Ferox Rangers #2 (Battletech Campaign)

Date: February 18, 3066.

World: Kennard, at the border of the Federated Suns and the Outworlds Alliance.

Mission Briefing: Davion Representative Nazir

We have a rare opportunity here to deal a significant blow to the local pirate forces on Kennard. It seems that the crew of the tank you let escape reported back on your mechs and the custom equipment you're carrying. You've caught the interest of Julian Corpuz, the pirate kingpin who is the closest thing Kennard's pirates have to a leader, and we've picked up chatter indicating that he wants you dead. Our plan is to put you right where his forces can find you, so that you can scrap the units that are likely his best assets. All you'll have to do is head out to your usual patrol in Sigma Garrison, wait for Corpuz's forces to show up and then take them down. 

Since we're fairly certain you'll be facing a lance of battlemechs this time, The FedComm is offering terms on this one for half salvage and half a million C-Bills coverage for damage. We also have information indicating that the pilots of the lance of mechs are all wanted criminals with bounties on their heads. We will be willing to pay 30,000 C-Bills for each pirate pilot you bring in alive and 20,000 for each one you bring in dead. Do this right, and we could both end up with a decent salvage haul at the end of this.

Mission Report, Commander Ellen Ferox

The FedComm is using us as bait, and I honestly don't know whether I should feel honored or offended. We were certainly equipped to take on the forces our employers were expecting the pirates would field, but I feel like this mission could have gone sideways very easily. As it was, Poseidon took a hell of a beating, but more on that later. For now, where do I begin? Sigma Garrison. Once again, we were waiting for the pirates at the outpost at Sigma Garrison, and when they showed, they showed in force.

Scopes lit up as soon as the pirate lance closed to extreme range. Targeting systems identified two of the mechs immediately as (mostly) stock CN9-D Centurions, and two as unknowns, likely Cicadas, though I've never seen Cicadas with missile mounts before. Something was off about the Cicadas in general, but when it comes to pirates, that's something I've come to expect. Something is always off when it comes to pirates.

I signaled Fox on a secure channel and we closed cautiously, sticking to cover where we could.

The Cicadas closed fast while the Centurions lumbered along behind. The tank showed up in my scopes as the lance cleared the pass, and I knew instantly from the heat signature that it was the one that got away last time. Every slapped-together piece of pirate tech leaks heat just a little differently from every other piece, and this one was hot in all the right spots.

The Cicadas took up positions on the western hill overlooking the outpost and started raining LRMs down on us as soon as we moved into range. Rushing into a good position, I stopped just behind a low hill and started carving the closest enemy up with ER lasers.

While Fox and I traded fire with the Cicadas, the Centurions started to close with us. The Cicada pilots were pouring everything they had into us, lasers and missiles both, getting hotter and hotter with every volley.

The first mech to go down was one of the Cicadas, and it surprised me when it went. There was a flash of light as its engine destabilized, and then it was suddenly still, just resting on its one broken leg.

The closest Centurion moved in suddenly, boxing me in and isolating me away from Fox. It was a bold move, but also a desperate one. With the bulk of the Centurion blocking my way, my target was picked for me, and the others were free to gang up on Poseidon.

Almost the instant the Centurion closed up with me, he lashed out with his one hand, scrabbling for my cockpit. It was all I could do to pull away at the last second, but now I understood. The Centurion was looking for a cheap kill and easy salvage. Rip the cockpit out of a mech, and you can drag the corpse away to be parted out.

The cheap shot pissed me off. I remember yelling, jamming the triggers and blasting the leg out from under the Centurion. As soon as he fell, I lashed out, kicking him with my own cheap shot, but the hit was hasty, ill-aimed and only crushed part of his arm.

Amazingly, against all odds, the Centurion's pilot managed to wrestle his mech back to its feet again. Right about the same instant, the other Centurion closed to Poseidon and took a swipe at him as well, landing a hit on the Zeus's shoulder.

As the Centurion rose to face me, I levelled my lasers at him and cored his torso, obliterating his mech's engine and leaving nothing but a gaping hole in the middle of the mech. This time, when he went down, he stayed down, and I put my foot on his back to make sure he stayed there.

Switching targets, I levelled another laser shot at the remaining Cicada, blasting apart the engine and dropping it, leaving it laying silent on the hill. Looking over at Poseidon, I remember seeing smoke billowing from the mech's torso, knowing things were desperate. The Centurion and the Scorpion kept hammering the Zeus, and things inside Fox's mech were starting to flash and catch fire.

Sensing me at his back, The Centurion shifted, turning its side to me. Autocannons flared, and again I saw them hit Poseidon. Wincing, I kept waiting for the Zeus to fall, but still it stood there, resolute. Still, it faced the Centurion.

Fox hammered the Centurion with everything Poseidon had left to hit with, but it was my lasers that dealt the killing shot. Raising my mech's other arm, I took aim at the Scorpion tank just as the Centurion fell.

And in a bright flash of light, I slagged the turret off the tank and left it smoking and still. 

As the dust cleared, I checked in on Fox, amazed that Poseidon was still standing despite all the damage the old Zeus had sustained. My own mech had taken a little damage, but nowhere near as much as Fox's had. Only later would I find out that Poseidon's right torso was so torn up that it was basically only held together by a couple of cables and an ammo feed. We made the long walk back to the Lindon's Battalion hangar as soon as the dust cleared, and I talked to the head tech to get an estimate on the cost of repairs. All told, the pirates did about 30,000 C-Bills worth of armor damage to Dantor, and about 130,000 C-Bills worth of damage to Poseidon, the repairing of which included patching up armor, fixing internal structure and replacing three NAIS double heatsinks that had been shredded by missile volleys and autocannon fire. Davion made good on their word, paying something like 200,000 to Lindon's Battalion to cover the parts, labor and ammunition to get us back into fighting form again, and for that I am grateful. Turnaround is looking to be about eight days, so Fox and I are going to hit up the local town of Brewster and see what kind of trouble we can get into while our mechs are being refitted.

