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By the Horns (Chapter Cover Art)

Chapter 40 - By the Horns[]

Command Lance, McCarron’s Armored Cavalry
Dougal, MacLeod’s Land
Taurian Concordat
November 12th, 3025

“WHAT THE HELL!” a panicked voice suddenly shouted over the command circuit—and Archie McCarron spat out his cigar in disbelief. Forty meters to his right, Olivia Sanchez and her Banshee was engulfed in a sheet of brilliant flame and smoke as an explosive geyser literally erupted from the ground beneath her. Dear GOD, Archie thought as the ground shook, rattling his ‘Mech even at this distance and a column of fire tore into the sky; the shocked MechWarrior and her 95-ton assault ‘Mech propelled into the air by the force of the blast.

It rose for one hundred and ten meters—both legs sheared off by the tremendous concussion—and then gravity held sway once more. The blackened and burnt shell of a ruin, shattered by the force of man-made volcano, paused at its apogee—and Olivia triggered her ejection system as it began to fall back towards the ground.

“HOLY SHI-!” the pilot of a Valkyrie screamed in shocked disbelief and abject fear as the mangled Banshee tumbled out of the sky and slammed down atop the light-weight ‘Mech, crushing it to the ground in a pile of twisted scrap.

Valkyrie (Unseen version by meltdonw14)

Valkyrie Light 'Mech

How much damn explosives did these Taurians have? Archie thought with a curse under his breath. He had never encountered a target this fortified—and it was only the space-port; his scouts reported that at least eight battalions of tanks (and a dozen regiments of infantry) manned interlocking bunkers defending the capital city itself. All while the Wild Ones were tangling with that regiment of Taurian mercs—the traitors that had defected from the Confederation a few years back led by Nicholas Gordon—that were trying to get to the handful of his supply DropShips that had managed to make planet-fall.

DAMN ROMANO! And damn me for listening to her, Archie thought rather more soberly. This wasn’t worth triple pay—hell, it wasn’t worth five times normal pay! And the five DropShips—three Unions and two Leopards—he had lost to the grim determination of the Taurian fighter pilots and unending artillery flak just added salt to the wounds.
But he was winning—even if it was almost pyrrhic in nature. And even if it had had taken almost forty-eight hours to accomplish. The survivors of the Red Chasseurs had been forced to withdraw, leaving his units to fight dug-in tanks and infantry for the space-port tarmac . . . and the hangers, supply depots, and underground fuel bunkers. And still, the scum didn’t seem to know when they were beaten—armor and infantry stood their ground and they died in numbers that would have made an Inner Sphere commander blanch . . . but they fought back instead of running and their own fire was tearing into Rob’s Renegades as that regiment cleared the Port of all hostiles.

He was winning . . . and the storm had almost broken. Already his air support was on the way back down into the atmosphere since the winds had died down—for how long, Archie didn’t know. But in the meantime, the bomb-laden fighters would be here supporting him . . . and extracting revenge upon the Taurians for their fanatical defense.

“Mac,” the radio crackled with static, “Fallen Angels inbound with heavy ordnance—confirm target?”

Archie snarled. “Dougal,” he spat.

“Roger that, Mac. Be advised, we are carrying a mixed load of HE, cluster, and inferno.”

“Good—bust them up, burn them out, and make them pay, Fallen Angels.”

“Mac,” the exhausted voice of Frank Bronson—the XO of the Nightriders—burst from the speakers.

“Go, Frank.”

“Artillery is finally down and deployed, Mac; where you want the guns to support?”

“Hammer that city, Frank—I want these fuckers to learn what it means to fight the Big Mac.”

Archie walked his Grasshopper to the top of a slight ridge and he snarled as the first flight of aerospace fighters passed by far overhead—oblong shapes tumbling down and down and down into city where they exploded in flame and fury.

“Boss,” the radio broadcast with the exhausted voice of Colonel Robert Heptig. “We’ve secured Port Caine—and captured two Unions intact.”

“Two? I thought we identified four?” Mac asked.

“Yeah, the others were manned and decided to fight—they aren’t lifting again . . . ever.”

“Good job, Rob,” Archie said with a tired sigh. “Get the rest of our Droppers down here—we need resupply before we go in there and make those bastards in Dougal surrender. Have the Wild Ones finished off Gordon yet?”

“Negative, Mac,” Heptig answered. “Gordon is damn good—he is withdrawing in good order and remains a threat to our landing zone.”

“Tell Linda to get her thumb of her ass! She out-masses Gordon and has more firepower—CRUSH THAT SON-OF-A-BITCH!”

“She’s got the firepower, but Gordon’s command is faster—he’s fencing with her, Boss, not engaging in a slugging match . . . and he is drawing her further and further afield. But if she lets him go . . .,” and Archie could picture Heptig shrugging. “We lose contact with that man and he can reappear almost anywhere.” Rob chuckled. “We should have hired that son-of-a-bitch ourselves five years ago.”

“Water under the bridge, Rob. I don’t want to be fighting Gordon here for weeks or months—tell Linda to get the job done or I’ll find an officer who can—understood?”

“Understood, Mac,” the voice paused. “First DropShips on final approach—our supplies are almost he- . . .,” the radio screeched and then went silent. Archie looked up, and then a distant BOOM sounded and he cringed at the massive fireballs rising into the air. From the Port—that damned Taurian Port.

“ROB!” he yelled into the microphone. “Any Renegade—REPORT, DAMN IT!”

The radio crackled, and then a shaken voice came on the net. “The Taurians detonated their fuel storage bunkers—and their munitions depots. Mac—the Port is closed. I repeat the Port is closed.”

“Fuck the Port!” screamed Archie. “Where are my Renegades!”

“Mac,” the voice came back again, “this is Captain Steele, Oscar Company. Boss—I think I’m the senior Renegade left. Most of the Regiment was in the Port—they’re . . .,” and then the sounds of retching came over the speakers. “Dear god, they’re gone.”

This contract is just getting better and better, Archie thought. “Okay. Here’s what we are going to do . . .,” he began, trying to salvage something from the disaster that was the Battle of MacLeod’s Land.

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