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State of the Union (Chapter Cover)

Chapter 43[]

State of the Union[]

The Triad, Tharkad
Donegal Province, Lyran Alliance
30th May, 3064

Searcy was glad to be free of the city streets as he marched his Sagittare up the slopes towards the Triad.

Behind them, entirely too many of Tharkad City's broad avenues were clogged by smashed tanks and broken BattleMechs, buildings with scarcely an intact window and many with ruptured walls or even roofs.

Some of his company complained about it being Avalon City all over again, but to Michael Searcy it could only recall Solaris and that - in hindsight - dreadful August week after he and Vandergriff had crashed into the stands at the Colosseum and ignited a firestorm. God, it was closer to two years than one now.

The Robinson-built Sagittaire was a far cry from the increasingly wartorn Mackie he'd used in the Federated Suns. Five tons heavier - slower on the ground but it boasted jump-jets, which were a crucial advantage in the city. Out here, as the towering political heart of the Lyran Alliance loomed in front of them... well, it would help.

So would the cold. The outside temperature was dropping as night came on. Despite the warmth of his fusion reactor, Searcy shivered at the stark landscape. "Are you sure you want to push on, boss?" he asked on a private channel. "Tomorrow, we'd have more 'Mechs ready - and your brother would have caught up."

"It's tempting," Peter Steiner-Davion admitted in a voice that betrayed more fatigue than he'd shown in the briefing session earlier. "But it also gives them longer to make repairs and assemble stragglers." Then, voice steely: "I want this done, Michael."

"Your Royal Guards against Nondi Steiner's."

"It seems that that's how it must be."

It was about all that was left to Nondi's hard core of loyalists. Maria Esteban's command - her own Eleventh Arcturan Guards and militia from Alarion and Carlisle had done their best to relieve the Third Lyran Guards and the Donegal Jaegers as they hung onto the spaceport, but numbers - and fresh mechwarriors not worn down by weeks of battles - had told. Esteban had offered her surrender to General Gloria Bishop's Nineteenth Arcturan Guards - the sister regiment giving assurances of fair treatment.

The advance into Tharkad City had been blunted, then stalled as the Royal Guards sallied forth. Searcy could still see the carnage if he closed his eyes - a Demolisher II tank had blocked up Baker Company for twenty minutes, hull down in a parking garage, until their own armor had caught up and rooted it out. He was four 'Mechs down as a result. Three of the mechwarriors hadn't made it out.

"Do we have intel on what she has left?"

"A little better than two battalions - mostly First and Second Royal Guards. Reinhart Steiner tells me that less than a company of the Third Royals made it out of the city, and I believe him," Peter advised.

"So about our numbers," Searcy thought out loud. Nondi could still command the Third Donegal Guards in theory, but they'd been holding back what was left of Victor's forces alone all day - and the Federated Suns Armored Cavalry had been sent after their rear area so they were in no position to affect matters tonight. "A fair fight."

Peter's voice was as cold as the frost outside. "Fair or foul, we must win."

"Then we shall," Searcy offered in assurance they both knew was false.

There was nothing subtle about the advance and Nondi responded in kind. The outermost perimeter of the Triad was nothing more than a wire fence and cameras to keep out trespassers and the press. The space between that fence and the walls with the real defenses was an open killing ground and the Fifth Royal Guards' light and medium 'Mechs fell behind a wedge of heavy and assault machines as turrets began to open fire.

Only moments later, Royal Guards' Mechs - their colors identical to those of the Fifth - surged out to meet them.

Searcy saw Crucis Company drive forward to meet a loyalist spearhead of Fafnir and Hauptmann assault weights but there was no time to intervene - a pair of Ontos tanks opened up on him with LRMs and he fired his jump jets, hopping aside before the rain of missiles could scour away armor from the wedge-shaped torso of his Sagittaire.

A blue-and-white painted Zeus reared up in front of him - even without the golden rattlesnake of the Third Royal Guards and the blue Lyran Alliance badge where he wore the Fist-and-Sunburst, Searcy knew it for an enemy: there were no Zeus in the Fifth.

The Zeus had opened up on Scott Tracker's Mackie, a twin-barrelled laser - was that a 'Mech scale blazer? - tearing into the heavier 'Mech's armor.

Catching it from the flank, Searcy let his targeting computer pinpoint the weak spots and then fired his pulse lasers into poorly patched plating over the right shoulder. The air inside his cockpit heated to almost scorching levels and amber-lights flared but the precision burst ripped away the armor and deep into the joint, severing the limb and sending it to the ground.

