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Emergence (Concertverse)
- Chapter 12

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Pride and Honor[]

AFS Charles Sinclair
Inbound, Great X System
Jade Falcon Occupation Zone
11th September, 3142

General Bridger cut short a meal period to attend to the call he received from Colonel Yolanda Martinez, the commanding officer of the 8th Strikers' primary command DropShip.  Due to the positioning of Great X's best pirate points they were several hours out from orbit of the planet and he'd thought to get in a meal before finalizing their drop plans; now it seemed something else was up.

He was gratified that at last they were under thrust, and thus enjoyed "gravity", given the weeks he'd spent in zero-G conditions while OpForce Siegfried made its way from Timkovichi to Great X.  It wasn't the first occupied system they'd come through, but it was the strike force's first target.  Evan Kell's intelligence reports hinted that alongside a garrison "Cluster" a frontline unit damaged in earlier fighting with the Kell Hounds' Clan allies was likewise on the planet.  Accessing the reports and databases of a frontline unit would give them a better picture of the Falcons' strategic goals and planning than just smashing up what amounted to a march militia unit.

Dropship Re-entry

DropShip making re-entry into a planet's Atmosphere.

Salutes from the enlisted and officers of the Sinclair's crew greeted Bridger at his arrival in the ship's command center.  The central holotank displayed the formation of ships bearing the Strikers and both of the 1st Kell Hounds to their target.  With no WarShips in-system the Sara Proctor was hanging back to protect their JumpShips, leaving her attached carrier the AFS Wright and picket ships to escort the forces burning in.  They were still the largest units in the formation.  The Sinclair, the primary command ship of the 8th Striker, was divided by some distance from the Alexander Penton, another ship of the same class that ferried Colonel Patel and much of the 2nd Battalion.  Assorted DropShips of smaller size burned alongside them, spheroids and aerodynes, bearing a three regiment force down the gravity well and their waiting target.

One of the CommTechs spoke up.  "We're receiving a radio-com signal from the planet, sir.  It's the planet's defense commander and he wishes to speak with you."

"I wonder if he's planning on surrender."  Somehow Bridger doubted it, given how diehard the Clans acted on Timkovichi.  "Put him on."

The air above the holotank shimmered for a moment, before resolving into the of a man image in what Bridger guessed was late middle age; white-haired, with the look of muscle starting to run to fat despite strenuous effort, the green-uniformed soldier’s easy smile made him look more like an indulgent uncle than anything else. The man appraised Bridger for several moments before speaking.  "Kell Hounds and allied forces, welcome to Great X. I am Star Colonel Teryn Roshak, commander of the 371st Provisional Garrison Cluster, charged to defend this world in the name of Clan Jade Falcon.  Do you seek this world as your prize, or another prize altogether?"

Bridger settled his hands behind his back.  "I take it this is the 'batchall' you Clanners issue before a fight, Colonel?"

"By tradition, it would be the attacker who issues formal batchall, but evidently,” there was a dry humor in Roshak’s tone that left Bridger feeling that, under better circumstances, he might actually have liked this man, “those who taught you our ways did not think to teach you manners along with them. Under my command is the full strength - four combined arms Trinaries - of the 371st and our attached aerospace Star, as well as the remains of the 3rd Talon Cluster, consisting of two Trinaries and one Binary.  I will provide you with our full force listing and codexes." His voice shifted to an odd, formal intonation, like an Old Testament prophet handing down laws. "What forces do you bid to seize this world from the Falcon's claws?"

"If you're asking me to commit to some trial by combat with only a portion of my troops, Star Colonel, then let me disappoint you.  I'm deploying the entirety of the 8th Striker Brigade with the 1st Kell Hounds and 1st-B Kell Hounds.."  A flatscreen display showed their incoming data stream, appropriately partitioned off from the main systems to avoid any attempt to upload cyberwarfare weapons.  The opposing force had, at best, two battalions worth of BattleMechs, plus both battle armored and regular infantry and some armored vehicles.

“It is to be melee, then.” Roshak didn’t seem surprised, somehow. “Nonetheless, I will extend the offer of safcon, and recommend that our dispute is resolved at the Vicar’s Altar plateau. It is far from any population centres, and I suspect you have no more desire than I to see the civilians dragged into a matter between warriors.”

"I've no desire to fight among civilians," Bridger confirmed.  "We'll deploy in the region upon arrival."  This doesn't sound like the same people we fought on Timkovichi.  I guess this fellow is closer to what Colonel Kell's data said was the Clans' usual methods.

"If it is not control of the planet you seek, what is?  Information, supplies, bondsmen?"

"You return all POWs of the Lyran Commonwealth being held, for starters.  A few other things."

"Information, then.  Very well."  A thoughtful expression flickered over Roshak's quiet features.  "Naturally, I reserve the right to keep captured 'Mechs and warriors of your forces as isorla in the event of our victory."

"You'll do no such thing, not as a term," Bridger said hotly, almost snapping the words.  "I'm not leaving any of my people behind."

Roshak didn't blink at Bridger's heated words.  "If you have the capability to exchange for them in such an event, I will consider more salvage as acceptable. But it is our way to take bondsmen of defeated warriors, certainly you have learned that much?"

"Maybe, but it's not our custom to leave our soldiers as prisoners if we can make an exchange."  Bridger kept the stern look on his face, hiding the storm of emotion he felt at his words.  "See you when we're planetside."

”Bargained well and done, General,” Roshak nodded. “I will attend to my warriors, and meet you upon the field of battle.” The transmission link cut off almost instantly.

For a moment Bridger took some effort to calm himself.  It shouldn't have surprised him that the Clans would behave that way, it was their way going by Evan Kell's reports.  And it wasn't like even successful raids didn't sometimes see isolated or overwhelmed troops taken prisoner, even left behind if the circumstances demanded.

Like on Vega.  The memory came unbidden at his lie to Roshak and made him clench a fist as, in his mind's eye, Tai-sho Ballymont's katana and many others came down on helpless necks.  Never again.  He took another breath.  Business first.  "Put the field commanders on for me," Bridger instructed the sergeant manning the comm station.

It took a few minutes, but soon the holotank displayed three other visages: Evan Kell on the Light’s Hammer, Deirdre Ward on her ship the Pack Leader, and Patel over on the Alex Penton. Brigadier Laguna arrived just in time for the conversation to commence.  "I just had a conversation with the local Falcon commander, a Star Colonel named Teryn Roshak.  He confirmed they've got what I'm guessing is a frontline unit, the 3rd Talon Cluster, and a garrison force.  They'll be waiting for us on the Vicar's Altar plateau."

