Birth of Shadow
Caution: This Sex Story contains strong sexual content, including Ma/Fa, Science Fiction,
Desc: Sex Story: Chapter 1 - This is NOT a sexually explicit story but a story written along the lines of the MechWarrior series. I hope you will read this for the STORY and not the sex as it is few and FAR between.
The presence of the noonday sun was making itself felt as the inside of the stationary BattleMech heated up while the young warrior waited and pondered his situation. He was powered down at the moment so the heat pumps were not circulating the coolant through his vest nor were the fans stirring the air and he was beginning to get very warm. He sat there reclined in the battle seat thinking about the Marauder BattleMech and the number of weaknesses it has if a person could just look for them. There are several problems with looking however. One, you have to do it fast as they don't stand still for you to take advantage of them; two, they are usually shooting at you so you have to be fast or sneaky and three; in order to make use of the weakness you need to place your shots where they would count.
The upper leg narrows down to a flattened plate that fits into a hinge pin to create the knee. There is a lot of armor above the flattened area and the knee is well armored but for a small space, especially from the rear, the flattened plate is exposed and is very vulnerable, a medium laser hit on that plate would be enough to snap it. Another weak point is the connector ring where the legs and hips fit to the upper part of the body. Again small parts are open to direct shots that can do a lot of damage. Hits there can act as welds to freeze the torso, preventing it from twisting from side to side. The third and most apparent weaknesses are the elbows and upper arms. While the lower arms are massive and well armored to protect the PPC cannon and the medium laser contained in each, there is very little upper arm protection. In this location also, a medium laser hit is enough to cut through the weak armor and destroy the myomer muscles housed there. Such a hit would take that arm out of action and negates nearly half of the Mech's offensive weaponry.
The reason he had been thinking so much about these weak areas was that he was now waiting in ambush on a Marauder. While a Phoenix Hawk BattleMech is an excellent machine it is also 30 tons lighter than a Marauder. His P. Hawk had speed and jump capability on the Marauder, in all other areas it fell far short. Therefore it would be necessary for him to take advantage of any weaknesses in his ambush of that big Mech as they needed to take it out of the equation.
His boss, Major Nancy White, had told him, "Ward, just remember all we've been teaching you about vulnerable points on Mechs and the combat experience you've had up until now. Look for the weak points and capitalize on them. They taught you something very similar at the Soloris Academy, just remember and do it! You can take down a mountain if you concentrate on its weak points." While that might be true, mountains didn't normally shoot back at you he was thinking.
In the middle of a battlefield the Magnetic Anomaly Detector or MAG wasn't much assistance as there was metal from shot up vehicles and Mechs all over the place. If the battle was recent then the InfraRed detectors weren't much help either as some of the wreckage was on fire, still smoking or still cooling from being blasted. Then it was Mark 1 eyeball, motion detectors and luck. The young man was just hoping the pilot of that Marauder was overdrawn in the luck department.
His 'Sassy Lassy' had taken several hits during the initial combat so she passed for being shot up. It was all just light armor damage and paint scoring but she looked bad. One of the hits she had received had been from an inferno round. Ward had been doing some firing so his heat level was up and he went into instant shutdown. He didn't even have a chance to slap the override control. Before the infantryman could take advantage of his weakened condition however a Lance mate had shot up her and her squad. Now the Mech looked badly damaged and out of the fight. Propped up against another BattleMech he had shut down the fusion engine. He had his hand on the switch and was ready for a fast start but for now he was just so much more dead, cooling metal on the battlefield.
He knew the Marauder was close as he could feel the vibrations in the ground as it walked. Eyeballing through the side of the cockpit view plates he spotted movement. In a moment or two more it came into sight. It was even closer to him than he had thought it would be. With his finger on the start up switch he waited as it hesitated and looked around. Finally after what felt like two or three years it stepped forward again. Flicking the switch he grabbed the controls and when the panel turned green brought up the large laser to sight on the right leg just above the knee. He had decided to use the fudge factor, if a medium laser would do the job then a large laser would do it 'mo' better'.
His Tech had fine tuned the sighting computer until Ward knew that where cross hairs were was where the shot was going. He fired just as the left leg started to swing forward. Before it could complete the step the right leg folded under it, throwing it back and to the right. The Mech landed flat on its back, such as it was and lay there for a moment. While it was laying still Ward climbed to his feet, moved forward and pressed the large laser to the cockpit. With the left hand of his Mech he moved the Marauder's autocannon barrel to the side so the enemy pilot couldn't use it to fire on him. He then asked the pilot to release the hatch and exit the BattleMech. It was necessary for him to repeat himself several time as the pilot was still stunned but the hatch finally popped open and the pilot climbed out. The enemy pilot was totally pissed and enraged when he saw the weight of the Mech that had taken him out of combat.
