Mercenary Liaison Office
March 12, 3054
Tai-i Chandler looked over the briefing material, “This unit has a long history but Command wants you to personally supervise them.”
“I’ve looked over their file,” replied As ‘Zaman, “somebody wants them to fail in order to prove something.”
Chandler became defensive, “The Combine cannot trust mercenaries –We have to take precautions.”
“Don’t repeat that mantra with me, Tai-i,” the Azami officer warned, “the DCMS has a history of contract violations and has little room for complaint.”
“That kind of talk will have the ISF paying you a visit,” said Chandler, his voice lowered, despite nobody else present in the office.
The Tai-i sighed, “I’ll make sure the tea is hot,” he tapped the folder, “Have you noted that part of the contract is amnesty for all past infractions for the members?”
“I can’t believe their nerve,” declared the DCMS officer.
“The DCMS found that clause acceptable,” added Mohammed Bey, “they were declared ronin for behaving exactly as respectable samurai were expected to behave and were punished for performing their duties to their lord, a Kurita, by the way, instead of the interests of national politics –Does anybody even remember the 9th Rasalhague Regulars?”
Chandler shook his head, “That’s years before my time. But you sound like you are justifying their crime.”
“Exactly,” concluded As’Zaman, “The DCMS raises warriors to give their leaders unquestioning loyalty and a few of them messed up by trusting a leader of the Kurita line. Instead of offering reconciliation, the DCMS condemned thousands of fine soldiers to exile and may as well admit the error and get over their losses –Especially over a war few people even remember.”
Briefing room, Mercenary Liaison Office
March 15, 3054
Tai-i As ‘Zaman stood beside the wall-sized display; the long, conference table was flanked by several seated men wearing a mix of Inner Sphere uniforms. “The last known unit on Rubigen was the 332nd Assault Cluster, Beta Galaxy; Composed of at least two trinaries, three binaries of ASF, and plenty of Elementals.” He changed the planet’s image to a broad panorama of vast snow fields. “The last known commander, a Sakhan, has declared mercenaries as ‘dezgra’ or dishonorable. The unit is known to be cautious, and they tend not to commit until they know what they are up against.”
“Tai-i,” one of the mercenary Battlemech pilots raised his hand; he wore a utility uniform similar to that used by the Lyran military. “What does that ‘dezgra’ mean?”
As’Zaman took a breath, “In brief, it means no quarter will be given, no prisoners will be taken.”
The Mechwarrior bit his lip and made no further comment.
Transient Battlemech Unit Hangars
Buckminister Prefectural Military Reservation
March 23, 3054
“Your contract states that in lieu of payment your Battlemechs shall receive field upgrades,” said Mohammed Bey. He looked over the lance of four machines in repair cubicles, teams of technicians busily tending to them.
“Unfortunately, we are not allocated enough time before our first mission on Rubigen,” replied Tai-i Lothar Kandisson. “We will have to wait until we return.” He glanced about the hangar, “I thought you were a Mechwarrior –where is your machine?”
As’Zaman smiled, “My ride is currently undergoing repairs and shall be arriving here within two or three months. Your dropship only has room for one lance of ‘Mechs anyway.”
“That is true,” the Tai-i answered, “It will be very cramped aboard the Leopard as it is.”
A mechanic in stained coveralls approached the two officers and saluted, “Tai-i, the vehicle you requested has been delivered.”
Mohammed Bey returned the salute, “Thank you very much, Gunsho.”
Kandisson stood a head taller than the Azami officer, his brown hair was close-cropped and graying. His uniform was similar to that worn by officers in the Draconis Combine but many of the details, such as trim, piping and buttons were those of the defunct Rasalhague Regulars, the standing military of the old Rasalhague Military District, which was granted independence from the Draconis Combine in the mid-3030s.
The cacophony of a busy Battlemech hangar had the kind of homey familiarity which Kandisson found relaxing. The teams of technicians went along with their duties and didn’t require his direction or interference, which he found relieving. Few technical crews in the Inner Sphere prided themselves on the quality of their work than those of the DCMS. A feeling of nostalgia washed over him, of days long gone, of a time he proudly served House Kurita. The low rumble of an approaching vehicle drew Kandisson’s attention; A three-ton civilian lorry pulled into the hangar, a DCMS mechanic in work fatigues at the wheel.
