The Vampire von Strang (BT)

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by gladiusone, Jul 25, 2012.

  1. Hi. I posted this one over at the Classic Battletech forums, and decided to bring it here too.

    Don't worry, I'm still working on Another Option, and the next chapter of Scions of Sunnydale should be hitting your screens in a week or so.

    Anyway, enjoy, and let me know what you think.

    ***



    Falcon Command Post, Toland City,
    Toland, Jade Falcon Occupation Zone
    15th December, 3057



    Star Colonel Isabelle Helmer knelt in line with her surviving warriors, still shocked by the events of the last few days. Even now, she simply could not believe that any of it was really happening.



    First sign of trouble had been an explosion that rocked Toland’s capital. The annoying insurgency that had alternately amused and frustrated the Clan had apparently sabotaged the HPG, doing significant damage to the transmitter array.



    Within hours, the star port warned that six Overlord class DropShips were inbound from a pirate point, ignoring all transmissions. They did not issue a batchall, or announce their intention. They simply flew towards Toland, insulting Isabelle with their silence.



    Infuriated, she had decided that they were pirates: House troops or mercenaries would have at least attempted to communicate, in their clumsy attempts to imitate Clan ways. Such were to be humored, before being crushed: pirates were simply to be hunted down. Thus, she commanded the aerospace Binary attached to her Provisional Garrison Cluster to intercept and destroy: no more were needed, as pirates could barely keep their ramshackle vessels functioning. She knew this, because she had fought in Operation Revival, cutting a swath through the pirate kingdoms of the Periphery.



    So it was something of a shock when the Star Captain in command of the twenty Falcon fighters reported dozens of heavy fighters escorting the intruders - shortly before contact was lost.



    Most of the units that normally occupied Toland (one did not accuse front-line clusters of ‘garrisoning’ worlds unless one wished to be challenged to a Trial of Grievance) were off world, fighting the Wolves. Thus it was left to the Eleventh PGC to drive off this pirate band. So be it, she had retorted, They shall be ground to dust beneath the feet of our ‘Mechs!



    Her eyes flicked over to where Star Commander Nathan’s body lay cooling, a pool of blood spreading from the bullet hole that went in the back of his head and out through an eye socket. Nathan had objected when their captors had forced them to kneel. Had even injured one.



    Now all eight survivors, including herself, were restrained by steel manacles behind their backs, with burly men in black cooling suits flanking each, with firm holds on their arms. Behind each was a third, with a large caliber pistol pointed at their backs. Since Nathan’s resistance, the invaders were taking no chances.



    It began so well, she silently lamented, shaking her head.



    *** *** ***



    Her Cluster had hurried to the landing site, eager to close with the attackers. Again and again she challenged them over clear frequencies, and received only cowardly static in return.



    First contact had come from a lance of medium ‘Mechs clearing a rise. Her own Hellbringer had cut down three before the fourth, a Centurion, retreated. Which was when the Cluster was struck on both flanks. Not mere mediums, but heavy and assault ‘Mechs. She had laughed, glad for a greater challenge.



    Her glee had turned to concern as reports from Star Commanders began returning, speaking of heavy damage. It seemed the foe was heavily upgraded, even to the point of mounting weapons produced by the Clans! Her fury grew, as reports flooded in of entire lances concentrating fire on individual ‘Mechs! Relentlessly she forced her OmniMech forward, desperate to reach the left front, her honor demanding that she strike down those who would dare attack the Falcon!



    Which was about when her Command Star ran into the enemy's van.



    A full battalion of assault 'Mechs, led by a lance of some of the oddest looking 'Mechs Isobell had ever seen. Before she could respond, they opened fire.



    Leading the way was a squat, bulky thing with enormous autocanon at the ends of it's arms, as well as missile launchers and lasers in the hunched-over body.



    Something like the product of a mixed-bloodline sibco consisting of Atlas, Crusader and Axeman genes brought up the rear, with shoulders, chest and forearms bristling with long-ranged missile launchers. Even as she saw it, it vanished in a cloud of propellant, as an unholy number of missiles were launched.



    She barely glimpsed the third 'Mech, which mounted an astonishing four gauss rifles, and each seemed to be unerringly aimed at her.



    But the greatest horror was the black-painted Devastator that stalked inexorably forward, both gauss-armed forearms firing as quickly as they could cycle, azure lightning barking from it's ER-PPCs. The horror of a 'Mech designed by the Great Kerensky himself was the last thought that went through her mind as a fusillade of gauss rounds, autocanon fire, particle beams and missiles tore her heavy OmniMech apart.



    *** *** ***



    She forced herself back to the present as a small group of people approached the parade ground where she and her fellow Falcons were forced to kneel. Her nostrils flared as she saw one, clearly a laborer with his rough clothes and dirty skin, brazenly carrying a rifle slung over one shoulder.



    "... can't thank you enough," the rebel was saying, his vile language tainted by a German accent. "Can't recall the last time the Birdies got a pasting like that."



    His companion, a female redhead of somewhat less than average height, nodded, her compact neurohelmet tucked under one arm. She wore what was recognisably a Clan-designed cooling suit, dyed light-eating black except for where straps and buckles dully reflected the afternoon light. A heavy pistol was slung on one hip in a quick-draw holster, and she moved with the graceful steps of a practiced warrior.



    "It was a pleasure," she responded, her voice a purring contralto contained an unfamiliar accent. "The moronic battles these beasts engage in provide an excellent opportunity: if the Commonwealth were not in chaos due to the antics of their rulers, they would take advantage and reclaim much of the Tamar March before either th Falcons or the Wolves could recover." Tossing her long hair over one shoulder, she shrugged. "Hopefuly wiser heads will prevail.



    "In any case, my men are unloading four containers from my DropShips. The first contains medium machine guns, assault rifles, and ample ammunition."



    The rebel nodded. "Wonderful! The Clanners have some infantry here, but they are wretched: excellent equipment, but no concept of discipline or tactics. With your gifts, the Militia's veterans should be able to clear them out - until their heavier troops arrive from off world," he finished with a frown.



    The redhead clapped him on the shoulder. "Which is why the second and third containers carry shoulder-launched SRMs and anti-armor rockets, enough to make things interesting for the animals when they return," she said, somewhat sadly. "The last container contains a sizable quantity of explosives, and the tools to make more, so that your fight can continue," she finished, infuriating Isobel by brazenly giving this lower-class drone the ability to murder dozens, if not more, of his rightful betters!



    The laborer grinned vicioously. "All we ask, ma'am," he said, his voice harsh. "We'll keep the bastards busy until the Archon Prince gets his sis straightened out and gets around to taking back his worlds. We owe these weirdoes a debt of blood, we do."



    "I ... can certainly respect that," she said, her voice softening.



    "Reckon you could," said the rebel, offering the pirate's leader a salute, which she returned gravely. As the rebel stalked off to meet with his cronies, the pirate walked over to where the Falcons were held prisoner. She stopped short, and crouched down, so that she could look into Isobel's hate filled gaze.



    Isobel had fought pirates, mercenaries, House troops and rebels, but never before had she face eyes that were so empty of fear. As though this pirate failed to recognise the fury of the Falcon, and the dire fate she had brought upon herself.



    Sniffing, the pirate rose, dismissing Isobel and her companions in a manner that infuriated the proud Clan warriors. Summoning one of her minions, she said, "Those trees look sturdy enough. Get the rope."



    Isobel was baffled for a moment, then her eyes widened as she realised what the pirate intended. Heedless of the danger, she struggled against her captors as lengths of rope were flung over branches, and tied into nooses. "You can not!" she cried as she was hauled to her feet and dragged towards the trees, "We are Warriors of the Clans! We are Jade Falcon! You can not simply ..."



    The pirate spun on her heel, and fixed Isobel with a glare that silenced her. "Warriors? You name yourselves animals, beasts, so you shall be put down like beasts. You have no claim to honor, or duty, or compassion. You have divorced yourselves from the human race by your culture, your actions and your crimes, and so I feel no obligation to treat you as anything but mad dogs, diseased and rabid."



