Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Running From the Past, Part 7

(Note: the reseen Warhammer [seen above] and all the BattleMech illustrations I use in these blog postings are the property of Catalyst Games Labs. I took the images from the most excellent sarna.net Battletech Wiki. I have no claim to any ownership over any of the images and use them for illustration purposes only.)

Right, all three Battlecorps are still on track, and are now each @5,000 words. In addition, there are a few other things on my plate relating to the game that I will discuss at a later date, if they come to fruition. Otherwise, enjoy part 7 of Running From the Past:


With a muttered prayer, Jägare put the Men Shen into motion. The ‘Mech surged forward, striking the door with all of its weight. The last remnants of the door gave way and the ‘Mech burst through the weakened door and out into the clearing like a demon emerging from the netherworld.

The clearing was now in chaos, pirates running in every direction, while the APC was firing into the surrounding tree line with long rolling bursts. Jägare could see dead and dying pirates on the ground and occasional flashes of gunfire from the surrounding woods. As the Men Shen cleared the ‘Mech bay, a few pirates turned and fired at him with rifles and machine guns. The rounds plonked off the ‘Mech’s armor, sending sparks flying off of it.

Jägare ignored them and ripped a salvo of laser fire across two of the campfires, sending flames and embers into the night air and pirates running for their lives. He turned the ‘Mech to his right, lined up a small stack of barrels in his sights and ripped a salvo of lasers across them. In an eyeblink, the barrels became a fireball that knocked several pirates down and consumed a couple of others in its flames.

The heat in the cockpit was beginning to rise into unhealthy levels, but Jägare ignored it. Instead, he sent the Men Shen into a loping run for the Mule. He quickly adjusted the ‘Mech’s radio to the frequency used by him and the other Hunters. “Hunter Three-One to One-Seven.”

“One-Seven here,” Reece snapped. “What’s happening?”

“Change of plans,” Jägare said in a low voice. “The Leopard will not be a factor in. . . “ He glanced at the cockpit chronometer, “. . . .about three minutes. I’m in the Men Shen that just came out of the Leopard.”

The APC came into view, from his left, firing at him with its turret-mounted machine gun. Without slowing, Jägare lined the armored vehicle up in his sights and triggered all four of the pulse lasers again. The personnel carrier lasted a few seconds under the laser storm before it erupted in a fireball, sending fragments across the clearing.

“What do you want us to do?” Reece demanded.

“There’s slaves onboard the Mule. We need to be inside before they can gear up the DropShip’s weapons.”

Jägare heard Reece mutter something, but the words were not understandable. “How are we going to do this?”

“Make for the Mule. I’ll try and keep them off balance out here long enough to give you and the others a chance to get inside.” He fired the right arm pulse lasers at a cluster of pirates that had come charging out of the woods, one of which was carrying a missile launcher. Designed to destroy armor, the lasers did horrible things to mere flesh. None of the pirates survived.

Jägare raced for the spheroid’s open bay door. Despite its size, the Mule class had only the firepower of a heavy ‘Mech, assuming that all the weapons were still working. He caught a brief glimpse of a couple of figures running for the Mule’s ramp, but he held fire, not sure if they were friend or foe.

He was fifty meters away when the first of the Mule’s weapons systems came on-line. A pair of medium lasers opened fire, but the Men Shen was moving too quickly, and both beams flashed over the ‘Mech’s head. A single, larger beam shot from the DropShip’s hull, but Jägare had been anticipating the shot, and he cut to the right at the last second. The beam stuck the ground several meters from the rapidly moving ‘Mech, sending a small explosion of dirt into the air.

As Jägare reached the base of the Mule’s ramp, the few pirates in front of him dove out of the way to avoid the ‘Mech’s mad dash. Without slowing, Jägare raced the Men Shen up the ramp and into the cargo bay. Inside the hold, he throttled back the speed, but not before a large number of crates that were in path were tossed about by the 'Mech’s momentum. Unable to stop in time, he managed to brace himself just before the medium ‘Mech ran into a bulkhead. The bulkhead crumpled slightly under the impact, and the ‘Mech stumbled back like a drunk before shambling to a stop.

Inside the cockpit, Jägare spat out a mouthful of blood. The impact had slammed him forward in his seat, and only the restraints had kept him from hitting the cockpit window. He wiped his eyes to clear his blurred vision and ignored the slight wooziness he felt. “Hunter Three-One to One-Seven,” he growled as he turned the Men Shen around. “Where the hell are you?”

“We’re about ten meters to your right!” Reece snapped. “We’re in, but we're pinned down!” The sound of gunfire echoed over the radio.

