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Fighting Uphill (Chapter Cover Art)

Fighting Uphill - Chapter 16[]


* Victory​ *[]

Fighting Above the Clouds[]

1st August, 3013
Helm
Free Worlds League


The Lyran and joint Capellan/League fleets had broken off from each other. The Lyrans had slightly more Monitors, and the Capellans/League had more, smaller assault Dropships, many armed with sub-capital weaponry. The fleets had made several high speed passes at each other, a technique that helped neutralize the range advantage of capital weaponry by simply crossing that range advantage so fast that capital weaponry simply didn't have time to fire more than once before lesser ranged weapons could be brought to bear, and inertia would simply carry the fleets apart before their weapons had time to cycle and be ready to fire again. At those speeds, the Dropships' engines simply had to spend several minutes just to kill their velocity before they could even turn around and start accelerating to make another pass at each other.

As a result, there were a lot of very damaged Dropships and Monitors in orbit of Helm now, clustered in two fleets that were separated by ten thousand kilometers. They watched each other for signs of another pass attempt, or worse, moving into low orbit to provide fire support to their respective ground forces. But no one moved to do either, more concerned at present with patching battle damage, a tacit unspoken truce that had become common practice for space forces in the Inner Sphere after the destruction of the Successor States' Warship fleets during the first two Succession Wars.

If one side had actually had an overwhelming force advantage, no doubt the space battle would have been pressed to a definite victory. Of course, if one side really had an overwhelming advantage, the weaker force would probably have cut and run barring the need to defend a truly vital location such as a capital world or a major industrial hub.

But here and now, the sides were close enough to evenly matched that no one wanted to press on to a Pyrrhic victory where they would end up with only the last few barely operational broken hulks. The Succession Wars had impressed a tradition of preserving ships for future conflicts onto the space naval traditions of the Inner Sphere. As long as it looked like that no one could get into a position to provide orbital bombardment to their respective ground army, the fleet commanders were content to sit back and watch.

Thus, the Battle of Helm was going to be decided on the ground.


Dragoons on the the Prowl


Spheroid Dropships weren't meant to fly sideways in atmosphere. That was what aerodyne Dropships with their streamlined hulls and aerodynamic wings and control surfaces were for. Spheroid Dropships were bulk transports, trading away atmospheric maneuverability for volume efficiency; they came straight down from space and went straight up to space.

DropShip

Wolf's Dragoons dropship hovering

But just because Spheroid Dropships weren't meant to fly sideways in atmosphere didn't mean they couldn't. They flew purely by balancing on the exhaust of their main engines, and with a slight tilt of the engine's direction and some puffs of their RCS thrusters, they could move sideways in much the same way as a helicopter could. Only the Dropships were using fusion powered rockets instead of rotors.

The great danger of course was that any loss of balance would result in the main thrusters pointed in a direction that would not keep the Spheroid Dropship aloft, resulting in an uncontrolled crash. Enemy weapons fire could cause that unbalance, which was why the Dragoon Dropships were studiously staying away from anyone who might shoot at them. This was why the aerodyne Dropship was the preferred platform for moving forces around a planet; they could use their aerodynamic bodies and lifting surfaces to help them stay in control when struck by weapons fire. Unfortunately, there weren't enough aerodynes in Candace's and Duncan's joint fleet to move four regiments of mechs, but the Dragoon's Dropship pilots were as well trained as any Clan warrior, and pulled off a low altitude sideways flight flawlessly.

The reason the Dragoons Dropships flew at low altitude instead of going the safer route of just flying up into space and then coming back down again was because the Lyran fleet in orbit might decide taking them out when they broke atmosphere was worth the damage of another space battle. Which meant the "safer" route wasn't really safer.

If anyone looked down from orbit, they'd see a long curving black line of burned vegetation and rising smoke arcing around the Donegal Guards' line of advance. The twenty one Spheroid Dropships needed to move four regiments of mechs put out a lot of exhaust, and flying horizontally at low altitude started quite the prairie across the local rolling hills grassland biome. Luckily, local winds were pushing the fires away from Star League cache and Capellan/League positions.

