The Outskirts of Port Erebus
Cis-Alpheratz Region, Weisau
September 12th, 3134
Jared stood in line with fifteen other ‘recruits’ learning to stand at attention while Tai-I Dai and several Chu-I’s, Lieutenants, from the infantry, screamed at them. They had filled out some paperwork. For everyone else they made it clear this was a voluntary enlistment but held out the carrot of a potential seat in a BattleMech. Dai was quick to isolate Shaw as a draftee.
“Shaw here screwed up so bad, I’m not giving him the choice of going to jail. The rest of you may be maggots but you chose to be here.”
Standing straight and trying not to look at anyone yelling at him, Jared suspected Dai was lying through his teeth. Jared owned that ‘Mech and although he owed the bank his soul as a result, Dai needed him.
Does Dai suspect an attack is coming or is he just that worried about the blackout. How far spread is the blackout?
All Jared got, in the way of answers to his thoughts, was yelled at for being distracted and missing answering a question. He almost dropped and started the pushups before he was ordered to. The Chu-I must have picked up on it because she immediately ordered Jared to do squat thrusts instead and demanded he pay better attention to orders.
Every now and then Jared would glance over at his ‘Mech. Sometimes he could see the Locust in the Mechbay beside the Dragon. The Tai-I had taken special care to make sure everyone knew it was his fault they had to move all the supplies out of that bay. Twice he’d been slapped upside the head for dreaming.
“You think you’re ready to pilot that thing now do you?”
He didn’t care. He did the pushups and sit-ups and the running around. He put up with the abuse. Mostly it came from the officers. The other 15 didn’t really bother him at all. They were all too busy following orders and trying to avoid being picked on themselves.
It was two more weeks before the ‘Mechs were even mentioned as something they might have something to do with. Tai-I Dai had them clear out another Mechbay that morning.
“Work fast. It will be occupied by lunch.”
That created a lot of excitement. The officers found new creative ways to demand more pushups and sit ups. There was a lot of whispering though, no matter how many punishments were handed out.
Sure enough, before lunch, there was a black Wolverine marching towards the base. They didn’t get much of a chance to look at it with another impromptu run outside the domed Port in masks. By the time they got back no one cared about the Wolverine anymore. Dai gave them a stack of manuals to read, everything from basic electronics to a medical text of muscle anatomy.
It still isn’t as hard as carrying rocks.
Jared snuck out of the barracks after lights-out and headed to the Mechbay. He still wanted to see the ‘Mechs. The Wolverine only helped to make his Locust look small. Still, it was his ‘Mech. No one else here could say that.
“Who’s there?” A voice said behind Jared.
A flashlight lit Jared up in the dark. Jared raised his hands.
“Whatever. Put em down recruit. I’m not going to rat you out.”
Jared turned around and saw a large figure in black fatigues. He big man stuck his hand out.
“Captain Morrison, Wolf’s Dragoons.”
“Jared, confused maggot.”
“Yeah. Everyone goes through that. The Locust, it’s yours right?”
“Yes. That’s why I’m here.”
“That’s not the only reason you are here.”
“What do you mean?” Jared questioned
“Dai has been looking for pilots since that hunk of junk showed up on Brimstone.”
Jared winced at his pride and joy being referred to as junk but made himself let it go.
“You were pretty high on the list.”
“What list?” Jared questioned
“Gorbbells. It’s all in your work record. They have proficiency scores for your piloting. You weren’t the only one trying to buy that ‘Mech you know. You were the one he let buy it.”
“Why didn’t he just buy it?”
“He doesn’t have 250 000 C-Bills sitting around. Something pretty big would have to happen for that. Even if he did have the money, he can’t just spend it without permission and he was never going to get that permission. This was the work-around.”
“Now I’m going to give you some advice before I kick you back to bed. When you get a chance, you get in that Wolverine and you learn how to pilot it. You go out in that Locust and you are going to die. The armor is paper thin and the targeting system is all wonkers. You got a succession war bargain and you bought a succession war style ‘Mech.”
“Hey, tell me, are we expecting something?”
“The HPGs are down, we are sitting on the border with the Raven Alliance we just kicked out, the port ships hundreds of thousands worth of minerals regularly and you’ve got a factory-. Ahem. The DCMS command felt it was necessary to hire mercenaries to be here and we’re just sitting around. What do you think?”
“I think I better learn how to pilot the Wolverine.” Jared answered
“Correct. Bed. We did not have this discussion.” Morrison told him.
Jared headed back but he was thinking about what the mercenary had said.
Why did they hire the Wolfs Dragoons? What factory?
If the DCMS wanted a force on Brimstone, it could just assign one. Also the Wolfs Dragoons were not stationed at the Military Compound.
