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State of the Union (Chapter Cover)

Chapter 28[]

State of the Union[]

Avalon City, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Commonwealth
16 July 3063

Peter recognized the streets they were fighting over now as part of the small town on the southern side of Peace Park. He'd walked through them back when he was a cadet, shopping or just hanging out with classmates - inside a subtle perimeter of security, admittedly.

Now ground cars and buses were replaced by 'Mechs and armored fighting vehicles. Whoever was running the defense, reports were divided over whether it was Jackson Davion or Simon Gallagher, the Prince's Champion. Whom had replaced the battered DLC and Rangers with fresh troops from the Lyran Guards.

Similarly worn down, Bishop had agreed to let Peter's Royal Guards take point - they had the weight and despite losses yesterday, they hadn't had to consolidate their units yet. In fact, most companies had more than replaced their casualties as volunteers who'd been keeping their heads down due to the heavy loyalist presence felt free to at last bring their 'Mechs to join the fight.

For security reasons, most were being kept away from the Steiner-Davions but Peter had more than a company added to his battalion, drawn from former members of Team Banzai that had been teaching at NAIS. Doctor John Parker had taken the lead in bringing the reinforcements together and now his Warhammer - a Clan variant that had been brought to NAIS from the battlefields of Operation Bulldog, was rounding out the command lance.

As the lance pushed up the street, a Vedette moved out of cover, followed by a Hetzer wheeled assault gun. Catherine showed the presence of mind to priorities the latter and her autocannon ripped one of the wheels off before the crew could turn it enough to bring their heavy gun to bear.

Peter pushed his Mackie forward into a run and delivered a kick to the side of the Vedette, rocking it up on one track for a moment but not quite breaching the internal compartment. The turret turned and it unloaded the autocannon into the calf of his 'Mech.

A moment later, Parker's pulse lasers ripped through the damaged flank of the medium tank. For a wonder, neither ammunition nor fuel was set off but hatches sprang open and the crew bolted from their vehicle in reasonable concern that such an explosion might be imminent. Flinging up their hands, they eyed the towering 'Mechs around them with obvious concern.

"Drop your weapons and walk south with your hands behind your head." Peter ordered on his loudspeaker. He didn't have time to take prisoners and he wasn't going to just massacre them. There was an infantry company behind him that could take the crew into custody.

The Hetzer tried to back up on its three remaining wheels, but the steering was wrecked and it rear-ended into a bakery. Peter aimed down onto the upper hull and carved carved a shot through the already damaged armor with his laser. This time the ammunition did go up, blasting smoke and parts of the bakery across the street.

The fourth member of the lance, Greg Coulthard, moved up to take point for the next block. The dug in Lyran Guards weren't fighting for every block but there were enough ambushes that the advance had to be cautious.

"I think I see -"

What Coulthard saw was cut off as a pair of PPC bolts smashed squarely into his Mackie. The 'Mech staggered and he turned it to try to protect the flank. Then a gauss rifle shot crashed against one knee and the Mackie fell.

"Fresh contact!" Peter saw units moving out of buildings further down the street, a white-painted Demon battle tank in the lead.

"Blakists!" Cat screeched. She opened up on the first 'Mech to enter view, one shaped not entirely unlike their Mackies - the characteristic 'walking ovoid' shape of many Star League designs.

Unlike their mechs this one had fists though and it was moving fast. Peter's tracking system hesitated before identifying it as a SPT-NF Spartan. He didn't need sensors to recognize that behind it was a Black Knight of some kind, but the Demon was his first priority. He and Parker combined fire on the tank with its turret mounted gauss rifle.

The thick frontal armor vaporized under the impact of the Warhammer's clantech PPCs and Peter's shots stitched holes across the turret and took out one wheel - although the six-wheeled tank was far less impaired than the Hetzer had been and it continued to roll forwards, firing its forward lasers and SRMs into Coulthard's 'Mech.

"Cat, take out the tank!" The submunitions of her LB 10-X were ideal for anti-vehicle work - she should be prioritizing it over the Spartan.

His sister jerked her Mackie around, the chest lasers scarring the roadway before they intersected with the Demon, barely scratching at it. Then she triggered the PPC, the shot ripping through the damaged frontal plate.

An instant later the tank's turret blew off.

Peter flicked his sensors to infrared for a second. Unsurprisingly, his sister's Mackie was overheating. "Back up and cool your 'Mech!" he ordered her.

"We should all back up." Parker warned. He fired his PPCs again, aiming low to the ground rather than at the approaching 'Mechs. "We have inbound Battle Armor."

Peter shivered. He'd seen footage of Mechs being swarmed by Clan Elementals, and if that happened to him it would be entirely too soon. "Coulthard, can you get up?"

