Notes: The following story was recorded for the official Brigade Logs of PaleRider’s UrbanMech Brigade. I’m still not sure why the unit sticks some of it’s records and paperwork inside hollow logs but I’m told it has something to do with a Clan Screaming Ewok ritual. But I digress (which is a habit so you better find a comfy chair and crack open a preferred beverage before reading this thing). But anyway, this story is as true to as it really happened as possible. I didn’t even change names to protect the innocent. (not that we have any innocent, but I digress again) Admittedly I don’t actually know the real names of most of my PUB brethren. I assume this is not an accident. But like I was writing before I interrupted myself, The Trojan LAM Affair retells events as they more or less occurred. Now granted, I wasn’t there for many of the events, but I often talked to people that were there or at least interviewed people that talked to people that were there. And I reviewed comm reports (the ones I could find inside the logs anyway) and a few times I even did personal interviews with the people in the scene. Of course they usually lied to make themselves look better but I took all that into account and just sorta fudged things to make it more accurate. There were some scenes I was actually at. There is no truth the charge that I “adjusted” any of those to make myself look better. But as truth is stranger than fiction, much of this tale is unembellished as few are going to believe it anyway.
(signed) Major Dave, Unit Historian of PUB and the DUD Lance Commander. (Not to mention adopted Loremaster of Clan Screaming Ewoks. Yub Yub!)
By the Way, I was only a Lieutenant when the event started.
Oh yeah, almost forgot to mention this last thing: any similarity between this story and an actual BattleTech story is purely coincidental. Any similarity to actual DSC posters real or imagined is purely coincidental as well. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!
Perrin’s Office Retreat
He Paid Me Not To Write Exactly Where
It was a dark and stormy night. Rain slashed at the windows while cold winds screamed through the streets and alleys, driving things that lurked in the late hours to seek deeper holes. Money had changed hands, information that could rock major houses had been uncovered, and dirty deeds had been done dirt cheap. In short, the Inner Sphere as we all knew it was in peril.
However, snug in his office and oblivious to the deep machinations of the Great Houses, PUB Co-Administrator Shrike had fallen asleep over his computer terminal once again. While the drool wasn’t doing his keyboard much good, having his ear down on the desk near the computer’s CPU unit proved fortuitous that early morning. When the low volume but high pitched alarm sounded he was there to hear it and be woken up. Had he passed out on the couch watching the Spicey Channel on Tri-D as happened on occasion he’d have missed the alarm altogether.
For a moment he looked around with bleary eyes trying to determine where he was, what that damn shrill sound was, and where the scantily clad mermaid lady had gone to. As his mental facilities warmed up he determined that he was still in his office, the sound was the PUBie Alarm (patent and copyright pending) and that the fish-lady had only been part of a dream. She sure had a nice set of…
The PUBie ALARM ! Shrike yelped in surprise at the unexpected interruprion.
Quickly slapping the computer out of it’s own snooze state, Shrike accessed the PUB’s special high priority messaging account. Fingers pecking about the keyboard like trained dive bombers he punched in his secret PIN number.
“Hello. You have mail” sing-songed the happy toned voice of the InnerSphere On-Line account.
“I know, I know,” he groused to himself as he waited for the decryption program to run. That accompliahsed the top secret, urgent, special message was finally on the screen for him to read. He whistled in surprise. He’d have to do some quick checking to make sure this was legit. But if it was, the incredible had happened. Twenty minutes later he had his answers and it was time to place a call.
Checking the world-net for current log-ons he found that despite the early hour his Co-Administrator of the Uber Urbies was indeed awake and on line. Shrike set up a voice connection right away.
“Hey Perrin, this is Shrike. You’re still on line at this hour huh?”
“Well duh,” grumped Perrin. “Otherwise you wouldn’t be interrupting me would you? Heck, it’s not like I have a real life or anything is it? Of course I’m on line. Where else would I be?”
There was no mistaking the tone of hostility in Perrin’s voice. Shrike almost wished he’d had used a typed message rather than voice-comms. Every since their little fender bender with each other racing their ground cars away from the secret laboratory several weeks back there had been a bit of a strain on their working relationship. Tempers had flared a little hot that day following the realization halfway down the mountain that they had just lost a working prototype of the Quad Urbie LAM. Heated words had been exchanged after the car accident before cognitive thought processes could interfere. Accusations and insults had taken wing – which was more than one might say of their downed Quad LAM. Looking back on it, Shrike was now fairly sure that pilot error and the use of lowest bidder for the actual construction were the primary culprits. That and an Elemental who was much better with a fire hose than expected. But that was all water under the Urbie now. Well, except for staying out of the Elemental Star Captain’s way these days. Colonel PaleRider had been impressed with the Clanner and recruited him.
“Look Perrin, I’ve already apologized for my crack about you not having a real life. Can we let it drop now finally? I just got an important message about the PUB. You better read it for yourself. I’m sending it now.”
Perrin withheld comment until he had a chance to read the message. He had found no one else that could appreciate the SilTech find from the Simpson Site like Shrike could. (Historian’s Note: Most everyone has heard of LosTech, the lost technology of the Star League. SilTech is pretty much the same thing, but much more silly…uh, I mean creative, in design) Giving his Co-Administrator the benefit of the doubt for the time being he waited for the message to download. Then he yelped in surprise. Shrike was right- this was indeed important. Perhaps even qualifying as “Terra Shattering” news.
“You confirmed this?” asked Perrin in near awe.
“With the Merc Board at Outreach myself. And checked the deposit with ComStar.”
Perrin’s awe notched up from the ‘near’ to the ‘pretty much full on’ type.
“Then there’s only one thing to do. It’s time to call the Colonel.”
“Holy talk-box Perrin, you don’t mean…” trailed off Shrike.
“That’s right Chum,” agreed Perrin. “To the PUB Phone!”
P.U.B. Semi-Secret Training Facility near Farmer Brown’s Place
DUD Firing Range
The following day dawned clear and bright. It was a sunny day fit for manly, warlike activities. A few of the Urbie Brigrade were actually in the training fields already, pursuing activities that could, if one were generous, be called warlike. Many others were sleeping off the previous evening’s activities of a drinking sort while a few others had decided to carry on the evening’s activities straight on through into the morning to avoid unnecessary wear and tear on their PUB issued mattresses. As usual, the Senior Officers of the Brigade were off site doing various important high officer things.
Inside one of the PUBie’s warlike machines- a giant armored vehicle armed with the sole known SilTech magno-magnifier NOVA cannon- Lt. Dave rubbed at his temples hoping his throbbing headache might dull. Between preparation of the testing candidate and serving as observer and chronicler of a drinking contest between the Star Captain Clanner and some new MechWarrior recruit they’d picked up a few days ago he’d been up the entire night. A bleary focus had slowed the morning’s preparations but he was almost ready now. That is if that backwoods hick of a DropShip Captain Methusala would get the pink spacecraft in the proper orbit they could finally test out the true firing range of the Near Orbital Velocity Accelerator cannon.
The NOVA cannon was a product of ancient StarLeague experimental technology. Unit rumor held that Shrike and Perrin had somehow discovered a lost trove of SilTech and used the information to create the various UrbanMech configurations they’d unveiled as well as cobble together the specialized artillery tank the Lieutenant currently occupied. Using specially modified drop-pods the NOVA cannon fire payloads upwards of 35 tons to incredible distances. The two designers / Co-Administrators had quickly realized that tactical value of firing their slow moving Urbies into combat zones using the UrbiePods and the NOVA cannon. Computer tests had shown that enemies often grew bored and wandered away while waiting for UrbanMechs to deploy. Now the squat can-like ‘Mechs could be literally dropped on top of an enemy. Unfortunately their imaginations had failed at that point and no official name beyond “Urbie Dispenser” had ever been chosen for the vehicle that bore the NOVA cannon. As Lt. Dave had been put in charge of the Dispenser and the company formed to serve as it’s main ammunition supply, the tank had become known as Dave’s Urbie Dispenser. Or, as it was more affectionately known, the DUD.
Dave moved over to the communications station of the spacious command cabin and plucked a pink box off of the sensitive electronic gear in dismay. He looked inside and, with disgust, flung the partially filled box down the hallway into the crew lounge.
“How many times do I have to tell you idiots!,” he roared. “Don’t eat the chocolate ones! The chocolate donuts are for officers only and the last time I checked I’m the only one on this crew. Eat the damn jellies or something. And that goes double for you Homer! Keep your grubby paws off the chocolates!”
His bellow echoed ringingly through the metal cabins and Dave winced at his own volume then frowned as he pictured the smug grin that was likely plastered over fusion-engine astech Homer’s face right about now. Still, the Lieutenant chided himself, he shouldn’t have called his crew idiots. They were idiots of course. But insulting them would just ensure that all the chocolate covered ones disappeared even faster next time. Although he had to admit that crewperson Lisa was actually amazingly competent while Marge was passable. That Bart kid though……Taking a few deep breathes to calm himself, he sat down and engaged the switches that would bring the PUB’s DropShip Captain on line.
“Captain Methusala? Do you read me?”
Up in orbit Methusala used the remote to put the huge wall covering view screen on pause before he took the call. One of the best parts of Xerna, Princess MechWarrior Does the Texas was about to come up and he didn’t want to miss it.
“Yezh, I copy yhas load an’ clea’. Whatch ya’ll be needing down thar?”
Dave frowned as he puzzled out the ship captain’s accent. He could swear that Methusala changed it sometimes in mid-sentence just to make himself harder to understand.
“I need you in position to catch the Urbie shot like we planned about eight times already,” sighed Dave.
“Just be keepen yur shirt on Yankee, I’m a almost thar,” replied the Captain cheerfully.
“Roger, I’ll check the scope,” acknowledged Dave as he wondered what a ‘Yankee’ was and why the DropShip Captain kept calling him one.
“Shor’nuff,” agreed Methusala as he wondered why the artie officer often called him ‘Roger’ whenever they talked on the radio.
As the DUD didn’t have orbital tracking capacity, the scope Dave went to check was actually a high power telescope set up outside. The huge pink DropShip should be visible as it made a low orbital arc and took up gyro-synced position to field the shot. The plan was to use an old solar-collection sail to catch the Urbie as it was fired into low orbit from the DUD.
On board the DropShip, Methusala took advantage of the paused Tri-D flick to grab another beer and prop his feet up on the communications panel. Although he had a perfectly good captain’s chair in the middle of the oval shaped bridge, he rarely used it. The command seat was actually a downright comfortable chair with lots of neat little buttons built into the arms. But whatever damn fool had designed the thing had not thought to put in a proper footrest. Thus the Captain typically seated himself at one of the perches that ringed the bridge so he could prop his feet up on the various consul stations. There was no need to check his heading or velocity. Methusala had no intention of attempting the catch. To do so would require slowing to a relative speed that would rob him of ship’s gravity and then everything would go floating about. Methusala really hated when that happened. Thus the DropShip spent most of it’s time on an automated circuit entering and leaving the outer edge of planetary orbit at a bit less than one gee so his drinks wouldn’t go bobbing about. Made it much easier to piss when nature called too.
On the planet below Lieutenant Dave was almost at the main hatch when there was a resounding thud and the heavily armored vehicle started to rock slightly. At first he thought another of the new recruits had managed to blunder into the DUD again but as he cleared the hatch he could see that it was a senior officer’s UrbanMech pushing on the DUD. Precariously balanced on one foot, it was scraping the other on the frontal sloped armor of Dave’s beloved DUD. A set of oversized metal wheels where set along the foot, which was an immediate tip off to who the offending pilot was. Only Major BillyBones piloted the prototype RollerUrbie.
