Sitting in the cockpit of your battlemech, you waited in the dark silence with irritation. Strapped inside of a dropship with your three lancemates, a handful of crew members, and a couple of support vehicles. It is a ship with no name, just a number. A dropship, one of three for this mission. Yours, like the others, was still attached to the war ship Arminius. You sat there, hating the waiting game, reviewing the mission plan for the tenth time.
It was crazy.
Without any details, this mission would seem routine. Drop onto the planet Orontes with three lances… a heavy attack lance, a light flanker lance, and a medium striker lance. Achieve surprise, hit the enemy hard and fast. Get yourselves, and these other guys you’re supposed to grab, back to your drop ships, and be back on the Arminius by supper. Easy, peasy..
The only problem was that it was the rest of the mission was just crazy. For starters you were dropping into a massive wind storm of metallic dust to conceal your arrival. You wouldn’t be able to use coms or see much of anything in this storm. Your sensors probably wouldn’t work, and you had to rely on nav computer to get you into attack position before the storm ended. Nobody trusted the nav computers.
Nope. Nothing about this mission to dislike at all.
Then it got even weirder. The mission was to attack some BDA scumbags at the entrance to a mining installation, and help some BDA general and his two bodyguards defect to the Alesian side. Huh? Why would a BDA general want to defect?
The main objective to the mission was making sure this general survived. He would be driving a distinct looking Battlemaster.
You sat there looking at videos of him and his bodyguard. They had damn well better be defecting for real, because they were driving assault class mechs.
This mission sucked.
Your thoughts were interrupted by an angelic feminine voice in your helmet. Her name was Quorra, the voice of SOO leadership in the JOC1. “All crews, prepare for drop. Confirm go for drop.”The various members of teams sounded off in order, one by one.
Pugilist, always the last in the order and ever the wise ass, usually had something extra to say; “Pugilist is go. Keep my bunk warm for me, Quorra.”
Her voice instantly fired back, ice cold; “Knock the chatter.”
Nobody could help smiling. She really hated that guy.
Your HUD1 immediately ran one last diagnostic scan of your battlemech, a formality of course, as all systems were checked and rechecked, long before you walked your mech into the dropship. A light across your mech profile showed all systems green. A screen popped up in your HUD with a video feed from outside of the dropship, showing the vast, dark, coldness of space. Slowly a planet rolled into view, rocky, a bit red and gray. You see the dust storm rolling in across the planet’s atmosphere.
At least that part of the plan was there.
Quorra’s voice cut through the slience again; “All systems go. Ships away in 3… 2… 1…. Release.”
The Arminius released your DropShip while gravity gave way in a slow drift that played tricks on your arms and legs. Your mech’s HUD activated in a sequence of lights, as a neon arc plotted your dropships path to the surface. Just under six minutes to touchdown.
Quorra’s voice came over the JOC net again; “Trajectories confirmed. Draco company is away.”
From the external viewscreen, you could see Orontes surge into view. You hurdled toward a massive reddish hurricane that seemed almost still from space. As the planet loomed closer it consumed the whole screen, white and orange fire engulfed the ship on entry. The ship trembled as the hull pierced the atmosphere. The tug of the planet’s gravity seeped back into your arms and legs.
The skipper of your ship, Spunkmeyer, broke through the silence in your helmet via the ship’s command net ; “Some turbulence coming up here, the winds are going to beat us up. Be ready.“
Suddenly a voice comes over the JOC net. It was Slammer, from drop three. They were in the lead, way out in front of the other two drops. He was yelling but his voice was getting cut off in mid sentence; “Drop-3 getting … down …” There was a pause and then; “act”. Then nothing.A couple of seconds later, Quorra called back, calm and cool as always: “Say again, Drop-3. You are breaking up.”
Slammer said something back, but it was too full of static to comprehend. Drop 3 had disappeared into the storm.
Just before your ship hit the storm, Quora’s voice cuts through the JOC net again; “We have lost contact with Drop-3. They appeared off course before…”
Suddenly the outside world on your viewscreen went dark. Spunkmeyer’s voice popped over the ship net; “We are in the storm, on target, five by five. External coms are out due to the storm’s interference. Touchdown in one minute.”
The ship was shaking from the wind. One minute would feel like six hours.
A few minutes later his voice cut into the net again; “Brace for impact!”
A pang of fear shot through you, you had never heard that before on a drop! You gripped your mech’s controls, hard. There was little else to do. Your jaw clenched anticipating the violent impact. It hits. You taste a little blood.
Your mech abruptly disengaged from hardpoints, and you peered outside the cockpit, trying to get your bearings. Flashes of red lights were flickering in the ship’s mech bay, void of personnel. As the bay doors rise, Spunkmeyer’s voice calls out; “Good hunting gentlemen.”
You emerged into the storm. Three steps out, the wind buffeted your mech causing a noticeable shimmy with each step. The chatter from the ship’s command net drains away. Then someone’s garbled voice cut into the lance com; “We aren’t ready for this.”
Sensors beeping loudly. Proximity alert, 1 meter, all sides. Walking blind. Sensors were useless. The v-compass spinning sporadically. Visibility was only a few meters. You fanned out as is protocol for deployment from a drop ship. You can’t see anything. You can’t see your lancemates at all. You take a couple of minutes trying to use your lance coms, hoping to form up, but you get no responses. Coms are just plain down.
Your nav computer kept signaling for you to walk in a certain direction, using way points to get you into attack position. You took few moments trying to find your lancemates, but it was useless. It was like trying to see through mud. There was nothing to do but start walking and hope this nav computer doesn’t send you off of a cliff.
You couldn’t help but thinking; “The enemy will be surprised to see us because this attack is insane."
After a short distance, you heard and felt an unmistakable sound, even over the immense noise of the storm. A dropship firing its main engines and then taking off. One of the dropships was leaving! You couldn’t believe it. Where the hell was he going? How was everyone going to get off this rock?
You stumbled step by step through the Rust for more than an hour. At one point, you swear you saw a glimpse of a battlemech moving quickly, passing right in front of you, heading in the wrong direction. At first you weren’t sure, but then you realized it had to be one of yours. You yelled into the radio desperately, but he was gone in a blink. Was he going the wrong way? Were you??
The going got tougher, the wind and uneven terrain taking its toll on your nerves. Even in live combat, piloting was never that tough. As you got close to your final way point, things got even worse. Sheer rock faces appeared out of the haze, and the ground was covered in silt that hides boulders. It was hard going. You kept a sharp eye out ahead of you and kept checking the nav computer to make sure you were still showing as on course. Then abruptly you were there… at least, the nav computer thought so. Who knows? No way to tell, you can’t see anything. There was nothing to do but sit, and wait for the storm to abate.
So there you sat, waiting for the storm to abate. When it did, you sure hoped you were at the right spot and that someone else from your outfit was there too.