the inside. He’d need a new one soon. The crew, about half the size a proper crew ought to be, had just about got the last Mackie prepped for storage. Wouldn’t do for the SLDF to have to waste time pulling bad seals and then fixing all the problems that would result from them instead of just being able to plug new ones in and go. The XLFEs were supposed to be even worse about that and a standard Fusion Engine. He waved to Anne as he walked past, but the crew weren’t his responsibility anymore.

He was one of the few people they had cross-trained on Amaris’s shitty database software. The only one, now. He and a few assistants had spent the last week getting the maintenance manuals and careful technical drawings the engineers had put together over a decade of careful studies and experiments scanned into the computer and written into the indexing system. It wasn’t what the program was intended to be used for, they didn’t have the best writer head, and the memory core was third-hand, but the kludge seemed to be holding up. At least when the SLDF arrived, they’d be able to field and repair the ‘Mechs. None of our people would get to see it, though.

We knew if we lost we were dead anyway. It’s just … it hurts to have come so damn close. Rather than wallow in self-pity, Jason opened the door to the little office off of the depot’s storage floor. He didn’t have that much left to do anyway.

The next hour passed largely in a haze of irritation occasionally interrupted by bouts of coughing. The handkerchief was pretty thoroughly used up by the end, too. He’d just finally managed to hunt down the single missing keystroke that had made a hash of the Thunderbolt’s entry in the database when the door into the little office space opened and Anne walked in looking as bad as he felt.

“All done?” he asked, then grimaced and cleared his throat. His voice had come out too high and a touch distorted.

At least the adolescent squeak drew a giggle from his second, though her smile was short-lived and wan. “That was the last of the intact Mechs. They’re all configured for long-term storage now. Even the ones we didn’t have time to refit,” she explained.

Her voice was hoarse, probably from yelling orders in addition to the coughing. “What about …” Jason trailed off, not quite sure how to continue.

Like always, Anne seemed to be a step ahead of him. “Sent everybody home. For values of home,” she said and shrugged.

Those with families or even close friends had mostly departed. Not that it had helped anyone who left. The hospitals didn’t have anything that could cure what Amaris’s bastard had dumped on them, and they’d run out of cough syrup quickly.

Most of the people who had stayed had done so because they’d been given orders and they believed in the mission. Now the mission was over. The Mechs and spares were safely stored away for the SLDF.

Jason expected most of them would probably walk out to the lip of the terrace and watch the sun set. Then step off the edge. Better than waiting for your lungs to fill up with fluid and drown you or to just bleed to death from tissue lysis.

At least I won’t have to clean up any more self-inflicted gunshot wounds. There had been a reason they’d saved a flamer-equipped Mackie refit for last. Several people had chosen that way out at first. Nobody who’d had to clean one up had followed suit.

“Almost done here. Had to fix a mistake Harrison made on the Thunderbolt or I’d probably be finished already,” He informed his loyal second. There was only the Wasp to finish up and it shouldn’t take long. Even with an XLFE, there wasn’t much to the light Mech.

“Isn’t as if I’ve got anything pressing to do,” Anne admitted and sat down on the couch Jason had been sleeping on.

That statement, though; it bothered Jason. Finally, after trying to correct the same entry three times between bouts of coughing he stopped and finally admitted what had been bothering him. “I wish I’d asked you out.”

There was a long pause as he stared unseeing at the terminal screen before Anne responded, “Don’t know that I would have said yes.”

Well, that was pretty def-

“At the time,” she continued, unknowingly interrupting his thought, “I … wanted to wait. Until things were settled, one way or the other.” He turned in time to watch her swallow, moisture in the corners of her eyes.

“I’d already outlived one family. Didn’t want to risk outliving another,” a tear beaded and fell, passing over her scarred cheek, and Jason was out of his seat and kneeling in front of her, hands clasped with hers. He released her right hand so she could wipe away tears and brought the knuckles of the left up to his lips.

“Seems I’m a day late and a dollar short as usual,” he said with the best smile he could manage under the circumstances, “but would you mind spending the rest of the day with me, once I’ve polished off the last of this?” He waved his hand to indicate the work terminal he’d been laboring over. She gave a watery giggle that turned into a cough, but nodded her consent.

With a weight off of his shoulders, despite the growing one in his chest, Jason set to work with better concentration. Amaris’s software was a pain, but it was workable. Enough anyway. It took him an hour to finish off the last of the stuff for the Wasp. Really ought to go over everything again, but-

It could wait for a few hours at least. Jason turned in his swivel chair and was glad he hadn’t done anything dramatic. Anne, it seemed, had fallen asleep waiting for him to finish up. Almost hate to wake her, he thought as he stood and approached the couch. She’d looked so tired when she’d come in the door …

He stopped and sank down on his knees. His left hand took hold of hers. “Oh, Anne,” he whispered and his right came up across his forehead as tears finally began to fall. “You go on ahead, now,” he told her and carefully laid her hand back on her lap. “Let me just finish this, and I’ll come sit with you.”

Jason turned back to his desk and ran the last checks on the database through blurry eyes.

XXXXX​

“-has confirmed it. It’s anthrax, and it’s been weaponized.” Johan Weber hammered his right fist down on his station chair’s armrest as he listened to the message from the surface, “We assumed any bioweapon would have burned itself out by now, but Bacillus Anthracis sporulates. All it did was retreat into spores until we got here and started poking around.” Mercer broke into a coughing fit, and took a long moment to compose himself.

When he regained control over himself, he glared into the lens, “Doc also says nothing we’ve got will touch this. Don’t risk coming for us. SLIC can’t afford to lose a prowler over a dozen scouts. Just let the General know that it’ll be centuries before this hellhole is habitable again, if it ever is.”

The recording reached its conclusion, and Johan let out a long breath through his teeth. He’d worked with Max for years. Leaving him down on the surface of that God-forsaken planet to rot sat poorly with him, but his fellow SLIC agent was correct. They were in for a long damned war before they could reasonably expect to restore the rightful government of the Hegemony and there were never enough ships to go around anyway. Risking one on a forlorn hope would be incredibly irresponsible. Even so, he uncurled his fingers.

He’d already been unprofessional once, no need to compound that. “Astrogation, plot a course for our extraction jump point. I’ll be in my ready room.”

Johan stood up and left the Prowler’s cramped bridge; the Bug-Eye class ship was small and aging, but it had served SLIC well long before the recent unpleasantness with Amaris. But he was going to send a last message to the people they were abandoning, and it was going to take several attempts before he got it right. They deserved that much from him, at least.

He thought of his journal as he sat down at his desk and activated the recording software on his secure terminal. He’d promised his children to keep a record of what happened while he was away. That his deployment had been unexpectedly extended by events was …

It would be years before he could return to the Commonwealth. Technically, the journal was a violation of SLIC policy, but he had a child he’d never seen with his own eyes, and two more that had been so small they wouldn’t remember him when he returned home. If he returned home.

He owed his children an explanation for why he had been gone so long, and in that one case regulations could go hang. Updating it before he went to bed was sometimes the only thing that let him sleep.

The recording software finally finished loading and he put other thought out of his mind. “We received your message. As-”
 
Chapter 1

Speaker4thesilent

Crazed Deplorable
Joined
Aug 19, 2019
Reaction score
2,671
Location
An undisclosed bunker in Flyover Country.
Chapter One​


Unknown Facility

Unknown Location

Unknown Date

A blast of sound had me rolling out of bed before my brain was wholly switched from ‘asleep’ to ‘awake.’ It was intensely disorienting, because that didn’t sound like my alarm, and I wasn’t rested enough to be chipper, and thiswasn’tmyroom,whatthe-

There was a hitch in my thought process, and I knew where I was. My barracks room on Icar, where I’d moved to once I was old enough to formally join the family unit. Mostly to get some small distance from my dad, and that alarm-

Shit. Unknown droppers inbound. That was not a sound that either side of me was happy to hear. Local-me knew that the 30th Lyran was currently understrength. 21st century me was confused and scrambling to figure out the plot. I did not react well to unexpected shit like this, and my Autism was starting to act up.

Thankfully, my body had been moving even without anyone in the wheelhouse. I’d thrown a pair of athletic shorts and a wife-beater on and slid into what looked the the half-breed spawn of a pair of moccasins and a pair of sandals.

I dashed out the door into the hallway which was filling with the other pilots of the short Company of Battlemechs Weber’s Warriors operated. Eyes immediately swung to me as the Boss’s son, but it was pretty clear that I didn’t know anything that they didn’t.

Then the door at the end of the hall burst open and Alistair Weber strode out into the hallway with a roar, “What are you doin’ here? Mount up!” Then his eyes swung around and pinned me in place. The half of me from the 21st century was seeing the tall, blond man with a goatee and wondering who the hell he was. The local me was counting my sins and wondering which one might have come to the attention of my father.

Instead, an oversized hand slapped down on my shoulder and the big man-apparently my dad-leaned in and made eye contact. “You’ll be fine. You’ve trained for this. Just do now what you did in practice and you’ll be fine.”

Oh, another of those mental clicks happened, and I recalled that this would be the first time I’d ever been in actual combat rather than just training. “Yes, sir,” I responded, caught between an outsider’s perspective being touched and the local me who was irritated by what he saw as condescension. God, I’m in the body of a teenager. Had to be. Not only did I not hurt the way I had before I woke up, but the attitude was distinctive.

With another pat, dad gave me a light shove, “Now get in your Commando, Junior!”

I did as instructed and headed down the un/familiar hall and with two quick turns through halls with faded paint ended up in the hanger. To half of my mind … it was impressive, the place was old-looking and worn, but well maintained and the sides of the massive room had alcoves containing what looked like mook suits out of a Gundam series.

The other part of me was only aware of all the empty places where Battlemechs would have stood in previous years. Local-me’s Great Grandfather had built Weber’s Warriors into a Battalion with integrated air support. His Grandfather had maintained that level of success with careful business practices rather than immense martial skill. Then one raid in the Combine gone bad had reduced the unit to a reinforced Company without any remaining ASFs and only a single dropship.

It had also dropped his father into command. His-our?-dad had been the only reason that even part of the unit had made it back to the Commonwealth. An elite Mechwarrior, he’d managed to fight his way free with his portion of the Battalion and returned to Icar to regroup, but the unit had stagnated. Poor investments had rendered the unit cash-poor just when they needed money to repair damaged machines, and one by one Battlemechs had been sold off or lost to enemy action due to poor repair or as owner/operators abandoned the sinking ship when their contracts expired. It was …

A lightbulb went on over my head, and I tried not to stumble to a halt. The Grimderp of that mental recounting had finally clued me in. I’m in fucking Battletech aren’t I? Sunova-

If I was going to be dropped into a far future where there was only war, I’d prefer to be in one where I knew something about the setting. Lyran Commonwealth, they’re good guys, right? Pretty sure anyway. One thing I was certain of was that the Combine were a bad guy faction. Basically a cross between Warring States era Japan and World War Two Japan in space.

But the Lyrans … had they been a bad guy faction too at one point? What yea-

Another of those moments that made me feel like my brain had crossed its eyes for a second happened and I knew. 3015. Basically a millennium after I’d been alive. Holy shit. I made it down the elevated gantry and popped the hatch on Striker Alpha, the old COM-2D Commando I’d been assigned out of the unit’s collection of ‘Mechs.

My eyes were immediately drawn to Talons First. I’d never even heard of a Griffin before, but my local self could have described the GRF-1S in exquisite detail down to the differences between it and the -1N with its larger LRM rack and PPC.

The rest of the short company was filled out with a trio of -1A Wasps, a -6M Dervish, a salvaged Panther, and an FS9-H Firestarter. Short company, hell. It was a pair of lances. If there was really a serious raid incoming …

Younger me was eager, but he was 18 and an idiot. I’d been in my 30s before I was woken up by that alarm. Unless they were stupid enough to throw a single lance at us, I didn’t see the day ending well. Nevertheless, I reached for the engine start toggle and gave it a crank.

XXXXX​

Eventually details had come in. A single jumpship, probably an Invader, had arrived at an in-system Pirate Point. That was good news in that they probably didn’t have the forces they needed to take the planet. On the other hand, they weren’t carrying Leopards either. Most of the force seemed to be targeting either the 30th Lyran itself, or the capitol at Athena Magna where they were encamped. Since that was also the location for most of the planet’s sparse industry, it made sense.

However, one dropper, probably a Union based on the mass readings, had bypassed the richer target and instead appeared to have dropped near us in the foothills of the Bellisardes. While there wasn’t much industry around the small city of Uniontown, there was a tungsten mine and a smelting operation. Since that tungsten was one of Icar’s major exports, if they managed to wreck the smelters or even collapse the outer face of the mountain and close the mine …

Well, there was a reason the current Duke’s father had shelled out for mercenaries to sit on it. For the last decade, the Warriors had watched the Kennedy Mine and Uniontown like an old cat with only one kitten. The intimate knowledge of the local terrain the unit had acquired in that time was our best card to play against what was certain to be superior numbers.

They’d landed far enough out to keep their dropship from taking fire from any of the known defenses or any notional hidden defenses, but not so far out that they were obviously going to try to reposition via suborbital hop to catch us off guard.

That had allowed the Warriors to choose the field. And thanks to circumstance, we had one additional trump card: the unit’s FS9-H Firestarter. The Bellisardes were low, forested mountains, not unlike the Appalachians back home and the deciduous trees could be convinced to burn even without being washed in plasma from a ‘Mech’s fusion engine.

Contingency FIREWALKER took advantage of that ruthlessly. Lance one was composed of dad’s Griffin, the Firestarter with Phillip ‘Rowdy’ Wenkel at the controls, Sammy ‘Slim’ Schmidt’s Wasp, and Geraldine ‘Comet’ Kowalski in the Dervish. And all of them had jump jets.

Against the usual forces the Combine fielded, that should give them a considerable mobility advantage in rough terrain like we were fighting in. The smart call for the Combine to make would probably be an RL version of a Dungeon Bypass, let us fall back a couple times, then break contact and go back to their dropship and reposition. On the other hand, space samurai; by the radio calls, they hadn’t picked the smart option.

“If that dumbass in the Locust pokes his nose out again, hit him with another LRM salvo,” Dad ordered Comet. Then, “Rowdy, get ready to make another firebreak. They’re feelin’ for our flanks again.”

In turn, Lance two, myself and Striker Alpha included, were standing, engines off, in what looked like a narrow slot in the side of a hill. It was actually a canyon that took a short jog right and then a sharp left-hand turn. The end result appeared like a dead-end both visually and on sensors.

Of course, if we’d gone tromping in the front, we’d have given the game away. There was a little runoff stream that trickled out of the right wall of the canyon and out and down the mountain. The ground was soft, and ‘Mech footprints would have stood out.

The other ‘Mechs in the lance had it easy, the two Wasps had popped down into the canyon on jump jets smooth as could be and James ‘Jimmy’ McCready's Panther had followed. My Commando on the other hand …

Well, there was a section of the canyon wall where a Mechwarrior who was a good pilot and who knew his gyro as intimately as a lover could negotiate the shale without taking a tumble. Dad had proved it in an exercise last year and really gotten Comet’s nose out of joint. It was a good thing younger me was almost as good a pilot as he thought he was.

His raw skill mixed with a dollop of older-me’s caution had let us get to the bottom without embarrassing ourselves and also ruining the ambush. Now we were waiting, lined up and power off, until Dad called us into action. Of course, since we weren’t in laser range, he wasn’t going to risk giving the game away by broadcasting information too obviously, that’s why I was listening carefully to the types of mechs he was calling out.

“Wasp down!” came a triumphant call from Comet, “His gyro’s gone! Good shooting Viking!”

If I was parsing that right, it sounded like one of the enemy’s scouts had gotten too aggressive and taken an 8cm laser from Talons First, then Comet’s Dervish had given it the coup de grace with an LRM salvo. It was good news, but I’d be happier if I didn’t know that Lance One was also taking armor damage. Dad had already called out the Dragon as a -1C model with a long-ranged AC-2 instead of the more common AC-5. It and the Vulcan were scoring too many shots with their long ranged weapons for my comfort, though at least they were splitting their fire between Viking and Slim. Fortunately, the Panthers’ slow foot speed and less powerful jump jets had mostly kept them at long range. Between trying to shoot midair and the trees, their PPCs hadn’t been much of a factor.

The Phoenix Hawk could have been a real problem with its own 8cm laser, but it was the Kurita variant without jump jets. Since it was fifteen tons lighter than the Dragon, it was having trouble bulldozing its way through the trees and hadn’t yet managed to get in the fight. Likewise the last Medium, a Blackjack, was too slow on its feet to be getting many shots in despite its jump jets. It had been haunting the back lines of the enemy formation.

Building a picture of the battlefield was a hell of a lot more complex than video games had prepared me for, but I thought I was doing halfway decent. The scout mechs were up front, the Locusts small enough to navigate gaps in the trees and the Wasps, of which there was now only one, had been cheating with jump jets. The Dragon was using its mass and power to plow a road for the rest of the ground-bound Mechs while the Vulcan jumped and poked with its AC-2. The Panthers were in the same position as the Blackjack, too slow to be a factor, even with their jets. There was also a Jenner out there somewhere, but this was piss poor terrain for a short-ranged thin-skinned light cavalry platform. It was probably hanging back until Lance One was distracted.

If the ambush goes off the way we want it to, it and the Blackjack should be the first targets, I concluded. The Blackjack because it was fairly beefy in comparison to Lance 2’s Lights, and the Jenner because it was a murderblender, but practically made of paper. Aft-

“Wasp down,” local-me’s dad called out.

Rowdy all but stepped on his transmission with, “Man that was a bad landing, you must’ve all but shot that leg off.”

Sounded like one of the Drac scouts had jumped the gun clearing a firebreak and been rewarded with an 8cm laser. The ‘Mech was certainly mission-killed. If the landing from its jump was as bad as the Firestarter pilot implied, the pilot could be injured or dead as well.

Then came the call we’d been waiting for. “If that’s the best the Coordinator’s Samurai can do, you might as well all commit seppuku now and save yourselves the embarrassment.”

The transmission was in the clear which was the other half of our agreed-upon signal to kick off the ambush. I cranked the start switch for Striker Alpha’s fusion engine and didn’t wait for the computer’s usual spiel of startup information. While it was listing, “Armor, green.” I was sliding the throttle forward up past the usual ‘cruise’ setting to its three quarters ‘run’ setting. It would have made taking the corner interesting at full speed, but the Commando was still accelerating when I got there, and my neurohelmet picked up my intention the way it had been designed to. A slight lean, and the ‘Mech kept its balance admirably through the corner.

A glance behind me showed Jimmy’s Panther coming around the corner cleanly, but I didn’t have time to check on the pair of Wasps. At three quarters of its maximum speed, Striker Alpha cleared the slot leading into the canyon in less than ten seconds, and Dad had timed the ambush perfectly. As I cleared the rock walls, ‘Mech signatures started appearing, including both the Jenner and the Blackjack.

“Jimmy, take the Jenner,” I called out. As the first pilot in line, I had the responsibility of calling the initial targets. Since I was green as grass, no matter what local-me thought, that was a stressful situation to be in. Unfortunately, a Commando -2D’s armament was uncompromisingly short-ranged, so to take advantage of that knife-fighting ability, I’d needed to be at the head of the line. I peeled right to clear Jimmy’s line of fire and throttled back a touch to help stabilize my aim.

A PPC bolt flew past my ‘Mech as I pulled the trigger. Jimmy was on target, and the shot from his compact Lord’s Light PPC shattered the armor on the right rear of the cavalry ‘Mech’s torso. Then the Panther’s four missiles roared in. Two missed wide, their limited sensors failing to hold lock, but two hit, and at least one found the Jenner’s SRM ammunition. The explosion blew the side of the ‘Mech to bits and flung fragments of its gyro more than 200 yards through the air.

As I was watching that show from the corner of our eye, local-me was focused on our target. The Blackjack hadn’t even started to react to our presence when my weapons hit. Striker Alpha’s 5cm laser tagged the Blackjack on the left side of its torso and burned through almost all of the armor there. Then, in a display of beginner’s luck, eight of my ten SRMs slammed home across its upper back with two flying wild just over the Blackjack’s head. I saw two shots punch into the already depleted left-torso armor while two punched divots in the central torso’s backplate as my cockpit heated up as my sinks struggled against the energy unleashed by a full alpha. The largest concentration, however, slammed into the right torso of the Blackjack and wiped away its armor, a single missile detonating cleanly inside the ‘Mech. If I was remembering my schematics right, that hit could have damaged either a heat sink, the laser, or both.

Then Melody and Marsha Fischer in their pair of Wasps landed in front of me and turned their own firepower on the Blackjack from point-blank range.

As was to be expected of a pair of combat veterans, only a single missile from the volley missed. One laser seared away the last of the rear torso’s armor while the other bit into the already-ravaged structure of the right torso. Then the three SRMs impacted and the stricken machine’s right arm went cartwheeling through the air as its right torso disintegrated. The Blackjack took two stumbling steps then started to fall.

That was the last straw for the pilot. He punched out, the head of the mech coming apart to let his ejection seat free before the angle was so low it risked firing him into a tree instead.

Just like that the odds were almost even. A glance at the tactical readout beside the Commando’s main screen told the rest of the tale. Dad and the rest of Lance One had jumped back over the firebreak they’d just finished setting. Dad was in close with the Dragon while Comet closed in on the enemy Phoenix Hawk.

She had to be Winchester on LRMs to be doing that. She had a mobility advantage over the Drac ‘Mech, but despite being ten tons lighter, since it was a Kurita variant, it had two tons more armor and the heat sinks to make use of its lasers. Comet would either have to avoid using her jump jets, and thus lose out on her mobility advantage or shoot with only her lasers or SRMs. Meanwhile, Lance One’s two Lights were teaming up on the relatively light Vulcan.

That left us with the Panthers and Locusts. The twins hit their jump jets again as I swerved to the right to avoid them. They seemed to have set their eyes on the nearest of the Panthers while Jimmy looked to have targeted a second, actually closing in again to fight it so as to keep the last Panther out of the fight.

I, on the other hand, ended up advancing straight at the two enemy Locusts who were already turning to take me under fire. It was immediately obvious which one had caught Comet’s LRMs. The right leg was practically stripped of armor and the center and left torso both had craters from missile damage.

Since it was already hurting, I opted to target it. The pilot was closing in and moving to circle me to the left in an effort to shield his damaged leg while his lance-mate did the same on the right.

I adjusted my course to lead it and again pulled the Alpha trigger. Once more, 8 of my SRMs hit home in an outstanding display of luck. The last two were intercepted by trees, and my laser missed; I’d overcompensated for the Locust’s speed. A pair of missiles impacted the left arm, then one hit the left leg and torso each before a pair impacted the center torso. Ironically, the leg the Locust’s pilot had tried to shield took the last pair of the SRMs. Not that it mattered. The missile that had impacted the weakened armor on the side-torso must have been some kind of golden BB, because the Locust blew up mid-stride just after it impacted. Twice.

The first explosion had to have been the machine gun ammo going off, because the second was the distinctive display of a quarter-million C-Bill Fusion Engine converting itself into a cloud of formerly-engine-shaped particles.

Local-me concerned himself with turning to keep squared up with the second Locust. Twenty-first century me was trying not to facepalm. I’d gotten dropped into the plot of one of the Mechwarrior games hadn’t I?

This was definitely the sort of shit that a protagonist managed to pull in the tutorial battle to demonstrate to the player that he was a Super Special Snowflake. That idea was further reinforced as the other Locust pilot managed to miss with all three of his weapons. One of the machine guns and the laser at least impacted in the same area code as my mech, but the other machine gun killed a tree more than thirty yards away from Striker Alpha.

That settled it. Had to be some video game I’d never heard of before.

While older-me was distracted, younger-me had turned into the charging Locust and again opened up with all of the Commando’s weapons. The cockpit was starting to feel like the inside of an oven, and the latest surge of heat had to be creeping towards levels that would negatively affect the Commando’s myomers.

I still managed to get four missiles on target, though I once again missed with the laser. A missile each impacted the left arm, leg, and torso, cratering the armor there while the last impacted the right side of the torso obliquely as the Locust’s pilot twisted his ‘Mech’s torso.

Then I realized that his legs were oriented right at me. Aw, shit. Don’t tell me he’s gonna- I throttled back to try to generate a miss.

Then the poor bastard overcorrected for the wobble my missile hits had induced, and the Locust’s right foot kicked out from under it. The rest was physics at work, and the right side of the ‘Mech slammed into the ground with what had to be bone-rattling force and skidded to a halt practically at my feet.

In a game tutorial, this would probably be the point where it walked you through melee attacks. Since I didn’t have to obey a tutorial script, I finished slowing to a halt, and gave the Locust a full Alpha at point-blank range.

I still managed to miss with one of my missiles, but the laser and all the rest hammered the Combine machine. With the way the Locust’s heat spiked, at least one hit had penetrated the right side-torso and gone home in the reactor shielding.

The Drac pilot recovered quickly from the shock of hitting the ground and was almost instantly trying to get his machine back on its feet. The ground, however, was covered in the usual sort of forest detritus and the Locust ‘s feet slid ineffectually across it. With where I was standing, the poor bastard couldn’t even target me with his weapons.

On the other hand, he was clearly unwilling to surrender yet, so I put another Alpha strike into him.

His flailing almost caused my laser to miss, and again one missile flew wild. That still left nine. My laser and at least two thirds of the missiles conspired to strike the already damaged armor on the left half of the Locust’s torso. The last of the armor vanished, and the Fusion Engine SCRAMed itself just ahead of another spike of heat as more of the reactor shielding was damaged by fragments of what used to be the left torso’s internal structure.

“Locusts down,” I belatedly remembered to call over the radio.

I took in the tactical plot with a quick glance. Melody’s Wasp was in rough shape, but the Panther she and her sister had teamed up against looked to be on its last legs. Jimmy had taken his own target down, but the spare Panther appeared to have taken his Mech’s left leg off at the hip actuator in exchange. Comet was down and so was Slim, but the enemy Vulcan was in pieces and Rowdy was in the process of ganking the wounded Phoenix Hawk.

The Dragon was in mid-attack when I glanced its way, stepping in and taking a swing with its right arm at Talons First, but Dad was ready for it. The Griffin took a single step back and the heavier mech missed by maybe six inches. Off balance from the strike, it staggered a single step.

It was enough. Dad brought the right arm up and fired all three lasers there into the Dragon’s back with the muzzles not five feet from the armor. The AC-2 ammo went up, and the remains of the Dragon hit the ground.

Dad’s voice came over the radio, again in the clear, “Your commander is down and you’re outnumbered. Su-”

He was cut off by a PPC bolt directly to the cockpit, and Talons First toppled over backwards. And there was the bad part about being the protagonist kicking in.

Local-me froze up and older-me took over the controls. There was only one target that could have been responsible.

Sure enough, the single enemy Panther left unengaged had its right arm aimed in the correct direction. I throttled up and moved in on its flank. That was about the time the anger hit.

There had been no purpose in that shot. If not for the sheer bad luck that had led to it hitting the cockpit of the Griffin, it would have done nothing to prevent the ignominious defeat of the Combine. All it had done was convince the Dracs to keep fighting. Keep dying.

And death by stupidity is the worst.

I decided that this particular Mechwarrior wasn’t going to survive to be taken prisoner, and there was one final click in my brain.

I adjusted the throttle just a touch and, grateful that my sinks had managed to get a handle on the excess heat I’d been building, unleashed a full retaliatory barrage on the Panther.

Even with a stationary target, my SRMs performed more to spec, four of them flying wild. The right arm lost most of its protection to my laser, but the other Mechwarrior was not unskilled, and he twisted his mech’s torso to spread my SRMs across his torso with one cratering the armor on the Panther’s distinctive forehead. His PPC was in line to hit me, but I’d closed inside his minimum range, and he was only just getting his ‘Mech moving again.

He still managed to bring his SRM launcher mostly in line. Half the missiles went wide, their hasty corrections unable to make up for the indifferent aim of the Panther’s pilot. The remaining two still drew lurid yellow marks on Striker Alpha’s right leg and chest, but then I was angling left and torso twisting to try to bring my short-ranged firepower in line with the Panther’s rear armor.

The Drac read my intention and turned and torso-twisted to match me, recognizing that with his current velocity disadvantage he couldn’t outmaneuver me. Instead, we traded fire, but this time I wasn’t trying to hit a speedy Locust. The much slower Panther took a pasting, all but one of my missiles striking home. Even so, its heavier armor told. Its right torso armor vanished under the hammer of my missiles, but I didn’t manage to hit anything inside it. For that matter, its right arm and right leg were looking awful thin as well. In turn, I took only a pair of SRMs to the chest, a new yellow spot forming on my right torso while the center of Striker Alpha’s chest turned orange.

Then the Panther’s pilot hit his jump jets and I had to scramble to try and keep him from getting enough range to bring his PPC into the fight.

I didn’t quite manage it, but I got lucky, and the Panther’s arm glanced off of a tree trunk as it fired and the shot went high enough that it was only a threat to passing birds.

My return fire smashed the Panther’s entire lower right arm and nearly breached the left torso armor. With his main weapon out of action, the Panther’s only choice was to close.

Unfortunately for him, I knew that just as well as he did, and I’d thrown my mech into reverse, backing away to keep the distance open while I tried to finish off the Combine ‘Mech. My laser passed infuriatingly between the Panther’s legs, but I got some satisfaction in hammering through the right leg armor and slagging one of his jump jets.

Then a missile struck my Commando’s head and I reeled for a moment.

The Drac took his opportunity and launched into the air on his three remaining jets, trying for a Death From Above.

He didn’t quite manage to connect. I recovered from the hit to my cockpit and sidestepped the strike, then unloaded into the Panther’s wounded right side. At that range, I couldn’t miss and both the arm and the right side of the torso came apart.

Judging by the way the mech toppled over, I’d also gotten a piece of the gyro. Before he could recover or choose to power down, I stepped forward and crushed the Panther’s already damaged head under Striker Alpha’s foot.

A glance at the tactical display revealed only friendly mechs standing, with Rowdy’s Firestarter and Marsha’s Wasp standing over the downed Panther. But only the three of us were still intact.

What a fucking mess, I thought, finally noticing that I was covered in sweat. Judging by the smell, more than a little of it was from stress, not just the repeated Alpha strikes. I tried to stand to undog the hatch so the smell could clear out, but didn’t quite make it to my feet.

I very nearly ended up in the bottom of my cockpit in a pile, and I realized that my hands were shaking. I clenched them into fists and squeezed as hard as I could. Then I reached over and carefully adjusted my radio. “Uniontown Control, this is Weber Actual. Enemy company is down. Repeat, the Combine force is-”

XXXXX​

A/N: I tend to be too nice to my characters, so I decided to actually roll the combat by the tabletop rules. Then Urist happened. Since Urist has been responsible for BruceQuest’s Luck of the Irish ... I’m not sure why I was expecting anything different.
 
Chapter 2

Speaker4thesilent

Crazed Deplorable
Joined
Aug 19, 2019
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2,671
Location
An undisclosed bunker in Flyover Country.
Chapter 2​

Weber’s Warriors Barracks, Uniontown, Icar

Trellshire, Tamar Pact, Lyran Commonwealth

January 4th, 3010


The unit that had hit us was a company of the Fifteenth Rasalhague Regulars. All the Combine got back from that formation was their dropship, which lifted well before we could get into range to try and capture it on the ground.

The rest of their Battalion had better luck at Athena Magna. Two of the factories there had been badly damaged in the fighting on New Year’s Day, and three days later the news was reporting that surveys were suggesting that they would take at least two years to repair out of local resources. Maybe three. The Regulars also left two Lances of wrecked ‘Mechs behind in various levels of salvageability in exchange for destroying a company and a bit of the mixed 30th Lyran and local Militia ‘Mechs that had fought to repel them.
That was about typical for a Lyrans versus Dracs fight, especially when second line formations were involved. Hopefully the lopsided losses we’d managed to inflict would look even better to our employer as a result.

I’d fought back my instinctive revulsion for paperwork and desire to procrastinate to skim our contract with His Grace, Byron Ferguson, the Duke of Icar. I found the bits about compensation, and then I’d done some math. There was a standard agreed upon rate for a combat deployment in defense of the assets we were guarding. It was a fair amount, but nothing amazing. At least, not until you started looking at the small print.
We were supposed to be supported by both a small detachment of the planet’s garrison and some of the local landholders. Of course, the 30th Lyran was understrength and were likely to remain thus for some time even with the salvage from the Dracs, since they’d lost more than they’d gained out of their engagement. They also, notably, hadn’t been present at what local media was already calling the Battle of Uniontown as they wrung out the victory for all the propaganda value they could extract. There was a multiplier for that.

The local Baron had also kept his few tanks and single BattleMech back in defense of the city and its smelters. It made sense from a tactical perspective, but by the contract, he was obliged to support us in an engagement, even a mobile one like we’d fought. He hadn’t. There was a multiplier for that, too.

There was also a per head bounty on ‘Mechs from proven Combine line units. Rasalhague Regulars. The red ‘R’ in a square was distinctive and enough of the Dragon’s cockpit had survived that we had sufficient documentation if the Duke’s people tried to object. That was a not inconsiderable figure, times twelve.

There was more. We prevented any damage to Uniontown, the smelters, and the mine. That earned us another cash bonus. We defeated a superior foe, both numerically and by tonnage. There was a formula for that. There was a bit of a cut for the acreage of forest we’d burned in the process, but it had rained recently so the fire hadn’t gotten out of control. It was a paltry amount compared to the total. That total had quite a few zeros associated with it, and that was before we got to the salvage agreement.
Secure in the knowledge that we’d be earning a sizeable payday when it came time to settle accounts in a couple weeks, I fought down my disgust and filled out the forms to requisition the parts we needed to get Mechs back in working order. Most notably a GRF-1S cockpit and some of the associated electronics.

