"Oh ho oh
The echoes of eternity
Oh ho oh
Valhalla calling me
Oh ho oh
To pluck the strings of destiny
Oh ho oh
Valhalla calling me
Valhalla calling me"
— "Valhalla Calling", 21st Century work by artist "Miracle of Sound", Terra
The weeks of deadly battle had long made a ruin of One-Eye's beloved capital. The people of Bolsun were gone, either serving in the militia dying by the droves each day or evacuated into the countryside and some safety from the Terran forces raging against those who defied their will. Even with all the devastation he'd seen in his earlier life, to see Bolsun reduced to this filled him with a quiet, cold rage. He wished to tear the throat out of Director-General Kerensky and her cruel ambition. But that is not to be my fate. It will fall to one of my peers to deliver the death blow to Kerensky. And Odin's halls will ring with my laughter when the deed is done.
The Einherjar moved as swiftly as their machines allowed once on the surface. In the lead, Major Bergman led the company of light 'Mechs and light battle armor serving as scout-killers to disorientate the enemy once contact was confirmed. Tracer and laser fire marked the night sky from the Partisan
tanks raking the skies for any Terran VTOLs or aircraft attempting bombing runs. One such craft braved the fire and delivered a bomb into a half-ruined structure two blocks over. The blast vibrated through One-Eye's 'Mech, leaving behind a whole ruin in its wake. This is truly our final day. The Terrans would have us surrounded and helpless if we do not strike now. Certainly they know this too, and anticipate it. I will not disappoint them on that count.
Distant flashes of PPC fire told him Bergman's light 'Mechs were engaged. Only the new, hardy Wolf
'Mechs remained from the brutal attrition of the last month of battle, proving themselves once again. Using the imaging on the Stalker
, and incoming feeds, One-Eye observed the lithe humanoid machines jumping and rushing about, their shoulder-mounted heavy PPCs engaging a group of Terran Stinger
s and Javelin
s. The tonnage difference was not so great an advantage since the Terran machines, using lighter XL engines and superior Terran ferro-fibrous armor, were quite well-armed and equipped for scouts. The latter machines frequently sent SRMs corkscrewing through the air, dealing damage and ruin to Bolsun when they weren't blasting armor from Bergman's machines or damaging the Churl
-equipped armored infantry supporting Bergman with swarm attacks and massed machine gun fire. He felt a surge of pride as one of his pilots, ignoring damage from a massed SRM volley, fired a heavy PPC shot that blew the head off one of the Javelin
"Viking One to Speaker One
." Hardy's voice crackled over the radio. "Recon teams through the lines confirm enemy movement. They know we're out in force and they're coming."
"A chance to finish the siege of Bolsun today and meet their deadline to their Director-General," One-Eye thought aloud. He opened the command laser link web connecting him to all the subordinate commands. "All artillery batteries, stand-by!"
Ahead of his position, the 22nd Landgruppe's armored and infantry battalions advanced to meet the enemy first. They were joined by their Einherjar counterparts and the scattered kampfgruppe
that One-Eye's commanders had formed from the detritus of a dozen shattered regiments. These brave tankers and infantry knew their lives were likely to end shortly but, like the MechWarriors, they did not flinch. Joining them were a lance of medium 'Mechs from the 22nd Landgruppe, old designs hastily repaired for this final battle.
The enemy came on, and true to their nature, had no intention of a straight fight. Even as the Terran 'Mechs and vehicles rumbled through the ruins and along the damaged avenues of Bolsun, sensors confirmed the incoming artillery barrage. One-Eye put his Stalker
in motion with the rest of the heavier 'Mechs of the Einherjar. The tactical sensors projected landing points for incoming rounds, the red circles so thick on his holotank he had to carefully maneuver to fit between them. The projections proved off as yellow color splashed over his display, reflecting the outermost layer of armor along the left side of the Stalker
had been stripped by the submunitions of a nearby shell.
The barrage made rubble of half-broken buildings. Clouds of pulverized ferro-crete and other debris mushroomed out from the collapsing structures. None all were empty. Vehicles were being buried, if they'd survived the direct hits, and battle armor infantry likewise left amongst the debris. Their suffering was only surpassed by the non-armored infantry teams caught in the blasts. Artillery was the great killer of infantry here as anywhere else. The valkyries will have their fill today
. He looked skyward as if he might yet see the Choosers of the Slain. He wondered which, if any, would be the one to decide on his worthiness when the end came.
