She was beautiful, really. Not in a supermodel way, but like the girl next door. She came around the corner in a rush, her lab coat drifting behind her, and was understandably shocked to find a heavily-armed platoon of leathernecks packed into the hall. Time stopped. You stared into her brown eyes, widened in surprise, and her back into yours – frankly you were nearly as startled. There was a muffled click from behind you – Blake, you think – and a small, red hole blooms on her forehead. Her eyes widen even further, and then lose focus. You let your weapon drop on its harness and catch her in your arms and gently lean her against the wall, where she slumps silently into a seated position on the floor. Time seems to resume. You motion the squad forward.
You arrived on Cromwell three days before the 9th Fleet pulled into orbit above the Ares Arms research facility and began pounding the hell out of the planetary defenses. Your unit approached through the desert on foot and snuck into the facility under cover of a spirited Battlemech conflict between the Black Knights and a battalion of Ares’ home guard.
Whatever this thing was that you were ordered to steal – thousands of people were dying to keep you from it.
You travel deeper into the facility without encountering any resistance. Alerts were triggered on the far side of the complex, diverting the security personnel. You wondered whether or not Tokugawa sent another team into the facility as a fail-safe – he was certainly committing everything he had to the operation.
Room 700 turned out to be behind a heavy-duty security door. The sign read “ADVANCED HEURISTICS 3″. You deploy men to either end of the hall, crack open the biometric access panel and get to work on the door. You’ve barely gotten started when the lock audibly releases.
“That wasn’t me…” you warn. The men take position and raise their weapons as the door slides open.
The room beyond was nothing like you were expecting. It was warm, and tastefully decorated in soft blues and browns. There were a number of couches arranged around a large coffee table on which several robotic manipulators were mounted. The top half of the far wall was transparent, revealing a dark server room beyond – several banks of machines with their varying tiny indicator lights and in the center of them on a pedestal, a four-foot high cylinder of black metal. You move through the room and begin to work on the door to the server room.
“This gives me the creeps,” mutters Corbett, who was gazing at some artwork adorning one of the walls of the room. It was abstract – mind-twisting geometric shapes amidst bright slashes of color. They were difficult to look at – the quick glance you gave them filled you with an inexplicable sense of unease.
The lock to the server room gave way without much difficulty. You motioned Blake and Keller in to retrieve the item. A few seconds later Keller gave a grunt through his throat mic.
“Holy shit, Top, this thing is heavy.”
“Dammit,” you growl. They told you what to look for, but they didn’t know how big it would be or what it would weigh. It was going to take three men to carry it, and there was no way you were going to get far on foot. You send Williams into the server room to help and they get the device situated between the three of them. You gather the unit and start heading towards a small executive hangar on the top floor of the building.
Whatever it was that had distracted the security personnel, it seemed to evaporate when you left Room 700. By the time you made it to the hangar, you were forced to hunker down in the hall outside and send Jack and Gerst in to find a ride. You kept them pinned until Jack buzzed in and then tried to make an orderly withdrawal. He and Gerst had secured a large executive chopper, and the rotors were already spinning. The unit was piling into the chopper to the roar of dozens of assault rifles when you heard the loud CLANG of the package hitting the deck. You swung around just in time to see Keller’s face explode, his body falling onto that of Williams who had been shot a second before.
You don’t know how he did it, but somehow Blake managed to get both men and the damnable cylinder scooped up in his massive arms and shoved the last few feet up the ramp into the chopper. You emptied magazine after magazine into the defenders as Jack lifted the bird into the air and out the door, Corbett screaming into the radio, trying to notify the Black Knights engaged outside that you’re friendly.
You made it past the battle outside with some deft maneuvering by Jack and out into the open desert. You called in to the Agamemnon and signalled for a pickup. You thought you were in the clear until you came over a ridge and stumbled upon a mobile infantry division hauling ass towards the fight. All you heard was Jack screaming “FUCK! SAM!” before the chopper lurched out of control and everything went black.
You pulled yourself up a moment later in the wreckage of the chopper. You heard Jack and Bramer groaning from the cockpit. Corbett was up, working on a shrapnel wound in Blake’s leg, Stevens was coughing and gurgling next to them, dying with a strut through his chest. Corbett was holding the man’s hand to comfort him and using it to staunch Blake’s wound while he worked. You grabbed your rifle and clawed your way out of the wreckage.
The chopper crashed in a low gully, and the survivors were digging in, bracing for the onslaught that was sure to follow the rumble of APCs approaching. And it did. Agamemnon sent a squadron of Shivas down from orbit to provide close-air-support to try and free you for a pickup by a Cheyenne dropship, but it wasn’t going well. Two Battlemechs had been intercepted on the way in by half of the squadron, but Bravo 2 had just rolled in and taken out the dozen or so APCs that had brought the horde to your door instead taking out the actual horde, which was just on the verge of figuring out that the remains of your squad probably had less than a hundred rounds of ammo between them.
“I’m out!” shouted Corbett. You toss your M41 at him.
“Make it count.”
You draw your sidearm and key your coms.
“Bravo One, Jack of Diamonds – Too far west, Bravo, I think you cracked their lunch truck. Listen buddy, these guys are going to crawl into our foxhole with us in about ten seconds, I need ordinance 70 meters west/southwest of my location, you’ve got to get them on your next pass or we’re dead.”
“70 meters west/southwest, rolling in, Jack.”
“Not too much closer than 70 meters either, those are some big rocks you’re dropping.”
Vagabond responds with a click of his mic.
You pop up from your foxhole into a savage burst of heavy machinegun fire, squeeze off several rounds from your sidearm, and are spun around and down into the gully by two shots, one in your vest and one in your arm. Wilkes wasn’t so lucky – the burst caught him full on and caved in his chest under his vest.
You look back up to the ridge – Blake was still firing into the haze, Gerst was policing ammo from Wilkes, Corbet and Richardson were lining up their handgun magazines in the dirt to make it easier to get the extra ammo if one of them fell. Geers grabs your vest and pulls you to your feet, pressing the butt of a spare sidearm into your free hand.
“It’s been an honor and a privilege, Top!” he yells above the scream of a Shiva aerospace superiority fighter rolling in very, very fast and very, very low.
You fall into place next to your men. “Gentlemen, the honor’s mine. And fuck Cromwell!”
“Fuck Cromwell,” they agree.
And then the world explodes.