Rain pounded on the cockpit glass as Devon moved his machine
through the steamy marsh. The dark water swirled around the monstrous
machines legs. The mech resembled an armored giant slogging through a
waist-high swamp. It blended well with its surroundings, its armor painted
grayish-green with brown smudges rounding out the camouflage scheme.
The dark shadows of the swamp swallowed the huge war machine under a
canopy of trees. The only thing easily discernible in the darkness was the
crest of Hansens Roughriders, emblazoned on the mechs shoulder. The
horned skull of the Roughriders represented honor and professionalism
throughout the inner sphere. That wouldnt help Devon out here while he
faced the Clans.
He slowed his mech as the magscan registered a reading at
extreme range. There werent supposed to be any enemy mechs out this
far. Maybe it was just an ore deposit or a civilian vehicle. Devon hoped
so. If the Ghost Bears had already deployed, the Roughriders were in for
a costly battle. Devon resisted the urge to thumb his communications link.
His lance commander had been very specific with regards to radio silence.
They did not want to alert the Clans to their presence before it was
necessary. If the Roughriders could position their mechs between the
Ghost Bears and the Kurita command post, they would be the hosts of the
surprise party. They might even be able to hold Soverzene. It was a
backwater planet but was strategic for the Ghost Bears continued
Ever since the Clans invasion of the Inner Sphere, trained
mechwarriors had become a valuable commodity. Mercenary companies,
like Hansens Roughriders, were never at a loss for lucrative contracts.
However, the money didnt come without risks. Many of Devons friends
in other companies had died at the hands of the Clans in the early days of
the invasion. Devon had been somewhat luckier in that respect. His
Enforcer, named Bushwacker, had kept him safe in several battles with the
Ghost Bears and he didnt plan on letting that change. Only recently had
the Houses launched successful campaigns against the Clans. The battle
for Luthien had bolstered the morale of the Inner Spheres defenders.
The magscans readings had not changed since the initial contact.
Devon angled his mech toward the suspect reading, advancing onto more
solid ground. As he cleared a patch of mangrove trees Devon stopped and
rechecked his magscan readings. According to the scanner he was only a
few hundred meters from the contact, but he didnt see anything out of the
ordinary. No, there was something out there. He could make out the
outline of some sort of vehicle hidden just past the tree line.
"Magnification times 10," Devon ordered the mechs sensors to
zoom in on the vehicle. Relief washed over him as he recognized the
rusted remains of a civilian hover truck. Devons relief quickly turned cold
as he caught the blur of motion behind the truck. Deep in the shadows of a
tree, Devon could make out the shape of a small mech raising its arm to
fire a weapon. His HUD identified the machine as a clan Fenris. The six-
legged insignia of the Ghost Bears was painted on the torso of the enemy
mech. Although Devons Enforcer outweighed the Fenris by five tons, the
clan mech packed a powerful punch.
Before he could react, the clan warrior opened fire with the PPC
located in the mechs left arm. Blue energy leapt out at Bushwacker and
lanced into its shoulder joint. In retaliation, Devon brought his autocannon
into line with the Fenris, walking rounds toward the lurking mech. The
slugs threw up mud and water, working their way toward the Fenris. The
clan pilot side stepped, attempting to avoid Devons hail of fire. Despite
the pilots desperate actions, autocannon rounds pounded his mechs legs.
Craters appeared where Devons rounds landed. Supersonic shells
impacted repeatedly on the Fenris weak leg armor, blasting it off in
chunks. The sound of grinding metal drowned out the echoes of the
autocannons shots. The clan mech staggered, its knee smashed and
fused. Devon triggered another burst from his cannon, hoping to disable
the Fenris before it could contact the rest of its star. This time splinters of
ruined ferro-fibrous armor were blow from the Fenris left arm by the
autocannons savage assault. Despite the damage, the Ghost Bear was able
to bring his PPC and Laser to bear on Devons mech. Again, blue energy
lashed out, striking the Enforcer in its already damaged shoulder, with the
laser's ruby energy adding to the damage. Red lights flashed inside
Devons cockpit. His mechs most potent weapon hung loosely at his side,
crippled by a shattered servo-motor. Devon swore under his breath as he
switched off the warning lights.
Still wary of the larger mechs laser, the Fenris slipped behind the
cover of a vine-covered mangrove. Devon was having trouble picking up
the smaller mech on his magscan equipment.
"Blast," he swore. His sensor array must have been damaged by
flying debris during the short firefight. Without the sensor readout, Devon
was a sitting duck if the Fenris decided to come back. His only chance was
to pursue the clansman and hope he could spot him on the visual readout.
