StarCorps Industries Assembly Complex B
August 9th 3049 (Local Fall)
When the Outreach Irregulars arrived on Son Hoa, it was raining. Autumn had just started to set in; it rained almost constantly during this time of year on Son Hoa. Meanwhile the days were getting shorter and colder. Soon the Vanishing Sea would be full again and winter storms would batter the coast with freezing rain, and snow.
StarCorps Industries Son Hoa production complex B was a sprawling factory network on the north shore of the Vanishing Sea. Complex B was so large that it had its own small space port; with runways and landing pads for dropships, as well as hangars for aircraft, Battlemechs, and other vehicles. There was also on site housing for a labor force thousands strong. The Irregulars were greeted at the dropship by a well-dressed Lyran man well into middle age.
"Guten tag, my name is Heinrich Decker, and I will be your chief liaison officer to StarCorps Industries. We have set up accommodations for you right here at this facility next to Complex B." He pointed to a large hangar near the end of the runway. "If there is anything I can do to make your stay more enjoyable please, let me know and I will do my best to assist you."
"Are you going to brief us on objectives?" Joker asked.
"You will be fully briefed on our situation by Sgt. Benson from Mobile Fire." Deck responded politely.
As the dropship taxied towards their new home Smith could see multiple loader mechs, and industrial exoskeletons moving across the runway to empty it. The hangar was huge; way more space than they really needed, and a blessing after months trapped in that tiny space brick. There were twenty mech bays on the main floor. With additional space for living quarters, and working spaces located on the second level. Lastly a command and control room was located in a small observation tower that rose over the north eastern corner of the building. With the rest of the complex off to the south west across the ferrocrete runways, and landing pads the hangar felt like a distant castle overlooking an ancient city.
StarCorps employees wasted little time; moving the Irregular's Battlemechs, ammunition and spares into the hangar with an almost robotic efficiency. The Irregulars found their respective quarters, before meeting up in a large conference room on the second floor. It was a corner room, with large windows that looked out over Son Hoa's green landscape.
"So; this will be our briefing room then" Smith said as he looked at the other Irregulars around the large conference table.
"Looks like the best place for the job!" Joker responded.
"Anybody know what it is we are going to be doing here?" Bull asked, looking at everyone in turn.
"From what we've been told this facility has been attacked several times over the last six months or so." Watanabe answered.
"I thought StarCorps had their own security" Colt said, interrupting.
Watanbe persisted. "They do; plus a whole regiment of Mercs called 'Mobile Fire' but they're stretched pretty thin. As I understand it, there are actually nine separate factory complexes on Son Hoa. It looks like we have Complex B, one the assembly centers."
"I wonder what they assemble" Smith said.
"I know they make Warhammer and King Crab battlemechs here. There are also complexes that make electronics, armor, fusion engines and all of the other stuff you need to make a 'mech work" Joker responded. "I heard they also rebuild Highlanders out of old damaged or destroyed ones.".
"Maybe they can give us a discount on another lance" Bull added with a smile.
Two men entered through the double doors to the conference room. One was medium height and wore a light grey StarCorps Industries jump suit. The other was tall and wore cargo shorts, a t shirt and a Mechwarriors' cooling vest.
The man in the jump suit spoke first.
"Good evening. I'm managing officer Gonzales with StarCorps Security Services." he said. "This, is Sgt. Benson from Mobile Fire" he said, gesturing to the man standing next to him.
Watanabe responded for the group. "I'm Captain Watanabe; this is Smith, Joker, Bull, and Colt. We are the Outreach Irregulars."
"It's a pleasure to meet you all." Gonzales responded, nodding. "We've come to brief you on your assignment as well as what resources will be made available to your command while you're here."
"We have been looking forward to it" Watanabe answered.
