Outside the Marian Hegemony

Pirate Base

December 20, 3056


“Control to Harrasser,” a voice belonging to the pirate’s primary base said out of the comm. system.  “You’re coming in too fast.  Please slow down and redirect to support the other defensive units.”

“Trust me, Control,” Jessica returned, her voice being modulated to sound like the former third in command of the destroyed Union-class Harrasser.  “Slowing down is foremost on our minds.  Unfortunately, as I told you the damned Marians shot up our engines so we’ll be lucky to land at all, let alone be able to dance around and land someplace new.  Sorry, but we’ve already started our approach, and we simply don’t have the control to change our course.”

She turned to David and grimaced, her excuse for not changing course being way too real for either of their own peace of mind.  He shrugged back and glanced over to the radar screen, showing the Lancer’s Pryde coming down a few kilometers from the main pirate base.  The JumpShip crew, pressed into serving the pirates, had been more than willing to give him all the information he needed about the pirates.  Unfortunately, even with the two companies of ’Mechs destroyed in Marius’ Tears, the pirates still outgunned his force.

Two heavy ’Mech companies and one heavy vehicle company compared to his light vehicle battalion and medium ’Mech company.  Granted, David also had three companies of infantry, but in a running battle they would be less then useless.  Once again, the “small pirate hunting operation” promised by the damned Marians was wrong.  He was really getting tired of them.  He was way out of his league in this fight, but he had a plan to combat those numbers.  And so far, it all seemed to be working perfectly.  Well, it would if they actually managed to land without dying.  That would put a serious crimp in the plan.

Jessica turned back to the screens, showing their descent going off less easily than they would have liked, as the controller responded.

“Very well Harrasser.  Try to get to the bonfire before we finish roasting the Marians.”

“We’ll try,” Jessica muttered and cut out the transmission before turning to David.  “I’d suggest you get to your ’Mech now.  This landing could be rough,” she whispered and he nodded quickly.  He blinked, wanting to say something more, but then shook his head and stood up to leave.  “Be careful,” she added as he got to the hatch and he turned back to look at her.

“You too,” he whispered back and walked out of the bridge.  The trip to the upper ’Mech bay went by quickly, even having to hold onto the wall to keep from falling as the DropShip buffeted through the atmosphere, and he scaled the ladder carefully to get down to the deck before walking over to his ’Mech. It was an old BattleMaster that had served him well for many years and he scaled it quickly before sliding into the cockpit.

He quickly entered in his password, plugged in the plumbing for the coolant vest, and felt the BattleMaster power up, but kept it locked in position for landing as the altimeters in the ’Mech bay ticked off the meters between the DropShip and the ground.  They were ticking off way too fast for comfort.  The crew of the Delos had spent a week trying to bring the poor ship back online, but only managed to bring up some of its thrusters, and the fusion plant was still running lower than normal.  Hence the ship couldn’t burn above one-gee normally, and at the moment she was running flat out trying to slow down before she hit the surface.

David really hoped they managed to do it without turning into a pancake.  It would suck to land and not be able to get out.  Or to have the DropShip collapse around them.  The DropShip started shaking as they kept falling too fast, the fusion plant pushing as much power as it could into the engines, and the altimeter kept dropping.  1,000 meters.  800.  600.  400.  200.  100.

“Brace for impact!” David yelled as he braced against his seat and then the world shook around him as the Union smashed into the ground.  This was no gentle landing like he was accustomed to.  It was a grinding, shrieking, tearing plummet into the ground that threatened to destroy the entire DropShip and everybody on it.  It felt like the hammer of god smashing him into his seat and he gasped for breath, trying to keep from losing consciousness.  The deck buckled, and one of the hatch doors fell through into the lower bay with a clang.  Then he felt the Union roll to the side and settle into the ground at an odd angle.  One of the landing supports had probably given out.  Maybe more.

He winced and worked his foot pedals as he used his arms to push him away from the cubicle’s wall and into the bay.  The deck groaned below him and he looked into the compressed 360 degree view to see the other ’Mechs.  The first time he’d looked at the compressed view, it had been disorienting, but after years of it he could easily tell exactly where anything was in relation to him.  All of the other seven ’Mechs in the upper bay were moving slowly and he nodded quickly.

“Jessica,” he transmitted to the bridge.  “How bad is it?”

“We aren’t getting back into space,” she returned in a harried voice and he sighed sadly.

“Ok.  I guess I get to make sure we don’t have to leave.”

“That would help,” she whispered and he looked back to the compressed view and began walking slowly towards the ramp.

“First company, sound off,” he ordered and they began calling off their names and condition as he marched down the ramp towards the lower bay.  In the lower bay, the four jumpers of his unit watched him come down and he nodded again as they called off their names and condition as well.  All of his ’Mechs were operational, even if the pilots were a bit banged up by the landing.  “Why’re the exit ramps not open?” he asked and the Phoenix Hawk in command of the lance shrugged.

“It’s jammed,” Kara responded and he glared at one of the doors before walking up to it.  He quickly detached his PPC, lowering it to the deck gently, and then punched the door as hard as he could.  It smashed in, leaving a gap between it and the rest of the wall.  A swift kick pushed it further and he heard the servos in the door trying to fight to open but something was still holding the door back.  Another kick smashed it further out and he actually started seeing daylight from outside.  Then he put his shoulder up against the door and leaned into it hard, feeling the door giving further.  Dirt poured in at his feet as he pushed further, and finally the door shot up and away to let them out, while letting more dirt slide into the bay.  He stumbled forward, his feet kicking into the dirt, and he took a giant step out of the bay to put his foot on the ground outside, nearly two meters above the bay flooring.

