Legends and Myths Twenty Three- The Trial

(for those who play Battletech, the list of forces is available on request.)

Foothills of the Dusal Mountains
Continent of Ashton
0615 hrs, 17 April 3080

  Colonel Hollister sat in the cockpit of his Pulverizer, deep in thought.  This is madness, He mused as he looked over his command for this coming battle. Pure and unadulterated madness.  But then, who knew our kin would even be remotely reasonable?

  He and two companies of Wolverine Machines were moving down from the landing zone further into the savannah hills of the mountains that ran along the northern edge of Ashton.  They were moving to contact against a foe he never expected to face on remotely even terms.  But the last 36 hours had been full of unprecedented events, enough of them to make one wonder if there were pharmaceuticals involved in this living dream.

  A day and a half ago, he had conducted a meeting with representatives of Clan Ghost Bear, whose ancestors had tried to destroy his clan some two centuries ago.  But with the desperate act of a year prior in coming to the Inner Sphere, it had set a ball rolling for this to happen.  But he never expected to NOT be fighting for his life.  Coming to Centaurus, he had taken a gamble and it had proven beneficial for him and his people.  They had real homes, stable lives… and a future.  A precarious one… but a future.

  He and all the rest of the senior members of the clan knew that they would be facing elements of the other clans.  But because of one person’s actions, at least one of the Clans would not be hunting him and his people.  Indeed, the Ghost Bears had made it plain they regretted their participation, especially in light of the found and resurfaced evidence within their own records.  And, he suspected, no little bravery on the part of their Loremaster in even broaching the subject and possibility of ending their part in the hunt.

  Their hosts, the Phoenix Lancers, once the meeting and agreement had concluded, sicc’d their considerable technical teams on the ready for combat machines and really went over every battlemech in the two Ready companies.  They even detailed personnel to apply fresh coats of paint…  As one technician said when asked, if you are going to go fight for your life and end a genocide, might as well look good doing so.  All of his machines had a full-updated Threat Matrix software, which had just about all models of Clan War Machines the Lancers had ever faced in it.  An edge in knowing what you were fighting was always a good thing to have… and Colonel Tinney was going to stack the deck as best as he could, within reason, for Hollister’s people.

  What they were about to face was three Stars of Omni-mechs and a full star of Elemental Battle Armor.  Battle-armored Elementals were new to his people to face, as the armored version came about long after they left Clan Space.  Education om them was quick and their danger was stressed.  If shots could be taken to remove the threat over an Omni, they took priority.  The handful of battle-camera footage he was shown… strengthened the notion.

  A diode lit up on the comm panel and he activated the channel.  “Wolverine One,” He said.

 [Hollister, its Tinney…  last bit of intelligence for you…] the Commander of the Lancers spoke in his headset.  [They have a few heavy hitters over there….  Lebowski is in an Executioner so be mindful of that.  Few weapons but all powerful.]

 “Noted,” Hollister replied.  “Are they a mix of speeds or all big and slow?”

 [Mix.  They have three Stormcrows and a pair of Novas; efficient in the former and downright deadly in the latter if the pilot isn’t dumb about it.  Healthy mix of other machines; only one Dire Wolf, which tells me Lebowski knows his business.  Had he brought more than one, he was either channeling his inner Jade Falcon or was expecting to roll you.

  They are big, slow and have large numbers of powerful weapons…. But their size is a detriment.  I’ve faced enough of them… and personally, I think most of their pilots rely on fear factor,] he cautioned. [Don’t buy into it. It is a scary machine but VERY beatable.  Looks like he’s going the maneuverable firepower route, which is more worrisome. He has a plan… which is a compliment in hindsight.]

  Hollister considered the words and took the advice.  It was a reminder to not get fixated. “Anything else?”

 [Not really- we went over a number of scenarios… and I think he is looking to mirror you to a degree.  Heavy firepower and good speed throughout his Stars.  This is going to be a shoot and move battle… but you knew this.]

