In the Air above the continent of Tolkien
0541 hrs local, 10 December 3080
The Phoenix Lancer Condor dropship streaked through the high atmosphere on its way to the Drop Zone over Testudo. The plan as hatched by the Airborne troop commander and his command group was a modification of the original plan. The original mission was to head to the village of Bree, land, then head to the captured base in order to root out the invaders. Two battlemechs, laid out on rollers in the cargo bays, were set to be rolled off and configured to join a ground offensive.
However, they were also configured for airdrop, big heavy cargo chutes able to allow the machines to land and get in the fight with minimal assistance. And it was this fact that gave the troop commander the notion that a Combat Drop was the way to go. And so, the command group met in the few minutes before they were to drop to go over plans….
Major Robert Taylor, acting commander of Charlie Company, Third Battalion of the 173rd Airborne of the Phoenix Lancers, looked at the datapad with the map of the area one more time before looking up at his platoon leaders. “Ok… so that’s the plan- we drop in around the base and work our way to the center. The base personnel gave us some solid intel on their gear and while we are a little light on anti-armor, what they have we should be able to handle.”
The platoon leaders all nodded as they looked over their own datapads. Off to the side, the company senior NCO and brother to the Major, coughed once. “Not for nothing, Major… but you sure this is the way to go?” Sergeant-Major Dwayne (Hightower) Taylor, grumbled from where he sat. “A reinforced Airborne Company against a dozen tracks and a hundred troops is not exactly an easy fight. Even with that damn clan machine…” What he referred to would be the repurposed clan Piranha they carried on the rollers. The machine was a fast light battlemech and death to anything infantry with its twelve machineguns. The two Clan-spec ER Medium lasers were for things bigger and tougher than infantry, such as IFVs.
Robert smiled. “I’m confident this will work… between it and the Mongoose with its equipment, we have the firepower to handle it. Dropping in prevents them from being ready for us as they would be if we walked in.” the major laid his pad on the meeting table. “Yeah, it will be chaotic, what airborne operation isn’t… but WE know what we’re doing and what we’re facing. They don’t…” Looking around the space, he asked. “Anyone else?”
No one else responded. Robert nodded to them as much as himself and pronounced the pre-drop meeting over. ”Ok then… Back to your platoons. We are dropping in about ten.”
As the leadership departed, Dwayne levered himself out of the seat he was in. At just a hair over seven foot, the powerfully built black man shook his head as his brother. “Bro… I don’t know, man. I see what you see but I just don’t know…”
Rob looked back at his brother. “Dwayne, I know what you’re thinking… and I am SURE this is the way to go. Even light autocannon at range is dangerous to us and our mechs. If we are on top of them, it cancels range advantages… and increases us kicking them in the teeth.”
Dwayne grinned in return. “Oh, I’m all about kicking them in the teeth. But I don’t wanna get kicked in return if I can help it. And if someone didn’t say something, y’all would have worried like a bitch ten seconds before we dropped….”
Rob punched his younger brother in the shoulder as they both left the space to gear up. “Shuuut up…” he mock scolded. “I’m gonna worry either way- but nice try.”
The two brothers headed to the cargo bay to gear up for the drop.
Testudo Base environs
0601 hours 10 December
The Immortals combat troops, having managed to use the tools of the base to fix some of their transports, used the downtime over the night to rest. Colonel Spanac spent most of the night planning out what the next steps were.
This base was a defensible position, with its bunkers and shelters; the defenders leaving food supplies and the like in their leaving. Had the original inhabitants had more troops and some heavier guns, his men might have not managed to take it. But take it they did- and Vanatov worked hard to find a way into what links were left. What he did get overnight wasn’t terribly much though.
The connection to the master server was re-established but very little solid data was present. At least ninety percent of the server was plain trash. What wasn’t was nothing useful- unless you played a video game. Leftover saves for the latest version of Civilization (Civ 31) as well as what looked like a copy of the game itself. No technical data was present and the expected connections to the main Lancer systems were deactivated.
He tried five times to reactivate them, rerouting through the handful of active drives and terminals… and every time, his security software was assaulted by remaining server defenses. After the fifth time nearly caused his own deck to become a brick, Vanatov stopped trying.
He did manage to improve the connections to the Civilian Network and was able to give his commander a good picture of how the invasion was going. And that news… did not make him happy. At least with what was being reported.
