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Quote of the Week: "A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within." - Will Durant, American historian (1885-1981)


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 Post subject: The Dark Falcons Bk1+BK2 COMPLETE + BK3 Hidden Empire Ch1Pt2 PostPosted: 2011-01-27 09:34am
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Chapter One



Pain. A dull, throbbing torture which twisted Jax’s face, as he squirmed into a better pillow position. Now he pushed his legs out, relieving the pressure on an already overstrained bladder. What had he drunk last night? Nothing strange, he hoped. Truthfully, though, recollection of any physical memory was impossible in his current state.

His football-shaped alarm spewed forth its strident merriment and he savagely smashed it with his fist. It bounced back off the wall straight into his face, all the while cheerily killing him softly. Returning the favour he grabbed the thing, pounding it time and again against the floor, until its squealing turned into a death rattle. Satisfied he let it go, preparing himself for the banging protest he was sure would follow. The old lady below was constantly knocking a broom handle against her ceiling, the most trivial of transgressions rewarded with a sweeping symphony. Surprisingly enough, nothing. Sighing, Jax drifted back into sleep, the booming of his headache fading as he found his pillow’s sweet spot.

*

With a start Jax woke, what time was it? Groaning he realised that his earlier actions had caused him to be late again. This time, there would be no reprieve. He lay spread-eagled for a while, then roused himself, half-falling from the bed in a tangle of sheets. Cursing he kicked his feet from their prison and stumbled to the bathroom. Each and every sound was raised to a decibel level way above local standards and Jax had to rest his head against the cold tiles in front of him, for at least some relief.

Once fortified with painkillers, dry biscuits and coffee strong enough to chew, he felt ready to brave whatever disaster faced the world today. There was no saving his job, so Jax had decided to be sick. The way he felt right now, no-one could accuse him of lying. Remote in hand, biscuit in mouth and coffee close by, he sank once again into his pillow and pressed the red Power button. A three note chime announced the machine’s preparations and he sipped his coffee gingerly, the liquid making his dry biscuit more palatable.

White static wiggled across the flat screen, a roaring of no-noise accompanying it. Channel after channel was the same and no amount of frustrated tuning would cure it. At last Jax gave in, he needed proper food and the Café on the Corner could provide him that, strong liquor and video feed. His resolve strengthened he headed once more for the bathroom and a hot shower.

*

Once rugged up; heavy coat, scarf and balaclava optional, but essential, he was ready to venture out into the cold. Winter had struck early this year and refused to stop punching; its icy grasp clinging tightly to the city. Yesterday, when his vid-screen worked, the weather lady had been less than optimistic; cloud, sleet and snow. Locking the door to his flat behind him, Jax pressed the button to call the lift and waited. He was thankful for the quiet, no screaming children or noisy neighbours, unusual in itself, but welcome all the same.

It was when the lift doors opened onto the foyer that Jax began to notice that something was wrong. Not even that, more different and unexpected. Dave the Doorman was missing, an absolute first which worried him a little. His grumbling stomach helped him to dismiss his anxiety and so objective fixed, he pushed open the front door.

Silence. No railcar, no transports, not even a bird chirping. Absolute absence of noise enveloped him. Swiftly he ran back inside, shouting for Dave, but there was no answer. He banged on the doors to the ground floor flats. Nothing. The com by Dave’s desk gave a dialling tone, but a desperate call to the local switchboard was met only by static. Confused and not a little scared, Jax decided that his first idea was the best, the Café on the Corner would solve everything. With a grunt, he levered himself out of Dave’s chair and tentatively opened the door onto the street.

*

A quick look left and right showed no traffic, zero movement in fact of any sort. At the bottom of the street was the local transport, skewed across the path and semi-ensconced in the baker’s front window. The concertina door was half open, yet when he tentatively poked his head inside there was only empty space. He had seen no human life to date and then it struck him. No life of any kind.

Jax stood in the middle of the road, eyes flickering all around; no pigeons, no dogs, not even the buzzing of a fly. He screamed a desperate hello and his voice never even registered an echo.

His shuffling feet stubbed against a discarded walking stick and he grasped it, relief washing over him. Mock weapon in hand he continued, now and again swishing the wooden staff through the air in warning. It took him longer than normal to reach his favourite Cafe, but that was accounted for by the cautious approach to each corner, dropping to all fours and peering knee-high around the brickwork.

Using the stick’s tip he opened the door, letting it swing back twice before holding it ajar. This time his voice echoed when he called, the answer though remained the same. A search showed he was alone. Angrily he tossed money onto the bar and reaching across grabbed a half-full whisky bottle. Disdaining a glass he poured the raw alcohol down his throat, choking and spluttering. After a time his perseverance was rewarded with spinning walls, vomit and unconsciousness.

*

The singing woke him. It was dark and the unlit interior of the Cafe allowed him a clear view of the street whose automatic lighting was definitely functioning. Nose pressed against the front window he stared, breath misting the surface and momentarily clouding his vision. A quick wipe confirmed what he was seeing; vague, distorted shapes stumbling in and out of the shadows. Their bodies strangely hunched and humped. Step by step they moved in file towards a nearby alleyway, as though drawn by an irresistible siren song. It was then he saw her, screamed in warning and with no thought for his own safety, rushed to her aid, walking stick grasped firmly in his hand.

*

“Do you see her?” The voice was cold, metallic.

“Yes, Star Captain.” And then a pause, “There is no honour in this.”

“Just follow your orders. There’s a lesson here for them all to learn. No-one can escape from the Clans with impunity.”

He saw the woman’s shape, heard her deranged singing and, just for a moment doubted. Then the golden reticule tightened on her, adrenaline surged through his system and he fired.

*

“No-o-o!” Jax screamed as he saw the armour-covered figures and the pulsing, dancing beams of destruction.

The metallic clang of his improvised weapon sounded futile, as was its effects. A huge arm struck him, smashing him off a nearby wall and it was then he heard the heavy sounds of Mechs and knew his worst nightmare was realised. The Clans were here.

When he woke again, he knew his nightmare was real. Jax was chained to the wall of a dank and ill-smelling cellar. All around him were the smells of fear and despair. Bodies packed close together, his fellow inhabitants of the city moaned and wailed. A noise of marching feet drew his attention and with a protesting screech, the metal doors were opened.

There had been news of what the Clan members looked like, but he was ill-prepared for the reality of the huge man who bent and entered. Bull-necked and arrogant he stared into the semi-darkness. His eyes locked onto those of Jax and he grunted with laughter.

“That one.” He said and Jax was roughly dragged out into the early morning light.

“What…?”

“Quiet, Bondsman,” growled the big man, “you were man enough to face up to us last night, don’t shame either of us now by your mewling.”

The square outside the building in which he had been held was a hive of activity. Men and women in their Clan uniforms hurried to and fro. A group of armoured men, as big as his captor, stalked past. There was an overwhelming hubbub of sound, broken only by the thump and whine of enormous feet. Jax looked on in awe as the semi-human Omnimech entered the area.

Where are our forces? What had happened to the planetary resistance? As if in answer to his question there was a scream of LRM’s and explosions blossomed. He saw the Omnimech’s head turn and then its body shudder as it responded in kind. Then it began to pick up speed, the crash of its movement joined by others of its kind.

“You!” said the Elemental to one of the cowering Techs, “take this one to my quarters. It looks like there are some malcontents still to be subdued.”

“Yes, Star Captain,” came the meek reply.

*

“Eagle One to Eagle Base, over. I repeat, Eagle One to Eagle Base, over!” Nothing, there was zero response. Captain Marius cursed as he pounded his fist against his control panel. He had seen the Base Mechs implode under the vicious enemy barrage, and had heard the frantic transmissions from the Command Centre as the invaders smashed their way through the final defences.

His wing had responded to his call, flying close to the automatic anti-aircraft systems of the dropship hovering overhead, relying on their own friendly identification transponders to protect them. They had flown tip to tip, their autocannons blazing a metallic path of death in front of them. The enemy fighters had been unable to resist, yet the ploy had not been without casualties.

Two of his Wing had been downed on the first pass by enemy missiles, another blown apart by the dropship’s own defences. It was irrelevant now though, they had nowhere to land. The landing strip had been destroyed. Basically there were two choices, die here or try and link up with any remaining ground forces, a slower yet no less certain death based upon the vast superiority of the enemy.

Marius was leaning towards a more glorious and rapid end, here amongst the last remains of his companions. Not because he was the most heroic of men, rather the most practical. Signal strength was minimal and therefore he could not contact anyone on the planet, he had three SRM remaining, his autocannons were less than half-full and his laser was all but useless.

There was no certainty his men would feel the same way, but he had to at least give them the option. Drawing in a deep breath he reached to active his transmitter, but was forestalled by an incoming message.


“This is Colonel Walters calling all surviving Navy personnel. You are to disengage, I repeat, disengage from enemy contact. I am assuming overall control for this mission. You will lock on to the signal which is currently being transmitted from my temporary headquarters. Walters Out!”

Captain Marius looked curiously at his com, he must have subconsciously flicked the switch to transmit after the message had finished. Cautiously he responded, “Marius here, can you verify? Over.”

“Captain, make your choice,“ replied the voice flatly, “accept my invitation unconditionally or die out there. Out!”

This was more than strange, thought Marius, he had never given his rank, or had he?

*

“Do you think they fell for it?” asked one of the armoured men.

“Of course they did. These Freebirth are less than human. Thinking is an impossibility for them,” replied another.

“The Star Captain won’t like it…”

“Well he’s not here and I am. You’ll do what …?”

“They’ll do nothing Karl. What dishonour have you concocted this time?”

The group turned to see the large imposing figure of the Star Captain appear, but further discussion was cut short as the fighters roared into view.


Jax knew something was wrong. It was not the fact that he was forgotten about, although that in itself was annoying. Rather, it was the manic rush, the press of bodies in Clan uniform and his lack of understanding. The cord tied around his wrist hinted of slavery and no-one was willing to explain anything to him. He had been on the receiving end of a really bad last twenty-four hours and his head still thrummed in protest.

Now the dropship seemed to resonate with his own pain and it finally seeped into his numbed senses that the craft was leaving, with him on it. He was kicked to one side, glared at and cursed. Then he was alone. A roaring of engines was transmitted through the hull as the ship clawed itself free from the gravity well of the planet and Jax slumped to the floor, overwhelmed by a futile rage.

*
Star Captain Otho Pershaw squinted as the sun reflected off the silvered wings of the fighters. This was idiocy. He knew that Karl was up to his usual tricks, his jealously had recently become outright rebellion and Otho determined to settle this once and for all when this was over.

