Concrete Dragons – First Battle
Lieutenant Brian Hasek scanned the
hilltops around the town. He lowered his binoculars, and got on the radio. "Report
Red was the first to reply, mumbling through a mouthful of rations being wolfed down at the last moment. "Ready'n waitin' by the north line." His UrbanMech was set up in an alley near the militia's infantry positions, out of sight, ready to step in and give support. Brian tried not to think about the possibility that those rations might be Red's last meal.
"Good to go by the northwest corner." Angel had come up with a crazy idea, one of those that was so crazy it might work. She had repainted her Urbie silver, to match the grain silos at the edge of town; her Urbie was standing among them. Its barrel body and domed top blended in almost perfectly among the mill machinery. Supporting her were two of the militia's Hetzers, also hidden in the mill. Their job would be to flank north or west as needed.
"All quiet on the western front." Henry was south of Angel, near the western edge of town, hidden with the infantry much like Red was.
Brian nodded to himself. "All good, then. Keep your eyes open. They should be coming in anytime." Brian himself was slightly farther in town, with the militia's other two Hetzers; they were the reserve. Together, the four positions formed a square roughly 300 meters on a side. It wasn't ideal, but Brian was thankful that they had at least been able to prepare this much. Luckily, the pirates had been spotted as they were coming in.
Brian tried not to be nervous, but it was hard not to be. The description given by the militia's scouts sounded vaguely like a rogue AFFS unit; that bothered Brian more than he liked to admit. A medium Mech lance, supported by a few tanks. The militia's only advantages over their bigger foes was their defensive positions, and the surprise of the hidden UrbanMechs. He hoped it would be enough.
Suddenly, his eye caught a blink of motion against the sky as a Mech crested a hill to the west-northwest. He raised his binoculars. A Valkyrie. Probably their scout on point. Brian shuddered as he saw what followed: another Valkyrie, a Hatchetman and an Enforcer. As the enemy descended towards the town, he caught a glimpse of the Goblins following at their heels. The symbol on the Mechs was a skull in a red and black sunburst.
If that ISN'T a rogue AFFS unit, Brian thought, then I'm Richard Cameron. He got on the radio. "They're coming in from the west. At least four Mechs and a tank platoon. Red, shift southwest towards Henry. Captain Monroe, are you on line?"
"Yep!" The Captain's voice sounded strangely cheerful. "Them's the Black Sun Raiders. They started botherin' us 'round a year ago, back when all that noise was goin' on b'tween the Feds and Cappies."
"Thanks for the information. Bring your infantry west and form a line south from the mill. Stay out of sight til they're in range." Brian listened to the cheerful acknowledgement, and visualized the militia infantry in their simple olive uniforms, piling into their "APC"...a truck fitted with improvised armor plate.
Well, Brian thought, here we go. He felt the tension, his hands flexing on the controls as he watched for the battle to begin in earnest. This wasn't going to be easy. It was...and then he just busted out laughing, as Red and Angel both sang out over the radio at the same time with cheerful confidence.
"LET'S GET READY TO RUMBLE..."
"Sit tight," Lieutenant Brian
Hasek said over his radio. In the tension of the moment, he was almost
whispering. He had to laugh; it wasn't like the enemy could hear him.
"Don't tip your hand til they're in firing range, then let them have it.
Stick to the plan."
Henry, the old veteran, laughed over the radio. "Calm down, boss. We'll be fine." Easy for him to say, Brian thought. Or maybe not; the pirates were marching right down on Henry's position. If he wasn't worried, should any of them be?
Brian reviewed the positions on his map. Henry was the south end of the Dragons' firing line, Angel and the two Hetzers in the mill held the north end. Between were two platoons of infantry, spread out in cover. A few hundred meters back and just inside the line, were his and Red's Urbies, two more Hetzers and another platoon of infantry. They would move up to reinforce positions as needed.
Then one of the pirate VLK's rushed towards the mill, and all hell broke loose. Screams came over the radio as smoke rose; the pirate Mech had found the infantry positions, and let loose with its flamer. He gritted his teeth as Angel and the Hetzers broke cover to save the infantry; the VLK went down, its leg blown off by a Hetzer's big gun, but the plan fell with it.
In front of Brian, the infantry opened up with a roar of missiles on the advancing pirate tanks. One went up, but the others returned fire as their own infantry bailed out. The second VLK stopped, seeming to calmly set itself. Brian felt a chill. "Henry, take that other VLK out NOW!"
Henry sidestepped out of his alley and fired, but it was too late. A salvo of missiles arced skyward and crashed down on the militia footmen, taking out an entire squad in a rain of shrapnel.