While the pilot was dancing around having his temper tantrum Ward contacted Major White and told her that the ambush had been successful. She congratulated him and said she had troops moving forward to take the pilot off his hands.
While he waited Ward surveyed the battlefield. There were several light and medium Mechs that had fallen victim to the larger Mechs that the Pirates had sent forward. They were mostly part of the Bryceland Militia that had tried to defend this world. There were also several Pirate BattleMechs that had been shot up to the point of shutdown or defeat. His Battalion had plugged the hole that had been created in the line and now if they could just drive the enemy back they could move in and recover all of these downed Mechs. They had them moving in that direction if they could just keep up the pressure.
With the arrival of the troops to take the pilot Ward's assignment now was to move forward and spot for some of the Battalion's missile Mechs. They had two Trash Buckets that had moved up. While they aren't great one-on-one fighting Mechs they are superb as support Mechs. Ward moved into and up the gully. After moving several klicks he could see the trees on the other side that he had been looking for so climbing out and using them as concealment he looked over the enemy's formation. There was a Lance near him made up of two Griffins and two Riflemen. He was within medium laser range to them.
Calling in the plots to the Trebuchets he waited. Again it seemed like years before the missiles began to arrive. When one is close in under the guns of the enemy like that a few moments wait can seem forever! The missiles were right on the money of course and the first Rifleman went down. The other enemy Mechs started to scramble out of the area as the second salvo arrived. They were centered on the second Rifleman to make sure they didn't get into action. "Of course" because Ward had given up the medium laser on his right arm and had an Artemis IV Fire Control System mounted. They might have fired the missiles but HE was aiming them.
The Snakes now knew their opposition was inside missile range to them and were stirred up. There were two or three other targets within range of Ward so he called up the first of them. There were two J-27s ammo carriers that were reloading a couple of Archers. You don't just stop reloading in the middle and take off. The entire back armor has to be swung out of the way to get to the storage bins. It was into the middle of this juicy target that the sixty missiles hit. All the missile hits set off a chain reaction which blew up both '27s and one of the Archers. It knocked the second Archer off its feet with its rear armor still wide open, exposing all its internals, missile bins and everything.
Swinging them around he had them sight in on a field maintenance area. This might not take out any of the fighting Mechs but it would stop any more repairs being done on several injured Mechs and keep the Techs from closing the inspection areas, etc so the Mech could again go into action. The arriving missiles took out a field gantry and did further damage to two Mechs that the Techs were working on. When a Mech is opened up for repairs it doesn't take much to do major damage to one. With the armor out of the way you don't have to chew through it and the myomer muscles, internal frame and other very sensitive parts are exposed for easy damage.
The third target that was within their range was a small vehicle yard. While they were only support not fighting vehicles they would cause problems for the Snakes if they lost them.
While the Trebuchets were firing on the vehicles Major White called him again. "Ward, there're four Grifs in the gully below you. Call some shots for them, they're much closer than the Trebuchets and have a full compliment of missiles."
"Yes, Ma'am," came the only possible reply.
He started to plot the individual Mechs for the Griffins now instead of the Trash Buckets. With them closer and with full bins of missiles he could use the Artemis again, he hadn't on the maintenance yard and the vehicle compound. Ward had them continue firing on the targets until either they moved out of range or the Mech went down. He didn't care if it could later get back up, for the present he wanted to take them out of the fight and to do as much damage to them as possible. If the attackers could cause a panic from the Mechs falling over they might just be able to chase the Snakes away which would give them the battlefield and the battle.
After a Lance had been shot up, two down and two badly damaged, plus the explosions of all the other missiles landing that's what they did. They had heated the area up too much for them and the enemy Mechs pulled out. With one group in retreat it was easier to convince the others that retreating was a good idea.
"Major, the field's ours, they're leaving," Ward radioed to her.
"All Specters, move forward and secure the battlefield. Ward, take the Grifs and secure the area you had under fire," was her reply.