“Fire!”

At his order, SRM’s screamed upwards. The first craft flew straight into them, one wing torn away and arcing up. It hung for a moment and then span to follow the rest of the fighter as it ploughed into the earth. More missiles hit their targets and the Wing of fighters split, desperately trying to avoid their impending doom. It was already too late.

He saw two pilots eject clear, the others in the Wing had little chance. The pulse of a laser scorched past him, too close to have been a mistake. There was no apology, but Otho could have sworn he heard a grunt of laughter.

*
Heat rolled over Al Sheehan in a palpable wave. He had seen the missiles streak towards the fighters; they had come from just over the ridge. Whoever had fired was the least of his worries right now. The left foot of his Mech was hanging together by a few threads of miomer and the constant pounding of missiles and laser fire was boiling him alive. He cycled power to his Gauss rifle. It was about the only thing left working.

Stories about the Clans had proven to be woefully inaccurate. Their fire-power was awesome. Before he could close the distance between his Mech and the strangely familiar shapes of the metallic monsters before him, he had been cut apart. It was impossible to know where the rest of his men were. Communication had become useless amid the twisting and turning of battle.

At last he got a green light and aimed for the centre of the chest of the Mech in front of him. Teeth clenched, he fired. The silver mass projectile lanced forward, a deadly blur as it punched through armour. There was a puff of smoke and the enemy staggered. He felt a momentary elation as the thing wobbled and then was amazed as it straightened. Its torso twisted, its right arm extended and then all hell let loose.

Alarms blared and he saw the danger signal flash for his fusion plant. Without a second sort he punched his ejection button and was slammed back into his seat as explosive bolts did their job. As he flew upwards, he saw the headless remains of his Mech crash to the floor. The force of its destruction buffeted him and he tried his best to control his wayward flight. This did not look good.

*
“What now, Star Captain?”

Otho could hear the sneer in Karl’s voice, but chose to ignore it.

“We move out. Our orders are clear. This is only a small part of our real objective. The recall will be sounded shortly and I for one have no intention of remaining as part of the imposed Garrison. What about you?”

“I am a warrior,” said Karl, “I go where the fighting is.”

“Yes, I see,” said Pershaw, indicating the smouldering remains of the fighters, “like today. I heard your challenge, or rather deception. When we return to the dropship, you will consider yourself under arrest. I have had enough of your cowardice.”

“I think not.”

Pershaw relied too much on the warrior’s code. Karl, on the other hand thought only on the final objective, winning. He raised his hand and the laser pulsed once. The rest of his group joined in and Otho crumpled under the barrage.

“Fallen in battle,” said Karl, looking at each of the rest of the Elementals with him in turn, “right?”

There was a muffled agreement and Karl pointed his laser at Pershaw’s head, the reticule flicked active and he smiled evilly.

*
Sheehan thought that his day could not get any worse. That was until his retro’s failed, followed by the tearing sound of the canopy above him. His escape trajectory was cut short and he plummeted earthward. A sound blocked out the roaring of the air as it tore past him and he realised that it was his own involuntary scream.

*
Otho stared at the laser pointed into his faceplate and forced down the acrid taste of fear in his mouth. So this was what the Clans had come to. Their internecine war would rip them apart and, not for the first time, he challenged his leaders’ manic determination for victory.

He watched the reflection of his own image stare back at him and his neck muscles tensed. Then all went black.

*
Cracking open the exit port, Sheehan half-stumbled, half-fell out of the now vile smelling cockpit. There was the sweet smell of vomit, tinged with that of burnt flesh. His own, he was sure. He forced himself to poke his head back into the craft and pulled out the backpack, containing the standard survival kit. As well as this he unclipped the laser pistol from its fixings on the wall and buckled on the belt and holster.

It was only then that he began an investigation of the surrounding area and what he saw brought him up short. It appeared that there had been a battle here, or at least a fight of some sort, which his arrival seemed to have curtailed.

Miraculously the escape pod had ended up in a sparsely tree-lined grove, finally coming to rest against an enormous rock. There were one or two mangled bodies to be seen, obviously the result of his precipitous arrival, but here and there he saw the evidence of a vicious encounter. To one side an armoured form lay sprawled, thick black liquid bubbling from the cracked ceramic. Nearby was a corpse, covered in the same material, yet crushed and broken. It was like one of the scenes from an old Trivid movie, depicting some historical battle.

Gingerly he stepped round and through the remains of the men and approached the edge of the grove. He heard the muted sound of laser fire receding into the distance. A low moan wafted from beneath a pile of snapped branches and he hastily combat knife. Al poked aside the splintered vegetation and revealed a huge man, dressed in the strange armour he had seen in the grove. Sheehan prodded the man with the end of the blade and was rewarded with a groan.

Jumping backwards, he drew his laser pistol, transferring the knife to his left hand.

“W-w-where am I?” asked the individual in a dazed fashion.

“That’s exactly what I was going to ask you,” replied Sheehan, watching as the man struggled to his feet, holding one hand against the fresh looking wound in his side. He saw him scan the underbrush, probably looking for a weapon of some sort.

“Enough of that!” snapped Sheehan, waving his pistol for effect.

To his surprise, the man seemed more concerned about what might be hidden in the surrounding vegetation than his pistol. The giant shape tensed as though about to attack. Sheehan quickly snapped off a shot, which whistled past the man’s ear, causing him to drop onto one knee and bow his head.

“Forgive me,” he said, “I meant no dishonour.”

“Dishonour?”

“You not only beat my enemy, but have also spared me. You have every right to expect me to accept the role as your Bondsman.”

Sheehan stared at the enormous bulk of the man. Who was he and what the ****** was a Bondsman?



The Wildwose

A Guiding Light

Sudden Dearth

Gerard A. Whitfield


Last edited by Rayo Azul on 2013-02-06 11:33am, edited 94 times in total.
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 Post subject: Re: The Dark Falcons Book 1 - The Awakening (BT) PostPosted: 2011-01-27 12:45pm
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Chapter Two


Jax finally crawled back into reality and the boot planted firmly into his ribs helped.

“Get up, Freebirth!”

He saw the glowering countenance of the Clansman. Another Elemental, yet not his captor.

“You are mine now. The Khan gave me the pick of the Bondsman captured on your pitiful world and I chose you.”

“What about …ugh”

A fist crashed against the side of his face and span him across the room.

“Speak when you are spoken to, not before. The pitiful excuse for a Clansman called Otho Pershaw, lies rotting on the planet below. I am all that is left of his Sibko and for some reason he saw something in you. Together we are going to find out what it was. For now though …”

Once more he was beaten into submission, the powerful blows only stopping when a curt command cut the air. He could not hear what were the murmured words used, his head rang. Whatever was said, he was grateful, the punishing blows had finished.

Something cool was placed against his forehead and hands helped him into a sitting position.

“Don’t try to speak.” The voice was female, yet had a deep mannish quality and a strong arm drew him up.

“I have stopped that surat from administering his form of questioning for now. If Otho thought you worth the effort, then so do I.”

His vision swam. The woman appeared twice his size and the smile on her face looked as though it was unaccustomed to sitting there.

“Where am I?”

“You’re on our dropship. We’re jumping to our next target and we need to get you somewhere safe.”

“Why?”

Strident alarms blared and the grin reappeared.

“No time for that now, we’re about to jump. If you’ve never been off-world you’re not going to like this.”

His stomach heaved and he turned a strange shade of green. For some reason, he did not want to vomit all over his would-be saviour’s boots. The problem was that he had no choice in the matter.

*

The second jump was not quite so bad, the third even better and Jax surprised himself with his own resilience. Elana, the female Elemental had visited him again and he was now installed in what he assumed were her quarters. Everything was oversized, chairs formed to hold her titanic frame and Jax felt like a weak and frightened child.

There had been rumours about the Clans and their incursions. It had all seemed so far away though. Now he was experiencing it first hand and he was unsure how to react. Otho Pershaw had, relatively speaking, been kind to him as had Elana. Gunther, his original tormentor, had been obviously upset with him. Jax still did not know why.

The door whooshed upwards and he stared into the face of an older man, slighter in frame than Elana who had let him enter first. He wore a clean pressed uniform, which sported twin silver emblems on his shirt lapels. Power radiated from him and Jax jumped to his feet.

“Ah,” he said, “this is our guest.”

“Yes, my Khan,” rumbled Elana, “what do you wish me to do with him?”

“Close the door and I will tell you.”

As the barrier dropped down, the Khan stared at Jax. He saw a man of medium height, dwarfed by the surroundings and his own fear. Yes, this one would do very nicely.

*

Sheehan stared over the smoking remains of his lance. The Mechs which had so proudly formed up in defiance of the invaders were now nothing more than scrap. He heard the heavy footfall of the man behind him and turned.

“Are you happy with what you have done?”

Otho looked puzzled and Sheehan realised that he could see nothing wrong with this destruction.

“All this,” he motioned about him, “gone.”

“We broadcasted our arrival and invited you to bid against us. All that we received was silence and so we landed. Minimal force was used.”

“This is minimal force?” Sheehan was astounded.

Otho nodded. There had been no planetary bombardment, the Khan had seen to that. What they had not expected was the pitifully prepared Inner Sphere forces and their suicidal tactics.

“That is of no consequence. Where do we go now?”

Al shook off the urge to slap the giant. He was right. It was vital that he get this man and his armour back to Headquarters. If they were to stand any chance against the Clansmen, they needed new weapons, and soon. It was inconceivable to one such as he that what was, to all intents and purposes, a mini-Mech stood before him.

“Follow me.”

Otho watched him trudge away and then followed. If this was his new Clan, they would need his help. Even the youngest of one of the Clan’s sibko’s could have beaten them. For a moment he thought of the Bondsman he had sent to the dropship, then he dismissed any regrets. He too was a prize of war and his objective must be to regain his standing as a warrior and ultimately his rank and privilege. With a grin he marched after Sheehan, at least it would be easier than the last time.

*

“Who are they?”

Sheehan grunted and studied the men below them. They were picking their way through the remains of the Mechs. Every now and then they stopped to study something. A cry would go up and others would run to the scene of interest. He saw a group of them man-handle what looked like a metallic arm and then sounds of excited laughter floated up to him. There was a single shot and a growl began deep in his throat.

“Looters!”

“Who?”

“Scum who would take advantage of the fallen. They are removing what they can and will sell it to the highest bidder.”

Otho thought for a moment and then anger flashed in his eyes.

“And the shot?”

“They found someone. Witnesses to their acts won’t be left alive.”

Surveying the destruction, Sheehan realised that it was more likely to have been one of his men than a Clansman.

