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Friday, July 29, 2016

A Trap for the Slavers

Tracking the slavers back to their base, the 1st Argyle Rangers hope to rescue the captured population of Calish III and destroy what has turned out to be an extensive criminal operation.  However, preliminary scans of the planet show that this remote outpost contains a fortified base as well as a sizable slave camp. In an effort to draw the slavers out of their base, Captain Laval decided to try a ruse.

On Calish one of the Ranger's planes managed to decapitate a Dogs of War Cyclops mech in a single lucky shot. It didn't take much work to weld some scrap into the shape of a head and attach it.  Then Ms. Morris, the Rangers' Intel Officer, faked a transmission from the Dogs of War (using their captured IDs and frequencies) suggesting that the notorious outfit was in the market for slaves.

Always eager to make a profit, the slavers agreed to a meeting on their outpost planet. But as eager as they were they weren't traveling light...

Captain Laval placed Lt. Felix in command of the ambush, and now his Catapult mech was crouched within a forest not far from the propped up Cyclops.  Seeing the fairly heavy firepower approaching he felt a glimmer of worry.  These were supposed to be some typical Periphery slavers fielding hundred year old tanks and maybe one run down light mech, not a heavily armed patrol. But the die was cast. He and two other mechs were hidden in these trees and Sgt. Howard's Stuka spacecraft was in low orbit waiting for his signal.

The pirates approached cautiously, chatting with the Intel agents posing as Dogs of War mercenaries and channeling signals from orbit into the disabled Cyclops.

With the slavers in visual range of the Cyclops, Lt. Felix signaled his air support. As Sgt. Howard fired up the Stuka's engines, he couldn't help but give away his presence to the enemy. The mechs on the surface received a warning from their base of activity in the upper atmosphere, but they hadn't yet even begun to expect a full Federated Suns presence so far from the border.

As the slavers slowed their advance, their commander in a Dragon mech moved to investigate something seen in the forest... and at that moment three bright yellow mechs rose from the foliage and opened fire!

The Dragon survived the initial onslaught, and his compatriots turned instantly from the diversion to help their commander.

The light mechs concentrated on the Dragon, while Lt. Felix made use of his Long Range Missiles to pepper the approaching enemy.

The Dragon wisely withdrew from the mix while the other mechs gave chase.  Sgt. Dawson jumped his mech directly behind the dragon hoping to break it's rear armor but the mech just would not fall.  Meanwhile Sgt. de Caen's Jenner used its speed to keep its distance from the rapidly approaching enemy.

Sgt. Howard's Stuka descended to the battlefield just in time to catch a line of mechs clustered together with a strafing run.

Unfortunately, the powerful plane's guns weren't enough to fully break up the formation. Lt. Felix, realizing that the ambush was quickly going FUBAR, ordered the mechs to scatter and try to separate the enemy to destroy them in detail. Bravely, the Lieutenant drew back behind the hill, pulling the majority of the enemy with him, allowing the others to deal with those that were peeled off. While Lt. Felix held them off, the others targeted a lone Hunchback.

"I'm going to keep them occupied as long as I can," he said to his fellows, "finish that Hunchback and give me a hand!"

"Roger that, LT," de Caen said as his lasers tore through the enemy mech's legs, sending it face down into the lake, "We still have this Dragon to manage as well..."

"Forget the Dragon and give me a hand," Felix shouted over the radio, "I've got enemy mechs all over me and I can't-"

A sharp crack and then static over the open channel. Lt. Felix's radio was still transmitting, but Felix was not. A solid hit to the cockpit's armor had knocked him out cold.

"Felix," de Caen shouted, "LT come in!  Come in!"

With no answer, he turned his Jenner to rush to his old friend's aid, watching as three mechs and a Rommel tank pounded the immobile mech mercilessly.

Sgt. de Caen reached the hill just in time to watch the enemy take careful aim at his C.O.'s cockpit and murder him in cold blood.

"This is Sgt. de Caen to all Rangers - Lt. Felix is dead. I'm assuming command.  Target priority is the enemy commander, piloting the Dragon. Lets break down their command and control and try to salvage this mission!"

The Dervish received the brunt of the return fire, and the Dragon took its legs out from under it, forcing it down. Thankfully Sgt. Dawson was able to eject before the cockpit submerged.

