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The Fires of Hell

The Fires of Hell is a nine-part short story published in A Time of War as intro fiction for the book's individual chapters. Seven authors wrote individual parts, forming a full continuous story of a 3076 reconnaissance mission on Rochelle by Recon Squad Four of Stone's Lament.

Plot summary[edit]

Gathering Players[edit]

Gathering Players
Story information
Author Ben H. Rome
Pages 6
Type Short story
Product A Time of War
Content
Era Jihad era
Timeline 5 June 3076

At Fort Defiance on Hesperus II, Recon Squad Four of Stone's Lament gathers for orders. Captain Jared Travis's squad is not at its best. Its old members, Busby "Buzzy" Matvey, old veteran Ethan Naoko, and Doctor Grace Luther, struggle with the losses the squad sustained on Hesperus, where two of its soldiers died protecting House Hogarth's strategically insignificant summer home's art. They have been replaced with two newcomers: Lyran noble Luella Hildebrand, the squad's new executive officer, and inexperienced wannabe MechWarrior Franz Logan.

In the lead-up to their briefing, Jared challenges Luella to prove she's earned her position, and Franz accidentally spills raspberry juice on a redheaded MechWarrior, one he finds attractive.

Said MechWarrior, Franz discovers at the briefing, is General Belle Lee. She has a mission for Recon Squad Four.

The Calm Before[edit]

The Calm Before
Story information
Author Kevin Killiany
Pages 4
Type Short story
Product A Time of War
Content
Era Jihad era
Timeline 12-13 June 3076

On the DropShip David, on the way to the pirate jump point to Rochelle, Recon Squad Four prepares for the mission. The task is clear: land just below the Arctic circle, observe and scout en route to a Blakist installation, examine the installation, neutralize it if necessary for Rochelle's liberation, and send the intelligence to the Coalition fleet.

Rochelle is a dangerous place, polluted into hostility over centuries. All squad members take personalized drugs to survive the hazardous environment. While receiving her meds, Luella learns a Squad Four internal secret: Grace is a pacifist, staunchly unwilling to kill.

The Mission Begins[edit]

The Mission Begins
Story information
Author Steven Mohan, Jr.
Pages 4
Type Short story
Product A Time of War
Content
Era Jihad era
Timeline 3 July 3076

For a moment, everything seems to go according to plan. Dropped on Rochelle in a Mark VII Landing Craft piloted by Buzzy, the squad descends through an electrified snowstorm that should hide their presence. Then a Blakist Shiva finds them. Buzzy shoots the fighter down, but the fighter's presence means the intended landing zone isn't safe - an undiscovered enemy base is likely near, and the Shiva's disappearance will attract attention.

A short search off track, into a forest, reveals an airstrip. Finding a safe landing zone proves harder. Battered by a wave of missiles from within the forest, the Landing Craft begins to plummet, and all Buzzy can do is try to save what he can.

Securing the LZ[edit]

Securing the LZ
Story information
Author Paul Sjardijn
Pages 4
Type Short story
Product A Time of War
Content
Era Jihad era
Timeline 3 July 3076

The crash leaves a few injured, but the squad survives. Buzzy (injured but mobile), Jared, and Ethan head off to scout and prepare an ambush for any incoming Blakist forces, leaving Grace to treat the unconscious Luella and Franz. In the middle of her work, as her squadmates start to regain consciousness, she is caught by surprise by a Protectorate Militia soldier, Yuri. Efforts to bluff and seduce her way out fail, and Yuri notifies his commander.

The only option is to fight. In a desperate moment, under pressure, Grace starts shooting. She and Luella incapacitate Yuri, though Grace takes a shot to the arm.

The pacifist doctor realizes what she has done and tries to provide first aid and comfort. It is no use. The squad must leave dying Yuri behind, and reinforcements are unlikely to save him. Luella provides a little comfort to Grace, sharing the responsibility for having killed a man.

