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Emergence (Concertverse)
- Chapter 43

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Fury in the Storm[]

Fighting Wolves[]

Wolf Empire Staging Ground - Epsilon
Gallery, Donegal Province
Lyran Commonwealth (Disputed)
15th February, 3143

The Wolf veteran commanding SG Epsilon’s defences did their best. Outnumbered and outgunned, they were clearly determined to do as much damage as possible before going down.

Templar (OmniMech) (by Papercraft on Battlefield)

Templar Assault OmniMech

Jasek Kelswa-Steiner swore, ducking his Templar under a stream of light-caliber autocannon shells. Snarling more oaths that would have horrified his long-ago etiquette tutors — and ignoring obscene commentary from Sergeant Dunleavy as the sudden motion knocked her squad of Gnome Battle Armor troopers loose — he sent twin particle bolts and a volley of SRMs lashing down the alley; blasting the auto-turret into a burnt out shell. Ammunition began to cook off in a series of sharp cracks.

“Storm Six to Ranger Six,” Jasek ground out, forcing calm into his voice as he resumed the advance, his guard lance close behind. “Petrucci, I thought your people had swept CR Twelve-Twenty-four.”.

“We did,” Antonio Petrucci’s voice came back, underlined by the hammering roar of his Schmitt’s autocannon at maximum rate. A glance at the tactical feed showed he was blasting the Clanners out of their fortified barracks blocks. “But the Wolves randomised the activation timers for those damn auto-turrets, and they’re battery-powered. Until their targeting systems go live, there’s no way short of walking every alley to know if we’ve gotten them all; and we don't have the time, General.”.

“Understood.” Jasek acknowledged, before cutting the link. Saying anything more would have just left him swearing at Petrucci, and that wouldn’t be fair to the Colonel or his troops. The Lyran Rangers had done everything they'd been ordered to and done it well, but right now the Stormhammers were supposed to be looting SG Epsilon of everything the support units could carry, not still trying to clear the Wolves out. And it felt like every second of time the dangerously close pirate point emergence had bought them was slipping away, faster and faster..

If he found them, if they survived, he was either going to strangle the solahma officer leading this dance, or shake their hand and offer them a job. They’d mauled the leading companies of the Lyran Rangers badly, then — rather than stand and die as the rest of the Stormhammers came up — scattered their Trinary, and those damn turrets, through the staging ground, fighting a running battle Jasek wouldn’t risk sending his support teams into. If more Lyran officers had that kind of guts — especially the sort needed for a Clanner to play for time, rather than a heroic death — and skill, they might not have lost Gallery in the first place..

Still, we're winning. They'd sectioned the camp, accounted for most of the Supernova Trinary stationed here, and —.

BattleMaster (Firing on the Cargo Docks - MWO version)

BattleMaster Assault 'Mech

"Contact left," Leutnant Shawcross called out. Her Battlemaster’s particle batteries lit off in the same moment, banishing Gallery’s twilight for an instant in blue-white strobes. The flat thunderclap of a Gauss shot riposted, shattering away armour low on the assault ‘Mech’s torso.

- and I figured hanging myself out as bait was going to get results, Jasek noted, swinging his Templar around. Four BattleMechs, a squad of battle armour; and led by a Clan-mod Victor. Everything the Wolves here had left, and aiming for the throat as their last throw of the dice. Just as planned.

“Blue Company, White Company, close the box,” Jasek ordered, smashing a Wraith suit out of the air with a particle bolt. Icons moved on his tactical display, collapsing inward around the Wolves, while Dunleavy and her squad traded laser beams and SRMs with the remaining Wraiths’ machine-gun fire.

"Keep your IFF transponders live, and watch your fire." he added, targeting computer painting potential weaknesses up and down the Victor. The last thing they needed right now was friendly fire, and that was all too possible in this kind of close-quarters brawl. “Shawcross, step out left!”

Nova-Black Hawk (On a building - MWO Version)

Black Hawk OmniMech

Beamfire and projectiles interlaced, tearing back and forth through tents, repair silos and buildings. A close range slugging match; the Clan machines had heavy firepower, but aside from the Victor, none of them were heavier than an old-style Black Hawk, and all visibly damaged already. His guard lance's lightest machine was an Eight-Delta Rifleman, fifteen tons heavier, and they were all but untouched.