The killing hadn't ended, indeed had only just begun. With their artillery shattering the Rasalhaguan vanguard, the Terran forces moved forward to engage and reap the benefits. One-Eye pulled the right joystick of his controls to move the crosshairs over a Kintaro
in the deep blue, white, and black of the 22nd Royal Brigade. His sensors confirmed the range was too great for a missile lock and that a PPC shot would be unlikely to penetrate the 'Mech's armor even if he hit. He fired one shot anyway and watched it demolish the building beside the advancing Kintaro
. SRMs erupted from its launchers and detonated along the hull of a damaged Manticore
. The armor held against most of the hits, but one of the missiles broke through and blasted apart the tread, crippling the machine.
The crew didn't evacuate. Their PPC flashed to life and scourged armor from the approaching 'Mech, and every weapon aboard kept firing until the Terran pilot speared the turret with a sapphire laser beam. Missile ammunition within cooked under the heat of the laser. The tank blew apart in a fiery explosion. The burning wreckage made for a fitting funeral pyre for the crew entombed within.
His eye focused from the sight towards the holotank's wider tactical projection. The losses in the front ranks were growing. Exhausted Rasalhaguan forces died before the enemy advance. Yet the foe didn't push as hard as they might have. They suspect something, but not what. But it is too late.
He keyed the command links again. "Fire Command, commence fire missions now
Behind the lines, the better part of a battalion of Long Tom and Arrow IV-mounted vehicles came out of the battered bunkers and ruined structures they'd been hidden in. The Einherjar artillery gunners swiftly finalized their firing calculations before opening up on the Terran lines. TAG lasers flared to life among the various surviving infantry, drawing the Arrow IV missiles in for direct hits on the largest of the enemy 'Mechs. The Kintaro
One-Eye had fired upon took a direct hit. The explosion that resulted was quickly followed by a second, larger one from the 'Mech's SRM stores, blasting the machine and the pilot into broken ruin. Heavy munitions landed among the Terran lines. Anti-infantry munitions reaped as greatly from their armored infantry as theirs had from the brave Rasalhaguan troops in the vanguard while the heavier munitions flipped tanks and knocked over BattleMechs. Those machines that took direct hits rarely survived the experience and were doomed regardless in their wrecked states.
One-Eye keyed his comms to the open link for all the Rasalhaguan forces. "Forward my Einherjar! For Rasalhague!
" He broke the Stalker
into a run and then pushed it into a sprint, sending status indicators for his machine's myomer bundles to their upper limits. At this speed shooting was impossible and the slightest misstep might tip him over, but it was a risk worth taking. The artillery bombardment wouldn't last forever, but following it through, they could breach the 22nd's front lines and engage their command unit.
Haclev's speed matched his and required the same sprinting posture, but the power of her Viking
's 400-rated XL engine allowed Stralsund to move past at a regular running gait, Minamoto's Höggspjót
running along beside her. The Viking
's speed picked up steadily, going past the usual for its power plant with the aid of the MASC system installed into the machine's musculature. Stralsund's left arm rose and a lance of cerulean lightning erupted from the barrel on it. The shot grazed the leg of one of the Terran 'Mechs ahead. The machine turned and revealed itself to be an Archer
. Its missile launcher covers flipped open a moment before it fired. Stralsund's skill with the Viking
allowed her to evade the incoming fire, causing over half the salvo to miss or hit ineffectually against the armored skin of her charging 'Mech. Though she wasn't in melee range, her right arm raised momentarily to brandish the powerful hatchet clutched in the hand actuator, embodying the spirit of its name.
's PPC fired next, at extreme effective range for the heavy weapon. Minamoto's aim was slightly off, but it did force the Archer
pilot to step into cover, buying them precious seconds while another LRM volley, this time from their side, peppered the enemy machine's position.
Another series of ferocious explosions went off in the combat zone. The surviving Einherjar artillery's second barrage was underway, creeping just ahead of their advancing units to keep the Terrans from recovering. One-Eye's focus on his sprinting gait was such that he initially failed to recognize the contrails of Terran artillery missiles flying overhead. It was not until their mid-flight detection was confirmed over his commlinks that he registered their existence. Yet the battle called him forward and he had no spare focus to think on what it meant.