I wonder if they are guarding something, something the Raven Alliance left behind. That’s got to be it.
The Outskirts of Port Erebus
Cis-Alpheratz Region, Weisau
Sept 12th, 3134
The next day most of the recruits got to pilot a ‘Mech for the first time. For Jared it would be a second time. He was assigned to the Wolverine and did not ask questions.
Climbing the ladder to the Wolverine, Jared noted that, if he fell, he would need medical care. It was a lot higher up than the Locust, parked beside him. There was some grumbling from the other recruits. They wanted to know why he was getting to pilot the Wolverine. Instead of throwing him under the bus, Tai-I Dai told them simply to be silent.
Powering up the Wolverine, Jared couldn’t help but grin from ear to ear. This was a very different ‘Mech than his Locust. The Industrial ‘Mechs were simple compared to his Locust but it felt simple compared to this WVR-9W2 model Wolverine. There was a note about after-factory modifications. It had a Light AC/5 instead of PPCs and Small Lasers.
A voice shouted in his ears until he adjusted the volume.
“Rookie, you have LRMs today. Don’t touch anything unless you are told to.”
The Wolverine moved with grace but it was a half step behind the Locust. He was instructed to walk around until he was bored. It was hours later when he was asked to actually fire a weapon system at some targets set up. That’s when the fun began. It’s also when he found out how hard it was to aim weapons on a Battlemech. You had to be able to fire accurately from your hip, from your elbow and from your toe, practically.
Cis-Alpheratz Region, Groveld III
Sept 12th, 3134
Krag looked at the faces of dozens of new recruits. They were dirty. Some were old. Some bore scars. They stood around like a mob with no sense of formation. Krag smiled widely at his new cannon fodder.
He said the word loudly and paused to let everyone take it in.
It’s why they are all here. Toss all that noble crap out the window and the truth is everyone needs money. It’s the hook I’ll lead them around by the nose with.
“You all need money. I’m going to give it to you. One mission and we all retire.”
The mob yelled back various questions about what he was offering and snorts of disbelief.
“Every man and woman who steps on my Dropship will be paid ten thousand C-bills!”
The voiced change and some people cheered.
“We’re going to go hit a big target, practically undefended, and we are going to take everything they have. When we find their BattleMechs, we’re going to steal them. When we find their Dropships, we’re going to hijack them. If you see a vehicle, take it. If you fancy a person, kidnap them. Every box and pallet of supplies is coming back with us, back to buyers waiting to pay us cold, hard C-Bills you can take home with you.”
“And then, that’s it. You walk away rich. You walk away from hard living. You walk away from desperate petty crime to get a few C-bills that run out before your next job. You don’t have to be hungry any more. Do this job and you can retire.”
Not a word of truth.
“Now, we aren’t going to just let you walk onto our Dropship. You’ve got to prove you can do the job. If you can’t, you’re out. We’re going to start with some physical exercises. Then we’ll see if any of you know how to shoot a rifle. I want everyone to run around the port, all the way around. The last one is out.”
Krag jumped, seeing Creed right behind him. Without thinking Krag reached for his side arm, a massive Sternsnatch hand gun. He put his hand on it and just about drew it but Creed was just standing there, not advancing on him or anything. Creed didn’t even seem to notice Krag’s hand on his gun or perhaps he was ignoring it. He appeared very casual but Krag worried it was an act.
I should just shoot him anyway. It would be fun.
“You think they believed any of that boss?”
Anger flush Krag’s thoughts as his eyes searched out Creed’s hands to see if the smaller man was holding a weapon.
“Sure, maybe. If they want to get paid, it doesn’t matter.”
“You know how often I’ve heard I’ll be able to retire off a mission?”
“Probably every mission.”
“Pretty much. You know that the Old Man never said that.”
“He used to.”
“Yeah, but then he stopped.”
Creed was beginning to really tick him off. Partly it was because it was good advice. Mostly because he didn’t want to owe Creed anything. He imagined what the man would look like screaming for his life.
Krag could see that Creed knew he was pushing too hard. The rat changed tactics and went for what he did best.
“You know the twins are talking trash about you.”
“Yeah? What did they have to say?”
I couldn’t care less., Krag throught to himself
“They said you’re just repeated the Old Man’s plan.”
Krag knew this was coming from Creed, not the twins. The rat had concerns about the plan. Creed never expressed his own opinion. It was always ‘someone else’ he was talking about when he spoke.
“The Old Man spent a long time setting things up. We have expert hackers and pilots to take control of the Dropships. We have a fleet of cargo carriers. We have more infantry than space.”
“We lost our marines.”
“Some of them. We’ll send twice as many infantry.”
