Rock in a Hard Place
|Rock in a Hard Place|
|First published||21 July 2005|
|Era||Civil War era|
|Timeline||30 March 3067|
|“||Kevin Killiany takes us to Tharkad to give us hands-on instructions from an infantryman on how to take down a 'Mech the hard way.||”|
Roccamound Johansen is an infantry specialist and a member of the Third Assault Avatars, Twenty-first Rim Worlds Regiment, Blue Star Irregulars, and he and his unit have set up on one of the mountainsides near where the Twenty-first had identified a small arroyo as a suitable bolthole for the regiment to use if things went bad. Unfortunately for Johansen and the other members of his unit, their opponents - the Eleventh Arcturan Guards - have a detachment that's set up in the vicinity, which means the LAAF may have found that bolthole as well.
Observing a lance of Lyran 'Mechs moving around - an old-model Zeus, an LRM-heavy variant of the Stalker, an old Hunchback and a left-handed Nightsky, Johansen and his team are disconcerted to see that the 'Mechs are in good repair, even if they're largely older models. Seeing the Nightsky move, Johanson's sergeant observes that the MechWarrior is trained for zero-g work, and the two speculate that the Eleventh has rebuilt using forces from the Timbuktu Theater Militia - most likely the Alekseyevka Timbuktu Theater Militia - and are well positioned to make life difficult for the 'Mechs of the Twenty-first.
With the Nightsky moving out as spotter for the lance, Johanson and his men split up to try and sabotage or distract the 'Mechs - a squad of anti-Mech infantry against a lance. Johanson's target is the Nightsky, and he manages to use a grapnel to climb onto the 'Mech... but whilst he's trying to decide where to leave his explosive charge, the MechWarrior spots him and fires the small laser mounted behind the Nightsky's head at him, leaving Johanson clinging to the 'Mech after a desperate evasive move. As he tries to reposition to place his charge, the MechWarrior manages to knock him loose and moves off, leaving Johanson embarassed but not injured.
With the Stalker starting to lay down indirect fire, the Twenty-first begin jamming as best they can, while Johanson's squad reposition to try and inflict some damage while a pair of Blue Star Irregulars' 'Mechs begin moving in to support them, headed up by a Cerberus. He and a squadmate attempt to immobilise the Hunchback, one charge damaging the 'Mechs knee while Johanson manages to scale as far as the Hunchback's left hip, giving him a few moments to observe the battlefield and see his reinforcements - the Cerberus, a Starslayer and a Jackal, all damaged - moving to engage the Lyran 'Mechs, whilst beyond them the bulk of the Eleventh engaging the battered Twenty-first.
Johanson manages to secure his charges against the Hunchback, but when he jumps clear, finds the Hunchback has backed up against the mountain for cover, and his jump has simply left him stuck to the rock face a couple of meters from the charges, with a clear view of the high-grade explosives about to detonate. As he scrambles for cover, the explosives go off, and Johanson is hit in the explosion.
Describing the events afterwards to the Twentieth Arcturan Guards, who've beaten the Eleventh, Johanson talks about losing an arm and a leg in the explosion, and how his squadmate Fatima Crenshaw treated the amputations as best she could before the two ended up hiding under a canvas camouflage sheet from Arcturan Guard battle armor after the battle. Offered repatriation back to the Twenty-first, Johanson isn't convinced that they'll need a one-armed, one-legged infantryman, but having decided whilst high on morphine under the sheet that he'd marry Fatima, he requests that the Twentieth check to see if she's among the POWs on Tharkad, and if she is, to let her know that he's available if she's interested.