A Northern elite Gear, a testbed for a new loadout of the Grizzly chassis assigned to a notable Duellist and test pilot, had been shot down in the small town of Astragius. Both sides immediately diverted nearby patrols to recover the wreck, a Southen Jager unit racing to reach it before a Northern reinforced patrol of Hunters and Jaguars reached it. On the way, both commanders decided to call for reinforcements – Southern units were first to the fight, as Astragius was close to a nearby base. By the time combat was joined only a single Northern unit had arrived as backup, a heavy unit of large Gears intending to carve a path through the numerous Southern units and recover the wreck. The North, however, had another advantage – the patrol had been joined by Oliver Arseid, an ace pilot with a sterling record and highly-customised urban warfare Grizzly.
Fire Support Unit “Lancers” (70)
– [CGL] Headhunter Gunner (8) – Lemul Issa
– Destroyer Hunter (8) – Amandara Cargo
– Hunter (6) – Silky Lunberg
– Hunter (6) – Millium Reise
– Jaguar (2iC) (12) – Gaelio Lak
– Jaguar (10) – Alfin Reise
– Support: Duellist Grizzly
(Veteran, Brawler 2, Linked Weapon, Gunslinger) (20) – Oliver Arseid
Fire Support Unit “Ironbloods” (80)
– Chaingun Kodiak (SCO) (22) – Cassius Muller
– Grizzly (XO) (17) – Irene Salsamille
– Grizzly (14) – Rod Gauli
– Jaguar (10) – Jaboli Neate
– Jaguar (10) – Marbet Henrik
– Support: Wild Ferret (7) – Connie Sanga
General Purpose Unit “Luchs” (30)
– [CGL] Jager Gunner Commander, LPZ (9) – Hime Quo Elfino
– Striking Jager (7) – Cosmo Murassa
– Brawler Jager (7) – Haruru Houjou
– Brawler Jager (7) – Gaw Ha Garun
Fire Support Unit “Eisenritter” (60)
– [SCO] Hooded King Cobra (21) – Io Lafter
– Junglemower Support Cobra (14) – Amu Kistler
– Junglemower Support Cobra (14) – Fuala Fannelia
– Support: Striking Iguana (11) – Quattro Londe
Skirmish Unit “Loewe” (60)
– [CGL] Razorfang Blazing Black Mamba (13) – Carta Turbine
– Blazing Black Mamba (12) – Shakti Mariela
– Longfang Black Mamba (12) – Tomache Cineau
– Longfang Black Mamba (12) – Gin Medaiyu
– Support: Striking Iguana (11) – Daba Zabiarov
Mission: “Shiny!” (Single Capture objective)
Battlefield Conditions: Normal
Game Length: 5 Turns
The Cobra unit began the battle by moving Full Speed under ECM coverage to climb down from the cliff they had begun on top of; while the opportunity to fire their Field Guns and Laser Cannon at the heavy Gear unit nearby was tempting, it would have been highly likely to be ineffective and getting the extra speed was more useful at this stage. In return, the Grizzlies opened up with Guided Mortars and Anti-Tank Missiles, putting 4 damage on the lead Cobra while their Jaguar support failed to hit.
The Mamba unit advanced to cover near a gun emplacement, but the Duellist proceeded to blind-fire its own mortar, scoring a lucky hit and inflicting 5 damage on one of the Mambas and 2 on another; the Hunters finished off the heavily damaged Southern Gear but failed to hit its comrades. Finally the Jager unit advanced at Full Speed down the road towards the Hunters, but failed to score any hits.
The south-eastern approach to Astragius was a curved road overlooked by a rocky plateau, which ordinarily would have been a good sniping position for advancing Gears. However, the force advancing towards the road from the north-east was somewhat stronger than Io was prepared to try her luck against; a reinforced heavy weapon team with forward observer, and an ace unit on top.
So they tried to outflank and come around from the east, too. Typical. At the moment we are a priority target for them, so we need to do something to take the heat off the others; Carta’s team can do the grunt work while we-
“Everyone, get down onto the road and head for that checkpoint.”
Descending a cliff in a Gear was a nerve-wracking prospect, a few seconds of screaming metal as the fingers tried to bite into rock and the treads spun against gravel, but eventually ground caught up to the team and they were onto the welcome tarmac of the road.
Fuala was jarred against her harness as her Gear did not quite manage a landing as neat as her commander’s. As she was snapped back upright the world momentarily swam before her eyes, the monitors flickered as the Gear’s camera wavered and suddenly there was a lot of noise and flashing red lights, shortly followed by an explosion that the computer suggested had torn out much of her leg armour. More bullets and shells followed, but by that time Fuala was back upright and able to dance out of the way to rejoin her team.
