Another explosion rocked MechWarrior Creden’s Hellfire as his star continued a fighting retreat. The Blood Spirits had launched their assault on York soon after the bulk of the Star Adder touman had left to attack the Snow Ravens, leaving a contingent of solahma and second-line clusters to defend the planet.
Both Creden and his ‘Mech were past their prime by most Clan standards. Creden was 44, but if you counted back to when his Hellfire had started life as a Lupus, his ‘Mech was over 200 years old. Even the best Star Adder engineers hadn’t been able to build out the quirks his ancient machine had acquired over its many decades of combat service. Throw in the electromagnetic interference from the new Heavy Lasers, and Creden barely considered his ‘Mech combat capable.
But fight he must. A Blood Spirit Zorya bravely fired its autocannon at Creden at just over 600 meters, its flechette rounds shaving armor off his Hellfire’s jutting chest but failing to find a breach. Creden returned fire with his LRM racks, the swarm of thirty missiles throwing up a cloud of dirt and smoke. Creden didn’t have time to determine whether his missiles had finished the small tank or not. He fired his two extended-range medium lasers into the cloud–just to be sure–before turning to a new threat.
A Crimson Langur came bounding over a crest, lasers firing wildly at the Star Adders below. With his missile rack reloading and his ER Medium Lasers rebuilding charge, Creden switched his target interlock to fire his Heavy Lasers. Although powerful, the interference caused by the lasers’ massive discharge shorted many of his ‘Mech’s systems. For this reason, Creden tended to use the Heavy Lasers only as a last resort.
Muttering a small prayer to the Great Father under his breath, Creden pulled the trigger on his weapons. The green beam of the Heavy Large laser connected his Hellfire and the Blood Spirit Crimson Langur for a brief moment before a cloud of vaporized metal seemed to obscure his sensors. The other two beams went wildly into the cloud as Creden’s HUD began to flicker. A warning light on his damage display confirmed internal damage to his sensors, yet he’d not taken a hit to any of the sensor cowlings covering his ‘Mech.
“Stravag,” Creden cursed. It was the damned lasers. He’d begged his technician to harden the Hellfire’s electrical systems, and each time they’d assured him that there was nothing more they could do.
While he was cursing his technician, a beam from the Langur struck his Hellfire, disabling the ammo feeder for his missile racks. All three LRM-10 systems went dark on his wire display, and Creden cursed again as he slammed the button that would eject his ammo stores. They were just a liability if they couldn’t be fired–even worse than those damned Heavy Lasers.
As the Crimson Langur closed, Creden fired again with his full complement of lasers. His cockpit instantly became a sauna as the Hellfire’s fusion engine revved to meet the energy demand of so much collimated light. Unfortunately, the massive energy discharge proved too much for the old machine.
Creden’s HUD flickered, then went dark. Through the cockpit glass, he could see his two extended-range Mediums strike the Crimson Langur dead in the chest, but his Heavy Lasers somehow all fired in separate directions. Worse, one of the Medium Heavy Laser tubes exploded as the heat spike melted its cooling sleeve.
Recognizing a losing battle, Creden considered an expeditious retreat, only to be thwarted by two things. First, a Blood Spirit Stooping Hawk had appeared on his flank and fired enough autocannon rounds into his left torso to shatter his Heavy Large Laser cowling. Second, his Hellfire’s damage display revealed his MASC system had failed along with his HUD during the energy surge caused by his accursed lasers.
Creden shouted in rage. It was more at his failing ‘Mech than at the enemy, but he let his external speakers carry the sound as he charged into the Stooping Hawk’s fire.
There are many instances throughout human history where a weapon system was invented before it had a platform truly capable of supporting it. The atomic bomb is perhaps the best example. Ideally, the launching aircraft wants to be as far away as possible once the bomb detonates, but at the time of the bomb’s invention, all that was available were relatively slow high-altitude bombers. This resulted in the bomber still being within the shock wave radius when the bomb detonated, which although not catastrophic for the crew, was certainly less than ideal.
The Hellfire was likewise an unideal platform for a new weapon system. Clan Star Adder invented the Heavy Laser at the end of the 3050s but required a platform to put them to use. The solution was to refit mothballed first-generation Lupus OmniMechs, convert them into BattleMechs, and load them up with a collection of the new Heavy Lasers. The resultant ‘Mech was extremely powerful but also extremely temperamental.
