Outside the Marian Hegemony
December 20, 3056
“Surrender or die,” David ordered as the Banshee kept cooking off, spraying armor, weapons, limbs, and flaming ammunition in every direction. Adrenalin rushed through his body as he kept closing the range to the nearest pirate who was looking around in surprise. “Your leader’s already gone up in a blaze of glory,” David added as the pirate ’Mechs turned back and forth at each other and then started to turn towards him. “If you want to join him, feel free to point something at me,” he noted, adrenalin narrowing his focus to one point. It was the ultimate rush. He was complete. Destruction and death in one. A ’Mech moved and he swung his particle cannon to point at the pirate, smiling excitedly as he skidded to a halt, stones crushing underneath his feet and spraying dust all around. “Come on. Make my day,” he whispered welcomingly and the pirate took a step back in surprise before shutting down.
“Come on. No one wants to die?” David asked and then felt somebody move. He braced one foot down, used it to spin to the right, and brought his cannon to bear on the Centurion as its main autocannon started walking shells up his torso towards his head. He pulled the trigger and an arc of lightning smashed into the smaller ‘Mech’s torso. It jerked, took a step back as what was left of its salvo shot off uselessly into the air before it cycled into inactivity, smoke rising from the barrel. It took another step back and he blinked as chunks of metal started flying out of the ‘Mech. It bloomed on infrared and he swallowed as he realized he’d punched through and hit the engine shielding. And then the whole ‘Mech went limp as the engine went into automatic shutdown.
“Nice shot, boss,” Nelson said from his Awesome and David looked up to the 360 degree compressed view strip to see him covering more pirates as they all looked at the Centurion.
“That was dumb luck,” David transmitted back and flexed his hands on the controls as he stepped his BattleMaster back to bring his particle cannon around to aim at another pirate. He blinked as, one by one, the rest of the pirates slowly started shutting down as a battalion of vehicles screamed into firing range. Crews ran out of hatches to get away from their vehicles, while MechWarriors shut their ’Mechs down and climbed out carefully. Their commanders were dead and now they were the ones outnumbered. David let out a long breath of relief as they surrendered, trying to figure out what had come over him. He’d practically goaded them into fighting. Very dumb luck.
“You ok?” Marianne asked over a private channel and he glanced up to see her Stalker looking at him.
“Yeah,” he answered quickly and let out another quick breath. “What a rush,” he added as he felt the adrenalin flowing away.
“You were one with the ’Mech?” she asked and he turned his ’Mech around to look at her with the main screen.
“I was the ’Mech,” he answered and her Stalker nodded. It didn’t matter that she didn’t have a head to nod with, he’d worked with her long enough to know her mannerisms. “Kinda scary.”
“Been there,” she responded as he looked up to see the APCs unloading infantry to secure the area and all the surrendered machines.
“Yeah, I know. Done that,” he finished for her and she laughed as the infantry pulled the unconscious warrior out of the Centurion. He ran his hands across the controls, zoomed the view in on her, and blinked as her head rolled over to the side to give him a full profile view. They lifted her out gently and he blinked again before moving his hands to activate the speakers.
“Be careful,” he ordered firmly and the infantrymen looked up and nodded before carrying her down to the ground carefully.
“What was that about?” Marianne asked and he shrugged, feeling his ’Mech shift with him.
“I know who she is,” he answered coldly and looked back down at the fallen warrior. Then he glanced around the compressed view strip to see the other ’Mechs swarming with infantrymen as well. It was over. Almost.
David let out a long breath and stuffed a short cord into the pocket of his black trousers, already dusty from walking around outside his ’Mech. He grabbed his black leather jacket and pulled it on over his black shirt, the chains on it jingling as they shook back and forth. A thousand years ago on old Terra, he would have looked like the perfect stereotypical biker bum, except that his hair was combed back nicely and he had no facial hair. It was too hot in a ’Mech to have any more hair than you needed. In fact, many MechWarriors shaved their hair completely, but he’d never been able to do that. He liked his hair too much. Call it vanity or whatever. He just liked his hair.
He shrugged out of that train of thought and walked out of his temporary command tent, his black leather boots creaking with each step. He’d only had them a few months and was still working them in after losing his last pair to a bar fight he didn’t remember. At least his jacket was an original, and a long slice down the left arm sown together showed the path of the anonymous man’s knife. He didn’t remember that either, but the scar going down his arm would make sure he would never forgot.