Rifleman (Firing In Desert with Water - Miniature painted by Kazdok)

Rifleman Heavy 'Mech

Shawcross’ Battlemaster stepped aside, rounding on the Black Hawk, and for a moment Templar and Victor stood facing one another, an island of calm in the storm.

“I offer you hegira, Star Captain in recognition of an honourable foe.” Jasek sent over general address, keeping his machine loose and ready to move. It was worth a shot, even if he didn’t expect it to work; and the formalities had to be observed.

"I am Eltar, of the Vickers Bloodheritage," the Victor executed a neat, almost courtly bow; fitting to the quiet dignity of the Wolf warrior's voice. "And I regret I cannot accept your honourable offer, General Jasek. But, my duty compels me to fight to the finish."

“Understood,” Jasek replied, thumbing his targeting system to full-active, and drawing the aim-point to the Wolf machine’s hip. Disable if I can - a warrior this good deserved better than to be wasted for Alaric’s pride. “Battle it is, then.” With that, he fired.

Eltar was already moving, jumpjets flaring as they shoved the Victor sideways, fast enough that even the targeting computer couldn’t compensate fully. One of Jasek’s particle beams went wide, the lightning bolt grounding itself in a prefab hut; the other flaying away thigh armour in semi-molten composite.

The Victor staggered for a moment; nearly fell. Then it set itself, and returned fire.

Twin laser beams cut gem-bright lines across his Templar’s broad shoulders, one close enough to the low-slung cockpit to leave a black burn scar along the ferroglass panels. Streak-guided warheads burst up and down one leg, knee actuator flashing yellow and forcing Jasek to compensate for the sudden loss of stability; and the blur of a Gauss rifle slug snapped away the left arm medium laser like a twig in an Elemental’s battleclaw.

Taking a step back, Jasek locked everything that could range into his primary trigger, sliding the crosshairs over the Victor’s left hip. A wave of heat accompanied collimated lances of azure fire and a stabbing pale blue laser beam savaging the already-wounded armour there, punching deep wounds in the titanium bones beneath. Twin short-range missiles struck high on the torso, splintering armour just below the Victor’s missile launcher; a third went wide.

And the fourth hit home, shattering the hip joint. The Victor’s own weight finished the job, metal shearing, the unholy shriek lost in the deep thud of the ‘Mech’s collapse onto its back.

“Star Captain Eltar,” Jasek limped his Templar over to the downed Victor. The rest of the Wolves were down; the Black Hawk falling under a combined barrage of particle bolts and autocannon shells even as he watched. “I hereby claim you as my bondsman, and this staging ground as my isorla. Yield.” Don’t make me kill you, old man.

“I yield,” the Star Captain responded, voice slurred by pain. “I am transmitting the stand-down code for the turret defences now.”

“Thank you,” Jasek said the words with feeling as he summoned a casevac team; under strict terms, Eltar hadn’t had to do that, but it certainly made things a lot easier. “Dunleavy, keep an eye on the Star Captain until the medics get here. And don’t hurt him,” he added; Dunleavy was a good soldier, but the campaigns against the Jade Falcons had etched hate for the Clans deep in her, “he’s a Stormhammer now.”

Acknowledgement came back, and Jasek put it from his mind as he studied the tactical feeds. It didn’t seem like there was anything wrong, on the surface, but the lack of any Wolf regulars had him worried. They’d definitely been here, recently, and Alaric didn’t think in straight lines. He thought in curves; Jasek had found himself on the receiving end of that on Uhuru.

Mobile HQ Tank (Dave School MW) 2

Mobile HQ command vehicle

“Shield Six, this is Storm Six,” he brought up the link to Joss Vandel’s Mobile HQ. “Start moving the support teams in now. Cautious - some of the auto-turrets might not’ve gotten the shutdown signal - but fast as you can. I want recon elements out at least two klicks, and everyone not loading in defensive posture. Something feels wrong here, Joss, and I’m not getting caught with my shorts down again.”

“I’ll move the DropShips in too; give us a base of fire to work with, and cut down time for loading whatever we steal.” Vandel responded. “Recon screen’s going out now, but we need to keep our air assets close to landing sites; Met Section has what looks like another storm system building up fast, moving in from the south.”

