Ferox Rangers #5 (Battletech Campaign)

 

Date: March 14, 3066.

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


Mission Briefing: Colonel Sarah Lindon, Lindon's Battalion

Good morning Commander. I've been following your work with the Rangers and before with the Irregulars, and I think your unit has a lot of promise. Given our shared past and some of the greater trends I'm seeing in the Inner Sphere as a whole right now, I feel like you are one of the few people I can trust with this mission. 

Representative Nazir has gone completely silent, but my intel officers are telling me that Davion is still tracking Captain Eedlehoff's Trebuchet. They're doing nothing about it, and the group that has begun refitting it with advanced technology hasn't found the tracking device yet. Fortunately for us, my intel people are also keeping tabs on the Davion transmitter, so we also know exactly where the Trebuchet is, even if we don't know absolutely who now controls it.

That being said, I have my suspicions. I just need a unit like yours to blow the lid off this whole thing so I can prove it.

Captain Eedlehoff is currently making his way north as part of a convoy bound for a secret drop pad in the tundra beyond Omicron Garrison. If they reach that drop pad, the evidence I need will be ferried offworld and we'll lose our shot at blowing this wide open. We need you to hit that convoy, down the vehicles and, ideally, scrap all of the defenders guarding it as well. We'll be dropping you near a narrow pass that the convoy must pass through, hopefully giving you the advantage in the situation.

Pay is light, but if I'm right about what's in this convoy, salvage should be good. Lindon's Battalion will pay 50,000 C-Bills per convoy vehicle downed. There are four in total. We'll also be offering half salvage on anything you kill, but Lindon's Battalion will get first pick. There won't be any support on this mission (I have nothing on Kennard I can spare) and you'll be responsible for your own damages, but our current offer of support and man-hours at our local facilities still stands, so that should cut down on your operating costs. Do this right, and I'll even put in a good word with the Allied Mercenary Command, which could lead to more work down the line. I'm still in talks with Jaime Wolf, but I'm leaning toward pledging my Battalion to his cause. We'll see where that goes, and where this goes, and maybe we'll all end up working more together. Got any interest in working in the Chaos March? Let me know.

And hey, watch yourself out there today, Commander. If we're dealing with who I think we're dealing with, you're going to be running into more than just LosTech. There's a very real possibility that you'll be facing salvaged Clan tech and possibly experimental tech unlike anything you've seen before.


Mission Report, Commander Ellen Ferox

Maybe it's a stretch to say that Sarah Lindon is like an aunt to me. I have some fond childhood memories of the weeks between missions where mom and Colonel Lindon would spend time in the dropship mess, just shooting the breeze. They'd talk about politics and rehash stories of past tight spots where they both thought their next breath would be their last, and I was there with them, hanging on every word. Things weren't so nice while Lindon was working with The Combine, but mom's never had any love for House Kurita. In her eyes, they're as treacherous as the Capellans. They certainly have a reputation for how quickly they've turned on several high profile mercenary groups, including Lindon's Battallion and mom's own Ferox Irregulars.

But this mission wasn't about facing The Draconis Combine. This mission was a quick strike on a convoy that got hot fast and could have turned real sour in an instant if we'd been anything but lucky. Colonel Lindon's message was cryptic, but gave enough information to make me nervous. The Leopard that flew us into the operational area dropped us at the top of the Caramond Pass near Omicron Garrison, and I ordered everyone to bunch up on the road immediately. This was our first time out with our new pilot, John "Osprey" Thudmucker and the "certified pre-owned" Rifleman we're calling Old Bullet. The weather was clear, but the pass was still dusted with snow from last week's storm. I picked up the signals for the enemy convoy almost immediately-- four administrative vehicles, two Locusts, a pair of Strikers, Eedlehoff's Trebuchet and something new, something I couldn't identify.


I was getting some very weird readings off the unknown mech, and the whole thing seemed to shimmer as it marched bird-like down the highway toward the pass. Eedlehoff's Trebuchet was also kicking off some weird readings, but it wasn't anything I couldn't just chalk up to the upgrades that Colonel Lindon had mentioned. It was hard to tell at first contact, but it looked, at range, like whoever got a hold of the Trebuchet had bolted a bunch more armor on it and swapped out the medium lasers for something bigger. Salvaged Clan tech, my intuition told me. For once, I wish my intuition hadn't been right.


Seeing the massive cannons on the weird mech, seeing the way it broke ranks and ran down the highway at us, I ordered everyone to break apart and take positions to target the thing from different angles. Osprey took Old Bullet behind the cover of a hill while Poseidon and Maynard lumbered in from the sides. I stopped Dantor in the middle of the road and steeled myself, facing the new machine evenly, directly.

