BattleTech Lore: Forgotten Heroes, Episode 2
So I made another thing like the last thing, lol.
This time, my wife helped too!
I've done a lot of voiceover work in the past (and I've written a few books) so about three weeks ago, I decided to try my hand at this lore video thing. I love BattleTech, and I love BPL's Tex Talks so darn much that I desperately wanted some more videos like that on YouTube. So, I wrote, read and assembled my own story of a character from the original 3025 TRO who has never had more than a couple of paragraphs of errata. She's so niche that she's not even on Sarna, but she's an absolute badass, and I loved writing about her.
Let me know if you want to see more of these. I have ideas. Nothing concrete, but I do have ideas. Aiming to do what I can to add something fun to the community.
I've also been painting hella mecha. Some of them are Catalyst, some of them are FASA, some of them are Punkin' Figs, and some of them are sculpts from Thingiverse. Pictures below:
Transcript of the script for the video is below:
The Inner Sphere is not the only place in known space that has seen its share of unsung heroes. The periphery has plenty of MechWarriors who have become legends, legends known perhaps only to single worlds lost in the sea of stars colonized by humanity. If you sift through enough of our records here at ComStar, however, you’ll find traces of these heroes, traces that paint pictures of the lives of people who rose to meet the trials of their times, and who made their marks on history despite the odds stacked against them.
As an Adept of the very organization whose sacred duty it is to try to safeguard humanity’s history, legacy and technology through all of these endless centuries of war, it is my pleasure to chronicle the stories of these heroes, heroes that time has almost completely forgotten.
One such hero is King Hendrick III’s own Mistress of Flames. Born on the Periphery world of Blackstone in 2983, MechWarrior Jenny Umbra grew up in the midst of the unrest and rebuilding that occurred during the transition of her planet from an independent state to a world under the dominion of the Oberon Confederation. The transition itself was relatively quiet, garnering little notice in the Inner Sphere, but as with all such things, the transfer of power did not come completely free of resistance. The Umbra family, mostly laborers and factory workers, supported Blackstone’s admission into the Oberon Confederation, seeing it as an opportunity for increased prosperity, yet despite her family’s loyalty to the new regime, Jenny lost an uncle, a cousin and several friends in the chaos that followed. Less-than-surgical shows of force meant to put down the token resistance that rose up against Oberon dominion were still common while she was a child, and each such show of force came at a cost, often claiming more loyalist lives than rebel ones.
It was during this time that Jenny witnessed via the local news her first battle between a pair of tanks and a single BattleMech. Despite having infantry support, the tanks were no match for the Oberon-branded WHM-6R Warhammer, and the battlefield was left a ruin of smoking craters and corpses with the pilot of the 70 ton mech bellowing his victory over the loudspeaker. In awe of the power of the Warhammer, Umbra swore to herself that she’d do everything she could to become a pilot of such a machine someday.
But being born into a blue collar family in the Periphery has the tendency to curb one’s ambitions and limit their career options. Though her parents were supportive of Umbra’s aspirations and helped her pay for a series of simulator lessons in basic Mech handling, they ultimately seemed to see Jenny’s interest in BattleMechs to be little more than a passing phase. Jenny, on the other hand, at least as far back as our records and logs of messages to and from her personal network address go, saw the BattleMech as the king of the battlefield. The fantasy of piloting one consumed all of her off-work time, becoming the sole driving force behind her decision to join up with the Blackstone Guards.
Though Umbra made it clear to her recruiter that she was passionate about getting into the cockpit of a mech, the brass of the Blackstone Guards had other plans for her. Mech pilots generally had to bring their own machines to the Guard, with their families paying for the necessary training, and since Umbra came to the Guard with neither of these (and poor marks in piloting, driving and flying,) she was quickly funneled through basic, given a rifle and told to fall in line with a ragged platoon (part of Hendrik’s Twelfth Red Claw) that spent most of its time running drills. She didn’t even get the opportunity to see a BattleMech up close until 3016, when a single, pirate-piloted LCT-1V Locust charged her foot platoon and decimated it with a pair of machine guns. Despite their losses, the remains of her platoon helped a convoy of light vehicles take the Locust down, but Umbra’s growing disgust for infantry tactics and the role of foot soldiers in the age of the BattleMech only became more and more pronounced with time. In reading her personal messages to her brother, who seemed to have served as her primary confidant during this period of her life, it has become abundantly clear that she absolutely hated being a footsoldier, and that she desired, above all else, to ride into battle in a mech that she could call her own.