“So what’re you doing?” a voice asked from behind and he turned to look at Marianne, standing in the standard undress Terra’s Pryde uniform of black trousers, shirt, and much older boots than his. He glanced down at them with a frown and then back up to her face.
“What needs to be done,” he muttered simply and turned to walk over to the MASH unit.
“W-wait a minute!” she yelled and grabbed his arm, stopping him in his tracks. He turned back to see her looking down at the knife on his belt. “What do you mean?” she asked and he stood stiffly for a moment in her grip.
“I know who she is. What needs to be done,” he noted simply and turned out of her grip to walk towards the mobile hospital.
“What are you going to do?” she asked as she came up beside him and he sighed before letting his face soften.
“Nothing you wouldn’t do,” he whispered towards her and she stepped back to take another look at him, doubt written across her face.
“That doesn’t make me feel any better,” she responded and tilted her head to the side, making him chuckled softly.
“Trust me,” he whispered. “Better yet, come with me if you want,” he finished and turned back to the wheeled vehicle towering above them. She followed as he walked into a small room on the side of the vehicle, and he looked down at the woman strapped to the bed. “How’s she doing?” he asked and looked over to the doctor that was sitting in a chair beside her bed.
“She had a quite a shock,” the doctor responded and looked up at him. “Neuroshock is not something to play around with and she’s got a lot of bruising but there’s no broken bones. She’ll recover fully.”
“I’d like to speak with her. Alone,” David noted in a determined voice and the doctor’s eyes narrowed.
“She’s still under my care,” he answered in a matching voice. “I won’t have you tiring her out when she’s recovering. You hear me?” he finished with a flash in his eyes.
“Yes, sir,” David noted simply and the doctor scowled at him.
“Five minutes,” he noted and stood up to walk out. The door shut behind him and David walked over to sit on the chair he’d vacated to look at the MechWarrior.
“You awake?” he asked and she turned her head to look at him without saying a word. “I’m David Pryde,” he continued and her eyes flashed as his last name rolled off his tongue. “Not those Prydes!” he lashed out angrily. “I’m a real Pryde born naturally on Atreus like my family has been for centuries,” he finished coldly and she glared at him just as coldly.
“You were either brave or stupid to stand up to me out there,” he continued in a hard tone and her eyes flashed again. “Probably both,” he added and pulled the knife out of its sheath. He moved forward slowly, put the knife between her skin and a bracelet hanging around her wrist, and then cut it with a flick of his wrist. “Twycross,” he noted simply and her eyes flashed with anger again. “3050. I was there as an observer of the Commonwealth’s first counter attack against the Clans. I actually fought when they had more ’Mechs than MechWarriors. You don’t happen to remember that place do you?” he asked and her eyes narrowed.
“I don’t remember you,” she finally whispered and he shrugged in response.
“We never met. But I studied the enemy there. And I never forget a face,” he noted and sheathed his knife before reaching into his pocket to pull out the short cord. “How’d you survive? I’d heard the Guards were killed at the pass,” he whispered as she looked at the cord in his hand angrily.
“I don’t know,” she snarled. “I don’t remember.”
“Contractions,” he whispered in realization. “I didn’t think you Clanners used them,” he added questioningly. She glared back at him, anger burning in her eyes. Anger and pain. And fear. David’s cheek twitched as he looked down at the bruises on her arm and his own eyes burned with fury before looking away to share a long gaze with Marianne. He’d seen just enough in those eyes to know she’d never given up her “proper” speech willingly. And he doubted those bruises were from ’Mech combat. His hand shook with the urge to hit something but he held it firmly against his leg for a few moments to keep it steady. Marianne nodded and he looked back to the restrained MechWarrior angrily. “You know what this is,” he finally muttered and leaned forward to tie it around her wrist in place of the old bracelet.
“Mercenary scum,” she spat angrily and he blinked before standing up.
“It’s better than being pirate scum,” he returned and started walking towards the door, then paused to turn around as a new thought came to him. “You know, it’s Clan custom for a non-Bloodnamed warrior to use his or her Clan name as his or her last name,” he muttered and smiled as she glared at him. “It just occurred to me that my family name is Pryde,” he added and her eyes flashed in anger.
“Never!” she yelled and he shrugged regretfully.
“Have a nice recovery, Lents. You’re one of us now,” he finished and walked out of the room.