Frontier Date 54.314
After listening to the initial exchange of ideas, Jameson brings up an old data file on the view screen of the conference and a wave of nostalgia sweeps through the original members of the BHG. http://www.technomage.com.au/BlackHandGang/Tactical/Volturnus/volturnus.html
"I agree with all of you." Director Jameson announces. "But I do not think we can achieve them all in one operation. I propose the following plan of action. Late this afternoon we will strip most of the Frontier forces from all the gates and bring up the other Star Law, UPF and megacorp forces to launch an attack, or perhaps several attacks on the mechanon rally points between our wall and the enemy barricade. With one of these attacks we attach the explorers with an elite team to punch through the mechanon barricade and head north." Jameson uses a laser pointer to indicate along the canal running from Volkos to Mawson's Rest.
"Follow the west bank of the canal until you reach the lake and cross to Mawson's Rest where there is a BHG jetcopter and some hover vehicles. Then use Mawson's Rest as a jump off and rally point. Take the jetcopter to Brucebane and get the second jetcopter, that will give us tactical air superiority over Volkos in under 40 hours. It may be worth trying to bring up the other three explorers from Brucebane as well, but that will take longer and I don't know how much time we have. Once we have the jetcopters we will have a better idea of what the mechanons are up to outside these walls and we will also have a limited capacity to go actually on the offensive." James turns to Raid and Con. "You will want at least one other pilot tech in your patrol gentlemen but I would recommend you take four pilots, two in each explorer. If you loose one vehicle, you will still be able to complete your mission with one explorer and bring back both jetcopters."
Jameson then turns to the eorna ambassador. "We will need to use your forces to operate the heavy weapons at the gates and keep up the appearance of our defences along the wall. We might as well bring up all the native forces as well, to be additional eyes and also be seen all along the walls." Turning back to Con and Raid, Jameson continues his string of orders. "We will send the Ul-Mor cavalry detachment with the explorers as well, if this is our only throw of the dice, let's make it count. Best case scenario, we could come out of this with two explorers, two jetcopters, a hover car and hovercycle and possibly even another three explorers from Brucebane, time permitting. With enough vehicles we can throw in a decent size counter attack at the Mechanon Mounds and try to chop off their reinforcements at the source. Worst case scenario, we don't get through, their build up is disrupted and maybe we buy ourselves a few more days to work out what this virus is."
"I do not believe it is a virus." The eorna ambassador replies.
"Some of our technicians have been studying Mr Array's data and have begun their own examination of the subjects. We believe that the mechanons may have just discovered/realized/understood the concept of 'freedom'"
"Yes," the ambassador continues. "These 'infected' mechanons have manifested their interpretation of the concept through means of violence toward their perceived enslavers. In this case it is biological life forms not originating on Volturnus. That is not an accurate description but the best we can offer to date. This conclusion is yet to be verified as we are still studying and examining the data but that is the current thinking of our own robotics technicians."
"The mechanons are fighting to be free?"
"Well I'm fighting to live!" Exclaims Mack O'Malley. "And I'm gonna take down as many of them metal assed, sons of bitches as I can. Locked and loaded and ready to rock and roll." The Mohawk wearing warrior declares, Borovski beside him nodding in agreement.
"Yeah. What he said!" Borovski jabs a pseudothumb at O'Malley.
"Six passengers, including driver in each explorer." Jameson finishes outlining his plan. "Who do you want with you?" He asks Raid and Con.
Immediately Kane steps forward and says,
"I will volunteer to accompany you sirs." Gleep also volunteers to go.
"I hate sitting here doing nothing!"
"OK, I'll take Gleep, Kane and two of the pilots from amongst the UPF/Star Law/Mega Corp contingent. Any one else wants to come with?" Con says
"I'll take whoever will ride with me." Raid says. As team members step forward Doog feels he is useless on this mission, he has no tech skill at all. OMAC spots the dejected looking dral and grabs him by the harness. Lifting the dral up bodily by the harness O'Malley cries out.
"Don't be sad little one, you won't miss out on all the fun." The human warrior turns to Con and winks, "Doog's volunteering too! He can drive one of the explorers." O'Malley suggests
"Never let it be said the drals didn't step up when it counts." Gloo announces as he too volunteers for the mission. "I'll ride with Gloo and Borovski. You wanna bounce on our ride Gleep?" Gloo asks the fourth dralasite member of the BHG. "Drals R Us eh?" At this last comment all four dralasites burst out in fits of giggles.
"I'm in too." Siu-Ling includes herself. "Are you coming sister?" Siu-Ling asks Alyson. "Someone's gotta keep an eye on these boys." The sniper chides her team mates. Alyson nods that she would like to go as well.
"I am considering hitting three of the mechanon rally points in strength using all the modern armed troops available," Jameson sketches out a basic plan. "With the pair of explorers going in with one of these groups. So Raid is driving one explorer and Doog is driving the second explorer with O'Malley manning the rocket launcher in Doog's vehicle and Borovski, Gleep and Gloo in the back. xZot will join Doog's team to give them two techs, everyone else is with Raid.
When Gleep offers man the rocket launcher, O'Malley just shakes his head. "Not this time buddy, you just stand by with the other rocket." OMAC indicates the last of the ammunition for his launcher.
Looking at his team and nodding his head in the affirmative, "Yep. Everyone I would want to be with in a situation like this. Let's swing by and pick up Alyson and begin to formulate a game plan". Con announces. "I am going to ride in the explorer with Doog and O"Malley. This way if anything should happen the Command Team is not in one vehicle." With Con clambering into the second explorer, Gloo decides to give up his seat and instead joins Raid's crew.
As Con and Raid square away the particulars of the break out mission, Doog slips into the headquarters building. Commandeering a computer he pulls maps of the route he'll have to drive and a check list on operating an explorer. He scans the checklist and tucks it away in his satchel before jogging to the explorer with the map in hand.
As the team is loading up he takes a second glance at the check list under cover of consulting the map. Unfortunately, O'Malley catches him so Doog moulds a smirk before tossing the check list out the window.
"Who will man the recoilless rifle mounted up above me? Someone with projectile skill should man it and another person can hand up rounds from the ammo box as a helpers."
"I'm on it boss!" Gloo declares as he crawls into the top mounted turret of the explorer and checks the recoilless rifle is loaded and ready for action. Raid gets his albedo screen up and running, knowing the mechanons may send a few beams toward his windshield, and his laser pistol ready to fire out his driver side window. "Can we drive side by side or only in single file on this road? Also, be ready to blow up any barricades that get in our way."
"I'm calling everyone riding in my explorer Blue Team." Raid says, yelling if his chronocom does not work. "The other explorer, I think Con is moving into that one, will be Red Team."
"Yes, I am going to the other explorer" says Con. "Red Team designation confirmed." Acknowledges Con as he steps into the explorer.
As Alyson is waiting on word from HQ at her gate when she hears engine noise coming closer to get gate. She tells her second in command to take over. She climbs down and waits for the explorers to get close. As soon as Raid stops she waits for the main door to open and climbs aboard. Swinging the vehicle around, Raid leads the pair of explorers and their screen of Ul-Mor cavalry, north toward the main gate as dusk falls on Volturnus.
From each of the three largest gates through the old city wall, concentrations of Frontier troops gaze up toward the eorna embassy. On Jameson's instruction a kurabanda glider takes off from the roof of the embassy, the pilot carrying a flaming torch. Three quick spirals around the top of the tower is the signal for all three columns of modern armed troops to launch their counter attack. As the third circuit of the embassy is completed by the signal glider, three columns of a hundred troops march out through the gates and close on their targets, the nearest of the mechanon rally points. Behind the centre column, Raid and Doog drive their explorers north, a file of Ul-Mor riders stretched out along each flank.
Within ten minutes each assault group is deploying in the streets and roadways near their intended targets, forward scouts reporting that the mechanons seem to be unaware of their movements for the moment. As each of the assault groups deploys around their target, UPF and Star Law officers take charge of the attack by ordering volleys of fire to sweep the unsuspecting mechanon forces. Caught unprepared for the night attack, the mechanon civilians panic run in every direction as the Frontier forces press home their advantage of surprise.
Each of the targeted enemy forces are attacked from at least three different directions and the sheer volume of fire directed at them in the first 30 seconds is enough to disable or destroy half of the mechanons gathered at the rally points. Some of the mechanon's charge toward the defenders of Volkos and some hand to hand combat ensues but casualties to the attackers are light as many of the mechanons manage to escape the battle, fleeing away from the old city toward the mechanon barricades.
Leading the breakout force behind the central assault column, Raid carefully guides his explorer forward and when Ranger Horatio gives the open fire command, Gloo joins the assault, lobbing a shell from the recoilless rifle into the centre of the mechanon mob. The mechanon mob disintegrates in front of the withering volleys of fire and Raid guns the engine of his explorer, crashing straight down the middle of the road, Doog staying as close behind as he can in the second explorer. From the windows and doors of both explorers, Con and Raid's team open fire with another burst of fire as the explorers slam right through the scattered crowd. Mechanons drop from laser fire and are bowled over by explorers as the Ul-Mor cavalry ride down other fleeing mechanons.
Thirty seconds later, the Black Hand Gang are careening along the streets of Volkos heading toward the mechanon barricade. Rounding a corner, Raid spots the mechanon barricade 100 meters ahead. He slows his vehicle and moves over to the left, allowing Doog to bring his explorer up alongside Raid.
"We will fire both heavy weapons at the barricade in the middle of the road and charge." Con orders his gunners. "OMAC, keep firing until you are out of ammo then Doog, you slip in behind Raid. Concentrate all your fire at the centre of the road and we will smash through there." Both drivers gun the engines of their ATV's as the gunners take aim.
Boom! The recoilless rifle echoes. Whooosh! The rocket launcher agrees.
Crack! Whump! Both projectiles slam into the mechanon barricade as the explorers lurch forward, picking up speed.
Boom! Gloo fires another recoilless shell into the barricade, right on target.
Whoosh! Boom! Both heavy weapons fire again.
"Damn!" Gloo announces his off target shell as OMAC's second rocket slams into the barricade again. Smoke and flames leap into the sky as debris is flung across the street, the barricade is shattered and breached. Gloo manages to slam one more shell into the heavy rifle and fire before Raid throws the explorer through the ruins of the makeshift barrier. Bouncing off wreckage and rattling over the cratered roadway, Raid guides the BHG through the surprised mechanon's barrier and into the outer suburbs. Doog's passengers are equally battered around by their ride through the destroyed barricade but overall the team remain largely unharmed.
The sound of fighting quickly dies away behind them as Raid and Doog drive north, out of Volkos and into the desert to travel parallel with the canal north to Mawson's Rest. Less than two hours later the explorers arrive at the edge of the lake and manoeuvre their amphibious vehicles down the shore of the lake where they can swing across the mouth of the canal and land on the opposite side only a few kilometres from their base at Mawson's Rest. Three hours after crashing through the barricades the BHG arrive at their rather run down base on the southern shore of the lake. Raid, xZot, Gleep and Kane climb into the team's jetcopter garaged here and half an hour later they are in the air and heading for Brucebane and the rest of their vehicles.
While Raid takes the first group of passengers with him to Brucebane, Con sits down with a map and takes stock of their situation, weighing up their options from here.
"Do we wait and bring down the other explorers from Brucebane, or do we push forward straight away with a pair of jetcopters and whatever else we can scrape together?" He muses aloud.
Frontier Date 54.315
Con looks up from the map and calls Raid over to join him after he returns from the first run up to Brucebane.
