The Battlecorps stories have to take a back seat for a couple of days, as I'm working on the Valiant RPG, as some extra writing has fallen into my lap, and I need to get that ASAP. But all three stories are closing in on 3,000 words each and I'm still finding the story for each one.
Now, Part 3 of Running from the Past:
Two kilometers northeast of LaCroix,
Cascade, New Colony Region
November 27th, 3065
Jägare smelled the smoke before he saw the town.
A early season blizzard had basically imprisoned him in his cabin for most of the past two weeks, and he was running low on a few things, including composure from two weeks of being cooped up in the cabin. The supplies weren’t at critical levels, but it was best to get them now, before heavier storms arrived. Cascades’s winters were usually brutal and hard, and this one had the earmarks of being even more so.
Besides, he wanted to talk to Andrea. He’d been thinking about it on and off since September. He was still hesitant to commit fully, in case the Confederation came looking for him. But after long reflection, he didn't feel that he was being fair to Andrea. It was time for a long serious talk. Maybe they could come to an understanding that both of them could live with.
The snow still blanketed the ground, but enough had melted to allow Jägare to saddle up just after dawn and go into LaCroix. And he had done so, leading the mule and made his way through the knee high snow. He wore a heavy fur coat, a thick woolen cap, a scarf across his lower face, and thermal gloves against the chilly morning.
But when he smelled the smoke, he knew something was wrong. The wind was blowing from the southeast, from the direction of LaCroix, and even with the scarf on, Jägare could recognize the smell of destruction and death. He pulled down the scarf and the smell raced through his nostrils, awakening old memories. He unslung his rifle and urged his horse and mule on.
It took another forty-five minutes to reach LaCroix, and a single look told Jägare that the town had been attacked. The communications tower next to the Marshal’s Station has been toppled and laid in a broken and twisted heap. Smoke billowed from a dozen structures, several of them torn open by heavy weapons fire. A couple of vehicles had been wreaked, and there were bodies strewn about. The street had been torn up by intense explosions. Jägare hissed to himself as he saw a fallen 'Mech near the road. The Marshal had been ripped apart by a lot of firepower, too much for a bunch of raiders on foot.
As he rode into town, he was aware that there were only a few people out and about. As he approached the Marshal’s Station, a figure came limping out of the damaged station.
“Ian,” Dunn croaked. His clothes were torn and stained with blood and smoke. Small cuts littered his face, his right arm was in a sling, and bandages were visible under his shirt. His eyes were red rimmed and his expression was a entanglement of exhaustion, sadness, fear and anger.
“What happened?” Jägare asked, as he slid off his horse.
“We got attacked,” the Deputy replied, his voice rough. “'Mechs, vehicles and men. Hit us about midnight. Took out the radio tower and the vid-phone exchange before we even knew they were there. Both my men are dead, and I don’t know how many others....” He inhaled slowly. “The kid tried to stop them with his Marshal, but he was outnumbered three to one and didn't stand a chance.”
“Is he dead?”
“No,” said another voice. Takezaki stepped out of the station. He walked stiffly, but seemed all right otherwise. “I ejected just before the machine gun ammo went.” He shook his head slowly. “The chute didn't open all the way. If it wasn't for the snow, I would have been paste.”
Dunn turned to Takezaki. “Doc said you should lie down, sir,” he said.
“He said the same thing to you,” the Marshal replied.
“Do you know which ‘Mechs the raiders used?” Jägare asked the marshal.
“Two lights and a heavy,” Takezaki said bitterly. “One of the lights was a Panther, the other a Raven. The heavy was a damn Warhammer.”
“You were an idiot to go up against all three,” Dunn growled.
“What was I suppose to do?” Takezaki snapped. “Sit there and let them attack?”
“Stop it!” Jägare said sharply. “You can access blame later. Any identification on the raiders?”
“I couldn't see much,” Dunn replied. “They had half-dozen men pinning me down in the station.”
“I did,” Takezaki said slowly. “Each of the ‘Mechs and vehicles had an emblem painted on it of a blood-red skull with a sword thrust through it sideways. ”
Jägare heard Dunn hiss something, then the deputy snarled. “It’s them.”
“The Brotherhood of the Bloody Skull.”
The Hunter remembered the conversation he’d had with Marshal Jackson a couple of months ago. “The slavers the Marshals mentioned a while back?”
“Yeah. The symbol is a match at any rate.”
“If they’re slavers, that’s means– ”
“They have our people.” Dunn’s expression shifted to one of fury. “Damn it!”
“Later,” Jägare snapped. “How long have they been gone?”
“About three hours or so,” the deputy responded.
“They can’t be too far away,” Takezaki said. “But we can’t go after them.”
“You can’t be serious!” Dunn said. “They must have fifty men, half a dozen armored vehicles and those ‘Mechs! You can’t take them all by yourself!”
“I’m not going to,” Jägare replied. “Andrea has a satellite phone at her place. She can –" He stopped as he saw the expression on their faces. “They took her?”
“It looks like they may have,” Dunn said slowly. “No one’s seen her since last night. Max is missing too.”
A shot of fear went through Jägare, but he suppressed it almost as soon as he felt it. Emotion wasn't going to help here. Even as he thought that, he felt himself slip back into the mindset of a Death Commando. “Does Marshal Jackson know?”
“Yeah,” Dunn said. “I sent Jake McCaley’s youngest boy with a full report. I completely forgot about the satellite phone.”
“Now you do. Let’s start doing something besides feeling sorry for ourselves.” He turned and stalked toward Andrea’s Trading Post.