Captain David Hawkings, CO of the
mercenary unit the Blood Hawks, leaned back in his chair and favored his new
liaison officer with a condescending smile. The unit had just arrived on Jackson’s World for an anti-insurgency
contract. It was just another Periphery mudball beyond the Combine that never
managed to make it onto the official maps, though perhaps a bit richer than
most due to concentrations of valuable metals.
“So, to summarize, the opposition we’re facing consists of about three of four thousand rebel insurgents.”
A quick jerk of the head answered him.
“Of course not.” Llieutenant Simpkins of the Jackson’s World militia replied shortly, almost snapping. “Otherwise we wouldn’t need you.”
Hawkings ignored the hostility in the reply. “And no combat vehicles.”
“Just some civilian stuff, mostly trucks and the like. They only use them for transport, not combat.”
“And they’ve managed to take over half the planet away from you.” The derision was much more apparent this time.
“They’ve got the Jaks.” Simpkins snapped.
“Right, those big cat-things.” The information on the jaks had been part of the brief. Fierce hunters that ruled the wildernesses of Jackson’s World, the jaks had been supposedly domesticated by the rebels and used against the militia to apparently devastating effect. At least that’s what the reports said, and why this contract was worth a good deal more than usual. Privately, Hawkings was convinced that “Jak Attacks” were an incompetent commander’s excuse for losing. All right, the holo he’d seen of one was impressive and doubtless these ragged-assed militia soldiers were scared to death of them, but really… “My mechs are here now, and we’ll turn those kitties into fireplace rugs.”
Simpkins kept his mouth shut, and hoped that this cock-sure egghead was right. But he’d seen first hand what a jak could do. His gaze drifted out the window to the 12 gleaming giants that made up the Bloody Hawks. Maybe these things will be able to stop them after all. He devoutly hoped that something could.
“Ok people, stay together and keep your eye’s open, we should be close to that rebel group intel IDed yesterday.” Lt. Miranda Franklin closed the com and checked the status of her Valkyrie one last time. She wasn’t too worried. The rebel unit was small and not likely to cause much of a problem, but hers was the lightest lance in the Hawks, and Mechwarrior Gina Bancroft’s ancient Flea was on the verge of falling apart. Captian Hawkings had already promised to replace it with the earnings of this contract. Gina was thrilled with the prospect of a mech younger than she was. So it pays to be careful, she thought.
Then Sergeant “Jug” Thompson’s voice broke over the com. “CONTACT, half a klick at 11 o’clock. He swung his Javelin in the direction of a small knoll covered with long grass and fired a salvo of missiles. Dirt spewed upwards and several LAW rockets streaked through the smoke to pepper the Javelin. “no damage” Thompson quickly assured his lieutenant.
“Alright people,” Miranda ordered,” let’s circle around and hit them from all sides. Jug right, Gina, go left and Wilkins, get behind them. MOVE.”
An evil chuckle answered and Andrew Wilkins ignited his Firestarter’s jumpjets and sailed over the hill, twisting as he did so to bring his flamers to bear.
As the four mechs converged, something seemed to explode from the hill. Several somethings in fact. Moving faster than any human possibly could, they streaked out in all directions at the approaching mechs. Wilkins took a hasty shot with his flamers, but the fast moving objects eluded him easily. As Miranda watched, one jumped onto Gina’s Flea and seemed to attach itself to her mechs faceplate. Gina’s own desperate shots went harmlessly wide. So that’s a jak Miranda thought, as she finally recognized the object as one of the huge felines that ruled this planets wilderness. At least her armor will protect her.
But that was wishful thinking. Gina’s panicked voice came over the com. “GET THIS THING OFF ME.” She screamed, more scared that Miranda had ever heard her before. But she had no time at the moment as she sighted a cluster of jaks heading for her. Quickly overriding the safeties on her LRMs, She fired at the group. Most of the missiles simply flew over the jaks, but one at the back of the pack somersaulted and collapsed. Devil take the hindmost Miranda thought.
Then Gina’s voice broke in again. “IT’S GETTING THROUGH, IT’S GETTING…” The words were cut-off by an inhuman scream of agony. Miranda had looked up just in time to see Wilkins open up with a flamer on the head of the Flea. The jak dropped off in a blazing bundle, but the screaming continued. “ANDREW, CEASE FIRE NOW.” Miranda yelled over Gina’s screams. But it was too late. The Flea toppled over, smoke still pouring out of the cockpit. The screams died abruptly into a deafening silence.
For one shocked moment, the three remaining mechs stood still, then Jug roared “Look lively, there’s more of them coming.” He fired both launchers at several charging jaks and dropped three of them. But two kept coming and swarmed up onto the mech. Wilkins charged blindly forward, firing flamers at anything that looked like movement. But there was no reason or control in his attack. A few jaks were caught in his fire, but others were already converging on him.
Suddenly, damage alarms began wailing in Miranda’s cockpit, and warning lights began to flash. Looking down, she realized that while her attention had been distracted, three jaks had swarmed her mech and were tearing armor away from it. Not knowing what else to do, she fired her jumpjets in hopes of shaking them off. It worked partially, one of the jaks lost it’s grip at the apex of the jump and fell, but the others hung on. Warning lights turned from yellow to red at the jaks continued to tear at the mechs armor. Desperately, Miranda dropped to the ground. One of the jaks was crushed beneath her but the other got clear and leaped onto her back.
A thunderous explosion shook her mech as she stood up. Looking for the source of it, she saw the Javelins head spinning away. Ammo explosion, she thought.
Wilkins was in trouble too, she saw. There were two jaks at his mechs head and two more on the torso. Miranda could see chunks of armor being shredded away. What creature could do this she wandered, as the Firestarter toppled over. Almost unconsciously, she triggered a salvo of LRMs at the prone mech and it’s attackers. Several jaks died, but the mech did not move.
“Andrew, do you read. Andrew respond!” but there was no reply. Abruptly, the gyro damage warning light came on. At the same instant, Miranda felt the controls seize and the Valkyrie crashed to the ground.
That’s it, I’m dead Miranda thought, even as she popped the hatch and struggled out of her safety harness. Once clear of the mech, she found herself staring up at a feline face that was a full head taller than she. Half meter long fangs protruded from the mouth. She reached for her pistol, even knowing that it would be useless against this thing.
“Drop it.” came a voice. It belonged to a women standing beside the huge cat. One hand rested on it’s flank, the other held a submachine gun on her.
Miranda let go of the pistol and raised her hands. Better as a POW then an after noon snack, after all. Several more rebels came up and cuffed her hands and blindfolded her. After that she was half led, half dragged into a jeep. The next three hours were very uncomfortable as she was bounced and jostled over rough ground at what felt like very unsafe speeds. The worst was not being able the see the ground ahead and brace for the jolts. Finally, the jeep came to a stop and the cuffs and blindfold were removed. In the distance Miranda could make out a small town.
“Where are we?” she asked.
“head to that town, from there you can get back to your base.” The woman told her.
“But why let me go.”
“Because we want you to take a message to your fellow mercs. This isn’t your fight, and now you’ve seen what happens when you get involved. Leave before any more of you die.”
The woman spun and jumped back into the jeep. Immediately the driver revved the engine and the jeep took off, spraying Miranda with dirt and gravel.
Miranda watched them disappear in the distance, thinking about the fight and the rebels last words. Then, slowly, she turned around and began walking toward the distant town.