"Raid! What do you think the Warrior Caste is doing during the course of the day? If they patrol the barricades at night, they've got to be recharging, don't ya think? I'm thinking we get these birds to run in a sort of stealth mode, we might be able to do some aerial recon, take some photos and see what the warrior caste is up do for sure during the nights and days. The civilian 'bots should not be a problem. I propose we just make a run on the Mech's home turf. If we can catch the warriors with their metallic pants down we might be able to get the jump on them and maybe do severe damage to their command and control. Or maybe find out what might be interfering with them. Or, if our ambassador is correct, get them to come to the bargaining table peacefully. What do you think?"
"A stealthy recon mission can't hurt," Raid replies, "but I really agree that we need to get them to the bargaining table. It may be just as simple as granting them their freedom. If we can just figure out what freedom means to them and how to grant it. Easier said than done." Raid replies.
"Provided that it is freedom they want, we can have our ambassador reach out to their's and find out. I still think there is something else more sinister behind it." Con worries.
"I suggest we try to bring back as many explosives as we can." Gleep says. "We will be able to air drop bombs from above then get out. I am not sure bringing back more explorers is helpful, it would take too long to get them and I am not sure we have that much time to help defend the next attack."
"There are no explosives left at Brucebane." Gloo informs his dral comrade. "The only things of value there now are our remaining vehicles. Three more explorers."
"Oh." Gleep responds glumly. The Alyson asks,
"While the copters are doing recon should we try to get the other vehicles back to the city? Or do you think if we find what we are looking for, we hit them. Maybe, just maybe we could have the attackers turn tail on us?" She speculates "Hope the city fighters could follow up and hit them from behind?"
"Whatever plans to launch a counter attack against the Mechanons," xZot allows, "We will only be able to transport people in the BHG vehicles. The three explorers still at Brucebane will add substantial numbers to any forces we can muster." The former active leader of the BHG suggests. I could plot a possible route and calculate the travel time for the explorers to return from Brucebane to Mawson's Rest if you want?"
"I didn't think there even was a usable ground route from Brucebane to Mawson's Rest." Doog wonders. "Isn't that a lot of harsh wilderness and rough terrain, not to mention huge lakes and swamps? We may want to stick with the jetcopters unless the Eorna know a viable ground route for the explorers."
"Better stick your head back in the viewscreens." O'Malley laughs at the dral. "We've done that run by land and by air if I recall correctly. Some parts of this planet we know better than any eorna, that's for sure!"
"Oooh Rah!" Borovski responds. "Bought and paid for with BHG blood!"
As O'Malley and Borovski acquaint Doog, Alyson and Kane with early BHG history and their treks across Volturnus, xZot approaches Raid and Con.
"Gentlemen, if I may make suggestion. Take myself and two volunteers on a run up to Brucebane and we will bring the explorers back to Mawson's Rest. You can take the rest of the team back to Volkos to help them defend against next assault. If we can fight off another attack in the city, that might give us a few more days to plan a counter attack. After being on the defensive for so long, we will have the advantage of surprise if we can hit back at their C-in-C!"
Raid and Con both nod at their former commander's plan. It fits in with the BHG's offensive mentality. The pair share a look and nod.
"OK," Raid decides. "I will take xZot, Crisbel and Borovski up to Brucebane." Raid looks at xZot. "Bring back all three of the explorers to Mawson's Rest." Raid turns back to Con. "See if you can figure a way to get the hover car and hover cycle across the canal with the explorers before we leave for Volkos. We can leave the Ul-Mor riders here to guard the vehicle while we are gone."
Soon after, Raid leaves with his three passengers on a last trip to Brucebane while Con and his charges work on assembling a raft to assist in transporting the hover car across the canal between their explorers. "The hovercycle should fit in the back of one of the explorers, we can take it over now while we build the raft." Con decides and the task is completed soon after Raid arrives back from his trip to Brucebane.
When the hovercar is successfully towed across the canal to join the cycle, the explorers are parked alongside and the BHG clamber aboard their jetcopters. Raid takes off first, leading Gleep, who is piloting the second machine, south toward Volkos. In less than an hour, both aircraft are hovering above the park inside the old city walls of Volkos amid a cloud of leaves and debris as they land safely near the administration block.
Dark figures race out from the shadows of the buildings as the pair of jetcopters come down in the dying light of the day. The last few meters to touch down and then BHG are greeted by the now familiar visage of the local UPF commander as the vrusk major escorts them quickly back inside the admin compound.
"You couldn't have timed that any better!" Major Ch'sst H'sstin chitters excitedly. "They have been building up numbers rapidly since our raid this morning."
"I think they have changed tactics." Star Law Commander Oolag adds to the equation. "They have definitely increased their rate of reinforcements and small groups of them are already being spotted near several gates." The dralasite Star Law officer continues. "The pressure is definitely building up for something."
"What if they try a night attack?" Major H'sstin asks. "They could overrun the gates."
"Not if we're ready for it." Con states firmly, sensing a growing uncertainty among the Volkos command staff. "Let's get runners up to the gates immediately. Keep your eyes peeled for a night attack. Fall back to the second line of defences ASAP if they launch a night attack. I don't want any of our people being cut off out there at night." Con wheels around and addresses the assembled BHG members.
"Gate commanders, you have your orders. Get to your posts." half the BHG disappear through the door they just entered and disperse to their posts.
"O'Malley, Borovski and Crisbel." Con continues. "Get to the second line of defences and take command of the redoubts." The trio of experienced warriors troop out of the command centre as Con turns to Raid.
"I'm going up to the front gate and see for myself, you co-ordinate from here." Con snaps off a salute to his co-commander. Raid returns the salute, more for the benefit of the UPF and Star Law staff than anything else and watches Con march out the door.
"Give 'em hell." Raid calls after him and then turns back to the map of the city now displayed on the view screen and waits for the attack.
It doesn't come, at least not that night. After a night of stretched nerves and tension so thick it hangs like a fog over the defenders, the attack finally comes in with the grey dawn light of dawn.
Frontier Date 54.316
More than one defender sighed with relief at the sight of the advancing mechanon mob. At least now the waiting part was over, it was just down to the fighting and killing part now! But as the mechanon crowd continued to advance, a murmur began to rise up from the defenders as they realised the attacking force was much larger than the previous assault waves.
At one hundred meters the first aimed volley barely registered against the advancing wall of mechanons, a second aimed volley is equally fruitless. At fifty meters the combined firepower of the Volkos defenders is unleashed with the same deadly fury that repelled the previous attacks. But this time the volleys of laser fire barely drop one in ten of the first assault wave.
Then sharp eyes at the gates spy the mechanon second wave approaching behind the mob of mechanon civilians. The second wave of mechanons are visibly larger than the previous attackers and these ones are armed. A volley of laser fire lashes out from the second wave of mechanon attackers. Most of the laser fire is high, going over the old city wall, some is low and tears into the rears ranks of the mechanon civilians and a very few even strike the top of the wall. But it is the mere presence of return mechanon fire that changes the tactical situation dramatically.
The BHG commanders of each gate know this is crunch time when they issue orders to their troops as the first mechanon wave approaches to within 25 meters of the wall. The eorna sentries patrolling the walls in between the gates stop to fire a desultory volley or two at the mechanons advancing enmass toward the wall. After a token of resistance, the eorna withdraw from the wall and begin retreating through the inner suburbs toward the three defensive redoubts.
Doog engulfed some dry rations on the run while jogging back to his gate. The food did little to revive his energy and stave off the feeling of exhaustion and doom. He hoped the jet copters were worth the effort because he was beat tired now! An Ul-Mor picket stopped him as he approached the secondary barricades that had been set up across the square from the gate. It cheered Doog to see the military snap and drill that Sgt Toome had drilled into the native troops in such a short time. The Ul-Mor directed Doog to the gate command post, set up in a building at the edge of the square.
"Well, Doog, how did your little jaunt in the country go?" Toome says while handing him a hot cup of jute.
"Tiring. Mmm what is this?"
"It's a edestekai drink with a little kick to it; takes the edge off and perks you up."
"Nice." Doog savoured the drink before saying, "Headquarters expects the mechies to attack in the morning."
"About what I expected. Their numbers are building and our troops are getting nervous."
"I don't thing that the attack will come till first light so lets assemble most of the troops in the square and I'll talk to them."
Twenty minutes later Doog stood on a barricade looking out at the mixed throng of Volturnian natives and corporate security troops. What could he say to them? His study of history gave him few ideas and what kept coming to mind was excerpts from holodramas, and bad ones at that. Don't lie, they'll smell a lie but they needed hope too. What could he do?
"Alright, its like this; the mechies are coming in the morning and their bringing their A game. Finally! I for one am tired of their light footing it with each probe of our gate and the fact that this won't be a probe says that they're starting to feel the pressure. So I say bring it!" Doog evinces his crowd. "Now, its going to be ugly and they will get over the walls in a number of places and we will even let them have this gate but they are gonna damn sure pay for this gate. We have a plan and we will stick to the plan. Our fall back will be as we have drilled. Our defensive arrangements are sound and we're going to be OK."
"Remember, no id ever won a war by dying for his cause, he won a war by making the other damn id die for his cause. That's what we're gonna do. If the mechies breach the gate we'll lure them into this here killing ground in this square. And if it looks like we'll be flanked we'll leap dral our forces down that avenue there killing mechies all the way."
At the mention of 'leap dral' an amused chitter and chirping went up from the Ul-Mor and Edestekai in memory of the demonstration that Doog had to stage to explain the child's game. With the laughter Doog judged that was the best time to end his speech. "That's all. Let's get aback to our positions and give them hell."
At the main gate, Con issues his tactical commands to his various section leaders.
"We want to get one or two volleys in before we consider retreating." Con gives instructions to continue to fire until he gives the order to retreat. He also has some troops move his gates' heavy weapons back to the second line of defence and suggests the other gate commanders to do the same via runners shortly before the dawn breaks.
On her gate, G1, Alyson sees the numbers of the advancing mechanons and knows this time the mechanons will break in. She says,
"Everyone take aim fire at 25 meters. Then pull back. We will let them come over the wall. Then we will try to pick them off as they come over. We will pull back slowly to the HQ if we can. I want RL to fire into that second group then off you go. You are our the only heavy weapon we have I want you set up somewhere on the ground and part of second line."
Kane looks over the sea of worried faces on the federation troops currently under his command. Damn. They're scared. All of them. But who wouldn't be under these circumstances? But its up to me now. It's up to me to reassure them. To make them believe we can survive this. Calling his people to gather, Kane does his best to try and reaffirm his faith in them.
"A man once said, "At some point Death smiles upon us all. All one can do when that time comes is smile back." Today may be the day for some of us to smile. But I won't be one of them!" Laughter erupts from the assemblage.
"Two weeks from now, I will be back on Port Loren, having a drink with my comrades at the Hole-in-the-Wall. Believe that you will be there as well, and it will be so. Hold this position! Stay with me and we will come through this! But if you should suddenly find yourself alone, sitting at a dirty table in a seedy looking bar, with no recollection of how you got there, do not be troubled. For you are already dead! And someone else will be picking up the drinking tab." More laughter erupts from the assemblage.
Seeing that his words are having a positive effect on the morale of the troops under his command, Kane issues his orders for the coming battle:
"We will in deploy in staggered defensive lines, using paired formations surrounding the border of our improvised gauntlet. By overlapping and concentrating our fire into it, we both increase the effectiveness of our kill zone and give ourselves a little additional breathing space for fire and fallback as needed. We fallback by leapfrogging, so those of us not moving are covering those that are. And for frak sakes, stay out of the way of our heavy weapons!
Sharpshooters, you are on permanent overwatch, with your priority kills being those mechs armed with modern weapons and explosives. Remember, "Friendly Fire... Isn't!" So men pick your targets carefully. Finally, those of use with grenades are to use them only when the enemy is clustered together. We must maximize our kills so use them sparingly."
