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A garrison base Planet Shasta 3, March 3068
“Reactor online, gyros stabilized…”
Vilis woke slowly from a light sleep, keeping his eyes closed while letting himself get situated. He barely lifted an eyelid, looking around the familiar cockpit of his 'Mech, a rather plain but otherwise sturdy Bushwacker. It was just as it was before he had fallen asleep, except the HUD and screens were now coming to life.
“Sensors online, weapons online…”
He sat upright, checking the local time. 9:55, Millie would be back from her patrol soon, and then it would be his turn on the route. He relaxed back into his seat, watching the scenery outside the 'Mechbay doors. He felt calm, and soon reclined his head back, eyes resting on a picture of a girl with long black hair and loving brown eyes. He smiled back at her beautiful face before closing his eyes, trying to recapture his pleasant dream before.
“Targeting systems online, all systems nominal....”
By the time the systems check was done, Vilis was already asleep.
He was browsing through an electronics store back in his hometown. Finding nothing of interest in the shop, he nodded a curt goodbye to the cashier and walked out of the door, rummaging in his pocket for the keys to his hovercar. He dug them out right as he stepped onto the sidewalk, colliding with a woman; the same woman in the picture of his cockpit. She was so loaded down with food, house decorations, and clothes that she obviously couldn’t see directly in front of herself. All of those items tumbled out of her arms, and then their bags, spilling haphazardly onto the street and sidewalk. She uttered a small yelp and then a profanity before bending over to collect her stuff. Instinctively, Vilis crouched down to help her gather the things. They both looked up at each other at the same time, “Sorry.” They said in unison.
Vilis was awakened yet again by the sound of shouting and furious hammering on his cockpit hatch. Yawning, he looked at his watch, 10:30. “VILIS! You lazy waste of life! Your patrol was supposed to start ten minutes ago!” the high-pitched voice was easily recognizable as Millie’s. Vilis spoke into his external mic, “I’m up I’m up, moving out for patrols.” He stifled another yawn as Millie almost exploded, “WHAT!? You were asleep?! What do you think you’re doing sleeping in an active 'Mech huh? Do you have any idea how much trouble you could have gotten into if it was anyone but me who found you?! ” The pounding on his 'Mech ceased as Millie stopped shouting. Vilis didn’t bother to reply, instead choosing to don his neurohelmet, put his feet on the movement pedals, and maneuver himself out into the main aisle of the 'Mechbay. With his sights set on the land beyond the doors, he put his 'Mech into an easy stride, clearing the entrance with a confident gait. Still on the scaffolding in the 'Mechbay, Millie muttered something about the laziness of men before walking down the steps rubbing her sore fists.
Vilis halted his 'Mech in front of the op point Alpha. Op point Alpha was a supply depot with almost nothing left to fill itself up, but still enough to place under light guard and put as a stop for the garrison patrol, which Vilis was a part of. He brushed away the memories that plagued him whenever he came here, focusing on checking his scanners for any movement or hostiles. Finding none, he changed heading for op point Beta. His 'Mech sprinted off towards the main mountain pass into the city, sending up clouds of dirt in its wake.
It was getting to be noon when Vilis finally caught sight of his last op point, a hill overlooking the plains to the west. He started up it slowly and deliberately, carefully treading upslope while trying to avoid falling like he did on his first and second patrols. Vilis laughed to himself about that before checking his sensors again. He froze instantly, seeing two red blips heading towards his position fast. Vilis hurried down the slope as fast as he could; better to not get surrounded on it, he thought. Opening up his radio frequencies to report yielded only a static white noise; he was alone. Cursing the lack of anti-ECM on his com system, he checked his sensors again. The enemy 'Mechs were splitting up to round the hill, so Vilis sprinted north, towards the last friendly op point and to only draw fire from one 'Mech. Torso twisting his 'Mech around to get a good look at his opposition, he swore at his misfortune. A Clan Puma OmniMech was heading straight for him. It was a light 'Mech, weighing in at only 35 tons, but with an ER PPC in each arm, it had just a tiny bit less firepower than his own 55 ton Bushwacker. Its faster speed became apparent as well, as it hungrily closed in, its feet shaking the ground beneath it.