At least most of the stuff we needed I thought we could get from salvage. Jimmy’s Panther was repairable, assuming we could get one of the Combine Panthers as part of the salvage negotiations. I wouldn’t even push hard for one of the more intact ones. According to the Techs all Flyin’ Fur needed was a hip actuator, though the upper thigh assembly would save them some time. Even with the least intact of the three Panther carcasses, that would leave us with a not insubstantial amount of spare parts in reserve against future need.

Likewise the enemy Wasp that had lost its leg in the jump jet incident would provide enough spares to get Slim’s Wasps Up and Melody’s Sting back in action. Hell, with the cash infusion we were going to get, it might be feasible to just order parts for all three and add the Drac machine to our roster rather than breaking it down, although one more Wasp wasn’t a huge addition to our combat power.

Especially since Comet’s Dervish was probably a write-off. Unless someone was sitting on a spare Core Tex 275 or another compatible FE, it wasn’t going to be seeing action again. Even then repairing all the damaged structural braces would be a non-trivial task. Adding a Wasp wouldn’t come close to offsetting the loss of the Dervish, but it would at least get us back up to two full lances.

The question, of course, was how to spend our money. The part of me that was a trained BattleMech pilot wanted to try to get Weber’s Warriors up to a company in truth. We had enough dispossessed Mechwarriors to make it an attractive proposition, even if they’d have to blow some rust off of their skills, and enough youngsters from the various family units that made up our ‘camp followers’ to slot in as apprentices to replace the veterans when or if they retired. There was also the element of duty there. Some of those men and women had lost privately owned Mechs in the unit’s service and they’d all been friends of my father and grandfather. Working as technicians and trainers was about the best a dispossessed Mechwarrior could hope for in this day and age unless a unit suddenly had a lucky break. It would be nice to reward their loyalty and friendship.

The older half of my memories had been very much a Scotsman, unwilling to pay someone else for something he could do himself. Even if that meant waiting for a few weeks until he got around to doing it instead of procrastinating or mulling the job over. That part of me wanted to go for a Panther and the enemy Wasps in the salvage negotiations, get our damaged machines back in service, let Comet drive a Wasp once her broken wrist healed, and (reluctantly) spend money on some ASFs and pilots for them. If we’d had decent air cover in the last battle, we might have been able to capture the enemy dropship or at least destroyed it for the bounty. That part of me was familiar enough with tactics and strategy for me to realize what an advantage air superiority could be even if he’d never heard of ASFs before the first.

I honestly didn’t know which way to jump, and the cost of the options would render them mutually exclusive. Purchasing a lance of mostly Medium Battlemechs, even used, was impossible even with the extravagant purse we’d won. Maybe if we could find a used Dervish in need of repair, we could use the remains of Whirlwind to get it back in service to lead a lance of Lights.

The same was true for a squadron of ASFs. Based on my preliminary research, even just buying Light ASFs and hiring pilots would cost around 9 million C-bills to fill the six bays on our Overlord. Even with what we were guaranteed from the contract and the likely concessions we could get for letting the Duke have the heavier salvage, that would wipe us out. Four Seydlitz was a better figure and it would leave room to add in heavier fighters if the Company’s fortunes continued to improve.

Realizing that I was spinning my wheels, I set the notes I’d made for our options aside for the moment and looked at my list. Most of the items had lines drawn through them, which made for good feelings. The one at the top of the list, however, did not. I’d been putting off ‘Funeral Arrangements’ about as long as I thought I could get away with.

XXXXX​

Like most of the shit I procrastinated about, Dad’s funeral arrangements ended up being pretty simple. There wasn’t a body, which was fine because his will requested that he be cremated anyway. I carefully hadn’t had anything to do with hauling Talons First back to Uniontown after the battle. I didn’t want to know what the interior of the cockpit had looked like, so I had no idea if the ashes in the urn were actually his or if someone had gathered up the remnants of a fire so we’d have something to spread the next time we hit a Drac planet.

That was also in his will. I guess he wanted to be present the next time the unit took the fight to the enemy.

His will had been simple too, though I’d known what was in that for a couple years, just in case. Since mom had predeceased him, I got the family mech and the outfit, such as they were and what there was of them.

That left me at loose ends; I was out of things to keep my hands busy. Rather than sit and stare at a wall in what had once been dad’s small suite of rooms in the barracks, I took a walk.

Perhaps inevitably, I ended up in the ‘Mech bay. Three days on, there wasn’t the frantic activity there had been in the immediate aftermath of the raid. The techs were in a holding pattern waiting on the salvage negotiations, the arrival of a new cockpit, or something else unexpected. Armor had been replaced, ammunition refilled, and the damaged ‘Mechs had been locked into position ready for their repairs to start.

With no one present, there was a stillness to the place. I could almost imagine that I was a mouse looking at statues in a tomb, though the camouflage patterns painted on the mechs, both our own and the salvaged pieces we were storing until the negotiations, ruined that vibe a bit. Not that the blue and purple color of the Warriors parade ground paint or the white with green striping of the Regulars would have been an improvement.

I had a half-formed thought to take a look at my Griffin, but got derailed by a half-heard sound. Despite the Ferrocrete floor, between my moccasin-sandals and my own habitual light tread, I made approximately no noise when I moved. That was how I managed to sneak up on Geraldine where she was positioned looking up at her wrecked Dervish.

“Comet,” I began and she about jumped out of her skin. Practically levitating, she spun around and her right hand went for a weapon she wasn’t currently wearing. Then she winced, because her right wrist was in a cast from hitting the ground wrong after she ejected. There were also tears in her eyes, and I was pretty sure they weren’t from bumping her arm.

She spun away from me nearly as quickly as she’d turned in the first place. “Sneaking up on a person like that is a good way to get shot,” she commented gruffly.

Suddenly, I felt about three inches tall. I’d been distracting myself with work, but not everyone had that luxury. I glanced at Whirlwind and had to suppress a grimace. Miss Kowalski had piloted that machine for more than ten years, and, company property or not, she must have considered it hers. There was a prevalence in the Inner Sphere to count BattleMechs as almost people in their own right.

And she had to have heard from the techs by now that he’ll never fight again. Normally the Inner Sphere’s customs seemed foreign enough to parts of me to be sources of conflict, but this was one I could understand.

I’d cried the first time I read about USS Enterprise, the World War Two era CV-6, being sent to the breakers for scrap. I didn’t remember what book it was in now, but it had seemed such a phenomenal betrayal to me to do that to her after her service. Part of being mildly autistic, I empathized better with a steel hull than I did a lot of people.

In this instance, it helped me empathize with Comet, and hell, she was my senior Mechwarrior now. I resolved not to mention that I hadn’t actually set out to ask her for advice. “Didn’t mean to startle you. I’ve looked over the contract and run the numbers,” I paused, trying to find a way to phrase what I wanted to say without being a dick.

Geraldine interrupted me, “How bad’s it going to be?”

Clearly, she was familiar with my dad’s business acumen. “Actually? The way the contract is written, we’re in for a big payday. Not quite eight figures,” her head jerked around and she was visibly startled.

She’d somehow managed to get her eyes mostly clear in the few moments I’d given her as well.

Before she could find her voice, I continued, “I was kinda surprised too. I think the old Duke just pulled the file copy of the old contract he’d had with Grandpa, adjusted the pay down to reflect that we were a ‘short company’ instead of a Brigade with supports, and then just had dad sign it.” The idea made the most sense of anything I had managed to come up with. “It must’ve been written when the war was hotter and the Duke was figuring to fight against attempts to take the planet rather than raid it given some of the codicils, and dad never would have had the patience to negotiate all the fine points.” I grinned a bit at the last part, but rather than reciprocate, Comet turned away again. What in the-

I’d have been utterly befuddled before I got dropped into the 31st century, but modern me wasn’t autistic, even if he was an idiot teenager. How long has she been carrying a torch for dad? Since mom died? Before? She hadn’t just lost a ‘Mech, she’d lost two people she’d cared for in the course of less than fifteen minutes. Neither half of me would have been able to come up with something to say alone. Together …

“Any kid who’s had a decent father can’t quite conceive of him as being mortal. Somewhere deep inside, they’re convinced that he can solve any problem in the end. I suppose it isn’t quite real to me yet.” It was even true, mostly. I had distance, since for half of me, he was someone I’d only met the once. My younger half had been content to not think about it, and older me still thought my dad was Superman even after he’d gotten cancer when I was a teenager.

“He was a good man. Did his best to do right by everyone.” Comet said tightly, and I could tell she’d prefer a change of subject.

I obliged her, “Well, with you being my senior Mechwarrior, I could use some advice. As I see it we’ve got two options. We can-”

XXXXX​

In the end, much as she wanted to get back in a Dervish, Geraldine couldn’t ignore the advantages of having air support. I figured if two trained Mechwarriors were both seriously considering buying Aerospace Fighters instead of ‘Mechs, there was good cause to pick that option. It didn’t hurt that I discovered that I really liked one of our options.

The Seydlitz was a Lyran-produced design. Contrary to the stereotype, it was an extremely light ASF. The one concession that it made to Lyran size obsession was its gun. The weapon it had been built around wasn’t objectively huge, but it was a massive weapon for its size. The RAMTech 1200 Large Laser was a big beast for a twenty ton fighter to mount, especially considering that it was also speedy, with a maximum acceleration of eight and a half gravities of thrust.

In some ways it reminded me of the Warthog. Built around its gun and built for a specific mission. Where the A-10 was made to kill tanks, the Seydlitz was ideal for atmospheric dogfights. It could give a good account of itself against other light birds in the void, but in atmosphere was where it really came into its own. Other light ASFs didn’t mount much that could compete with its range, and hitting another light with its 8cm laser was like hitting an egg with a hammer. You were going to inflict crippling damage fast, and you were going to be doing it from outside an opponent’s range.

Even heavier fighters weren’t necessarily spared. The Combine’s Slayer was a nasty customer. An 80 ton ASF, it was well-armored if a bit light on gun for its tonnage. But it only carried a single 5cm laser facing aft, and it couldn’t quite manage half the speed the Seydlitz could handle. Once a Seydlitz got into its rear arc, there wasn’t a damn thing the Drac could hit it with, and unless there was a notable skill imbalance, the Drac wasn’t going to be shaking the interceptor very easily either. Even some dropships were vulnerable to the tactic.

The downside was, of course, armor. The term was apparently ‘suicide sled’ though at least a Seydlitz didn’t have to close to knife-fighting range before it could do damage. Even so, two tons of armor was a notable weakness; just about anything that hit a Seydlitz was going to penetrate it. That meant spending enough C-Bills to hire good pilots, or at least two good ones and two rookies who were willing to learn. The cost wasn’t insubstantial, but it was less than buying Mechs and just having the ability to see off a bombing or scouting raid by enemy air assets was valuable. Add in scouting and the ability to threaten some varieties of Dropship, and both Comet and I concluded that they were well worth the expense.

We also discussed the ideas I’d had for salvage negotiations, and decided to only go after the Wasps and the one wrecked Panther. Comet was able to tell me about several tricks she’d seen used to get more C-Bills out of the other side, so I was planning on pretending to want the Blackjack and Vulcan, and letting myself get bargained down to the three lights and a bunch of cash. I was really antsy to get started now that I had a plan in mind. Unfortunately the Duke’ people appeared to have other priorities. I couldn’t even really go looking for ASF pilots or a used Dervish chassis and FE without giving away the game.

At that point, all there was left to do was wait until we got paid.

XXXXX​
January 12th, 3015

We weren’t getting paid.

With things decided we’d gone back to ‘hurry up and wait’ mode. I hadn’t keyed on to the suspicions behavior right away. It was the sort of thing my older self might have noticed more readily without younger-me’s perspective getting in the way.

Younger-me, you see, saw the Lyrans as allies. His Dad and Grandfather had both been patriotic even if they were also Private Military Contractors. They hadn’t taken a contract against the Commonwealth in living memory.

So when the Duke decided to screw us, it took me more than a week to catch on. It was the lack of movement on the negotiations that finally clued me in that something was up, though in retrospect the way they were slow-walking the Griffin cockpit transfer should also have been a clue.

For a few days after the battle, it was entirely believable that the Duke’s diplomats might have all been frantically talking to Tharkad begging for reinforcements or trying to hire more mercenaries just in case another attack was imminent. A week later? When I knew that salvage could help patch up at least two of the militia’s BattleMechs? No. Something was fishy in the state of Denmark.

Once I realized that, I pulled out our copy of the contract, and Comet and I went over it with a fine-toothed comb. Even once we found the section he was planning to use against us.

Turnabout is, after all, fair play. Didn’t hurt that I was by nature a vindictive bastard. The enemy knifing me in the back was one thing, they were the enemy. My own side doing it? That was the sort of thing that turned my heart into a spite-reactor of nuclear hate …

That metaphor may have gotten away from me. Thankfully, younger-me wasn’t autistic and did not get locked into the downward spiral of Insensate Rage that older-me had been forced to stomp down. With cleats. It was much easier to plan when you weren’t resisting the urge to physically track down and strangle your boss to death.

What it came down to, was that the unit was required to maintain at least a Lance of BattleMechs at combat readiness at all times. There was a codicil giving a two week grace period for major actions, but that was it.

We didn’t have four functional Mechs. If I’d realized what was going on from the very beginning, we might have been able to Frankenstein our two damaged Wasps together, but transferring an arm and part of the side torso from Wasps Up to Sting would take at least seven days, and we only had six and a half when I got suspicious. By the time we figured out what the Duke was up to, we were down to five and a generous fraction.

On the other hand, Comet and I had discovered that the Duke had been either less than thorough in his own perusal of the contract, or he hadn’t expected a neophyte like me to notice that he was about to be betrayed.

When I called the 30th Lyran’s S4 shop, the quartermaster was rather shorter with me than he’d been the last time I called. Since this was now the third time I’d contacted him to pester him about the Griffin-compatible cockpit I’d put in an emergency requisition for, I almost felt for him.

“Sorry, ‘Captain,’” he responded to my inquiry. I could hear the air quotes around the technically unearned rank, though it was the one Dad had used when he was being formal. “Like I’ve told you, I need the Duke’s signature in order to release anything right now.”

“C’mon, Lieutenant,” I pretended to wheedle, “I’ve already paid for it! The money was withdrawn from my account six days ago, and we’re down to three effectives over here. If the Dracs do have a follow-up raid incoming-”

“There’s nothing I can do, ‘Captain.’ Until the Duke approves the shipment, my hands are tied,” the Lieutenant informed me self-righteously, “and I do have other matters to deal with. Good day.” Then he hung up on me.

I turned the recorder off with a deeply satisfied grin. “Gotcha, you son of a bitch.” Step two was complete, though step one was still a work in progress. It required some subtlety, rather than letting a sanctimonious enemy hoist himself with his own petard.

That was why the twins were handling it. I’d say they were well known birdwatchers, but that would require that Icar have birds. Instead, it had these beautifully iridescent beetles the size of a clenched fist. Thankfully they were herbivores.

While the twins pretended to beetle-watch, they were actually trying to identify the watchers that I was sure the Duke had posted at our compound.

That was a bit awkward, because I also needed one of them to be ready to pilot a ‘Mech in a few hours, when Icar’s sun set.

Finally, Slim, who was playing courier, arrived. “Found ‘em, over in the west by where we’ve got old Implacable parked.”

In retrospect, that made sense. Implacable was the unit’s sole surviving Dropship and no small part of the unit’s chronic financial troubles despite the fairly generous payment for our garrison contract.

She was an Overlord, and she consumed a disagreeable amount of C-Bills each month just sitting on Ferrocrete. But dad had been sentimental and not a very good businessman. She’d survived the unit’s disastrous raid, and he couldn’t be convinced to replace her with a cheaper to maintain Union. Now, though, that could be made to work in our favor.

Next was Step Three: contacting the local MRB to inform them that …

Now was an awful time to remember that ComStar ran the Mercenary Review Board too wasn’t it. I mean, it’s not like that would be bad under normal circumstances, but one of the few things I knew for sure about BattleTech was that the phone company was a bad-guy faction. I’d been so incredulous upon being told that that I’d demanded a detailed explanation of how-the-fuck-that-works.

Outwardly ComStar was a peaceful religious organization that maintained sacred technology and totally weren’t Techpriests. In actuality, they combined the more objectionable aspects of the medieval Catholic Church in all its corrupt glory, and the modern Wahhabist movement in its murderous self-righteousness, because only ComStar and the Word of Blake were allowed to have nice things. The rest of us peons would surely accidentally the everything if permitted to play with them.

So for nearly three-hundred years, the phone company had been murdering anyone who tried to turn the shitter that was the Inner Sphere around.

And now I had to bring myself to their attention. Joy.

The call I’d made from Implacable’s com system, which unlike our land lines couldn’t be tapped so easily, connected.

“This is Icar’s HPG facility, please listen to all the options before making your selection, as-”

I ignored the automated message and hit seven. Nothing in the system had changed in more than a decade, and I doubt if they were going to change at the last minute just for me.

“Mercenary Review Board, pre-”

“Representative,” I declared. Really, even if the organization hadn’t been run by murderous wack jobs and religious zealots, ensuring that automated phone trees like this survived was reason enough to exterminate them all.

“MRB, this is Adept Smith, how may I assist you?”

An actual person? Would wonders never cease! “Yes, this is Alistair Weber Junior, the Captain of Weber’s Warriors. I’m afraid there’s a problem I need to bring to your attention. You’ll probably want to get your supervisor for this.”
 
Chapter 3

Speaker4thesilent

Crazed Deplorable
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Location
An undisclosed bunker in Flyover Country.
Chapter 3

January 13th, 3010

I was determined to leave absolutely nothing of value behind when we abandoned the base. To that end, I was even taking apart the old desk my Grandfather and Father had used to have it transported into storage aboard our Overlord. Unfortunately, it was a heavy beast, a relic of better times for the unit. Made from solid hardwood, it must weigh about 500 pounds. I’d already had experience with a bad back in my previous life. I didn’t want to end up with another one this time around.

That meant removing all the drawers and their contents to see if I could get the weight down to something that two people could move into a truck for quick loading reasonably safely. I’d done the lighter, upper drawers first, but the bottom drawer on the right-hand side was a big file drawer, and it didn’t want to come out. Finally, I pulled up as well as out and it came free.

I set it down, but as my hand brushed past the back of the drawer I felt something brush up against me. I jerked my hand away just in case. There was a nasty arachnoform pest on Icar that could put a grown man in the hospital for a week with its bite and liked to hide in compact places. The last thing I wanted was to land in the hospital when I needed to be leading my unit.

I grabbed a paperweight and peeked over the end of the drawer. And revealed an battered old leather-bound journal taped to the back. The edge of the cover stuck out from the drawer. I must have inadvertently brushed against it.

I’d never seen a quest lead-in in real life before, but that was about as transparent as it got. Conveniently enough, there was a book-marker tucked into the old book.

I reached for my office chair and about fell down before I remembered that I’d already sent it out of the room to be loaded and caught myself. Reluctantly, I put the journal away long enough to finish packing up my office, then retreated into the bedroom.

The beds in the barracks were part of the wall, so even though I was a skinflint, I wasn’t going to be taking it with me. There I cracked the book open.

The page the book opened to was yellowed. The writing was faded, and it looked like someone had spilled something on it at one point. The key piece of the writing was still legible though. Somewhere in the distant past, I’d had an ancestor who worked for SLIC.

Johan Weber had been the captain of a spy ship, and one of the worlds he had scouted during the Amaris Civil War seem to be some sort of Forge World, if what he’d written was anything to go by. That, unfortunately, was where the damaged section of paper was. I thought I could make out the word ‘regiment’ and that looked like ‘factory’ or ‘factories,’ but I couldn’t be sure. There was, however, one clear sentence where someone had traced over damaged words to keep them from being lost.

‘Thanks to the bioweapon Amaris’s butchers used, the planet will be uninhabitable for centuries.’

Below that was a circled phrase, ‘almost exactly between and just to galactic north of a straight line between Toland and Star’s End where First’.

I closed the book and flopped back on the bed, wondering how much of the plot I’d skipped to stumble on this. Star League era caches could range from useful and valuable trinkets to vast hordes of BattleMechs and other gear, if local-me’s memories were correct. If the word ‘Regiment’ was really there, and not an illusion caused by liquid damage …

Hell, I’d always bitched about being born in the wrong century. Nowhere to go explore, nothing interesting to see that hadn’t been seen by thousands of other people. I’d take whatever settlement the MRB gave me when the Duke stumbled into my counter-trap, and ‘go (north)west, young man.’

XXXXX​

January 9th, 3010

The Adam Smith was on time. That had been the one thing inherent in the plan that could have screwed us. Our JumpShip would need a week to recharge its jump drive, but there was no helping that and it would take a couple days to get from Icar to the Nadir jump point where the battered old Merchant-Class ship was parked after returning from its latest shipping contract, anyway.

Like a lot of the small merc outfits that actually had a Jumpship, our Merchant had spent the deployment tending to small contracts that kept it within one Jump of Icar, and the remainder of the unit. That didn’t pay as well as taking longer routes would have, but it was better than nothing, and had been responsible for keeping the unit in practice munitions and training repairs until her number two collar had failed last November.

Of course, we also already had another cargo lined up. The penalty clause for pulling out of the deal at the eleventh hour was going to suck, but we could cover it. If I called and apologized and hinted that the Smitty’s only working Jump collar was on the fritz …

Well, I figured our client would be a bit more understanding. It’d also give us some cover for having the JumpShip sitting around accruing maintenance costs instead of out making us money. The last thing a JumpShip or Dropship crew wanted was to deliberately court a misjump.

In a way we were lucky. A burst communique from planetside wouldn’t draw much attention in the aftermath of the raid. If nothing else, we had to let them know we were still alive. That I happened to have rotated to new codes out of sequence would also likely be attributed to the raid by most.

Captain Tandles would know better. The code itself was half the message. It was the Gone to Hell code, and it would tell our JumpShip crew that the contents of the message were to be read as the opposite of what we were claiming.

I told them things were fine and that the Duke was all set to pay us the money he owed us. Even across the light-seconds, I could feel the indignation. I assured them that the problems with the Smitty’s Jump Collars were our highest priority as soon as we got paid. Captain Tandles passed his understanding back to me as soon as light-speed transmission lag allowed.

Escape route secured.

XXXXX​

January 12th, 3010

The single senior adept in the MRB on Icar had been, if not happy, then at least content to listen to me. At first. That had changed as I explained my concerns, “The potential issue is with paragraph seven, subsection A, that requires that my unit maintain four active BattleMechs at all times, and-”

He finally cut me off. I was wondering how long I was going to have to blather. “Sir, the contract has been signed and notarized. It cannot be altered, especially at this late date without the consent of both parties. If you are about to be in violation…”

He trailed off, and I let a confused expression slip onto my features for a moment before switching to understanding. I’d practiced both in my mirror for several hours to get them right, “I’m sorry, I’m not doing a good job of this. I was just giving the background for why I’m concerned. Weber’s Warriors have had good relations with the Duke and his predecessor for years, but I still have to look out for my company. I don’t know the procedure, but I wanted to alert you to a potential breach of contract without actually filing the paperwork yet. It’s possible that the 30th Lyran are simply venting their spleen after their less than stellar performance in the recent raid, but they’ve been stonewalling my attempts to get replacement gear. Gear I’ve already paid for, nonetheless.

“If you’ll turn to page eight, paragraph two, subsections A through E?” I asked. Now the Adept was interested. He’d had a narrative in mind, and I’d derailed it. That ought to get a more honest reaction out of him. I gave him a moment to read before continuing, “As you can see, that segment makes what the 30th Lyran is doing a contract violation. I’m transmitting a copy of a recording I took of the most recent conversation I had with their logistics branch. They have the part in storage and have received payment, but they are preventing delivery of a critical material asset.”

The Adept’s expression became increasingly grim as he listened to the recording. I was glad younger me was better with people than I’d been before I woke up in the far future. I’d been bad at reading expressions. Now I was quite good at it, and the Adept was incensed the way only an offended bureaucrat could be. “Captain, you have a very strong case for a contract violation here. You’re certain you don’t want to file on this?”

“Not yet, sir. Our current contract runs through the end of the year, so if this is just hurt feelings, I’m going to have to work with the 30th Lyran until then. Better not to escalate the situation if at all possible,” and it may be that this wasn’t an attempt to entrap my unit. I considered those odds small, but they weren’t quite zero. “I don’t know the new Duke well, but my unit has had a good relationship with Icar for a long time. The Inner Sphere’s got enough problems without me going looking for trouble.”

By the end of my response I had the Adept nodding along with me. Mission accomplished. I’d stolen a march on my enemy and seized the proverbial high ground. Getting to tell my story first was a big advantage all by itself, but I’d also been able to provide strong circumstantial evidence that supported my position. Give that three days to sink in, and the ‘truth’ would be firmly established in the MRB’s minds. That it actually was the truth as best I knew it was also an advantage. Trying to prove the actual truth against that sort of first impression was bad enough. Doing it with a fabrication would be next to impossible.

More than that, though, I’d gotten the bureaucracy on my side. I wasn’t familiar enough with the Blakist ideology to know the correct buzzwords to throw out, but I did know the ones the bureaucracy back home liked to hear, and I could project the same sort of tone. Be conciliatory, appear humble, and never let them know you’re angry. I’d projected the image of being a reasonable young man, respectful of his elders, and about as passive and unaggressive as I thought a Mercenary could get away with being. Since ComStar was a religious order devoted to maintaining technology despite the Succession Wars, at least in the lower ranks …

I didn’t just have the high ground. I had a fortified citadel with all the approaches mined. Step three complete.

XXXXX​

January 14th, 3010

Everything took longer than I wanted it to, but just after midnight, Slim hit the master emergency alarm for the base. I wished I could have seen the watchers panic as the base’s speakers barked out notification of an unscheduled JumpShip emergence. Marsha, Philip, and I had all known that it was coming, so my trio of BattleMechs were Johnny-on-the-spot and ran almost right at them as we took off into the trees. For more than an hour we stalked that side of the camp, Rowdy’s Firestarter and Babs’ Wasp periodically taking to the air on their jump jets, and thoroughly distracted everyone for miles.

At the end, we powered down the lights and the sirens and I transmitted in the clear, “Alright, everyone, break it down. Good drill! All senior personnel to the Implacable for debrief!”

I’d barely gotten settled when the angry call came in. “This is Captain Weber,” I responded after the Dropship’s communication officer let me know I was wanted on the phone.

“You little shit, what the hell do you think you were doing!” By the voice, that was Colonel Jack Gideon of the 30th Lyran. He seemed upset. Wasn’t that just too bad.

“Running a drill, Colonel. I’ve got an ad hoc formation over here that needs to shake down,” I replied, trying to project puppy-like confusion about why I was being scolded.

“Running a- We’ve been trying to contact you for more than an hour for the location of the supposed Jump signature you reported! Why the hell didn’t your people respond to our communication attempts?”

If anything, my tone seemed to be making him madder. Several of the people around me were fighting back attacks of the giggles, so I leaned back to look at the ceiling so I didn’t have to see them. Joining them would have just ruined the whole thing. “One moment,” I said and laid the phone down, then yelled, “Hey, Ginny, why weren’t you answering hails from the Thirtieth Lyran?” I waited a long moment. Long enough to have gotten an answer at a more reasonable volume.

Then I picked up the phone again, “Sir, we never got a message from you at all. Did you have your communications crew double-check the memo we sent out to make sure they were using the frequency we switched to for the exercise?”

“Memo!” Colonel Gideon all but exploded, “We never got any damn memo abou-” There was a pause. It seemed the Colonel had finally checked his messages.

Dad had always complained that Colonel Gideon worked odd hours. Six in the morning until two in the afternoon were what he used as his working day, and he was practically impossible to get ahold of once he went off-duty.

So I’d sent him the memo at three. Well within the normal work day. Not at all my fault. His. Aaaaaaaall his.

“You found it then? Good! I’ll leave you to your night, Colonel. I’ve got a debrief to finish.”

Hanging up on the sanctimonious asshole was immensely satisfying, and a laugh swept the compartment. “Alright everyone, grab your drink of choice. Well done!” I congratulated them for the deception we’d just pulled off. The techs and crew had already passed on their reports, but I still preferred to see it with my own eyes. Besides, I didn’t want to risk hanging around while everyone got drunk.

I was one of those people for whom one drink was one too many, or at least I had been. Didn’t want to risk finding out if I still was or not. I popped down to the Mech bays and leaned against the side of the door. All five of our crippled ‘Mechs were tucked away in their bays, along with the support staff that usually occupied the rest of the base complex, safe inside Implacable’s armored hull. Decoys had been left in the hanger and barracks in their place, and my three functional ‘Mechs were in the main bay. I could move them out if needed, or leave them in place and depart.

All without our inquisitive little watchers having seen a thing. Now, even in my worst-case scenario, I figured we had better than even odds of getting away clean.

Step four complete. Check, asshole. Your move. I knew what my play was going to be. I ran my fingers over my jacket pocket and thought back to the that morning and what I’d found when I was breaking down my office for transport aboard our dropship.

XXXXX​

January 15th, 3010

The Duke is a fucking idiot. In the history of stupid people, there has never been a person as stupid as this motherfucker. The thought was incredulous as well as disdainful. Granted, if I hadn’t been suspicious enough to take the precautions I’d felt appropriate ‘just in case,’ this could have been a nasty surprise.

Acts of insanity usually were.

If there was one rule I never wanted to break when it came to bureaucrats, it was ‘never preempt the bureaucracy.’ My dad, er first dad? The one that wasn’t a Mechwarrior. He’d told me a story when I was a teenager about a job site he’d worked on one time as a carpenter. The guy in charge had filed all the paperwork for a permit, but hadn’t waited for the approval to get started. When an inspector came by, he forced them to tear out all $7,000 of the material they’d just finished installing and then schedule an additional inspection to make sure that they hadn’t damaged anything with the removal before he’d approve the original permit, which they had completed to code already.

Bureaucrats got off on their power, and there was no power in saying ‘yes’. That meant that a bureaucrat was always looking for an excuse to say ‘no’. A full company of the Ducal Guard in ‘Mechs and tanks and supporting infantry from the Icar Militia positioning themselves around my base was a hell of an excuse.

Even so, I could guess what their plan had been. Imprison me on some sort of trumped-up charge and keep me out of contact and unable to get my story out, or even know what story I should be telling. Meanwhile they got to feed their version of the story to ComStar, and I’d be fighting the uphill battle I’d laid out in front of them.

If they had an appropriately weighty accusation, like treason, there was a certain percentage of people who would believe it just because of the seriousness of the charge, despite the fact that I’d personally shot down three Combine ‘Mechs two weeks ago and assisted with a fourth. That would be the beginning of the end of Weber’s Warriors’ reputation, and a unit lived and died by its reputation. If that was damaged badly enough there’d be nothing left to hold the unit together.

If they were on the battlefield the Duke had obviously expected, there was a chance they could have succeeded. Probably about 40-60 against it, maybe as high as an even 50-50, but it was possible. Thankfully, they weren’t launching an ambush, they were charging into a minefield. Metaphorically at least.

I’d anticipated a report to ComStar’s MRB to be sent and for any more overt attacks to come later. It was a good thing I had everyone packed up and ready to launch anyway. “We recordin’ this?” I asked, still hardly able to credit the mistake the Duke was in the process of making.

“Damn right,” the communications officer responded, and I nodded. Comet stood beside me, and I could tell she was at a simmer. Like most of the company, she too was Lyran born and bred. A backstab like this in the Combine or the Free Worlds League would be one thing. Having it happen at home? Intolerable. “That bastard. That God-forsaken rat bastard.”

The CCTV system in place at out base wasn’t anything stellar, the image was grainy and the colors were less than faithfully rendered. Frankly it looked like video from the late 80s or early 90s instead of what I was used to seeing of what older-me considered modern HD low-light cameras. It was still enough to pick up the distinct stripe pattern of the parade ground paint of the Ducal Guard. They were approaching from the far side of the base from where our dropper was parked, and for some strange reason the perimeter alarms had failed to go off when they meandered past them.

It looked to me like they were going to try to put the base facilities at their back for the approach to Implacable. Made sense. An Overlord had a lot of firepower, but would be reluctant to use it if it meant risking hitting friendlies when they inevitably missed a shot or two at their targets. “It would seem that dear Byron is a lesser son of greater fathers.” For once I was having better luck holding my temper than the people around me. I think I can remember that happening twice in my previous life.

Honestly, I would’ve probably been having more difficulty, but I was enjoying the ‘All according to keikaku’ moment. Also, I was American. For all that Americans geeked over the British Royal Family, we had an innate distrust of nobility. Came from being oppressed by them to the point that we rebelled. We even specifically outlawed them forever in our Constitution.

“I suppose I really should ask these people to get off our lawn,” I commented. I doubt the casual tone fooled anyone, but I’d read a lot of military fiction. Acting cool as a cucumber was supposedly part of being an officer. I picked up the handset and dropped into my seat and fastened my belts, then told the Communications officer, “In the clear, if you please. Positions, everyone.”

After a long moment, she nodded. That was my cue, “Ducal Guard and Militia units, this is Captain Weber. I can understand you being a little upset by last night’s activities, but I’ve already checked my mail. You appear to have forgotten to notify me about this little excursion.”

It was usually difficult for a BattleMech to emote even with a good neurohelmet, but the way an entire Lance hesitated in unison was pretty impressive. A moment passed and then a voice came back over the radio, “Captain Weber, you’re under arrest for-”

I was disinclined to hear him speak, and Implacable had a much more powerful transmitter than he did. “Yeah, I’m gonna have to stop you there. Your boss was already in violation of page eight, paragraph two, subsections A through E of our contract, now you’ve added a …” I glanced back at my notes, “page seven, paragraph five, subsection A violation to that. Pursuant to standard escape clauses A and B, Weber’s Warriors is hereby quitting our contract and filing for MRB arbitration. Have a nice day,” I said and hung up the handset.