“Yeah, that figures,” Evan nodded. “We haven’t got much intel on Roshak, but what there is says he’s a real hardline traditionalist; that’s why he’s running a PGC despite a Bloodname and a pretty decent battle record. Vicar’s Altar was the site of a battle during the Jihad, company of the Twenty-fifth Arcturan Guards against a Falcon Binary; so he’d figure it for a good place to fight it out. As for the Third Talon,” he frowned, “not so good - well, good and bad for us. They’re known for heavy Mongol leanings, so they’re not gonna work well with Roshak - he hates them, and they hate him right back - but means they might do something stupid and violent if they look like losing. Even with the Wolves-in-Exile’s Beta Galaxy beating them up, they’re still first-class troops, too.”

"So they'll need to be dealt with ASAP." Bridger said.  "What do you know about their makeup?  'Mech makeup, tactics?"

Third Talon are known for favouring jump-capable ‘Mechs pretty heavily, and not that it matters here, but they’re good at fighting in lousy weather conditions. Mainly mediums and heavies, plus battle armor. Roshak’s Cluster,” Evan’s frown deepened, “Really hard to say. PGCs have some pretty wild variances in gear, and he said combined arms Trinaries. By the books, that’d mean one each of ‘Mech, tank and battle armor Stars, but some of them might be Novas rather than standard Stars, and they’ve got access to pretty much any hardware we do. Running into a couple of Clan Demolisher mods in close terrain isn’t gonna be fun.”

"Demolisher tanks.  Hate those things," Ward grumbled.  "Ran into a Drac half-company of 'em during our campaign with the Kilbourners on Alpheratz, driving the Dracs out.  Lost almost a whole lance before we got the upper hand."

Demolisher (in spring bobthedino)

Demolisher Heavy Tank

"Well, thankfully, this won't be in cities," Laguna observed.  "Either group of Hounds should be capable of facing the garrison, I'd think?  Sounds like the 3rd'll make for the nasty part of the fight, although we'll have the numbers to outflank them," Laguna said.  "I can have 1st and 2nd Battalion hold them down while the other Hounds take them in the flanks.  3rd and 4th Battalions can be our reserve."

"More than that," said Bridger.  "We'll bring most of the 8th's armored infantry regiment to the main battle to deal with their armored infantry, but I want the SOT and a combat command held in reserve to rapidly deploy to their prisons or HQs.  If these 3rd Talon fellows are like the ones on Timkovichi, you never know what they might pull."

"I'll get everything ready." Laguna said.

“One last thing,” Evan said, “don’t underestimate these guys. We beat the Horses and Malvina, yeah, but you caught them blind. These guys know what they’re facing. The Third Talon are a first class unit; and the PGC is gonna be either solahma - meaning they’ve managed to live significantly longer than average for a Clan warrior, despite a pretty brutal winnowing process, and are going out there looking to do some serious damage, whether or not they survive - or sibbies who’ve just passed their Trial of Position; they’re at the peak of their form and convinced nothing can kill them. And Roshak’s record says he’s tricky; he might figure he can defeat at least one or two of our units in detail if he manages to move fast enough.” He grimaced. “I’d give my left arm - or at least my Daishi’s missile rack - to figure out what was going on in Roshak’s HQ right now.”

Bridger nodded.  "Thanks for the warning, Colonel.  We'll make sure our people know not to let our last win go to their heads."  And I would indeed give a lot to know what's going on down there…

Third Talon: Preparing for Battle[]

The atmosphere within the Jade Falcon command center was thick enough to cut with a dull knife; thick with tension between the three commanders assembled around the main holotank. Their aides waited a discrete distance away; close enough to be instantly available at need, and far enough that they could pretend not to hear the argument going on.

“Why grant these barbarians safcon?” Star Captain Evander Malthus demanded. The cadaverous mechwarrior jabbed one boney finger at the holotank, showing the Lyran force’s approach vector. “Why not simply destroy them in space?” The you doddering old fool went unsaid.

“Because,” Star Commander Perrin cut in, “we cannot do it.” An archetypical example of the Clan aerospace phenotype, in a chair that had been designed to comfortably seat an Elemental, she looked very much like a child, her slight frame almost swallowed by its immensity. “If the Star Colonel,” she emphasised Teryn Roshak’s rank carefully, “demands, then I and my pilots will try. We will try with all the fury of Turkina herself. But we cannot do it, and will die badly trying.” She reached forward, delicate fingers adjusting the display to show relative orders of battle. “We have six fighters, and of the pilots, only myself and Point Commander Danil have any exoatmospheric combat hours; the other four are so green I feel like a nursemaid, and can barely keep their relative orientations straight. Against that ‘formidable force’,” everyone present winced at the sarcasm as she highlighted markers on a radar display, “our foes have three times our number, just counting the standing CAP, of elite fliers, who are a match for, or superior to, the pilots of the Turkina Keshik itself. In DropShips the disparity is even worse.” She didn’t quite add You ranting Mongol misbreed, but her tone and expression made it clear.

“Enough.” Teryn Roshak didn’t shout. He spoke in calm, level tones, pointedly stepping between the two officers before either could issue challenge. “Both of you. We have neither the time to argue, or enough warriors that I can indulge you shedding one another’s blood for your pride. Star Captain Malthus, are your warriors ready for battle?”

“The Third Talon stands ready.” Evander nodded. “We are to be taking the right flank of the plateau, aff?” At Teryn’s nod, he turned and - with a lack of acknowledgement that bordered active insult - stalked away, his aide close behind.

“You know that he is going to challenge you when this is over, I trust?” Perrin commented. “And, before you ask, Teryn, my pilots are ready for ground support missions. I cannot promise they will live beyond providing one airstrike, but that, they will provide.”

“I am aware of Star Captain Malthus’s preference for solving command disputes with his fists, aff.” Teryn sighed. For all his cadaverous build, Evander Malthus had a well-earned reputation for vicious skill at unaugmented combat, and he was barely two-thirds of Teryn’s own age in addition. It was possible to match the younger warriors, even well into his sixth decade - he’d done so, still did so, regularly - but the trouble was, the price of that effort got higher each time. Sooner or later, it would become too high to pay. “Still, that relies on both, or either, of us surviving the battle to come. I will take my battles one at a time, for preference.”

As he left for the main hangar, Teryn’s aide, Star Commander Martina, fell in behind, cursing as her head caught the top of the door; not very loudly, but then she was used to hitting the tops of doors at this point. Product of an Icaza genemother and mixed Hazen-Osis genelines, Martina had ebon skin and flame-red hair, as well as a build that made it impossible for her to fit into one of the new Fire Elemental suits; it had been necessary to restore an ancient set of standard Elemental armour for her. Doors designed for the use of Lyran soldiers averaging a foot and a half shorter than her were proving a similar obstacle.