“Send me the data.” Jasek brought up the maps on one of his secondary screens; south meant the storm would hit SG Beta - which the Wolf Hunters were in the middle of looting - first. And - damn, it really was a true Gallerian storm, enough to force VTOLs and lighter aerospace fighters to ground, and broad enough to cover the advance of half the Royal Guards -

He stopped, feeling a sudden chill. Yes, the storm front would hide a major force, and something like that was exactly how Alaric liked to play things.

“Joss, get me a link to Alpha Kerensky, now.” Jasek ordered. If I’m wrong, she’ll never let me hear the end of it. But he could live with mockery, given the alternative.

Alpha in the Field[]

Elsewhere on the Battlefields of Gallery

Anastasia Kerensky (Close Up - Dave School MW)

Anastasia Kerensky

“You sure about this, Kelswa?” Anastasia asked, running through the power-up sequence for her Savage Wolf’s combat systems at speed.

“Sure, no,” Jasek replied. The Steiner officer’s frown deepened. “But we haven’t run into any Wolf regulars, I’m assuming you haven’t either -”

“We haven’t,” Anastasia agreed, inwardly cursing and kicking herself for not seeing that sooner.

“And this is exactly the kind of thing Alaric would use,” Jasek finished. “Maybe he’s just not going to fight it out, but I’m done underestimating him.”

Anastasia nodded at that, studying topographical maps and her own memories. She’d paid close attention to Jasek’s work at SG Epsilon; pretty standard Lyran tactics, but competently executed for all that they weren’t subtle. That might lead Alaric to underestimate him - too much in love with his own cleverness, that one; even after she’d humbled him - the fact that Jasek was freeborn was certainly going to lower the Stormhammers in Alaric’s priorities. Which meant her Wolf Hunters were going to be hit first, and hit hardest.

Oh well. That was what they were paid for.

“Listen up, Hunters,” she called over general address. “It looks like Alaric Wolf’s coming out to spar with us - after we’ve made free with his stores.” She waited four long heartbeats. “Just like a Crusader to do everything backwards.” There were chuckles at that. “He’ll be swinging a mighty big hammer our way, and we’re not going to be there when it lands. Support teams and battlesuit squads, back on the DropShips and get ready to lift. Artillery, and -” she designated three of her Hunters; all piloting slower assault machines, a Warhammer IIc, Mangonel and Stalker, “hold position here. Everyone else, form lances, and we hunt.”

Swinging her Savage Wolf south, a Destroyer, Ocelot, and Bellona forming with her, Anastasia found herself smiling. Win, lose or draw, this was going to be interesting. And, speaking of that …

Madcat IV (Dave School MW) 2

Savage Wolf Heavy OmniMech (close up)

“Hunter Alpha to Skyfire Central, requesting designation for fire mission." Always best to plan for if things went wrong.

"Skyfire Central receiving you, Hunter Alpha," the Stormhammer FDC replied. "My board is clear; call the ball."

“Prep for fire on these coordinate.” Anastasia rattled off four map references, barely glancing at her map screen; these references she’d made sure to memorise. The locations of the four largest munitions and spare parts stockpiles her people hadn’t had the time to strip. “Cruise missiles if you have them; if not, then Long Toms - high-ex, cluster and incendiary, in that order. Firing command is misericorde.” Not a word likely to be used in casual comms chatter, and so perfect for what she had in mind.

“Fire mission locked and registered. Ready to go at your command, Alpha.”

“Thank you much, Skyfire.” Anastasia replied, as lightning crackled under the clouds to the south, followed a few moments later by the hollow boom of thunder. She laughed briefly; dramatic lighting, on top of everything else. It seemed the universe had a sense of humor after all.

Thoughts of a Clan Leader[]

Gallery was, Alaric Wolf had concluded after spending some time there, a world genuinely resentful of human occupation. And it baffled him as to why the Steiners maintained estates here. Unless it is out of stubbornness.

