Badlands of Ashton
Continent of Ashton
1558hrs (GMT+0), 2 October 3079
Major Farquharson and his three Mech Warriors walked their way down the entrance road into the mine. All four had weapons up- the Feng brothers with small machine pistols, Campbell sported a pump shotgun to go with his pistol and the Major carried a Relic- an ancient Terran Thompson SMG. All wore light combat armor and carried pistols in addition to their other weapons.
Coming to a corner, Campbell peeked around the bend and looked as best he could in the dim light. In the darkness, he could see the damaged Mongoose standing next to a closed set of Mech Size doors. The Stinger also stood there, its cockpit open like the Mongoose’s. A foot-size Secure Door sat open to the right of the Mech Doors… and a dim light could be seen emitting from that door. Campbell relayed what he saw to the others.
Jun Feng smiled. “Allow me to investigate….” He said and with a nod from the Major, the lithe Cappellan produced a set of low-light glasses as he slipped into the darkness. His brother, Quaing, shook his head at his brother’s theatrics but said nothing.
In the darkness, none of the remaining lancers could see terribly much- they had flashlights… but they were a giveaway if someone was waiting. Not for the first time this mission, Sean cursed the Commander of the Lancers- though it was more a pro-forma cursing. Sean knew he needed to upgrade his accessories for ground shit. But he never thought he’d need night-vision. He’d address that when he got back to base.
Campbell continued to watch the lowly lit area by the door- and startled slightly when the sound of several punches was heard along with two gunshots. Then a body went sailing thought the dim light and crumpled to the ground next to the door, the victim’s neck at a very odd angle.
Jun moved into the light and motioned the rest of the Lancers forward. When Sean got close, Jun gave a slight bow. “One down, Major.” He said in his accented English.
Sean smirked and gave a thumbs up. “Nicely done, lad. There is still two more…”
Quaing slipped by his brother at this point, a set of throwing stars to hand and a short sword in the other. “Then finding them is a priority….” He said as he stepped into the doorway.
The rest of the Lancers stacked up and one by one, they entered the hatchway.
On the other side of the entryway, a larger anteroom was found, which contained a set of hatch controls and another door, currently open, that led into the interior. There was windows that looked out into the large Mech Passageway which was dimly lit by small LEDs in the floor and ceiling.
Sean grunted once. “Either they were activated when they opened the door or who we are huntin’ found a light switch.”
Campbell shrugged. “Could be either…” He replied.
Sean motioned for the Fengs to keep scouting. “Forward lads… “
Quaing and Jun slipped through the door ahead of their commander and Campbell. Moving ahead, the two bodyguards advanced down the short passageway to another hatchway that was partially closed. It opened up into what looked like a Guard Checkpoint which itself had windows that overlooked a very large Mechbay. One capable of holding a pair of Lances.
It too looked was dimly lit- though the mercury-arc lights were slowly getting brighter; revealing other mech sized openings to what could be another mech bay. What the improving light in this area revealed though….
In the mech cradles closest to the booth, the figures of two battlemechs could be seen. An ancient Crusader stood in the closest one while a Shadow Hawk graced the other visible cradle. Neither looked operational… though it would not be for lack of trying by someone. The other Militia pilot was up in the Shadow Hawk Cockpit attempting to do something.
Campbell pointed up at the Militia pilot. “There’s one…” He hissed as he lifted his shotgun. As he did so, the Feng Brothers began moving forward out of the booth towards the cradle. If Campbell missed, the militia pilot was going to be difficult to dig out.
Waiting ten seconds for the brothers to get far closer to the cradle, the Lancer Pilot let loose one carefully aimed blast. The buckshot tore through the air, spreading out some due to distance and various bits of the munition pinged off of the framework of the supports. Not all of it though, as at least two pieces of buckshot hit the Militia pilot.
They didn’t do much at this range but it definitely got his attention. Said pilot brought up his pistol and returned fire, the Laser energy discharge missing the two lancer pilots but not by much. Moving out of sight of any more shotgun blasts, the Militia pilot disappeared from sight to Sean and Campbell.
The Fengs, sprinting from the start, reached the cradle and began climbing the stairs up the scaffolding. Jun, ahead of his brother, was the first one to come face to face with the now-bunkered Militia pilot and a small gunfight broke out.
