The Other Side of Huntress
"Star Captain Osis, report!"
Star Captain Jacob Osis, ristar of Clan Smoke Jaguar, manuvered his Stormcrow so that it had cover behind a building, without obstructing his view down the street. A crowd of fleeing civilians streamed towards and past him, heading for the dropships in the park a few blocks behind him. In the distance, smoke and flames rose, and the wind carried the sounds and smells of battle from afar. To either side, his binary spread out behind buildings, covering other approach paths. He checked that they were satisfactory, then made his report.
"This is Star Captain Osis. My binary is in position, covering the western approach to emergency drop zone beta."
A few moments of silence followed, while Jacob watched the refugees continue making their way to the dropships for evacuation. This was not what he had in mind for his future, when he had scored two kills for his bloodname. His thoughts were interrupted suddenly by the cold, authoritative voice of his Galaxy Commander.
"Star Captain Osis. Your binary is designated to cover the evacuation of emergency drop zone beta. Be warned that the enemies nearest you are fast Mech forces from the Draconis Combine. The surats are not observing zellbrigen, and are not discriminating between warriors and civilians. If any of the stravag Spheroids should approach, you will fight to the last man if necessary. Protect those civilians at all costs."
As Jacob listened to the orders, his eyes were focussed into the distance. Far down the open avenue, he saw a shape stride between the buildings. It was only in sight for a moment, but it was long enough for him to zoom and identify it: a Grand Dragon.
Then a thought occurred to him, as he glimpsed the Grand Dragon again. It was getting closer, maneuvering between the shadows of the tall towers. He locked on its silhouette, as he asked the question that he already knew the answer to.
"Is any help coming from the other Clans? We led them near to glory in the Inner Sphere, and now..."
"No." His commander's voice was sharp, yet at the same time, tired and resigned. "The stravags have shown their nature and left us. The vultures now wait to pick over our remains." The commander paused. "You have your orders."
Jacob's battle computer beeped. The Grand Dragon was in firing range, accelerating towards the fleeing civilians. It had apparently not yet seen him. Jacob looked at the Spheroid, seeing in his mind the symbols of all the Clans upon it, all the Inner Sphere.
And he pulled the trigger. Twin beams of bright laser death lashed out across an impossible distance, over the heads of the crowd. He ignored the screaming as they scattered and ran for cover, ran for their lives, as he stepped out into full view of the enemy.
The Grand Dragon brought up short as one hit scored on its chest; the other went wide left. The Spheroid was clearly surprised to see resistance, and Jacob took advantage of the moment of hesitation, pounding his target with his Stormcrow's long-range lasers as he called to his binary for support. The Grand Dragon acclerated again, returning fire with PPC bolts and missiles, but failed to score any meaningful damage. Jacob advanced to meet his foe, adding his medium lasers to the barrage, ignoring the hits on his own machine, ignoring the heat alarms. And then it was over, as one of Jacob's shots touched off an ammo explosion that gutted the Grand Dragon's engine. It toppled at his feet...
With a sudden snap, Jacob was aware of the chaos on the radio. Other enemies had approached while he was absorbed in his duel. He shook his head to clear the red haze from his vision, turned in time to see one of his starmates, a Cauldron-Born, shoot the legs off another Grand Dragon. The enemy was pressing. Jacob gave orders to fall back to defensible positions at the drop zone, and noticed suddenly that the head of the Mech he had downed was crushed in, as if it had been kicked...
He looked at that for a moment, then simply shook his head. There were other foes to worry about now, orders to be carried out. He would think about what had been done in the heat of battle later. If there was a later.
As his binary regrouped at the drop zone, he did a fast head count. Three of his men were missing, and the din of nearby battle told him that he didn't have to look far for them. He set a guard on the dropships, moved towards the noise, and rounded the corner to see a Hankyu sprawled on the ground, its body riddled with holes. He looked up to see the tall, thin silhouette of a Daikyu, and fired as it dodged behind a building. He hesitated a moment, debating going after it, then keyed his radio to the drop zone commander.
"Are the dropships loaded?"
"Aff! The last civilians in this wave are getting aboard now."
Jacob spoke as he pulled back to the drop zone again, formulating his plan on the fly. "That wave will be the last one. The surats are pressing us on all sides. You will need to lift off before we are overrun." He was interrupted as the remainder of his binary erupted in a concentrated barrage, directed at a towering Atlas that had stepped from behind a building. It staggered, then fell with an earth-shaking CRASH. Behind it, more Spheroids were advancing.
"Sir, we are ready to lift off. Will you be coming with us?"
Jacob hesitated to answer. All the Jaguar warriors were firing in a steady stream at the approaching enemy. Jacob focussed on a charging Komodo, and blew it backwards its feet; he smiled grimly at the fact that his lasers had the longer reach.
"Sir, we can lift off any time...there is no point to sacrificing yourself. Our engines will clear any enemy who dares get too close."
Jacob still didn't answer, as he calmly kept calling targets for his binary's concentrated fire. They were down to six now, then five. Twice their number of Spheroids had fallen. The Jaguar warriors were carrying out their last orders to the letter.
The dropship pilot, realizing that Jacob was ignoring him, changed tactics.
"Sir, the civilians will still need protection offworld, quiaff?"
Jacob sighed. He couldn't help grinning, then laughing at how the pilot had invoked his Galaxy Commander's orders.
"Seyla! Mount up!"
One by one, the remaining Jaguar warriors backed into the dropship as their savage Kurita foes closed in for revenge. One by one, the dezgra Spheroids were gunned down. Jacob was the last one up the ramp, his laser barrels glowing red hot. Then the hatch closed, and Jacob suddenly felt like he was inside an erupting volcano.
There was a huge roar and shaking as the dropships opened their engines full throttle, scorching everything for dozens of meters around. And then they were climbing. Jacob was pinned in his seat for several long minutes, and then suddenly, he felt himself lift against his harness as the dropship rolled over into orbit, aiming for the distant jumpship that would take it to safety...wherever that might be.
Jacob climbed out of his Stormcrow, looked at its smoking barrels and scorched armor. One of the medium lasers had been sheared off by a hit...he hadn't even noticed. He shook his head, and made his way to a window, wishing to look one last time at his home.
Below him, Huntress burned. And with it, so did his past.
He looked into the distance, seeing the waiting jumpship as the dropship slowly closed the distance. The waiting future. It was all the Jaguars had left.
That, and memories...