His fever had to have been getting worse, but he couldn’t care less about it. He should have been down there with his lance mates. That much he had urged Doctor Ledger so. He even threatened to quit but the Doc just wouldn’t clear him for the drop.
When he took the matter to their company commander, the answer was a solid “No.”. He just wouldn’t risk one of their finest pilots and millions worth of equipment over a simple Kalucian Flux. The disease was harmless on adults, but its symptoms included were fever, throbbing headaches, excessive sweating and the resulting sodium deficiency. One of the side effects of the sodium deficiency was muscle cramps. Every MechWarrior knew they’d be automatically grounded if they contracted it somehow. ‘Mech cockpits weren’t known to be coolest of places and muscle cramps were the last thing you wanted to happen in there.
Still, their mission was supposed to be an easy one. The Independent Democratic Colony of Arane had been infested with what people in the Periphery called reavers. These small scale ragtag bandits would land on a defenseless planet, plunder as much as they can and then make off with their booty. The stolen goods would then appear in various blackmarkets all around the Periphery.
Arane had a similar problem. However whenever they could muster up a force to deal with the reavers, they would simply disappear, only to reappear a few days later in another place. This particular band of reavers were bolder and more persistent than the others. As such, Arane was ready to part with a hefty sum of payment to get rid of them.
When you have a rat infestation, you call in the exterminators. In this case Arane had turned to his company, the Blue Talons.
After the payment was made, it only took them two days of orbital surveillance to find the troublemakers. They had a dropship that they used to move their forces around. An old freighter was hiding in the vast mountain ranges near the northern pole of the planet. It seemed to be used for hauling their plunder after a successful raid. Apparently they had ‘Mechs as well, but the only thing they about them came from the villages they raided. The backwards villagers talked about walking metal monsters. Poor villagers, they had no idea what they were facing. Not exactly the best intel, but it told enough for a prep.
Right now their dropship was happily resting amidst the ruins of an ancient SLDF outpost. They were probably waiting for the trail to go cold after a daring attack on a fuel depot five days ago. They were in a true camping spirit from the looks of it.
Little did they know that retribution was coming in the form of a bright blue dot on one of the observation screens in front of him. A bright blue dot he should have been part of.
He finished his cigarette with an angry puff and flicked it across the room. Another shiver came and went, but his eyes remained fixed on the blue dot in atmospheric entry.
In front of him stood an observation terminal consisting of six screens arrayed in rows of three. The terminal combined all sorts of sensor information in a single place. Orbital trajectories of jump- and dropships, overlayed radar and topographical data of area of operations and, the best of all, live feed data from up to three lances of ‘Mechs in combat. The technical details of this system was fascinating, such as the integration of C3 network and Mercury AN4 computers. These were stuff you’d expect to see in a Steiner black ops unit. They were prohibitively expensive. Still, Blue Talons prided themselves in their prowess of their pilots and its benefits for debriefing and training were well worth the cost. Their commander Eric Søllenborg preferred quality over quantity and this system was a manifestation of that mantra.
Four of the screens showed live HUD feed from each ‘Mech in the lance. The first screen showed the data feed of a Spider with the callsign “Hopper”. Hopper was the youngest member of his lance. At just 16, he was barely old enough to qualify as an apprentice for an older Talon. Yet, the boy was a genius in that Spider.
This light ‘Mech was extremely mobile. It had long and slender legs which allowed it to accelerate and change direction on a dime. Its distinctive hexagonal torso was basically a massive extra-light fusion engine with some ferro-fibrous armor slapped on it. The jump jets on this ‘Mech were not a novelty like many other ‘Mech designs. Flying was a huge part of its operational envelope. SLDF engineers even added small actuated wings on its shoulders. These wings generated considerable lift and allowed for sharp maneuvers in the air without spending a dime of jump-jet fuel. However, all this emphasis on speed and agility came at the price of protection. It could barely stand a laser scratch, let alone a well-placed AC round. The damage other ‘Mechs could shrug off would seriously cripple a Spider. Therefore, its reputation in ‘Mech vs ‘Mech combat was horrendous. The infantry however . . . well let’s say every infantry handbook had a page dedicated to dealing with Spiders.
Hopper understood that speed and quick wits were his armor in this flying coffin. He would pilot it with such cunning and ferociousness that would leave his opponents dazed and confused. When Robert saw this little boy blazing through the hardest simulator missions, he knew he wanted him in his lance.