Down below, Sean and Campbell moved forward to back up the Fengs, the Major taking a quick look to see if the last member of the Blakists was nearby. And it was a good thing he did, as the former Malak pilot charged from the opposite set of cradles. “Shite!” He exclaimed and triggered a burst at the charging Blakist. Luckily, a round from the burst managed to clip the foe, which threw off his charge slightly.
The Lancer officer took the charge- his body armor dampening the blow to his side and internally, he pictured a rib re-cracking from the hit. Tumbling to the ground, he lost his grip on the ancient Thompson- the weapon scattering away from easy reach.
Standing over Sean, the Malak pilot produced a gyroslug pistol and fired it at Campbell, who had spun to get a better angle on the Blakist. The shot at the pilot connected with his armor, staggering him but not dropping him. The distraction of shooting Campbell proved to be the Malak pilot’s un-doing..
Even though he was in a world of pain, old reflexes kicked in for Sean as he snapped out a boot which connected with the Blakist knee. Quickly rolling, the Lancer grimaced in pain. Definitely broken again He thought as he came up to a knee, his sidearm to hand. Without even pausing to aim, Sean fired twice- hoping muscle memory was still a thing.
It was… as both shots hit his foe center mass… but didn’t drop him. As the Malak pilot staggered, a boom from Campbell’s shotgun indicated he was still in action- and the buckshot connected with the Blakist…. Followed by a knife thrown from high up on the Cradle by Quaing. The combination of all the hits dropped the fanatic- though no one was betting he was completely dead.
Campbell got up off the ground, shotgun to hand and stepped carefully towards the prone Word of Blake pilot. “You ok, Major?”
Sean staggered to his feet. “Aye… though I think I have a re-busted rib.” He answered. That fookin’ hurt.” His pistol in hand, he too moved a bit closer to the downed enemy. “I’m debating shootin’ him again…” He muttered.
“Major, no one would say a thing,” Campbell said quietly as he glanced to the cradle where the Fengs were. Seeing they had themselves a prisoner, the enemy Militia pilot over the shoulder of Jun, he returned his attention to the enemy and the Major. “Though we do have one prisoner, a second one might not hurt- though I suspect he isn’t long for this world.”
“Nae… I dinnae think so either,” Sean replied. “And I’m nae the one to shoot in cold blood.” Holstering his pistol, he continued. “Let th’ fucker bleed out… However, if’n he twitches, shoot ‘im again.” Turning away, he walked over to his relic and lifted it off the ground, grunting with the effort to do so. In doing so, he took the time to look around… and whistled softly.
The lights had come up even further at this point and he could see a lot more of the Mech Bay. And in here, there was more than the Shadow Hawk and Crusader. A pair of odd-looking Rifleman were in the other two Mech Cradles. Both were far bulkier than the usual machines and appeared heavier. “Oh holy crap…” he said in wonder. “We are gonna need that platoon….
Desert Strip Delta One Alpha
Southern badlands of Ashton
1601 Hours (GMT) 2 October 3079
The scene in the Command Building’s Conference room was an odd one and something no one would ever had dreamed of. A quartet of Mechwarriors, clad in SLDF fatigues and cooling vest,s sat in chairs on one side of the table while Colonel Warrington plus a pair of aides sat on the other side in their uniforms- similar in style to the visitors but bore different patches.
A video conference had just concluded- the leader of the newcomers, Colonel Hollister- had had his concerns over the condition and treatment of the captured pilots from a few days ago addressed. And addressed to very much his satisfaction as they looked healthy and his man, Captain Drake, assured him that their treatment was pretty good. Even despite provocation from one of the others, their Captors had treated them very well. After verification of everyone’s condition, the video call came to an end.
Warrington looked over at the Communications Sergeant. “Is the feed set for the next call?” He asked.
The sergeant nodded as he tapped a few buttons on a screen. “Yessir… coming up now.”
On the screen, the Logo of the Lancers (a Phoenix with paired lances in its claws) cropped up and after about ten seconds, it faded away to reveal the bearded commander of the Lancers. [Greetings, Colonel Hollister; my name is Colonel John Tinney, current commander of the Phoenix Lancers…. I trust you are a bit happier over your people’s conditions?]
Hollister nodded. “I am indeed. Their condition is far better than expected, actually, and its appreciated.
[Good to hear this- I am of the mindset surrendering troops deserve the same medical care I’d give my own, albeit with a bit more security involved. All of yours were injured to one degree or another with one exception- and he picked a fight with one of my scouts who dug him out of his cockpit.]