Needless to say, it had been a semi-sleepless night for the group command. Spanac had napped some and was nursing a cup of coffee when word of the arrival of enemy forces came.
“COLONEL!” A trooper came bursting into Operations. “Airborne troops are landing around the complex!” His exclamation was added to by other messages coming across the group comms as the landing forces began engaging his own.
“Shit! Get everyone up and fighting,” He called to his exec, who jumped awake at the yelling. “Fucking Lancers are here sooner than expected!”
Outside, the landing Lancer troops conducted their drop around the complex almost as if the impromptu drop had been planned out. And coming in from as high as they had helped them avoid detection until landing. And that was the key here.
Sporadic fighting broke out as Immortal forces who caught sight of the landing Lancer troops engaged as they passed the word to Spanac. The airborne infantry returned fire in earnest as they ditched chutes and married up with their platoons. As Major Taylor had surmised, their appearance had caused chaos… and in that chaos, it gave his troops time to orient themselves and press the attack.
The Lancer forces had laned in a circle around the base as planned, the two light battlemechs landing about a kilometer away. And it was this envelopment that really caught the Immortals off guard.
Spanac had Vanatov use the imagery they had of the base and put it on the screens. As reports of the three-sixty nature of the assault arrived, he realized how much they were caught in the middle of all this. “Christ on a crutch,” he cursed. “They can’t be everywhere…”
The Exec, Josias Greene, a veteran former Marik trooper who been with him for years, spat some of the chew he’d been working on to the floor. “Anatoli… Its Airborne troops; they literally can be ANYwhere to include everywhere….” He replied. “They likely don’t have anything heavy though- we’d have seen it by now, I think.”
Spanac looked at his Exec. “Well, as long as they don’t have anything that can pop an IFV, we should be ok.” As he reached for the comm unit to order the IFVs to move out against the ground troops, he noted a fast moving blip on the tactical screen Vanatov had up. “Sergi, what’s that?” he asked.
Vanatov tapped quickly on his keyboard to query the IFF just as a communications tech called out. “Sir! Delta Two One is reporting battlemechs. Two machines, both light. One is a Mongoose, the other unknown.”
Sergi added as he obtained an answer a second later. “The base sensor package indicates it’s a clan machine. According to Jaynes, it’s a Piranha.”
Spanac cursed inwardly. He knew about that clan machine and how dangerous it was to EVERYTHING here. Add in a Mongoose to support it and it spelled trouble. And a lot of it. “Damnit… who knew they had one of those? Alright… all vehicles need to hunt that thing.”
Village of Bree
Justin, with the help of Coins, had managed to remote into the surviving network and gain a video feed within Operations a few hours past. When the attack began, he had his dad woken up and right now, the elder Harvie was present when news of the battlemechs was learned. Looking at his dad, he asked. “Do we mess with their systems and give Rob’s troops a leg up or do we watch?”
Eric smiled. “My son…. If one has an advantage no one expects, use it.” He said. “Rob won’t ask for it but he damn sure won’t complain about it if we do it anyway. You sure you have a hook in that non-spec hacker deck you found?”
A snort. “There is no hack-deck in this universe I can’t get into, Dad. Not when its on my network.”
“Then do it,” he replied. “And tell them you are pulling their plug…”
Sergi was in mid type when his keyboard stopped working and a message appeared on his screen in big bold letters….
[YOU HAVE DONE MESSED UP, A-A-AROD. ALL YOUR BASE BELONG TO US].
A giant laughing skull and crossbones appeared underneath the words, the skull stylized after the head of an Atlas.
Sergi cursed as he pounded his keyboard attempting to regain control of his machine. After six seconds of trying (and failing), he pulled the hard-wire connection he had from his deck. “Fuck me!!” he exclaimed as the remaining active screens now all showed a laughing Atlas skull.
Spanac spun and looked at his technician even as he saw the handful of active screens with the new imagery. “Sergi?!?” He queried as he took in the taunting pictures.
“Whoever their hacker is, he’s fucking good, Colonel…” Vanatov said as he rebooted his deck, hoping like hell it wasn’t completely compromised. “He still has a connection somewhere here and got into my machine. I hope it isn’t dead.”
Eric watched the video feed on his omni tool as Coins showed him which channel to activate and got a slightly dark laugh at the responses of the enemy in Operations. “Specialist Spades… have you raised the troops attacking the compound?”