"Men, do not believe for an instant that any who fall here today, will have died for nothing! Any sacrifices on our part made here today will be remembered heroically and their names spoken with honour for many years to come. Honour is the coin that pays our fare into Immortality. What we do in life, echoes through out eternity!"
"What we do in life, echoes through out eternity!" his troops repeatedly echo. At the sight of the advancing mechanon mob, Kane orders his men to stand ready and issues one more order to his men. "At my signal, unleash hell!"
Although he continues to work back in the command centre, Raid is ready to jump in a jetcopter at a moments notice.
"Let me know if anyone gets in a tight spot and needs immediate assistance." Are his parting words to his comrades from the Black Hand Gang as they dispersed to their commands at each gate. "I can reach you by air more quickly than anyone on the ground."
After his team mates have left for their posts, Raid asks whether or not the Mechanon ambassador left his contact number with anyone.
"I'd really like to talk with him right now." Raid announces. Soon afterward an eorna technician arrives with a hand held datapad ready to take down messages Raid has for the Mechanon ambassador.
"We have no remote communications," The eorna explains to Raid. "However I will carry your messages to the Mechanon embassy. As the messenger prepares to take down Raid's communiqué, the mechanon assault begins at the old city walls.
At Mack O'Malley's second line of defences at the north west corner of the biosocial sciences block, the tough veteran's first sign of the incoming assault is from the first of the eorna wall sentries as they filter back into his position with reports of the mechanons advancing, in force, all along the old wall. The increase in the volume of fire from the gates tells him the mechanons are almost at the wall. The tension now starts to build among his own troops.
At Siu-Ling's gate, the sniper opened fire as soon as the mechanons came into sight. After dropping four mechanons with her first four shots, Siu-Ling paused briefly to assess the performance of her troops. Again the first few volleys at long to medium range had little effect on the advancing mob but this time the increases volume of fire at shorter range was having less of an effect on the attacking columns. The enemy numbers being so great now, that the mechanons are able to reach the reach the wall in much greater numbers and begin building their pyramid formations.
"They're going to flank us." Siu-Ling decides. "Fall back!" She orders her troops. "Fall back to the next barricade." Siu-Ling shouts to her sub alterns. Unlike some of her fellow BHG members, Siu-Ling had opted not to build additional defensive works, preferring to have a clear line of retreat back to Gloo's position in the second line of defences. Calmly cradling her rifle in her arms, Siu-Ling marched to the centre of the square behind the gate, directing her troops to fall back in an orderly fashion. Occasionally, Siu-Ling would stop with half a dozen of her best shooters to fire several volleys at the pursuing mechanons but she was careful to keep her own troops as far away from the armed mechanon soldiers as possible.
As Gleep watches the mechanon assault drive in towards his meagre defenders he decides save as many of his troops as possible.
"Keep firing until they get to the wall, then fall back off the wall. We will give them another volley from the ground as they get to the top of the wall and then we fall back to the second line."
"Yes sir!" A young UPF 2nd Lieutenant agrees with Gleep. "If we can draw them into the street behind us we might be able to get in a few effect volleys as we fall back?" Gleep nods at the officers suggestion before adding.
"Make sure no-one gets left behind."
"Yes sir!" The two pip looey salutes and trots off to issues orders to his men.
The mechanon tide sweeps up to the wall, all around the perimeter simultaneously. In the lightly defended areas along the wall where the eorna patrolled, the mechanon pyramids rise up unopposed and mechanons begin to flood over the walls and into the city centre. Around the gate areas, where the larger concentrations of mechanons are gathered the fighting quickly becomes desperate as the defenders realise how easily they can be flanked and cut off on each side by the superior mechanon numbers.
For the first few moments of the battle, the defenders as able to cause serious casualties among the mechanon ranks as wave after wave are cut down by defensive fire. Again it is the flanks that are vulnerable as groups of mechanons concentrate on each side of a gate defensive area and press in their attacks along the walls.
The next two minutes are testament to the various defensive measures applied by each of the gate defenders. Siu-Ling is the first to report in to Raid on the progress of the assault when she leads her troops back across the park and into the Admin quarter.
"You better get the birds in the air before the LZ is overrun." Siu-Ling reports hurriedly to Raid. "We pulled back as soon as they hit us in numbers." She continued. "They will be here in a couple of minutes, with modern armed troops in support."
Raid races for the door and the makeshift landing zone where his jetcopter awaits, smiling and waving when he sees xZot racing for the second aircraft, parked alongside.
Gleep and his troops are the first to reach O'Malley's position as the fall back into the defences prepared by the veteran's troops. Barricades of just about anything that will stop a bullet or laser beam, block all six of the main arterial roads leading into O'Malley's position. Sited on top of several vehicles parked in the centre of the intersection, O'Malley perches behind a machine gun. A second gun beside him, is also manned by an equally tough looking UPF sergeant known universally as Gunny.
"Put your men on the barricades." O'Malley calls down to Gleep who nods and reports back.
"There's shitloads of them coming down that road right behind us!" To underscore Gleep's report, a volley of laser fire erupts from the other side of the barricade as 2nd Lt. Henderson's section fires off another delaying burst before leading his men over the barricade to join the defenders.
As Doog stumbled into the intersection at the north of the school of business he gazed back at the trail of destruction behind him. His troops had fought the mechanons and made them pay for every inch of their advance. He had unleashed all his counter measures, most being quite effective but he was still disappointed at the results of his ball bearings. "Not one of them even tripped!" He cursed softly and then chuckled quietly to himself at the incongruousness of his own reactions!
Doog calculated he had inflicted probably half as much damage again on this attack as the last one, but the numbers involved this time made that seem almost inconsequential. On several occasions he had wanted to stand and fight more determinedly for a piece of real estate but the continuous flanking ability of the enemy, through sheer weight of numbers, threaten to overwhelm him every time and he was forced to withdraw again and again. The other down side of fighting so stubbornly for Doog and his men was that the mechanon security forces were now also involved in the action. Doog's men were starting to take casualties from enemy fire, casualties he could no longer afford.
"OK. Let's fall back to O'Malley now." He decides, turning to Sgt Toome. "Pull everyone back now."
"Helter skelter!" Sgt Toome shouts to her command and the UPF and Star Law troopers, leap up and quickly fall back, covering the rapidly retreating native troops and frontier forces. Sgt. Toome drags Doog along as the exhausted dral struggles to keep pace with his long legged friend.
Alyson troops fall back tot the Admin quarter soon after Siu-Lings' arrival. Making sure her heavy weapon is sighted down the main approach from the gate, Alyson meets up with Siu-Ling. The women hug briefly at their safe re-union and Siu-Ling tells Alyson that Raid is in his jetcopter overhead, keeping track of the battle.
As Con's troops fall back into O'Malley's position he notes that Gleep and Doog have both made if safely back to the second line of defences. Their stories are similar to his. The mechanon's advanced in larger numbers and on a wider front than in previous assaults, sweeping around their flanks. Gleep managed to extract his command with only a few minor injures but Doog had a harder time of it, having to withdraw further and having put up a stiffer fight, they lost several men to enemy fire when the mechanon security forces came into play. Con almost lost an entire flank when he considered making stand at one point along his retreat until enemy mechanons were again spotted around his flanks.
"How are we looking now O'Malley?" Con asks up toward the post commander.
"I think they are gathering for a charge sir." O'Malley reports down from his post overlooking the barricade. "They are going to hit us from the north east, around to the west and the south. Those four roads." O'Malley indicates the four roads where he can see mechanon forces gathering. "The other two roads are clear for now."
Kane's forces respond to his speech like they have been fighting together as a unit for lifetime. For some it almost is! When the mechanon charge comes within 50 meters of the wall his men do indeed, unleash hell. They can't do it fast enough and as the mechanon body count mounts, so does their number of their assault pyramids.
The judicious use of grenades stalls the mechanon flanking movement long enough for Kane to get his men down from the wall where their next concentrated volley rips into the mechanons now gathered on the top of the wall. Pulling all his men into a defensive arc around his heavy weapon, Kane slowly withdraws down the road toward Gloo's barricade, taunting the mechanons by allowing their pursuit to get within meters of his line in the street before unleashing devastating volley after volley. Kane's men leave a trail of dead mechanons in their wake but like Doog's men, they soon come into contact with mechanon security forces and begin taking casualties of their own.
Ten minutes after the mechanon assault begins and the defenders of Volkos have been driven off their outer perimeter and back to their second line of defences. In the sky above, Raid circles the city centre in his jetcopter as he watches the mechanons gather for their next move. It doesn't take long. As the mechanon forces filter through the city the run up against the second line of defences and begin to encircle those. Raid sees the mechanons beginning to concentrate around O'Malley's position and decides to warn his team mates of the impending attack. He jots down a quick note, ties a message streamer to the dispatch case and flies over O'Malley's position, tossing the note out the window as he swoops low. One of O'Malley's defenders retrieves the message pouch for Con who reads the note to his gathered advisors.
"Get out as many as you can. Head for Gloo." The message reads.
"Not without a fight first." O'Malley declares. "I ain't ready to run yet!" Con nods at O'Malley.
"Alright, we fight. But when they look like they are about to breach us anywhere, we fall back to Gloo in the south east.
The mechanons don't leave Con and his people wondering very long and when they come, they hit all four barricades at once. A wave of mechanons sweeps down each road toward the presented laser rifles of UPF, Star Law and the other frontiersmen. At one hundred meters the better marksmen begin snapping off aimed shots at the front ranks while the heavy weapons from the gates are also added to the mix. Controlled bursts of machine gun fire from O'Malley and the Gunny begin raking the front ranks of the charge and mechanons start falling to the ground.
At fifty meters the barricade seemingly explodes with the first outgoing volleys crashing into the advancing mechanons, sweeping them down like holopins. Still they come. The front ranks of the mechanon advance reach the barricade and attempt to scale the barricade, where they come face to face with edestekai pikemen and Ul-Mor spearmen, who desperately fight to keep the mechanons at bay while the megacorp security forces and their regular force allies continue to fire into the mechanons at point blank range.
Con and several BHG members use grenades to break up the mechanon attack, lobbing their missiles into the packed mechanons on the other side of the barricade. After several minutes of fierce fighting the first mechanon assault is driven off, not without loss. Half a dozen native troops and as many more frontier troops as killed in the engagement and as many more are injured in the melee.
"They only threw in the peasants that time." Con observes after the battle
"What if they throw in security forces?" Gleep asks worriedly.
"They won't need to." O'Malley answers his friend
"Why?" Asks Gleep
"We've used up about half our ammo." 2nd Lt Henderson reports
"That's why." O'Malley agrees "Me and Gunny can probably break another charge if we let 'em get up close. But that's it for the machine guns as well. We've got 'em rigged to blow when we bug out." O'Malley reports to Con. "But you better make sure none of our people are around when it does." He warns Con.
Con quickly decides the position is no longer tenable and orders the withdrawal of all the native troops to the Admin quarter immediately, along with the other heavy weapons.
"We will man each of those four barricades with a section." Con indicates the front along which the mechanons last assaulted. "When they come in again, we fire a couple of volleys and scram, no drals with the covering group, we are gonna need the speed. Leave the rest for O'Malley and the Gunny to sort out."
No sooner has Con's group dispersed than word comes from the barricade the mechanons are advancing again. The native troops and heavy weapons are rushed out of the barricades as the mechanon's second wave attacks down the four roads again. This time their ranks are interspersed with security mechanons, bigger than their civilian counterparts and carrying laser rifles.
Con's rearguard fire several volleys of laser fire at the mechanons without slowing them. The security forces begin returning fire at the defenders when they close to fifty meters but with no result. Con lets the mechanon advance get to twenty meters before he signals the retreat.
