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The Best of Enemies (Chapter Cover Art)

Chapter 11 – The Best of Enemies[]

“Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.” -- Sun Tzu, 孫子兵法 (The Art of War)


Enemy Movement[]

"FWLS Duchess Sofia Cameron-Jones", Enroute to Irian III, Irian System, Marik Commonwealth, Free Worlds League
1120, 31st January, 2798


“Copy Pad thirty-eight at Irian Control. Entering approach vector Gamma-thirteen now. See you on the ground Mikaela. How’s your brother’s wife doing?”

“Cassie’s doing well, thank you! The doctor says it’s a boy.”

Dropship Re-entry

Duchess Sofia Cameron-Jones in bround to Irian.

“Another boy? Didn’t you tell me she wanted a girl?”

“Yeah, but what can you do. Anyway, Irian Metals says that they will have the Cargomechs waiting for you to unload, Sooraj. Stay safe up there!”

Sooraj looked over at his wife manning the sensor panel. “Six more hours and we’ll be on our way home.”

“Yes. Hmm, that’s interesting…” Draupudi Harish said as she looked at the display.

“What is it, dear?”

“The naval picket is moving toward the pirate point at one gee. And there’s a formation of military dropships on final approach ahead of us.”

Sooraj’s eyes widened. “They know we’re coming, alert the Celestial Wisdom!”


Unexpected Arrivals[]

Recharge Station, Zenith Point, Connaught System, Marik Commonwealth, Free Worlds League
1130, 31st January, 2798


In a flash of light and a soundless explosion, the recharge station exploded in a nuclear detonation. The three hundred fifty crew and passengers who had been waiting to transfer ships when the Capellans had stormed the station perished in a searing instant when the warhead’s fireball turned the cargo bays that they had been locked into ‘for their own protection by CCN Marines into plasma.

Faintly visible beyond their funeral pyre were the moving stars of the FWLN Second Fleet looking to engage the raiding armada as they decelerated for an engagement that would happen tomorrow.


Operation in Jeopardy[]

"FWLS Duchess Sofia Cameron-Jones", Enroute to Irian III, Irian System, Marik Commonwealth, Free Worlds League
1130, 31st January, 2798


“It’s an unscheduled military convoy from the looks of things. Two Overlords and three Unions so a full regiment.” Sooraj’s face frowned on the comm line from the bridge to her cockpit. “It’s not unknown to happen here when regiments move through for repairs and refits, but the timing is not good.”

Ilsa paled, her eyes wide as she realized what this meant. She then swallowed and took a deep breath. “You’re right. Sound the alarm to prepare for heavy thrust and maneuvering! The moment you get a report of unknown jumpships in the system, get on the line with port control. Make a maximum burn to the safety of the surface and sell panic on board. No matter what, get us down at the Kirin River Spaceport!” Her voice was very controlled. “Once you’re down, stand by to evacuate with the Techs and other non-combatants when our Dropships land. Maximov will rig the ship to blow behind us.”

She punched a button. A technician’s face formed. “Ling, send the ‘immediately go codeword, append with enemy naval picket force enroute to Irian III L1 point, additional FWLM ground forces present’!”

Ilsa cut the line mid-reply from the Tech, Her heart pounded as she opened three more comm channels and additional faces formed on her monitors. “Colonel Teng, Colonel Menitsky, Colonel Zaitzev. Intelligence reports are that there are likely to be additional FWLM forces present. Estimate one regiment plus of Mechs that will be disembarking when we arrive. We must seize a planetary beachhead in our first strike. Brief your troops to expect unexpected motions as we make planetfall and to expect combat once we leave the egg. You’re the Confederation’s best and I hand-picked you for a reason; show the Mariks what you’re made of.”

The infantry colonels winked out. Teng lingered. “Celesti-- Ilsa. How bad is it?”

Ilsa sighed. “I don’t know, Elias, but I fear the worst. I hope not, but I fear that it is.”


Zenith Point, Connaught System, Marik Commonwealth, Free Worlds League
1138, 31st January, 2798


With a flash of light, a pair of Vincent Mark XXXIX corvettes vanished into hyperspace. Then flash after flash of light followed as the Capellan armada jumped into hyperspace ahead of the League Navy’s response force.