 “I did and do.  Thank you for all your help, John.”

 [No worries…  and remember, there is no such thing as a fair fight in a brawl and that’s what this is. Even among the Clans.  Tinney out…]  The channel closed as the Lancer signed out.

  As he smiled at the parting line, the company channel came live with contact reports.  “Well… they are fast, as he said,” Hollister mused aloud as he concentrated on what was ahead of him.

Desert Strip One Command Building
Ashton Desert

 Tinney stepped from the communications room and went back to the building Conference room where others awaited.

 During the planning for the location of this Trial, he had offered as a pseudo neutral party to host members of the Ghost Bear Command here to observe the proceedings.  While an odd notion, it was very possible due to all the drones available for observation from the various training grounds.  Which meant the process and progress of the Trial could be watched by all parties. Hosting the Ghost Bear hierarchy would benefit any future dealings between the two clans… and the Lancers.

  Surprising him, Star Admiral Devon agreed to come planet-side for this.  He had expected the Loremaster- she had stated she was there to record things for their Khan; but when Devon indicated she was coming, he had Conigliaro get dressed up to be here too.  While the Ghost Bears didn’t have a dedicated Aerospace Pilot Blood Name, Tinney suspected that the Star Admiral was a pilot… having Mike here to chat her up and perhaps compare notes, was not a horrible thing.  And he knew Mike would do his best to get some good information on how they do things.

  As was expected, the two were off to the side, comparing notes about various craft each had flown, and foes fought.  Pilots…  He thought with a chuckle as he took up a location opposite Tseng where she was viewing the feed.  Leslie was nearby, looking at a data pad as the screens showed the initial engagement.

And the initial shots fired by each side mostly missed but were good for ranging.  A particle cannon hit there, an LRM volley here…  very exploratory exchanges.

  Then battle really got serious fast.  The lighter and faster Clan machines raced ahead and dumped off their Elemental passengers into the thick of it and the Wolverines responded.  The first few minutes of weapon exchanges were hard on the battle armored infantry as Hollister’s troops spared no effort in whittling them down.  The damage they took from the Clan machines was vicious… but the defenders had the numbers…

  Until a Ghost Bear Shadowcat dropped a Wolverine Exterminator with a gauss slug to the head assembly.  A drone arced in when the firing moved on to check on the pilot and noted they were alive.  Badly injured but alive.

  On the far right of the Wolverine line, an Ostroc and a Star Slayer tangled with a Stormcrow and its battle armored support.  A Phoenix Hawk joined them in trying to deal with both.  Then the Ostroc tumbled to the ground from damage and the pilot blacked out… causing the Elementals to pounce as the others were chased off by Adder and Dire Wolf fire.  Lebowski, in his Executioner shifted over and helped worry the Wolverine machines on this side of the field.

  In the distance, the two Catapults of the Wolverines launched their LRM payloads into the sky, the ordinance coming down on said Dire Wolf, causing him to fall over.  The big machine would get up quickly- but not quickly enough as the Wolverine battle plan began to play out…

  On the Wolverine left, a pair of Lynx and a pair of Griffins played cat and mouse with a Black Lanner, a Stormcrow and a Nova, attempting to dodge incoming lasers even as they attempted to give back damage.  A Battlemaster also made its presence felt, its lasers tearing at the armor of a Timber Wolf even as a Ghost Bear Mad Dog introduced it to LRM and lasers- missiles punishing the assault machine.  It staggered and fell, a squad of Elementals adding to its woes.

 Lebowski shifted to his right, wading his machine through a firestorm of fire from a Spartan even as he delivered punishment to a Wolverine Thug, who was now missing a good portion of its right superstructure and armor- the Short-Range system on that torso a smoking ruin and the arm an afterthought.  In doing so, it opened him up for the Starslayer to cut armor from him, the Wolverine machine making a mad dash to bring him into sight.