“And if they have a lance of Dire Wolves waiting for us?”
Krag reeled around, coming face to face to Creed.
“Then you better well report that to us when you are there. If we show up and anything isn’t as you describe, I’m going to put you in a meat locker and slowly make meals out of you.”
Creed leaned back but refused to retreat.
“Yeah, boss, yeah. I was just checking is all.”
“Why don’t you go bother the new recruits? Get rid of the ones who can’t hack it. I saw someone with a peg leg, an actual peg leg. Run him around till he quits. Do something useful for a change!”
Krag stormed off. It was practically a gift, letting Creed torture the new recruits. Krag had looked forward to it himself. Now he was too angry to enjoy it. He wanted to kill something and killing recruits wasn’t great for moral.
He walked the streets in the rain. His furs got soaked but he didn’t care. He flashed a wad of C-bills at every street vendor he came across. He bought a long stick with cooked meats on it. He tore at it with his teeth as he walked. There was this vendor selling combs, of all things, and Krag made a big show of going through his C-Bills looking for the right one to pay for the a single comb.
He walked through a long back alley. It was populated by the homeless with scratch built shelters and little fires intermingled between the dumpsters. There were lots of little places to hide and it was quite dark.
His trip had the effect he wanted. A tall skinny figure in a black rain jacket pulled a knife on him. Flanking him were two other beat up and desperate looking figures.
“Boy, you came down the wrong alley.” The figure said.
Krag’s lips tightened into a smile that revealed several missing and broken teeth. He reached for the Sternsnatch and fired once at the man’s belly. Without pause he pointed the gun and fired at the other men. He missed once and fired again as the figure turned to flee, shooting him in the back.
The roar of weapon fire echoed down the homeless alley like thunder. There was no doubt it was unnatural thunder after the four deafening blasts. Fires went out and people retreated into their little corners as best they could to hide.
His tongue passed over his lips wetting them. He crouched and watched the man with the gut wound. He was speaking but Krag could not hear him. He waited until the ringing sound abated. The man was, of course, begging for his life. Krag let him talk for a bit before cutting him off by blasting him with the Sternsnatch again. He laughed and finished off the other men, firing until his magazine was empty.
Looking around, finally worried, and hustled towards the exit of the alley. Reloading as he walked, the alley and the new ringing faded. He could not hear sirens and he calmed down. Something inside him was calm again.
The Outskirts of Port Erebus
Cis-Alpheratz Region, Weisau
Sept 12th, 3134
Jared fired the autorifle until the magazine was empty, reloaded and repeated. He was the best shot of the recruits. He could see it in his target groupings. Dai didn’t give him any peace about it though. Many of Dai’s regular infantry made his marksmanship look sloppy.
The Tai-I approached and looked at the target.
“That’s no better than last week.”
“Do better private.”
He’d gotten really sick of saying that. He was more sick of pushups though. He really, really wanted to make some crack about the rifle barrel being bent. He kept it to himself and kept firing.
They ran. They shot. They spent time in the simulator. They went out in the ‘Mechs. When they were exhausted they studied. At least it wasn’t just them. While Tai-I Dai spent most of his time with the ‘potential MechWarriors’, he also grilled his own soldiers, some odd 17 platoons, almost 500 men, although less than half were training at any given time. They did a lot of formations. Perhaps the most fun was the war games they would run, shooting paint rounds at each other. The new recruits got killed a lot.
Some days the Tai-I turned the recruits over to the mercenaries. So far that had been Captain Morison, and Privates Turan, Kesler and Brody, all Mechwarriors. Their instruction were more formal than strict and they concentrated on cramming as much ‘Mech knowledge as they could into the recruits as quickly as possible. Jared wanted to see the Wolfs Dragoons’ ‘Mechs but so far there had been no sign of them, except for the Wolverine.
Six of them sat together while Private Kesler went over ‘Mech recognition.
“Private Shaw, what is this?”
“That’s a Sagittaire.”
“Deadly accurate weapons fire, jump jets.”
“Slow. Limited long range weaponry.”
“Strengths and Weaknesses.”
“It’s fast and really good at jumping. It has almost no rear armor so you don’t run away.”
“Yes, it’s a classic pirate ‘Mech.” Tai-I commented
“What’s this?” he asked him
“I have no idea. Looks like an assault ‘Mech?”
“It’s a Behemoth. Slow, but it’ll blow you in half from clear across a battlefield. Jamie Wolf brought one with the Wolfs Dragoons, almost as a joke, when we first came to the Inner Sphere. There are a couple of famous ones floating around. There is a new model designed to take on two assault ‘Mechs at once.”
