Zhu Cho Farm Lands
December 23rd 3049 (Local Winter)
There were only a few months left on the contract with StarCorps. As it was, the Irregulars had been on Son Hoa for over four months and only seen one fight. Smith didn't think StarCorps would reissue their contract with so little action to speak of.
It was winter now, and cold as Benson had promised it would be. The Irregulars had repainted their Battlemechs in arctic whites and grays. Sidekick's feet made a crunching sound as they plodded through the ice and snow. Outside his cockpit the world looked like a postcard; trees, fences, and homes covered in a thick white powder. Smith hated the cold, but he loved to fight in the snow; he could run his lasers a lot hotter in the cold air.
Today's patrol had gone a lot like all of their resent patrols. Joker was running out about a thousand meters ahead; followed by his new apprentice Cowboy. Smith, and Colt were the tip of the spear positioned about three hundred meters out in front of the rest of fire lance. Angel and Oni were the center piece of the unit they had the armor and firepower to burn down anyone dumb enough for a stand up fight. Bull brought up the rear, a constant over watch; always in range to support the lance with LRM fire.
As tense and ready for a fight as they'd been a few weeks back; the Irregulars had relaxed quite a bit. Constant friendly banter had become the norm on coms. Joker would tell jokes... terrible, terrible jokes. Angel would tell the most horrifying war stories that Smith, Joker, Bull, or Oni had ever heard. That woman had seen things, and she loved to scare the rookies. One night Oni even read them some Haikus that she had written since coming to Son Hoa. The company made for a fun night shift and Smith almost didn't care that they weren't fighting pirates every day.
"Smith this is Joker you copy?"
"Yeah man; what's up?"
"I've got some strange sensor activity. Everyone go radio silent until I get back to you; okay?"
"Roger that. All units copy?"
One by one, each of the Irregulars sent a coded confirmation signal. In an instant the chatter, jokes, poems, and relaxed attitude were gone. They were a professional fighting force now; ready to deal death to bandit scum bags.
Several tense minutes passed as Joker, and Cowboy checked their sensors, and scanned for contacts. Smith hated to wait. He rapped his knuckles on Sidekicks control panel; he checked, and rechecked his displays; his ammo counts. Everything was green; everything was ready. Joker's voice came over the radio.
"Fire lance, this is Recon lance, do you copy?"
"Recon lance, this is Fire actual, we've got you loud and clear" Oni responded for the lance.
"I've got ablative plating from drop pods on the ground here. We need to alert all global defense forces that there are hostiles in the area."
"Roger that Recon lance; I'm posting to the local defense net as we speak."
Just as they uploaded the report, the flash traffic came pouring in. Three drop flares, falling fast outside Complex B. They'd have to haul ass to get back there; they were about twenty clicks out, and the dropships would be grounded, and unloading in minutes. Watanabe gave the order but everyone was already turning towards home.
"All units, return to base at best speed. Security lance prepare for imminent contact."
Every one responded at the same time.
Every mech in the unit was running at top speed; about half way back they got there first calls from Triple S. There was a full sized battalion of pirate mechs coming out of three grounded dropships. They were in for a real fight. With those numbers everyone in the unit would have to down at least two mechs for them to come out on top. Benson's voice came over the radio.
"Outreach Irregulars, this is Sgt. Benson I am leading the rapid reaction force to Complex B. We are company strength and ready for a fight; our aerospace and VTOL assets should arrive at the complex momentarily. Just try to hold on until we get there."
Good smith thought; the help from Mobil Fire would really even up the fight. Maybe they wouldn't all be going home in body bags after all. Joker's voice burst in over the radio again.
"Contact!" he yelled.
In the distance Smith could see weapons fire. Machine gun tracers, mixed with red pulses of light. Several trees burst into flames.
"Recon lance what's going on?" Oni asked.
"We are under attack by a recon element; two Locusts and a Spider."