Although wheels or no wheels Dave would have known the “scout” Urbie on sight anyway. The Major’s ‘Mech was clothed in road signs, billboards, and bumper stickers everyplace there was clearance to attach something to the armor. In fact, Dave was close enough to read one placard reading “I step on roadkill” along the left ankle joint. He could also see something red and chunky oozing from where the raised foot was being scraped along the DUD’s armor.
For a moment Dave just stared, wondering what in god’s name could be slow and stupid enough to get stepped on by an UrbanMech. Then he suddenly realized what must have happened.
“Major!” accused the Lieutenant into his headset, “you went stomping through farmer Brown’s cows again didn’t you?”
Within the ‘Mech Billybones burped to himself in surprise as he heard the Lieutenant’s voice. He killed the mini-spot lights trained on his over head mirror-ball so he could better see about the control cabin then belated realized that the artillery fella must be calling him on that fancy radio rig mounted someplace among the controls. Well, if he remembered right it was voice activated. So he cleared his throat and yelled back.
“Yeeeehhaww, but chasen dem heffers is more fun den grenade fishing!”
“Do you have any idea what this is going to cost us?”
“Nope,” shrugged BillyBones, “Ah figgah we just en-vite tha farmer to ah friendly like Bar-B-Q an’ e’vything be smoothed over neighborly like.”
“With his own cows? I doubt it,” groused Dave. “Now clear that piece of junk out of here. You’re in the firing lane and during a shoot I’m ground boss on the firing range regardless of rank. And no more scarping your feet on the DUD. That’s just plain gross. Use a Mini-Urbie or something next time.”
“Ah’m a going,” agreed the Major as he spat a chunk of chaw into the golden spittoon attached to the left bulkhead of his cabin with bailing wire. As BillyBones maneuvered around to head for the nearest watering hole he mused to himself that the Lieutenant seemed like a right smart lad but he sure was a mite uptight. Well, probably a byproduct of a city upbringing the Major decided.
Dave fiddled with the telescope for a while but couldn’t spot the DropShip. Soon the window of opportunity would close. The ‘test pilot’ would wake up in not much longer. Ordering MechWarrior Sniper to double check that the breach was still properly locked behind the Urbie-Cannister, Lieutenant Dave swarmed back into the DUD intent on giving Captain Methusela another piece of his mind. Not that it ever seemed to do much good.
Sitting down at the comm station Dave noticed that a coded message had arrived. Digging through a drawer for his Top Secret Decoder Ring, the Lieutenant set about decrypting the message. His anger at Methusela drained away as amazement filled his mind. This couldn’t possibly be correct. But it was from Co-Administrators Shrike and Perrin and bore Colonel PaleRider’s signature. A heavy clanging on the deckplates behind him brought the Lieutenant’s thoughts back to the present. He turned to see the huge Elemental Star Captain Absimiliard crouching to keep his head from smacking the ceiling. Considering the amount of booze the Star Captain had consumed last night Dave was amazed once again. This time because the Star Captain was mobile at all this morning.
“Something has changed,” announced the Elemental. “I saw a vision of glory and combat. I saw a city edged by blue and clouded with the smoke of battle. Oddly enough I also saw the inside of a containment chamber. But that part may have just been memories of my last latrine visit. Anyway, I thought to myself that these were things yet to come. Thus I have come to you, Loremaster, for confirmation. These are true visions I have had, Quiaff?”
Dave blinked twice before finding his voice. Sometimes the graying warrior was downright spooky. Ordinarily Dave would have told him that all he had seen were memories from his drunken recitals of war deeds long since past. But this was no ordinary day.
“Yeah, uh, I mean Aff Star Captain. I don’t know how you knew but it’s true. The impossible has happened. Someone has hired the P.U.B. for a combat mission.”
Absimiliard smiled slowly and dangerously. “At last. The call to honor and death. When do we leave Loremaster Dave?”
“Looks like we have about two days. We leave as soon as Shrike, Perrin, and the rest of the command lance get here.”
“Ah, the little admin ones are coming. I enjoy watching them scurry to stay out of my sight. It is amusing. And I shall finally meet the Colonel. These are good things, good portents. I take my leave now. Training will not slack however. We shall still have coat hanger and shoe horn sessions this afternoon.”
With that the Star Captain turned and lurched from the DUD in a manner more graceful than one would expect from such a powerful frame but also a bit more hurried than Dave was used to seeing from the warrior.
“The head’s just past the main exit, second door on the right,” Dave called helpfully.
“My thanks,” called back the Elemental. “Truly you are a man of insight Loremaster.” For Absimiliard did indeed once again have an urgent need of the potty.
DropShip PUB Crawler
In Space. Duh.
Captain Methusela was getting mighty damn tired of waiting on hold for the casting agent. He had a damn big problem on his hands and he needed to solve it immediately. While he had a few maintenance guys that more or less cleaned up, went to the surface to buy more beer, and kept the reactors on line – Admin had never given him a stinking Bridge Crew! Meth had always figured that since there wasn’t a crew, he’d never be expected to go anyplace. And now this. Gainful employment. His grandpappy would be ashamed. Still, he’d signed the contract. It was too late to back out now. He’d already drunk up his next two month’s pay.
“Mr. Roddenberry will speak with you now,” announced a voice on his speaker.
“About time little lady,” he groused. “Hey Roddy, it’s me your ole pal Meth from back home at Pig’s Hollar. Ah’m a needing some help ole buddy.”
“Uh, what can I do for you?” asked the other man hesitantly.
“Ah need a blamed crew fer mah Ship! Today!”
“Well, that’s no problem. I have a ton of unemployed spacers floating around. Can’t even find stories to stuff them in. What do you need? Tough Security Chief with a bubbly head? Pointy eared living computer? Talaxian Cook?”
“Nah, I can’t use non’a dem types. We got us a no alien pol-i-cy out this way.”
“Well, how about a super genius brat?’
“Ah don’t think so.”
“Womanizing second in command?”
“Is he charming and rugged looking? Tha kinda guy girls swoon ovah?”
“Indeed he is.”
“Then Ah definitely don’t want ‘em,” Meth answered firmly as he scratched at his beer belly. “Ah don’t need tha competition.”
“Well, maybe I can get you some girlish giggling comm techs from one of them anime ships. They have tons of them , usually in threes.”
“Now that sounds promising,” started Methusela. Then his mouth dropped open and he sat dumbfounded as the doors to the bridge swished open.
The figure standing in the doorway was deadly in her tight jump suit. Whatever her birth month might be Meth knew that her astrological sign had to be “dangerous curves ahead”. Or maybe “yield”.
“You don’t need a gaggle of girls Captain. One real woman will do. I’m your new Com-Tech. Ms. Peel,” she announced.
“Never ya mind Roddy,” blurted the Captain. “I got it covered .” He shut down the call.
“Right pleased ta meet ya Miss. Ah…how’d ya get up here anyway?”
“Shuttle,” she purred. “Perrin and Shrike are still moving their gear off of it. They have some software exec with them for the new TechCommander Platinum package. Here, I have something for you.”
With growing excitement he took the extended holo-base. He flicked it on but rather than being treated to some of the images his imagination had conjured, he found himself looking at a huge gnarly guy with a rather mean looking expression on his face. He looked at her in confusion.
“That’s my special friend Abi. He’s one of those Clan Elementals. You know, those huge guys that can break fat slobs in half with their bare hands? He’ll be along on this trip. So you better keep your greasy hands well away from me, got it Captain?”
“Dahling, Ah expect this har trip is not gonna be nearly as much fun as Ah had hoped.”
“You got that right,” she grinned.
Down on the shuttle bay Perrin and Shrike were looking over the last of their stuff. Through Colonel PaleRider’s contacts they had managed to score a big coup and would be the first in the Inner Sphere to field test the TechCommander Platinum command software. A MacroSoft rep had even been sent to run the battle. Things were definitely looking up for the Urbie Brigade. Shrike tripped over a low box near the lift as they headed for the bridge.
“What’s that?” asked Perrin.
Shrike glanced at it quickly. “It says something about stacking tent poles. Must be for the Brigade’s bivouac. Come on, let’s go make sure the bridge is in shape before Steve Gates from MacroSoft gets there.”
Still On The PUB Crawler
Inbound to Carver V
MechWarriors Snow Cheetah and J-Dog were sitting at the battle plotting consul of the WarRoom. On the screens before them they issued orders to the icons representing various armor and ‘Mech units.
“Hey, we agreed stock only,” complained J-Dog Teenwolf Bently Hole.
“That is stock,” exclaimed Snow Cheetah. “The MadCat Two carries 8 PPCs in their Theta configuration.”
“Theta Config! That’s a load of … uh oh, ten hut!”
Both MechWarriors jumped to their feet as Major WolfCross swept into the room. His HackMaster robes flowed behind him as he strode up to the two junior PUBers. The ceremonial hood shadowed his face from them as he studied the display screens.
“Who gave you permission to play games in here?” he demanded.
“Uh…no one HackMaster. Forgive us, we were…”
“Silence Dog! I am only going to tell you this once, pin head. I am not a HackMaster.”
“But..the robes,” contested Snow Cheetah
“Are you deaf or just dumb? I just said that I am not a HackMaster. A simple adjuster of code perhaps. But that is all. Now get your butts out of here. We have an officer staff meeting.”
“But…then why do you wear the robes of a ….,” started J-Dog in confusion.
WolfCross’ hand strayed near the silver cylinder attached to his belt as a low growl escaped his throat. The two hapless warriors took the hint and ran for the door.
“Damn loonies,” Wolfcross sighed. “Where does Perrin and Shrike find these bozos?”
He set about preparing the tactical displays and soon the other officers and Company Commanders of the Brigade had gathered to hear the drop briefing.
“So that’s the basics,” Perrin was summing up sometime later. “Our final update will be sent to us on approach. We’ll be defending a big city named Troy. This is one of the bigger islands so we can expect the possibility of BattleMech opposition if the city is attacked. The MacroSoft rep is an experienced ex-merc officer and he’ll liaison as MechCommander with the new software.”
“Hey, I hope it’s on this island,” someone suddenly noted. Eager heads pushed closer to the map display.
“Fantasy Island, I like the sound of that,” noted Shrike.
“No Man,” interrupted Perrin.
“Don’t tell me ‘no’,” snapped Shrike.
“Hey, there’s an Isle of Mann over there,” someone pointed out.
“No, I mean it’s an Island,” sighed Perrin.
“What? Mann?” asked Lt. Dave
“No Man!” stormed Perrin.
“Hey, don’t yell at me just because you’re mad at Shrike! I know Mann’s an island,” sulked Dave.
“Would you all listen,” shouted Perrin. “No Man is an island!”
“Well duh,” observed Wolfcross. “But the way you’re trying to piss everyone off it seems that you’ve forgotten that fact yourself.”
“Aarrgghhh!” spouted Perrin in frustration.
“Oh, I think I get it,” broke in Lt. Dave. “Right here on the map. This kidney bean shaped one is called the Island of No Man. I guess that’s where we’re headed.”
“Why didn’t ya’ll jist say so?” Captain Methusela wanted to know.
Perrin buried his head in his hands with a heavy sigh.
Still On The PUB Crawler
Still Inbound to Carver V
Captain Methusela sat uncomfortably in the center command chair of the bridge. The chair itself was fine – but he sure wished he had a foot rest to prop his aching dogs up on. But the other seats on the bridge where taken so he’d have to use his. Maybe he’d see about buying a decent ottoman of some sort after this mission. Maybe something Scandinavian in design. That would be nice.
