With news of the lostech discovery reaching New Water, the delegations have gone mad. Suddenly, there are no other topics of conversation except for what the tech might be, and where it had come from. Rumors of Kerensky passing through the system are rife. Now it seems anyone with any force on the ground is sending troops out to scour the countryside.
In the capitol, Captain Julien Laval continues with the charade of the diplomatic conference, attending various cultural events, dinner parties, and what passes for exclusive after-parties on the Periphery. While he and the diplomats watch a troupe of dancers from the Draconis Combine, his earpiece is receiving a feed from his Intel Officer detailing the progress of the force out in the field.
"As expected," Ms. Morris said, "all the other houses are deployed near the ruins, picking at our leftovers. Everything of value is safely on the dropship, which leaves Lt. Brice free to continue the search. The Dogs of War are searching another area, and it's possible that whatever their initial source was may still be feeding them accurate info. Sergeant Howard has been tracking them at high altitude and they're moving into the hills north of Placidia."
"Have Lt. Brice follow them in," Laval whispered into his cufflink, "But be clear that the main priority is seizing any site, not destroying the enemy."
"Yes sir," Morris said, cutting off the link.
[For this battle each side receives a fame point for exiting a mech off the opposing short edge, or for disabling or destroying an enemy mech.]
After seeing to his repairs, Lt. Brice's under-strength lance (weakened by the loss of a Jenner) marches on in tight formation. Sgt Howard's Stuka aerospace fighter once again leads the way.
"Visual contact," Howard says over the comm, "Five Dogs of War mechs, with no other support."
Lacking air support of their own, thanks to Sgt. Howard destroying their Slayer in the last engagement, the Dogs stay in tight formation, which is enough to make the Stuka pilot hesitate. The first two turns pass and the Davion plane just makes several passes in front of the enemy, showing itself to them out of range, but not engaging.
Meanwhile the rest of the 1st Argyle Rangers cautiously advance.
Another pass, but the enemy is still too close together. If the Stuka makes an attack run, it risks fire from as many as five mechs. Sgt. Howard decides to be patient.
Worried for their light mech, a Commando, the Dogs hold him back behind the others, giving Sgt. Howard the opening he needs. The Stuka flies high over the heads of the mechs before making a sudden "Split-S" dive onto the Commando.
The mech is heavily damaged, but still functional. The Dogs are clearly feeling their lack of air support.
As the Dogs move slowly to keep in formation, the rest of the Rangers move towards positions at the center of the valley, letting the Stuka drive the enemy towards them.
Meanwhile the Stuka continues its harassment, taking another run on the fast-moving Commando.
Most of the shots miss the fast mech, but a few connect, leaving the Commando in a precarious position. One more shot will probably destroy it.
Now, however, the mechs are getting close enough to fight. Rather than circle around each other to make for the exits, the two lances move straight at each other.
Switching targets, the Stuka heavily damages the enemy Blackjack, but takes some missile fire from the Stalker.
In a daring move, the Rangers' Crab pilot, Paul FitzRoy, attempts a daring maneuver. The crab rushes out of its cover, attempting to charge the damaged Blackjack. As it rushes forward, it takes fire from the four mechs in front of it, damaging it severely.
The Commando, meanwhile, rapidly turns to the hilly cover its right flank to make for the exit.
The enemy fire concentrated on the Crab allowed the other two Ranger mechs to move into position. However, after all that fire, the Crab missed the Blackjack on its charge.
Soon after, the Crab fell over after an AC20 hit from the enemy Hunchback The Crab's gyros are utterly destroyed and it cannot stand. Propping itself up with one arm, the Crab continues to fire.
With the Hunchback moving relentlessly to finish off the crippled Crab, the other three enemy mechs moved to engage the Davion Grasshopper and Stalker.
Sgt. Howard was not idle, adding his fire wherever he could.
...Including a particularly nasty hit on the Hunchback's rear armor, coming very close to destroying it.
Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to save the Crab. Once again, no quarter given by the Dogs of War. No offer of surrender, no courtesy for a downed mechwarrior. The Dogs prove themselves true to their name - they are merely animals to be put down.
