Concrete Dragons – Getting There is Half the Fun
"We're going WHERE?"
Brian Hasek sighed. He wasn't wholly sure if the tone out of Henry's mouth was simple disbelief or outright contempt. Either way, he probably should have expected the reaction from the older veteran.
"Renfro. It's a small world in the Periphery, here." Brian flipped open a star map, and marked spot near where the western corner of the Taurian Concordat met up with the Capellan March. "They've got problems with pirates, and need reinforcements. That's our job. We'll be working with their militia, hopefully to send the bastards packing once and for all."
"Militia, huh?" Henry leaned forward through the cloud of smoke that his cigar generated. "What kind of militia?"
"Infantry, mostly. Some APC's, a few tanks. The kind of stuff we're used to working with. The problem is, the pirates have Mechs. That's why we were hired."
"How many and what kind?" Brian couldn't help smiling. Underneath the gruff exterior, Sergeant Henry Cromwell was a professional. That was why Brian had made him his second.
"Not sure yet. It sounds like there may be a couple of different groups in the area."
"Fun stuff." Henry stood back up, exhaling another cloud. "When do we go?"
"As soon as we're ready."
"Well, let's get ready then."
Brian smiled. "It's already being worked on."
The coveralled man had to shout to be heard over the old truck's engine and the annoying BEEP of its backing signal. "Bring her back! A little more...GOOD! Hold her there!"
The flatbed hissed and ground as it was parked at the loading dock, and its driver jumped out. Both men wore tech coveralls, with the symbol of the Concrete Dragons. A loading dock worker came out of the warehouse to meet them, waving over a heavy forklift carrying a pallet of metal boxes. It was set on the truck, and one of the techs popped the top box open. He lifted out a heavy autocannon shell, examining it carefully. He looked to the worker with the manifest. "Ten pallets, right?"
"You betcha. Don't drop that, it's live." He checked the manifest. "Y'all got some other stuff here too, I see. Armor plate and heatsinks? What're y'all up to, rebuildin' a Mech?"
As the other tech jacked the ammo pallets around, arranging them on the truck to make room for the full load, the one holding the shell looked at the supplier soberly. "Actually, we're hoping not to. But it pays to be ready, ya know?"
The merchant looked up from his drink to see an athletic-looking woman standing there. She was part Capellan, part Davion by her looks, though her uniform was definitely Davion. But what was that badge? He didn't recognize it, a claw crushing a building. Not that it mattered, the way she was smiling. The name on her jacket said ANGEL.
"Hello, milady!" He turned on the mock Davion gallantry. "What can an old trader do fer an Angel like you?"
"A lot, actually." She slid into the seat across from him, and he froze as he raised his drink. He had noticed the curve of her hips on the first pass...he HADN'T noticed the holstered gun. Her smile shifted slightly, as if she knew what he was looking at. Then suddenly, she turned dead serious. "I'm Angel Fairchild. Mechwarrior in the Concrete Dragons. We've heard that you've got a run out to Renfro, and we need a ride. We've got one dropship, and extra space to help move your load."
"A deal, huh?" The old merchant was disgruntled. He took a pull of his whiskey, and set it hard on the table. Here he had got all hot and bothered and...he stopped and stared as she pulled out a stack of C-bills and riffled it with her thumb. He looked at the money, then looked right in her grinning cat eyes. "Yes, ahem...a deal. WELL, I'm sure we can work SOMETHING out..."
"Yes," Angel replied, and gave the dirty old trader a wink as she took a sip of his whiskey. "I'm certain we can."
"Well, we're here...wherever here is." Frederick "Red" Drake stood from his seat and stretched, his raised arms above his already tall head making the improvised passenger cabin seem small. He ran a hand through his fiery hair, and headed for the door, as the rest of the Concrete Dragons unstrapped from the landing. Red liked to show off his strength by not bothering with the seatbelt; he simply hung onto whatever was bolted down.
Outside, the sun shone down on wooded hills and rolling farmland, around the small city and its spaceport. Renfro seemed pleasant enough, Brian thought...until he noticed the burnt out buildings scattered on some of the farms, and on the fringes of the city. His gaze hardened a little. So that's why they'd been hired.
A group of men had come out to meet them. Elder Flatt, who had hitched the ride back with them, greeted them first and made introductions. Brian shook hands with Captain Monroe, one of the militia officers. "So y'all're the hired help, eh? Welcome ta Renfro! Earl done sent a message tellin' us y'all was on yer way." He looked over the dropship. "Y'all kin park her in the hangar over yonder. It's all yers while yer here. We got it fixed up so y'all kin keep yer gear there too. Speakin'a which," he looked a little awkward for a moment, "y'all mind if'n we see the goods?"
Brian smiled. "Certainly." He turned around and started giving orders. Within a few minutes, the cargo bay door rolled open, and the ramp lowered with a hiss and a thud. The men started to go up, but Brian stopped them.
From inside, came an audible hum that rose slightly, along with the mechanical sound of metal joints working. One step thudded, then others followed in stride as Angel walked her UrbanMech down the ramp. It had a fresh coat of gray and white urban camo, and bore the badge of the Concrete Dragons on its side. Brian waved to Angel, and she waved back with her autocannon. She cycled her Mech's arms as she swiveled the torso, then launched the tincan into the air with a roar, passing over the assembled men, pivoting and landing firmly behind them.
Brian couldn't help chuckling. These hicks were staring like the Urbie was an Atlas or something. He could see Angel in her cockpit laughing; she did a little dance step with her Mech and gave a mechanical bow.
Brian let the men laugh for a minute, then walked over to the militia captain, and put a hand on his shoulder, his voice serious. "Now," he said firmly, "let's get down to business. Those pirates are going to be coming back, and we need to be ready. I've talked to Elder Flatt on the way here, and I've got a plan."
Captain Monroe looked at the merc for a long moment, apparently surprised at Brian's assertiveness. He seemed to assess the young Mechwarrior, who didn't waver his gaze. Finally, he nodded as if satisfied. "Let's get to it."