In a time of unceasing warfare,

The legacy of a fallen age,

Empires fight for an ancient throne

Battles are waged across the stars,

Fought by giant engines of war known as

BattleMechs

But not all battles are fought with from a cockpit,

And some battles have stakes

Higher than victory or defeat.

11 – Battle of Galisteo Pt 2

Texarkana Plains,

Galisteo, Tamarind Province

Free Worlds League

13 January 3026

Ruby definitely wasn't all the way up to speed in piloting her new Phoenix Hawk (new to her, at least). Simulator practice, both during the run from Poulsbo to the Monty Oum and then from the Oum to Galisteo's surface, had only been enough to give her a basic knowledge of handling the 45-tonner, as well as its loadout. Having piloted a Heavy 'Mech for her entire career until now, actually piloting a 'Mech that was 15-tons lighter was an entirely new experience. It did share the same speed as her mother's Lancelot. For another, it had actual arms instead of gun barrels attached at the shoulder. And the lighter weight meant a much lighter level of armor so she had to rely more on maneuverability than ever before. So a definite adjustment of battle tactics was required. Fortunately, in spite of the enemy being Grimm, most of their designs were of the same weight class as her. Sprinting forward at her Phoenix Hawk's maximum speed, she twisted left and unloaded both of her arm-mounted Medium Lasers into the side of a Grimm Stinger, the twin blasts sneaking past the swinging arm of the 20-tonner and blasting away its thin armor, and cracking the reactor shielding a bit. As it turned to face her, she unloaded her right arm's Large Laser and in spite of the glancing angle managed to connect with the same wound in the Stinger's side, fully breaching the reactor shielding and causing the fusion engine to automatically shut down. Unfortunately for the Grimm pilot, they'd been moving at full speed; so with no power, there was no control, and the scout 'Mech crashed headlong into the ground at 97.2kph.

Ruby jerked left and managed to avoid a burst of machine gun fire from a nearby Locust. She didn't want to slow down to make a faster turn to aim at the other 25-tonner, but she also knew that it would take too long to make the turn at her current speed. Fortunately, she didn't have to as her sensors indicated the Grimm 'Mech was being peppered with LRM fire.

"Thanks, Nora," she said over the comm.

"Any time, Lieutenant! Now bring 'em in so I can break their legs!" the orange-haired girl yelled gleefully. The green light of a Medium Laser lanced past her 'Mech's head, and she aimed her left arm at the offending Wasp and punched her own Medium Laser's beam through its faceplate. The lighter 'Mech collapsed like a puppet with its strings cut.

Ruby was suddenly knocked hard against her restraints as her P-Hawk was hit by a series of laser blasts. She glanced up in time to see a fast-moving 40-ton Cicada race past her viewscreen. Snapping her 'Mech's right arm up, she fired of a burst from her Large Laser, raising the heat in her cockpit to the point she was gasping for breath but taking satisfaction in seeing the red beam slice across the Grimm's knee joint as all 40 tons of mass landed on it. The weakened structure couldn't bear the stress and snapped, sending it skidding across the ground.

*TCD*

Coco fired off the PPC in her Marauder's left arm, the heavy particle beam coring through the armor of a Grimm Wasp and blowing its reactor shielding, the fusion engine going critical even as two more Wasps and a Stinger hit her with more Medium Laser strikes. Her 75-ton MAD-3R could shrug off the hits, but considering how many of these Grimm 'Mechs there were it would only be a matter of time before her armor gave way. Triggering her dorsal-mounted AC/5, she watched with satisfaction as the 3-round burst of 120mm shells ripped apart the head of the Stinger. In response, her Marauder was rocked again and a warning discrete flashed on her tertiary screen: the two remaining Stingers of the lance assaulting her had managed to hit the same location with their Medium Lasers, piercing the armor and taking out one of her heat sinks.