Hollister chuckled. “I was so informed by the senior officer among mine who are your guests. No hard feelings on my end- it is my knowledge of past affairs this was not always the case- at least with other entities within the Great Houses.”
On screen, Tinney nodded. [You are correct. And even among the Merc crowd, some of them are less than accommodating…] He informed the Myth before him. [But this is not the primary reason for this call, is it?]
Hollister was quiet a moment. In for a penny, in for a pound, He thought. The Remnants need stability and odds are against anywhere being better. Except maybe with that Stone person, if even then. “You are Correct, sir,” He began. “Our coming to your system was for more than a social visit or to interfere with your fights… That first altercation was a mistake and the second one compounded it… though it allowed us to prevent more errors.
You see… the last of Clan Wolverine, Exiled of the Clans, are returning home to the Inner Sphere.”
The looks on the Lancer Officers in the room and on the screen was one of utter stunned shock. After a handful of seconds, Tinney recovered quickly. [Ooooooookay…. This is a great surprise and not a small event, given what I know of where the Clans are concerned. Its been almost 300 years since the SLDF left and 29 since your former cousins came back shooting up the place…. In short- Why now?] He asked, the greatest poker face he’d ever used now in place. [I mean, you and yours were seen, it’s believed, in the 2800’s out near Valentina… which by the way, is now Clan Snow Raven Territory and not far from here, unfortunately….]
He paused. [So, your return to here was a bit lucky on your part. How lucky though is open to debate as it can be a bit bad for us here… Which also leads into Why Now?] The Lancer Commander fixed the Wolverine Officer with a very stern gaze. [I can think of a few reasons, but I want to hear yours.]
Hollister lifted the glass of water he had been given earlier. This was going ok so far- but what was to be said next… “Well, the answer is complicated and perhaps not so much, depending on what you choose to believe.
In the time between our departure from the Pentagon Worlds and the avoiding of the Clan pursuits, We have wandered the stars looking for somewhere to settle. And we did eventually find one though not all who left with us made it there. Some ships disappeared and at least some chose to settle on the first location suitable. The rest of the survivors continued on… and eventually found a location some eight hundred light years away spinward of Terra.
“We Wolverine Survivors managed to survive on the world but it was a tough time for the first century. While there were many among the populous that were Technicians and no few craftsmen, the ability to maintain advanced machinery and the highest levels of technology was strained at best,” He paused. “Do not misunderstand, the survivors managed to maintain for a very long time and even build a Mech Repair Facility inside our lone Fortress Dropship. But as time wore on, it became very apparent that the thirty thousand members of the Clan were not going to survive a lot longer without access to whatever advances were here… and elsewhere.” Hollister held up his hands, palms up and open. “Maintaining what we had was becoming an issue and the issue of trying to return was put to the Entirety of the Clan vote.….
Its not like we were blind to what was here; we knew some of what has transpired over the years- a patrol encountered Dark Caste renegades about five years ago and they revealed a good bit of where the Inner Sphere and the Clans sat power and political-wise…. We took what was said with a large amount of salt, of course. But the decision to try was made. We could not last forever and I took an oath to defend my people… I will not let them die without trying to find a means to help them.
And despite the dangers, coming back to the Inner Sphere was really the only option left to us.” He finished. “hence the vote and our showing up here.”
Colonel Tinney’s face was still in poker-mode, the information he had just been handed was a virtual nuke in terms of history and danger wrapped in a semi-neat package. The effort to keep his concerns and shock at what he was hearing off his face was damned epic. And for the most part, successful
Visibly taking a deep breath, Tinney replied to Hollister. [Colonel… I can only state the obvious that I am utterly shocked that you and yours survive. Shocked… and yet, I should not be; history has shown time and again that we humans are capable of resilience and thriving under some of the worst conditions… The fact your kin managed to last some 200 years separate of anyone else is testament to that.
I am a soldier… And I am a humanitarian when I can be…. Right now, those two things are arguing with my responsibility to the residents of this world and seeing to their safety as a whole. Especially in light of the madness that is still going on within the Inner Sphere and the machinations of the Word of Blake; or as you called then, the SL Comnet. But the safety of Centaurus is a major consideration, especially when news of your return gets out. And it will get out.]
