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Best Served Cold (Chapter Cover Art)

Chapter 25 - Best Served Cold[]


Hachiman Taro Electronics
THachiman, Draconis Combine
May 2nd, 3070


Star Captain Alexia McEvedy grunted as her Warhammer IIC was violently rocked by autocannon shells from the Blakist Legacy assault 'mech. Snarling, she flipped her ATM-3 to Standard warheads.  “Wolverines, you son of a spider.” she spat before opening up with both ER Large Lasers, three of her four Medium Pulse Lasers, and the ATM launcher.

The lasers melted armor across the Blakist machine’s chest and arms, with one of the Larges boring into its kneecap.  But the ATMs clustered right into its face, one striking the joint between cockpit and left torso.  The ‘Mech reeled from the rapid-fire impacts swayed like a punch-drunk boxer, then faceplanted on the ground, the pilot knocked out by shock to his canopy.

Alexia backed her Warhammer through the gently rolling hills, a pair of light gauss slugs whizzing through the space she’d just left.  Switching back to Extended-Range missiles, she fired her ATM and ER lasers at the offending Vanquisher, to no effect.

“Keep up cover fire.” Star Colonel Kary Patrick ordered from his Hatamoto-Chi“Lightning Star, are you away?”

“Almost.”' Lightning One replied.  “We can drop more shells to keep them busy.”

“Negative.” Kary replied.  “Flank speed back to Great Hope.  We are leaving.”

It’s about time, Alexia thought.  It has not been a nice day.

In response to Clan Snow Raven’s “limited Annihilation” on the Combine world of Galedon, Khan McEvedy-Walter had ordered a task force into Combine space to intercept any further Snow Raven aggression.  Instead, they found themselves caught in the third Word of Blake attack on Hachiman’s central computer manufactory.  The Blakists were hitting her Reinforced Trinary with a lance each of assault ‘Mechs, heavy ‘Mechs, assorted vehicles, and BattleArmor.  Except Blakist lances were constructed on base six, giving them numerical superiority.

Dire Wolf (On a Hill - MWO Version by Alex Iglesias)

Dire Wolf Class Assault OmniMech

They’d also targeted their attacks with uncanny luck or downright creepy skill.  A few concentrated salvos had blown off the right torso of Sword Four, a captured Clan Dire Wolf, cutting most of Sword Star out of the C3 network.  Two more barrages destroyed Thunder One, a Fury Command Tank, nexus of the C3 network.  Finally, the Rhino that connected the rest of Thunder Star went up in a blaze of LRM and gauss rifle fire.

With the Wolverine’s coordination crippled, the Blakists attacked in earnest.  It was quickly clear that they had the same level of coordination the Wolverines had formerly enjoyed, though the network seemed to lack any exploitable nexus.  ‘Mechs and vehicles savaged by combined fire, Star Colonel Patrick ordered a withdrawal, though they had to wait for the slow-moving Pochtli artillery tanks, well behind their main line, to fall far enough back to not be caught in the running battle.

A Stygian Strike Tank zipped up behind Kary’s Hatamoto.  The Exterminator, Lancelot, and White Flame moved to flank.  A brutal crossfire erupted as the Word of Blake forces seemed to have identified their next target.

Star Colonel Kary Patrick had no time to pass on any final orders as his ‘Mech was shredded by laser, missile, and gauss fire.  Too late to do any good, Alexia obliterated the Stygian with her lasers.

“Keep falling back.” she ordered.  “Fire for effect as you have shots.  Pure pell-mell, we’re just keeping them busy.  Lightning Star, I need an ETA, now.”

“In sight of Great Hope.  Her weapons are hot.” Lightning One reported

“Copy with relief, Lightning One.  Sword Star, Thunder Star, Feral Star, best speed back home without giving them our backs.”  Feral Star were the only ones so far to be spared Blakist savaging.  Apparently, even their tech couldn’t quite pierce the suit’s stealth armor.

The Ferals lept to intercept and mount up where they could aboard the Wolverine OmniMechs and Combat Vehicles.  The running firefight lasted nearly a full kilometer, before the Blakists broke off rather than risk coming in weapons’ range of their dropships Great Hope and Den Mother.

Three combat vehicles and two ‘Mechs left behind on the field, Alexia McEvedy led what remained of her Trinary into the DropShip.

Fortress DropShip (Underthrust in space)(by2D 3D Cartoons)

Fortress II Class Dropship, CWS Great Hope

Great Hope was, for all practical purposes, a completely different vessel than it had been during her mother’s crusade against the Smoke Jaguars.  The designs for the Fortress II had been on the drawing board for decades before Alexia had even been born, yet Clan Wolverine lacked a reason to commit the necessary resources.  With the return of the Clans to the Inner Sphere, that motivation had materialized.