By the autumn of 3018, Umbra had risen in the ranks by sheer luck, grit and determination until she was leading the very infantry platoon she had started in. Her subordinates described her as fiery and terrifying off the battlefield, and it was said she was twice as aggressive when she was actually facing the enemy. In her years as an infantryman, Jenny had taken to trading out her rifle for a flamethrower, and often delighted in operations that pitted her platoon against lightly armored (and unarmored) forces in the field. Dispatches from the time somewhat unironically refer to her infantry unit as “The Barbeque Platoon,” and our records indicate the moniker was well-earned. Small pirate raids on Blackstone were often put down in a hail of hydrazine fire that left nothing but charred boots and blackened rifles in its wake, but still Jenny Umbra seemed to hate her role within the Guards with every fiber of her being. Every enemy set ablaze and every subordinate disciplined seemed to bear the brunt of all of her frustrations, and some wondered how long it would be before she would simply break and turn her flamethrower on her own people in one last blazing act of defiance.
Fortunately, perhaps, for everyone involved, a change was coming. At the close of 3018, and in the midst of an uptick in pirate activity coming out of the coreward depths of the Deep Periphery, (some of it potentially being dark caste individuals migrating back toward the Inner Sphere) a lance of old and poorly maintained Mechs set down on Blackstone. The mysterious lance was ragged, striking fast and digging in like they had come to the world after running from something. In the span of a few hours, the pirate lance took control of a small industrial facility and closed off its associated starport. Plans to counter-attack the pirate force were floated, but in the end, it was Jenny Umbra who ultimately stepped up with the plan that would carry the day. Volunteering her own infantry platoon, Umbra offered to sabotage the facility and create a diversion while the mech forces of the Blackstone Guards swarmed in and overwhelmed the pirates. It was universally agreed that Jenny’s plan to move into the facility on foot with the aim of sabotaging the mechs on site was a suicidal one, but Jenny’s immediate superior saw it as an opportunity to rid himself of her, and so he pushed for the operation to go ahead. Jenny’s own interest, however, was less on the risk or the mission, and more in the Warhammer that the pirates had brought with them to the planet. If she could sabotage the other mechs on site and claim the Warhammer as her own, then maybe she could prove to the Blackstone Guards that she was worth more as a mech pilot than she was as an infantryman.
The plan was set, and on the evening of December 17, 3018, Umbra’s platoon made the long march into pirate-occupied territory and entered the industrial facility via covert tunnels that the invading forces hadn’t yet found. Emerging into the hangar expecting to find all four of the pirate mechs parked, she instead found the bay completely empty except for a single light mech. Instead of the Warhammer she had desired so intensely, Jenny found herself faced with an opportunity to capture only a single 35 ton FS9-H Firestarter.
What happened next perhaps only adds to the image of Umbra as a fiery hard ass, highlighting the gumption that seemed to push her through every hurdle she’d ever faced in her life. While her platoon overwhelmed the mech bay staff and occupied the facility, Jenny strapped herself into the Firestarter and ripped it out of its moorings, pushing it into a careening run out through the bay’s main door. Alarms sounded, radio calls went out to start the assault, and in the chaos, Umbra ran almost smack into the Warhammer she had been hoping to steal. The tired machine was already overtaxed, too close to accurately fire its PPCs, and piloted by a drunken retiree running off too little sleep for too long. Thinking quickly, Umbra turned her captured mech’s flamers on the Warhammer, running circles around it and spiking its heat until the heavier machine simply ground down to a shutdown. Fighting outside of the facility was fierce as the mechs of the Blackstone Guards closed with the remaining pirate forces, smashed through them, then crippled the ailing Warhammer by tearing apart its paper-thin rear armor and punching holes in the reactor and gyroscope systems. In the end, Umbra’s captured Firestarter emerged from the fray almost completely undamaged, and she marched it home like a prize, grinning from ear to ear.
