Uninvited Guests - 3050
The year is 3050. The Clan invasion is
underway, and the Wolves are on the prowl. They have rolled over the outer
worlds of the FRR to the minor system called Helseggen, "the cloudy",
so named both for the clouds of dust and small asteroids that make this system
a navigational nightmare, and for the scudding storms of its cold, mountainous
world. Helseggen's challenging terrain was originally the staging ground for a
joint wargame between the Kungsarme and the AFFC; now the game is over, and
there is only war.
"I am Khan Ulric of Clan Wolf, the bloodnamed kin of Kerensky! Name your forces, that we may bid for your destruction!"
Khan Ulric Kerensky spoke with satisfaction from the command ship of his fleet. The invasion was going well; the Wolves had claimed a half-dozen worlds already, and another now stood ready to fall. An angry-sounding voice answered the challenge...the man was surprisingly curt, as if the Wolves' challenge was an interruption unworthy of his attention.
"I am Colonel David Grey, commanding the Shadows. We field a heavy Mech battalion and an armored battalion, in the service of the Federated Commonwealth. We stand beside the Free Rasalhague Republic in defense of their world."
Shadows? For some reason, Ulric didn't like the sound of that name. No doubt another impudent bunch of surats. But the game had to be played nonetheless. He spoke again, almost condescendingly.
"Colonel Grey. The Clans do not believe in wasting men, or damaging life and property needlessly. Would you be willing to meet an equivalent force with your Mechs? On ground away from civilian populations, quiaff?"
The voice answered immediately, with a tone that raised the hair on Ulric's neck.
"We have been informed of your methods, and have already chosen our ground. My Mechwarriors and I will await you at your convenience. You may land at the following coordinates..."
What manner of men were they facing? Ulric had to wonder...this was not like the fearful or pseudo-confident tones that other foes had taken.
The dropships' ramps opened on a rocky, windswept plain, and two Wolf binaries deployed. It was a fast force, consisting mostly of Kit Foxes and Adders, supported by three Timber Wolves. Leading the force was a fearsome Dire Wolf; Star Colonel Mikhail Kerensky was a ristar in the Khan's own bloodline, and he could feel Ulric watching him from orbit as he positioned his troops against a possible dezgra ambush.
A warning came from one of his light scouts. The surats were to the west. He ordered the force shifted to face...and stopped still as darkness fell over him.
Atop the foothills to the west, silhouetted against the sunset, stood a row of dark Mechs. The darkness was their shadows, cast long by the dimming light over the field below. In the center was the squat, powerful shape of a Zeus; Mikhail felt a chill as its broad shoulders blocked the light, and knew that this was the enemy leader.
This may not be what Hell is like, Mikhail thought to himself, but it had to be pretty close.
The battle had opened fairly enough, with the Wolves sweeping forward quickly, their dark foes moving down to meet them. The swift Kit Foxes and Adders had quickly sought to pick their foes and flank, drawing their opponents out into duels and dividing their position.
It hadn't worked. The Shadows had refused to be drawn out, backing together in cover, keeping the faster Wolves out of their formation by staying tight and fighting at range. That quickly cost the Wolves; their enemy was more primitive, but the long-range fire had taken a toll on the lighter Clan Omnis. But, Mikhail noted, the enemy WAS fighting above board; no trickery here, they were calling their foes and sticking with them. The problem simply was, Mikhail thought, that Kit Foxes and Adders were no match for patient foes in partial cover.
And so he had sent in the Timber Wolves, leading their attack himself with his Dire Wolf. The awesome firepower of the huge Omni had immediately made an impact, blasting a Griffin to scrap with a single volley. Slowly but surely, the Shadows were driven from cover, one by one. They simply could not match up with the bigger Clan Omnis. Slowly but surely, the tide had shifted to the Wolves' side.
Then something had happened. Mikhail wasn't sure what; confusion over the radio net, a missed challenge, something had gone wrong. And now zellbrigen was broken, and the battered Shadows were fighting back with concentrated firepower. One Timber Wolf had instantly become the focal point for a half-dozen Shadows, and it swiftly fell in pieces. The lighter Omnis had tried to close again, only to be driven into cover. The Shadows had retightened their formations, and now it was a matter simply of who would be left standing at the end. His Dire Wolf continued to plow forward, blasting hard at any foe who crossed his sights, trying to keep them from consolidating their position, but now he was taking fire from all directions.
Then suddenly, everything stopped. A long, awkward pause, as he found himself standing face to face with the Zeus.
The enemy leader, Colonel David Grey, made no move but to simply point his left arm gun at Mikhail.
Well bargained, and done!
Mikhail lumbered forward eagerly, swinging the Dire Wolf's guns to bear. But the Zeus had been crafty, taking off at a full speed angle, hammering the bigger, slower Omni with everything it had. The Dire Wolf's shots were tardy, and mostly missed behind. Mikhail noticed that around the two dueling leaders, the battle had come to an unspoken halt. The two sides spread out almost automatically, to give the two monster assault Mechs plenty of room. He smiled to himself...a Circle of Equals!
Mikhail's Dire Wolf jolted again, and he cursed himself for being distracted. The Zeus was using its slightly greater speed to keep ahead of the Dire Wolf's turns, staying near the edge of his firing arc, not allowing Mikhail to bring his full firepower to bear. Missiles and beams slashed across Mikhail's armor, and he could only really respond with one arm. Mikhail quickly backed up, hoping to widen the distance and get a better field of fire.
That move elicited an unexpected response, as the Zeus charged in and delivered a thunderous kick. It ducked as Mikhail fired late, the hail of beams and shells passing high, and then came up with a powerful uppercut, the blunt punching core of its missile arm slamming the Dire Wolf squarely on the chin. Cracks spiderwebbed across the cockpit glass, and the Dire Wolf staggered back as the Zeus' ERPPC came around and took the missile launcher off the Dire Wolf's shoulder with a point-blank shot. An ammo flashback sparked, and suddenly Mikhail's panel was alive with alarms; the CASE system had done its job, but his engine was damaged and his left arm was gone. He gritted his teeth against the shrilling feedback, and brought up his good arm point blank into the Zeus' chest.
But before he could fire, there was a sudden CLANK, and Mikhail found himself looking straight into the Zeus' ERPPC. Its muzzle was flush against his cockpit, the polished inside of the barrel glowing faintly with crackles of static.
And there they stood, for a minute that seemed like eternity, the two leaders, each at the other's gunpoint.
It was Colonel Grey who spoke first, as he lowered his weapon's muzzle and delivered a salute with his missile arm.
"Well fought," he said with a satisfied smile. "Well fought, indeed."
He gave a signal, and the Shadows began withdrawing, gathering their fallen as they went, leaving the stunned Wolves standing in the field. Colonel Grey remained facing the Wolves as his men fell back, heading for their drop zone to lift offworld. He zoomed in his cameras, and looked Mikhail right in the face before turning to walk away.
"We will meet again, I'm sure."
And then, the Shadows were gone.
From the personal Remembrance of Ulric Kerensky, April 3050:
Today, on Helseggen, for the first time since the start of our invasion, we have met true warriors.