"I need help here, guys!" Angel sounded scared; the pirate Hatchetman had jumped around the Hetzers and closed in on her, pinning her back in the crowded alleys of the mill complex. The Enforcer was headed that way too, firing at the Hetzers from long range as they frantically chased the Hatchetman; they had to go around the buildings, while the Hatchetman simply leaped over them.
"Red, Hetzer Three-Four, help Angel. Third infantry, move up behind me." Brian kicked his Urbie into motion, lumbering forward towards the firestorm at the front. The Goblins and pirate infantry were in the open, but had more firepower; the militia infantry had cover. It was a bloody stalemate, but one that could only have one result if something wasn't done quickly. Brian had a long shot at one of the Goblins; he cursed as he saw his tracers bounce high off its armor.
Meanwhile, the other VLK had tried to run past Henry, to flank him around the building to the south. The old vet wasn't flustered. He simply sidestepped, turned, and the VLK that had been facing his rear flank was suddenly in front of his autocannon. "Surprise!" Henry pulled the trigger as the VLK brought an arm up, and the heavy shells smashed the arm to ruins. Henry grinned and advanced, and the VLK jumped away behind a building.
Brian observed the chaos for a moment, looking at the positions on his display, then suddenly had an idea. "Hetzer One-Two, forget the Hatchetman. Break right on those Goblins and take them out. Hang on, Angel."
"Easy for you to say!" Angel snapped a shot from her autocannon and sidestepped into an alley; her shot caught the Hatchetman as it charged, its hatchet crushing into the side of the building just over her head like a wrecking ball. She slammed her pedals to the floor, and sailed over the Hatchetman's head, landing on the roof above it. "I can't keep dodging him, guys, he's faster than me!"
"But is he faster than both of us?" Red had stepped into line of sight, and cut loose with his autocannon, nailing the Hatchetman squarely in the side. The pirate seemed to consider his options, then leaped away himself, landing on a rooftop across the alley from Angel. There was a long pause as she and the pirate contemplated each other, each realizing the fully exposed position. Behind the Hatchetman, Angel saw the Hetzers dive into the Goblins' flank with devastating effect.
Then Angel screamed as the Hatchetman, and the Enforcer that had stayed in the clear behind it, both opened up on her exposed Mech at once. She felt the Urbie staggering as tracers and lasers blasted its armor, and struggled to keep from falling off the roof. She rolled the fallen Urbie away from the edge, getting the machine up just in time to hear a BOOM as the Hatchetman landed beside her.
It all happened in slow motion. The axe dug into her Urbie's shoulder, staggering it yet again. Angel gritted her teeth and fired point blank as she kicked it frantically; alarms sounded from her engine as its shielding was damaged by the Hatchetman's own autocannon. Then suddenly a strom of tracers blew past, and the Hatchetman was gone.
Angel blinked as she heard the CRASH below, and checked her systems. Engine was damaged, armor was in shreds, but she was still alive and her Mech was still somewhat functional. She jumped down, and found the Hatchetman laying on the ground, not moving. Beyond it were Hetzers Three and Four, their big guns smoking, Red's Urbie behind them.
"Hatchetman's down," Red reported calmly, "but Angel is beat up bad. How's it going over there?"
"Where the hell is that Valk?" Henry was still chasing it, as it lobbed missiles and hid among the buildings.
"I think they're running." Brian had ordered the surviving infantry back into cover, and had engaged the Goblins together with the Hetzers. The Enforcer had killed one of the Hetzers, and Brian's armor was pinged up, but the one surviving Goblin was running. The Enforcer was backing off as well, and Brian took a shot to make sure it kept going.
Henry cursed as the Valk dodged him yet again. "Come back here, you son of a..." his voice was drowned out by his autocannon, as he sent a shot after the fleeing pirate Mech.
Brian took a deep breath, and noticed his hands shaking slightly. He glanced at his chrono. It had only been that long? It had felt like hours. Over the radio, he could hear the calls for medics; the militia infantry had been hit hard. "Damage reports."
"Armor gone, engine damaged. I'm OK, my Mech is moving. Red, I owe ya one." Angel didn't sound like her usual cocky self; she sounded shocked and tired.
"You owe the militia one," Red responded. "I'm OK. I was too far back, barely had time to get in the action. All I lost was some ammo spent."
"Tell the Hetzer crews to line up outside my room then," Angel looked at the smoldering pyre that had been one of the infantry positions, then had to turn away. "I could use the distraction right now..."
"Only thing hurt is my ego." While Angel was shaken by her brush with death, Henry was steamed. He had WANTED that Valk so bad...
Brian sighed with relief. "We did good, Dragons. No losses, nothing irrepairable, we did our job."
"No losses to us," Henry said soberly. "The militia boys got chewed up."
"Yeah, I know," Brian replied. "The battle's not over til the dead are buried. Let's go give them a hand, guys."