"Good" Benson said before continuing. "Welcome to complex B. This is where brand new Warhammer 'mechs are assembled for the Lyran side of the Federated Commonwealth. Over the last seven months, this and other complexes on Son Hoa have been attacked by an as yet unidentified group of pirates, most likely coming out of the Circinus Federation. They only attack at night and they normally only drop in lance to company sized groups. I hope you don't mind the night shift, because that's when we need you. Every night you will go out on a combat patrol, looking for any suspicious activity; especially any dropship flares. We know that they operate at least one Union type vessel. You will have limited support from StarCorps Security Services; also Mobile Fire has an artillery fire base within range of this AO. If things get really bad we also have a rapid reaction force available. Unfortunately it's forty clicks out so we may not get to you in time to be much help. I'll be going out with you guys tonight, to show you the patrol route, after that you're on your own up here. I think that's just about everything... oh wait - one more thing. It's going to get cold up here. I mean really cold. Come winter the vanishing sea is going to magically reappear. Then it's going to fill with ice water; that means freezing rain, sleet, and snow daily! I trust you've all had experience with arctic operations? Just thought I'd give you a heads up... Officer Gonzales do you have anything?"
Gonzales began to speak. "Yes, thank you. We have a small contingent here to defend the facility. We don't have battlemechs, but we do have several armed industrial and security-mechs as well as some vehicles and around a company of well-equipped infantry. We're no match for standup battlemech combat but we can do some damage if the tactical situation is right. Our security forces work on three shifts and cover all hours of the day. Should the need arise we will wake you if the bandits attack during the day, but thus far this has not been an issue. I have also been instructed to inform you that any salvage collected from downed bandits is yours to keep. Also, any damages you receive during the night will be repaired the following morning by our skilled technicians. Any questions?"
Again, Watanabe spoke for the group. "When should we expect to launch tonight's patrol?"
"1900 hours, or as soon as it's dark outside; whichever comes first" Sgt. Benson answered.
"Sounds good; we'll get some food, then prep our equipment for the run" Smith said.
The rest of the afternoon went by quickly; the Irregulars ate a quick meal in the hangar's small cafeteria, before going down stairs to prepare their Battlemechs. This turned out to be an easy job with help from the professionals at StarCorps Industries. The technicians worked quickly to recalibrate the DI computers of the Irregular's 'mechs to local conditions; before giving each a full diagnostic inspection. After finishing calibration and inspection, the techs loaded each 'mech with its full complement of ammunition, removing all safety locks and flags while doing so. The Outreach Irregulars were ready for their first combat operation.
Chet's paint job was perfect for this climate. Smith almost had trouble seeing Joker's Jenner as it darted from tree to tree off in the distance about seven hundred meters. Chet had only added one distinguishing mark to their mechs back on Outreach; each had a Panzer Yellow band on the right upper arm, centered on each arm band was the Greek letter PHI printed in flat black. Smith liked the impromptu logo. The O crossed with I reminded him of ancient Terran Baseball Cards he had seen in the museum back on Clinton. Sgt. Benson's Enforcer moved into his field of view on the right. Its blue green paint almost stood out in the moon light. Off to his left was Colt in his newish Centurion. Bull trailed a few hundred meters behind. If Joker spotted anything Bull would be the first to pull the trigger as Smith, Colt and Sgt. Benson moved into firing positions. At five strong they packed a lot of fire power. Smith was itching for a fight - but this wasn't that kind of job. They'd been out for nearly four hours now.
After leaving the complex and heading south, they'd reached the vanishing sea before turning to the west and traveling along the beach for about forty kilometers, then turning to the north, then east. Soon they would turn towards the south and complete their long patrol loop. The plan was to stop by the complex for a quick break, then make the loop again. Two six hour patrols a night, every night... for God only knew how long. This was going to be a fun one.
November 6th 3049
Three months. Smith and the rest of the Outreach Irregulars had been at this for three months; no action; no sign of bandits, just the same trees, fields, and towns night in night out. They were all getting bored, but that was the job. Maybe these Circinus banditos had heard about the extra help StarCorps had brought in. Maybe they had found another world to fuck with. Maybe a pirate point jump had gone terribly wrong and sent them off to some strange alien world with bizarre talking bird people. It didn't matter they weren't attacking StarCorps, and that pissed Smith off. He was a Mechwarrior not a security guard; he'd been on jobs like this before; months of waiting and patrolling for nothing. Three months...
"Echo lance this is castle actual do you copy?" Watanabe's accent sounded strange over the radio.
"This is Echo lead. We read you castle" Smith responded.
"We have multiple sightings of an unidentified flying object twenty clicks north, northwest of your current position. The civilian data nets out of Qingdoa are flooded with reports of a possible dropship flare."