"Roger Recon; we're moving to engage" Oni answered
By this point the Irregulars' formation had closed up some. It only took a few seconds for fire lance to move into position. Bull was Jonny on the spot with the LRMs letting lose a full barrage on one of the Locusts which had been stupid enough to engage Cowboys Commando in a duel. Cowboy was already winning the fight when the LRMs came in, tearing off most of the armor located on top of the small mech. Cowboy's machine fired a cluster of SRMs right into the holes, and the tiny mech burst into flames. At the same time Joker took the head right off a Spider with an alpha strike from six small pulse lasers. The rest of fire lance was in range now firing a mix of medium ranged weapons at the remaining locust. Smith got off a lucky shot taking the Locust's leg off at the reverse knee joint. The small mech hit the ground; struggled; fired off a machine gun burst, then gave up. Smith watched as the pilot opened the hatch waving a long piece of white fabric.
They made their way back to Complex B without further incident. Arriving from the North West the Irregulars could see the Mobile Fire aerospace fighters making attack runs on the grounded dropships; keeping them pinned in place as friendly forces moved to engage. This would be the final battle there was no way these bastards would make it off world again.
"Contacts twelve o'clock; all units go weapons free, engage, engage!" Jokers' voice was strained as he hurdled across the battlefield at a hundred and thirty kilometers an hour; he must get tossed around in there pretty good, Smith thought.
Smith had visual contacts now; lots of them. In fact, he wasn't sure he had been in an environment this target rich since Vega. They had the pirate's attention now, several enemy Battlemechs turned to open fire at once. There must have been four, or five lances of pirate mechs arrayed around the complex fence. Triple S had dug in well; there was a constant stream of machine gun fire and short range missiles coming out of what looked like every window, and door.
The Triple S lance had concealed itself inside the buildings of complex B. Joker had run right down the middle, and was passing through the enemy line; cowboy following close behind. Smith was amazed he could run right by people like that without getting killed. Smith pushed his control stick hard to the left while keeping torso facing the enemy battle line, Colt followed. At the same time, Oni and Angel broke right; while Bull took cover behind a cluster of large rocks.
The firing started all at once. Smith's autocannon barked out rounds in short staccato bursts. He followed with his pulse lasers. They ate through holes in damaged armor; a lone Cicada was the first to fall. Colt was backing him up with cannon fire and lasers. He turned to fire a cluster of long range missiles at a distant target Recon Lance had selected; Bull joined in, and contrails filled the night sky.
The Cicada was followed by an ancient looking Dervish, then a Thorn. These bandits dropped easy, like shooting fish in a barrel. Smith checked his sensors. They'd done well at getting the drop on these guys, but they were the lighter mechs of the unit, and some of the heavier mechs where about to force their way into the complex.
The fence around Complex B wasn't really a fence; it was more of a twenty foot high reinforced ferrocrete wall topped with guard posts and constantino wire. Most mechs would have to at least blast their way through it. But a lance of jump jet equipped mechs hoped right over it and immediately opened fire destroying buildings inside the complex as well as the Triple S guards inside.
There was strong response form Triple S as a torrent of short range missiles came from every windows, and door. Men ducked around the corners of buildings, firing machineguns and assault rifles. A Wasp was downed almost immediately; caught in the deadly barrage. A Stinger was caught by surprise as the four pseudo mechs of the Triple S lance came out from behind cover firing machineguns, and adding even more missile fire to the fray. The two light mechs of the lance where already down as a Cataphract, and Shadow Hawk turned towards a barley armored Copper. The small security mech came apart at the seams; unable to stand up to the heavy barrage. As the smoke cleared, only its legs remained standing; the rest of the machine had all but disappeared. The three remaining lance mates opened up with everything they had; concentrating fire on the lighter Shadow Hawk. A large volley of SRMs and machine gun fired was added to by the Marco's large laser, and the Urbanmech's heavy autocannon. The Shadow Hawk stumbled, but returned fired burning the thirty five ton Peacemaker to the ground; before igniting jump jets and fleeing the Complex.
Officer Gonzales fired his massive autocannon again; this time targeting the Cataphract bearing down on him at close range. It was a solid hit to the heavy mech's center torso, barely missing the Ferro-carbonate of the cockpit. The Cataphract returned fired now; lasers chewed through his light armor as two automatic cannons barked out high explosive shells. A cluster round burst right out in front of him throwing its deadly sub munitions across his mechs entire body. There was a blur to Gonzales' left as Officer Lieu's Marco came crashing into the Cataphract at full speed. Lieu fired his large laser into the pirate machine's right arm as the two came crashing to the ground.
