Geese on the Border
A BattleTech Novel by Robert N Charade
Chapter 1 - War Games
Dustbowl, Kentares IV
28th June 3062
"Bugger. Not again."
XO Sam was annoyed. Frustrated AND annoyed.
It wasn't because of the enemy mech from the AIEL clan that had just chalked up its tenth kill against only one loss. It wasn't due to the sight of Master Sergeant Chong Leng charging for the sixth time on his own into a pack of four 100-ton Daishis, two 100-ton Atlases and a 90-ton Mad Cat II in his 70-ton Thor. It wasn't even due to Chief Engineer Philip carefully trying to draw a smiling face on the back of an enemy Daishi with his flares. Whatever it was, it certainly wasn't the sight of CSM Nick sniping at extreme range with nary a scratch on him.
No. It was that enemy Vulture that had just erased the "Man Utd" decals on his mech. Why did this have to happen in almost every battle he had taken part in? Were the decals really that offensive to the enemy? The decals were the symbol of a soccer team with ancient roots that used to be well known in the 20th Century, but which had, by the 31st Century, fallen on hard times and had just merged with the Welsh-based Fifth Division team, Bangor United back on Planet Terra (or "Earth" as some diehards insisted on calling it).
"Ha Ha Ha Ha! Take that!!".
Sam was shaken out of his reverie with those words spoken loud and clear over his unit's common radio frequency. He sighed. Damien was at it again. Sam watched as Damien's lumbering Daishi unleashed 100 LRMs at some unfortunate mech and was glad that Damien was on his side.
Yep, at least Damien was having fun.
Turning his thoughts back on the retreating Vulture, Sam turned his powerful Mad Cat II in its direction. The 90-ton behemoth was a wonder of technology. Sturdy, yet graceful, it was very heavily armoured and bristled with massive weapons. His Mad Cat had Light Gauss rifles and ER Large Lasers for long-distance shooting and Clan Streak Missiles for close-up work against small, fast mechs. It was clad in tough Ferro Fibrous armour from head to toe. It was a terrifying sight to the enemy, although Sam thought it had a rather dopey look and it even reminded him of his favourite, Mickey Mouse.
Well, this was no time for "Cat and Mouse" games as he surveyed the barren landscape of the massive Dustbowl on planet Kentares IV.
The enemy Vulture was trying to find safety behind a hillock on the enemy right flank. This 60-ton Heavy Mech was a dangerous long-range opponent capable of unleashing up to 80 LRMs at any one time. Sam wasn't going to allow it to get away unscathed. Moving his targeting reticule over the Vulture, Sam saw the former turn red and promptly fired his Gauss rifles and ER Large Lasers.
Wham! Two Gauss slugs and one Laser hit home on the Vulture's left shoulder whilst the other Laser shot went wide right. The Vulture staggered and turned around to see what had caused the damage. A big mistake.
One thing Sam was infamous for was the "Sam Slam" in which his Assault Mech would literally ram into the enemy mech and then fire all its weapons as fast as it could. The Vulture pilot had just turned round and saw a terrifying, dopey-looking Mad Cat II filling his windscreen. The only things he could remember after that were lots of flashes, crashing sounds and the bright light of the outside when he ejected.
Satisfied, Sam looked back to see how his clan, "The Wild Geese", was performing.
Chief Engineer Philip, or "Chief" as some people called him had almost completed the smiling face when the Daishi suddenly turned round to find out where the fizzing noise was coming from. The motion meant that the right "eye" that Philip tried to place on the Daishi ended up looking like a squint. However, by twisting around, The Wild Geese had a lovely target.
"Fire at that smiling face!" barked Major Michael in his Bushwacker.
"Yeeeeeehaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!" shouted Damien as he fired all his LRMs at the "squinting eye" of the enemy Daishi.
Turning his attention to Nick, Sam noted that Nick's mech was spotless. Not a blemish or speck of dust anywhere. How did he do it? He had to find out who polished Nick's mech back at their base. Sam also spotted some graffiti on Nick's mech. One read "Sniping rules!. Brawling sucks!" Another was in the form of a love heart with the name "Jude Law" written under it, obviously done by a female tech support staff.
Suddenly, a Thor came belting past him towards the main body of the enemy. It was Chong Leng.
Chong Leng's mech had the decals of House Liao, of Chinese origin. He often used just two words during combat: "Mmmmm" and "Charge!"
Sam said to him over the company radio frequency: "Chong Leng, is that you?
"Mmmmm" came the answer.
"Are you going to attack that main group again?" said Sam.
"What tactics will you follow?" inquired Sam.
"Charge!" was the reply.
Looking further afield, Sam spied Major Michael circling around a ponderous enemy Mauler. He quickly looked away since the movement made him dizzy.