    Isobel spat at her, but the spittle fell short. "Who are you to decide that, pirate?"



    "Who am I?" If before those jade eyes held ice, they now were filled by fire. "I am justice for a raped world. I am vengeance for a murdered family. I am the specter of your nightmares, I am what you lay awake in bed at night and tell yourself cannot exist."



    She smiled, and Isobel was horrified to see that her canines were elongated and sharpened. "I am the Vampire von Strang, and I shall not rest until I have rid the galaxy of the last drop of Falcon blood." Turning on her heel, she stalked off, snapping off a final command to her men.



    "Hang them."
  2. Chris O'Farrell Fanfics in progress; 2.

    Okay, I'm not sure if that is a REAL Vampire, or someone pretending to be one for kicks.
    Either way, the scornful sneering of Falcons to the point of just hanging them from trees, ah, that is music to my ears.
  3. Thanks, glad you like it. And heck, you're quoting her daddy in your signature ... :)

    And blast it if I didn't frack up the thread name: it's suposed to be 'Rage of the Vampire.' Anyone know how to change it?
  4. Falcon Command Post, Toland City,
    Toland, Jade Falcon Occupation Zone
    15th December, 3057





    Colonel the Baroness Juliette von Strang, ruler in exile of the Barony of Strang and commander of Von Strang's Legion, glanced around the commandant's office and shook her head. The Falcon had decorated the command center with large banners displaying the Clan's emblem on either side of the planetary map, portraits and busts of both Kerenskys and various Founders in nooks and crannies, and with the bird-and-sword plastered on just about every surface. But the most ridiculous, in her opinion, was the beaked helmet and feathered cape draped over the desk.



    Her first impulse was to borrow an Inferno grenade from an infantryman and do the universe a favor. Fortunately for the building, she went with her second impulse, and shut the door and walked back into the command center. There, at least, the Falcons had kept at least a facade of professionalism - although from what she knew of the Clans, this could have been a result of the Falcon warriors barely using it, preferring to spend their time in their quarters or in their 'Mechs. The day-to-day minutiae of running a planetary garrison was normally left to the techs, several of whom were now assisting their conquerors, some more happily than others.



    Lieutenant Andre Winters, her aid, was standing behind a seated Legion tech, looking over her shoulder at the screen she was working on. He looked up as she approached and smiled, then patted the black-clad tech on the shoulder, and straightened up into a position of attention. "Bad, my Lady?" he asked, knowing well her tastes and opinion of Clanners in general, and Falcons in particular.



    She shook her head again in bemusement. "Is there something about being born in a tin can that prevents Clanners from developing a sense of taste?" she wondered.



    "Something missing in the cocktail, perhaps," he suggested, then got back to business. "Our boffins have been vacuuming the enemy's database, and for high-tech wizards the Clanners don't have much in the way of security protocols. I think Lucy here snickered when she saw what they called 'firewalls'."



    The tech sniffed. "I wrote better code in my first year at U-Wash," she said dismissively, her voice displaying a distinct Donegal accent. "I thought they'd have better protection on their central computers, but it's the same basic stuff. Oh, they upgraded the hardware when they took over, but it's no faster than the 'puters we took from that depot in '56. I just hit it with a Series 7 Nova Cluster, and the whole rotten thing fell apart." She grinned, enjoying being able to deliver the good news to her commander in person. "We've got everything!"



    "Outstanding, Sergeant Cooper. The more we know about these animals, the easier it is to kill them," she stated.



    Rather than be horrified by the blunt, bloodthirsty attitude, the blond tech offered a savage grin of her own, then turned back to her screen, seeking more weapons to use against the hated foe.



    "Final reports on casualties," offered Andre as they walked off, finding a quiet corner of the command center. "We lost twelve 'Mechs, mostly in the Scout lances, but Sergeant Hernandez' Marauder took an ammo hit, and just blew. Eight KIA, including Captain Verity Chang," he said, his voice softening as he named the dead officer. "Her Banshee took a gauss slug to the cockpit: there wasn't anything anyone could do."



    Juliette closed her eyes for a moment, swearing softly under her breath. "Anyone else?"



    Andre checked his noteputer. "Three infantrymen were wounded apprehending downed enemy pilots, none fatally," he said with some satisfaction, "But I'm afraid we lost six aerospace fighters, four KIA."



    "Send the list to my 'puter," she ordered, then squared her shoulders. "Enemy losses?"



    Here her aid smiled. "Twenty OmniFighters, forty-four BattleMechs and one OmniMech. The last one should," he checked his noteputer, then nodded. "Yes, the last pilot just stopped kicking. Our troops are starting on the loot, I mean the salvage operations."



    "A reminder to the boys: anything in the enemy's quarters are fair game, but stay away from the locals. If I hear about any incidents with the natives, I won't be as gentle with the culprit as I am with Clanners, am I clear?"



    "Crystal," he said, making a quick note. The Baroness' standing orders were well-known, as were the concequences of violating them, but a little reminder never hurt, and troops flushed with victory and loot (and probably liquor, too) were not always the most clear-thinking of men.



    "More of a problem is the Solhama troops," he said, bringing up the data Lucy had discovered. "We have a full Cluster on planet, mostly conventional infantry, like Kommandant Cooper said," he referred to the local commander of the resistance she had met earlier, a former AFFC tanker. "Almost a thousand of them, plus some Elemental armor, but with the heavy metal out of the way and with our presents, the locals should be able to handle them. I've taken the liberty of having the Nosferatu ferry a couple of hundred of Cooper's men and some gear over to the South Continent, to reinforce the resistance down there," he said, mentioning one of the Legion's Overlord DropShips.



    "Well done," she said, flashing fangs in her approval. He knew that her teeth unnerved some, especially those who did not know her. Others just thought it was weird. Andre, however, knew the real reason.



    Andre had been her classmate at the Academy, the small school that trained the officers and soldiers of the Barony's armed forces. He was by her side on the DropShip Tepes when the marauding Clan Jade Falcon forces jumped into their home system.



    Baron Stepan von Strang had spent the bulk of the Barony's aerospace assets in a vain attempt to destroy the invader's DropShips before they could land. He then managed to lure the Falcon force into the City, and came very close to mouse trapping the Clanners with 'Mech and conventional forces. Only a chance observation by a Clan recon fighter warned the invaders before the ambush was completed, and the Barony forces were routed. The Baron had not fought a desperate, frenzied battle to drive off the Clans: he recognised them beneath their odd markings and strange names. More importantly, he recognised the pristine Star League WarShips they commanded. He realised that the children of Kerensky had returned, to finish the job their ancestors had started.



    No, he had fought and died, praying and hoping that he could keep the Falcons gaze upon him, and not on the DropShip that was, on his direct orders, coasting on minimal power towards a waiting JumpShip, carrying his eldest child to safety.



    Andre had held her while she wept as they watched the triumphant broadcasts of the Falcon Khan parading the broken body of her father aloft in his Omni's fist.



    Greif turned to resolve, and Juliette took her small command 'south', seeking to warn the Inner Sphere about the incoming juggernaught. Arriving at the Commonwealth planet of Here, she attempted to contact the government in Struggle, the planet's capital. However, even on the outskirts of the Inner Sphere, and especially in former Rim Worlds space, the name 'von Strang' was still a watchword for brutality, cruelty and evil. After enduring a punishing four-g shuttle-ride in system, she was met with hostility, contempt and derision. Her efforts to warn about the Jade Falcons were ignored and her evidence dismissed, and she was ordered to take her vessels and quit Commonwealth space immediately. When she insisted, troops from the 8th Arcturan Guard RCT 'escorted' her back to the starport. As a last resort, she passed a data disk containing all the tactical information her people had gleaned from their observations of the Clans to the leader of her escort, and begged him to pass it on to his superiors. She never learned if he had.



    Her JumpShip had barely finished charging it's coils when the first Falcon WarShip jumped into Here space. Before jumping away, Juliette sent one last broadcast to the planet.