"Gonzales, get the hell out of here!" came Lieu's voice over the radio.
Goldberg didn't respond, there was nothing left to say; he fired the massive auto cannon one more time; taking off the Cataphract's damaged right arm; before retreating back into one of the complexes larger assembly centers. Outside the Cataphract got back on its feet and began searching for him; stopping to take out Triple S missile teams as it went.
Oni's cockpit shook as the flight of long range missiles landed all around her. She got a hard tone in her neurohelmet; short range missiles burst from their launcher, streaking out past her cockpit on their way to a damaged Grasshopper. All six missiles impacted the mech's head and upper torso; she followed up with particle cannon fire; taking the Grasshoppers head clean off as the long range missile system detonated mid reload.
"Target down" She called out over the radio.
"Roger that" Angel called back. "We've got two coming at us from grid location C twelve."
"Contact" Oni answered as she fired both particle cannons at an approaching Quickdraw. Angel joined in with her own particle cannons. The Quickdraw returned fire with long range missiles. Oni's Warhammer was already pock marked with craters as the missiles hit home; throwing armor to the winds as they detonated. Angel let loss another stream of charged particles; this time the Quickdraw's ammo bins went up turning the sixty ton Battlemech into a fireworks display. The victory was short lived; Angel's Warhammer quaked as a burst of high velocity shells stitched their way from its right leg to left torso. The Quickdraw's sidekick let loose with everything his Champion had; lasers lashed out making contact with both Angel, and Oni, but the short range missiles flew right between the two missing entirely. Angel returned fire with everything she had; the Champion was right out in front of her now, an easy target for the alpha strike. Oni backed her up with lasers and machineguns; then a moment later with her SRMs. The champion was already badly damaged when it turned to run off; they let him.
"Bull, this is Oni; do you copy?"
"I've got you"
"Can you hit my selected target?"
"Roger that; on the way."
Bull got lock almost as soon as he turned to look in Oni's direction. He fired a full volley of thirty long range missiles; they arched up high over the battlefield and came down on a fleeing Champion like a sledge hammer. The mech collapsed to the ground, finished. Then he heard Joker's voice over the radio.
"Bull, this is Joker; I need fire support" his voice was shaky things weren't going well
Bull scanned his displays looking for joker. "Okay, I've got you; where do you want the fire started?" he asked
"If you could find it in our infinite wisdom to put some hurt on the Assassin chasing us down; that would really help me out a lot."
"For that I'll need you to get him sighted in; you think you can turn to face him?"
Joker was in a bad spot. He needed fire support but to get it he would have to turn and face the larger Assassin that was chasing him. They were also about to run back into the fray, and the fray was no place for scouts.
"Cowboy, on my say so I want you to break right hard and turn into our friend here; we're going to try to get behind him for a second so that Bull can lock him up."
"Okay so what if he keeps chasing me?"
"I'm going to break left he can only follow one of us, the other will get behind to lock him up."
"Okay ready when you are" Cowboy said.
"Good; now break!"
The two light mechs broke off in different directions. The Assassin took the bait; following Cowboy's smaller Commando. That worked into Jokers hand perfectly, and at the end of his loop he was about two hundred and fifty meters out, running right behind the Assassin who was too distracted following Cowboy's Commando to realize how fucked he was.
"Bull, I'm right on him; do you have lock?"
"Just got it; missiles are inbound."
Joker had a front row set as thirty long range missiles covered the Assassin with powerful explosions. It wasn't enough to drop him, but it must have hurt. The Assassin slowed slightly and that was the sign Joker was looking for. He fired several quick bursts of pulse laser fire into the medium mechs rear end. Confused the pirate mech slowed; turning to face his attacker.
"Cowboy, he's turning to fight me; put as much hurt on him as you can, then start running circles; got it?"