That statement certainly set a cat amongst the pigeons. The BattleMechs of the Ducal Guard accelerated, but I’d already briefed my people and Implacable’s drive had been given plenty of time to warm up. Nuclear fire immediately burst from the old Overlord’s engines, swiftly overcoming even the weight of the massive dropship. To my disbelief, a couple of the ‘Mechs actually fired at us. A trio of LRMs from one of the Thunderbolts actually impacted before we got entirely out of range.

Once the first burn was over, and we were out of the atmosphere, I turned to the communications officer and demanded, “Tell me we got that.“

“In sorta muted color. Three craters in the armor, right in view of camera four,” she replied with a grin.

“Alright, add that to the queue, and dial me in to the HPG station. I’ve got an a couple complaints to file about our former boss.”

It was a mark of my current favor with the MRB bureaucracy that I had been given Senior Adept Johnson’s personal contact information. That meant I didn’t have to deal with the damn phone tree. It did, however, mean that I was waking a bureaucrat in the middle of the night.

“H’lluh?” came the muzzy voice.

I put on my best contrite-sounding voice, “Senior Adept Johnson? I’m sorry to be contacting you so late. This is Alistair Weber, and I’m afraid I have to report a problem.”

There was a bit of a commotion over at the Communications section. The officer whose name I really needed to learn was waving to get my attention. Once she was sure she had it, she mouthed ‘Thirtieth Lyran’ at me. I didn’t even bother to consider taking the call before waving her off. If they were still there when I was done with my current call, I’d bother with them then.

During our little game of charades, the Senior Adept appeared to have prodded his brain into working, “Captain Weber, I’m surprised to hear from you at this hour. I take it there is a problem?”

I couldn’t tell for sure without seeing him whether or not he was annoyed. If he was, he was disguising it well. I hadn’t expected that with waking him up in the middle of the night. Maybe he was one of those people who really believed in what they did? “ Sir, I regret to inform you that Duke Ferguson has chosen to escalate. Less than an hour ago, he attacked the base we were operating out of with a company of the Ducal Guard and infantry support from the Militia, and I have the evidence to prove it. That is a further contract violation, and at this time I wish to report both it and the previous violation. I also wish to formally request contract arbitration from the MRB.”

“I will of course have to confirm this, please transmit your information on data channel-” he rattled off a string of alphanumeric digits which I scrambled to write down. I read them back to him and he confirmed, fully in professional mode.

One of the bridge yeomen snatched the paper up and deposited it at the communications section. I moment later, I got a thumbs up. “You should be getting our take now,“ I reported.

“Yes, it is coming in now. I will file the original claim for the date on which you initiated discussion about it with me. Today’s date will of course serve as-“ his voice cut off abruptly, and for a moment I thought I had lost the connection before Senior Adept Johnson’s voice returned. “As I said, today’s date will serve as the origination date for your second complaint. I have verified the footage you submitted including the entirely unwarranted attack on your dropship.“

I could tell he was trying to maintain a professional demeanor, but he was pissed, and I could hear it in his voice. What I knew of Blakist theology indicated that most of the religion was at least semi-pacifist, abhorring he waste of the Succession Wars. There was a reason my Overlord hadn’t bothered to return fire. “Thank you, Sir,” I said and was preparing to conclude the conversation when he interrupted.

“One last detail, the salvage negotiations, what BattleMechs were you seeking?”

That threw me off guard a little bit. I had been expecting it, so I answered entirely honestly. “I was planning an opening bid for the Vulcan, a Panther, and the Blackjack, and letting them argue me down to both Wasps and a Panther plus some C-Bills,” I admitted.

“I shall make a note of that. I wish you a better conclusion to your day than the way it began,” Johnson said, and disconnected.

That was interesting. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any time to pursue the line of thought.

“Thirtieth Lyran are still hailing us. News channels are also reporting ASF’s and Dropships are scrambling,” Communications reported.

“I’ll take the 30th Lyran now,” I said an Overlord was a nasty combatant, but enough ASFs or other Dropships could bring one down. I was left feeling rather grateful that the 30th Lyran’s ASFs already understrength Fighter contingent had been pared down in the raid too.

I picked up the handset again. “This is Captain Weber,” I announced.

“Captain, this is Colonel Gideon, you are hereby ordered to cease acceleration and prepare for boarding whereupon you will be-”

I laid the handset on my shoulder and tuned him out. Once I heard the murmur of his voice stop, I lifted the handset back to my ear. “Naturally I decline. Though you might be interested to know that I’ve requested contract arbitration through the MRB due to Duke Ferguson’s blatant violation of our contract up to and including having BattleMechs wearing his heraldry firing upon my men without cause or warning.”

I gave that a moment to sink in. With the way the Colonel was sputtering, though, it might take a while. “He really ought to have just paid us what he owed us. Now he’s in for more than nine million C-Bills plus penalties.”

Colonel Gideon finally regained control of this tongue “You won’t get away with this! You have nowhere to run!” he bit out angrily.

I have to admit, I laughed at him. “Oh Colonel not only are you a living cliche, you’re sadly misinformed. That collar on my JumpShip works just fine.” Looks like he’d heard about that canceled contract, though honestly, that was beside the point. I was going to get to do it. I knew I had to be wearing a shit-eating grin.

I thought about every complaint Dad had ever made about Jack Gideon and prepared to let fly. I opened my mouth and started giving a villain my first ‘The Reason You Suck’ speech. “Now, Jack, do you mind if I call you Jack? No? Good,” he tried to get a word in, but I just spoke over him.

“You see, Jack, you really could have made something of yourself on Icar. You’ve been here almost as long as this company has, but all you want to do is faff off at work in the mornings so you can go fuck your mistress in the afternoons. A pity. If you’d bothered to push your unit’s training, maybe it’d be you that had won a big victory on New Year’s Day.

“Instead, you’ve been determined to see your posting here as a punishment for all these years. If you’d bothered to put in some effort instead of coasting, you could have put a real feather in your cap: defeating a Combine raid.”

He was really starting to yell now, but I was a past master of vocal projection. Six years of speech and debate, and making myself heard. Even without yelling, I was able to talk over him.

“Instead, you let the Combine damage two factories so badly that it will be three years before they’re rebuilt. All that lost production. All those costs. And then the Duke found out just how much he was going to owe my company for the victory we won. Your victory.

“Well, the Duke decided that the money had to come from somewhere. And part of the reason he was going to owe us so much money was because no one from the 30th Lyran Guard was involved at all. So when he decided he wasn’t going to pay, you were all for that, weren’t you? Got behind that decision and pushed. After all, if I went away, then that victory we won wouldn’t be overshadowing you, and the Duke wouldn’t wonder where your Guards were when he needed them. You’d have even caught the nasty traitor. That feather in the cap you were looking for.”

I’d been interspersing known fact with speculation ever since I’d had to raise my voice the last time. Now I was moving entirely to speculation, but probably accurate speculation. Lyran corruption was memetic. “I wonder why your unit has been understrength for so long? Where did all that appropriations money go? I wonder what the Duke will think once he checks your books? Or maybe the better question will be what Tharkad will think, hmmm?” There was a crash over the line. Then silence.

I looked up to find the entire bridge staring at me, eyes wide. “He hung up on me,” I said with a pout.

XXXXXX​

Two days later, as we were still burning for the Nadir point where Smitty was parked, we caught a news transmission from Icar that Colonel Jack Gideon of the 30th Lyran Guard had been placed under arrest for treason, gross embezzlement, and half a dozen other charges. I grinned like a cat with a whole pitcher of milk, all to myself.
 
Chapter 4

Speaker4thesilent

Crazed Deplorable
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An undisclosed bunker in Flyover Country.
Chapter 4​

Dropship Implacable, Zenith Point, Steelton System

Trellshire, Tamar Pact, Lyran Commonwealth

January 18th, 3010


I was wrapped up in a sleeping bag and didn’t want to move. My throat had that particular burning feel of stomach acid that told me I’d puked at least once recently. I swallowed, and the pain spiked to about a four. That told me I’d puked a lot recently.

Ugh, need water, I managed to string together a coherent thought. It didn’t help that my head was throbbing with pain. I didn’t get migraines often, but their revenge seemed to be that when they did hit, they were worse than the ones my mom got. In search of water, and maybe some Excedrin Tension Headache, I ope-

Nope! Nopenopenopenopenope. Fuck, that hurt. How did I leave a lamp on? I don’t sleep with any lights-

Oh.

The last couple weeks came back to me in a flash, or as much of a flash as my brain was currently capable of. If it was a V6 on most days, it felt like I was running with a dropped cylinder or three today. I briefly considered stumbling around like an idiot, half-blind or better in search of water.

That seemed like far too much work.

I was sure there was something I needed to do today, but I just didn’t care. I burrowed down into my bed covers and fell right back to sleep despite how miserable I felt.

XXXXX​

Dropship Implacable, Zenith Point, Steelton System

Trellshire, Tamar Pact, Lyran Commonwealth

January 19th, 3010


It had been a little after noon, yesterday by the time we got everything secured for our jump, and a little after 7:00pm that night when I had my first conscious memory afterward. By 8:00am this morning I’d mostly finished wanting to curl up in a ball and die. Turned out I had TDS, or Transit Disorientation Syndrome, also known as Jump Sickness.

Oh God, did I have jump sickness.

Since it was my first time taking an FTL trip since I was two, they’d given me a standard dose of dralaxine. If it had helped at all, it wasn’t notable. I still had a headache, but the universe no longer seemed to be spinning, the lights weren’t taking daggers to my eyes, and my stomach was only grumbling about a mutiny, not actively fighting to drag itself up through my throat. I was told by one of the medics that anything less than twenty-four hours to be more or less recovered was pretty good time. I suggested that he should go shove himself in a spin dryer for a week and see how he felt afterwards.

He had the gall to chuckle at me. He was lucky I didn’t want to risk opening my eyes to see who he was at the time, just in case the light-daggers were still lurking in ambush.

In short, I was only twenty-four hours late to the meeting I’d called when I dragged my carcass through the hatch into the conference compartment at 1:30pm. It wasn’t really my fault, I’d had no way of knowing I had TDS, but I still felt like a heel. Also, the stuff I was going to bring up needed covered. The rest of the unit had trusted me quite a lot so far given my age and inexperience, and I felt the need to explain to them what was going on.

Except that now that I was here, I had no idea how to start. I wasn’t prone to stage fright, but I also wasn’t accustomed to giving speeches when I felt like death warmed over either.

“Alright, first of all!” I said, trying to work up some energy if only for myself, “Sorry for the delay. Good thing my heart wasn’t set on being an ASF pilot.” That drew a snort of laughter from the room. Since ASF pilots might have to go into action immediately after a KF jump, TDS was a disqualification for service as an ASF pilot.

I turned a station chair and dropped into it. “As you all know by now, our last contract is being arbitrated by the MRB,” I continued. “We’ve got enough evidence that we ought to get a ruling in our favor, but the MRB moves at the speed of bureaucracy. That leaves us at loose ends for a bit. Or would. I have a plan.”

“A contract, already?” Slim asked, surprise and a little bit of caution in his expression. “That’s …” he trailed off. I looked over and met his eyes, and reminded myself of what local-me had known about the man.

Slim’s real name was Sammy Schmidt, and despite his last name he looked nothing like a German or a Smith. With a compact body type, Slim had earned his slot as an active BattleMech pilot in the Warriors by being small enough to fit comfortably in the cockpit of his Wasp as much as his skill. Though it didn’t hurt that the man was a light ‘Mech enthusiast. His black hair didn’t have even a trace of gray yet, but he had the start of lines on his face. Stress, probably. He was in his early 40s, and most of the unit from that era had some wear and tear on them.

He was also knowledgeable, but clearly didn’t want to step on the new boss’s toes. Fortunately, I could guess what he was hinting at, and he wasn’t wrong. Contract Arbitration was one of the services ComStar offered to all of its clients, but one item from my pool of local knowledge was that clients were wary of hiring a unit that requested it unless they’d had really good cause. Anyone who was asking for us so soon, without the story of what Duke Ferguson had tried to pull getting around, was almost certainly either desperate, or looking to take advantage of the unit somehow.

“Not a contract,” I said and extracted the journal from my pocket. I gave it a light toss to Comet. In the absence of gravity, it spun right into her hands. “Open it to the bookmark.”

The compartment was awash with curiosity as Geraldine read, and I glanced around to take their measure. The twins could tell something was up, and had a look of anticipation in their eyes. Brown-haired Rowdy just wanted to be doing something; The young man had gotten profoundly sick of sitting around on a long-term garrison contract. James McCready, never ‘Jimmy’ outside a cockpit, was next to impossible to read, but that was both usual and customary. Overall, the mood of the room was positive, so I turned back to observe Comet.

I could see and hear when she got to the good part. Her eyes widened and she drew in a deep breath. Her eyes shot up to meet mine and I nodded. “What’s that look like to you?” I inquired, more calmly than I felt.

“Sure as shit looks like ‘regiment’ also ‘fact’ is pretty clear. You’re thinking that’s ‘factory,’ then?”

There was a babble of conversation before Comet clapped her hands and glared the room into silence. In the aftermath, I reclaimed the floor, “Pass the journal around so everyone can see it,” I instructed.

As the little book made its rounds, I answered her question, “And, yes, I make out what looks an awful lot like ‘regiment’ and either ‘factory’ or ‘factories.’ Johan Weber also gives an easily identifiable location for the system.”

“And your dad just sat on this? For a decade?” James stated in a manner that was both calm and deeply disapproving at the same time. With black hair kept longer than most Mechwarriors, he looked older than his thirty-one years. He hadn’t been active in the unit as long as Comet had been, but he remembered the glory days of Weber’s Warriors. If Dad had known about this and done nothing …

“Can you really see him sitting around on a garrison mission if he had?” I demanded, though I took pains to keep an even tone in return. I gave a moment for the thought to percolate through the compartment. “No, I found that taped to the back of a drawer in the big desk from the office. I doubt Dad ever knew it was there. Grandpa, on the other hand,” I trailed off. “He was studious enough to have looked up an old family story, just in case.”

“He was also a cold fish.” Comet said, the fine lines on her face suddenly pronounced with her scowl, “I can see him sitting on the information that way.”

“He also died rather suddenly on the raid,” I reminded everyone before recriminations could be thrown around. “Who knows what he planned to do with the information?” I said with a shrug.

“That does, however, lead to what we should do with this information,” I lead.

“I vote we loot it!” blonde-haired Marsha tossed out. Immediately, her twin, pink-haired to help distinguish the otherwise identical Nordic women from each other, nodded along with her. Five years older than me, the twins were accomplished BattleMech pilots who’d seen action the last time ‘ronin’ had hit Icar. Their performance in the battle at Uniontown had reflected that.

Wasps were part of a generally scorned group of BattleMechs known as ‘bugmechs,’ due both to being largely named after insects, and because heavier ‘Mechs could crush them like bugs. Despite that reputation, the twins had finished off the Blackjack in the ambush we’d fought with casual ease, and then outfought a Panther that was nearly twice their individual weight, using cooperation and good tactics to make up for their machines relative weakness. I’d had a chance to view the battleroms, and only a lucky grouping of SRMs had taken Marsha’s Sting out of the fight. Rowdy’s Firestarter had really only arrived for the coup de grace.

There was a reason dad and the old hands who’d piloted those ‘Mechs before the twins had agreed to let them take over.

“Or we could avoid a snipe hunt, find a cargo for the Adam Smith and wait until the MRB finishes adjudicating our case,” James McCready asserted calmly nudging the glasses he wore due to the poor conditions he’d survived as a child.

“That’s an option,” Geraldine allowed, but even as she said it her eyes were drawn back to the journal.

“I think it's safe to say that it’s not the general consensus, though,” I agreed. “But that does bring up an important point. We’re going Lostech hunting, or at least lost planet hunting. What provisions do we make for who gets what?”

There were frowns breaking out across the group, so I hurried to explain.

“The ‘Mechs, assuming there are any, are easy enough. There’s pretty standard terms in contracts for that when prospecting is anticipated.

“But what about this factory or factories? I mean, we could show up and they turn out to be kitchenware fabrication lines, but we’re in the former Apollo Province of the Rim Worlds Republic. If The Star League Intelligence Command was investigating a world, it’s probably because that world was making material for Amaris’s rebellion.” I let the statement hang.

“Again, this could turn out to be nothing, but it also might not be. So. How do we divvy up a factory?”

Geraldine broke the silence, “I don’t think you’d be asking the question if you didn’t have a start on an answer.”

She was right. I nodded, “I think we need to form a corporation, or at least iron out the foundations for one.”

“Isn’t that what a mercenary company is, Boss?” Rowdy fired back immediately with a grin.

Okay, so I sort of deserved that. “Kinda. What we are, technically is a Private Military Contractor, but that’s the wrong sort of organization to be running factories.” A quick glance showed that I had already lost Marsha and Rowdy. The older three pilots were paying attention, though, and so was Melody. “The way things are set up right now, I’m the owner of the company. I own the Company and all the gear, from the Jump and Dropships down to the last replacement screw down in Maintenance.

“You guys are paid employees. If we still had any owner-operators, they’d technically be subcontractors working with us on a per contract basis. That means, if I hauled us off to the location of this planet, and we got lucky. Say we found a Castle Brian with the entrances nuked until they glowed and all the people inside dead of starvation or radiation poisoning, and an entire Castle Brian’s worth of Star League gear sitting around for the taking: Mechs, vehicles, ASFs, the works. The way Webers Warriors is set up right now, with no owner-operators, all of that belongs to the company.”

That got Marsha and Rowdy’s attention. Melody, surprisingly enough, already seemed to know, and the old hands were unsurprised. “I think that’s bullshit.” I continued, which cut off any outrage before it could really get started, “The only reason the Company has survived this long is because people like you and your families stuck it out.” My eyes cut to Geraldine, Sammy, and James in turn. “After the raid went bad, and it was clear that Weber’s Warriors was in bad shape, you could have left. Veteran Mechwarriors, even dispossessed, aren’t exactly common. The Steiners would have been glad to swear you into service.”

“You didn’t. You stayed, and because of that we just wiped out a Company of Drac regulars with a pair of lances. We saved God only knows how many lives in Uniontown, and we protected a strategic resource in that Tungsten mine. By the time the MRB gets done stacking on penalties, we’ll be getting eight figures for that fight. Even if we go out into the boonies and find nothing, that money means not just repairing our losses from the fight.

“It means adding some air cover for the next time we get into a scrap. It means I can actually pay you the sort of wages veteran and elite Mechwarriors are due, instead of what the company can afford. Hell, it means getting Smitty’s second collar fixed so we can go back to making money when we’re on a long-term contract somewhere instead of just trying to fend off maintenance costs.

“And the only reason I’ve got the opportunity to even try it is because you, and others from the good old days stuck around when the going got tough and kept the company from sliding all the way over the cliff.” I was trying to tear up, and Comet and Slim were both blinking a bit more frequently than just shipboard air could have been responsible for. Melody and Marsha both had bright eyes as well, they just weren’t as practiced at hiding them. Rowdy looked like he wanted to cheer or start giving out exuberant hugs. Only James seemed unmoved, but he’d grown up in the Combine. That was just his way.

“Loyalty like that should be, deserves to be, rewarded.” I let that hang in the air for a long moment. “I’ve got an idea for how to lash something together, but I could use and would welcome some input.”

XXXXX​

We spent the rest of the day and much of the next in that compartment, and both Jacob Tandles, Smitty’s Captain, and Haley Chapman, Implacable’s Captain, filtered in and out as their work schedules permitted. By the end, we had something that I thought would work. The final plan seemed like a cross between a privately owned company with multiple partners and a fishing boat.

As the owner, I had the majority of the shares. By the end, I’d been trying to talk them down, but the lowest I’d been able to convince Comet and the others to go was 67%. That was at least partially because it was recognized that the only practical way to get the sort of expertise needed to run say, a BattleMech factory, would be to hire it away from someone else. Being able to offer partial ownership in the company was a valuable card to play in that sort of negotiation, and any such offering would need to come out of my shares. The rest was spread out among my employees with the Captains, Chief Engineers and Techs and Comet at the top with 10 shares each and descending through bridge crew and pilots down to the point that family members of the people we’d lost on The Raid who’d stuck around working menial jobs to get by each got a share.

We were busy enough that I didn’t even really get involved with hunting down the coordinates for the system we were going to be jumping to. I’d intended to help with that, but by the time I went looking to see if I could help, the Navigation computer was already happily crunching the numbers someone had dug out of an old atlas. It turned out the system was known, but was only listed in Lyran catalogues with a basic number rather than a name. It was also officially outside the Commonwealth’s borders by a light-year or so, at least the way the maps were currently drawn.

I also got a hell of a compliment from Comet when it was all said and done.

XXXXX​

Dropship Implacable, Zenith Point, Steelton System

Trellshire, Tamar Pact, Lyran Commonwealth

January 20th, 3010


After everyone else had left the compartment, signatures on the provisional paperwork and agreement-in-principle written up, Comet and I remained.

As everyone else had headed out, I’d held Slim back, and from the expression on his face, he could guess what was coming. He still deserved to hear it from me. “We’re going to have to take parts from Wasp’s Up to get Sting back in working order,” I told him.

He nodded, a slight grimace on his usually handsome features. “I figured it was coming,” he admitted, “Those two are a hell of a team. Bad idea to break them up.”

Comet and I both nodded our agreement. “I just thought you deserved to hear it from me. And it isn’t going to be a permanent situation. If there really is a Regiment of ‘Mechs like the journal suggests there are, there’ll be more than enough to go around.” Even with the number of dispossessed and up and coming pilots we had in with our camp followers, we couldn’t put pilots into a full Battalion of ‘Mechs, much less a Regiment.

“I’m not going to leave an elite pilot with your experience sitting on the bench for long, no matter what. Even if there’s nothing to find, the payout from the MRB will stretch to cover replacement parts.”

Slim nodded, “I’ll let the techs know then,” he said and extracted himself from the station chair.

I opened my mouth to tell him he didn’t need to do that, then reconsidered. He too had been piloting that ‘Mech for more than a decade. If he wanted an excuse to drop by and say goodbye for a while, he was certainly allowed it.

After he departed, I looked over the very basic articles of incorporation we’d drawn up again while Comet leaned back, nursing a zero-G drink bulb of some variety of sake that most of the crew liked. Even James seemed willing to admit that it wasn’t awful, which was a major concession for the man.

I was about ready to call it a night when Geraldine spoke up. “You’re going to have to watch that bleeding heart of yours when it comes time to negotiate contracts,” she commented as she fiddled with the drink bulb. “You’ll hear plenty of sob stories in this line of work. If you try to help everyone that needs it …” she trailed off, but before I could put together a sentence, she continued, “But these were our people, and you did right by them. Better than any but a handful of people in the Inner Sphere would have done. It’s the sort of thing your dad would have done.” She finished off the last of the alcohol with a single long pull and departed. Neither of us commented on the other’s not entirely dry eyes.
 
Chapter 5

Speaker4thesilent

Crazed Deplorable
Joined
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Location
An undisclosed bunker in Flyover Country.
Chapter 5​

Dropship Implacable, Heliopause, Unknown System

Former Apollo Province, Unclaimed Territory

January 30th, 3010


The jump out of Steelton was uneventful. I was thankful for that, because I had once again been totally incapacitated for something like nineteen hours afterward. At least this time, I’d known the vomiting was an inevitability and not eaten the day before. The cleanup crew were reportedly happy for my consideration as well.

I also hadn’t missed much. A solar system was a big damn place, and it was mostly empty. That was usually the sort of intellectual consideration that didn’t really matter to people. In most systems, people knew where they were going and all of the planets’ locations had been thoroughly mapped and explored.

It was an important consideration when you didn’t actually know where any planets might be hiding. The data we had on this solar system was extremely limited. We didn’t know its name or even how many planets it had. All we had been able to do was take the information and hints we had and make conjectures. At one point, this system had been deep inside the borders of Apollo Province, the RWR government had apparently gone out of its way to conceal that anything was here at all, and SLIC had been here to investigate.

That pointed to a significant Black Site, which probably meant a planet rather than something floating in deep space.

So, rather than jump in at the more common zenith or nadir points, we popped in out on the rim, at the Heliopause, so that we could use modern visual sensors to detect any planets that might exist as they passed in front of their star.

That was old technology. Even back in the 21st-century, we had been able to visually detect planets around distant stars from earth. Doing it from the edge of the star system, even without a specialized space telescope, should’ve been much simpler. I didn’t really realize until we got started just how much simpler it was going to be. On the second day, the computers had had enough time and data to detect and map the orbit of a small planet orbiting the main sequence K1 star near where Mercury’s orbit was around Sol. The star, though hot for an Orange Dwarf, was marginally cooler than humanity’s native sun. As a result, the planet was more like Venus than Mercury, but the fact that the navigational computers could crunch the math so quickly sort of blew my mind. Granted they’d had centuries to refine their programming over what had been available in my time, but it was still an impressive achievement.

Even more impressive, was the fact that Smitty’s sensors and computers could find reflected light almost as easily. I hadn’t internalized just how good they were, having fully expected to spend several weeks Jumping around the periphery of the system to find the data we needed. Then just after noon today, we got another hit.

“You’re sure?” I asked, trying not to sound like a doubter.

From the look on Captain Tandles’s face, I hadn’t quite succeeded. “The computers are. They’ve had enough data points and time to chew on them, and it’s right smack dab in the middle of the star’s habitable zone,” he explained. “If I were going to build a bunch of factories, I’d certainly rather have them on a habitable planet than either a lifeless rock or hanging around in space,” he asserted.

Great minds think alike. He had a point, I was just accustomed to getting bad news instead of good news. Especially when it was important.

“It does sound like something we should check out,” I acknowledged then frowned, trying to do the mental math. “We’ll actually save time if we wait until the drive is recharged and jump closer before launching the Dropship, right?” I asked.

Tandles nodded. “Would be even if we were jumping to a standard jump point.”

I shot him a surprised look at that and inclined an eyebrow.

He rolled his eyes and pointed back at the display. “Damn landlubbers. The planet’s got a simple planetary system. Only two satellites. One of them is clearly artificial, and in a stable orbit. The other one might be natural, or something artificial that was damaged somewhere along the line. It has a more eccentric orbit, but it’s still predictable. And they’re both small. Much smaller than most moons as a fraction of the planet’s mass. That means their gravity is low, which means they have almost no influence on the jump point between the planet and the star.

“I intend to make sure the jump computer has the time it needs to double check the calculations, but an apprentice navigator in his first month should be able to calculate a jump this easy.”

That was good news. Decreased travel time meant lower fuel costs for transport, meant better profit margins. Also that we would almost have arrived in orbit by the time my jump sickness wore off, though that was something of a mixed blessing.

Then I frowned as something occurred to me, “That stable satellite. Is it possible that it’s a pirate base?” I inquired. We were within one jump of Star’s End which was a notorious pirate hang out the way Port Royal, Jamaica had been back on Earth.

“If it is, they don’t have a ship in system. Or didn’t. Light speed lag. First thing I looked for when we arrived was anything reflecting light at the standard jump points. Cameras say the pirate point we’re looking to use is clear too,” Tandles informed me.

That was one thing I could apparently cross off the list, at least. “Alright, thanks for the information. I’ll go let the Dropship side know what’s going on,” I said then paused and turned back to face him. “Damn good job on this. I know it isn’t what we’ve had you working on for the last decade.”

“My boys and girls will appreciate the compliment,” Captain Tandles stated with a nod before continuing, “And just because we’ve been playing merchantman for a decade doesn’t mean we haven’t been running drills. This was actually simple compared to some things I’ve put the crew through in the past.”

“Well, the practice shows. They made this look easy, not just simple,” I commented and made my way out of the compartment.

XXXXX​

I made tracks for our Overlord, excitement steadily building at the thought of being the first person, or at least among the first, to see this particular alien planet in centuries.

I made good speed, which naturally meant that by the time I arrived everyone already knew what I was going to tell them. Gossip truly was the fastest known method of human communication, outstripping even HPGs.

“Man, this is like something out of Immortal Warrior!” Rowdy enthused. “A forgotten planet with a hidden regiment of mechs? So cool.”

“I admit, I was sceptical, but the odds of the system we jumped to randomly having a planet in the middle of the star’s habitable zone are … small,” James admitted before taking a sip from his drink bulb.

Rowdy nodded. “I wonder if it was a cache like this that gave Wolf’s Dragoons their start?” before either of us could answer, he jumped to another topic, “Hey, James, what sort of ‘Mech would you want? I mean, assume the cache could have anything in it. What would you pick?”

James rolled his eyes and tried to defer, “You know it's likely that these were Rim Worlds Republic ‘Mechs, right? There might be a few advanced machines, but most of those were probably sent to the Hegemony when Amaris launched his coup.”

Rowdy, however, was not to be deterred. “Or this could be a Castle Brian that the Rimjobs gassed, or nuked, or something,” he asserted. “C’mon, be honest. What’s your dream ‘Mech?”

I had to admit, I was curious too. “I suppose it would be a good thought exercise if nothing else,” James said after a moment. “I would prefer to stick with something similar to my Panther’s role, though better armor or mobility would be optimal. In that vein, a Catapult comes to mind as a fire support mech with jump jets, though the most similar variant to a Panther would be the -K2 variant. Assuming that the sky was the limit, I would prefer to have it modified to return the jump jets. Inclusion of Star League heat dissipation systems should make that possible.

He frowned for a moment in consideration, “It is both ironic and slightly distasteful that the Combine builds BattleMechs that fit so well with my preferences.” Even Rowdy knew not to poke that particular hornets’ nest, so it was a relief to both of us when James turned to me and inquired, “And you, Alistair? What would you hope to find?”

“An intact, fully automated Assault ‘Mech line,” I shot back. James just stared at me, but Phillip snickered. “Tough crowd,” I said to buy time and leaned back.

My experience, such as it was and what there was of it, was as a Striker. I was pretty decent at it, even if my gunnery could use some work, but a Commander didn’t belong in a light, fast machine like that unless his entire force was light and fast.

“Couple answers there. If it was just me as a pilot, I’d be fine sticking with a Striker. Maybe something like a Kintaro. I mean, a trio of SRM-6s and a pair of MLs? Hefty punch in close, and some freezers to keep the heat under control would silence most of the complaints about the design.

“On the other hand, unless we’re gonna run a Light Horse outfit, a Regimental commander belongs somewhere other than leading cavalry charges. In that case … gotta go with a Cyclops.” It was a classic choice, but classics were classic for a reason and the hardware built into the Assault ‘Mech’s cockpit was legendary. Also for a reason. “If there really is a Regiment of mechs, that’s the sort of ‘Mech I’d want to manage a battlefield.”

“And that fuck-off autocannon doesn’t hurt either, right?” Rowdy immediately jumped on the heavy ordinance.

“It’s a capable weapon, but the range leaves something to be desired,” James opined. “There used to be a variant of the Cyclops that mounted a Gauss rifle. Outside of storming that Castle Brian you mentioned, a longer-range weapon would probably be more useful on a relatively slow Mech.”

“Plus, a commander’s job is to command. If he’s down to firing his own AC-20 the situation has gone entirely to hell,” I interjected.

Rowdy immediately squawked his opposition to that idea, “What? But what if we need you to take down the enemy commander in a duel?”

James immediately moved to cut him off at the knees. “You watch too many action ‘vids,” he accused. “That sort of thing almost never happens in real life,” he declared dismissively.

“What about Ian Davion? The only reason the Fourth Guards were able to get out of that trap was because he and his Command Lance stayed as a rear guard.”

“You’ll also note that they died to the last man,” James shot back, puncturing and sense of momentum Rowdy had been building.

“And it was a mess. Prince Ian didn’t have any kids, so the title passed to his brother. Who was also a combat commander. What would have happened if he’d been killed in action before he got the word?” Seemingly delighting in pouring fuel on the fire, Melody immediately jumped in on Jimmy’s side and Rowdy frowned at the pink-haired twin as she continued, “I’ll tell you what would have happened, there’d have been another War of Davion Succession with a civil war to top it off!”

Marsha, with an unusual lack of aggression, was dragged into the conversation as well. “That … might not have been the best example, but what about Natasha Kerensky? Even if she was commanding a Battalion, I’d still want her in the fight. She’s worth a Lance all by herself,” the blonde twin asserted.

I leaned back in my seat as the debate raged on. This was … nice. I’d lived a pretty solitary life before I’d been dropped here. Partly that was by choice, but part of it had also been that I didn’t get people. I could predict an institution or a bureaucracy like nobody’s business, partially because all I had to do was think of the dumbest possible course of action and I had at least a sixty percent chance of being right. In comparison, trying to have a conversation with a peer had been painfully awkward most of the time.

Local me, Alistair, had ended up in the same position by a different route. He’d been the boss’s kid, and subject to either sucking up or wariness much of the time as a result. Ironically, as just ‘the boss’ I was being treated more as one of the guys than he had been as a fellow Mechwarrior.

Both sides of me were content to snipe tactically at whichever side of the argument looked to be building too much of a head of steam and just enjoy belonging for a bit.

XXXXX​

Dropship Implacable, Heliopause, Unknown System

Former Apollo Province, Unclaimed Territory

February 2nd, 3010


I could really get sick of TDS. We’d made our jump as scheduled on the first of the month. With being so far out-system, we’d had to charge the drive off of a trickle of power from Smitty’s reactor instead of just using solar energy, but the jump had gone as predicted. I was also feeling marginally better than last time.

Partially that was because of the maximum recommended dose of dralaxine I’d gotten before the jump. Mostly, it was because sickbay was becoming accustomed to the routine. An IV had made sure I didn’t dehydrate or end up with the beginning of metabolic alkalosis like I had the first time, and an antiemetic meant I’d only actually thrown up twice, though my poor abused brain simply declined to function within eight hours after the jump.