    "I'm sorry. I tried. Good luck."
  5. Falcon Command Post, Toland City,
    Toland, Jade Falcon Occupation Zone
    15th December, 3057



    Andre's noteputer beeped, and he slid it out of the thigh pocket of his cooling suit, and tapped the screen. "Oh, good news, my Lady. Captain Maxwell reports that his men have rounded up all the bondsmen in the complex, and is escorting them to the parade ground."



    The Baroness' eyes glittered. "Excellent. My compliments to the Captain, and tell him we will meet him there shortly."



    Andre tapped his 'puter again, then led the way towards the exit. Around them, troopers wearing the black armor of the Legion's Mechanised Infantry Batallion (The Forsaken) moved in practiced synchronised movements, Blazer rifles at the ready and handheld SRM launchers strapped to their backs. Juliette ignored them: the heir to a planetary system, she had been surrounded by armed guards all her life. In her 'Mech and in the field, Andre's modified Marauder II kept her safe, despite her 'lead from the front' style of command. On foot, it was the duty of Fourth Platoon, Alpha Company's honor and duty, and they took their job seriously.



    More than once, they had paid the price for it.



    Exiting the command center, Juliette was waved passed the security checkpoint and out onto the parade ground, where a cluster (no pun intended) of men and women in jade green uniforms and with green cords wrapped around their wrists. Even from a distance, the sixty odd bondsmen were clearly agitated, and as she came closer she recognised looks of fear, sullenness, anger, disgust and hope. The anger and disgust were mostly relating to the eight bodies, stripped naked save for their codex bracelets, hanging by their necks from trees around the quad. Absently, Juliette noted that, yes, at least in one case, those EI neural implant 'tattoos' do go all the way down.



    Fortunately, there was a platform designed for officers to address the troops as they paraded, so she climbed the steps and stood near the edge, eschewing the podium for the direct approach. The extra couple of feet gave her a height advantage over her audience, which was a somewhat different experience. Out of my 'Mech, at least, she thought irreverently. Wrapped in a hundred ton's of metal, you can look down on just about anyone.



    The crowd of bondsmen talked amongst themselves, whispering questions and guesses about what was happening, and sending nervous glances at the armored infantrymen standing with nasty looking weapons at the ready. She waited a moment, standing with her hands clasped behind her back, but the crowd failed to fall silent. Internally, she sighed. Apparently, long-term association with Clansmen dulls the brains cells.



    Catching the eye of one of her men, the soldier nodded and stepped forward. "Scuuuuummmmm!" he bellowed, the crowd falling silent at the sudden cry. Satisfied with their obedience, he spun upon his heel and marched over to snap to attention in front of Juliette. "The scum is made silent, my Lady," he stated, offering a crisp salute.



    "Thank you, Sergeant Major," she said politely as she returned his salute, and he nodded, saluted again, then turned smoothly and marched back to his position. Battalion Sergeant Major Benjamin P.W. Sawyer had been a sergeant in the Barony's armed forces since before she was born, and was now the senior NCO in the Legion's infantry. His men both feared and loved him, and on rare occasions she had been priviledged to witness that granite face break out into what, on the face of a lesser mortal, be considered a smile.



    Very rare occasions.



    "I come before you today," she started, her voice ringing out over the now silent parade ground, "To ask you a question. A simple question, but a profound one: are you men, or are you beasts?"



    One of the bondsmen shoved his way forwards, breaking through the crowd only to find his way barred by Legion riflemen. "How dare you!" he cried, trying in vain to push past the armored troopers. "You stand before the bodies of murdered Warriors of Kerensky, and you dare call us beasts? Bandit! Monster!"



    Juliette allowed herself a smile. The bondsman in question had dyed his hair green, and had the Jade Falcon emblem tattooed onto his cheek, despite speaking with a distinctly Lyran accent. "Passion indeed, coming from a gelding like yourself. You once fought for House Steiner-Davion: how long did it take for them to break you, hmm? What did they offer you to turn your back on the nation that bore you, and lick their boots splattered with the blood of your people?"


    Hawking up phlem, he spat at her, the gobblet of spittle landing on her booted toe. "Whore! Mercenary! They showed me the truth! The true path of honor, the glory of the Star League reborn! When my bond cord is cut, and I join the ranks of the Jade Falcon, we shall sweep through the rotten remains of the Inner Sphere, claim Terra as it was written in the -"



    Smoothly, Juliette drew the auto pistol from her thigh, clicked off the safety, and shot the bondsman through the head.



    The sound of the shot echoed around the parade ground, and the assembled bondsmen were silent again, frozen in shock, with several blinking as they realised that their faces and clothing were splattered by the brains and blood of their now deceased fellow.



    Cocking her head to one side, Julliette von Strang sighed and reholstered her sidearm. "A beast, it seems."



    Looking around the stunned bondsmen, she raised her voice again. "My Legion will not remain here. Once we have finished our business here, we are going to return to the Inner Sphere. When the Falcons return here, all they will find will be a burned-out command post, a world in revolt, and the bodies of their dead.



    "You need to ask yourself: do you consider yourself a part of the Clans, or their prisoner. Do you choose to be a slave, or would you be free? Because believe me," she gestured at the crumpled body of the defiant bondsman, as the troopers let it slide to the ground, "There are only two ways to leave this ground: as men, or as beasts."



    Stepping off the platform, she moved off, her guards falling into position. "And you have seen the fate of beasts."



    As she walked away, a bondswoman stepped forward, head held high in defiance. "He was right: you are a murderer!"



    Turning on her heel, Juliette looked at her accuser, and shook her head sadly. "Oh, you poor, foolish sheep. That was not murder."



    Squaring her shoulders, she marched away, throwing her last words over her shoulder.



    "That was pest control."
  6. NHO Misplaced Mechmind

    It is fine fic. Murderous, but we are SB. Need more text for decision.
    But please, edit out text coloration. Using BB code editor. Some of us use default forum style and white on white...
  7. Doomsought Sliver Overlord

    Actually, it is best to save it as unformulated text, then copy it over at your leaser. The funky HTML codes that many programs use often get transferred improperly.
  8. DropShip Tepes, Toland City Spaceport,

    Toland, Jade Falcon Occupation Zone,

    15th December, 3057.



    "Come on, people, snap it up," bellowed Chief Petty Officer Dirk Beatle, quartermaster of the DropShip Tepes. Checking his noteputer, he gestured at a knot of crewmen. "You lot! What the heck are you doing standing about? We've got loot to pack! Tony!" he shouted, "Hey, Tony!"



    Nearby, a man piloting a heavy cargo exoskeleton, basically an unarmoured battlesuit with heavy-duty lifting arms, raised a forklift-like arm in salute and bent down to pick up an enormous crate. Myomer squealed in protest, but he straightened his reinforced legs and lifted, settled his feet and stomped off, carrying the case marked 'Laser, ER, Medium, 4455-3388-SV'.



    Chief Beatle snorted, then turned to his companion, Major Stephanie Lawler, the commander of the Legion's 3rd Battalion, who were normally his passengers. "Lots of this dreck is stuff the Birdies looted from the Vipers at one time or another," he shouted over the cocophany of noise that filled the ship's hold. " We've got a few score lasers, all sizes, plus a stack of gauss rifles'n autocannon, both Tanker types. But the prize is the ammo: there's a whole pile of it! Enough bullets and rockets to keep our guys going a loooong time. Only problem is getting it all out of here!"



    Lawler nodded, surveying the hive of activity. The warehouse complex was enormous, and the Falcons had clearly been building up a reserve for the eventual resumption of the invasion after the Truce of Tukkayyid expired. Clearly, the Falcons hadn't planned on this new war against the Wolves, and by chance, the Legion was in a position to loot an enormous amount of Clan technology. The problem was transport.



    The Legion had an unusual TO&E, and needed somewhat specialised transport as a result.



    Officially, the Legion consisted of three forces: the 'Mech regiment (The Kindred), the aerospace regiment (The Damned), and the mechanised infantry batallion (The Forsaken). Of course, that didn't tell the whole story.



