You pull up to the large door, step out into the freezing cold and punch the buzzer next to a man-sized door at the end of the loading dock.
“Whaddya want?” comes a voice from a small speaker.
“Ives, little old Japanese bastard sent me to pick up a package.”
There’s a moment of silence, then a bolt is thrown behind the door and it’s pulled open by a large fellow with an assault rifle. You squeeze past him to get out of the blistering cold and into the simply mind-numbing cold and stand stunned as the guard closes the door behind you.
What you find inside isn’t a tiny, cramped listening post – but a cavern – crammed full of crates and equipment. Several small industrialmechs are moving amongst the stacks, shifting the equipment around. You see mech parts, starship components, prefabricated structures, mining gear, heavy manufacturing components, you name it. Enough to build a city.
“This isn’t a listening post.”
“No…it isn’t,” comes a strong voice from a small foreman’s office. Out comes a man you’ve never met in the flesh, but it’s a safe bet that nearly every human alive would recognize the face. Hero of countless battles, including the recent Amaris Rebellion, Protector of the Star League, General Alexandr Kerensky.
You snap to and salute and try not to sputter.
“Come along, Ives,” he says, pulling on a parka as he walks past you to the door, “our little old Japanese bastard is waiting.” Outside, as you’re climbing into the APC, you both cock your heads and listen to the distant roar of rocket motors, very high up and very far away.
“Is that your Broadsword?” asks Kerensky.
“Pitch is too low, it’s a Leopard…and no, not ours.”
The old man sighs deeply, his shoulders slumping slightly. “So it has come to this. They’ve come to kill me.”
He climbs inside the APC and sits in silence as you maneuver down the mountain pass and out onto the plain, where you speed up as fast as you dare with the most important man in the galaxy in the back seat.
“Do you know what’s happening, Ives?”
You think for a few minutes on the events of the last few months.
“Seems to me that the League Lords are wanting to do away with the Hegemony, shove you out, divide the League up amongst themselves, and blow the shit out of each other.”
“Very astute. I assume one or more of them are responsible for the Leopard.”
“Sir…if you led, all of humanity would follow.”
He’s quiet for a moment.
“Perhaps, but I’m an old man. Even if I were to father a successor, he would likely end up the same as poor Richard Cameron – misused and manipulated. We’d be delaying the inevitable. We need to think bigger, Ives. If it comes to a war – if the might of the Star League is turned inward – I fear that humanity…that our civilization…could not survive.”
“I don’t see how you can stop it at this point.”
“Stop the war? No. That’s probably inevitable. Davion and Steiner alone will trigger it, even if I could get the other Houses in line.”
“So I guess we’re just well and truly ffff….ohhhh…,” you think back to the warehouse, “you wily sonofabitch…you’re not going to stop the war…you’re going to take away the weapons….” you turn to glace at his face for confirmation. He smiles slightly, a glint in his eyes. As he opens his mouth to respond, you’re both thrown back in your seats as a high-powered laser blast slams into the back of the APC.
You turn forward and gun the engine and juke out of a straight line. You hear Kerensky curse and climb into the turret chair.
“Two Locusts,” he shouts, “coming up on us fast.”
You wrench the APC into a stomach-churning spin on the snow, coming out of it facing back at an oblique angle to the approaching Battlemechs.
“I’m going to try to get you close to one of em, see if you can bloody his nose.”
You cut away from one of the Locusts and maneuver into range of the second one. You dodge the APC out of the way of another laser blast and hear the roar as Kerensky opens up with the pulse turret..
“I hit his leg and slowed him down, you should be able to separate them.”
“Alllright then…,” you key the coms on, “Wild Card, Wild Card! Echo One! We are pursued by scout-class Battlemechs and can’t make dust-off. We’re going to need a rolling pick-up.”
Instead of a response from Jack, the APC lurches as it takes another laser hit from the uninjured Locust. You smell smoke and hear some popping and crackling from behind you.
“We lost the turret, and our second bogey’s closing.”
“ARGH!” you scream, banging on the steering yoke. You lurch out of the driver’s seat. “You drive!”
“What?” says Kerensky, legitimately surprised and alarmed for the first time as he scrambles past you into the driver’s seat. You pull Bertha’s case off the storage rack, toss open the lid, and begin assembling the rifle. You chamber a round so heavy it seems to weigh half as much of the rifle, move to the back of the APC, sit down with your legs wrapped around a support strut, and pull the lever to drop the ramp in the back of the vehicle. It falls open with a clang, bouncing against the snow and filling the vehicle with freezing air and howling wind.
“Line me up!”
“35 degrees,” he calls back, sounding much more calm than you feel.
“What?” you scream back over the wailing of the wind.
“The left viewport of a Locust 37E has a flaw due to a supply issue in manufacturing, it can’t take much force at that angle.”
“Okay…sure…I’ll just get my protractor…”
You sit and watch the Battlemech at a dead run closing in. You try not to think of what would happen if a blast from its extremely large laser lined up with the gaping opening in the back of the vehicle. It gets closer, and closer, firing several shots but missing as Kerensky weaves with almost supernatural timing. Finally, he wrenches the APC around in the snow and you lose sight of the Locust for a moment – but after another turn, it comes back into view – at what sure does look like a 35-degree angle. Almost without thinking, you sight through the scope and squeeze the trigger – nearly getting your shoulder dislocated as it discharges the absurdly powerful round you chambered. The viewports at the nose of the Locust are filled with a satisfying splash of red, and the entire mech collapses into the snow as it suddenly loses the control of its pilot.
“YEEEHAW!” you scream. You throw the lever and the ramp slowly ratchets back up and closes. You move back to the front and awkwardly swap seats with the old general again.
“The other one’s still behind us, we can’t outrun him.”
“Yeah. JACK GODDAMMIT WHERE ARE YOU!?!?!”
There’s a moment of silence, then you finally hear a response.
“Echo One, Wild Card, sorry, guys with guns.”
“I’ll make it. I’ll be airborne in a sec, stay alive for a few more minutes.” A hail mary blast from the trailing Locust’s laser takes a gouge out of the landscape just ahead of you. You grind your teeth, but Jack sounds like he’s been shot, so you’re not going to add to it.
As promised, two minutes later, he comes back on the line. “Get ready to hit the brakes!”
The Wild Card falls into the snow as if it’d been dropped, the ramp to the bay open. You slam on the brakes and the APC slides into the cargo bay and squeals all the way to the rear till it hits the firewall with a teeth-jarring crash. Your stomach falls out from under you as the Wild Card lurches back into the sky before the Locust can take a shot.
You both sit in silence, taking a few deep breaths.
“So…” you say, “You’re taking away their weapons.”
“I’m a weapon.”
“Where are we going?”
He smiles, and holds a finger over his lips, indicating it’s a secret. “Nice driving, by the way” he says.
You laugh. “Hell, you should see me fly.”