The stoneyard would, over the course of the battle for Astragius, become home to the fiercest fighting, even if the initial exchanges – Hime’s Jagers and Carta’s Mambas opening up on the reinforced Hunter patrol – were anaemic. On the edge of the firefight, staying safely out of the way of incoming shots in a small parade of houses on the outskirts of town, Oliver Arseid watched. When the moment was right, when one of the Mambas was otherwise distracted, he fired. The explosion threw dust and scraps of cactus into the air, and when it cleared Tomache’s Gear was limping behind its team as they circled the stoneyard – and a crippled, slow-moving target was just the thing for Carta to finish off, a smile forming on her blue-painted lips as her autocannon burst shattered the Mamba’s cockpit. A bazooka shell smashed into the stones surrounding her, but she was so focused on her victory she did not even notice it.
The North won initiative, and the Grizzlies, Jaguars and Kodiak opened fire on the Cobras – the undamaged one was reduced to scrap by accurate mortar fire, while autocannon fire put another hit on the damaged Gear. On the other side of the battle, the Mambas ineffectually fired across the quarry at the Hunter team, an attempt to create a crossfire with the advancing Jagers failing. In return, the Hunters damaged the bazooka-wielding Jager while the Duellist continued to advance, unable to score any hits on a Black Mamba with its twin autocannon.
The Cobras finally returned fire, a devastatingly accurate laser shot vapourising the Ferret while artillery rockets put three damage on a Jaguar. Meanwhile, field gun fire from the remaining Support Cobra inflicted a meagre one damage on one of the Grizzlies. A perfect opportunity from a Jager to outflank the duellist proved equally disappointing, its bazooka only able to score a single hit on the advancing ace.
Targets lit up across Irene’s screen as Connie’s forward observation came in and mechanically she selected and fired, joining the squad’s barrage. Enemy target,recovering from fall, legs damaged. Destroyed. Enemy target-
She ducked the incoming shell moments too late and it tore an arm off her Gear. Picking up her dropped rifle, she tried to raise the rest of the team when-
The interior of a Ferret was cramped and harshly sloped forward, necessitating a hunched-foward posture like a motorbike rider. Connie Sanga was staring at the data-feed her radar was providing through a waterfall of sweat, calling targets for the rest of the team when the entire cockpit lit up with lock warnings. A Ferret was fast, but not quite fast enough to respond that late to incoming fire.
Io felt like she had all the time in the world to aim at the Northern observer, shells and missiles raining around her as her own launcher forced the advancing Jaguars into a more cautious pace. She fired, and the Ferret’s front armour buckled, melted and then collapsed inwards. Its engine detonated seconds later, as if the collapse of the cockpit had not been fatal enough.
Around the stoneyard, the stalemate had yet to break. The Iguana’s ECM was keeping the Mambas safe from much of the incoming fire, but the piled stones and generator pylons were obscuring the return fire. A kind of attempted encirclement from both sides had turned into a knot of Gears unable to make a significant impact on each other; Arseid advanced from the northeast, while the Jagers moved in from the southeast to try and catch the Hunters (themselves swinging round west to try and outflank the Mambas). Quite possibly the density of targets on both sides was making the gunners wary, and any hits were at best superficial.
The South used their initiative win to activate the Cobras again, a hail of field gun and artillery rocket fire inflicting 3 damage on the Kodiak, 2 on a nearby Grizzly and destroying the damaged Jaguar. However, over by the quarry, the Duellist finally reached combat; using its paired guns in melee, it crippled an Iguana but proved unable to scratch a Mamba owing to an unlucky roll. The Jaguars and Hunters also broke cover, putting two damage on an undamaged Mamba but their guns remaining largely ineffective. Over by the objective, however, there was a fierce push by the South – the Jagers moved in to surround it and went on Standby.
Damaged and seeking revenge, the Grizzly team finally destroyed the surviving Support Cobra and its Iguana partner, but could not spare any shots against the King Cobra. As the final act of the turn the Mambas finally found their mark and put three damage on a Jaguar and two on a Hunter – while the surviving Iguana rushed towards the objective, away from the Duellist.
Seeing Amu’s Gear crushed under weight of artillery had put Io’s blood up, and the smoking wreck of the Ferret had not assuaged it. Another salvo of artillery rockets and mortar shells drove the approaching Kodiak back, and finished the Jaguar she had seen take the brunt of the last shots.