  As he moved to avoid the Starslayer, the cautious movedsof the medium weight machines to his right changed into a full on rush just as the Pulverizer rounded a hill with one of his Stormcrows harassing it.  Multiple warnings from weapon locks sang out in his ears as it seemed like everyone in the area elected to gun for him right at that moment…

**

Hollister’s Pulverizer staggered under the hammer blows of a Timerwolf  and the pursuing Stormcrow as he maneuvered around to get a clear line to Lebowski’s Omni.  Over the battle command coms, he could hear the damage being dealt to his people and noted on a side screen the quartet from his Strike Company still being cautious.  This had to change… Just then, he remembered the discussion from last night he had with Tinney and McCormack- then the last thing the Lancer commander said to him:

Remember, there is no such thing as a fair fight in a brawl

“Dragoon Beta lance, priority target the Executioner; all others, opportunity fire as situation warrants,” He called over the network.  “He drops, this is over…”

  The rules of a Trial of Grievance state that the battle ends when one or the other no longer can continue.  Even though this was a far bigger battle than a normal Trial… that rule had not been changed for this battle.  This was still a Grievance Trial; just with more variables…. But the rule that ended a normal Trial had NOT been amended for the adjustment in size…  Time to use that and save his people as another three machines fell to Ghost Bear guns.

  Accelerating forward, Hollister drove his machine at Lebowski, moving closer to take advantage of his weapons at a better range….

**

  Lebowski’s Executioner staggered under hammer blows inflicted by Particle Cannon and laser fire coming at him from multiple directions as he heard armor integrity warnings begin to sound.  A small trickle of blood from where he hit his head on a stumble of his Omni followed by multiple hits to his cockpit from short range missiles began to bleed a bit more.  “Cleaning this cockpit is going to take hours,” He groused to himself.  “Need to wear a better helmet next time…”  Noting the armor was now gone from his machine’s left arm, he reached a hand to shut off the Gauss Rifle so it would not explode if hit when it *was* hit…

  The explosion of the weapon rocked the Executioner with additional damage and the feedback of the electrical discharge blew screens within the cockpit.  The concussive force he was battered with knocked him senseless and he lost consciousness.  With being knocked out, his body went slack and in a battlemech, that was never good.

  A MechWarrior’s Neuro-helmet used a pilot’s natural balance to help keep a battlemech or an Omni upright.  It was not as advanced as the Word of Blake neuro-link cybernetics of the Manei Domini; that method was invasive as hell along with harmful to the pilot… but at its basic function, the pilot was what kept the machines upright when under operation.

  Lebowski blacking out… meant his Omni-mech no longer had a chance to remain upright with the punishment it had received.  And it fell to the ground as if poleaxed.  The other problem with being blacked out… is that odds were very against avoiding more damage from the fall.  VERY against.

  As the machine crashed to the ground, the sensors within the Omnimech sensed the pilot was no longer awake… and powered down.

**

  Hollister saw the weapon strikes to the Executioner’s head assembly as the Gauss Rifle exploded.  Almost like watching a train wreck, the Wolverine commander could only watch his opponent fall over with the near ring-side seat he had.  When another laser stabbed in seconds before the machine impacted the ground, he had a sinking feeling he’d won.  And not in a way he wanted.

“All Wolverines!!  CEASE FIRE!!,” He yelled into his network as his sensors registered the Clan mech powering down.  “I REPEAT CEASE FIRE DAMN IT!!”  Stepping his machine closer to the Executioner, Hollister unbuckled his harness and popped his own hatch.  Tossing the rapid egress rope out, he rappelled out of his cockpit quickly.  He could hear the repeated calls in his earpiece as well as the voice of Tinney indicating the trial was Complete….  Hosllister didn’t care- he just knew he needed to get to his opponent’s machine and in a hurry.

  Stepping up next to the head of the down machine, he saw the cockpit glass was starred all to hell and broken in spots.  Looking for the emergency release, he realized the cover for it was damaged.  “Shit,” he cursed and scrambled to get a different angle.  Seeing inside the lifeless form of Lebowski, he drew his sidearm and aimed at a window away from the Clan pilot.  Two shots… and he kicked out the remaining glass.