“You should let me kill him.” she said without preamble. “Malthus insults you with his disrespect, and the Mongols shame the entire Clan with their dezgra actions.”

“For now, Martina, we need him,” Teryn replied. At her sullen expression, he continued, “Oh, I agree that he is trying very hard to insult me - but he is also an able commander, and we do need him for this battle. Afterwards, well - the Kell Hounds may kill him for us, but if they do not do us that courtesy, then you may do so. Also, Martina,” his tone shifted, becoming quieter and harsher, “around me, you can say such things, but be careful. The Watch detachment here has too many Mongol followers among their ranks, and I cannot protect you from them if they have more than rumour and innuendo to act on.” And it would serve the Clan ill indeed if I allowed Malvina Hazen’s spite and hatred to destroy another of those who might make us once again what we should be.

“Aff, Star Colonel. I will endeavour to exercise greater … discretion in future.” Martina’s brow furrowed. “I wish to know - I did not see deployment orders for my Star?”

“That, Martina, is because you no longer command a Star,” Teryn took a noteputer from his uniform pockets, handing it to her as they walked. “You now have a Nova to command.”

There was silence for a few moments as Martina studied the details of what she now commanded; her own Star of Elementals, two Points of Zibler OmniTanks captured from the Lyrans, a Point of SM1 Destroyers, and the fast moving Mist Lynx and Viper ‘Mechs belonging to MechWarriors Ciara and Jean respectively. Then, as she reached their deployment orders.

“We are to be kept from battle, Star Colonel?” There was genuine affront in Martina’s tone at that, and quiet danger if the truth turned out to be unsatisfactory to her.

Neg, Nova Commander.”  Teryn shook his head to add emphasis. “I have for you two tasks; the first, if all goes as I hope, will be for your Nova to serve as a Lyran Lightning Company does. For that, I need a warrior of judgement. And, more importantly, if all goes as I fear it will, you must stop the Mongols from disgracing us further than they already have.” He sighed, suddenly feeling the full weight of his nearly six decades of life. “The people of this world do not love us, nor do we need them to; but you and I have ensured that they do not hate us, either. Malthus would throw all of that away out of spite, and I cannot allow that to happen.” During the discussion, they’d arrived at the main hangar, and were now standing at the shoulder of Teryn’s own ‘Mech; a captured Lyran Banshee, new, and rearmed with with some Clan weaponry where possible. He took a moment to survey the space, watching as techs and warriors alike saw to preparing for battle - the crew of a Schmitt assault tank helping slide the dark, belted coils of fifty-millimetre rounds for its autocannon into ammunition bays; Star Captain Helen’s Tundra Wolf dry-cycling its tactical missile launcher, testing the repaired loading mechanism; a Point of infanteers, clad in battledress that closely resembled that of their Lyran opposite numbers, heavy body armour and extra kit rather than the lightweight battle order Clan infantry had once made do with, double-timing across the hangar floor - while word of his arrival spread, activity stilled, and soon every eye was turned to him.

Banshee (Blender Version by Pickledtezcat)

Banshee Assault 'Mech

Good. There are parts of every Trinary I command here, and they will carry my words forth. "Warriors," Teryn began, shouting now; to ensure all heard him clearly. "The Lyran Archon does us great honour this day! She has sent forth her finest warriors to spar with us; the Kell Hounds themselves, in full strength and led by their Khan, Evan Kell, in person. More," he continued, raising his arms to quiet the high, exultant shrieks of pride, "a new foe comes with them - the Eighth Striker Brigade, they name themselves - to test our strength for themselves. Our Mongol 'kin'," mocking laughter came at that, "have ensured that when we meet the foe at Vicar's Altar, it is to be melee, and we are outnumbered by more than five to one."

No cheers came at that, and Teryn let the silence stretch for a long moment, studying each of his warriors. The older ones were calm and steady, thinking only of how to die with honor; the younger warriors standing up straighter, chests thrust forward and eyes shining with pride, each convinced they could defeat any five Lyrans ever born. When they'd been sent to him, few others had wanted them, but now - now I would not trade them for the finest Cluster in Alpha Galaxy.

"This will be a hard battle, my warriors," Teryn continued, "and we may not survive. But if we fight with courage, with skill, with discipline, and above all else, with honor," he almost roared that word, "then even in death we will triumph!"

Airdrop into the Fire[]

The second battle of her career was markedly different for Evangeline Penton-Vallejo.

Instead of a combat air drop, 1st Battalion deployed directly from the Charles Sinclair after it grounded, just outside of the expected combat zone.  Her new Lance Lieutenant, Oliver Norton, piloted another Paladin configured with a Gauss Rifle and a PPC as its primary armaments, while the other new lancemate Lieutenant Jasminder Gupta was in a Chevalier 'Mech refitted with Terran weaponry.  Norton was a battalion staff officer placed back on the field, Gupta from the March Command's reserve pool on Arc-Royal.

Her pre-fight jitters ended the moment the first shots came.  Warnings screamed at hard-locks detected and incoming missile fire.  The AMS lasers on Norton's 'Mech and the guns on Gupta's picked off the incoming projectiles, but it couldn't get them all.  Several missiles hit or nearly hit her as part of the incoming barrage, turning some of her status lines into pale yellow to show armor hits.  She kept her machine moving through the impacts, maintaining the line formation with the others.

The targets ahead were mostly 'Mechs. Lt. Colonel Perez's warning sprang back to mind; these were believed to be the best of the enemy troops on Great X, and the Strikers were taking the fight to them.  The machines had a green-dominated paint scheme, the same as those she'd fought on Timkovichi, while the insignia was a large sword impaling a moon.  One of these machines, IDed as a Flamberge, fired salvos of missiles, twelve projectiles in all, at her.  Gupta's Chevalier moved up beside her, giving her the benefit of the ballistic AMS guns attached to the shoulders of the humanoid 'Mech, the older OmniMech design a visible cousin to her own Paladin OmniMech. Streams of interceptor rounds intersected on the approach vectors of the enemy missiles, blowing up four.  Five of the remaining eight struck home despite Evangeline's maneuvers, their blasts tearing armor from the sky-blue plating of her machine.

With the utmost concentration, taught through all those years at the Nagelring, she not only kept her 'Mech mobile through the impacts, but also kept her eyes on her holotank tactical display.  Her hands pressed the joysticks inward and brought the crosshairs of her various weapons systems squarely over the enemy machine.  A press of her index finger trigger let loose a crackling azure lightning bolt, of similar intensity to the one that Gupta's Chevalier fired.  Gupta's shot missed from the last minute maneuvering of the Flamberge pilot.  Eva's struck home, scourging armor in blackened chunks from the winged 'Mech's chest and shoulder.