The instructors turned the lights out and did a slide show. Jared woke up sometime later to the sound of his desk being smacked repeatedly.br>
“Hello! Looks like this one is sick of being at the movies. I guess it’s time for some physical fitness.”br>
The Dragoons weren’t all smiles. A few minutes later they were outside running in the heat. Jared didn’t understand why Mechwarriors, who would spend most of their time strapped into a cockpit, had to be so good at running. He had never had a problem with running, what with working in the mines doing manual labor for so long. In fact, very few of the recruits complained about the running around or exercise, at first. Today they really pushed everyone. They ran until late in the evening but it was a ‘day-day’ and the sun was just reaching its peak in the sky. It was hot and bright for twenty seven and a half hours.br>
Two of the recruits quit that day. Dai didn’t tell the other recruits, but since they had all legally signed on with the DCMS, they couldn’t actually quit. They were just relegated down. Still the best potential Mechwarriors Dai had access to, he didn’t want them in the infantry where they might get killed. He assigned them to reserve status and allowed them to return to work running the Industrial Mechs. The difference was that he could recall them at any time without asking for permission.
Dai felt like he was getting something done, rather than just sitting around drinking and watching a stinky mining colony. In a few years he might be able to send some moderately competent Mechwarriors to the Dragon Combine. He wished he could find a way to keep the Wolverine but nothing came to mind. He wanted to be able to field a lance of ‘Mechs here.He had considered appropriating a couple of the mining ‘Mechs and arming them to complete a lance but that would interfere with the mining operation too much. He smacked his arm on his chair. He had it! He had an idea that would give him an ad-hoc lance.br>
He would setup a regulation where any local Dropship, in a state of emergency, would be required to transfer a couple of the Industrial ‘Mechs from the Pit to the Military Complex. With his trained Mechwarriors, he could field a full lance, with about an hour’s notice or so. It would not be a good lance but perhaps the DCMS would eventually take notice and out of shame assign him a proper one. He started writing the paperwork that would go to city hall so they could argue about it for a few months. The request was reasonable. He was pretty sure they would eventually agree without any need to force their hand. He just had to be patient.br>
He looked out the window of his office at the rare rainstorm rolling in. He grinned. If his horrible training experiences had taught him anything, nothing made troops tougher than training in the rain. He remembered sliding around in the mud and being yelled at.br>
Cis-Alpheratz Region, Weisau
Sept 13th, 3134
A dust cloud followed a large flatbed tractor-trailer as it headed to the Pit. Jared’s Locust was strapped to the deck. Following it were three of those cheap black vans from the Military Compound. Tammy Soffit followed their progress. The vans almost vanished into the water pools designed to keep vehicles from showering their dust onto the workers below in the vast open hole in the ground that was the Pit. Tammy smiled.
When they pulled up to the Industrial Mech hangar and stopped she waited, with amusement for the infantry to pour out of the vans, soaked from the mid-chest down.
Tai-I Dai, in a crisp black and red uniform got out of the flatbed. He did not bother with the traditional Katana but he did have a side arm. He referred to some papers, with pictures and then proceeded directly towards Soffit, standing stiff and formally in front of her as if waiting for a salute.
She wished she had some chewing gum. Standing there in her dirty coveralls with a Brimstone Fox circling her legs, she leaned back against a support column and eyed the ‘Mech and then looked back at the Tai-I and then back at the ‘Mech. She felt pretty certain she was about to be drafted and did not want that. She started out the conversation on the border of what she felt she could get away with.
“What do you want me to do about it?” Tammy Soffit said with a little sass.
“We would like you to fix it kindly.” Tai-I Dai said softly with respect.
One of the Locust’s legs was bent out at a funny angle. There was a slight dent in the side of the torso as well. It had been washed, but she could see the dried mud on it.
“Don’t you have people for that?” She asked.
“The Dragon has not assigned Weisau a ‘Mech garrison or necessary support forces yet.”
“Funny, that looks like a BattleMech.” Tammy said
The Tai-I’s calm was beginning to fail. She could see that in his face. She didn’t want to push him enough that he might make a demonstration of his power and authority. She sensed there was potential for a good pay check but also risk of ending up DCMS property. She backed off and tried being more direct.
“I will fix your ‘Mechs, but I’ll do it as a freelancer. I’m not joining the DCMS.”
The Tai-I took off his cap and slapped it against his leg, giving himself a moment to think. He looked around at the ‘Mech hanger and then put his cap back on. She could see that he understood there would have to be concessions. She wondered how many he would be willing to make.
“Very well. But we will not bring our ‘Mechs here every time. We need you to be able to work at the Military Compound.”
“I will need a team.” Tammy commented
“Of course.” Tai-I agreed with her
“We have some. I will speak to Gorbbels about getting more.”
