Just a Little More Time…
By Jason Weiser
Outskirts of Toland City
Toland, Tamar March
March 26th, 3050
Captain Frank Gannett looked over his battered company. His own Thunderbolt had seen better days, but at least all his weapons worked. All he wanted a piece of these "Jade Falcons" before him and his men died on their spears. It was inevitable really. They'd all but executed the Regiment two weeks before at Cantor Climb. It had been a slaughter, and what made matters worse was what the Falcons did to downed 'Mechwarriors. His own daughter had ejected from her crippled Enforcerbut her parafoil was caught in the hand of a heavy Clan 'Mech and her body swung by the risers into a sheer rock face. It wasn't pretty to watch. And yet, it was all Gannett could see when he closed his eyes.
His wife died during the retreat to Toland City by the battalion of survivors from the battle at the Climb. A clanner raid had forced the battalion to scatter so as to draw the raiders away from the logistical tail and medical units. Her Archer had gotten separated from the others in her lance and stuck in a swamp, a lighter Clan 'Mech had gotten inside of her LRM minimum range and had cut her to pieces, finishing her off with a hit to the ammo bins. Her 'Mech became a star from the explosion, and nothing larger than a beer can was left of the 'mech. Jenny and Rachel. They deserved better epitaphs, but Frank hoped his intended one would do.
Frank keyed his company freq, and spoke "OK Star Guards, I know we haven't got a chance in hell, but look, we can make these "Falcons", whoever the hell they are, pay for what they did to our buddies, our friends, and our families. I for one am not giving the bastards anything resembling a free lunch! They want this planet? Well, then they have to kill us for it. My wife died here, my daughter died here. So, if that means me too, then so be it. I am going to make a lot of Falcons join me. Anybody who wants out, fine. None will think any less of you." He turned his 'Mech and pointed with his right arm towards the waiting Union-class dropship "I don't blame you if you want to leave; it's not likely any of us are coming back. You have ten minutes to decide."
Frank then keyed a tightbeam to a battered, limping and fire-blackened Valkyrie "Jorge, you're a young kid, haven't even finished your training, get out on that dropship. I'll beam a letter of recommendation for you to use on Outreach. Don't die with us here."
The radio sputtered and crackled, "Sorry jefe, but I am staying. The Star Guards are mi familla and Papa back on Gallery would never forgive me for fleeing."
Frank cursed, damn Vargas machismo, his father had been no different when Frank had been a nugget 'Warrior and Vargas was his lance sergeant. He then sent a tightbeam to his company first sergeant's mangled green and black Grasshopper its left arm off at the elbow joint and blackened and fused mynomer hanging from the stump. "Sergeant-Major Burke, Recruit Vargas has volunteered to leave, see him to the Grinder's Hope and make sure he gets his ass on it"
"Will do boss" and the Grasshopperturned and pushed the Valkyrie towards the waiting dropship. Vagas resisted at first, but there seemed to be a discussion between the two, and then Vargas turned his Mech down the ruined street and limped to the waiting dropship.
With that sad scene completed, Gannett looked over his command. In the command lance was his Thunderbolt, Burke's Grasshopper and Coalton's Shadow Hawk, which had lost it's autocannon and it's chest was a fused, blackened mess of armor and mynomer, coolant was leaking from a gaping hole in it's chest like blood from a wound and formed green puddles that pooled around the 'Mech's feet. One could also see heat, shimmering and distorting the air around the hole and pouring out like a sieve, telling the world that his engine had taken a hit, or worse, two.
The Fire Lance was built around Sergeant DeMornay, a lithe woman who had a wicked sense of humor, and drove her old Hunchbackhard. She'd killed a Clanner during the retreat to Toland City, smashing his cockpit in with her large bore autocannon and sending his Mech careening forward with a scream of tortured metal and gout of flame. Her 'Mech's autocannon however, only had two clips left, and as it was, her autocannon had come close to blowing the feed during the fight with that Clanner, so it was working sporadically. Other than that, her red and green 'Mech was in good enough shape to deal some death to all comers. There was Rossi's Clint, who had run out of ammo for his autocannon and had some armor damage, and Jager's Dervish, who had lost an arm in the retreat.
As for the Battle Lance, it was a real mix: Gannett knew none of them. And they didn't know him. They had a nugget Lieutenant named Dixon who was barely out of Warrior's Hall on New Syrtis, and who had not exactly covered himself in glory during the fight on the Climb. His Awesome had seen better days, and Gannett was really concerned hearing that one of his PPCs was out. Dixon had brought a Quickdraw and a Banshee with him; both were damaged, with the Banshee having an engine and a gyro hit, and the Quickdraw having a hip shot out.
