Outpost Valley Access Road
Kaladonia Mountains North East of Rahway
0901hr (GMT+4) 25 December 3079
The warning from Lancer Command came about fifteen minutes after detection, the landing cone of the raid having solidified enough for orders to be sent out…. And there was some very distinct scrambling being done as a result.
Major Clyburn’s Bravo Company of First Battalion had RDF Duty for the holiday and they were quick… but would take time to get to Sage from Landing And that time to respond would enable a portion of the raid to land and possibly cause havoc. When it became apparent that the raiders were targeting the Outpost, things really became strange.
It was Christmas Morning… and the Governor of Sage was visiting the newly settled Returned in their housing areas near the old Outpost Castle. Governor Sodher-Schaller had taken to seeing to the welfare of the Returned Civilians to heart, and had been working hard at helping them integrate into the world’s culture and become acquainted with the holidays again of the Inner Sphere. She had been here with both the Commander of the Returned, John Hollister and a few other local officials for Christmas festivities when her pager rang.
After receiving the news of the inbound raids she let out a small curse. Damn them to the Nine Hells, She raged internally as she returned from taking the call. Grabbing one of the Constabulary who was now looking at HIS pager, she began issuing orders. “Captain, get as many as you can to the Castle and as fast as you and your men can.”
“Ma’am?” He responded as others began to quietly and efficiently began making calls or informing parents of children about what was happening… and what had to be done.
“It would appear that some folks really have zero respect for Christmas,” Diane replied as he pulled out a personal com-unit. “And this might get bad. Please let Commander Hollister know that his people will be safe….”
A nod. “Yes ma’am…” The Captain replied as he went off to help his men and relay the message.
Diane hurried out to her official car with its driver. “Micah…”
Her Driver held the door. “Governor? To the office bunker? We might not make it there fast enough.”
Diane shook her head as she got in the back. “No… to the Outpost Mech Bay.”
Micah blinked. “Ma’am, are you sure?” he asked as he hurried to the driver seat.
Leaning back into the seat, she closed her eyes. “Yes. Someone has to buy time and I’m the most qualified…” She replied. “Hopefully some of the vehicle crews can get their machines operational… but it might not be fast enough to matter.”
The car practically took off from the meeting hall as Micah floored the accelerator. “Ma’am, if you say so. Are you sure you can do this?”
Diane laughed slightly and it was a dark one. “No one else is available, Micah… and I let Geoff have it be repaired for a rainy day, even if she’s a museum piece now. My health might be poor but I can still pilot a battlemech…” Glancing out the window at the rapidly passing terrain, she sighed once. “Not that I expected to have to again of course… But sometimes, you don’t get the choices you want…”
Micah angled the aircar to the entry port to the Mech Ramps. “No ma’am… sometimes the choice is made for you.”
About nine minutes later, she was exiting the Pilots Ready room, sans cane. Diane had rapidly pulled off her Official Clothing from the festivities and had pulled on her old cooling vest over a t-shirt she kept in a locker here. It had been some time since she had even thought about piloting a battlemech. Sure, she kept her skills up in the simulators since she’d recovered from the Occupation and practiced in actual machines, because once a Pilot, Always a Pilot… but she’d not seen combat in almost eight years. Hell, she hadn’t been in a Mech Cockpit in over a year. She hoped her ability hadn’t gotten that stale.
AS she entered the mech cradle area, she spied her machine, a BLR-4S Battlemaster. It was her baby, as far as mechs go, and had been extensively refurbished by the Lancers and her husband after Centaurus had been retaken. For the longest time, it had been one of the most modern machines within the command as she had been the Regiment’s Duelist- a position that had been within the Lancers since the days of the First Star League. And in that role, she had performed flawlessly…. And had managed to win many a battle, preventing many unnecessary losses.
Then came the Jihad.
When the planet had been invaded, she, along with Sean Farquharson, had been key figures within the resistance…. And as the better pilot, she had taken on anything and everything that came their way. And it was in that role, she became a boogieman to the Blakist invaders. In that Battlemaster, she held off many an opponent and killed many a Level II sent her way. More than once, it had fallen to her to hold a line against an advancing force and each time, she had stood her ground…. And stood it she did, with proof of her ability in the destroyed machines on the fields before her.
Her last combat in her machine had been in defense of civilians as Blakist troops had found them in the mountains of Cromwell… It had been her in her very patched up Battlemaster, an old Manticore tank and an pair of SRM squads against what was almost a mech company. And it was carnage that day. Between all of them, they had held the line but barely. The Manticore was destroyed early on through a freak hit but not before it had claimed three attackers. The SRM troops had managed to bring down one more- a Locust that had ignored them a little too long…. But the rest had faced her.
And she nearly died in the process.
Faced off against the last two of the attackers, a Blakist Gurkha and Raijin, the exchange of fire between the fresh enemy machines and her heavily damaged one resulted in a damaged gyro for her and heavy damage to the remaining two. Unable to transmit anything or get her machine up, she could only watch the Gurkha lift its sword up and start to swing when it was rocked with no less than five Particle Cannon blasts as elements of the 3rd Pesht arrived in the nick of time; their Panthers being a very welcome sight… before she passed out from pain.