These war games were certainly fun. Now, who else could he ram?
Chapter 2 - On Wings of Geese
Tumbleweed, Halloran IV
4th April 3063
This was it.
The deciding battle with the "Roving Funs" Clan had arrived and the Wild Geese were raring to have a go at them. If they didn't kill each other first, that is.
"DO THAT AGAIN AND I WILL FRY YOUR @~#$!" shouted the CO of the Wild Geese. Michael (callsign "Challenger Tank" or "CT") was ticked off that his brother, Philip (callsign "Sherman Tank" or "ST"), the Master Engineer of the Clan had fired yet another flare at the back of his Bushwacker. This had happened for the umpteenth time.
"We have a major battle ahead. Stop messing around!" said the cross mechwarrior.
"Sorry boss" said Philip as he hurtled away in his super-fast Uller.
The WG Clan had arrived at the planned Nav Point for their upcoming battle. The terrain of Tumbleweed was no place for the faint-hearted. The dusty, windy plains were incredibly inhospitable. Lots of gullies and hills made this a sniper's paradise.
By now, the WG were moving to their pre-planned positions and more importantly……....they had a plan.
CSM Nick (callsign "Barak") had come up with the idea of using an overwhelming force to attack the RF's right flank, with a much smaller group holding the enemy in the centre and their left flank. The attack force, after breaking through the enemy lines, would swing round to take the rest of the enemy in the rear whilst they were engaged with the WG holding force.
The attack force, given the name "Task Force KEITN" or "Task Force Kick-'Em-In-The-Nuts", comprised of fast-hitting small to medium mechs. Taking point was ST in his Uller. Following up were Barak in his trusted Hellhound, as were Warrant Officer Francis (callsign "Cuda") and Sergeant Steele (callsign "Chokobo"). The big guns were in the form of Warrant Officer Damien (callsign "Super Sonic" or "Sonic") in his Nova Cat , Major Chong Leng (callsign "Shooting Star" or "Star") in his Loki, PFC Gim (callsign "Gyn") in her Gladiator, and Sergeant Calvin (callsign "Typhoon") in his Black Knight.
The holding force, or sacrificial lambs as they thought of themselves, consisted of Captain Sam (callsign "Giant Robo") in his Mad Cat II, Sergeant Eric (callsign "Raptor") in his Hauptmann, and CT in his Bushwacker. This group was designated "Task Force NCAA" or "Task Force No-Chance-At-All".
The enemy had many household names such as RF Fiblert, RF Chomzp and RF Wowo. These were elite mechwarriors and the WG knew that they would have their hands full today.
"OK, let's move out" said CT over the secure intercom.
Going on passive radar, or making use of their ECM, Task Force KEITN quickly rumbled to the extreme left, looking to skirt round a massive outcrop of rock.
As they left visual contact, Task Force NCAA felt rather lonely.
"I hope they hurry up" said Giant Robo.
"We are going to be massively outnumbered" added Raptor.
"Let's look at the bright side - if things get too hot I can run away faster than both of you!" said a cheerful CT.
Giant Robo went to his defensive station behind a ridge. His Mad Cat II was modified with a special hardened protrusion on the head. Giant's favourite pastime, which hadn't changed much over time, involved ramming smaller mechs and the protrusion or battering ram did a great job of doing just that. Any close-in mech was going to be pulverised by him.
Raptor was the long-range artillery of the three and the WG's answer to the RF's special tactics. The RF were notorious for their jumping PPC-equipped mechs, firing from extreme range. Raptor practised many hours on clay pigeon shooting, first with a primitive shotgun and then in his mech. He became so finely-tuned that when someone shouted "Pull!" in the pub, he sent beer glasses flying as his reflexes kicked in.
To their right, they saw dust clouds rising to the sky. A storm or something else was moving in their direction.
Barak looked to his left and wondered why Cuda had a flare flashing on his mech's left ankle. Sighing, he looked back at ST who was running zig zags in front of the group and asked him:
"How many flares do you have ST?"
"Five hundred" lied ST. His mech had been modified to carry extra flare launchers so that he had a full complement of one thousand.
Turning to his right, he noticed that Gyn ran more gracefully than the other mechs. She was the only mechwarrior to have volleyballs and a surfboard attached to the outside of her mech.
"I see something" said CT over the intercom.
"On the right, two fast moving mechs followed by two larger ones. Can't get an ID on those mechs."
"OK. Standby guys, the fun is about to start," replied Giant Robo.
Cuda considered dozing in his Hellhound and putting it into autopilot. The fizzing noise to his right put him out of his reverie.