Twin PPC blasts savaged one of the Stingers, reducing it to non-functioning scrap and killing the pilot. Yatsuhashi's WHM-6R Warhammer stepped into her line of sight, its SRM-6 launcher belching out an unguided flight of six rockets into the other Stinger as its Medium and Small Lasers - one of each paired up in the left and right torso locations - fired off into the same 20-tonner, the lasers savaging its armor while the missiles blasted apart its head. The ON1-K Orion Amber had swapped into her lance stepped forward as well, its class-10 autocannon and SRM-4 launcher firing into the backside of a Grim Assassin, ripping apart the thin rear armor and eating up the reactor shielding. The field dampeners shut it down, but Coco fired her left-arm PPC into its cockpit, killing the pilot.

"Into the darkness, into oblivion, shall the Fallen be consigned," she intoned after her execution of the enemy pilot.

"Thus is the Fate of Grimm," echoed Yatsu and the Orion's pilot. Strangely, Jaune stayed silent, his 60-ton Rifleman firing off a burst from its AC/5s and Medium Lasers to cripple a Cicada. Of Ranger Company, he was the one that had been the most reluctant to take the oath. She thought nothing of it, nor of Yatsu when he fired both of his PPCs into the 40-ton and detonated its fusion reactor.

"Alright, fall back by the numbers," Coco ordered. "We'll get back to the DropShips and get under the cover of their weapons." She switched frequencies. "Ranger Actual, this is Gatling Actual. We're falling back to the DropShips for repairs and reloads."

"Gatling Actual, this is Ranger Actual," came Weiss's voice. "Maiden and Rose Lances are falling back as well. We have deployed our fast vehicles to provide assistance. Air assets have reported that the Grimm force numbers were approximately two reinforced battalions, although combat losses have reduced them by about a company each."

"Doesn't seem like they're veteran pilots," Coco replied.

"With their numbers they don't really need skill, Lieutenant," the ex-LCAF woman replied.

*TCD*

"All units hold position, do not pursue," Alpha ordered, watching as Ranger Company fell back. While it would have been easy enough to pursue and wipe out the 'Mech assets, doing so would've led to the near-annihilation - if not complete destruction - of his entire command. Destroying a company of the hated Hunters would have been worth sacrificing many - if not most - of his forces, but he hadn't risen to command the Legion without learning when to push forward and when to wait. According to the spy, the forces currently on Galisteo had a trio of DropShips: a Union-class, a Condor-class, and a modified Buccaneer-class. From the cockpit of his modified Shadow Hawk, he watched as the lance his immediate command had been engaged with fell back, the 30-ton Spider and 40-ton Assassin using their superior speed to cover their slower lancemates - which included a black-and-red-painted Phoenix Hawk.

"Soon, Silver-Eyed Warrior," he said aloud, his comm and speakers off. "Soon you shall be destroyed for the glory of the Grimm." He ordered his remaining forces to hold the field, and then called up his salvage and recovery assets. He didn't bother calling up his MASH vehicles; every Grimm knew by now that Ranger Company didn't leave any survivors when it came to them, and he had personally seen them aim for cockpit strikes, or blasting fusion reactors. Even as they fell back to regroup and rearm, he'd seen them make strikes against the cockpits of fallen Grimm 'Mechs to ensure their pilots were dead. His custom Shadow Hawk - officially designated by the Grimm as the SHD-BL - made its way towards the outermost edge of the combat area and looked towards where the Hunters had retreated, seeing the black-and-red Phoenix Hawk making sure it was the last to completely fall back. He hadn't gotten in range of any of them; while normally a Shadow Hawk would mount a good-ranged AC/5 and an LRM launcher, he'd pretty much stripped his machine of its weapons to add in an AC/20 with two tons of ammo, retaining only the Medium Laser while adding in a second, and mounting both in the right torso.