She let her heat settle for a moment before triggering her large extended range lasers next.  The sapphire beam missed narrowly, with the enemy pilot jinking at the last moment, while the streams of sapphire pulses were guided back on target to chew through the melting armor near the wound she'd already created on the 'Mech's shoulder.

The entire machine shuddered around her at an impact that broke through her armor and lodged a round in the structure of her Paladin.  Another enemy machine, marked a Shadow Cat II by her systems, reminded her of holos of the Shadowcat OmniMech her mother piloted during the war.  Lasers the color of bright emeralds cut into the soil beneath her, barely missing her 'Mech's legs.

She nearly diverted to take the target, before noting Kilroy's lasers striking home.  "Bravo 3, Bravo 4, stick with the winged one," Norton ordered.  A moment later a lighting flash played over the Shadow Cat II; a miss, as the other pilot skillfully shifted balance and leaned away from the path of the shot.

The Flamberge pilot was of similar skill.  Gupta's autocannon barrage only scored a single non-penetrating hit before the Falcon pilot moved their machine out of the barrage's path.  A flight of missiles made multiple impacts on the Chevalier despite its AMS shooting down a couple.  Eva took an extra moment in making her shot, not just buying time for her heat to return to baseline, but to take advantage of the pilot's maneuvering.  When Gupta fired her PPC the Flamberge again shifted its weight, turning a direct hit into a glancing shot that did little more than surface damage.

That was her opening.  Eva squeezed her triggers.

The heat flooded her cockpit, with warning indicators shooting up through the shutdown threshold.  The shots counted, though; the PPC blew through the wounded shoulder, tearing the Flamberge's arm off, and the lasers made molten slag of large sections of the Falcon machine's torso armor.  Even her smaller Mk. 15 lasers struck home, their emerald light carving molten gashes into the Flamberge's leg and hip armor.

The kinetic impact of the PPC had an extra benefit.  It affected the balance of the machine at the same time it lost tons of mass from the armor melted or vaporized away, shifting the Flamberge's center of mass and weight profile.  These factors together could bring down even an experienced pilot if they weren't able to correct with their own sense of balance quickly enough.  The Falcon MechWarrior succeeded regardless, keeping their machine standing.

But it also took all their concentration, leaving them vulnerable for a crucial second.  Gupta took ruthless advantage.  Her autocannon roared to life again, spitting 88mm rounds into the Flamberge that the preoccupied pilot wouldn't be spiraling their way out of this time.  A second lightning bolt, another PPC shot, blew through the Flamberge's damaged hip and nearly severed the leg.  The molten ends of broken myomer bundles showed through the wound on the machine.

The hip damage was the final straw.  The Flamberge tumbled.

Eva wasn't taking chances.  Not after Timkovichi.  Even with her heat still up, she spit the crosshairs on the enemy machine's chest and fired another full salvo.  This put her machine's heat directly in the red and she had to slam a fist down on the override button to prevent a shutdown.

With the enemy 'Mech prone, every shot hit home.  Azure lightning and emerald and sapphire light, working in tandem, melted and blasted through white-hot armor to savage the guts of the machine.  A brief surge of white-hot fluid erupted from the wound to ignite the grass and soil beneath the machine.  The lasers and PPC shot hadn't just torn through the chest armor, one had successfully opened up the fusion vessel at the heart of the engine.  The Flamberge went still at the death of its power source.

My third kill.  Eva felt an involuntary surge of pride in that.  Her second action and already a third kill.

It proved a dangerous distraction.

She took another hit from the Gauss Rifle on the Shadowcat II. But it wasn't like before.  Multiple rounds smashed into her armor all along her right side.  A warning light declared her right shoulder actuator was locked up, making her particle cannon on that arm nearly useless since it couldn't be aimed.  How… do they have rapid fire Gauss Rifles?!

"Everyone, eyes on that Shadowcat II, looks like one of those H-A-Gs the locals talk about," Norton said.

A pair of laser beams scoured armor from Eva's 'Mech.  The rest of the enemy unit's machines were on the attack, and she'd drawn their attention.  With orange and yellow now showing on her damage indicators, she returned fire with the large lasers, spearing the enemy machine.

Norton spoke up again.  "Everyone hold firm.  We've got them where we want them."

Eva wondered about that while maneuvering her 'Mech.  Another noiseless shot from the enemy 'Mech took more of her armor, even as it dodged Gupta's autocannon fire but not her particle cannon hit.  It's like that wargame we did with the 2nd Donegal in my third year.  These pilots are unbelievable!

Another series of impacts took more of her armor, and Eva had to fight to keep the machine steady despite the hits and lost mass.  She nearly tripped, and would have if another shot struck home.  That one didn't was entirely on Kilroy.  His Paladin moved up beside hers, intersecting the fire from the Shadowcat II while his own rifle and lasers shot back, damaging the machine.  "Stay with it, lass.  The Brig's got a plan, an' we're part of it."

"I've got shoulder damage and a lot of surface hits, but I've got my weapons intact.  Just give me shots."  Even as she made that remark she directed fire on a Falcon heavy, a machine called a Night Gyr, that was engaging Norton's Paladin. Again her lasers scored home, mostly because the pilot was too busy evading Gupta's shots to note she was turning her weapons on him.

I hope this plan turns out soon, these Falcons are fighting worse than two to one odds and I'm worried they might still beat us, they're this good…

Wolfhound (Blender Battletech - Wooded Area)

Wolfhound Light 'Mech

Teryn Roshak bit back a curse as the Kell Hounds Wolfhound came at him again. A new model, one his warbook didn’t recognise - its heavy arm mount something that looked like a laser but wasn’t, from the holes it had burned in the Gyrfalcon it had been savaging - the pilot knew their trade, coming on not in an easy to track straight sprint, but an irregular broken field run; weaving amongst the trees. His lasers chased it, slashing glowing scars into tree trunks - no risk of fire; the autumns here were cold and wet, and there had been heavy rains for most of the last week - and burning semi-molten wounds across the Wolfhound’s skin, but none deep enough to tell. Torso twisted as far as it could go, the Kell Hounds ‘Mech lashed back with its own weapons; the thick, flickering-orange beam of the arm gun burning armour from his Banshee’s leg in a mist of liquid composites. The torso-mounted mediums’ aim wavered from the evasive run, dark blue beams tracing pale yellow bands across the damage readout. Then the SRM launcher blinked red. Roshak looked at the status readout and then he did curse.