Two azure bolts of accelerated ion particles erupted from the barrels of the Puma, one flashing just under his left arm, while the other one slammed directly into his center torso. His armor tracker blinked green as his systems blared and his electronics went static courtesy of the electric discharge. Vilis staggered, not expecting a hit from such range. He started to strafe his opponent, drawing out a circle in the ground with his footprints while closing in. Another PPC bolt slammed into his left torso before Vilis finally returned fire. He let his LRM 5’s acquire a lock while he landed a solid hit with his large laser on the center torso of the Puma. The molten armor beads dropping to the ground seemed a vertical compliment to the Autocannon 10 rounds he sent following in directly after. By the time his missiles had a lock, the Puma was following up with another dual salvo from its PPCs. His right and left arm were hit, and Vilis felt the shock of the impact reverberate up into his cockpit as his systems went fuzzy for a second. The Puma then tried to run to have better use of its mobility and range, but Vilis wasn’t about to let that happen. He cut off the retreating Puma right before it stepped out of his “circle”, firing his machine guns mercilessly at the cockpit. The flustered enemy pilot backed straight away from the bullets as his cockpit glass started to crack. The Puma once again fired both his PPCs, and at nearly point blank range, they both hit directly into Vilis’ center torso. Armored ferrosteel flew in molten bits, showering the area as Vilis almost lost his balance, standing perilously on one foot with his nose pointed in the air. For a moment, his systems were pure static, the armor tracker just barely readable, showing red on this center torso. He put his foot down, regaining control. Man do I really hate PPCs he grumbled inwardly to himself. The two 'Mechs strafed each other once again, neither firing. It was Vilis who took initiative, shooting off his large laser and Autocannon 10 in unison. His large laser missed, but his Autocannon struck the left torso of the Puma, shaking it just enough to throw off the opposing pilot’s aim. The PPC bolts fired moments later flew off harmlessly into the sky. Vilis took his chance, closing the distance again; he peppered the cockpit once more with his machine guns, tearing away all the remaining armor as the Puma desperately spewed flames from its flamer, trying to make Vilis back away. But he held fast, ignoring the heat and the negligible damage from the weapon. He punched viciously with his right arm, tearing past the thin armor remaining on the center torso and hitting the reactor. The Puma pointed its own guns and fired, hitting his right arm and center torso. He ignored the computer warning of “Engine hit, heat levels rising, small shielding breach, radiation leak.” Hot air flooded into the cockpit as his internal structure diagram blinked damage to his right arm shoulder actuator. Vilis fired his AC 10 directly into the hole made by his punch, coring the engine. The Puma staggered back, smoke and flames billowing from the gaping wound before firing off one last salvo. The PPC bolts flashed on his right torso, close enough to the cockpit to make Vilis get thrown back in his command couch. Losing his footing, he fell backwards towards the center of the circle while the Puma fell out, exploding on impact with the ground. The explosion washed over his 'Mech, hungrily devouring armor off his Bushwacker while knocking Vilis unconscious. He didn’t see if the enemy piloted ejected.
The restaurant was well lit, yet still had a felling of just the right amount of darkness. A younger Vilis sat at a table for two, across from the woman he had run into before. Vilis was making jokes and telling funny stories, gesturing wildly in the air. The woman across from him was laughing quietly, trying not to look like a fool in public, but still enjoying the show.
A quick lapse of darkness…
The couple was sitting at that restaurant again; Vilis wasn’t making jokes or being silly this time. Rather, they were chatting and making small talk. After the meal was brought to the table, Vilis waited until the waiter left before getting down on one knee. He opened a small velvet box, revealing a flashing diamond ring inside. The woman’s eyes widened, and she covered her mouth, but her eyes spoke of surprise and joy. “Sacha, will you marry me?” The Vilis in the flashback asked.
Vilis awoke before he could hear the answer, but he already knew how it ended. How it all ended. He brought his 'Mech to a stand as pain washed over him. He winced as the pain boiled through his chest, noting that he probably had some broken ribs to complement the myriad of cuts and bruises. Blood trickled down his forehead and rested on his nose, creating an unwanted itch. Vilis paid no attention to it, checking his 'Mech systems and status. It didn’t look good, his sensors were barely still functioning, his right arm was down to practically its last myomer strand, and his reactor was still overheating and leaking radiation. His armor tracker showed yellow and red across the 'Mech. He had no idea how long he was out, but he took the temporary lull to activate his battle ROM and start recording.
“This is Vilis Leonas of the 3rd garrison unit on planet Shasta. Started patrol at 10:30 local time, time is now 11:46. I encountered two Puma Clan OmniMechs at op point epsilon. Radio jamming is preventing me from calling for help or alerting base. As of now, I have no idea which Clan they belong to, or even if they belong to the Clans.” He coughed, and then continued, “One Puma has been downed, but me and my 'Mech have sustained considerable damage. Location of second Puma is unkno-.”