"Capellan Command, this is Wolf Actual." Jaime called as the last of his mechs hit the ground. "Dragoons are deployed and will be moving out shortly. Any route suggestions?"

"Wolf Actual, this is Capella Actual." Candice replied instantly. "Enemy deployments appear to be unchanged. They don't appear to have noticed your move, although I have no idea how they missed three Overlords and eighteen Unions moving around their flanks. Maybe their leadership is made up of these 'Social Generals' that I've heard so much about and they just ignored their scouts' reports."

"We can only hope." Jaime replied. He had heard about them too, although Jaime had trouble imagining how a Successor State could let its armed forces be run by incompetents and still continue to exist after a couple hundred years of unending warfare.

"I'll let you know if the Lyrans start moving any forces your way." Candace informed him. "I'll signal our main body to attack so that we hit their front as close to you hitting their rear as I can manage." She sighed audibly. "I'd prefer to just keep doing the harassment campaign, but the Donegal Guard will hit our base camp before we can seriously whittle down their numbers. Blake be with you, Colonel Wolf. Capella Actual out."


About LCDS Leonardo, Great Tortoise Class Assault DropShip


Leutnant-General Malcolm Fisher felt like a god.

Fisher sat in his acceleration couch on the bridge of the LCDS Leonardo, one of the LCAF's first Great Tortoise "Assault Dropships" watching the unfolding battle on a full blown holotable, a luxury most field commanders never got unless they decided to hide in their Dropships instead of leading from the front like field army commanders were supposed to. But the Leonardo and its brothers were battlemechs as well as Dropships, so they could walk with the field army and participate in battles directly beyond just handing out orders.

Holotank

Holotank

Case in point, there were distant whumps of the Leonardo's firing another Arrow IV counterbattery volley at Capellan mechs that had fired their own Arrow IV Artillery Missile launchers at Fisher's people. They'd probably miss what with mechs being difficult artillery targets at long range, but that didn't bother Fisher too much. The Liao and Marik forces were clearly afraid to engage Fisher's army and his Great Tortoises directly.

There was some distant clanging as the enemy Arrow missiles impacted on the Leonardo directly. They knocked off a few tons of armor plating, but the damage was utterly trivial compared to the one hundred and eighty tons of armor the Leonardo already carried.

There was only one thing that bothered Fisher about the Leonardo, and it was that he couldn't pilot the walking Dropship himself. Sure, Fisher had bought his high rank like a good Lyran general, but he was a trained mechwarrior still. Sadly, he was too high ranked to be a mere Dropship pilot, even for a Dropship that could walk, especially since it was his job to run the battle.

"Sir, mechs spotted coming from our rear." a report came in. "It looks like those Dropships were really carrying mechs. Scouts report at least two regiments, probably more behind them."

Fisher studied the holographic battlemap as it was updated with red enemy icons located behind his army. Most of his army was in front of his Great Tortoises. Even the supporting artillery vehicles were in front or even between the Tortoises so that the Tortoises great bulk didn't block their lines of fire. It was all very much according to the SOP manuals written by the Lyran High Command. But the SOP was stupid, in Fisher's opinion. High Command seemed to think the Great Tortoises could be threatened by mere battlemechs!

"Sir, scouts have identified the mechs in our rear as Wolf's Dragoons."

Wolf's Dragoons? Everyone thought the Dragoons were scouting the Inner Sphere for the return of Kerensky's Army. Even if that were true, Fisher thought, What did it matter? Everyone went on and on about the lost glories of the Star League, but the Star League had never built anything like the Great Tortoise! What did Fisher care if Kerensky's Army was returning? The Lyran Commonwealth had obviously grown well beyond them and was destined to conquer the whole of the Inner Sphere.

"Let them come." Fisher said carelessly. "we will destroy them when they come into range."