Not until the radio crackled with the cries of his dying soldiers. Major Hendriksson's voice cut through it. "Fire Command here. Four guns lost. We are resuming fire mission.
Another group of Arrow IV missiles were already streaking overhead. Fewer diverted to specific targets this time, representing the unavoidable loss of the targeting spotters to enemy fire. They hit their pre-programmed saturation targets instead to add to the mayhem of the barrage. Others struck home. Terran war machines suffered and died, furthering the disintegration of their lines.
An icon on his HUD brought One-Eye into a slower, running gait. He tracked a Terran Thunderbolt
bristling with laser emplacements and missiles. It's right arm was gone, torn away by a direct Arrow IV hit that gutted the right side of the machine, but while smoke poured liberally from the damaged engine, the Terran pilot kept the machine upright and turning towards him. One-Eye's fingers tensed on his triggers. Twin spears of cerulean energy shot out and tore into the Thunderbolt
. One scourged armor from the mostly-intact left side, but thanks to his integrated targeting computer, the other found the compromised armor over the engine and shattered it completely. The heat sensors moved up towards orange at the stroke of his other thumb triggers. The Terran pilot turned enough to cover their damaged side, causing the twin emerald beams of the Stalker
's medium lasers to melt down, but not pierce, the solid armor along the left side and hip.
A four-shot missile launcher spat SRMs at him in grim defiance. The chaingun over the cockpit tracked and fired. Given the range, none of the missiles survived the barrage. The enemy pilot followed with the arm-mounted pulse laser. It spat blue sapphire towards the Stalker
, stitching wounds across the assault machine's right side before the final darts of light struck open air, while two torso-mounted lasers struck out and sliced armor from the extended "arm" covering his SRMs. With a calm, steady hand One-Eye settled the crosshairs over the Thunderbolt
. The Stalker
's targeting computer confirmed a hardlock immediately. The moment the tone reached his ears, he triggered one of his Mjolnir PPCs. The bolt struck dead-on, scourging armor in molten, blackened chunks from the enemy machine's hide.
It also had the effect he'd hoped for. The wounded machine's uneven body, the impacts of his weapons, the loss of tons of armor, it was too much. The pilot couldn't keep the Thunderbolt
upright. They desperately tried to roll onto their exposed side but the battered building they tipped over into held them in place. A quick twitch of his joystick brought One-Eye's crosshair onto the blackened metal of the Thunderbolt
's open right flank. He pulled the trigger again, risking the heat buildup of his PPCs and lasers in tandem to ensure he got the engine. Plasma briefly surged from the wound before the Terran 'Mech's power signature vanished from his screens. It was down.
Twenty seconds. That was all it'd taken for what was less a battle and more an execution.
He pushed the Stalker
into another sprint, rushing past where Stralsund was digging her hatchet out of a shattered Terran Wolverine
. A Black Knight
nearby, half-broken with damage, put a single ineffectual laser into Stralsund before Haclev's Gauss Rifles smashed its chest open with two pinpoint shots. He almost slowed to finish the Terran off, but Minamoto got there first. His heavy PPC, every bit as lethal as a Terran extended range model, tore the Black Knight
's entire head module off in a single blast.
A glance at his holotank, with what attention he could spare, told One-Eye the story was repeating across the battlespace. The Terrans hadn't expected an artillery barrage and their forces weren't ready for its brutal power on their lines. Now the Einherjar punished them for that hubris.
The layout of ruins and roadways forced One-Eye to slow to a running gait so he could maneuver through the debris. He looked into the shell of one broken building and noted with quiet fury the detritus of what was once a playground. Now all that was left was a carousel bearing two broken Churl
suits and a Terran Black Watch
-suited soldier sprawled over the splintered pole of a swing set. The North Bolsun Primary School
, he realized upon seeing the broken remains of a sign along the ruined wall nearest him. His mind flashed back just three months ago, a mere week before the HPG network suddenly went dark and heralded the Terran onslaught. He'd visited this school. He'd spoken with the happy young children, basked in their admiration and pride as he encouraged them as his fellow Rasalhaguans.