And when it fired, I instantly found myself regretting my decision.

Massive lances of laser light tore from the mech's arms, carving through Dantor and vaporizing my mech's right arm instantly. I couldn't believe the amount of firepower that little machine was packing-- I was stunned, mesmerized by the way the mech radiated with a halo of light, almost blinding in its intensity. Almost all of my shots missed, but the ER Large Laser at the top of my mech's center torso tore into the enemy machine with refreshing ease, giving me just the barest sense of relief in an overwhelming tide of terror. Whatever this thing was, it was fragile, but also dangerous. Very, very dangerous, and I felt very lucky that only half its firepower had actually hit me.


Backing off into a nearby stand of trees, I tried to get some cover between me and the new machine while Osprey lined up his autocannons to take a shot. Rage closed in from behind, but one of the Locusts was already gunning for the old Centurion's lightly-armored rear. For the first time in my entire life, I found myself grateful for the rear-facing medium laser on Rage's mech. The placement always seemed almost completely useless to me in the past, but here and now, I knew it might just make the difference in how many of us got to go home in a mech and how many would have to go home in a bag.

Only later, reviewing the footage, did I realize how bravely Fox faced off against Captain Eedlehoff's upgraded Trebuchet while the rest of us circled the weird mech. The other locust closed with Poseidon first, and caught some rounds for its trouble, but Fox's real target was Captain Eedlehoff, the one that had gotten away.


Missiles flew from the turret-mounted racks on the Strikers, doing minimal damage to Maynard and Poseidon. Rage tried to score shots on the backside of the unknown mech, but couldn't manage to hit the thing, it was moving so fast. Even Osprey's autocannon shots and large laser blasts mostly missed, driving his mech's heat up, but doing little more than surface damage to the little mech. The unknown mech fired back in response, but blessedly only scored a single hit, scouring almost all of the armor off of Old Bullet's center torso.


It was clear from the way the pilot was driving the weird mech that it was gunning for me. There was rage in the way the machine moved, indignation in the way it rushed into the woods after me, slinging fire, turning the armor of my leg and torso to slag. I was desperate, screaming at the thing as it closed range, and in a fit of sheer terror, I poured everything my mech had into it.


I remember gasping, sweating, shouting past the relief as I tore the little mech apart in a hail of laser fire and left it burning in the woods at my feet. It was still glowing when it went down, dropped by a clean shot through the thing's fragile engine assembly, but at last, I felt like I could breathe. One by one, I switched off the damage warnings, then turned my scorched and scarred Marauder back toward the fight that was still unfolding around me.


The caravan was close, rushing down the road at full speed while the Stikers broke off into the dirt to sling more missiles at us. Another minute, maybe two, and the targets the Colonel was paying us to take out would be gone. We had only one shot, no time for a do-over. No time to rest or linger in the trees.

The two Locusts closed in on Maynard and Poseidon as Rage and Fox grouped up, back-to-back, defending each other's weakest sides. Machineguns flared, hunting for weak spots, for fragile equipment, but found nothing. Only the hail of lasers from Captain Eedlehoff did anything appreciable, cutting apart Poseidon's right torso and driving the Trebuchet's heat up to dangerous levels.


The locusts settled into place for clear shots as the caravan rushed behind Poseidon and Maynard. Wrestling my mech back to the road, I stepped right in front of the caravan, blocking the road and hoping that it would be enough.


And then the unthinkable happened. Captain Eedlehoff was already gambling with his heat levels, flirting with a shutdown when the missile ammunition in his mech touched off suddenly, coring the Trebuchet and dropping it to the ground in a hail of sparks and fire. I remember breathing a sigh of relief as the blip winked out on my display, left only the pair of locusts, the Strikers and our primary targets left.


After that, it was a cakewalk. Osprey and I lit up the convoy with lasers and autocannon fire, obliterating the whole line before it could even try to move around us. Rage and Fox put their sights on the two locusts and butchered them, cutting them down to their fragile cores.


The strikers were the first to break ranks and flee, but already the locusts were turning, pointing their heavily damaged frames at the horizon, desperate to escape. Missiles from the departing Strikers rained in, blasting at Poseidon's armor, but doing little real damage.


It was Poseidon who got the last mech kill of the day, though, dropping one of the locusts before it could escape.


As the Strikers fled, we all turned and put crosshairs on them. One of the units had a significant lead, and rushed off while Poseidon's missiles rushed over its head. The other was an easy target, and lucky shots from my lasers damaged the thing's motive system enough that it was reduced to a crawling speed.