As a result, I was only incapacitated for about fourteen hours this time. That still meant that by the time I was fit for duty, our Overlord was decelerating to link up with the damaged orbital facility around the planet.

“Anything stand out?” I asked as I seated myself. Under 1G of thrust, it was pretty easy to move about the dropship.

Captain Chapman gave me a distracted handwave by way of greeting. “About the planet or the station?” she inquired, still paying most of her attention to her readouts.

“Well, I was asking about the planet, but I’ll take whatever you’ve got,” I responded.

The Implacable’s graying Captain shot a quick glance around her bridge before she spoke, “All we can tell about the planet right now is that gravity is going to be higher than standard. Significantly so, unless it’s much less dense than average for some reason. Best guess for the moment is somewhere around 1.25G.”

I winced. Weighing a quarter again what we and, more importantly, our ‘Mechs usually did would have a damn long adjustment period. Mechs were built to function in a wide variety of locations, but that much extra weight would have consequences. The least of which was extra maintenance for effectively fielding ‘overweight’ platforms. “That’s going to suck,” I stated mildly, much of my focus still considering options.

“I don’t particularly like the thought of what it’s going to do to the old lady here either,” Haley said and gave the arm of her station a pat. “On the other hand, that’s why military hardware is overbuilt. It’ll put extra strain on the frames, but they’ll take the abuse. Good luck getting a civilian vehicle to work straight off the dropship with such a big environmental change.”

I nodded. The biggest headache would be retraining to get used to the different speeds we’d be getting out of our usual throttle settings. That and acclimating so as to avoid falls. A fall on even level ground could do considerable armor damage under increased gravity. On the other hand, there wasn’t much I could do about it.

“What about the station?” I asked, shifting gears.

“Looks like it used to be pretty heavily armed and armored. Somebody sure beat the hell out of it somewhere along the line, though,” she explained. “One whole sector is basically denuded of armor. Big-damn crater, so either it got hit by a couple small nukes or hammered by warship-grade weapons.

She leaned back in her seat and shrugged. “Honestly, it doesn’t look like the sort of hit that would kill a big station like that. With an industrialized planet right there,” she waved towards the blue-green ball already visible on-screen in the distance and only growing larger with time, “they ought to have been able to make repairs. Except they didn’t. Might support the theory that they couldn’t for some reason,” she concluded knowingly.

“Like they’d used some sort of chemical weapon to deny it to the other side,” I added.

“Or something. Seems to fit, anyway,” she concluded with a shrug before switching gears.

“Be a bit yet before we’re ready to slip into orbit. Long as you promise not be be a disruptive influence, you can wait here.”

“Captain, I do believe that I shall take you up on that.”

XXXXX​

The sudden silence woke me, and I realized that I’d drifted off despite the noise on the bridge. I sheepishly glanced around only to find Captain Chapman grinning at me knowingly. “Ah, sorry about that,” I began, embarrassed, but the Captain waved me off.

“Don’t worry about it. TDS can really wear a person down,” she said. “You’re just lucky you don’t snore, or I’d have thrown you out anyway.”

I grinned at the joke, “So we’ve arrived then,” I stated the blindingly obvious. In my defense, I wasn’t quite awake yet. I was about to ask if there had been any problems, but even I probably couldn’t have slept through a bridge alarm, teenager again or not.

Instead I inquired, “Any new information about the station now that we’re closer?”

“Not really,” she responded, “We’re going to have to send some people over there to take a look.”

That had me perking up. I’d never really wanted to be an astronaut, but going EVA would be pretty co-

“Thankfully, I grabbed a couple of Smitty’s people who have experience with exterior maintenance in vacuum. The last thing we need is a bunch of inexperienced neophytes traipsing all over the place.”

On the one hand, it’s good to know she’s well prepared and has got this under control. On the other hand, what sort of self-respecting video game makes the main character sit on the sidelines when there’s a derelict station to explore and loot?

She wasn’t wrong about the issues with sending an FNG out into death pressure though, so I kept my peace and sat back to watch.

XXXXX​

Sam Jones had a moment of irritation as a bead of perspiration slid down his forehead where the absorbent pad he wore didn’t quite cover. Thankfully, this time it missed his left eye, but it was still a source of irritation for him. At least he was past the stage of banging a glove off of his helmet trying to wipe his forehead through the transparent faceplate.

Finally he managed to secure his side of the portable airlock the exterior hull maintenance crew had brought with them. Getting it hauled across the gap from the dropship and then set up in a likely looking section of corridor without ruining it on any of the jagged edges created by the damage the station had taken had been a non-trivial task. A moment later, Deric, the senior tech, got his side locked down as well. That was the easy part finished, at least.

“-everything locked down. We’re ready to start setting up the APU,” his supervisor reported. The auxiliary power unit ought to produce enough electricity to operate the blast doors. That was half the reason they’d had to set up the airlock. Finagling a blast door to open a pressurized compartment to vacuum was possible, but that didn’t make it a good idea.

And readings indicated there was, in fact, still pressure in the sealed sections of the station. Shit in the Star League had been built to last if nothing else, though the lack of power probably meant that the life support system would need work before the air could be rendered breathable again.

That was the other reason to set up the airlock. In an emergency, there was at least a small chance you could make it inside and run the pressure up in time to survive a suit breach. If it was small. And you were lucky.

At least their radiation detectors had kept to the usual sort of background buzz. Whatever had cratered the armor and exposed a compartment and a couple sections of corridor had been clean enough for a couple centuries to have done away with that particular hazard.

A few minutes further work had the door’s access panel popped open and the APU wired in. A button-press later, and they had their answer. The doors cracked open and then retracted into the wall. The inner door made it all the way, but the outer door jammed just over halfway to closed. Outer hull must’ve buckled when the nukes hit.

The atmosphere inside, however, returned surprising information when they tested it. “Ma’am, got no reaction on the test strips. That ought to mean a Nitrogen or Argon atmosphere,” he reported back to the Captain. There were tests that could tell the difference, but they were expensive. From his perspective, it didn’t matter anyway. Either way, if his suit got too big a tear, he was dead.

“Confirmed. Non Reactive atmosphere. Mission remains the same. Try to see if there’s anything indicating how to get to engineering,” Captain Chapman replied promptly.

“Copy that. Nothing so far,” Deric acknowledged. The blast door had been protecting another section of corridor. Sam could see the slight curve that meant it ran along the outermost section of the station. There was also the occasional length of pipe crossing at the top of the corridor or passing out of the bulkheads. Probably made it a maintenance corridor.

The way the light refracted slightly took some of the tension out of his shoulders. In vacuum, light stayed just the narrow cone of the lamp. Without atmosphere it couldn’t diffuse the way it could in atmosphere. If nothing else, it would help avoid snags by making obstacles more obvious.

As Deric stopped to slap the first repeater to the wall, Sam caught a flash of color out of the corner of his eye. Turning his own lights on the area, he moved forward a few steps, then keyed his microphone. “Can confirm this was a Rimjob station. Unless you know why the Star League would have a shark decal on a warning sign.”

“Probably a fair guess. Good eye,” and that was The Boss, not just the Implacable’s Captain, which was bad enough. How the hell were you supposed to talk to a man two years younger than you who owned more C-Bills worth of hardware than the worth of the whole city you’d grown up in?

“Well, if I didn’t have good vision, I’d still be on the Smitty and somebody else would be poking around this hulk.” Apparently he still defaulted to being a smartass under stress. Shit. I am so fucking dea-

A bark of laughter cut him off, “Well, I’m glad you’re having fun over there. Keep up the good work.”

On the one hand, Sam was relieved he hadn’t pissed off the guy who issued his pay. On the other, it was plain unnatural for an eighteen year old to be that comfortable in his own skin. And on the other other hand, he’d killed three Drac BattleMechs back on Icar and crippled another before the wonder twins killed it. Sam had never been as ‘Mech crazy as some of his friends and classmates, but he wasn’t ignorant. He worked for a Mercenary company, even if he was in JumpShips, rather than a real combat arm. Taking a pair of Locusts wasn’t too impressive. They were, after all, Locusts. Doing it at the same time with a Mech only a few tons heavier than either of them was regarded by his fellow crewmen as rather more impressive.

Taking a Panther on right afterwards? A ‘Mech ten tons heavier with a pilot who’d just finished killing the young man’s own father? That was more impressive. The fact that he’d done it without taking more than some armor damage was really eye-opening.

The whole company had seen the Battlerom by now, and the way he calmly took down the two bugmechs before crippling the Panther’s arm, then cutting it down had been impressive. And, having grown up on Icar, it had been nice to see the damn Combine losing a Company of mechs to a pair of Lances.

Sam shook off his thoughts and then stumbled forward a step. Deric, standing behind him had cuffed him lightly on the back of the helmet. “Your mouth is gonna get you killed some day, Rookie.”

Sam was usually inclined to bravado, but he’d just used up most of his luck for the day by being a smartass. “Yeah, maybe,” he deferred, “But the Boss seened cool with it.”

“Yeah, well you ain’t gonna have to worry about the boss if I stuff you in a compartment and leave your ass there. Now if you’re done pattin’ yourself on the back, can we maybe get a move on?”

After a moment’s thought, Sam decided he didn’t need the last word when his supervisor was already annoyed with him, so he just took point as directed.

Most people would probably have found the corridor eerie. Sam was used to hanging onto the side of a JumpShip so far from the nearest planet that he couldn’t have pointed to it even if he’d known where it was. After that, most anything was-

Sam jumped and gasped as the body abruptly entered his cone of vision.

He’d been following the curve in the corridor for a couple minutes, but he hadn’t noticed the T junction due to the way several pipes turned into the bulkhead just before it and the general darkness of the station. It had also concealed the floating corpse until he was practically on top of it.

Sam looked away and swallowed, he really didn’t want to puke in his damn helmet, but rot had definitely had time to set in before the nitrogen or whatever had stopped the process.

“Jesus!” Deric called out over the short-range frequency the pair of them were using. “Fuck, that’s creepy,” he commented before switching to the repeaters.

“Ma’am found a dead crewman. Looks like a maintenance worker,” he reported.

“Acknowledged, any idea what killed him?” Came the reply.

“No idea, but whatever it was practically cut him in half. Don’t see any damage to the walls, but without gravity who knows how far he drifted.”

“Noted,” was the only reply.

“Man, that’s just gross,” Deric said as he transitioned back to the local channel.

A sweep of the wall with his light brought a frown to Sam’s face. “Unfortunately, I think we’re gonna be seeing a lot of him for the next couple days,” illuminated on the wall was the word ‘Engineering’ with an arrow pointing towards the center of the station.

XXXXX​

A/N: Thanks to LordsFire, Seraviel, and Yellowhammer for brainstorming, beta reading, and canon compliance verification. Wanted to do this all from the SI’s perspective, but it just didn’t work.
 
Chapter 6

Speaker4thesilent

Crazed Deplorable
Joined
Aug 19, 2019
Reaction score
2,671
Location
An undisclosed bunker in Flyover Country.
A/N This fought me. Good God, did this fight me. Accelerated through some of the worldbuilding to get to the Big Stompy Robots sooner. Don’t think the chapter suffered too much for it.



Chapter 6​

Unknown Station, Planetary Orbit, Unknown System
Former Apollo Province, Unclaimed Territory
February 10th, 3010


Sam was doing his best to not bounce off the walls in excitement. It had taken more than a week to figure out the station’s systems and get things restarted. With power, air and water moving about the derelict was markedly easier.

Policing the bodies had been less fun. Without any better option, they were currently storing them in the compartment that had been blasted partially open by the attack that had damaged the station back during the Amaris Coup. At least, Sam considered, we haven’t found any more of them. With heat and an oxygen atmosphere restored, rot would have set in quickly.

He shook the thought off. Instead of dealing with centuries-dead corpses or trying to figure out an awkwardly designed life support system, Sam and the rest of the volunteers from the Implacable were exploring. A week had given them plenty of time to find and pore over the deckplans of the station, and the Captain or maybe The Boss had decided they were to check on the shuttle bays the station boasted to see if they could be put back into operation.

It would certainly make getting back over to the Dropship less stressful, he thought as Deric navigated through the corridors of the station, navigating towards the port fore small craft bay. The once-imposing structure was much less threatening with power and a survivable atmosphere restored, but the deckplan was either deliberately confusing or the person who’d designed it was a drunk. Or the jokes about the periphery had a basis in fact.

Even so, at every point of divergence, his eyes shot down paths untaken and he wondered what could be found down those corridors. The small craft bay might be important, but it didn’t seem exciting to him. At least we’re finally getting out of a handful of rooms around Engineering. That was something, he acknowledged. Just sitting around when there was who-knows-what to find had been maddening.

Finally, Deric came to a stop outside the man doors to the shuttle bay. After a moment to ensure that the access panel was powered, he opened comms and asked, “Your seals still good?”

Reflexively, Sam checked his helmet and gloves. “All good,” he responded.

“Same here,” Deric replied and hit the ‘open’ control. The computer thought about that for a moment, then with a thunk the pressure door slid open. The first thing he noticed was that the space looked far larger in person than the block had looked on the deckplan, and much larger than a standard Aerospace bay was described as being. Set into the ‘starboard’ wall were four bays for small craft of a type that he didn’t recognize.

They were aerodyne vessels, and they appeared to be on the upper end of the weight range for such vessels, but they had the look of a civilian model.

A few quick tests later, and Deric reached up and unsealed his helmet, “Air’s good. I’ll take a look at the birds, you tell the terminal there to run a system test.”

Sam had expected those orders to go out the other way around. Setting the terminal to do a check up was about as trivial as a task got. Crawling around the shuttles would be a lot more troub-

Oh, right, Sam remembered as he removed his suit gloves so that he wouldn’t have to fight with the fat fingers while trying to type. Deric was one of those guys who talked about flying ASFs every chance he got. A shuttle wasn’t as light and agile as a fighter, but for someone who’d always regretted that the company didn’t have an Aerospace wing anymore, they were probably a heck of a consolation prize.

Without much difficulty, Sam instructed the Small Craft bay’s terminal to run a full set of diagnostics. As he’d expected, it was a quick and easy process. It also left him again at loose ends. His eyes were naturally drawn to the single large door to ‘port,’ opposite the four individual small craft bays, it looked like a cargo door.

Wonder what the rimjobs were moving through here back before the coup? he considered, then shot a look over at his supervisor. Deric had opened one of the shuttles and clambered inside. Given the sheer size of the beast, he’d be busy for quite a while yet.

Leaving the computer to its appointed task, Sam kicked off and drifted across the bay to the big door that was practically calling his name. The controls for this door were a bit different than most of the others he’d seen so far on the station, but not so different he couldn't figure them out. A quick press of a button set them slowly moving apart. A second had the lights in the room flickering to life. Careful of the sliding doors, Sam poked his head into the revealed cargo bay.

For a long moment he was disappointed. He’d been half hoping for ‘Mechs or ASFs. Then he realized just what he was looking at. “Holy shit! Deric, get over here!”

XXXXX​

Dropship Implacable
Same Time


“So there’s how much of this stuff?” I asked, confused.

“A lot,” the tech responded. I’d had the Captain send teams out to check two of the three small craft bays on the station. This guy was half of the pair that had gone to check the aftmost of the two portside bays.

They’d accomplished the mission; the shuttle bay would be relatively simple to reactivate even if the shuttles themselves would require some time and effort, despite the nitrogen atmosphere. Then they’d decided to check the neighboring cargo bay, which had resulted in a real head-scratcher.

“How much is, ‘a lot?’” I demanded.

“It’s at least three quarters of the cargo bay, stacked deck to deck and bulkhead to bulkhead. I climbed to the top of the stacks, and couldn’t see to the back.”

“And it’s all Green Mountain S brand survival rations?”

“Yes, sir, all the boxes we can see have ‘S-Green’ on them.”

That was just … insane. Not that there was a whole cargo bay full of emergency rations. No, to be fair it made a certain amount of sense to have a lot of emergency rations on hand if the planet had been a Forge World like I was anticipating. Those generally had a difficult time feeding themselves.

I just couldn’t get over the Soylent Green reference. It was the sort of thing a bored Dev would stick into a game as an easter egg for a lore grognard or completionist to find. Seeing it in real life was just bizarre.

“Thank you for the update,” I said and hung up.

“Well, at least we won’t go hungry if the expedition takes longer than expected,” I asserted.

“I can tell you’ve never tasted the stuff,” Captain Chapman stated with a grimace.

Coming from her … “That bad?” I inquired.

She actually shuddered. “Worse. The taste is bad enough, but the texture is worse. They used, still use really, the stuff is still being made, the cheapest supplements they could find. It’s fortified enough for a person to subsist off of at two tubes a day forever, but it’s got the consistency of spoiled milk and tastes like old blood because of all the iron in it.” Her expression got more haunted the more she talked about consuming the stuff. Was it possible to get PTSD over food?

I was feeling guilty enough for bringing it up that when the comm officer interrupted with a call of, “Sir, you’ll want to take this,” I was relieved to have a change in subject.

“This is Weber Actual,” I said as soon as I got the phone to my ear.

The response was better than halfway to blowing out my eardrum, “Boss, I’m looking at at least a hundred-million C-Bills worth of JumpShip spares here!”

I flinched away from the headset, and left it about an inch from my ear. Then I processed what he’d actually said. “Did you just say a hundred-million C-Bills?” And why did that voice sound familiar…

Immediately, the decibel level on the bridge spiked and the air echoed with shouts and cheers. Hailey had to call for quiet so I could hear the report.

“-two Nav computers and a Jump computer sitting here in the damn boxes. Not the bridge terminals, the actual fucking computers! There’s precision helium pumps, rapid discharge capacitors, and superconductors. Hell, there’s three complete collar assemblies! And-”

That last part immediately stuck in my brain. “Collar assemblies? As in jump collars? Could we get the Smitty’s broken collar fixed?”

The voice didn’t sound irritated by being interrupted at all. “Hell, Boss, there’s enough spares here to fix everything twice over. Every damn system that’s been limping along? We can pull all that shit and still have enough C-Bills of salvage to fill every empty ‘Mech and ASF bay on the Implacable!” the tech enthused. He had an ‘S’ name. Short. But it refused to pop into my head.

“Good! Damn good job spotting this stuff,” I could feel the grin spreading over my features. Having both of the Merchant class JumpShip’s collars back in working order was …

It was like going from the deep and certain knowledge that the submarine you were in was a hundred feet below its rated crush depth to sailing back into port and knowing you were due a month of leave.

And not only that, but we had a financial cushion to go along with it, even if unloading all those parts would mean a trip to a major shipyard or trade hub.

Before I even thought about the possibility of cutting the expedition short and taking off with the loot we’d just uncovered, I realized I’d already decided against it. There were logical reasons like the relative difficulty of selling the parts locally, or the hope of finding a bunch of Star League ‘Mechs in a cache, but really I just wanted to see more of what was out here.

With a wide grin, I told Duh, Sam! It shouldn’t have been that hard to remember, “First priority now is getting a shuttle ready to fly. As soon as you’ve-”

XXXXX​

Dropship Implacable
February 15th,
(Five days later)

Everything took longer than I expected it to. It always seemed to come down to piddly little details that screwed things up. Getting a shuttle flying required a couple hundred man-hours. Settling who would be flying it felt like it had taken nearly as much effort.

“Track confirmed; we’re on course.”

The Company had once boasted a sizable ASF contingent, and there was still a pool of flying enthusiasts amongst our number.

All of them had wanted a chance to get in a cockpit, reasonably presuming that any flight hours were better than none. There’d also been the need for the Dropship to hang around just in case of a sudden failure in either the shuttle or, more reasonably given just how much rust the old-timers needed to blow off and how lacking in experience the next generation were, the pilots.

It made me wish we’d been able to spare the resources to fully reactivate the station, rather than just the most important areas and the shuttle bays.

“T-minus thirty to burn.”

“Confirmed.”

I shook my head. I was getting distracted with trivialities. The most immediately important information my people had gathered in the past few days was what certainly appeared to be the primary spaceport from back when Amaris had been in charge.

It wasn’t where we’d expected to find it. For some damn reason, it had been built on either a terrace carved through a mountain range, or in natural ‘pass’ in the north to south running mountains. With all the green of what looked like unbroken forest, I had expected them to have built down on flat land, not to have gone to the difficulty and expense of doing so way up in the mountains.

It had set my paranoia senses tingling.

On the other hand, Captain Chapman had a point that building it there might have saved resources in the long run, especially if there were hard rock mines or, as we hoped, buried factories within convenient transport range.

Maybe they didn’t see the point in hiding the factories too, since they were already hiding the star system. It made sense, but … I still felt like I was missing something.

“Commencing deorbit,” Haley called from her seat in the center of the bridge.

The kick in the chest from the Dropship’s engines was heavier than it would be for the usual sort of maneuvering, but with an unknown heavy gravity world, that was only to be expected. Better to have some altitude in reserve if we discovered we needed it than to need it and not have it.

“Plasma layer … now,” came the expected comment as reentry briefly blinded even the Implacable’s hardened sensors. Then-

“We’re off our expected course. Compensating.”

The arms of my station chair creaked and I abruptly realized I had an absolute death grip on them. I forced myself to relax even as the irreverent thought, Worse than going to the dentist, brought a grin to my lips.

“Gravity calculations were off by two hundredths. We’re back on course.”

“Very good,” the Captain praised with calm sincerity. “Deploy landing struts. Full burn on Engineering’s mark.”

“In three … two … one … mark!” One of the less familiar voices called as a horse kicked the seat under me. The engines kicked into full overboost for a long moment, then rapidly powered down.

“We’re down. Legs all green. Ops?” The Captain asked.

“Atmosphere reads green. Oxy-Nitrogen with the usual traces. Surprisingly rich, especially considering our height above sea level. Got a good breeze out of the west. We’ll be safe to exit in less than ten.”

With the report complete, Captain Chapman turned to me with a smile, “Well, Major,” she said, giving me the usual courtesy promotion aboard ship, “we’re down in one piece. Your turn.”

“Then I guess I’d better be about it.”

XXXXX​

The operations officer had been as good as her word, the stiff breeze through the pass had cleared a sufficient amount of the heat from the old Overlord’s engines that we could have easily left within five minutes if we’d only been taking ‘Mechs.

Stepping out of the Dropship in my Commando revealed a fairly barren bit of ecosystem. Whatever needs the lower level forests had, they clearly weren’t fulfilled by the environment here. Instead, it looked more like prairie or maybe more accurately high-altitude tundra, with lots of grass, but nothing that looked like a tree anywhere in sight.

Then I raised my eyes, and let out a whistle.

Marsha, stepping up beside me in Orcrist seemed to agree, “Damn, that is some view.”

The southern side of the pass reached from terraces worked down to bedrock, up to majestic mountains topped in snow-covered peaks where air would be perilously thin even with an oxygen concentration that was on the high side for the Jurassic. “Hell, maybe they settled here just for that. Wow.”

These were mountains like the Himalayas, not the comparatively pitiful things I’d grown up beside on Icar.

“Wouldn’t be the first time some bureaucrat from that era decided to pour money into something just because they could,” Melody added.

A look to either side had the pass, slowly descending towards foothills, with grass a shade too red to be purely Terran as far as the eye could see. The only interruptions to the vista were the toppled remains of what looked like elevated highways meant to connect the terraces on the north and south sides.

Still, much as I liked the view, it wasn’t what we were here for. I turned my attention to the buildings that made up the spaceport’s functional elements.

The terminal seemed to be mostly intact as well as what were either warehouses or maintenance hangers. More immediately, there were a bunch of Dropships scattered around. A mix of aerodynes and spherical types. “Let’s head that way,” I called, and throttled up to a slow cruise. The twins in their Wasps, and Rowdy in his Firestarter following in a diamond formation.

As we moved, I took a look at our potential prizes. Unfortunately, scans with Striker Alpha’s sensors confirmed what my people had reported based on looking down from orbit, most of them had been left open to the elements for decades. It was a damn shame, even Star League engineering wasn’t proof against a couple centuries of exposure.

I planned to send survey teams to check anyway, but I fully expected that most if not all of them would need either a depot-level overhaul, or a complete factory-level rebuild before they were fit to fly again.

I did, however, take note that one of the Mules, a Union, and a third design I wasn’t familiar with, a big damn aerodyne, appeared to have been sealed when the disaster that hit the planet occurred. With just a little bit of luck, maybe they could be salvaged.

Still, they weren’t the focus of our little expedition. With the landing pad down to a better temperature, some of our ground vehicles began to work their way after us. Thankfully, we didn’t have to babysit them too much yet.

The starport was a bit overgrown, but ferrocrete slabs meant to survive dropship landings didn’t appear to be affected by a couple paltry centuries without maintenance. The taxiways for aerodynes were also well built, and had survived equally well with just the occasional vine growing across the surface.

As such, we were able to make it to the Terminal and its control center without incident. While the techs piled out of their trucks with a few ground security types in case of feral dogs or other predators, I again swept the area with Striker Alpha’s sensors.

There wasn’t a lot to see, beyond the scenery which was partially occluded by probably-worthless dropships. The only feature that stood out was the wall and fortified gates at the start and end of the path up to the next higher terrace. Made sense, if this had been an important Forge World for Amaris. Nobody wanted to risk losing one of those, but I wasn’t looking forward to figuring out how to get one of them open. Just because this gate was standing open didn’t mean all of them would be.

I fidgeted in place; it was quiet. I was getting some scatter from the techs and our limited site security, but otherwise the silence was fairly deafening. Felt sort of like I’d always expected an Old West ghost town to feel. Or maybe the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse.

… And now I was freaking myself out. I reached up and worked the bridge of my nose between my fingers since I couldn’t really roll my neck in a heavy-ass Neurohelmet.

I took a closer look around. We ought to be the most formidable thing on the planet, but I’d played enough games that dropped unexpected surprises on you that I was trying to be ready for anything. Still, as the minutes turned into hours and all we did was walk the occasional short patrol around the immediate area, something caught my eye out of sheer boredom.

Compared to the tall grass down in the pass itself, the flora growing in the rare area that wasn’t paved over looked … scruffy. Like it was only barely clinging to life. Briefly stepping off the roadway, I scuffed my Commando’s feet a bit as I walked.

“Uh, Captain, you okay over there?” Rowdy asked, and I drew my attention back to what was going on around me.

“They took this terrace clear down to bedrock. Even after two centuries, there’s maybe two centimeters of soil here,” I explained, looking down at the traces my ‘Mech had left in the dirt and rock.

“Uh, okay. And that matters …” Rowdy trailed off questioningly.

“Not sure, but just like the placement of this spaceport, it’s odd. Why spend the money?” I asked rhetorically.

“Aesthetics, make-work, who knows?” Melody tossed out.

“... Hell of a lot of make-work,” Marsha commented.

“I guess if you want to make a flat spot that you’re certain is going to last …” Rowdy trailed off.

Maybe that was it, and 21st century me was stressing out over nothing, like seeing a face in running water. Matrixing with paranoid intent instead of faces. It was entirely possible that Melody had been right; the Star League had loved it’s big engineering projects. Maybe the original colonists had decided on the project, or maybe Amaris had after he conquered them? Either way it was probably noth-

“Captain Weber? We found something interesting down here …”

XXXXX​

‘Something interesting’ turned out to be a street address.

I was less than impressed until they explained the particulars. By the time the FE techs had gotten the emergency generators, fusion engines by another name, inspected and fired up, the computer techs had found the mainframe at the heart of the building. As soon as the power was on, they’d fired it up to see what sort of data they could get from it.

When they did, every terminal in the building had produced a text box on startup.

With the mystery address.

“This is either the most transparent trap in the history of traps, or someone got clever,” I assessed. “I don’t suppose they were kind enough to leave a map for their scavenger hunt?”

“Over here, Captain,” Mace Brown, one of the techs that had specialized in keeping Comet’s Dervish running called out. “Found this downstairs. Layout’s really odd. Doesn’t look much like the usual spaceport concourse down there. Anyhow, as you can see,” he pointed to a section of the laminated map, “we’re on terrace N1 right now. The address is for TN2, or the second north terrace. The next one up from this one. It looks like a lot of that area is warehouses and low-income housing. The address corresponds to this warehouse here,” he said, and tapped on the map only a few blocks from the entrance to the second terrace.

“Well, it’s not far. I can take the lance and look to see wha-”

“Uh, guys, I think I found the SLIC team that landed here,” came a spooked sounding voice as the radios around the room crackled to life.

I considered for a moment, but there was no compelling reason for me to take care of that personally. Turning my head to look at our site security detail, I commanded, “Sergeant, I’ll leave dealing with that up to you,” pointing at the radio, then turned back to the tech. “There any more of these maps?”

XXXXX​

Thankfully, there had been, even if driving a ‘Mech with a map in my lap was a pain in the ass. I had a pretty good sense of direction for places I’d been before, but most of my ‘navigation’ had been done by listening to Siri relay directions from MapQuest. Luckily, whoever had laid out the roadplan for this terrace hadn’t been in love with European cities, so the roads were in a regularly spaced and easy to follow grid pattern.

I managed to avoid getting us lost, and didn’t even need to kick off my Mocdals, or maybe Sandacins to keep count on my toes.

It was also a good thing that we’d brought ‘Mechs with hands, because the big sliding warehouse doors were big, and they didn’t have power. They were, however, excellently hung and in surprisingly good shape for having had no maintenance since before the Star League had fallen apart. As Melody’s Sting and Marsha’s Orcrist pulled the door open, I damn near opened fire, thinking it was a trap after all as my magscan went nuts. Only the fact that the thermals were cold as ice kept me from … well scuffing some expensive paint.

“Hooooooooly Shit.”


A/N: Cliffhanger. You still don’t get the Giant Stompy Robots. Sorry. Not sorry. That deserves a chapter of its own.
 
Chapter 7

Speaker4thesilent

Crazed Deplorable
Joined
Aug 19, 2019
Reaction score
2,671
Location
An undisclosed bunker in Flyover Country.
A/N: Happy Memorial Day everyone.

Chapter 7​

Unnamed Planet, Unnamed System
Former Apollo Province, Unclaimed Territory
February 15th, 3010


They’d put the Assault ‘Mechs up front. Sixteen of them, all in a line. Weber’s Warriors’ entire pre-Uniontown ‘Mech strength in machines that could individually match my entire Lance’s weight, and more than that in combat capability. And that was just the first row. With the power off, and the local star at its current angle, I couldn’t tell how long each column of mechs was, but the formation had to be almost as deep as it was wide.

A Regiment. At least a Regiment.

There was noise coming over the radio, but I couldn’t hear it over the buzzing in my ears. The mechs in the center of the formation were a quartet of Banshees, but no variant I’d ever heard of. The right arm had apertures for what looked like three 5cm lasers set back from the fist on the lateral aspect of the arm along with what might be a flamer for anti-infantry work on the medial aspect of the forearm. That side of the torso had the PPC I was expecting, but it didn’t look like a Magna Hellstar. The face laser was missing, but appeared to have been replaced by a pair of 5cm lasers in the center torso. The left side was clearly modified too; the Class Five autocannon that was usually mounted there had been replaced by a larger-bore weapon. Clearly a Class Ten, but not a model that I was familiar with. The biggest surprise was on the left arm, however, it carried a second PPC as well as what appeared to be another 5cm laser. That sort of weapons loadout was just not possible. Even if they’d taken the armor down to paper, they couldn’t have done it, except that whoever had made these clearly had. The only possible way was if-

Melody, perhaps in exasperation, practically shouldered past her sister’s frozen ‘Mech before likewise going immobile. That finally broke me out of it, and I gave my head a shake.

Abruptly I could hear Rowdy living up to his name, cheering so loudly that I reflexively tried to mute him, and missed. My hands were trembling.

I worked my jaw for a moment and took a deep breath, then I hit the Company-wide channel. “This is Captain Weber. Mister Brown, I think we owe you a bonus. That address you found was just what we were looking for. Please direct the remainder of our Mechwarriors and all available techs to it as soon as practical. Over.”

I let the chatter back wash over me for a long moment as I stared at those Banshees.

Royals. Had to be SLDF Royal Command quality gear in there, even if I’d never heard of a Royal Banshee. If all the rest of them were of similar quality?

I shook off thoughts of avarice, and returned to doing my actual job: organization. ‘Mechs wouldn’t do us any good sitting in a warehouse.

XXXXX​

Much as I wanted to go play with the shiny toys, I had the second strongest mech among our functional machines. I stayed on guard duty.

I didn’t have a lot of experience with Mechwarrior games or novels, but from what I knew of BT memes about the time someone stumbled on a cache like this, they tended to have shit rain down on them from a great height. Geraldine was available to take care of the situation on the ground. I kept my ass parked in front of the open warehouse doors while the rest of the lance, after a little practice to account for the change in the machines’ weight, took advantage of the mobility their jump jets offered them to keep eyes on the perimeter.

As was usual and customary for Star League era construction, even simple warehouses were overbuilt to the extent that they barely seemed to notice 35 tons of Firestarter bouncing around on their roofs. Keeping enough discipline to focus outward instead of looking in Striker Alpha’s rear cameras wasn’t easy, but I absolutely needed to let Comet deal with the ground stuff on her own.

The radio message, when it came, was very much a surprise, “Weber Actual, this is Comet. I think we’re gonna have to start calling you ‘Bloodhound;’ you sure sniffed out on hell of a prize here. Final count is one-sixty, that is one-six-zero Battlemechs.” She gave that a moment to sink in, and my jaw dropped. That wasn’t just a Regiment, that was four full Battalions with enough left over for a reinforced command company. Then my brain had to scramble to catch up as she continued, “Breakdown is sixteen Assaults, forty-four Heavies, fifty-two Mediums, and forty-eight Lights, though it looks like about forty are untouched Primitive ‘Mechs, over.”

“Confirmed receipt. One hundred sixty Battlemechs. Sixteen, forty-four, fifty-two, and forty-eight by weight bracket. Forty Primitive configurations. So which one do you want, Comet?” I asked lightly, still absorbing the information.

