“We’ve got ‘em on the run!”
Leutnant Lauren Kolberg marched her ‘Mech forward a few steps before sending it into a solid 64-kph clip. The Fourth Skye Rangers had been harassing the Seventeenth Benjamin Regulars for months on Komephoros, and her commanders intended to exploit a gap in the Regulars’ lines. Her lance was leading the charge for Second Batallion. She already had a Jenner waiting to be painted on her new Hatchetman’s cockpit, and she was hoping to add a Panther next to it.
Unfortunately, the Panther matched her for speed and managed to stay just out of reach of her longest-range weapon, the massive Defiance Killer autocannon that sat on the Hatchetman’s right shoulder. Combined with the equally massive hatchet in her right arm, the Hatchetman was definitely a lop-sided design, but one that had already proven deadly to anything that strayed too close.
If only she could just get that Panther to stop running. “Arc 3-1 to Hammer Actual. Do we have any AeroSpace assets we could send to trip up these trailing elements?”
“Wait one,” Came the response from Second Batallion’s command and operations center. “Arc 3-1, elements of Clipper squadron are inbound.”
“Roger,” Kolberg grunted, guiding her 45-ton machine around a massive boulder driven upwards by the planet’s glacial geology. Her rear camera picked up the contrails of two Chippewas before her sensors confirmed their design. It didn’t take them long to overtake her lance and streak off over the hills ahead, just where the Panther she’d been hounding had broken her line of sight. A series of explosions felt but not seen encouraged Kolberg to push her ‘Mech even faster lest the Chippewas take her kill.
“This is Clipper 2-4 taking heavy fire, Clipper 2-3 is down.” came the panicked voice of the remaining pilot. “Turn your forces around, it’s a trap!”
Kolberg realized the warning had come too late. She’d just crossed over the highest point and was already heading into a glacial valley. There was nothing to protect her from the sudden flurry of long-range missile and laser fire that lit her Hatchetman like a Christmas tree, and she didn’t have the speed or armor to close into engagement range.
She did have time to let out a sigh as she slammed her Hatchetman’s ejection button. Unlike other ‘Mechs, the Hatchetman’s entire head assembly flew off from its shoulders and her HUD gained an airspeed indicator and an altimeter. As Kolberg flew from the trap she’d narrowly survived, she grasped at the one silver lining: at least she wouldn’t freeze to death.
‘Mechs designed primarily for melee combat are nothing new to the 31st century. Even during the time of the Star League, designs like the Charger proved that sufficient mass and speed could be just as devastating as a ball of charged particles launched at a few integers shy of the speed of light. The brutal malice of physical blows can be equally destructive to a soldier’s morale. We can only assume these factors were considered by the enigmatic Dr. Banzai as he designed the Hatchetman in the early 3020s.
One of the first entirely new ‘Mechs to be seen after centuries of combat, the Hatchetman was both to be a workhorse ‘Mech as well as a symbol of the growing military alliance between the Federated Suns and the Lyran Commonwealth. Introduced in 3023 by Defiance Industries, the Hatchetman was designed for urban warfare, with low speed and light armor but with impressive firepower for a 45-ton chassis. If allowed to close to point-blank range, the Hatchetman could literally cut a similar-sized ‘Mech to pieces before it could even return fire. Hence, the initial production run of Hatchetmans was sent to Lyran garrison units on planets with large city centers.
It didn’t take long for the Hatchetman to see combat. A raid by the 4th Proserpina Hussars on Sevren resulted in severe losses after the 26th Lyran Guards lured them into an industrial park and then unleashed a Hatchetman-equipped battalion. Caught off guard both by the trap and the deadly new design, the surviving Hussars retreated off-world to inform the rest of the DCMS of the Hatchetman‘s existence.
The Hatchetman was eventually distributed to units in the Federated Suns just in time for the Fourth Succession War. The ‘Mech proved to be popular enough that Defiance couldn’t keep up with demand, resulting in the company sub-contracting the design to Johnston Industries to start manufacturing the Hatchetman under license.