“Come on,” he said, “time to teach them a little respect.”

In spite of his predicament, Otho liked this little man. The numbers were vastly in the looters favour but he had not thought twice about what was right. Perhaps those from the Inner Sphere were not as he had been told at all.

*

Flames lightened the darkness as Sheehan and Otho made their way towards the looters campsite. Anger had been replaced by a cold determination.

“Things would be more even, if only your armour still worked,” said Sheehan in a barely audible whisper.

“Of course it still works.”

Sheehan stopped, his pistol now pointing towards Otho.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“There was no need. I am your Bondsman.” The statement held subtle connotations beyond Sheehan’s understanding and his “Of course” made Otho smile.

“Shall we?” asked the big man, activating his targeting reticule.

*

A red beam pulsed from the dark, melting the pot held in one of the looter’s hands. Then, as they scrambled for their weapons, a huge form loomed. Otho fired indiscriminately. None of these men deserved to live. Sheehan had been specific. His enhanced senses heard his companion’s movement and then his covering fire began again. With a sweep of one of his armoured legs, Otho kicked a looter into the fire. His screams added to the nightmare scene and like a huge avenging angel Otho dealt justice.

When it was all over, Otho stood by Sheehan and contemplated the shattered bodies. The tech they had recovered was all Inner Sphere material.

“Looks like your guys got off easy,” said Sheehan in disgust.

“No we didn’t,” said Otho. The huge hand he laid on Sheehan’s shoulder almost knocking him to the floor.


*

“Wait.”

Sheehan stopped. Otho pulled him back into cover and he strained to see what was the problem. He heard it first. The distinctive sound of a Mech’s tread became louder as it approached. Soon, he could see the bulk of the machine’s legs through the foliage.

“A Summoner, it looks as though the battle is over.”

Al watched it stride majestically past and once he felt safe, moved forward once more. They were on a slight ridge which overlooked the familiar shape of the base. He could see other Mech’s as they patrolled the outskirts of the camp. With Otho’s assisted vision, and the aid of the field glasses in his emergency pack, Sheehan confirmed the Elemental’s original comment.

Groups of men were being herded towards a fenced area by large men in power armour. Vehicles dashed in and out of the Base compound with constant frequency, avoiding the larger Omnimechs as best they could.

“There don’t seem to be many of them,” commented Sheehan as he swept the glasses across the area.

“No,” Otho replied, “the majority of the warriors will have left for the next target. This is merely a garrison, a solhama unit, left to consolidate our victory.”

“Sorry?” Sheehan was confused. These Mech’s did not seem worthy of the derision in Otho’s force.

“This is not a front-line unit. It shows the contempt in which they hold the forces of this world.”

“Contempt or not, we need more information on them and on who they have detained down there. On our own we will be no match for them. Listen, I have an idea.”

*

The ground car driver was in a hurry. He had been given orders to reach one of the outlying units by his superior officer and had been delayed whilst the man had made sure he understood. Just because he was part of the Tech caste, did not mean he was stupid. That attitude, however, was common amongst the Warrior caste. In order to save more time, he had brought his breakfast with him and he took a swig from his thermos of water.

Afterwards, he would claim that he had only taken his eyes off the road for a moment, but it was enough. An Elemental had appeared in the road and he desperately tried to avoid him. He wrenched the wheel savagely and slammed on the brakes. There was the sound of metal against metal and his vehicle left the road, coming to a halt after it had bounced off a tree trunk.

“Effective, but messy,” commented Sheehan as he emerged from the sparse cover.

A groan from the cabin assured him that the driver was still alive and he worked quickly. One sharp tap from the butt of his pistol made certain that the man was taken care of. Rapidly, he searched both the unconscious figure and the ground car. He stripped the driver of his clothes and had Otho manhandle the vehicle back onto the road. The dent from the impact against the tree was obvious, but Sheehan thought that if they waited for dark, he would at least have a chance of passing un-noticed.

They discussed his plan in detail and although Otho was not in total agreement, he had to admit that he had no better idea. With the driver bound and comfortable, they sat down to wait for nightfall.



The Wildwose

A Guiding Light

Sudden Dearth

Gerard A. Whitfield

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 Post subject: Re: The Dark Falcons Book 1 - The Awakening (BT) PostPosted: 2011-01-28 12:45pm
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Chapter Three



There was little security in place and the invaders arrogance showed. Sheehan faced a perfunctory questioning and then was allowed free access. He knew that Otho was making his own way inside and he still held some reservation about what the Elemental would do. That though, was the least of his worries.

The car trundled to a stop and he opened the door. His exit was near to the compound and lights illuminated the huddled prisoners. A token guard stood by the chained entrance and he wandered over. At least none of the men in power armour were on show. Now would come the hard part. Al let the weight of his improvised cosh drop the weapon into his hand and sauntered over.

*

Otho used the shadows to his best advantage. He had found the approach too easy and pondered on the difference between real warriors and these Garrison troops. It was certain that their escapade this evening would change the Clansmen’s thinking on security. A grin of anticipation crossed his face and as the first guard passed him, he struck. One meaty arm dropped and the guard fell soundlessly to the floor.

The Elemental entered the compound. He moved away from where he knew Sheehan would be at work, and instead made his way towards the barracks. They needed a little time and a huge amount of luck, if they were to pull this off. Fortune favoured him and he reached his new cover unopposed. To one side was the fuel dump and with a swift decision he changed his plan.

As he heard the alarm raised, he acted. Precise shots from his laser melted the locks to the main doors. He turned and targeted the grouped barrels, the red-hot beam igniting the fuel. Explosions rent the night, but Otho had already moved on. No matter how poor these men were, the Mechs would make a huge difference.

*

Sheehan smashed the metal bar against the guard’s head with little regard for the outcome. As the guard fell, he raced towards the main gate. It was then his luck ran out. He stumbled on a loose piece of rock, the cosh sailing from his hand. It struck with a ringing sound against one of the metal stanchions and there was a cry of challenge. Al recovered his weapon and waited.

There was the sound of running feet and as the curious guard passed him, he delivered a mighty blow. His rifle fell to the floor and discharged. Instantly alarms blared into life. He grasped the rifle, assuring himself of its function and aimed it at the lock in front of him. A short burst shattered the chains and he shouted down the raised voices.

“Move!” he screamed and was rewarded with an avalanche of bodies. He grabbed the first one to pass close by and directed him towards the prone figure of his first victim. It was then that the exploding fuel lit up the night sky.

“So much for a quiet stroll in the night,” he muttered, as the brilliant beams of lasers began to slice through the darkness.

*

He could hear the hammer of armour against the doors and knew he had little time. Getting out of the windows would be a problem for them, but they could always create their own exits. Otho strode away, his objective clear. It was not one he had discussed with Sheehan, but it was necessary.

His passing was ignored by the soldiers who were running about the area. Why would they question one dressed as he and with his emblem still proudly displayed on his armour? Rounding a corner, he saw what he wanted and increased his speed. Two swift kicks opened the required door and he saw the objects of his search cowering in one corner.

“Come with me,” he said, not waiting to see if they followed. Their caste was so used to following orders that they scrambled after him. He would need their support and soon. Quickly he sent them to gather what he needed and waited impatiently for their return. It was just as they reappeared, that the barrack wall exploded in a shower of rock and dust.

“Wait here.”

Otho felt the adrenaline kick in and marched across to meet the trio of Elementals who stood ready to burst into action.

*

“Where the frak is he?”

Sheehan expected no answer. The prisoners had disappeared into the lurid glare cast by the now burning fuel. He twitched nervously at every sound and almost emptied a clip of ammunition into the two men who appeared suddenly.

“Who are you and why did you break us out?”

They were clearly military. Their uniforms rent and dishevelled announced their former occupation.

“Captain Al Sheehan, Mechwarrior. I thought you could do with a hand …”

Further conversation was cut short as he saw Otho and then the three Elementals facing him.

“I think that now is not the time for introductions,” he said, as he checked his ammunition, “Make your way to the hills and with a little bit of luck, we’ll see you there.”

Major Harry Bourne watched the self-proclaimed Captain race away. His eyes widened when he saw where he went and with a shake of his head, he turned away. This Sheehan was either extremely brave or just plain stupid. Right now, he thought, he was leaning towards the latter.

*

Otho stopped and began to draw in the with his foot. He scraped a rough circle and called one of his appropriated techs to him. The man helped him remove his armour, placing it carefully to one side. The big man stretched his arms wide and drew in a deep breath.

“I am Otho Pershaw,” he said, “and I challenge each and everyone of you to prove the right of my cause here within this circle.”

Silence greeted him and he heard Sheehan arrive, his breath laboured from his run.

“What do you think you are doing!”

“Making sure we get away.”

“How?” Sheehan almost screamed in exasperation.

“When they fall, none will prevent us. It is our way.”

Al looked back as the three giants began to remove their armour.

“Three of them?”

“You think it not enough? I can ask them to bring some more of their friends.”

Sheehan cursed and Otho laughed.

“Wait over there with the Technicians and make sure they have our things stowed on the groundcar. This won’t take a moment.”

*

The moment the first of his opponents entered the circle, Otho leapt into action. His front foot lanced out, smashing into the man’s leading knee. There was a crunch and an audible pop as the joint gave. He followed with a swift kick to the temple and now there were only two.

They were wary now. His speed was obvious and he claimed a Bloodname. Otho Pershaw was well known amongst his Clan and especially within the Elementals. Perhaps his own Clan looked down on their huge brothers, but Pershaw had earned his name and his rights in the circle of combat. Underestimation could be a fatal flaw.

Both rushed him at the same time. He flicked out his left foot which caused a moment’s hesitation in one of them, then, as soon as it touched the floor, he transferred his weight and delivered a vicious back-kick into the sternum of the other. There was a grunt of pain, but it was still not over.

Spinning he smashed the back of his fist into his first attacker’s face and followed it up with a punch to the throat. The man dropped to the floor, choking. His second attacker had just risen to his feet when Otho slammed his elbow into his unprotected face. Blood spurted and the half-cry was cut short by a crushing blow to the back of the neck below him.

Otho looked around in anticipation. Men had gathered to watch, but the strict code of the Clans held sway.

“Get my things loaded up,” he snarled and the Tech’s rushed to obey.

Al watched him as he stood over his victims. With a disgusted shake of his head he discarded two of them, before he approached the one still gasping for air. He roughly grasped him by the back of his collar and dragged him to the car.

“What are you doing?” he said to the Techs who trembled by the vehicle. “I said get my things in the car and I meant all of them.”