Suddenly, Sgt. de Caen felt very much alone, with only the mighty Stuka backing him up from above.

Using the Jenner's speed, de Caen whipped about dodging all oncoming fire. As he ran around the hill, trying to separate the slow from fast mechs, one of the enemy mechs tried an ill-advised "death from above" attack.  The Jenner easily side stepped the attack and de Caen laughed bitterly as the enemy mech lost control and landed on its head. He wondered why the slavers were so reckless. Profit motivated mechwarriors didn't typically engage in such insanity.

Meanwhile Sgt. Howard was finally able to finish off that stubborn Dragon.

"This is Sgt. Dawson - I need help!  I've been spotted by the enemy."  The downed pilot ran for his life, but couldn't come close to matching the light mech's speed.

A metal hand stretched out, passing only inches over the pilot's head.  Dawson rolled to the ground. Hearing the screech of the Stuka's approach he threw himself behind a pile of rocks as the plane unloaded its payload on the slaver.

The attack was enough to bring the mech down into the lake, joining the two others already half submerged.

"Thanks, Howard," he said, feeling the heat of the burning mech on his face.

Moments later, de Caen's Jenner was able to pick him up.

Now only a single Rommel tank remained of the enemy, but despite another attack run from Sgt. Howard, they were unable to stop its escape.

"Captain Laval," de Caen said over the radio, "This is Sgt. de Caen. Lt. Felix is dead, and Sgt. Dawson's Dervish is sinking into the lake. We've taken the field but the element of surprise is passed.  Sir, I don't think these are typical slavers. Something about this isn't right. Their equipment is too new, and they fought like fanatics. Requesting air lift and salvage operations as soon as practical."

"Confirmed, evac and salvage, ETA ten minutes," Laval said from orbit. He didn't address the rest of the message. The lance sent should have made quick work of the slavers.  He'd heard of slavers using some shady performance enhancing drugs that could result in fearlessness and unpredictable behavior.

"Vanessa," he said, radioing his Intel Operative, "I want you with the salvage team. Check out the enemy cockpits. I want to see if they were on any kind of cocktail. And anything else strange you might find. I want details."

"Yessir," she said.

Captain Laval let the radio go silent and turned his attention to the orbital images of the slave camp, his next task.

Friday, July 8, 2016

To the Victor goes the Salvage

As the Intelligence Unit began its interrogation of the rescued Mechwarrior, Captain Laval received word that the authorities from the Outworlds Alliance had just jumped into the system.  He called in his old friend Lt. Brice to give his orders. Brice and Laval had been at the academy together in the old days, but things had been strained between them ever since Brice disobeyed orders and dueled a mercenary on Placidia. It had been a full year since Brice had been given command of a mission on his own.

"Lt. Brice," Laval said, rifling through some papers to avoid meeting his eyes, "The Alliance just jumped into the system. They will be on planet by morning.  I want you to take a supported lance of mechs back into the deserted town and hold it until the dropship arrives. I want to capture all that salvage that the slavers left lying around, and just as importantly, to keep it out of the hands of the Dogs of War. We're expecting heavy opposition, so take what you feel you'll need. I want to be off planet by sunset, and leave the Dogs behind to deal with the Outworld authorities."

"Yes sir," Brice said, once again leaving much unsaid between the strained friends.  No one brought up the duel.

"Dismissed," Laval said, and Brice saluted crisply before leaving.

Brice chose a heavy lance, supported by two Von Luckner heavy tanks and plenty of air support. One Jenner comprised a flanking element that he hoped might distract the enemy.

Meanwhile, the Dogs of War were themselves marching to the city with a reinforced lance led by the company's commander, the notorious Captain Bludd himself. Bludd had countless death sentences all over the Inner Sphere and periphery, and was working his way up the Federated Suns most wanted list. His skull-faced Atlas led the lance towards the city. The Dogs had taken a lot of losses lately against the 1st Argyle Rangers. And while to his own men he talked of revenge, he was just as concerned with his now pressing financial need to capture the wrecked mechs that the slavers left behind.

"Lt. Brice, we have visual on the Dogs of War lance.  Oh my God, it's Bludd!  Confirm one Atlas battlemech with Captain Bludd's markings incoming."