Though there was a great deal of support for the idea that Jenny be allowed to keep the Firestarter and use it in service of the Blackstone Guards, her immediate superior let it be known that he was firmly against the idea. When he tried to use a volley of paperwork to officially claim the Firestarter for himself, Umbra requested a personal meeting with him under the guise of discussing salvage rights and compromises that could be made. While her immediate superior seemed to believe he could simply cut Umbra in for a promotion or a payout worth a fraction of the value of the mech, he ultimately received more than he could ever have bargained for. As soon as the two were alone, Umbra promptly shot him in the head. Instead of ordering that she be taken into custody, her superiors rewarded her with a promotion and complete rights to the captured Firestarter, putting her in the office she’d taken by force and in the pilot’s seat that she had desired so desperately.
Though it wasn’t the Warhammer she’d coveted, MechWarrior Jenny Umbra threw herself into her new role as pilot of the Firestarter, spending long hours running drills and getting a handle on her new machine. Her letters to her brother seem to indicate that her disappointment in piloting a light mech instead of a Warhammer quickly gave way to a love of the new machine for its speed and its impressive ability to set a lot of things on fire very quickly. With limited training and no experience in the cockpit of a BattleMech before she captured her Firestarter, Umbra was considered to be an almost laughably bad pilot at first, though even then, it wasn’t her foes who were laughing. Those that dared to stand up to her were too busy burning to death, because, you see, you don’t have to be a good pilot or a crack marksman to hose down slow moving targets at point blank range when you’re wielding a quartet of gigantic flamethrowers.
Her actions in battle over the next year as the pilot of her gray and black Firestarter earned her the nickname “Mistress of Flames” and the MechWarrior callsign of Hecate. Mastery of her Firestarter came within a matter of months, and during a review of troops on Blackstone, King Hendrik Grimm III was so impressed by her grit, her determination and her service record that he offered her a position working as part of a mercenary warband associated with the Oberon Guards. Seeing the opportunity to advance and to see worlds beyond Blackstone, Hecate immediately accepted the offer. Working directly under King Hendrick III of Oberon, she proved herself as a talented pilot in a series of deep-penetration scouting missions, and records indicate that she was, at one point, even involved with hunting Redjack Ryan after he went rogue following the incident on Fianna.
Most of her work during her 30’s and 40’s involved long periods of mercenary work where her mech (and its associated lance) were hired out by King Hendrick III for scouting and harasser missions. Hecate’s talent with her Firestarter also proved useful in a series of terror attacks against the Lyran Commonwealth and the Draconis Combine, attacks meant to prove to both House Kurita and House Steiner that the Oberon Confederation was a legitimate power with a degree of military prowess deserving of respect. Perhaps the most daring of these was the raid on Imbros in May of 3023, near the center of the Inner Sphere, in an area hotly contested by both The Lyrans and the Combine. It was in this raid that her Firestarter took critical damage for the first time, crippling the actuators on the mech’s left arm enough that the arm remained only partially functional until replacement parts were finally secured over a year later. In memory of the damage, Hecate had the arm painted up in an Americana tattoo style sleeve prominently featuring a dragon riding the lightning bolt of a PPC blast. The words “try harder” were stenciled below the dragon until a subsequent brush with a volley of inferno short range missiles scoured them off.
The raid on Imbros, and indeed other similar raids over the course of that year, were a series of deep strikes where King Hendrik Grimm III’s forces hit specific contested targets in the Inner Sphere, pushing apart warring house forces, then raiding and setting ablaze anything they couldn’t carry off. This tactic, oddly enough, ended up leading to negotiations with both Kurita and Steiner, and just a few short years later, diplomatic relations became smoother between Oberon and the Inner Sphere, with the Combine and the Commonwealth both making overtures to secure an alliance with the smaller Periphery State.
Through her forties and fifties, Hecate continued to distinguish herself in quick-hit raids and scouting operations in search of juicy targets on worlds in the Free Rasalhague Republic, but her innate rage and her desire to set things on fire began to cool as early as the late 3030’s. By the time of the staged blackout of the HPG in 3045 which resulted in a more efficient reorganization of the upper government of the Oberon Confederation and of their protectorate, the Elysian Fields, the tone of Hecate’s private messages had softened. She became less interested in fighting her way into positions of prestige and prominence, and seemed to grow tired of always being in the field, always being on the offensive. Instead, she seemed to yearn instead for a quieter post somewhere more comfortable. Her brother, up until his death from an exotic brain parasite in 3046, had begun to encourage her to retire, to build a family and create a life for herself. None of this was a priority for Hecate, and indeed, up until her brother’s death, she seemed too inflexible to change. Only after that loss did she finally turn down her first mission and begin to truly take stock of her life.
