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The Other War (Cover)

Chapter 27 - The Other War

10/12/3060 Location – FCV Manai, Grand Archipelago, Fortuna Fortuna (formerly Fasa)

Ronell was rendered speechless for a moment and took the noteputer from the strange scientist. “Wait...Fortuna is less than one jump from Clanspace?”

Dexter reclaimed his noteputer just in time to prevent it from falling from the spheroid's nerveless fingers. “I really depends what you mean by Clanspace. This world was originally settled by people dissatisfied with Nicholas and Andery Kerensky's new direction for their society.

So it could count as Clanspace to some; the main cluster recognized as the Homeworlds is a few more jumps away. However, we are a proudly independent band of colonists dedicated to showing the Clan Warriors just how powerless they truly are.”

Ronell's nerves came back to him in a fury, “How powerless they are! They rampaged over the Rasalhague Republic in months undoing the efforts of generations of my countrymen!”

The scientist gently placed his hand on the tanned former Rasalgheti pushing him gently to a partially open door and empty storeroom before closing the door. “I hear many stories from your fellow countrymen. Sometimes we even give them an opportunity to fight back elsewhere. I assure you the Clans are not the invincible threat they present themselves as. They are certainly powerful but their power is brittle especially here in the Homeworlds, particularly now that the Smoke Jaguars are all but Annihilated.”

This shocked him even more than the other things he had heard in the past five minutes, “The Butchers of Edo Bay Annihilated?”

“By a reborn Star League deployed all the way here from the Inner Sphere. Your Third Drakons in fact soundly stopped the Hell's Horses best Warriors on fair terms during The Great Refusal. As of now the Clans are in something akin to shock and we have a chance to destabilize them even more. We have to take this chance and I want Erika's help but...”

He paused for a moment gathering his thoughts in the oppressive half-light of this compartment that divided his face in light and dark portions. “I'm not sure how to persuade her. I need your help and am willing to offer both of you a great deal in reward for this operation. By year end everything should be in place for us to move out. Until then just work it a little bit, I will try as well. Make her comfortable.”

“You are asking a lot of us Scientist-Controller.”
“And I will return it five-fold. Whatever you want I will endeavor to acquire. Money, fame, better work assignment, whatever you like. This operation is a risky one but it will be worthwhile in the end.”
“What is it you are trying to steal?”
He wagged his finger at the taller man, “No, no, no. I need her unconditional support and trust in me. I trust that she can acquire it and that is all that matters.

If you excuse me Mister Anderson, I have an incoming transport to Anchorage. Have a good day.”

The smaller man pushed out the door and before Ronell could even follow him was gone leaving him with more questions than answers and the few he gave didn't ease his mind. He had signed on to a colony mission hoping to live the rest of his hopefully long life peacefully in the Deep Periphery only to be taken right to the doorstep of the enemy of his youth. Suppressed memories came back overwhelming him as he sat down on the deck with his back to the metal and legs pulled towards him. Not even the trapped tropical warmth inside the ship was enough to stop the chills.

16 October 3050 06:58 Kjakan Village, Radstadt, Contested World

Night seemed to last forever but there had been no sleep just like the past three days. Ronell and Gustav Anderson were exhausted having spent the past two days aiding the Third Radstadt Militia fortifying their home village. Many sandbags had been filled by the hands of stout lads and grizzled elders that swore to never allow their planet to once more fall to foreign powers be they Snakes, Elsies, or these bloody Wolves.

Every able bodied man pulled out their rifles and brushed off their mandatory service training. Heavy construction equipment had been pressed into service as artillery tractors and to make the beach as impassable as possible but half of the Third Battalion had to withdraw from Kjakan forcing them to consolidate their fighting lines. A breakthrough in Tonsburg called them back to garrison the Black Lotus prison, the best stronghold to resist a ground attack on-world, the final fallback location should they lose the capital.

The Anderson's fishing trawler along with everything afloat had been tasked with transporting cargo and naval mines to slow the progress of the 37th Wolf Strikers rampaging along the Sound Chain. They had little effect, the enemy's machines were too new, fast, and deadly. Their strength never seemed to ebb no matter how many cannon rounds Kungsarme tanks or gunboats poured into them. They shook off damage that would crumple a normal Battlemech and returned the next day as new as if they walked off the factory floor from whatever Deep Periphery hellworld they originated from.

Now they were manning one of the dozen anti-air guns brought into position on the hills where he once used to take girls up to show them 'the stars' when he was in town. His dad called the handsome blonde teen “a sailor through a through. One of these day's he'll have a girl in every port,” to much raucous laughter in the pub.

There was no laughter now, by this afternoon there might not even be a pub if there was even still a town. All they could do was hold until the First Prince sent more reinforcements. There would be none from the Lyrans or Draconis Combine, all were under siege by these same aliens and had been for most of the past year. The once might Successor States were losing world after world under their assaults, some so fast they couldn't even call for help, the Free Rasalhague Republic stood an even poorer chance but that never stopped its people.

Ronell adjusted the helmet he had been issued and felt something on the side of his arm he looked over to see his friend Karl passing him a flask. “Calms the nerves or so say, Jan. I would trust the Tyrian on this one he spent a dime in the Black Lotus.”

He took a quaff of the harsh vodka, “Scrapping the bottom of the barrel, Kar?”

Small chuckles spread among the youths assigned to this double Zeusbolt AAA gun mounted in a hole they dug into the side of a hill facing the ocean and fortified with earth and timbers bound together with whatever spare ferrocrete they could find. All of them were nervous about their younger siblings, girlfriends, sisters, and mothers that had been evacuated to the plains under COMSTAR's Aegis. They didn't trust the Wolves wouldn't fire on them but they couldn't risk a misunderstanding. If their men fell it was likely over for them anyway. “Seems we all are, Ron.”