The five Mechs moved forward and checked each of the downed Mechs. In the two Riflemen they forced the pilots to come out. In two others there was one dead pilot and the second pilot was unconscious. The first Archer's pilot was alive but he had gone down face first. He was trapped until he got help to move the Mech as the emergency hatch in the back of the head had taken hits and was either jammed or warped so it couldn't open. His removal was accomplished by one of the Griffins pushing the armor panel back over the missile bin and then rolling the Mech over part way onto its side. That freed up the cockpit enough for the pilot to release the hatch and climb out. The second Archer pilot had been killed from the chain reaction of missile explosions. At the field repair area they captured several Techs who had been abandoned when the Snakes had pulled out. In firing on the vehicle compound they had shot up the techs means of escaping. The two Mechs the techs had been working on when the firing started were still there also.
That made eight Mechs that had been killed or captured in this area. Two full Lances. That can eat into a Company real fast. They had herded all the prisoners into one area and had them sit down. Ward was standing guard over them as his Mech was the best equipped for a situation like this. On top of the lasers, P. Hawks are armed with a pair of heavy machine guns also. They were much better as anti-personnel weapons than lasers.
He had just been relieved with the arrival of the infantry support when Major White arrived also. With the field secured he had popped the hatch of the Lassy and climbed down. He was running his fingers through his wet, matted hair when the Major walked over.
"The Trash Buckets get credit for six, Major. They took out the two Riflemen, the two Archers and the P. Hawk and Shadow Hawk over at the repair yard. Also two J-27s but you don't give credit for things like that. The four Grifs get credit for the two Wolverines that were dropped. I just get credit for good calls."
Looking at the tall, slender young man standing before her Major Nancy White just shook her head. "Ward, you also get credit for the Marauder, don't forget that. Don't complain. We work as a team here and this one little action cost the Snakes nine Mechs, five of them Heavies. On the field behind us I saw five more of theirs, all Mediums and nine Light and Medium Davion Mechs. That's three and a half Lances of Mechs that we have salvage rights to plus two lances of a company of Mechs which they can't salvage and we won't have to fight."
"Major, I know we work as a team but... Well I want to do some fighting. Not ambushes, not playing Forward Observer but some fighting. I still don't know if I'm any good and I want to find out."
"Terry, you're good. Damnit, do you think I'd have had you ambush a Mech nearly twice your weight if I didn't think you were good? You can get that damn Lassy of your's into tighter spots than I thought possible and work your way forward much further than I ever dreamed you could. The closer you get to the enemy the better our missiles are. You know yourself that missiles can shoot further than we can aim them. With a FO who is in close with an Artemis system we can do lots of damage and scare the living bejesus out of our enemies. It's team work that does it."
"Yes, Ma'am. I know all of that, but... How do I get shield credits calling in artillery or missile strikes? You know yourself that other pilots look at your battle shield to see what kind of pilot you are. They don't ask how many Mechs your missile strikes took out, they ask how many Mechs you took out. Those Trash Bucket pilots are both nearly double aces now because of the strikes I've called and I have three kills counting the one today. Major, I'm not trying to take credit away from those pilots. They've earned every bit they have, they're darn good shots with those missiles and because of it we take battlefields away from the enemy but still..."
"Ward, you'll get your kills. You're always in the thick of the action. Right now individual credits aren't the thing, taking over the battlefield from someone else is. This is the best equipped group of Pirates we've fought in a while. They are not only well equipped, they know how to use their equipment. Now go look into the repairs you need on the Lassy."
Major Nancy White stood watching the young man walk away. 'Young and impatient like all of us were at that age, ' she thought. 'Only 21 standard years, was I ever that young? Not bad looking, dark brown hair and tall, 190 centimeters at least and slim, only about 80 kilogram. Features too rough cut to be handsome but still not bad looking at all. The problem with the Solaris Academy is they teach one-on-one combat instead of unit movements, unit combat. They teach the individual instead of the team. Still he can get that P. Hawk in places I'd swear a Stinger couldn't go. Well, if he lived long enough he should learn.'
Acknowledging the order Ward climbed back into the Lassy and took her over to the field maintenance area that had been set up. She only needed a few plates of armor and a paint job. The armor they could replace now, the other would have to wait until the battalion got to a quiet area. Because of his Forward Observer duties Ward had a priority on repairs. His Tech hadn't caught up with them yet so he let the other techs there do the work. They stayed out of the cockpit, they only replaced the armor plates that had been shot up.
When they were through with her Ward took her back over to the newly set up company area and shut down. He then trudged into the mess tent to get something to eat. One thing about the Major, she brought everyone with her, not only the repair crews with the field gantries but the mobile kitchen as well. Joining the two Trebuchet pilots he congratulated them on the shooting they had done.