As the smoke cleared, Cassius realised the deadlock might just break in his favour. His Kodiak was still operational, even if its armour was breached in several places, and the enemy barrage was thinning fast. The enemy ECM unit was visible, and he easily put it down with chaingun fire – while Irene, clearly incensed at Connie’s unpleasant death, destroyed the last field gun-equipped Gear. All that remained was the heavy, skirted unit – clearly the Southern commander.
Gin had called out the advancing ace early enough for Daba to turn to face it, but there was little to do but try and seek cover as it brought a pair of rotary cannons up and raked the desert with fire. Daba’s recon Gear shook under the impacts, its bazooka a poor makeshift shield, but it was somehow surviving come the end of the torrent. As the blue Grizzly lowered its guns, surrounded by shell casings and barrels glowing red, the crippled Iguana broke for the objective, aiming to rejoin the Jagers for much-needed covering fire.
Hime was reporting that she had secured the crash site and was beginning to scan for the flight recorder. All they had to do was cover her.
At that point a wall of Northern Gears emerged from the quarry compound. Missiles and bullets tore into the surrounding rocks and plants, but somehow the Southern unit emerged relatively unscathed and well-positioned to return fire.
The South player called Final Turn here, which proved risky – the North won Initiative, and the Duellist proceeded to tear the Iguana apart while the Hunters and Jaguars rounded on the objective, taking out two of the Jagers contesting it from behind and also taking out another Mamba. In return, the Mambas crippled a Hunter contesting the objective and destroyed the Duellist with a terrifyingly accurate rotary laser shot from behind.
It fell to the Kodiak and Grizzlies to kill the Jagers – but in a surprise turnaround a Snap Shot from one of the Jagers’ Light Autocannons managed to cripple one of the Grizzlies, and the Southern Gear held on with only a scrap of structure remaining. At this stage the South had one Gear within range of the objective, but it appeared the North had two – two damaged Hunters that had crept up behind the Jager team.
The Jagers proved unable to finish the Hunters off, and so it fell to the King Cobra. Its Laser Cannon fired true, annihilating one of the Hunters – but its mortar could not find its target and one Hunter and one Jager remained on the objective!
The final measurement was in, and the Hunter was half an inch out of range to contest the objective! A Southern victory – but at terrible cost…
There was not much time left. Overwhelming Southern reinforcements, drawn by the battle, were closing on Astragius.
Arseid had a clear target in sight, a recon unit able to transmit the flight data from the wreck as soon as it was recovered. His guns were reloaded.
The impact from the barrage combined with its hasty attempt to retreat sent the wrecked Iguana flying a good twenty yards before it exploded on impact with a brutal-looking cactus.
“Cassius, status? The enemy are dug in around the wreck, recommend we regroup by the stoneyard, Lemul’s-”
Gin had promised to cover Daba’s retreat. Incoming fire from the Jaguars had meant he had responded a little too late to stop the blue Grizzly in its tracks. He felt very little guilt at opening fire with his laser until it cut out, and watching as the ace Gear staggered forward, smoking and then exploding with a horrible popping and crackling as its ammunition backpack lit up.
Hime saw a Grizzly break cover, and fired. The Northern Gear recoiled, its aim thrown off, and a burst that would have perforated the cockpit instead tore an arm away. Her team was by now either crippled or destroyed, unable to hold as Jaguars approached from the west and heavier units from the east. Carta’s team was pinned, doing their best to drive the Northerners off, and there was still too long on the data upload.
Her throat was uncomfortably dry. Bullets were inching closer to where she was wedged into the foliage for cover.
Is this when I should start making peace with whoever people make peace with?
She thought about radioing for help.
Why bother? It’s not like-
The upload suddenly pinged complete. She just had to survive until reinforcements came-
The stressed knee joint of her Jager exploded, and it listed to one side. Instinctively she hit the eject and was thrown into a bed of thorny plants. They won’t want to find me in here, but it hurts!
Fleeing the approaching Kodiak, Io saw Hime’s Jager explode and she could see a Hunter moving in to finish the pilot. No you don’t.
The laser once again punched straight through a Gear, leaving only a melted, imploded cockpit and burned-out engine block. The Hunter’s momentum carried it forward a little, but it was by no means a spectacular end.
And then, from the same ridge Io had initially attacked from, there was another screaming of gravel and then a very much less pleasant screaming accompanied by the stench of fuel. Two Flame Cobras, leading the relief force, were going from building to building and hiding-place to hiding-place torching the Northern units out…