They followed his pointing finger to the discarded armour and rushed to obey. When it was all loaded, he merely raised one eyebrow and they jumped inside too.

“Shall we go?” he asked.

“Sure you don’t want to challenge a Mech?” Sheehan said tounge-in-cheek.

“Not today …”

*

The huge Mech bay caused Jax to gulp in trepidation. He was no warrior. All of his time had been spent in shuffling papers in an office. His recent descent into semi-alcoholism had been the reason for his capture and he could find no sensible excuse for his continued existence. Surely one crazy and whiskey-induced attack on a group of Elementals would not mark him out as special?

“Tech Walter?”

There was a certain amount of respect in Elana’s voice for the grizzled old man who was bent attacking a bundle of miomer fibres with a hammer. He stopped and glanced up for a moment, before resuming his intent to seat the bundle in its restraining straps.

“I’m talking to you!”

As she grabbed his shoulder, the old man span and his hammer whistled towards her head. She laughed and blocked the blow, before delivering a contemptuous slap.

“As feisty as ever,” she chuckled, as she helped him up off the floor, “When will you ever learn?”

“Learn what?”

He cuffed the blood from his nose with a grubby sleeve and stared at her in undisguised hatred.

“The Khan said you were still angry and I didn’t believe him. After all this time, you can’t forget your shame?”

“Shame?” he growled, “I took a decision, and I have to live with that. Now I’m a Tech, not a Warrior. Leave me be.”

“Sorry. Can’t do that.” She replied, moving away. “The Khan has a job for you. Consider yourself reassigned.”

“To what?” Walter asked.

“To the education and training of this Freebirth.”

The Tech looked at Jax and sneered. “What possible reason can the Khan have for wanting me to do that?”

“Maybe you should ask him?” laughed the Elemental as she turned away, “Or maybe not…”

*
Elana returned to the Khan and confirmed that she had carried out his wishes.

“Good…” he said pensively, “Ex-Star Commander Walter will soon have him in shape, if he doesn’t kill him first.”

They both laughed and then Elana spoke.

“Do you think this will work?”

“Oh, it will work, my dear,” replied the Khan. “I just hope that we can get it done in time.”

“And if we don’t?”

“That is not an option,” he replied, “no option at all.”



The Wildwose

A Guiding Light

Sudden Dearth

Gerard A. Whitfield

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 Post subject: Re: The Dark Falcons Book 1 - The Awakening (BT) - Chapter 3 PostPosted: 2011-01-30 12:27pm
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Chapter Four



It had been an amazing ride out of the camp. Otho had stalked majestically next to the car as it trundled onwards. Not one person tried to stop them. He had tried explaining the whole process to Sheehan, but Al was blissfully deaf. Men stood by the roadside and glared, then turned and tried to help put out the fires. The Mechs lined the exit road, their autocannons and lasers pointing menancingly towards the ground car, but none fired.

Inside the car, the Techs stared ahead, sweat pouring from their faces and in the rear, gasped the Elemental. The flat back of the vehicle carried four suits of powered armour, plus an assortment of other items Otho had insisted they bring. For one instant, Sheehan trembled, as they came abreast of the Summoner. Its right arm twisted towards them and spat a barrage of rounds into the night. Otho did not even twitch once.

It was then that Sheehan had thought about the escaped prisoners and wondered what had happened to them. He had been sure that the rounds were aimed at someone and had not just been released in a fit of pique.

Just as he had thought them safe, as the ground car disappeared around a turn, Otho jumped onto the rear bed and slammed his fist onto the roof.

“Go!” he shouted and Al had gripped his rifle more tightly.

*

Major Harry Bourne ran. Both he and his two companions were completely lost in the wooded area, but it was amazing what autocannon slugs whizzing above your head could do to your internal compass. Away was the only direction in his head, as bushes shredded all about him.

He and his two fellow officers had been caught off-watch when the Clans attacked and he had never reached his waiting Mech. On foot, he felt more than vulnerable. A feeling which was added to as a PPC beam set the shrubbery alight around him.

“This way!” one of his companions shouted and they tumbled down an embankment onto the main road.

“Not a good idea,” he gasped, as he heard the roar of an approaching vehicle. This was followed by the unmistakable sound of a Mech at speed and Harry did something he had never done for a long time, he prayed.

*

“What is it?” Sheehan shouted above the sound of the engine.

“A Mech, and it’s coming this way.” Otho roared back. He was vainly trying to strap himself into his armour as the car rocketed along the road. The power suits had become mixed up and he began to curse.

“Whose?” It seemed a stupid question, but Sheehan felt he had to ask.

“Whoever it is, they don’t sound friendly.” replied Otho.

“Ah, frak. Stop the car!” Sheehan emphasised his command with his pointed rifle.

The Tech slammed on the brakes and there was the crunch of a huge body against the rear of the cabin.

“Sorry,” mumbled Sheehan and dragged one of the Techs out after him.

“Help him!” he ordered, propelling the man towards the sound of swearing. There was a pause and then the distinctive sound of a salvo of missiles somewhere to his left, away in the darkness. This did not look good.

The back door of the vehicle was kicked open and the Elemental struggled free.

“Otho!” screamed Sheehan, his rifle now aimed straight into the man’s chest.

With a disdainful laugh, the Clansman pulled himself to the back of the car, just as Otho’s head appeared.

“Good,” he said, “get yourself suited up. It looks as though you have woken up just in time, Quiaff?”

“Af,” was the only reply.

*

Bourne huddled beneath the sparse cover and stared at the enormous leg that slammed into the earth next to him. Its mottled camouflage paint made it look even more frightening. He covered his ears as the beast roared, belching SRM’s out which smashed through the tangle of greenery and impacted directly onto another machine which had just appeared. Shards of metal flew past; a deadly shrapnel which threatened to end his escape attempt.

Pulse lasers answered and he saw the leg stagger back. The machine’s fusion plant whined and it lurched forward, its own lasers flashing in reply. Before its opponent could answer an autocannon stuttered from nearby, adding its voice to the hellish uproar. The ground shook as a huge body crashed down and Bourne tried to make himself as small as possible.

Just as he began to uncurl there was an ear-splitting scream, followed by a heavy impact. Then another. Gauss rifles, thought Bourne and then he froze. The leg was back, followed by another and the looming shadow of a toppling Mech.

*

“Name, Bondsman?”

“Hans, Star Captain.”

“Ah, you know of me then. Good, although right now, we follow Captain Sheehan’s orders.”

Although clad in his battle armour, Otho could almost feel the question, and so he answered.

“You are my Bondsman, so that is all you need to know. Our job is to find out what we are facing. Are you ready?”

He heard the affirmative echoed in their private circuit and set off.

Sheehan heard them first. Otho’s voice boomed out from his external speakers.

“Orders?”

“Get in there and find out what’s going on. We need to know what we’re up against. No heroics, I want you back here in one piece.”

Hans’ “Freebirth!” echoed in Otho’s ears and he slammed his fist against the Elemental’s metallic chest. His grunted acquiescence admitted his error, but once this was over, he would need some serious re-education.

“This fight would tend to suggest that some of our forces are still alive and operative. We need to find them and make contact. Understood?”

Otho nodded and then realised that Sheehan could not see him.

“Of course. This is an information gathering exercise. We will avoid any altercation as best we can.”

“I’m sure you will,” laughed Sheehan, “and, I think it would be best if I talked to them first. You’re not dressed for visiting.”

A grunt of laughter followed his comment and Otho turned towards Hans. They communicated for a moment and then began to move.

Sheehan saw them speed away and looked back into the frightened faces of the Tech’s. What he wouldn’t do for his Centurion right now.

*

Otho had switched his Heads Up Display to infra-red and the night had become as familiar to day for him. Hans had tucked in behind and Otho grunted in satisfaction. He switched to the Clan frequency and heard the excited chatter of the Mechwarriors. Children, he sneered and increased his speed.

They passed one fallen Omnimech, which even now struggled to its feet and moved on. There was a crash of breaking wood and they saw another Mech topple. Its left arm was all but sheared off and its right foot missing. A man in a similar uniform to Sheehan raced away. As he passed, Otho clipped him as gently as he could with his power-assisted hand. The man fell silent and unmoving.

“We’ll pick him up on the way back,” he said, “you know what to look for.”

*

Al could hear the fire-fight and see the destruction. Trees burned and bright flashes seared the sky. He wanted to be out there fighting too, but he needed a Mech. Wait, didn’t he have one in the back of the ground car.

“You!”

The nearest Tech jumped at his sudden barked command.

“How quickly can you get me set up with one of these suits?”

“I am not sure. We have no real workshop facility here.”

“Rig up a light and make sure,” snarled Sheehan. At least he would feel as though they were doing something. The second Tech had also left the car and run to help his companion. If nothing else, thought Al, they will be occupied and not thinking of running away.

*

The targeting icon turned green and Otho fired his laser. It speared into the faceplate of the Elemental who had appeared in front of him, blinding his enemy. Hans fired just after him and the plate shattered. Where there was one, there would be others, at least another four.

“Leave him,” he said to Hans, “we have some hunting to do.”

*

His own breath sounded harsh inside his battle armour. Although these troops were not front-line material, Otho knew that one small mistake would be all it took to turn this action into a debacle. Hans had moved off to his left and Otho scanned his readouts. There, he had them.

As silently as possible, he moved around behind the small group of targets. They were closing in on their prey, a severely damaged Mech. The sound of its servos as they struggled to lift its heavy bulk, masked his approach. A movement caused him to stop, but he relaxed as he identified Hans. With a sharp motion, he indicated his intent and the Elemental moved away. This would have to be fast, decisive.

Two of the Clansmen had already attached themselves to the dying Mech when he struck. His power claw closed and cut through a shoulder joint. He tugged the man backwards, firing his laser into the blackening hole. The body beneath him shuddered and he fired again.

There was the flash of laser fire nearby, but he had no time to investigate. One of the Clansmen had detached himself from the Mech’s leg and used his jets to power into Pershaw. The impact drove him back, but he managed to twist and use the Elemental’s momentum. Rising, he struck. His actions were economical and deadly. Just as he turned to look for more enemies, autocannon rounds smashed him to the earth. As he rolled, he saw the Inner Sphere Mech try to follow him with its damaged arm, slugs stitching a wicked path all around him.

*

“Will it work?”

“It should St…, Captain.” The Tech looked a little worried, as Sheehan sealed the visor, but he nodded enthusiastically.

Lights blinked as the armour powered up. Sheehan was amazed at the intricate nature of the displays. This was better than his Centurion. He followed the Tech’s hasty instructions and ran through the pre-check sequence. Instead of Pershaw’s laser, they had fitted an autocannon to his right arm and all systems displayed green. Al toggled his external speakers on.