“Wow,” he whispered.  “We really dug ourselves a hole,” he finished and slowly stood up tall as Kara came out with his particle cannon in her left hand.  Her Phoenix Hawk’s left hand.  Whatever.  “Thanks,” he transmitted and grabbed the cannon with his own left hand before locking it into his right hand.  His BattleMaster’s right hand.  Whatever.  The power links locked into place and the cannon had power again.  He nodded in approval and looked in his compressed view to see everything around him as the ’Mech scanned with everything from passive infrared all the way up to full powered radar to show him what was around.

Then he tapped a button on his control stick and ran through the frequencies.  “Control, this is Harris,” he spoke, the computer automatically shifting his voice to sound like the ex-commander of the pirate company.  “We are down and exiting the Harrasser.  All ’Mechs operational and accounted for.  We will rendezvous with primary strike force ASAP.”

“Roger that, Harris,” control responded.  “Good to have you back.”

“Good to be back,” David noted with a smile.  “I’ll look forward to returning to the base.  This has been one hell of a run,” he finished as the other ’Mechs began climbing out of the grounded Union.  Literally grounded.  A few minutes later, they were off and tromping across the ground at an even thirty kilometers an hour, moving to support their oh-so-good buddies against the nasty Marians.

In the distance, he saw the Lancer’s Pryde come down on its own flaming tail to a much softer landing then his people had experienced.  They were far enough away that only light ’Mechs could get to them from the main pirate base before they were offloaded, and no light ’Mech wanted to take on a DropShip without lots of support.  Not even a Seeker.  David’s smile grew larger as the minutes passed and they kept walking, getting periodic updates from their good buddies in the base.

He talked several times with them, making plans for rendezvous and hoping they never got too good a look at his ’Mechs.  The good thing about having standard designs like Griffins, Phoenix Hawks, and Centurions in your unit was that they were found everywhere.  And in fact, some of the pirates they’d killed had actually piloted ’Mechs like those here.  But some of the ’Mechs, like Marianne’s Stalker, simply hadn’t been piloted by the pirates.  Which could make things awkward if they were noticed.  If they got a good look at his people, which hopefully shouldn’t happen if he played his cards right.

They marched on for over an hour before they saw the vehicle battalion forming up to charge the pirate battalion a kilometer away.  Hovercraft and more normal vehicles pushed dust into the air as they started to move and David nodded.  It was time to act.

“Kara, Fred.  Break and rendezvous,” he told his two lance leaders over short-range transmission and they acknowledged before starting to race forward with their lances at sixty kilometers an hour.  “Nelson, Erik, Marianne.  Let’s go,” he ordered his own lance and they rumbled up to fifty kilometers an hour as the lighter lances moved on ahead of them to meet up with their oh-so-good buddies.

He ran with long gentle strides, feeling the dust from what was probably a long hot summer rising around his feet, getting closer with each second as Erik’s Goliath galloped behind him.  Erik’s turret-mounted particle cannon shifted back and forth with each step of the ungainly ’Mech and David hoped he didn’t step in a gopher hole.  Whatever a gopher was.  He shrugged at that and looked to the left to see his vehicles finally starting their charge.  Right on time to keep the pirates’ attention.

The lighter two lances slid into the pirate lines and began running with them to smash the arrogant “Marians” the way they deserved as his own lance finally began to fall into position.  The pirates were looking at the “Marians” right now and hadn’t bothered to give him a good look yet.  They all “knew” he was on their side after all.  He’d said it right?  And here he was, following the plan exactly and sliding into the flank of their line to smash the Marians into snail snot.  Well, almost exactly.  It was time for a new plan now.  Or actually an old one that the pirates just didn’t know about.

“Fire,” he transmitted and a dozen ’Mechs lined up on their targets.  He knew who the company commanders were after talking with them and he knew whom he had to kill.  It was just a matter of getting the shot.  He brought up his particle cannon and smiled as he pulled the trigger, sending a beam into the back of first company’s commander.  Erik and Nelson in his Awesome added their own particle cannons while Marianne let missiles and lasers fly.  Their target, an old Banshee, stumbled as they ripped its rear armor to ribbons and their weapons sank in deep into its vitals.  Heat sinks sent coolant flying into the air and they burst in protest, infrared signals bloomed as engine shielding failed, and the old ’Mech started to stumble as its gyro sent pieces flying in all directions out the back of the ’Mech.

And then a piece of shrapnel hit the ammo bin of its primary autocannon and the Banshee disappeared as it cooked off in an explosion powerful enough to rock its nearest neighbors to the side.  Off to his right, another ’Mech exploded, the target of his other two lances and David brought his PPC around to aim it at another pirate before keying his transmitter.

“Surrender or die,” he ordered as the vehicles rushed towards firing range at maximum speed while the pirates turned in confusion to see the “friends” in the midst of their formation pointing weapons at them.  “Your leader’s already gone up in a blaze of glory,” David added as they looked back and forth at each other.  “If you want to join him, feel free to point something at me,” he noted as he moved his particle cannon over to point at another pirate, his feet sliding in the dirt as he came to a stop in a cloud of dust.  “Come on.  Make my day.”