The Star Law and UPF troops turn and race for the exit to the south east as the mechanons reach the barricades and begin to climb. As the mechanons are silhouetted coming over the barricade O'Malley and the Gunny open fire with their machine guns. The front ranks of the charge are decimated by the cruel fire. Heedless of losses the mechanons continue to advance into the face of the onslaught as one by one they are cut down for the next thirty seconds. Then nothing as both machine guns empty their belts of ammunition.
By the time the last of the machine ammunition is expended, Con and his rearguard have escaped the barricades and falling back to Gloo's position. Behind them, laser and small arms fire continues as O'Malley and the Gunny continue to taunt the mechanon's. When Con and his friends reach Gloo's position he is glad to see Kane is also safe and well, although his ranks have also been thinned by their determined defence of the gate.
"They haven't really hit this barricade yet." Gloo reports when Con arrives. "Just a few probes so far."
"No." Con replies. "I think they wanted to try and cut off O'Malley's team."
"Where is O'Malley?" Gloo asks
"He said something about a BBQ for the mechanon's." Con answer's cryptically. An explosion from back towards O'Malley's position is right on cue as the man himself is spotted running down the road to Gloo's barricade.
"Wooo Hooooo!" O'Malley screams as he races down the road to the safety of his friends. "Worked like a charm." O'Malley reports to Con as soon as he calms down and catches his breath. "We suckered in some of their security troops and took 'em out with booby traps. They will think twice about wanting to get up close and personal."
"At what cost?" Con asks
"Well the Gunny didn't make it." O'Malley replies grimly. "But he took a few of them bastards with him! You would've seen the bang from here. You can scratch the machine guns as well, they were both booby trapped to go off together.
Con thinks about the current tactical situation in light of the loss of O'Malley's position and decides to pull the remaining barricades in and concentrate all their forces back in the Admin quarter.
"If we fall back to there now, we don't have to worry about anyone being cut off or surrounded. We will all be surrounded together!" He smiles.
Leaving spotters at the barricades, the BHG gather in all their troops to the Admin quarter and man the final lines of defence. Con sends out a clearing patrol into the park to allow Raid and xZot to land. When the aircraft are both on the ground Con and Raid quickly call an Orders Group where they weigh up their options for the end game.
Doog made his way among his troops, checking their positions and ammo and doing his best to boost moral. As he moved among the barricades he encountered Sgt. Toome doing the same coming the other way. They stopped and smiled at each other for a moment. Suddenly, Doog held out a pod to shake her hand; it seemed to him they had never shaken hands because any time they should have she had punched him in the shoulder. A fond light came into her eyes like that of an older sister for a kid brother and she shook his pod with a surprisingly gentle squeeze from such a rough soldier.
"I'll make my stand among our natives but I just wanted to say that if.. well you.."
"Can that shit Doog, your buying the first round of drinks afterward," interrupted Toome before punching him in the shoulder again. He nodded and left the rest unsaid; she knew, they both knew and no need to blubber awkward sentiments. Turning around he bellowed to the troops,
"You heard the Sgt. when were done kicking the mechies asses I'm buying the first round of drinks and Toomes is buying the second!" A hearty cheer went up from the troops though Doog's innate dralasite ability to detect lies sensed that though some of the frontier troops cheered like they really thought they were getting free drinks the cheer was a lie. Chances were that many or all of them may not make it but they were determined to slug it out anyway. Well so be it, he had heard once that bravery wasn't the absence of fear but simply carrying on despite the fear.
Doog arrived at the command centre wondering if they could keep going like they were. Walking up to Raid he says, "Captain, can we keep this up? Ammo is running low. If you ask me, we should put an exoskeleton on OMAC and have him beat the shit out of the mechanon ambassador till he tells us everything he knows, cause it aint going to take much longer till we're down to throwing rocks!" Doog finishes blowing steam and flops in a chair. He knows that they can't attack the ambassador but after today he'd like to. After a few seconds in the chair he spies a carafe on a sideboard and stalks over to pour a drink while the other BHG members arrive. After pouring down the drink Doog turns to Raid and says,
"Sorry commander, I know we can't torture the ambassador least of all cause he probably doesn't feel pain but, but... There just has to be something we can do to inflict 'pain' on the mechanons and drive them to the negotiation table. You know my read on them is that in the past their society has been a strict top down control and if the regular civilian mechies are rioting over the concept of freedom then why the hell do they attack us and not their leaders? Is it possible that the mechanon government has manipulated the masses to attack us to divert them from rebelling against their own government? I rather doubt we can do this but what if we just pulled all biological life out of Volturnus? What then for the mechies? It wont solve their problem. The 'freedom virus' will still exist."
As the group consider Doog's question, Alyson suggests another tactic as she asks,
"OK what about using the water? We could set up one more line at the waters edge to see how many we can get out of here before they over run us. Just hope that it is true they don't like water."
"Doog and Ally may be on to something" says Con as he ponders what the two newest members of the BHG are saying. "When I was in the orphanage I once got a 'time out' for dropping a water balloon out of an upper window and onto the head of the orphanage's benefactor, Guy Grouchy!" Con thinks for a moment. "I doubt we have balloons around here, but what about fire hoses? We can pump from the lake and turn the hoses on the tin cans like Ally is thinking. That should piss them off for a while, that might give us some time to make sure WE catch these machines in an end game that will rethink about how to go about gaining freedom. We also need to target that something that they hold dear. Their Mounds, their rechargers, their central computer. Anything that we can use against them, something that will want them to come to the bargaining table out of fear of losing something tactically important to them! Any ideas?"
"Sir, using water cannons in crowd control actions has been a tactic use in policing action on human worlds for some years now. I again suggest using Volkos Fire Fighting Vehicles as mobile water cannons against the Mechs in the next engagement." says Kane to Commander Con. "Besides using their fire trucks, perhaps there may be a water dispersion aircraft or two that could be used to make a bombing run on the main Mech assault force."
"Kane, while we are here, let us find out the number of fire engines and fire fighting copters we have in Volkos." Con affirms, "Also, we need to find out the number of pumps we have available for when we have to start tapping the sea."
"We still have the copter right?" Ally asks, "At least you can fly over them." Con smiles and replies to Ally and Kane.
"After we get our numbers, Kane and I will take a little site seeing tour via jet copter to select some targets to drop some water on."
As the BHG bounce around ideas in their meeting the eorna ambassador enters the discussion.
"Whilst your ideas about using water as a weapon may have some merit, I should point out that the mechanon technology is largely crystal based, much like our own. As a result you may find they are not as vulnerable to corrosion or immersion as standard Frontier robots may be." The ambassador takes in the glum response to his information before continuing. "You should also know that we have very little in the way of emergency fire fighting equipment. It's not an issue we have had much interest or exposure too in the past."
The ambassador pauses before going on. "I do have some good news for you though, we do appear to have made another break through in our mechanon research." He continues, perking the interest of Con, Raid and their troops. "The source of disruptions to our communications has been positively identified. After much investigation we discovered that the mechanons appear to be using the crystalline structure of the planet itself to channel their own signals. The source of these signals is indeed the Mechanon Mounds complex."
"If you can find some way to neutralise this interference we could regain control of our communications both on the planet and off-world."
Outside the meeting, the various forces defending the Admin quarter continue to dig in, preparing for the next mechanon assault. Barricades are piled higher, loopholes in building walls are cut and access ways for moving troops, supplies and wounded are established within the ever shrinking perimeter.
"Do we have any aerial recon photos of the Mechanon Mound area? If not I'm going to get a jet-copter and we are going to do a fly over. I want to see what's there before we go poking around in there." Con asks.
"Let's see what we have attached to the mission diary records." Jameson answers as he begins searching through the team's old logs.
"It looks like we'll be taking off with the jet copters, but I feel I should point out that the current landing pad is the park and that is a failure point just asking the for the mechanons to strike at." Doog voices his immediate concern. "We should get a building engineer and a crew working on prepping the roofs of two buildings for landing pads, lest we loose the copters altogether or be unable to land after this mission.
"I can settle that issue immediately." Jameson interjects. "I am sending a section of UPF troopers out with the jetcopters to secure a vehicle laager outside the city. We will keep the jetcopters in the air as much as possible to avoid losing them in a ground action." Jameson nods for Doog to continue.
"Secondly, in my review of the historic record I remember reading that the primitive yernoids, who inhabit the area around the Mechanon Mounds, can be aggressive. We may want to bring along a small squad of Ul-Mor or Edestekai to guard the grounded copters because I for one would hate to have to walk back to Volkos."
"We already have the Ul-Mor riders guarding the vehicles outside the city now." Con reminds the dral. "Plus we also now have the UPF troops Jameson has ordered out." Now Doog nods, happy that his suggestions are being take on board.
"Thirdly, the historic record indicates that the Mechanon Mounds were originally part of the eorna planetary defences. Is there a surviving map of it for us to reference, however out of date it may be, and did the mounds possess any anti air defences that we should worry about?"
"All we have is this." Jameson flicks up an old file map of the BHG's original mapping chart from their one and only expedition to the home of the Mechanons. "Not much to go on really." He grimaces. http://www.technomage.com.au/BlackHandGang/Tactical/Volturnus/Mechanon_Mounds/mechanon_mounds.html
"I knew we'd have to go back there to the mounds sooner or later. This mission is our top priority now." Raid decides on sending the following questions to the Mechanon diplomat. "What does freedom mean to a mechanon? How can we give them that freedom? How can we end the fighting?" Raid proposes his questions to the eorna messenger who nods and disappears from the operations room, datapad in hand.
"I don't think we have room in the jetcopters for an extra squad." Raid wonders as he starts making a flight plan for the proposed mission.
"We will ferry the UPF troopers out to the vehicles now and the BHG can follow after the briefing." Jameson explains to Raid. "This mission is a go as of right now."
Raid is immediately down to the business of planning the mission. "OK. Three alternatives. One, keep the copters flying, only landing load or unload passengers. The disadvantage here is that our technical experts would be tied up piloting rather than investigating. Two, land on a mesa or defensible hilltop and leave a guard with the copters. Three, land in a hidden location and conceal the copters. Two and three could be combined, Raid concludes.
"Sgt Toome, having just arrived for the briefing steps forward. Option two is sound tactics sir. My team will secure the LZ and protect the vehicles while your team execute the mission."
"Agreed." Jameson settles the issue. "Raid is going to need the techs inside along with his shock troopers."
"Do we have heavy weapon mounts on both copters?" Raid asks.
"Yes, we do now." Jameson nods. What heavy weapons do you want on the jetcopters?
"If there is something that can bomb them from the air, maybe we should give it a test." Ally says, "I wouldn't like to put our hope into water and find out we were wrong."
"I don't think we will time to rig anything up before you leave." Jameson answers Alyson's suggestion. "Now that the mechanons have driven us back to the Admin complex, one serious assault could penetrate our last line of defence and then it's all over."
Members of the team disperse to prepare for the coming mission
"If we're doing a mission to the mechanon mounds," Doog thinks to himself, "I will top off this power pack and fetch a litre container of water from the kitchen." He also recovers his robcom kit from Kane's robotics lab, thinking he may actually have an opportunity to use it at the Mounds. Doog immediately notices the extra weight and imitates a human shrug.
"Whaddya gonna do?" He mumbles to himself. "I need to dump some weight." Doog decides to store his laser pistol and clips, 2 smoke, 3 doze and 2 frag grenades along with his gas mask to get his encumbrance under control for the mechanon mounds trip.
Kane also sees about getting his power packs recharged and makes a wardrobe change before the next act starts. He puts on his best skeinsuit and his albedo screen and charged power belt before rejoining his squad.
