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Fighting Uphill (Chapter Cover Art)

Fighting Uphill - Chapter 23[]

The Big Bug Problem[]

Fighting the Swarm[]

3rd January, 3015
Lyran Commonwealth

The planet Kobe had first been settled in the early twenty fifth century. That first colony had failed under mysterious circumstances due to the planet not being a regular stop for jumpships. The Lyran Commonwealth had colonized the planet again during the Star League, using the Star League's advanced terraforming techniques to turn the planet into a verdant garden world. Then shortly after Kerensky and the SLDF had left the Inner Sphere, the then current inhabitants of Kobe had discovered what happened to the first colony; the planet underwent a series of massive volcanic eruptions that pumped so much ash into the atmosphere that plunged the planet into nuclear winder and rendered three out of five continents uninhabitable. This second time, the colony managed to survive despite the Succession Wars going on all around it and sometimes on it.

Volcanic eruptions and perpetual winters were the least of Natasha's problems, despite Kobe entering a new eruptive phase. Although when she had a moment to think, having lava flows on her right and still frozen glacier walls only bare hundreds of meters to her left made for some interesting scenery... and tactical challenges. Natasha was watching the top of the glacier wall as she led her Black Widow Battalion up the narrow land gap between magna and ice.

Marauder C (underfire)

Natasha Kerensky's Marauder firing it's weapons

A battalion of Draconis Wasps appeared at the top of the glacier. These were new ones, their armor still pristine. Natasha fired both PPCs and her Gauss Rifle simultaneously at three different Wasp. She got three hits, Natasha was just that good, but only the Gauss Rifle killed a Wasp with a center torso strike that smashed its engines. The PPCs ripped off arms and side torsos, but didn't outright kill their targets. That was done by the rest of Natasha's battalion as they also opened fire on the Wasp. Most of them weren't as good as Natasha; a few shots missed.

In reply, the Wasp rained down a flurry of Light PPC fire and Medium Range Missile salvos. Their aim was atrocious even by Inner Sphere standards, but they still got plenty of hits in. The damage done wasn't much by itself, but that was the fifth such attack and the damage was adding up, and that was the third fresh Wasp battalion to strike at Natasha's battalion

Half the Wasp survived long enough to retreat from the edge. One had actually gotten too close to the edge in its eagerness to shoot Dragoons, and the ice crumbled beneath it, sending it tumbling down to rocky floor. The Wasp hit the hard basalt ground head first, crushing its head and the cockpit flat. And just to make sure there was no question as to the mechwarrior's survival, the nearly full MRM ammo bin stored in its head exploded.

Natasha shook her head as her Marauder continued its way up the volcano's slope. These Kuritan mechwarriors were certainly brave, but skilled they were not. How many of these guys did the DCMS have? The Dragoons had skirmished a few times with Kuritan line units in the Free Worlds League but never any of their larger units and certainly had never seen any of their nigh legendary "bug swarms".

Until now.

Natasha had stepped down from training Dragoon recruits and moved back into a line regiment so she could fight real enemies again. Her new battalion command was now the Black Widow battalion because Natasha herself was the Black Widow; the name traveled with Natasha and became the name of whatever command Natasha was given.

What Natasha hadn't expected to do and found less than satisfying was playing a game of Inner Sphere whack-a-mole with the Draconis Combine's equivalent of sibko units.

But she was finally approaching the collapsed section of glacier that had a slope gentle enough to let her battalion get on top of the glacier. Finally, Natasha could get at all the little green surats sniping at her battalion. This extremely roundabout detour was seriously making Natasha question her previous stance on favoring firepower over jump jet mobility.

"Major." Higgins, one of Natasha's scout mech pilots called. He had an Active Probe. "I'm showing lots of fusion signatures waiting for us on top of the glacier. At least a battalion, maybe more."

"Right then." Natasha replied. "Able, form up on me at the bottom of the slope. Bravo, for up behind able. Charlie, split up and cover our flanks. We go up together on my mark."

After the companies formed up in the order Natasha had specified, they charged up the slope as a unit. There was indeed more than a battalion of Kuritan mechs waiting for them. There was a regiment, waiting just outside of weapons range. That gave Natasha and the Black Widows pause.

In the center was a mixed battalion of mechs ranging from lights all the way to assaults formed up in a line; the lightest of them were Panthers and Jenners. All of them were pristine and undamaged unlike Natasha's Black Widows. Flanking the center on both sides and forming a horseshoe formation around the Dragoons were two battalions of Wasps, all of them damaged, some heavily so; clearly these were the survivors of the whack-a-mole attacks on Natasha's battalion.

Jenner Light BattleMech (Farseer Animation)

Jenner Light BattleMech

A Hatamoto gestured with its arms, drawing Natasha's attention.

"Mercenaries, you have fought well and honorably." a male voice spoke over the open frequency. "But now you face not just my training cadres, but Chu-sa Michael Bergin and the 51st​ Rasalhague Regulars. You have no chance of victory."

Finally, Natasha thought eagerly. A real fight!

"You are correct, Chu-sa Bergin." Natasha replied over the open frequency. "We have no chance of victory." Natasha pushed her mech into a run towards Bergin and her Black Widows followed. "We have total certainty of victory!"