His radar pinged for his attention, and he saw a 'Mech approaching his position. Looking out towards his right, he saw a black-painted Hatchetman moving towards him. It's almost moderate white accenting indicated that it was the Legion's overall executive officer, and direct commander of his Beta Battalion. And like his Shadow Hawk, this Hatchetman was not the standard model. The HCT-3BL stripped the AC/10 and ammo common to the HCT-3F and replaced it with a fifth Jump Jet, an SRM-4 with a ton of ammo, a more powerful reactor to increase its normally lead-footed speed, and additional armor. While it had less bite because of the loss of the autocannon, it's higher speed often threw enemies off long enough for it to close in and strike them with the lasers and SRM before it got within range for an 'all-or-nothing' strike with the hatchet in its left arm.

"Alpha, the enemy has fallen back to within the perimeter line of the DropShips," Beta reported.

"So I understand," Alpha replied. "Our information on their strength and skill was correct, though it seems as though the Rose's daughter is more acclimated to her new 'Mech than we were informed."

"Perhaps she was holding back when the spy was witnessing?" came the suggestion. "Or perhaps that Phoenix Hawk is her ideal machine?"

"Both are plausible. Regardless, we now know what to expect and will thus plan accordingly. As they now have confirmation we are here, I am certain that they will strive to eliminate us."

"We outnumber them vastly, Alpha. In spite of their skill, and the lack of in most of our forces, we will defeat them through sheer numbers."

"True as that is, their desire to wipe out the Grimm will cloud their judgement to a degree," Alpha replied. "It is also true that they face two choices: continue their raid for something that doesn't exist here, or withdraw and forfeit part of their contractual agreement."

"Withdrawing in the face of overwhelming superiority would be the prudent course of action."

"When it comes to us, those Hunters here on Galisteo are anything but prudent."

*TCD*

"Damn it, Amber!" Ruby shouted, slamming a fist on the holo-table in the Forever Fall's small Tactical Operations Room. "We weren't told there were Grimm here!"

"You think I don't know that?" the brunette snapped back. "We were deployed only with the Fall's Aero Lance for support, as well! Now calm your ass down or I'm putting you in the brig for insubordination!"

Ruby dropped into the chair, crossing her arms and glaring angrily at the table.

"Now, let me recap the situation," the Rangers CO said, remaining on her feet and looking around at her other two lance leaders as well as the commanders of the other two companies, plus Weiss who was representing the DropShip captains. "Colonel Ozpin gave us orders to conduct a raid on Galisteo to capture or destroy a cache of equipment the League was setting up in preparation for an assault on the Commonwealth," she continued. "The information was provided by Lyran intelligence agents, but we weren't able to verify it and Ozpin was insistent we go immediately. We weren't deployed with any aerospace cover beyond our own two Corsairs, yet we encountered almost no aerospace resistance on the run in, nor during our landing and deployment." She looked around again. "Unverified intel and little resistance? It's definitely a trap, especially since we're heavily outnumbered. I seriously doubt Ozpin is conspiring against us, but I won't deny that his actions of late are of definite concern."

"So what will we do, then?" Weiss asked. "It's obvious someone set us up - though whether it's us specifically or the Hunters in general is a moot point - and it's just as obvious that there isn't a military build up here."

"The rookie has a point," Yang put in, drawing a glare from the former LCAF woman. "Hell, Velvet's flight only had to engage four Marik fighters, and we know that there were more here. Plus there's the fact that we've encountered Grimm here."

"My infantry are loaded back aboard the Matsu," Captain Morgan, the CO of Rapier Battalion, put in. "Except for a platoon and their Maxim on perimeter patrol. I'm not going to risk having my command stuck outside the DropShip if we have to blast off quickly."

"That's a good idea, considering that the Condor-class only has one vehicular ramp," Amber agreed. "Have you set up any observation posts?"

"No," he replied. "I don't want to have my troops scramble to evacuate them and board their transport under fire."

"Very well. Captain Argyle, what's the status of Lightning Company?" she asked.

"As you know, the Support Team never deployed from the Emerald Forest," he answered. "Before coming here, I ordered Anvil Lance to board the Forest, as they're all wheeled Strikers. Demon and Mercury Lances have our hover tanks, and Demon is on perimeter patrol while Mercury Lance is set to rapidly reinforce any point of the perimeter."