Gyrofalcon Medium BattleMech (in combat)

Gyrofalcon Medium 'Mech

“Stravag!” Despite himself, he was impressed. The Kell Hounds warrior had used their own motion to weld his missile rack’s protective cover sealed; a master’s trick. Being impressed didn’t stop him throwing heat discipline to the winds and unleashing both of his Banshee’s extended-range particle cannon. Whiplashing arcs of manmade lightning blazed out; one reducing a tree the size of an Atlas to splinters and semi-vaporized pulp, the other skimming the Wolfhound’s head, clipping away one of the sensor “ears”. With the Gyrfalcon - plus a newly arrived Bellona, lofting salvoes of long-range missiles - rounding on them, the Kell Hounds warrior wisely chose to depart, falling back amongst the trees, following the rest of their lancemates.

That lull bought Teryn time; time to jettison his now-useless short-range missile ammo, and try and find some solution in the still heat-addled tactical feed. There was good and bad there in equal measure - truthfully, things were going better than he’d hoped; the swirling chaos of action within the woods was forcing the Lyrans to be markedly more cautious than he, their superior numbers little advantage, and they were pushing only very carefully now. And with the plateau securing one flank, Star Captain Helen - employing her assault tanks and battle armor, along with a Point of Hadur artillery vehicles, with judicious care - had stopped an attempt to cut the Cluster off from the Third Talon cold.

Yet, as well as his warriors were doing, this attritional brawl favored the Lyrans’ weight of numbers. He needed something to try and even the odds -

“Command Alpha, this is Talon Six.” One of his scouting VTOL pilots, their voice thready from pain. “Possible Lyran command element contact; heavy air defence fire at CR blue, 124 by 37.”
Teryn frowned at that report. It didn’t seem normal, not for the Kell Hounds he knew; Evan Kell and his commanders preferred to operate from mobile, dispersed sites - Kell himself usually from his mammoth Dire Wolf - but - some of the contact reports had mentioned oddities of ‘Mechs and markings on some of the “Kell Hounds” they’d engaged, and - he checked the chart reference; yes, that would be the right place for a command post  Decision crystalized.

“Acknowledged, Talon Six; RTB, immediate. “Skybolt,” he switched channels to the one assigned to communicate with Star Commander Perrin, fingers tapping across his comms board, “firefall. Coordinates attached.”

Duel in the Skies: Eagles vs Falcons[]

“Skybolt acknowledges. Will attack soonest,” Perrin lowered the radio headset, then turned to the astech manning the console. “Download those coordinates to our fighters’ terrain mapping systems, and then get ready to evacuate this site.”

Visigoth Medium OmniFighter (In space - IWM Paint by Steve McCarthney)

Visigoth Medium OmniFighter

She stepped out of the radio hut, moving along the flight line - such as it was - to her fighter, dodging around, or pausing to allow for the passage of, tech teams removing camouflage netting or making final checks on the bombs slung under her squadron’s wings, and the rocket boosters attached above.

As far as Perrin knew, this airfield had never even been named, and ordinarily - probably why the Lyrans’ reconnaissance had overlooked it - would have been too small for aerospace fighters loaded with external ordnance - even the pair of light Bashkirs, Avar and Sulla, never mind Danil’s Visigoth or her own Sabutai - thus the rocket boosters. Coming from an unexpected angle might just make this work.

Sulla OmniFighter (in Space - Battletech Space Wars)

Sulla OmniFighter

Pausing by her own fighter, a worn, battle-scarred old Sabutai Charlie, Perrin double-checked the pair of fifteen-hundred-kilogram bombs under its wings; not that she’d be using them, if the Lyran air screen was even half-awake. It would be down to her and Danil to try and keep them off the younger pilots, at least long enough for them to use their ordnance; even her fledglings could manage to hit the ground.

Satisfied, Perrin clambered up into the cockpit, hooking up her flightsuit’s life support and electronic links with the ease of long practice as she ran through the final preflight steps and began taxiing to launch position.

“Comms check,” she ordered softly, vibrations from the Sabutai’s engines spinning up to full power rippling through its frame. Acknowledgements came back, loud and clear. “Okay, Fledglings, listen and listen well,” Perrin spoke in calm, level tones, more likely to get through the impulses of youth and training sharply curtailed to fill the ravenous maw of Mongol tactics - so-called - as she flipped up the plastic cover over the rocket boosters’ arming switch, her other hand on the throttle, ready to push it forward. “No formation flying today; as soon as your Point is off the ground, fly for the coordinates loaded into your nav modules. Fly as low as you dare, and as fast as your engines can manage. And Devra,” the youngest, least experienced of her pilots, flying the sedate Avar to try and compensate for her inexperience, “you are with me.”

Now you are taking responsibility for strays, Perrin. She shook off the dark thoughts; Devra deserved a chance to live, and only her cover fire might give the young pilot that.

The Falcon fighters weren't unnoticed once they got up to altitude and speed.  A thousand meters above, Squadron Captain Marquis Devers of the 92nd Aerospace Squadron noted the contacts and the course reported from the 8th Striker's Aerospace Group Command on the Penton.  His feet went to the acceleration pedals on his Typhoon OmniFighter and he pushed the stick forward to reduce altitude.  Sweat beaded on his ebon skin, his heart pounding from the anticipation of coming combat.  Mindful of his duties, he keyed the rest of his squadron, twelve fighters strong.  "All flights, enemy airstrike inbound on 2nd Battalion command elements.  Intercept and eliminate."

"Roger, Squadron Lead." Two voices, one a German-accented woman and the other with a male New Earth English accent, echoed each other almost perfectly. The latter added, "Where in blazes did they come from?"

"Not our problem."  Devers cycled through the selection of his weapons.  The Typhoon Alpha mounted wing pulse lasers and an cluster-firing autocannon in the nose for dog-fighting.  His ammo feeds showed green and he readied a target lock on one of the enemy fighters. The Lyran-provided database marked the target as a Bashkir.  As he approached optimum firing range and his systems acquired a lock, he noted the fighter seemed to be weaving a little.  "Looks like nuggets," he said, surprised that despite the pilot's clear difficulty keeping their fighter level at this speed, they weren't breaking off even if their passive defenses had to have picked up his active sensor lock.  Either suicidally brave or…

His own systems screamed warning just before his finger could tense.  It did so anyway, spraying autocannon shells and laser fire ineffectually around the course of the enemy fighter, given he was wildly maneuvering to avoid the shots that would have done a number on his craft.  He noted one of the contacts was suddenly climbing right for him, a heavier fighter than the others marked as a Sabutai, bombs tumbling away from it to strike the forests below.  He banked sharply and accelerated to throw off his enemy's aim.