Though, he had to admit that there was a certain primal beauty to the storm-wracked perpetual twilight. From his Savage Wolf, now paused on a low rise, he could see clearly the flash of lightning casting blue-white shadows across the black underbelly of the clouds; rain, sleeting in at what seemed almost horizontal angles, glinted in the beams of vehicle headlights and ‘Mech searchlights. Thousands of tons of armoured fighting machines - tanks, hovercraft, and BattleMechs, the last with battlesuited infantry clinging to them like infant simians - grinding across ground rapidly transitioning to mud. At the edge of the forests, a Gallerian night boar - a huge, shaggy male, with tusks that looked like they could carve through Elemental armour - bellowed a challenge, but displayed enough association with good sense not to try charging the Mars assault tank rumbling past it.

Alaric smiled. He liked the beast's spirit, and while he hadn't found the time yet, it would be interesting to hunt one in the traditional manner; on foot, with spears. Dangerous, to be sure, but the danger was the point. Victory without some measure of personal risk to achieve it was hollow; that was why he'd used himself as bait for the trap that slew Thaddeus Marik.

His mother wouldn't approve, of course, but that just meant not telling her what he planned. The thought of Katherine Steiner-Davion soured Alaric’s good mood; it was past time for a reckoning between them, a reminder that he was not her pawn to be shoved around a board as she wished. And that his patience with her attempts to rule his life was rapidly coming to an end. That, above all else.

A tan-painted Jupiter Assault 'Mech with Zeta Galaxy markings joined him on the rise, the soft glow of a laser-link request at the center of Alaric’s comms board.
“Thinking deep thoughts, or just admiring the view?” Verena Wolf’s sharp-edged Arc-Royal accent didn’t hide the amusement in her voice, and it lifted some of the bleakness from Alaric’s thoughts.

Jupiter Assault 'Mech (Firing - In desert)

Jupiter Assault BattleMech firing it's weapons

“Something of both, actually,” Alaric replied, feeling a wistful cast to his emotions. He’d missed Verena; missed her far more than he’d realized. Having her around - for the first time in a long time, and he could see his mother’s hand in the series of orders that had kept Verena far from Gallery - made Alaric feel … not complete, not precisely, but as though he’d been without something so fundamental he’d only realized it was missing when it was restored. “I was thinking on the settling of accounts.”

“A fine thing, before battle,” Verena smiled, gesturing with one of the Jupiter’s fists. “But perhaps it is time to think less on it, and settle some of those accounts directly, quiaff?”

"Aff, that is so," Alaric agreed, instinctively falling into step with Verena's machine as,they rejoined the column. Just one of five such columns advancing under the storm’s cover; all of Beta Galaxy, and the half of Zeta that had landed less than a week ago. And neither Anastasia Kerensky or the Lyrans knew they were there. They might suspect - Kerensky was nobody’s fool; and for all his bullheadedness, Kelswa-Steiner could learn - but they didn’t know, and their need for haste was their enemy in finding out.

Falling into the familiar rhythm of marching gave Alaric more space to think, which wasn’t altogether a good thing. There were so many questions he’d found himself with of late; ones that he couldn’t answer, and Alaric was starting to understand some of the odder philosophical texts he’d heard of speaking about how being alone with yourself was a punishment. His feelings for Verena, for a start; “love” wasn’t something he truly understood, but the definitions he’d found from Spheroids - other than his mother, whose definition was far more self-serving - seemed to fit, and that unsettled him. Everything he’d been taught was that a trueborn Clan warrior wasn’t supposed to feel that kind of intense, personal closeness, and that left him with no-one to talk about it with; no-one who’d understand, at least.

Then there was his father. Not for the first time, Alaric regretted that he’d never been able to meet Victor Davion, that all he knew of him was from the writings and recollections of others. Some, he could put aside as mere hagiography; others, as character assassination by jealous, lesser souls - the Capellan histories had been particularly amusing there. His mother’s venomous remarks were rather less so; and the more Alaric learned about Victor, it seemed the less he understood him. How could a warrior who had commanded such power as Victor had, who could have ruled much of the Inner Sphere if he’d ever just reached out and taken it, be content - even happy - with a life little different from that of a mid-ranked laborer, as Victor apparently had been for the final decade of his life?

Alaric sighed, putting those thoughts to one side as he began sliding units into place. Maybe the purity of combat would help dispel some of his doubts.

Davion Reaction to King's Speech[]

Artillery fire screamed out of the sky, walking pillars of flame and earth and shattered trees across the leading edge of the Stormhammers’ advance. Submunitions lacerated armour plating; one - a freak hit on the ammo bays - disintegrated a Shandra in an orange-white globe of flame.

