No One Left Behind…Not Even an Urbie
"Attention all Longshots, this is
your Captain speaking. Mission accomplished, rendezvous at the drop zone, and please observe the FASTEN
SEAT BELT sign!"
Captain Jack Lee clicked off his radio, launched his Grasshopper into the air, and crashed its 70 tons down one last time on the wreck of the Capellan communication post. It was only a small bit of revenge, but small bits added up over time. And he planned to take a lot of small bits out of the Capellan Confederation.
His work done, Jack rallied his lance and headed for his unit's dropship. The top of the old Union peeked above the buildings a few blocks away like a giant dome, and he would be even happier once he and his unit were safely aboard. Then his thoughts were interrupted by the radio.
"Longshots, Dragon Ace." It was the Longshots' lead pilot, flying CAP in his Transit. "Cappie Mechs closing on the drop zone from the west. Two lances. Vindis and Blackjacks, with Cats in support. Looks like the rest of the garrison woke up. Step it up down there."
"Ace, Longshot lead," Jack responded. "Can you slow them down?"
"Will do. Deuce, follow my shots." Overhead, Jack saw the two Transits move into a line formation, before they dove with guns blazing. Jack could hear the hammering of their heavy autocannons, see the streams of laser fire as they strafed the distant Cappie garrison. Light tracers banged skyward in return as the two Transits quickly peeled off. "Deuce, you OK?"
"Yeah, just scratched my paint. Watch the flak, those Blackjacks can shoot from here to Sarna."
Jack leaped his Grasshopper over a pile of rubble, the rest of his lance trailing behind him. They were moving as fast as they could through the damaged city, but the Cappie garrison added an urgency that made his unit seem so slow. He keyed his radio, looking for his other lance. They should be guarding the drop zone. "Longshot X, Longshot lead. What's going on back there, Lynn?"
Gunfire over the radio was his response. Not good. Finally, Lynn's voice came back over the radio. "Lead, X. I moved my unit out to meet the Cappies on the way in. We're tied up with their lead lance to buy you time. Hurry up, we're way outgunned here." Jack had no doubt of that; his second lance wasn't even a complete unit. Lynn's Clint, Igor's rugged Hunchback, and that new kid's Urbie. They had picked the kid up on a whim, a Davion farmboy turned Mechwarrior after finding the old Urbie in his uncle's barn. It wasn't much, but any Mech was better than none.
The next several minutes went tensely by. Jack's lance ran and jumped as fast as it could, while the strafing fighters supported Lynn's lance in holding off the Cappie garrison. Jack followed the fight on the radio, listening to Lynn giving directions. Her lance had advanced into cover, and was basically pinging any Cappie that dared to show his face. There was an explosion as one of the Cappie Vindis went up, and Igor belted out a victory song, a snatch of Russian opera. Jack grinned...he could see the burly Tikonov native in his head, taking a hit of vodka from his hip flask as he toasted his downed enemy.
And then they were there, and the roles reversed. Jack's lance formed up around the dropship, as Lynn's lance withdrew towards the drop zone. Past them was the Capellan garrison, and Jack cringed as he saw a Cataphract step out of cover. His lance concentrated fire, and the big Cappie ducked back behind a building. But other Cappies were advancing, and this was starting to get urgent.
Lynn's Clint was the first Mech back, outrunning her slower lancemates. She turned and snapped a shot from her autocannon, as Igor's Hunchback broke cover towards the Longshots' Union. Jack keyed his radio as he blasted another Cappie back into cover. "Where's the Urbie?" He didn't want to admit that he couldn't even remember the new kid's name.
"I don't know, he was..." Her answer was interrupted by an explosion and a huge gout of dirt. The Longshots ducked reflexively as shrapnel flew everywhere, pinging off Mech and dropship armor alike. Artillery!
"Time to go!" Jack hustled his unit into the dropship, pointing and waving with his Mech's arms to emphasize his verbal orders. Lynn's Clint was still kneeling and shooting as she looked for the Urbie. Jack sent off a volley of fire to cover her, as another artillery round careened off the top of the dropship before exploding against the ground. "Come on Lynn, we can't wait or they'll blow us apart!"
"But..." and then her Mech was thrown on its face, as another shell landed right behind her. No more arguing was needed. The Clint got halfway up, crawling up the ramp into the dropship. Jack hesitated one last moment, looking for the Urbie. And then he saw it, over 200 meters away, as it stepped out from behind a building and shot a Cappie Blackjack square in the back. It went down, and the Urbie came plodding slowly towards the drop zone.
Jack watched, his Grasshopper crouching in the dropship door as another round came screaming down. The Cappie artillery was finding the range. Jack steadied his Mech against the hatch as the dropship's engines came up to pre-launch idle. The Urbie wasn't going to make it, and the kid seemed to know it. He waved his autocannon at Jack, and then stepped into cover, lining up on the advancing Cappies. Jack felt something cold and hard inside as he closed the hatch, and as the dropship's engines roared to full power, he saw the Urbie's cannon chew up another Cappie Mech.
Jack parked and popped his Mech's hatch, then ran to the bridge as the dropship slowly began lifting off. He hung onto the seats as he looked down on the city below, seeing the Urbie standing there with its gun blasting, holding off the Cappies while the Longshots escaped. Again. And suddenly, that cold inside Jack turned raging hot.
Jack grabbed the dropship pilot. "Can you hover this thing?" The surprised pilot nodded. "Then do it. Swing us out over where he is." He grabbed the gunnery radio as the Union tilted, sliding sideways in the air like a swinging ornament. "Get on the tail guns, and clear the Cappies. Get the buildings too, screw'em. We need a drop zone." He looked back at the pilot. "Put us down right on top of the bastards."
The pilot complied. The Union, not really designed for manuvering in atmosphere, tilted and swayed as the pilot vectored his engines. It took most of their full power directed downward to keep the dropship in the air, and so the sideways manuvering was awkward. In the round shadow below the swinging dropship, Cappie Mechs were scattering as the tail guns blasted indiscriminately. The Urbie was still shooting at the fleeing enemy, though its pilot was obviously confused. Then suddenly, there was a mighty CRASH and RUMBLE as the 6000 ton Union came down, taking several buildings with it.
Jack ran back down to the Mech bay, and dropped the ramp right in front of the dumbfounded Urbie. He grinned as the rest of the Longshots gathered around, some in their Mechs, others not. Igor was laughing his ass off, a vodka bottle in his hand as he slapped Jack on the back. Jack waved and yelled at the young Urbie pilot. "Well, what are you waiting for? Come on!"
The Longshots scattered as the Urbie marched its slow way up the ramp, cheering as the bay door closed and the engines roared again. The young sandy-haired kid got out of the Urbie, grinning like a fool. Jack looked around and realized that he was grinning along with him, as all the Longshots were. Slowly, a silence fell, except for the straining engines as the dropship burned for orbit, and Jack suddenly felt awkward as he realized that everyone was looking at him. Finally, he just shrugged.
"OK, NOW the mission's accomplished."