“I won’t be long. Stay with the car.”

Then he was away. A thrill of exhilaration and an undeniable feeling of power ran through him. This was amazing. His mini-Mech raced through the night and he leapt effortlessly over any obstacles. Stealth was not his objective. He needed the Inner Sphere forces to know what he had achieved. Withdrawal was their best option, as the Clans advantage in firepower would soon tell. If this was an attack to free the prisoners, they needed to know of his success. Sheehan gritted his teeth and increased his speed, the sound of battle drawing him on.



The Wildwose

A Guiding Light

Sudden Dearth

Gerard A. Whitfield

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 Post subject: Re: The Dark Falcons Book 1 - The Awakening (BT) - Chapter 4 PostPosted: 2011-01-31 12:03am
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He's INSIDE an Elemental? I thought you had to be genetically fit to move those things!



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Nitram: You -are- beautiful. Anyone tries to tell you otherwise kill them.

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 Post subject: Re: The Dark Falcons Book 1 - The Awakening (BT) - Chapter 4 PostPosted: 2011-02-01 07:48am
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LadyTevar wrote:
He's INSIDE an Elemental? I thought you had to be genetically fit to move those things!


He's inside Battle Armour. You're right that Elementals were genetically bred for the purpose, but others could use the Armour



The Wildwose

A Guiding Light

Sudden Dearth

Gerard A. Whitfield

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 Post subject: Re: The Dark Falcons Book 1 - The Awakening (BT) - Chapter 5 PostPosted: 2011-02-01 08:18am
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Chapter Five



The Khan stared at the information in front of him. His plan was working. The Freebirth Jax was responding well to the training and the treatment. Drugs had helped him understand how beneficial would be the Clans involvement in the Inner Sphere and training would give him the means to help. It was all so rich. A sworn Crusader Clan promoting peace and happiness.

He covered the data on the desk as the door chimed.

“Enter.”

Elana filled the door, yet moved with a feline grace. Many had already underestimated her and that was why she had been chosen.

“Yes?”

“Tech Walter is complaining again.”

“And that is important…”

The Elemental laughed. She liked this cunning old man.

“No. It is of little importance, my Khan. Jax will begin the second stage of his training soon.”

“Good,” replied the Khan, “time is of the essence. I would like him ready within the month. It is possible, Quiaff?”

“Af. I will see to it myself.”

He nodded and returned to the study of the items on his desk. She knew it was a dismissal and left as quietly as she could.

*

Jax was in pain. His body screamed its refusal to move any further, but his mind was more frightened of Walter. The grizzled veteran insisted on Jax being pushed to the limit and today was no exception. They were on a target range and this was a live fire exercise. There was no Mech, no armour, just Jax, his rifle and his enemies.

Walter had dismissed the Rangemaster and had altered the program. Now indeed, Jax was fighting for his life. High above the field, Walter studied the data streams and smiled. This unusual occurrence still affected his face when Elana entered.

“How is he doing?”

“Surprisingly well. He is no Trueborn, but he has surprised,” said Walters. “Do not tell him that I said that, though.”

The Elemental laughed and changed the subject.

“Why did you accept this shameful position?”

Walter scowled at her. Then, he seemed to take a decision.

“All is not as it seems, Elana. Do you remember Otho Pershaw?”

“Yes,” she said cautiously. “It is said that he fell in battle with the Freebirths.”

“I do not believe that,” contested the Tech, anger in his tone.

“What leads you to that conclusion?” asked Elana puzzled.

“It would take much to remove such a one,” replied Walter, his attention drawn to the displays, “he showed far too much promise to simply pass that way.”

“His Bloodname will be contested soon. I have a claim and intend to fight,” said Elana. “It will soon be mine.”

“Be careful what you wish for,” muttered Walter, under his breath, “he may want it back some day.”

*

Sheehan arrived just in time to see Otho roll desperately away. He activated his external speakers and tried to make the Mechwarrior listen, but he steadfastly continued in his effort to pin the Elemental to the floor. To one side, a Clansman in battered armour rose. His arm followed Pershaw’s flight and Sheehan did not think twice. As soon as he had a lock, he opened fire.

The weapon roared and the rounds slammed into the crouching Elemental. They spun him back, yet Sheehan kept firing. With each slow step, another slug tore into the armoured body, until it lay still.

“Who are you?” came a growled question on his private circuit.

Al turned and saw another Elemental half-looking, half-pointing his laser.

“This is Sheehan. I thought you could maybe do with a hand.”

A grunt of laughter came from Otho.

“Now you see why we follow him, Hans.”

Any reply was drowned out by the voice booming from the now standing Mech.

“Surrender, or you will be destroyed.”

“I think not,” replied Sheehan, activating his jump jets and flying straight towards the Mech’s cockpit.

*
Sheehan locked his power claw onto the stanchion which ran past the Mech’s cockpit. In front of him was cracked and starred glass, behind which he could see the terrified face of the Mechwarrior. She had tried to stop him, and had moved the Mech’s arms in a mechanical intent to cover her face. To no avail.

There were two metallic thumps nearby and he saw that Otho and Hans had joined him.

“We need to be quick,” he transmitted, “before she does something stupid.”

Armoured hands punched into the plexi-glass, ripping and tearing at it. Blow by blow, they widened the entrance, until a large piece was ripped away. Just as he activated his external speakers, Sheehan saw the woman raise her needler and fire.

*

Mechwarrior Diana Short was terrified. She had seen how the ‘Toads’ had appeared from nowhere and bit and clawed at her Mech. No training had prepared her for the efficiency with which they set about the destruction of her Mech. For some reason, they had begun to fight amongst themselves, but quite clearly they had decided to finish her first, before continuing their internal squabble. Diana had no intention of letting them take her alive and had struggled to free her pistol.

At last, she had freed it from its twisted holster and drew a bead on the first of the armoured figures who tried to smash his way to her. Her finger tightened on the trigger and stayed there. Round after round shot towards her enemy, but harmlessly pinged away. As the pistol clicked empty, she resigned herself to her fate.

A voice boomed into her cockpit, startling her.

“Hi. Do you think it might be possible to talk?”

*

Sheehan grinned at the startled look on the Mechwarrior’s face. Obviously not what she had been expecting, he thought.

“I am Captain Al Sheehan and I’m on your side,” he said.

“What?” came the gasped reply.

“I said…”

“I heard what you said,” snapped the woman, “but your actions contradict your claim.”

“Ah. Well what would you have done, when a very large and extremely angry Mech was trying to kill you?” he said.

His only reply was a tight-lipped stare.

“It’s like this. My friends and I,” he had waved in the direction of his companions, “have recently freed a number of prisoners. We thought perhaps you were intent on doing the same thing and came to let you know that it wasn’t really necessary. Oh and, of course, to lend a hand if you needed it.”

“Can you prove this?” Diana asked, disbelief colouring her voice.

“I can,” said Otho, “wait here.”

With that, he dropped to the ground and in three short leaps had reached Major Bourne’s body, where it lay partially hidden by the undergrowth.

“Now,” said Sheehan, “where were we.”

*

Jax walked beside Walter as he picked his way through the rubble of the ruined city. All around him were the remains of the Clan’s recent battle. It had been a devastating attack. The local defenders had resisted valiantly, their actions almost suicidal.

“Why the use of such force? Didn’t the bidding go well?” he asked.

“It did,” replied Walter, “but when our forces landed, we were ambushed. These Freebirth have no honour.”

“I am a Freebirth as you call them, too. What did you expect? That they would meekly surrender, fight fair when our resources are so superior?”

Walter smiled. Already Jax counted himself as part of the Clan. It was their way.

“It is what we would have done. No, do not interrupt. The saKhan became angry and ordered the removal of our troops, followed by this planetary bombardment. When our warriors returned, there was little resistance.”

“But it’s wrong,” said Jax, “now we will have to re-build this world and without the help of its inhabitants.”

“They will help,” stated Walter, “Either that, or they will be dealt with in the appropriate manner.”

For the first time, Jax began to question the beliefs of his adopted Clan. The use of drugs in his conditioning had long since ceased and his mind had begun to let him think clearly. He did not like where his thoughts led him.


*
Federated Commonwealth troops stood or lay wherever they could find some cover. Their Mechs provided some shade, but were a hive of furious activity. None of them knew how long it would be before the Clans found them again. Sheehan sat to one side of his former comrades. Otho and Hans were nearby, speaking with the Techs and working over the equipment they had salvaged from the battleground. They had also recovered another Elemental. She was wounded, but would recover. Hans had disabled her and left her for dead, but her groans had attracted the Techs as they scavenged.

Major Bourne had verified their identities, or at least that of Sheehan who had helped him escape. Little by little, more ex-prisoners drifted in, and Al knew the Clans would soon be following. He had copied Otho and still wore the bulk of his armour, with his helm thrown back. The Techs had checked him out first, it seemed as though they had easily accepted the order of things. They appeared happy, busy with their myriad of tasks.

“And now what?” asked Otho as he approached. “It does not seem as though your comrades are willing to trust us.”

“No,” said Sheehan, “and these suits aren’t helping.”

“In what way?” Otho queried, “Did we not help them?”

“We sure did. It’s just that Clansmen, dressed just like this, tried to kill them a short while ago.”

He stared at Otho’s battle armour for a moment and then called to one of the FC Techs nearby. The man returned with some camouflage paint and then left quickly when Hans joined them.

“Time for us to renounce our allegiance, I think.” Sheehan said, indicating the emblem on their suits.

“You!” he called to the taller of the two Clan Techs. “What’s your name?”

“Elias,” was the muffled reply.

“Well, Elias. Get yourself a brush and let’s see what we can do.”

With short, economical movements, the man darkened the bright green bird. He also blackened the katana it grasped imperiously. When he had finished, there was still a Falcon, but black. The only green was its beak and claws.

“Now they’ll know us,” Sheehan said. “Elias, do their’s next.”

The man worked quickly. Even Hans stood in silence, a strange pride on his face.

“What will we call ourselves?” he asked.

“I’m working on that. What about…”

Sheehan’s words were drowned out as a nearby Jenner was slammed onto its back. SRM’s flashed down from the lance of fighters which had appeared. This was followed by laser fire and a quick glance at the downed Mech showed that at least one of them had a Gauss Rifle.

PPC beams slashed into the grouped FC forces and Otho merely watched, interest plain on his face. Smaller figures jumped from behind the cover of nearby trees, which bent and swayed with the passage of the incoming Omnimechs.