Cowboy came around lightning fast to see the Assassin's much weakened rear armor. He fired a full barrage of short range missiles right into the damaged area. The larger mech stumbled and fell forward, but tried to stand using its gun barrel right arm to get off the ground. Cowboy fired again, this time with his medium laser; damaging the Assassins engine. It gave up trying to stand and slumped over.
Smith's sensors told him that they were doing well; with Colt's help he had already dropped four enemy mechs, it looked like Oni, and Angel had done the same. Based on his sensor information, there were only ten pirate mechs left standing, and at least two of them were damaged. On the other hand everyone in his unit had taken at least some damage and they were all rapidly running out of ammo; not to mention that fact that almost all of the onsite Triple S staff had been wiped out. It was time for the Outreach Irregulars to call for help.
"Reaper lead do you copy?" Smith called over the radio.
"This is Reaper lead I've got you five by five" Benson's voice was a god sent.
"Reaper lead we've busted them up pretty bad, but we are starting to run short on ammo, and armor. Do you have an ETA?"
"We'll be in weapons range in less than five minutes."
"Roger, we're going to make our way back into the complex and hold as long as we can."
"Sounds good, I'll divert the fighters to give you some more support."
"Thanks Reaper lead, I'll make sure to leave a couple of these assholes standing for you guys to play with."
"Sounds like fun; Reaper out" and Benson was gone.
Smith checked his damage readings; all in the yellow, but that could be a lot worse. He looked over to his right Colt's left arm was gone, but other than that he looked okay. In the distance he watched Joker and Cowboy zipping between mechs from the Pirate command lance. That would be the tough nut to crack; four fresh assault mechs. He turned to check on Oni; she was in a duel with a damaged Shadow Hawk.
"This is Smith; all units fall back to the complex, we should have reinforcements in T minus five minutes."
Again Smith received a series of green indicators; everyone was too busy to talk. He turned to his right, moving to form up with the rest of Fire Lance. Oni had scored a critical hit on the Shadow Hawk's fusion engine; it burst brighter than the sun in a massive fire ball, small pieces of Battlemech were thrown outwards in long spiraling arcs. Bull fired a volley at a distant Atlas before leaving cover to form up with the rest of the group. Recon Lance had split off from their attack run and made their way out into the woods; they would be taking the long way back to base to avoid drawing in the enemy assault mechs.
As Fire lance moved towards the now totally destroyed gate to Complex B yet another enemy lance came in to block their path. A Marauder, two Wolverines, and a Jagermech stood between the Irregulars and the gate. Everyone opened up at once; lasers, autocannon slugs, and missiles filled the space between the two groups.
A Wolverine's head exploded and it fell backwards in what looked like slow motion. Colt's autocannon fired one last burst, as the last bits of armor were blown from his center torso. His auto ejection feature triggered and he went flying up into the night. Smith looked up to see him falling slowly under a parachute. Then something else; a lance of Mobile Fire fighters was diving in to help them, each firing on a separate enemy battlemech. Another Wolverine went down in flames; Bull's quartet of medium lasers had punched throw an ammo bin. Smith joined Oni; concentrating fire on the Jagermech; as Angel paired off for a duel with the Marauder.
Bull used his jump jets to clear the fence; from inside the complex he fired at the now incoming assault mechs. Smith was careful to only use his pulse laser now; he was running out of ammo very fast and needed to save as much as he could for the pirate command staff. Oni's particle cannons tore throw the Jagermech's right arm disabling almost half its fire power. Smith kept up his barrage of laser fire as the temperature in his cockpit rose to unbearable levels. Oni fired a salvo of short range missiles into the mech's shoulder; it did the trick; the cannon shells bursting in a massive fire ball. Angel and the Marauder were circling each other now; trading steams of charged particles followed by laser fire. The marauder was in better shape but Angel's gunnery skill was well beyond that of the pirate. After trading only a few salvos, she took out the Marauder's cockpit killing the pilot; the seventy five ton war machine went limp before dropping to the ground. The three remaining Outreach Irregulars managed their way through the gate as the enemy command lace came into weapons range. Oni and Angel opened up with everything they had; Smith joined them firing his last three cannon bursts. Bull fired the last of his long range missiles.