    Firstly, the Damned operated on a four unit lance, rather than the normal two unit lance that most of the Inner Sphere inherited from the Star League. This meant that instead of 54 fighters in the regiment, the Legion's aerospace compliment was a hundred and eight at full strength. This supported the Legion's tactics: stage one, achieve air supremacy. The downside was that no standard DropShips were configured to carry the regiment properly. Normally, it would take three Vengeance class DropShips to deploy the full force, and those craft were far too rare and valuable for the Baroness to acquire even one.



    In addition, the Forsaken were foot troops, who rode to battle in heavy APCs, modified with smaller passenger compartments, but heavier weapons and armor. To complicate matters, each Forsaken company consisted of four platoons, rather than the normal three.



    All this meant that to deploy the Legion, they required the capacity to transport 108 BattleMechs, 108 aerospace fighters, twelve light vehicles and 336 soldiers - plus support personnel.



    To achieve this, the Legion used six modified Overlord class DropShips, three having the fighter bays removed to make space for infantry compartments, vehicle bays and superior command, control and communications equipment. The other three were altered to carry thirty-six fighters each, but these each had a generous cargo capacity, as well as the best medical facilities Juliette could afford.



    Nevertheless, the amount of salvage and loot discovered on Tolland was beyond even their capacity to get into orbit.



    "Take what you can," the Major said in a definite tone. "We're not coming back for a second trip, so concentrate on the ammo, particularly the LRMs and heavy autocannon rounds. Heat sinks, too. We're already salvaging hundreds of tons of wrecked Tanker 'Mechs, so cram this shit in wherever you can. I don't care if I'm walking to breakfast over crates of crates packed into the passageways, get everything you can. And when you can't pack up anything more, set the charges.



    "We're leaving the damned Tankers nothing but misery and a hole in the ground."
  9. Doomsought Sliver Overlord

    You changed the coloration, not eliminated it.
    GAH!
    Plain text, how hard is that, its the same for every program:
    save as -> .txt
    Thanks for fixing that.
    DaLintyGuy likes this.
  10. Downtown Toland City,

    Toland, Jade Falcon Occupation Zone,

    15th December, 3057.



    Anna Ballard was scared out of her mind, elated beyond all measure, and filled by both an incredible hunger and an incessant desire to urinate. She clutched at her venerable TK assault rifle with white-knuckled fingers until Sergeant Schuller notices, and gave her a sharp glare. Taking a deep breath, she forced herself to relax, and squared her shoulders under her flak vest.



    At just over sixteen years old, Anna's life to date had been hell. Alright, her childhood had been okay - great even. Her father was a famed fasion designer, and her mother was his lead model. Anna had been wealthy, went to the best school on Tolland, and had the smartest Daddy and most beautiful Mummy in the entire Commonwealth.



    Then, when she was about eight, the Clans came.



    Anna hadn't really understood. Suddenly, all the adults were talking in hushed tones, school was canceled (a cause for celebration in her eyes), but when the fighting reached the City, she realised that the lights and sounds weren't fireworks.



    All of a sudden the streets were filled with strange people with funny accents, who seemed confused by the simplest things, but insistent that people start doing things differently. All the pretty pictures of Archon Melissa and handsome Prince Hanse were taken down, and replaced by creepy birds. Worst of all were the men and women in green uniforms, some huge and others tiny, but all willing to beat bloody anyone who denied them anything.



    Then schools were reopened, but now the frightened teachers were forced to teach the 'correct' form of history, and the 'glories of the Blessed Kerenskys and the Founders of the Clan.' Some teachers objected, but quickly vanished, to be replaced by others who were more willing to do as they were told.



    For better or worse, it was the Inner Sphere. There are always those who are willing to do as they were told.



    Far worse thing were happening in the background, things that Anna didn't learn until later. The Jade Falcons were insisting that the population of Toland adjust themselves to the Clan way of life, and be organised into castes. Of course, the warriors didn't bother themselves with the bureaucratic and sociological details, and left it to the lower caste members who followed in their wake.



    These bureaucrats, mostly from the merchant and scientist castes, were bewildered by the vast array of occupations and ways of life of the people of Toland. After months of dithering, they basically decided that any occupation that did not fit into a strict pattern of Clan life were to be reassigned to the laborer caste, and sent to work camps for 'reeducation'.



    Anna's father was fairly lucky, and was declared a tailor, which was considered a 'technician' role. The concept of fashion model, however, was so foreign to the Clan mindset that they floundered for some time as to what to do with her mother. Finally, the frustrated merchant in charge decided that, since her job consisted of looking pretty in what he considered flimsy clothes, she should be defined as 'laborer, sex provider', and was assigned to 'entertain' miners in the work camps outside the City.



    To say that Anna's world changed was an understatement. She went from being a local celebrity to the hanger on of a 'working girl' in a work camp. The newly classed laborers were actually fairly decent, most having been familiar with her mother in a vague sort of way, and while lonely, tired miners were hardly adverse to 'spending time' with a lovely lady, they made sure that the rotten apples who wanted to 'make it' with a celebrity or hurt her stayed away. Anna was partially shielded from reality for a while, but eventually she worked things out, and she was filled by a deep hatred for their conquerors.



    When she was about thirteen, one of the camp foremen took her aside, and quietly suggested that she start apprenticing on his shift, that the work would be 'educational'. Reluctantly she agreed, and discovered that deep in the mines, far from the Clan supervisors who remained closer to the surface, survivors of the AFFC garrison and the 12th Star Guards who had fought valiantly to defend Toland were quietly training small groups of miners, preparing for a guerrilla war against the invaders. Under the cover of the noise and vibrations of heavy machinery, Anna drilled with rifle and pistol, learned how to rig improvised explosives, and how to keep her mouth shut and her eyes open.



    Now the day was here: the bulk of the Falcon forces had left to fight some other Clan, and now strange mercenaries had arrived and blown up the Falcon 'Mechs that remained. Carey, her one of her 'squadmates', insisted that the black-clad fighters crucified the Clanners they caught, but Dana said that was crazy, that even mercenaried followed the Ares Conventions.



    Anna hoped that Carey was right. A year before, a bitter and tired Solhama trooper visiting the camp. Seeing Anna's mother, he decided that he 'wished to couple' with her. When she politely refused, having other clients booked ahead of him, he backhanded her across the face for daring to refuse a warrior. The fall broke her neck. The warrior in question shrugged, and stalked off, complaining loudly that laborers should know how to properly respect their betters.



    Anna hoped for impalement.



    So now her scratch-gathered 'company' was in the City, armed with a motley collection of assault rifles, submachine guns and hunting weapons, including one crossbow (which she no-longer laughed at, since the grizzled hunter carrying it had smoothly sent a bolt through the neck of a Falcon infantryman), and they had a group of Falcon troopers pinned down inside a bank. Hauptmann Vance, the foreman who had recruited her originally, had tried to flush them out, but a fusillade of laser fire from inside had driven that assault back, with a dozen or so casualties.



    So now they were taking cover, hunkering down, and exchanging pot-shots with the Falcons, hoping to keep them pinned down until a resistance unit with heavier weapons arrived. Note to self: next time, bring the pentaglycerine.



    Anna checked the safety on her TK, and took a deep breath, preparing to lean arond the corner to shoot, when the roar of an ICE grabbed her attention. Waving across the street where Sergeant Schuller was taking cover behind an overturned bus, she drew his attention, and they both watched in surprise as a pitch-black tracked vehicle with slab-sides of thick armor and bristling with machine guns and missile launchers, rumbled around the corner, and headed down the street towards the bank.



    Stopping out of LOS of the bank, the APC rumbled to a halt, and a ramp in the rear lowered with a deep whine of machinery. Troops in black armor boiled out, deploying with a smooth professionalism that made Anna ach in envy and burn with shame: her own group's efforts were amateurish in comparison. With a surge of hope, she realised that these must be the mercenaries that had landed the day before, and stomped the ever-loving snot out of the Falcons. That particular thought made her smile.