  Reaching in, he got a hand to the neck of Lebowski, noting the blood all over the cockpit, and checked for a pulse….


**

 Back in the bunker, all eyes were on the scene being broadcast into the area as Cease Fire commands were being broadcast.  Tinney had one eye on the screen even as he gave orders for recover teams to start heading out.  He hoped like hell Hollister hadn’t lost his marbles…

  Tseng and Devon stared at the screen as Hollister drew his weapon.  Devon hissed and quieted when Tseng laid a hand on her shoulder.  When the Wolverine pilot blasted a window then kicked it out, she knew this was not the actions of one trying to kill after the fact.  “He’s trying to get in there to check him, Kirsten…”

On screen, Hollister reached inside, his body going halfway into the damaged Executioner cockpit.  Then a mad scramble as the Wolverine Khan’s voice came across the open channel even as he backed out of the open window.  [Training Ground Command, Wolverine One; I need MEDEVAC here now!!  I have a pilot in critical condition. I will do what I can if I can get him out, but he requires evacuation as soon as possible.]

  [Wolverine one, Training Ground Command; we copy immediate need MEDEVAC. They are launching now- ETA to your location four minutes…]

  On screen, the pilot of the downed Timberwolf arrived with his own weapon out.  An exchange of words was had between him and Hollister then the Clan pilot holstered his weapon even as he pulled out a comm unit.  Within a minute, a trio of Elementals showed up and began to use their claws to rip apart the cockpit glass to make more space to get at the unconscious pilot.

  Nearby, a Ferret Medevac VTOL landed, and a medical team ran up as the Elementals pulled their Star Colonel out of the cockpit.  Setting him down, they backed away from the Lancer medics and let them do their job.  Several more Ferrets landed in the area and more teams began spreading out, being led by other surviving Elementals or other pilots- both Clan and Wolverine, to where wounded were.

  The Mech battle was over.  Now, it was in the hands of the medical teams.

 Tseng exchanged looks with Devon then looked at McCormack who was busy at a comstation quietly giving orders.  “Colonel, a word….”

  Leslie looked up at the Clan Loremaster.  “Loremaster, I’m notifying our main Medical Facility in Crossroads to get their Shock Trauma ward ready,” She said. “the medical facility here at this field is good enough to stabilize; having dealt with a Gauss explosion myself once, I know roughly how bad it could be for him and that’s within their abilities…  That he took multiple hits during the battle, he will definitely need more than what’s here.”

  Tseng nodded.  “Thank you.

  “Not an issue; he will be in good hands.  While we don’t exactly have the medical equipment of the Clans, what we DO have does the job pretty well.”

  Tseng nodded.  “Once we have seen to our people here, I would like Transport to your facility.”

  Leslie nodded. “Of course.”

  Tseng went back over to Devon as she was watching the medical team lift Lebowski off the ground on a stretcher, two Elementals doing the carrying towards the VTOL.  One Medic help up a bag of fluid for an IV as they made their way to the idling craft.   Devon turned to look at her clan-mate.  “They seem to be very good at field medicine here…”

  “A large amount of practice, I think.”

  “I can imagine.”

  “Lieutenant Colonel McCormack will make sure I get brought to where he will be going.  She said the facilities here are good, but he likely needs more than what’s here.”

  Devon frowned then sighed.  “I would think so.  His fate is in their hands… as is yours.  As is all of ours, really.”

The Loremaster looked around at all the Lancer troops in the command center then back at the admiral.  “Star Admiral, tell me something I do not know…” She said at last.  “It helps they act with Honor and care about both their men and their people… as well as ours.”

Author: John T

Warrior-Sage and full time healer. Gamer and Arm Chair Analyst (who isn't these days?) who isn't afraid to read up on what I don't know.

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