"I told the Major that between the two of you we stopped six Mechs. You'll be getting the credit for them shortly. Any more and I'm going to start charging you guys for my services. You're getting more kills than many of the front line fighting Mechs."
"You call good plots, Terry. That helps our shooting a lot. That and the Artemis. If you don't charge too much then I'll pay up. What're your rates?" asked Billi Howell. She was the leader of the two support Mechs.
"For you Billi, I might make a 'special' rate. Sure you want to pay it?" he said leering at her.
Laughing she swatted him on the arm. Leering right back and wiggling her eyebrows she replied "If I took you up on that you'd run and you know it. Really though, thanks for the good plots and more thanks for seeing that we got proper credit."
The subject changed to other things and they chatted while eating. The Major was right, Snyder's Snakes were the best equipped and run pirates they had ever come up against. Most of their equipment was first rate not the trashed Mechs one normally expect of pirates. These pirates had a full support crew. They were also much heavier Mechs than any of the pirates they had found before had been running. Soon the Battalion was saddled up again and moving forward. You don't keep a battlefield by moving backwards or by standing still. The Battalion moved forward a couple of klicks and while they waited in place sent infantry scouts in sneak suits forward to find the enemy. When night fell they moved again until they once more spotted the Snakes.
While they had sentries out it looked like the rest of the enemy Mechs were shut down for the night. The Major slowly brought a company up in front and one up on each side of them. Ward had been moved all the way passed them and part way up a small ridge to the their rear. There was a large outcropping of granite slabs part way up the ridge that served to shelter him from sight as well as from most sensors. It was situated right where their scouts had said. When the fighting started he could call in missile strikes from this location on those withdrawing from the battle.
When Ward was in position he gave two clicks on the mike and the Major gave the firing order. All hell broke loose on those poor Snakes. Mechs came charging through from three sides and before they knew what was happening several of their Mechs assembly areas and the pilot areas had been captured, several tents housing support troops had been cut off and the equipment and supply depots had been captured. All this in the opening seconds of the conflict. The sentry Mechs were able to hold up the deeper penetration long enough for some of the other Mechs to become active.
Of the nearly two Battalions that had been encamped a full Battalion was cut off and captured in the opening moments of the battle. A company here, a Lance there and before you knew it a Battalion had been put out of action. The surviving Mechs were not in any type of formation and had no battle plan. They just fought as individuals trying to survive. Some were able to join up to stage a more orderly withdrawal. In doing so they retreated straight towards Ward. As they began to come in closer he was talking to the Trebuchet pilots and calling in strikes. The Griffin pilots were involved in close action and were not available for this round.
There were too many targets for the missile strikes to stop everyone. Using the outcropping to rest the arms of his Mech upon he took careful aim on the first Mech approaching. It was an injured Archer. Just as it was stepping forward he fired with the large laser and hit his cockpit. The hit, the earlier injury plus the hill all contributed in knocking it over.
The next Mech was a Crusader that was backing up the hill firing back at any available target. Waiting until it was nearly to him, he then fired first the large and then the medium laser. The two hits ate through and destroyed the right rear portion of the torso. It set off the LRMs stored there and it went down also. He was able to call strikes on the two Dragons that were approaching him which knocked them both down. One was struggling to rise so he fired on it and it stopped. The missile strike also took care of a lot of infantry that was trying to retreat in that direction. The rocks which he was hiding behind had a lot of friends and neighbors that were covered by only a thin layer of dirt. The missiles that missed the Mechs turned the rocks into flying razor sharp shards that cut down the poor foot soldiers like a thrashing machine through a wheat field. With multi-targets like that he hadn't used the Artemis, he just called in tight plots.
A Grasshopper, two Warhammers and an Awesome were the next group heading his way. They stopped at the base of the hill and were firing back at the attacking Mechs. They stayed bunched together and this allowed Ward to call in missile strikes on them. He had called for the fourth volley on the same target when the Trebuchets called up that with this volley they were dry. When the volley arrived it was enough to force the enemy to abandon their position but to do so they were now turning to face him. All 45 tons of him against only 290 tons of them! He might be able to live through this as they had absorbed four volleys totalling 240 missiles. They had taken hits on the head, chest, arms and all parts in between. The Awesome which had been the center of where he had called for he strike had lost most of its chest armor and the others had lost guns as well as much armor.
