Chapter 1

Star Commander Judith Hopps' chest swelled with pride. This was her first command, and already she was permitted the honor of leading her Star against the forces of the Inner Sphere. Only four hours ago Star Captain Bogo had concluded the bidding for his batchall. Unusually, for Inner Sphere forces, the defenders had so far followed protocol, and bid two of their lances to defend the contested air field. Despite her forces consisting of only a single heavy Star she remained confident; five clan warriors against eight IS pilots would be a worthy challenge, but not one she expected to fail.

As she entered the mech bay of their Union class dropship, she was hailed by a familiar voice.

"Star Commander!"

Turning, she spotted Fangmeyer heading in her direction. The large tiger seemed perturbed, but gathered herself enough to offer a proper salute.

"Star commander, I have just been informed that my assigned mech is not battle ready. The mechanics detected a microfracture in the gyro casing during the startup sequence."

Judy raised an eyebrow. This should not have been an issue. Normally there were several reserve mechs on standby for exactly this reason, and she said as much.

"Fangmeyer, do not tell me that you are unable to resolve this situation without my intervention. Secure a reserve mech, and prepare for drop. We launch in forty minutes."

About to resume course to her mech, Judy noticed that Fangmeyer had not yet moved, and was looking down in embarrassment.

"Star commander, there is... an additional, um, complication."

Judy's foot begun to tap impatiently

"Out with it Fangmeyer."

"I was told that no heavy mechs have been allocated as reserves for our drop. Further, the only battle ready chassis is… *cough* a Cottontail IIC."

At this Judy's ears flattened in anger. Not only was the drop being shorted on reserve mechs, but the techs had the gall to offer a second-line light mech to replace a Timberwolf. Then it hit her: Cottontail IIC? This was a joke at her expense. Having been the first Rabbit mechwarrior, Judy had to overcome centuries of custom in order to prove her worth. By now she was no longer concerned with the opinions of small minded animals, but to have a military operation jeopardized by prejudice was not something she would overlook.

"Fangmeyer, have Higgins assist in syncing you neurohelmet to my Gargoyle. It seems that I will be leading this drop from a different mech."

With that Judy turned and began to make her way to the tech officer's command pit. Fangmeyer watched her for a moment more, then shuddered. She was glad that the Star Commander's wrath was not directed at her. There was about to be a very unhappy tech officer. Shaking her head she glanced around for Higgens. They had less than forty minutes remaining before drop, and it would take most of that time to sync her 'helmet, and besides, she wanted to be as far away as possible from the coming confrontation. With phrases like 'minimum safe distance' in mind, she hustled on her way.