This was an interesting battle for sure – a force of only eight models against a much larger one, led by a powerful Strider.
Unfortunately, many of the photographs I took did not come out.
It did not go particularly well for the North…
Elements of Whitetop Army 9th Rgt
The Dragon Slayers
Lightning Scimitar (Rotary Laser Refit): Laura Alan
Wildcat: Ersha Lied
Wildcat: Salia Hauser
Jaguar: Jamil Darwell
Jaguar: Ghiwaza Gania
Fire Jaguar: Jiron Pearson Jr
Fire Thunder Jaguar: Silky Lunberg
Grizzly: Rod Gauli
Grizzly: Yuu Sakomizu
Kodiak: Adette Morgan
Attached Cheetah: Ryoko Hoshino
Hunter: Asuham Asher
Hunter: Kean Zama
Destroyer Hunter: Marbet Henrik
Headhunter Gunner: Lemul Issa
Eagle (SP): “Doc”
Raptor (IP): “Loewe”
Vulture (IP): “Purity”
Vulture (IP): “Hawk”
Dark Naga: “Swordfish”
Raven (SP): “Lexi”
With all but the Naga and Vultures remaining in reserve, the North had few targets to engage. A LATM from the Kodiak put 2 damage on one of the Vultures, and in return the artillery rockets and guided mortars destroyed two Hunters, crippled a third and damaged the Kodiak. At the end of the turn, the remainder of the Black Talons successfully airdropped in.
The armies were fully engaged by now; the Grizzlies and Kodiak put two damage each on the Naga and undamaged Vulture thanks to the Cheetah’s forward observation, but could not cripple any of them. The Raptors, which had airdropped behind the Jaguar team, destroyed three of them with exceptionally accurate LPL and HRC fire. The Scimitar capitalised on the Eagles’ lack of cover by crippling both with its linked MRL and HPL, while combined fire from the Wildcats and surviving Hunters destroyed the Raven. In return, the Vultures’ railguns put 3 damage on the Scimitar, while their mortars destroyed one Wildcat. The Naga’s HAR finished off the surviving Hunters, Wildcat and the Scimitar, and a well-timed charge from the Eagles damaged the Kodiak and Grizzly.
The North forces were spread out in small groups; artillery and railgun fire finished off the Grizzlies and Kodiak, while the Cheetah unsuccessfully charged a Raptor to be destroyed in return. With that, the game was over…
“Are you sure you want to say that?”
“Yes, I’m sure. Give me fifteen Gears and I’ll take you apart, I guarantee it.”
“Contact… possible contact? There’s something, distance two-forty, behind the- confirm, mark one target, details unknown.”
“Not useful, Hoshino. Try again.” The abandoned town sprawled over the desert before giving way to a large scrapyard and clump of tall, hardy trees behind which somewhere lurked a village and – according to Hoshino – something. It was a training ground most of the 9th knew, because they had at varying times been shipped out there to carry out the usual sorts of urban warfare exercises. And it was, to an outside observer, unusual that half a regiment should be shipped out there once more. But there was extremely little going on in Whitetop, and a very specific complaint had been left on the desk of Lt. Vander by some people who did not seem like they should be ignored.
“Are you messing with me?”
“No, it’s gone.”
“Can anyone see what we’re looking for? I bet they never even turned up.” It was just past six in the morning, the desert sun was low and at the most awkward angle possible, and it had yet to get warm enough to be comfortable. Six was an hour that Laura Alan rarely saw unless duty demanded it, and even when it was necessary it was met with constant complaint. Somewhere in the test range were, Alan knew, eight highly-trained pilots in high-tech Gears. All she had to do was make it across with at least some of her force intact.
So she had picked a team, with some reluctance, of reliable and uninteresting pilots. Issa and her dead men walking. Lunberg and her utterly forgettable squadron who sort of blended into the hangar walls. And those members of Jezail team who had not told Alan to do various unspeakable things at the idea of getting up at four in the morning to be shipped out to a test range to fight some special forces pilots she had annoyed in a bar.
“There’s nothing you people can do that couldn’t be done with enough of us. See, while you’re-”
“Really? I’m gonna say any one of us is the equal of two, three of you. And what, exactly, do you think we do?”
“WHERE FROM?” Alan’s eyes were heavy, but hearing enemy fire called in woke her up.
“Funnily enough, where I said there was a contact.” Hoshino said extremely little when she was in a bad mood. Being woken at four because Alan had done something immensely stupid was enough to put her in one. “Confirm contact, Naga-class. Secondary and tertiary contacts, confirm jumpjet ignition, predicting incoming fire angles.”
“Wait, what, jumpjet ignition? Do we have that? Do they have that?”
“No currently active Gear classes in Northern or Southern orders of battle are possessed of limited jump technology. Identity of hostile units is classified information.” Hoshino’s emotionless replies were making Alan extremely angry, especially as two of her Gears – Zama and Henrik’s units – were already down and Asher was reporting serious damage. And the radar remained blank at the point of launch.
“Well get some resistance together! All units advance, Hoshino, get out there, find whatever the hell is shooting us and do something about-”
“Holy shit!” Sakomizu’s face appeared on the comm. “I’m taking fire here, requesting orders! Whatever they’re shooting is serious stuff!”
Alan panicked. She had always had a tendency to panic. “Everyone, advance. Fire at will.”
There, the thinking was out of the way, now time to survive.