But no further attack came.  His wingman called out "I'm hit!" and briefly streaked past his cockpit, flame pouring from wounds in his fuselage, an emerald laser slicing further into the damaged structure.  As the flaming Typhoon swept past, the form of a craft identified as a Visigoth went by as well, beams clearly tracking on him.

Devers rotated his craft and evaded the fire on him.  The warning sensors stopped going off, there was no more active lock.  What?

"Bogey on my six!" The call brought his attention to the rest of the squadron.  He righted his fighter and brought it back around.  His squadron's lighter-weight flight, in Lightning IIIs, were beset by the Visigoth and the thick-chinned craft being reported as a Sabutai. The larger fighter's chin lit up with repeated emerald laser beams, big enough to be large-caliber weapons, that caught the fighter just as it broke off an attack run on the enemy fighters hugging the ground.  The Lightning clearly took damage, but the Sabutai pilot wasn’t even trying to finish them; the instant the Lightning broke off, they snap-turned left in a move that had to’ve stressed their fighter to its limits, going for another of the Lightnings trying to line up on a second Bashkir.  One by one the entire flight broke away as the enemy fighters struck at them.

Ah.  So they're not all nuggets. "Looks like we've got a couple experienced pilots flying top-cover for the nuggets," he said into the squadron comms.  "C Flight, we'll give you a shot.  A and B, follow me.  Take down those two fighters."  He banked the Typhoon and started acquiring the Sabutai.

"No kill credits on the nuggets, either." added his squadron XO, Flight Lieutenant Tabitha Reynolds.

Devers frowned.  Not that he didn't agree that those remaining pilots weren't really worth the credit for a kill, and ace status, but he'd have to have a word with Reynolds later about timing.  For the time being he kept the Sabutai on his HUD.  The cluster rounds from his autocannon stripped armor from the Falcon OmniFighter without managing a penetrating hit, and follow up laser shots barely missed as the enemy pilot pulled a high-speed maneuver to evade his fire and Reynolds'.

Another of the icons on his display went out.  C Flight had a kill.  One less enemy fighter on a bombing run.  That more didn't disappear became clear as the Visigoth and Sabutai, defying the near four-to-one odds they faced, made a high speed pass to threaten C Flight.  A series of laser shots tore the wing from one of the Lightning IIIs, forcing the craft down, while the other pilots broke away to avoid a similar fate.

"They're determined," Reynolds said.  "Mix it up?"

"No."  Two fighters down, more damaged.  WC Popova will never let me live that down. "C Flight, maintain runs.  Everyone else, pin those damn fighters down!"  While giving the command he kept his eye on the Visigoth. The pilot weaved through his attempted shots and those from Reynold and Reynold's wingmate.  Instead of trying to keep a tab on him, though, Devers broke away and maneuvered his fighter toward C Flight.  The remaining Lightning IIIs under Flight Lieutenant Yang's command reformed and made for the enemy lights coming in low and fast.  We'll get maybe two more chances before they're over the battlefield and hitting their targets.

As before the Sabutai and Visigoth came after C Flight, weaving between the other fighters.  Devers picked the Visigoth and bore down on the fighter, coming from a different angle from Flight Lieutenant Fischer's Typhoon.  Fischer's machine was configured differently, favoring all energy weapons.  While her lasers tore at the Visigoth, his autocannon's cluster rounds and his own laser beams converged on it as well.

The enemy pilot managed one shot that scoured armor from one of C Flight's craft before taking the hits from two angles.  At first it looked like the Visigoth's armor would hold, but a brief burst of light and flame erupted from the rear.  One of their shots managed a direct hit on the fusion engine.  The fighter lost power and dove toward the ground.  It was joined moments later by what the warbook called a Sulla from the enemy.  Only a second Bashkir and a fighter marked as an Avar remained.

The Sabutai raked Yang's fighter with repeated laser hits.  He broke off.  "Damage to control surfaces.  I'm out."

Frowning, Devers focused his attention on the Sabutai, now alone in its effort to protect the remaining light fighters.  This one's good he thought, watching his shots miss while the enemy fighter executed another series of high turn maneuvers, desperately trying to keep Yang's remaining pilots off the two inexperienced fighters.  "All fighters on those enemy nuggets.  Let's give our friend too many targets to handle. Reynolds, on me.  Time to end this."

Perrin sucked in deep breaths of the high-oxygen mix through her mask. That was interesting; her heart rate had just spiked higher than her previous record.

Her flight suit squeezed and pulsed, working on pushing blood back to her brain as she wove a high-G slalom through the Lyran formation.  Laser fire repeatedly split the sky, emerald beam after emerald beam slicing at the fighters hunting her fledglings.  Some shots landed, others missed, but either way she considered it a success if it forced them to break off from the fledgings on their bombing runs.  There are so many…

All the while, her warning alarms screamed.  There were targeting locks on her, and a pair of fighters were doggedly pursuing hers, maneuvering to get shots that her maneuvering denied them.  Flashes of laser fire sometimes crossed just to the side of her cockpit, while bands of yellow and orange showed on her monitors to reflect lost armor to glancing strikes.  Sooner or later, these pilots would take her down.  If only she could see Devra and the other through to their target…!

"Stravag!  Star Commander, I'm hit, I'm…"  The remaining Bashkir disintegrated in mid-air, its weakened armor hit center mass by a pair of Gauss Rifle shots.

No! Her maneuvers grew yet more furious and desperate, setting off warning alarms of their own while her suit strained to keep the blood in her brain. Time for desperate measures.

Jupiter Assault 'Mech (In desert)

Jupiter Assault 'Mech

Perrin slammed the airbrakes on full, the G-forces like a kick in the spine from a Jupiter as her fighter’s airspeed plummeted. It was a trick she’d learned from her first Star Commander, a leathery old veteran of the Jihad; dangerous enough that even aerospace Falconers would not teach it, but when it worked …

Her display lit up red, showing where a weapon strike sloughed off the remaining armor over part of the right wing, but the gamble otherwise paid off.  Both of her pursuers shot past her.  Had she been fighting them in earnest, she'd have easily gotten onto the tail of one of them.

Instead she'd bought herself precious seconds.  Getting thrust back up to avoid stalling, she banked the Sabutai onto the Points of enemy fighters acquiring Devra.  Her finger stroked the triggers the moment she had a partial lock on one, spearing the enemy with a couple laser shots before moving on to the next.  The fighters maneuvered, trying to stay on Devra while avoiding her fighter's full fury, and letting the young warrior-pilot make her final approach on target.

Indeed, there was a surge of triumph that filled Perrin from head to toe at the call over the radio.  "Ordnance away!" Devra's bombs were in flight, and as she broke off, they sailed on towards the enemy command post and adjacent 'Mechs, certain to cause some havoc when they hit.  Devra banked hard - as hard as such a young, inexperienced warrior dared - and broke off her completed run.