Tinney stopped there. He wanted to give Hollister a few moments to ponder the dilemma their return posed…and being asked of the Lancers before continuing. After a good ten seconds of silence, he continued. [So, if settlement here was a viable act, what can the Remnants of the 331st offer to help defend this world from those who would come looking for you and yours?]
Hollister, who had listened and weighed the words of his counterpart, spoke. “What we offer is what we have left of our Touman; Six Warships of various classes, eleven Jumpships, twenty-eight Dropships of various classes, thirty two aerospace fighters and roughly two battalions of battlemechs….” He replied. “Along with a substantial library of technical manuals for things we still have and that we haven’t for some time.”
Tinney pondered the report of assets being given by the Wolverine Leader. Biting a lip, one could see he was weighing the man’s words on what they offered… and he took a deep breath. [Substantial… and it leads me to think my decision is the right one.] He said finally. [Colonel, you and the remnants of the 331st are granted permission to land and settle here…. With the caveat that you will pledge to defend Centaurus with all the means at your disposal.
I assure you that once your presence is known outside of here, there will be many attempts to capitalize upon your return… or in the case of the Clans, exterminate you. If I can help it, the Lancers will not let your Civilians come to harm while you are assisting in the defense of this world. When should we expect your ships? I’m fairly certain you had a plan if this situation didn’t go sideways.]
Hollister breathed out. This had gone far better than he had any hope to have happen. And one hoped his next answer didn’t stress out his hosts. “Sir… sometime in the next hour, some of our warship assets will be arriving as well as a transport of initial… well, now they would be an advanced party of settlers.”
Warrington blinked. “Well shit. Colonel-“
Tinney held up a hand on screen. [Well then I suppose I need to let my Aerospace commander know… as well as our L5 station. Don’t want any misconceptions.] He replied. [Colonel, please record a canned message that can be transmitted at them or be available to speak directly to them… ]
“Of course” Hollister replied.
[Good… Jim, I leave him and his company in your hands… I need to let Conigliaro know right away…. And get with Interior to figure out where to put our new Settlers.]
Warrington nodded. “I’ll get on it now…”
Tinney smiled for the first time in the conversation. [Good. And Mister Hollister, welcome to Centaurus.]
Outer reaches of Centaurus System
1959hrs Landing Time (GMT+2)
Lt Colonel Mike (Cujo) Conigliaro vectored further out into the deeper reaches of the local system. After the dustup by Centarus III, he and his squadron had docked with the Leopard CV that served as the transport for his squadron when he got a change of mission.
Four of the fighters were Omnifighters- captured Batu’s, from the time the Lancers participated in Operations Serpent and Bulldog… and they were pretty potent warbirds, despite their short legs. The other two craft in the squadron were new SL26 Samurai medium fighters, dogfighters and capable ground support craft when needed. Not that they would be doing that for what was they were just ordered to do.
No, what mission was coming next was an adhoc greeting party…. Of something that likely could blow him out of space if it was a sucker’s bet.
When the call from Lancer Command came, Mike and his full flight had just docked to refuel, the engagement around Centarus III having been a wicked and brutal affair as the Dropship they pursued has deplowed a handful of its own fighters as it was docking with an Invader-class Jump ship. Mike and his men had dealt with the fighters well enough (he suspected they were drone fighters as they were not hard to defeat) and had not been able to stop the Invader from Jumping out.
So when that call came, he was looking for a distraction.
And after he got done with the call, he almost wished he hadn’t taken it. Getting with the crew chiefs, he had them get the fighters serviced quickly as he called up to the drop ships bridge to route them towards the outer reaches of the system as fast as possible. That done, he warned the boys and girls of the squadron that they would be launching within the next half hour. HE still could not believe what he was told… and deflected questions to when they would launch. “I’ll explain then,” was the common reply. He hated giving it… but with OpSec being a thing right now (he didn’t think any in squadron was on anyone else’s payroll) the less ears the better for what he was going to tell his squadron.
So now that they were launched and away from the ship, he broke the news to the flight. “Bulldog squadron… listen up. Sound off…” One by one, the rest of the flight sounded off as hearing their commander. When the last one responded, Mike sighed once then began.
“Ok gang… Sorry for the secrecy but its goddamn necessary,” He began as he made double sure the recording he was sent was present for playing on the specified frequency. “Because what I am about to tell you is some serious crazy and no little incredible.”