Instead of going into retirement, however, Hecate returned to her homeworld and rejoined the Blackstone Guards, devoting much of her meager pay to the ongoing revitalization efforts aiming to build Blackstone into the foremost industrial powerhouse of the Oberon Confederation. These scant few years were likely the calmest period of her life, and she seems to have spent most of her time involved in drills and simple pirate hunting while the politics and raiding way of the Oberon Confederation continued on around her.
Despite a fiery career, MechWarrior Jenny Umbra ultimately met her end at the age of 66 on August 21st, 3049, when Clan Wolf's Silver Keshik and Beta Galaxy attacked her homeworld. The Clan Wolf offensive was fast and overwhelming, and while many Oberon forces evacuated the planet even before the invasion force appeared in-system, Jenny Umbra was one of the few MechWarriors who stayed behind to face the military might of Clan Wolf directly. Records show that despite the fact that the aging pilots and worn-out machines of the Blackstone Guards put up a valiant fight against the invading forces that were superior to them in nearly every way, the Confederation forces were quickly crushed and swept aside, making the planet an easy conquest in the Clan advance. Jenny herself was part of a small group of light mechs that tried to harass the Clan Wolf forces with hit-and-run tactics, but these tactics ultimately proved to be ineffective as the clan massed and began hunting the last of the Blackstone Guards one by one. Finding herself surrounded on all sides by heavy Clan machines, MechWarrior Jenny Umbra met her end in a final, one-on-one showdown between her damaged Firestarter and a limping, missile-peppered Timberwolf that quickly curbstomped her thirty-five ton mech into the annals of history.
One of Hecate’s subordinates who managed to survive the invasion of Clan Wolf to become part of the Disarmed Oberon Guards administered by ComStar recovered part of a handwritten book that Jenny Umbra appeared to have been writing in her final years. Though the manuscript seems to be more a collection of quotes and fractured stories than anything resembling an autobiography, one particular quote of Hecate’s leapt out at me as particularly introspective, providing a powerful insight into the mind of this unique MechWarrior. Using samples taken from her own private transmissions and voice messages, I present to you the voice of Mechwarrior Jenny Umbra as a young pilot, putting to words her own thoughts as an old woman looking back on her life in the first few weeks of 3049:
“Grimm wants me on Oberon. Pretty palace. Too many trees. Not my thing. I miss home. Deserts, high mesas, sagebrush. I miss the Guard. Couldn’t wait to get away from it at first, couldn’t wait to see the Sphere, meet interesting people, incinerate them. Age has got me, though. Different person than I was when I was a grunt. Keep thinking about home. Keep thinking about the cousins I still got there, the kids they’re raising. Too late to raise my own. Not my thing. But those kids back home– been thinking about them a lot. Been thinking about my place in the Confederation. Burning things for Grimm has got us to the edge of alliance with the Dracs and Steiner. Doesn’t make things better on Blackstone. Not for the kids. Not for the people in the factories. Time, sweat, maybe money. That’s what I can give now. That’s what Blackstone needs. What I need. Time to build. Do what I can. Give back. That’s what I need now. To give back. Hope for a bright future.
This has been ComStar Grade Seven Tau Adept Mareus Augustus, a humble chronicler of the history of the Inner Sphere and of points beyond, signing off.
Hey all! E.S. Wynn here! This is my second episode of my new series where I’m trying something new, going back to my roots as a science fiction storyteller, and spending some time playing in the BattleTech universe. I’ve been a huge fan of the BattleTech universe since I was a kid, and these videos are a fun way for me to build a headcanon out of existing errata from long ago and share my love of the game with other fans. If you enjoy this content, likes, shares and subscribes go a long way. If you have a hero you’d like to see covered in this series, leave a comment below and I’ll add that hero to my list. If you want to support this channel and the creation of the content on it, I’ve put links to my publishing house and online miniature store in the description below, so feel free to check those out as well.
Images are from Battletech manuals, books and art, either obtained by hand or obtained from Sarna.net.
Male voice is E.S. Wynn
Female voice is Alex Wynn / Alex Rubsam
Music: The Rise Of Heroes by Shane Ivers - https://www.silvermansound.com