My First foray into fan fiction - a Battletech short story!
I've been wanting to write short stories for a while, but never really got around to it!
That was until recently. I've been delving into the incredibly rich setting of Battletech (more of that in posts to come). The setting affords a LOT of creative space for a budding writer to play around in - a story that spans centuries, entire campaigns and wars that are available for mining - it really is an amazing sandbox to play in!
So here we go - my first attempt. I'm sure I've cocked up some of the action details, but this isnt supposed to be a representation of the rules, but a short, ripping yarn to entertain. So if you dont agree with the details, or they're not accurate enough, please, let me know!
So, sit back and please, enjoy Trial By Fire...
TRIAL BY FIRE – A MECHWARRIOR SHORT STORY
Training had been tough. 20 weeks of grueling physical and mental exertion had taken its toll, shaping her body and mind, transforming her from a young girl, fresh off the transport, into a warrior, lean muscled, eyes looking for opportunities and threats.
She’d been out in the training ‘mechs every day since week three, learning how to gel her thoughts with the movements of the multi tonne armoured behemoth, working out how each twist and turn in her mind translated into movement from the ‘mech, until she no longer thought of it as a just a vehicle, but more as an extension of her own body. Walking around outside the confines of the cockpit was now beginning to feel alien, as if she was missing a limb. She knew however that this too would pass, and she’d be able to convert from piloting her ‘mech to working outside of the cockpit without so much as a flicker of sensation.
She walked into the hangar, cathedral like, vaulted ceilings hundreds of meters high, enough to more than accommodate the metal giants which stood sleeping in their cradles and breathed in the cold air. It was pointless heating the space, so the engineers wore insulated oversuits, lined with intricate heating coils to keep warm, whilst the mechwarriors, almost inured to the cold, stood in groups around heaters, waiting for the call to saddle up.
The hangar was home to Rahem’s Reivers, named after the Lance’s head pilot, Karl Rahem, who served the Free World's League, originating on Regulan, not that any of the Reivers had been home for many years. Stala had been called up to the Reivers following the death of the 4th seat during a skirmish with Kuritan adversaries. Both her ‘mech and Stala were new to the Reivers, unbloodied and untested.
Her ‘mech, a General Mechanics WSP-1A Wasp, stood in the last cradle, freshly painted in the tan and orange colours of the Regulan Hussars, to whom the Reivers belonged. The Wasp was a captured ‘mech, pressed back into service by the League and given to Stala at her passing out ceremony. She’d had time since to familiarize herself with its quirks, the way the left leg actuators would occasionally freeze for a split second, leading to Stala nicknaming her ‘mech ‘lopsided’ due to the odd gait it left the Wasp with.
She passed the other pilots, who nodded to her in greeting. She was still new blood, yet to be trusted fully.
‘Hope you’re ready newbie’ a voice shouted from the table. A tall, heavyset bearded man stood up and walked towards her. ‘Karl was a good man, a great pilot, you’ve got some big shoes to fill there’. Stala could smell the alcohol on the man’s breath. ‘I said sending us someone straight out of training was a bad idea’ he growled. ‘What do you know about hunting? Fighting? Killing?’ his beard touching Stala’s face.
She refused to be cowed by the man. ‘I'm no stranger to hunting, hunted plenty back on Regulan’ she countered. ‘Just because I wasn’t in a mech doesn’t mean I don’t know how to kill’. The man stared at her and suddenly burst out laughing. ‘You hear this lads? The little rabbit knows how to kill!’ his words bellowing to his audience. Stala didn’t rise to his obvious bait, she’d been warned that Abdul tended to bully, but that in a pinch, he and his Dragon were the best backup a warrior could ask for. ‘Abdul, you won’t need to worry, when I’m calling the hits for you, you’ll thank me’ smiling as she said it. Abdul laughed again, this time a genuine belly laugh, realizing that Stala wasn’t going to be pushed around ‘Alright Rabbit, we’ll see’ slamming his hand down on her shoulder, making her buckle a little from the weight pressing down.
‘Alright Abdul, enough’ a voice called out from the dim light at the back of the hangar. ‘You and Marek get your ‘mechs ready, we’re going out on a patrol, show Stala how we do things’ Abdul nodded in affirmation and gestured to a small, lithe man sat watching them ‘come on then Marek, I’m not going to do your pre-walk checks for you!’ he shouted. The smaller man stood up from his chair, stretched ‘yup, with you’ he yawned.
The voice from the dark called out again ‘Stala, over here’. Stala walked to where the voice was coming from. A man in a dark leather flight jacket stood hunched over a terminal, viewing strategic reports flashing on the screen. ‘a light skirmish lance of Kuritans has been spotted 25 kilometers to the south of our position. Just a recon force we think, but they could be the precursor to more. We’re going to intercept, observe and engage if necessary. Normally we’d have you on point, but this is your first time out, so I’ll take point, you cover. Watch for anything out of the ordinary and call out threats when you see them.’ Stala realized that this was Rahem, the titular leader of the Reivers, ever since his father was killed in action 5 years ago.