"Good," Amber said. "Ranger Company's 'Mechs are undergoing field repairs and reloads. Ren and Blake are on the perimeter, as are Yatsuhashi and Coco. Right now we're trying to repair and rearm as fast as possible, as I doubt the Grimm are just going to let us be. We need to be ready to pull out at a moment's notice, so I want the DropShips all prepped for immediate launch." That last was directed to Weiss.

"Understood, Captain," Weiss replied. "Velvet and Fox are flying reconnaissance right now, maintaining a watch on the Grimm, but I'm concerned that the Marik fighters might be called in. There are still plenty more than what were shot down on our approach."

"An excellent point," the older woman acknowledged. "I don't like that we deployed without any other aerospace support, considering what we could have faced here. At the very least we should've had the Scout-class Red Lancer and it's Leopard-CV along for this raid, but there's no use in wasting time on what should have been done. Right now priority goes to repairing and rearming the 'Mechs and preparing to lift off. Lieutenant Schnee, I want you to ask the DropShip captains to get ranged for ground support operations. I know firing arcs will be limited while they're grounded, but anything they can do to help cover the ground troops will be welcome."

"Yes, Captain," she said, managing not to reply in her native German.

"Dismissed," Amber said, although she motioned for Ruby to stay. Yang seemed reluctant to leave when she realized her sister wasn't following, but a nod from the younger woman had her going out the TOR's door. Once the two were alone, Amber practically dropped into one of the chairs and sagged into it.

"Ruby…..I know how you feel about all of this, especially Ozpin," she began after a few moments, "which is why I want you to know that once we're done with this raid I plan on pulling the company out of the Hunters."

"What?" the crimsonette blurted out, shocked.

"It won't be another Betrayal, as we won't turn on the rest of our former unit," Amber reassured her, "but this op clearly shows that Ozpin has lost touch with the warriors under his command. He may have had his hands tied by the mercenary liaison for unit deployment on this raid, but if we weren't allowed to bring our own aerospace support then our employer should've supplied some for us. I intend to talk this over with Vernal and the other DropShips' captains, and I plan on sending a message out to the Monty Oum to inform Glynda as to what I'm doing."

"She hasn't seemed happy with him since he pulled me off of combat duty," Ruby pointed out. "But why are you telling only me this?"

"Because out of everyone that was in here, you're the only one I'm absolutely certain I can trust," Amber replied bluntly. "It's clear to me that we have a spy in the Hunters, possibly even within one of the commands here on Galisteo. And before you get offended about Yang, it isn't that I don't trust her, but she would confide in her girlfriend about what I just said, and-"

"-Nora doesn't have a brain-to-mouth filter," Ruby finished. "Yeah. And Weiss hasn't fought with us yet."

"She was given a raw deal, though; being dishonorably discharged simply because her superior successfully cast the blame for his mistakes and missteps onto her…." Amber trailed off, shaking her head. "God above I hate politics."

"What will we do about this raid? The Grimm?"

"We're going to pull out," was the reply. "This raid has failed, as we have not located any signs of a military build up, unless you count the Grimm. And as far as they are concerned….as much as I want to wipe them out as our oath requires, we are severely outnumbered. Trying to destroy them all will instead destroy all of us and only half of them at best."

"They won't let us go without a fight, which is probably why you're having our 'Mechs prepped for combat rather than withdrawal."

"Exactly. I'd have insisted on all of our vehicles being loaded onto the Emerald Forest and Lake Matsu, but those hovers are fast and agile," Amber said. "With Demon Lance on the perimeter, we'll have ample warning of the Grimm approaching, and Mercury Lance can help them hold the line long enough for our 'Mechs to get there. Once Ranger Company engages the Grimm, I'll have Captain Argyle load up and lift off, along with Morgan."

"Velvet and Fox can perform strafing runs to buy us time to break off," Ruby suggested.

"I would agree with that, but there is the danger of the Marik fighters dropping in on them in the process." Amber sighed heavily, and looked at Summer's daughter. "But we might have to do just that, when they attack."