When the Awesome turned Ward hit him square in the middle of the chest with the large laser using the gaping holes from missile hits as his target. With little armor to stop the blast it exploded when the shot breached the engine shielding and the engine. That was what saved him as the explosion knocked the other three down. As the Grasshopper and one of the Warhammers struggled to get up he was sniping at them to keep them down. The Grasshopper finally rolled over onto its chest and extended its arms firing medium lasers back up the hill at him. From that position he couldn't see and was firing blindly and the shots he was making were hitting low on the rocks that Ward was standing behind. It also only allowed him the two medium lasers as everything else on the Grasshopper was torso mounted and his torso was pressed against the ground.
Terry had been firing on the 'Hopper with his medium laser while he fired on the 'Hammer with the large. The 'Hammer too was chest down and had lost one of the big PPC cannon. That still left the cannon in his left arm to fire back up the hill but again blindly. The way they were laying Ward didn't have much to choose from. The head, shoulders or arms. With the rock to steady his aim he hit the 'Hammer in the head the third shot and the 'Hopper in the head on the fifth shot. It was enough to stop both of them when combined with the other damage that they had taken.
By now the battle down below was over. Most of the Mechs that were still mobile were overwhelmed by numbers and forced to surrender. From what he had seen he don't think more than a Lance or two of the entire force had been able to escape. The attacking forces were now trying to straighten out the mess and create some sense of order. Prisoners were being moved off to one side, the injured were being treated and repairs were being made on our damaged Mechs. Ward stayed where he was until someone could come and check over the area. He needed someone to check on the pilots in the Mechs down below him. Several of the pilots could still be alive and trying to ready their Mechs to continue the fight and he did not want that to happen.
Finally some of the infantry got there and started to check the Mechs. Five of the pilots were dead, two were wounded and one was unconscious still so the extent of his injuries was unknown. There were also a number of their infantry and other personnel hiding in the area, some wounded and some not. With the Lassy and her machine guns there to back up the infantry they gave up without a struggle.
Ward worked his way down the hill and then looked back. The rocks he had been sheltered behind were chewed up from the laser and PPC blasts but were still intact. The only damage he had taken could be termed friendly fire. Shards of rock thrown up by one of the missile blasts had hit him, that was all. He turned back and continued to the assembly area to see what assignments they had for him. With his weapons configuration he would probably be put to guarding prisoners as they were brought in. He was.
In less than an hour he received a radio call, "Ward, relief is on the way. When it arrives report to me at the enemy headquarters."
When he arrived Major White returned his salute and just looked at him. "Get a little warm up there?"
"It was beginning to, Ma'am."
"I understand you got in a little fighting this time, true?"
Ward couldn't help it, he chuckled. "Yes, Ma'am, you could say that."
"Enough to carry out your assignments and stop complaining about fighting?"
"Yes, Ma'am, I don't want to face something like that again, that's for sure."
"I don't understand why. I was told there were only eight Mechs totalling 545 tons piled up at the foot of your hill. That's only twelve times your weight. I also understand that you didn't report to the repair bay so your damage must be minor, right?"
"Yes, Ma'am, very minor. I got hit by rock shards that messed up my paint some more. That's all."
"I'm told that five of those Mechs have laser burn marks on them, one put down by missile fire and two by some other kind of explosion. Comments?"
"Ma'am, the two Dragons went down from missile fire, one was trying to get back up when I fired on it to convince it to stay down. The Awesome blew up when I hit it taking one of the Warhammers with it. All four of them had heavy damage from missiles. None of them had complete weapons due to the missiles. I just finished them off."
"In other words, a team effort."
"And this time you get seven kills and they only get one between the two of them. You have enough room on your shield for that many kills?"
"Ma'am, I have the room but it should only be six kills. The second Dragon was really stopped by missiles."
"No, the second Dragon was stopped when the cockpit exploded from laser fire. That was four head hits out of seven kills. The only problem with that is, do you know how expensive it is to replace Mech heads?" she laughed. "Rachel is going to scream but let her. At least we have the Mechs and won't have to fight them again."
"Good work, Terry. It takes a while but with team work everyone gets his share of the kills. Dismissed."
He saluted and left. It was starting to catch up with him and he was very tired. Keyed up as he was he walked into the mess tent for coffee and some munchies if they had any. As he entered Billi yelled out, "The Conquering Hero, come join us." After he grabbed a cup and a couple of the sandwiches that were made up he did.
"Understand you got a little fighting in this time. What's wrong, couldn't wait for us to reload?"