“There’s a handful of Heavy ‘Mechs kitted out for fire support. Got my eye on one of those, if you must know,” she said shortly. “There’s more in here though, Captain. The whole back of the warehouse is full of pallets. Looks like spares, and they’re all still in their boxes, same as those JumpShip parts on the station. And there’s an armory with LRMs, SRMs, Autocannon rounds. Hell, there’s a whole company of Heavies armed with artillery pieces, and we’ve got ammo for those too. There’s way too much here to just load up and go.”

“Yep,” I agreed, “which is why I asked if you had a particular ‘Mech you wanted. There’s room to walk even a Heavy out between the columns, and we’re gonna have to transport some of this stuff into the Commonwealth to sell it just to be able to get the transport we need to move the rest of it. And that’s assuming the factories are a dud.

“There’s been some damage, and the twins and Rowdy have have reported some really old signs of weapons fire in a couple of places, but I haven’t seen anything yet that makes me think we should write them off,” I explained. “So have the techs start figuring out how to get one of those ‘Mechs you liked the look of running, then get Slim and Jimmy up here to pick out something they can fight in, and get them mounted up again. Gonna need people to play Home Guard for our new landhold while I figure out how to get enough support to make it a going concern without tipping our hand too badly.”

The radio was quiet for a couple heartbeats, “Alright, Sir, I can do that.”

We were just settling in to plan out what we were going to do with the Mechwarrior hopefuls and old timers we were carting around we were interrupted by one of the ground security people.

XXXXX​

In among the hustle and bustle of cataloguing the ‘Mechs and making sure the armory wasn’t going to explode, the simple corner office of the warehouse had been initially neglected.

When my ground security personnel finally got around to clearing it, they’d made what might be the single biggest discovery so far.

Getting power back on to the warehouse had been pretty easy. It seemed that municipal power had failed at some point before everything had fallen apart, so the people who’d been using it had disconnected the main lines and plugged the building into an old primitive FE. Probably one of the ones removed from the ‘Mechs out on the warehouse floor.

All it took to get things running again was an inspection of the ‘generator,’ pouring water into the old FE, and starting it back up again.

By then, I’d walked my Commando into the warehouse, shut it down, and made my way into the office.

I hadn’t been expecting the skeletons.

The sheer incongruence of them when we hadn’t seen even a hint of remains elsewhere weirded me out for a moment, but I shook it off.

“Over here, Sir,” one of the security crew called out. I turned and-

I know my eyes went wide. I’m just glad my jaw didn’t fall open. That would have been undignified. Sitting on one of the desks, secured in a holder that looked kludged together was a somewhat battered Data Core. I drew in a breath through my teeth. “Tell me it works,” I demanded.

“We’re still waiting for the system to boot up. It looks like they threw this together at the last minute. Probably after they realized that they weren’t going to make it,” Geraldine interjected. My eyes drifted over to the pair of skeletons on the deteriorating sofa before movement from one of the terminal screens drew my eyes back.The boot up sequence ended, and immediately a text file opened across every active terminal screen.

By virtue of rank, I was one of those that got a seat in front of a screen. By virtue of being able to skim a document at 800 words per minute I was probably the first to reach the most critical part. Certainly the only one with enough of a background in Microbiology to recognize what it meant when I read it.

Text Document said:
To the SLDF:

If you’re reading this, then you’ve already seen the Battlemechs. Take them with our compliments. If you can use them to destroy Amaris’ ambitions at least our deaths here will mean something.

The Data Core has everything we thought you might need to keep them in working order on it. Most of them are non-standard variants by now; hopefully the increased combat effectiveness will help balance out any problems with supply chains. I’m afraid we were more concerned with what might happen if Amaris’s people got reinforcements here before you arrived. Don’t suppose that will be a concern now.

Though I’m certain you will be aware by now, the bioweapon Amaris’ Governor used against us was a weaponized form of Anthrax that-
I froze, and shifted my eyes back. Anthrax. Fuck. Fuck fuck fuckity fuckfuckfuck.

I stood so quickly that I knocked my chair over and dashed out of the office. There were calls from behind me, but I wasn’t paying attention. My personal com was too short-ranged to be able to get a message to the Implacable through all the metal and concrete we were surrounded with.

Hell, did everyone from the Spaceport end up here with us? Or did some of them go back to the dropship? I wasn’t sure, but if there was even a chance that the spores Anthrax produced were still viable …

Damn, damn, damn. A hell of a thing to not remember. How long do Anthrax spores stay viable? I knew it was at least twenty years, but I had no idea what the upper limit might be.

I hit Striker Alpha’s ladder at a dead run, which made climbing it while it swayed a pain in the ass above and beyond the fact that this damn planet’s gravity made me feel like I was wearing a backpack a quarter my own weight everywhere I went. And I was currently begrudging every moment. Once I was seated, I may have broken every previous record for starting up a Commando. I ignored the usual commentary and hit the radio.

Implacable Actual, come in,” I called. That created a long pause on the line as Communications had to pass the secure line to Captain Chapman. It had to have been less than a minute, but it felt like an hour. At least it gave me time to catch my breath.

“This is Implacable Actual, Captain,” came Haley’s concerned voice.

She might have had more to say, but I didn’t give her the chance. “Seal and quarantine the Dropship. Bioweapon was Anthrax and it sporulates. See if anyone in medical knows how long Anthrax spores can last before they’re non-viable,” I ordered, then almost as an afterthought added, “And kick say … two weeks of rations out an airlock for us. That ought to be excessive, but …” I trailed off. I was overcompensating now with an excess of caution because I hadn’t been cautious enough to start with. Still, a bioweapon might have a long latent period to make sure it got spread around as much as possible before it started killing people.

I heard Haley barking out orders in the background for a moment before her attention came back to me. “What happened?” she demanded.

“We found a data core. It sounds like there was a rebellion against Amaris here when they heard the SLDF was coming. When it was clear they’d lost, the Amaris loyalists decided that if he couldn’t have the planet, nobody was going to have it. Don’t have any details yet, but the base used to create the weapon was Bacillus Anthracis, which would account for losing the SLIC team the way the journal describes.

“The Data Core supposedly has blueprints for the ‘Mechs as well as repair manuals or something. Didn’t have time to take a look at it. We’ll figure out how to move it, just in case we … well, just in case. It should be worth enough by itself to someone like Brewer or the Archon to see everyone in the company rich enough to retire.”

Was there anything else that needed saying? I couldn’t think of anything, but that might be the adrenaline crash.

“Understood, Captain. We’re sealed up. No one who departed today has made it back aboard yet, so if there still is cause for concern, we ought to be in the clear. None of our medical staff knew anything about spore viability off the top of their heads, but they have reference material. As soon as I know anything, you’ll know it.”

With a nod she couldn’t see and a statement of, “Understood, Weber out,” I cut the connection.

XXXXX​

Unnamed Planet, Unnamed System
Former Apollo Province, Unclaimed Territory
February 20th, 3010


We’d gotten lucky. That’s all there was to it. Digging through the Data Core, the techs had found, late yesterday, information on the Bioweapon tucked away just in case. No significant latent period.

With all the dust we’d kicked up driving around and walking about in ‘Mechs, if there were any live spores remaining, someone would have gotten sick by now.

I’d also gotten lucky in how the company reacted to the short quarantine, construing my half-panicked response as decisive action instead, especially when it turned out that everything was a false alarm.

That, however, did not mean that everywhere was safe. Underground or in a sealed area like one of the Dropships might have proved to be a better environment for the spores, and none of the references the medical staff had available gave specifics about Anthrax spores.

So simple luck had saved the day.

I’d been treating everything since waking up on Icar as a game. Something not quite real. That needed to come to a screeching halt. I’d needed to do better.

Think I’ve at least made a start on that.

With the temptation to fret over things no one could control following everyone around like a cloud, I’d instead kept everyone as busy as I could manage. Once again I glanced over the full list of ‘Mechs we’d recovered.

List said:
Banshees: 8 (4 unmodified)
Mackies: 8 (4 unmodified)
Heliopolis: 12
Crossbows: 5
Thunderbolts: 18 (10 unmodified)
Ostwars: 9 (6 unmodified)
Galahads(50 tonners): 10 (4 unmodified)
Phoenixes: 21
Kyudo: 14 (12 unmodified)
Icarus II: 3
Sarissas: 4
Commandos: 35
Wasps: 13
The techs had also discovered how the madmen who’d designed the refit for the Banshee had managed to turn it into a worthwhile Assault ‘Mech. They’d used a much larger, but less massive Extra-Light 380 Fusion Engine.

Between that weight savings, switching over to Freezers, and mounting lighter Ferro-Fibrous armor, they’d actually managed to maintain the speed and increase the ‘Mech’s armor while mounting an arsenal worthy of an Assault Mech. Two ERPPCs and God’s shotgun for long-range, and a half-dozen 5cm lasers for shorter-ranged work, plus the flamer to see off infantry.

Its single weakness, if you could call it that, was that it ‘only’ had seventeen freezers. Still, all you had to do was drop a PPC out of the circuit once you came into range for the lasers. And with two tons of ammo capacity in its magazine(complete will cellular storage for the rounds), you had the ability to hammer breaches in an enemy’s armor with slugs before swapping to cluster ammunition to gut the section with the hole.

Mace had pronounced the redesign ‘elegant.’ According to him, there was ‘not room inside the chassis for so much as one more bolt,’ so efficiently had the long-dead Engineers who’d done the work used the space.

By contrast, his opinion of the Mackie refit was less flattering. Notes from the Data Core indicated that the primary motivation for it had been to counter the presence of the RWR’s Rampage ‘Mechs among the garrison.

As a result, the refit had descended into a game of ‘Anything you can do, I can do better.’ Seventeen tons of Ferro-Fibrous armor protected the design which carried an LB-10X and a flamer in the left arm with three tons of ammunition, an LRM-20, and another three tons of reloads for that in the left torso along with CASE to keep an ammo explosion from entirely gutting the ‘Mech. The stumpy right arm bore an ERPPC and a trio of 5cm lasers while that side torso bore another pair of medium lasers, a flamer, and the two freezers that wouldn’t fit in the engine. A third pair of 5cm lasers in the center torso and a 3cm laser in the head rounded out the design’s armament.

It wasn’t a bad design for a Brawler/Juggernaut, by any means, but it was very clearly a generalist and lacked the heat sinks to use many of its weapons in close quarters unless the ERPPC was dropped from the firing circuit. In that case it was actually a touch oversinked until it made it into range of its anti-personnel armaments. On the other hand, Inferno SRMs with their payloads of shit that made napalm feel inadequate had been in play back then. Maybe some of the reserve sinking capacity had been to defang that threat?

Just the thought of what we could do with a company of those made the modern Mechwarrior in me giggle. Central lance of two Mackies and two Banshees, flanked on each side by a Lance composed of three Mackies and one Banshee. Banshees operating as Snipers to soften up targets, making holes for the Mackies’ LRMs to exploit …

I banished the adolescent fantasy of stomping a Sword of Light regiment into the ground. Assault ‘Mechs were rare and precious, not the sort of thing to be used in any old engagement, if for no other reason than that they were slow, and mobility was life in battle.

That directed my thoughts to the opposite extreme of the cache’s rewards. The light ‘Mech element was composed of unfamiliar variants of familiar machines. The Commandos, it seemed, had been converted from the ancient -1A models like those that had fought in the first large-scale BattleMech engagement on Nox against the Combine.

The refit had pulled the original 8cm laser for an extended range version that, with careful maneuvering, could stay out of range of a PPC. Normally, that wouldn’t be worth much since the band of safety was so narrow, but the COM-1R had a 225 XLFE installed that could push the nimble little 25 tonner up over a hundred and fifty km/h at a run, or a comparatively sedate 97.2km/h at a cruise. A pair of 5cm lasers rounded out their weapons loadout.

The speedy little bastards had pretty clearly been outfitted as scout hunters, making them Skirmishers, rather than a Commando’s usual role as a Striker. I still liked them. This wasn’t a video game, and I’d already discovered that the fog of war was rather more pressing in real life than on a computer screen. Putting out an enemy’s eyes was an entirely worthwhile investment all by itself, but the range on the -1R’s ERLL was enough to let it play a role harassing even far larger enemies.

Then there was th-

A knock on the wall broke me from my thoughts. “Ah, Captain? You said you wanted to be notified when Comet was ready to try out her new ‘Mech?” The announcement, despite being worded like a statement, was spoken like a question.

“Indeed, I did. Thank you,” I responded and stood up from the desk I’d been working at. A few steps brought me in sight of the ‘Mech Geraldine had picked out. I’d had to look it up in the Core before I even knew what to call it, the design was so old.

Even if it had been one of the last Crossbows to roll of the Arcturan Arms assembly line, that would have made the machine more than 450 years old. According to the Data Core, it was, in fact, much older, dating from the period when Arcturus had been the capital of the Commonwealth.

At 60-tons, the original Primitive Crossbow had been a speedy mech, though rather under-armored for its size and desperately under-sinked.

The refit had corrected nearly all of the machine’s flaws. It still maintained its respectable top speed of 86km/h, but the XLFE it mounted instead of the standard 300FE freed up enough weight to upgrade the pair of LRM-10s to LRM-15s and pack in an extra freezer. It was still under-sinked, with the ERPPC and both LRM launchers straining the cooling system beyond its limits, but it could actually fire its full complement of long-range weapons without cooking itself. At least, so long as the Mechwarrior dropped a missile launcher from the circuit to cool occasionally, which was a vast improvement.

The engineers had also swapped the missiles in the right arm for the right torso PPC to help solve an issue with the long ammunition feed from the magazine in the left torso. Four tons of LRMs stored in CASE provided a respectable 16 reloads per launcher, and a 5cm laser in each arm helped protect the ‘Mech once an enemy made it under the machine’s missile envelope. They’d even managed to increase the armor weight by two tons and switch the standard plate out for Ferro-Fibrous protection, meaning the design could take more punishment than most Heavy Mechs, despite weighing in at the lowest edge of the bracket.

So basically, it was a Dervish with fifty percent more missile throw weight, deeper magazines, two and a half tons more armor, and no jump jets. Oh, and it traded the SRMs for an ERPPC.

Geraldine was in love.

The thought drew a grin from me as the mobile ‘Mech Bay the Techs had found and reactivated drew away from the Crossbow. Though the man-hours required were about double what the core suggested an experienced team could do it in. Still, two days of work wasn’t bad when the Techs had been employing their assistants mostly to sit beside them, newly-printed manuals in their laps.

Finally, everyone was judged to be at a safe distance, and an easy route out of the warehouse was cleared so Geraldine could take her shiny new toy for a walk.

For a long moment, everything was quiet, and I was worried that someone had fucked up something with the XLFE, but then the ancient machine came to life.

“You had me worried there for a second there, Comet,” I remarked into my com. “So how is it?”

“Had to triple-check the connections for this fancy neurohelmet. The damn thing is so easy to use, I was sure I had something connected wrong,” her voice came back without a hint of distortion or static.

“How’s it feel?” I inquired. Rumor had it that SLDF neurohelmets had been sensitive enough to let even some people who would otherwise have been unable to pilot a ‘Mech or ASF make the cut. If that was the case …

“Weird, but good. Proprioception is a hell of a lot better than I’m used to. Pretty sure piloting will be a bunch easier once I’m acclimated to it,” she replied and carefully began maneuvering.

If she was having any difficulty adjusting to either the new neurohelmet or the heavy gravity, I couldn’t tell. A turn brought her around a Thunderbolt, past a Banshee, and out into the sunlight.

“Hell, I’m not sure if it’s the electronics or the neurohelmet or both, but the damn thing automatically adjusted the displays to compensate for the change in lighting. I’m feeling spoiled.”

That giddy tone was back in her voice again. I think this may have been the first time she was genuinely happy since the Battle of Uniontown. Hell, even before that.

“It’s a shame you aren’t enjoying yourself,” I teased.

The snort I expected came through loud and clear.

“Diagnostics still green on the weapons?” I asked after a moment, regretting that we didn’t have a firing range to test them out on properly.

“They are,” Comet responded as she started to put the ‘Mech through its paces.

I nodded, though she was probably wouldn’t have seen it even if she wasn’t distracted, “Then I’ll get out of your hair. Have fun.”

Comet didn’t respond, but then I hadn’t been expecting her to. She was seriously like a kid in a candy store.

I shot a look at my wristwatch, seriously regretting the lack of smartphones. I needed to see a man about a shuttle.


A/N: Thanks to LordsFire, Seraviel, and Yellowhammer for beta work, proofreading, and canon compliance checking. Data sheets for the listed 'Mechs to follow as soon as I figure out how to keep SSW from cutting the last third off.
 
BattleMech Data Sheets (Part 1)

Speaker4thesilent

Crazed Deplorable
Joined
Aug 19, 2019
Reaction score
2,671
Location
An undisclosed bunker in Flyover Country.
Banshee BNC-3R

Mass: 95 tons
Tech Base: Inner Sphere
Chassis Config: Biped
Rules Level: Tournament Legal
Era: Age of War/Star League
Tech Rating/Era Availability: E/E-F-E-A
Production Year: 2750
Cost: 25,987,195 C-Bills
Battle Value: 2,068

Chassis: Unknown Standard
Power Plant: Unknown 380 Fusion XL Engine
Walking Speed: 43.2 km/h
Maximum Speed: 64.8 km/h
Jump Jets: None
Jump Capacity: 0 meters
Armor: Unknown Ferro-Fibrous w/ CASE
Armament:
2 ER PPCs
1 LB 10-X AC
6 Medium Lasers
1 Flamer
Manufacturer: Unknown
Primary Factory: Unknown
Communications System: Unknown
Targeting and Tracking System: Unknown

================================================================================
Equipment Type Rating Mass
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Internal Structure: Standard 145 points 9.50
Engine: XL Fusion Engine 380 20.50
Walking MP: 4
Running MP: 6
Jumping MP: 0
Heat Sinks: Double Heat Sink 17(34) 7.00
Heat Sink Locations: 2 RT
Gyro: Standard 4.00
Cockpit: Standard 3.00
Actuators: L: SH+UA+LA R: SH+UA+LA+H
Armor: Ferro-Fibrous AV - 293 16.50
Armor Locations: 1 HD, 5 LA, 4 RA, 2 LL, 2 RL
CASE Locations: 1 LT 0.50

Internal Armor
Structure Factor
Head 3 9
Center Torso 30 45
Center Torso (rear) 15
L/R Torso 20 30
L/R Torso (rear) 10
L/R Arm 16 32
L/R Leg 20 40

================================================================================
Equipment Location Heat Critical Mass
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2 Medium Lasers CT 6 2 2.00
ER PPC RT 15 3 7.00
LB 10-X AC LT 2 6 11.00
3 Medium Lasers RA 9 3 3.00
Flamer RA 3 1 1.00
ER PPC LA 15 3 7.00
Medium Laser LA 3 1 1.00
@LB 10-X (Cluster) (10) LT - 1 1.00
@LB 10-X (Slug) (10) LT - 1 1.00
Free Critical Slots: 0

Mackie MSK-10R

Mass: 100 tons
Tech Base: Inner Sphere
Chassis Config: Biped
Rules Level: Tournament Legal
Era: Age of War/Star League
Tech Rating/Era Availability: E/E-F-D-A
Production Year: 2750
Cost: 10,820,500 C-Bills
Battle Value: 2,270

Chassis: Unknown Standard
Power Plant: Unknown 300 Fusion Engine
Walking Speed: 32.4 km/h
Maximum Speed: 54.0 km/h
Jump Jets: None
Jump Capacity: 0 meters
Armor: Unknown Ferro-Fibrous w/ CASE
Armament:
1 ER PPC
1 LRM-20
1 LB 10-X AC
7 Medium Lasers
1 Small Laser
2 Flamers
Manufacturer: Unknown
Primary Factory: Unknown
Communications System: Unknown
Targeting and Tracking System: Unknown

================================================================================
Equipment Type Rating Mass
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Internal Structure: Standard 152 points 10.00
Engine: Fusion Engine 300 19.00
Walking MP: 3
Running MP: 5
Jumping MP: 0
Heat Sinks: Double Heat Sink 14(28) 4.00
Heat Sink Locations: 2 RT
Gyro: Standard 3.00
Cockpit: Standard 3.00
Actuators: L: SH+UA R: SH+UA
Armor: Ferro-Fibrous AV - 304 17.00
Armor Locations: 3 RT, 3 LA, 4 RA, 2 LL, 2 RL
CASE Locations: 1 LT 0.50

Internal Armor
Structure Factor
Head 3 9
Center Torso 31 48
Center Torso (rear) 13
L/R Torso 21 31
L/R Torso (rear) 11
L/R Arm 17 33
L/R Leg 21 42

================================================================================
Equipment Location Heat Critical Mass
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Small Laser HD 1 1 0.50
2 Medium Lasers CT 6 2 2.00
Flamer RT 3 1 1.00
2 Medium Lasers RT 6 2 2.00
LRM-20 LT 6 5 10.00
ER PPC RA 15 3 7.00
3 Medium Lasers RA 9 3 3.00
LB 10-X AC LA 2 6 11.00
Flamer LA 3 1 1.00
@LB 10-X (Cluster) (20) LT - 2 2.00
@LB 10-X (Slug) (10) LT - 1 1.00
@LRM-20 (18) LT - 3 3.00
Free Critical Slots: 0

Crossbow CRS-6R

Mass: 60 tons
Tech Base: Inner Sphere
Chassis Config: Biped
Rules Level: Tournament Legal
Era: Age of War/Star League
Tech Rating/Era Availability: E/E-F-E-A
Production Year: 2750
Cost: 11,727,360 C-Bills
Battle Value: 1,596

Chassis: Unknown Standard
Power Plant: Unknown 300 Fusion XL Engine
Walking Speed: 54.0 km/h
Maximum Speed: 86.4 km/h
Jump Jets: None
Jump Capacity: 0 meters
Armor: Unknown Ferro-Fibrous w/ CASE
Armament:
1 ER PPC
2 LRM-15s
2 Medium Lasers
Manufacturer: Unknown
Primary Factory: Unknown
Communications System: Unknown
Targeting and Tracking System: Unknown

================================================================================
Equipment Type Rating Mass
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Internal Structure: Standard 99 points 6.00
Engine: XL Fusion Engine 300 9.50
Walking MP: 5
Running MP: 8
Jumping MP: 0
Heat Sinks: Double Heat Sink 11(22) 1.00
Gyro: Standard 3.00
Cockpit: Standard 3.00
Actuators: L: SH+UA+LA+H R: SH+UA+LA+H
Armor: Ferro-Fibrous AV - 179 10.00
Armor Locations: 1 HD, 1 CT, 1 LT, 6 RT, 3 RA, 1 LL, 1 RL
CASE Locations: 1 LT 0.50

Internal Armor
Structure Factor
Head 3 9
Center Torso 20 27
Center Torso (rear) 7
L/R Torso 14 23
L/R Torso (rear) 5
L/R Arm 10 18
L/R Leg 14 22

================================================================================
Equipment Location Heat Critical Mass
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
LRM-15 RT 5 3 7.00
Medium Laser RA 3 1 1.00
ER PPC RA 15 3 7.00
LRM-15 LA 5 3 7.00
Medium Laser LA 3 1 1.00
@LRM-15 (32) LT - 4 4.00
Free Critical Slots: 11

Commando COM-1R

Mass: 25 tons
Tech Base: Inner Sphere
Chassis Config: Biped
Rules Level: Tournament Legal
Era: Age of War/Star League
Tech Rating/Era Availability: E/E-F-E-A
Production Year: 2750
Cost: 4,023,750 C-Bills
Battle Value: 947

Chassis: Unknown Standard
Power Plant: Unknown 225 Fusion XL Engine
Walking Speed: 97.2 km/h
Maximum Speed: 151.2 km/h
Jump Jets: None
Jump Capacity: 0 meters
Armor: Unknown Ferro-Fibrous
Armament:
1 ER Large Laser
2 Medium Lasers
Manufacturer: Unknown
Primary Factory: Unknown
Communications System: Unknown
Targeting and Tracking System: Unknown

================================================================================
Equipment Type Rating Mass
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Internal Structure: Standard 43 points 2.50
Engine: XL Fusion Engine 225 5.00
Walking MP: 9
Running MP: 14
Jumping MP: 0
Heat Sinks: Double Heat Sink 10(20) 0.00
Heat Sink Locations: 1 RT
Gyro: Standard 3.00
Cockpit: Standard 3.00
Actuators: L: SH+UA+LA+H R: SH+UA+LA+H
Armor: Ferro-Fibrous AV - 80 4.50
Armor Locations: 5 LT, 6 RT, 3 RA

Internal Armor
Structure Factor
Head 3 9
Center Torso 8 12
Center Torso (rear) 3
L/R Torso 6 10
L/R Torso (rear) 2
L/R Arm 4 7
L/R Leg 6 9

================================================================================
Equipment Location Heat Critical Mass
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2 Medium Lasers CT 6 2 2.00
ER Large Laser RA 12 2 5.00
Free Critical Slots: 20
 
Chapter 8

Speaker4thesilent

Crazed Deplorable
Joined
Aug 19, 2019
Reaction score
2,671
Location
An undisclosed bunker in Flyover Country.
Chapter 8​

Unnamed Planet, Unnamed System
Former Apollo Province, Unclaimed Territory
February 15th, 3010


It turned out that the ill-fated SLIC team had taken over part of a hanger down at the Spaceport for their base camp. This was also only the second place in which we had found skeletons. It did not pass my attention that both places had been sealed against the elements and, incidentally, scavengers.

We’re probably safe with keeping ‘Mechs active at all hours, and the Implacable sealed up at night. It was also armed, just in case the scavengers turned out to be Rodents Of Unusual Size or some sort of alien Dire Wolf or something. Some big cats were perfectly happy to scavenge, and this whole area felt like cougar territory.

I took a moment to mention the possibility to the ground security team, just as I commended them for a job well done this far. On the one hand, I didn’t want them getting lax. On the other, they’d done a damn professional job so far under difficult circumstances.

Then I actually took some time to check over what the team had found. The shuttle was in decent shape, closed up and under a roof as it had been. The SLIC team had, understandably, collected a bunch of data on the bioweapon. That would have been really useful to have a few days ago, since it would have laid most of my concerns to rest. Turned out Anthrax spores couldn’t survive for much more than fifty years, even under ideal circumstances.

Even assuming one of Amaris’s eggheads had managed to triple that in amongst all the other concerns of crafting a bioweapon, any infectivity ought to have run its course. In spite of that, one of our young hopefuls had nearly caused a panic when he turned out to be allergic to something in the atmosphere.

It was good to have competent help; the medical staff had dealt with it before it ever managed to make it to my ‘desk.’

I made a mental note to deliver some attaboys where they were deserved before refocusing. I was running short of Techs, but a couple of the Astechs were decent enough with computers to be able to at least start the process of cataloguing what was on the shuttle’s computer and the away party’s tablets. In amongst geeking out over the technology.

A millennium in the future, and what was basically a militarized, ruggedized iPad was a technological marvel. I took another long moment to stomp down on a surge of rage at the phone company, glad that it was easier than it had been back in the 21st century. I’d done some seriously stupid things when I was being led around by my temper. With the situation the way it was, I couldn’t afford that. The people that were relying on me couldn’t afford that.

Still and all …

“So not much beyond things we already know?” I asked.

“Pretty much,” the senior of the Astechs responded, “I mean, some of this would probably have been critical military intelligence at the time, but I haven’t seen anything important so far. Mostly just details that’re already in the history books. Other than that, there’s sidearms, a couple of laser rifles, and some odds and ends, but nothing as impressive as those handheld computers… ”

He trailed off, and I realized I was gritting my teeth in frustration. I waved him off and just basked in the absurdity. There were laser rifles sitting right there and this kid was impressed with the iPads. “You’re doing fine. Just frustrating to see how much technology we’ve lost to the Succession Wars,” I half explained, half bullshitted.

Everyone around the table nodded at that before the younger of the Astechs, Gary … Gary something … asked, “Well, the factories here, I mean, there’s rumors that … maybe they’ll be able to make some of … um?”

I kinda felt sorry for the guy. “Haven’t found any yet, then again we’re going to have to do a bunch of scouting. The maps we found in the Terminal were a godsend, but they’re really just a layout of the roads and basic addresses,” I explained. “All we’ve really had time for was clearing the immediate area around the ‘Mech cache. As we get more of those online, we’ll be able to spare some people for scouting.”

“That’s all that was on those maps? The one the Star League guys had over there has more than that on it,” the other Astech said, and it took a moment for me to process the statement.

Then I was up and moving towards the indicated folding table. The computer geeks had piled a bunch of assorted stuff on top of everything. Had to move that first. When I finally got a good look, I felt almost giddy. A photo-realistic shot from orbit with digital enhancement and laminated with a high-quality product to preserve it. The notations were a bit strange, but that’s what the key was for.

There! A pair of items, one a symbol for a factory entrance, the other coloration for above-ground factories. I started scanning the map. Even at its size, completely covering the top of an eight by four foot table, details were pretty small since it covered both the north and south sides of the pass. The orange hash marks would be easier to spot …

Nothing on the first terrace above the spaceport; like we’d surmised, it seemed to be almost entirely warehouses and low-income housing. The sec-

“Holy shit!” More than half of the second terrace was marked out as probable factory locations. One was marked as a probable fusion engine plant, a second as an SRM-6 line. The trend continued for everything except the uppermost terrace, which seemed to have been reserved for big governmental buildings.

My exclamation had drawn attention, so when I looked up at the pair of Astechs they were already looking back. I was tempted to be irritated at them, but really it was my own fault that I hadn’t sent someone with more experience to backstop them. “Next time don’t assume that all the important stuff will be on the computers,” I said instead. “This map might be the most important thing in this building. Now, were there any more?”

XXXXX​

There had been. This planet wasn’t just heavy gravity, it was metal-rich. In the heyday of the RWR, the place had produced everything from tungsten to titanium to germanium. Platinum group elements. Literally fucking everything. The bad news was that a lot of the infrastructure had been spread out. The germanium mine in particular had been in a lowland area well away from any of the cities. Just finding the former location under a couple centuries of vegetation growth would be a pain in the ass, much less getting it back into operation.

That meant that, for the moment, it wasn’t a priority. The factories were.

For that, we needed more ‘Mechs for scouting and guard duty. Whatever scavengers or predators existed on this rock seemed to be afraid of ‘Mechs at least. Even though those ‘laser rifles’ the Astechs had so readily dismissed turned out to be pristine Mauser 960s, there were still only six of them. Not nearly enough to go around, even for the few ground security guys who could manhandle the heavy-ass guns under the increased gravity, and we hadn’t been able to afford NVGs for essentially non-combatant ground-pounders. If the fauna was to form, they’d probably have better night-vision than humans did.

That meant dropping in to take a look at what the company’s Techs were up to.

This time, the ‘Mech in the portable bay was a Galahad, the original 50 ton design, not the 60-tonner most people thought of if they even knew the extinct design had ever existed. It had been one of the most advanced machines the Militia had been equipped with even before it had been updated.

It was also a bit of an odd duck, in that it maintained standard armor instead of the more durable Ferro-Fibrous plate. That was because the chassis didn’t have room for the attachment points the more advanced armor required. The space required was instead taken up by the ‘Mech’s Endo Steel skeleton.

The Galahad was the only ‘Mech design in the cache to utilize Endo Steel, but it used it well. Between the weight saved there and with the 300 XLFE, it managed to pack in a pair of ERPPCs and a full fifteen freezers. Ten tons of standard plate meant the design was as well-protected as some Heavies, and the six Jump Jets meant that anything rushing to get in close against it would likely find itself badly outmaneuvered, though the cooling systems would be quick to punish a pilot who overused them.

As a Sniper, it was an improvement over the Panther in every possible way.

Jimmy was quietly impressed in his customary stoic way. He was also half inside the ‘Mech’s torso helping the techs install seals for the XLFE when I caught up with him.

I waved the Astech off and took over handing parts in to him. “So, what do you think?” I inquired.

James was quiet for a long moment as he finished installing the seal he was working on. “Without having actually piloted it, I can’t be sure; however, the specifications are … impressive,” he replied.

“Hell of a Sniper platform on paper,” I agreed.

After another pause where I handed him a ratchet and the next part, he continued, “The lack of any secondary armament would be a concern with conventional PPCs, but when combined with the jump jets, the ER models provide excellent firepower and ability to get behind an enemy that attempts to get inside minimum PPC range. Anything small and fast enough to successfully close the distance against it is profoundly unlikely to survive a pair of PPC shots to its rear armor.”

“Pretty much my thoughts as well,” I agreed. Ironically, infantry was more of a threat to the Galahad than most enemy ‘Mechs would be, and even then infantry could only get in range in an ambush or if the pilot let them. With the oversized XL engine it sported, it could cruise at the same speed as Jimmy’s old Panther could move at a run. “And that’s not even considering getting in and out of otherwise inaccessible sniping positions or bypassing impassable terrain.”

Jimmy finished tightening a bolt. “Indeed, all the medium ‘Mechs I’ve had time to look over have XLFEs. We should consider camouflaging some of the weapons with false armor patches the first few times we deploy them to preserve tactical surprise.”

That was … a really good idea. Let the other side think we were running fast, under-gunned machines. Then blow them away when they committed to an engagement. “That’s a solid idea, James. Let me know if you come up with anything else we can use like that.”

James nodded. Another long moment passed in silence. “So what’s up after your Galahad, here?” I asked, wondering what Sam had decided on.

James grinned. It was unsettling. “One of the Wasps,” the incredibly amused man responded.

“Seriously?” I demanded, incredulous.

“To be fair, have you seen the engine ratings on them? Half the reason Sam was in a Wasp already was that it was the fastest ‘Mech the unit fielded,” Jimmy reasoned.