However, while the Hatchatman‘s early success could be explained by the sheer novelty of the design, by the War of 3039, opposing forces were able to exploit significant flaws in the chassis. Poor armor, especially on the legs, meant the Hatchetman could easily be disabled before closing to within melee range. Further, the ‘Mech’s poor speed meant it was unable to close with smaller, lighter ‘Mechs, and even some heavier ones. Kept at a distance, the Hatchetman was far less menacing than it had first appeared.
The HCT-3F Hatchetman comes armed with a single Defiance Killer 10-class Autocannon in the right torso and one Medium Laser in each arm. It has a single additional heat sink to mitigate the heat this payload generates. Four jump jets help the Hatchetman position itself for a successful ambush, but a top speed of 64 kph thanks to its GM 180 engine is insufficient for it to chase targets and unleash its signature hatchet.
One interesting element of the Hatchetman is the full-head ejection system. Where most ‘Mechs will eject an escape pod after catastrophic damage, the Hatcethman’s entire head comes off its shoulders thanks to a series of rocket motors beneath the head assembly. The head’s somewhat aerodynamic shape and the small fins at the back allow the MechWarrior-cum-pilot to direct their flight back to friendly lines, significantly increasing survivability. However, the Hatchetman must be in the upright position for the ejection system to work, and reinstalling the head can be a cumbersome procedure.
With the discovery of the Helm Memory Core and the return of Star League-era technology, Defiance upgraded the Hatchetman in 3049 to the new HCT-5S standard. This added a new Extralight 180 engine and replaced the AC/10 with an LB-X version, freeing up enough weight to replace the two lasers with Medium Pulse Lasers. The HCT-5S also has 8.5 tons of ferro-fibrous armor, increasing its protection by almost 30 percent and solving the largest complaint Hatchetman pilots had. However, the redesign had fewer heat sinks and less ammunition for its autocannon, trading one problem for two more.
It wasn’t until the 3060s that variants arrived that both improved the Hatchetman‘s speed and armor. The HCT-6D introduced a VOX 225 XL engine, allowing this Davion Hatchetman variant to run at 86.4 kph and mount five jump jets instead of four. A Rotary AC/5 and three ER Medium Lasers provided impressive firepower while 10 double heat sinks kept the design cool. ECM also allowed the 6D to remain hidden from sensors for greater success in ambushes.
Even with its flaws exposed, the Hatchetman‘s reputation proved strong enough to lead rival manufacturers to outright steal the design for their respective national militaries. When the Taurian Concordat gained access to the HCT-3F after a Davion mercenary outfit was adopted into the nation’s military, the Taurians set to work reverse-engineering the Hatchetman. From 3054 until 3066, Taurus Territorial Industries produced their own illegal copies of the HCT-3F until the factory was destroyed by the Fighting Urukhai, itself touching off a military campaign that would see the Concordat invade the Federated Suns.
Draconis Combine engineers were able to reverse-engineer the HCT-3F much faster than the Concordat after several examples were salvaged during the war of ’39. However, DCMS troops refused to use a ‘Mech so heavily associated with the Federated Commonwealth. The HCT-5K, introduced in 3075, swapped the Hatchetman‘s hatchet for a more bushido-compliant sword. It also came armed with two Medium Pulse Lasers, one ER Medium Laser, and a locally-manufactured MRM-30. Targeting was improved thanks to a C3 slave unit and double heatsinks kept the Kuritan knock-off cool.
Even the Free Worlds League developed a version of the Hatchetman during the Jihad era. the HCT-6M is derived from the 5S, replacing the LB-X AC/10 with a Heavy PPC and adding a Beagle Active Probe. Following the Jihad, the Republic of the Sphere adopted the HCT-7R standard, using a light fusion engine to reach a top speed of 86 kph while keeping the same 8.5 tons of ferro-fibrous armor from the 5S. An array of six Medium Pulse Lasers and a single Medium X-Pulse Laser combined with the signature hatchet for potent short-range firepower if at the cost of significant heat build-up. Today’s HCT-8S used by the LCAF mounts Clan technology for a top speed of 86 kph, significant armor protection, and an actuator enhancement system for even more accurate blows from its hatchet.
Although present in multiple House and non-House militaries today, the Hatchetman remains most numerous in the militaries of the former Federated Commonwealth. The brutal fighting of the Dark Age, and now the ilClan era, ensure no shortage of victims for the Hatchetman‘s ambush tactics.
And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.