    One black-clad trooper fel into position next to her, drawing a small device from his belt, and smiling at her. "Hi! Lieutenant Le Barr, Third Platoon, Beta Company. Heard you folks had a feathered infestation you needed cleared out?"



    Speechless, the best she could manage was a nod. He grinned in response, a vicious expression that for some reason gave her a warm feeling inside. Extending a flexible fibre optic strand from the device, he poked it around the corner, examined the screen on his device, then pocketed it again. "Oookay, thanks for pinning these blighters down for us. Mind if we take over from here?"



    Anna blinked, then glanced around at the mercenary troops, who were heavily armored, well trained and carryiing what appeared to be machine-guns, rocket launchers and some sort of canon hooked up to large power packs. "Um," she managed, "No, go ahead."



    Giving her a thums up, the young officer touched his throat. "Alright boys, we've got some turkeys to roast. Let's lead with the missiles, then advance under cover of the APC. Keep it tight, people, there's enough Tankers for everyone!"



    As the APC rumbled into motion, Anna found the wherewithal to shout, "Who are you people!"



    Le Barr barked out a laugh, hefting his laser rifle. "We're Von Strang's Legion, babe, and we're here to show these birdies what a REAL monster is!"



    As the first missiles were launched, shattering the masonry and marble facade of the bank, Anna's eyes were drawn to the side of the APC, where the black was relieved by a design drawn in crimson: the outline of a fanged human skull, wearing an archaic helmet with a crest and cheek protectors.



    Over the sound of the howling war cries of the advancing mercenaries, and the clatter and madness of heavy fire, Anna had a sudden revelation, an epiphany.



    She decided that whoever these mercenaries were, she wanted in.
  11. Downtown Toland City,

    Toland, Jade Falcon Occupation Zone,

    15th December, 3057.





    Major Nathan Tucker stepped over the rubble covering the floor of the bank, and looked around. Must remember to add a commendation to Le Barr's record, he mused. "Professional job, Lieutenant," he said, keeping his voice neutral. "Not bad." Can't let him know how well he did: might get a swelled head.



    Le Barr nodded in response, still carrying his rifle, eyeing the shattered foyer warily. "Thank you sir."



    "Fought to the last man?" Tucker asked, glancing at the body of a Falcon woman with grey-streaked blond hair. Her bloodstained uniform was punctured by puncture wounds, and her skin charred by laser burns.



    Le Barr smiled. "That they did, sir. Funny thing, once we announced who we were, the Tankers couldn't wait to throw themselves on our bayonets. Hearing the words 'Von Strang's Legion' kinda whipped them up into a frenzy, and they didn't have a lot of discipline to start with."



    Tucker kept his face impassive. It's amazing how these new recruits get acclimatised so fast, he mused. He was a Barony native, and Le Barr was a Rasalhague exile, but he had quickly picked up many of the attitudes of the Forsaken. Even down to our epithets. Your average Legionnaire thought the normal Spheroid term 'Clanner' was evidence of limited imagination, and a fear of offending the invaders. Years before, when the method of 'trueborn' replication became common knowledge, 'Tanker' or 'Tank' became the preferred word for the Heirs of Kerensky.



    Tucker didn't object, by any means. Far too often, Spheroids seem to forget that the Clans aren't just another Successor State, out to reestablish the Star League under their banner. Their goal is nothing less than to reduce the vast majority of the human race to cattle, perpetually under the rule of the bloodthirsty warrior class.



    At least Davion, Steiner and the like fought the Succession Wars to end the conflict, even if it's only on their terms. The Clan's whole society is devoted to making sure that peace never occurs.



    "Casualties?" the Major asked, and Le Barr made a face.



    "Bad part of getting them all riled up, is that if you do get caught, they're really unhappy with you. We lost three troops, including Corporal Vins. She got cut off when we were clearing the rear rooms, and they managed to hold us off for about three minutes." His face turned dark with rage. "They beat her to death with their bare hands, and one of them was mutilating her with a vibroblade when I blew his head off."



    Tucker paused, and laid a hand on Le Barr's shoulder. "Not your fault, Lieutenant. You did your job, and she did hers, and these Falcons did theirs too, for that matter. The difference is that we did ours well, with discipline and coordination, and the Tankers fought like vicious, cornered animals. In my mind, that turns them from 'heroic defenders' to 'suicidal morons.' More importantly, did Vins get her Death Guard?" he asked with a more forceful tone.



    Le Barr nodded, his savage grin back. "That she did, Major, thanks for asking." Tucker knew that, like about another dozen FRR natives in the Legion, Vins and Le Barr were Asatru, and looked forward to the Feasting Halls of the afterlife, where the souls of their fallen foes would serve them for eternity. Whether or not Clansmen counted was a topic of theological discussion among the Legions' adherents, and since theology to Asatru was best discussed over hard liquor, theology as counted as a contact sport. "Three, my last count. Two more, likely, from what we found in that back office."



    "Good. The Valkyries won't miss that one."



    "I pray so too, Major," Le Barr said fervently, and glanced over his shoulder as a tech in black fatigues approached, followed by three burly troopers carrying equipment.



    "Major, Lieutenant," nodded Sergeant Cooper to both officers, her blond ponytail bobbing under her baseball cap. "Sorry I took so long: traffic around here is crazy!"



    Tucker broke out into a more genuine, human smile. "Glad you could make it, Cooper. Lieutenant, please show the Sergeant to the core." he exchanged salutes with Le Barr, then with Cooper. "Good luck, Sergeant."



    *** *** ***



    "Aha!" she crowed, sitting down at the bank of computers installed where the Bank of Toland had once kept it's own machines. "This is more like it," she added, setting up her portable computer up on the console in front of her, and pulled a cable from her pocket. "Just set those up over there," she called over her shoulder to her lackeys, as she connected her machine to the Falcon devices.



    Le Barr looked over her shoulder, but the lines of code on the screen made little to no sense to him. "Wish I could help," he lamented.



    "If I need something blown up, sir, I'll let you know," she said, her eyes flicking from screen to screen. "If you need something to do, make sure I've got all the supplies I need."



    "Right," he said, and looked over the packages. "What am I looking for?" he asked, searching for electrical components, data disks and cables.



    "Three liters of Jump cola, six bags of crisps and a box of stim sticks," she said nonchalantly, her hands starting to dance across the keyboards. "Clan merchant systems are a lot harder to crack than the warrior-grade ones: this could take a while."



    *** *** ***



    After narrowly escaping the Jade Falcon armada at Here, the Barony JumpShip took to jumping into random segments in deep space, relying on the JumpShip's engines to trickle charge the drive, rather than using the sail. This was risky, as charging the drive too fast could damage the system, at best leaving them stranded light years from any inhabitable system. The benefit, however, was that they were unlikely to run into anyone else in the same region: even in an age defined by interstellar travel, many forgot just how big and empty space was. Juliette decided that security was worth the risk, but ordered that the drives be charged far slower than normal, just to be on the safe side.



    When they finally made it deep enough into Fed Com space that Juliette felt confident that they were ahead of the Falcons, the exiled von Strang forces found that the situation was far worse than they had feared. The Falcon were only one of at least four Clans, who were in the middle of tearing huge chunks out of the Federated Commonwealth, Free Rasalhague Republic, and the Draconis Combine. The Commonwealth was staggered, but was in the process of recovering and redirecting forces. The Fox was preparing to counterattack, and Juliette saw her opportunity.



    Entire regiments of mercenaries were either defaulting their contracts to get away from the invasion, or refusing to accept contracts. The AFFC was screaming for troops, and Juliette von Strang happened to have a heavy 'Mech battalion, a dozen fighters, and full DropShip and JumpShip support - plus already having a bone to pick with the Clans. A quick conference with the officers and senior NCOs of the exiles, and suddenly the AFFC found themselves the first employers of von Strang's Legion.



    *** *** ***



    Of course, it wasn't as simple as that.