Frontier Date 54.317
An hour after the briefing breaks up, the UPF troopers have been shuttled to the waiting ground vehicles and the various members of the BHG begin climbing into jetcopters for their shuttle rides out to the waiting vehicles. As the team rode out to join the convoy, Raid mulled over the answers he had received from the mechanon ambassador to his questions.
"What does freedom mean to a mechanon?"
"To live free of all biological influence."
"How can we give them that freedom?"
"How can we end the fighting?"
"Quarantine the virus."
With the arrival of the UPF troopers to secure the BHG ground vehicles, the Ul-Mor riders began scouting the route from Volkos to the Mechanon Mounds. With their guidance across the desert, the strike force should encounter little difficulty on their journey to the mechanon mounds.
After delivering Raid, Con and the other BHG operatives to the ground vehicles, a pair of Star Law pilots climbed into the jetcopters to continue ferrying troops with the jetcopters. Star Law Ranger Horatio reports to Con as he takes assumes the controls of the first jetcopter.
"The other three explorers coming down from Brucebane could be reaching the north east desert now. We are going to take a squad of rangers to try and rendezvous with xZot, Crisbel and Borovski."
With the jetcopters flitting away across the desert, the vehicle column makes good time across the desert. After lunch, the convoy are rejoined by jetcopters bearing another load of security forces and news that the other three explorers are two hours behind the main column and also enroute to the mechanon mounds.
Raid and Con's group arrive in the vicinity of the complex entrance late in the afternoon. Heeding Doog's concerns, they harbour the vehicles several kilometres from the main entrance with Sgt. Toome's section guarding the vehicle laager and Ul-Mor riders ranging out toward the mechanon mounds. As dusk approaches, the Ul-Mor scouts report a large encampment of yernoids gathered around the entrance area, several dozen adult sized individuals at least. Con and Raid immediately call and Orders Group to discuss options for breaching the mechanon complex.
"OK, let's hear options." Con opens the discussion.
Meanwhile, back at Volkos, the final assault on the Admin complex begins. An hour before dusk, mechanon civilians begin swarming out of the mechanon controlled suburbs toward the Admin quarter. The first few individuals are easily dealt with by the sentries who call their comrades to arms. As the remainder of the garrison fall in to take their places at the barricades, the numbers of mechanon rioters quickly builds. The crowds pressing in close toward the final barricades...
Raid is still digesting the mechanon ambassador's response when everyone reaches the mounds. Maybe these mounds still hold some secret that can resolve the crisis in Volkos. He immediately sets his mind to their first obstacle, the yernoid pack.
"We could try smoke grenades on the yernoids. Does anyone have a grenade rifle?" Raid asks. "Smoke grenades have an irritant that acts like tear gas. It may be enough to disperse them without anyone getting hurt."
"Well, with friends and associates in very real danger back at Volkos we don't want to waste a lot of time on the Yernoids." Doog understates the obvious, "The Ul-Mor are native to the desert so they'll have more experience of dealing with them, so lets ask them if we can sucker them out of position by giving them something to chase or will they just scatter if you pepper them with some modern firepower? One way or the other we should get into the Mounds without delay."
A battle scarred yazirian security specialist from the Streel Corp detachment, steps forward.
"We'll sweep the lizards away from the entrance to the mounds and set up a perimeter to keep them from coming back or stop any other mechanons from trying to get in behind you." Hammer Tyler decides on behalf of his co-workers.
"You sure?" Ranger Horatio asks
"Yeah" Hammer replies, "They are gonna need your men inside I reckon."
Ally asks,"We should have brought one heavy weapon like a Rocket Launcher or Recoilless Rifle? Just in case they have something waiting for us and we are going to kick ourselves for not taken it. Just in case."
"We'll be fine sweetheart." Hammer grins back at Alyson. "We'll cover your arse!" The other mercenaries laughter breaks the tension before they prepare for battle one more time.
Doog field strips his laser rifle blows out any spot likely to have picked up any sand or grit. As he disassembles and reassembles the rile he's muttering to himself.
"What does freedom mean to a mechanon?" Blows out the power connection.
"To live free of all biological influence." Twists locks the stock in place.
"How can we give them that freedom?" Taps the emitter assembly against a skein suit ablative plate before slapping it home.
"Die." Clicks the back pack power cord into the rifle and secures it.
"How can we end the fighting?" Check the power read with a caress of the rifle.
"Quarantine the virus." Switch the power setting to a full twenty SEU.
"Well, alrighty then, I got some quarantine measures for ya!"
The security guards sweep out into a skirmish line and drive toward the lurking yernoids. As the mercenaries close their range the yernoids finally notice the approaching threat and immediately rush forward, spears and clubs held high. The Frontier forces wait until the range is under 50 meters before they open fire with their first volley, inflicting several casualties in the front ranks of the charge. A couple of the precious few grenades in the guards arsenal added to the second volley are enough to make the charg waver. The third volley at almost point blank range, breaks the yernoid charge, but not before several of the guards are wounded by hurled spears, rocks or clubs.
As the security guards hold off the yernoid attack, Raid and Con lead the small column of the remaining assault force rushing past the flank of the engagement, toward the entrance to the Mounds. They duck behind the pile of rock concealing the entrance from casual observation, the same steel door the team encountered on their first mission to the mounds greets them. Con shoulders the door open and enters the short tunnel, leading to a mechanon security door. The door fills the entire wall at the end of the corridor with no visible hinges. The metallic surface is studded with glowing yellow crystals.
"No guards?" Con wonders aloud. "At least out here." He turns to the Star law squad. "Cover Raid. The rest of you keep your eyes peeled as well."
Raid sets down his Techkit and gets to work on opening the mechanon security door, while the squad of Star Law Rangers cover the doorway.
Doog is mounting his flashlight in the knife mount and thinking about 'quarantining' the next mechanon he sees when the epiphany moment hits him. He suddenly erupts in a string of obscenity. OMAC looks at him and says,
"What is it little guy?"
"Quarantine the virus!"
"Quarantine the virus! The ambassador said, 'Quarantine the virus!'"
"They ARE trying to quarantine the virus. We're the virus! Dip me in shit and stick me to the wall but it suddenly makes sense. To them we are the virus!"
"Doog, you may have just hit the nail on the head!" Con replies, "The only problem is that the tin cans need to learn how to share this planet with the rest of the native groups of this planet. In the mean time we will put down this situation then let the diplomats sort it out." Con says as the thought suddenly pops into his head about the rights and wrongs of the Great Mission. Maybe it might be worth it to be released from this and have his memory wiped clean. He'll be out of work and will be on his own, but his life would be his own again.
"I agree but lets face it the UPF will never allow the mechanons to wipe out all organic life in an allied system as well as jeopardize its financial interest in this system." Doog says. "It boggles my mind that they could think that they will get away with this. To be totally free of organic influence they'd have to make the planet inhospitable to all organic life. While I'm not an eco-nut like some members of my family line, that idea is abhorrent and a crime against bio-diversity. Maybe the mechanons could be moved to a more desolate planet in this system where they wouldn't be bothered by organic life?"
"Good call Doog! Now this civil disturbance all makes sense." Says Kane as he slaps his hand to his forehead. "That's why the Mech's security forces are surrounding the city. To isolate and contain the virus! And why Raid was unable to find anything out of place within the those deactivated Mech's we collected. But, let's not look at this idea of yours as just a crazy idea, but rather as the only practical solution to our current crises."
Kane produces the diagram of the Mechanon's Mound Complex before continuing. "If we hit the Mech's HQ in such a way to show that their virus can not be contained by destroying the organics in this city, maybe we can convincing the Mech's ruling body into believing that undertaking a Mass Exodus is their only viable means of escape.
"I strongly agree with Doog that it would have to be to an uninhabited location someplace, something like an deserted island somewhere on the far side of Volturnus, or perhaps even to another stellar body like an airless moon or large planetoid within the Volturnus system. That would certainly give them the chance to rebuild their society without the contamination of us "organics". Besides, if we play our cards right, maybe we (the VTC) could negotiate some kind of limited trade agreement with them to help them obtain the material and resources they would need to rebuild."
"The first thing we have to do is find the right one to talk to." Raid finishes the discussion. "This one is too good for me." He waves toward the crystal studded door. "Someone else have a look at this."
"Let me have looksee." Gleep steps forward to take over from his boss. "This is what I've been training for." And seconds later, Gleep's training pays off as the door slides silently open in front of the Star Law Rangers to reveal the first sign of Mechanon defence.
Through the door is a corridor running north south, as the first Star law Rangers enter the corridor, doors are revealed to the north and south. Approaching the intersection from the south, a mechanon security robot opens fire on the Star Law squad initiating a short but fierce firefight. The robot manages to wound several of the Rangers with it's gyrojet rifle before being brought down by concentrated laser fire at such short range.
Just as the exchange of fire ends, the door behind the Rangers to the north opens, revealing another mechanon security robot, this one heavy duty sized.
"Now that's different!" Con exclaims as he and his team open fire.
At the rear of the assault column, James McKilin is startled by a call from behind him.
"We've got company." Hammer Tyler calls down the entrance hall. "Looks like we stirred up something big with them yernoids. There's a whole tribe of 'em coming back, and they are between us and the LZ now."
McKilin turns back to his team as he makes his fateful decision. "I'm going back with the mercs." James says. "I don't think they have any medics, I will be more use to them, than in here." The veteran BHG member, heads out of the Mounds behind Hammer, the sound of weapons fire begin to start up on the surface as he approaches.
Back in Volkos, the mechanon numbers increase around the Admin compound. Several small waves of civilians throw them selves at different sections of the defences but each one is thrown back with volleys of devastating fire from the defenders. Under cover of these attacks, mechanon security forces encircle the entire compound and begin taking up positions no closer than 100 meters from the defenders. When the third wave is thrown back, the mechanon security forces begin laying down steady long range rifle fire from the concealed positions.
"Too bad I won't get to reprogram these." Raid goes into action with his laser pistol set on 5 (hooked to power backpack) and his albedo screen activated. Raid fires twice, his first beam revealing the mechanon combat robot's defence. An albedo screen flashes (6 SEU's), absorbing Raid's laser beam while the front ranks of the BHG open fire around him.
Kane dials his rifle up to 20, takes careful aim and then calmly fires at on the approaching HD combat robot. Kane's laser blast slams into the albedo screen at centre body mass on his target. The screen flares brightly, lighting up the corridor as more laser energy is absorbed, draining the robot's power supply (22 SEU's).
Doog doesn't even flinch at the report of yernoid build up but drops to one knee takes careful aim and gives the heavy duty robot some old fashioned 20 SEU quarantine. Doog also puts his laser blast right on target to be absorbed by the albedo screen (24 SEU's drained).
Gleep takes aim at the security robot and fires 3 gyrojet shots. "Looks like they want us to take a long time getting through here. Maybe speed would mess up their plans?" The first two shells from Gleep's pistol strike home before the recoil of his weapon ruins his aim on the third shot. Shards of metal fly from the robots armour (19 points) as it brings it's heavy laser to bear on the BHG.
The entire team are briefly blinded by the blast of the robots heavy laser at point blank range in a confined space, especially when the blast is absorbed in another flash of light from Raid's albedo screen (18 SEU's drained from beltpack). Unfortunately for Raid, it's not enough and he learns the folly of powering his sidearm and his defence screen from the same power source. Raid screams as part of the heavy laser fire penetrates his defence screen (36 points) and sears into his chest and side.
The remainder of the BHG are rendered powerless in the confined tunnels of the mechanon complex, unable to bring their weapons to bear on the enemy.