He slowly advanced toward the trees, following the path the enemy mech
cleared. Devon had a better than average chance of making a kill if he
could just get close enough. But, if the Fenris caught him out in the open,
Devon probably wouldnt survive.
Mechwarrior Gilbert swore feverishly as he watched the advancing
blip on his screen. The mercenary had opted to follow him into the copse
of swamp trees. Gilberts Fenris had the edge in firepower, but he couldnt
afford to go toe to toe with the heavier mech, and that blasted mercenary
knew it. The other mech could take his apart in a short range battle. The
larger Enforcer could carry more armor, making it more durable in a
pitched battle. If Gilbert could strike repeatedly from long range, he could
strip away the heavier mechs armor. He spurred the limping Fenris deeper
into the copses shadows. Concealing himself behind another tree, Gilbert
waited for the mercenary scum to fall into his trap again. Gilberts star
leader wouldnt approve of his tactics, but he never did anyway. He was
considered by most of his comrades to be an oddity. He had tested out at
the top of his sibko in every category, but showed contempt for the rigid
honor codes and traditions of the Clans. He felt that any victory was
honorable as long as it was a victory. These views, combined with several
incidents of insubordination, had landed Gilbert in various units consisting
of criminals and freebirths. The Clans didnt even waste old warriors in
most of the units Gilbert had been assigned to over the years. He also did
not subscribe to the clan prejudice against freebirth soldiers. He was
convinced that no matter what the conditions of his birth, he was destined
As he made his way into the clump of trees, Devon shifted
Bushwacker into a run, the wet ground sucking at its feet. He hoped he
could catch the enemy mech before there was time for him to set another
trap. Fire flashed across his cockpit as SRMs slammed into his upper
torso. The flames clung to his mechs armor as warning lights flashed, set
off by the rising heat caused by the missiles. The jellied fuel from the
Inferno warheads burned fiercely, despite the pounding rain. The flames
scarred the camouflaged paint on Devons mech. Raindrops sizzled,
evaporating as they landed on the burning mech. The flames themselves
posed little threat to the machine. But, the accompanying heat combined
with the raging nuclear inferno that powered the mech was too much for
the machines heat sinks. The excess heat could bake a pilot alive in his
own cockpit. Every mechwarrior secretly feared being burned alive during
Sweat prickled on Devons brow as he struggled to keep the
computer from shutting down and rendering him helpless. He knew that
his Enforcer was at its limit. Devon couldnt see anything on his visual
scanners because of the clinging flames. He was completely blind. He
pivoted his mech from side to side, but that only fanned the flames higher.
Devon was in serious trouble. If he didnt extinguish the flames his mech
would shut down and leave him open for the clansman to destroy Devon at
his leisure. Devon couldnt eject because of the flames. He would be
burned alive as he jettisoned through the inferno surrounding his cockpit.
Devon was left with only one choice. He charged his mech in the
direction the missiles had come from.
Gilberts mouth dropped in astonishment. The mercenary had sent
his mech full tilt toward his position. The flaming mech lit up the shadow
Gilbert was hiding in. The Enforcer stumbled as it neared his position, but
the pilot was able to keep his feet. Gilbert didnt react for several precious
moments, allowing Devon the chance he needed. Gilbert couldnt imagine
what would posses the mercenary to attempt such an obviously suicidal
action. Any other clan warrior would have immediately understood
Devons motivation. Death was sometimes unavoidable, but it need not be
a waste,. If a warrior could take an enemy down with him, he would die
with honor, as a warrior should. This concept was totally alien to Gilbert.
Dead was dead and nothing could change that.
Devons mech careened off trees and stumbled blindly into
Gilberts hiding place. The clansman reacted just a moment too late. He
twisted the Fenris to the left but its crippled knee slowed it just long
enough for Devon to plow into the clan mech.
Devon fought the controls to keep the enforcer upright. The heat
in the cockpit soared higher with each step. He nearly passed out as sweat
poured into his eyes. Any moment, the ammo from the autocannon might
explode and end his life in a tick of the clock. Suddenly, Devon flew
forward, straining against his safety harness as his mech smashed into
something solid. Whatever it was gave way under the Enforcer's
momentum. Devon fought to regain his balance but the mech fell forward
on top of the obstacle and began to roll. A new wave of heat robbed him
of his consciousness.
Gilbert tried unsuccessfully to backpeddle away from the
mercenarys mech. The backward motion, combined with the momentum
of the charging mech, caused the Fenris to tumble on to its back. Gilberts
head snapped back, impacting with the cockpit wall. Shards of Plexiglas
flew in all directions from the shattered viewport. He momentarily lost
consciousness from the blow. A flash of heat swept across Gilberts face
bringing him back to his senses. He could see the burning mesh through
the hole in his Fenris viewport as they slid across the wet humus in a
grotesque embrace. Suddenly, the world turned upside-down. The two
mechs slipped over the edge of the low hill where the fight had taken place.