I knew the Terrans would do something, but I hadn't yet realized the scope of Director-General Kerensky's ambitions. Now my capital is in ruins. My people suffer the deprivations of war and Rasalhague is threatened with oppression once more. If those children are to have a future as something more than Terran thralls, we must win this war. Gods above, I am not a praying mind, but I only ask, let me strike the blow to see my people to safety. I will die content.
Another exchange of artillery fire sounded overhead, joined by the familiar thunder of aerospace fighters. Tracer fire lit up the sky at them before explosions flowered in and around the Rasalhaguan forces. One Terran fighter, one of their new Boyar
s, appeared on his holotank on a clear attack run. He lifted the Stalker
's nose and fired off his PPCs, knowing they would miss, and for a brief moment he wondered if the Terrans might just kill him now.
Explosions from submunitions flowered over the broad-winged craft. A refitted Partisan
tank coming up from behind, using LB-type autocannons, sprayed the air with cluster rounds. The Boyar
banked away and broke off. A PPC bolt erupted from the ground and struck the craft square in the belly. The armor evidently held but the pilot seemed suitably dissuaded, breaking off.
More cries echoed over the commlink. A new female voice spoke, her voice rough and accented. "Kapten Zuk here. Major Hendriksson is dead, I am now Fire Command. We've lost two thirds of our guns and all our Arrow IV launchers. Resuming fire mission.
One-Eye nodded to himself at that news. I will see you in Odin's halls, Major Hendriksson
Their course brought them up to the Haakon Nystrom Memorial Highway. All but a couple of the overpass spans were broken and collapsed. His Stalker
's feet stomped over and through the shattered concrete that remained of the road. One-Eye remembered the name that honored the broken road, the rebel who'd led Nox's militia to victory over the Draconis Combine during House Kurita's collapse in the 2840s. Nystrom gave his life for a free Nox and the possibility of a free Rasalhague. Now more of our blood spills to preserve that victory.
The Northern Bolsun Community Gardens and Park lay beyond. Some of the trees and other spaces remained alive. Burnt patches marked where war machines had scourged the land with their fury or their deaths. The shattered husk of a Viper
VTOL in Landgruppe colors showed on his magscan spectrum.
The magscan also confirmed the presence of nearby vehicles. Most were an assortment of military transport vehicles, with an extended Field HQ flanked by soldiers in Terran power armor suits. Battle armor troopers surged ahead, with Terran-made Demolisher
tanks in quick-pour ferrocrete positions. An assortment of 'Mechs stood in various points in the park, including a mixed company of heavy and assault 'Mechs. He recognized the Terrans' new, deadly variants to the Orion
, and Highlander
And looming over them all, standing tall amidst the park, was a new Terran Atlas II
, with the larger upper piece to the head, like a protective helmet and crown, and sharper, more angular lines than the regulars. It was a machine of domination and power marked in the colors of the 22nd Royal Brigade.
Immediately One-Eye recognized that he wasn't the only one doing something unexpected. He felt it in his bones and switched to IR. A handful of heat signatures were present in the Field HQ, true, but not nearly enough.
"Attention Gothi Sleipson of the Rasalhague Communal Republic
." A baritone voice boomed over his speaker, courtesy of a broadband transmission. "This is General Leo Showers, 22nd Royal BattleMech Brigade. In the name of First Lord Natasha Kerensky of the Star League, I offer you a final chance to save the lives of your surviving soldiers and surrender. You missed your chance to join her as a Council Lord, but you'll get to live.
Potential answers filled One-Eye's mind. He could mock the offer. He could spit out the hate in his heart for the Terrans and their presumption, their arrogance, their attitude that only they mattered and the rest of the Inner Sphere existed to serve their needs. He could scream the defiance burning coldly in his heart.
No, not just defiance, contempt
. Life ends. One way or another, a man dies, and only his legacy endures. To be remembered as a puppet of Terra would be a fate worse than death.
He snorted, dismissing the idea of responding with any of this. It would be wasted breath.
One-Eye settled his crosshairs on the only 'Mech Showers could be in. "You wish my surrender? Allow me to give you an appropriately Terran response." An instant later he pulled his triggers.