“Time to earn our pay!” snarled Sheehan, as he clamped down his helmet.

“We get paid?” asked Otho, his grin of anticipation infectious. “Now that is a first!”



The Wildwose

A Guiding Light

Sudden Dearth

Gerard A. Whitfield

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 Post subject: Re: The Dark Falcons Book 1 - The Awakening (BT) - Chapter 6 PostPosted: 2011-02-02 11:58am
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Chapter Six


It was dark, where he huddled inside the Mech. Walter had already left, but Jax had seen Elana waiting and wondered what she was doing there. He had climbed into the Mech where is stood, shrouded in shadow and waited.

The Khan appeared. His augmented body wheezed as he approached. There were no guards with him and Jax leant forward to hear better.

“My Khan.”

“Elana,” responded the most powerful member of the Jade Falcon Clan, as he recognised her greeting.

“How is he doing?”

“He is progressing well,” replied the Elemental, “Walter has said the Freebirth is doing better than expected.”

“Good,” the Khan paused and then continued, “Does he suspect anything?”

“No, My Khan. The fool thinks he is now one of us. We are making sure he continues with his misconception.”

Jax’s sharp gasp of surprise seemed deafeningly loud. There was no sign, though, that he had been discovered. They were talking about him. What were they planning?

“When will he be given his instructions?” asked the Khan.

“Within the week, my Khan,” Elana said, “Then he can be released into the wild, like any other animal.”

Their laughter rang in his ears, long after they had left the area. He had been duped. This Jax was a very different person to that who had arrived a short while ago in the Clans. There would be no cowering. His training had instilled in him the fierceness of his new Clan. No, he would strike. It would be swift and deadly. They would pay for this deception.

Jax carefully made his way out of the Mech and climbed down to the deck below. As he slunk away, he failed to notice the figure hidden in the shadows. The man waited before he emerged. Tech Walter had seen and heard enough. He too would act. His patience and sufferance of his perceived shame had been rewarded. In Jax, he had fashioned a weapon of his own choice. Now, the reborn warrior would be sharpened.

*

It was no good. The Clan offensive was overwhelming. Visigoths poured fire from above, Omnimechs hammered their enemies at close-quarters and the points of Elementals cleared up any survivors. Sheehan ordered a tactical withdrawal and Tech Elias raced away in their groundcar. It was a fighting retreat and the Clan attackers were hard-pressed to claim their victory, at least in one small corner of the battlefield.

Two FC Mechs stood shoulder-to-shoulder, Diana’s Centurion and Bourne’s borrowed Hunchback. Their joint firepower, when added to the persistence of Sheehan’s Elementals, caused heavy damage to their foes. Soon though, step-by-step, they were forced backwards. It was time.

“Lady and gentlemen,” announced Sheehan, “we have, I think, outlived our welcome. Time to say goodbye and we’ll see you soon.”

Bourne’s voice crackled over the comm circuit, “May I remind you that I’m the senior officer here and I will decide when we are ready to leave.”

“Major,” said Sheehan calmly, “you can stay if you want to. We’re out of here.”

Without waiting, Sheehan activated his jump jets. Otho and Hans copied him. As they landed he urged his armour to maximum speed. Now was not the time for heroics. That would be for later.

*
The ground sped past in a blur. There was a shameful exhilaration in the flight from the battle. Sheehan had never felt this way in his Mech. Clan technology was better and Sheehan was glad he now was in charge of such a thing. By his side, Hans and Otho kept pace and Al knew they were safe. That was until he heard the call.

“Bourne is down and I am compromised. All Fedcom troops are in retreat. I am streaming live data in the hope that this will be of some use. And Sheehan, if you are listening, you frakker, come back here and save my sorry backside!”

With a curse, Sheehan slammed down his feet. Battle armour responded and he ground to a halt amid flying earth and bark.

“Otho. Did you get that?”

“Of course I did. What do you want to do?”

“I love a challenge. Coming?”

He did not wait for a response. His metallic feet dug deep into the earth as he twisted and propelled himself towards the fight. There was a wild whoop from Hans, which shocked him more than the Elemental’s presence. It seemed as though the idiot was enjoying himself.

*

Diana had exhausted all of the swear words she knew and had started inventing new ones. That idiot Major had left her alone amidst a full Clan assault and her hastily repaired Centurion was suffering. For every shot she took, she was slammed by the Clan Omnimechs. Armour and Miomer was shredded mercilessly by her antagonists. As pilots, they were no better, it was just there equipment. She resented the efficiency of their attacks, but most of all she blamed Sheehan for leaving her there alone.

Mechwarrior short had just invented a choice phrase which questioned, quite vigourously, Sheehan’s parentage, when there was a muffled “nice!”, as a trio of metallic blurs passed her.

“Get your un-ladylike butt out of here,” was the command, “we’ll talk later.”

One of the battle armoured men used his jets to leap into the air. A brilliant beam lanced forward, impacting directly onto the cockpit of an approaching Omnimech. There was the stutter of an autocannon and then an Elemental cannonball slammed into the shattering plexiglass. The Clan Mech staggered, there were three armoured shapes which poured volley fire into the damaged Omnimech and then it fell. They were onto it like ravenous beasts and then together punched into the Elementals who had just appeared.

“I said, move it!”

Short reacted. She turned her Mech away. The vision of the manic trio etched into her mind.

*

Clansmen had never met anything like these three. Their black falcon emblems seemed to be everywhere. They forgot about the retreating Mech and just tried to survive. The Aero-cover was useless. This had become close-quarter and it was impossible from anyone outside to distinguish between them. An Omnimech stood, its PPC’s targeting the melee and waited.

This would have been a reasonable tactic, if they were facing other Clans, or even Fedcom troops themselves. Sheehan had become infected by his companions and they in turn by him. The Clansmen were pushed back towards the Omnimech, as it stood imperious in its own arrogance. Jade Falcon Elementals became cautious, not so Sheehan and his men.



The Wildwose

A Guiding Light

Sudden Dearth

Gerard A. Whitfield

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 Post subject: Re: The Dark Falcons Book 1 - The Awakening (BT) - Chapter 7 PostPosted: 2011-02-03 03:06pm
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Chapter Seven


“Again!”

Jax resumed his stance. He punched in cadence with Walter’s shouts. His fists hammered into the padding. Left, right, then left again. Now kicks. Front kick, side kick, roundhouse. Each blow, full power. Sweat poured from his body as he increased the tempo. In his mind’s eye, the Khan’s face hung before him, and he beat it into pulp.

“Enough!”

A rifle was thrown into his arms and he ran. The course itself was a timed circuit. This early in the morning, there was no-one else around. Walter began to fire his own pistol, the rounds screaming just past Jax’s head. They were for effect, or at least that was what the Tech had told him. As he reached the last bend, something flashed towards him and he reacted. His rifle stopped the blow and Jax span, his back leg scything his opponent to the floor. Recovering, he snapped his heel downwards, adrenaline over-riding all but his reflexes.

The disproportionately huge face, and the anger which crossed it, stopped his blow. Elana stared up at him for a moment then reacted. One meaty fist punched into his thigh, causing him to stagger. Again reaction set in. His anger was cold. This woman was part of the Khan’s conspiracy and Jax at last had an excuse to fight back.

She was on her feet now. The Elemental launched a huge right. It seemed so slow to Jax and he easily avoided the punch. Dropping his bodyweight, he snapped a kick straight up, the ball of his foot connecting with her chin. There was the clack of teeth and a spray of blood as she reflexively bit her tongue, but Jax was not quite finished. As his lead foot touched the floor, he span, his kick picked up momentum and his heel scythed into Elana’s temple. She dropped like a stone.

Jax stood, his chest heaving. Walter scurried forward.

“What have you done?”

“Followed your training,” spat Jax, “you told me to expect the unexpected. Well, I never thought that this would be part of the training.”

“It wasn’t,” said Walter, “but you may just have passed your own death sentence.”

“So, should I finish her then?” asked Jax.

Walter was astounded. From where did this Freebirth get such cold calculation. He was more Clan-like each day.

“No,” said Walter, “I think we need to leave. Now.”

Jax grinned, “And as we go, you can tell me why you were really training me, Quiaff?”

“Af,” laughed Walter, “Time for a little honesty on both our parts.”

*

They caught up with the ground car quickly. It was stopped by the side of the road and Elias was, at that moment, held off the floor by his throat. The female Elemental had awoken and it seemed that she was intent on getting information in the most direct way possible.

Sheehan hardly slowed, he tapped the woman on the side of the head as he passed. With his armoured fist, it was less gentle than he would have liked, however he decided it was something she would understand. He activated his external speakers and helped the Tech to his feet.

“Problems?” he asked.

“A difference of opinions, Captain,” said Elias, gasping a little for breath, “Elemental Greta instructed me to turn the vehicle around. I told her that I could not do that. She was trying to convince me when you arrived.”

“Interesting method of persuasion,” commented Sheehan.

“I challenge you to ...” began Greta, who had regained her feet.

Sheehan span, grasped her throat in his power claw and started to squeeze.

“You,” he said, “are my Bondswoman. Right of challenge does not apply. If you’re nice to me, I will let you live and perhaps gain the right to wear battle armour again. Anything else to say?”

All that came out of her mouth was a choked response.

“Captain,” said Pershaw, “she will need her vocal chords, if you want a reply.”

“Oh. I suppose so,” said Sheehan. He released Greta and she half-slumped to the ground. “Maybe you should deal with this?”

“Of course, Captain,” said Otho, motioning the Elemental to his side.

“You have such a way with women,” boomed Short’s voice, as she approached in her Mech.

Al laughed, “Patience is not one of my virtues, that’s true. Right now we need to move, before our friends catch up with us. Do you know where the nearest unoccupied base is?”

He had switched to the private command circuit and there was silence for a moment.

“An unoccupied base? I think our best option is to make our way to one of the Fedcom caches in the Eastern mountains. At least there we have a chance of finding supplies and perhaps others like ourselves.”

“Diana,” Sheehan said, indicating their group with a sweep of his hand, “I find it hard to believe there’s anyone like us out there. You do, however, have a point. The Eastern mountains it is then.”

*

Greta was a little worried. Pershaw had explained to her in detail, using extremely short words, what her situation was. She knew of the ex-Star Captain and found it hard to reconcile his enthusiasm for the Freebirth. Hans had also been vociferous, unusual in him, and Greta now rode in the back of the ground car whilst her erstwhile companions kept pace in their battle armour. At their head was Captain Sheehan, who had not said another word to her. The Elemental absently rubbed at her cheek, which had ballooned in reaction to Sheehan’s castigation.