"This isn't going to be another crazy farmer incident is it castle?" Smith was getting really sick of false drop ship reports from stupid hillbillies convinced that Kerensky's children had returned, or aliens had come out of the periphery, or some such bullshit.
"I'm now getting reports of military vehicles and Battlemechs sighted inside the town of Qingdoa. I'm posting this to the local security data net; Mobile Fire and StarCorps Security Services need to see this."
"Alright people; you heard the lady; we're moving best speed north, northwest. I want systems and weapons checks from everyone, then call ready op."
"This is Joker. I'm green across the board; ready op!"
"Bull here; ready op."
"This is Colt. All systems nominal; ready op"
"Alright people lets go kick some ass." Smith responded "Castle actual, this is Echo lance. We are moving to intercept unknown forces near Qingdoa; ETA twenty minutes."
"Roger that Echo Lead."
Smith's heart was already pounding in his chest. He knew this was for real. He knew what was coming. For a moment he thought about Colt; how scared he must be. He'd be okay; the kid was a great pilot, with good instincts. And nothing kept people alive in this game like instinct. He checked his tactical map Joker was way out on the edge now; about a thousand meters. At that distance he could get bushwhacked badly before they could catch up, but he still had Bull's indirect fire if he needed some help. Before he knew it they were half way there and Watanabe was calling out flash traffic over coms.
"Echo lance this is Castle actual I have a visual feed from Qingdoa on the local data net; I'm piping it to you now."
The video was a grainy lo-rez. In the background a lightweight Commando Battlemech stood over a small utility truck filled with men. The men were dirty, and didn't wear uniforms. They carried antiquated small arms, and a few man portable SRM launchers. Some of their weapons looked as if they could be hundreds of years old. One of the men jumped out of the truck, and fired a burst from his rusty assault rifle into the air. Then he saw the camera pointed at him. He gestured to one of the men with an SRM launcher. There was a quick flash... the feed died.
"Echo Lance, in light of what we are seeing Mobile Fire has decided to send their rapid reaction force to assist you. They are a long way out; they've sent me an ETA of one hour" Watanabe sounded concerned.
"Roger Castle" Smith's response was ice cold. He didn't need another lance out here to help him wipe the floor with these assholes, but he also didn't think there would be much of a fight left in an hour. "Make sure they have IFF set to our channel."
"I will Echo; good hunting."
Another ten minutes went by; everyone running full tilt. Smith must have checked his boards a million times; then Joker found them; he was a damn good scout.
"This is Joker I have multiple contacts marked at grid location G four, orientation one hundred fifty seven degrees southeast; they're not moving."
"Roger that Joker, I've got them on my tac-map. What are we looking at, and have they seen you yet?"
"I've got two Commandos', and an Urbie hanging out in a park on the edge of town. They seem to be holding next to a light skinned vehicle possible motorized infantry. They don't know I'm here."
"Good, we're moving to engage. As soon as we have closed to twenty five percent plus weapon range Bull is going to give it to um hard. "
"Roger that" Joker responded.
A few tense seconds passed. Joker watched silently from a stand of trees. The rest of the Irregulars closed on their targets. At six hundred meters Smith gave Bull the signal to fire.
"Bull, send it!" He yelled into his mic.
"On the way" Bull answered.
Thirty long range missiles poured out of Bull's Catapult; streaking outwards
towards an unsuspecting Commando. The dark night was suddenly a lite with small
flashes as thirty explosions covered the Commando and surrounding area. The
small truck was hit by a stray round; it was thrown over by the force of the
explosion, and left a burning hulk. The Commando was hurt bad but it wasn't
out of the fight. Almost instantly the three small mechs sprang to life. The
two commandos fired lasers into the darkness as the Urbie backed off into town.
Bull fired another volley this time backed up by Colts Centurion. The damaged
Commando took a beating as forty more missiles impacted its upper body. Joker
took advantage of the situation dating out from the tree line and firing a cluster
of small pulse lasers into the damaged mechs' face. As the cockpit glass melted
the mech just stopped; it suddenly pitched to the left as it fell onto a children's
playground. The other Commando turned to face Joker, but he was already gone.