As the heavy lances slowly worked their way towards the town, the Rangers' air support began to soften up the Dogs' stragglers. In it's first hit, it heavily damaged a light mech, blowing it's arm clean off.

The Rangers spread out, taking cover in the streets, hoping to lure the Dogs into the streets for close fighting. The Von Luckners in particular were killers at close range.

However, Bludd kept his men in tight formation, and approached cautiously.

When an Awesome and Orion broke off from the main group, the Mechbuster dove close to bring its Autocannon-20 to bear. A hit on the Orion!

But the return fire from the Awesome's PPCs tore through the fragile fighter's aft engines, knocking it out of the sky.

"Lt. Brice, we have a confirmed ejection. Pilot's transponder is functional and he's moving.  Christ, he landed right near the enemy!"

Meanwhile, as the Rangers advance into the city and use its cover, the first long range shots are fired.

"They're not taking the bait," Brice said, "We need them closer."

Meanwhile the downed Mechbuster pilot fled from the approaching Ostscout. With the battle hot, rescue would have to wait.

The Stingray, a far more hearty fighter made a largely unsuccessful straffing run against three nicely lined up mechs.

As the Atlas, Zeus and tanks concentrated fire on Bludd himself, Brice shouted over the radio, "I'm going to try to pull them away from Bludd. If they go for it, take him out at all costs!"

Unfortunately, at the same time the Ostscout managed to scoop up the downed pilot in his one good hand. His compatriots could only hope that the Dogs needed money enough to ransom him back.

Launching his diversion, Laval came out into the open with his Grasshopper, and ordered the Jenner to flank. As he'd hoped, his mech was recognized as the one which had won the duel on Outreach and nearly the entire enemy force turned to fire at him.  His mech shuddered as it took the hits, but the slow mechs were moving further and further away from Bludd's Atlas...

In a moment of bravery, Sgt. de Caen rushed his Jenner after the Ostscout, still holding the downed pilot, carefully firing as he went.

As Brice rushed back behind cover, hoping to be chased, the Dogs unexpectedly turned towards the Jenner instead.  Despite numerous shots from heavy mechs, the Jenner's speed once again saved it.

It was even able to do extensive damage to the Ostscout, but not enough to make it drop its prisoner.

With the Dog's attention on the Jenner, the Davion heavies broke cover and began to move in on Bludd's Atlas, now very isolated from the rest of his unit.

3 AC-20s, 2 PPCs, air power, and countless LRMs rained down on Bludd's mech.  The Rangers knew capture was not a possibility. Bludd would never allow himself to be brought to justice, and if rumors were to be believed, had even disabled the Atlas' ejection system.

As the sun began to set, the Jenner sped away from the chasing heavies, and cornered a heavily damaged Hunchback, tearing into its rear armor.

While Bludd's mech was being town apart, it managed to severely damage the opposing Zeus.  It's pilot, Sgt. Ashworth, his heat spiking, courageously moved into close quarters with the enemy.

With the rest of the Dogs in disarray, and Bludd unable to extract himself, the mercenaries began to slink away, abandoning their commander to his fate. Lt. Brice and the other Rangers were disgusted by this lack of loyalty, but Bludd led his men more by fear than loyalty or honor, and this was the price for that kind of "leadership."

Finally, after countless shells impacted the mighty Atlas, its long range missiles exploded, shattering the mech and sending it tumbling to the ground in a heap. No ejection was seen, and everyone knew that the long-time commander of the Dogs of War was no more.

Brice was surprised to have mixed feelings on the matter. On the one hand, the death of Bludd was surely an occasion to celebrate and would give him bragging rights back in the Federation, but on the other he couldn't help but worry that Captain Laval would again feel like he was trying to outshine his C.O. - it certainly wouldn't help the strained relations between them.

"Keep on them," Brice said over the radio, and the Stingray and Jenner gave chase to the fleeing mechs.
"Captain Laval, the LZ is secure. You can call down the Dropship at anytime."

Unfortunately the Ostscout escaped with the downed pilot. Otherwise, it was a resounding victory for the Rangers, and they were able to collect the salvage and blast off from the planet before the Outworlds authorities could arrive to ask too many questions.

Now, if they could find the Slavers themselves...