‘Yes sir’ Stala replied. ‘Go, saddle up and get your checks done – we go in 10 minutes’.
Stala climbed up to the cockpit of her Wasp, taking time to check her weapons as she went. The engineers and ground crew had done a great job, oiling the joints, filling the ammo hoppers and ensuring that the power cells were at maximum capacity. Her cockpit was warm and welcoming. Stala had got over the initial claustrophobia sometimes felt by new pilots early on and looked forward to being in the seat.
She went through her checks - ambulatory power, targeting systems, life support – all read green. strapping her neurohelmet onto her head, she felt the surge of power as her senses merged with those of the Wasp.
‘R4 ready to move out’ she radioed to the Lance. Adbul in his Dragon took R2 and Marek, piloting a Stalker, took R3. Rahem was R1, in an imposing Marauder, low slung, looking like a raptor waiting to pounce on its prey.
‘On my Marek, move out’ Rahem called out, to a chorus of ‘Acknowledged’.
The mechs began to file out of the hangar, in order, walking slowly towards the gates, the snowstorm howling around the immense metal giants. Stala’s alerts began to ping, realizing that Abdul was using her Wasp to sight in his weapon systems ‘Don’t worry little rabbit, you’ll be safe with Abdul!’ he laughed over the comm link ‘Knock it off R2, business face on’ Rahem replied.
Outside of the gates the storm whipped up the snow as the Lance walked south. Rahem in the point position, Stala slightly to his left rear, Adbul next with Marek rearguard. The spacings between each ‘mech remained uniform, each pilot knowing their job.
After walking for a short while, the Lance climbed the rise of the valley wall, reaching the crest. Stala called out ‘Sir, Im picking up multiple forms on the long-range scan, 15 klicks south of our position, at least one, 2 lances. No, make that one lance, but they’re spread out. What do you want to do?’
‘Have they made us yet Stala?’ Rahem asked. ‘I don’t know sir; I don’t think so’ ‘Don’t think – know. Not being sure will get you and us killed’ Rahem replied.
Yes Sir. Sorry. No, they’ve not made us yet’.
Rahem called out to the others. ‘Combat positions, we’re going in quiet. No missiles – yet. Abdul, flanking positions. Abdul chuckled a throaty laugh ‘Yes sir’.
The Marauder moved off; Stala’s Wasp followed up. Abdul had disappeared, leaving Stala a little worried. Marek’s radio crackled ‘don’t worry about that big oaf, he’s more than a match for them’. Stala relaxed.
In the distance she could now make out 5 ‘mechs – from this far away it was hard to tell the models, but they appeared to be a light recon unit. She could tell at least one was an Urbanmech, from the egg-shaped body. They moved closer. The radio suddenly came to life ‘Unidentified units, halt your advance and make yourself known. If you do not comply, we will open fire’. The slight accent on the words Marked out the voice as being Kuritan. ‘This is Commander Rahem of the Regulan Hussars, Free Worlds League’ Rahem replied. ‘You are trespassing on Regulan territory. Power down your mechs and surrender to us or we will be forced to take action’. The radio went silent.
Without warning, rockets launched from the closest Kuritan Mech – a Dragon. Spewing flames from its ‘mouth’ the rocket salvo exploded just short of their position, flashes of light and sound dampened by Stala’s cockpit senses. ‘Ok, we tried this the nice way’ muttered Rahem. ‘Engage the enemy, pick your shots and watch your quarters’ he ordered. By the time he’d said the last word, Marek’s Stalker strode forward, launching a volley of rockets from the pods slung either side of the cylindrical body. The rockets hit the closest opposing ‘mech, a Panther, knocking it back in a flurry of explosions and smoke ‘Good hit, good hit’ Marek shouted out. Stala, engaging her jump jets, bounced across the gap to engage the Panther, firing down on it from above. Her shots hitting the head of the ‘mech, but not enough to disable it. ‘Pull back R4!’ Rahem shouted. Realising that she’d left her flank open, Stala pushed the jump engines into reverse, the jets screaming in protest. Out of the smoke another Panther appeared, its SRM-4 rockets flying towards her, but missing as she managed to jump out of the way. ‘Watch your flanks R4! Dammit!’ Rahem didn’t have time for pleasantries as he fired on the 2nd Panther, hitting it in the torso, the Marauder’s particle cannons slicing through, almost cutting it in two. ‘Finish him, Stala!’ shouted Rahem. Stala, turning to face the Panther fired her weapons, hitting the Kuritan square in the chest, small impact explosions growing as essential power systems began to fail and blow, reaching the Panther’s ammo stores, setting off a chain reaction of yellow and orange blooms, the ‘mech disappearing in a cloud of heated smoke and fire ‘Mech down! He’s down’ cheered Stala as the Panther collapsed under its own weight, shaking the ground as it toppled over. The other Panther, almost frozen in place, moved as if just waking, turning from Rahem to Stala. Marek’s Stalker moved up, taking position between Rahem and Stala, as the Kuritan ‘mechs regrouped. The Urbanmech and Panther, circling around their fallen comrade, were joined by another mech, its cockpit slung between its legs, the unmistakable silhouette of a Jenner. The three Kuritan ‘mechs seemed to be weighing up their options, taking precious moments to ready themselves. Rahem’s voice, as calm as it had been in the hanger called out ‘we don’t want to destroy you. Surrender now and you’ll be treated humanely and returned to your people’. He wanted to give them the chance to walk away. Knowing that the joint firepower of the Reivers outmatched the Kuritans.
