#84301 - 02/23/04 04:00 AM (220.127.116.11)
Fire looked over the forested valley via his thermal optics, scanning for any sign of enemies and finding nothing. Another patrol through the very empty valleys and mountains, scouring for reports of a lone Catapult roaming the countryside. As he started his 'mech down the hillside three other light 'mechs crested the hill and came down after him. The "Elementals" lance, named for their callsigns, was ending the hunt in a small corner of allied territory.
"All clear on my scopes," said Water, presiding radar specialist due to 'mech deployment.
"Aff, same here..." replied Earth, who was their close-range killer.
"This is the last sector. We clear this zone and we get to go home," Fire replied and pushed the throttle to the lance's maximum speed. He wanted to be back in the comfort of his barracks.
Watching leaves, branches and tree trunks fly by his 'mech as he lumbered down the mountain, Fire could almost make a glowing figure out across the valley. Squinting, he tapped a few keys on his console and zoomed in on a particular quadrant of the viewscreen. The burning wreckage of some sort of vehicle shone brightly with his thermal optics. Breaking formation and heading for the wreckage, he called for his wingman.
"Water, you are with me. Wind, Earth, continue to the next ridge and give us visual confirmation of possible target."
Without a sound, they followed orders. Water shared the top speed of his 'mech, so he punched the throttle. Now crashing through the trees as much as dodging them, the joints of his mech began to voice their annoyance at the task. With a small grin at the dip of the hill, Fire tapped a few more keys and shut off his 'mech's floodlight. The trees were nothing but black mass flying over his viewscreen now, and a few more keystrokes flooded the cockpit with purple light.
"Combat Mode engaged, tight-band encoding engaged. Weapons systems activated and hot. Let us do some hunting," he murmured into his headset before switching his systems over to the stealthier Combat Mode. His radar cleared momentarily as all three lancemates went passive, then he too switched his sensors to passive mode.
The valley's exit showed a horrible scene. It must have been a dozen APC's, about a company of some sort of assault tank (presumable Uriel or Behemoth) and the corpses of several Light and Medium 'mechs littered a patch of land only thirty meters wide and thirty meters deep. Water came around his left and stopped shortly before the wreckage, Fire moving off to the right and standing next to what appeared to be the lead mech.
"Pirate markings on the APC's...same on the tanks," Water informed him.
"Aff, I see the same markings on the battlemechs..."
"Sir, I have one contact moving north from your position, one hundred and fifteen meters at present speed of... 23 kilometers per hour," Wind alerted him.
Wind was their sighter, also known for his devastating piloting skill. He had never lost a slugging match, but was far from the best gunner in the lance.
"We would not want to let our prey get away, quineg?" Fire smiled, issuing the playful banter and moving his mech toward the target.
"Earth, Wind, meet up with Water and take my flank. They may be running a passive lance. Whatever 'they' is will likely be a strong opponent, worthy of combat!"
In truth, their light mech lance would get chewed apart by anything heavier than a medium. Moving at only 23 kilometers per hour either made it a very, very loaded Assault 'mech, or a very, very damaged light or medium. He hoped for the latter but expected the first.
"Eighty meters...seventy meters...sixty meters. Reaching a clearing, we should have visual on targets..."
Nodding silently to Wind's words he wrapped his fingers around the console bar. Punching through the treeline he scarcely believed his eyes. Not fifty meters from him stood a Catapult, white blue and black markings covering it. It had no empire's mark, meaning it was likely rogue. The 'mech walked with a limp so heavy that it was a wonder the thing remained standing.
"I claim this opponent, Elementals break off and I shall face this foe!"
Quickly reaching and tapping a few more commands, laser fire laced out from the arms of his 'mech and drilled into the injured leg of the Catapult. Armor flaked away, revealing a shower of sparks from the leg when it moved. As the Catapult turned Fire realized what variant it was and nearly had to swallow his heart. Quickly dodging to the right, he was temporarily blinded by a brilliant flash of light. At first...he thought he was dead. In his daze, he reached out for his console and found it. Fingers tapped out commands on their own as he came to, returning fire against dual PPC cannons.
"W..Water, give me a readout on the Catapult's armor status."
"Aff, coming right up...Arms are weak, torso sides are nearly gone. Central Torso is down to interal and the left leg is all but gone. Head is untouched."
"Thank you..." he murmured into the headset, again sending dual medium lasers from the 'mechs arms and this time a small laser from the head. He was close, hopefully too close for those cannons to hit him... Unfortunately his lasers only found arms, shredding the armor from one and only scarring the other. Four medium lasers returned his volley, two striking his torso and two others hitting one of his arms, nearly severing it.
Cursing outright, he spun his mech toward the Catapult and charged at it. Barely managing to duck under another dual PPC blast, he reared back at the last second and fired again. This time, all three lasers carved a deep line through the hip of the mech, severing the injured leg and sending the Catapult to it's side.
"Nothing against Clan RoE in kicking an enemy while it is down..." again talking to himself as he brought the 'mech's foot back and then planted it firmly into the center torso of the Catapult. The spikes he had asked be welded on did wonders for penetration, and the Catapult shuddered before shutting down completely. The pilot was hasty in clearing the downed Catapult, and signalled his surrender.
Keying the external speakers and floodlight, Fire spoke with a satisfied smile. He knew the Catapult was damaged too much to claim it as salvage from the sensor data from Water. Aparently a dual engine crit destroyed and chance the pilot would have had...
"This is Fire, of Clan Blood Spirit. I claim you as my bondsman. You will return with us as our guest, but if you attempt to flee you will be killed in the most painful way I can fathom, quiaff?"
Surprising the entire lance, the answer was a simple "Aff." The fact that the pilot replied as a clanner meant that, at the least, he knew the customs.
On the return trip to barracks, Fire learned much from his new Bondsman. First, the man's name was "Draconis Chastine", aparently captured during an attack on his homelands and recently released, attempting to make his way back with a stolen Catapult similar to his own. The man was aparently a survivor of many conflicts, a military leader and, for a time, the equivalent to a Galaxy Commander.
As the lance approached their stables, Draconis hopped from the nose of the light mech and into the waiting custody of guard escort. Star Captain Tenshi himself greeted Fire as he stepped down from the 'mech, offering a handshake and congradulations on such a skilled Bondsman.
"Thank you, Star Captain. He was a worthy opponent, but I gained the upper hand quickly and fought him to defeat."
"I am sure you did, Mechwarrior Fire. Expect me to mention this to the Khan, and perhaps he will deem you worthy of promotion, Tenshi replied."
That night, Fire and Draconis talked more over a meal and drink. Draconis told of his 'clan' history, how his roots were that of a mercenary unit that gained favor with a clan long ago. The name of the clan was never mentioned, but the fact of omission meant it may well have been the clan which no one would speak of. As the night progressed, Draconis and Fire were the only two left in the mess hall. The stories of vast battles and galaxies explored were like the stories of heroes told to him as a boy, and finally Fire lifted his hand for no more. The much older man paused with a quirky smile, obviously amused by his younger counterpart's sudden lack of interest.
"Enough. The hour grows late and I must patrol again in the morning. You will be shown your quarters if you ask one of the guards," Fire said as he stood from the table.
"I see. Well, enjoy a good night's rest. I presume I'll be somewhere in these barracks, and I bet you're going to know where. Call me if you need me..."
With a two-fingered salute the older warrior was off, leaving Fire alone in the mess hall. With a lopsided grin he hurried to his quarters to log the day in his Mechwarrior Journal. It had been a day of many accomplishments, most of which the recommendation by his leader.