Valley of the Shadows - 3030
The year: 3030. Fourth Succession War,
Steiner-Marik front. As the LCAF was consolidating its position and preparing
for the war's end, the FWLM made a surprise counterattack at Shiloh. Three first-line FWLM regiments,
top-heavy with Awesomes and other heavyweights, dropped against a single
regiment of the Lyran Regulars and a group of assorted small mercenary units,
roughly equal to another regiment. Among those units was Grey's Shadows. The Lyran
forces were quickly routed, and many mercs were sacrificed in a desperate
delaying action, buying time for the LCAF's forces to lift off world. The
Shadows lost half their strength as they retreated down a dark canyon to their
drop zone. This is the story of that campaign's end, a story of survival, one
of the few times in the Shadows' history that they have ever been forced to
A PPC bolt tore through the Orion's ammo bins, detonating the stored missiles in a mighty chain reaction. The ancient Mech was gutted instantly, and Major David Grey was seeking another target for his Thunderbolt's guns before the Orion's wreckage had even hit the ground.
In the distance, finally, David could see the round tops of the Shadows' two Union dropships, peeking above the hilltops. So near, and yet so far. The previous several kilometers had been a fighting retreat, and the last few promised more of the same. He toyed briefly with the idea of simply ordering the Shadows to run for it, but that was impossible. The FWLM would simply run down the straggling Shadows one by one. Better to stick together and keep making the FWLM pay, all the way to the drop zone.
If they made it.
There was a roar of jet thrust as Hiero West's Griffin soared overhead, leapfrogging back past David's Mech to cover the command lance's retreat. Like the rest of the Shadows, Hiero's Mech was nearly out of ammo, and was relying on its energy weapons...ammo had to be saved for certain shots. To either side and behind, the Shadows' other units were doing the same, covering each other in a running retreat, keeping the FWLM at bay with concentrated fire. The distant thumping of the Shadows' lone Long Tom was precious comfort...the big gun was shooting its heart out, its crew literally carrying the massive shells by hand from the dropships' cargo bays to keep their weapon firing. The Shadows were already down over a third of their strength, but...
The though was interrupted by movement to David's left as his Mech backstepped. He swung his torso and fired instantly; the shadowy silhouette of the Trebuchet certainly didn't belong to anyone in his unit. The rest of the command lance followed David's lead, and the thin-skinned missile boat blew apart in a blazing crossfire of beams, missiles and shells.
In the distance, David could see one of the Shadows' Mechs limping. The big Banshee was older than most of the rest of the Shadows' Mechs put together, but the old monster had always refused to die. Now its hip was broken, and it was slowly falling behind. Past it, David saw the boxy shadow of an Awesome step out from behind a hill. "Malcolm, look out behind you!"
The Banshee stopped, turned, and looked at the Awesome as it was coming around, its lethal PPC's coming to bear. The Banshee almost seemed to take a deep breath. Then it turned back to face the retreating Shadows. Captain Malcolm McVie, one of David's oldest companions, never answered over his radio. His Mech simply waved, and then turned back to face the enemy.
Even in his Thunderbolt's sweaty cockpit, David suddenly felt very cold.
And as the Shadows continued their retreat, the Banshee advanced for the final time, its weapons spitting as the 95-ton metal god marched straight into the Awesome's guns. Malcolm ignored the PPC bolts that smashed his Mech's battered armor, ignored the calls from his mates, ignored other Marik Mechs closing in, ignored everything except a tree in the way, that he scooped up with a huge metal hand.
And as the fog of war, the smoke of battle and the blur of distance, mercifully closed over the scene, the last thing David saw of his friend was the tree swung up and over like an axe, smashing straight down on the Awesome's head.
And suddenly, they were there. David ordered the command lance into defensive positions around the drop zone as the other Shadows filtered slowly out of the valley, running to the dropships as quickly as they could. He made a quick headcount...ten, eleven, twelve...and cringed at some of the damage. One Archer was missing most of its right side as it staggered up the ramp. He caught a glimpse of a Hermes II out of the corner of his eye and swung to target, but Hiero was already on it; his bodyguard sent a PPC shot, and the Marik scout scrambled for cover.
The Long Tom's crew was already loading their gun up, moving the slow crawler back up the dropship ramp; they had literally been firing from the shade of the Union's bulk. Thirteen, fourteen...make that thirteen. The last Shadow out of the valley, a Wolverine, suddenly fell on its face, knocked over by a hard blast to its back. David hurled his last salvo of missiles in the direction of the responsible enemy, a Hunchback that was barely visible through the smoke. The Mariks were closing fast, and David gave the final order to load up and lift off.
The Wolverine pilot didn't even try to get up, but simply popped his hatch and ran from his downed machine for the dropships. David gritted his teeth as he fired, trying to cover the man. Marik Mechs were popping out of the valley now, and the air was getting thick with bolts and tracers and smoky missile trails.
There was only one thing that could be done, and Hiero did it. The Griffin charged forward, putting itself between the running pilot and the oncoming Mariks. David watched in amazement as Hiero reached down, with calm precision amid the adrenaline of life-or-death combat, and gently scooped up the pilot in his Griffin's left hand. He gave a quick order, and the remaining Shadows erupted like a volcano.
Every Shadow Mech that wasn't already aboard a ship was firing everything it had, holding the Mariks back; even the dropship's ramp operator was kneeling in the bay door's cover, firing his pistol. Hiero's Griffin leaped, avoiding a barrage that obliterated the area where he had been just a moment before. He landed gracefully, and took off running. He blitzed past David and up the ramp, and the rest of the Shadows followed. The big Thunderbolt was the last Mech to back up the ramp, firing everything it had as the Mariks closed in, firing until the hatch shut, and David's last shots impacted on the inside of the thick armored door.
There was a rumble and a roar that staggered David's Mech as he moved to his cubicle; the Unions' engines had ignited, blasting huge scars in the ground and forcing the Mariks back. Slowly, the two dropships lifted off, their rear guns pounding the Mariks around the drop zone as they quickly gained speed, leaving the world of Shiloh behind.
The battle was over.