Without warning, Abdul’s voice came across the radio ‘It’s a trap, it’s a damn trap! Get out of there!’ Abdul’s Dragon limped into view, one arm missing, and massive damage done to its left leg ‘they’re not alone! They have a damn Atlas in reserve!’
Stala waited to hear what orders Rahem would give. ‘Fallback, keep formation, but fallback. Abdul, can you make it? How’s she holding up?’ ‘She’s took a knock Sir, but she’s still in the fight!’ Abdul replied. ‘I'll take rearguard, you get moving!’
The Kuritan ‘mechs began to advance, the telltale pings of targeting systems coming to life their chorus. Out of the snowstorm, a death’s headed monster appeared. The Atlas – one of the most feared of ‘mechs striding across the valley into view.
The Atlas’s targeters locked onto Stala’s Wasp. She knew that her armour was no match for the devastating weapons that the Atlas possessed and readied herself for the inevitable. ‘No, you don’t rabbit, you don’t take my honour from me!’ Abdul shouted, the Dragon unbelievably lurching between the Atlas and Stala, blocking the deathly beams of energy shooting towards her, at the same time, launching all the rockets it had left at the Atlas.
Stala held her breath – she expected to die at this moment. Her first time out, in combat and she was going to die.
‘Rabbit, fall back! Keep going, I’ll hold him as long as possible’ Abdul’s words came through a mess of static and white noise. The Dragon had fallen to one knee, the ruins of its left cannon arm propping it up. ‘You’ll face me you Kuritan scum! Face me!’ firing one last blast from the right cannon into the body of the Atlas, which barely moved at the impact. Looking down, the Atlas raised its fists, bringing them down on the Dragon’s cockpit, the sound of metal and armour splintering under the immense downward force. Stala had jumped back, watching in horror as the Dragon’s cockpit became engulfed in flames. ‘Abdul! ABDUL!’ she shouted into the radio, but no reply came.
Rahem’s voice called out ‘R4, R3, fallback to my position, we can’t do anything more here, I’ll call for reinforcements’. The Marauder fired its cannons at the Kuritan Mechs as it paced backwards.
Marek’s Stalker continued to fire on the Urbanmech and Panther, shots bouncing off armour, but also finding their Marek, a gout of flame exploded from the side of the Urbanmech. ‘Keep going R4, don’t worry about us’ his languid tones calming Stala.
Marek’s calm soon ended. The Atlas, moving forward at a speed that belied its huge frame, took aim at the Stalker and fired its four lasers into the Stalkers torso, burning holes through armour plating.
The Stalker stood its ground, but it was obvious the hits had hurt it. ‘R1, I’m done, main actuators are shot, and my power plant is overheating. I’m going to rig her to blow and eject’ Turning the powerplant to full and disengaging the heatsinks would cause the Stalker to blow, a desperate tactic only used in the most hopeless of situations. ‘That’s it's you son of a pig, come for the kill’ Marek muttered ‘just a little closer!’ The Atlas moved towards the Stalker, preparing to deliver the killing blow, when Marek blew the hatch, his seat ejecting from the Stalker. The engines suddenly exploded in a fireball, engulfing the Atlas, which had realized too late what was about to happen. Stala looked on in horror as the mushroom cloud formed above the crater where the Atlas and Marek’s Stalker once stood.
Rahem called out over the radio ‘Marek, did you get clear in time? Marek!’ There was silence. A tear formed on Stala’s cheek, losing two pilots in one engagement was just too much. ‘Any chance one of you could come pick me up when you have a minute’, Marek groaned. The Ejector had lifted him out of the explosion in time, lifting him out of harm's way. ‘The Urbie and Panther are making a break for it, they’re retreating!’ Rahem said in reply ‘Marek, you did it – you took out the Atlas!’ he cheered. ‘That’s great boss, but right now I’d be grateful if you could get me out of this damn chair and back into the warmth!’. Stala could see his seat, trailing a purple canopy of silk behind it. Rahem’s Marauder strode over to his position, as Stala stood watch. Rahem popped the canopy, jumped down and cut Marek loose. ‘You did an amazing thing there Marek, we’d all be dead if that had failed’. ‘I guess’ Marek shrugged. ‘Just wish I could’ve saved Abdul.’ Marek’s head dipped; tears formed in his eyes. ‘But I couldn’t, dammit.’ Stala did not know what to say. She whispered a thank you to Abdul, pledging that the Rabbit, as her mech would become called, would fight other battles. But for now, her first outing as a MechWarrior was over.