It was when she finally got proper medical attention that she had learned all the injuries sustained in previous fights and this last one… aggravated other health issues and pulled her from active service. Many arguments during treatments and surgeries to repair badly healed bones were epic- her desire to remain who she was warred with the doctors until a compromise was found… And she was allowed to remain in the Reserve, cane and all.
She could teach, she could instruct… but Active Combat Role was done. No more deployments… as her health deemed it a Bad Idea.
And now here she was some seven years later, about to climb into her machine once more and in a situation similar to her last battle. And the irony was NOT lost on her.
Her comm unit started to chirp. Glancing at it, she noted the caller and answered. “It has to be me…” she said as she settled into the pilot’s seat.
[I know.] Geoff’s voice emitted from the speaker. [Hollister and his Armsman are working hard and getting their folks into the Castle now… He plans on joining you as fast as possible with at least one of his men.]
Diane concentrated on the startup procedures as her husband spoke. Stupid gauss rifles… Order of activation or they don’t work right… “Geoff, let him know I understand; his people are his responsibility… and their protection are Lancer Responsibility right now… which means mine until the Cavalry gets here. He gets here, he gets here…” A smile. “I’ll try to save him some to deal with. Now let me get Aiskon started- it’s been a hot minute or three since I’ve done a combat startup on her and I really don’t want to fry the Model A.”
[I put in a safety breaker on that,] Geoff answered without a beat. [Not that I expected this but with everything that has happened, I had a feeling…]
“Thank you, my love,” She said softly as she placed her neuro-helmet on, her machine’s controls lighting up and indicating all systems nominal. “I’ve got work to do as do you. See you soon.”
Clicking off the comm, she closed her eyes for a moment, steadying her nerves. “Get up, Do Work…” She muttered to herself as she opened her eyes and then spoke to her machine. “Ok Baby; its time to make some people regret their bad decisions…” Tapping a button on the upper portion of the cockpit, techno music began to play as she piloted the Battlemaster from the cradle to the ramp out.
Hollister turned to the nearest constable as the last of his people began boarding the busses. All of the Returned were settled all over Centarus; some in built up areas with lots of locals, others in remote places where it appealed to them… and then there was the concentration here on Sage. Some by the Castle, some in the city of Rahway and others spread all over the continent.
As such, he wasn’t worried about the overall… and was grateful he didn’t have to try and move ten thousand or more civilians in a short time. Hell, moving the few hundred that chose to stay here by the Castle was plenty. And it was why he chose to spend Christmas with this group- they were the older members of the Returned and the Orphans of the fallen; any commander worth his position saw to the families of deceased troops as he could.
It galled him that he wasn’t in a position to go out and defend his people right away, relying on the Lancers- in this case the Governor of the province and her machine. In the swirl of activity with evacuation, he learned about her departure and his initial thoughts were unkind. When he mentioned her departure to one of the constables helping load his people, the security person corrected him pretty quick.
“Sir, Governor Sodher-Schaller’s no joke. No one in the Regiment is better than her in a Mech; not even the Colonel and he’s damn good. Don’t let her cane fool you- If anyone can slow them down, she can.”
A fast call to the Governor’s mate confirmed the woman’s role as a former pilot and that of Gunslinger…. And Hollister found himself issuing the sort of promise he almost never made.
“Geoff, I will get out there to help her- she will not fight alone. And if she is put to the ground, whoever did so shall not live to speak about it…”
So as the last of his people were loading, he snagged the constable. “Officer, how fast can you get me to the Mech Bay we have our machines in?”
The constable blinked once. “Three minutes maybe?”
Hollister smiled. “It will have to do. I need myself and Captain McEvedy to our machines as fast as possible. Your Governor should not have to fight on her own.”
The Constable nodded and turned to another. “Clarke- take Mr Hollister and one of his men to their Mechs fast as ya can.”
“Right away Sarge,” Clarke called and waved to Hollister. “This way sir- that aircar over there.”
Within a minute, McEvedy and Hollister were winging their way to the Castle mechbay, seeing the deep green with gold trim Battlemaster exiting the main doors at a brisk pace as they got closer. As they landed inside the bay, the two Returned men saw crews of tankers rapidly pulling a pair of Tokugawa tanks from transport trailers. An industrial loader stood to the side with ammunition cassettes in its handlers, waiting to load the tanks.
The two pilots raced for their machines as one of the Tokugawa’s began heading for the ramps. It was going to be a race he was sure. AS soon as he got into his Pulverizer’s cockpit, he activated the comm unit and tuned to the Lancers combat frequency.
As the scope of the attack became apparent, he tapped the unit private comm. ”Jacob, worry about systems checks on the run… The Governor is faced against eight opponents… and those two tanks might not be enough help.”
McEvedy didn’t answer at first. “Right…. Eight on One is not odds I would wish to face. And she is doing so on her own.” He said finally as he set his Guillotine into motion. “Gutsy…”
Hollister agreed. “Very… and worthy of the Remembrance, were she of the Wolverines.” He said as he placed his own machine into motion. “:et us make sure she gets the chance to do so.
With that, the two Clan Wolverine Battlemechs reached the exit ramp out, a half- minute behind the two tanks.