He wasn’t wrong; the cache Wasps were uncompromisingly scouts. With a 225 rated XLFE eating up a full quarter of their tonnage allowance, they could cruise at damn near 120km/h. When they actually set out to cover ground, they hit velocities of well over 180. A quartet of jump jets, a pair of 5cm lasers, and three tons of Ferro Fibrous armor filled out the rest of the BugMech’s limited mass.

That being said, they were perhaps less than ideal for our current situation. Without a running start, their jump jets were much less capable than those mounted on most of the mediums: only the Kyudo and the Icarus IIs which failed to mount jets entirely.

Still, if that’s what he wanted …

I shrugged. “His choice, I guess,” I said. Took all kinds. Then I remembered one last thing I wanted to tell him. “By the way, funeral is tonight.”

James hesitated for a moment. “I’ll be there.”

XXXXX​

The planet had days just a touch under twenty-eight hours long. We’d standardized it to twenty-seven with a forty-nine minute Compensation period. That would probably need adjusting until we got it exactly right, but the math was complicated enough to be a pain in the ass, and we didn’t have anyone that really specialized in it. It was good enough for now.

We’d also tried to arrange it more or less like Earth’s hours were, so at 2100 there was still plenty of light as close as we were to the equator. One of the projects I’d handed out was to find a suitable spot for Jason Maxwell and Anne Thompson, the pair of Techs whose skeletons we’d found with the data core. The full letter I’d skimmed part of had contained the story of what happened here. A former colony turned prison planet had rebelled against Amaris’s tyranny and come a hair’s breadth from victory. One more hit against the station in orbit …

“We are gathered here today in …”

For want of a nail. They’d taken everything they had left after hammering a regiment of Amaris’s Dragoons, fixed it up, and put it into storage for the SLDF, except the SLIC team had apparently never started up the Spaceport’s computers. Never seen the address to lead them to the cache of ‘Mechs. So for want of a missile and a bit of luck, the ‘Mechs were waiting for us when we landed and so were the factories.

“… to give thanks for their last acts on the face of this Creation …”

And if I was careful and a little lucky, I could parley them into not just a future for me and my people, but maybe an end to an interstellar Dark Age for the Inner Sphere and the defeat of the Clans, whenever they were supposed to show up.

We owed them, and the SLIC team’s remains deserved better than to be dumped in a hole in the ground and forgotten.

“… gave their last full measure of devotion and those who honored their oaths in the face of …”

The place that had been settled on was clear at the west end of the first terrace, where the Aerodyne runways were located. There wasn’t any soil to speak of, but determination and a little bit of cheating had been enough to create a set of graves, even in bedrock.

“… such, we raise our voices in praise to You, oh Lord, and in thanks for …”

The Company only had one Minister, a Second Reformation Methodist. I didn’t particularly like the guy, but then again I wasn’t precisely objective. I’d parted ways with the Methodist church when I was a teenager because I disagreed with their doctrine, and a thousand years of drifting away from the Nicene Creed had not improved my disposition.

Then with the press of a button, an old hymn came over our radios, replayed from the Dropship.

… Okay, he was at least better than a Papist.

After we’d finished singing, he said a few final words that were only barely recognizable as being descended from the funeral sermons I’d heard in my last life, then waved me forward to give the eulogy, since my ancestor had been known to the SLIC team at least. I glanced down into the graves as I passed by.

We didn’t have coffins, but the SLIC team had body bags and there’d been some small SLDF flags in a compartment on their shuttle. We also had a bugle. It turns out that in the far future, buglers still learn how to play Taps.

I stopped beside the Minister and turned back to face the crowd. When I’d hinted that I would appreciate if people attended, I had been taken seriously. My Mechwarriors were wearing rather more than they usually did when they might have to scramble into a cockpit on short notice, though they were largely clustered on the side of the crowd where their machines were parked, just in case. Captain Chapman and most of her bridge crew were front and center, and many of the Techs and their assistants were present. The rest of the crowd were mostly camp followers, and probably in attendance to get out of the Dropship as anything else.

“As most of you will have heard by now, my many times Great Grandfather was a Captain in the Star League’s Intelligence Command. Most of those we are here to lay to rest were men and women under his command. The other two, the only two we can put names to, were not, but they acted in a manner that was in full accordance with the principals of the Star League.”

Jason and Anne hadn’t been members, but they’d died fighting for the SLDF anyway. I didn’t figure any member of that service would begrudge them the honor of their remains being draped with the SLDF’s banner.

“Jason Maxwell and Anne Thompson were part of a resistance movement against Stephen Amaris. They were civilian technicians, not Mechwarriors, not pilots, and yet they and others like them were responsible for the destruction of a Dragoon regiment on this world. They and their confederates defeated Amaris’s butchers and prevented all the war-fighting materiale on this planet from being used against the Star League.

“And when the last holdouts deployed biological weapons against them in defiance of the Ares Conventions, they used their last days of life to put more than four Battalions of Mechs into long term storage. They assembled the hardware and expertise to write everything they thought might be useful onto a Data Core.” At that statement, confirmation of the rumor that was already circulating, there was a hiss of air from the crowd. A mix of gasps and exhalations washed over me, and I could see wide eyes with just the start of tears.

“Rather than spend time with each other or seek comfort in other ways, they and others like them worked themselves to death to preserve something for the future. We owe them a debt.” I turned to the graves in full, the SLIC team in a ring around the single larger grave where, as Jason’s Last Will and Testament had requested, he and Anne be buried together. “This is all we can offer for now.”

All we could do at the moment was build cairns, but I already had a plan, or the seed of one at least, for a memorial somewhere between the D.C. World War II memorial and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in mind.

“In the future that will change. We’ll be able to build a memorial worthy of the sacrifice they, and others, made on this world.

“However, even then, the best memorial we can give them is to use what they left for us. Not just to build lives for ourselves, but to improve the lives of our fellow man.” I did not yell. I didn’t even raise my voice. I simply spoke with quiet intensity. This wasn’t time for rabble-rousing. I just made a promise and meant it. And let my employees, the people I was responsible for, know that I meant it.

The sun was still well above the horizon when the ceremony drew to a close and the burial detail started piling the rocks back in the holes.

I stayed long enough to watch the repurposed runway light illuminate the single Star League banner we’d found on its solitary flagpole once darkness fell. We’d done them what honor we could, but if I was to keep that promise, there was still a lot of work to do.

XXXXX​

Unnamed Planet, Unnamed System

Former Apollo Province, Unclaimed Territory

February 22nd, 3010


A week was a short expanse of time in most regards. Especially so when you didn’t even get a full seven standard days out of a local week. It had still been enough time to get the remainder of my active complement of Mechwarriors mounted up again, and for a start to be made on getting some of the old-timers back in the saddle.

Last I’d seen, the Techs had a second Phoenix in the process of working back up. The old Rim Worlds Republic design was changed almost beyond recognition by the refit.

The most visible change was the way the secondary armament had been entirely stripped. Instead a 5cm laser joined the ERPPC on the machine’s right arm while a pair of them had been placed into the center torso, with a second pair in the left arm. The design also had nine and a half tons of Ferro-Fibrous armor, a half ton more than the standard plate the -3R had mounted.

To fit all that onboard, the designers had relied on an XL engine. Like the Galahad, the Phoenix also mounted an extra-light 300, increasing its speed. Also like the Galahad, it mounted a half-dozen jump jets for maneuverability, and fifteen freezers kept the design reasonably cool unless it needed a jumping alpha strike, in which case the cockpit started to rapidly turn into a sauna.

Outside of Commandos, the cache had more Phoenixes than any other ‘Mech configuration. Not unexpected, since the RWR had been the producer for them, at least until they’d tried to switch the PPC out for an autocannon in the original -4R. Still it was reassuring to see that such a large percentage of my future force was kitted out so solidly.

My brain had already classified most of the cache Mediums as the ‘Mech equivalent of Battlecruisers. Can catch anything small enough to kill, and can run away from anything that can kill them.

Enemy Lights would basically evaporate under a single Alpha, and without XL engines they didn’t have the speed to get away. Mediums had just enough mass to think they could win against a lance of 50-tonners, but not enough armor for a stand-up fight or enough weapons to score a quick knockout. Even Heavies didn’t really have enough long-range weaponry to beat them if a Lance of Phoenixes chose to kite them; trying would be like an army ‘pursuing’ an army of Mongols.

MOBA players called that ‘chasing to death’ with good reason.

And even when somebody else caught up with our tech advantage, they’d still make excellent harassers. Being able to jump in on the flank of an enemy with their firepower was no joke. There wasn’t a heavy mech in existence that could casually accept an alpha strike from a lance of Phoenixes and stay up. Hell, even Juggernaut Assaults couldn’t just shrug off the combined fire from four ERPPCs and twenty 5cm lasers. Worse, the ‘Mechs could just hit their jets once they fired and hop back out of the fight.

I shook the pleasant thoughts away. They weren’t what I was most concerned with. A week had been enough time to scout out the factories, at least the ones on the surface. The subterranean ones were locked up tighter than Fort Knox.

Given what was on the surface, I really wanted to find out what was buried. My scouts had found a PPC line, multiple SRM and LRM lines, ammunition lines, Autocannon lines for everything but Class 5s, lines for 3cm, 5cm, and 8cm lasers, flamer lines, jump jet lines, and machine gun lines. Armor. Heat sinks. Sensors. Life support. Cockpit electronics. Gyros.

Then there were the fusion engines. 150s, 225s, 260s, 280s, and 300s.

The one part that was inconvenient, if understandable was the lack of any chassis or final assembly plants. If I was Amaris and I was concentrating a bunch of my societal dissidents on one planet to work them to death as slave labor, I wouldn’t want to risk letting them have a chance to build all-up tanks or Battlemechs either.

Hell, even using them for feeder factories had turned out to be a bad idea in the end.

The question was, what should I leverage to make my proposal, and who should I make it to. I looked over the Cliff notes for the half-dozen plans I had spread out on my desk one last time, then tapped one of them.

Time to see what the rest of my senior staff thought.

A/N: Thanks to Seraviel, LordsFire, and Yellowhammer without whom this story would be much the lesser. 'Mech data sheets to follow.
 
BattleMech Data Sheets (Part 2)

Speaker4thesilent

Crazed Deplorable
Joined
Aug 19, 2019
Reaction score
2,671
Location
An undisclosed bunker in Flyover Country.
Galahad GLH-1R

Mass: 50 tons
Tech Base: Inner Sphere
Chassis Config: Biped
Rules Level: Tournament Legal
Era: Age of War/Star League
Tech Rating/Era Availability: E/E-F-E-A
Production Year: 2750
Cost: 9,945,000 C-Bills
Battle Value: 1,594

Chassis: Unknown Endo-Steel
Power Plant: Unknown 300 Fusion XL Engine
Walking Speed: 64.8 km/h
Maximum Speed: 97.2 km/h
Jump Jets: None
Jump Capacity: 180 meters
Armor: Unknown Standard Armor
Armament:
2 ER PPCs
Manufacturer: Unknown
Primary Factory: Unknown
Communications System: Unknown
Targeting and Tracking System: Unknown

================================================================================
Equipment Type Rating Mass
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Internal Structure: Endo-Steel 83 points 2.50
Internal Locations: 2 CT, 3 RT, 3 LA, 2 RA, 2 LL, 2 RL
Engine: XL Fusion Engine 300 9.50
Walking MP: 6
Running MP: 9
Jumping MP: 6 Standard
Jump Jet Locations: 3 LT, 3 RT 3.00
Heat Sinks: Double Heat Sink 15(30) 5.00
Heat Sink Locations: 2 LT, 1 RT
Gyro: Standard 3.00
Cockpit: Standard 3.00
Actuators: L: SH+UA+LA R: SH+UA+LA
Armor: Standard Armor AV - 160 10.00

Internal Armor
Structure Factor
Head 3 9
Center Torso 16 24
Center Torso (rear) 7
L/R Torso 12 18
L/R Torso (rear) 6
L/R Arm 8 16
L/R Leg 12 20

================================================================================
Equipment Location Heat Critical Mass
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
ER PPC RA 15 3 7.00
ER PPC LA 15 3 7.00
Free Critical Slots: 8

Wasp WSP-1R

Mass: 20 tons
Tech Base: Inner Sphere
Chassis Config: Biped
Rules Level: Tournament Legal
Era: Age of War/Star League
Tech Rating/Era Availability: E/D-F-E-A
Production Year: 2750
Cost: 3,238,240 C-Bills
Battle Value: 554

Chassis: Unknown Standard
Power Plant: Unknown 225 Fusion XL Engine
Walking Speed: 118.8 km/h
Maximum Speed: 183.6 km/h
Jump Jets: Unknown
Jump Capacity: 120 meters
Armor: Unknown Ferro-Fibrous
Armament:
2 Medium Lasers
Manufacturer: Unknown
Primary Factory: Unknown
Communications System: Unknown
Targeting and Tracking System: Unknown

================================================================================
Equipment Type Rating Mass
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Internal Structure: Standard 33 points 2.00
Engine: XL Fusion Engine 220 5.00
Walking MP: 11
Running MP: 17
Jumping MP: 4 Standard
Jump Jet Locations: 2 LT, 2 RT 2.00
Heat Sinks: Double Heat Sink 10(20) 0.00
Heat Sink Locations: 1 LT, 1 RT
Gyro: Standard 3.00
Cockpit: Standard 3.00
Actuators: L: SH+UA+LA+H R: SH+UA+LA+H
Armor: Ferro-Fibrous AV - 53 3.00
Armor Locations: 1 CT, 3 LT, 3 RT, 3 RA, 2 LL, 2 RL

Internal Armor
Structure Factor
Head 3 9
Center Torso 6 6
Center Torso (rear) 2
L/R Torso 5 6
L/R Torso (rear) 2
L/R Arm 3 4
L/R Leg 4 6

================================================================================
Equipment Location Heat Critical Mass
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Medium Laser CT 3 1 1.00
Medium Laser RA 3 1 1.00
Free Critical Slots: 15

Phoenix PX-4R

Mass: 50 tons
Tech Base: Inner Sphere
Chassis Config: Biped
Rules Level: Tournament Legal
Era: Age of War/Star League
Tech Rating/Era Availability: E/E-F-E-A
Production Year: 2750
Cost: 9,846,000 C-Bills
Battle Value: 1,625

Chassis: Unknown Standard
Power Plant: Unknown 300 Fusion XL Engine
Walking Speed: 64.8 km/h
Maximum Speed: 97.2 km/h
Jump Jets: Unknown
Jump Capacity: 180 meters
Armor: Unknown Ferro-Fibrous
Armament:
1 ER PPC
5 Medium Lasers
Manufacturer: Unknown
Primary Factory: Unknown
Communications System: Unknown
Targeting and Tracking System: Unknown

================================================================================
Equipment Type Rating Mass
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Internal Structure: Standard 83 points 5.00
Engine: XL Fusion Engine 300 9.50
Walking MP: 6
Running MP: 9
Jumping MP: 6 Standard
Jump Jet Locations: 3 LT, 3 RT 3.00
Heat Sinks: Double Heat Sink 15(30) 5.00
Heat Sink Locations: 1 LT, 2 RT
Gyro: Standard 3.00
Cockpit: Standard 3.00
Actuators: L: SH+UA+LA+H R: SH+UA+LA
Armor: Ferro-Fibrous AV - 169 9.50
Armor Locations: 1 HD, 4 LA, 5 RA, 2 LL, 2 RL

Internal Armor
Structure Factor
Head 3 9
Center Torso 16 24
Center Torso (rear) 8
L/R Torso 12 18
L/R Torso (rear) 6
L/R Arm 8 16
L/R Leg 12 24

================================================================================
Equipment Location Heat Critical Mass
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2 Medium Lasers CT 6 2 2.00
ER PPC RA 15 3 7.00
Medium Laser RA 3 1 1.00
2 Medium Lasers LA 6 2 2.00
Free Critical Slots: 5
 
Chapter 9

Speaker4thesilent

Crazed Deplorable
Joined
Aug 19, 2019
Reaction score
2,671
Location
An undisclosed bunker in Flyover Country.
Chapter 9​

Unnamed Planet, Unnamed System

Former Apollo Province, Unclaimed Territory

February 22nd, 3010


The only member of my leadership team that couldn’t be present for the meeting was Captain Tandles aboard the Adam Smith, and he was listening in thanks to re-trans via the orbital station.

“So, in summary, we need more of everything, and we need to keep idiots out of the area,” I tied up the rundown of our needs. “The best way to get what we need is to leverage what’s in the Terrace Two warehouses and the future production of the factory lines. That’s the obvious part. The hard part is ‘who?’

“I’ve done a synopsis of the major arms producers in the Commonwealth. Most of them can be written off due to sheer distance making any trade route uneconomical. Our nearest option would be Trellshire Heavy Industries at Twycross. They’re only four jumps away which would make dealing with them quick and simple. Unfortunately, they make Stalkers, Riflemen, and Battlemasters there which means we can only supply them a few of the parts they’d need, rendering them a suboptimal choice.” I explained to immediate dissatisfaction.

“Damn, that’s too bad,” Melody said, shaking her head. “The next closest major military-industrial node is, what three times as far?”

“Not quite,” I answered, “Next is THI’s Chahar plant. It’s only seven jumps out for us, but unfortunately it’s basically a glorified feeder factory that also turns out some artillery. Going a bit further afield, we have Red Devil. Their Pandora factory is ten jumps away, but again they’re Battlemaster and Rifleman producers which means we can’t supply everything they’d need for a line.”

“And that’s leaving aside their less than stellar reputation.” James pounced when I paused for a breath.

“And that,” I admitted.

“There’s another planet about, what? Nine jumps out that you skipped. Sudeten. They’re also connected to Trellshire Heavy Industries, if I recall correctly,” Geraldine noted from her position, reclined in her chair.

I nodded to her. “Eight, and I was just getting to that. Yeah, THI’s got a small Sudeten plant that turns out Demolishers, but they run 240 FEs. Again, not something we can supply them with. The big opportunity is the other supplier on Sudeten: Olivetti Weaponry. They’ve got the Thunderbolt and J Edgar lines that Olivetti rebuilt after he quit at Defiance, plus a Hunter line he licensed from his old boss. Depending on delays they’re either building or recently completed a Warhammer line as well.” I explained. Around the room there were raised eyebrows. I wasn’t going to admit that the only reason I knew that was because my younger half had been a Warhammer fanboy who desperately wanted to drive one instead of a Commando.

Smiling at my thoughts, I continued, “Now there’s not a lot we can do to support the tank lines, but this planet seems to have been a feeder site for Rimmer-produced Thunderbolts and Warhammers. We’ve got literally everything we need to build both ‘Mechs except the Chassis lines and a final assembly plant,” I explained and passed another set of papers around.

“Damn, you’re right,” Rowdy, one of the first to get a paper, exclaimed, looking over the estimates for productivity I’d thrown together based on the data on the Core and my own back of an envelope guesstimate on how much productivity would drop now that we weren’t planning on working people to death.

“Uh, boss, wouldn’t we get better numbers out of, y’know, happy employees instead of unhappy political prisoners?” Marsha inquired.

I paused for a second and looked down at the sheet to see what she was looking at specifically, “Oh, yeah, sorry. That is a little unclear. Eventually, yes we will, but we have to assume we’re starting with effectively unskilled labor. When the Amaris government was running the place, they seem to have at least maintained skilled foremen and engineers. We are going to have to develop those on our own, which will take time.”

“With that correction, this looks pretty solid, but I can see a problem,” Haley Chapman spoke up, “Where are we going to get the sheet number of people and the seed of expertise to get … what, something like fifteen lines running again?”

“Not quite that many,” I assured her. “For example, heat sinks, myomers, and armor are easy enough to manufacture and cheap enough that they aren’t really worth transporting, so we can drop them from consideration. Also, at least at first, we need to focus on one type of ‘Mech or the other. By all reports, the Thunderbolt line has been working fine since Olivetti’s people got it restored. On the other hand, we don’t know if they’d be able to recreate it to expand production.

“We do know that they’ve been building the Warhammer line from scratch. That means they could build another or expand the one they’ve got,” I pointed out. “Plus, PPCs are always in short supply. I propose that we focus on reactivating what we’d need to support Olivetti’s Warhammer line. That would be the PPC line and the five and three centimeter laser lines on Terrace Four South, the SRM-6 line on Terrace Three South, the electronics and gyro lines of Terrace Four North, and the MG and 280 FE lines on Five South. Eight lines.”

And only two of them inconveniently located on the north side of the pass. To build everything we needed for the Thunderbolt would mean getting the LRM-15, SRM-2, and the 260 SFE lines going, and they were all on the North side. I was already dreading figuring out how to deal with transport since the highway over the pass was down. Maybe just use the shuttles?

I looked around the room to see generally positive responses from the younger half of the attendees. The older half all appeared to be doing some math, either scribbled in the margins of my handouts or in their heads. I was anticipating a grilling from Captain Chapman, but it was the unseen member of my team that responded first. “That does simplify the logistics a bit, but you still only answered half the question. Where do you expect to find the people to run these lines?” Captain Tandles asked.

I frowned, “Sorry, got distracted,” I admitted. “That’s another reason I like Sudeten. With his new line and all the requisite feeder lines opening, he’s going to have drawn in a bunch of people looking for work. Some of those will have been locals, but with the way his operation has taken off like a rocket over the past decade, there’s no way that the local populace on Sudeten would be enough to fill the demand. That means word would have gotten out about jobs being available, and there’s always people hopeful or desperate enough to vote with their feet. I intend to exploit the Boomtown response,” I declared.

“Uh, what’s a Boomtown response?” Sammy asked. Looking around, I realized the metaphor had flown over most of my subordinates’ heads.

“Sorry, old reference. As far back in the Twentieth Century on Terra, word would get out that precious metals had been found or that a new factory was opening, and people would rush from all over to get there.” I lectured, “The first few to arrive were the ones who usually made out. Getting the best sites or the jobs that were available as the Boomtown formed, but there were thousands more already in motion. Those people who arrived at the end of such a cycle have already spent the money on travel and usually don’t have the financial wherewithal to get back home. I propose to hire on as many of those people as we can transport and haul them back here with as much food as we can carry. Based on the limited assistive technology in those factories, we’re going to need everything from expert Mechanical and Electrical Engineers all the way down to manual labor. Plus, we can use farmers, electrical techs for managing the power grid, longshoremen, teamsters, and loadmasters. Hell, secretarial and janitorial staff, plus a dozen others I haven’t even thought of yet.

“If we can guarantee them passage as well as a job and a roof over their heads as soon as they arrive, we’ll get takers, even if it’s at the end of a two month JumpShip voyage,” I stated, certain of my conclusions.

“Yeah, that sounds about right,” Geraldine backed me up. “We saw that a couple times when I was a girl. A big mineral strike would bring people from three or four systems out hoping to strike it rich. Same thing with well-paying industrial work.”

Then her expression turned more serious, “But that’s not everything, Junior. You’ve got at least one more card up your sleeve. Out with it.,”

I grinned, “Yeah, yeah, I’m gettin’ there. After the trouble we had on our last job, I think I can speak for all of us when I say that I’d really prefer not to ever have to deal with that sort of shit again.” There was generally affirmative grumbling in response, so I continued, “Olivetti is a new start up. Whereas most big manufacturing centers have been in business for centuries, they’re barely two decades old.

“You don’t manage to build a company like that from the ground up in such a short amount of time without both being capable and intelligent. And being able to both attract and lead capable and intelligent subordinates.

“In addition, there’s only so much corruption you can have in a successful start-up. Olivetti’s experience will almost certainly be having to work around the sweetheart deals within LCAF procurement, not in setting up those deals himself. I think we’re likely to get the best combination of price and reliability with the least chance of our buyer developing Acute Backstabbing Syndrome, if only because he’ll be glad to be working with someone honest for a change.”

That last comment drew a laugh, as expected. “But, seriously, does anyone see a flaw in my logic?” I asked to a resounding silence as people thought it over.

Finally, Marsha shrugged, “Nothing that stands out.”

Geraldine seemingly agreed, “I’d like to be paranoid about this, but I don’t see any gaping holes either. My only concern is that Olivetti isn’t likely to have the sort of political connections that could quash opposition coming from that direction.”

I grinned back, “Ah, but that’s the beauty of my approach. Surely, if we had a major find, we would have gone to one of the more established institutions, right? They’re more prestigious, and certainly could afford to pay better than a newcomer like Olivetti, right?” I let the grin fade and gestured expansively, “We’re never going to be able to keep all this secret forever. It’s too big. Instead, we need to camouflage it. Make it look smaller than it is long enough to get our young hopefuls trained up. Long enough to make new hires part of the culture of Weber’s Warriors. If, when the first pirates show up, they run into a Regiment of ‘Mechs and a couple wings of ASFs? The handful of survivors won’t risk coming back, and the word will spread.

“If we can get our numbers up without losing our quality …” I trailed off and shrugged. “It’s a gamble, but I’m gambling on you. Seems a lot like a sure thing from my perspective.”

Rowdy let out a cheer, as expected and soon the rest of the compartment joined in the affirmation, “Well if that’s settled, we need to do some load calculations,” I concluded.

Rowdy’s head hit the table. “More math?” he complained loudly. “Dictator! Tyrant!” he called with a raised fist.

While the Fischer twins giggled, Sammy laughed and the others rolled their eyes, I drew out a calculator. “Let's start with the main cargo bay …”

XXXXX​

It took hours of figuring, refiguring, and making sure we actually had what the plan called for in storage before we were done.

A Warhammer build kit consisted of a pair of PPCs, an SRM-6, a pair of 5cm lasers, a pair of 3cm lasers, a pair of machine guns, and one each of engine, gyro, cockpit, and assorted electronics. All together it weighed in at forty-three tons and would retail for just a touch over 3.1 million C-bills.

The Implacable could carry eighty of them stacked in the empty ‘Mech bays and still leave enough spare capacity for food, water, fuel, and the four ‘Mechs we were planning on hauling to Sudeten. With the quartet of Streak SRM-2s and four tons of ammo we were planning to bring along for authenticity, that brought the total to just over a quarter of a Billion C-Bills.

When I’d done that math, the entire compartment had gone silent, and everyone had stared. When Rowdy made a joke about the number of Triple-F Burgers that much money could buy, I both wanted to hug him and hit him.

Since I wasn’t sure which was more appropriate, I assigned him to find out and report back to us. His look and the giggles it spawned finished off the fey mood that had gripped the compartment.

That was more money than I’d ever been in possession of in my life. Either of my lives. I knew right away that there was no way Olivetti could just cut us a check for that much. Defiance could probably have done it out of pocket change and asked us when we could make the next delivery, but Olivetti wasn’t far out of being a start-up. That was big-leagues cash.

Good thing what I wanted most from his company wasn’t money.

XXXXX​

Unnamed Planet, Unnamed System

Former Apollo Province, Unclaimed Territory

February 24th, 3010


It’s like there’s a rule that nothing can ever go smoothly. I’d expected to be able to unload the Implacable, reload, and go. Then I got the word that the municipal water system I’d been counting on was a write-off. At least for the moment, anyway.

There was some sort of nasty algae-like plant growing in the water; thankfully this time we hadn’t learned about it the hard way, because it was poisonous as fuck. We could get the system back in operation, but the cisterns would need to be drained, scrubbed, and re-filled before they could be used.

That meant we needed a source for fresh water, and we needed it before we departed. The problem was, that our location up in the mountains didn’t get a lot of rain. We hadn’t had a drop since we landed.

The good news was that we were right up next to the western end of the pass, and down the mountain side was green as far as the eye could see. If we’d been at the east end of the pass, we’d have been in the mountain’s rain shadow.

It still meant an unexpected delay, and most of the ‘Mechs we had running were already in the middle of doing something equally important. That left me and Geraldine in her new Crossbow, the imaginatively-named Whirlwind II to escort a crew in rough-terrain vehicles down the mountain in search of a spring or the headwaters of a river.

“Sorry to grab you for this on an off-shift, Comet,” I apologized as the tracked vehicles crawled down the pass behind me with the Crossbow towering at the rear of our little column.

“Needs must, Bloodhound,” she replied. I guess she was serious about making that my callsign. “It isn’t the first time I’ve had to mount up on short sleep, and it won’t be the last. Just be glad it’s only happened to you once. By the time I was your age, we’d already fought three engagements where I had to scramble into a ‘Mech half-asleep.”

I opened my mouth, but bit my tongue before I could make an ass out of myself. Given how she’d felt about my dad, rolling my eyes and firing back a, ‘Yes, Mom,’ would be impolitic. “So how is everything with the new ‘Mech? Any problems with it? I haven’t actually had a chance to double check with everything that’s been going on,” I switched the subject as I scanned the landscape. Even with the red tint to the grass, it reminded me of a scene out of the Alps.

“For a ‘Mech that saw the rise and fall of the Star League, it’s in amazing shape,” Comet replied. “Part of that is that most of the components only have a couple hundred hours on them, but even the stuff that wasn’t replaced in the refit is in good shape. Clearly been treated well,” the veteran continued.

“Still not used to all the things this neurohelmet will do. You know it’s got inbuilt controls for the radio? I start to reach to select a channel, and it’s already selected the one I want. It even parses what weapons I want to fire faster than I can hit the selectors.”

Even with my heavy neurohelmet on, that made me toss my head back and my raise my eyebrows. Those were not small advantages. In a fight, seconds, even fractions of seconds, mattered. So did distractions. If we could fire without worrying about cutting a weapon out of the circuit first, or work damage control, like cutting off a damaged heat sink to keep from losing all our coolant without taking our eyes off of a fight … “Yeah, in a sustained combat, that could really make a big difference.”

“You’re telling me. And it’s easier on the neck. I’ve already got back pain, I’ve been enjoying not having neck cramps from getting back in a ‘Mech after more than a month straight dismounted.”

I snorted. Geraldine’s, ah, ‘endowments’ had lead many men and some women meeting her for the first time to make complete fools out of themselves. Didn’t hurt that she looked about ten years younger than she was, despite her drinking. Her complaining about her back was regular enough to set your watch by. I smiled, if she was back to that, she must be feeling better.

Once again I did a sweep for anything out of the ordinary. We were starting to get down towards the tree line, and by the developing line of red-green foliage in the distance, we ought to be coming up on wetter ground.

“Damn! Bloodhound, switch to Magscan,” Geraldine barked.

I had a moment of confusion before doing as I was told. Why-

Okay, that’s interesting. It took my less advanced sensors a few extra seconds to pick out what she was seeing, despite the fact that I was a couple hundred yards closer. I hadn’t been using Magscan because in the city it was basically useless, and I hadn’t expected to need it out in the middle of nowhere. I really hadn’t expected to be seeing … what, the ruins of an old building?

Noooo, not an old building it was hard to tell with the equipment I was using, but …

“Comet, are we picking up the fuckin’ trees on Magscan?”

“I think we are,” she responded, “My unified sensor reading were blurred. Same thing happened surrounded by all the rebar until I cut out the Magscan. Good thing we aren’t trying to fight here. Magscan is looking like it’ll be pretty useless on this planet.”

“I’m more concerned that the trees are reading as having primitive BattleMech armor plate. What the hell is that a natural defense against?” I demanded to abrupt silence on the radio.

“That would be about our luck, wouldn’t it? Too much to hope that it’s just because this world’s metal-rich,” my second shot back in a disgruntled tone.

Finally something she’d said penetrated. “Wait, you’ve got layered sensor output? Like everything at the same time? No switching?”

“Ah, yeah, though like I said, I have to keep Magscan disabled or everything goes fuzzy.”

I looked at my own display and switched my own Magscan off. I’d possessed really good vision in my last life and it was pretty decent in this one. Good enough to note the faint distortion the HUD in Striker Alpha caused. “I think you’re gettin’ spoiled by all that Star League tech, Comet. Gonna have to pull you out of that newfangled machine before you lose your street cred,” I joked.

“Over my cold, dead body, Bloodhound.”

That seemed fairly definitive. I smirked even as I went back to scanning. Now that we were closer, I could definitely tell that the line of vegetation was following a low spot, and the lay of the ground had the left side uphill.

“Let’s angle to the left, here. Looks like it ought to be a decent sized spring if it’s supporting those trees.” I tried to model where we were in my head. We’d been out here for more than an hour, but we hadn’t exactly been moving in a straight line. As the crow flew, we were probably only thirty kilometers from the city, though more than that once you figured in the slope. Doable, but we’d need more than one pump.

Maybe have Sammy carry a small one where we needed it in his new Wasp? That seemed-

The ground under my Commando’s left leg started to give way, and then heaved. I fought to maintain my ‘Mech’s balance, actually working against the gyro due to the initial drop. I pretty much had it saved when the giant monster bit into the ‘Mech’s right thigh.

“Motherfucker!” I had time to yell before the damn thing dragged my ‘Mech off its feet and started shaking me, 25 ton ‘Mech and all, like a terrier shaking a rat.

“Jesus Christ!” Comet yelled, and a detached part of my brain made a note to talk to her about that later. That sort of language was a bad influence on the baby Mechwarriors we were going to be training up. Then I felt something in my ‘Mech’s leg give and I was flung away from the alien monster that had been mauling me.

Far enough away for Comet to have a target. Two otherwise invisible lasers were highlighted across my HUD fractions of an instant before a bolt of man-made lightning hit something. A moment later, there was a rumbling thoom as that something collapsed.

I levered the top half of my Commando vertical enough to see the remains of the ‘Mech-scale alien antlion that had ambushed me, two molten rivulets of metal still dribbling down its side and the crater of steaming flesh the ERPPC had blown in its abdomen.

Then I noticed the leg of my ‘Mech laying beside it, the end looking distinctly melted. “Oh you have got to be kidding me.” In that moment, I made my decision.

Reaching over, I set my radio to transmit to everyone, “Now hear this! I’m aware of the names that have been floating around for this planet. I was personally partial to Motherlode until about five minutes ago. In light of recent developments, I am invoking executive privilege. We are calling the planet Catachan. Y’all can fight over a good name for the system if you want.