"No I couldn't. They decided after your last volley not to stick around so I had to do something to make them change their minds."
"Odds a little long though weren't they?"
"No, only four to one in numbers and six to one in weight. That's about right isn't it?" he asked trying hard to keep a straight face.
"Maybe for you P. Hawk jockeys. For us Trebuchet pilots its none to one for the right odds. Seriously, I understand you got credit for seven of the kills, right?"
"That's what the Major just said. I beat you Billi, that makes me a double ace before you."
"No, not quite. We flipped for it and I get credit for the Dragon. It went down before the others did so I made double before you did. Maybe by only a couple of minutes but I beat you instead, tiger."
"Can you believe it. This morning or whenever we got up I only had two kills and now I have ten. It's unreal. Several hours ago I was complaining about never getting in on any of the fighting and here I not only make ace but double ace. How did that old song go, 'What a difference a day makes'? I'm beat, I going to crash, see you," he said getting up and all but staggering off.
The Battalion had come into this battle late. They had just arrived on Bryceland to support a Regiment of Davion's Mechs. Davion had landed and secured the spaceport so the Merc's could leisurely come in and off load. Davion had then immediately pushed forward to engage the Pirates. With Major White and her Command Lance there had been a full load on the converted Mule Dropship. It had transport cradles for forty Mechs and that's what had been brought in on it. The other two Mules went to other locations.
The Battalion had then moved to secure the town after Davion had driven Snyder's Snakes out and kept after them. After a thorough check of the town the Major left a Lance behind and moved the rest of the forces forward to be in position when they were needed. They had moved with a Company plus two from the Command Lance to support the right flank when they ran into stiffening resistance. They had just chased off the remainder of the Pirate forces when word came down about the Marauder. It had been laying down covering fire for their retreat and had somehow gotten separated from the rest of the force. As he had already moved forward to call in targets the Major had Terry shift over to that area and set up the ambush. When that was completed he then continued to move up to act as FO as was his normal task.
When the scouts had found the area where the Snakes had withdrawn the Major made a quick plan to move on the base camp. Her one Battalion against two of their Battalions. They were just forgetting that this was SHADOW. That made all the difference!
The next morning after breakfast Ward took a gallon of water over to the Lassy to refill the cooler. He and his Tech had rigged up a water cooler in the cockpit. It gets very hot in a BattleMech when one is engaged in fighting. The pilot sweats a lot and there is always the need to replace the fluids. The cooler kept the water from getting too hot and he had it available immediately. He had pulled an awful lot of water out to that cooler yesterday and needed to replace it. When he got there 'Hoke' Houston, his Tech was painting kills on the battle shield.
"Seven Heavies and one Assault yesterday. Not too shabby for a little ol' Medium like this. Sure looks better than it did before, don't it?" he said pointing to the shield.
"Just be glad you weren't there. I saw three of the Heavies and the Assault at the same time. It got a little hot there for a while but the Lassy showed them big bruisers not to mess with a real Lady."
"Everything worked just like it should, Hoke. No complaints and no write-ups to report. All that extra work you did on my sighting computer interface panned out. The guns hit right where the pip showed for them to hit. So it looks like I owe you a couple of beers."
"You owe me Eight beers, one for each kill. 'Course I should charge you double when the kills are Heavies and Assaults. When we made that deal I thought it was just going to be for the normal Lights and Mediums not the big stuff. Good shooting, Terry."
Punching him on the arm Ward started to climb the ladder with the water.
"If you're going to refill the cooler, I did already. I already checked her over, made sure the ammo bin for the machine guns were full and this is the last thing needed doing. Can't have you going out without the correct credits on your shield."
So Ward stood around for a while and passed him the stencils when the paint had dried enough for the next kill mark. The stencil is a Mech silhouette with a letter, either an L, an M, an H or an A, depending on the weight. He now had at least one of each as there had been an L and an M on there before. It was starting to get crowded by the time Hoke added the last one. They both had very smug smiles on their faces when he finished.
"Come on, I'll buy you a beer." he told Hoke.
"Need to check in first, then ok."
They walked back towards the office that had been set up in the field maintenance section. As they got close they could hear an argument going on. The closer they got the louder it got. Everyone was outside and the door was closed but you could hear what was said very clearly.
"... heads cost? That's a major expense and one of your young punks shot up four of them. My budget and my people can't be running around behind your young gamecocks cleaning up their messes."