    The Legion was, as a unit, completely unknown to the Inner Sphere. While many of the unit's 'Mechwarriors and pilots were veterans of raids and assaults against the Barony's neighbors and various pirate groups, these conflicts meant little to the 'civilised' nations. Worse, the unit was not registered with the Mercenary Review and Bonding Commission, and coupled with the Baroness' family name, the FedCom Mercenary Liaison Office was not enthusiastic. Nevertheless, with the Commonwealth hemorrhaging troops and planets, Juliette's offer of service was accepted.



    Early in the invasion, Arc Royal was used as a staging post, gathering smaller units together to strike behind the enemy lines, disrupting their supplies and, supposedly, supporting the local resistance groups. Also a key goal was the gathering of intelligence and samples of Clan technology, as well as prisoners for interrogation. Juliette freely offered the intelligence she had already gathered, and the Commonwealth's military intelligence officers were eager to learn as much from the recordings as they could. The belief among the Legion about the Clans origin, however, was rudely dismissed as the ramblings of rustic Periphery neobarbarians.



    Inactivity, combined with the continual news of fresh attacks and worlds falling to the invaders, quickly frayed the nerves of the gathered mercenaries. This was made worse as students at a local university began objecting loudly at having the descendants of von Strang stationed on Arc Royal, even temporarily. The Legion's quarters were picketed, the press began howling, and Legionaries on leave were inevitably drawn into brawls and fistfights, which did nothing to help the situation. When a frustrated Juliette ordered that her troops remain on base, observers commented on the 'secretive and sinister' ways of the Barony troops, demanding to know 'what they're up to!'



    Worst of all, someone found a copy of 'Butcher of New York,' an obscure 29th century holovid that claimed to depict the battles of Terran resistance groups with the 18th Amaris Chasseurs, under the command of the merciless Colonel Gunthar von Strang. The acting was atrocious, the script the worst kind of dribble, and the plot ludicrous, and it was an immediate hit amongst the populace.



    So it was with a sigh of relief that the order was finally given to gather at the system's nadir jump point, to prepare for the counter attack. The Legion's Tramp class JumpShip, the last of the fleet looted from the Star League before Amaris's short lived empire fell, carried the Tepes and two other Overlord class DropShips, as part of an armada carrying six battalions of mercenaries and a regular regiment.



    Despite the conditions, despite the attitudes and distrust of their 'comrades', morale among the Legionaries was high.



    Payback time.
  12. Toland City Spaceport,

    Toland, Jade Falcon Occupation Zone,

    15th December, 3057.



    Juliette's entourage paused as a Warhammer lumbered across their path, the heavy 'Mech weighed down by the bits and pieces of battlefield salvage that were tied, tethered and in one case spot-welded to it's carapace. The Baroness nodded in satisfaction: where possible, the Legionares had salvaged entire Falcon 'Mechs, dragging or carrying them to the spaceport like fallen logs. Where this was unfeasible, field expediant recovery techniques were used.



    Or, to put it another way, limbs of 'Mechs containing weapon systems are torn from the bodies of the war machines, with the remains of the 'Mech being blasted from a safe distance by multiple energy weapons, to ruin whatever remains. We leave nothing for the Tankers. Nothing.



    The Legion was not on Toland to kill Jade Falcons. This was, to her mind, a happy coincidence. In this case, it was only the first and least important reason for this mission.



    The second, was that in order to expand the Legion to full strength, to purchace and modify the Legion's DropShips, to hire, train and equiip the massive aerospace regiment, Juliette had been forced to go into debt.



    Heavily into debt.



    Originally, she had planned on recovering enough salvage from the garrison to put at least a large dent into that debt. The discovery of the stockpile, even gutted by the needs of this 'Refusal War' the Birdies were fighting with the Puppies, was extremely fortuitous: with just over four thousand tons of salvage and loot spread between the six DropShips, the Legion was set to almost balance the scales, financially.



    And of course, mused the Baroness as she crossed the street, feeling the vibrations of the passing 'Mech's footfalls through her boots, there is the third reason.



    Waiting on the other side of the road was a small knot of people standing around a civilian vehicle. The leader was a familiar face. "Komandant Cooper!" she said, exchanging a salute with the battered veteran. "I apologise for keeping you waiting, but I have had quite a few things to accomplish first."



    The armor officer waved away her apology. "No need: I'm fully aware of the myriad complications of command. Allow me to introduce my companions. This is Adept Virgil Sarris, who's assistance was vital in disabling the Toland HPG."



    Sarris was a tall, emaciated man with lank brown hair, but his eyes were bright with inteligence. They were also wary: not only did Juliette command the most powerful military force on the planet at the time, but was also possessed of a dark reputation. I guess it doesn't help that I've been executing people all day. Well, Falcons, anyway. The man was wearing the white robe of the Comstar clergy, faded and tattered, but lovingly patched and showing the creases of recent ironing.



    "M-my lady," he murmured in a Terran accent, giving a jerky sort of bow, which she replied with a smoother one. For politeness' sake, she refrained from flashing fang.



    "Adept," she said in response, keeping her tone formal. As a Periphery native who's homeworld never warranted a HPG station, she lacked the reverence or fear most Spheroids still held towards the masters of inerstrellar communications, and their religious trappings. On the other hand, the blackout had been vital to the plan. With luck, it would be at least a few days before any Falcon reinforcements would arrive, which would give the Legion time to return to their pirate jump point and leave the system before they could be intercepted.



    At least, that's the plan.



    "I realise that sabotaging the HPG could not have been easy for you," she continued, "And I wish to offer you a seat off world, to be returned to either ComStar or the Word of Blake, whichever you prefer."



    But the techno-cleric shook his head sadly. "I fear that both the secular and fanatical branches of my former organisation have drifted too far from the teachings of Blake," he said in a tired voice. "I fear I am too fundamentalist for one faction, and not enough for the other. There are still those of the faithful here on Toland, and I choose to remain to minister to them. I ... I thank you, however, for the kind offer," he added, a note of surprise edging into his voice, as though the idea of a von Strang expressing empathy or sympathy was incomprehensible to him.



    Then again, as a Terran, that's understandable. Heck, it's no secret that Great-grand uncle was a flipping loon, and a murdering sadist to boot. I just wish fewer people in the Sphere and beyond were such genetic determinalists!



    "Finally, may I introduce Her Grace, Maria Rolland-Steiner, Baroness Veit, Countess Mitchell, Protector of the Mountain and by the Archon's grace, Duchess of Toland."



    The nineteen year old blond girl looked tiny enough to be crushed by the weight of her titles alone.



    Upon further examination, however, the truth was far different. Although clad in rough jeans, a t shirt and a battered AFFC leather jacket, and her hair was unkempt and ragged, her spine was straight and her Steiner blue eyes were clear. "My lady von Strang?"



    Juliette hesitated, then bowed to the teen. Not too deeply though: although technically the Duchess was more highly ranked than she, both were rulers of planets ... and Juliette had no liege lord. Lets split the difference, and go with near-equals.



    "Your Grace. It is a pleasure to meet you, and I offer my congratulations on avoiding capture by the Clans. A rare achievement."



    Maria blushed. "Praise must go to my guards, and the family who have taken me in since the invasion. We managed to take advantage on the strange naïveté of the invaders: if I said I was a farmer's daughter, who were they to argue?"



    Now Maria's face grew stern. "And I wish to thank you for undertaking this mission. While the thought of leaving my beloved world behind, it has been impressed upon me," she glared at Komandante Cooper, who looked back impassively, "That my efforts may be of more use to my people pleading their case, and that of all the other Commonwealth worlds under Clan occupation, in the Estates General."



    "Then we shall make sure you get that opportunity, your Grace." Bowing again, she motioned to several of her guards. "Corporal Vil will show you to your quarters aboard the Tepes. They may be rather Spartan, but it belongs to one of my company commanders."



    "I am sure it will be fine," agreed the Duchess, shouldering her bag in defiance of her own bodyguard's silent protest. "After all, I've been living on a farm, as a farm girl. Clan quotas do not leave much left for their laborers: the farm could not support a hand who didn't work. I'm sure it will be little hardship."



    Juliette suppressed a smile. Plenty of steel in this one, she thought approvingly.