“I need a recovery vehicle down the mountain at map grid …”

XXXXX​

I now knew why they’d taken the terraces down to bedrock.

The burrowing murderbeast that had ambushed us on our approach to the water source looked vaguely like a Komodo Dragon crossed with a Gila Monster where the designer had used all eight legs. Except that instead of scales, it had armor plating capable of resisting a 5cm laser. It also produced an extremely nasty caustic, the identity of which was yet to be determined. You could tell that by the way it had burned clear through my Commando’s leg armor, then sheared off the limb by main strength. Probably a result of metabolizing all that metal it was wearing.

The damn thing must have been nearly thirty feet long, too. I was lucky I’d been strapped in. My heavy-ass neurohelmet had kept me from a concussion and the restraints from getting flailed to death on my instruments. What a blessing it was to be young; I barely felt the bruises I’d no doubt have tomorrow. What that sort of abuse would have done to my back in my last life barely bore thinking on.

“Well, this presents a problem,” I finally said as I finished inspecting the Antlion From Hell. “I mean, here we are with the best hunting trophy this side of Hesperus, and not a taxidermist in ten light-years.”

That, at least, broke the shock hanging over the group like a cloud. Even Geraldine let loose a laugh over the radio. “Seriously, good shooting, Comet. Nice to know you don’t have much rust to blow off.” I turned back to the group around me.

“Any ETA on the recovery vehicle?” I asked.

“Still be about half an hour, Sir, they had to wait for McCready to get back from scouting to play escort.”

I nodded. I was, I thought, doing a good job of seeming unconcerned. I was far from it. I was very concerned. Suddenly, some references in the Data Core made a great deal more sense.

We’d landed on a Deathworld.

The water system had just become a major priority, because we were going to need to guard this water source twenty-seven and a fraction hours a day, six days a local week.

And I was leaving tomorrow with …

I looked at my Commando, then over to the chewed-up, melted, wreck of a leg and bit back a half-dozen curses.

Correction, we were leaving as soon as I had a ‘Mech, and I was taking three of our ‘Mechs and veteran pilots with me. “What a mess.”

XXXXX​

Catachan, Unnamed System

Former Apollo Province, Unclaimed Territory

February 27th, 3010


By the time we’d all gotten back up to the city, I had developed a plan. It was actually fairly elegant, in that it enhanced the deception we were going to be running. We could tell everyone we ran into that all we’d found was spare parts and a few advanced weapons until we were blue in the face, but a certain percentage would always assume we were just hiding the good stuff. I mean, to be fair, they’d be right, but that belief would be inconvenient for us.

On the other hand, if we were to show back up in the Commonwealth with a new ‘Mech or two, but ones that had a … less than sterling reputation …

Once the crew got done with the ‘Mech they were reactivating, I had them start on a Banshee. Not one of what the Core called a BNC-3R, the model the rebels had come up with looked entirely too much like a functional Assault ‘Mech, an old, unrefitted, BNC-3E.

Just impressive enough that the only possible way we could have gotten it was out of a cache.

And just pathetic enough to make me the butt of a joke. ‘Did you hear about that Merc unit that found a cache? They go through all the trouble of locating it, and all they get is a handful of old Banshees.’

It would be irritating, but if people were cracking jokes about us being bad-lucky, they wouldn’t be convincing themselves that they should try to come jump our claim.

Always easier to denigrate someone else than take a risk, after all.

I turned to the crew beside me, already preparing for work on an Icarus II further back in the formation. The Medium-weight mechs had been deemed the ideal training platform for our young hopefuls. Once they were used to putting an Icarus through its paces, they’d graduate to a Phoenix or Sarissa to see if they could pick up jump jets, and from there to the speedier lights for seasoning.

At least until we got back with the parts to get our lower-tech machines back in working order. Three Wasps, a Commando, a Firestarter, and a Griffin would make for a good start for a training company. Hopefully there’d be enough parts floating around to get the Panther up and running as well.

“Great job getting this running so quickly,” I congratulated them, “You guys have been doing a bang-up job working on machines you aren’t used to.” I congratulated Mace. “Seriously, pass that along to your whole crew.

“I’ll do that,” he assured me. “Any change in the priorities?” he asked after a moment.

I shook my head, “Nope, just get the mediums up. I’d love to get those artillery ‘Mechs functional, but I need someone who knows how to run a company of artillery first.” That skill was a rarity in the Inner Sphere for some unknowable reason. “You guys need anything while we’re out?” I asked.

“Nothing more that we’ve found in the last couple days,” Mace responded.

“Very well then, Mister Brown,” I nodded and prepared to depart before one last item occurred to me, “Oh, I saw that they found the Amaris Dragoons old ‘Mech hanger. You guys going to be transferring operations over there soon?”

“Ah, yes, Sir, sometime next week if all goes well,” Mace replied.

“Well the facilities there ought to be good enough not to hold you back like using the portable bay has been. Once you’ve got the ‘Mechs we need reactivated, you can start in on refitting the last of the cache ‘Mechs up to the specs from the Core.”

“Uh … yes, Sir. We can do that.”

I shot the surprised elderly tech a smile and departed.

A/N: This marks the end of the first arc of this story. Next will be 3-4 interludes from various perspectives including (probably, if I can make it work) an interlude to start the next arc. I’ll probably also throw the rest of the ‘Mech data sheets up in an informational post. Thanks again to my crew of beta readers: LordsFire, Seraviel, and Yellowhammer.
 
BattleMech Data Sheets (Part 3)

Speaker4thesilent

Crazed Deplorable
Joined
Aug 19, 2019
Reaction score
2,671
Location
An undisclosed bunker in Flyover Country.
Warning, this first one is from MML and looks different. SSW does not into Artillery.
I have been Corrected by VhenRa. SSW does into artillery, you just have to know exactly how to massage the program into doing it. Original Heliopolis entry changed for consistency.
Heliopolis HEP-2R

Mass: 75 tons
Tech Base: Inner Sphere
Chassis Config: Biped
Rules Level: Advanced Rules
Era: Age of War/Star League
Tech Rating/Era Availability: E/E-F-D-A
Production Year: 2750
Cost: 6,594,438 C-Bills
Battle Value: 1,535

Chassis: Unknown Standard
Power Plant: Unknown 225 Fusion Engine
Walking Speed: 32.4 km/h
Maximum Speed: 54.0 km/h
Jump Jets: Unknown
Jump Capacity: 90 meters
Armor: Unknown Standard Armor
Armament:
1 ER Large Laser
1 Sniper
6 Medium Lasers
Manufacturer: Unknown
Primary Factory: Unknown
Communications System: Unknown
Targeting and Tracking System: Unknown

================================================================================
Equipment Type Rating Mass
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Internal Structure: Standard 114 points 7.50
Engine: Fusion Engine 225 10.00
Walking MP: 3
Running MP: 5
Jumping MP: 3 Standard
Jump Jet Locations: 1 CT, 1 LL, 1 RL 3.00
Heat Sinks: Double Heat Sink 11(22) 1.00
Heat Sink Locations: 2 LT
Gyro: Standard 3.00
Cockpit: Standard 3.00
Actuators: L: SH+UA+LA+H R: SH+UA
Armor: Standard Armor AV - 231 14.50

Internal Armor
Structure Factor
Head 3 9
Center Torso 23 35
Center Torso (rear) 11
L/R Torso 16 24
L/R Torso (rear) 8
L/R Arm 12 24
L/R Leg 16 32

================================================================================
Equipment Location Heat Critical Mass
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Medium Laser CT 3 1 1.00
Sniper RT/RA 10 10/10 20.00
3 Medium Lasers LT 9 3 3.00
ER Large Laser LA 12 2 5.00
2 Medium Lasers LA 6 2 2.00
@Sniper (20) RT - 2 2.00
Free Critical Slots: 10
Kyudo KY2-D-1R

Mass: 45 tons
Tech Base: Inner Sphere
Chassis Config: Biped
Rules Level: Tournament Legal
Era: Age of War/Star League
Tech Rating/Era Availability: E/E-F-E-A
Production Year: 2750
Cost: 7,158,070 C-Bills
Battle Value: 1,294

Chassis: Unknown Standard
Power Plant: Unknown 225 Fusion XL Engine
Walking Speed: 54.0 km/h
Maximum Speed: 86.4 km/h
Jump Jets: None
Jump Capacity: 0 meters
Armor: Unknown Ferro-Fibrous w/ CASE
Armament:
1 LRM-20
1 ER Large Laser
3 Medium Lasers
Manufacturer: Unknown
Primary Factory: Unknown
Communications System: Unknown
Targeting and Tracking System: Unknown

================================================================================
Equipment Type Rating Mass
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Internal Structure: Standard 75 points 4.50
Engine: XL Fusion Engine 225 5.00
Walking MP: 5
Running MP: 8
Jumping MP: 0
Heat Sinks: Double Heat Sink 10(20) 0.00
Heat Sink Locations: 1 RT
Gyro: Standard 3.00
Cockpit: Standard 3.00
Actuators: L: SH+UA+LA+H R: SH+UA+LA
Armor: Ferro-Fibrous AV - 143 8.00
Armor Locations: 2 CT, 6 RT, 4 RA, 1 LL, 1 RL
CASE Locations: 1 LT 0.50

Internal Armor
Structure Factor
Head 3 9
Center Torso 14 20
Center Torso (rear) 6
L/R Torso 11 16
L/R Torso (rear) 5
L/R Arm 7 14
L/R Leg 11 19

================================================================================
Equipment Location Heat Critical Mass
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
LRM-20 LT 6 5 10.00
ER Large Laser RA 12 2 5.00
3 Medium Lasers RA 9 3 3.00
@LRM-20 (18) LT - 3 3.00
Free Critical Slots: 11
Icarus II ICR-1R

Mass: 40 tons
Tech Base: Inner Sphere
Chassis Config: Biped
Rules Level: Tournament Legal
Era: Age of War/Star League
Tech Rating/Era Availability: E/E-F-E-A
Production Year: 2750
Cost: 6,592,880 C-Bills
Battle Value: 1,034

Chassis: Unknown Standard
Power Plant: Unknown 240 Fusion XL Engine
Walking Speed: 64.8 km/h
Maximum Speed: 97.2 km/h
Jump Jets: None
Jump Capacity: 0 meters
Armor: Unknown Ferro-Fibrous w/ CASE
Armament:
1 LB 10-X AC
3 Medium Lasers
Manufacturer: Unknown
Primary Factory: Unknown
Communications System: Unknown
Targeting and Tracking System: Unknown

================================================================================
Equipment Type Rating Mass
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Internal Structure: Standard 67 points 4.00
Engine: XL Fusion Engine 240 6.00
Walking MP: 6
Running MP: 9
Jumping MP: 0
Heat Sinks: Double Heat Sink 10(20) 0.00
Heat Sink Locations: 1 RT
Gyro: Standard 3.00
Cockpit: Standard 3.00
Actuators: L: SH+UA+LA R: SH+UA+LA+H
Armor: Ferro-Fibrous AV - 134 7.50
Armor Locations: 1 HD, 5 LT, 4 RT, 2 LA, 2 RA
CASE Locations: 1 LT 0.50

Internal Armor
Structure Factor
Head 3 9
Center Torso 12 17
Center Torso (rear) 6
L/R Torso 10 15
L/R Torso (rear) 5
L/R Arm 6 12
L/R Leg 10 19

================================================================================
Equipment Location Heat Critical Mass
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Medium Laser RT 3 1 1.00
2 Medium Lasers RA 6 2 2.00
LB 10-X AC LA 2 6 11.00
@LB 10-X (Cluster) (10) LT - 1 1.00
@LB 10-X (Slug) (10) LT - 1 1.00
Free Critical Slots: 13
One more of these posts left. For the moment.
 
BattleMech Data Sheets (Part 4)

Speaker4thesilent

Crazed Deplorable
Joined
Aug 19, 2019
Reaction score
2,671
Location
An undisclosed bunker in Flyover Country.
Thunderbolt TDR-5R

Mass: 65 tons
Tech Base: Inner Sphere
Chassis Config: Biped
Rules Level: Tournament Legal
Era: Age of War/Star League
Tech Rating/Era Availability: E/E-F-D-A
Production Year: 2750
Cost: 6,076,730 C-Bills
Battle Value: 1,484

Chassis: Unknown Standard
Power Plant: Unknown 260 Fusion Engine
Walking Speed: 43.2 km/h
Maximum Speed: 64.8 km/h
Jump Jets: None
Jump Capacity: 0 meters
Armor: Unknown Ferro-Fibrous w/ CASE
Armament:
1 LB 10-X AC
1 LRM-15
3 Medium Lasers
2 Flamers
Manufacturer: Unknown
Primary Factory: Unknown
Communications System: Unknown
Targeting and Tracking System: Unknown

================================================================================
Equipment Type Rating Mass
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Internal Structure: Standard 104 points 6.50
Engine: Fusion Engine 260 13.50
Walking MP: 4
Running MP: 6
Jumping MP: 0
Heat Sinks: Double Heat Sink 10(20) 0.00
Gyro: Standard 3.00
Cockpit: Standard 3.00
Actuators: L: SH+UA+LA+H R: SH+UA+LA
Armor: Ferro-Fibrous AV - 206 11.50
Armor Locations: 5 LT, 4 RT, 3 RA, 1 LL, 1 RL
CASE Locations: 1 RT 0.50

Internal Armor
Structure Factor
Head 3 9
Center Torso 21 33
Center Torso (rear) 8
L/R Torso 15 22
L/R Torso (rear) 8
L/R Arm 10 20
L/R Leg 15 28

================================================================================
Equipment Location Heat Critical Mass
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
LRM-15 RT 5 3 7.00
3 Medium Lasers LT 9 3 3.00
LB 10-X AC RA 2 6 11.00
2 Flamers LA 6 2 2.00
@LRM-15 (16) RT - 2 2.00
@LB 10-X (Cluster) (10) RT - 1 1.00
@LB 10-X (Slug) (10) RT - 1 1.00
Free Critical Slots: 15

Ostwar OWR-2R

Mass: 65 tons
Tech Base: Inner Sphere
Chassis Config: Biped
Rules Level: Tournament Legal
Era: Age of War/Star League
Tech Rating/Era Availability: E/E-F-D-A
Production Year: 2750
Cost: 5,991,260 C-Bills
Battle Value: 1,512

Chassis: Unknown Standard
Power Plant: Unknown 260 Fusion Engine
Walking Speed: 43.2 km/h
Maximum Speed: 64.8 km/h
Jump Jets: None
Jump Capacity: 0 meters
Armor: Unknown Ferro-Fibrous w/ CASE
Armament:
1 ER PPC
1 LRM-15
2 SRM-6s
Manufacturer: Unknown
Primary Factory: Unknown
Communications System: Unknown
Targeting and Tracking System: Unknown

================================================================================
Equipment Type Rating Mass
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Internal Structure: Standard 104 points 6.50
Engine: Fusion Engine 260 13.50
Walking MP: 4
Running MP: 6
Jumping MP: 0
Heat Sinks: Double Heat Sink 13(26) 3.00
Heat Sink Locations: 3 LT
Gyro: Standard 3.00
Cockpit: Standard 3.00
Actuators: L: SH+UA+LA+H R: SH+UA+LA+H
Armor: Ferro-Fibrous AV - 206 11.50
Armor Locations: 3 LT, 4 RT, 3 LA, 4 RA
CASE Locations: 1 RT 0.50

Internal Armor
Structure Factor
Head 3 9
Center Torso 21 33
Center Torso (rear) 8
L/R Torso 15 22
L/R Torso (rear) 8
L/R Arm 10 20
L/R Leg 15 28

================================================================================
Equipment Location Heat Critical Mass
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
LRM-15 RT 5 3 7.00
SRM-6 RA 4 2 3.00
ER PPC LA 15 3 7.00
SRM-6 LA 4 2 3.00
@LRM-15 (16) RT - 2 2.00
@SRM-6 (15) RT - 1 1.00
@SRM-6 (Inferno) (15) RT - 1 1.00
Free Critical Slots: 9

Sarissa MN1-DR

Mass: 50 tons
Tech Base: Inner Sphere
Chassis Config: Biped
Rules Level: Tournament Legal
Era: Age of War/Star League
Tech Rating/Era Availability: E/E-F-E-A
Production Year: 2750
Cost: 9,975,000 C-Bills
Battle Value: 1,591

Chassis: Unknown Standard
Power Plant: Unknown 300 Fusion XL Engine
Walking Speed: 64.8 km/h
Maximum Speed: 97.2 km/h
Jump Jets: None
Jump Capacity: 180 meters
Armor: Unknown Ferro-Fibrous
Armament:
2 ER Large Lasers
5 Medium Lasers
Manufacturer: Unknown
Primary Factory: Unknown
Communications System: Unknown
Targeting and Tracking System: Unknown

================================================================================
Equipment Type Rating Mass
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Internal Structure: Standard 83 points 5.00
Engine: XL Fusion Engine 300 9.50
Walking MP: 6
Running MP: 9
Jumping MP: 6 Standard
Jump Jet Locations: 2 CT, 2 LL, 2 RL 3.00
Heat Sinks: Double Heat Sink 12(24) 2.00
Gyro: Standard 3.00
Cockpit: Standard 3.00
Actuators: L: SH+UA+LA+H R: SH+UA+LA+H
Armor: Ferro-Fibrous AV - 169 9.50
Armor Locations: 4 LT, 6 RT, 2 LA, 2 RA

Internal Armor
Structure Factor
Head 3 9
Center Torso 16 24
Center Torso (rear) 8
L/R Torso 12 18
L/R Torso (rear) 6
L/R Arm 8 16
L/R Leg 12 24

================================================================================
Equipment Location Heat Critical Mass
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2 Medium Lasers LT 6 2 2.00
ER Large Laser RA 12 2 5.00
2 Medium Lasers RA 6 2 2.00
ER Large Laser LA 12 2 5.00
Medium Laser LA 3 1 1.00
Free Critical Slots: 12
So, there's the last of the cache redesigns. Some are better than others, I know. Partially, this is deliberate, partially it is the limits I was willing to work with from a narrative perspective, and some is me not being a very good 'Mech designer yet.
 
Interlude 1-G

Speaker4thesilent

Crazed Deplorable
Joined
Aug 19, 2019
Reaction score
2,671
Location
An undisclosed bunker in Flyover Country.
Interlude 1-G​

Catachan, Unnamed System

Former Apollo Province, Unclaimed Territory

February 28th, 3010


Geraldine looked at the surface of the desk she was sitting at with an odd combination of bemusement and dismay. For more than twenty years, she’d seen it from the other side, first as a junior Mechwarrior, hat in hand under Alistair’s old man, then as a colleague to Alistair himself.

Now she was sitting behind it, acting as his son’s second while he was away.

Not bad for the girl who flunked out of Sanglamore after only completing one semester. ‘Cheating,’ the evaluation had said. Interesting how her grades weren’t an issue before she dethroned a duke’s son for first place in her class after midterms two-thirds of the way through her second semester.

She’d had some bad days in the year after that. Thankfully Old James Weber knew a frame-up when he saw one, and had no particular liking for the Old Men’s Club in Skye. He’d given her a chance, and she’d made the most of it.

Still, she considered as she poured herself a small cup of sake, never thought I’d make Captain. Or near enough, at least. Once they got all the dispossessed remounted and the kids around the twins’ and Junior’s age in ‘Mechs, they’d be back to a size where they needed officers again.

She knew she had the experience for it; she’d led a Lance whenever the Company split up for exercises. She was a bit worried about the education though. Her eyes glanced from the reports on the desk over to the empty bookcases in the corner of the room and the boxes of books stacked around them. The old Amaris Dragoon’s barracks had held up like most Star League structures did, absent considerable bombing or shelling.

They’d really only had to throw out the moldering remains of the previous occupants’ possessions and do some basic servicing of the machinery before they could start moving themselves in. For the moment, everyone, even the camp followers, would be living in the various associated barracks. Even with all that, they still rattled around in the massive facility like a handful of peas in a number ten can.

Not surprising, the place was built for a regiment with supports and families to live inside the walls; they’d apparently been hated enough to need the defenses. The main gate was a splintered wreck, and one of the ‘Mech hangers had some craters in its face. They’d also needed to patch some tarmac with instant road, and a dining hall would need to be gutted and refurbished before it could be used. That might have been a galley fire that got out of control or someone being petulant with a flamer, hard to say either way.

Geraldine took another sip of her sake and refocused her wandering thoughts. Alistair and his old man had maintained a large collection of both physical and digital books, and she was likely to have some ti-

A knock on the door drew her attention. “It’s open!” She called as she looked back down at the paper on the top of the stack in front of her just a touch guiltily. She hadn’t made much progress on the pile. As Slim wandered in the door, she realized she probably wasn’t going to be making any more progress for a while either. “Since when do you knock?”

“Since you’re sitting behind that desk. Wouldn’t do to develop any bad habits,” he fired back with a grin and flopped down in one of the chairs in front of the wooden monstrosity, smile fading. When he didn’t speak up immediately, Geraldine raised an eyebrow, but he waved her off.

With her distraction being less distracting than expected, she went back to the report on top of the pile. Thankfully, they’d found a warehouse with a couple tons of printer paper. With the Techs needing manuals, and any existing ones destroyed, printing out copies of what was on the Data Core was really the only option, but it had really chewed through what they’d brought with them. Even printing off multiple copies of manuals for nineteen variants of ‘Mechs wasn’t going to run through everything they now had in inventory, but they were making a solid effort. Though, if the manuals for the ‘Mechs are this bad, I’m not sure I even want to consider what it’s going to be like when they start running off copies of the manuals associated with the lines we need to get restarted.

Thankfully that whole project was outside her responsibilities. She was going to have her hands full just getting municipal power, water, sewer, and communications restored. That and having buildings prepped for the new arrivals while maintaining patrols in case any more armor-plated superpredators were lurking ab-

“Did we do the right thing?” Slim asked, derailing her train of thought.

For a second she tried to link his question to what she’d been thinking about before she realized what he was talking about. “It’s what we all agreed to do,” she responded once her brain caught up. Then she emptied her cup. This probably wasn’t a conversation she wanted to have entirely sober. “We agreed that if he was going to lead a company of mercenaries, even a small one, that he had to be the leader,” she said and tapped the desktop for emphasis, then leaned over to dig through the desk drawers for another cup.

“And that was before we knew how he was gonna handle losin’ his dad on top of his first battle, and … just everything,” she rambled as she found what she was looking for and waggled the bottle of sake at Sammy. He nodded and she poured for the both of them.

“He could have done something a lot less productive than spontaneously grow up in the space of twenty-four hours,” she asserted as she sipped.

“Yeah, he could,” her fellow Mechwarrior admitted after taking a rather larger drink of the alcohol than she had. “Just, shouldn’t we have said something? Isn’t he moving too fast? I mean, just getting one factory up and running first would seem more sensible. We’ve eyeballed everything, and it all looks intact, but none of us are exactly experts,” he said, waving his hands, and only barely managing not to make a mess with his sake.

“First, don’t spill my booze. I’ve only got so much of it until Junior gets back in four months,” she ordered, and Sammy had the grace to look a bit embarrassed as he made another chunk of the cup’s contents disappear. “But, to address your concerns … The more I think about it, the more I think he had a point. Security through obscurity only works for so long. The Rimjobs did a solid job of camouflaging this whole system. Every atlas we’ve got just lists it by a catalog number, and nothing in any of the documentation we saw suggested it had a habitable planet, much less one that’s both reasonably pleasant and resource-rich.”

“But no matter how well we try to hide, something is going to slip eventually, or someone will get lucky and stumble on us.” Geraldine continued. “If we’re lucky, it’ll just be LIC and they’ll infiltrate us only to discover that our super-secret plan is to sell military tech to the Commonwealth and get rich enough to never have to worry about money again. If we’re not lucky?”

She let the question hang for a long moment. “We’re sitting on something amazing here. According to the Core, they were building shit here that only Royal Command was supposed to have access to, but that also means we’ve got a time-bomb ticking down, and we don’t know how long the timer is. Because while nobody should be paying us much attention at first, you can be damn sure that eventually they’re gonna start connecting the dots. And then they’ll pay us a whole hell of a lot of attention.” Realizing her mouth was getting awful dry from flapping her gums, she drained some more of her sake.

“He’s really won you over, hasn’t he?” Sammy asked, calm and serious before he drained his glass.

Geraldine opened her mouth to throw back a sarcastic reply, then stopped to consider. Finally she shrugged. “I was sure he was gonna bust me after Uniontown,” she admitted. “I had the second heaviest ‘Mech in our entire force, and lost to a ‘Mech ten tons lighter than mine.” Sammy opened his mouth, but she waved him off and continued.

“Yeah, that pilot was damn good, and I cost him enough armor that Rowdy was able to take him down in a flash, but he was good and lucky enough to core out one of our last two Mediums. Don’t tell me that the kid we all knew before that fight wouldn’t have blamed me for it,” This time she gave him a chance to rebut her.”

The resulting silence was deafening.

“Like I said: he grew up. You can tell he’s actually using that brain of his for something other than just cramming full of ‘Mech statistics,” she paused to take a breath, then motioned down at her cup. “You’ll also note he hasn’t touched a drop of alcohol either, and you know what he and Rowdy used to get up to whenever they could finagle time off.

“And he hasn’t bitched about the TDS,” she said, counting points off on her fingers, “or when the overgrown lizard chewed up his Commando. He didn’t brag over scoring three kills in his first real fight. He didn’t even hint that he should get one of the Cache machines before the dispossessed.” She was running out of fingers on that hand, so she shrugged instead.

“He might not be perfect, but no one is. Not even his dad was. His grandfather certainly wasn’t.”

Sammy grimaced, “Alright, alright, you’ve convinced me. I just-” he paused before continuing. “I’m outside my comfort zone, here. I’m a damn good pilot, and I fit in a Wasp’s cockpit. Those are really the only things I’ve ever had going for me, and here I am trying to figure out what to say to help advise my old boss’s kid to try to keep the Warriors a going concern.” He shrugged helplessly.

“Yeah, well, at least you had formal training. I’m the one who got kicked out of Slangmore,” Geraldine tossed out the unflattering nickname for her old school before redirecting the conversation, realizing she’d wandered rather far from her original point, “Anyway, y’know what he did instead of sacking me? He just casually calls me his second, and asks my advice on what we should spend all that money the Duke really ought to have paid us.” Geraldine paused to refresh both their glasses. “I think that’s when I realized something about the kid had changed.

“He didn’t even seem to think twice about it. Didn’t blame me for not winning. Not being there to save Alistair. Not …” she trailed off, working her jaw.

“He just … extended his trust. Hell, he did the same thing here, leaving us to mind the landhold even after finding out firsthand just how dangerous what we’re sharing this planet with is.”

“Aye. Aye, I guess he did, didn’t he?” Sammy asked and shook his head, then finished his cup, grimacing as his watch’s alarm went off. “Ah, hell. I’ve got to get back to the hangers; I told Mace I’d help check that Icarus II over,” he said, and levered himself to his feet. He was lucky he could hold his liquor well, especially for a guy with a light frame.

Geraldine smiled crookedly. “Don’t let me hold you up,” she commented as the younger man departed.

Once he was gone, she looked back down at the stack of papers, then at the sake bottle and sighed. She probably shouldn’t have had that last cup, and definitely shouldn’t try to read reports when she was buzzed.

Instead her eyes drifted over to the empty bookcases again.

She got up from her borrowed desk to start putting books on shelves, deliberately leaving one shelf empty, and setting aside books with authors from Sun Tzu to Clausewitz to Kerensky with which to fill it. She had four months to cover some of the stuff she’d missed out on at Sanglamore. Best take advantage of them.
 
Interlude 1-M

Speaker4thesilent

Crazed Deplorable
Joined
Aug 19, 2019
Reaction score
2,671
Location
An undisclosed bunker in Flyover Country.
Interlude 1-M​

Catachan, Unnamed System
Former Apollo Province, Unclaimed Territory
March 1st, 3010


His first thought after the Boss had told him to go ahead and modify the remaining primitive ‘Mechs would more properly be categorized as a lack of thought. He’d just sort of stood there in shock as Alistair Weber Jr. had turned to walk away.

Then the panic had hit. Visions of irreplaceable equipment ruined and ‘Mech chassis broken had danced in his head all the way back to where the crew was working on the Icarus II they were reactivating. Only the need to start shouting at that idiot Finn for forgetting to ground himself again had brought him out of it.

For the next several days, focusing on the intricacies of a new machine had kept him grounded and focused, the armor patching and structural changes where they’d removed the jump jets weren’t something he’d seen before. Unfortunately, that was now out of the way. All the unique challenges of working with a new chassis were done, and they were down to finishing up with the XLFE, which was rapidly becoming routine. Since the Icarus II used a smaller 240, even that was less complicated than the 300s his crew had been working on recently.

It also meant he didn’t have nearly as much to distract him from the Boss’s casual, impossible request. So he’d buckled down and done some research, fully expecting to find that what the Boss wanted was impossible.

First was logistics. To an untrained eye, there had been a lot of stuff piled in that old warehouse, but Mace had been a Tech back when the Third Succession War was still a matter of campaigning, not raiding. A detailed inventory had been done of all the spares and assorted material stored with the Regiment as it was being transported to the new/old base.

As he’d expected, there was enough there to keep the whole regiment supplied with anything they could possibly need, up to and including replacement limbs for the ‘Mechs. But the inventory was limited. More than they’d need for a few raids, but then who knew how long they’d have to keep the Regiment going on what was, effectively, a year’s worth of spares?

With that knowledge in mind, he’d put down the noteputer and prepared to start coming up with ways to placate the Boss when he got back in a few months. “Thanks, Cindy,” he said as he was getting ready to depart.

She looked up and seemed surprised, “You’re done already?” she tilted her head to the side with the cutest confused expression. If he was a couple decades younger …

“Yeah, took a look through what they pulled out’a the cache. Around a year’s worth of spares for a Regiment seeing heavy combat. Not enough for what the boss wanted me to do,” he explained, prepared to depart.

“What about the stuff they found two days ago?” she asked, and Mace tried to pause mid-step and almost fell.

“What stuff?” he asked once he caught himself on a cabinet.

“Oh, they think they’ve finally found where the Rimmers were storing what was made in those underground factories,” she replied, casually manipulating a noteputer.

That was news to Mace. Had he really been distracted enough to miss something like that?

“Here,” Cindy handed him the notebook computer, a new list of inventory items-

He damn near dropped it. “They found how many ERPPCs?” he demanded incredulously.

“Oh, yes, that figure is correct. It seems like they had a year’s production or a bit more ready for transport offworld when the rebellion against Amaris happened,” the quartermaster’s assistant answered. “That’s probably what happened with that wrecked Warship in orbit. If the Rimmers logistics were as messed up as everything else by the Coup on Terra, then it was probably escorting a convoy. In fact-”

Mace nodded along, but he wasn’t really paying attention anymore. His thoughts were rather more focused on the numbers on the display in front of him. There were enough spares in the collection to provide for decades of normal replacements, and even combat losses would take quite a while to go through the stockpile.

And, he realized, we’re starting with ‘Mechs in near-pristine condition. Everything on them is either new or refurbished with only a few dozen hours of wear before they packed them away. That changed the calculus too. He was far more accustomed to babying worn down ‘Mechs with finicky, rebuilt systems kludged together with spares from different decades, or even manufacturers.

He was still worried about ruining valuable components, but if he could take a bit of extra time to familiarize his crew, he could probably keep even that idiot Finn from doing something unforgivably stupid.

Well, more than once at least.

Maybe they could at least take a shot at getting those ‘Mechs upgraded after all.

XXXXX​

March 5th, 3010

Mace regretted his initial surge of enthusiasm after discovering just how well-stocked the proverbial larder was. He’d finally made time to look at what exactly his crew would have to work with, and it hadn’t looked good. The Thunderbolts, picked both because there were a lot of them and all of the Company’s experienced Techs has worked on the ubiquitous ‘Mech at one point or another in their careers, were ancient, primitive -1C models.

Literally primitive. They still had outmoded fusion engines, internal structure, everything. Nobody in the entire unit had ever worked with such ancient, outdated garbage. Even by the standards of the late Third Succession War, they could only be called junk.

But they were still the logical choice. The refit didn’t involve messing with an XLFE or working around an Endosteel frame, but it was still going to be a harder job than upgrading something like a -5S would have been.

He was anticipating weeks worth of surveys, trying to figure out what would need to be pulled and what would need to be inserted in order to match up to the blueprin’s specs.

Then he got a look at the file for the -5R. He’d seen the end result of the refit before. The final plans for the Thunderbolts that had been converted.

He hadn’t seen the gigabytes of data that had gone into designing the refit.

Whoever had digitized all the information had digitized all the information. Under the Thunderbolt’s main directory were dozens of files containing everything from preliminary concept sketches for what the innards would end up looking like to an entirely different end-product with a PPC instead of an LB-10X that was rejected at some point in the design phase.

Most of that wasn’t terribly useful for a Tech, but buried in among the trivia were real gems. One file was nothing more than a version of the refit manual that some long-dead Master Technician had annotated.

Some comments were short notes like, ‘Worn bolts. Use a drill,’ while others included quick sketches with notes like, ‘Pull this fucking brace, not the other one, Meathead!’

It was the sort of thing that manuals tried, but always failed to convey: all the little details that let you save time and effort while focusing on parts that always seemed to need maintenance. They were the sort of little tricks that separated a good Tech from an Astech. Things one usually only learned through experience.

Mace mentally lowered the odds of accidentally ruining a chassis from 1:8 to 1:30. Much, much more palatable.

Barring some unforeseeable disaster, he considered, I think we might actually be able to pull this off.

He resolved to keep Finn as far away from the damn things as he could manage.

XXXXX​

March 25th, 3010

He was going to have to use Finn.

