The Valley of Death

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The Valley of Death
Story information
Author William H. Keith
Pages 7
Type Short story
Product BattleTechnology
Illustrations William H. Keith
Era Succession Wars era
Agency BattleTechnology
Timeline 5 April 3028

Plot Summary[edit]

Lieutenant John Lee, a MechWarrior serving with the MacKenzie's Marauders mercenary unit, is on the Federated Suns planet Royal in 3028 when he meets a woman named "Verna" who is being attacked by street thugs. He helps to rescue her and she agrees to join him for dinner.

In conversation over the meal, the topic shifts to warfare, specifically BattleMechs and cavalry. Lee relates a "funny" case where he kicked a Skulker light tank around with his Warhammer, and is startled when Verna reacts angrily to his scornful views of light cavalry forces. She storms out on him.

Two days later, Royal is attacked by Draconis Combine forces that arrive at a pirate point. Planetary defense efforts are ineffective, thanks in part to the blundering of the garrison commander, who is in Lee's eyes more of a self-important political appointee than a real soldier. MacKenzie's Marauders find themselves covering a mass retreat of the garrison troops... including a light cavalry unit named the Royal Grays.

Matters deteriorate when the garrison commander, General Howard Martell, directs the mercenaries to block a battalion-sized force of enemy 'Mechs. Lee's commander declines the order, which would effectively send the outnumbered Marauders to their doom. General Martell, outraged by these "yellow cowards", looks around for another unit to sacrifice. He fixes on the commander of the Royal Grays... who happens to be Verna.

Even though Verna tries to point out that her light cavalry will stand no chance against heavy 'Mechs, Martell will have none of it. He even threatens to have her shot "for cowardice" if she refuses to follow his orders.

As the Royal Grays engage the oncoming Kuritans, all the MechWarriors of MacKenzie's Marauders can do is watch. Verna contacts John Lee over the radio, and asks him to get in touch with her younger brother, before the channel goes dead. Lee can no longer stand by. He breaks ranks and goes to the aid of the Royal Grays, "declining" his own commander's orders. The rest of the mercenaries join him, and they inflict heavy damage on the Kuritan forces, stalling their advance.

In the aftermath of the battle, only two damaged hover tanks survive from the Royal Grays, neither of them Verna's machine. John Lee learns that Verna LeMann had once been a MechWarrior herself. She had even been decorated by Hanse Davion for her heroism, yet she had given it all up to return to Royal to take care of her younger brother after their parents were killed.

Lee concludes the story by mentioning that he can use his leave time to return to Royal. He wants to look for Verna, who just may have survived the destruction of her command. He wants to apologize for his behavior.

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