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|A Question of Loyalty|
|Author||Jimmy the Tulip|
A Question of Loyalty recounts the exploits of an SLDF lance corporal and his troops during the battle for Cerberus in the Outworlds Alliance during the Reunification War.
17 February 2583
The drive flares of the fighters looked like 30 shooting stars as they sped away from the Avatar Class Cruiser Constantineau. Aboard the docked Manatee DropShip, Lance Corporal Jacob Fuller stared at the launch bays live feed on his console. He smiled as the aerospace fighters engaged Cerberus’ defenders certain that they would win the day.
The Outworlds Alliance had rejected the invitation to join the Star League and, for their arrogance, was now facing the might of the Star Leagues 2nd Corps under the command of General Forlough. Their orders were to bring the Outworlds Alliance to heel. The Taurian Concordat had faced similar reprisals just two years before but it seemed that the Outworlders had not learned from the Concordats mistakes.
The live feed on Jacobs console cut out and he felt the tremors of the DropShip disengaging from the Constantineau through his Falcon BattleMech nestled in one of the Manatees four Mech bays. The console view was replaced by a shot from the Manatees aft cameras and showed the ship slowly spiraling away from the massive WarShip.
Jacob checked the status feeds from the Mechs of his three lance-mates. Trent Harroway’s Stinger, Howard Cooper’s Vulcan and Sarah Delaney’s Locust all showed green lights. Jacob decided it was time for his lance to check in.
“Alright, boys and girls, as you’ve seen we’re dropping on Cerberus now. Let’s keep ourselves calm and just enjoy the ride. We’ll earn our pay when we hit the ground. I’ve confirmed Mech Status now let’s do a wetware check-in, please.”
Harroway was the first to respond. “Warrior Trent Harroway checking in. I left my girlie mag back in my berth, Corporal. Any chance I can go back and get it?”
Jacob smiled. “Forget it, Harroway. If you’re bored do another systems check. Next.”
“This is Coop, I’m all good here, Corporal.”
Howard “Coop” Cooper was usually a man of few words. His check-in report rated among the top ten of his longest statements ever.
“Warrior Delaney, confirming all systems fine.”
Harroway butted in then. “Damn right your systems are fine, Delaney. Why don’t you come over and enjoy the ride from my cockpit?”
Sarah Delaney snorted once. “You’re ego makes up for what you lack in your pants, Harroway. You’re out of luck, I prefer men.”
Harroways comms were unusually silent so Jacob chimed back in. “Ok team, enough of the chatter. You can have all the time you want when our job is done and the OA is part of the Star League. We’ll be making a hot-drop on the outskirts of Hell’s Gate, that’s near to where the factories are. Our job is to pacify the populace and ensure the local militia don’t get a hero complex.”
Delaney, ever the professional, commented at that. “What sort of resistance are we expecting, Sir?”
“The Hell’s Gate militia consists entirely of rifle infantry with a couple of scout cars. Cerberus’ Mech forces are stationed around the capital so it’s highly unlikely we’ll see any of them. Coop, when we’re down I want you on point. That pop gun of yours will come in handy if we spot any unfriendlies approaching from the city.”
“Roger, Corporal.” Replied Coop.
“Harroway, are you still sulking over there?”
“I’m not sulking, Sir, I’m imagining Delaney and me in my…”
“That’s enough,“ interrupted Jacob, “you’re on the left flank, Delaney on the right, I’ll hold the centre. Let’s at least pretend we’re hitting trouble. Conduct your final checks, we’ll be on the ground soon.
19 February 2583
Jacob Fuller’s lance had been holding Hell’s Gate without incident for two days and the boredom was beginning to show. Harroway had already been reprimanded for ‘behavior unbecoming a MechWarrior of the Star League’, after he had been accused of taking advantage of one of the locals daughters. It was so quiet even Delaney was starting to give Harroway the odd interested sideways glance.
Coop never caused trouble and this assignment was no exception. The fact was that Coop could have been promoted half a dozen times but he continually turned them down, stating he was happier serving on the front than command from the back. He conducted his security sweeps of Hell’s Gate efficiently and quietly.
It was approaching midday when a sitrep came in from Delaney. She had taken her Locust out to the North-eastern quadrant of the town simply for something to do, even though she was not rostered on patrol for another three hours.