This damn planet was still making things difficult. Ossiah McCarthy had been carrying a part up to the scaffold they were using to pull the primitive Fusion Engine in the Thunderbolt when he took a misstep on the stairs. Then he took a tumble.

Fortunately, he’d only been five steps up. The good news was that he only broke an arm and not his skull when the brace he was carrying had landed on him when he hit the bottom. Back on Icar he would have had a bruise. Damn heavy gravity worlds, anyway.

The bad news was that he was out of action with all the medical staff watching him like an old mother cat with one kitten. Healing broken bones in heavy gravity environments was ‘tricky’ according to the docs. It was probably good that they were getting the breathlessness out of the way early, but that left him short of Astechs who were at least passingly familiar with Thunderbolts, and he couldn’t afford to pull a full Tech off of the reactivations when every ‘Mech they reactivated was needed at least two days before it was capable of walking off on patrol.

Which left Finn, who’d worked on one of the Guard’s Thunderbolts a couple years back during a training exercise, as the last Astech with even half a clue.

Now if only his safety record wasn’t utter garbage.

Now, that’s not fair. Not quite.

Finn did good work, when he could be bothered to focus on his work. When he got distracted, he forgot things. Like grounding himself so he didn’t accidentally discharge a capacitor and end up fried. He also ended up with extra parts after a job was done sometimes, which necessitated another teardown to find what parts were missing where.

Feeling nothing but existential dread, Mace made the call.

XXXXX​

March 29th, 3010

It was unprecedented, and it was blowing Mace’s mind. Finn hadn’t just gone four days without a single incident. He wasn’t just doing his job and keeping his head down, the kid was pulling more than his weight.

He’d even come to his supervising Tech to double-check before he started a structural cut to make sure he was going about it the right way and helped another Astech who was having a problem with his part of the refit without being ordered.

And even though this was only the second time he’d ever worked on a Thunderbolt, his work was as good as if he was working on a Wasp, a machine that he’d maintained hundreds of times.

In the face of his unexpected competence, Mace had called him into his office after the end of their shift.

For a wonder, Finn actually looked concerned instead of just bored with the proceedings as he had in the past.

“I wanted to talk to you about your performance the last few days,” Mace began.

“Is something wrong?” The young man sitting across from him immediately asked. Compared to his usual stoicism or indifference, his behavior was like night and day.

“No,” Mace responded, “in fact your work and attention to detail have been exemplary. If we weren’t alone on this planet, I’d think that you had been kidnapped and replaced by a SAFE agent.” He let the comment hang in the air, and while Finn fidgeted uncomfortably, he didn’t respond.

“What’s going on, kid? If the last four days had been my first interaction with you, I’d think you were on the fast track to testing for full Tech, not a chronic problem-child that’s kept on because we’re always shorthanded and because you do good work when you’re zoned in.”

For a long moment there was silence in the office, but Mace was determined to wait the kid out. Finally, the younger man spoke, “This, look, I’ve always wanted to go to college. Be an Engineer, but …” he trailed off, and hunched down into himself, looking much more like he usually did on the job.

Mace understood. Leutnant Roland Finn had been the officer in command of the Implacable’s ASF squadron back in the day, and like all the Unit’s ASF pilots, he’d died during their last disastrous raid into the Combine. It had meant that Mrs. Finn had worked two jobs just to make ends meet for her and her three children, one as a waitress in a Uniontown diner, and the other in the Unit’s laundry.

Even that hadn’t really sufficed until Finn, or rather James, her oldest son, had been taken on by Alistair as an Assistant Tech.

Mace mulled over the situation for a long moment. Thinking back, for several years James Finn had been a solid, even enthusiastic worker, hitting his milestones despite his age. When did that change? Mace wondered.

Out loud he prodded, “Except there wasn’t any money to be had for that. Not on Icar, and not from the unit.”

“Yeah,” Finn confirmed, “and just … doing the same thing every day …” he trailed off and Mace wanted to hit him up alongside the head.

Friggin stupid teenagers. So he was bummed over not getting to be an engineer and bored by the repetitive drudgery of being an Astech. And instead of working to become a full Tech where he’d be able to earn a decent wage and also get better working conditions, he slacks the fuck off and throws a pity-party for himself? For at least the last two years.

“And now that you’re doing something interesting, you’re engaged again.” Mace said, trying to rein in his annoyance and not quite succeeding. “Kid, did it ever occur to you that if we’re gonna get this whole enterprise off the ground, that we’re gonna have Engineers crawling all over these old factories? And there’s no way we’re ever gonna have enough of them, so while you might not get to go to college, they’re gonna be looking all over the place for people they can teach the business to?”

Finn’s expression revealed that, no, he had not considered that. “But they won’t give an Astech your age the time of day. Sure and certainly not one who started at the age you did,” Mace continued and Finn wilted in front of him. There was some self-pity there, but if he had to guess it was mostly self-condemnation for wasting time. And the kid was bright and he’d been willing to work hard when he first started. So …

“That means you’ve got until the Boss gets back to learn what you need to learn to pass your Journeyman test. More than that, you’ve got to prove to me that you’re responsible enough to be a Tech and supervise Astechs. And four days of admittedly excellent work isn’t enough to do that.” Mace met the kid’s eyes.

“You say you want to be an Engineer? Fine. As a Master Tech, I will do my damndest to make sure you’ve got the opportunity. God knows we’ll need you if you can pull it off. But that means I’ll be spending extra time and effort on you. Effort that I could be using to teach other Astechs or working on the Unit’s BattleMechs, so you will, by God, keep up your end of the bargain.”

Was that concern dawning in Finn’s eyes? It certainly appeared to be. Good. “That means no more slacking on the job. If I pull you off of Refits to work on replacing a Wasp’s myomer bundles, I want to see you putting in a hundred percent effort. No more of the half-hearted moping and shit you’ve been giving me for the last two years. If I tell you to have a manual read and memorized on a certain date, you will be ready to repeat it back to me verbatim.

“I want you fully engaged, because if you aren’t fully engaged, then you are engaged in wasting my time!”

Mace gave that a moment so the young man across from him could process it before continuing, “And if I conclude that you’re wasting my time, then I’ll throw your ass out so hard and so fast, you will think you’ve been kicked by one of those Banshees in the hanger. Do you entirely comprehend me, Mr. Finn?”

The kid’s jaw was clenched, but he had the good kind of stubborn look in his eyes. “Yes, Sir.”

Mace nodded, then turned and pulled a book off of his office’s bookshelf. “Then for next week, you will have the first five chapters of this read and studied to the point where you can explain the concepts discussed. You will also-”



A/N: Sorry for the wait on this, but Mace is a hard guy to write. Thanks again to Seraviel, Yellowhammer, and LordsFire for beta work, brainstorming, and canon compliance checking.
 
Interlude 1-L

Speaker4thesilent

Crazed Deplorable
Joined
Aug 19, 2019
Reaction score
2,671
Location
An undisclosed bunker in Flyover Country.
Interlude 1-L​

Location classified pursuant to codeword ASPENFARM

April 23rd, 3010


“It’s confirmed, Trellshire Heavy Industries was in this up to their eyeballs,” Marcus made the pronouncement like a judge speaking from the bench. God, I hate politics. At least Marcus Steiner-Nin was competent at his job, if dull. A couple of the bastards Allesandro had foisted off on them had been utterly incompetent.

Clarice had known that THI was guilty as sin ever since she’d stepped foot in the door of their corporate offices on Twycross. That sort of panic filtered down the chain of command in any organization. If you knew the boss was scrambling to figure out how to cover his or her ass, you started trying to figure out how to cover yours.

Besides, she’d read the briefing package. Marcus had a bad habit of repeating the damn things verbatim instead of summarizing to make sure everyone was on the same page and then moving on.

Hannah leaned in a touch and remarked quietly in her nasal Coventry accent, “I never thought I’d say this, but God bless the Fifteenth Rasalhague Regulars.”

Clarice managed to hold back a snort, but not her grin. It was an ironic thought. The Combine attack on Icar couldn’t have been better timed if it had been planned. A nasty suspicious part of her wondered if it might have been, but the response from above didn’t seem to indicate that they’d expected it.

In any case, news of the attack had hit Tharkad just a few days after the Archon’s latest speech about the perils of corruption and incompetence in the LCAF. Precisely long enough for the ‘loyal opposition’ to have hit their stride on denying any such thing existed.

The news had seriously embarrassed several very prominent members of the Estates General and their mouthpieces in the press. Add to that the fact that Lyran forces had managed to inflict a lopsided defeat on the ‘Mech company that went after the critical Tungsten refinery, giving the Archon’s press secretary something to spin as a victory … Well, you had a shitstorm hitting the Opposition while leaving the Archon untouched.

That would have been bad enough for the obstructionists in the EG. It probably would have been enough to force them to let the Archon give the Inspector General’s office some serious teeth again.

Then bad had become worse as the Lyran Guard’s CO was arrested for embezzling huge amounts of Kroner that should have gone to ensuring his command was at full strength.

Strength that would have meant that his men would have substantially outnumbered the attacking Combine soldiers. The optics on that were awful.

Archon Katrina and some of her handpicked journalists had pressed the advantage for everything it was worth. One particular headline had put a still taken during the extremely photogenic Archon’s speech all over the front page with the headline “She Called It.”

Public opinion had shifted overnight, and the opposition had been forced to throw their support behind their ruler or risk literal riots in the streets. On some planets, particularly vocal members of the Opposition had been burned in effigy by their subjects during week-long protests. She was 90% sure LIC hadn’t even had to help them get started.

With incontrovertible evidence of serious malfeasance by senior officers of the LCAF, the Opposition hadn’t been able to spin their way out. They had tried to be clever. They’d authorized an investigation, banking on the ineffectiveness of the IG to make Katrina look ineffective as well.

Instead, the Archon had sidelined the IG for rebuilding, and covertly sent in LIC. Three months later, they were preparing to disseminate their findings to the local civilian government agencies who would be making the arrests.

They were also very, very carefully watching a second set of suspects to see what they did and who they contacted when the Wave One arrests were made, and the same again when they thought they were clear after the arrests concluded.

With any luck at all, that was going to come as an extremely unpleasant surprise in a couple more months. Couldn’t happen to a nicer group of people.

The sheer scale of corruption that had grown during Allesandro’s reign was almost unbelievable. It was nice to see it being brought under control, and that was even without the consideration that it would make LIC’s counterintelligence tasking easier since less corruption meant that outside intelligence assets had a harder time worming their way into important positions.

The rest of the meeting passed the way meetings tend to, slowly and with increasing frustration. Still, there was a limit to even Marcus Steiner-Nin’s ability to jabber. It was still three hours of her life she wasn’t going to get back, but-

“Clarice? A moment of your time, please,” an unfamiliar voice requested, the barest hint of what might have been a Skye accent audible. It belonged to a handsome older gentleman, the sort that people tended to trust on sight. A good choice for a persona in a spy’s line of work.

“Of course, Mister … ?”she trailed off leadingly.

“Ah, my apologies. I am Peter Denker,” he replied and showed her his identification, “I’m the agent in charge for a little bit of obfuscation we’re going to be running over at least the next few months,” he explained without really explaining. Claire took that as a need to wait until they were inside a sealed room for details.

A short walk later, they ended up in just such a room, where Mr. Denker’s affable air evaporated into a serious expression. “You have been selected for a counterintelligence operation targeted at an ISF cell on Twycross,” he said bluntly. Claire usually had a pretty good poker face, but she couldn’t help but react to that. “Yes, you’ve been selected because you’ve been inside THI. And not just been inside. You operated smoothly enough when you were there that you didn’t set off any alarms. As such, we want you to watch a member of an ISF cell we’ve identified who tried to get hired on in sales there. He was passed over, but with the arrests over the next few days, THI will be looking to replace some personnel.”

He paused, deliberately to let Clarice fill in the rest. It could be annoying, but it was also a good way to gauge how well someone was following your train of thought. “And calling someone who recently applied is a believable way to fill vacancies quickly,” Clarice stated.

Denker smiled, “Hopefully it will pass muster on Luthien as well. We’re going to do our best to encourage them to believe it, in any case. Tomorrow morning, at the same time local law enforcement are arresting Wave One targets, we’re also going to be hitting several rings of ISF informants we’ve identified as part of the corruption investigation. Even a few that we’ve had an eye on for some time and have outlived their usefulness.”

That made Clarice raise her eyebrows, physically as well as mentally. It was rather more information than she really needed to do her job, so why-

“Congratulations, Clarice, and enjoy working as Agent in Charge: Twycross,” he said, dropping a verigraphed letter on the table in front of her.

Before she could really acknowledge her sudden promotion, Denker was gone.

As she double-checked what he’d said against her written orders, a thought occurred to her. Hell, was today really the last time I’ll have to sit through one of Marcus’s briefings? Even if she got nothing else out of it, that would make her new assignment worthwhile all on its own.



A/N: Hope this works well. Next chapter will begin the new arc. Also, LordsFire is down with either a really determined cold or nasty allergies, so everyone please send prayers and good vibes his way. Thanks to Seraviel and Yellowhammer for beta work on this.
 
Chapter 10

Speaker4thesilent

Crazed Deplorable
Joined
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Location
An undisclosed bunker in Flyover Country.
Chapter 10​

Dropship Implacable, Bound in-system from the Zenith Point, Sudeten System
Tamar Domains, Tamar Pact, Lyran Commonwealth
April 27, 3010


The last half of the trip to Sudeten had been like living in an anteroom of hell.

It hadn’t been too bad at first. The routine was easy enough to adopt: no food for at least twelve hours before a jump, maximum safe dose of Dralaxine half an hour prior, and an IV bag with antiemetics and enough additions to keep me from getting metabolic alkalosis after. Way too good to be true.

It was the first time I’d had to deal with such a long series of Jumps, especially in such rapid succession, and my TDS flared up as a result. Over the course of the trip, I’d gone from being incapacitated for less than a day to more than two after each jump. I lost seven pounds, and if the Inner Sphere hadn’t held on to improved toothpastes despite the loss of technology, I’d probably be dealing with serious demineralization in my teeth from the amount of puking I’d done.

As it was, we’d had to pick up extra IV bags enroute due to the way I was going through them to stay hydrated.

Consequently, we were more than halfway to Sudeten from the Zenith jump point before I was conscious enough to be appraised of the local news.

“You’re sure about this?” I asked as soon as I was done reading the summary of two days worth of chatter.

“It’s what they’re reporting,” Captain Chapman replied, “It’s a damn good thing we weren’t planning on selling anything to THI.”

“You’re not wrong,” I agreed. All but three members of THI’s upper management on Sudeten had been arrested with charges ranging from gross embezzlement at the low end to treason on the high end. Because in the process of investigating the corruption in Trellshire Heavy Industries, Lyran intelligence had also rolled up a Combine spy ring who’d been slipping one of the sales Executives money under the table to sell to ‘mercenaries’ that were nothing more than a Combine front. And it wasn’t just on Sudeten. THI was speculated to be in danger of losing their government licensure. If that happened, they wouldn’t be allowed to sell to anyone except for fulfilling government contracts.

On the one hand, it gave me the heebie-jeebies. I was a limited government guy. On the other hand, I couldn’t say it was entirely unwarranted given that high-level executives had been involved in literal treason.

The arrests had happened a couple of days before our jump in-system and were still about the only thing being covered by the planetary news broadcasts. “And Olivetti is still clean? No involvement?”

That was my big concern. It would be just my luck to have come all this way to find that I’ve got a cargo that no one wants to buy.

“None, seems like their reputation isn’t overblown. Of course, they’re pretty new. It usually takes time for corruption like that to accumulate.”

A fair point, but still a positive indicator. My brain began to prepare to kick over what that might mean for The Plan, but I did my best to nip that in the bud.

Another negative about the long trip was that I’d not just had time to plan, I’d had time to brood.

There was a reason that I’d dropped Original Oratory for Extemporaneous Speaking when I’d been on my high school speech and debate team. Given sufficient time, instead of continuing to improve and refine a speech or plan I started to pick at it like a scab, double and triple thinking myself into decision paralysis.

One or two weeks was a useful period of time for me. Two months was too long. I’d had to deliberately go looking for distractions to avoid giving myself an ulcer or a stress-inflicted breakdown. Physical exercise helped, but even my generous quarters, relatively speaking, were a bit small for that.

I’d ended up grabbing the twins and Rowdy and inflicted upon them the ancient and venerable tradition of coaming jumping: running through corridors for PE, jumping through the pressure doors, and, at least at first, barking lots of shins before we got the timing right. When we had gravity to work under or could schedule time in the rotary sections of the Jumpship at least. Then I’d discovered around a thousand years of fiction I’d never read before.

We didn’t have all of it by any means, but digital copies of books were low storage, low bandwidth, and cheap besides. I forced myself to read some non-fiction first, but there was enough fiction out there that even without wading through a bunch of drek I found several gems.

That had been just what the doctor ordered for both taking my mind off my upcoming meeting and temporarily forgetting my TDS in the bargain.

Now, however, with the immediacy of my plan’s implementation in front of me, all of my doubts and concerns were trying to take center stage. I wasn’t accustomed to playing for stakes as high as those I was currently wagering on, and for the first time in my life, I was experiencing stage fright.

Giving myself a mental shake, I refocused on what the Captain was saying.

“- some interesting hails when they realized we were an Overlord. I’m not entirely sure they believed me about carrying cargo-cargo instead of BattleMech-cargo. They boarded us out by the charging station like they expected to run into a DEST kill team,” she paused to shake her head.

That was another thing I was happy enough to miss, I didn’t even recall them stopping by medical, I was so out of it with Jump Sickness.

“At least they didn’t damage any of the cargo,” I offered.

She snorted at that.

“They sure opened up enough boxes. Good thing the contents are sealed in plastic.”

The inspection was also the reason we were only ‘almost halfway’ to Sudeten instead of ‘more than halfway’ there. In other circumstances, I’d have been happy for the extra time to recover from my TDS. Now it was just extra time to tie myself in knots.

“And you made sure they heard about the Streak launchers, right? And had Rowdy brag about finding a lance of Banshees?” I asked.

At her glare in response, I held up both hands in surrender.

“Alright, just wanted to be sure,” I told her apologetically. “I’ll get out of your hair,” I promised already preparing to retreat before I annoyed her further by being a mother hen.

“Don’t worry, boss, this is pretty routine, except for the value of what we’re carrying. Most anybody watching will put any high spirits down to your age,” Haley assured me as I departed her office.

I decided to do my best to take her advice, but I was too aware of the reputation of the Inner Sphere’s various spy agencies to be entirely reassured.

XXXXX​

I’d taken the opportunity of our approach to Sudeten to grab a seat on the Implacable’s bridge. Seeing a planet from space wasn’t a frequent enough occurrence in my new life to have lost its luster quite yet, so I was in an excellent position to notice the sensors officer stiffen in her seat.

“Ma’am, I’ve got six ASFs on an interception course with us! Warbook says a Sabre, two Seydlitz, and a Centurion escorting a pair of Lucifers.

Immediately, Captain Chapman responded.

“Sound Combat Stations!” she called and an alarm started going off, “Helm, prepare to roll to bring them under fire as they close. Any indication on who they are or how they got here?”

“Ma’am, no transponders,” the sensors officer responded.

I experienced a sudden puckering feeling. Lucifers, for all that their loadout wasn’t suited for it at all, were utilized by the LCAF for anti-Dropship operations. With an escort of four interceptors to keep enemy interceptors and light dogfighters off of them, it was a pretty solid squadron on paper.

Against just about any other Successor State’s ASFs they’d have been in trouble, but despite being an Overlord and having the notional capacity to match their numbers, we weren’t carrying so much as a single bird.

My mind raced as I tried to do the mental math on what an engagement would look like. We had the advantage of sheer number of weapons, but they had numbers and closing velocity on their side. The Seydlitz would probably be the first targets, if only because they were basically made of paper, and killing them would remove an 8cm laser each from the board. The other two light ASFs both relied on 5cm lasers, and if they tried to get in range, we had Class 5 Autocannon and our own lasers to fight with.

That left the Lucifers, but we carried three LRM-20s to their two, with a half dozen PPCs and 8cm lasers compared to their combined 4 LLs. That was a pretty lopsided balance of power even if we reserved our AC-20s to deal with potential ramming attempts.

Still, we were coming up on atmospheric reentry, and that was probably the best chance they had to shoot us down. They were coming close to extreme LRM range now, and even one hole in our armor, w-

The communications officer bit out a curse, and I stiffened, not enjoying the sensation of depending on other people in a fight. Then he spoke.

“Ground control reports that they have vectored a squadron of the 2nd Lyran Regulars to escort us down to Hamarr’s spaceport.”

All the air went out of the compartment, though the sound of a deflating balloon was entirely mental. After a moment’s pause, the Captain spoke, her voice very carefully neutral.

“Thank them for their consideration,” she ordered. If she was suffering from the sudden drop in adrenaline I was experiencing, it wasn’t evident.

As per my usual response to fear, a moment later I started getting mad.

“What the hell was that all about?” I demanded quietly, trying not to clench my teeth.

“Three options,” Haley responded, doing a much better job at keeping ahold of her temper, “They could have been testing us. If a DEST team thought it had been made, they might have broken cover to fire on their attackers,” she explained.

“Second, they might not have trusted the word of the customs officers that we were clean. It wouldn’t be the first time a raid used compromised government officials to sneak into a supposedly secure system,” she continued as the bridge continued to come back to life now that the crisis seemed to have fizzled.

“Lastly,” she said, cracking a small smile, “well, never leave out the possibility of incompetence. Those flyboys are from a Regulars formation after all. They might not know what a transponder is, much less where the controls are.”
That last was said with a touch more volume than the rest had been, and smiles and chuckles circled the compartment. It broke even my sour mood and I shook my head. Instead of making a reply, I sat back to enjoy the descent to Sudeten’s capital.

XXXXX​

In contrast to the excitement preceding our descent, the actual landing had been entirely routine. I was fine with that; it gave me time to just enjoy myself. Back in the 21st century, I’d have had to be a multi-millionaire to ever have a chance to get into space myself. Here and now … well I really was a millionaire, but there were millions of people a year who took trips in and out of the atmosphere across hundreds of worlds. For them it was humdrum. For me it still had a touch of magic.

Even so, all good things came to an end. I’d ventured out of the dropship in my temporary ride to deal with paperwork, only to meet a less than subtle cordon of combat vehicles hull-down around the Implacable.

Thankfully, they hadn’t panicked at the sight of an Assault ’Mech, but the level of suspicion was disconcerting.

Feeling distinctly unwelcome, I’d hurried through the paperwork associated with our presence on Sudeten, had a message sent to Olivetti’s offices in the capital, then made myself scarce, quite a few C-Bills lighter than when I’d walked out of the Overlord. Parking fees for a military dropper were somewhat expensive as was the security deposit.

I’d barely gotten my Banshee parked when an announcement came over the intercom.

Major Weber, to the bridge, Major Weber, to the bridge.

I glared at an inoffensive speaker before breaking into a jog. For a moment, I wondered what this could be about before a possibility occurred to me. It would mean a truly excellent turnaround time, but Olivetti might be responding to my message. If so, that would probably be a positive indicator for the odds of making a sale.

With that happy thought in mind, I popped in to the bridge.

“Did Olivetti call already?” I asked, hopeful for a positive response. I was disappointed.

“No, but we do have a call for you from a White Glove Technologies,” Captain Chapman answered.

For a second my brain stalled out switching gears and I could only blink at her dumbly. Luckily, since we were on the ground and powered down, the bridge was pretty well deserted, so only a couple crew members were in a position to see me wrong-footed like an idiot.

“Who the heck are they?” I asked, like an idiot.

“No idea who they are, never heard of them before, and no, they requested to speak with the owner and declined to specify what in particular they wanted to discuss,” she answered.

I would have expected and requests for mercenaries to go through the MRB, but maybe they were looking for transport or something? Shaking off the speculation, I refocused.

“Mind if I take this in your ready room?” I asked, indicating the near-closet off of the bridge where she could go to handle paperwork while remaining accessible to the crew if they needed her.

When she waved my concern off, I went ahead and entered, plopped myself down in the seat, and picked up the handset.
“Hello, this is Alistair Weber speaking,” I announced. After a heartbeat, I got my reply.

“Good day, Mister Weber, it’s a pleasure to speak with you. I’m Chester Appleton from White Glove Technologies,” he said with a pause.

“A good day to you as well,” I said, minding my manners while I waited for him to come to his point.

“I do apologize for contacting you in this manner, but I prefer to strike while the iron is hot. I’ve heard a rumor that you’re carrying military equipment. I’d like to make you an offer for any PPCs you might be carrying. I can offer you a rate somewhat above market price for them. I’m afraid there’s a local shortage of them at the moment, and my company is under something of a time crunch in acquiring a large number of them.”

I opened my mouth to tell him that I wanted to sell my cargo as one lot, but hesitated. How did he know we were carrying anything, much less military hardware?

We hadn’t had any contact with the planet outside of traffic control before we landed, and customs had been taken care of out at the Zenith Recharge Station. I reached for a pen and started taking notes.

“I’m sorry, sir, but I am not at liberty to discuss any cargo we may or may not be carrying,” I informed him. Thankfully, his name wasn’t complicated to spell. Best case, this was a front for LIC being nosey. I wasn’t sure what a worst-case would look like, but I was certain I didn’t want to know. My response also seemed to surprise Mr. Appleton. It apparently wasn’t the response he was expecting, because he was quiet for just a second too long.

“But you are carrying cargo, correct?” he asked sounding composed. I’d probably have even believed it if not for that long pause.

“I’m sorry, sir, I can neither confirm nor deny,” I asserted, doing my best to sound conciliatory. I also had to bite the side of my cheek to keep from smiling. People had always been able to hear a smile in my voice back in the 21st, and I didn’t want to give anything away.

Continuing to make notes, I recalled his comment about there being a shortage of PPCs. Why the hell would a real purchaser give that sort of information out for free? Better to just call up and offer to take all of them I was carrying, then ask for a bulk discount and let me argue him back up to standard price. That meant Mr. Appleton probably wasn’t a purchaser, which made both his name and the company name he’d given me suspect. Still, he was continuing to speak even as I was scrambling for a tactic I could use.

“Perhaps a dialogue would be more easily established in person?” he inquired. I may have been imagining it, but his voice sounded the slightest bit tense.

It also sounded like an awful idea. Presumably he would name a place somewhere inside Hamarr that I couldn’t just walk up to with a Lance of ‘Mechs. Best case for that scenario was probably a LIC snatch and interrogate. Worst was probably my corpse turning up in a dumpster a couple days later. Nope! All my nope!

“I apologize, Mr Appleton, but I don’t have a timetable yet for when I will be available,” I said then a ploy occurred to me. “If you can pass along your contact information, I would be happy to contact you as soon as I am able to commit to a date and time.”

Seemingly caught by surprise by something other than a noncommittal answer, ‘Mr. Appleton’ took a moment to formulate a response.

“Ah, yes, certainly,” he said before rattling off a com number. That sounded practiced enough to be genuine rather than a payphone somewhere. Since Caller ID seemed to be Lostech, I didn’t have a quick way of checking to see if it was the number he was calling from or a similar number, like another line from the same business.

“Again, I apologize for not being able to answer you questions, Sir. Hopefully that will no longer be the case when we speak next.”

“Indeed, do have a good day,” he responded, then hung up.

I made sure the line was dead before bursting out of the little office with enough force that two of the limited bridge crew jumped.

“Do we have anyone on shore leave?” I demanded as soon as I laid eyes on Captain Chapman.

Taken a bit aback, it took her a moment to answer.

“No, there are some scheduled to depart this evening, but none have left yet.”

That was a relief, but another thought occurred to me.

“Anyone outside the spaceport’s secure perimeter on business?”

“No. Just the fueling crew, but they’re inside spaceport security. What was that call about?” Haley asked.

“We’ve walked into something here, and I don’t like it at all. Somehow that caller either knew or suspected that we had a supply of PPCs onboard.” I hesitated for a second and my lips drew down in a frown. “Or at least that’s the pretext he was using.”

Yeah, PPCs were in short supply in the Inner Sphere, but not that rare here in the Commonwealth. If anything, I would have expected to be getting calls about the Fusion Engines we were carrying. Those were wait-listed even here.

“That’s awful damn quick to be getting a call. No way he could have heard about it here on the ground,” Haley said, bringing my attention back to the conversation.

“He must have gotten a tip off from customs,” I said. The only other thing that made sense was a spy on our end, but I knew for a fact that none of the Dropship or Jumpship crew were from or had even been to Sudeten. Someone randomly having a contact here was simply implausible.

Besides, they were all shareholders now. Hurting the Company would only hurt their bottom line. Considering the size of the sale we were here to make, the bribe for any information would have had to be astronomical to be worth the potential loss.
“Either way,” I continued after my moment of thought, “we’ve blundered into the middle of somebody’s ploy here, and I don’t like it. Nobody goes on shore leave in groups smaller than ten. If somebody needs to take a piss, their buddies can wait in the hallway outside,” I ordered.

Chapman nodded, turned, and motioned at one of the others, who started taking notes. I stopped for a moment to organize my thoughts and refer to my notes from the conversation.

“I need someone to look into a Mister Chester Appleton and a White Glove Technologies. Also a phone number,” I read it off the sheet where I’d copied it down. “I told him I would call him about meeting in person when I was able to do so and implied we’re under contract.”

“How’s that going to mesh with what you had planned for the rumor mill?” she inquired.

“No idea,” I admitted. “Right now I’m making it up as I go. Just knew I didn’t want to give any information out at all if I could help it. Certainly no hints about our cargo.

“The damn thing is that I absolutely can not figure out what this is linked to. My best guess would be that LIC is checking up on us to make sure we aren’t somebody’s escape plan, but I’d expect a LIC operative to be smooth enough not to give the game away.”

“Should have hinted that you were looking for a bribe,” Captain Chapman suggested.

I turned to her and stared, a reflexive rejection on my lips before I took a moment and considered it. Lyran corruption was, indeed memetic, but it wasn’t just Lyran corruption.

For most of human history, that sort of corruption had been commonplace. Expected, even. And now here in the neo-feudalism of the far future, it was again.

What a sad state of affairs.

“Never even occurred to me, and I can’t try it now after not going for one on the call,” I told her. Then after a moment of consideration added, “Let it be known before anyone heads out on leave. If someone wants to slip them some C-Bills for information, they should take the money, but claim they only know that we’re hauling a fortune in military supplies for a Lyran Corporation.” After a moment’s consideration, I added.

“If the person pumping them for information wants more, they can always drop that we found a Lance of Banshees and a handful of Lostech SRM launchers. Just tell them to make sure they report it when they get back, as well as a good description of who they told it to.”

Haley smirked at me. “That can be arranged, alright.”

I hoped that would be enough to score some leads. Let whoever was interested in us think I was a young idealist, but that my crew could be compromised, and I might tempt them into a mistake.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t shake the feeling that it wasn’t going to be that easy. I was trying to line up anything in my mental map of the situation with what had been in the news. Where was the advantage to be had?

I had a sneaking suspicion that we’d landed right smack dab in the middle of someone else’s game of Xanatos Speed Chess. Only I didn’t know the rules and couldn’t see the board or the other players.

XXXXX​

Dropship Implacable, Hamarr, Sudeten System
Tamar Domains, Tamar Pact, Lyran Commonwealth
May 1, 3010


Olivetti’s rep in Hamarr finally managed to free up some time to talk to us nearly two days after I’d paid the phone company to let them know we had some things we’d like to sell them. I wasn’t sure if that was a power play, general bureaucratic sloth, or a result of someone else’s meddling, but if I hadn’t been practicing my smile in front of a mirror, I had a feeling I would have looked more annoyed than happy to see him.

He clearly had no idea why I was meeting him in a corridor of the dropship instead of in a fancy boardroom inside the spaceport somewhere.

“Ah, Mister Keller! I’m glad you were able to spare some time from your busy schedule to come down here for a face-to-face meeting,” I said, giving him a firm handshake. He returned it passably. Since he looked like I had in my previous life, twenty pounds overweight and balding, I was a touch surprised. Maybe he actually did have a busy schedule I was taking him away from.

“Indeed, your message indicated that you had acquired some items you thought Olivetti would be interested in purchasing?” His german accent was harsher than I was used to, and a lot thicker than the average I’d dealt with so far.

Wonder where he’s from? Maybe offworld? It wasn’t important, but that’s how my brain seemed to work, fixating on little things. Better than needing to bite the inside of my cheek to hold back a smile.

“We do indeed,” I said, stepping back a pace and entering Bay Three through the corridor’s man-door while gesturing for him to follow.

I saw him noticing the placard by that door noting that it was the ‘Aerospace Bay.’ He didn’t look impressed.

“Mister Weber, Olivetti is in the business of producing military platforms, not purchasing them. If you have Aerospace Fighters to sell, you should have contacted either the LCAF or one of your fellow mercenary outfits.”

More or less the response I’d been expecting, still it was nice when things went to plan.

“Mister Keller, this is a military dropship. Her cargo bay only carries fifty tons,” I said and snapped my fingers. One of the crewmen hit the lights for the previously darkened bay, packed nearly from the deck to the overhead with boxes and pallets. I’d made sure that there were several FE 280s given prominent place as well as some PPCs, since Mr Appleton had been so interested in them.

“We’d never have been able to fit everything onboard if we hadn’t gotten creative with the space,” I let that statement hand in the air for a moment as he stared before continuing. “An SRM-6 launcher, two PPCs, two five centimeter lasers, two three centimeter lasers, and two machine guns. A 280 fusion engine, gyro, cockpit electronics, life support system, and sensors. These are what Warhammers are made of. I’ve got everything but heat sinks, myomers, armor, ammunition, and the chassis onboard for eighty Warhammers.

“So, let’s talk turkey.”

XXXXX
What's this? It's a Christmas miracle update! Apologies in advance if there are formatting issues, but TS now eats my formatting even worse than SB used to, though in the opposite direction. Big ole wall of text.
 
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