They began to roll toward the swamp, still locked together from the
impact. Gilbert wretched the controls, trying to break the Enforcers grip.
Devons limp body bounced against his safety harness, bruising his
body terribly. The heat continued to wash over Devon, almost killing the
unconscious mechwarrior. Finally, the two mechs rolled to a stop, with
Bushwacker flat on its back. The mechs lay submerged in about five
meters of black water. The flames from the inferno missile sputtered and
then died. The heat began to drop in the Enforcers cockpit as the heat
sinks kicked in. Cool air blew on Devon, waking him. He opened his eyes
to darkness. He tried to reactivate the computer without success. Devon
fumbled around in the dark until he found the emergency pack strapped to
the bottom of his seat. Unhooking the bag, he set it in his lap and opened
it. Still in the dark, Devon felt around in the pack and removed the
emergency lamp. He flicked it on.
The inside of the cockpit was a mess. All of the screens were dead
and wires hung from broken consoles. Devon suddenly realized that the
viewport was also dark. It couldnt be night already, or could it. He
couldnt tell how long he had been knocked out. Either Devon had been
unconscious for hours or something was covering the port. He found the
auxiliary power switch and flicked it on, extinguishing the lamp as dim
yellow lights came on. Minimal power was restored but the primary power
coupling was damaged. In other words, he could only operate the mech at
minimal output. Unfortunately that didnt include the weapons. Devon
tried to reactivate the computer again, this time successfully. The
diagnostic program indicated significant damage to parts of almost every
system. Nothing had escaped the searing heat undamaged. The computer
finished configuring and beeped its readiness for action. Gingerly at first,
Devon tried to move his mech.
The movements were sluggish at first. All of the Enforcers limbs
were operable, except for its damaged arm, but something was keeping it
prone. He began to rock the mech back and forth, attempting to dislodge
whatever was holding him down. The weight shifted suddenly and light
streamed into the cockpit. Devon gasped. Muddy water swirled outside of
his viewport. His mech was submerged under water. He realized he
better free himself quickly. There was no way of knowing how much air he
had left. Devon tried to make his mech sit up, but something was still
holding him down. He pulled in the mechs legs and pushed. His torso
was still pinned but his legs came free. Pumping the mechs legs, Devon
tried to dislodge himself. Metal screeched and his torso moved a few
meters. As he worked the mechs legs up and down the weight on his
chest shifted again.
The still form of the clan Fenris passed in front of Devons
viewport. He caught sight of its smashed canopy. The clan mechwarrior
was still strapped in the flooded cockpit, his lifeless arms swaying freely in
the muddy water. Devon realized he must have smashed the Fenris
canopy when he blindly collided with it. Just when the clansman had
Devon at his mercy, fate had stepped in and saved the mercenary. Devon
swore an oath of thanks to his patron saint. He then continued the task of
freeing himself from the death grip of the shattered clan mech.
Devon freed his mechs right arm and was able to lever it under the
lighter bulk of the Fenris. He pushed against the controls, commanding the
Enforcer to topple the other machine off of him. The Fenris began to shift
one final time. It rolled off of the Enforcer and settled into the dark mud of
the swamp. Silt settled on the motionless mech like light brown snow.
Devon was able to bring his mech to a sitting position with his one
Star Commander Garth Blackwell watched the mercenarys mech
rise from the dark water. Its left arm hung limp at its side and its armor
was scarred and blackened by fire. Blackwell knew he could easily cripple
and destroy the mech without much trouble but he hesitated. He had
observed the entire battle between Mechwarrior Gilbert and the mercenary.
Gilbert had ambushed the mercenary and disabled his most powerful
weapon. Throwing caution to the wind, the warrior had charged after the
retreating clansman. Again, Gilbert had shamed himself by striking from
hiding. Gilberts use of inferno warheads only deepened his dishonor.
Against all odds, the valiant warrior had fought on and dispatched the
clansman. The Star Commander knew from watching the battle that he
would have to kill the mercenary in order to defeat him and that wasnt
what he wanted. Blackwell turned his mech and started back toward the
Ghost Bear encampment. The warrior from the Inner Sphere had earned
his victory with blood and courage. It was not for Blackwell to take that
victory away. The Star Commander shook his head. He couldnt
understand how clansmen like Gilbert could reject honor even though they
were born and bred to revere it, while many of the warriors of the Inner
Sphere proved their worthiness against overwhelming odds. For an instant
Blackwell doubted the Clans right to disturb what had evolved in
Kerenskys absence. Like any loyal clan warrior, Blackwell let the feeling
Rain Dance - Page 9 - Douglas M. Warren