The second screen showed the feed from a Centurion. A 50-ton class medium that excelled in close to medium range combat. It was a classic, the Lentroy of Battlemechs.
Its pilot however, had apparently never heard of the medium range part. Ram was a brute in person; he had broad shoulders, thick arms of a periphery miner and a beer belly to go along with it. He was the perfect example of a periphery-mercenary. Born into the cruel world of Periphery in a mining colony, he was enslaved by a reaver band as a child. He was forced to be a child soldier. A fodder to be spent before the experienced members in combat. Yet, Ram was too stubborn to die and he was eventually sold to a mercenary corporation. There, his potential as a MechWarrior was noticed. After gaining his freedom, he was eventually found by the headhunters of Blue Talons.
Well into his forties, he was as bold and as aggressive a MechWarrior could get. Perhaps sometimes equally cruel as the environment his character was shaped by. His appetite for alcohol, gambling and women was unmatched in the unit. He had a burning hatred towards reavers. That’s why Robert had chosen him for this mission; he needed someone who knew them well.
The third screen showed an ancient Shadowhawk with the callsign Shade. An apt name for the woman. Born as a high-ranking officer’s daughter in Blue Talons and raised as a MechWarrior from the childhood, Shade was their direct fire support specialist. Unlike her father had hoped though, Shade did not raise to command. She refused promotion and preferred the life of a specialist. Many gossiped that she did it just to spite her father for forcing a life of war on her. To Robert though, it seemed like she just liked the camaraderie and the simple life of a lowly grunt.
She piloted a unique Shadowhawk that beared a Gauss Rifle on its left shoulder along with two small lasers on its left arm. This custom modification was very rare in the Inner Sphere and this particular unit was salvaged from the sand filled vaults of an abandoned SLDF outpost. She took a liking to it and clung to it throughout her carreer, never once losing it in combat. Her mastery of the Gauss Rifle was unmatched in the company.
The Shadowhawk was an extremely sturdy design. It stood tall and formidable with a torso reminiscent of the bronze muscular armor of the ancient Romans of the Terra. It had two huge arms that protected its torso from the sides. Its bulky legs housed jump-jet exhausts and massive damping mechanisms to cushion the falls.
The last screen was the lance leader. It was supposed to show Robert’s view from his Victor, but it showed a Warhammer with the callsign Ares instead. Not only he resented not being there leading his own operation, but he also did not like this Ares. He was an ex-Steiner Military Colonel from the Inner Sphere. He was caught passing on secret R&D data to a third party and was subsequently put on a trial for reason. For which the punishment was death.
However, on the night he was to be put to death by fall, he was rescued by a mysterious third party. The facility he was being held suffered a gas explosion and was burned to crisp on the oxygen rich planet.Though the Steiner investigators never believed it to be an accident (the coincidence was very obvious). Yet, the lack of evidence and leads eventually demotivated the intelligence bureau enough to close the case. Ares was presumed dead along with 658 other prisoners and personnel. His cover blown, he surfaced at their door in the Periphery after a few years.
Now, this stranger with a strange accent from IS was slowly edging his way up the chain of command. Robert did not like it a bit. The man was known to be a traitor. Who knew whether he was up to a trick again? The guy barely spoke to the crew and did not want any company. However, his mission record was impeccable and their commander Eric had taken a strange liking to him.
Ares was frequently seen in a Warhammer whenever the mission permitted it. This 70-ton Heavy ‘Mech was brimming with firepower. It had a particle projection cannon (PPC) in each arm, capable of punching through even the thickest of armor. It also featured two medium lasers in its left torso and an SRM6 on its right shoulder. Overall, it was one of their most capable and versatile ‘Mechs. Robert secretly liked the looks of it too.
Suddenly the comms came to life with a voice barely discernible from background static:
Another voice joined in, it was Eric from the jumpship in orbit.
—Go ahead Eagle.
—Entry complete. Proceeding to the dropsite. ETA 3 minutes.
—Understood, you have your orders.
As he fought off another muscle cramp, Robert muttered; “You better bring my men back alive Ares, or I swear I’ll deliver your treacherous ass to the Steiner border guards myself.”
The monitors started filling with with data as the connection slowly normalized. Barred from interfering with the mission, Robert leaned forward in his chair and opened another pack of cigarettes.
A radar warning receiver alarm went off in the background.