The Mackie struggled and rolled. To Peter's dismay, the move briefly brought two suits of Standard Battle armor back into view, along with the damage they were doing to the Mackie. The pair slipped behind the cover of the fallen 'Mech before he could pick them.

"I don't think so, sir." the mechwarrior replied, voice unstead. "I... damn, that was my shoulder actuator. Get out of here."

"Punch out, we'll pick you up!" Peter shouted

Parker pushed his Warhammer in front of Peter's Mackie. "Negative, sir, we can't risk you."

"I'm not leaving a man behind!" Peter told Parker

"Peter, we're not the only ones being hit." Cat's voice was surprisingly steady. "Listen to the battalion net."

He paused and let himself listen to the background chatter he'd been tuning out as he dealt with the immediate situation.

Almost every channel spoke of white-painted 'Mechs, tanks and battle armor deploying. And in most cases, the Royal Guards were struggling.

"Greg, get out of there!" he demanded. "Don't get yourself killed!"

The Black Knight stepped forwards as the Spartan paused a moment to fire its pulse lasers and streak SRMs into Cat's Mackie. With a grim deliberation, the seventy-five ton command 'Mech planted one foot squarely on the Mackie's cockpit.

"You son of a -" began angered Peter

"Gendo Blake's Beard!" Cat yelled, causing ringing in Peter's ears. She cut loose with PPC and autocannon, eradicating the ComStar badge on the Black Knight's chest.

Gendo? Peter wondered to himself. "Back off, Cat." He forced himself to take the same move. "This is Alpha Actual to all Royal Guards." he forced himself to transmit. "Pull back and regroup. I repeat, pull back."

The ComGuards tried to follow them, but once they reached the intersection, the rest of the company was already consolidating there. The Spartan halted sharply and retreated into the smoking urban sprawl of Avalon City, the slower Black Knight to Peter's great satisfaction, which didn't quite manage it as a dozen PPCs tore through its armor. De-legging by the onslaught of fire and leaving coolant streaming from at least three holes through its chest.

A second volley finished the 'Mech off.

Switching to the command channel, Peter updated Sortek's headquarters in terse terms. It only took a few moments for Bishop Sortek to get onto the channel.

"Your highness, we've confirmed the 299th ComGuards Division has joined the city's defense. Can you break through?"

Peter looked at his company. Down two mechs, everyone with armor damage - stage four or five mostly. Granted, that was still fourteen 'Mechs due to Team Banzai, but... Once they got out of the town, Peace Park was open ground - a kill zone if the defenders deployed correctly, which seemed likely. "If we re-arm, maybe. How long do we have before the Militia forces catch up?"

"No time." the Marshal said flatly. "Jon bought us a day, but the New Avalon CrMM expended most of a brigade breaking through his flank. He had pull back or be cut off so our rear-guard is almost on Albion's campus right now."

"Wheel east?" He hated to say it, since it would mean ripping through even more of Avalon city, but...

"I lost half a battalion trying." Sortek admitted heavily. "The Remagen CrMM have linked up and Marlette are backing the other two up and the mountains are fortified from here. We'd be walking practically over Fox's Den - there are a dozen choke points we'd have to get through."

"You're saying we're encircled." Peter said

Sortek paused. "Yes. I'm consolidating the Heavy Guards to rearm. Can you hold your current positions until they can do that."

"Yes." Peter's reply was immediate. The ComGuards were probably far more seasoned - veterans of Tukkayid and with Star League equipment for the most part - but they didn't seem to have the mass to push the Fifth Royal Guards back unless Kopper's Fifth Lyran Guards rallied to join them. That would take hours after the pounding they'd taken so far today.

"Good." The field marshal lowered his voice subconsciously. "We still have enough air cover to get a couple of dropships out. Once the Heavy Guards can replace you on the frontlines, I want you and your sister back on the Hanse Davion."

Peter paused. "Respectfully, sir, you don't have a Galen Cox here to coldcock me and throw me aboard."

"...I'm not too old to do that myself, your highness. We're in a very bad position." old Marshal told him.

"We're still alive, and they're taking a battering as well. Mount Davion is literally in sight, Sir. One more push..."

Sortek hesitated. "One more and I want your sister back at headquarters, not out with you. We can't let you both fall into loyalist hands if the worst happens."

Peter glanced aside at the scarred shape of Cat's Mackie. "Agreed."

"I'll let you tell her then." Bishop Sortek informed him and cut the channel.

"Alpha Actual to all Royal Guards. Take defensive positions." he ordered on the regimental channel. "The Heavy Guards are re-arming and then we'll try this again."

After getting confirmations from Conner Sortek, Michael Searcy and his battalion commanders, Peter switched to a private channel to his sister's 'Mech. "Cat, we have to talk."

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