Guided by the targeting hardware integrated into his Stalker
, the two PPCs blazed to life. Twin bolts of cerulean lightning converged on the Atlas II…
and struck it directly in the head module. Leo Showers died in an instant as the entire head module blew apart, leaving nothing but a hollow skull of burnt metal as the terrifying machine crumbled to the grass below.
As the park erupted into light and fury, One-Eye smiled grimly at his handiwork and pushed the Stalker
into a run. One of the best shots in my career. The Gods smile on me today.
His cockpit screamed multiple warnings at missile hardlocks and armor loss as several particle bolts, autocannon shells, and gauss slugs impacted the Stalker
and the territory around it. His damage displays lit up crimson and orange. The enemy had focused their rage on him and the damage he was suffering reflected that.
The rest of his troops were all opening up as well. Their volume of fire matched the Terrans, even if their gear did not allow the same accuracy, contributing to the conflagration consuming the park. Missed shots set aflame the greenery and sent wisps of steam from the lakes and streams. The wreckage of war machines gutted by internal explosions added to the devastation.
He eye-clicked his command link to the fire support channel. The Stalker
shuddered from another gauss slug impact, a direct hit that barely failed to penetrate the armor over his left hip actuator. "This is Speaker One to Fire Command. Target grid square—" he double-checked his display for the right sequence "—Six-Six-Echo-Three. Fire everything you have left."
"Fire Command here. Adjusting fire.
" There was an audible strain in Kapten Zuk's voice. Most of the battalion was likely already lost to the Terran air support and counter-battery fire. "We are firing now. All guns—
" Her voice was drowned out by the sonic boom of an aerospace craft passing overhead. A moment later an involuntary cry of surprise and pain echoed through the link before the transmission cut completely.
After a few moments, another voice spoke, this one male and older than Zuk. "Sergeant Fredericks speaking. Fire Command is gone. Individual batteries resuming fire mission.
One-Eye turned the Stalker
and tracked on the first enemy 'Mech he found. The Orion
's LRM launcher spewed missiles at him directly. The AMS chaingun opened up, shooting down several if the incoming projectiles before the rest chipped armor and mass from his 'Mech. Bolts of sapphire light leapt from the muzzles on the weapon's arms and chewed armor from his machine. He leveled the crosshairs and fired, his PPCs coming to life once more and delivering solid hits on the Orion
's chest. The SRMs did not fire from a failure to achieve a hardlock at this expanded range. He finished his turn, his torso tracking as he did, to close the distance on the Orion
stepped up beside it. Two PPC bolts of greater intensity than his lashed out. One-Eye was quick enough that one merely grazed against his surviving armor, but the other bit deep into the right hip. The Stalker
stuttered under him. A red warning covered the right leg of his 'Mech's status display. He didn't need to read the text to know his hip actuator had just been melted to slag. He fought to keep the 'Mech's balance while the system auto-corrected for the frozen limb. Through it all he kept his crosshairs on the Orion
and was rewarded by the ping of his SRM Streak systems confirming hardlock even at the greater range. He stroked his triggers. Fire gouted from either side of his Stalker
as twenty-four SRMs erupted from their launchers. They raced swiftly across the intervening meters before nearly half the salvo slammed home on the Orion
Just as it staggered from the hits, a gauss slug slammed into its chest and broke through into the guts. The Orion
wobbled and tilted over onto its side, felled by the failure of the gyro. One-Eye pulled the crosshairs over the downed machine's head module and triggered his freshly-recharged PPCs. One shot was off enough that it blasted chunks of blackened, broken armor from the Orion
's chest, but the second struck home on the head module, shearing off all the armor protecting it. One-Eye's fingers tensed on his laser triggers and sent two emerald beams into the exposed head, slicing through the cockpit.
He half expected to see the Thug
's PPCs strike him again, but it had its own problems. Stralsund had closed toward melee range, her Viking
's MASC accelerating her to nearly a hundred kph even at a standard run. The PPCs on her machine fired in tandem, the snub-nosed weapons flaying armor from the Thug
's limbs while the extended range weapon tore into its side. The Thug
pilot fell back and retorted with his own weapons. As the PPC bolts and SRMs stripped armor from the advancing Viking
, One-Eye's weapons locked onto the Thug
. He triggered his missiles. One of the launchers failed to confirm the hardlock, but the others sent missiles spiraling through the air and into the Thug
just as another PPC bolt from the Viking
tore into its leg. The machine staggered, though it remained upright, and stopped its backward movement. One-Eye turned away as Stralsund's axe came down on the Thug
and cleaved through its upraised left arm.