"Uh, sir, that many mechs could destroy the Great Tortoises. Shouldn't we move some forces to blunt their attack?"

"Destroy us?" Fisher laughed. "In our moment of triumph? I think you overestimate their chances."

"Sir! Marik regiments have started just engaged our vanguard and flanking regiments!", man reported

"Well, it's about time." Fisher said, not noticing or caring about the significance of all his conventional regiments being hit simultaneously. "No Capellans?"

"Uh, some Capellans, but not as many as we expected."

"Ah, of course." Fisher said knowingly. "They're using the Mariks to take the brunt of the casualties, just like everyone else." He heard an odd noise, like the patter of rain. It was growing in volume and frequency "What's that sound?"


Marik Front


Duncan winced as he watched an Oriente Hussar Awesome disintegrate from being struck by four Long Tom artillery shells at once. Instead of spreading its fire out, the nearest Great Tortoise to Duncan was focusing the four Long Tom Artillery cannons it had on this side of its hull to snipe and instantly kill individual mechs. An assault mech could survive one, maybe two such strikes, but not four.

Candace's Cyclops was clad in special ballistic reinforced armor that was especially good at shrugging off this kind of artillery strike, but Duncan doubted the Cyclop could stand up to even that much firepower, and even if it did, he doubted it would be in fighting condition afterwards. The only reason Duncan and Candace hadn't been hit yet was because the Great Tortoise had a wealth of assault class targets to choose from.

Cyclop (In Mountain Valley by Philbobagginzzz)

Cyclops Assault BattleMech

And also because Duncan was running Candace's Cyclops back and forth across their rear line like a chicken with its head cut off, dodging and weaving all the while in an effort to make them as hard to hit as possible.

Demolisher (in spring bobthedino)

Demolisher Assault Tank

"Third Kearny, move to grid E4 and plug the growing hole in our line." Candace ordered. "One thirty fourth Marik, watch your left. Demolisher tanks are trying to flank you. Third Oriente.."

Candace had been giving out orders almost non-stop since the main body had engaged the enemy, and Duncan had lost track of what was going on. He was just too busy dodging enemy fire and firing at any enemies that presented itself, and occasionally lending aid to a fellow League soldier in trouble to even glance at his own battle map display.

Duncan weaved suddenly to the left, spotting a golden opportunity. That brought his weapons to bear on the back of a Demolisher that was turning in place trying to nail the annoying little twenty ton Locust circling its feet. An alpha strike from the Cyclops blew through the Demolisher's rear armor and sent it crashing to the ground.

Locust (on the Run - by Marco Mazzoni)

Locust running

At the same instant, four artillery shells obliterated the patch of ground behind Duncan and Candace. That rattled Duncan and Candace, but their mech had been on the fringes of the barrage instead of ground zero, so the Cyclop had only lost a little armor. It also meant the Great Tortoise was targeting them now. Crap.

Duncan was turning on one foot to start sprinting in a new direction when the entire battlefield was rocked by a truly massive explosion. A fireball rose from the far side of the nearest Great Tortoise and it seemed to slump over, its guns falling silent.

"That's one Great Tortoise down!" Candace announced, and general cheering came back over the general tactical net. "Now, if only..."

Another battlefield rocking rocking explosion happened and another Great Tortoise slumped over.


Surveying the Battlefield


Colonel Jaime Wolf stood on a small rise, looking over the remains of four Great Tortoises with satisfaction. His regiments had taken quite a bit of damage from those artillery cannons, especially since he packed them in nearly shoulder to shoulder in order to get the maximum amount of firepower into the smallest amount of space to burn through that thick rear armor as fast as possible. But he suspected that his people would have taken far more damage if they had been properly spread out to minimize area of effect artillery damage and thus wouldn't have been able to achieve the same concentration of firepower and achieve such a quick burn through.

