Off the Battlefield Part 4
"Kommandant West?" First Leutnant
Jacob Osis looked up at the pair of boots that was sticking out of the Penetrator's
engine access. Not through the access opening, but through the massive hole
left in the door itself by a Burrock's autocannon.
"What?" Hiero West was literally in the middle of his Mech's body, working with the techs as they tried to undo the damage done by the Star Adders on Black Earth. Hiero hadn't quite given up yet, but it was looking more and more like the Penetrator was totaled. The heavy rounds of the Burrock's big gun had wreaked havoc in the engine compartment, wrecking structure and shielding past the point of easy repairs, even by the MacGyver's extensive facilities. He slid out of the access, and landed easily on his feet in front of the Smoke Jaguar. "What is it?"
"The Colonel wants to see us." Jacob was looking the Penetrator over, and Hiero wondered what the trueborn must have thought of seeing a warrior doing a tech's job. Jacob just shook his head as he looked at the gaping hole into the Mech's scrambled guts. "Perhaps this time, all the trouble of repairs is better spent on a new Mech, quiaff?"
Hiero sighed. "I don't know. I've had this Mech a while, and we've put a lot of effort into customizing it. But...well, hell. There has to be something left to fix before we can fix it. The engine compartment is scrap. I guess I'll have to replace it, but I don't know what with." He finished wiping off the filth of maintenance, as much as he could. "What did Michael want to see us about?"
Jacob shrugged. "He did not say. He just wanted us to be in his office, in uniform, at 1500."
Hiero looked up from wiping his hands. "In uniform?"
At 1459, Michael Grey heard a knock on his door. "Enter."
Hiero and Jacob walked in the door, and Michael glanced at the clock just in time to see it turn 1500. "Right on time, gentlemen," Michael said with a grin. He was also in field dress uniform, and seemed to be in an unusually good mood. He rose from behind the desk. "Follow me, please."
Hiero and Jacob looked at each other. Neither had any idea what was going on; the Colonel hadn't seemed in this good a mood in a long time. They followed Michael out of his office, through the Excalibur's corridors and out onto Galatea's tarmac.
The call came as the three men descended the ramp, before the fully assembled ranks of Grey's Shadows. The battle standard flew lightly at the front, the dark hand and its many awards and decorations twisting in the breeze; meanwhile, the black book, the Muster of Fallen Shadows, hung ominously still by its chain. Three Mechs stood in a line abreast behind the assemblage; Hiero recognized them as the second battalion's command lance.
Jacob whispered something under his breath that Hiero didn't quite catch, but it sounded a lot like what the Clans would call a stravag epithet. He had no clue what all this was about. He whispered louder to Hiero, "This is not about us, is it?"
"Yes, it is." Michael grinned as he turned to face them from beside the battle standard. "Kommandant West, First Leutnant Osis, front and center."
There was a moment of hesitation, and Michael actually laughed aloud. "SCHNELL!"
A mutter of laughter rippled through the ranks as the two men sheepishly came down to join Michael. He turned to the assembled group, his voice booming between the dropship hulls around them. "AT EASE! Shadows, we have come a long way in the last year. From the Circinus border to the Clan front and back to Galatea, and it has been a fight all the way. Both on and off the battlefield."
Michael's voice grew serious, as he gestured to the battle standard with its awards and campaign ribbons, and its heavy black book. "We have suffered more losses in the last year, than we have in the rest of our history put together. And as we always will, we have gone on." He looked back at the gathered Shadows. "We have added new members, and rebuilt. I trust that you all have your assignments," he said as he looked around, nodding at the general murmur of assent. "You are Shadows. You are the best. The last year has proven it. Those of you who are new to us, know that you are now Shadows, now in our family. You too, will be the best."
Hiero and Jacob glanced at each other. Neither had been told anything about new assignments. The Colonel had done all this behind their backs.
"Now, as for the other reasons we are here," Michael said with a smile, "ATTENTION!"
Everyone snapped to, and a man came walking down the ramp of a nearby dropship, a squad of honor guards around him. The decorated formal outfit wasn't needed to know him: Archon Peter Steiner-Davion, ruler of the Lyran Alliance. No words were needed; his simple presence was enough to convey his respect, to the unit favored by Melissa and Katrina Steiner before him.
As the Archon reached the front, and Michael handed him a box before turning to stand before Jacob.
"First Leutnant Jacob Osis," Michael said formally as he removed Jacob's collar devices, "for demonstrated loyalty, leadership and skill on the battlefield, you are herby promoted to the rank of Hauptmann, and to command of Eta Company, Grey's Shadows."
The Archon smiled as he pinned on the new rank, while Jacob did his best not to look either too proud or too uncomfortable. "I must admit," he said with a smile, "I never thought I would be giving a promotion to a trueborn Smoke Jaguar." He looked Jacob squarely in the eyes, and shook his hand firmly. "Well done."
Michael then turned to Hiero, who was simply standing in shock, and took a deep breath. "Kommandant Hiero West." He made no move at first, but simply spoke,as he looked his friend in the eyes. "Since before this unit existed, your family has fought beside mine. From the days of nobility, through the days of betrayal, to the life we now lead. Through it all, our families have stayed together. You have been my protector, as your father protected my father." Michael paused, then undid Hiero's collar devices. "Now it is time for you to no longer be my protector, but now, my right hand. You are hereby promoted to Leutnant Colonel, and Executive Officer of Grey's Shadows."
Hiero stood stunned as the Archon pinned on the ranks. "If even half of what I've heard about you is true, then this is WELL deserved," he said to Hiero. The Archon paused, observing Hiero seriously for several seconds before continuinh. "So much deserved, that it needs extra recognition." He placed a hand on Hiero's arm, and turned with him to face the Mech bay door of the big Excalibur. It slowly rolled up to reveal a Mech inside, an older Mech that Hiero knew well: his father's old GRF-1N Griffin.
Tears came to Hiero's eyes as he looked at the old war machine, still painted in the Shadows' colors. He had grown up in its cockpit, learning the warrior's way from his father. Now, Hiero's father sat at the controls, his silver hair shining as he looked proudly down at his son. He marched his Mech down the ramp, and stood aside at attention. Hiero watched him, then looked back up at the ramp. Another Mech was standing there now, this one with its cockpit empty. It was newly painted, the dark hand of the Shadows and the iron fist of the LAAF shining against the dusky grey that was the Shadows' scheme.
It was a Griffin. A Griffin of his own.
"The latest GRF-6S model," the Archon said appreciatively. He smiled at Hiero, and patted him on the back. "May it serve you well." He turned, and returned to his place beside Michael.
"Leutnant Colonel West!" Michael's voice boomed. "Mount up, and assume your place!"
Hiero felt dazed as he climbed into the cockpit, where his tech was waiting to quickly set the machine to his specs. He settled in the seat, felt the familiar controls under his hands, felt the Griffin shift its balance so naturally in response to the neurohelmet. His tech grinned. "Just like old times, eh?"
Hiero finally couldn't help grinning back. "Yeah. Just like old times." He ran through the old diagnostics from memory as his tech scrambled out. Hiero let him get clear, then marched down the ramp and delivered a mechanical salute. Then, in a move that no one expected, he stomped his pedals to the floor.
The Griffin's jump jets roared to life instantly. Everyone watched in awe as the 55-ton machine soared into the air, pivoting smoothly under Hiero's control like a leaping dancer, before landing perfectly at the head of his command lance. Hiero looked down at the assembled Shadows, at Michael and the Archon both smiling up at him, at his father across the way in his own Mech, looking on in silent pride.
Just like old times.