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Fighting Uphill (Chapter Cover Art)

Chapter 5 - Fighting Uphill[]

* First Report *[]

Deep Space Rendezvous[]

22 May 3009
Deep Periphery

"...hardest thing about fighting Inner Sphere forces was that we could never tell ahead of time what they might be carrying." Colonel Jaime was saying. "I have lost count of how many times my warriors were surprised by this or that new wrinkle of Inner Sphere technology and had to adjust their tactics on the fly. Even when we did know, our estimations of their capabilities would often be wildly off because even a term as simple as "Medium Pulse Laser" covers a broad variety of weapons whose quality ranges from the original Star League version to one-off, handcrafted models that approach our own Medium Pulse Lasers in terms of performance and everything in between. Perhaps the worst was these 'sub-capital' weapons that let Dropships threaten Warships."

Aegis Class Heavy Cruiser (3D by psicore)


"I can see that." murmured Khan Kerlin Ward of the Wolf Clan as he examined the hologram of the Alexander as it was being worked on by a Newgrange mobile yardship. Even with the patch job the Newgrange's crew were doing to repair the worst of the armor breaches, the scars from its battle over New Aragon were still plainly obvious. That had been the only engagement the heavy cruiser had fought in the Inner Sphere, and it was clear that it wouldn't survive a second similar engagement without a full armor belt replacement. "And you said Dropships alone did this?"

Newgarge Yardship (by R Valle) Remix

Newgarge Class Yardship

"Aff, my Khan," Jaime confirmed. "From what we have been able to gather, the Great Houses no longer use proper Warships offensively. At best, they use Potemkin-style Dropship carriers to move forces en masse, but keep them away from direct combat as much as they can. Proper Warships are simply too hard to replace compared to swarms of Dropships armed with sub-capital weaponry and capital missiles. We have even heard rumors that there are Dropships in the eighty to one hundred thousand ton range that carry heavy armor and true capital energy and ballistic weaponry, but we haven't seen those. The Inner Sphere call those 'monitors'."

"Obviously, we will replace your losses." Kerlin told him, wondering how much of a threat these 'monitors' would be to the Clans' Warships, and just how many the Inner Sphere had to throw at a Clan invasion force. "You will need more aerospace assets of course. I believe it will be faster to pull more Warships out of mothballs than it would be to repair the damage to your existing Warships."

"My Khan, that... might not be a good idea." Jaime said hesitantly. "The Inner Sphere already knows that we are descended from Kerensky's Exodus. New people and replacement mechs, fighters, and even assault Dropships we can explain away as private acquisitions. But if the Dragoons show up with replacement Warships, the House Lords will certainly conclude that we have official support and that we are agents of the SLDF-In-Exile sent to spy on them. I think House Davion already suspects as much, which is why the Dragoons have been fighting mostly on our own because Davion forces are 'too busy elsewhere', but are suddenly magically available to take possession of the planets we just conquered for them. We have learned more about how House Liao fights than House Davion."

"So you are volunteering to return to the Inner Sphere with only your damaged Warships?" Kerlin asked.

"Aff, my Khan." Jaime replied. "It means I am more likely to lose them, but I believe the Houses being certain that we are spying on them will do more harm to our mission than losing a few Warships. Although if I can, I will certainly stop taking the Warships into combat if I can afford to."

"I salute your bravery, Colonel." Kerlin told him respectfully. "How did the Inner Sphere get to its current state?"

"From what we can tell, the first two Succession Wars had been as bad as the Pentagon Civil War." Jaime replied. "In some ways, they were even worse and there was no Nicholas Kerensky to unite everyone."

"According to the Crusaders, we Clans should be ones playing that unifying role." Kerlin pointed out dryly.

"I believe they will find it harder going than Nicholas Kerensky did." Jaime said just as dryly. "The Pentagon warlords had battered each other down to almost nothing when Nicholas returned with the Clans. The Great Houses haven't done that, at least not yet. Oh certainly, the Succession Wars have destroyed much of their industry, and they go on a lot about how much technology they've lost from the days of the Star League. But the technology they've lost seems primarily in the knowledge of how to build big infrastructure and industrial projects. Big industrial complexes are rare, but there is a healthy cottage industry of relatively small shops and factories called 'Smithies', some produce advanced weapons and other combat equipment while others assemble those components into just about any combat platform you can name, and even some you can't. I think the only reason the Inner Sphere doesn't have Omnitech is because standardization is a totally foreign concept to them, but the Smithies make so many custom one off variants that the Inner Sphere might as well have Omnitech as far as variety of mech and aerospace fighter loadouts go."

"But I suspect the real reason the Inner Sphere is doing so well compared to the Pentagon worlds during the Civil War is because of Comstar." Jaime continued. "They are a supposedly neutral organization that holds Terra. Because of that neutrality, Terra has been completely untouched by the destruction of the Succession Wars, and plays referee to the Great Houses. Comstar more or less sets the rules of war that limits damage to civilian infrastructure, judges who is and is not obeying those rules, and enforces their decrees based on their monopoly on HPG communications and their ability to reliably supply military equipment and technical assistance to the Great Houses. They do not have much in the way of hard military assets, but they have a great deal of influence as far as we can tell."

"What an odd arrangement," Kerlin mused. "You almost make it sound like the Scientist and Technician castes have taken over the Inner Sphere. Except of course the Inner Sphere does not use our caste system."

"I would not go that far, my Khan," Jaime said. "Comstar certainly has a great deal of influence, but clearly the House Lords are still the masters of their own fate."

"Hmm, it is a shame you couldn't get a better strategic picture of the Inner Sphere." Kerlin said.

"My apologies, my Khan." Jaime replied, "But Inner Sphere news is so full of contradictory propaganda that it is difficult to tell what is real. We have even caught Comstar's news service in numerous errors about our operations assuming said 'errors' were not deliberate lies. And Davion's refusal to work along side our own forces have limited our access to their intelligence sources."

"I understand, Colonel." Kerlin told him, understanding. "In fact, I believe I can use this fact to delay the Crusaders a little more. Obviously, you will need to continue your mission in order to gain a full and accurate strategic picture of the Inner Sphere before any invasion can be launched."

"My thanks, my Khan." Jaime said.

Archer (MWO version - Desert)

Archer Class Heavy BattleMech

"So Colonel, I understand that the Dragoons have also been buying and equipping some uniquely Inner Sphere technologies." Kerlin said, pulling up an inventory list of samples the Dragoons had brought home. Extended Long Range Missiles that outranged anything in the Clan arsenal. Plasma rifles, a whole new energy weapon concept. Cluster ammunition that can be fired from Gauss Rifles; why had no one in the Clans ever thought of that one? A bewildering variety of armor types. "Which would you say is your favorite?"

"Easily the Multi-Missile Launcher, my Khan." Jaime answered with a fond smile. "The MML would be completely useless for the Clans because our LRMs have no minimum range, but Inner Sphere LRMs still do have a minimum range, although that minimum varies greatly depending on who made them. But I must tell you, my Khan, after firing LRM salvos at long range, it is the most satisfying thing in the galaxy to be able to turn around and use the same launchers to throw fourteen SRMs into the face of any enemy who tries to get under my LRM minimum range." He sighed. "My only regret is that my Archer... er, Archers didn't have quite the spare tonnage to fully use an advanced form of CASE that completely trivializes ammo bin explosions. But I am sure my techs will fix that at a future date."

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