Even so, the Great Tortoises had gone down faster than Jaime had expected once their armor had been breached. The cause was clearly an internal ammo explosion for all four Tortoises, so it probably wasn't because the Dragoons got lucky. Was it because of a weakness in the design that might be corrected at a later date or by a newer walking Dropship design? Hopefully, Candace and Duncan would share the engineering reports after their people examined the Tortoises' remains.

The other thought running through Jaime's mind was that there was no way anyone back home was going to believe him about these Great Tortoises, even with the battle ROMs to prove it.


The Victory Celebration


Night was falling. Duncan assisted Candace out her Cyclops to the sound of cheering crowds below them. Capellan and League soldiers alike were mixed together, celebrating an amazing victory.

The destruction of their Great Tortoises had broken the Donegal Guards' morale. Oh, they had fought for a few hours more, but it had been a disorganized fighting retreat, which was not helped by the Dragoon regiments standing right in their way. Eventually, the ranking Lyran officer had negotiated a truce and safe passage out for her remaining troops, which was about half of what the Donegal Guard had landed with, not counting the Great Tortoises.

Duncan and Candace had accepted. Between Candace's battle management and the Lyrans' morale breaking, their forces had come out of the battle with far fewer casualties than they had expected going in, and they wanted to keep it that way.

Now they just had to figure out how to get everything in the Star League cache out and take it all home before someone else showed up to try to steal it all.

But for now, it was time to celebrate.

Duncan didn't have a megaphone or mic connected to loudspeakers to make himself heard to the crowd. But he and Candace were on the highest catwalk of a mobile field base, under an open sky, and illuminated by the mobile field base's spotlights in full view of just about their entire combined armies. It was the perfect stage, and Duncan's instincts for the dramatic took over.

Taking Candace's hand in his own, he raised it high above their heads. Everyone could see and understand what it meant: Victory! The crowd roared in approval.

Unfamiliar laughter drew Duncan's attention. He looked to see Candace's face very close to his, smiling and laughing. She was the happiest he had ever seen her. In a moment of impulse, Duncan brought his hand down, wrapped the arm around Candace's waist to pull her even closer, and placed his lips on hers.

Candace stiffened in surprise. And remained that way. The crowd below grew quiet.

Duncan lifted his head to see shock on Candace's face.

"What is it?" Duncan asked, worried. "What's wrong?"

"I..." Candace said, searching for words. "I'm surprised. I don't think you've ever kissed me before."

"I haven't?" Duncan asked surprised. His mind went back over all the years they had known each other. They've held hands, sometimes hugged each other, but he couldn't recall a single instance of them kissing, not even in private. "Why, so I haven't. How have we not kissed before?"

"I... I don't know," Candace said slowly, hesitantly. She put her own fingers to her lips, as if savoring an unfamiliar taste. A slow, almost shy smile crept back onto Candace's face. "But you know what, Duncan? I think I actually like it."

Before Duncan could respond, Candace threw her arms around his shoulders and kissed him back, this time her body melting into his. The crowd resumed cheering, louder than before, and this time for an entirely different victory.


Elsewhere in the Free Worlds League[]

15th August, 3013
Oriente System
Free Worlds League


Oriente's sun was classed as an F2III, a white giant as stars went. In practical terms, that meant it took damn near nineteen days to travel from its jump point to the planet Oriente. That was enough time for Hanse's jumpships to recharge twice and make good progress on a third charge, and Hanse Davion had considered using a local pirate point to cut down his fleet's transit time.

But no, pirate points were a bad idea. Even leaving the safe jump navigation issues aside, trying to squeeze his entire fleet through a tiny pirate point would still be suicide. The jumpships would have to go in one at a time, be easily spotted by whatever orbital defenders Candace Liao had left behind, and then be eaten for lunch as Hanse's forces would be defeated in detail as they jumped in one at a time.

Hanse would have sworn that Oriente's biggest defense from raiders was just bloody long it took to just reach the planet. Of course, that also meant it'd take any relief force jumping into the system just as long to reach the planet, and none had shown up yet as far as his people could tell.

But now Hanse was just a few hours out from Oriente and could finally get to work.


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