Tammy groaned inside.
Maybe there isn’t a good paycheck available in this., Tammy though
Still, to get to work on BattleMechs was an upgrade. Tammy did not love Brimstone any more than anyone else. A ‘Mech tech could get better paying jobs. It meant getting closer to the elusive chance to leave.
“I have some tools. I can come see what you have and then make a list of what else would be good to have. I’ll get this thing fixed first though. Should be a few hours.”
The Tai-I nodded in agreement.
When he left, she got to work. She had the flatbed brought over and secured chains to the Locust to hoist it up. She started unbolting the armor plating.
How old is this ‘Mech?
Tammy had heard about the Locust. All the tech’s had, but none of them had been dumb enough to buy it. It was at least fifty years old, possibly older. It wasn’t actually from the Succession Wars but it was built to that standard. It had rugged and dependable parts but nothing fancy.
The ‘Mech was armed with the classic combination of a single medium laser for cutting through armor and a pair of machine guns. Intended to cut down infantry, these weapons were, all too often, pressed into use against other BattleMechs where they were little effective. The problem with old, rugged components is that they were heavy and left this particular ‘Mech with very little allowance for armor.
Getting the bent armor off was easy. Getting the bent internal structure components out of the myomer, gearing and kilometers of wiring was a little harder. Newer ‘Mechs were more efficiently put together while order ones were all kind of unique, each one presenting different challenges to repairs.
Once it was out, the repairs were much easier than say, endo steel. She heated it up, bent it straight and re-tempered it for strength. Fixing the armor was a similar process but the layers and different material meant the entire process was done at room temperature.
She sent a message to the Military Compound that she was done. He next job on that ‘Mech was less than a day later. Another recruit had dumped it and it needed repairing again. She was quick to grumble that it needed more armor. Tai-I Dai suggested he might have a solution for that soon.
For the next month, she repaired minor damage, typical of training exercises and new trainees falling over. She did this regularly for the industrial ‘Mechs as new waves of workers arrived, some more or less skilled at piloting and she was completely swamped with work while Grobbels tried to hire more techs.
She was very familiar with the types of damage that occurred. She noted that no damage had been caused by live fire, telling her these ‘Mechwarriors’ were a long way from being ready. She was carefully not to mention her background or training and hoped no one dug through her files too deeply.
She assembled a team and the infantry finished moving their gear out of the ‘Mech bays in the Military Compound. Slowly she put together a collection of ‘Mech repair tools. She was worried about some of the more advanced equipment. If it got damaged she did not have the skills, the parts or the tools to repair them. While she knew she could strip down standard missile launchers and put them back together, she had never seen a Multi Missile Launcher before, like the one on the Wolverine’s shoulder. She requested certain parts and munitions. Without the HPG, that request went out with an outbound Jumpship and returned four weeks later with some of the parts she requested and an apology letter explaining that the other parts could not be found. Although MML parts were impossible to get, the ammunition, which were simple LRM and SRM missiles, were easy to acquire.
South of Port Erebus, The Pit
Cis-Alpheratz Region, Weisau
December 1st, 3134
Creed sat in the cockpit of a Dig Lord and closed his eyes and relaxed for the first time in hours. He reached out, without looking and flicked a series of switches. The noisy, dusty, shuddering machine, groaned out a few more noises and became silent and still. Creed listened to his ears ring for almost a minute before the sound diminished into the background.
Early stages of Tinnitus, so common for mine workers.
The cockpit was a slapdash of simple controls wrapped around him inside a ferro glass shell that had clearly been broken and mended many times, with long white repair lines going through it. Metal grid plates and bars protected the ferro glass from larger flying debris. It was all dirty and dented and if anyone on the Pig’s Eye had kept their ‘Mech in this condition, they would be beaten.
Creed did not have a neural helmet. He just wore heavy hearing protection. He had heard some of the higher ups had neural helmets which made operations easier. He was stuck with running the ‘Mech with the controls alone. He’d nearly fallen over twice. When he showed up, he claimed to be a MechWarrior, which he felt was true enough, but it had been a long time since he had actually piloted anything. It got him the job though. It was better than hauling rocks while he waited for the raid.
Each day was the same. He would climb up and turn the machine on a wait. Then he would feel the machine start. It rumbled like a beast growling. Creed would smiled. It had been a long time since he had felt this kind of power. He felt safe here, even if it was just an unarmed mining ‘Mech. He was now a two story high metal goliath.
It had been a week before they had let him get near one of these and he was reminded every day that there was a list of guys waiting for to take this job if he screwed up. Creed wasn’t sure that was true. They seemed to be short pilots. On the elevator ride up out of the pit one day, he started asking why.