They rapidly approached the mountain range. Sheehan let the BattleMech set the pace. He was curious as to the possibility of other survivors, although not overly worried. His biggest concern, in truth, was supplies.

As they crossed the last open expanse of ground before the lower slopes began, they were discovered. It took Sheehan a little time to recognise the fact, but the group of Mechs which strode ominously from a recessed canyon underscored the point. He ordered a halt.

“Greta,” he called, “now’s your opportunity. Get suited up.”

Elias helped the now eager woman into her suit. Al noticed that the Falcon had already been blackened. This was less of a surprise, than had been that of the Centurion. Somehow the Tech had found the time to daub their distinctive emblem onto the right shoulder of the machine. As Greta stomped to his side, he grinned.

“Let’s go and introduce ourselves,” he said, starting forward. The four Battle suits ranged in front of the Mech. Diana’s limited munitions would not be of great use to them and Al just hoped that they had found the Fedcom cache. If not, this could be a very short engagement indeed.


*

Major Trevor Stewart was confused. He could see the four Elementals as they sped in front of the Mech, but it was a Fedcom Mech. He also noticed the black falcon emblazoned on each of his opponents, an emblem which was almost that of the Jade Falcon Clan, but not quite. The Centurion was no Omnimech, but he had suffered the results of the Clans’ superior technology before. His troops were nervous, as was he. There could only be one outcome.

“This is Alpha One. You have a green light. Engage and destroy. Over.”

The two lances of Mechs already on the plain moved to attack speed. Stewart would hold his third lance in reserve, just inside the canyon. Even the Clans did not have enough firepower to withstand his assault.

Almost at the moment he committed his forces, he was interrupted by a frantic transmission.

“Alpha One. It’s a trap. Clan Mechs on your flank. Repeat. Clan Mechs on your flank!”

*

“Idiots!”

Sheehan cursed at the Fedcom commander’s precipitous action. He had not even tried to communicate with Diana. Her attempts to make contact had been ignored and now they were in real trouble.

“Back to the tree-line,” he ordered. At least there they could use the Elemental armour more effectively.

“Too late,” Pershaw’s voice rang in Sheehan’s ears, “Look to your right, Captain.”

Sheehan turned, his sensors at full amplification. “Oh frak!”

A line of Omnimech’s had appeared from a dip in the ground at a full run. They would soon be in range.

“Fine,” he said, “we know which side we’re on. Let’s just hope our idiotic allies soon catch on.”

“What do you plan to do?” asked Pershaw.

“Attack, kill, destroy,” spat Sheehan.

“Short and succinct. Just how a good plan should be.” Laughed Otho.

*

“What are they doing?” asked an unidentified warrior on Stewart’s open circuit.

“Running to join their own,” said the Major, “attack them first. That way we can at least reduce the numbers ...wait!”

He had just seen the Centurion launch a ragged missile volley at the lead Clan Mech, which staggered under the impact. The Elementals grouped around it, as the single Mech stood its ground.

“I think we made a mistake,” mused Stewart, “they’re ours! Open fire when you are at maximum range. They are trying to buy us some time and it’s the least we can do.”

*

“Time for some action,” said Sheehan, as he carefully pointed his autocannon. The Jade Falcons still believed that their foes would honour a kind of Homeric tradition, Al was about to educate them.

“Everyone will attack Diana’s chosen Omnimech on my signal. It looks as though we’re going to have to defeat them one by one.”

“What about our honour?” asked Greta.

Hans laughed, “The Captain has a strange idea. It appears that honour comes to the victor. I am beginning to agree with him.”

“Now!”

The three lasers joined the stuttering roar of Sheehan’s autocannon. There was the brief roar of the Mech’s weapon before it fell silent and its medium laser took over. Armour disappeared rapidly from the Omnimech’s right leg, yet it would not be enough. Even as Sheehan and the rest of his troop poured fire into the Clan Mech, a harsh voice sneered out of the huge machine’s speakers.

“Prepare to die, Freebirth scum!”

Al watched the arms lock into position. A gaping maw pointed directly at his head and he hunched his shoulders in preparation of the strike. The Omnimech disappeared from his vision, struck aside by the melee weapon in the hand of the Fedcom Hatchetman.

“Need a hand?” asked Major Stewart as he punished the Clan Mech with his laser from point-blank range. Still the mechwarrior inside would have succeeded in bringing the machine to its feet, if the now visible Jenner had not joined in.

“What kept you?” queried Sheehan, continuing to fire.

“We were a little confused with your allegiance, but that’s all sorted. My men even have instructions to talk to you now.”

“Wonderful ...?”

“Major Stewart, of the ...”

“Yeah,” interrupted Sheehan, “there’ll be time for introductions later. Tell your people to disengage. They need to get out of here before the Clans send more troops.”

“It might be a little difficult,” Stewart pointed out, “and we seem to be holding our own.”

“Not for long,” said Otho, as the first Fedcom Mech crashed to the earth, “you are outmatched, even with these poor warriors. This is not an insult, Major. It is merely a fact.”

“Listen to him, Major,” Sheehan said, “believe me, he knows what he’s talking about.”

For one moment, it seemed as though Stewart would follow Bourne’s unhappy path. Instead, with a muttered, “we’ll talk later”, he broadcast a general withdrawal. Slowly, the remaining lance members moved back, concentrating their fire on individual Clan Omnimechs. Their success was limited, but it at least opened space between the two forces.

“Fire!” snapped Stewart, and a volley of missiles arced out of the canyon. Smoke trailed behind them as they tore towards the Jade Falcons who pressed the Fedcom troops hard. Under the cover of the LRMs Stewart urged his forces into the shadowed rocky opening.
Sheehan was impressed. There was a tight discipline here. He was further surprised when with a rumble, the side walls collapsed. More explosives detonated, showering the retreating Mechs with soil and rock. Ahead, a deeper darkness led into the hillside and with lights blazing, the Mechs marched Indian file into the mountains.



The Wildwose

A Guiding Light

Sudden Dearth

Gerard A. Whitfield

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 Post subject: Re: The Dark Falcons Book 1 - The Awakening (BT) - Chapter 8 PostPosted: 2011-02-04 08:04am
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Chapter Eight


Elana rubbed absent-mindedly at the side of her face. There was no pain, except that of her defeat by the Freebirth Jax. The silence warned her that the Khan was waiting for an answer, and she had not been listening.

“I asked you if there was a problem, Elana?” he repeated.

“No problem, my Khan. It will be taken care of,” she said.

“Not by you...”

She was shocked and shamed, yet her anger bubbled to the surface. Before she could speak, the Khan continued. He had half-turned away, hands clasped behind his back, and Elana was thankful that he had not seen her anger.

“I need you for another task. Jax and Walter are bandits now and will be treated as such. No, you are needed on Winfield. It seems that our forces there have their own problems.

“Do you remember Star Captain Otho Pershaw?”

She nodded and then remembered that he could not see her from where he stood, “Yes, my Khan.”

“Good. It appears that he is now fighting against us. He and a small band of Elementals. They have managed to build quite a reputation in a relatively short period of time. I want you to go there. Take your Star with you. Find him and destroy him.”

“Is he working on his own?” asked Elana, now more sure of the Khan’s confidence.

“No. Otho is now Bondsman to a Freebirth, a Captain Sheehan. They have defaced our own emblem, destroyed one of the bases there and made fools of our Garrison. Him I want to deal with personally.”

“And I will have the support of the Garrison Commander?”

The Khan laughed, “I expect you to be the Garrison Commander, shortly after your arrival.”

“Understood,” she said. Although no smile crossed her lips, the eager sparkle in her eyes betrayed her feelings.

*

“And now what?” asked Jax. They were huddled together, behind some cargo crates.

“Did you not wonder why we did not leave the base?”

“I was looking for answers, not another question,” stated Jax.

“I know.”

After what seemed an interminable silence, Jax spoke again.

“Okay. Why didn’t we leave the base?”

“Good question. What do you think?”

“Frak!” cursed Jax, “We never left, because they wouldn’t think that we’d be stupid enough to hide here.”

“Partly right,” said Walter and deciding that Jax was about to explode, “and it is the only way we will ever get off-planet.”

“What? How can you possibly think we can manage that?”

“It is already organised, all you need to have are the right connections.”

With that Walter closed his eyes and leaned back against a wooden crate. Jax thought about hitting him and then too closed his eyes. The Tech had not failed him yet.

*


Water dripped slowly from the rocky outcrops. Stones cracked and fell as the Mechs made their way deeper into the mountain. Sheehan was a little preoccupied though. He was concerned as to the fate of his two Techs. The ground car had stayed under cover and everything had happened so fast, that the men had been forgotten about. If he was lucky they would have been missed by the Clans, yet it did not sit easily in his mind that they were out there alone.

“Major?” he asked after a short while.

“Yes, Captain?”

“Is there a way out of here, nearby? Two of my men are back there and I have no intention of leaving them with the Clans.”

“There is a branch of the tunnel which leads to the surface close to us. Not big enough for the Mechs though. We have it under surveillance, with instructions to close the exit, if the Clans get too near.”

“Is it big enough for our suits?” asked Sheehan cautiously.

“Possibly, but I couldn’t guarantee that it would be there, even if you could get back.”

Sheehan thought for a moment, but in truth had already taken his decision.

“My problem, not yours,” he said, then opened a channel to his own people.

“I’m going back,” he said, “we left some of our people behind. Otho, you’re in charge.”

“Not possible,” came the reply, “I am coming with you.”

“Listen,” said Sheehan, “there is no guarantee of success. It would be better if you and the others stayed to help our new allies.”

“With all due respect, Captain,” Otho commented in a decisive voice, “our place is with you. And anyway,” he laughed, “why should you have all the fun?”

There was muffled agreement from Hans and Greta. Diana was not happy, but could see the impossibility of taking her Mech through the narrow tunnels. She was also aware of the damage her Centurion had suffered and her lack of ammunition. With the threat of dire punishment, if they failed to return, ringing in her ears, the small group left to find the two Techs. Their new companions continued on their way, the majority of them resigned to never seeing Sheehan and his men again.

*

Elias watched the ground car closely. He and his companion, had taken rifles and ammunition and sought shelter in the nearby undergrowth. Both Techs had the utmost conviction that Sheehan would return. They had undergone a radical mental shift. Sheehan had never treated them as lower caste members, he had even chastised Greta when she had manhandled Elias. As they waited, Elias worked on blacking out the Jade Falcon emblem on their jackets. No, they would not be left behind, and in the meantime were prepared to defend their group’s possessions whilst ammunition and breath remained.