“Designating primary unknown units as T-1 and T-2. Transmitting co-ordinates of T-1 to all units, engage when ready.”
“This is Morgan. Co-ordinates not received, resend Hoshino.”
“This is Hoshino. Transmissions are being jammed, sending by secondary channel.”
“Patching you through to FCS, Hoshino. You have control.” A guided missile looped up from Morgan’s Kodiak, finally coaxed into life by the late nights of engineers, and slammed into one of the hostiles. “Good hit, Hoshino. All units, follow up on my lead.” Mortars and autocannons lit up the battlefield but as the salvo petered out the enemy unit was still looking very much uninterested.
“Commander Alan, exactly how many hostiles did you say were present in the combat zone?”
“Eight.” That was right, there had been eight of them in the bar.
“Negative. I have completed a full power signal scan and can locate only three targets. Unknowns T-1 and T-2 and confirmed Naga Strider T-3.”
“Is that bad?”
“Either our opponents have declined to fight us, or I fear you have led us into an ambush, Commander Alan.”
“That, Alan, is EXTREMELY BAD.” For the first time this morning, Hauser, one of Alan’s reluctant wingmates, deigned to open a comm. “This is I am going to kill you myself if we survive this bad.”
“Look, I’m sure we’re going to be- oh, OK, we’re not going to be fine at all.” Alan watched as her scanners lit up with new contacts. Two behind Morgan’s unit. Two behind Lunberg’s. One evidently trying to forward observe her Scimitar from the junkyard ahead of her. “We are not going to be-”
“Shut up Hoshino.”
As Alan screamed into a comm everyone else had closed at how everything was going wrong and none of it was her fault, the remainder of the unit went about their business of not dying. Morgan’s artillery team managed to get a stronger lock on the enemy artillery team and force them momentarily back, leading Lunberg to advance – the hail of missiles that had pinned her team abating for a while.
“Contact, six o’clock. Contact, nine o’clock.” Pearson called the new targets slightly too late. There was the sound, audible even across the frantic battlefield, of a rotary cannon beginning to spin up. Slow, ragged, but getting clearer and faster. The first salvo of paint rounds hit Lunberg’s Jaguar hard enough to send it flying to the ground, striped dramatically with neon colours before walking neatly onto Pearson’s to the same end. And, as if the humiliation of Hazel Team could not be any more complete, the second contact neatly head-shotted Darwell before crouching back behind the wall it had appeared from.
Ghiwaza Gania, the only survivor, tried to appear tough by muttering something unconvincing about having to do it all himself, spun round, lined up the enemy Gear that had taken two of his wingmates down in his sights and proceeded to miss spectacularly.
Things were going slightly better elsewhere. Alan had made the questionably useful decision to turn her Scimitar around and open fire at the new arrivals, and in a curtain of fire had them both reeling. Assuming they were down, she let her weapons cool a moment as Lied and Hauser opened up on the enemy forward observer. Following their example, Issa joined in the barrage and it was eventually brought to its knees in a hail of paintballs.
“We got a kill, just seven to go.” Issa found it hard to be optimistic at the odds.
Alan’s assurance to Morgan’s unit that the hostiles behind them were dealt with hadn’t sounded particularly convincing, which was perhaps why she had been keeping half an eye behind her. It paid off as she was able to parry the first incoming sword with her gun. The second target danced past her, slashing at her Kodiak’s legs as it went, before shearing the rocket pack off Sakomizu’s Grizzly. The melee was an ungainly, desperate thing, the enemy pilots clearly experienced and not caring too much that they were facing much larger, more well-armoured targets.
Then the mortars began falling, and the artillery shells from the Naga. Lied was knocked out. Issa and Asher blinked offline next. Hauser tried to break out of the killzone and made it all of a few feet before going down. Even Alan’s Scimitar was registering too many hits. The training program informed her that at this rate, she would be offline in another such hit. It came seconds later and the cockpit went dark.
Thirty minutes had elapsed. The furthest any of Alan’s Gears had advanced was perhaps a hundred and twenty metres. Four were still active out of the fourteen that had been sent. And the bombardment simply did not stop, the Naga safely braced on the other side of rough terrain and hidden behind low buildings.
The enemy were showing off by now. One of the artillery Gears fired its rifle one-handed, taking Gania down as he fired futilely at the rotary cannon unit above him.
Hoshino decided she was not going to go down without making a name for herself, and decided to charge the nearest enemy. It was slow to react, and she was able to pour several magazines into it before it apparently was able to respond.
No effect. Nothing at all. None of the paint rounds had landed on any of the zones that would count as a kill. Had the pilot known-
As she dodged and weaved she went straight into the flat of its outstretched sword, was knocked to the ground and left at gunpoint.
“So, Commander Give me fifteen Gears and I’ll take you apart, are you going to take back what you said last night?” The leader of the special forces team was obnoxiously ordinary looking, a shortish, pale-skinned woman with bluish-black hair wearing a white jumpsuit. “Or do we need to humiliate the rest of your regiment on the training ground to force an apology from you?”
“I… well…” Alan turned to her units to be met with angry faces. “It’s…”
“We do very little, do we?”
The woman did not stop glaring at Alan. “My name is Esther Astrada. Formerly UMF. Now head of special unit K71. You spent a significant amount of my evening off last night insulting me, and ultimately provided very little entertainment and very poor target practice. I will make sure this is circulated around your base of operations unless you personally apologise to me and my comrades. So, are you going to take back what you said last night?”