“Storm Six to all Stormhammer elements, push forward, now,” Jasek called, shoving his Templar’s throttle to full; shouldering aside a tree, sensors already painting hostile contacts. “Get in under the guns before they can retask. Sierra Lance, make for the ridgeline and take out their spotters,” he added, slamming twinned particle bolts into the chest of a Griffin IIC clearing the treeline ahead.

Stormhammer tanks and BattleMechs pounded forward, hammering into Wolf machines with beam fire, projectiles and missiles at close range. This was warfare at its most direct, two roughly even forces battering at each other with few or no options for maneuver - exactly the kind of battle that his instructors at the War College of Mars and the Nagelring had always taught Jasek to avoid, but sometimes you just didn't have a choice.

Hauptman Klein’s Barghest raced up the slope, mud splattering away from its steel paws as Klein strafed light-calibre particle bolts and laser pulses across the Clan spotters’ positions. Bounding forward on bursts of ion flame, the remainder of Sierra Lance - a Griffin and Rawhide - scattered inferno warheads from their multi-launchers along the ridgeline, burning cover away from the Wolf positions. Like demons rising from Hell, the angular forms of Black Wolf battlesuits swarmed up out of their positions and returned fire; one vanished in a snapping chain-detonation as a full-on PPC hit ignited their suit's reactive armour. The rest scattered, laserfire flashing out at the ‘Mechs.

The Clan Griffin's tactical missiles struck at Jasek’s Templar, fracturing armour layers across its chest, but the assault ‘Mech had been built to take that kind of punishment. He laid down another full salvo, particle cannon and lasers, and Michaela Freeman’s Atlas muscled in by his side. Lasers and autocannon shells joined the lightning bolts, stripping the last of the Griffin’s torso protection; heat sinks burst in gushes of coolant, ammunition and the heavy laser in the shoulder mount blew apart, and white flared on thermals as fractures shredded the engine shielding. Explosive bolts triggered, blowing the cockpit shield free ahead of the ejection seat climbing on thruster flare; the Clanner pilot evidently willing to chance the storm on their parafoil rather than stick it out.

“Keep moving.” Jasek suited actions to words, shouldering more trees aside. This was reckless, and he knew the Stormhammers were getting more and more strung out, and harder to command - especially with the jamming the Wolves were throwing out playing hell with long-range comms however many emitters his people found and destroyed - but there just wasn’t time to play things carefully. “Kerensky, situation report.”

Static filled the channel for a moment, before Anastasia’s response came back.

“Getting pretty sporty here, Steiner,” she replied, the scream of particle cannon underlying her words. "My people’s ships are getting ready to lift, then the rest of the Hunters’ll break out your way. I’ve got something personal to handle.”
"Acknowledged. My people are at CR -" Jasek paused to check, “Thirteen-Twenty. We’ll link up with your people soon as, and then-”

He didn't get a chance to finish before, bounding up again, Sierra Lance’s Griffin seemed to trip in midair. As it folded backwards, crashing to the ground - the shattered cockpit module telling of a lethal Gauss hit - contact reports exploded across the short-range net.

“- Juliets Five and Nine are down, me and Seven are damaged! Where the hell did they -”

“ Carstens, van Dijk, lay down fire left. We got two more incoming, out of the tunnels; they’re dropping Toads -”

Hell and damnation. How many troops does he bloody have? "Cancel that, Kerensky. We’ve got our own problems. Be back in touch as and when."

"Don't take too long if you want a shot at Alaric, Steiner."

Confident as always. Wish I could say the same. His Templar took the slope ahead at full speed, stepping into line with Klein’s Barghest, and giving Jasek a painfully clear view of just how bad the situation was.

And it was very bad indeed. Hidden by the storm and the jamming, what looked like the better part of two Clusters were pounding into his Stormhammers’ flanks, preceded by a rain of artillery missiles - launch flashes of more, almost certainly from Huitzilopotchis, visible under the clouds - as dozens of BattleMechs and tanks drove forward. The variety was almost as shocking as the numbers, the very presence of them - Jasek’s warbook flagged up modern and ancient Marik designs, the latest productions of the Wolves’ own armouries and machines that hadn’t been seen since the original Clan Invasion - and they didn’t show any sign of hesitation. Alaric must’ve cleared out their caches and stuffed everyone with both eyes who can fog a mirror into a cockpit, ran through Jasek’s mind as he levelled particle beams at a Warwolf Charlie wearing Star Captain’s insignia.

