Mystery ‘Mechs From Beyond the Periphery Part 2
"Alright, granted, those Panthers are a bit freaky. '120kph' and 'Panther' ain't supposed to be used together in a sentence-"
"Unless the sentence also mentions my Zeus's foot impacting the Panther's butt."
"-But those are just Archers. Their Six-Frickin'-Hundredth birthday is coming up in 8 years. You think these have any surprises for us like those Panthers?"
"I only see one barrel in the rear arc turret...I've got ten that says they're ARC-9Ls."
"No bet, there's not else much they could-...hey, my lidar's clocking them at eighty, eighty-four kph. I think I'll take that bet..."
"No bet. You and I both know the Nine-El might, just might reach eighty kph going over a cliff with a strong down draft and...OOHH!!! The humanity! Dude, that Archer just jumped on Morelli's Commando!"
"A one hundred thirteen meter jump, if a centimeter. Come on, let's floor it. A company of seventy-ton hoppers is going to be rough on Ted's mediums and bantamweights, they'll need our thundering herd- Whoa, did those two Archers just hit Ted at ninety meters?"
"It happens with good mech jockeys. I heard Morgan Kell once put forty LRMs into Yori-...Yorga-...a Snake at thirty."
"Maybe they've got Clan missiles. Dude, maneuver your Zeus behind me and start pushing. I think if we work together I can get this Atlas to sixty kph. Ted's company is just getting outright abused and we're not even close enough to fire my bowling ball flinger at those bogeys."
"OH! That was just uncalled for. Man, did you see that? Another one just jumped on Morelli. She was just getting up!"
"That was just uncool! Hey, her cockpit looks alright. Dude, maybe this'll be your chance - you can 'console' her after the fight, buy her a beer, give her a friendly hug-"
"Dude, shut up! It's not like- Aw, crap, a gaggle of those damn Archers just showed up on our six. They must've hopped their way over the river and through the woods."
"Yeah, yeah, 'to grandmother's house we go.' Alright, I'm not going to detach anyone, we're just going to stomp these in force, then we'll deal with the ones stomping Ted's company into the ground."
It wasn't until the news of the attacks reached Tharkad that the LAAF realized Timbuktu and Poulsbo had been attacked simultaneously, give or take several hours. The garrisons of the two near-Periphery Lyran worlds were certainly unaware they were being attacked at the same time, or that their attackers were very similar.
While Poulsbo was hit by (approximately) a light battalion of mechs and an unknown number of battle armors, Timbuktu was definitely raided by two battalions of mechs (including command lances) and (approximately) a battalion of battle armor. The Timbuktu raid used three models of mechs: the highly modified Panthers also seen on Poulsbo (2 companies), highly modified Archers (4 companies), and Cyclops (command lances; degree of modification unknown). The battle armors were of completely unique make and all that had been captured were eventually retaken by the invaders before the armors could be studied. Though they had high ground speeds (for battle armors), the armors seemed to lack jumping ability. They swarmed just fine. The armors' numbers is approximate - 2 companies (96 armors) were definitely deployed in combat, but an unknown number participated in bizarre raids that mutilated farm animals (but left shotgun-wielding farmers untouched) and did light damage to libraries (where periodicals and history sections were apparently scanned and computer records copied).
Though once garrisoned by the 11th Arcturan Guards, in 3066 Timbuktu's militia was much less impressive. It was, however, thoroughly Lyran and the rather weighty mechs and tanks inflicted moderate casualties on the raiders. Three of the "Panthers" were left on the battlefield, as were nine of the Archers. None of the Cyclops were engaged, nor did they seem to seek battle. Though Timbuktu's militia suffered heavy material damage in a pair of battalion-scale engagements, only two mechwarriors and five vehicle crewmen were killed. The invaders seemed to make no concerted effort to kill soldiers and the Panthers, on behind-the-lines raids, even went so far as to order rear echelon personnel away from ammo transports before attacking.
The fallen Archers left showed some similarities to the Panthers salvaged on Poulsbo and Timbuktu. Their components were unmarked but for 2D barcodes; no unit insignia were found on the mechs or their mechwarriors' combat suits; the remains of the mechwarriors were not in the least identifiable; and, the cockpits were apparently laced with explosives and incendiaries. In many cases, components were easily recognizable as Star League models, minus manufacturer's marks. The engine was not a 280 Vox, but rather a 350 Ford as used on the Star League-era Excalibur. The jump jets were also of venerable design: Anderson 398s used by the old Guillotine. The chassis was endosteel, but that was almost identical to the endosteel chassis of the SLDF's 2745 update of the Archer, the ARC-7R.
The missile launchers appeared to be Doombud LRM 20s used by the Archer since time immemorial, but the critical targeting and tracking computers in the cockpit that would've confirmed whether the short range performance of the Archer's LRMs was a fluke or designed had been wrecked by the cockpits' suicide charges. Likewise, ammo bins also self-destructed on crippled raider Archers. Luck was with investigators, though: Explosive Ordinance Disposal teams clearing the battlefields found three raider LRMs apparently spilled from a damaged Archer's ammo bins or launcher. Study of the missiles revealed highly advanced guidance and fuzing electronics, on par with some of the Star League's and Clans' finest computers. The software was unintelligible, but a successful test fire (with instrumentation on the missile) from a salvaged raider's Doombud revealed the missile did arm after its "blip" motor popped it out of the launch tube and did demonstrate good tracking even at point blank ranges, just like Clan LRMs. The Archers' triplet of medium lasers were carbon copies of Star League-era Exostar medium lasers.
The Timbuktu garrison did not perform the same amount of forensic tests on the mechwarrior remains found in the raider cockpits that the Poulsbo garrison did (mostly because Timbuktu's garrison was not lashed on by a hysterical public and headline-craving tabloids like the Poulsbo garrison). Initially, only fingerprint and dental checks were considered, but the quality of the remains (in light of later discoveries, "hamburger" would be an appropriate description) prevented those cursory tests. After Tharkad received the Poulsbo reports, Timbuktu was urged to examine the remains again. A mildly foresighted investigator had kept them in a freezer and was able to confirm that, yes, the remains were those of cows. Eventually, one set of remains was traced to a particular mutilated cow (most of the other mutilated cows had been sold for meat by the time Tharkad's request arrived 9 weeks after the raid, hindering connections to other sets of remains.)
Like the raiders on Poulsbo, the Timbuktu raiders mixed an expensive and decent design with confusing, seomtimes brilliant, sometimes outright stupid tactics. The general assessment is that the Timbuktu raiders made fewer of the mistakes than the Poulsbo raiders did due to command and control provided by the Cyclopses (Cyclopsi?). The Timbuktu raiders' "Panthers" used mostly the same hit-and-run tactics seen on Poulsbo, but with fewer cases of standing and fighting against uneven odds and more behind-the-lines raids. The Archers acted quite differently than the Panthers, typically engaging in line battles that suited their heavy LRM firepower and occasionally using their superior maneuverability to flank slower, heavier Lyran units. One tactic the Archers did demonstrate a mastery of was disengaging from battle to reload, a maneuver that involved meeting VTOLs of unknown make and, to assist loading ammo, small units of battle armor.