*TCD*

Somewhere on the Texarkana

Plains,

Galisteo

Free Worlds League

13 January 3026

Raven and Qrow had taken a pair of IndustrialMechs - ED-X1 Crosscuts, a 'ForestryMech' model that employed a fusion engine rather than an Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) - from their modified Lion-class DropShip Corvidae when they'd gone to town; after all, everyone on Galisteo used IndustrialMechs for travel outside of the townships and ranches. They'd used cosmetic 'shells' and smoke dispensers to disguise their Crosscut-X1s as the ICE-powered version, as the last thing they needed was for news about them to get out. Their Scout-class JumpShip, the Murder, had entered the Galisteo system via a pirate point, and they'd made a silent run to the planet, keeping their electronic emissions to a minimum and employing every trick the Corvidae's ex-pirate captain knew to evade sensor detection to land unnoticed on the Texarkana plains. A merchant DropShip had landed around the same time as they had, so they had passed themselves off as new arrivals from it. And during the time Ranger Company was engaging the Beowolf Legion, they'd made a circuitous journey to the Corvidae in order to throw off any potential tails. Upon reaching the DropShip, Raven had put everyone on high alert, and had the BattleMechs readied for action. Rather than deploy in a full lance of 4 with a demi-lance of 2, Raven had organized the BattleMechs into 2 lances of 3 each, with the two Crosscut-X1s serving as a guard for the DropShip. Normally, IndustrialMechs were of little worry to a BattleMech, but the Crosscut-X1s Raven had were modified. Their left shoulders were modified and rebuilt by a tech firm based on Solaris VII in the Lyran Commonwealth to allow for easy removal and reattachment. This allowed them to be used as normal IndustrialMechs - as they'd been deployed as during the trip to town - or as combat-capable 'SecurityMechs'; their 'combat arm' necessitated the removal of any extraneous weight beyond the right arm-mounted chainsaw, of course, but allowed the two ForestryMechs to mount up to an an AC/2 with a ton of ammunition.

Naturally, Raven's Crosscut-X1s mounted energy weapons thanks to their fusion engines. And they were pretty much on a level with Light-class BattleMechs thanks to the fact that they also mounted as much BattleMech-grade armor as their frames could handle.

"Here's how I want things done, you assholes," Raven growled. "I'll take Shadow Lance and move in on the Grimm. I want Whiskey Lance to hang back and keep an eye on the Hunters's deployment zone; they're heavily outnumbered here and might need assistance pulling out. Doppelganger Lance will provide security for the DropShip, but I want it ready to dust off the moment our 'Mechs walk back on board." She looked around at her MechWarriors, fighter pilots, and everyone else in the 'Mech Bay - including the Corvidae's captain. "I know I've avoided them for almost a decade, but we knew that wouldn't last. And don't you say anything," she growled that last sentence at her brother. Qrow tried and failed to pull off a "Who, me?" expression.

"What about air cover, boss?" asked the squadron leader.

"Carrion Squadron won't deploy until after we've left Galisteo," she replied. "The only exception will be if the Marik fighters make a showing. Make sure the Transits have a full load of autocannon ammo."

"What's the status on the Hunters?" another pilot asked.

"From what we learned before hightailing it back here," Qrow responded, drawing a dark look from Raven, "only the Forever Fall, Emerald Forest, and Lake Matsu are on Galisteo. So they only have a pair of Corsairs. It's possible that there is a Leopard-CV in orbit, but our hidden observational satellite hasn't picked up any sign of an orbiting DropShip. So someone's hung them out to dry."

"What we will do is take Shadow Lance in and provide any needed support," Raven added. "If necessary, Whiskey Lance will move in and support Ranger Company. Whatever the hell is going on doesn't matter; my kids are here and I sure as hell won't let them get killed if I can help it."

E/N: So now there's proof of a spy, things are looking 'Grimm' for the Hunters, and Raven's about to move onto the scene. Hope y'all enjoyed it, and keep an eye out for the next chapter. Never miss a beat.