The next hail of fire from me and Osprey obliterated the already damaged Striker, and we all watched as the last enemy unit made its escape.


All told, we took a decent haul of salvage after the encounter. Lindon's people were quick to claim the weird mech and the Locust, so quick in fact, that neither I or any of my people got a decent look at the thing before it was hauled off. Colonel Lindon said nothing about the mech, nothing even about the pilot of the thing, just told me she'd be in touch and left us with our haul.


The Striker we hit was toast, but we were able to sell the parts as scrap to the local farming collective for about 70,000 C-Bills. Captain Eedlehoff's Trebuchet was a mess, literally and figuratively. The poor idiot shot himself in the cockpit after his mech hit the dirt, and instead of hiring someone to take the time to clean out what was left of him, I had the mech stripped of weapons and sold the butchered chassis to Lindon's Battalion for a cool three million C-Bills as-is. The whole thing was a frankenmech- whoever these people were, they slapped a bunch of ferro-fibrous armor on Eedlehoff's Trebuchet, swapped out the engine for some kind of Star League era extralight reactor and bolted some heavy clan salvage guns to the frame. It definitely looked like a rush job, so I guess I'm not too surprised that it went up like a roman candle after trying to alpha strike Poseidon a couple of times. So, with the new stack of cash, three Clan ER Large Lasers and a Clan LRM 15, I turned my attention back to my own lance, and the repairs that needed to be done there.


I feel like we were lucky that Old Bullet and Maynard took almost no damage during the mission, but also unlucky because they're also the two that are the easiest and cheapest to repair out of all the mechs in the lance. Dantor and Poseidon are absolutely our heavy hitters, and it seems like every time we take them out into battle, they get torn up and cost us weeks in waiting for repairs.

Dantor's damage was relatively minimal-- slagged armor and a missing arm. I was able to cut down on repair costs by providing one of the Clan ER Large Lasers we salvaged, but retrofitting an entire Marauder arm to fit it would take time. That, and ordering a Clan salvage medium laser to replace the one I lost. Poseidon's damage was a little easier to address, but still required me to put in another order for NAIS grade double heatsinks. Looking at the bill and at my stack of C-Bills, it hit me that there was more I could do with what we had on hand, so I spoke with the Lindon's Battalion tech and figured we might as well give Old Bullet an upgrade while we were at it. Swapping out the two ancient Magna Mk. III Large Lasers for the two remaining clan salvage ER Large Lasers from Captain Eedlehoff's Trebuchet, I had the tech use the leftover tonnage for a heat sink and enough armor to plate up the mech's back and face to what I consider to be reasonable standards. I also decided that if we were buying Inner Sphere Double Heat Sinks, we might as well put in an order for eleven more to round out Old Bullet and make the mech that much more effective in combat. Colonel Lindon's people are telling me it's going to require a refit of the Rifleman's fusion engine, but with Dantor and Poseidon being out of commission for the next two weeks anyway, it seems like a good time to make the upgrades. I thought about doing the same for Maynard, but the stock Centurion is such a solid design, that I think it'd be better to wait until we have some heavier salvage to slap on the frame before we take time (and funds) out to upgrade Rage's ride. All told, the repairs, ammo refreshes and upgrades are going to take about 1,200,000 C-Bills out of our bank account, meaning we still ended up with just over two million in total profit after costs for this one.

I still haven't heard more than a handful of words from Colonel Lindon since we hit the convoy, and the people working for her don't seem to know any more than we do. Whoever was running the convoy, they seemed to be too well trained to be pirates. The weird mech is another mystery. Who built it? Who was driving the thing and what happened to them? It looked experimental, but not like LosTech. It looked like something that was still being field tested. It didn't look Clan and didn't look like a relic from the Star League. It looked like something completely new, but who has the tech to design, develop and field something like that?

For now, all I can do is wait, wait and hope for answers. I keep trying to get a hold of Representative Nazir, but all I get in response is more dead air. Something is definitely going on, and no one is talking about it, but I have a feeling that we're close to some kind of answer. At the very least, all I can be at this point is optimistic.


Liquid Assets Obtained: 
2,070,000 C-Bills

Salvage Obtained:
Clan LRM15

Notes:

As an aside, I kind of have a bit of a love affair with Lindon's Company. One of the first Battletech related books I ever bought and read was the Mechwarrior book (the other was TRO:3025) and I immediately became enchanted with the idea of running a mercenary company. Unfortunately, as a pre-teen (I think I was 9 or 10) growing up near the poverty level, a solid 30 miles or more from the nearest game shop, without Amazon, Ebay or 3D printing, I didn't have a lot of miniatures. I had, at that point, only one, in fact (Dantor) but what I did have a fair amount of, were legos.