The Warwolf and its Starmates were game for a fight, it seemed, arrowing in for his command lance. Tactical missiles ripple-fired from its shoulder mounts, light range-enhanced warheads splintering armour all across the Templar while the heavy pulse laser clawed molten wounds low across its chest. He rode the loss of armour with practised skill, concentrating particle bolts on its already weakened torso.

Fast-cycling his particle cannon, Jasek found his breathing strained by the sudden wave of heat as more protection melted away over the Warwolf’s heart. Just a few more shots, he thought, willing the straining fusion core to build power faster.

Return fire tore deeper into his ‘Mech, high-yield warheads cracking open the armoured shell over his targeting computer and reducing the sophisticated machinery to a burnt-out wreck. Antoher burst within the Templar’s chest cavity, shrapnel clawing at the gyro housing; Jasek stumbled for a moment, struggling to regain balance as the stabilisers went out of synch.

Heat-induced sluggishness and the loss of the t-comp’s support made aiming a struggle, but Jasek forced the crosshairs into line, tying everything into his primary triggers. Laser beams, particle bolts and short-range missiles lashed out; missiles crumpling one of the Warwolf’s shoulder-launchers, one lightning bolt arcing low and chewing a bite out of the leg armour. The rest hit dead-on the centre-line, dumping enough energy into it to burn through what was left of the Wolf machine’s defences and turn the gyro to a river of semi-molten metal. The Clan machine took two steps before collapsing onto its front.

Slapping the emergency override button - cutting off the automatics’ attempts to shut the ‘Mech down - Jasek let the Templar cool. His lancemates were driving the lighter Clan machines back; a Mad Cat III crumpling under the autocannons of Leutnant Renfrew’s Rifleman while the rest fell back. That gave him time to read sight and tactical displays, and assess the situation facing the Stormhammers.

That was better than he'd feared, but not by much. The Wolves had pushed deep into the Stormhammers’ lines, and might be able to cut off and destroy the Archon’s Shield if they didn’t fall back and consolidate. Which in turn cut off any ability to get to the Wolf Hunters in time to do any damn good. We're going to lose too many people, even if we get away. Alaric has the devil's own damn luck! I…

Crackling static broke over his comms. "New contacts, repeat, new contacts bearing from southeast, through the storm! ‘Mechs and fast armour; looks like at least another Cluster"

The course would put them on the flank of the second Wolf force, which was not good news at all for the Stormhammers. Yet there was nothing Jasek could do but continue his fighting withdrawal and save what he might. Save my command. That's what this has come down too. Save my command and hope the weeks we've bought from what supplies we have torched is enough to save Tharkad. On his tactical display he watched the Wolves' reinforcements come up on their flanks…

…and tear right into them.

"Visual contact with new force! They're not Wolves!" another voice called out. "I can just make out the colors… Davion Guards! It's the First Davion Guards!"

They came through after all. "Alright Stormhammers, about face! The Davions are hitting them in the ribs, let's kick their jaws in!" With that order he set his troops back into the fight, taking pressure of his endangered battalion and the newly-arriving Davion 'Mechs and tanks.

Battle between a Wolf & Hunter[]

The storm's fury seemed determined to match that shown by Alaric's warriors and their foes, filling a sky choked by gray and black clouds with crackling lightning bolts every bit as luminescent as those generated by the PPCs employed on both sides. He left his warriors to their battles; he had one foe in mind, one enemy whom he was ready, finally, to face, and to defeat.

He found Anastasia Kerensky in a distorted mirror of his own Savage Wolf, armed with the typical configuration of Clan PPCs on the arms and SRM launchers with Streak capability in the pods above the shoulders, in contrast to his lasers and ATM launchers, and without his small pulse lasers for close-range bite. <<"Alaric Wolf.">> Her voice crackled over his comm speaker. << "You went to a lot of trouble bringing me to this storm-covered rock. That eager for another lesson in defeat?">>

"We have accounts to settle between us, you and I," he answered. "And,” he added harshly, “levity in matters of honour is unseemly for a warrior."