The Zeus kept firing at Tracker until an Osiris soared in on its jump jets, attempting a dangerous death-from-above and spoiling Searcy's second shot.

The mechwarrior in the Zeus back-stepped, avoiding the charging Osiris's landing, then stepped forwards again, hitting the light 'Mech with a savage kick.

One leg crumpled and the Fifth Royals' Osiris hit the ground - it must be Tracker's brother Andy - the younger mechwarrior had been recruited out of the Fifth Crucis Lancers on Algol where he'd been shot out of his Valkyrie by the Republican Guards early in the campaign.

Phoenix Hawk Medium BattleMech (In Combat in a Forest - NuSeen - by mokiplamo)

Phoenix Hawk Medium 'Mech in combat

Searcy fired his ER PPC and saw the Zeus turn towards him only to take a shoulder-charge from Tracker's Mackie. Both mechs crashed forwards, the Mackie on top, and Searcy shifted his focus to the next available targets, absently ordering Jason Scott to help Andy Tracker get his 'Mech up and help finish off the Zeus - with two hand actuators, his Phoenix Hawk could deal with the first and it lacked the armor to join Searcy on the frontline.

A trio of Royal Guards 'Mechs were advancing, a Hauptmann OmniMech and a pair of Griffins. None showed any armor damage so far.


Griffin-Class Medium BattleMech

"Bannson, with me" he ordered tersely. One omni-mech deserved another and the company's one Templar might be as unfamiliar to the Lyrans as the Hauptmann was to mechwarriors from the Federated Suns.

A moment later the Gauss Rifle mounted in Bannson's Templar fired a shot into the upper glacis of the Hauptmann, scarring the 'Mech's armor to one side of the forward-jutting head.

The two faced off and the Griffins conformed to the Hauptmann's movements, confirming his suspicion that the two were acting as bodyguards - which made the assault ‘Mech's pilot someone important - perhaps one of the regimental commanders.

With his heat comfortably in the green, Searcy felt safe to risk an alpha strike against the nearer of the two Griffins. Planting his 'Mech's feet squarely he stitched pulse lasers across the smaller 'Mech as the Mechwarrior inside threw up the right arm to cover his vulnerable cockpit and the missile launcher next to it.

The move preserved the LRM launcher, and the ER PPC in the right arm, but at the cost of almost all the armor protection across the lower chest, Searcy's PPC lashed out and adding to the damage. His heat spike briefly into the red and only slowly back into the amber.

At this close range, Searcy thought he could see the enemy mechwarrior inside his cockpit. He flared his jump jets the moment his temperature allowed it, guessing that the Lyran mechwarriors wouldn't guess that the Sagittaire would mount them and was rewarded when he only took glancing hits from their lasers and the rest of their fire went wild.

The ninety-five ton 'Mech came down knees first against the chest of the Griffin that he'd targeted - not a perfect Death From Above, but he hadn't been planning on one - like any canny Solaris Mechwarrior he knew to aim for weak spots and heavy, claw-like feet of Searcy's Sagittaire caved in the already compromised armor below the LRM launcher.

The explosion of the LRM storage almost ruined his landing, it did tear through the chest of the Griffin. Wrecking the missile launcher and cutting the critical shoulder connections to the PPC. While cellular storage saved the lighter 'Mech's engine, it was left with only a single laser to fight back with.

The second Griffin had bounded backwards to avoid being caught the same way, its ER PPC tearing through almost all the protection to the left of the Sagittaire's spine. Another hit there could be crippling, and even a single laser might be enough.

Twisting his assault 'Mech, Searcy brought the right arm weapons-mounts around, sweeping the damaged Griffin's remaining arm and the laser on it out of line of his 'Mech.

His crosshairs pulsed gold as it intersected the second Griffin's outline but he waited until they were right over the cockpit before he triggered the pulse lasers in his left arm and chest, saving his fire to bring his internal temperatures down.

Not all the pulses of coherent light hit where he needed them to - but at least two did and no Mech cockpit could take take that beating.

The Griffin fell backwards, a blackened hole marking what had once been the 'face' of its head.

Not pausing, Searcy spun his Sagittaire towards the remaining Griffin, which backed away, a shot from its medium lasers scarring the armor protection over his ER PPC. He fired without hesitation or mercy.