They didn't have a chance in hell. And they all knew it. But they needed to buy time to get the wounded and the techs on the dropship. The Star Guards would rebuild, and they'd be back. Or at least, Jorge would. Gannett didn't much care to see tomorrow. His tomorrow died at the Climb. It was time to take some Falcons with him into the dark.
Over the next hour, Gannett and his men, along with what was left of the Planetary Militia did what they could to fortify the city. It was laughable. Log or welded steel barricades. The Falcon "toads" alone would force the barricades without much effort. But it would have to be enough. Somebody in the town militia was putting out soup plates to simulate mines. Hell, it might buy us some more time, but then, it's all we really have, eh? Gannett mused. Other citizens were producing everything from old Mauser and Grey rifles to crossbows. The people of Toland City weren't going to let the Falcons just have the town. But in the end, it would make little difference, the Falcons were not going to be denied, simply delayed. Gannett utilized as much as he could of the old fortifications from the 3rd Succession War at the outskirts of Toland City, but most of those positions were long neglected and would be of very little use in the coming fight. We have to try, these folks deserve better than us trashing their town, especially when the outcome is this obvious?
Three more hours passed, and no sign of the Falcons, it was as if, perhaps, they had decided not to come, but Gannett knew the truth, they were toying with the Star Guards. They had all the time in the world, and they were simply getting their ducks in a row.
They'd be hitting us-
It was then that Gannett's IR sensors lit up like a Christmas tree.
Ten, no twelve, no, oh, Blake! Thirty plus contacts!
Gannett had a cold creeping feeling walk up his spine; it chilled him to the core, even in the stuffy confines of his 'mech. The Falcons weren't in the mood to be chivalrous, simply to dispose of the mercenaries. Well, if you want us, you puke turkeys, come and get us! Gannett's mind screamed.
Contact reports began to stream in from the east, so far the Falcons seemed to be content to probe the city's defenses with their "toads" and some light 'Mechs. Not that it mattered much. They were making mincemeat out of the militia and their aging equipment.
Gannett ordered the militia to fall back and displace, but the Falcons were too fast, too powerful and their attempt at a leapfrog-like withdrawal turned into an unceremonious rout. Gouts of black, oily smoke erupted from the east, filling the skies with their black countenance and announcing the death of another armored vehicle and its crew at the hands of the "Falcons". Soon, the sensors began to scream again, five fast moving contacts from the west this time. 300 meters and they were closing.
The contacts soon came into view; they were the Mechs of the invaders. They were boxy, as if they had been built from a collection of parts and from the looks of it, not one looked like it weighed more than forty-five tons. They were painted in a grey-green overall scheme, but with the visage of a green bird, it's piercing blue eyes prominent on the torso, and the symbol of the invaders, a green bird with a sword in it's talons on a blue field, high on their right leg. Soon another five, heavier invaders joined them. One of the heaviest stepped to the fore, and Gannett's battle computer went wild trying to identify it, debating between a Warhammer and a Thunderbolt.
Gannett's secure channel crackled to life.
"Freebirth mercenaries, though you are the most stravag of all Inner Sphere surats, you have faced us with honor unlike most of the mercenary filth we have encountered!" The speaker spat out the word "mercenaries", angering Gannett a bit, but he brought it back under control. "I, Star Commander Neal Roshak, commander of Alpha Talon 2, Trinary Alpha, Turkina Keshik, the finest of the Jade Falcon Clan, do hereby offer you the honor of the batchall. I now ask what forces defend this position."
Those arrogant bastards! Gannett's mind seethed. They have the nerve to cut us down like dogs, kill our ejecting pilots and then ask us what we're defending with so they can satisfy some polite fiction of theirs before they kill us? Uh, sure Mr. Whomever you are, my PPC will tell you all you need to know!
"Hey Turkey boy, wanna know what we have, come over here and find out!" and snapped off a PPC bolt at Roshak's Mech. It caught the machine square in the chest and armor began to melt, then other plates shed from the 'Mech like a snake shedding its skin, the birds head on its chest being marred and blackened, bringing no small satisfaction to Gannett. The 'Mech staggered from the impact, as Gannett followed it up with some SRMs, which went wide to the left, and lasers which hit the 'Mech in the arms and legs, carving molten furrows from the armor over the limbs, leaving black streaks in the green paint job, armor running down the legs in rivulets like water from a stream.
The rest of the Star Guards line opened up as one. Autocannon ripped through the sky, their buzzsaw like report delivering high velocity misery to the recipient, mixed with the smoke trails of missiles and the luminescent beams of lasers and PPCs, the latter cracking like thunder as the man made lightning found targets in the Clan line.
A lighter clan 'Mech, was caught by a half dozen beams, staggered, then fell onto it's back, it's leg amputated at the knee and greasy black smoke belching from a half dozen rents in it's chest. It hit the ground with a scream of tortured metal and small gouts of green coolant erupted from the holes in the 'Mech, covering the 'Mech in a light green sheen as heat shimmered from the same holes, indicating the 'Mech's engine was badly damaged. As this occurred, a raw cry of triumph went up over the Star Guard frequencies.