Beyond the covered repairs, we also made about 120,000 in bounties for bringing down the four mechs so their pilots could be brought to justice. There wasn't much left of the Scorpion tank, but we used our half to negotiate our rights to the better Centurion of the two. I say "better," but the truth is, both of them were thoroughly thrashed. It did feel like an achievement getting my hands on the one that tried to take a swipe at me, though.

We also got our hands on one of the pirate Cicadas, and talking to the head tech about that machine was interesting to say the least. I found out that the reason why these things went down so easy is that they were fitted with prototype extralight engines, and that everything about these mechs pointed to them being Star League era test models. The technician I spoke with told me that they looked unfinished, like they were still in the process of having all the kinks worked out of them when the Star League fell and the funding stopped. Somehow, the pirates got a hold of them, and to me, that means only one thing. There's a LosTech cache somewhere on this world, a factory or a testing facility, and the pirates control it.

Considering the salvage we secured, I decided to get an estimate from the Lindon's tech on how much it would take to refit the Centurion, as it's pretty beat-up and butchered. Using a salvaged LRM 10 and Medium Laser cut out of the pirate Cicada, the technician gave me an estimate of about 2,000,000 C-Bills to completely refit the Centurion. It's a good, solid mech, and getting it combat ready increases the strength of our lance, so I'm going to okay it. I'm told it should be ready to field in about ten days. To cover the cost, I sold the remains of the Pirate Cicada to the FedComm for about 1,500,000 C-Bills and, the whole thing being LosTech, they were excited to have it. I also had to liquidate the Sledgehammer in order to pay for the refit on the Centurion, but I got a decent 2,750,000 for it, which gives us a more comfortable operating budget moving forward. 

With a new mech in our warband, I started looking for a new pilot to field it. Getting some feedback from Fox on a few of the most promising freelancers, I finally decided to bring on a mechwarrior with a few years under his belt who had worked in the Outworlds Alliance as part of some planetary militia. His name is Clark MacKay, and it cost about 250,000 C-Bills to hire him, get him here and get him situated. He should be here just in time to take a test-run in the new Centurion, and I'm hoping we'll have a new contract and a chance to see him perform in combat not long after that. If there's a LosTech cache out there somewhere, the FedComm is going to be all over it soon. I just hope we can get a piece of the action when they make their move.

Liquid Assets Obtained: 
+2,120,000 C-Bills

Salvage Obtained:
Mech: CN9-D Centurion

New Pilot:
Clark MacKay, Piloting 4, Gunnery 5.

Standing in for the Pirate Cicadas are a couple of my own designs, the CN-20 Chinchilla, which I created in CAD, 3d printed and painted myself. This time also presented an opportunity to dig out my old plastic CN9-D Centurions that I've had since I was a teenager (complete with original paintjobs from that era of my life) and put them on the table for the first time in over 15 years. It's been a wonderful experience getting back into Battletech after such a long hiatus, but also a little bittersweet. The last time I played Battletech, it was with my Mechwarrior buddy Randy, who sadly passed away in 2018. Getting back into the game, digging through all the old papers, playing with the old miniatures, I keep wishing I could call him up and talk with him about the game, the changes, the new things that have been added to the lore after 3060. I'm still getting caught up myself, but I figure I'll learn about things like the Jihad and the Dark Age as I go. Growing up, Randy was the only Battletech buddy I had, and we would play session after session for 10-12hr stretches on weekends when we were in highschool. We'd both beaten Mechwarrior 2 and Mechwarrior 3 dozens of times, but getting our own custom mechs on the well-worn map sheets was always exciting. We both lived and breathed Battletech in those days, even composing "secret messages" between the leaders of our custom periphery states in Hyperstudio that we would then pass to each other on unmarked floppy disks between classes. Often, these discs would also come with a folded-up record sheet for some custom mech variant or another that we were particularly proud of and wanted to share. When we got into college, we both lost interest in Battletech about the same time, and mostly because we had a falling out about the same time that Dark Age and the hero-clix style miniatures were introduced. I remember wanting to get into the clix system, but was overwhelmed by the fact that it seemed like suddenly Battletech was dead and this new game was just Battletech flavored. Only in the last month have I taken the time to look back and see that "Classic Battletech" was kept alive all that time, while the clix system fizzled out and died. I still have all my clix, though I have parted out a few of them for their missile launchers, etc. to kitbash onto Classic Battletech units, lol. As for Randy, well, we eventually overcame our differences (after about five years of not talking) and bonded again over music instead. We became great friends again, and he was one of the best men at my first wedding (he and his wife even made the cake!) and the MC at my second wedding in 2018. That was a great day, and I still have some wonderful photos of he and I doing karaoke at the wedding. In that moment, we were like family again, and then just three short weeks later, he died suddenly. To this day, I will always be viscerally grateful that we had that moment to sing together on such a happy day. In a way, it was a wonderful way to say goodbye without knowing it would be the last time I would see him. Lately, as I get back into Battletech, I find myself wishing he was here to play it with me. Perhaps, in a way, he is.


Popular Posts