He was still a bit miffed over losing his ready room though. The cushy cabin that was attached to the bridge had been given to the MacroSoft guy. A bunch of computer and comm equipment had been set up in there so the rep could do his MechCommander bit from a space near the bridge. The guy was holed up in there even now – presumably waiting for the mission profile update so he could start programming strategies into his computer.
Within that attached cabin that’s exactly what MacroSoft tech-rep Steve Gates was doing. While the update downloaded and decrypted he was taking a page out of the PUB’s own ops manual and having a stiff drink. He had absolutely no idea what his superiors were thinking when they sent him out on this hairball assignment. A unit comprised entirely of variations of UrbanMechs ? Heck, several of the variations were ‘home grown’ including Land-Air Mech conversions for heaven’s sake And what in God’s name was a “Roller-Urbie” scout supposed to be? It was insanity.
Shaking his head at the mess he had found himself in Steve could envision the meeting where this decision must have been made. It had to have been Marketing again. He could see the Marketing Guys saying something like “It’ll be fabulous. We can say if a bunch of Urbie’s can win with TechCommander Platinum, think of what you can do with a real BattleMech force” – or something like that.
More people had been killed by poor Marketing ideas than had ever died for God or Country, Steve thought sourly.
The incredible part was that it looked like the stars had aligned and granted Marketing their desired victory-cum-selling testimonial. All these weekend Urban Warriors had to do was sit inside a heavily fortified city and fend off any local buffoons that tried to muscle in on Troy. It seemed that the Mayor’s daughter Helen was a comely wench coveted by one of the local Warlords on another island. There was a small chance the petty bandit would actually attack. Luckily, sitting on a firing platform behind a city wall was something even an UrbanMech could accomplish. But Gates knew his own rising star was tied to this software launch and if this thing went sour on him his career could be down the toilet. Thus he had taken precautions. No matter what happened, the TechCommander software would not have a poor light cast upon it. After all, MacroSoft must be protected. The Corporation is Mother, the Corporation is Father he intoned to himself as the booze loosened up the tight spot between his shoulders a bit.
A jaunty ‘you’re file’s done’ brought him back to the present as he reached over and hit a key to display the upload. As he read the new information his hand started to shake so bad the glass he held slipped from his fingers. They were toast. Burnt Toast. It was going to be just like the FRR invasion by the Ghost Bears all over again. He felt himself start to get sick and stumbled towards the attached head. He slumped over the vacuum toilet and started to heave.
At the comm station on the bridge Ms. Peel was buffing and admiring her perfect nails. At the same time she was absently reading the secure and ‘unbreakable’ feed that was being piped to the new “command center” that the MacroSoft rep was in. She paused her buffing and blinked twice as she realized the implications of what she was reading. That certainly put an entirely different spin on things. It seemed that this Gates guy thought so to as the security indicators – which she had tied to her consul early in the trip just on general principals – indicated that he was currently blowing chunks in the potty. She decided she better tell somebody about the new mission info and looked up to decide who. Perrin was typing away on the inputs at the engineering station while Shrike was doodling on a computer screen at Navigation. The temp helmsman they had picked up from the JumpShip – Ensign Hanroku Sulo – was busy with their descent into the atmosphere. Pale Rider and all the PUB officers were down in their machines ready for deployment. Captain Methusela seemed to be dozing at the moment. He looked like he’d be more comfortable with a footrest, she noted to herself. Maybe a nice Scandinavian design ottoman. But right now she had to….
Her thought was cut short as there was a loud clanking sound and the huge DropShip tottered to one side. She grabbed for her consul board as Sulo corrected for the tilt only to have the great ship sway back in the other direction. He corrected again, but the clanking sound vibrating up the hull plates only got worse as their tilt angle grew larger on each swing in the opposite direction.
Peel hit a few controls that were available to her. This safeguarded against a few of their problems with Steve Gates but did nothing for their worsening pendulum effect.
“What’s happening?” demanded the Captain as he gripped tightly onto his seat’s armrests.
“Something down low is rocking us back and forth,” reported Sulo. “It’s getting worse. Pretty soon we’ll flip over and go down.”
“I think,” replied Perrin as he clung to the engineering station, “that one of the spare six-packs of Urbies broke lose in the lowest hold. They’re bouncing back and forth across it and rocking the ship.”
Peel called up the security cameras in that area. Perrin was right. The six of them were still bound together by the locking bracket around their domed tops. Their combined weight was sliding back and forth, getting worse as each over-correction sent them sliding the other way even faster.
Captain Methusela started punching at the buttons on his chair. Several alarms sounded, his favorite tri-D started on the main view screen, and the computer voice announced that all escape craft had been deployed – but his ship was still swinging wildly as it was pulled ever closer to Carver's surface. He knew that only quick thinking and a steady hand could save his ship now. It was the time for decisive action. There was only one thing he could do.
“Somebody do something before we all die!” he screamed.
Peel held on as they banged at an extreme tilt angle, then punched a few more keys. “Sulo, spin us about fifteen degrees and get ready to level us off at my mark.”
“Fifteen degrees Aye,” he called as the ship started tilting the opposite direction. “Standing by to fire thrusters.”
In the security monitor Peel watched the six Urbies slide out the opening bay door and fall away from the ship.
“Mark !,” She called. “But easy on the thrusters so we don’t over-shoot.”
Sulo fought with the sluggish controls as he righted the DropShip against the drag the open bay was causing. As the doors slid shut the big ship’s decent smoothed once more.
“What happened?” asked Methusela as he looked about for a little nip of something to help settle his nerves.
“She opened a bay door and jettisoned the Urbies,” replied Shrike from the Nav consul. “I’m tracking them now but it looks like they’re going to splash down in deep water. Luckily they were empty spares we had brought along as DUD ammo. Good thing she saved the ship – somebody managed to eject all the escape pods a moment ago. Anyway, I better go see how Gates is doing.”
“Don’t bother,” sighed the comm-tech. “He was in the potty.”
“What duz that haff to do with anythang?’ asked the puzzled Captain.
“To save space we sorta combined the outer toilet facilities with the escape pods,” admitted Perrin sheepishly.
Shrike looked at the Nav consul in dismay. “Oh man, I didn’t even try to track the escape pods. I thought they were empty. Who knows where he’ll wind up. It could take days to find him.”
“While we’re doling out bad news let me add some more,” added Peel. “The update from the planet changed our orders. Two days ago the city of Troy was seized by a local warlord. He’s heavily fortified it and your orders are to assault the city and rescue Helen of Troy.”
Sulo looked up from his piloting station. “So if I understand this all correctly, you have a DropShip full of UrbanMechs and you’re supposed to attack a well defended city after you flushed your MechCommander out with the toilets.”
“Welcome to the PUB,” smiled Peel sweetly.
Shrike saw the look that had popped into his fellow Administrator’s eyes from across the bridge. “Oh no, don’t say what I think you’re going to say,” he pleaded.
“We can do it,” Perrin said despite Shrike’s plea. “The software is pretty much like the game version anyway. I was pretty good at it on game-night on the net.”
“You were pretty good,” Shrike coughed.
“Well, I didn’t suck totally anyway,” adjusted Perrin. “But this will be different. Real pilots that can make real decisions will be doing the fighting. PR will be running the show from the ground. All we have to do is provide tactical updates on enemy movements and stuff. We can rig a voice disguiser so no one will ever know it’s us.”
Shrike drummed his fingers on the Nav station consul. It was the chance of a lifetime to be part of testing out the effectiveness of their new Urbie designs. And how much could they really affect a battle from up in orbit anyway?
“All right, we just became Co-MechCommanders for this trip I guess. Let’s go start checking out the software so we’re ready when it’s show time.”
Ms. Peel watched the two of them rush for the ready room/command center with a slight frown on her face. She had a bad feeling about this. Sure, the PUBies were mainly a bunch of goofs – but they were her bunch of goofs. She felt almost motherly towards the lot of them. Not that she’d ever let any of them know it. Or let any of them come over to her home for dinner or anything like that. Still, she really didn’t see what she could do about it. This time she might have to leave the boys to their own devices to pull themselves out of the fire. That was a worrying thought indeed. Sure, Colonel Pale Rider was near legendary in his abilities – but could even he pull off a city assault with a bunch of juiced Urbies and juiced up MechWarriors?
Who was she kidding. Of course the Colonel was going to need an extra edge. It was time to quit bellyaching and come up with a plan.
Island of No Man
The collection of MechWarriors, armored troopers, and support personnel watched the fat ovoid of their DropShip huff and puff it’s way back towards the heavens. This was it. They were committed now. Or they should be committed anyway…but I think you know what I mean. In any event, the gathered mercenaries were now on their own and facing an entrenched enemy that was equipped with combat vehicles and a few BattleMechs of unknown type.
With the coat tails of his long officer’s jacket stirring heroically in the breeze, Colonel PaleRider surveyed his forces. He’d seen worse units in his day. He was a little pressed to remember exactly when; but he was sure he’d seen a worse outfit or two somewhere along the line. Of course with his hair covering one eye and half his face in the classic heroic mecha pilot cut that was in vogue these days he couldn’t see much of anything really. He made a mental note to find a sweatband to keep his hair out of his face for when he was piloting. He could see that his Executive Officer had some sort of observant comment he wanted to privately share with him. PaleRider turned to one side and leaned over towards Major WolfCross.
“We are so hosed,” whispered WolfCross.
The Colonel just sighed and gave him a questioning look.
“What?” demanded WolfCross. “I ain’t got any bright ideas. All I know is that there’s gotta be a better way to make a living.”
Majors MaddMaxx, Akula, and Billybones all nodded sagely at the invocation of the Brigade’s motto.
“Anyone got any ideas about attacking the city?” asked PaleRider of his forces.
“Sir!,” shouted Khan Stormhawk of Charlie Division: Clan Screaming Ewok, “We could mass our forces and charge the main gate in true Clan fashion!” As low chuckling swept the clearing the Khan cleared his throat. “Well, we could waddle towards the gate at best speed anyway,” he amended.
“We’d get slaughtered,” observed Major WolfCross. “Their large laser and missile turrets would pick us apart before we ever made it to the gate.”
“We could walk across the bay floor and come up behind them,” suggested Otter of the Remote Enemy Targeting And Rapid Deployment Squad.
“Not likely,” sighed Akula. “There’s a nasty reef ringing the bay’s mouth and a line of sea mines about 600 meters off shore. We’d never make it over the reef much less through the mine field.”
“Drop from the DropShip right into the middle of the city?” guessed MechWarrior Mumbles, a fellow RETARD with Otter.
“Captain Yellow-bottom doesn’t want to risk their air defense with his precious DropShip,” spat WolfCross. “No combat drops.”
“I think….I think I have an idea Sir,” offered Lieutenant Dave.
Colonel PR nodded at him to continue.
“Well Sirs, we have a couple extra ‘Mechs here with us even after belching out that six-pack like we did. One of them is a spare Quad. Maybe we could put it on a flatbed and roll it up to the gate as a present for the Warlord. Then while his forces are occupied looking at it, we pounce.”
“Now jist howz ya figger we’uns goona pounce on dem right quick like?” Billybones wanted to know.
Dave frowned to himself as he ran the Major’s words through his mind twice to pick out their meaning.
“Oh. You’re asking how will we pull off a quick attack. Well, I’m kinda figuring that the LAMs could fly in while the rest of you get fired in by the DUD. There’s an isthmus on the north side where I can shoot you guys almost directly at one of the city beaches. I’ll drop you past the reef and at a low angle so you’ll skip across the water over the mines then sink down on the other side. We can get you all on the beachhead while they’re looking at the Quad Urbie across town. Heck, if we hide our Urbiemental Star in the Trojan Quad then when the bad guys take off to deal with the Urbie assault the Urbiementals can sneak out and damage communications or power grids or something.”