“There’s my ride,” announced Mohammed Bey. He returned the mechanic’s bow and slowly paced around the vehicle, “Everything appears to be to my specifications.”
“You’re taking that?” asked Kandisson.
“Trust me,” commented As`Zaman, “You and your men will prefer a ride in this humble machine to making your way back to your dropship on foot.”
“But it looks like a civilian vehicle,” remarked the Rasalhague officer.
“That’s the idea,” Mohammed Bey answered, “I do not intend to paint a target on this thing.” The pounded the flank of the vehicle with his fist, “I want to blend in with other civilian vehicles, even while under the enemy’s nose.”
A man in the uniform of a Lyran Leutnant approached the two officers and saluted, “Sir, the Independenza is ready for field calibration.” Kandisson returned the salute, “Very good, DiBergoni, if Leutnant Caidin is ready, mount up and take a run through the fire and maneuver range.”
Mohammed Bey took his place behind the wheel and watched DiBergoni climb the scaffold to board his Firestarter. The Azami officer leaned back in the seat and thought about the Mongoose he once piloted. That Battlemech was now on Dabih, assigned to his son, Ahmed, who would soon attend the Sun Tzu School of Combat. It would be a while before he sat in a Battlemech cockpit once more.
Clan Ghost Bear Occupation Zone
April 20, 3054
The Leopard Dropship entered the atmosphere and engaged in a series of turns to bleed off speed. Tai-i As’Zaman sat in his stateroom, he wore a set of earphones and monitored transmissions between the cockpit and the Battlemechs awaiting their signal for their atmospheric drop. As per Kandisson’s plan, the Leopard made a wide, gradual, spiraling descent, and dropped each Battlemech over a predetermined map quadrant. In the center of that spiral was a remote, abandoned airfield, where the Aerospace Fighters would deploy.
Despite momentary detection by a Clan Dropship in orbit, the jump into Rubigen System, the fast burn-in transit, and the atmospheric entry were, for the most part, undetected. Due to the spiral pattern used in descent, the planet’s defenders would have a difficult time locating the Leopard once it landed.
After a surprisingly smooth landing, Mohammed Bey joined the Leopard’s crew as they scrambled out of the Dropship and feverishly set up the camouflage nets and thermal screens. A Thunderbird and a Sholagar, deployed in space prior to entry, touched down on the snow-covered runway. They taxied to where their crews waited for them. His work done, Mohammed Bey made his way to the storage compartment where his vehicle waited, strapped onto a pallet. While looking over the cargo pallets, he noted several crates with familiar markings. They contained components of Battlemech upgrade kits. It was then he noticed that some of the crates had been opened and recalled that Kandisson’s Warhammer had been undergoing work during the recharge times between jumps.
“Tai-i As’Zaman, please report to the cockpit.”
The Azami officer left his stateroom and made his way forward. The crewmen he passed along the way gave him room to pass and respectful deference. He reached the door to the cockpit and pressed the intercom button, “As’Zaman here.” A buzzer sounded and there was a metallic click. Mohammed Bey twisted the aluminum handle and stepped into the compartment.
“Please be seated,” said one of the crewmen, who handed him a set of earphones, “listen.”
Mohammed Bey’s eyes grew wide, the last three days had been unusually quiet and now there was a sudden explosion of Clan Ghost Bear transmissions. He pulled a pen from the pocket of his duty fatigues and began to write.
“Do you understand that?”
As’Zaman held up a finger, he wanted to concentrate on listening and transcribing what he heard. After about thirty minutes, the transmissions ceased. He looked over his notes and cleaned them up, crossed out lines and circled certain sections. He held up his notes and sat back in the padded chair, “It appears that our hosts have finally mobilized a search party,” he announced, “The leader of that search party is Star Captain Jillian Snuka.”
“I could barely make out what they were saying, replied the crewman.