"That's one, let's get the rest of 'em!" was the anonymous cry. The mercenaries' blood was up, and they wanted some to satiate theirs. There would be no quarter this day. The Star Guards weren't fighting for pay or House Steiner anymore, but for revenge, for vengeance on an enemy that had killed so many friends and collogues and, yes, even family. To many of the men and women present, the Star Guards were their home, and as was the motto of the French Foreign Legion on ancient Terra, "Legio Pastria Nosta", "The Legion is my home", so too it was with the Star Guards.
Gannett saw red, he only had eyes for the 'Mech he had hit, and he was going to send this Clanner to hell one-way or another. He pushed his throttle forward to the stops, the air became slightly warmer in the cockpit, but not oppressively so, but it was a portent of things to come as the day went on. His 'Mech led the charge of the Guards as they came at the Clan line, the clans were hit by a tidal wave of metal as the two lines crashed together in a cacophony of the screaming of tortured metal and the whine of overworked servos, combined with the staccato of frantic weapons fire.
Gannett charged with the rest of his command, screaming at the top of his lungs, but his scream was lost among the others who were making their death ride this day. His Thunderbolt shouldered aside a lighter 'Falcon 'Mech, sending it sprawling as it fell forward on it's jutting torso, it's cockpit engulfed in the churned up earth and mud. All Gannett could think about was the 'Falcon commander, the arrogant malfer, Gannett was going to make sure he did not survive this day.
Gannett's Thunderbolt ate up the remaining distance between him and the 'Falcon commander in seconds, though it seemed to Gannett to be an agonizing eternity. The Falcon 'Mech turned to face Gannett and snapped off a blast from its right arm, the lightening arc from the squat muzzle identifying it as a PPC. It missed the head of Ganett's 'Mech by feet. Gannett's cockpit polarized, and the Falcon 'Mech squared it's feet, it's blocky torso filled with dents and scorch marks from other fire directed at the enemy 'Mech.
Again, Gannett's com crackled to life, it was not one of his men, however. "So, freebirth mercenary, first, you break zellbrigen, and now, you wish to invoke it with me? You truly are honorless dogs. So be it! I shall kill you myself!"
Ganett smiled a mirthless, cold smile that did not extend to the hard black flints that were his eyes. "Ok Mr. Green Turkey, you may kill me. But I am going to make damn sure you do not walk away from this either." It was all about a little more time now, a little more time until the hammer truly fell, Gannett knew they couldn't hold off the Falcon tide forever, but he would make it as expensive as he could.
The two 'Mechs circled each other like hungry fighters, they probed each other, searching for an advantage, the fight going on around them didn't exist for these two combatants. The 'Falcon acted first, his PPC glowed, and then let loose a bright blue beam of liberated electrons at Gannet's Thunderbolt. It went wide, and threw up a gout of earth meters from Gannet's 'Mech, The 'Falcon 'Mech's autocannon also spoke and it struck true, stitching a series of smoking, cracked divots into the armor of Gannet's 'Mech.
Gannett responded almost immediately, he triggered his own PPC and caught the Falcon in the shoulder, turning the green paint black, and forcing the 'Mech to shed armor like a snake shedding scales, the armor plates falling in a smoking arc to the ground and landing with a loud report. He looked over his display, his men were fighting like demons, but even as they demanded a high price for their own lives, the 'Falcons took them nonetheless.
A series of hammerblows rocked Gannett's 'Mech and tore off the left arm at the "elbow", the stump trailing away from the shattered limb, and mynomer flapping free and impotent in the light breeze. Gannett saw red, his 'Mech had been in the family for generations, and he was not going to go alone. Time we finish this dance, Pidgeon boy! He mashed the triggers in frustration and all he saw was a white light that soon forced the Plasteel windscreen of his cockpit to darken, but it cleared quickly, and what laid before him was a gift, The 'Falcon 'Mech was smoking from it's head and chest, blood and steel spattered all over the 'Mech's shattered cockpit, it soon lurched and groaned, and the 'Mech, with a tortured protest of tortured metal and mynomer, trailing smoke behind, slammed into the ground with a loud smash, explosions soon tore apart the shattered hulk, and it was soon fully involved.
Other 'Falcon 'Mechs soon grouped around Gannett, having finished with the rest of his command. Gannett knew this was it, he had just killed their commander, and the 'Falcons would offer him no quarter, it didn't matter, he didn't want it. Everything Gannett loved had died on Toland, and every minute he had left, he wanted to spend killing these damn 'Falcons. But that time was coming to a close, and as Gannett flexed his hands around his controls for the final time he muttered just one more phrase "Just give me a little more time, dammit!"