<<"Not a one for humor in combat, then?">> Anastasia replied, tone infuriatingly light. <<“That’s the difference between us, Wolf; when I make my kills, I’m always laughing. Still, bargained well and done. Let’s see what you’ve got.”?? The Savage Wolf seemed almost to strut forward, arrogance in every motion.

"Dezgra bitch," Verena hissed. "She dishonors that name."

"See to the others. This one is mine." He said the words in full confidence she would accept, albeit grudgingly. He watched her machine step away and set his into motion towards Anastasia.

Just as she fired her main weapons, he shifted his gait to the left. One of the PPC bolts crashed against his upper arm, nearly destroying the armor protecting the limb in a bright flash of particles and light. The other missed. Judging the range, he opened up with his arm mounted lasers and missile pods, the latter loaded with salvos of the extended range ATMs. The lasers flashed sapphire light through the stormy air between them, punctuated by the lightning crossing the sky above. Her maneuvers threw off both of his shots, much to his frustration, causing only minor armor scorching on one foot in the brief moment of laser contact. The missiles streaked past and around her, half the salvo striking home to blast armor from her torso and left arm.

A second exchange quickly followed, then a third. Sweat beaded on Alaric's forehead after a PPC bolt crashed against his armor, just a couple meters to the right of his cockpit. His systems warned his armor was becoming compromised on that side, but it was not yet showing failure. He could endure a few more strikes. He had to endure.

I will not let her beat me again! Despite the range not being quite optimal for them, Alaric keyed his missile launchers to draw upon the ton of HE warhead tactical missiles his 'Mech carried. Sacrificing range for a greater payload that hit harder than a standard SRM, they would be quite effective assuming he could land enough on Anastasia's 'Mech.

It was quite the assumption to make given her skill, with the first missile volley flying wide of her Savage Wolf after a last moment maneuver and turn threw off the missiles' targeting lock. Growling, Alaric triggered his lasers yet again, ignoring the growing heat buildup of his machine for the satisfaction of finally landing a solid blow, both lasers cutting through the upper right arm of Anastasia's machine until the limb, and its weapon, dangled uselessly at her side.

She twisted her machine and raised the other arm. The PPC blast lit up his cockpit and, for the barest moment, he thought she might just have killed him. His machine rocked from the impact of the bolt and a warning light showed a partial armor breach over the fusion engine. Her shot had come low.

He knew he would never get another. He set his crosshairs on her machine and squeezed a trigger. A sapphire beam lanced through the air and hit nothing, the other machine twisting and ducking to avoid him.

Just as I wanted! He re-aligned the crosshairs and his fingers hit every other trigger at his disposal.

At this extreme range, the pulse lasers still hit well enough to bore away some of the armor, but it was the large laser that did the bulk of the work, shearing off the remaining armor on the 'Mech's left leg. Twelve powerful tactical missiles billowed from his missile pods, their rockets driving them through the pounding rain and the lighting above towards their appointed target, on-board avionics controls responding to the targeting system and adjusting their course mid-flight. Two of them yet flew wide, hitting the ground beyond, but ten struck Anastasia's machine straight on, blasting away chunks of armor across her body.

Save the three missiles that hit the Savage Wolf's damaged leg. The armor there was too thin to resist them. Explosions sent burning myomer and electronic cabling into the air instead. The leg crumpled, and down the 'Mech went.

Alaric struck quickly, closing and firing his lasers into her remaining arm as Anastasia struggled to right her 'Mech. Sapphire scalpels sliced away armor and myomer and the steel bones beneath, at which point the limb snapped just above the elbow. The mangled Savage Wolf collapsed, and could provide no resistance as Alaric finished disarming the machine. He stomped up in his 'Mech and leveled his arms on the cockpit. "You are beaten, Anastasia Kerensky. Now yield."

Within her toppled, helpless machine, Anastasia frowned at herself. So here I am. He's gotten better than I expected. Well, better see to it. "Skyfire Central, misericorde. I repeat, misericorde. Fire and get the hell out of here."

"Confirmed, Hunter Alpha."

She switched to the general address frequency. As her finger wrapped on the switch she considered refusing. After all she'd done to Alaric before, when he was under her power, she could expect no better. Perhaps even worse.