A series of explosions snaked across the battlefield. The artillery barrage of handful of remaining Einherjar gunners brought havoc to the combat zone. A successful penetration detonated a Demolisher
before its double heavy autocannons could finish off a damaged Einherjar 'Mech. One of Hardy's lancemates fell over, half their 'Mech demolished, the same blast smashing to pieces the Terran 'Mech they'd grappled with a moment before. A blast from behind sprayed cluster munitions through the rear armor of the Thug
, gutting the machine almost entirely.
One-Eye's hobbled 'Mech did not escape. A nearby shell hit shook him in his seat, followed immediately by a much stronger blast that rocked him in the command couch. It took every erg of his will to keep his machine standing despite the leg damage. The entire left side of his machine was marked with red and black. Ammo explosion. Engine damage severe. Targeting computer down.
He bit down on his lip and felt a familiar, yet fresh ache in his ribs. Command couches could never be sufficiently padded against the sheer violence a MechWarrior could experience in the confines of his cockpit. Broken rib? Or just bruised. Pain means I am still alive. But not for long.
He scanned the battlefield and found the Terran Highlander
he'd noted before. The pilot's missile launchers fired into Stralsund's Viking
even as it turned to face the Highlander
. Repeated missile strikes blew off chunks of armor from the horned humanoid machine. At first it seemed none had successfully penetrated, but a crackle of electrical wiring showed through a wound in the armor. The myomer circuitry,
he realized, while by instinct his crosshairs settled on the Highlander
. He hit his triggers and felt the heat spike in his 'Mech. Wailing alarms told him he was in danger of provoking another ammunition detonation, all while SRMs spiraled through the air in the wake of a PPC bolt and twin laser beams. The lasers played across the legs of the Highlander
while it rose in the air on plumes of fusion plasma. Stralsund's PPCs fired after it as well, but none managed a penetrating hit for all the damage they did. The Terran pilot brought their right arm around in mid-air. A ripple of compressed air and the faint light of an intense magnetic field formed at the muzzle. One-Eye expected a mid-air shot like that to miss or barely hit.
The gauss slug smashed into the head of the Viking
. Stralsund had no time to say anything, not even to cry out, before her life ended.
The Gods do not favor me alone, it seems.
One-Eye waited for the Highlander
pilot to land before daring another shot. His launchers confirmed a hardlock and fired, as did his lasers, though he held back the PPC for the moment given his battered machine's heat levels. The Highlander
endured the hits without flinching.
He expected Stralsund's killer to face him next, but he tracked another target and fired, a full salvo of long and short range missiles followed by lasers and another gauss slug. The barrage caught Haclev's Jarl
in the flank while it focused its multiple pulse lasers on a Terran Manticore
tank. The attack failed to save the tank, but even with a laser miss the barrage was sufficient to tear one of the Jarl
's arms off. Haclev turned and fired the surviving gauss weapon on his opposite arm. The shot was good, the slug tearing into the Highlander
's SRM launcher and wrecking it. One-Eye added a PPC shot, judging his heat just low enough to take the risk. The meter went orange and shrieked warnings while the bolt scourged armor from the Highlander
's right arm.
Icons flashed on One-Eye's holotank. A series of heat signatures thundered in from above, low and swift. He twisted the torso of his 'Mech just in time to catch the bomb blast on his intact rear armor instead of what tattered remnants remained of the Stalker
's left side. His damage display flashed black, showing most of his rear armor plates were no longer intact.
suffered worse. Trails of SRMs descended from above, joined by a series of tracer rounds from an autocannon burst. The hits peeled away armor from the chest and belly of the hundred ton 'Mech. For a moment that seemed the entirety of Haclev's damage, but a second sonic boom followed and a tremendous blast erupted across the front of the Jarl
. It was blown onto its back, black oily smoke from burning coolant billowing from a great chest wound.
pilot acted ruthlessly. Even as One-Eye's fingers stroked his triggers, firing a barrage of his SRMs and pulse lasers, the arm-mounted rifle fired a new slug into the Jarl
's wrecked chest. The slug slammed through what was left of his gyro and brought Haclev's machine down. One-Eye's shots tore the offending weapon free, too late to preserve Haclev. The motionless machine allowed the Terran pilot and their deadly aim to hit the cockpit with three pulse laser shots.