“Sir, I’m picking up a signal here. It’s almost a klick out. Could be nothing but it wasn’t there a minute ago. Permission to check it out?”
Jacob considered her request for a moment. With the lack of activity he didn’t see the harm in letting her stretch her legs.
“Alright, Delaney. But at the first sign of trouble you get your ass back into town.”
Delaney turned her Locust towards the signal and accelerated out to 100km/h. It wasn’t the Locusts top speed but it was comfortable for an approach with an unknown. Delaneys Locust was a 1E variant which mounted two medium lasers and two small lasers, one of each in each arm. The 20 ton Mech had ample heatsinks to deal with the heat generated by the weapons and the machines engine but in the desert conditions on Cerberus she would still have to be careful.
She was 800 meters from the target when the Locusts target lock warning began to sound. Before she could respond Delaneys Locust shuddered under the impact of autocannon rounds.
“Sir, I’m under attack. Looks to be a light VTOL with an autocannon mount. I’m heading back and will rendezvous at coordinates 2131 by 1469.”
Corporal Fullers voice crackled back. “Roger, Delaney. Get your butt back here asap. We’ll meet you at the specified coordinates.”
Even as she was speaking Delaney’s Locust skidded to an abrupt halt and spun about accelerating to top speed in the direction she had just come. Behind her the enemy craft sped towards her, closing the gap even though Delaney was traveling in excess of 120 km/h. It took the computer a few moments to work through the probable identities of her pursuer before it came back with the most likely vehicle: the Warrior H-7 Attack Helicopter.
The standard Warrior H-7 mounted a light but long-ranged autocannon and a support machine gun. It was not heavily armored but had a top speed of over 160 km/h.
Delaney felt the cold grip of dread in her gut. She couldn’t outrun this enemy and it could easily sit outside the range of her weapons. If the pilot wasn’t a complete idiot he’d easily get the better of her.
The outskirts of Hell’s Gate rose up around her and offered her some protection from the Warrior but not before her Locust shuddered as more autocannon rounds stripped the armor from her right rear torso, leaving the innards of her little Mech exposed.
After working her way further among the buildings she paused to take stock. Three green circles were approaching her position, the rest of Fullers Lance coming to support her. The Warrior H-7 had disappeared from her scope and she assumed that he had given up the chase now that her concealed position favored Delaney once more. Her earpiece crackled to life.
“Delaney, this is Fuller. What’s your status?”
Delaney sighed in relief. Being back in contact with her CO was reassuring.
“Sir, my rear armor is compromised. Minor external damage to the left leg. All systems are otherwise fine.”
Her words took her thoughts back to the Mech bay onboard the Manatee and Harroway’s sexist comments. She found herself hoping he would make a similar comment again but this time it was not forthcoming.
“Alright. Sit tight, we’ll come to you.”
As the earpiece went quite a sudden lurch from her Locust made Delaney cry out in surprise. She quickly checked out her viewport and saw small figures running past the windows in the building opposite her. Infantry! She opened up with her small lasers blasting the face of the building and incinerating several of the figures inside. A small fie began in one of the rooms she had fired into.
Without warning her Locust lurched again and with horror she realized that there was more infantry behind her. Delaney started to turn when sparks flew from her console, alarms began to sound and all hell broke loose.
Outskirts of Hell’s Gate
19 February 2583
Captain Miles Petersen led his squad up the stairwell in the four storey building. The enemy Locust had just stopped outside with it’s back to his position and he wasn’t about to let an opportunity like this pass by.
Miles Petersen was attached to the Hell’s Gate Militia and led the 2nd Rifle Squad. He had wanted to take the fight to the Leaguers the minute they touched down but his CO had not allowed it. Then when his sister had been raped by one of these damn Mechjocks he practically demanded that they fight back. Nicole Petersen had been drinking, sure, but she certainly didn’t ask for that Leaguers unwanted attention. Now they would pay.
Captain Petersen had taken four man-pack SRM launchers with his squad and it was those that he and the 7 other men in this building now carried up the stairs. They quickly reached the third floor and exited the stairwell, making their way to the front of the building. Through the windows they had a perfect view of the back of the Locust and the torn and blasted armor plating of it’s rear torso.
Two men shot out the windows of the building and a wave of heat flooded into the room from the hole in the back of the Mech. The machine was close, perhaps too close, but he was confident they would be ok.