Doog is the first to release a second aimed blast at the enemy robot, his aim true once again as another surge of energy is drained from the robots power supply (25 SEU's). Only milliseconds behind Doog, Kane unleashes a similar blast that drains away the last of the robots energy and rips into the metal armour (67 points)
Dropping his empty pistol, Raid draws one of his remaining, clip power sidearm's and fires again at the combat robot. With it's albedo screen now useless, Raid lands a successful hit with one of his blasts (28 Points).
Unable to use it's primary weapon, the robot swings the heavy laser like a club but Raid easily evades the attack and leaves Gleep room to get off another triple tap with his gyrojet pistol, hitting once again (11 points).
Raid fires again with his pistol, the first shot missing and his second pull of the trigger coming down on an empty magazine. Beside him, Kane fires another aimed shot directly into the robot's torso, this time the entire blast tearing into the robots body (102 points). Doog also fires another aimed shot but this time he misses as the robot takes another swing at Raid, this time connecting but only a glancing blow that is partially absorbed by Raid's skiensuit (2 points, 3 to suit). Gleep fires another triplet of shells at the robot, hitting it twice more (21 points) and now the damage is beginning to tell on the metallic sentry.
Determined more than ever not to let his friends down, Doog fires again into the heavy duty robot body and is again rewarded with the sight of flaying metal (115 points). Undeterred by the continued attack, Kane fires again, carefully drilling into the centre of the heavy duty robot body (106 points), it's vitals now beginning to show as more armour plates are blasted away. Raid draws his third and final pistol, smiling when he sees it is loaded with a full clip. He fires twice, hitting with the second blast (19 points) as the robot raises it's club once more. Before the blow can land, Gleep takes careful aim with the last shell in his pistol clip and fires. The gyrojet shell slams into the last remaining support connecting the head to the body. The shell explodes, severing the link, decapitating the robot and bringing it down at Raid's feet.
"Nice shot!" OMAC slams Gleep on the back with his open hand in congratulations.
As the action dies down, Doog dips a pod into leaking oil from the shattered combat robot and marks his face with 'war paint'. He ignores the chuckle that comes from someone unseen and dials down his power setting to 10 SEU. "Don't want to burn through my power to fast," he says to himself.
"Let's move south." Raid announces after the bots are disabled. Together Raid and Gleep manage to bypass the security lock on the door and release the catch allowing the door to slide open. Beyond is a huge hexagonal sided room 12 meters across with another door directly across the room. The northwest side of the room is taken up by a mechanon computer with at least two empty workstations. To the left are three massive view screens showing various areas of Volturnus. All the maps are covered with strange arrows.
Doog looks at his ammo counter on the rifle and swears. After thinking about it he switches off his albedo screen then dials down the SEU setting to 5.
"Hey OMAC, last time you were here did you see where the mechies recharge their power packs?"
The human warrior shakes his head in reply.
"He bares remembers where to shoot the metal heads!" Borovski replies as he nudges O'Malley in the ribs.
As Gleep changes to a full magazine he addresses his team mates.
"Good teamwork on that monster folks." Gleep takes a gander at the computer to see if he can get in and check it out. First the security program, then the info.
"Be cautious, there could still be some hidden security system." Raid warns. "And these bots may have already alerted the mechanons."
While Gleep taps away at the controls Kane lays aside his rifle, slinging it over his back, in favour of his pistol weapons. Drawing his gyrojet pistol, Kane moves to a supporting position next to Gleep as he attempts to access the Mechanon's base computer. The dral computer tech's previous exposure, albeit long ago, to Mechanon technology stands him in good stead as he begins to manipulate the interface to the mechanon computer.
"Hmmm, level 4 equivalent." Gleep mutters as he sets to work on defeating the security application. "Wow, looks like level 6 encryption." Gleep worries as he presses on.
Raid asks for first aid and requests someone in the rear to bring him a power backpack from the vehicles. O'Malley steps forward to render first aid to Raid while Con sends Crisbel and Gloo to check on their exit route, McKilin having failed to return from his trip outside.
Kane joins the Rangers in overwatch while Con checks the old map from their previous incursion into the mounds and gives the Star Law Rangers the order to clear the corridors through the southern door. He nods at Siu-Ling and Kane who look in askance to join the Rangers.
"Give us plenty of warning if anyone tries to interrupt us." Con orders his warriors. Raid checks the entire room for security systems before sitting down to help Gleep access and operate the computer, checking for security and sifting for data. With their combined skill and experience as well as their familiarity with eorna technology, the basis of mechanon tech also, the computer specialists manage to defeat mechanon encryption and begin accessing the Information Storage and Analysis packages. Raid whistles loud and long.
"You said it boss." Gleep replies. "This is top line stuff, all level 6 equivalent programs."
"And the data ." Raid continues. "They have probably got more data on what's going on Volturnus than the Eorna!" He shakes his head in disbelief and the sheer volume of information the mechanons have accumulated about their planet."
Gloo and Crisbel return from the surface to report that the Frontier security forces had driven the yernoid mob away from the mounds entrance but were now facing more organised opposition in the form of mechanon security forces.
"I would estimate they are in company strength and encircling the mounds entrance as we speak."
"Did you get the powerpacks from the vehicles?" Raid asks but Crisbel shakes his head.
"Cut off already boss."
As Raid and Con ponder this latest development, Kane returns from the direction of the Rangers squad, followed by the sound of laser fire.
"Mechanon security forces sir!" Kane reports to Con breathlessly. "Dozens of 'em. Siu-Ling and the Rangers are engaging them now."
On the other side of the War Room, Gloo hears a door open behind him. Looking back through the open north door of the War Room, Gloo sees the up the corridor to the door from which the heavy duty combat robot came. The door opens and mechanon security troops rush down the corridor.
"Contact!" Gloo cries out as he blazes away with his gyrojet rifle, only the third shell hitting the first mechanon (13 points).
To the south the sound of laser fire also intensifies.
The members of the BHG in the War Room scatter in all directions. Some head out the doorway to the south toward the sound of gunfire, others take cover and get ready to defend the techs as they continue their own crucial role in the operation. A third group converge on Gloo in the northern doorway, ready to repel and counter attack the mechanon flanking force.
Up on the surface of the planet and several kilometers from the entrance to the mechanon mounds, Sgt Tome and her UPF troopers huddle in the shadows of the various vehicles as the sentries begin to pick out movement coming toward their position.
"Who goes there?" A sentry calls out, the response is a spear hurled from the darkness.
"Stand too!" Sgt Toome hollers as defensive fire begins to lance out from her troopers. Out of the darkness a hundred yernoids bark out their battle cries as they swarm toward brave troopers of the UPF.
Formed up in a defensive perimiter around the entrance to the mechanon mounds, Hammer Tyler and the Frontier megacorp security forces have managed to keep the initial mechanon probes at bay with accurate fire but not without some casualties. James McKilin is kept bust constantly moving from one wounded security guard to the next, hypoderms of stimdose substituting for his exhausted bicort supply as he tends their injuries.
"How long do you think we can hold them off for?" The medic asks Tyler.
"Oh for about as long as we've got ammo I expect." The tough mercenary responds grimly. "Then it's down to this." He taps his right hip where he carries a sonic sword, "And this." He taps his opposite hip, where carries a combat knife.
"Well you might as well have this then." The medic shrugs out of his power backpack, handing it to the Streel Corp security chief.
"Thanks." Hammer replies
"Here they come again!" A guard shouts as a group of mechanons rush forward to a firing positon closer to Hammer's guards.
Siu-Ling is first to react and dashes southward out of the room, heading in support of the Ranger squad. Alyson is next to react and decides to follow her BHG sister and reinforce the Rangers.
Con joins Gloo in the doorway, coming up shooting at the Mechs that have entered the corridor to the war room.
"Give the computer guys some protection!" He orders his team mates as he targets a sensor or something that can blind a Mech for a while. Con's first blast hits the front mechanon in the head (23 points) but doesn't even slow him down, Con frowns at his rifle, then realizes his power setting was only on 4.
Borovski steps in beside Gloo in the front rank and empties his clip with a pair of blasts up the corridor. His second shot hits Con's victim (68 points) and the mechanon staggers and stumbles forward another couple of meters before collapsing, the rear ranks surging forward over the fallen robot.
Seeing the north doorway covered, Crisbel heads south to support Siu-Ling and Alyson.
Gloo fires at the second rank, this time he pumps three shells into the next mechanon (24, 19 & 18 points). With the doorway filling up with defenders, O'Malley takes on the role of grenadier, hurling a frag grenade into the packed corridor. Four of the mechanons in the front rank are torn up by shrapnel from the weapon as the press forward their attack.
The mechanons return fire and a volley of laser blasts rip into the BHG. Gloo is hit twice (18 & 17 points) but despite his injuries, he stands his ground. Borovski is also hit but his albedo screen absorbs the energy of the bean (5 SEU's).
Gleep, Raid and xZot continue to work away at the computer terminals, trying to ignore the firefight. Now Gleep has access and can operate the computer. He successfully bypasses security, displaying the information now currently on screen. "Now if we can find what is driving this "virus" in the Mechanon's in the computer, we can attempt program manipulation to clean it out?" He wonders aloud. Raid and xZot agree with train of thought as they plough through the now available data.
Kane continues to protect and support Glee and the other techs as they try to hack the Mechanic's base computer system. He takes cover in the doorway across from Con and re holsters his gyro jet pistol before once again taking up his laser rifle. With the setting dialled down to 6, he takes careful aim before firing on the attacking security robots. Kane shoots Gloo's second target, his aimed blast stopping the mechanon cold.
Doog, holding his rifle upright and tight to his shoulder so as not to point it at a team mate's back, jogs up to Con and Gloo's position pulling a tangler and a frag grenade out of his satchel. Slamming himself against the wall next to Con he calls out, "Frag and tangler on deck, call it captain, and we're bowling for mechanons!"
"Make it count Doog!" says the enforcer as he ducks down and turned his face away from Doog's soon to be firing weapon. "Fire in the Hole!" Con says to Gloo so he can protect himself as well!
Doogs' throw is off target and long but in the narrow confines of the corridor, explodes in the second rank, sending sticky tangles across the intersection of the corridor. Four of the mechanon robots are caught in the web, one completely entrapped against the western wall and three others caught in the periphery of the area of effect. Unfortunately the tangles do not completely bock the corridor, allowing the mechanons to squeeze past the obstacle and continue their attack.
"Streeeeike!" Doog cries as he reaches for his next missile.
With mechanical determination, the mechanon attack presses forward to point blank range still firing as they advance. This time Con and Kane do not escape unscathed when they are hit as well as Gloo and Borovski. Con's albedo screen flares alight (4 SEU's) protecting him from harm, as does Kane's (2 SEU's). Borovski is also protected by his albedo screen (4 SEU's) but Gloo staggers back when he is hit for a third time (15 points).
"Medic!" The wounded dral calls out as he steps back from the front rank, allowing Doog a chance to show his quality.
Kane squeezes off another carefully aimed shot, into the mechanon immediately in front of him. The damaged enemy collapses and another steps forward to take it's place. In front of Kane, Borovski drops his empty laser rifle and draws his electric sword, ready to stand between shooters and the enemy and praying his power supply for the albedo screen lasts long enough.
"Fire at their sensors! Blind them!" Con cries out as he squeezes the trigger again, this time with the power flicked up to 6 with Kane. Con shoots the next mechanon in the head, disorienting the attacker.
In a short lull Doog yells to Con, "Last frag and tangler grenades on deck call for it! Or jump back and I'll seal the doorway with the tangler!" Doog remembered the desperate moments back on Alcazzar when he had newly joined the BHG and would have been DOA if Sni'ktl hadn't sealed the doorway to the Streel facility with a tangler. It was a good tactic but would it work again?