The assorted warriors exchanged surprised glances. That actually sounded almost like a workable plan.
“Hey, that’s pretty original,” enthused Major Bravo6 of Bravo’s Beer Cans.
“Not really,” admitted the Lieutenant. “Haven’t any of you ever heard of the Iliad?”
“I have Loremaster,” exclaimed Absimiliard. “I saw a historical holodoc of the story as a cub. It was an ingenious but somewhat dishonorable ploy used by an ancient English king against the French defenders of a castle. Although in their case I believe they built a giant bunny of wood. I still think they could have just let Sir Lancelot storm the castle. But tell me Lieutenant Loremaster- where will we get a catapult large enough to fling a quad Urbie over their gate?”
“Ahhh…right Star Commander,” breathed Dave. He had no idea what movie the Clan Elemental had seen but he didn’t see much point in nit-picking with the big bruiser. “I think we’ll just skip the catapult part this time and hope they pick up their present and drag it inside the gate on their own.” Hopefully, thought Dave, no one in Troy had ever bothered to research the ancient history of their namesake city.
The huge Star Commander merely shrugged. As long as he got to bash some heads together fairly soon it was all the same to him how he actually got inside the walls.
Island of No Man
Dave’s Urbie Dispenser
Lieutenant Dave sat at the main control counsel of the massive DUD and went over the information that was displayed on the various screens arrayed around him. The decoy Quad Urbie had been loaded on a truck and had a hastily constructed wooden disguise attached to it. The rest of the unit had been forced to reload the PUB Crawler for a short ride to the firing point Dave had chosen as the collected UrbanMechs were far too slow to have waddled there under their own power and arrived with enough time to attack today. They had finishing offloading recently and the DropShip had lifted for the safety of orbit once again. Dave saw that all of his RETARD units had gathered nearby while the other units such as Bravo’s Beer Cans were forming up as well. The high point next to the ocean would serve two purposes. Dave would have just enough angle to drop the PUBies into the bay and the cliff was high enough that the UrbieLAMs could fly off the edge in walker mode then convert to full AeroMech mode before hitting the water. It had been discovered during testing that Land Air ‘Mechs couldn’t sustain enough airspeed to finish the conversion process without a good buffer in altitude and couldn’t generate enough thrust to gain altitude from the half-‘Mech / half-AeroMech mode. Thus they needed either an airfield to launch from or a big drop off to fall from to reach full air mode.
He heard the hatch open behind him but didn’t pay much attention as he assumed it was just one of his crewman once again.
“There’s no donuts right now. We’re at battle stations, get back to your post,” he said without even bothering to look who it was.
“Gladly, if you’d care to tell me where communications is,” replied a sultry voice.
It was the kind of voice that demanded immediate attention, and Ms. Peel got it from the artillery officer as Dave spun his seat to look at her in surprise.
“Ms. Peel? I though you lifted with the PUB Crawler for orbit. What are you doing here?”
“This is the place I can best help you guys from,” she explained. “Overall you’re probably the lamest mercenary command this side of Bullard’s Armored Cavalry but you’re my lame brains and I seem to have taken a liking to you bozos. Besides, you guys just strapped my Absimiliard inside a Urbie and shipped him off to the main gates. He’ll need all the help he can get.”
Dave winced. Bullard’s Cavalry was rated D- by the Dragoons. Mercifully the PUB was a secret unit that was not registered on Outreach.
“What about the MacroSoft guy that’s supposed to be running the battle for us? Although I did notice he failed to show at the meetings.”
“Him? He’s long gone. Shrike and Perrin are planning on playing MechCommander from the DropShip with their voices disguised.”
Dave winced again. “No offence because I know they’re your direct bosses and all…but is that wise? They’re decent administrators and designers but I don’t think they have much experience directing battles.”
“None taken,” she replied with a smile that brightening the dreary command cabin like a PPC flash. “That’s why I’ve rigged a playback loop from our sim sessions when we were going over attack plans during the trip here. Once I send the proper code they’ll just be playing an elaborate game with the computer while You, I and the Colonel run the actual battle.”
“Me?” croaked Dave. “I’m just the artillery officer.”
“You’re passably competent and have the closest thing to a mobile command center that the PUB owns. So you’re elected.” A wicked grin touched her lips as she finished her reply. “Besides, you’re a qualified MechWarrior that has managed to duck out from piloting an Urbie in order to gain control of the unit’s most powerful –and comfortable – machine. That tells me you have at least half a brain.”
“I’m flattered…I guess,” sighed Dave as he saw that there would be no way to duck out of this new responsibility. “Welcome aboard then Ms. Peel. You can tie into all our communications gear from that chair right over there.”
On The PUB Crawler
Lifting off after having redeployed the PUB.
Somewhat Later On The Day of the Big Battle
Perrin was raiding the refrigerator for something to drink while Shrike was humming to himself and tapping away at the keyboard while setting up the TechCommander Platinum software. He’d been rather taken aback by the clever and audacious plan the PUB MechWarriors had come up with for the assault. He wasn’t used to creative ideas passing upwards from the ranks unless it had something to do with parties or R&R. In fact, the more Shrike played with the software the more convinced he became of how easily they should be able to take the city. In fact, the software seemed to have the ability to affect what enemy forces were allowed to come into use. Plus, there seemed to be a direct over-ride circuit to seize control of friendly ‘Mechs and make them do exactly what you wanted them to do. With just a little hacking here and there he should be able to ….
“Hey, what are you doing!” demanded Perrin from just over his shoulder.
“Uh, nothing,” replied Shrike with a jerk. “I was just changing a few things to affect the enemy units and make our own Urbies respond better to our orders.”
Perrin read the screen prompts closely. “Dang it Shrike, you’re messing with the source code. You know that neither one of us is a software engineer. You’re going to mess something up like that time you tried to reprogram the fully automated UrbanMech construction line.”
“I am not,” retorted Shrike. “And that factory explosion had nothing to do with my improvements.”
“AC-10 ammo got routed to the spot wielders that normally attach the armor,” countered Perrin.
“My point exactly. It was a problem with the final prep system that prepared the Urbies for sale, not the actual construction part I was improving. Besides, it probably didn’t help that you had hacked into their computers to ‘borrow’ design data. You probably screwed up the memory buffers or something.”
Perrin was about to offer a scathing reply when an eerily calm voice spoke up behind the two of them.
“I have sensed a disturbance in the Source.”
The co-administrators turned in surprise to find Major WolfCross standing behind them.
“Ummm, I was just making a few minor adjustments for the MacroSoft rep,” fibbed Shrike as the Hackmaster robbed MechWarrior stared accusingly at them.
“You dabble with things you do not understand,” growled WolfCross. “The Source drives all. It grants great power, but with it’s design comes great responsibility.” WolfCross made a waving motion with his hand to indicate that Shrike and Perrin should stand aside from the keyboard. Mesmerized, they hastily complied.
WolfCross approached the screen and laid his fingers gently upon the keyboard. Yes, these fools had been about to do something unhappy. “You flirt with the dark side of the Source. Once one downstreams that cyber-path it is difficult to return. A complete memory wipe is often the final result.”
“Yes HackMaster,” said Perrin. A dark look from WolfCross caused him to hastily amend his reply to “Major” rather than “HackMaster”. He’d forgotten the WolfCross hated to be called a HackMaster.
As WolfCross entered commands and scrolled through the various information screens at blinding speed he realized that others beside Shrike had been manipulating the Source. He would have to look into that later. Some of the changes he approved of and left be. Others he deleted, then summoning his ability to touch the Source in ways most mortals could not, he made a few ‘improvements’ of his own. Then he locked the Source off from casual intrusion by the unwashed masses to keep Shrike from messing with it again.
“There, I have finished,” announced WolfCross. “I suggest that you do not attempt to touch the Source again without the proper training. The results could be …. dangerous.”
Shrike and Perrin watched with widening eyes as the Major reached for the long silver cylinder that hung from his waist belt. He pulled it free and righted it, punching a stud on the bottom that caused a hum to start. The two administrators took an involuntary step back.
“What?” snapped WolfCross in irritation at their startled looks. The top of his drinking flask automatically popped off once the internal heaters finished quick heating his coffee. “You got a problem with a guy having a quick cup of joe?”
“No, no..not at all Hack…uh, Major,” stammered Perrin.
“It’s just that we thought…well, never mind. Thanks for the help,” added Shrike.
The Major got up and headed over to the fridge to see if there was anything good to eat before returning to the field of battle. Perrin and Shrike eagerly returned to the screen to see what changes the HackMaster might have made. They didn’t see anything different at first glance.
“Hey Major,” started Perrin as he turned towards the fridge. But WolfCross was gone. “How’d he get out so fast?” asked Perrin.
“A better question is how did he get in here at all,” replied a startled Shrike. “According to these readiness displays, the Major is sitting in his UM-Q-R99-LAM UberUrbie down on the surface.”
A strange chill ran up Perrin’s spine. “Uh…how about we just never mention his little visit again and stay away from messing with source code from now on?”
“That works for me,” agreed an equally spooked Shrike.
Island of No Man
City of Troy Main Gates
Gatekeeper Monsa was taking his customary afternoon siesta nap under a tarp at the gun battery mounted over the main gate to the city. The afternoon breeze put just the right touch on the lazy tropical heat to induce a great snooze. The City of Troy had been a tourist stop specializing in local art sales for many, many years until the fighting had finally driven the touristas away. In many ways Monsa preferred the relative quiet that had followed the departure of the vacationers. Except for the occasional week here and there when people shot at you, things were much less hectic overall and he got more naps in than he had in the past. Thus it was with noticeable annoyance that he creaked open one eye to take in the excited conscript gate guard that was currently yammering in his ear.
“Ohh-kay,” he drawled out. “So you say there’s a ten meter metal horse on a truck rolling up to the city huh? Alright amigo, I’ll come take a look. But your butt’s gonna be in a sling if this is a wasted trip.”
After moving to place he could look off the wall from, Monsa was inclined to agree with his low level flunky. There was indeed a flatbed ore carrier headed towards them with some sort of four legged giant construction upon it. Although the crude wooden “head” sticking out of it was out of place with the rest of the thing. If the Gatekeeper didn’t know better he’d almost swear that the thing had legs made from UrbanMechs. Well, they did have a used Urbie dealer in town. Maybe this was something related to Yi Sheng Liao’s Used Urbie Depot and Vehicle Scrap Yard.
“Hold off blasting it,” he ordered into his walkie-talkie unit as the truck drew nearer. Once the thing was up close Monsa could see that it was indeed some sort of modern art construct made mostly from UrbanMech parts. Somebody had spray painted congratulatory messages to El Chefe, the new WarLord controlling the city, all over it. It also sported a few rather festive pinwheels and some purple and yellow neon light tracks that sent colored light blips chasing along their paths.
“Well, what do you think?” Asked the lackey.
“Because of the moving
lights and the fact it’s on a moving truck I think it might more rightly be
called ‘performance’ art rather than ‘modern constrictionist’. Either way
though, I guess I better call it in. You know how the Boss likes to make all
the decisions possible.”
A few moments later Monsa had his boss, the WarLord El Chefe, on the line.
“No, sensors show it’s not active El Grande Presidente Major de Todos. I think it’s performance art. Hard to tell though. Might be Neo-Post-Modern Industrial.”
There was a pause as he listened to El Chefe.