But so long as I am alive, I may have a chance to fight again. He'll have need of strong warriors.

She triggered the switch. "I yield, Alaric Wolf." She triggered her machine's shutdown sequence, watching through the rain-spattered canopy of her cockpit at the looming shape of Alaric's Savage Wolf. "The tables have truly turned. You have come far."

Alaric slipped his fingers away from the firing triggers on his control joysticks. She will seek to be one of my warriors, and she may even attain that soon enough. We have need of them. "I have farther still to go."

"Galaxy Commander, Staging Grounds Delta, Zeta, Eta, and Theta have all been hit by heavy artillery fire. I am afraid we've lost over ninety percent of the supplies in each."

Alaric smiled grimly at the news. "See to whatever wounded are on site, and recover what you can. All forces, continue engagement, drive the enemy before you." He swapped back to the general channel. "Even in defeat, you seek to vex me. You had my remaining supply posts in this region under artillery targeting the entire time."

<<"I came to do a job, Alaric. And when I give my word, I see it through to the end. That is my honour. Will you accept it for what it is, or is yours cheap enough that you’re going to kill me after all?">>

"I will gladly do the honors!" Verena offered hotly.

"No. You are my bondswoman, and you will not escape your service to the true Clan Wolf that easily, Anastasia Kerensky," Alaric answered. "You will be of use for the campaign to capture Tharkad."

<<"You figure you can afford the Foxes' rates? Or that they'll have a fire sale of sorts? You lost enough munitions to keep two Galaxies fighting for a month!">>

"We may buy some replenishment from them, but we will not require much. By this summer, Tharkad will be the latest prize of the Wolf Clan. And you will be there to see it."

Reunion of between Steiner and Davion[]

Jasek met Julian Davion in the twin shadows of Himmelstor and Markesan Pride. Eventually, he knew - assuming the Commonwealth survived - some jackass was going to paint this meeting, and they were inevitably going to pretty it up; putting him and Julian in full regimentals rather than the shared uniform of shorts and battledress jackets over cooling vests. Probably cleaning up the damage and battle scars on their twinned Templars - one in blue and silver, the other Davion’s personal crimson and gold - as well. Julian had the look of someone still adjusting to being under gravity again after a long voyage by JumpShip. Given he's come across half the Inner Sphere, I can't be surprised. "Well, Julian. It’s been a while, and I’m damn glad to see you. Gladder that you managed to get here in time."

"Eight years since Terra, and we’re neither of us who we were then." Julian nodded, his blond hair still matted down from the neurohelmet he'd just so recently removed. "Responsibility looks like it’s done you good, Jasek. As for getting here in time, well,” he offered a soft, self-deprecatory smile, “Admiral Moon has a very skilled staff engineer. And one day, if I’m lucky, she may be willing to speak to me again. Most of the Guards are still on their way to Tharkad, but I’ve got enough of our naval escorts here to keep the Wolves from getting any ideas."

"It's about time something broke our way," Jasek half-snarled. "We'd heard Zeta Galaxy was held up by sabotage to their JumpShips, but we've identified at least half of their clusters among Alaric's troops here. We already knew this whole damn thing was a trap, but even that caught us by surprise. And now…" He shook his head. " we've lost Anastasia Kerensky on top of everything else. She was the one thing keeping the Wolves on their toes. They've got nothing to worry about before hitting Tharkad."

"It's a loss, but it could have been worse - it could've been a lot worse, and we both know that,” Julian replied, in an unshakeably reasonable tone, “and we've bought some time with all the supplies we hit."

"Not anywhere near enough damage, going by our people we pulled out of the tunnels.” Jasek forced himself to stay calm, and not shout, however frustrating Davion’s calm facade was right now. “They've been watching the Wolves since we had to leave them behind, and going by their counts, we've only inconvenienced them. Maybe cost them a month or two at most. And we don't have time to go after Alaric's other caches, not if he's got Zeta Galaxy on hand too." Getting his frustrations out helped, but ultimately it left him facing them regardless. "Well, we do what we have to, and right now that's getting the hell out of here and back to Tharkad." Jasek extended a hand. "Thanks again for showing up. And, on behalf of the Lyran Commonwealth, welcome to our war, Marshal Davion."

Julian accepted the hand without hesitation. "Proud to be here."

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