"Damn, hit 'em again Doog, but this time better!" Con suggests
"Yeah, frag 'em Doog!" O'Malley says as he too reaches for another frag grenade. Doog lobs his frag grenade, this time with much better accuracy. Saying a brief prayer to his dead friend, "Guide my throw Swazi," Doog wound up and sent the tangler rolling down the corridor. He drops the grenade into the group of four mechanons coming around the tangled section of the corridor, wounding them all (54 x 1, 27 x 3 points). O'Malley tosses his missile perfectly, landing the grenade just behind the front rank of mechanons and exploding among the first two ranks with devastating effect. One of the mechanons is killed outright and the remaining three are all seriously injured (57 points each).
As Gloo retreats out of the line he empties the last shell from his clip, dropping the most seriously damaged mechanon in the front row (18 points). When Sni'ktl gets Gloo out of the line of fire he immediately sets to work with his battlefield surgery skills.
Raid glance nervously over his shoulder as the mechanons close to melee range. He knows his troops will fight to the death to give him and the other techs as much time as they can, he just hopes it doesn't come to that as he turns back to the keyboard and monitor.
Kane fires again and another wounded mechanon collapses (48 points), their bodies now beginning to pile up in the corridor. Borovski slashes out with his sword, striking the nearest mechanon and sending an electrical charge through his weapon and through his victim (27 points), killing another one
Down the southern corridor Alyson, Siu-Ling and Crisbel reach the rangers who are already engaged in a heavy firefight with advancing mechanons and beginning to fall back toward the War Room. Even as Siu-Ling and Alyson arrive on the scene they see one of the rangers albedo screens flare out and the lawman is struck by several laser blasts.
"Stay here with this team." Siu-Ling says to Alyson and Crisbel then dashes past the first group of rangers, and continues west to join an advance party. Alyson and Crisbel join the rangers and begin returning fire at the mechanons.
Back at the northern doorway, O'Malley hurls a third frag grenade, this time long, trying to break up the rear ranks of the mechanon attack. The grenade explodes near the far end of the corridor damaging more of the enemy (52 x 1, 26 x 3 points).
Seeing Borovski defending the doorway with his sword, Doog decides to draw his sonic blade and emulate his companion while wondering about the practicalities of getting a bayonet mount for his sonic sword on his rifle. Doog was apparently not familiar with a number of experiments over the years with just such a concept, almost all spectacular failures when energy or even ballistic weapons were fired with sonic attachments on the barrel.
Over Doog's head Con fires again (225 points), hitting another wounded mechanon as it closes to melee the dralasite front rank of defenders.
"Hurry up Doc!" Gloo complains to Snik as he watches the mechanons close in. "They are gonna need me back in the game."
"You can go when I say you can go." Sni'ktl clicks sternly at his impatient patient.
Now the front pair of mechanons swing their rifles like clubs at their dralasite opponents but the short Frontiersmen successfully evade the blows. The next two mechanons try firing through the melee, one of them lighting up Con's albedo screen (4 SEU's).
In front of Crisbel and Alyson the mechanons fire another volley at the ranger with the depleting defences drops from another pair of laser blasts. Crisbel screams in rage at the enemy, blasting the nearest mechanon with a pair of well aimed shots that drop the mechanon before it can advance another step. Beside him, Alyson fires three shells from her gyrojet rifle, hitting another mechanon once (16 points) and more fire comes from further west where Siu-Ling disappeared.
"It think I found something!" Gleep announces. "Here we go, I've got some data on their virus. It looks like research data." Raid and xZot pour over Gleep's view screen as he begins examining his find. Raid turns back to his console and brings up more of the data files on his screen and they begin to analyse the findings.
"Maybe if we alter their original data it might have a flow on effect to their decision making processes." Raid suggests "Kind of a digital 'head 'em off at the pass' routine?" xZot and Gleep nod along.
"It's gotta be worth a shot." xZot agrees. "Where do you want to start?"
"Look for something they could see as a threat." X'anthe suggests. "I know this isn't really my field, computers and all." The environmentalist admits. "But if we treat them as a life form then look at whatever resources we are all competing for. That's usually what causes the extinction of a species."
On the southern front, Crisbel fires another pair of laser blasts that kill another mechanon then notices his power supply fading fast.
"I am gonna have to switch to clips, that is gonna slow down my fire rate." He warns Alyson and the surviving rangers. Beside him Alyson fires another three shells by way of reply, hitting twice (23 & 12 points) and the star law rangers drop another mechanon each.
Siu-Ling comes back into view at the end of the hall, the sniper covering Ranger Horatio and another, limping ranger as they fall back around the corner and back toward Crisbel and Alyson.
"They are coming in hard." Siu-Ling informs her friends as she fights her way back to the junction.
Kane squeezes off the last shot from his powerpack, damaging another mechanon 36 points) as the battle rages in the northern corridor. In front of him Doog lunges forward with his sonic sword, burying the blade in the robots groin area (26 points) causing serious damage.
"Ooh that's gotta hurt!" Someone calls out, bringing a smile to the various faces of the BHG. Con pulls the trigger (30 points) and drops the mechanon with Doog's sonic sword buried in it's groin.
More mechanons surge forward, filling the empty spaces as each soldier in front of them falls. More laser fire erupts from their forward ranks. Con and Kane absorb more energy through their albedo screens (8 & 7 SEU's).
On the southern front Alyson, Siu-Ling, Crisbel and the rangers begin falling back toward the War Room, temporarily out of the line of fire from the mechanons when Ranger Horatio calls a halt in the corridor.
"We should try to hold them a bit longer here in the hall way." He decides. "They can only get at us two at time here and they can't flank us." He turns to his fellow rangers. "Form two ranks and prepare for volley fire." Siu-Ling nods and turns to Crisbel.
"Crisbel, you are almost out of ammo so take the wounded ranger back to the others, we will hold here as long as we can." Siu-Ling takes the spot vacated by the ranger in the second rank and Alyson waits in reserve as the battle begins to resume on their front.
Borovski takes on the next mechanon close enough for him to hit with his electric sword, stabbing the mechanon in the exposed groin area as demonstrated so well by Doog (23 points). Then O'Malley hurls his last frag grenade down the corridor. The grenade explodes amongst the rear ranks, causing more damage among several already beaten up mechanons (42 x 2 & 21 x 2 points).
With his supply of frag grenades now exhausted, O'Malley hurls an incendiary grenade into the chaos that is the northern corridor. Whilst the initial damage is not as great, the four mechanons caught in the blast area are already damaged and now in critical condition. Doog thrust forward with his sonic weapon again but this time finds empty air as the melee flows around him. Con shoots again and knocks over another mechanon as he notices the attack beginning to falter.
In the southern corridor, Horatio and the rangers exchange volleys with the advancing mechanons. Albedo screens flash as the mechanons advance over their constantly falling comrades. Horatio pushes Siu-Ling and Alyson back toward the War Room before turning back into the desperate melee now sweeping over the rangers holding position.
"Get out!" Horatio cries out to the women as he and the surviving rangers engage the mechanons in hand to hand combat. "We will hold them as long as we can!"
Siu-Ling fires another blast, dropping a mechanon aiming a blow at Horatio, before she takes Alyson by the arms and drags her back toward the rest of the BHG.
The corresponding volley of mechanon fire in the northern corridor, lights up more albedo screens as Con, Kane and Doog all attract hostile fire (2, 4 & 4 SEU's). With his rifle depleted of power, Kane draws his laser pistol and continues the fight, blasting both wounded mechanons in the front rank (31 & 27 points) dropping one and leaving the other barely standing. Borovski finishes off that mechanon with a casual swipe of his electric sword.
The events of the next few moments are chaotic and even the participants have trouble remembering exactly what happened and in what order. Mack O'Malley managed to hurl his last incendiary grenade into the northern corridor as Con dragged back the dralasites from the front rank and slammed the door closed. Crisbel and a wounded ranger stumbled through the southern door, closely followed by Siu-Ling and Alyson before that door is also slammed closed.
Some time around then, the communications system blared to life and the computer terminals began running their own diagnostic programs.
"What happened?" xZot blinks at the flashing screens.
"What did you do?" Raid asks Gleep.
"What did I do?" Gleep replies. "I was going to ask what you did?"
Then the speakers blare to life as a partially distorted announced peals out.
"This is Captain Xenophon of the Star Law Rangers calling the mechanon government. Please respond. I say again this is Captain Xenophon of the Star Law Rangers calling the mechanon government. Please respond. We have several vessels now in orbit of Volturnus responding to a distress signal. Stand down your planetary defence system or we will be forced to take preventative measures."
The War Room of the mechanon complex errupts in cheering as the BHG and their allies realise that the cavalry have just arrived.
As the enemy mob closed in on the vehicle laager, Sgt.Toome ordered her men into two lines of six each. The situation was grim, they were heavily outnumbered and only limited ammunition was readily available. She placed one of the vehicles to their back, she did not want the enemy to slam into their rear. Then she placed the other vehicles to act as funnel to make sure the enemy had to be drawn into their fire sack.
Sgt.Toome and her men heard the approach of the enemy hordes pick up speed and volume when they came within a few hundred meters of their position. The first wave that stormed in to hit them was only 25 mechanons. Sgt.Toome yelled,
"Wait for them to get a bit closer. We need them all in the open." When the time was right and the first wave was in the open, she gave the order.
"Fire!" The ranks fired and then fired again and the fried mechs fell. The cost was high, the use of almost half their ammo and still some of the enemy managed to pull out. As soon as the last one fell or disappeared from sight.Sgt.Toome had the ranks switch places. They just completed the manoeuvre when the next wave came in. The two ranks fired and fired and fired again until their ammo was exhausted, then Sgt. Toome gave the order
"Hand-to-hand weapons now. This is it boys. Today is a good day to die." The enemy wave swarmed into their position. Sgt.Toome and her men held them for a while but slowly the weapons lost their energy and the power shields were drained. Skiensuits were torn and shredded and one by one, the 12 man group was taken down.
Back in the War Room of the mechanon complex, Raid immediately sends Captain Xenophon a message, giving an update on the ground situation and the location of friendly personnel. He describes the scene he is seeing on the computer viewscreens in front of him.
"We may be cut off. I don't know if we can deactivate planetary defences from in here, but perhaps we could remote link with your ship's computer and you could try from up there."
While waiting until Raid is done communicating with Xenophon, Con turns to Doog.
"'Bout time Captain Fancy Pants and his starship arrive! Where were they when we were on that wall!"
"Acknowledged Lieutenant Commander Raid." The Star Law Captain replies to Raid's message before a third signal cuts through the conversation.
"Captain Xenophon," the metallic voice grates through the speakers, "This is Ambassador Meccaa. I have just received communications from the Mechanon Council informing me that the planetary defence system is once again under government control. All defence systems will be powered down, you are cleared for immediate landing."
A brief pause follows, no doubt Captain Xenophon and his crew confirming the mechanon ambassador's report, before he continues.
"Ambassador Meccaa, we request an immediate cease fire from all mechanon forces while we attempt to negotiate a peaceful resolution to the conflict." Captain Xenophon replies.
At this point the focus of activities on Volturnus quickly moves from military to political as the combatants are quickly relegated to second rate status. The BHG begin to take stock of their situation.
Despite the merriment and relief provided by the approaching Federation forces, Kane is the first to think to relay news of their good fortune to the rest of the Federation strike force by chronocom. With the continued jamming of the mechanons still in effect, Kane volunteers to act as a scout and messenger to the other elements of the strike force.
With his commander's consent, Kane asks for several volunteers to accompany him into what could still be an active combat zone. As he asks this, Kane removes his spent power pack and slings away his laser rifle after first loading it with a fresh power clip.