“Yes Sir, it’s true. There are progressive populist saying about yourself written upon it…….Yes, in really, really big letters……what? You think we should have the troops come view it?……No, no…….no, I didn’t mean anything like that at all Your Excellency. But I was just thinking that maybe bringing it inside the gates isn’t such a great idea considering the historical…….um, no El Chefe…I mean “El Grande Presidente Major de Todos”. No there’s no giant catapult in sight nor English Knights so uh, yes, I can see that we should be perfectly safe if you say so Your Excellency. Indeed, it must be a gift for your Magnificence. I shall open the gates and call your forces for the viewing.”
The Gatekeeper gave the order and then watched idly as the truck slowly maneuvered under him, taking the UrbanMech contraption with it. With all the writing on it, maybe it was more rightly considered part of the new Non-Tradition Canvas movement decided Monsa. Heck, as far as Monsa was concerned anything was better than those damn diving whale and frolicking dolphin prints and paintings Carver artists had been selling to tourists for over 300 years. That wooden headpiece thing showed some rather poor workmanship however.
Inside the cold fusion chamber of the Quad UrbanMech, an armored Absimiliard waited in grim silence with his hand picked team of cracked Urbiementals. Well, actually they represented his entire pool of potential recruits. Each had been chosen for their ability to come pretty darn close to filling out the oversized powered armor. Sure, a little padding was required here and there for a tight fit, but they came close. He himself had no such problems, having been “born” of a Clan test tube and gene-designed into the bruising hulk that he was.
“Uhm Star Commander?” asked DL Authority through the comm link from just to Absimiliard’s right. “Now that they’ve shut us in here how are we supposed to get out?”
The Star Commander turned on his light beam and took a quick look about. Oddly enough, no one had thought to put any hatch controls on the inside of the plasma reaction chamber.
Island of No Man
The DUD Launcher near Troy.
Lieutenant Dave double checked his firing solution and paused his hand over the firing stud. The LAMs were in place to call in any required corrections and had radioed that the decoy Urbie had indeed made it inside the city gates. The first MechWarrior fired would face the greatest danger as the following pilots would have the benefit of adjustment observations called in by the LAMs. MechWarrior Sniper had volunteered for the role in his UM-R59 UrbieLite. The blue eyed, big footed warrior of the RETARDS had smiled and noted that sanity was a highly overrated quality when making the application. Dave had appreciated the sentiment, but there was really only one obvious choice for the first to be fired into the blue.
MechWarrior ToughGuy’s voice filtered through the speaker above Dave’s head.
“Are you sure you know what you’re doing you freaky…..”
The remainder of ToughGuy’s words were lost as the breath was pushed out of him as his Urbie was launched with a resounding PPUUMMBAA sound. Dave chuckled to himself as he readjusted his aiming parameters slightly even before any word on ToughGuy’s trajectory came back from the spotting LAMs. He didn’t want to give MechWarrior Sniper the same tumbling arrival that ToughGuy was in for.
The great revolving load chambers turned and Sniper’s Urbie was pushed into place as Major MaddMaxx called back TG’s tumbling splashdown.
“Sanity’s highly over rated…” started Sniper but again Dave hit the firing stud before the human ammunition’s statement was complete.
“I know. Especially yours,” muttered Dave to himself as Sniper’s happy scream of delight echoed over the comm system. Ms. Peel winced as she turned down the volume.
The chamber revolved another click and another Urbie was slammed into place.
“You ready Otter?” asked Dave.
“I like water,” replied the MechWarrior.
“I’ll take that as a yes,” snorted Dave as the mighty DUD belched forth another Urbie as a great PPUUMMBAA thunder rolled across the bluff.
“Three down, about 25 to go,” reported Ms. Peel.
Dave glanced over the ready list of the MechWarriors. Timberwolf, UrbanLegand, Pyro, Droppy Mczip, Snow Cheetah, J-Dog TeenWolf Bentley Hole, the list went on…who the heck gave these guys their call signs he wondered? The scary part was they probably picked them themselves.
“Let’s keep at it then. The UrbieMentals won’t be able to take the city alone.”
Island of No Man
City of Troy
The Battle (Finally, huh?)
Inside the Trojan LAM’s fusion chamber Absimiliard and ButWalrus – the other actual Elemental that had found his fate unexplainably tied to the PUB – both pounded on the exit door with all their armor enhanced strength. It had dented, but had refused to give way yet. They paused to gather their strength for another go when they heard someone banging on the other side with some sort of metal tool.
“Hey, is somebody in there?” The enhanced microphones of the armored suite’s picked up the muffled voice from outside the chamber.
“Just us dancing girls?” called DL Authority quickly as the two Clan Elementals looked at him in surprised.
“Dancing girls? Well hold on, I’ll get you right out,” called the voice.
The hatch popped open and the two Elementals dropped quickly through. Two started techs stared dumbfounded at the UrbieMental armored troopers. Not wishing to cause serious harm to mere technician caste members, Absimiliard elected to mildly slam the two together. They slumped to the ground unconscious as DL Authority and the other UrbieMentals clamored out.
“Dancing girls?” demanded Absimiliard of his subordinate warrior.
“Sure,” shrugged DL. “It’s an old trick, but it works all the time.”
The Star Commander frowned but Absimiliard had to admit it was hard to argue with results. “I will have to remember that. Let us move out for the communications center.”
Except for the pair of techs the immediate area seemed to be deserted as word had come about the waddling attackers that were churning up the beaches. Now that he could get onto the comms again, Absimiliard called in to discover that although the UrbanMechs had not yet engaged the enemy, clashes were expected soon in a number of locations. He also discovered that Peel and Lieutenant Dave seemed to be organizing the battle rather than the visiting MechCommander that had been forced upon them. That was fine with him. Absimiliard had always felt that fancy computer programs should not be relied upon to wage war. Such matters were much better undertaken with a close personal touch.
Once the commo center was taken, the enemy should find themselves disorganized and working without unity. Much like the PUB tended to operate. The UrbieMentals bounded down side alleys towards their target when Absimiliard motioned for his star to stop. In an open lot up ahead stood eight combat vehicles, lined up and waiting for their crews to report.
“Curses,” spat Absimiliard. “We do not have enough explosives to disable those vehicles.”
“Hey, what about over there?” asked ButWalrus.
The Star Commander looked over to where the other Elemental was pointing and saw the rear courtyard of an exotic animal pet shop. Many cages filled the area, including almost a dozen that appeared to hold Sea-Skunks. The native otter like animals emitted a foul stench when angered and were favored as guard animals by some of the planet’s rich and powerful. Absimiliard found himself grinning – a frightening sight when an Elemental performed the act. Within their power armor they would be immune to the strong musk of the small animals. They same couldn’t be said of the vehicle crews.
“You two, go start opening the entry hatches,” ordered the Star Commander. “The rest of you follow me and grab a cage.”
Absimiliard was not a sentimental man, but still he paused to fondly admire the handiwork of his unit once they were done. It was highly unlikely that anyone would be able to use those tanks for a long, long time. As an added bonus, they had been hit by the angered Sea-Skunks a number of times while emptying the cages into the tanks. The UrbieMentals had to reek horridly by now. All they should have to do now would be to gain entry to the communications center. Unless carrying personal air supplies, any defenders should be forced to flee before their mighty smell.
Perhaps there was something to these ‘alternative tactics’ that the PUB seemed to prefer over direct stand-up combat after all. Of course, cleaning their armor of the musk after the battle would be an odorous task. Luckily that was what the lower castes were around for. Or if worse came to worse, there was always MechWarrior ToughGuy for such chores.
In the center of the city, Alpha Lance of the Beer Cans was advancing toward their goal of securing the main power transformer station. Lieutenant Tarq had been surprised when their first contact with the defenders had ended with the enemy fleeing in fear from his mix of Urbie designs. Sure, they were only unarmored jeeps mounting light machine guns. But as far as Tarq knew it was the first time in modern history anyone other than unarmed civilians had actually fled from an UrbanMech force.
“The buildings are obscuring our sensor range,” Tarq called into his comm. “Major Billybones, can you see anything?”
As the unit’s sole scout, the Major had spent the past fifteen minutes walking up the city’s only short but steep hill to get a better view of the surrounding cityscape. Way off along the edge of the city he could see the unit’s LAMs making strafing attacks against the three anti-air turrets the city mounted. It seemed that the gunners in the armored turrets were having trouble hitting the flying Urbies as they kept over-leading leading their targets. The crews had never practices firing on such slow moving aerial targets.
“That’s a negative ya’ll,” replied the Major as he spat a plug of chew into the spittoon attached to one of his cockpit bulkheads. “Dem thar jeep fella’s headed right up that thar road ya’ll are on but I can’t see dem no more.”
“Roger Major. Alpha Lance, full speed after the jeeps,” decided Tarq.
He pushed his throttle all the way forward, then settled back in his seat and put his feet up on the main control board to wait out their advance. Even at a run, UrbanMechs didn’t exactly cover ground very quickly.
“Hey Sir, I think I’m getting a contact blip,” called in MechWarrior Helbender a few minutes later.
Tarq yawned and stretched. A glance at his screen showed the blip as well, although there was too much interference for a positive ID. It was something with a fusion reactor though. “Hey Major, can you get an eyeball on the tango to out north?”
Billybones moved his RollerUrbie right up to the edge of the hilltop. He thought he could see the top of something moving through the streets but couldn’t quite get the angle he needed. “Hold on a minit,” he called back as he unbuckled and headed for his exit hatch. Taking his trusty binoculars with him along with a commlink, he crawled up on top of his Urbie’s domed head to gain a few extra meters of height to look from.
“Sweet muther of hog slop!” exclaimed Billybones are he caught a good glimpse of the smiling skull head that road atop the BattleMech closing on the four UrbanMechs below him. “Atlas!” he yelled into the comlink.
The resulting panic in Alpha Lance was quite predictable. The lightly armored 30 ton ‘Mechs would be shredded like so much tinfoil if the 100 ton engine of death designated an Atlas got within firing range. And while the lumbering Atlas had a laughable top speed of only 54 kph, even the Quad UrbanMech Tarq piloted had a top speed even slower.
“Hide, hide, hide,” called out Tarq as he suited action to words.
Helbender and SLLAR77 bounced into each other as they both tried to squeeze into the same courtyard. For once J-Dog was happy to be piloting the much smaller UrbieLite as he backed into a tight alley and started the shutdown sequence hoping to avoid the Atlas’ sensors. Of course if those jeeps came back and found him his ‘Mech would be in great danger. But first problems first. Lt. Tarq found himself with precious little cover to place between him and the Atlas that would come cruising into the intersection in a few moments.
The pavement shuddered with each heavy step as the Atlas stepped into the intersection that it’s prey had taken refuge near. Up on the hill above a single UrbanMech was visible. The pilot turned his back on it with disdain, knowing it would take a minute or two at best for the slow machine to come down the hill after him. The single effective weapon carried by these “Urbies” was of little threat to even his rear armor if he only had to weather a few long range shots. In that time he knew he could decimate the cowering UrbanMechs that should soon be before him. Then he could run down the one on the hill.
Tarq gulped as the great beast of the Atlas turned the corner and seemed to stare down at him. “Everybody open fire!” yelled Targ as he brought his targeting crosshairs to center on the 100 ton monster before him. Rather than unleashing a fusillade of fire, the others in his lance just tried to burrow deeper, hoping the Atlas would move on after destroying their lance leader.
Billybones scrambled down the curved slope of his machine, rushing towards his cockpit. Sitting still on the hilltop he was a sitting duck when that Atlas finished shredding Alpha Lance. In his haste he banged his head into the mirror ball mounted in the low cockpit, tripped over the small fridge that was jammed into one corner and barked a shin against his spittoon. Falling forward, his hand accidentally hit the lever that engaged his experimental Urbie Wheels as he tumbled into the front of the cockpit. The special gears engaged, lowering the outrigged wheels attached to his ‘Mechs feet and engaging the suspension that forced them down to take up the UrbanMech’s weight. The Major’s weight hitting the cockpit glass was just enough to lean the machine forward and it started down the steep hill, gaining far more speed than an UrbanMech had ever been designed to carry. Completely out of control, Billybones careened down the hill with his feet sticking up towards the cockpit ceiling.