Chokobo, a fearless mechwarrior, had a scary-looking Hellhound and he knew how to handle it with considerable skill. However, the foreboding look of his mech was ruined by a flare fizzing away on the back of his head.
"Now where on earth did that come from?" thought Cuda.
"I see a Hellspawn….and….an Osiris....no, make that a Raven, in the vanguard. The other two are much further back but are bigger," said CT in his advanced position in front of the others.
"Moving into intercept position and shutting down," replied Giant Robo.
"Roger GR. Will begin firing to get their attention. CT will ask you to wake up when the time is right," said a calm but inwardly excited Raptor.
A trap had been set. Now was the time to spring it.
Two large sizzling bolts of azure blue leapt from Raptor's concealed position to hit the lead Hellspawn, which looked dazed and surprised from the PPC hits.
Following the trajectory of the shots, the two small mechs arrowed in on Raptor and quickly bore down on him. Almost within a heartbeat they came up nearly on top of where Raptor defiantly stood.
"Now!" shouted CT.
Giant Robo powered up his hitherto invisible mech and the sudden appearance of a Mad Cat II with what looked like a lump on its head almost stopped them in their tracks. It didn't stop the Hellspawn from smashing into the Mad Cat. The battering ram did its job and one of the Hellspawn's missile launchers was smashed to pieces. A full alpha strike did the rest as the Hellspawn crumpled before the onslaught.
The Raven fared no better and also faced a full alpha strike, this time from Raptor who, in true WG fashion, legged the unfortunate mech. CT came running up and helped finish it off.
Two down. Two to go.
Typhoon was wondering why their "excursion" was taking so long. As the last mech in the column, he was rapidly getting bored. Also known as "Dr Longevity", Typhoon had a reputation in the Clan for staying alive the longest in battles. His attention was drawn to a few flashing light bulbs in front of him.
Shooting Star was running purposefully along in his Loki. Feared far and wide for his tenacity and awesome shooting, Star was also rapidly gaining the reputation as a straight talker. So much so that his sentences tended to be rather short.
"Come. We move closer" or just "We go" were some of his popular utterances. Still, this was an improvement over his earlier "Charge!"
This time he said a few more words than usual:
"Fizzing. Flare right elbow. Me shoot who did this."
Typhoon did his best not to look at ST.
Sonic, the pilot of the fire-breathing Novacat, had a reputation for being the WG mech that WG's opponents wanted the least to meet. It might have had something to do with his multitude of flamers and the deadly artillery strike that he had. Many a mech had shut down due to excess heat and then had to wait to be blown up by the falling artillery. This time his mech had two flares flashing brightly on both "ears" on the mech's head (in fact, its radar antennae).
"Get ready guys. I detect enemy movement ahead," reported ST.
"Great job guys," said Raptor.
Before they could celebrate further, Giant Robo got rocked by powerful blasts of ER large lasers and PPCs. Moments later, Raptor was pummelled as well.
"What the….?" said an incredulous Giant Robo.
"Two Black Knights, jumping from behind that hill," reported CT.
Wham! Giant Robo had one of his missile launchers knocked out. He had to beat a hasty retreat behind the relative safety of a nearby ridge. For a lumbering Mad Cat II, "hasty" meant "snail-like" for other mechs. Another salvo knocked out his last missile launcher before he finally reached safety behind a ridge.
CT sped away to try to distract the enemy mechs, hoping that Raptor would get clean shots at them.
Performing violent manoeuvres along the way, CT got closer and closer, with a couple of laser shots just missing him by inches. His luck couldn't hold forever and soon CT felt the sudden jarring hit from multiple lasers. Half his mech's armour had simply melted away as he finally closed the distance.
"Darn, they are good," said CT.
"Darn, they are good," said Cuda as his mech's HUD fizzled and crackled after getting hit from a PPC fired from a long distance away.
"Yep, got hit at least twice already," said a grim Chokobo in his charging Hellhound.
The big task force had come across at least four mechs firing from cover. The WG had no choice but to charge headlong over the exposed ground and hope for the best.
Spreading out, the lighter mechs were in front, with the larger mechs trailing behind.
Thinking that the larger mechs posed a bigger threat, the RF mechs started firing at Sonic, Star, Gyn and Typhoon. The WG were sustaining serious damage but they grimly carried on.
ST was the first over the hill and get amongst the enemy. Soon the hill looked like it was glowing with radioactive material as scores of flares littered the landscape.
The three Hellhounds followed up closely behind and soon a twisting, nasty brawl took place.
An enemy Gladiator blasted ST's mech, which went sailing through the air. Before it could finish off ST however, Cuda fired at the Gladiator, desperately trying to distract it. It worked but Cuda only incurred the wrath of the big mech instead and soon the Hellhound's left arm was turned into twisted metal and dangling myomers.