I had this weird idea at the time that if I was going to run a mercenary campaign, I would have to run one of the existing ones from the Mechwarrior book. There were only a handful in that book, and none of them really appealed to me, but Lindon's Company held a certain charm that kept me coming back to it. So, before I even had a solid ruleset to work with (I reverse-engineered and hand-wrote a very basic ruleset from reading TRO:3025 and asking questions on AOL chatrooms) I was running a Lindon's Company campaign using legos that was very much inspired by obsessively playing Mechwarrior 2. I even got my (then) stepdad involved a little, but his interests were more tied into classic D&D, so almost all of my play in those days was solo. We did create little Periphery nations, though. Mine was called "The House of Wynn" and I envisioned it as a fragment of the SLDF that went the opposite way of Kerensky and grew as a powerful, egalitarian nation that mostly just defended itself from Inner Sphere predations. My (then) stepfather created a nation literally called "Satan's Jello" that used a frowny emoticon as their standard, and used mostly only "jello launchers," designed to completely incapacitate a mech by filling it with air-hardening "jello". I suppose it's safe to say that he didn't take Battletech as seriously as I did. His periphery nation's mainline mech was also basically a giant, robotic Stephen Hawking-shaped mech (complete with giant robotic wheelchair) with pen-shaped missile launchers in the "breast pocket" protected by component armor. Classy! If I find the record sheet / technical readout one of these days (he was a decent artist) I'll post it for posterity. Definitely seems like the kind of mech that might be fielded by some group like, say, Clan Snek Cobra.

But my love affair with Lindon's Company dropped away as I discovered Citytech in high school, got some proper miniatures and realized I could create my own mercenary unit with its own history and standard. Taking some of my favorite mechs from my Lindon's Company campaign, I started a new campaign with a unit called "The Red Wolves" and, well, the rest is history.

*

Okay, so spoiler alert ahead! If you don't want to know the direction the story is trending toward, stop reading now and come back in a few weeks after the cat is out of the bag.

That weird mech that was just featured? Yep, it's a custom Word of Blake mech that I put together as a huge threat to kick around the Ferox Rangers a little. I call it the AN7-X Al-Noor, the name basically translating to "ray of holy light." I have to admit, I chose this name partly because it was the name of a restaurant I really loved that closed down, and also partly because it just seems so Word of Blake to have a mobile platform of searing death designed to bring so much "light" to the battlefield that it slags everything it touches. It has some really fun experimental equipment (see sheet and description below) and I also made a model in CAD for it as well, which you can find free on Thingiverse here.


Long story short, the AN7-X Al-Noor is a highly experimental death machine that packs four Word of Blake made Holy Fire Heavy Large Lasers on a 45 ton frame. What makes this thing experimental? The Radiant Blake Heat-Shunt System (RBHS): A highly experimental system that completely overhauls the cooling system of a mech. Cannot be installed with any form of heatsinks and weighs nothing (as it replaces the heatsinks in the engine) but it takes up two critical spaces on both the left and right torsos. Additionally, it requires the back of the mech to be completely unarmored in order to accommodate a system of vents and heating fins. It also cannot be installed on a mech weighing more than fifty tons.

Benefits: With the RBHS, all of the heat that a mech generates is immediately shunted out the back of the mech in a halo of shining light. This means that the mech can move, fire, etc. as much as it wants with zero heat buildup (as long as the system remains undamaged) but it will be completely visible during night ops, etc.

Penalties: The RBHS makes a mech much more visible, meaning that it is always considered illuminated for night ops, etc. Additionally, the mech cannot mount any back armor. If the RBHS sustains a critical hit, it continues to function, but its effectiveness is reduced by 25% for every hit it takes (round up.) Un-shunted heat goes immediately into the heat gauge, and is added to the total heat generated next turn, with 25% remaining (per crit hit) again. As an example, if a mech with one critical hit to the RBHS generates 10 heat, 2.5 (or 3) heat goes to the scale. Next turn, if it generates an additional ten heat, add the three to it (total: 13) then disperse all heat except for 25% rounded up (total: 4.) The remainder is then moved to the heat scale, meaning that this mech will start the next turn with four heat.

All in all, I think it makes for a mean boss battle. I feel like if it had hit more than it missed (we got really lucky and it missed about 75% of its shots) the battle would have been a massacre for the Ferox Rangers. Oh well, the Al-Noor will be back (along with some other fresh mech designs,) and maybe the Blakists will get some of their much desired revenge down the line. Hopefully not, but we shall see!

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