Ben Wetly, known by the call sign of ‘Blue’ looked at his Blackjack BJ-3 battlemech’s instrument readouts as he went through his permission checklist, a holdout behavior from his days in a Lyran Military Academy. And like all such behaviors it had been drilled into him to the point that he would never loss them, despite his current unit’s lack of military protocols. The Warding Guard was a small unit made up of one lone Lance of ‘mechs with air support and a joke of ground support. When he had joined up with the unit, it had been just a way to get off of the Periphery planet of Galava which his father had dragged him to, but now part of him questioned why he was still with them and the other part plainly knew why, Clara.
Clara was like one of those heroines one reads about in stories, but knows deep down they just don’t existed. Ben learned that apparently they do and Clara was the proof. She held to a knightly code, no joke an actual code of chivalry handed down to her by her uncle, an un-landed Knight of Randis. Her moral code, heart and drive was what had held this unit together far more than any money or national loyalty could, and because of this they were like no other mercenary group he had ever known. As her heroine ideas made her a figurehead for the Warding Guard, they also made her vulnerable to those who didn’t hold to such standards in their dealings; something Ben was starting to believe she didn’t see as plainly as he did and that was why he found himself compelled to protect Clara from herself.
It was just such a situation that had Ben strapped into his Blackjack in the Mech-bay inside the Leopard Dropship the ‘Beast’ heading to a hostile LZ for a hot-drop and an assault on an enemy force that most likely outnumbered them two too one if not more. When the Merton governmental forces showed up in large numbers a week ago to ‘draft’ the refugees in the camps that the Warding Guard were hired to protect, it came to no surprise to hear that the Commander of the military on planet had an alterative offer to just drafting all the refugees. All Clara had to do was agree to work for him and the camps would be protected by marshal law and the refugees free from the threat of the draft. It had all been a ploy to place Clara and the Warding Guard in-between the refugees and harm forcing the unit to either agree to his terms or fight, outnumbered and with innocent people at their backs. Ben knew that Clara had made the right call in agreeing to the Commander’s terms, but it didn’t mean he had to like it.
Ben’s heart rate picked up as the bay doors opened up in front of his ‘mech and the view of fast moving landscape spread out in his vision. Then Clara’s voice came on the com, “Wardens we drop in five minutes starting, now.”
Ben was apprehensive about this mission for several reasons, but the biggest reason he believed had to do with the fact that he had been paired up with Aike Rhodes, known by all as ‘Card’ as in a wildcard that she was. Ben accepted the fact that Aike was a skilled pilot who had apparently been trained by someone who knew how a military unit should function. Aike could fit into a battle formation as well as he could, but her lack of military protocol and her wild reckless nature just annoyed Ben without reason. Clara had paired up the lance to provide one ‘gunner’ and one ‘guard’, Ben’s job as the gunner was to snipe the greatest enemy threats as they presented themselves while Aike’s job as the guard was to watch his back and take on everything else that dared fire at them. Meanwhile, Clara had flagged herself as gunner for her pairing with Harvey during the assault on the enemy’s valley base.
Ben’s watched the landscape fly by while one of the pair of unit aerospace fighters came into view flying parallel with the Dropship before banking to the left and down to start its attack run on the terrorist held valley that served as their ‘mech resupply and staging base. Then it was his turn, his operations clock ran out and he sent his boxy looking Blackjack out of the bay and into the open air and kicked on his ‘mech’s jump-jets; which were normally employed to make the 45ton war machine jump into the air, but were now being used to soften its gravity assisted fall to the hard rocky earth which was over a thousand meters below the ‘mech and coming up fast.
Ben less aimed for and more hoped for a clear landing spot as there was not much time to change his ‘mech’s freefall path towards the earth, and he luckily didn’t land on anything – well anything large or explosive that was. The landing was bone-rattling in the cockpit even with the ‘mech’s mechanical myomer muscles, armored frame and structure absorbing most of the force of the landing, but it only took Ben a fraction of a second to refocus his eyes on the battlefield in front of him. The first thing Ben noticed was just how uncomfortably close Aike’s Black Hawk had landed next to his Blackjack. The next thing was that one of the enemy ‘mech was already powered up and firing a Large laser at him.
