++May 22nd, 3050
++FWL Colony #3454 “Fallen Bow”
++Planet Genvieve, Free Worlds League
Lt. Karen “Power” Simms thumbed the button for her comms, “Viper Three, checking in. No contacts in mountain village, grid square Charlie Four. Whatever happened here, I think we missed it.”
“Roger that, Viper Three,” Commander Llorn answered over the comms. “Behemoth lance reports no contact river either. Proceed to Delta Seven and clear.”
“Delta Seven, aye.” Power leaned back into her Raven‘s command couch and looked around her at the deserted prefab buildings of the small outpost. The distress call had gone out four days ago, and the Renegade Suns were the first boots on the ground, half a week late to be of any use. Now the entire colony was a ghost town, with no sign of what had happened to the people here except a few open doors, swinging in the wind. She felt naked without any infantry support clearing these buildings, but the Suns had been hired to be first responders, not garrison troops, so their only infantry platoon was securing the area around the dropship to make sure the ‘Mechs had available transport in case they needed to be somewhere fast.
The low thrum of the fusion reactor inside the light ‘Mech purred through her spine as Power throttled up to a slow walk, wary of ambush. Her Raven, designed for recon work, was small and lithe, and with its Guardian ECM Suite blocking enemy sensors she felt like a ghost haunting the graveyard of the colony. Her own sensors still registered blank except for the distant blips of the rest of Viper lance, spread out throughout the forest and mountains surrounding the colony. As she watched Viper One, Captain Donaldson, move towards another small outpost of prefabs half a klick away, her map flickered and her sensors went dead. “Hold up. This is Viper Three, I’m experiencing some sensor trouble. Is anyone else getting this?” All that answered was the hiss of static through her comms, and a chill rushed through her. She’d just entered into an enemy’s ‘Mech’s ECM bubble.
Her hand immediately went towards her console, to switch her ECM from disrupt to counter, but her finger hovered over the button uncertainly. If she was being disrupted by enemy ECM, then they were being disrupted by her as well, and if she switched over to counter she’d block out their interference, but she’d be revealed as well. “This is why I hate working alone,” she muttered, and returned her grip to the ‘Mech’s weapons controls.
Power backed her ‘Mech up and tucked herself behind one of the taller prefabs, out of the line of sight of anything coming up the narrow draw between the mountains that led to the village. The Raven was the newest, most technologically advanced ‘Mech in the Inner Sphere, more than capable of hunting down and destroying any other recon ‘Mechs it came across, but it was also small, built for speed, not combat, and Power was playing it safe. Whoever was broadcasting that jamming signal might not be alone. She triggered her ‘Mech’s shutdown sequence, and the reactor beneath her hummed pitifully for a moment before powering down. All at once the Raven settled down, its joints locking to stabilize it now that no power was going to the gyro which normally kept the birdlike ‘Mech’s balance.
Battlemech sensors were calibrated to identify the heat and energy output of fusion reactors, and with hers turned off, Power’s Raven would be even more invisible to enemy sensors than while her ECM was on. Not that any of that would be any good if someone spotted the twelve meter tall ‘Mech with their own eyeballs, or if the enemy was equipped with the new Beagle Active Probe system, which could detect even shut down Battlemechs with advanced magnetometers and a bunch of other technology that was way above Power’s head. Shut down like this, her Raven would be defenseless if it was spotted, and the sweat running down her brow had nothing to do with weapons heat leaking into the cockpit, like it normally did.
Power sat quietly, knuckles white on the armrests of the command couch, waiting for what seemed like hours, but by her chonometers was only a few minutes. Her lance should have come to investigate once her IFF fell off of sensors, but no one had come. Whatever was coming, she was going to be facing it alone. Convinced that the enemy must have passed the village without even knowing it was there, hidden as it was away from the main roads in the mountains, Power was just about to restart her ‘Mech when the ground trembled beneath her. It was subtle, and she wouldn’t have felt it if her reactor had been online.
The rumble came again, more powerful this time, and as it continued she recognized it as the heavy footfalls of another ‘Mech, possibly several of them, and they were big. A lump formed in her throat and she sank down into her command couch as the small earthquakes caused by the footfalls of war machines that weighed dozens of tons shook dust from the prefab next to her, scattering particles across her canopy. Then it came into view, easily twice the height of her own ‘Mech and more than three times the mass, covered from head to toe in nearly impenetrable armor and bristling with weapons, the Atlas stomped into the village.
The skull shaped death’s head of the cockpit scanned the outpost, crimson eyes searching, and Power had to will herself not to panic. The Atlas was the largest, most devastating Battlemech ever built by man, and it towered over battlefields like some god of death, annihilating everything in its wake. Just one shot from any of its myriad of weapons could have vaporized the Raven in a single volley. A moment later another ‘Mech came into view, this one smaller, though still much larger than Power’s own ‘Mech, with a wide profile and blunt fists at the ends of its arms, a Cataphract. Power could hear more ‘Mechs moving through the village, though she couldn’t see them, and she knew she was surrounded by a heavy lance, over 300 tons of armored, weaponized war machines against the paltry 35 tons of her Raven.
The Atlas, tall as it was, and as close as it was, missed spotting the Raven down near its ankles, and its bulk hid the light ‘Mech from the rest of the lance. If Power got lucky they might just pass her by and she could make a run for it. Her Raven was much faster than the heavy ‘Mechs, and given a decent head start she could easily get away, but she needed the opportunity.
Her finger trembled over the button that would restart the reactor, and she tensed for the moment where she could make a break for it, then a shadow fell over her cockpit. A Catapult came around the corner of the prefab and turned to look right at her. Power could see the pilot in the larger ‘Mech’s cockpit tense as he saw her, and she jammed her thumb onto the start button and slammed the throttle forward hard. It took a moment for the reactor to come online, but the Catapult seemed just as startled by her as she was by him, which gave her the precious seconds she needed to get moving. She squeezed the trigger on her weapons, sending a volley of SRMs into the Catapult‘s cockpit at point blank range, obliterating it in a shower of armored glass and a plume of fire that toppled the larger ‘Mech onto its back. The Atlas and Cataphract turned, but Power’s Raven was already bolting through the prefab buildings as she screamed into her comms, “Enemy contact, Charlie Four! Heavy lance, at least one Atlas! Viper Three requesting immediate assistance!”
A 300lb shell from the Atlas‘s autocannon suddenly rocketed past her cockpit from behind so close the wake of its passing cracked her canopy and nearly bowled her ‘Mech over, then struck one of the prefabs. The prefab ceased to exist almost immediately, becoming nothing more than a cloud of flying debris that scored the Raven‘s armor as Power sprinted through it. When she cleared the wreckage of the building Power immediately reversed throttle. She was face to face with the wide, squat form of an 80 ton Awesome, the fourth member of the heavy lance that had come into the city. The assault ‘Mech spun its torso around to face her, bringing all three of its PPCs to bear. Power watched in horror while a blue glow began to grow deep within the weapons as they built a charge, then three thundering blasts of man made lightning tore into her Raven.
To be continued…