    As the Duchess was escorted to her waiting DropShip, Juliette quite deliberately avoided thinking about the fourth, and perhaps most important, reason that the Legion was on Toland. It was a long shot, a hope so slender that the Baroness avoided focusing on, to avoid tempting the Fates.



    But if it did succeed, it would be a lance thrust into the soft underbelly of the Clan that had taken so much from her and her followers, a blow that far outstripped the firepower of a mere mercenary regiment.



    One way or another, they will pay.



    *** *** ***



    Andrew Le Barr stepped outside and nodded to the Legion sentry. There was only so much time one could spend watching boffins (even ones as cute as Lucy Cooper) clatter away on keyboards without going mad. So the Legion lieutneant snagged one of Cooper's stim sticks and snuck outside for a smoke.



    At least it's not nicotine, he mused as he tapped the small cylinder sharply against his belt buckle to ignite it, then lifted it to his lips. Drawing in the smoke, he smiled as the first hints of the stick's buzz started. Plus, no carcenogens. All the fun of tobacco but none of the drawbacks. You can forgive the Canopeans a lot for introducing this stuff.



    A few moments later, however, he was drawn out of his reflections by the approach of a Toland native, dressed in rough clothes with a basic auto rifle slung over one shoulder. After a moment, he recognised the girl as the resistance fighter he chatted with before assaulting the bank. Sweet Sif, she's just a kid! Can't be more than fifteen, sixteen Standard! Still, she was extremely pretty, and when she smiled at him, he couldn't help smiling back.



    Careful, Andy. Remember what happened to the last Legionaire who embarrassed the Baroness by getting into trouble with a local girl. There were few things that could discourage a randy soldier from fratanising. Juliette von Strang's wrath was one of them.



    "Afternoon, miss. Sorry, can't let you in," he said as she approached, giving her his best friendly smile. "Our techie boys are clearing up the Birdie boddies in there, plus all sorts of other stuff."



    She smiled back somewhat shyly. "Oh, that's okay, sir. I don't want to go in, I was actually wanting to talk to you."



    Somewhat confused, he said, "The Legion is here to help, miss. What can I do for you?"



    She took a deep breath. "I was looking to join up," she said simply.



    Andrew blinked. "Really? And why would a pretty thing like you be wanting to hook up with a bunch of mercs?"



    *** *** ***



    Anna Ballard had thought about that question a lot. She had thought about her answers, too.



    'There's nothing here for me anymore.' Technically true: her mother was murdered, and her father had died of a simple illness which the Falcon overlords refused to treat: medical resources were reserved for those of more 'utility to the Clan' than a tailor. Unfortunately, not the best argument to convince someone to let you join their unit.



    'I'm really good at what I do!' False. She was technically competant with rifle and pistol, passable at unarmed combat, and decent with explosives, but these Legionaries were clearly far more highly trained than she was, and greatly more experienced.



    'I like the uniform.' Okay, sort of true. The black with occasional splashed of red and gold worked, but it was hardly the basis for a career.



    'Money.' Unfortunately, Anne was smart enough to realise that far from being a path to quick riches, the life of a mercenary as hard and brutal: a few lucky units might strike it big, like the Grey Death Legion or the Kell Hounds, but little of that wealth trickled down to the rank and file.



    Ultimately, of course, there was only one real answer.



    *** *** ***



    The teen drew herself up, and raised her chin defiantly. "Because next time I'm killing a god dammed Falcon I want to be carrying something better than a rifle that's older than I am!"



    Andrew's smile returned, and broadened into a full on grin. "Great answer, kid. Welcome to the Forsaken!"
  13. The raid on Bensinger was a disaster from the get go.



    The supplies and specialists who were supposed to be delivered to the on-site resistance groups failed to arrive prior to launch. The Baroness later learned that this was hardly unusual: very little effort was put into supporting anti-Clan guerillas in former Commonwealth space, and rumors persisted of active sabotage of such groups. While the concept baffled the Legionnaires, the reasoning appeared to be that the infamous Turtle Bay incident, with Smoke Jaguar WarShips assaulting a rebellious city from orbit, was the instigator: FedCom officials were afraid that if local resistance groups pushed the Clans too far, Turtle Bay would be only the first in a long line of massacres.



    Whatever the reasoning, the task force left without the supplies and reinforcements, and traveled through dead systems to their target, close to the border of the Clan Wolf OZ. Privately the Legionaires were concerned that the invaders might fight amongst themselves, and when they arrived the planet might not even be still held by the Falcons. This would certainly be irritating: the Barony forces had no major quarrel with the Wolves, other than their shared origin with the Falcons. Still, they hoped for the best.



    Unfortunately, the best was hard to find.



    The only real bright spark was that there was no fighter cover on Bensinger when the Task Force arrived, and the DropShips were able to achieve orbit unopposed. The FedCom General in charge of the force spent a great deal more time arguing with the local Falcon commander than briefing his troops, adding to Juliette's steadily growing study of 'How Not to Command'.



    The 'Mechs dropped from low orbit, and the DropShips went to ground a fair distance from any Falcon units, and the general insisted that they had the advantage over the Falcons. Nevertheless, he held the Legion in reserve, behind the Commonwealth regiment he was using to spearhead the attack, clearly not trusting the Periphery troops.



    Needless to say, 'charge' was not a plan, and the attack on the garrison troops was a complete failure: the Clans still had a definite range and speed advantage over the FedCom forces, and the general was in no shape to utisise his advantage in numbers, or his aerospace support. The regular regiment disintegrated under the withering fire of the advanced invaders.



    No one really called the retreat ... it was more of a silent agreement.



    The Legion found itself the rear guard of a mass of disorganised rabble, but they made the best of things. Fortunately, the DropShips were on the other side of the Bessemer Ranges, mass of narrow passes, canyons and dry riverbeds. When it seemed that the Falcons were content to pause to rearm, Juliette ushered the other mercenaries and surviving regulars through the Ranges, and issued a challenge.



    "Alright, you inbred beasts, you want a fight? I am Baroness Juliette von Strang, ruler of the Barony of Strang, descendant of Gunthar von Strang! I know who you are, the children of Hazen the Terrorist, and Kerensky the Deserter! I came here to claim a Falcon skull for my collection: come, face me, you gutless cowards! One at a time or all at once, I'm going to kill you all!"



    SHe hadn't even finished her cry when the first Falcon forces launched their attack. Some were hallway through reaming, with techs hanging off their 'Mechs being hurled to the ground by the sudden movement. The airways were filled by the challenges, curses and howls of the infuriated Clansmen, inflamed by the sudden realisation of just who they faced, every one of them wanting to be the Falcon who finally wiped out the last scion of Strang.



    The fighting was brutal. Unable to use their advantage of long-range gunnery, denied the room to maneuver, in the close confines of the Ranges the Falcons suddenly found many of their strengths taken away. On average, the Legion 'Mechs were heavier, and their pilots were focused on revenge. BattleROMs removed from Legion 'Mechs showed entire lances surrounding and engaging individual Falcon 'Mechs at point-blank range. One memorable image was of a Legion Banshee, an under armed -3E model, picking up a Falcon Uller by the legs and smashing it against first one canyon wall, then the other, and then back to the first, before stomping a huge foot onto the fallen Clansman's cockpit.



    The casualties were massive: eighteen 'Mechs, fully half the Legion, were either destroyed or damaged beyond repair, and eleven Legionaires were killed. But they managed to destroy both Binaries of Falcons, down to the last 'Mech, and managed to evacuate back to the DropShips before any reinforcements could arrive.



    Technically, Bensinger was a failure. The only silver lining appeared to be that they managed to acquire samples of Clan technology, as well as capturing several Falcon warriors. Still, the casualties had been horrendous, and the only thing that was worse was that they could have been heavier. Many of the surviving mercenaries, their own units shattered, signed on with the Legion, bringing them up to four companies, although many objected to Juliette's brutal tactics and the high rate of casualties among the downed Falcons. Controversy, it seemed, was never too far from the Legion.