Yet again the Highlander
tracked away from One-Eye, as if seeking to insult him as unworthy. His target proved to be Minamoto. The young lad's Höggspjót
stood tall over a newly-fallen Grasshopper
in Terran colors, bearing some scars of battle but without any major damage. "Speaker Four, your left flank!" One-Eye called while keeping his targeting crosshairs on the Highlander
. The moment his indicators went green he fired again. Even without his targeting computer the fire was effective, emerald light carving molten ruin over the Highlander
's hip as SRMs crashed home on it. The machine's LRM launcher fired on the Höggspjót
, along with its large-caliber pulse laser. Minamoto took the pulse laser hit on his left arm while the missiles rained down around him, chipping armor away. His right arm came over send a solid PPC bolt into the Highlander
, tearing through the left arm's elbow. One-Eye's fingers likewise tensed on the trigger again. The SRM launchers weren't ready, but the lasers left a deep wound on the Highlander
's rear. I will die today, Terran, but so will you.
shook furiously as autocannon shells tore through the tattered remnants of its rear armor. The 'Mech's alarms blared gyro failure warnings and no amount of concentration could keep the assault machine standing, not with its right leg locked up. The Stalker
toppled over onto its heavier, intact right side, exposing the wounded side and ensuring a clean shot would remove him from the battle. One-Eye's holotank shifted to portray the digital image of a Terran Thunderbolt
behind him, its arm-mounted autocannon pointed his way.
So I am defeated. A wolf with a ravaged flank, a broken leg, a lost eye, and half my teeth missing.
A ferocious snarl formed on his face, turning quickly into a grin. But I still have
He leveled the crosshairs on the Highlander
's back and gave the triggers one last squeeze.
To his surprise the SRM launchers fired, managing a hardlock despite his prone state. Three of the missiles plowed into the burning grass, but the remaining nine flew on. His surviving PPC lashed molten armor and metal from the Highlander
's exposed rear. Spurts of burning coolant rushed from the wound with oily black smoke, his lasers carving the wounds open further. The remaining SRMs struck home in quick, repeated plumes of flame and broken metal. He was certain at least two got into the Highlander
's guts and struck the engine, given the way the machine shuddered and stopped.
The last SRM was not the last explosion. It hit home and drew forth a colossal fireball that enveloped the left side of the Highlander
, gutting half of the machine's chest from the detonation of its LRM stores. Fusion plasma briefly surged from within before the assault 'Mech toppled forward, dead upon the land, the final confirmed kill of Karl "One-Eye" Sleipson's life.
Beyond, he saw Minamoto's Höggspjót
looming over the broken foe. The humanoid 'Mech's right arm came up and emerald light stuttered in darts against a target beyond One-Eye's immediate vision.
More weapons fire struck into the fallen Stalker
. This time the burst of autocannon shells found their mark. The Stalker
's displays died with a final blaring warning of power loss and engine failure. Only a battery-powered digital display and comm-link remained for One-Eye.
Yet the machine seemed to briefly lift off the ground as a violent roar filled his ears and rocked him about. Even without instruments, he intuitively understood what had happened. The Thunderbolt
's shots had penetrated across the entirety of his rear and left side into his damaged right section, finding his remaining SRM magazine. The explosion rocked him in his command couch, sending fresh pain through his old body. A sharp pain filled his head from the violence with which he was thrown about, though the neurohelmet protected him from the worst of it. Ribs broken this time. I am certain.
He drew in a pained breath and tried to focus his eyes. The sky above, lit with laser light, and particle bolt, and flaming contrail, and red-hot tracer, had a cruel yet familiar beauty. As if the shapes they formed were not just a chaotic pattern, but the outline of a figure, with outstretched arms. The thought came to his bloodied lips. "Chooser of the Slain."
Then it was gone, replaced by the underside of a massive metal foot coming straight down for him.