In 3058, Khan Cassius N’Buta ordered Lupuses to be refitted en masse to make use of the new Heavy Lasers and tasked Kappa Provisional Galaxy Commander Jenica Turgidson with overseeing the refit’s development. Galaxy Commander Jenica Turgidson in turn imagined a largely defensive heavy ‘Mech for second-line Galaxies, resulting in a unit that was slower and far more heavily armed than the original Lupus on which the Hellfire is based.
The original Hellfire was armed with one Series 4D-2 Heavy Large Laser, two Series 6A Heavy Medium Lasers, and two Series 14 k. II Heavy Small Lasers. This assortment of Heavy Lasers was further augmented by two ER Medium Lasers, which had been in common use throughout the Clans for over two centuries, and three “Longbow” III LRM-10 launchers for adequate long-range firepower.
Even if the Hellfire were equipped with standard lasers, such a massive quantity of weapons would tax the 17 double heat sinks tasked with keeping the ‘Mech cool. Unfortunately, Heavy Lasers were vastly more heat-intensive than either the extended range or pulse varieties and massively overtaxed the Hellfire‘s cooling capacity. Worse, the new weapons also arrived with several known defects. Best known is the inaccuracy of the Heavy Lasers thanks to the firing delay caused by the massive charge required in their operation. On top of that, the enormous discharge created electromagnetic interference which affected the firing ‘Mech’s targeting systems.
Sometimes the Heavy Lasers simply blew up during combat, their focusing tubes unable to endure the incredible heat and vast power required in their operation. It would take a decade for Clan Goliath Scorpion to correct this shortcoming, although the Improved Heavy Laser is still at risk of explosion should the focusing tube become damaged in combat.
Intended for defense, input from Star Adder MechWarriors noted the Hellfire‘s 64kph top speed as a detriment in running battles and asked to improve the ‘Mech’s engine. Unwilling to compromise on the Hellfire‘s weapons, Jenica Turgidson added MASC to provide the Hellfire with a temporary running speed of 86kph, albeit in short bursts. Nine tons of ferro-fibrous armor provided adequate protection, while a standard 240 engine gave the ‘Mech tremendous staying power even in the face of damage that would disable most Clan OmniMechs.
However, the addition of MASC to the platform resulted in another unforeseen detriment. Either due to the age of the Lupus chassis or interference from the Heavy Lasers, Hellfire MASC systems saw a 15 percent greater failure rate than other ‘Mechs. Star Adder engineers attempted to solve this issue after the Hellfire‘s adoption but were unsuccessful. Thus, Hellfire pilots are informed to use their acceleration signal circuitry sparingly or in dire circumstances.
The Hellfire would develop two alternate versions throughout its lifespan. The Hellfire 2 served as a testbed for the Advanced Tactical Missile system in the late 3060s. The ‘Mech would retain the Heavy Large and Heavy Medium lasers, replace the Heavy Small Lasers with a single ER Small Laser, and replace the LRM-10 launchers with two ATM 6s. The ‘Mech would also forgo MASC in favor of a 300 XL engine, providing a top speed of 86 kph without the possibility of myomer failure.
The Hellfire 3 was developed through an alliance with Clan Hell’s Horses, which sought to refit the machine to perform dedicated support for its conventional forces. This saw the ‘Mech’s weapons stripped in favor of two ER Flamers, two regular Flamers, two SRM-6s, and four Plasma Cannons. These provided an unparalleled ability to eliminate infantry and conventional vehicles while being somewhat vulnerable to opposing ‘Mechs. The 240 standard engine was replaced by an extra-light version, and the MASC system was retained.
The Hellfire‘s story stops with the Wars of Reaving. The Adders are understood to have eventually secured total control of Arcadia, but it is unknown whether the factory that produced them continues to refit Lupuses. Even if it did, the potential number of Hellfires could never exceed the total number of viable Lupus OmniMechs, which among the Home Clans, is believed to be extremely limited. With such limited numbers and a reputation for being both a hanger queen and battlefield volatility, it seems likely that the Hellfire met its end at some point within the last half-century. Perhaps examples remain among the Hell’s Horses, but those are likely few and far between.
And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.