Great Hope was now twice the mass she had been previously, her bays expanded to hold twenty-five each of BattleMechs, combat vehicles, and Battle Armor infantry.  With Den Mother likewise rebuilt to Fortress II spec, and two regular Fortress-class DropShips and a Behemoth, it was far more transport capacity than the Remembrance Cluster strictly needed, though it was helpful for transporting, breaking down, or refurbishing isorla from successful battles.

No risk of that this time, Alexia scowled as she dismounted her Warhammer.  The techs were swarming the machines, securing them for liftoff and securing any damage that couldn’t safely wait.

Looking around, Alexia saw the shocked and weary faces of her Trinary -- it really was her Trinary now, at least for the next few days -- not precisely looking back at her.  While the Wolverines hadn’t always known victory, it had come more often than not, and never had they been beaten so soundly, lost so much so quickly.  Not since they fled the Clans nearly three hundred years ago.

Star Colonel Kary was dead.  Alexia was now the ranking officer.  It was her duty to lead to command, to inspire her brothers and sisters into putting this defeat behind them, preparing them to be led to victory next time.

Instead, she stormed out of the bay, eyes stinging.


Eight Days Later



Alexia never found the words to motivate her people, the right speech with the right delivery at the right time to instantly rebuild them as a fighting unit.  Instead, she flung herself into overseeing repairs, visiting the injured in the infirmary and making sure they were recovering, compiling the BattleROMs into useful simulations, meticulously noting where different decisions, even a different initial deployment, may have turned the tide, made the retreat less costly or even yielded victory and slowly, seeing her example, the troops regained some of their spirit.

Now, they were finally in view of the flotilla that had brought them here.  It was almost identical to the one that had accompanied her mother twenty years earlier: the Cameron-class Sarah McEvedy, Carrack-class Transport Ebon Fury, the Lola III'-class destroyer Ashes of Remembrance, Whirlwind-class destroyer Widow’s Made.  The only change was, instead of the Invader-class JumpShip Switchback, they were accompanied by the Texas-class battleship, Bismark.

Texas (Delranes Fighting Ships 3061)

Texas Class Battleship, Bismark

“Where are you going?” Alexia asked the pilot as she noted them veering off from Bismark.

“We have orders from the Khan to dock with Sarah McEvedy.”

Alexia bit her lower lip.  Her mother wanted to talk to her.

Khan Lilly McEvedy-Walter was waiting inside the docking collar for Alexia to disembark.  “How are you?” she asked.

Alexia nodded.  “As well as can be expected, mother.  We lost. . . we lost too many.  We will have to return to Cabanatuan or Homeworld to rebuild Command Trinary.  My report is almost ready, I will send it to you when I have it finished.”

Lilly waved her hand.  “That can wait.  Just tell me for now, in your best estimation, what happened?”

Alexia slumped.  “We were caught off-guard.  We did not pick our enemy and our ground, we fought on their terms, and we paid for it.  They hammered us. . . well, exactly like you hammered the Smoke Jaguars.  The only thing they didn’t throw at us was artillery and air support.”

Lilly nodded.  “It is much the same, I am beginning to gather, around the Inner Sphere.  This Word of Blake is attacking everyone, either outright or under the guise of other nations, sowing conflict, confusion, and chaos everywhere.  We’re lucky to have avoided being drawn in as long as we have.”

Alexia blinked.  “Do you think they staged the Snow Raven attack to draw us out?”

“Unlikely.  The whole thing was. . . well. . . it was just too Snow Raven to be fabricated.  But I am sure the Word of Blake relished the chance to bloody our nose a bit, add us as one more piece of kindling on the fire they are building throughout the Inner Sphere.”

“So what do we do about it?” she asked her mother

Lilly shook her head.  “We will not be drawn into yet more petty squabbling. Always it has been the foremost goal of Clan Wolverine to maintain some sense of human decency, some vestige of the dream of Star League, no matter what.  By the time the fractious forces of the Inner Sphere come together to deal with the Blakists, too much damage will have been done.  If they can ever unite against them.  If they cannot, we need to remain apart, to guard ourselves and our dream.”  The Khan took a deep breath.  “I am ordering all Wolverine units to cease activities in the Inner Sphere, and return home.  We are done here, at least for the time being.”

“Mother. . . you can’t.”  Lilly arched an eyebrow, but Alexia continued.  “My Trinary just got clobbered.  They’ll think it’s a reflection on them, that you don’t think they can handle it.  They’ll be devastated if they don’t get to prove they can handle whatever this is!”

“It’s not a reflection on them, or on you.  You did well, very well, in an impossible situation.  Which is exactly what this is.  Soon, maybe, we will return and engage these Blakists again.  But for now, we need to do what is best for the whole of Clan Wolverine, for humanity, and for the future.”  Lilly withdrew a small box from her fatigues, and opened it.  “Do you agree, Star Colonel?”

Alexia reached for the insignia, withdrew her hand.  “No, my Khan, I do not.”

Lilly gripped Alexia’s hand, pushing the box into it.  “That does not affect my decision.  Actually, it does.  It makes me more certain of it.”




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