Instead he found himself face to face with the rest of the Outreach Irregulars. Smith's ultra-autocannon spit rounds into the small mechs center torso. A moment later Colt's class ten autocannon joined in; the combination of rounds rapidly punched through the Commando's light armor. Bull and Colt fired a barrage of bright amber green lasers into the damaged mechs center. There was a brilliant flash as the fusion core breached containment. The little mech crumpled to the ground.
There was little chatter as each member of the team acted on instinct combined with years of intense training. Bull backed off to six hundred meters outside of town. Joker circled all the way around to the northwest corner of Qingdoa. On the way he spotted another Battlemech, and a hand full of vehicles. The previously identified Urbanmech ducked out from behind a building and fired its massive class twenty autocannon at Colt, who had followed Smith directly into the city. The round impacted the Centurions left arm and detonated sending shrapnel fragments in all directions as it destroyed most of the armor in that location. The two responded with a full volley of autocannon fire then lasers. The Centurions two mediums turned armor into a glowing mass of flowing liquid. Smith's three small pulse lasers lashed out cutting through armor to damage internal structure. The Urbie fired its massive gun again. This time the round caught Smith's left torso. Armor exploded off into space like debris from a meteor strike, but Smith had armor to spare. The two mechs opened up again with their automatic cannons; this time one of Smith's rounds struck the gyro, causing the Urbie to jerk to one side violently. The pilot tried to right himself, but the mech over corrected falling onto its back; smoke pouring from several holes in its armor.
"I've got visual on a Merlin just inside the city moving your way" Joker called over the radio.
"Roger that moving to engage."
With Colt on this left Smith started to push deeper into Qingdoa. He took his time knowing that there were SRM teams wondering around out there. On their way through the city Smith and Colt spotted several more small trucks filled with pirates. Each was easily destroyed by laser fire. Colt fired his long range missiles into a bandit roadblock near the center of town. The missiles threw debris in all directions, clearing the obstacle and the men standing behind it. They kept moving towards the Merlin. Meanwhile Joker was spotting targets for indirect LRM fire from Bull. In just a few minutes the two had killed eight armored vehicles that had worked their way through the town and were trying to exit to the south. Joker circled back around and headed north on the west side of town to where he had spotted the Merlin. Bull turned to head east then north in a flanking maneuver around the town's eastern side. Smith and Colt met him first.
The Merlin emerged from behind a building two blocks away. It immediately fired its particle cannon and medium lasers. The PPC went wide impacting an office building to Smiths right, but the lasers dragged across his mech's upper body damaging armor from right to left. Colt fired his LRMs before opening up with this class ten, and medium lasers. The Merlin shrugged it off as it returned fire with its own LRMs. Smith dropped the hammer on his ultra and the rounds poured out of it. The near constant stream of shells caused the mechs right shoulder to recoil back away from the gun. The two medium mechs continued to fire high explosive armor piercing rounds into the Merlin as Bull came into firing range and let loose a full volley of LRMs. At almost the same time Joker appeared as if out of nowhere and started to fire small pulses of angry red light into the Merlin's back. Moments from death the Merlin fired everything it had directly at Smith's Hunchy.
The alpha strike hurt; Smith was thrown into his restrains as Sidekick bucked hard. The combination of PPC and Laser hits burnt through the leftover armor of his left torso. His anti-missile system took out all five LRMS but the twenty millimeter rounds from the Merlin's Sperry Browning machine gun made it through his armor and into the magazine for his main gun. The explosion was deafening as hot gases rapidly vented from cellular ammunition storage equipment; Sidekick was thrown forward and to the right. Smith tried to correct, but he already was too far gone. The ground came up to meet him in a lightning fast blur. Smith blacked out.
June 15th 3028
"Paul honey, wake up" his mother called from the kitchen "Paul you have to get ready for the parade! I'm not going to ask you again kiddo; now get ready!" His mother's voice was shrill; she was stressed about dad leaving. Paul got ready for the day before walking to the kitchen for some breakfast. His mother, brother and sister where already sitting around the table. She was staring at him.
"Paul honey, this is a special occasion. Fix that tie!"
"Mom it's not a special occasion. Dad's just leaving again."
