After the attack on the road, The Warding Guard had divided up their forces to provide security to the three major refugee camps with the other smaller ones being given air support by the Mercenaries in the form of the Beast with its two aerospace fighters. Clara and Aike had teamed up to take the western most camp and the closest camp to the latest hostilities on planet. Meanwhile, Ben was teamed up with the unit’s only tank with support from the few security force officers who were assigned to the southern camp and Harvey was guarding the northern camp with two armored trucks and the unit’s squad of BattleArmor.
Things had been tense since the attack on the road, and the Wardens scrambled to protect all the refugee camps as best they could. Maybe, it was just the fear from not knowing who their attackers were and just who could have been behind an hostile attack on unarmed refugee convoy, but Clara was staring to wonder what was scaring her more – the fact that their enemy could be waiting for the right moment to attack, or that they may not show themselves again and leave Clara in the dark as to just who they are.
In a room that had more in common with a cleaning closet than an office, Clara sat at a makeshift desk with her head in her hands. She had been looking at the daily reports from the refugee camp’s doctors and administrators on the total numbers on mobile and non-mobile persons they had in camp and the numbers were not what she was hoping for. For better or worse, the camp was now stuck where it was as they no longer had the means to transport all the refugees in the camp that needed assistance to move. On paper, they were just numbers, but in a half dozing state Clara could hear children crying just outside her officer window and knew that she was what stood between them and some unknown hostile.
Clara was still in her half dozing state when a knock at her office doorway made her lift her head to see Aike standing in the doorway with a weary smile on her face, “Dreaming of Ben?”
Clara’s face reddened despite herself before she could put on a stern face and stand up behind her desk. Looking at her sweat covered friend, she tried to remind herself that Aike had just gotten off of a twelve hour guard detail before opening her mouth. “You should have radioed me when you stood down. Get some rest and a shower; I can smell you all the way over here.”
Clara added the last with a bit of a smile, but her smile faded when as she was walking out of the office. Aike saw it fit to give her a big smelly hug before trotting off towards their shared room. Clara and Aike had been friends since they were eleven and thirteen. The formal command relationships that Clara had with the rest of the Warding Guard just didn’t seem to fit the two of them, but then again Clara know that Aike would never leave her back and always do what she was asked. Then again, Aike being her best friend she also knew all her buttons and just how to push them if things where not going as she believed they should, just like right now.
Clara walked the dusty path out to the makeshift ‘Mech hanger that was little more than an oversized warehouse. She looked up to see her newly repaired Maelstrom gleaming in the beams of sunlight that shined down from the many holes in the warehouse’s roof. Somehow, the sight brought back a flood of memories about her father and mother’s funeral and the following week when her uncle Reese had shown up to take guardianship of her and her older sister Val. Her Maelstrom reminded her of the first time Clara had looked upon her uncle’s Marauder MAD-3L and had learned that all those stories about her uncle being some kind of MechWarrior Knight were true. On that day, he had become some kind of unfaultable hero in her nine year old eyes and Val had taken a point to hate him at her thirteen years of age. Although one day Val had decided she would follow in his footsteps to knighthood just as Clara was doing now.
Clara brought her Maelstrom to life as she went through her startup check list almost in a mind numbing routine state. Her mind drifted back to life on Galava with Reese and Val and her replacement mother — Hesper, Reese’s wife; Hesper’s sister, Ky, and the life she had left behind there to take on this one. There were so many people back on Galava she missed and knew missed her, but this unit had been a dream created by her uncle and Val who was now overseeing the creation of an even bigger second unit. The unit would be nice to have right now, but they were not scheduled to be operational for another two years. With the merchant captain Shawn O’Dell’s help, Val was already accumulating ‘Mechs, a dropship and other elements for its creation. In the end, life is where you are and Clara hoped that those who’s lives where here would see an end to all this violence soon.
The next hour seemed to slip by as Clara checked over her ‘Mech and made a few patrol passes around the camp. On her third pass, a broadcast from the camp come over her comm. “Warding Lead, we have a report of Drafters heading in this direction some forty minutes out. The force seems to be made up of jeeps and trucks, but I have reports of a few tanks and even a ‘Mech escort bringing them here.”
Clara knew that the refugee camp had its own form of security—mainly in the form of informants and spotters, but it seemed they were far more capable than she had believed to have such forewarning of Drafters. Drafters were soldiers who where being sent out to draft citizens to do their civic duty and protect their government. They would put weapons in untrained hand of young men and boys and place them so the well trained and armed terrorist could cut them down while the normal soldiers where held back for more strategic operations. The Drafter didn’t just take the young men and boy from the camps; they also took women and girls as well and not always for official duties. Clara would not have any of her charges taken or used in such manner so with a grim face she called back.
“Received Camp and have someone get Card up and into her Black Hawk ‘ASAP.”
Clara switched to a Wardens only channel on her comm. “Breaker to Beast. Beast, I need Crow Wing down here for air support. I repeat Breaker requesting Crow Wing air support. Armed government forces are moving on western camp.”
There was a second of static before Den Xavier, captain of The Beast—the unit’s Dropship the Beast came over on the comm. “Copy that Breaker. Crow Wing is inbound. Breaker, we just received a report of government forces also moving on the southern and northern camps as well. It’s looking like they are coordinating an all out roundup Breaker.”
Clara could hear the concern in Den’s voice and that concerned her on many levels, because if there was one thing nice you could say about the whole Xavier family was that they keep their cool under pressure. “Beast, Delay that last order and reallocate air support forces as need and you deem fit. To all Wardens, we are not looking for a fight here, but our duty is to the camp personnel and refugees in their care. Beast, feel free to come down planetside and join the fun.”
Clara had a feeling things were about to get interesting. She was now about to possibly put her Warding Guard on the hostile side of not only the terrorists, but also the planetary government. As long as the refugees were inside the camp, they were under the protection and jurisdiction of the Human Right and Safety Cause and therefore not subject to the government’s unjust drafting policy. That was the thin law that Clara would be standing behind when she went to war with the local government.
As Clara turned her Maelstrom to start heading down the road towards the approaching governmental forces, she saw Aike bring her Black Hawk online as her voice come over the comm. “Card reporting in and ready to kick some ass.”
Clara smiled despite herself, “Card form up and put your game face on as this might get dicey. Camp, Warding Guard is moving to intercept hostile forces. Breaker out.”
With that Clara’s Maelstrom and Aike’s Black Hawk turned and started down the road at a clip of about 80kmph, Clara could see through her cockpit that the camp personnel and refugees running about in an organized chaos as they tied to prepare for what was to come.