"I'm Bingo on..." Bull's radio cut out as a hyper sonic nickel slug the size of a water melon smashed through his cockpit. The Catapult's legs went out from under it, and the lifeless machine crashed to the ferrocrete tarmac. What had been a good friend was turned into a nothing more than a metal husk in an instant. There wasn't any reaction from the rest of the team, there wasn't any time for that now. This fight was almost over.
"Reaper leader, this is Fire lance we are two down and bingo on ammo. We need immediate support; copy?"
"This is reaper lead; we are engaging enemy mechs from the south west."
Smith looked off to the right where he saw the Rapid Reaction Force attacking the enemy with Recon Lance in tow.
"All units push forward. Let's finish these stupid fucks."
Oni and Angel charged back out through the gate as the Mobile Fire company distracted the massive enemy machines. An atlas spewed black smoke, and slowly toppled over; while a Cyclops' ammo bins burst turning the massive war machine into a towering inferno. Oni and Angel paired off to attack a remaining Zeus; while a massive Stalker turned to take on the entire Mobile Fire company; Smith watched on as the ugly battlemech destroyed two mediums in quick succession before falling to the combined fire of twelve other mechs.
That was it; the battle was over, Smith thought as he was suddenly thrown hard into his five point harness. Armor readings for his rear torso went from green to yellow, then red. He threw his control stick as fast and hard as he could; turning side kick to the right. Coming around he found himself face to face with a damaged Cataphract; its remaining weapons lashed out at him again and again. Medium lasers cut through what was left of his torso armor, as the pirate fired a cluster round from an autocannon right into his internal structure. Sidekick shook hard as the lights and displays in his cockpit flickered; then went out. He reached for the ejection handle but nothing happened. He felt his stomach rise as he began to fall; he didn't black out this time. Sidekick landed on its back with a bone jarring thud. Smith could see the sky; it was almost light out now. Then something blocked out the sky; an arm, a medium laser held right to the glass. There was nothing he could do but wait for it. Smith heard an extremely load popping noise followed by an explosion, then another, and another. The arm lifted away as the Cataphract spun and fell to the ground next to him. He could see the cockpit; well what was left anyway. Someone had blasted their way in one side, and out the other; someone with a really big gun.
Smith opened the hatch to crawl out of his mech for the second time on Son Hoa. The battle was over Officer Gonzales stood over him triumphantly in his Urbanmech; its feet surrounded by empty shell casings. He waved a salute to the damaged but functional machine.
"Pop, pop; watching motherfuckers drop!" Gonzales said over the Urbie's load speaker.
"God damn right" Smith yelled back smiling. "I'm going out to look for Colt; you mind following me out there?"
"No problem; you want a ride?"
"No thanks, I'll take my chances on the ground" Smith reached back
into Sidekick's cockpit, and grabbed the rusty assault rifle he had kept for
these sorts of occasions. He unfolded the stock, and pulled the charging handle
until it stopped; the bolt carrier made a metallic sound as it rushed forward.
With a battlefield full of downed mechs there where sure to be some pirates walking around out there. Smith made his way to the main gate house; Goldberg's Urbie not far behind. He met a small group of Triple S guards who had miraculously survived the bombardment of the the main gate area; they left their post to follow him out into the field. It took some time but Smith found Colt sitting on top of his destroyed Centurion.
"Hey dude you okay?" he asked
"It got a little hairy there for a few minutes but I'm fine" Colt answered.
"Good to hear."
"Is everyone else okay?" Colt asked
"I got knocked down... and Bull..." Smith sighed "Bull didn't make it."
Colt was million miles away; it was like he hadn't even noticed what Smith had said.
"So that's it? It's all over; we're done?"
"Yeah, that's it; we're done here."
"I just thought there was more to it than that. I thought there would be more fire fights... you know like a war."
"Sorry kid; this was no war, just some backwater rent-a-cop action."
"Do you think we'll ever go to war?"
"If there's a war anytime soon; we'll get in on it."
"Cool." Colt's thousand yard stair said a lot for the whole unit.
It told you that his days as the rookie kid in this unit where over. He had
survived his four minutes; he was a Mechwarrior now. And just like Colt the
Outreach Irregulars were a mature unit now. They'd seen combat and they'd survived.