“They are reacting to an earlier report,” said the Azami officer, “It looks like DiBergoni walked into a town and used his machineguns on several security troops. They are very angry about it and are sending a star, that’s five of their Battlemechs, after him.”
Oberleutnant Caidin was amazed at the Clan Omnimech’s speed. His recognition program identified it as a Viper, a forty ton machine. Caidin’s Griffin, Border Riever, bounded over the snow-covered terrain. The two war machines battled around a small hamlet of a dozen or so buildings, the terrified populace, taking cover in their basements and root cellars. With every shot he took, Caiden muttered a short prayer, hoping that his Griffin’s many jury-rigged systems would hold out for its long-delayed refurbishments. On his second shot, his Griffin’s particle cannon managed to tear the left arm off the Viper, which immediately used the cover of buildings to make his escape.
Caidin steered his own machine toward a stand of dense woods and hunkered down, as a pair of unidentified Clan ASF roared over his head, in several attempts to make him break his cover. The Oberleutnant was relieved as he watched the pair streak away.
Oberluetnant Caidin had to cross several kilometers of clear terrain along his patrol route. He feverishly hoped that he didn’t run into anything out here, because he’d be a sitting duck to any ASF that showed up. His heart jumped when he thought he made out a moving speck in the distance. The Griffin skidded to a halt, its head traversed to the left and right. There was no cover at all, save a meter of snow. The Griffin suddenly fell forward, and lay as flat as possible.
Despite how cool his cockpit may have been, Caidin was perspiring. Five minutes passed…then ten…The Lyran officer monitored his seismic sensors and the swift pace, most likely that of a light machine, seemed to draw closer. Fifteen minutes…
“What do you think you are doing?” It was a ‘Mech’s loudspeaker.
Caidin let out a heavy sigh. He pulled at his controls and the Griffin rose out of the snow. He recognized the Firemoth a distance away. “I’m on a scouting mission and trying to avoid combat.”
“I do not believe you.”
“Have it your way.” Caidin pushed his Griffin forward, particle cannon raised, a cloud of missiles in the air. The Firemoth broke into a run, which startled the Lyran by its speed. The Griffin halted and leveled its cannon, a ribbon of energy crossed the field and tore into the Firemoth’s left torso, and sent the corresponding arm spinning through the cold air. Once again, the Clan Omnimech exhibited its capacity for amazing speed as it turned away and swiftly retreated into the distance.
Lieutenant Darrel Costa guided his Shadowhawk through a small forest of snow-covered evergreen trees. The forest formed a small crescent around a small town and Costa could see the rooftops of the buildings and houses through the trees and despite the morning fog, he spotted a hulking form moving between the structures. He looked over his weapons array and maneuvered to a position where he could get an unobstructed view of what could only be an enemy machine.
DiBergoni’s heart pounded as a pair of Clan fighters streaked overhead. Small stands of trees dotted the terrain and the Firestarter move from one to another, and used the terrain to avoid detection. Fortunately for DiBergoni, aerospace fighters move too fast to be efficient reconnaissance vehicles –The pilots are too busy controlling their fast-moving craft to look for anything that isn’t out in the open.
One of the fighters slowed to just above stall speed and yawed over just above the small stand of trees. DiBergoni saw his chance and centered his aiming reticle on the delta-shaped aircraft. The Clan fighter flipped over and plowed into the deep snow, two hundred meters away from the Firestarter. The second fighter accelerated and climbed high into the sky before breaking off.
“I have lost contact with Lieutenant Costa,” Tai-i Kandisson reported, “I will head over to the sector Costa was patrolling to investigate.”
“Hopefully he is just maintaining radio silence,” replied Tai-i As`Zaman.
Kandisson stood in the middle of the snow-covered field and examined the wreckage of his executive officer’s Shadowhawk. A handful of farmers had described the brief battle, Costa’s Shadowhawk dealing damage at range with fin-stabilized autocannon rounds against a Clan Omnimech that Kandisson guessed, from the descriptions submitted by witnesses, was a Blackhawk. The farmers had told him that Costa’s Shadowhawk has been savaged in the fierce exchange of fire and the Lieutenant announced that he would withdraw from the field in concession. The Clan pilot refused to allow Costa to depart alive and kept firing upon the crippled Shadowhawk until its munitions exploded. It was unclear if Costa was killed while ejecting or after he hit the ground. The Tai-i, usually a calm and taciturn man, felt his very brain afire with a growing rage.