Fire Fight[]

L1 Pirate Point, Irian III, Irian System, Marik Commonwealth, Free Worlds League
1137, 31st January, 2798


Space rippled and exploded as the Vincents reemerged. CCN Tiger’s drive blazed immediately upon arrival as her paired Barracuda missile tubes spat nuclear-tipped anti-shipping missiles at the trio of League Warships -- Two Vincent-class Corvettes identical to the Capellan ships screening a League II- destroyer -- closing fast. Behind her, her sister CCN Hare, followed suit at three gravities flank speed, spinning frantically around her base vector to try to throw off the incoming enemy fire as her gunners stood ready to try to shoot down the inbound missiles while she sent ASMs out as fast as she could fire.

Vincent Class Corvette (blockcade run) (by Colourbrand)

Vincent Class Corvette in Combat

Then a hypersonic hail of blocks of iron the sizes of trucks slammed into Hare’s port quarter. Her 400,000 tons shook like a leaf in a hurricane while FWLS Tannenberg riddled Hare with the League-II destroyer’s battery of Naval Gauss Rifles.

Armor splintered, precious oxygen boiled away into space, and the bodies of a quarter of her crew -- the lucky ones killed in the impact, the unlucky doomed to suffocate as they floated helplessly -- flew out of the hole punched in her armored hide.

Yet she still fought on to buy time for the larger ships to get into the fight. Operating under emergency power her surviving missile tube spat more nuclear-armed death at the goliath bearing down on her.

Then another volley of Naval Gauss slugs slammed into the crippled Hare. Her #3 fuel tank ripped open and the liquid hydrogen for her fusion plant inside flash-boiled, joining the stream of oxygen flowing from her mortally wounded side in a lethal mixture.

One more missile was launched before she caught fire, roasting her crew alive as she spun out of control with flame spilling from her sides.

Then it was the Capellan turn.

The first nuclear missiles from CCN Tiger and the dying CCN Hare screamed in, passing those fired by the other FWLN provincial fleet corvettes POS Valor and POS Victory.

Spears of coherent light lashed out at the inbound missiles in a deadly web as gunners tried to shoot down the inbounds. Captains maneuvered while ECM jamming fought penetration aids.

Valor shot down the two aimed at her thanks to the frantic last-ditch fire.

Victory was less lucky as Hare’s second to last missile launch found its target. With a flash of eye-searing light, the missile detonated in a skin-skin hit on the corvette’s fore starboard autocannon battery. When the radiation burst faded, there was just cooling debris radiating out from the explosion.

Meanwhile, Tannenberg limped clear from a pair of nuclear fireballs from missiles that had been shot down danger-close to her hull. Glowing gouges and craters were all that was left of her port sensor array.

Tiger had no chance to savor her triumph. A quartet of nuclear missiles blew her to pieces moments later.


Tannenberg rolled ship to present her undamaged starboard flank to the Aegis coming for her, Meanwhile the Lola I-class destroyer headed for Valor to crush the smaller corvette before she could get among the dropship swarm heading for Irian to pick on targets that she could possibly kill.

Aboard Tannenberg’s bridge, the captain sent out another message reporting the enemy forces as the damage alarms howled. He then turned to his executive officer and pointed.

“Set ramming course for that Aegis! Maximum possible thrust! Concentrate fire on her!”

Flag Ship Targeted[]


Aboard the Aegis-class Cruiser, CCN Kalvar Lorix


Olivia Toledana prayed in a terrified helpless voice as the ship shuddered with the rapid changes of combat maneuvering and the vibrations of her battery of naval autocannon.

“Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee….”

Then the ship groaned again with the impact of Naval Gauss slugs gouging tons of ferro-carbide plate off to try to punch through to the vitals of the elderly ex-Star League Navy warship. An alarm sounded when a wave of heat filled the air from her lasers firing.

The cabin where Olivia had strapped herself to the bed shook and bucked like a wild horse as more slugs hammered the ship around her.

Tears leaked from her closed eyes down her white cheeks.

She whimpered in fear as she continued the prayer that she had learned as a little girl and had rarely thought of until the terror of her possible death had sent it to her mind once more. Her hand clutched the rosary around her neck in a death grip.

“Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death…


Governor's Office[]

Irian III, Irian System, Marik Commonwealth, Free Worlds League
1247, 31st January, 2798


“They’ve broken through the picket...what’s left of them. Tannenberg… well you saw for yourself, Governor.”

“Damn Elsies! Load the air wings with nuclear ASMs to try to take them out. Scramble the Atrean Dragoons and Free Worlds Guards, along with all militia units.”

The aide nodded.

In the background, the display showed every dropship near Irian making haste to the ground at maximum thrust to avoid getting caught in the nuclear crossfire.


Liao on Irian[]

"FWLS Duchess Sofia Cameron-Jones", Kirin Spaceport, Kirin River, Irian III, Irian System, Marik Commonwealth, Free Worlds League
31st January, 2798


Thunderbolt (Standing - Hard Wired Ep2 - TMC group )

Thunderbolt Heavy BattleMech

Ilsa Liao strode her Thunderbolt out of the gantry that had held her down during the terrifying two and a half gee plummet to the spaceport’s pad. As she passed the next makeshift Mechbay, Elias Teng’s Warhammer joined her. Then the Black Knight and Crusader formed up behind them.

Mordhau

Black Knight Heavy 'Mech

A light flickered on her console. “Go!”

Outside, in the control tower looking over the acres of ferrocrete, one of the staff frowned at the ovoid of a 50,000 ton Mammoth nearby. Sensors were picking up unusual readings.

He picked up the phone to the drop port’s security. “Do me a favor and check out the fatty on Pad 38.”

Then he turned back to the approaching multi-regimental strike displayed on the main display. He gulped and made sure that the air control radars were getting the data as the first Battlemechs hit the atmosphere above him.

Then the Mammoth exploded in a sudden cloud of smoke and fire that enveloped the jeep containing the patrol he had vectored to check the unusual readings.


Combating the Dragon []

Markesan, Occupied Federated Suns Space, Markesan Operational Area, Crucis March, Federated Suns
31st January, 2798


With a ground shattering thud, Paul Davion landed on a rocky hillside of a wooded river valley leading toward the capital city of New Athens. He breathed in and out as he settled his cross-hairs on a battle-scarred DCMS Stinger trying to fall back and outmaneuver the AFFS advance.

Stinger Mech (Firing in city combat - Farseer Animation Version)

Draconis Combine Stinger Light 'Mech

Remember Kentares!

His forefinger clenched on the trigger and with a flash of blue light and thundercrack from his right arm, Dragonslayer spoke.

The Light ‘Mech shattered like glass when the Gauss Rifle slug hit it square in the chest. Its dismembered arms and legs flew away in spinning arcs from the force of the hypersonic slug as its machine gun ammunition cooked up in a string of firecracker pops.

Paul’s lips curled back from his teeth in a vengeful smug smile when he looked for more Snakes to stomp.

Then a double crack of thunder sounded as Leftenant-Colonel du Chaine’s Pillager sent a pair of Gauss Rifle shots downrange into a Wolverine that had turned to provide fire support to cover the retreat. The Arkab Legion Mech collapsed to its knees as the double hammerblow knocked its gyro out of synch.

Paul mercilessly dropped the crosshairs on the immobilized Snake and fired his LRMs at the cripple. He then grinned as his cousin’s Victor and Smith’s Grasshopper bounded through the trees on jump jets to close and finish off the wounded DCMA Mech.

Grasshopper (Front View - Facing ruined Building - NoGutNoGalaxy Rudy Valle) 1

Grasshopper Heavy 'Mech in combat

A massive volley of LRMs flew from behind a nearby ridge to blow tree branches to pieces around the pair of close assault ‘Mechs’ while armor plates were blasted and dented by the missiles that hit home.

The AFFS advance didn’t falter for an instant.

Paul’s blue eyes narrowed and he pointed with his single hand to a hill ahead and to the left. “Scale that and we can pour fire down on their support element. Let’s go!”

With a roar, both Assault ‘Mechs took flight on columns of fire to bring vengeance for Kentares.


Paul descended the ladder with sweat soaking his body. He numbly looked at the battered and scored armor panels and visible internal damage thanks to absorbing heavy LRM fire from the pair of Archers who had hit him hard when he skylined himself on that hill.

