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The Other War (Cover)

Chapter 5 - The Other War[]

08/14/3059 Location - Star Adder Proving Grounds, Sheridan, 170 kilometers NNW Truscott

Star Captain Seth Irons and Star Commander Gabriela walked side by side in the misty pre-dawn hour. Their objectives were the mechs mounted on transporters that were now bogged down in mud from a rainy evening and being painstakingly unloaded and armed by SAPG Techs. Yesterday everything was moved into the Circle of Equals for his Trial of Position. At stake was command of the 17th Cavaliers of Delta Galaxy and rank of Star Colonel.

To win the trial Seth needed to defeat an equal force led by Star Captain Bryza Meytani, the senior officer of the 17th Cavaliers who had also recently returned to active duty following injuries sustained during the Burrock Absorption. Delta's Keeper has decreed the cut-down as 2 Omnimechs as both Command and Rank were at stake, so he needed a partner and one had bid herself straight to the Keeper without bothering to consult him.

Seth carried the handle of a hard shell that contained his neurohelmet safely locked in his cybernetic hand. Gabriela, why insist on being my partner? This is a live fire Trial against hardened veterans.

She tied her braid back enough to allow the neuro-helmet in her pack to sync properly, You would do the same if it were me, quiaff?

A muffled 'aff' came from his mouth, Do you think I am not capable of doing it? Seth attempted to say something but was interrupted, You think I might get hurt!

He looked away then she grabbed his arm twisting him to face her even though they could barely make each other out in the darkness. I may be ten years your junior, but I am not some sibko girl! I am a Star Adder Warrior.

They walked faster toward the transporters. Opening her arms to balance on the plank of wood laid over a previously dry creek bed that now ran with muddy water. Seth was slower to cross the plank being both older and less nimble than the young woman ahead of him. He could still hear here talking but couldn’t make out the words. She was talking to herself thinking he was listening. By the time he caught up with her she was saying, We had a life, yet we make that choice and all those sacrifices to be Warriors. We learned to care about something other than war. I chose to fight for our Clan because I am good at it. I tested top of my class in creche, I could have been a Scientist just like your parents are.

She looked over to him before returning to their objective their mechs just ahead of them, Maybe you choose because as a Second Gen you strove to succeed where your parents had 'failed.’

You earned your Bloodname by nomination. I heard it was because the Irons' Bloodhouse could not take the risk of losing a generation of Mechwarriors against your Guillotine in a Melee.

Seth smiled remembering that day and the pride of his geneparents. By design all Trueborn Warriors never knew their geneparents or their vatborn 'children.' A delay of no less than fifteen years was in place after a Warrior’s death except in strange circumstances. He knew some Trues read their geneparents' codices in creche. Those entries were more about what they did, not how they felt about it. His lectures were available on the chatterweb, his 'children' might learn something about him someday from those. Just as he had honed his fighting skills with his father before Tathis Sibko so might he mold their minds before they went through the same thing.

He came back to himself after spending an idle moment daydreaming about what the next generation would look like. He missed something that Gabriela had said, Why do you insist on being Star Colonel of a Front-line cluster? Do you think being in a provisional one beneath you?

I wish you could just stay on Sheridan with me and Kappa. You looked happy as an Academy Trainer. More so then when you visited my Sibko as a Ristar of the Fifth Assault fighting for REVIVAL.

They were now at the feet of their Omnimechs, his Sidewinder and her Linebacker had just been put in the upright position after being carried on their backs from Truscott. Now you sound like a schoolgirl. I do not want to be given something Gabriela.

I have been offered command of Clusters in Mu and Rho but the Star Adders need me on the front line. We are entering dangerous times. Better to fight our foes as far away from Sheridan, and you as possible. Quiaff? Let me go first into the fray. I can still visit during rotations.