The Avar disintegrated a second later.

Though her maneuvers meant she only had eyes on the sight for seconds, it seemed to hang in Perrin's vision as if those seconds were minutes.  Multiple autocannon rounds and laser pulses pelted the Avar until one wing blew off, then the tail.  "I am hit!  All control lost!" the young pilot cried.  The broken remains of the Avar spiraled toward the too-near ground.

"Eject!" Perrin ordered, throwing heat discipline - and her own survival - to the winds and pouring out laser fire as fast as her weapons could recycle, flaying away the belly armour off what seemed some variation on a Huscarl heavy fighter.  The machine survived the full fury, reflecting armor protection that likely exceeded her own, banking away from her.  Perrin refused to let the fighter escape.  While her systems screamed heat warnings into her ears, she lined up for another shot on the Huscarl-like fighter.  "Pilot Devra, eject!"

There was no reply.  The marker for the Avar was gone from her holotank.

Her shriek of fury was as worthy as a falcon's cry.  She lined her crosshairs up on Devra's killer and pulled the trigger again.  More lances of laser fire lashed out at her foe…

...and missed, as her foe suddenly fell behind her, as if standing still in the air.

Two can play that game.

Such was the thought that Squadron, Captain Devers had when, seeing he couldn't immediately shake his tail, he went for his air brakes.  Much like the Falcon pilot had done to him and Reynolds, he extended them to full and cut thrust, rapidly dropping his damaged Typhoon's airspeed.  He was rewarded with laser light cutting through the air ahead of him, and the sight of the Sabutai shooting past.  He fired his weapons to little effect; the angle of attack was bad, and only his shorter, medium-grade pulse lasers managed a direct hit.  He had more pressing matters as stall warnings blared.  He pressed his acceleration pedals hard and shot the Typhoon right up to its maximum of 4.5 Gees.  His suit constricted, keeping the blood from being pressed out of his head and brain, and with every ounce of control he could manage Devers wrestled the stalling Typhoon back into level flight and then a rapid climb.

Going to have to thank Wing Commander Popova for all that training, he thought.  Popova, that hard-nosed Giausarovite, ran her pilots hard in the simulators to make sure they could pull such maneuvers to counter threats like the Dracs' nimble, over-engined Hakaze.

While climbing he checked his holotank.  Reynolds had a bead on the Sabutai and placed a couple well-aimed, targeting computer-assisted PPC shots into its body.  What might've been the killing shot missed, however, with the Sabutai banking hard and accelerating at full thrust to throw off Reynholds' shot.  Damn good pilot.  Just more interested in trying to kill us than to get away. Devers brought his crosshairs over the enemy fighter and accelerated.  At the far range his autocannon's cluster rounds would more likely hit nothing but air, but he was just within range for the wing-mounted Mark 18 Vickers-Armstrong pulse lasers.  He let his systems acquire a partial lock before flipping his fire selector to single fire and pulling the laser trigger.

The first stream of sapphire pulses missed the Falcon fighter.  It twisted, still accelerating.  The pilot had to be near the end of their endurance.  Devers felt the blood rush in and out of his head at matching the maneuver, drawing closer while the other pulse laser fired.  This time he made a partial hit, stitching sapphire light over the tail fins of the Sabutai before the remaining stream struck open air.

The Clanner looped "upward", as if to climb, and Devers leveled to track.  Looks like they're going to bug out after all… wait.

Given the view on his holotank, no, the Clanner wasn't going to bug out at all.

They'd turned their fighter directly towards his.

The unending alarms failed to penetrate Perrin's conscious thoughts while she leveled her fighter out.  Her enemies were all that mattered.  The Huscarl-like fighters were the equals she would have otherwise demanded for this final chapter to her existence.  These unknown Lyrans who destroyed her command, cut down so many promising young warriors she was charged with blooding, they would be her isorla in death, if need be.  They would pay for taking her charges from her.

Her fighter's controls reacted sluggishly, no surprise given her damage and that she'd been liberally firing her energy complement.  Her heat was only beginning to level off and give her greater control.  Given all her high-energy maneuvering her fuel gauge continued to decline.  If she didn't break off and return to base soon, she would never make it.

I would not make it anyway.

Her fatalistic thoughts joined her interest.  Her opponent, far from trying to evade her plentiful laser armament, was meeting her as if they were knights at a jousting tournament.

Tyra Miraborg. The name came to her unbidden, the legend who’d bought an ilKhan as her isorla a century ago. Forcing the heat- and damage-addled fighter around as red continued to swallow more of the damage readouts, she lined up on the largest of the DropShips looming in the distance, opening the throttle as wide as it could go.

Her world seemed to narrow down to her target alone, energy beams and bursts of exploding shells barely worth considering. Optimistically, her free hand gripped the ejection lever.

Perrin found herself wondering idly if the ejection mechanism might still work.

The change in orientation of the Sabutai was quickly followed by word from Group Command over Devers' earpieces.  "Enemy contact is on collision course with the Penton, all craft intercept and destroy her!"

He banked and twisted the Typhoon, heedless of the G forces that involved and the way it shifted the blood in his body.  This kept the Falcon fighter roughly in his field of fire, and more pulse laser fire did score strikes.  But the fighter refused to move from its deadly course.

The Penton's gunners weren't blind to the danger.  Multiple missile launchers focused on the craft and fired, and dozens of LRMs corkscrewed through the air, some exploding on or around the fighter.  But while they blasted chunks of armor and fuselage from the Sabutai, they didn't deflect the fighter from its deadly course.  The azure lightning of PPC bolts likewise tried, and failed, to bring a stop to the suicidal Clan fighter.

More contacts showed on the holotank.  Four Skyfire interceptors, the Penton's embarked protectors, soared down from their top cover.  The pilots were skilled in their own right in their choice of angles of attack, and within moments their Gauss Rifles were firing while they got a bearing with their wing-mounted pulse lasers.  One, then two, made contact with the Sabutai, knocking it around and breaking off chunks of fuselage and wing.  The fighter began a controlled spin from the pilot's efforts to keep their craft on its deadly course.

No more time. Regardless of heat, Devers fired everything he had.  Cluster rounds from his autocannon sprayed over the rear of the Falcon fighter, breaking up the remaining armor around the engines and the tail fins.  His lasers chewed and cut into those wounds, breaking up the engine assembly area of the Sabutai.  A splutter of plasma and light joined the death of the fusion-generated flame burning at the rear.  The Clanner's spin grew in violence and the pilot lost all control, their fighter wobbling through the air.