"No, you forget. My job is to stop the enemy Mechs, your job, Maintenance Chief Jones is to repair what you can and to keep our own Mechs running. If you can't do your job then fine I'll get someone who can. I'm tired of all your bellyaching when we do our job, Rachel. And for your information that 'young punk' got eight Mechs himself yesterday and called in Missile strikes that took out nine more. That's four Lances with an extra. He did his job, I did my job, now you do your job!"
The Tech and the young pilot got out of there before the two arguing females came out and saw them. Hoke told one of the other guys where he was going as they left. The club that had been set up was cooler than outside and the beer was cold.
The next day they move again. Davion had found the Snakes and wanted help stomping heads so had called for the Battalion's assistance. As he was mounting up Terry saw that their guns had finally arrived so he knew without asking that he was back to normal FO duty, not just calling in targets for the Missile Mechs. Shadow does something that's a little unusual. They have Artillery that moves with us. It is never far behind so it can respond in just minutes. Specter's artillery is air mobile, they have high lift helicopters standing by to move them to where they are needed. After much practice they can put down the artillery piece, have the cables unfastened, ammo in the tube, sighted in and a round on the way in under three minutes. Each Battalion has a battery of six guns trailing them to provide support. This was who Ward usually called shots for, not the Mechs. On short exercises or when the guns hadn't been unlimbered and set up like yesterday he call shots for which ever Missile Mech needs a spotter. They had found that a battery of six Sniper artillery pieces can change the entire complexion of a battlefield.
When the Lassy was all green he called the Battery Commander, Guns Malone. "Fire 3 from Eyeball, are you all set to move? I understand we might have some traffic for you."
"Yeah, we got three still hooked up and three free to fire. When you get passed our range give a call and we'll move up again."
"You do have the correct plot chip this time, right Guns?"
"You're never going to forget that are you? Yes, we have Plot 1941. The same one you have."
"Call you later with traffic." They had been on one fire mission when the guns had one plot chip and he had another. Ward would call a plot and they would fire. Of course he wasn't seeing any hits at all and when some of our people on the left flank reported that they were taking artillery fire they put the numbers together and figured out what was happening. Now he always check to see which plot chip they have.
It was now just a case of moving up to where the action was. Following the plot that Davion had sent the FO team moved. They had soon outdistanced all of the slower Mechs but he wasn't going to fight. He was getting there so he could call shots for the guns. Terry had called for the guns to move forward twice by the time he arrived in the contested area. As he moved into the area he could see Mechs taking hits. Ward contacted Captain 'Pinky" Adams to let her know where they were and that he was moving up closer in order to call in locations for the guns.
"You be careful, Ward. We need FOs that are alive and functioning."
"Yes, Ma'am. The Lassy will keep me safe."
Specter had a channel that Davion guarded so Ward tried to contact them on it. He didn't want them firing on him thinking he was a pirate coming up behind them. When he got an answer he asked where the MLR (the Main Line of Resistance) was located as he was FO for a battery of artillery on stand-by.
"You stay here much longer and you're it," came the reply. He could see movement in front of them but he didn't know if it was enemy.
"Is that them at your one o'clock?"
"Yeap, and we're pulling back."
"If you can hold just a little longer we have a Company moving in to reinforce you and I had a battery of artillery on line now."
"Then you better make it fast 'cause they have our range and outweigh us by bunches."
Ward called in the plot and they acknowledged rounds on the way. In just moments they were landing all around the enemy Mechs. He kept making small adjustments as they moved and kept the guns on target. By themselves the guns weren't enough to stop the Snakes but they did make them a lot more cautious. Right now he was not trying to kill the Mechs but do damage to them to slow them down, to hold them up in any way possible. The target was always the leading Mech. That slowed them enough that it gave Spook Company a chance to move up and provide cover and reinforcement for the Davions.
The combination was enough to stop them and as the battle started to get real for our forces Terry moved again to get into a better location to call shots for both the guns and the missile Mechs. After the battle two night ago he was perfectly willing to stay on the sidelines and take care of his assigned duties. As the pirate Mechs retreated he kept advancing so that he could continue calling shots and the guns kept advancing so that they stayed within close or at least medium range. Terry did fire on two Mechs to keep them from retreating. They were badly damaged and limping. Scanning the frequencies he found their battle channel and after he would fire on the Mech he would suggest that the Mech surrender rather than be shot up some more and possibly the pilot killed. Each time they popped the canopy and climbed down.