Barak and Chokobo managed to leg a Templar, which looked highly indignant at such treatment. Both Barak and Chokobo had most of their armour blasted away by the Templar and by supporting fire from an enemy Sunder and Highlander.
How much longer could they survive in this hornet's nest? wondered Barak as he chipped away at the wounded Templar.
CT angrily blasted away at one Black Knight, which rather ponderously tried to track his movement. Following standard WG procedure, CT aimed for the legs and sure enough, it was obvious that the Black Knight had sacrificed leg armour for more firepower. It would soon pay for such folly.
The other Black Knight managed to fire and knock out one of CT's arms before being forced to shut down due to the intense heat of its alpha strike.
"Perfect," breathed CT as he legged the first Black Knight and then concentrated on the other, prone mech.
Before he could reach it however, it had managed to power up again and jumped into the air.
"Pull!" shouted CT.
Raptor automatically went through the motions when he saw the Black Knight jumping into the air and let off an alpha strike that hit the mech square on its centre torso. That upset the aim of the Black Knight, which missed CT by miles. The other Black Knight did not miss and sent CT's mech sprawling.
The tide turned against the RF when Giant Robo arrived on the scene and punished the limping Black Knight for its transgressions.
The other Black Knight was promptly picked off by Raptor as it desperately tried to escape.
The two big WG mechs had lots of scorch marks on their armour and indeed, both had lost some weapons and at least a third of their armour.
CT was in worse shape with most of his mech's armour vaporised and only one third of his weapons still functional.
"The cavalry has arrived!" exclaimed Typhoon as the second wave of WG descended on the distracted RF. The effect was immediate.
The RF Gladiator was promptly shut down by Sonic's flamers and put out of its misery by volleys of Heavy Gauss fire from Gyn.
Star and Typhoon vanquished the Templar, which looked annoyed that someone had come to spoil the party.
The remaining RF fought back ferociously and the Sunder and Highlander knocked out one of Sonic's mech arms and blasted the right torso of Star's Loki. The latter didn't blink an eyelid.
"Come. We move closer," Star said, and fired his trademark alpha strike at the unfortunate Sunder.
The enemy Highlander managed to knock out some of Gim's weapons systems (and one volley ball) before it got blasted by the rest of the task force.
The first stage of the plan had been completed but at some cost, with all the light mechs sustaining serious damage and the larger ones severely mauled. At least the WG had destroyed the right flank of the enemy. Now it had to swing to the right and hit the RF from the rear. Task Force KEITN just hoped that the other task force would still be around when they arrived.
"Contact. Multiple bogies heading our way at eleven o'clock," said a dejected CT.
"Let's go out with our guns blazing!" said a defiant Raptor.
"Yeah, I wanna headbutt something," yelled Giant Robo.
The three mechs had retreated further back to a gully to give themselves more protection.
Waiting patiently, they whistled with surprise when they realised that the RF were sending in the really heavy stuff. Two 100-ton Fafnirs, a 100-ton Daishi and a 95-ton Hauptmann were approaching with caution.
"This is going to be fun!" said Raptor.
It was no contest. Raptor damaged half the enemy mechs with his long range shooting but the enemy just ploughed in amongst the battered WG mechs.
Giant Robo knocked over the Hauptmann after charging with his mech's head leading the way. All his weapons had already been destroyed.
"Ow! I have a headache," complained Giant.
Raptor had his mech knocked over by the two Fafnirs and soon Giant accompanied him on the deck after getting blasted by the Daishi.
CT, who had hung back due to his mech's dire condition, rushed over and stood protectively over the two fallen WG mechs, which slowly tried to stand up again. It was a futile but typically brave gesture from a WG mechwarrior. However, some observers would have disagreed and called it a daft and typically silly gesture from a WG mechwarrior…….
Behind the advancing pack of heavy mechs, Raptor saw the movement of smaller mechs coming to join their larger brethren.
This was it then, he thought.
"Form up and hit them hard," said Barak as he lead the pack of small mechs as they quickly converged on the unsuspecting enemy.
Looks like they had arrived barely in the nick of time.
Flashes of Ultra AutoCannon projectiles slammed into the rear armour of the big RF mechs, which spun around in shock.
Task Force KEITN closed in and engulfed the enemy mechs in a deadly embrace.
"Well done guys," said Gyn after it was all over. She was examining the damage to her mech and counting how many volley balls had survived. Two were blown to smithereens by enemy fire and one had mysteriously been burnt by what looked like an errant flare.
The WG had done well and although all the mechs were badly damaged, they had succeeded with flying colours.
ST had one flare left and started creeping up on a Loki that wasn't looking in his direction…………….