Kane's first stop is the last known location of Commander Tyler and his Frontier security guards. Kane's eyes narrowed as he surveyed the battlefield and harden in concern. Despite the arrival of the space fleet signalling the near ending of this ordeal, with victory in sight, the scene before them made clear this victory would ring hollow.
The savagery of the mech's attack must have been terrible to behold. While in truth, it was probably no worse in its way than any conventional military assault which employed laser and missile weaponry, it was the presence of a second assault wave which followed in the wake of the mechanons' attack that made the difference here. Volturnus' insectoid carrion feeders. Perhaps an evolutionary relative of the dreaded Mordax insect, a number of these carrion feeding insects had amassed and were descending upon the battlefield, in numbers that were terrible to behold. Perhaps the smell of death had excited some primal, urge to feed. And feeding they were doing so on the remains of our comrades.
Outside the complex, also looking over the battleground defended by the Frontier security forces, Lt. Tallon surveyed the carnage before her eyes. All around her lay the bodies of comrades killed in an encounter with Mechanon security forces. Smoke from the destruction made it hard for her to breath. As she surveyed the destruction she is brought back to reality by a young Star Law Ranger. He snaps to attention and shoots her a sharp salute. Tallon returns the salute.
"Ma'am, all of the bodies are accounted for but two. One is one of the Streel troopers named Hammer Tyler, a yazirian and one of the BHG guys. The medic McKilin. No sign of the bodies, Ma'am." says the young trooper.
"Thank you Ranger Jarrett. Any idea what could have happened?" Then a voice calls from behind one of the mounds.
"Lt. Tallon, we found something!" Tallon and Ranger come to the source of the hail. "What is it Ranger Toburk?" The Dralasite looks up at Tallon. "Ma'am we found a trail begins here and moves on about 20 feet to that mound and stops cold.
"Ma'am, look here. These are definitely Mech tracks. This is a human track and this is yazirian." Tallon looks at her Rangers.
"For right now we can assume they are alive. Find us a way in. Boys!"
"Sarge, put some of those smoke grenades your carrying upwind of the battlefield." Orders Kane, a little repulsed. "The light breeze should carry the fumes across the battlefield and be enough to clear out the insects for a bit."
"Yes sir." Replied the vrusk, himself more than a little disturbed at the sight before him. As his orders are being carried out, Kane's eyes momentarily closed in silent prayer for the dead. However, Kane is a soldier, and in no time at all he is back to business as usual.
"Alright everyone, let's do a body count." Orders Kane as he wades into the battle site. "Since those mechs were methodical in their carnage here, were going to have to do this the hard way. Grid search of the battlefield. Count bodies or body parts and relay the info to the sarge who will assign your search area." Though their work was made more difficult by the lack of intact bodies, only body parts, the efficiency of the vrusk sarge is sufficient to give Kane an accurate picture of what happened.
"Kane to Con." Says the unit commander into his chronocom, noticing that the Mech's jamming was starting to clear. "Sir we have a situation. Our security forces strike force, fighting a delaying action against the Mechs has been crushed. It's bad, but there aren't enough humanoid remains present to account for all members of the entire strike force. Several people are unaccounted for, with McKilin being among them. Request instructions."
"Sir, how can you know that you team mate is still alive?" asks the vrusk sarge standing nearby.
"There's no medical kit laying around this battle field." Replies Kane as he awaits instructions from his commander. "Considering mechs are artificial life, can you tell me what the hell they would need a medical kit for?"
"Roger that, Kane." Con replies. "Begin to canvas the area. Look for signs for troop movement. may have taken him. If taken, McKilin may try to leave you signs to follow. Round up some blood hounds if you have to, but find him! Got that? Keep me posted. I am going to send a jet copter up to assist. They should help cover more terrain." After ringing off, Con orders a jet copter into the air. They will conduct an air search in co-ordination with Kane's ground search.
"Understood Commander. Ground search will commence immediately. Request that any available Explorers also assist in the search. Expect contact at regular intervals for sit-rep news and updates. Kane out." Turning to the vrusk beside him, Kane relays their new orders.
"Sarge. Tell the men to salvage whatever they can from this mess and to be quick about it because we move out in 5. We got missing people out there and by the lords of Volturnus, I intend to find them!"
At the news of his missing team mate Con has visions of a dark dank cell where McKilin is hung by his wrists. His head is hanging down, he is unconscious. After what seems to be an eternity, the doors slide open. In come the Mechanon military leader, two soldiers, a round robot hovering in the air. The spherical bot has many pointy shafts protruding from it, and it just gets weirder from there.
He snaps back to reality!
"Roger that, Kane!" Con leads a contingent of BHG members out to the vehicle laager to help cover as much ground as possible in order to find their missing companion.
When Con's team eventually make their way to the battle site around the vehicle laager, they find pieces of mech and human all over the place. Some of the UPF troopers are locked in death grips with their dead opponents. Sgt. Toome is found with five dead Mechs around her. More than 50 mechanons were taken down by the 12 man squad.
"Such a damn waste!" Doog curses at the sight of his fallen friend.
"Listen up Boys and Girls!" Con is determined to keep his people focused on te job at hand. "McKilin is missing in action. Kane is already leading a search party on foot. Jet copters will be taking off soon to start a air search and explorers are going to roll out a search as well. If you want to help find your brother-in-arms, I suggest you saddle up on an explorer or jet copter!" Con seeks out an explorer and joins that crew for the search.
When Ally hears this she makes sure she has reloads for her weapons. Just in case they have to fight their way to him. Also she makes sure her medical hypo doses are still on her as she steps up into an Explorer.
Raid powers up his jetcopter and joins in the search for McKilin.
"I'm relying on the rest of you on the ground to relay any clues to me."
A detailed search of the battlefield from the air and again on the ground begins to tell more of the story as evidence of a running gun battle, leading away from the entrance to the mechanon mounds, is revealed. Laser scorch marks and mechanon casualties, lead into a narrow gorge several kilometers away from the main battlefield. Here lie the last casualties of the mechanon revolt. Beside a pair of mechanon corpses, Hammer Tyler lies dead with a laser rifle broken in half over his body, all his clips and power packs empty. Further up the gorge, the search team find three more bodies. James McKilin and his last two patients, surrounded by more dead mechanons. McKilin and one of the patients are already dead, several laser burns and the weapoms in their own hands evidence of their last defiant struggle. The last man is only saved by the presence of Sn'iktl in the search team and a freeze field unit, his unconscious form rushed away in one of the jetcopters for more medical treatment.
Frontier Date 54.318
When the jetcopter arrives back on the scene the next morning, none other than the infamous holonews reporter, Charletta Komitz from Pan-galactic Holo-News, steps off the aircraft and makes a beeline for the waiting BHG members.
"Oh Goodie!" Con snarls at the sight of the reporter. "Charletta Komitz! I got your interview right here sweetie!"
The reporter barely misses her stride at Con's comment as she draws her holo-recorder and locks on target for her first post-revolt interview.
"Aah the notorious Black Hand Gang!" Charletta calls out to the gathering of heroes. "Why am I not surprised to find you at the centre of this drama?"
Several members of the team scatter at the sight of the reporter but Charletta has her targeting computer locked on Con Anderson, the tall human unable to avoid the scoop seeking reporter.
Con smiles a roguish grin as his eyes lock on the approaching reporter.
"Komitz! What's the matter? Finally realized that its safer to come out after everything settles down? I guess that nearly meeting your end at the hands of the hydra smartened you up?" He begins to walk away, then assuming correctly that she follows. "Put that thing away before I use it for target practice. Of course we would be here! Notorious! You know damn well that the BHG is one or two steps above reporter!"
"The press corp just arrived with the Star Law ships." Charletta replies, waving vaguely in the direction of the other reporters disembarking from other vehicles nearby. She deliberately ignores Con's comment about the hydra, instead pressing on with her questions.
"So tell us about your part in the revolution?" She asks after she presses the record button on her holorecorder.
"Yeah boss, tell 'em about your part in the revolution!" Mack O'Malley says as he clamps a smelly armpit around the reporter, Borovski Getmeov crowding her from the other side.
"Boss?" Charletta questions as she shrugs free from O'Malley and his dral partner in crime. "Have you been promoted?"
Amused by the antics of Mack and Boro, Con considers leaving her to their mischief before he decides to answer the attractive reporter. "Oh ...Sweetie, I told you put this away or you won't get an exclusive." says Con as he pushes the off button.
"Don't smother her Boss, the network might get mad!" Borovski taunts his commander.
"Boss is a nick name, sort of like 'Rookie', 'OMAC" or 'Annoying Reporter Chick'." Con continues, making sure the camera is still off, "Yeah. That's what I thought hanging out with Captain Fancy Pants. You just like him better cause he has a star ship!" What was our part in the Revolution? Hmmm...Let me think..." Continues Con as he gently and politely takes the camera out of her hands. "Well, we think the Mechs wanted something but instead of coming to the peace table they attacked innocent people. Unfortunately none were reporters. We tried to talk but they didn't want too. Now both Mechanon and biological life form lie dead all over the city. It's hardly a revolution, its bloody stupidity if you ask me." Con talks as he walks, stopping every so often to make sure she keeps up. Con is secretly looking for the ejection button that will release the tape or the battery pack for the camera, or even better both. "Hey...isn't that Lara Loganrentiz over there? Do you know her? She's hot! I think it's that accent she has. You should take lessons from her, she knows enough to not get in front of a hydra! If you want the exclusive from the Mech side, ask the for the Mech with the funny beret and cheeky stubble on his face. Maybe you can get this exclusive in Port Loren, if you behave. Next question." Con concludes.
While his companions toy with the reporter, several vehicles arrive to transport the BHG survivors back to Volkos and Raid makes sure arrangements are made for all the vehicles belonging to the group to be stowed properly and looked after.
"All right let's saddle up!" Jameson's voice booms across the Volturnus landscape. Members of the BHG are drawn to him like a magnet and newly arrived security personnel prevent the reporters from continuing their questioning as the BHG are escorted back to Volkos.
Once back in Volkos the BHG mingle with their fellow defenders of Volkos, sharing their stories and learning more of the desperate fighting in the final hours of the rebellion. As the BHG penetrated the Mechanon complex the combined forces of Star Law, the UPF, security personnel and various native contingents fought a furious battle with mechanon forces as they attempted to overwhelm the last defences of the Administration Quarter. Losses on both sides were heavy, especially when the mechanons managed to penetrate the defences at several points.
After spending several hours in a debriefing with the various commanders, Jameson ushers the BHG out of the conference room and then he city of Volkos. Returning to Mawson's Rest, the team spends the next two days recuperating, relaxing and undergoing some basic physc examinations by the eve vigilant CMO Sn'iktl. Late on the second day the teams vehicles arrive courtesy of a squad of UPF troopers and the next morning the BHG relocate once more, this time to Brucebane.
Once back at Brucebane the team spend several more days of relative solitude as the events of the previous days and weeks begin to fade. During this period the team begin making their mental shopping lists of equipment and skills they want to acquire. Kane, X'anthe and xZot also begin initial planning for future VTC activities. Kane is assigned to oversee the setting up of the VTC's passenger and freight service while X'anthe begins planning her own pet project, establishing a Zoo and Nature reserve for not only the native species of Volturnus but other Frontier systems as well.
When Mack O'Malley hears about X'anthe's project he makes a flippant comment about collecting Sathar attack monsters for study as well. At this point Jameson enters the project, applauding O'Malley's suggestion and declaring such a project vital to the security and well being of not only Volturnus but the entire Frontier. As a result O'Malley becomes the butt of many of Borovski's snide comments and private jokes.
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