The Atlas pilot laughed as the odd four legged Urbie before him spat autocannon shells at him. They hit and blasted away some armor, but the Atlas had plenty left to spare. Tarq back peddled and fumbled for the ejection lever as he found himself looking down the barrel of a huge Deathgiver AC-20 class autocannon.
“Now you die,” taunted the Atlas pilot as he hit the alpha strike key. The Quad Urbie was driven backwards like the toy it was and blasted into numerous smaller parts as the huge BattleMech’s many weapon systems smashed through the Legoweave armor of the Urbie like it was plastic. Tarq’s feet had just cleared the top of his doomed quad when the rain of hot death tore through his cockpit.
Billybone’s RollerUrbie had gained a good amount of speed, but was effectively pilotless as the Major was bounced about the floor of his cockpit. A set of wheels clipped a parked truck and the entire Urbie pitched to one side and fell. Having a torso that was effectively shaped like a huge round garbage can the ‘Mech continued to roll towards the Atlas from behind. It struck the larger machine in the back of the knees just as it was getting pushed back the recoil of it’s own weapon’s fire. The huge BattleMech tipped over backwards and crashed to the ground. The combined weight of the two machines added to the Atlas’ falling momentum was too much for the pavement and both ‘Mechs crashed through the roadway and became wedged in the huge sewer canals below.
Tarq’s ejection seat floated down to land next to the great hole in the street as the rest of his lance powered up and came forward to peek. The Atlas was firmly jammed into place sideways. The Major’s Urbie had ended up upside down with it’s legs kicking futilely in the air. In the RollerUrbie’s upside down cockpit Billybones wiped spilled chaw spittle from his front as he lamented the spilled beer from his mini-fridge.
“Ah behta get credit for this har kill,” he called into his commlink.
Several blocks away the division command lance of the Beer Cans found their advance stalled. Enemy action wasn’t their difficulty, their own BattleMechs were. Bravo6 had landed and converted to BattleMech mode to rejoin and lead his lance of UrbanMechs. However Overlord100 had suffered a reactor shutdown shortly thereafter. Then to his great chagrin, Overlord100 had discovered that the ignition unit of his Urbie was faulty. The machine refused to fire back up.
“I think I saw some sort of BattleMech parts yard just before I landed,” Bravo6 told his command lance. “Dismount and we’ll go see what we can find.”
The four MechWarriors were flaberghasted to round a corner and discover the yard to be marked “Yi Sheng Liao’s Used Urbie Depot and Vehicle Scrap Yard.”
MechWarrior Snow Cheetah scratched at his head in confusion. “An entire yard full of Urbie junk? That doesn’t make sense.”
Bravo6 just shrugged, taking the bizarre twist in stride. PUB officers pretty much dealt with bizarre events week end and week out, this was little different. “I guess the Caps gotta unload them somehow,” he opined as the four MechWarriors entered the yard.
“Hey, we’re looking for an ignition module for an UM-R63,” called Bravo6 to a young man dressed in the Capellan robes common to retail manager positions.
Yi Sheng Liao turned at the call. “Ah yes, to seek is the first step towards finding.”
Black Lobo nodded in agreement. “Yeah, sure. Anyway we’re kinda in the middle of liberating your city. How about you just trot along and get the ignition module for us real fast OK?”
“Indeed,” smiled Yi Sheng. “A great task. And to liberate a city you must first free yourselves for action.”
“Got it, ancient Chinese proverb or something. Very nice,” sighed Bravo6. “Now, about that ignition?”
“Yes, the ignition,” agreed Yi Sheng. “An old Cappellan saying tells us that to fan the flames of war we must have the proper ignition.”
“Hey,” shouted Overlord100 from the doorway of a nearby UrbanMech he had climbed. “Looks like this one is set up and ready to go. Let’s just take this one. The keys are already in it.”
“Of course, one should always remain prepared,” nodded Yi Sheng sagely.
Bravo6 nodded towards an empty barrel of ‘Mech coolant then towards the used Urbie salesman. The other two Beer Canners nodded their understanding. The three of them suddenly pounced on Yi Sheng and lifted them above their heads as they made their way towards the barrel.
“Manhandling your host is not the best foot forward in a business deal,” shouted the struggling Yi Sheng.
“Whatever,” grunted Black Lobo as they pushed the local down into the huge barrel and slapped the lid on.
Bravo6 made sure that the pour spout and breather vent were open so Yo Sheng wouldn’t suffocate until they got back to let him out. “Look, we have to go now. Just send a bill for the Urbie to Pale Rider’s UberUrbie Brigade all right?”
As the three men walked away Yi Sheng sighed to himself. He knew he shouldn’t have given up MechWarrioring for business. He just didn’t have the right sense of timing sales. “To complete a transaction you must present an opening bid,” he quoted to himself sadly as he heard one of his UrbanMechs thrum into life.
In the DUD Dave had been listening to the reports from the LAMs and trying to maneuver the Waddling Cans of Doom lance into position to support an attack on the Governor’s Mansion. As MechWarrior ToughGuy wasn’t being very cooperative after his tumbling skip across the water to land “face first” in the beach there were additional difficulties.
“Alpha Lance of Bravo division ran into an Atlas,” Ms. Peel reported from her position at the comm station.
“Oh my God,” breathed Dave. “The other side wasn’t supposed to have any ‘Mechs. How many of our guys did we lose and where’s that Atlas now?”
“It seems,” supplied Peel as she showed the first surprise Dave had even seen on her face, “that we only lost two UrbanMechs and that the Atlas has been disabled.”
“Way,” affirmed Peel. “Both pilots report they are fine, although Lieutenant Tarq and Major Billybones are now on foot. Bravo’s command lance suffered technical problems but report they are on the advance again. Star Commander Absimiliard reports that they have cleared the communications center and are still doing very good on ammo. He wants a new target. But Droopy Mczip from your RETARDS is on comm five. They’re pinned down by heavy enemy fire and are requesting support. Charlie Division, the Screaming Ewoks Clan, reports they have successfully captured their objective with minimal opposition and want a new target as well.”
Dave looked at his map of the city with it’s markers for last known PUB and enemy positions. “OK, where’s the Ewoks and the RETARDS right now?”
“Ewoks at grid G17, RETARDS around E12, and F11.”
He plotted the points and frowned. “Wait a minute. The Ewoks are at the wrong objective. The only building of note around G17 is the brewery.” Peel shot him a look that asked him what he had expected. “All right, I should have saw that one coming when we gave them orders to secure the city’s drinking supply. Send the Stop,Drop and Roll anti-elemental lance of Shayne, Justin, Pyro and Pointman over to hold the brewery and send the Ewoks toward the RETARDS. I’ll pick up comm five.”
“This is Droopy, is anyone listening?”
“Sorry to put you on hold Droop. There’s a lot going on at the moment. What’s your sit rep?”
“There’s about four companies of the Island Warlords Youth Movement blocking our forward progress. They’re heavily armed with backpack supersoakers and large bore Nerf weapons. We’re not having any luck hitting them or scaring them off.”
“Any losses to report?”
“No, their Nerf guns aren’t powerful enough to breach our armor but they have scored a few knockdowns on the UrbieLites. Their flaming tennis ball launcher hasn’t scored a hit yet but might prove more dangerous.”
“OK, hold where you are RETARDS,” ordered Dave. “We’re routing help your way.”
“A pack of pre-teens is attacking the RETARDS?” asked Peel.
“Seems like it,” sighed Dave. “And kids can be a real handful at that age with puberty just coming on and everything.”
“Well you can’t just mow them down with autocannon fire,” she declared.
“True. They’re small fast targets that are hard to hit,” lamented the Lieutenant.
“That’s not what I meant,” Peel growled angrily.
“Huh. Oh! I get your meaning. Well, we can try to direct our ‘Mechs around the Youth squads but if the continue to press the attack someone will get accidentally stepped on sooner or later.”
“Hey, wait a minute,” exclaimed Ms. Peel. “Isn’t that Brian Spears and the Girlz from the Hood teen band really hot in the Chaos March at the moment?”
Dave shrugged. “Yeah. Screaming sold out crowds at all their concerts, platinum holovid sales, etc. etc. Why?”
“Because I just came up with a plan. I’ll handle the RETARDS and the Youth squads. You see about organizing a final push on the forces defending the Warlord in the mansion.”
She really wasn’t supposed to be giving him orders, but on the other hand she had a plan for the plight of the RETARDS which was more than he could claim.
Ms. Peel linked to the private data files on board the PUB DropShip and downloaded several music files then contacted Absimiliard and explained her plan to him.
“This is more ‘alternative tactics’, quiaff?” he asked dubiously.
“Aff you big lunk. Do it for me, all right?”
“Aff, I will do as you ask. I do not understand, but I will comply.”
It had taken a good amount of time to travel the distances involved in crossing the small city, but at last a significant part of the PUB had surrounded the Governor’s Mansion. Twelve combat vehicles of various sizes, including four Hetzers, were arrayed to defend the Warlord from the invading mercenaries. None of the surrounding PUBies were too eager to try their luck against the AC-20s the Hetzer’s carried.
“It looks like we’ve got most of this rolled up,” radioed Colonel Pale Rider from the air in his LAM. “What do you have at the mansion Akula?”
Akula and MaddMaxx had linked with Hack Lance and the Ewok Clansmen to ring the mansion. “They’ve got twelve armored units in the main courtyard. Several of them are mounting heavy firepower. If we wait for the rest of the unit to break free we can take them, but you can expect several more busted up Urbies in the process.”
“I’d rather end this as quick as possible and limit damage to the city,” replied Pale Rider. “Besides, I’m running out of av-gas. Stand by to provide support, I’m going in.”
Pale Rider’s polka dotted Urbie LAM rolled over to one side and dipped it’s wing as it shed altitude and dived on the courtyard. As it dropped it fired off three quick bursts from it’s autocannon before converting to walker mode with just enough thrust and wing lift left to come out of the dive and land lightly on it’s feet. Each shot had knocked the turret out of commission of a different tank. As the remainder of the armored vehicles tried to hit the Colonel’s ‘Mech he turned it about in a slow ballet of destruction as he fired burst after burst, disabling a different target each time. The last vehicle fell silent as Pale Rider completed a spin and raised his smoking autocannon barrel up to the sky in a jaunty salute before the setting sun.
“Am I seeing things or did the Colonel just take out twelve tanks with only ten rounds of ammunition on board?” Star Captain Stormhawk of the Screaming Ewoks asked over the open comms.
“The Source gives you power over weak designs,” replied WolfCross enigmatically.
“Can we return to the brewery now?” DaishiGuy, the Ewok’s Brewmaster, wanted to know.
Star Commander Absimiliard bounded towards the sports arena amazed as how fast these Warlord Youths were able to run. As Communications Tech Peel had predicted, they had all started following him once he started broadcasting a message about a free concert in combination with the music clips she had provided. At first he had let the recordings play into his suit out of curiosity but had quickly turned the foul freebirth mewings off. If he ever needed proof of the superiority of Clan ways, this insipid noise was it. Still, it was doing the job in luring in the freebirth children just like what Peel had called a “Piped Pier” – whatever that was. Crazy freebirth notions.