“I saw one of the Dig Lords sitting around today. Was it broken?”
Thor, one of the bigger fellows who complained about the small cockpits shrugged. Creed liked him because he liked to talk.
“Nah. The Military Compound has all our best guys. We’re short pilots.”
“Why? Are they expanding?” he asked
“No. The Tai-I up there is starting his own unit. You see, he came here with a Dragon. The clans left behind a Locust and they snatched that up. We’ve even seen a Wolverine running around.”
“Three ‘Mechs? Not even a lance?”
“Ah, you haven’t heard. Well, I guess you need to know now. The Tai-I has this deal now. You see, if there is ever a conflict, he can commandeer any local Dropship to come get some of our Industrial ‘Mechs and then they have a lance.”
“Not much of a lance.”
“You work with what you got. A year ago, we didn’t have any ‘Mechs. Now we have a lance.”
“But that’s not even mentioning the Wolfs Dragoons.” Thor said
“There are Wolf's Dragoons here?”
Creed’s eyes went wide with the possibilities.
“Yup.” Thor commented
Krag is about to get his rear end handed to him on a silver platter.
Creed changed topics. He had another project he was working on.
“Hey, did you also notice that Alice has been sleeping in her cockpit?”
Creed didn’t much care for Alice. She got shifts in easier parts of the Pit that he wanted. This little tidbit would start the process of removing her. Even if he was only going to be here for a little longer, Creed didn’t tolerate people in his way.
“Why would you say that?”
Thor looked upset.
“Well, because she-“
“No, she doesn’t.”
Thor stepped over and his hulking form cast a shadow over Creed. The big man looked very upset.
“Maybe I was just imagining things.” Creed squeaked out, making himself smaller.
“Maybe you were.” Thor growled.
Creed took off the moment the elevator doors opened. He made sure he was on a different shuttle back to the port. He practically sprinted to the bus loop, and in half an hour, was well on his way across the city, towards the Military Compound. The windows were so dirty with dust, with a dust storm blowing, he couldn’t make out where he was and just hopped they were headed the right way. Eventually the bus emptied out and the driver announced the last stop, for his last passenger, which was the Military Compound.
There was a guard inside a pressurized room at the main gate. Creed put on his breathing mask and walked over. There wasn’t another soul on the street but the guard acted like he couldn’t see Creed.
Creed knocked on the window. There was a little speaker that wasn’t working entirely right anymore and it crackled but had just enough tone to carry the speaker’s annoyance.
“I hear you are training MechWarriors.”
“This isn’t NAIS. Go away.” soldier told him
“If you are training MechWarriors, that means you are short. I happen to be a MechWarrior, all trained.”
The soldier was stuck and his expression showed it. He didn’t dare turn away someone who might be a MechWarrior, but he wasn’t happy about it either. Now, Creed knew, he would be a petty as he could be, as punishment.
“Stand right there and don’t move.”
Creed could see the man on the radio. Creed waited.
“Are you armed?”
“No.” Creed lied but it was only a knife and it was hidden.
“Someone’s coming down to escort you in. Don’t move.”
Creed stood still.
Anyone making others suck up is not in control at all.
Creed was escorted into the base, through the infantry barracks, past the Mechbays and up to Tai-I Dai’s office. Creed made a point of not ogling the three ‘Mechs stationed there but he definitely took note of each ‘Mech and how it was armed as best he could with short glances.
“Tai-I Dai.” Dai stood up and greeted Creed.
“Yes. Just the one name. My folks didn’t want anyone tracking them and if they had a family name, they never told me.”
“Okay. You say you are a MechWarrior?”
“Yes. That’s not why I’m here though.”
“There’s a band of pirates about to raid your world.”
Creed could see that Dai looked both thrilled and concerned. Creed understood. There was nothing like getting ready for something and then having it happen.
“How do you know this?”
“I was a member of their gang. I want to make a deal.”
“Okay.” Dai said slowly, re-evaluating the man from head to toe.
This was the dangerous part for Creed. He needed to secure a deal before he gave away enough information that they didn’t need him. He had done it before, many times.
“I can tell you roughly when they are going to come down, the ship’s faked ID, their target, what forces they have, and the names of most of the crew.”
Creed had always been good with names. He really did know most of the names of the crew, including many of the new infantry they had taken on. It was a talent he put to use.
“What do you want in exchange?”
“I want a pardon and I want one of the ‘Mechs from the salvage, not one of the Brigands.”
Creed kept it simple. Everyone wanted out. Creed was no different. With a pardon and a ‘Mech, that wasn’t associated with pirates, he figured he could join a proper military. Maybe if he was lucky he would weasel his way into a quiet garrison duty somewhere. It wasn’t the high life that the Old Man or Krag were dreaming of but it might just work.