Recon[edit]

Recon
Story information
Author Kevin Killiany
Pages 4
Type Short story
Product A Time of War
Content
Era Jihad era
Timeline 5 July 3076

Pushing forward with their injured, the squad spots a Blakist defensive patrol, which leads to them finding a small militia cache. There is a vehicle tent with unknown equipment, possibly including a BattleMech. Also present is a Manei Domini Malak, clearly not part of the local militia.

Luella pushes forward through meter-high brush, armed with a silenced firearm provided by Ethan, intending to hotwire a vehicle. She instead discovers why the brush is meter-high: it was cut down to that height. The squad is being ambushed.

Heavy Artillery[edit]

Heavy Artillery
Story information
Author Jason Hardy
Pages 4
Type Short story
Product A Time of War
Content
Era Jihad era
Timeline 5 July 3076

The fight for the Blakist cache rages on. Franz and now-injured Buzzy dodge away from enemy attention and hide out in the hollow of a massive yorkwood tree, where Franz quickly treats his injuries and leaves him. Traversing the tangled forest, Franz finds the Blakist forces have caught Jared, Ethan, and Luella, all now on their knees.

After quickly checking and coordinating with Buzzy, Franz puts a plan into action: he slips into the cache's vehicle tent and, with a choice between an Ontos and a Griffin, steals the BattleMech. At last, Franz pilots a BattleMech.

It takes time to adjust to piloting the Griffin, made all the more difficult by a hostile Malak. Franz struggles in the duel, rarely getting a shot in against a far more skilled opponent, but luck saves him: a yorkwood crashes onto the Malak, felling Franz's foe.

Journey[edit]

Journey
Story information
Author Ken' Horner
Pages 4
Type Short story
Product A Time of War
Content
Era Jihad era
Timeline 8 July 3076

Three days later, as the squad struggles to travel through the marshy Awalla Fens, frustration grows. To tamp down on bickering, at Ethan's suggestion, Jared orders a break to rest for a few minutes. Right as Franz moves to fill his canteen with polluted swamp water, Ethan stops him and directs him to a source of potable, if distasteful, water: yumba trees.

The team moves on, sharing stories along the way, until, as night falls, they reach a small island of dry ground to sleep on. During the night, when on watch, Franz and Ethan spot a swamp tiger, which the squad fights off.

Storming the Objective[edit]

Storming the Objective
Story information
Author Jim Rapkins
Pages 4
Type Short story
Product A Time of War
Content
Era Jihad era
Timeline 11 July 3076

Finally, Recon Squad Four reaches its target: what seemed an ordinary warehouse near the former MediQuick Services headquarters. The building is unusual, unusually intact, unusually clean, unusually uniformly fenced, and unusually guarded. It is camouflaged, to an extent: the rust on the abnormally strong fence is fake.

Worse, the building is surrounded by traps - buried flashbang launchers set off by contact plates. Stunned and having alerted the guards, the squad rushes into combat. The pair of guards seem to die, and the team returns to breaking in, burning through the fence.

Inside, slowly working their way through, they are interrupted by a Manei Domini - one of the guards they thought they dealt with - and engage in battle. The cyborg severely injures Franz and grabs and kills Buzzy before exploding, not due to its suicide charges, but due to Grace's AT rocket.

The facility's purpose becomes clear when its central room is examined: a Space Defense System tracking center, tracking the Coalition fleet.

Burnout[edit]

Burnout
Story information
Author Ben H. Rome
Pages 4
Type Short story
Product A Time of War
Content
Era Jihad era
Timeline 17 July 3076

The final part of the story cuts back and forth between Recon Squad Four dealing with the SDS and the squad recovering on the DropShip Tharkad Summer.

On Rochelle, Grace's quick work barely saves Franz's life, and Luella overloads the facility's systems, taking down the power grid that powers the entire SDS. This allows the Coalition fleet to successfully attack with minimal casualties, even with the Blakists enabling their backup generators.

On the Tharkad Summer, Franz recovers in the medical bay, everyone starts to work through the pain of losing Buzzy, and the squad is given a new task by Belle Lee: deal with a Blakist-backed corporation in the capital of Rochelle that refused to disarm.

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