She removed her neurohelmet from the pack and handed it to her Tech, or I could join you. When we win this trial there is an option for promotion and reassignment to replace the newly promoted Colonel. You said the Adder’s need more Star Captains, so I worked it out with Delta's Keeper.

Seth tried to protest, I am front line quality Star Captain Irons. The Wolves came to Sheridan during their Harvest. They Trialed my Star for 'training maneuvers against spheroid opponents' after hearing I wanted a Linebacker. They promised me one if I joined them, instead I won one from its bewildered Star Captain; who was sent packing to Strana Mechty empty handed.

We are in this now. I do not want to hear anything more from you unless it is combat commands, Quiaff?

She accepted the technician's final check of her cooling suit and neuro-helmet before ascending the ladder towards the low-slung cockpit. Gabriela closed the hatch, lowered the blast shields over the cockpit, and began powering up her machine.

An Adder MechTech was still waiting while Seth watched all this happen, You picked a feisty freeborn as a partner today. Um...Star Captain I need to conduct final checks on your cooling suit and neuro-helmet, Keeper's orders.

Seth turned towards the man and released the hard case that stored his neuro-helmet to the tech who also ensured there was nothing amiss with the cooling system and that everything was according to bid with the helmet. Everything is in order Star Captain, reactor is on standby, all ordnance loaded. Good luck sir. The SAPG techs waited until he was in the cockpit before removing the ladder and returning to the task of winching the now much lighter mech transporters toward the road. Gabriela and he would have to walk through the mud toward the agreed upon Circle of Equals eleven kilometers away. Keeper Ajete, we are en route to the Circle of Equals. ETA ten mikes. With plenty of time to spare Star Captain Irons. Star Captain Meytani is on standby. The Trial will begin as soon as you enter the Circle.

Gabriela fell behind while she had greater land speed her Linebacker lacked the jump jets of his Sidewinder. Sometimes she needed to make a detour to bypass particularly treacherous terrain and ford swollen rivers that he could simply boost over. This discouraged Seth, her mech was an excellent design in open areas but without jets close or broken terrain would disadvantage her. The Circle of Equals is on higher ground. It should be drier.

Her voice was hard she seemed annoyed by his concern, Star Captain Irons, this is my home field. I know what to expect of the terrain up there and a few things they will not be expecting. Stay focused on your part. I will do mine

The perimeter of the four-square kilometer Circle of Equals appeared on his HUD as a ghostly wall just as the dawning sun began to crest the horizon to their west. Within moments of entering the area Delta Galaxy Keeper Ajete was monitoring it from the SAPG central bunker and declared the start of the trial.

Roughly four kilometers away a Summoner and Hellbringer powered up and began to maneuver to the southern grid where their enemy lie. They ensured over-watch of one another and spaced themselves 500 meters apart. The lasers and autocannons on their arms swayed with each stride helping the omni-gyro balance the heavy mechs but they could be made level immediately if needed.

Zell was expected but not required in Adder trials. Smart positioning was key, exposing yourself was deemed a reckless action. As was trusting your foe to be honorable. Even the prideful Jade Falcons were known to seek pragmatism at times in pursuit of victory. Adder trials often had two mechs working together to allow more complex tactics than those required of Lone Aces so common in other clans and force the Warriors to pay attention to their situation while offering plenty of chances for individual Glory.

The combatants saw each other approach through the trees. Seth called out the Summoner piloted by Star Captain Meytani trusting in his superior firepower and endurance over the enemy's maneuverability. Gabriela faced the Hellbringer, her opponent carried slightly more weapons but was slower and with slightly less endurance.

Both sides opened with their long-range missile racks, 55 missiles flew into the sky followed by deadly lances of light and electric blue arcs of man-made lighting from PPCs. Each missile exploded mid-air covering the battlefield with a veil of thick white smoke against the damp conifers. A magnesium bright muzzle flash erupted from the right arm of Seth’s Sidewinder followed by the whorl of a Gauss projectile cutting through the gathering smoke. He could see the high velocity round impact the Summoner dead center and the associated armor plates deforming and shattering.