That moment was interrupted by the gunboats patrolling just offshore firing their own RADAR guided AAA guns into the sky. Bright tracers cut into the pre-dawn sun like a reverse shooting star their distant report a dull thump against the hill. The boys dropped into their fighting position and elevated the cannons at the incoming Aerospace fighters angling for a bombing run on the shore bunkers.

Ronell stood by with his cannon rounds ready to drop them into the drum which normally would auto-feed but hadn't seen a PM since he was born fifteen years ago and jammed if there were more than five rounds in it at a time. Karl was the loaded on the other side. Three boys controlled the elevation and transverse wheels and fire control while more were tasked as runners to transport rounds from the bunker they shared with the south battery or working on the radio and basic RADAR sensor they had installed to provide guidance.

Their radio operator had installed a pair of speakers hardwired to his location and spanning the south end of this hill. “Four Fighters coming in from the East. Loaded for bear, gunships report they are engaging. Shore batteries are locked and loaded. All units report they are in their positions. Standby for ranging to fire control.”

Suddenly the world around him burst into light and sound as the flak rounds fired off in rapid succession to a target they couldn't see. In the mass of Flak the Wolf fighters had to drop their bombs in the water and regain altitude burning high and fast into the sky which was now lit with illumination rounds from militia mortars.

The beach was covered in a bloody red hue as 'Toads' walked out of the ocean covered in seaweed like creatures from the abyss. They were fired upon first by the few Marsden II and Bulldog tanks stationed in defilade behind ferrocrete walls, mined dunes, and interlocking trenches filled with support weapons and infantry. Despite the heavy fire the Toads leapt into the air over the mines and into the trenches engaging the militia in close combat with their machine guns. Militiamen leapt out of their foxholes in fright and some were cut down by their own side's machine guns firing on the Toad behind them.

Suddenly the gunboats were on fire as the returning Aerospace fighters strafed them amidships and ignited their fuel drums. Some exploded throwing shards of metal far into the sky as their magazines cooked off. The Sound was glowing red from the life vest's beacon and fire reflected off it in the pre-dawn twilight. On the beach the first ring of trenches was lost along with at least a platoon of men but the Toads had been ripped apart by their infantry's heavy weapons.

A small cheer went up that was rapidly silenced as the first of the Wolf Omnimechs crested above the tidal zone. This group of five was led by a the blocky mass of a Man of War with the intimidating Mad Cat, lithe Fenris, reliable Thor, and downright lethal Loki right behind all of which were in their Prime configurations and carrying more Toads. The radioman came in over the speaker in a panic, “Ten incoming fighters, coming in sleek and fast. All gunboats are down. We are it for top cover now.”

Once more the world around him erupted in flames, the more heavily armed Manticores were moved forward to combat the Mechs under the fire support of Hunter missile tanks and their more heavily armed but fragile LRM carriers. Ronell's hill was strafed by a Goth fighter that blew their bunker killing some of the ammo runners. A piece of shrapnel cut his arm but he was able to bandage it and two of the other boys that were injured. “We have to get off this hill! We're too exposed.”

They looked down at the beach which was now filled with Wolf Mechs fighting over the mine-laden dunes and through the infantry and armor assigned to stop them. Some were heavily damaged but not as badly as the armor, two Bulldogs were on fire and a Marsden had blown its magazine and turret clean off. Black smoke filled the air, they looked around and saw it was coming from the village where the mobile HQ was based.

“Grab your rifles and let's see if there are any grenades left at the forward position.” The seven lads shouldered their MOE 8mm Semi-Auto rifles and finding the other position 'in tatters' (to put it politely) they instead went down the hill to find the MOE Machina (Semi-Portable) machine gun posted up on a bed of sandbags. It was abandoned but functional along with half a dozen of the large Maxi-grenades equal to a pair of normal sized ones, and several ammo boxes. “Damn Cowards. Karl and I will take the Em Gee, everyone else gets a grenade and helps hold our extra ammo. Doubt our rifles will do anything against Toads.”

Just as the squad began their descent the hill was strafed again. Rockets blasted right into the heart of their position and caused some of the timbers to fall down the hill and crash into the forest below with a frightful noise that hastened their departure even more and lightened the bowels of a few. They found more militiamen in the forest many of whom had been injured on the beach and asked about the status of their fathers, brothers, and cousins. No one knew but they patched them up and moved on along familiar back routes to the village finding more injured and no small number of dead among the trees.

The squad stopped upon hearing a Mech crashing through the trees near the pub, the slender gray machine had been code-named the Vixen but despite its sexy name it was murderous against infantry. They backed up to the Pub as the machine stopped looking around and over like some kind of metal giant ready to consume mere children. It moved on in search of more visible prey willing to shoot back.

They cut back toward the square only to find a kelp covered Mad Cat in the midst of finishing off a Bulldog tank. The heavier machine crushed the turret of the machine with its powerful bird like legs and looked every bit like a throwback to dinosaurs if they also had missile packs and lasers capable of accurate and lethal fire beyond a kilometer. The Wolf Mech torso twisted before they could find cover and its machine guns spewed out death. Ronell felt one of the bullets hit his leg and passed out from the pain.

He awoke with a scream startling Mary and Erika in the brightly lit infirmary almost causing each of the women to fall into the tables behind them. Ronell checked his leg and found the scar was still there but not the wound. “Where am I!?”

Erika was still closest and she embraced him, “Calm down, Ron. You're safe on Fortuna. One of the greens brought you down here after finding you passed out next to your tools. Mary came to get me. You have been working to hard.”

He returned her embrace but whispered, “I wish that was true Erika.”
“What part?”
“I wish we really were safe here.”

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