Free Rasalhague Republic
The 9th Rasalhague Regulars had been routed. The 2nd Genyosha was in full pursuit, destroying every so-called Ronin unit they could find and putting them to death for daring to oppose the commands from Luthien. The flight crew of the Leopard dropship, Lance Point, monitored radio traffic as broken unit called for help that would not come, and begged for mercy that would never be granted. By unanimous agreement, the captain transmitted a brief message to any surviving 9th Rasalhague unit: “Come to the spaceport and escape, if you want to live.”
Tai-i Lothar Kandisson pushed his damaged Warhammer through the ruins of the city, careful to avoid the bloodthirsty Genyosha units in pursuit. The elite DCMS unit had landed five days before and assaulted the 9th’s barracks, scattered its units, and gunned down any survivors, without a word, without any warnings. The Genyosha had maintained radio silence since they entered the Engadin system and without a word, set forth to slaughtering the men who chose to remain loyal to Warlord Marcus Kurita.
“Come to the spaceport, if you want to live.” Kandisson had considered staging an honorable last stand; worthy of a samurai warrior, but all the Genyosha offered was an execution befitting a criminal. He glanced at the map overlay; he could make it to the spaceport in less than ten minutes, if nobody tried to stop him.
The approach to the dropship was nerve-wracking, the industrial zone near the spaceport burned out of control and the Warhammer had to wander through streets obscured by dense smoke, with the constant threat from enemy Battlemechs patrolling the area. Despite a couple of close calls, where he was able to hide among the ruins and escape detection, Kandisson made his way to the flight line, where the Lance Point waited. He was the only survivor from the 9th Rasalhague Regulars to make it.
The Leopard lifted off the runway and received scattered fire from ground units that had formed a cordon about the spaceport. Caught unawares, the DCMS fighters engaged in running down Ronin units failed to chase the Lance Point out of atmosphere; they had made good their escape.
It didn’t take long to convince a commercial jumpship to give them a lift across the Lyran border but it cost them a few tons of spare parts to pay their way. Kandisson made his intentions to travel to Galatea and take up the mercenary trade known and the dropship crew asked if they could accompany him, having no experience outside the Draconis Combine military. The Tai-i shrugged and agreed to lead them.
October 3034, 0800 Hours
Weinstube Wegner was a popular gathering place for the cadets of the local academies, artists, literati and occasional mercenary officers. The walls were wood paneled, decorated with paintings by local artists; the ceiling was high, with brass and crystal chandeliers providing warm illumination. Modeled after an ancient Viennese Salon, Weinstube Wegner offered its clientele fine dining, quality refreshments and relaxing entertainment in a comfortable, usually peaceful atmosphere.
Despite his Draconis Combine uniform, Tai- i Kandisson drew few inquiring looks from the other patrons as he walked through the wide, beveled-glass doors.
“Herr Kandisson?” A waiter approached him and bowed, “Please come this way.”
Kandisson nodded and fell in behind the waiter as he led him to a private booth, where a tall, thin man, wearing a simplified Free Worlds League uniform stood up and bowed.
“Tai-i Kandisson, welcome!” he extended a hand.
“Lieutenant Costa, thank you for the invitation,” replied the Tai-i, he took a chair at the large table, which was decorated with a faceted crystal vase with delicate flowers and set for two.
“Please call me Darrell,” said Costa, “I hope we shall be working together for many years, we may as well be less formal as soon as possible.”
Kandisson nodded, “If you wish,” he replied, “my fist name is Lothar and I hope you don’t mind if I prefer you call me Kandisson.” He didn’t want to go into a lengthy explanation about how people of the Combine rarely refer to each other by their given names.