The remainder of his squad fired at the Locust from the building across the street, drawing the pilots attention away while his men set up. Petersen snarled in rage as the Locust opened up with it’s lasers, ruining the building and no doubt killing or injuring numerous men of his command.
The four SRM launchers rose up simultaneously, all pointing at the open right shoulder blade of the Locust.
Captain Petersen said just one word, “Fire”. Then all hell broke loose.
Eight short range missiles tore into the heart of the Locust, blossoming fire from the hole in its armor and creating more rents on the Mechs chest. Fire spread through the innards of the war machine, eating the huge gyro that kept the Locust upright and eating into the shielding of the fusion reactor that powered the giant metal beast.
Plasma fires spewed out of the Mech and blew whole armor plates free as the fusion containment failed.
A miniature sun erupted and consumed the Locust where it stood. The explosion carried outwards and tore the building behind the Locust asunder. Captain Petersen felt an intense heat like nothing he’d ever felt before. In the second he had left to live he smiled. His sister had been avenged.
19 February 2583
Corporal Jacob Fuller looked up with shock as the fireball rose up into the sky just a couple of hundred meters away. He quickly checked his radar and felt cold fear grip him. Delaneys IFF signature was gone.
“Delaney? Respond.” Fullers voice became a little more desperate. “Delaney! Please respond?”
Coops voice came over the comms. “She’s gone Corporal.”
The three remaining Mechs of Fullers Lance rounded the corner to a scene of destruction. A small crater revealed the location of Delaneys demise and rubble from surrounding buildings littered the street.
Jacob didn’t know what happened here but he was not about to lose another of his lance.
“Alright, pull back in good order. Head back to the plaza.”
“Sir?” It was Harroway. “Aren’t we gonna find who did this? We’ve gotta get whoever did this, Corporal. For Delaney.” Harroway sounded dangerously on edge.
“We are pulling out Harroway and that’s final.”
“Yes Sir.” Came Harroways hard, cold reply.
The trio backed away from the devastation and returned to the relative safety of the plaza.
21 February 2583
Harroway had barely spoken since Delaneys death. Whenever he passed Fuller he gave him a hard, cold stare. Harroway desperately wanted revenge against those who killed Delaney and he blamed Fuller for not letting him have that revenge.
Then the orders came in.
Uprisings had begun in several major centers on Cerberus and the local Militia groups had engaged in guerilla tactica against the Star League occupation forces.
General Forlough had ordered reprisals against the people of Cerberus. His orders were explicit: Any necessary force is deemed acceptable until all unrest has been quelled. It was just what Harroway had been waiting for.
Coop was ambivalent to the orders. He was there to obey so that’s what he would do. Only Fuller questioned the sanity of what the General had said. “Any necessary force” basically gave the occupation forces carte blanche to do whatever they wanted to quell these uprisings. That was a dangerous amount of power to give an assault force that was constantly on edge against armed guerillas.
Harroway and Coop started towards their Mechs.
“Where do you two think you are going?”
Harroway spoke up. “You saw the orders Corporal. We’re going to hunt down the criminals responsible for Delaneys death. We’ll make an example of them to all the other insurgents.”
Fuller ran over and grabbed Harroway by the collar. “That’s not what the orders said, Harroway. IF we find guerilla forces in Hell’s Gate we’ll deal with them, properly.”
Harroways face snarled back at Fuller. “If you’re willing to let these people go unpunished then so be it. I’ll be sure to inform the General personally when I’ve finished rounding the rebels up.”
Harroway pulled away from Fuller and continued towards his Stinger.
21 February 2583
Harroways Stinger thumped down onto the street in front of the jeep that carried three armed militiamen. The twin medium lasers of his 3G variant blasted holes in the road until one struck the jeep which exploded in a ball of flame.
Harroway saw a figure run into a house just down the street. He could see it was a woman by the long skirt she wore but he didn’t care. She was part of this rebellion so she would pay with all the rest.
“Coop, looks like we’ve got a rats nest over here.”
Howard Cooper trudged his Vulcan over to where Harroway’s Stinger stood. Harroway pointed to the house with a giant metal finger.
Without a word Coop took two strides towards the house then stopped. From his Vulcans arms a spray of machine gun fire and gout of flame swept over the house drilling it with holes and immolating it.
Whoever was inside didn’t stand a chance.