With them out of the cockpit Ward continued to move up and notified the infantry of the location and the type of Mech so they could collect the pilot as a prisoner. He didn't want the pilot climbing back into his Mech with him now in front of his guns. With the infantry close to take them prisoner he didn't need to use his little trick. He kept the pressure on until Captain Pinky called for a halt.
When he called the battery with the stand down order Terry got a surprising reply.
"It's a good thing, we were about out of ammunition. We've gone through all the ready ammo and most of what the transports had. They're enroute back now with another load. You've been calling targets for us for three hours now, boy."
Ward hadn't realized that much time had gone by. He had been busy and just hadn't paid any attention to time, it was of little importance. Targets kept popping up and they fired on them. Spook had gone through the original company and a company of their reinforcements. Some of them had withdrawn but over half of the Mechs were still on the battlefield.
Now he knew why they had stopped. They had outrun their supply lines and the Mechs that used missiles and guns needed more ammo. It also gave they a chance to regroup and reorganize. There's nothing like a battle to get your forces scattered. You move where the enemy is, reacting to his pressure or where one of your Lance mates needs help and the first thing you know you're scattered all over the field.
As supplies came forward so did the field repairs. As they could be freed up the Mechs moved back to rearm and for armor replacement. Terry stayed where he was so that the Snakes couldn't make a surprise move on them. He hadn't fired any guns that needed resupply. His water supply was holding out as he had done very little firing and the heat had not built up inside the Lassy. He sat there munching on some ration bars that had stashed in the cockpit and kept watch. When their pilots had been resupplied they returned to the front area and he was relieved and told to report to the Captain.
"Between the guns and the Missile Mechs your guys shot up six Mechs. I know you forced two to surrender, are you going to claim them?"
"No Ma'am. They really weren't in any shape to continue fighting, they were trying to retreat. I just convinced them to halt so the credit for both of them goes to the guns," I answered. "Those guns really did a job today and they deserve all the credit they earned. If it wasn't for them I don't think the Davion people could have held out until you arrived."
"That's what they said also. Our guns saved the day for them. They liked the idea when I explained how we handle them. They're going to take the idea back to their headquarters and see if they can't do something like that."
"Some of our other guys convinced a couple of 'lame ducks' to surrender instead of continuing the fight and they gave the credit to the guns too. That's what I like to see, no one hogging the credit when they really don't deserve it. That makes it eight then, Artillery gets credit for Five and the Missile boys get Three. I'll let you pass the word to the guns. Make it two Mediums and three Heavies. I don't know what the real count is but it can't be far off that. Dismissed."
The Artillery boys were happy with the count when he passed them the word. There's no way to assign individual credit to each gun so they have a large board with a battle shield for each battery. They had more than enough credits on that board to make each gun an ace. That's something else that Shadow did that was different. They pass out kill credits where they were earned. If Artillery stops a Mech then they get the credit for it. Most other units only gave out kill credits to Mech pilots which wasn't right. Artillery contributed their part to the battle so they should get their part of the kill credit also and in Shadow they see that they do.
There was a lull in the battles for the next few days while the forces regrouped and reorganized. That gave the Techs a chance to handle all the necessary repairs on the Mechs. The battle had not come cheap and they had taken casualties. Ward was not trying to say that the guns and Missiles did the whole job 'cause they didn't. It's just that he work closely with them and was more aware of what they are involved in than the front line combat Mechs. Now they could get more supplies up forward, create a stockpile and get all the Mechs back on line.
For grunts like him it was a chance to relax and unwind. It gets kind of tense being a FO. Most of the time you're right in the heat of the battle so you can see where your shots are falling and make corrections, that's called 'sensing your shots'. As his job was to call plots, not fight he spend a lot of time by ducking, weaving and trying not to get shot. It can get very nerve racking and stressful at times.
Knowing they were going to be out of action for a while he partied with the artillery boys the second night. They were celebrating the credits they had received and as he was considered part of them it was only right that he get to celebrate also. The way his head felt the next morning he must have partied well.
That brings up another point, his position. He was neither fish nor fowl as the expression goes. While he was a Mech pilot, when the guns are around he was not considered part of a regular Lance because of his Forward Observer duties yet because he was a Mech pilot, he was not considered part of Artillery. Ward was carried on both Captain Pinky's roster as a Lance member and on Major White's roster as a FO. As majors outrank captains when the guns are available then he was a FO. It does create some problems. Who to report to for duty? When he wanted time off, who did he ask? When promotions are handed out which group carries him? So far that aspect hasn't come up but it might.