Jägare glanced around the hold. There were a number of crates strewn in his wake, several broken or damaged by his ‘Mech’s passage, along with the usual brick-a-brac that DropShips seem to collect – barrels, machinery, extra parts, and the like. Off to his left, a gun battle was being waged. Several pirates were crouched behind crates, firing at the Marshal and the Hunters, who were crouched behind their own crates. Neither side was having any luck of hitting the other, but any attack from the open hatch would be murder for Takezaki and the others.

Jägare brought the left arm of the Men Shen around to point it at the pirates. He turned the ‘Mech’s loudspeaker on and said, “Attention, pirates! Drop you weapons now, or else!” One man immediately dropped his rifle and raised his arms above his head, his eyes wide at the sight of the ‘Mech pointing two of its lasers at him. After a few seconds, a couple more surrendered, then the rest dropped their rifles and raised their hands.

The ex-commando hissed into his radio, “Move in and tie them up before they realize there’s only three of you!”

“What are we going to use to tie them up with?” Reece demanded.

“The packing straps,” Takezaki replied. “Reece, you come with me. Jägare, Homer, cover us.”

“We don’t have a lot of time,” Jägare said.

“I know,” the Marshal replied. “I don’t see any signs of slaves around here, do you?”

“Negative, but this ship has two more cargo holds above this one.”

“Right, as soon as we have these thugs under control, we’ll go up.” Takezaki and Reece moved forward while Homer stayed among the crates and watched both them and the entryway. As they passed some crates, the Marshal picked up a number of thick heavy packing straps that were lying on top of one case and handed some to Reece. “Use these,” Takezaki said over the radio. The hunter merely nodded and took several.

In the time it took Takezaki and Reece to tie up the surrendered slavers, there were two half-hearted attempts to take the ramp, but both evaporated in the glare of a few well chosen bursts of the Men Shen’s lasers and a few shots from Homer. “Better put it into gear!” Jägare barked. “They’re starting to get desperate.”

Takezaki looked up from the prisoner he had just finished biding with the packing straps at the ‘Mech. “That’s the last of them,” he said.

“Good,” Jägare replied. “There’s a cargo lift ten meters to the right of me. Homer, stay here and cover the ramp and the prisoners. Yell if they try rushing the ramp again.”

“We can’t hold them for long if they rush us,” Homer said, sounding unhappy.

“Either one of you pilot a ‘Mech before?” Jägare asked.

“I’ve done some,” Homer said. “Not good enough to be a MechWarrior, but if I keep the ‘Mech in one place, covering the ramp, I can do the job.”

“Right.” Jägare moved the Men Shen several meters to the right and lowered the ‘Mech behind several crates until only its upper body was visible from the ramp. “Homer, get over here. Reece, do something to make sure those prisoners don’t get involved.”

By the time Homer reached the Men Shen’s hatch, Jägare was out of the chair and dressed. “I’ve locked off the legs from the controls,” he told Homer as the shorter Hunter slid into the ‘Mech’s couch, “but you still have full torso twist. I've also locked the missile launcher out of the firing controls, any combat in here is going to be too short-ranged for them.” Jägare tapped the right joystick. “I set up the TECs for one pulser, two, and all four. Use the circuit for all four sparingly – you’ll cook fast if you’re not careful.”

Homer nodded. “What about the other cargo hatches? I can’t cover them all from here.”

“You’ll get a warning,” Jägare replied. “Those things weren't designed to open quietly. If that happens, give us a yell.” He stepped out of the cockpit and closed the hatch. He climbed down to where Takezaki was waiting for him, several rifles slung over each shoulder and his pockets bulging with magazines. “Expecting trouble?”

Takezaki shrugged, the movement slight due to the weight of the weapons. “A few pissed off slaves with weapons would be a big help to us if we’re actually going to pull this off. Reece has a couple more rifles and plenty of ammo.”

Jägare nodded, mentally kicking himself for not thinking of that first. Letting indigenous populations do most of the fighting was a staple of Confederation special operations, something he was well versed in. Focus on the here and now, he thought.

“You still want to take the cargo lift up?” Takezaki asked.

“I’m going up by the lift,” Jägare replied. “You and Reece are going to take the ladders up to the next deck. I’ll grab their attention while you hit them from another direction. First, help me move some of these crates onto the lift. Reece! Give us a hand!”

It took them a couple of minutes to move a number of crates onto the lift platform, forming a barricade around the center of the lift plate. Jägare knelt inside the makeshift rampart and waved to Reece to start the lift. In seconds, he was on their way up.

The distance between the floor and the ceiling on this deck was a little over eighteen meters. The lift, built more for lifting ability and stability, slowly ground its way toward the hatchway in the roof above Jägare. A quick glance told him and both Takezaki and Reece had reached the ladder and were climbing it rapidly.

Three meters from the hatchway, the doors slowly opened, giving Jägare a glimpse of the upcoming deck he also got a whiff of unwashed bodies and other, less pleasant, smells. Jägare tighten his grip on his rifle and waited.