The surge of heat in his cockpit joined the warning sirens.  The heat of his weapon systems made his control systems sluggish.  Devers wrestled with his flight stick and forced the Typhoon to level, ensuring he didn't crash into the Penton or the ground as well.  It took a few seconds for the heat sinks to dump the excess heat into Great X's atmosphere, easing the controls.  He banked and gave himself a few of his kill.

The Sabutai covered the remaining meters to the Penton… and plowed into the ground before it, about a hundred meters short of one of the 'Mech bay doors, still closing.  The violence of the landing broke up the fighter, its pieces scattering every which way in a fan spread out toward the DropShip.  Sparks flew where random pieces of metal did in fact strike the ship's landing legs or surface, but as the seconds passed and it was clear there would be no blast from within, Devers let himself breathe.  They'd stopped the enemy in time.  "92 Squad to Group Command, enemy fighters splashed, I say again, enemy fighters splashed.  I'm running low on fuel and am RTBing."

"Roger that, 92 Squad.  Penton Actual thanks you for the help.  Projecting course to your nav system now."

The HUD reflected the flight path they assigned him.  Devers matched it, sighing with anticipation of the asschewing that his perfectionist Wing Commander undoubtedly had in mind.

Strikers Assessing their situation[]

In the heart of his command facilities on the Sinclair, General Bridger's attention on the enemy air strike briefly diverted him from the ground fighting.  He noted with grim satisfaction that it was over; all enemy fighters splashed, damage done and being dealt with.

Brigadier Laguna scowled at the figures on her holotank.  "Medics are still confirming if Colonel Stefanidis will make it.  Major Knowles is in command of the 2/8th Striker and rallying."

"I can see why the Clans are so feared on this side," Bridger responded.  His display showed the wider range of the battle.  That they were winning was evident, but nor was it predetermined.  The fighter strike, had it been more damaging on the Penton, could have dangerously destabilized the chain of command if the enemy exploited the attack.  "No other sign of assets?"

"Scouts are certain.  They've got some reserve, one of those combined arms 'Stars' or 'Novas', but almost everything's been committed to the Altar area.  Including everything the 3rd Talon has active."

"Then I think it's time we make the call."  He opened a tac-comm line.  "Colonel Ward, your people need to open the way for our flanking maneuver and isolate the 3rd Talon."

Her reply came through loud and clear.  "They got stopped cold by an artillery strike.  If they press on the casualties will be severe."

"A good thing we've dealt with their air power.  Standby, we'll get air strikes on the way to deal with their support units."

Laguna didn't have to be told more.  She opened her tac-comm lines.  "Group Command, commence strike sortie on enemy support.  And I want the 3rd and 4th Battalions in motion now.  Commence kesselschlacht maneuver."

Bridger got on another tac-comm line.  "Colonel Kell, status?"

"We've got Roshak's people tied down, and we'll likely finish them off in time.  But I'd rather not waste time and lives on this fight if we can get it done quicker, General."

"Nor would I.  Keep your people safe.  We're commencing the main phase now."

"Roger that.  Give the 3rd Talon hell."

Bridger could tell there was some disappointment, subconsciously anyway.  While the Hounds were certainly getting their fill of fighting the Falcons, it was the Mongol units that particularly had their ire.  Evan Kell would've likely preferred fighting the 3rd Talon.  But mixing their commands would be risky, especially against an elite unit; their handful of exercises on Timkovichi aside, the local Hounds were not yet synced with the 8th Strikers or their counterparts from Bridger's side of the Looking Glass.  And the 3rd Talons were best faced by the larger force given their skill level.

Maybe there'll be more on Zanderij or Yeguas, if we decide to make another strike.  That thought aside, Bridger put his attention on the unfolding battle, waiting for his orders to be followed up on.

Final Orders[]

Star Captain Malthus prided himself on many things.  Recognition of the Chingis Khan's vision, certainly, such that he didn't care for the rumors of her defeat and capture or death brought from Timkovichi.  The superiority of his warriors, and that those who dared oppose them should be utterly destroyed for the offense.  And finally, being far above the useless old rules and traditions that held the Falcons back for so long, and still dominated the feeble mind of that old washed up solahma Roshak.

From the cockpit of his Shrike, he observed the 3rd Talon rending the enemy's "8th Strikers".  By numbers the Lyrans were a hard fight, but their pilots rarely showed the skill of his trueborn forces; the only concern he felt for them was that they had the numbers to overwhelm.  Killing four out of five Lyrans did little if the fifth survived to gut an exhausted warrior's machine.

Shrike (on Battle Field) Wizkids

Shrike Assault 'Mech

His crosshairs spit upon one particularly enemy machine, a humanoid model of assault weight pouring laser fire into Star Commander Tomas' Flamberge. With a stroke of his triggers long range missiles and PPCs converged on the humanoid assault 'Mech, destroying armor and compelling attention. Tomas took advantage to flank the enemy humanoid, striking with his ATMs.  One skillful hit disabled the arm-mounted laser on the enemy machine.  A similar machine aided the foe, requiring Tomas to expand the distance when the heavy autocannon on the second 'Mech's arm roared, nearly hitting him.  "Keep your formations."

"Star Captain Malthus, we have enemy movement."  He recognized the voice of Star Commander Uther, commander of a Star of Reconnaissance machines on their right flank.  "More than two Stars worth… no, more.  Under fire!"  There was a sizzle and crackle; Uther was being fired on by PPCs.  "We will hold."


Small Holotank display

Suspicious, Malthus set the holotank for a more strategic display.  More contacts were indeed bearing on his right flank.  So were more on the left, braving the artillery of his and Roshak's support Stars.  Two Trinaries of "Mechs and armor infantry were coming from each side, if not more.

We are being flanked.  Cut off from Roshak.  Malthus frowned.  And I lack the forces to stop them.  This is their goal, then.  Surround and destroy the 3rd Talon.  I should be so honored they fear us such.

The bitter truth was, not only could he not stop them, he was quite sure this was it.  The 3rd Talon was going to be surrounded and destroyed, and all he and his warriors could do was die with their beaks in the throats of their foes.

I can still deny them their sought prize. He keyed the 3rd Talon's HQ.  "Inform the technicians.  Wipe all data tracks at my order, or if my death is reported.  Destroy all spare machines and equipment."

"Aff." came the response.

As for the other element, he opened an entirely different line.  The Falcon who appeared on his holotank was a dark-haired male in the uniform of the Falcon Watch.  "What can I do for the Chingis Khan and her followers?" the man asked.

"It is time we dealt with the prisoners.  I will not leave any for the Lyrans to reclaim.  Begin the culling."

"In the name of the Khan."

"In the name of the Khan," Malthus agreed.  Now to kill as many of them as we can...

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