Both his large lasers struck home, stitching holes in the remaining frontal armor of the 'Mech and destroying the lion's head badge on the left breast. Then the PPC bolt hit dead-center, ripping through the paper-thin protection over the Griffin's gyro. What had begun as a backwards stagger under the impacts turned into a collapse to the frozen ground.

As welcome as that victory was, the battle was far from over. The outer wall had been breached and Searcy saw a Mackie. He thought it might be Peter himself had charge through it, ducking to avoid fire from the Fafnir that tried to fill the gap and shoulder-ramming it backwards to allow lighter Mechs of 'Peter's Pride' access to the court itself.

Fafnir Assault Mech (MW2 version)

Fafnir-Class Assault 'Mech

Before he could join them, however, Searcy would need to deal with the Hauptmann and the explosion of Bannson's gauss rifle as shots hit its capacitors told him that he wasn't done there yet.

The Hauptmann was smoking - not just from the ludicrously placed small laser in the head but from a gaping hole in the right side from which coolant was leaking. In return though, Bannson's Templar was missing its entire right side except the leg...

Including the leg, in fact, as the Hauptmann's autocannon roared and shells ripped the already battered limb apart.

Searcy pushed his Sagittaire into a run towards the pair of embattled assault 'Mechs. A volley of long-range missiles hammered into the ground around him, save for a few that chipped away at his armor. For a moment he thought it was the Ontos tanks from earlier but then he spotted a battered Archer leaning against the fortifications, missile launchers still showing signs of the contrails.

Disdaining to waste attention upon the 'Mech, he left it to a Royal Guards Osiris to deliver a coup de grace with its medium lasers and focused his attention on the Hauptmann.

The enemy mechwarrior very nearly missed his approach, firing another furious volley from its large lasers and autocannon that stripped away layers of armor from the struggling Bannson - the Hauptmann only turned at the last moment to try to avoid taking Searcy's first ER PPC shot against its damaged flank. Instead the lightning clawed away protection from the right arm's elbow to its shoulder.

Seconds later, the upper limb was severed entirely as Searcy reached the effective range of his large pulse lasers and fired them as a pair into the still upraised arm.

The arm weighing something on the order of ten tons on its, own hit the ground with a thump audible even inside his cockpit and decisively drew the Hauptmann's attention from Bannson. Searcy dodged sideways as the other mechwarrior opened fire. The autocannon was the main threat and he managed to avoid it but lasers slashed armor away from his torso while two of the four Streak SRMs fired hit his cockpit, the impacts throwing Searcy against his restraints.

In return he zeroed in on the already damaged right torso, close enough now for his own small and medium lasers. "I'll take you apart piece by piece if I have to." he muttered and his shots ripped away the remaining protection.

The explosions that followed made it clear to him that he'd found the main ammunition bins. The bulk of the stored missiles and autocannon rounds' fury was vented out of the rear as pre-weakened panels gave way but the sheer explosion left the Hauptmann staggering, the mechwarrior having to sink down onto its haunches until the gyro fully compensated - and possibly until their ears stopped ringing.

While the autocannon and one missile launcher were left, without ammunition they were useless and the limited laser array was dangerous, but far less than Michael Searcy could bring to bear.

Circling to the left exposed the side of the Hauptmann, which struggled to keep up with the more nimble Sagittaire barely able to bring its weapons to bear. Shot after shot savaged the inner workings of the OmniMech until, finally, the reactor shielding was critically ruptured.

Fire bloomed on the battlefield - around the fusion engine and then from the cockpit as the mechwarrior ejected.

For a moment, Searcy thought that the mechwarrior had made it, but the seat spiraled wildly as it soared up - part of the cockpit canopy hadn't released correctly. The parachute failed to deploy and as he watched, it hit the ground at what had to be terminal velocity, the mechwarrior still strapped in.

If there was any mercy left to them, he hoped the loyalist had been killed or at least knocked out by the cockpit, because the brief flight with it's obvious and fatal ending was nothing he would have wished on anyone.

Turning he saw Bannson finishing off the Archer with a kick that came entirely too close to the smaller 'Mech's cockpit. "Enough of that," Searcy ordered. "you know the orders. We're not like Katrina's fanatics."

"Sir." The other Mechwarrior was half-defiant, half-apologetic - clearly of two minds about those orders. But he obediently fell in behind Searcy as they joined the other Fifth Royal Guards streaming into the Triad's inner grounds.

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