As the cargo lift emerged from the deck, several streams of fire hammered the crates from different directions. Jägare hunched down as the crates shuddered. Amidst the hammering of several assault rifles, Jägare could hear screams and yells coming from all around him. Staying down, he shifted his position slightly, memorizing the directions where the slugs had come from.

The fire slacken, then stopped. As soon as the last bullet was fired, he was up and looking, the rifle up and ready to fire. He spotted a guard, standing on a catwalk several meters above the deck and to Jägare’s right, in the middle of changing magazines on his rifle. Jägare stroked his rifle’s trigger, and the pirate was knocked onto his back, blood drenching the dirty shirt he was wearing. A slight shift in his aim brought another slaver into Jägare sights, with the same results.

Jägare dropped behind the crates again, just as the slavers returned fire, shredding the crates even more. One of the crates shifted slightly, giving Jägare a sliver of a view. Through that small opening, Jägare could see a pair of slaves creeping along the same catwalk, with the intent of spraying the makeshift fort from a different and closer angle.

The gunfire slackened yet again, but Jägare stayed down, pointed his rifle through the opening and cut lose with half a magazine. Both pirates staggered as they were struck with the stream of bullets, one of the pair slumping to the catwalk’s surface, while the other one staggered and flipped over the low rails of the catwalk to the deck below.

Just then, two more rifles opened up, but none of the bullets struck the containers. Instead, there were a few grunts of pain, followed by something falling. Silence descended upon the cargo hold. “Jägare?” Takezaki called out. “You still alive?”

“Still here,” Jägare shouted back. “You?”

“I think we got them all. Reece?”

“They’re all down,” the Hunter replied.

“Mother of God,” Takezaki hissed.

Jägare got to his feet and for the first time looked around the cargo hold. Most of the space in the hold were taken up by cages, three meters by three, arranged in rows from inner wall of the hold to the outer, with a two meter space between each cage. Each cage held at least half a dozen people in them, more if they were children. A pair of catwalks hung about the cages, clearly designed to be used by the guards. The smell was overpowering, unwashed bodies crammed into a small space and left there for a while.

Reece and Takezaki walked up to Jägare. The Hunter glanced over at the young Marshal and noticed that the man’s hands were white knuckled from holding the rifle so tightly. The Hunter tapped Takezaki and motioned him to relax. The young man glance guiltily down at his hand, nodded ruefully and relaxed his death-grip on the rifle.

“Release us!” a man in a nearby cage screamed at them. in seconds, others took up the chant. The sound reverberated through the hold at an uncomfortable level

Takezaki moved towards one of the cages, but Jägare grabbed his arm. The Marshal glared at him. “We can’t leave them in there!”

“We can for right now,” Jägare replied coolly. “Or would you prefer having them stampeding their way right into the guns of whoever’s left outside? Leaving them in their cages is the best thing we can do for them right now.” The Hunter could see that the Marshal didn't like the idea, but he could also see that he couldn't argue with the logic. “But we can use some of their manpower. Reece, collect all the guns you can and pile them up here, Marshal, you’re going to ask for volunteers to help us.”

“Why me?” Takezaki asked.

“You’re a Colonial Marshal, I’m not. Who do you think they’d listen to more?”

Takezaki nodded. He stepped up onto a box and held up a hand for silence, which they did, slowly. “My name is Marshal William Takezaki, Colonial Marshals. And we are here to rescue you.” A cheer went up, but Takezaki held up his arms for silence again. “However, I have a problem. I brought only three other men with me. I need a few of you to help me bring this DropShip completely under Marshal control.”

A few murmurs were up. The Marshal waited a few seconds, then continued. “For your own safety, we are asking you to remain in your cells for the time being. Things are still very dangerous, both in here and outside. Right now, this is the safest place for most of you.”

A few angry shouts went up, but Takezaki wasn't fazed by them. “I know that you've had an ordeal, but think of this. Would your prefer another hour or two in these cages while we secure the ship, or do you want to risk getting killed when you’re so close to freedom?” A more shouts went up, but there were fewer as people began to think about what Takezaki was saying.

“What about the other DropShip?” someone shouted. “They could blow us apart!”

“Without power?” Takezaki shot back. “The Leopard can’t move or fire. We made sure of that before we started our attack.”

“What about the returning pirate force?” another prisoner shouted.

“Local forces have been harassing and delaying them for several hours now. Marshal Jackson is leading a force of Militia and will make sure they are not a threat ever again.” A few cheers went up, but Takezaki held up his hands again. “I need a dozen volunteers to help me. Single men or women with recent military experience are preferred. Raise your hand and I’ll send one of my men to get you.” he stepped down and whispered to Jägare, “Good enough?”

“Not bad,” Jägare replied with a small smile.


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