Harroway smiled to himself in satisfaction as another rebel and traitor died. He turned and walked his Stinger further down the street and around a corner.
A slight movement caught his attention and he stopped and looked down. Three people, a woman and two children, huddled against a car. They were obviously about to flee when Harroway’s arrival had interrupted their escape. He raised the laser mounted arms of his Mech towards them.
“Don’t do it, Harroway.” His earpiece crackled. It was Fullers voice.
“Corporal? Where the hell are you, Sir?”
“Up here, to your right.”
Harroway followed the directions and saw Corporal Fuller’s Falcon standing on top of a multi-storey building.
“Ah, there you are. We’ve been cleaning up the rabble, Sir. I’ve recorded seventeen kills myself.”
Harroway sounded proud of his achievements.
Fullers voice only held scorn. “This will stop now, Harroway. We’re not here to slaughter innocents, we’re here to uphold the peace of the Star League.”
Harroway snorted. “Innocents? These people aren’t innocents, Sir. They all had a hand in Delaney’s death and the deaths of all the Star League personnel that have died on this dirtball. Screw you, Fuller. You’ve lost your nerve. I’m taking over this lance. When the General hears of what I’ve done he’ll hand me command anyway. You can either follow me or go back and await your arrest.”
Harroway turned back to the family that was cowering in the shadow of his Stinger.
The Stingers arms rose up, pointing at the people on the ground. Suddenly a burst of laser fire tore into the right side of Harroway’s Mech. Fuller jumped his Falcon to the ground as the Stinger lurched away.
Harroway quickly recovered and opened up on Fullers Falcon with both medium lasers. Fuller took a hit in the left leg but the other shot went wide and harmlessly impacted the road.
Fuller had landed his Mech at optimal range for his short range weapons and opened up with everything he had. The Falcons two small lasers both bored into the Stingers right arm, stripping it bare of armor. He followed up with the medium laser which carved a deep furrow through the middle of the Stingers chest.
Harroway’s response dealt a severe blow. Both of the Stingers lasers tore into the Flacons right arm, flaying the armor of it and destroying the medium laser. At the same time Harroway charged his Mech forward and placed a savage kick against the Falcons already damaged left leg.
The Falcon lurched under the impact and Fuller struggled in vain to keep his Mech upright but gravity had other ideas. Fuller got one shot off with a small laser before he went down but was disappointed to see his shot rake down the blackened chest of the Stinger, melting away the last of the armor but doing no serious damage.
The Falcon fell with a bone jarring crash onto its chest. Sparks flew from Fullers console and he could taste blood in his mouth from where he’d bit his tongue.
His targeting system showed Harroway’s Stinger behind and above him, preparing to issue to coup de grace. Before he did Harroway’s voice came over the comms.
“You wouldn’t listen, would you, Fuller. Well, my victory here, against you, has justified my actions. These people are no better than dogs. They took one of ours so I’m taking fifty of theirs. Perhaps then they’ll learn their lesson. Sadly you won’t be around to see it. Goodbye Fuller.”
The Stinger raised it’s arms to finish Jacob off. Before Harroway could fire Jacob squeezed down on the triggers of his Mech. The Falcons two rear mounted machine guns burst to life, spraying round after round at Harroway’s Stinger and chewing up the innards within the exposed chest of the mighty machine.
White light burst out from the Stingers chest as the fusion engine went critical. In a blinding flash both the Stinger and the Falcon were engulfed in a ball of flame.
Coop watched the fight between his lance mates. He even saw the family sneak away to safety but didn’t pursue them. He was transfixed by the blinding destruction of the two combatants. Then, when it was all over, he shut down his Mech and climbed down from the cockpit.
From a nearby building three armed men ran out and raised their rifles at him.
“Stop where you are!” One of them, the leader, ordered.
Coop stopped and raised his arms. “It’s ok, I’m not going to resist. It’s over.”
The infantry leader, covered by his fellows, grabbed Coop’s arms and clapped him in cuffs.
“You’re under arrest for war crimes against the people of the Outworlds Alliance.”
They lead Coop towards a waiting vehicle that had just entered the street. As they lead Coop to the back he took one last look at the blackened, charred remains of his lance-mates.
“I never thought we’d become the enemy.”
I hope the end doesn’t suck. Any and all constructive feedback welcome.--Jimmy the Tulip 21:16, 13 November 2006 (CST)