He couldn’t finish the sentence as a PPC bolt slammed into his rear armor on is left torso, penetrating easily and destroying an LRM 5. Vilis uttered and obscenity, swinging his torso to the right to track the Puma, and then breaking into a run. Another PPC bolt impacted on his left arm, shearing off the remaining armor. Bits and pieces of metal flew as one last salvo came streaking out of his remaining LRM 5 before it was destroyed. The missiles all hit the onrushing Puma’s right arm, but it did little to deter it. Panting slightly from his wounds and the feedback from the neurohelmet, Vilis lined up a shot with his large laser while pulling switches to dump the remaining potentially hazardous LRM 5 ammo. He fired, melting off more armor on the enemy’s right arm. I gotta strip off those PPCs he thought frantically, dancing his 'Mech around in zigzags to avoid getting hit. The Puma seemed content to engage at long range, standing relatively still while taking shots at Vilis. Vilis fired off his AC 10, hitting the Puma in the right torso. He added a direct hit with the large laser on the left arm, while it returned fire. Two PPC bolts lashed out at him, one tearing off his left arm while the other sliced cleanly into his right torso, scoring an easy hit on his engine. Alarms and warning sounds rang throughout the cockpit, as smoke billowed up from below along with even more heat. Gasping for air and trying to blink the smoke from his eyes, Vilis coughed into his battle ROM, “Engaged with second Puma, reactor has been hit twice now, LRM’s have been lost along with my left arm. Giving him all that I got left.” His chances were slim of making it of the battle alive, but just maybe…
Vilis changed the course of his zigzagging run, turning his battered 'Mech straight at the Puma. It strafed unfazed, taking time to aim and fire shots. Both PPC bolts hit his right and left leg, blasting off all the remaining armor in a shower of shrapnel and molten steel. Vilis utilized the closer range to hit the already weakened right arm of the Puma with all his remaining weapons. It fell to the ground right as his machine gun ran out of ammo. The Puma turned, keeping Vilis out of its blind spot while washing his Bushwacker in flame from its flamer. Vilis started to sweat as the heat in the cockpit reached almost baking temperatures, the single heat sink in the 'Mech’s head barely keeping him from roasting alive. Spots and images created from the heat and Vilis’ own wounds danced across his vision as he maneuvered back out to medium range, blood starting to soak through his jumpsuit and pool around the foot pedals.
A small house, looking just like all the others beside it; sat looking as cheerful as a house could in the middle of the row of a generic street.
There was a blur of color as Vilis’ head spun back into reality just enough for him to become aware of the pounding of his 'Mech’s feet before he lapsed back into the flashback.
The view had changed, giving Vilis a look a good look of the house. His old house, Vilis realized with a start. Sacha was there, standing on a stool while hanging curtains over a window. She turned and gave him a smile.
A flash of white…
The scene had changed once again, with 'Mechs stampeding across the residential area, heading for the supply depot. The garrison forces were holding them off, although barely. Vilis was watching from the 'Mechbay, his 'Mech damaged and unfit for combat. He was pleading with the tech to let him get out there, but the exasperated tech refused. Vilis could only watch in anger, surprise, and denial as a flaming 'Mech bearing the insignia of a small mercenary unit toppled into a house; his house, where Sacha was. His cry of anguish resounded through the 'Mechbay.
Vilis found himself echoing that cry, now filled with a hate and lust for vengeance. He turned his bloodthirsty sights on the Puma, catching a glimpse of the arm lying innocently on the ground. It bore the same insignia. “You dirty mercenary bastards!” he shouted, charging in again with weapons blazing. His shots landed on the Puma’s undamaged legs, having little effect as it fired back, the PPC flash busting a foot actuator on his right leg. He limped towards the slowly retreating Puma, uncontrollable rage and sadness playing across his face. It was these people who had taken away his life five years ago, and he wanted more than anything else to make them pay. He pounded the left arm of the Puma with his large laser and AC 10, madly trying to destroy it. The enemy pilot on the other end managed to get three shots off with it before his last PPC was destroyed. They all ripped into his legs, damaging actuators and burning through myomer. That brought him to a screeching halt, and the Puma reversed its course and closed in, trying to blow up Vilis’ reactor from pure heat with its flamer. Vilis’ already weak right arm was melted off as once more heat washed through the cockpit. His vision was darkening, as blood started to soak through his cooling vest and jumpsuit. In a hoarse voice, Vilis recorded a message into his battle ROM, “Commander… if you ever recover this ROM from this trashcan of a 'Mech, know that I finally got what I wanted for my birthday; and in advance too.” He chuckled slightly as his last joke, gripping the firing control stick and shooting his AC 10 and large laser directly into the cockpit of the Puma. It vanished under the attack, the enemy 'Mech toppling to the side. The falling Puma revealed the hill behind it, and the mercenary Vulture 'Mech now standing on top of it. Time to leave Vilis thought, pulling on the eject handle. The handle didn’t budge, having jammed in the previous battles. Oh well he thought, at least I took some with me. In his last act of defiance, Vilis fired his large laser at the Vulture, missing badly.
The Vulture fired off its LRMs straight at him, and there was nothing Vilis could do but stand there and watch. The missiles all hit true, pounding his 'Mech all over and exploding with a considerable impact that shook the ground. The shockwave blew off the right leg of his 'Mech, and sent the 'Mech itself slightly airborne backwards with a sound comparable to thousands of thunderclaps at once.
“Critical hit, critical hit, critical…” The onboard computer droned before dying out, as the reactor started to overload. Vilis’ hand slipped from the control sticks, reaching out to the picture of Sacha, its edges having curled up from the heat. His vision was almost faded into complete darkness, and he whispered his final words, with the battle ROM dutifully recording them. His fingers gently brushed the picture, “Wait for me Sacha…” he croaked, “I’m coming home.”
Moments later, his reactor went nuclear.