Ben fought back shock as he shifted his ‘mech position to get a better shot at the attacking ‘mech who was the cause of his surprise, not because of its coming fire but for the tactical information his targeting computer was providing him about his attacker. It was a Grim Reaper. What was a ‘poorly’ equipped terrorist group doing with such an advanced ‘mech, especially one that was mostly seen in the hands of ComStar or their splinter group the Word of Blake? Ben held his ground through the storm of laser and SRM missile fire now coming from the Grim Reaper as it tore chunks of his Blackjack’s armor off, and Ben knew he needed to take this monster down quick. Ben patiently lined up his right armed PPC on the cockpit of the closing ‘mech and let loose a shot with skill and a little luck to hit the Grim Reaper in its head which held the cockpit and pilot. Ben’s shot ripped into the head armor and even into the internal structure around the cockpit which must of injured or knocked out the pilot because the ‘mech leaned back with the force of the blow and didn’t right itself and fell on its back which caused even more damage to the mech.
With the nearest threat taken care of, Ben glanced down to his sensors to see what was happening with the rest of the assault. Clara and Harvey had teamed up on an 80ton Victor while Aike was squared off with a fast 35ton Specter that Ben hadn’t even known was at his back. While Ben changed his focus to a 70ton Archer that now coming to life, the two aerospace fighters of Crow Wing dropped bombs onto an 80ton Awesome. Aike finished putting down the Specter just in time to turn into a storm of LRM missiles released by the Archer. Ben’s heart jumped as he saw Card’s mech disappear under and cloud of smoke and fire, but the Black Hawk emerged from the cloud firing. Ben added his defiance towards the Archer in the form of both his PPC’s and two of his medium lasers which sent the heat climbing inside his cockpit. The Archer survived the joined attack and closed sending four medium lasers striking into Ben’s Blackjack setting off alarm which told him that he had just lost all his armor on this left arm and the medium laser in that arm was no longer functioning. Ben and Aike moved to attack breaking apart to flank the Archer. As Ben was forced to use his jump-jet to hop a building that was blocking his path, he incurred fire from a fast moving armored jeep. Now flanking the lone Archer, Ben and Aike let loose with another attack that sent the enemy ‘mech’s fusion engine into critical with an issuing explosion that tore apart its mech and destroying a few nearby buildings.
Ben moved his ‘mech towards the center of the base while Aike moved to deal with the harassing light vehicles. In the distance, Ben saw Crow Wing dealing with a 30ton Urbanmech that had shown up from over the valley ridge while Clara and Harvey were still trying to take down the Awesome. There seemed to be something wrong with Clara’s Maelstrom’s right leg and Harvey’s Thunderbolt looked like its left side had been chewed up by some large beast. Ben saw his chance and moved to put himself on the Awesome’s right side and fired both his PPC’s into the large ‘mech. The Awesome’s response was not one Ben expected as he only fire a medium laser and a few SRM’s at Clara’s Maelstrom while both its right side ER PPC’s turned on Ben.
One moment Ben had been staring at the large enemy ‘mech as it turned its guns on him; the next he was staring up at the sky with smoke in his cockpit and blood in his mouth. Ben thought he heard Clara’s voice frantically calling over the comms, but he couldn’t tell with all the ringing in his head and the alarms going off. He looked over at his damage readouts and saw with horror that the whole left side of his mech was gone, no arm or leg was left and there was damage all through his mech’s torso. Then through the haze of the smoke and watering eyes and ringing ears, Ben realized that someone was opening the hatch to his mech’s cockpit, and it wasn’t Clara’s voice on the comms but just outside his cockpit. Although his heart jumped with relief at seeing her face and realizing they were both alive. he also wondered why she was out in the open in hostile territory, and not leaving his rescue to other lower ranking members of the unit. Would she never learn?