Persistent Recruits[]

"Black Widow to Wolf Command." Jaime heard over the Alpha Regiment's command channel as he led Alpha Regiment's Able and Beta Battalions through Kobe's snowscape. His other regiments were securing other objectives on the continent against possible attack. "Geothermal tap secured. We took out one battalion of Rasalhague Regulars and at least a regiment of bugs. My battalion has heavy damage but only five mechs down and no deaths. Will call Lyran support for transport for my warriors and dozen prisoners before they freeze to death up here."

"Wolf Actual to Black Widow, acknowledged." Jaime replied. "Let us know if more enemy units come your way." Because of course, there was no way Natasha was going to admit that she could not fend off an attack nor would she call for help even if she needed it. Also, best to end the call before Natasha realized what Jaime was really saying and gave him an earful. "Wolf Actual out."

Then Jaime crested a ridge and realized that Natasha was unlikely going to be attacked by more Kuritans. The entire plain before him was swarming with Combine mechs, mostly Wasps; but there were a substantial number of other "bug" mechs down there as well such as Locusts and Stingers that were mobbing the survivors of the Lyran regiment Jaime had come to relieve. Overseeing the bug swarm were two battalions of heavier mechs of the Rasalhague Regulars who were also firing on the Lyrans. Between what the Lyrans had estimated the size of the Kuritan force to be and Natasha's report, Jaime had to be looking at the rest of the Kuritan raid.

It was the perfect target for orbital bombardment. Except that due to the thick ash clouds created by Kobe's latest round of volcanic activity, none of the Lyran Monitors and Dragoon Warships left in orbit could see a thing happening on the ground. The ash clouds actually made for a hard shield against naval laser bombardment!

Kuritan raiding into Lyran space had been picking up over the past year as the Combine's transport fleet and logistical trains reorganized and redeployed from supplying Anton Marik's bid for the Captain-Generalship to supporting offensive operations on the Combine's own borders. Realizing what was coming, the Lyrans had also been redeploying more forces along their Combine border, and the Archon herself had decided that Kobe would make a suitable base for the Dragoons to operate out of. When the Dragoons had finally arrived at Kobe, they found the planet already under attack by a Combine "raid".

Despite its periodic vulcanism and resulting nuclear winters, Kobe had a substantial built up industry that supported Lyran military operations on their Combine border. The Combine wanted Kobe so it could support their offensives into the Commonwealth. Thus it was absolutely imperative that the Lyrans hold on to Kobe, and they had through three Succession Wars despite at times the Combine holding every system within a jump of Kobe.

One regiment of Rasalhague Regulars. Three regiments of Kuritan "training cadres". This was considered a "raid" by the Draconis Combine. And they had the defending Lyran regiment on the ropes.

Wasp (Pickledtezcat version)

Wasp BattleMech

As Jaime watched, a Lyran Atlas missing one arm swiped a Wasp with its remaining other arm. The hit connected, sheering off the Wasp's gun arm. But rather than reeling back from the blow, the Wasp pilot used his mech's remaining arm to embrace the Atlas' arm and hang on for dear life. The Atlas pulled back, or tried to, and practically lifted the Wasp off the ground as the Atlas wriggled its arm in an attempt to shake the bug mech off. Meanwhile, three more Wasps were pouring MRMs into the Atlas already damaged side at short range.

This all took place in an instant. And in that same instant, Jaime assessed the situation, calculated the odds, and came up with the most brilliant tactical solution that he could under the circumstances.

"Dragoons! CHARGE!!!" Jaime ordered, running his mech forward and firing his medium lasers into the clingy Wasp's back. Given the target rich environment, he was going to need to conserve his missiles for targets that actually needed them.

Jaime had a feeling that he was going to be doing a lot of this for the next four and half years.

Reflection of things to Come[]

"Does this sort of thing happen often?" Major Joshua Wolf asked the Dragoon's LCAF liason officer as they watched the recording of one of the day's battles.

"Not recently when the Marik Civil War was still going on." replied Kommandant Sam Decker. Decker was an old crusty sort. If he had been a Clanner, he likely would have been assigned to a Solahma unit ages ago. In the Inner Sphere, he should have been able to achieve a flag rank by now on seniority alone. Instead, despite being arguably the most experienced and competent Lyran officer on the planet, he was only a junior staff officer – his mech piloting days quite a few years behind him – for the much younger and more clueless Hauptman-General that was Kobe's Lyran garrison commander.

The Wasp pilots might have been unskilled, but they were brave and persistent. Joshua spotted one Wasp in the distance missing an arm and leg, using one of its dead comrades as a back rest so it could sit up and shoot its light weight PPC and MRM launcher as fast as its weapons could cycle. Joshua couldn't tell who the Wasp was shooting at, but it was certainly enthusiastic. And then a Lyran artillery cannon blew it and its pilot into smithereens.

According to Decker, the Kuritan Wasp pilots were freshly recruited mechwarriors with barely enough training to pilot their mechs and shoot straight. Any of them that survived to return well and had acquitted themselves well – which basically amounted to fearlessly following orders from proper DCMS officers and not doing anything obviously cowardly - on the battlefield would be inducted into one of the Combine's military academies and made a proper mechwarrior.

"But yeah, fifteen years ago?" Decker continued. "This would have been considered a small raid. Mark my words, Major, the Dracs are still ramping up. Sooner or later, they're gonna get serious about taking Kobe and the other systems in our area of operation."

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