The rat waited while the Tai-I mulled it over. Dai reached for his radio.
Two armed soldiers entered the room.
“Restrain this man.”
Creed remained calm. He had been in this situation before. Dai could not let him go. Creed knew this before he entered the base. No matter what the Tai-I decided he would need to isolate Creed. This had been his plan on Valentina, except their information had been wrong. The clans had still been in control of the world. His improvised plan was to help with the cleanup of the remains of the Bloody Hook and take everything he could. The Clans would have little interest in salvage of such low quality ‘Mechs.
“Tai-I, sir, please tell me if we have a deal.” Creed asked without resisting the cuffs being placed on his arms.
Tai-I Dai got out some maps of the space port and a chart of the solar system. He looked Creed hard in the eyes and then spoke.
“Tell me everything.” the Dragon Officer ordered him
Creed, realizing this was the best response he was going to get, started to talk. He went over everything and he even gave a battle assessment to Dai.
“The whole raid would have happen inside the hour you need to retrieve your soldiers and get one of the Industrial ‘Mechs. So it was really going to be your three ‘Mechs against our eight. We have enough infantry to more than match what you would have been able to muster in that short time. Our air forces are matched, except you would be surprised and on the defensive.”
“With my information, you can have everything ready, maybe replace all the port staff with your soldiers and overwhelm our forces as they land. It gives you the advantage you need.”
“Unless that’s what you want us to do.”
“Yes, I could be lying.” Creed said
Creed knew if he denied the possibility if this being a trap, it would look more like a trap. If Creed was betraying his pirate band, his life depended on his information being good. If he was still working for the band, and expecting rescue, his life depending on telling a convincing lie. People always defended their lies desperately. You didn’t need to defend the truth. It could be checked. Creed knew that Dai probably had people looking into it already. They would check every detail of what he had said, the serial numbers for the ship, the names, everything. He only hoped, with the blackout, that they could confirm enough to believe him.
“Mr. Creed.” Tai-I Dai said, “You will have your pardon and your salvage if your information turns out to be true. MPs, take his man to solitary confinement. No one is to speak to him unless I am present.”
The rat felt pretty good. Dai had let slip a smile, like the cat that caught the mouse.
He thinks I don’t know about the Wolf's Dragoons. It must be at least a lance.
Creed had not seen any tanks, just light vehicles but there were a lot of soldiers and they were much more active than he had expected. He was marched into the bowels of the Military Compound and locked in an isolation room, which was more comfortable than he expected. It would be a long wait here but he would try to chat with everyone who came to give him food. Perhaps he could learn little details. It was amazing what people could give away even without speaking. He felt good. His plan seemed solid, as long as they didn’t execute him, something the DCMS was well known for. Tai-I Dai had that look, that he would perform the execution personally if it came to that.
Port Erebus, Military Compound
Cis-Alpheratz Region, Weisau
December 1st, 3134
Tai-I Keung Dai mulled over Creeds information. A lot of what the man said checked out. The Raven Alliance had released a report of a pirate attack on Valentina, although they had not yet determine the gang name or vessels involved and since they had been pushed off of Valentina, would probably not revisit the matter. The Bloody Hook’s members did have bounties on their heads, including Creed. Dai would have to mull over giving the man a pardon later when he knew the full extent of the charges against him but it looked like he would let him go. He would give up one small fry for a whole gang.
Dai did feel confident. With the additional four ‘Mechs from the Wolfs Dragoons, he had two full lances plus 17 infantry platoons at his disposal. He issued orders to recall all of them to active duty immediately. That would tip off other pirate agents in the port, but they probably would not have time to send out a message, if the attack window had been honest. Dai issued orders to restrict all orbital communication. That wouldn’t stop everything but it would reduce the chances of the pirates here warning their compatriots before they landed.
The next thing he considered was his new recruits. They had yet to see live fire. He had about two weeks until the Bloody Hook would arrive though. If the ‘Mechs were damaged or any of the pilots were killed, it would put him at a significant disadvantage. He didn’t like it, but they would have to have a baptism by fire. Dai felt a moment of disappointment that he might have another MechWarrior sitting in his stockade but trusting the man would be an insane risk.
Dai put some chess pieces on a map on his desk, representing the various ‘Mechs. Jared would pilot the Wolverine. He was the best, although Dai would have preferred another year before putting him into combat. Selene Ito would pilot the Locust. Her aim needed work but her reflexes were better than anyone Dai had to work with. She could make the Locust corner hard at full speed without slipping, nine times out of ten, something Dai doubted he could do himself. Bohem would go in the Dig Lord. The man couldn’t aim to save his life but he demonstrated skill in physical attacks.