The rest of his unit had sealed most of the exits. He bounded inside then jumped up to an upper seating area while the armed children raced in. Then he cut the music and signaled his star to close the remaining open doors. It was with mild sadness that he forced open a breach near the top of the arena then jetted down to ground level. These alternative tactics seemed to get the job done but he longed wistfully for a straightforward foe he could shoot at and pound in the time honored Clan traditions of warfare. Perhaps next time he sighed. >From the comm chatter this ‘battle’ seemed to be just about wrapped up. Maybe there was still time to go crush some infantry inside the mansion if he hurried.
Island of No Man
A Really Big Hill
Dave looked down once again at the new Major bars as they reflected the firelight from his collar. As a reward for coming up with the Trojan LAM plan and for stepping in to help coordinate the battle after “technical difficulties” had taken the TechCommander software off line, Colonel Pale Rider has ordered his promotion and added Dave to the command staff. The co-administrators had threatened to block the move on payroll grounds, but Dave suspected that the real reason was Perrin and Shrike somehow blamed him for the “error” that had caused them spend the entire battle directing a “fantasy league” rather being involved in the real thing. Ms. Peel had solved that issue easily enough by proving the source of the Brian Spears music and a little video clip taken at an office party that had been thrown during a holiday back when the first Urbie LAM was under development. In exchange for losing the information Dave had gotten from Ms. Peel, Shrike and Perrin agreed to immediately post his promotion.
Major Dave had been invited to the special Command Staff ‘debriefing’ to be held on Fantasy Island, but had elected instead to join his adopted Clan in their post battle ceremony and celebration. At the moment, the Ewok Clansmen were dancing around the fire singing. As there was no music, they were not all singing the same song, and there was no agreement on either dance step or circling direction it was quite a spectacle. The newly appointed Loremaster suspected that the Khan was making some of the traditions up on the spot due to a lack of many actual battles for the Screaming Ewoks to celebrate but had no intention on calling Khan Stormhawk on the issue. After all, it was Ewok tradition that the Khan gets to make up new traditions. Circular logic perhaps, but one shouldn’t expect too much in the logic department from either a PUB warrior or an Ewok. And these people were both.
“Set you up again?” asked Daishiguy, the Clan Brewmaster from behind the makeshift bar the Major was leaning on.
“No thanks, I’m already seeing weird floating lights. I better dial it down a bit if I want to still be awake to record this celebration for future Ewoks.”
Daishiguy glanced out the direction the Loremaster had nodded towards.
“Either we’re both looped or there really are floating lights out there.”
Dave peered into the darkness again. He thought he could hear the faint sound of an internal combustion engine. Vehicle lights he realized. The primary headlamps plus upper lights on a light bar from a vehicle bouncing across the countryside towards them. That seemed a bit odd to the Loremaster/Major as all the other PUB members had either wandered off to party or were already sleeping it off in their cockpits, under trees, or where ever they happened to be when the passed out. Khan Stormhawk and Absimiliard happened to choose that moment to arrive at the bar for another round. It was a rather fortuitous event – but Dave knew that the story was drawing to a close so a few extremely unusual events were due about now anyway.
“My brethren,” Dave noted to them. “Look to the east. A vehicle approaches at high speed.”
“Looks like a modified Swiftwind,” noted the Khan as it got closer. “We did not bring any of them, Quiaff?”
“Aff, this might be trouble Khan,” agreed Absimiliard as he reached for his sheathed shoehorn.
The dunebuggy like vehicle bounced to a stop before the men with a shower of gravel and rocks. Then to everyone’s surprise – except Dave who was expecting the unexpected - Ms. Peel jumped out from behind the driver’s wheel.
“What a stroke of luck to find you three together. We need to get back to the DUD right away. The DropShip is on the line and they’re wetting their pants big time.”
The three men exchanged curious glances. “Because they accidentally ejected all the latrines during our arrival?” Stormhawk asked.
“No, I mean they’re panicky. Scared. Upset. Get the picture? Now get in the car and let’s roll! I’ll explain on the way.”
Peel hopped back in the driver’s seat as the three warriors clamored aboard the vehicle. Soon they were racing pell-mell across the countryside leaving the bonfire of the Ewoks behind as they closed on the hulking Urbie Dispencer.
“So that’s the story,” Peel was yelling over the noise of the open cockpit car, “there’s some sort of Clan WarShip that has slipped into orbit. It’s heading this way and the only contact they’ve made with anyone is to demand to speak to the Screaming Ewok’s Khan. Friends of yours Stormhawk?”
“I guess we will soon find out,” he answered. Although he had once been a star fighter pilot, those days were long behind him. In truth he had no idea who might have come calling. Well, there was that little spat with the Wolves over the Kerensky bloodname – but he thought he had settled that. Besides, what would Wolves be doing at Carver? Might as well go hole hog and claim the lost Minnesota Tribe had stopped by for a visit.
Moments later they were all inside the main command cabin of the DUD as the Major punched in access codes and aligned the receiver dishes to pick up the WarShip’s repeating signal. After a few moments he found the correct channel and pointed to Stormhawk to indicate that the Ewok Khan was live.
“Hear me for I speak,” announced the other. “It is I, Khan of the Screaming Ewoks. Who seeks me. Show yourself!”
Peel noticed that a vid-feed was now being sent and punched up the wall screen. Stormhawk hissed in anger as several figures from the bridge of the WarShip came into focus on the screen. Each wore black with a large silver number designation upon their uniform front. It seemed that their names were written not across the breast pocket but on their backs along their shoulders. While most wore open faced helmets with plastic bars running across the front one wore an elaborate full helm of black with gray eye ports and some sort of voice amplifier built into it. With his stylish black cape and the chest armor full of blinking lights he appeared to be large and in charge up there.
“Stormhawk,” he wheezed as he brought up a gloved hand and squeezed it slowly into a tight fist, “I have you at last. You and your revolting friends will not escape me this time.”
The Ewok Khan stood tall as he planted his hands on his hips. “Darth Raider. I see you survived our last encounter after all. What brings your pitiful wanna-be Clan imitating tribal loonies to darken my doorstep.”
“You mock the Lost Oakland Tribe for the last time. We have come to destroy you. This time vengeance will be ours and vengeance is …”
“I know, I know,” sighed Stormhawk as he cut the other Khan off. “It is a dish best served cold. Whatever that means. I will gather my Ewoks and meet you on the field of your choice Darth. What is your batchall?”
“There will be no batchall fool,” spat Raider. Luckily for his crew the full faceplate he wore caught the spittle rather than letting it float about the bridge but Darth was in for a nasty clean up job later. “Revenge is best served hot! As in orbital bombardment fireworks. There will be none of your tricks this time. We will kill all of your Clan and your little PUB too!”
The screen faded to black as Darth laughed maniacally.
“Come back here Khan,” demanded Stormhawk. “KHAN !” he yelled again and the sound echoed fruitlessly throughout the cabin and rang out across the still night.
“Cool sound effect,” noted Ms. Peel. “How’d you do that.”
“That is not important now,” snapped Stormhawk. “We must come up with a plan before they are in position over us and start raining death down upon our heads.”
“What about the Urbie LAMs?” asked Absimiliard. “They could be used to attack the WarShip”
“No good,” sighed Dave. “They were all used to ferry personnel to Fantasy Island for the debriefing at that hotel. What was it called?”
“Tail Hook,” supplied Peel.
“Yeah, that was it. Tail Hook,” agreed the Major.
“The Oakland Tribe ship is only a Corsair. Perhaps our Urbie DropShip could engage it.”
“I wouldn’t count on that Khan,” sighed Ms. Peel. “It looks like Captain Blood ‘n Guts Methusela is doing his best to get out of the way if I’m reading that scanner right.”
Absimiliard came nearer and glanced at the display. “You fixed the orbital tracking gear I see,” he noted to Major Dave.
“Yeah, I ‘borrowed’ some equipment off the DropShip on the way here and with Ms. Peel’s help crewman Lisa and I repaired the system,” he replied absently. Then his head snapped up as his eyes became intent.
“Did you just ingest a pharmaceutical substance,” demanded Stormhawk suspiciously.
“No, even better. I just had an idea.”
“Did it hurt,” asked Ms. Peel. As the three men shot her a dirty look she held up her open palms to indicate peace. “All right, sorry, sorry. I’ve gotten too used to working around Shrike and Perrin.”
“Look,” explained the Major, “ this thing was originally designed to be a mobile orbital defense gun. We haven’t told anybody because if ComStar, Blake, or any of the Great Houses ever realized that we have an actual working piece of dangerous lostech in the PUB then they’d all be out to take it from us. We grab an Urbie, lock on their ship, and blast it before it blasts us. They’ve already thrown honorable combat out the window.”
“Will an UrbanMech strike do sufficient damage?” queried the Khan.
“Not without a lot of luck,” admitted Dave.
“Well, if it exploded, that would do much more damage right?” asked the shapely com-tech.
“It would,” agreed Absimiliard. “Khan, I am not a MechWarrior but I volunteer to ‘pilot’ this shot. I will initiate self destruction and damage their vessel.”
“Oh no you won’t” began Peel hotly.
“He can’t,” broke in the Major. “We’ll need him here. The equipment on this buggy is hundreds of years old. To actually get enough current for a full orbital shot the trans-modular dohicky-gizmo that passes the power must be manually revolved at high speed. In short, we need the strongest guy we have to crank the hell of that handle over there.”
“The one marked ‘Do not crank. Ever. And we Really, Really, mean it’”? asked Absimiliard.
“That’s the one,” nodded Dave. “And I’ll need Ms. Peel to drive – if she thinks she can….”
“I can do anything you can do better,” she retorted saucily.
Absimiliard smiled and nodded his agreement but otherwise kept his thoughts to himself. He could elaborate, but they already had problems with a Raider WarShip. They didn’t need the BattleTech Censors coming down on their heads too.
“And Khan Stormhawk, I’ll need you to work the loading mechanism of the DUD,” finished Dave.
“Then who shall we send to combat our enemy? The rest of our Clan is several minutes away,” noted the Khan.
“It’s not just the Ewoks at risk Stormhawk. It’s the entire Brigade. And though you are Khan of the Screaming Ewoks, I am the ranking PUB officer here and commander of this vehicle. We take whatever poor sod is closest to our present position, scoop him up, and launch him.”
“What about the exploding part?” Absimiliard asked.
“Well, I do have a few of those Stackpole Devices,” shrugged Ms. Peel. “That MacroSoft guy brought a bunch of them with him in a crate. I think he planned to rig your Urbies so that if you suffered an embarrassing loss he could blow your ‘Mechs so no one would be around to blame his software.”
“Why didn’t you warn us?” demanded Major Dave.
“I didn’t see much reason,” she smiled sweetly. “I confiscated all his toys then flushed him out of the ship with the escape pods first chance I got. Problem solved.”
“That’s my girl,” beamed Absimiliard with such affection for her cunning and effective actions that he let a contraction slip into his speech.
“Sounds like we have a plan then,” announced the Major. “Look, there’s an Urbie right over there walking around aimlessly in circles. Let’s go grab it and bag us a WarShip.”
The pilot of the UrbanMech refused to answer any hails and continued to waddle around at top speed but the slightly faster DUD had no problem scooping it up into one of the container spaces. Stormhawk hastily slapped the Stackpole Device onto the bottom of the ‘Mech before sealing the launch cocoon and working the manual lever that ratcheted the chambers around until the Urbie was loaded. Meanwhile Ms. Peel drove them up to the top of a large hill while the Major feverishly worked on the trajectory calculations. At Dave’s nod, Absimiliard put his strong arms to work on the crank. It moved slowly at first, then as the flywheel within came up to speed he worked the crank around faster and faster and faster. The “Shoot Now” indicator started moving up through the yellow band towards green.
