(Note: the Colonial Marshal logo [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.)
The family member is still incapacitated and most of our family's focus is on them. My writing is slowly moving forward on all fronts, but with little time and no mental energy left at the end of the day for a real hard push.
Here is part 10 of Running with the Past. I hope you continue enjoying it.
By the time the militia arrived and rounded up the few surviving Brotherhood members who had survived the attempts to storm the loading ramp, Jägare was back on the main cargo deck. Removing the gas mask, he tossed it away and took a canteen from a soldier who took one look at him and offered it. The water was lukewarm, but Jägare drank it all in one shot. He handed the now empty canteen back to the militiaman with a word of thanks, then walked on.
The main deck was a hive of activity and he stopped near some crates to watch the activity. Several of the soldiers were helping the freed prisoners, while the militia medics were tending to injuries. The armed ex-prisoners stayed on the edges of the group, reluctant to give up either weapons or the idea of protecting their friends and families. The new set of prisoners, maybe a dozen in all, were huddled in one corner of the deck, a strong guard to not only keep them there, but to protect them from their former captives, who watched them with evil stares.
Takezaki walked up to him, his arm in a sling and several patches on his hands and face. The gas mask was slung around his neck and he looked a little more focused. “Find anyone up on the bridge?” he asked.
“No,” Jägare replied in a monotone. “The deck was empty. Evidently they were all in the attack.”
“Yes. What was the butcher’s bill?”
“Three dead and six injured on our side. On their side. . . .” He grimaced. “At least thirty-five dead, but I’m guessing it’s more like fifty. Several wounded, and you saw the ones that were captured.”
Jägare nodded. “Anything from Jackson about the rest of the Brotherhood?”
“Not yet, but they can’t be too far away.”
Jägare glanced at the open hatch just as a young man in civilian clothes strode into view. “I think you’re about to find out,” he said. “Kessler just came up the ramp.”
The marshal looked toward the ramp. “That’s him alright.” He gave a sharp whistle and waved his good arm in the air until Kessler saw him. The young man strode quickly toward the. In the overhead lights, the soft silver glint of deputy’s badge on the young man’s chest became more noticeable as he got closer.
“Marshal,” he said briskly to Takezaki. “Jägare.”
“Deputy,” Takezaki said. “What’s the latest?”
“Marshal Jackson sent me to get both of you,” Kessler replied. “He said it was important.”
“Oh? What about the pirate gang?”
“Well, we managed to surround them on Hallman’s Ridge and stop them cold, but in the confusion, some of the pirates managed to slip away into the forest, including the Warhammer.”
“What about our people?”
“We got most of them, but we’re missing a few.”
“What about Andrea Starver?” Jägare asked.
“I don’t know, sir. He just asked me to fetch you.”
Jägare nodded. “The Warhammer’s still loose?”
“Right,” Jägare said. “Marshal, you can ride with Kessler.”
Takezaki frowned. “Where are you going?”
Jägare looked around and up at the Men Shen. “I’m going to do some hunting.”
Three kilometers West of the Brotherhood’s landing site,
Cascade, New Colony Region
November 28th, 3065
“Marshal One-Six, this is Hunter Three-One, what is your status?”
Jägare guided the Men Shen through the forest, avoiding the heavier tree growth. Dawn wasn't far away now, and the clear sky made the night air cold and dry. He had stripped down to his shorts again, but he had taken the time to find the coolant vest, which had been stuffed in a small compartment behind the pilot’s chair. The ‘Mech moved at a ground covering lope, but no where near its top speed.
Jägare’s radio crackled. “This is Marshal One-Six. We’re still sweeping up the mess on Hallman’s Ridge. What is your location?”
“I’m about five kilometers out for your position, at the controls of a captured Men Shen.”
“A Men Shen?” Jackson asked. “How in the hell did a Pirate band capture a front-line Capellan ‘Mech, and how in the hell can you pilot a ‘Mech?”
“I can’t answer the first question, and I rather not answer the second. I think what’s relevant is that there is no way you can track down and take out a Warhammer all by yourself.”
“I know, but I think the problem is worse then we thought.”
Jägare frowned. “What’s wrong?”
“I’ve been talking to a few of the rescued citizens. Andrea’s employee, Max, is one of the Brotherhood.”
A cold lump formed in Jägare’s stomach. “Are you sure?”
“They are. According to them, Max was one of the leaders, and the other pirates were scared spitless of him.”
“What about Andrea? Is she all right?”
“We don’t know. She and Max are missing, and we found the body of a man that several of the survivors positively identified as the leader of the Brotherhood. Ian, he was the Warhammer’s pilot.”