He sent four platoons to spend the next few days reinforcing hidden positions at the port which his soldiers could use for cover. He found himself wishing he had artillery, tanks, more troops and more ‘Mechs. He cut himself off.
I probably have enough and if I don’t I have to make what I have work. What I am wishing for is control. No soldier ever has complete control.
Now he would have to wait and see what he had missed or didn’t know. There was always something.
Some place you don’t take the family
Cis-Alpheratz Region, Groveld III
December 2nd, 3134
n front of two crews, a pair of Pirates met.
Krag shook B’kar’s hand.
“Brother, thank you for coming!”
B’kar wasn’t his brother. They did not even have a good history. Krag was a hulking brute, made bigger by the fur coat. B’kar was smaller and wore tight fighting, athletic clothing. Krag had a big, intimidating, smile missing teeth. B’kar barely nodded, showing some discomfort with the title of ‘brother’.
“Show me.” B’kar said.
Krag fumbled with a display switch. Three ‘Mechs appeared on the screed; A Dragon, a Wolverine, and a Locust.
“Since they actually have some Battlemechs now, I thought I’d better hedge my bets.”
“We want the Dragon. If it is unsalvageable, we’ll want the Wolverine and the Locust. If their industrial ‘Mech actually makes it to combat, that’s all yours.”
“Fine, fine.” Said Krag.
The Dropships would do, if Krag had to pay the man. Krag hated B’kar and was all too aware that the feeling was mutual. A couple of years ago they had been on opposite sides of a raid and there was bad blood between them. It was a big pot though. They could make a lot off this raid and B’kar had lucked into a piece of hardware he was keen to show off and make a name for himself with. Should that hardware happen to fall into Krag’s hands, that was fine too, but he doubted it would happen.
“You're Union has room for my ‘Mechs?” B’kar asked with a sly smile.
They both knew it did. Krag looked half away and breathed out in frustrating at having to play this game. B’kar wanted a pat on the back, in front of the crew, and Krag was going to have to give it to him.
“Yes, we have room.”
“Even for this!” B'kar excitedly said.
B’kar made a flourish, showing a picture off on a data pad. There was an image of a ‘Mech on display. It drew comments and surprise.
“Yes. We can fit that in the Union.” Krag told him.
Your swollen head might be tough to toss out the airlock though. Stew, however, it might make a fine base for a stew.
With the agreement, Krag waited for B’kar to load his ‘Mechs and they launched. It was more than one jump so he wasn’t feeling the battle excitement yet. That was still weeks away. He made sure the two pigs he asked for were on board. It would give him something to do during the journey to take the edge off.
Author Chapter Notes
Well, there is Chapter 2. Sorry what? Where is the action? It’s coming. Okay, fine, it’s in Chapter 3. Sorry you had to wait. I called something the ‘Battle of’ and made everyone wait ages to get to the battle. The dragons are coming! Not literally. There are no dragons, except Tai-I Dai’s ‘Mech and I suppose there are Dragoons.
I’m editing Chapters 3 and 4 and, well, I started Chapter 5. For Avengers fans, which I expect is everyone, I can summarize Chapter 5 with one word; Shawarma. You’ll understand later if you don’t already.
With the story finished, I’ve started to go back and make edits to streamline things but not everything is going to get fixed. Some of the background characters appear only once. If this were going to print, I would either remove them from the story or give them a full character arc. I lost track of one ‘Mech and during editing remembered to add it in with revisions. That happens a lot. Even if the story doesn’t describe every ‘Mech and Pilot, I need to know. The writer needs to provide enough information so the audience can keep track of at least the main characters and their rides. However, especially near the end, I deliberately stopped describing what everyone is doing although it is completely all mapped out.
The great risk in RPG writing is that you write combat turn-by-turn the way the game plays out. I’ve put a lot of D&D characters into novels and it’s far too easy to lean on their RPG stats for everything. I was much younger when I read about the Black Widow’s death to a jump jet. It bothered me because that method of attack wasn’t in the rules. However, now, I look at that event as brilliant writing because it shattered expectations. It was the most real thing that happened in the novel because it wasn’t in the rules.
I’ve been reading Main Gunnery’s Society TRO (I love reading Technical Readouts) and I’ve been kicking around the idea of a fan fiction set in that world where a Core Ship heads off on its own to restart society. Depending on when the first core ships were created, it should take a long time and I don’t really want to get much past 3150. Also I would ask for permission.
I also really, really want to write about the Necromo Nightmare but I have to decide if that writing would have a shot with Shrapnel or just make it fan-fic. Finally I’ve been kicking around a vote-based fanfic. I think that would be fun.