“That’s fine,” returned Costa, “Kandisson is fine for me.” He set a datapad on the table and handed Kandisson some papers, “From your dossier, I have to assume you know little about the mercenary business –and it is a business, so there are many differences from being in a House military.”
“Yes,” added Kandisson, with a nod, “I must admit that I must depend on you to train me on what I have to know as a mercenary.”
“I will do my best to help you and your fellows transition to mercenary life,” announced Costa, “I took the time to put together a brief orientation packet for each of you, including places and parts of the city to avoid, as well as recommended places to stay, while you look for permanent housing –trust me, in the long run, it will be far more economical than paying for a hotel room.”
Kandisson picked up the folder and scanned over the pages, “Thank you Costa…er, Darrell, I know this will be extremely helpful, thank you for taking the time to make things easier for us.”
“Think nothing of it,” said Costa, “it is the least I could do to people with whom I shall be working with.” He took a moment to signal a waiter, “We are ready to order.”
The Tai-i took up a small menu from the table, “Do you recommend anything?”
“Breakfasts are usually light,” advised the Lieutenant, “have the coffee or tea, then a pastry or two; we’ll have something a bit more substantial for lunch, when we meet with the dropship crew.” He made a point to add, “I’m paying –The unit can write them off as business expenses.”
Kandisson had to smile.
“Are you certain?” Kandisson’s heart was racing.
Costa nodded, “My contacts are 100 percent sure of their information and I vouch for their reliability.”
The Combine officer had to turn away, tears began to form in his eyes, “So, my family is alive and in a refugee camp?”
“Yes,” replied Costa, who had proven to be an able and loyal executive officer for their tiny unit. “My contacts have made arrangements to have them released and transported over the Rasalhague border –We can go pick them up there.”
“You did this for me?”
“You command this unit,” said Costa, “You will command better knowing you family is safe and living here with you.”
Kandisson used a handkerchief to wipe his eyes, “Thank you Costa, I owe you.”
“Don’t worry about it, sir,” the Lieutenant responded, “I’ll find a way to write it off as a business expense.”
Clan Ghost Bear Occupation Zone
3054, Day 11, 0730 Hours
The Warhammer strode cautiously through an area heavily wooded with evergreen trees. From his cockpit, Kandisson could see though the spikes of snow-covered treetops and make out distant movement through the dense, morning fog. He zigzagged around the stands of evergreens in order to close with the target. Though the parting haze, the Tai-i could make out the squat form. Blackhawk!
Targeting reticles centered on the silhouette, Kandisson loosed both his particle cannon at long range. The target shuddered and halted for a moment after being struck. The Blackhawk Omnimech broke into a charge, crashing though trees in its rush to close.
Kandisson fired again, as soon as his weapons recharged. The Omnimech stumbled and turned, using the trees to cover its advance.
As the enemy machine drew closer, Kandisson could make out its pockmarked armor, evidence of previous battle damage, most likely with Lieutenant Costa’s Shadowhawk. Kandisson fought to contain his anger, he needed to remain cool and avoid errors by allowing his emotions to fog his reason…but this Clanner had to die.
The Blackhawk’s weapons were a brace of what seemed to be large lasers, which tore into the Warhammer’s armor. The battle between the two was brief, as the two combatants maneuvered through the evergreen forest, part of which burned fiercely as energy weapons missed their targets and blasted resin-filled trunks to flaming splinters.
The Omnimech suddenly collapsed in a heap, its torsos torn open. Kandisson wasted no time in closing with the crippled enemy ‘Mech. The Warhammer stood before the Blackhawk and waited.
“Face me, pirate!” commanded Kandisson, his hands gripped his weapon controls. The cockpit slid open and the scowling face of the Clan Ghost Bear Pilot peered out.
Kandisson placed the reticle belonging to the Warhammer’s right arm particle projector cannon squarely on the pilot’s face, its muzzle practically in the cockpit, and squeezed the controls.
[i]And Allah turned back the unbelievers in their rage; they did not obtain any advantage, and Allah sufficed the believers in fighting; and Allah is Strong, Mighty.[/i] from The Koran, 33rd Sura- The Clans