Stormhawk returned to the control cabin as the Elemental worked the power crank. They spoke briefly, and ever attuned to his role of recording history Dave’s ears perked up as he caught a particularly good comment from Absimiliard. The Loremaster pulled the keyboard toward him and started a new text file.
Absimiliard said to his Clan Khan,
One man is nothing but one man-
Before I let that Darth beat us down
I’ll die with this crank shaft in my hand
I’ll die with this crank shaft in my hand
“LOREMASTER !” shouted Stormhawk. Dave’s attention snapped up from his verses to the Khan. Stormhawk was pointing at the master display above the Major. “Less writing, more shooting!”
Dave saw that the Shoot Now indicator was barely hovering into the green section of the bar. The great strain was evident upon Absimiliard – it was all the juice they were going to get. With a last quick check of his firing coordinates Dave flipped up the cheap plastic cover and mashed the large red button centered before him.
PUUUMMMBBBBAAAAA belched the mighty NOVA cannon then an earth trembling sonic crack followed as the fired UrbanMech passed the sound barrier. The huge DUD vehicle rocked on it’s suspension as it absorbed the massive recoil.
Absimiliard let go of the crank and sagged against the bulkhead.
“There’s nothing to do but wait now,” sighed Dave. “There aren’t any other Urbies close enough to go grab and fire before they can toast us. It’s all or nothing. One roll of the dice. Sudden death. Or last best hope for victory. The…”
“Loremaster,” interrupted Stormhawk. “Has anyone mentioned that you do tend to run on a bit at times?”
“No one except that grouch Methusela,” grumped Dave. A light started flashing on his control board. “And speaking of him, it looks like they’re on the comms. This is the DUD, go ahead PUB Crawler.”
“Major, this is Perrin. We caught their transmission. That WarShip is about to pummel you big time. Then I’m afraid we’re next. What’s the Rep Sit?”
“Uh, that’s ‘Sit Rep’ Perrin. And the situation report is that we’ve got it covered. What is your situation? Why couldn’t we raise you on the radio until now?”
“Because we had a little problem with the comm boards without Ms. Peel to help. It took Shrike and me a little bit of time to coax the good Captain out of his locked cabin to return to the bridge and help us with it. But that’s not important right now. What do you mean ‘you’ve got it covered’?”
“The crank actually worked ! We fired an Urbie at the WarShip. It should be striking any moment now.”
“What good is that going to do?” demanded Shrike from a second microphone.
“It’ll hit something important and disable them. That kind of stuff always happens to quickly finish off these things. We are the heroes after all,” explained Dave.
“Heroes?” asked Perrin and Shrike at the same time. The dubiousness was obvious in their voices.
“Well all right, the protagonists anyway,” admitted Dave. “Besides, just in case we rigged the Urbie to explode with a Stackpole Device.”
“Where’d you get one of those?” exclaimed Perrin. “They’re outlawed by the Ares Conventions.”
“Let’s just say you should be looking for a more trustworthy software vendor,” chimed in Ms. Peel.
“See, I told you that wasn’t a crate with a stack of poles in it,” they could all hear Perrin complaining to Shrike over the speakers.
“Hey Ya’ll,” cut in Captain Methusela. “Lookie. I done got the ole zoom-thing a’working.”
Peel activated the view screen in the DUD and they picked up the camera feed from the orbiting DropShip. It showed the small WarShip sailing along the curve of the atmosphere. A dark shape was hurtling towards it and suddenly the two small batteries of anti-fighter weapons of the WarShip opened up. They failed to hit the speeding Urbie however. It smashed into the ship near the bridge and exploded in a spectacular fireball. The small WarShip was pushed out of low orbit then it’s main enginesmis-fired for a moment sending it tumbling away end over end in uncontrolled flight.
A cheer went up in both the DUD and the DropShip as the Oakland WarShip spun away into the darkness.
“Hey, who’s Urbie was that anyway?” asked Shrike over all the cheering.
Dave looked to Stormhawk who shrugged.
“I’m not sure,” admitted the Screaming Ewok Khan. “He never said anything. I think the letters TG were stenciled on one foot though.”
“Oh my God,” breathed Perrin. “They killed ToughGuy!”
DropShip PUB Crawler
Orbit of Carver V
Major Dave, along with several other PUB officers, were making the rounds in the storage holds of the DropShip to make sure everything was secured before they started the journey towards the waiting JumpShip. They stopped in a hold that had been empty but was now filled with three Urbies that were not baring the PUB logo and a bunch of spare parts and coolant and such.
“Where’d this stuff come from?” Major Vereth asked. “Did we ransack a Capellan base or something?”
Major Akula snapped his fingers as he suddenly remembered something Perrin had mentioned to him.
“The Mayor of Troy gave us this stuff as a thank you for freeing him. It was all in a lot the city had wanted for years to turn into a skate park and tourist information center but some Cap family owned it and wouldn’t sell. After the fighting was over the owner guy was missing so the city seized his lot and gave us all this Urbie stuff.”
“Uh oh,” mumbled Major Bravo6 as he started looking closely at the various drums of coolant.
“Uh oh?” prompted the unit XO.
“I just remembered something I forgot about it. I think it’s this one. Give me hand will you guys?”
For many hours Yi Sheng had banged and banged on the inside of the barrel to no effect. Finally he had given in to exhaustion and the heat inside the confined space and fell asleep. The sounds of the PUB officers prying at the lid woke him and he blinked warily into the light that flooded his small prison when the top was popped free. A number of men unknown to him – all wearing the same uniforms of the men that had originally stuffed him the barrel - were peering back at him.
“Let’s get you out of there,” supplied Dave as he and two others reached out to assist Yi Sheng in climbing out of the coolant drum.
“What are you doing stowing away on out ship,” demanded WolfCross.
Yi Sheng looked about the cargo bay before answering. The look of the bay and the slight rumble he felt in the deck plates told him that he was indeed in a moving space ship. “What are you doing with all my inventory?” he replied testily.
“It’s our inventory, the city of Troy gave it to us,” retorted Akula.
“But it was not theirs to give. I have worked long and hard to try to build my family’s UrbanMech business since leaving the Warrior House. With the passing of my father this is all I have left. You cannot just take it all from me by stuffing me in a barrel and then stealing it all!”
WolfCross looked to Bravo6. “Did we really stuff him in the barrel and take his stuff?”
“Well, I sorta helped stuff him in the barrel. But my lance only took one Urbie. The city took the rest and gave it to you guys.”
“The thief of much has stolen in the same fashion as the thief of little,” observed Yi Sheng.
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” growled WolfCross.
“The act of truly listening begins with opening one’s ears,” retorted Yi Sheng.
“He kept babbling like that instead of giving us a straight answer,” snorted Bravo6. “That’s why we stuffed him in an empty drum for later.”
“An appealing solution,” noted WolfCross. “Maybe we should just stuff him back in there. That would solve our little dispute over ownership.”
“Hold on a moment,” interrupted Dave. “Did you say you were with one of the Cap Warrior Houses?”
“Indeed,” replied Yi Sheng as he stood up proudly. “I was a MechWarrior and am trained for battle armor.”
“And you are checked out in piloting UrbanMechs?” asked MaddMaxx. He had caught on to where Major Dave was going with his questions.
“Indeed. They are my specialty. They were my father’s life work.”
“Then how would you feel about joining the Inner Sphere’s finest outfit of entirely UrbanMechs and UrbieMental armor?” asked Major Dave.
“Not to mention ‘only’ unit of all Urbies,” coughed WolfCross. But Yi Sheng had not heard the XO.
“All UrbanMechs? And I could pilot again? I am not worthy of such an honor,” replied Yi Sheng as he lowered his head.
“Trust me kid, none of us are,” snorted WolfCross. “Welcome to Pale Rider’s UberUrbie Brigade. Now someone take him to the showers and get him cleaned up. He smells almost as bad as the UrbieMental armor did.
“Come with me. I’ll drop you off at the locker room,” invited Major Dave. “I’m sure you have an interesting tale to tell and I’d like to hear it.”
But even as Yi Sheng started into the serpentine story of how he had come to in the Chaos March on Carver V selling used Urbies, Major Dave found part of himself tuning out as his thought touched briefly upon the pilot that Yi Sheng would be replacing. MechWarrior ToughGuy, sacrificed to save the entire PUB. In an odd way Dave knew he would almost miss TG. Almost.
Island of No Man
Humming to himself as he walked up the gentle slope, the MechWarrior was in pretty darn good spirits this fine morning. Well, more like this fine afternoon he admitted to himself as he neared the top. Which was part of the reason he was in such fine spirits.
After the battle yesterday he’d been limping his ‘Mech towards the Clan Ewok camp to see what their celebration was like. But the god awful singing of the Clanners was worse than that Limp Bizkit group on the Ancient Hits of Terra music collection he’d bought for 2 C-bills at a rummage sale a few years ago. So he’d ambled off again, assuming that it shouldn’t be too hard to find a party among the strewn out PUB encampments.
That was when he had stumbled across Else and Tessa in the middle of a pasture where their farm utility vehicle had broken down. He’d dismounted his ‘Mech to see if he could lend a hand and in the course of getting the spare tire mounted for the lovely young ladies discovered that their family hailed from the same small town from the same planet he had grown up in. Thus pretty soon he was off with the girls to visit the family homestead, leaving his idling BattleMech in the middle of the field. After all, who in their right mind would try to steal an Urbie anyway?
That exact thought flashed though his mind again as the warrior crested the hill and realized that his mount was gone. Someone had swiped his UrbanMech during the night! His first feeling was one of relief. Maybe the PUB would finally run out of the damn things and he’d get something else to pilot. But then ToughGuy realized that those two tight wads Shrike and Perrin would probably try to take the machine out of his pay. It would take a very long time to pay off the cost of an UrbanMech – far longer than he planned to be trapped in the unit.
Forcing himself to remain calm, TG examined the area and realized two things from the marks in the dirt. One was that the cheap piece of junk must have accidentally kicked into gear as there was a circle in the grass where it had been moving around and around on autopilot. The second was that a large tracked vehicle had churned down the hill and run through the circle, then churned away again. While no one would accuse ToughGuy of being a JumpShip scientist, he was more than capable of reading this picture. The DUD must have trundled down here and scooped up his UrbanMech then carried it away.
The question was why?
A bad feeling started to settle into TG’s stomach as he turned and raced up the hill towards the Ewok camp. After only a quarter way up the hill his “racing” turned more into a fast walk, but with grim determination he pushed on at best speed. From the top he could see that they were gone but he wandered down into the remains of the camp anyway.
“Hello? Guys? Anyone?” called ToughGuy as he walked among the empty cans and food containers. “Oh come on…not again,” he sighed to himself.
TG had come to the place where the portable bar had been set up. It and the attached coolers and keg tapping equipment was gone. PUBers would never go to such lengths unless they were planning on a major move. As in off the planet. He’d been left behind once again.
“Damn stinking freaks,” he muttered to himself as he kicked at an empty. Now how the heck was he supposed to get off this crazy planet of islands and back to civilization. Back to where he piloted Urbies, and received crummy pay, and everyone was always trying to push off rotten jobs on him just because the loser freaks claimed he had a bad attitude, and….and…..
TG smiled to himself and started back up the hill, humming to himself once again. Maybe, if he was really, really lucky, they’d never realize he was gone. He still wondered what they had done with his UrbanMech though. That crazy DUD officer had probably gotten drunk and followed through with his threat to try to shoot it into orbit.
Shoot a ‘Mech into orbit from a giant cannon mounted on tracks. Yeah, like that could ever happen.
MechWarrior ToughGuy crested the hill and disappeared over the far side, leaving the abandoned PUB camp behind him.