Lt. Brice knew at this point the situation had gone FUBAR. His Grasshopper and Stalker were now facing five enemy mechs. While Brice's Grasshopper might be able to withdraw, there was no hope of Sgt. Marissa Howard-Davion's Stalker outrunning the enemy.
Desperate, Brice fired his jump jets and retreated up the hill, trying to draw the enemy out of formation. The Dogs had clearly singled his Grasshopper out as the Command mech, and the fastest two enemy mechs followed in close pursuit.
Marissa, understanding her C.O.'s strategy, ignored the enemy Stalker which attempted to flank her at close range (not quite reaching her rear arc), and turned her guns towards the two enemy mechs who had exposed their backs to her when they moved to chase Brice.
Brice fired down at the climbing mechs, Marissa opened up with nearly everything her Stalker had, and Sgt. Howard launched a strafing run against both enemy mechs, once again shooting into the hunchback's rear armor...
Sgt. Howard claimed the Hunchback, and Marissa's long range missiles connected with the back of the enemy Grasshopper's head, decapitating it and killing the enemy commander. Brice's Grasshopper meanwhile lost it's right arm and nearly its leg as well, but still it stood.
...Towering over the carnage of the fallen enemy.
The enemy Stalker, perhaps in despair, perhaps in rage, opened all of its weapon bays and tried to avenge its fallen commander. The pilot's emotion was perhaps what saved Marissa's Stalker, as the enemy shot for her own Commander in his damaged Grasshopper, trying to finish it off. With the range, most of the shots missed, and the already overheated mech found its heat spiking far beyond safe limits. As soon as the shots fired, the mech began to shut down automatically, but that safety feature was not enough to save it. The excess heat set off its short range missile ammunition, causing the mech to detonate from within, killing that pilot as well.
The Commando, however, had nearly reached safety. Sgt. Howard made sure it didn't get away.
Only one enemy mech remained, a heavily damaged Blackjack hiding in some heavy woods.
"This is Lt. Brice of the 1st Argyle Rangers," came the Lt.'s voice over the comm, "To the Pilot of the Dogs of War Blackjack... Your mech is near crippled, and you cannot hope to escape. Surrender and you have my word that you will be well-treated, and eventually ransomed back to your unit."
Silence was the only response. Perhaps the recent discovery of the mutilated body of the bribed Dogs of War comm officer made the pilot reluctant to be seen by his unit as cooperating with the Davions.
"Fine," Lt. Brice said, clearly disgusted, "have it your way. Open fire."
Both mechs opened up with their weapons...
And Sgt. Howard's Stuka added its own fire from above.
Smoke rose from the now burning forest as Brice moved to confirm the kill.
"This is Lt. Brice to Ms. Morris. All enemy forces are destroyed. We lost Sgt. FitzRoy's Crab, and he himself is lightly injured. He seems alright, but requesting MediVac to be sure."
It was a titanic victory for the 1st Argyle Rangers. Despite being outnumbered, they held the field. However, they were a bit disappointed when they were told only to recover the Crab, and to leave the enemy's salvage for them to clean up. It's not like the aristocratic pilots needed the wealth, but it might have been nice.
"Negative," Ms. Morris said, "No salvage today, Captain's orders. We'll recover the Crab, but you are to continue the search for the tech."
"Yes ma'am," Brice grumbled.
The next morning, Ms. Morris reported her findings to Captain Laval over breakfast in his suite.
"Sir, we can now confirm that the Draconis Combine is bankrolling the Dogs on Placidia. The salvage crews that collected the enemy mechs were clearly DCMS personnel and all of the vehicles arrived on a Drac dropship."
"Very good, Vanessa," Laval said, "Just as we suspected. Now we can put an end to this. But first, tea."
[With 5 mechs down, and two of mine surviving, the Rangers get 7 fame points, while the Dogs get one for destroying the Crab. Current campaign score is 9-1 with one game to go. I'm curious to see how many mechs Fritz manages to get up and running again for the final battle. I myself should have enough scrap to bring back either my Jenner or Crab... not sure which I want to deploy for the final battle.]