[Cujo… not a one of us don’t doubt its something stupid. We know the rumors about them Mystery Mechs…] Lt Darlene (Dancer) Joy, on of the SL26 pilots, commented. [Everyone be like a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs lately…]
Another pilot spoke up. [Yeah, Cujo… What could be more insane than those guys being actual Wolverines?] Lt Jimmy (Dropshot) McCoy said from the Batu on his wing. [Next you gonna tell me they are looking to join up?]
Cujo chuckles. “Funny you should say that, Dropshot,” He replied. “Cause that is essentially what’s happening, after a fashion.”
The lone Clan Born pilot, Lt Cassandra Phoenix, who had long been a bondsman of the Lancers and used their moniker as her last name. answered her commander. [Cujo, I am not liking this news… for many reasons. If they are who they say they are, we may have a problem…]
Cujo knew this was coming. “Phoenix, I know… and you also know how much of what you were told by your former clan Loremasters might be bullshit. How long did you spend with the researchers on Strana Mechty and learning some of the information they kept from everyone?” He asked of her. “I know of some of it damn sure didn’t match what we did know… Like the battle of Luthien and Turtle Bay massacre?”
The former Clan Wolf pilot was quiet. [Aff, Colonel. I cannot deny this…]
“Good.” He snapped. “Because I don’t want to send you back to the Dropship… especially if this is a trap ‘cause I will need every fucking one of you. So, you will act as a Lancer pilot and ONLY fire if fired on or one of us is shot at. Am I fucking clear?”
[Aff] was her subdued reply.
Cujo coughed once and continued in a more business tone. “Ok then… AS it has been alluded to, our Mystery Folks are exactly that; the legendary remnants of the Three-Three-One. And their follow on vessels are coming- and should be jumping in shortly out here… and we are the welcoming committee.”
[What are we expecting?] Asked Dancer as everyone’s sensors began to light up.
“Warships I was told, along with regular jumpship…” Cujo answered. “And I think this is them…. OH HOLY SHIT!!!”
Jumping into system about where Hollister had said they would be, five vessels that were more or less out of a history book. In the space before them, four Warships in SLDF Naval colors shimmered into existence. A Texas Class Battleship led the flotilla, a ship class not seen in the Inner Sphere since 3050. The last time Cujo saw one was during Operation Bulldog- and that one was a mess. With it was two ship types he’d seen more recently but in the hands of the ComGuard, an Aegis Class Heavy Cruiser along with a Vincent class Corvette. Following in their wake was what came up on the ThreatComp as a Potemkin-class cruiser, with its Dropship collars all containing Drop Ships of various kinds. The last ship to arrive and set back aways was an ancient civilian Monolith Jumpship. It too contained Dropships of various sorts.
“SLS Bismarck, SLS State of Grace, SLS Socket…” Cujo was calling out as the IFF of each ship as it came up on his computers. “SLS Juno and something id’ing as THS Rule 34…. Really?”
Dancer replied to that. [Sense of Humor, Cujo?]
“Heck If I know…. Message incoming…” Tapping a button on his display, he listened to the message obviously coming from the small fleet.
[Unidentified Fighters, this is the SLS Bismarck. Identify yourselves or be prepared to be fired upon…] Targeting radar focused themselves on his flight as they closed…
“Oh boy… Some friendly folks. But then, I’d be a touch cautious too…” Cujo said to himself before activating his transmitter. “SLS Bismarck, this is Bulldog Flight of the Phoenix Lancers Regimental Combat Team… Welcome to Centaurus System and stand by for a message from your representative, Colonel Don Hollister” Quickly tapping a few buttons on his side panel, Cujo hoped like hell this worked…
Otherwise, this was going to get messy.
Transmitting over the com-channel, a short message from the Wolverine commander played.
[This is Colonel Hollister. To my brothers and sisters of the Clave, we have been given refuge and a home. Condition Green Two…. I repeat Condition Green Two…]
Silence on the channel then a voice. A slightly emotional one, too. [Bulldog Flight… Thank you for that message…] It said as the Threat Receivers registered the loss of being targeted. [Its been a very long journey… ]
Cujo smiled softly at the emotions in the transmission, knowing full well someone was trying to hold it together. Couldn’t blame them- he knew if he and his ancestors had been wandering the universe for 200 years, he’d be a bit emotional too at the end of something like this. “SLS Bismarck, Bulldog Lead,” He said as he shifted his flight away from the flotilla and back towards Centaurus IV and their dropship. “Allow me to be the first to say…. Welcome Home.”