The scene at Hallman’s Ridge was similar to the one at the DropShips. Medics helping the wounded and injured, a few pirate prisoners under heavy guard, and militiamen walking around, trying to bring some sort of order to the scene. A pair of Brotherhood APCs were still smoldering, and a few bodies were still scattered around. Jackson’s Marshal was standing next to a battered mobile HQ, the obvious focal point for the effort.
Jägare brought the Men Shen to a stop a short distance away from the mobile HQ and switched the ‘Mech’s reactor to stand-by. He climbed down the ‘Mech, ignoring the chill in the air. By the time he reached the ground, a pair of militiamen were waiting for him. They silently escorted him to the door of the mobile HQ.
Inside, the vehicle was full of activity. Communication techs were monitoring and directing the com traffic. Other militiamen were clustered around a status table, moving small plastic blocks in response to messages piped through their earphones. Beyond them, Jägare could see Jackson and several others assembled around another, smaller table.
He made his way up the aisle, earning a few glances from the techs as he passed them. Jackson looked up as he reached the table. “Ian,” he said. He motioned to a slightly overweight officer standing next to him. “Major Townsend, Cascade Militia .”
“Marshal, Major,” Jägare replied. “What’s the latest?”
Jackson motioned to the table, a flat screen that was displaying a map of the area and the moments occurring at the larger table behind Jägare. “We have about fifteen or so pirates who managed to escape in the darkness. They’re clumped in five or six groups, and seem only to be interested in getting away. The hunters are tracking them, letting them tire themselves out before we move in.”
“What about the Warhammer?” Jägare asked flatly.
Jackson pointed to a small cube moving north on the map. “It’s moving through the forest here. It’s taken a beating, mostly from several near misses with improvised mines, but it’s weapons array is still intact. Best guess we have is that Max is trying to reach one of the shut-down lumber camps along the Green March River.”
“We don’t know why he’s heading that direction,” said Townsend. “There’s not much up there in the way of food.”
Jägare studied the map. “Are you sure Max is in that ‘Mech? And that Andrea is with him?”
“Everything indicates she is,” Jackson replied. “According to our people, he never let her out of his sight the entire time, and they disappeared about the same time. The prisoners say that Max was talking to the Brotherhood leader right before the attack, and they were arguing. Right after the attack, we found the leader with his throat cut and his coolant vest was missing.”
“He can’t run forever,” the officer said.
“He isn't,” Jägare replied. “Who’s tracking him?”
“Sven and a couple of others,” Jackson replied. “Fortunately, the area is rugged, and they can keep up with him.”
“Until he reaches the Green March River,” Jägare said. “The river bottom is flat and hard. He can move upriver or down fairly quickly.”
“But for what reason?” the officer asked. “He knows he can’t escape off-planet, and that Warhammer is too easy to track.”
“He’s panicking?” Jackson asked.
Jägare continued to look at the map. “No one thought about escaping south?” he asked.
“We didn't find anyone,” the militia officer replied.
Jägare nodded, thought coalescing into an idea. “Marshal, The other pirate MechWarriors. Have you accounted for them?”
“Just one,” Jackson responded. “He was busted up when his Panther was hit by a tree.”
“What about the Raven's pilot?”
“Not yet.” The Marshal’s eyes lit up in understanding. “It’s a trick.”
“A misdirection,” Jägare said. “Everyone thinks Max’s piloting the Warhammer, but he’s taken off south, with Andrea.”
“Why does he still have her?” Townsend asked.
“Hostage,” Jackson replied. “He’ll hang onto her until he thinks he’s safe.”
Jägare nodded and pointed to a spot on the table map. “There’s a hunting camp up on Madson Ridge here. There’s some emergency supplies and a couple of ATVs stored there. It wouldn't take him long to get one of those vehicles up and running again. He’s worked as a guide, so he knows the area pretty well.”
“He’ll vanish into the forest,” Townsend muttered.
Jägare strengthened. “Marshal, I’ll need a helicopter. I want to get up to the hunting camp and check it out.”
“And if he’s actually in the Warhammer?” Townsend asked mildly.
“That’s my job,” said Jackson. “Ian, mind if we borrow the Men Shen?”
“Go ahead,” Jägare replied.
“Are there any hunters still around?” Jägare asked.
Jackson snorted. “Tetsuro and his bomb happy bunch. Why in hell did you give that man explosives? There’s a trail of craters, exploded trees, and rock piles between here and LaCroix!”
“I told him to slow the Brotherhood down. I didn't tell him how to do it.”
“What do you want with them?”
“I want them to start looking for Max’s trail and if they find it, start dogging him. I want them to stay close enough so Max knows they’re there, but not too close.”
“That’s assuming that’s the direction he’s heading.”
“I’m certain of it,” Jägare said. “Because that’s what I would do, if I was in his place.”