Fortunately, du Chaine had been backing him up in the fire exchange until Tom and Smith could close and overwhelm. With that, he glanced over at the dark skinned Capellan Marcher as she made her way out of the cockpit of her hundred-ton titan.

“Paul!” He turned on his heel at the shout. He turned pale at the sight of the angry face of General Thomas Halder-Davion, who was commanding this regiment and was his primary tactical advisor.

He gulped, visibly restraining his impulse to salute like a cadet in the field.

His uncle pulled him aside behind a collection of supply crates while Techs with cutting torches, repair kits, and replacement armor patches descended on Dragonslayer.

“Paul, what were you thinking skylining yourself like that!?” Tom asked with concern in his eyes.

“I was working on knocking out that LRM support that was hitting you and Smitty….” Paul began then trailed off at Thomas’ raised hand.

The older Davion rubbed his temples and snapped out in a frustrated voice. “Actually, you were trying to get yourself killed! Once we took that Wolvie out, they didn’t have eyes on us anymore. So they would have to shoot blind, retreat, or advance into our guns until you showed up as a perfect target for them. Paul…” The tone became fatherly. “What’s your role in our lance?”

Paul sighed. “Provide long range fire support for the infighters alongside du Chaine. Learn from your example how to coordinate tactical combat while managing the operational picture. Since I’ll need to be in command in fact as well as in name. Especially once we reach the later stages of our strategic plans.”

“Exactly!” Thomas looked at Paul. “You could get away with straight frontal attacks earlier since the Dracs were reeling and our troops didn’t care how many of their bodies that they stacked up in order to take it to them. But those types of Pyrrhic victories, even if won by us, will lose us the war in the long run. You have to know your enemy. Take this garrison unit who are fighting us. The Arkab are hit and fade ambush specialists and could have had a headhunter lance waiting to take the bait. Which you did when you got too aggressive.”

Paul bit his lip and finally nodded with a deep sigh, “Another damn fool Leftenant mistake then?”

“Yes, another damn fool Leftenant mistake, Paul. You were overaggressive and fixated on the known targets and not the hidden threat. Which is expected to a degree. After all, in the normal course of events you would be a Leftenant looking at making Captain. But you don’t have the luxury of growing out of this stage of your leadership skills the gradual way for normal officers, Paul.” Thomas clapped him on the shoulder. “So, once that Wolvie’s down, what should you have done then with blind LRM fire coming from behind the ridge.?”

Paul bit his lip. “Cover your movement up the valley from my current position and THEN move to that hill when you crested the ridge as a coordinated attack with you in close and me up high?” He said, replaying the attempted ambush in his mind.

“Exactly! I know you want revenge for Kentares, we all do. But we need a First Prince who leads with his brains and not with his balls.” Thomas said.

Paul sighed. “I’ll try to do better next time, Uncle Thomas, it’s just…”

His uncle leaned in close and dropped his voice. “You feel like you haven’t done enough to justify all this?”

A nod and a deep sigh as Paul’s shoulders slumped.

“You feel like you’re a faker at times, Nephew?”

Another nod.

“If it helps, I feel the same way from time to time still. It’s the imposter syndrome many leaders have. You work through it, and don’t show it to the subordinates in a crisis, only after. Also,” Thomas pulled out a video data disc with a knowing smirk curling at the corner of his lips, “you have some fan mail to read.”

Paul visibly cheered up at the sight of the green triangle, arm, and dao on the disc.

“You’ll be off the line for a bit until they put Dragonslayer back together. Get a bite to eat, get some rest, and think about what you’re going to send her back in your next message now that we liberated the HPG. Also… you might want to consider talking to her about how she handles the feelings that you struggle with. She’s in the same boat that you are.”

Paul nodded, then slapped his uncle on the shoulder. “Thanks Uncle Thomas, I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

“Muddle through somehow or die gloriously achieving victory is my best guess, My Prince.”


Author's Note[]

Author’s Note
And this concludes Book II as Paul and Ilsa lead their troops to commit to their do-or-die gambits against their mutual foes. Next up Kenyon Marik has a very eventful day and we check in on the Inner Sphere’s biggest douchebag (non-Amaris category). Expect some hawt Mech-on-Mech action next.

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