"You know what your father does. You know he has to leave. Fifteen months will be over before you know it, and he'll be home telling stories over at Finnegan's."
"He's only been home for three years! Now he's leaving again. Why can't someone else go? Don't they know it's my birthday next month? Don't they know he's only been there for two?" Paul burst in to tears. He'd done that a lot lately. At eight years old he barely knew his father at all, but he knew he liked having one more then not having one.
"Honey I know this is hard for you, but your father is a soldier, and a soldier does what he's ordered to do. I want him here more than anything; but that's up to the First Prince, not us."
The parade grounds were cold. Paul was cold; the bleachers were cold, the air was cold... the whole damn planet was cold. Colorado was a world where winters where eternal. It was summer but snowflakes still fell as the full force of the First Chisholm's Raiders marched across the parade ground. The procession seemed to go on for hours. First the aerospace fighters flew by, many trailing blue smoke as they performed dazzling maneuvers. Next the vertical takeoff and landing forces came over head. Karnov transports followed by Nightshades, and Warriors; afterwards armored vehicles rolled or hovered across the open ground. Dozens of tanks, scout cars, and hovercraft; each group carefully organized by type as they passed. Riding in trucks at the end of the column where the infantry; thousands of men sure to die on a high-tech battlefield where they were under armed and under armored. Lastly came the Battlemechs; kings of the thirty first century battlefield they marched lance after lance; company after company, until only one was left. Marshal Dennis' Atlas was a giant metal monster; to his left was Paul's father. His light blue Marauder was the only heavy mech in the command company; the other officers hid behind tons of armor; not Vincent Anderson. From what Paul understood his father was the best duelist in the regiment, and had been assigned to personally protect Marshal Dennis at all times. For just a moment Paul felt that his father was staring right at him. The mechs of the command company turned towards the bleachers and stopped; each raised an arm in salute. Paul could see his father through cockpit glass, the massive old Neurohelmet covered his head and shoulders alike; but not his face; Paul could see his face, just for a moment before they turned away marching on to Denver Spaceport.
"Hey dude wake up!" The voice was a million miles away; ringing, a voice totally unfamiliar to him.
"I mean it man; I'm not ready to bury you yet; we barely know each other asshole! Now wake the fuck up!" The voice was closer now, louder too; it cut through that horrible ringing sound. What was that? Something or someone was shaking him violently. Then another voice softer than before and much closer, like it was coming from inside his head.
"Echo lead this is Castle actual; do you copy? Echo lead, please respond. Smith, are you still with us?" Watanabe's voice trembled slightly.
"I'm still kicking Captain." Smith's voice was weak; his eyes opened to Joker staring up from underneath him.
"Well good morning sunshine, I thought you were toasted for a second there" he smirked. "Now don't freak out; your Hunchy is lying flat on its face, and if you undo that harness you're going to take a little fall, okay?
Smith realized that his arms and legs were hanging out from under him.
"So I'm going to reach up and grab you; okay man? When I've got you; release your harness."
Joker reached up and lifted as much of Smith's weight as he could. Smith pulled the release on his five point, and felt himself drop. Joker caught him, mostly. With a little help Smith crawled out of his normal access hatch.
The world outside was loud, and bright, and confusing. Smith was standing on a city street; at the other end of which was a burning pile of Merlin. Overhead several helicopters endlessly circled as he turned to survey a world that moments ago had not existed. To the right Colt stood thirty feet tall in his Centurion. To the left was Joker's shutdown Jenner. On a nearby corner, several triple S officers stood over a group of men bound with plastic restraints; black bags over their heads. The security officers were wearing full battle rattle. One even had a modified industrial exoskeleton armed with machine guns and a single shot SRM pack. Far in the distance the silhouette of a Battlemech passed behind an office building. It wasn't one of the Irregulars.
"Joker; what happened?"
"We won man" he answered "We took down that Merlin; then Mobile Fire's Rapid Reaction Force showed up with a shit ton of guys from Triple S."
"Oh... okay." Smith wanted to go back to sleep more than he had ever wanted to do anything. He sat down on the side walk.
"There's a medic on the way over here to check you out. Don't go back to sleep; okay man?"
"Whatever you say boss man" Smith saluted while laughing like a crazy person.