    Two things the Legion managed to keep from either their employers and their fellow mercenaries. First, Juliette managed to slip two of her 'Mechwarriors, a husband and wife team who had been forced to abandon their children when the Barony fell, into the planet's population, forming the nucleus of a resistance and intelligence network ... one answering to the Baroness alone.



    The other was that, officially, the Legion captured four Falcon MechWarriors, and handed them over to FedCom authorities for interrogation.



    Officially.
  14. For the remainder of the Clan Invasion, the Legion continued to raid behind the Falcon lines, trying to keep the Clansmen off balance, sowing a little chaos where they could. They suffered casualties, often heavy ones, but managed to fill their ranks and continue to grow by recruiting from the despised (other warriors with black marks on their records, deserving or otherwise, and former pirates seeking a home), the desperate (warriors Dispossessed by the Clans, willing to join the Legion to get back inot a cockpit, and Lyran and Rassalhague nobles rendered landless and penniless when the Clans conquered their holdings), and the devoted (those who had lost friends, family and loved ones to the invaders).

    Juliette welded these disparate dregs and renegades into a cohesive whole, by rigorous and sometimes harsh training. Regimental dinners often included new recruits, who had the opportunity to meet the unit's high command in a more relaxed forum, and join in discussions on the nature of the enemy, their tactics and their psychology, and more importantly, how these could be used against them.

    One side effect of this process was that the newcomers quickly adopted the methods, mannerisms and attitudes of their new unit. They began using Legion slang, often leftovers from the Barony dialect of English. They dressed in dark clothes, eschewing decorations and insignia ... they knew who they were, outsiders didn't need to know. 'Mechs, aircraft and even the unit's DropShips were painted black, and the unit developed a black-on-black uniform, relieved only by the red helmed-and-fanged skull emblem of the Legion. Whatever their origin, they all became distinctly Legion.

    This only exacerbated the resentment and dislike outsiders often felt for the Legionaires. Whispers arose of secret ceremonies, blood sacrifices and awful oaths. One reporter had the audacity to ask Juliette if she really drank Jade Falcon blood. "Of course not," she responded with a serious tone. "Clan blood tastes like chemicals. Now, reporter blood ... that's a rich and delicate flavour ... hey, where are you going?"

    On observer suggested that the Legion was more of a cult than a military force, and should be broken up, so that the Baroness could be incarcerated and her followers deprogrammed. Of course, this was the spokesperson for 'Liberty and Freedom', a political party who declared that the solution to the Clan threat was to open an honest dialogue with the Clansmen, and address their concerns ... if only the Commonwealth would just stop threatening the Clan's way of life, they would simply go away ... for obvious reasons, the L&F had very limited membership in the Commonwealth.

    After the Truce of Tukayyid, the Legion was moved up and down the border, continuing their raiding, but on a smaller scale. The Legion's tactics had evolved along a simple pattern: under heavy air cover, the Legion would attack isolated Falcon units, use their medium units to perform reconnaissance, their heavy units to pin the Falcons in place, and roll in the assault 'Mechs to hammer the Clans at close range, then withdraw before Falcon reinforcements could arrive.

    The Legion developed a reputation for effective if brutal tactics. They routinely used their fighter units to strafe and dive bomb Clan 'Mechs, and as they became better equipped, added Arrow IV missiles to their aircraft's payloads. If forced onto the offensive, they preferred to lead the Falcons into prepared positions, minefields and ambushes, with their growing infantry complement becoming experienced sappers. Occasionally their preference for concentrated targeting prompted frustrated and enraged Falcon commanders to abandon the custom of zelbrigen, but their efforts were reminiscent of a group of very fit amateurs playing a veteran team in soccer ... the Legion was highly drilled, well organised, and psychologically prepared to fight that way, and the Clans were not.

    Somewhat oddly, although having captured a significant number of Clan weapons, they refused to use any Clan-built designs, preferring to mount salvaged weapons on IS 'Mechs. This cost the Legion in effectiveness, as it was harder to maintain the advanced weapons on the standard 'Mechs, but they all agreed it was worth the psychological advantage. Captured cooling suits and advanced neurohelmets were considered acceptable, although they had to be thoroughly fumigated before use ... captured supplies fresh from the factories were preferred, for obvious reasons.

    It came to a head in 3055, when Juliette attending an event on Arc Royal, a necessary formality for one who was both officially nobility AND the commander of a sizable mercenary command in FedCom service. One of the guests loudly refused to be seated near the Baroness. The offender, a minor Lyran noble, rudely suggested that he had no intention of being seated at the same table as 'the spawn of the Vampire!' The baronette's attitude was one shared by the majority of the guests, and Juliette was firmly snubbed by the entire crowd, the event televised over the planet. Only the Duke himself held himself apart, and his expression was one of quiet fury as he dressed down the noble with a cold precision, almost reducing the man to tears.

    But it was too late: Juliette had already left the palace. She had been humiliated and ostracized publically, and together with the abuse and contempt and the heartache of the last half-decade, it was the last straw. The next day, she made an apointment with a dentist, and had her canines altered, granting herself an impressive set of fangs.

    If they only saw the monster, then the monster she would become ...
  15. Well, thats what I have so far ... hope you enjoyed. More will follow. :)
  16. For some reason, it reminds me of the RL story of Vlad Dracul...
  17. I can see how you'd make that connection ... there's also a vein of 'let them hate me so long as they fear me ...'

    Juliette is basically using the Fed Com as a staging area to conduct her own private war against the Falcons, a war that is far less genteel and civilised than the one in canon ... there are aditional reasons for this which will come out in later chapters.

    But fear not ... it's not just mindless bloodletting. The Baroness has a plan - well, several really, with varying levels of success and effect on the Falcons.

    I'm glad you guys are enjoying, feel free to speak up with your opinions, criticisms and suggestions.

    In the next chapter (which may be a while, as I go back to continue 'Scions'), we discover the Falcon reaction to loosing contact with one of their worlds ...
  18. Hmm...Interesting.
  19. Doomsought Sliver Overlord

    I knew from the start it was based on Vlad Tepes. It is a very good read, I hope to see more.
  20. Actually, that was completely unintentional ... I just played up the 'Vampire' part of the family reputation.

    I found the story of von Strang in the archives section of the Mechwarrior 2 computer game in the early nineties. The name stuck with me, as did the way von Strang came this close to not only winning, but decapitating the Falcons. For years, the idea stuck with me ... what if some of the family escaped? I first made the Legion using the Mercenaries unit creation rules, with a male heir, then eventually I came up with Juliette. I wanted her to be reviled, an outsider ... and not giving a damn, and even exploiting her reputation. I wanted her dedicated to her cause, and her example inspiring her followers to do the same.

    And I want her to refuse to play nicely with the Clanners like most Spheroids do. You'll see what I mean when the Legion returns to Arc Royal to find the Duke's new house guests ...
  21. LordsFire Tel'dai Knight Errant

    Finally.

    Finally.

    Something it seems like almost every writer who mucks with BT here misses, is that the Clanners are psychopaths. Their entire way of life is literally built to dehumanize them in just about every possible way, and treats power as the only moral imperative. This is very directly a society of militant megalomaniacs, and frankly, IRL, such a society could not sustain itself for more than a couple decades, much less centuries. The undercastes would simply start killing off all the warriors with things like poisoned food, poison gas, etc.

    It's nice to see someone reacting to the war criminals like they are war criminals. (And yes, I know, not all clans are completely terrible, but the Falcons were one of the worst.)
  22. Doomsought Sliver Overlord

    I now suspect that there is lead in the Warrior's drinking water.
  23. ...That makes all kinds of sense.
  24. Wait until the Baroness is done with the Falcons ... they might be longing for a mere lower-caste revolt ... she's not that kind. :cool:
  25. Prince Charon Just zis guy, you know?

    This is another story I look forward to seeing more of. Juliette may be a bit of a monster, but she's an understandable, sympathetic monster, and that's the best kind.

    ... also, she's far less of a monster than her opponents, really, as LordsFire points out.

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