The Star Captain celebrated in his cockpit, First blood Meytani. I have been a Warrior since before you were in Sibko. Glad someone pays attention to my lectures on concealment at least. He triggered something with his left hand that created a series of simulated pulses in his HUD from the active probe mounted high on his right torso and engaged ghost target mode on his ECM creating a series of electronic signals that would confuse the Hawkeye 62 system of Meytani's Summoner.

Above the battlefield the crew of an Anhur VTOL watched the battle progress capturing footage for later analysis at the CMA. From their bird's eye view they could see the four mechs break into two separate duels putting the smoke and trees between them while remaining close enough for the Star Captains to use their jump jets and come to the aid of their Star Commanders if necessary.

Gabriela pushed her white blue Linebacker to the max catapulting it toward rocky ground that provided some camouflage. She came to an halt wheeling around to aim her large pulse laser and ten pack of missiles toward the menacing Hellbringer surrounded by smoke swirling in the mountain breeze. The lasers struck true damaging its right arm and her intended target the pair of lasers mounted beneath it. More smoke billowed forth ruining the aim of his auto-cannon, a double tap of 40mm shells went high blasting shards of stone that clattered on the top of her mech. One of the two lasers hit her machine on the right arm damaging the armor that protected her triple medium pulses. She wanted to draw the Hellbringer toward the stones and cut it to pieces there with her hidden quartet of heavy small lasers.

On the other side of the forest the blue grey Summoner launched another volley of smoke followed by its PPC toward the Sidewinder. Both PPCs impacted and the sudden discharge of energy slagged torso armor on both Warriors. This was followed up by a series of small explosions from the paired ten pack missiles that scattered low sending up clods of dirt and gravel that barely reached ankle height of the war machine. His Gauss rifle missed the mark instead splintered trees in an almost 300 meter line of woods behind Bryza. Her voice came in over the radio, taunting him despite the damage sustained by her mech. Are you losing your touch old man?

After several minutes of failing to goad her enemy into close terrain and cursing the fact that Adder Hellbringers have 25% more armor than those of other Clans Gabriela had to go on the offensive or risk losing out in the long range sniper duel between the two mechs. She dodged missiles fired in her direction but took a laser to her mech's head in the process.

The blast melted away most of the armor damaging the life support just below her cockpit. Emergency beacons squealed but were silenced. She triggered the explosive bolts to free the shell which dropped to the ground with a thump and vented the warm air. Now in an open canopy she could feel the cool mountain breeze that smelled of white phosphorous smoke mixed with rain and wildflowers.

Her enemy took the full brunt of four pulse lasers that cut deep red hot slices of armor off the top and staggered the machine. Its pilot maintained control and readied another volley as she ran off to the cannon side bringing her out of arc with its main firepower contained in the other arm that barely hung on by the myomer. She let everything go at once, four pulses and four heavy lasers cut the right torso apart and went deep into the core. The damage sustained was to much for the reactor to bear and it shut down venting plasma into the atmosphere.

Seth watched the Summoner he had been maneuvering against for the past several minutes switch targets firing off a canister shot of grenade sized sub-munitions at something hidden from him by smoke. He finished the enemy off with a solid double tap of the Gauss rifle and PPC that knocked the Summoner off its feet and destroyed its gyro so it would not rise again.

When the smoke cleared he could see a motionless Linebacker and the fallen Hellbringer less than sixty meters away. Gabriela, we did it!

In the Anhur orbiting the battlezone the SAPG technicians reported that the Trial was over with Seth Iron's victorious. Both the Sidewinder and Linebacker were standing but they could not believe what they were about to witness. The Sidewinder walked over toward the Linebacker then proceeded to fire a Gauss rifle into the downed Hellbringer's head and crush the fallen Summoner's beneath its feet. Keeper, we have a situation.

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