“I have, Chief… Major Taylor, Third Battalion of the 173rd,” she replied. “I think I can raise them right now.”
An evil smile. “Oh please do, Specialist. I know the Major and he’s gonna like this idea I have. Coins, see if you and Justin can set up a video line- I want to give these guys a message….”
Some fifteen minutes later, as Spanac watched his transports get whittled down by the two battlemechs working in tandem, one of the screens popped up with a new picture. It showed the inside of what looked like a school-house. Standing in the middle of the picture was a man with close cropped grey hair in Lancer combat fatigues, a stern look on his features as he stared out from the screen. “Who the fuck is that?” he wondered aloud.
About five seconds later, the man on the screen spoke. [Attention Immortals Command… I strongly suggest you pay attention…]
Spanac turned to face the screen properly and noted a slight smile on the man in the screen. Vanatov, who had rebooted his deck, also watched the screen too from where he worked.
[Ah good… Now that I have your undivided attention… I am going to strongly suggest you and your men stand down from this endeavor of yours…. And no one else has to get killed.]
Spanac stared at the screen. “I don’t know who you are, buddy… but I doubt you can take us all out,” he muttered aloud.
The person on the screen smiled even more. [I know you think we can’t take you all… but I assure you that we can and will knock you all out] He lifted a hand and pointed to someone off screen.
Greene looked over at Spanac. “Colonel, I’m getting reports of Lancers masking up…”
Spanac looked over at his exec. “Masks?” At the nod from Greene, he looked back at the screen. “Gassing us makes you no better than the Blakists!” He yelled to the man on the screen as vents quietly opened in the operations center.
Eric chuckled at the accusation leveled at him from the Immortals commander. Off to the side, Justin and Coins gave him a thumbs up and then Eric spoke. “If it was nerve gas, I’d agree with you… but We don’t use such things. Tear Gas, Sleep Gas…. Sure…. And we might. Especially if it’s going to end this fight faster… and save some lives. Something they don’t care to do.”
Justin and Coins had worked hard on the environmental controls. Getting the HVAC units to spew a mist wasn’t too hard- the firefighting nozzles could do that to fight any fires in the ducting. But getting the system to push that mist out into the room in a visible format was the challenge. It was just going to be water… but what his dad was telling the Immortals… was that it was something else. He looked at his father and gave him a thumbs up. This trick, at least the technical part, was going to work. But will the Immortals believe it?
Eric coughed once as a subtle sell of what he was bluffing with. “Two choices, Colonel Anatoli Spanac….” He said as he identified the enemy commander by name. “Vacate the operations building and all other facilities in surrender or get ready to nap for a few as you get took. You have about a minute to-“
[- make that choice before it’s made for you.] he finished. [Either way, I will be seeing you…]
The others in the operations room started to notice the mist coming from the vents. Panic started to ensue as those without masks began to run for the doors as a mist began to fill the room. Spanac spun around and grabbing his rifle, he headed for a door as he coughed- the psychology of the threat already having an effect on the veteran soldier.
All over, various groups of Immortals had heard the threatened gassing as the base wide speakers had been activated remotely by Justin’s activities. Those in buildings also fled them in a panic- many of them not having proper masks with them or if they did, they were in bottom of gear bags as everyone knew the Lancers didn’t use gas.
At least they thought this going into the operation.
As groups of troops ran from buildings, various squads of Lancers were waiting, already masked and weapons up. Some of the running Immortals surrendered when confronted by the ready airborne troops. Some didn’t… and they paid for their decision.
Outside the immediate area of the base, the two battlemechs were inflicting major damage on the Immortals armored vehicles. Clan-spec lasers tore armor from machines and the machine guns capitalized on the damage being inflicted.
All of this got back to Spanac as he retreated from operations. And as the reports came in, the commanding officer of the renegades weighed it all. And the answer he was getting… just didn’t sit well with him.
He never gambled when he wasn’t sure of the odds… at least until this operation. And right now, this gamble was proving to have been a giant mistake. Tapping his comm unit to the battalion wide channel, he issued the commands no leader ever really wanted to do.
“Spanac to all Immortals… Stand Down. I repeat, Stand down…” He sent. “They got us by the balls and I’m not about to lose more of you after a bad deal… Stand Down.”