A sudden crack of branches announced company, and Elias saw first one and then another Elemental enter the clearing where they had left the vehicle. He waited, whilst the Clansmen searched the car. Their rough approach revealed nothing. They communicated for a moment and then began to drag items out of the rear and onto to the floor. It was when one Elemental raised his laser towards the car that Elias opened fire. He knew it was useless, but he was determined.

*

It had been a cautious approach. They had avoided numerous Clan patrols. Each encounter threatened violence, but Sheehan kept a tight control over his Elementals. Otho had been no problem, yet Hans and Greta had shown an enthusiastic aggression towards their previous Clan. A pride in their unit had grown with each passing hour and Sheehan felt their restraint waning. So, it was with a strange kind of relief that he heard the auto-rifles firing, and could finally unleash his war hawks.

With a growl of anticipation they raced towards the gunfire, oblivious to the size of the enemy force, confident in their own abilities.

*

Elias was sure of his own death, and of its imminence. Their rounds simply bounced off the Clan Battle Armour. That was until four silver streaks hammered into the Jade Falcon Elementals. There was the crunch of metal against metal, the sound of autocannon fire, lasers flashed and Clan Warriors fell. Sheehan had arrived.

The Tech watched, amazed at the ferocity of his comrades. He wanted to join in, but knew that the puny fire he could add would do little to tip the balance of the combat.

Otho’s power claw punched through a visor, closed on the edge of the gaping hole and wrenched the head round. Hans’ laser speared into joints, Greta smashed blow after blow into her opponent and Sheehan’s slugs ate their way through the normally resistant ceramite armour. They seemed possessed, infused with a power above and beyond that of normal men, and the Clan warriors felt it too.

A general melee broke up into single combat. Jade Falcon warriors ran from the ferocity. Either that or were mercilessly pummelled into the ground. At last, three prone bodies lay on the ground, only one still moving feebly.

“Elias!” Sheehan’s voice boomed out.

“Yes, Captain?” replied the Tech, appearing from the underbrush.

“Bet you thought that we’d forgotten you, eh?”

“It never crossed my mind, Captain. Never crossed my mind.”

The metal arm which settled on his shoulders caused Elias to wince, but he tried not to show it.

“Never forget that you are one of us,” said Sheehan, before turning to Hans and Greta, “Well done. Bring the live one with us.”

Elias would never forget Sheehan’s words. He gratefully climbed into the ground car as it shuddered to the impact of the body as it was tossed into the rear.

“Let’s go!” ordered Sheehan, “We’ve still got a lot of ground to cover.”



*

The container swayed dangerously as it was hoisted into the dropship. Inside, Jax hung onto a crate strap and Walter to him. Their contacts had smuggled them inside the previous evening and had assured them that someone on board would let them out. It had seemed a workable plan at the time, but Jax was not that sure right now.

With a heavy clunk they felt their strange carriage hit the deck and tumbled amidst their belongings. Then there was silence.

“Are you sure that this is going to work?” Jax whispered.

“As sure as I was before we started,” said Walter straight-faced.

“I don’t think I like your answer too much,” returned Jax, then he stopped talking. There was a curious scraping near to the small door set within the sealed entrance to their container.

The door cracked open and a thin beam of light pierced their gloom. As he half-shielded his eyes from the brightness, Jax knew that they had failed. There before them stood a Mechwarrior, and he held a needler pistol in his free hand.

*

Elana stomped up the entrance ramp. She made no move to avoid the Omnimechs which strode towards their temporary berths. The Khan had given her command and they could wait. It made a change for an Elemental to be given priority and she would play it to the full. Two huge war machines halted to let her pass and she could feel the hatred emanating from the Mechwarriors inside. Good. They would soon learn.

She was escorted to her cabin and left to gather her thoughts. There would be time enough on the short jump to instil her will upon her small command. Perhaps, she would even have the pleasure of a Circle of Equals, although she doubted it. Her name was well known, as was her violent nature. No, time enough for that when she reached Winfield.

After what seemed an interminable wait, the signal was given that the dropship was ready. The rumble of its engines was soothing as the vessel pulled itself free of the planet’s grasp. The Elemental sat alone in her room, planning her victory.

*

“Star Commander Walter?”

“Not any more. Just plain Walter will do,” said the Tech to the grinning warrior, “I think that you may have frightened my companion.”

“I apologise,” replied the Mechwarrior.

“There is no need,” said Walter, “is everything ready?”

“Yes, Sir. All is as you requested. Let me escort you to your cabin.”

Walter shook his head, “No, I think that we should maintain our disguise. Point us towards the Tech quarters. We will prepare ourselves before we reach Winfield.”

“As you wish, Star Commander. I will look for you in the designated place.”

They followed the powerful-looking Clansman out of there temporary hiding place. Jax was now even more confused. From his time with the Jade Falcons, he had learnt that no Mechwarrior treated one of a lower caste this way. Something was not quite as it seemed and he once again felt he was being used. This time though, he would face this with his eyes wide open. He would refuse to take part in anything, until he was told the truth. However, unlikely it might be.



The Wildwose

A Guiding Light

Sudden Dearth

Gerard A. Whitfield

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 Post subject: Re: The Dark Falcons Book 1 - The Awakening (BT) - Chapter 9 PostPosted: 2011-02-08 06:41am
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Chapter Nine



It had taken them all night to work their way back to the entrance. Roving patrols once again hindered them. The guards needed some persuasion, but the distinctive emblem, and Sheehan’s swearing, finally convinced them to allow the Falons to pass. They had manhandled the equipment, and injured Elemental , from the back of the vehicle and stored it safely in the tunnel. Then they had taken the car some distance and abandoned it.

Diana had been waiting for them. She had taken her Mech to the central holding area, where it was under much needed repair, and hiked back to wait for them. Sheehan and company had almost been ignored, but particularly Elias had been treated to an enthusiastic welcome.

Sheehan had followed the Mechwarrior back into the tunnels. He, Otho and Hans carried some supplies, whilst Greta helped the wounded Elemental. Diana walked between Elias and David, the other Tech encouraging them to talk about their ideal.

They had travelled for perhaps fifteen minutes when the shock wave of an explosion reached them.

“Looks like they don’t intend to give up,” said Sheehan.

“No,” replied Otho, “it is not in their nature. Particularly if they have been taught a few harsh lessons. We have not seen the last of them.”

“Perhaps not,” Sheehan said, “but at least for a short while, we can relax.”

*

For Jax, the journey had been a long one. Particularly, as Walter avoided any question. Instead the time had been passed sleeping. It was shortly after their second jump, that the veteran became more animated. When the dropship disengaged he was almost child-like in his enthusiasm and when their summons arrived, unbridled energy burst forth.

Still though, he refused to answer Jax’s repeated probes for information. Instead he strode purposefully for the ship’s Mech Bay. There they found a group of warriors, their initial welcoming party in their midst. They all snapped to attention at Walter’s presence, ignoring his protestations.

“Is everything ready?”

“Yes, Star Commander!” was their chorus.

“When do we leave?”

“They have already given the order. We have your Mech stationed nearby,” said the familiar warrior, as he handed Walter a cooling jacket.

“Good,” replied the Tech, “it is time.”

There was nothing else to do except to follow Walter. They stopped at the feet of a huge Omnimech and Walter motioned Jax upwards.

“What are we doing?” asked Jax.

“We are going to go for a little ride,” said Walter, “then you will get your chance to fulfil my mission.”

“And that would be?”

“Dangerous,” Walter said, “but exceedingly important and rewarding. Now, up you go, before someone spots us.”

Jax climbed up the ladder. Inside he saw two chairs. One was clearly the command chair, another seemed to have been hastily fitted.

“The ship’s going to land first, before we leave it, right?” he said in a worried voice.

“Something like that,” came the curt reply and Jax was fairly certain that he heard laughter from below.

*

Sheehan stared around the large cavern. It was a naturally formed space which had been adapted by the FedCom forces. They had flattened the floor and carved out living and storage spaces in the smooth rock walls. The three Mech lances fit easily into the open area and Techs scurried to and fro. Diana’s Centurion had been repaired and Elias and David were tinkering inside the huge machine. Major Stewart had ordered a full replenishment of all its weapons and now sat with Sheehan. Otho quietly talked with the newest addition to their band, whilst Hans and Greta checked their equipment.

“What now Captain?” asked the Major, as he sipped from his thermos bottle.

“Well,” said Sheehan, “it looks as though the Clans have taken this world. Our job has moved from a strictly defence force, to that of guerrilla warfare. Do you have any information on other FedCom forces here?”

“Winfield has been torn apart. We have received communication from other groups, but our Command structure is decimated. My own idea is to play a waiting game. There is no way that the Clans will be allowed to keep Winfield. It’s only a matter of time before there is a counter attack.”

“I’m not so sure about that,” mused Sheehan, “Clan technology is so far in advance of our own, that it will take some time for our people to close the gap. The only way I can see for us to compete is to work on finding our own solution.

“Take Otho here. He is now completely loyal to our cause, as are the others. Their concept of honour and duty is very different to that we are used to. Inner Sphere soldiers would be looking for a way to escape or at least to sabotage our efforts. Yet, by proving superior in battle, we have one hundred percent loyalty from them. That is our means of defeating the Clans on Winfield. We need to beat them, show them that they are inferior, and if not, crush them.”

“Not what I would have expected from a FedCom Captain,” replied Stewart, more than a little put out by Sheehan’s comments.

“Ah, that,” Sheehan said, “is where we differ in opinion. I was born on Winfield and am fighting for my world’s independence, not for the Federated Commenwealth, per se. For now, our purpose is joined.”

“And in the future?” asked the Major.

“An unanswerable and irrelevant question right now,” Sheehan said, as he watched Elias work on a piece of Battle Armour.

“Will you follow my orders?” The question from the Major held a veiled threat.

“As long as they make sense, my dear Major,” Sheehan said, as he stared directly into the angry officer’s eyes.

Diana watched the Major stomp away, “Was that wise?” she asked.

“Very,” said Sheehan, “being hidebound to tradition has caused this problem. We need to adapt, and quickly.”

He stood and made as if to join Otho. Before he had completed a few steps, he turned, “And what of you, Diana?”

“Need you ask?” she snorted.

“No,” he said, “walk with me then. We have some plans to make.”

*

Elana decided to make an impression. The Garrison Commander had failed and she intended to stamp her authority on him, his men and the planet. She had no qualms about the Trial of Position that she would impose, the moment she exited the dropship. This was a lesser breed of warrior, here on Winfield. It would not take long.

With a smile she ordered the drop pods released. A message had been sent, in which she informed them of her arrival. The Elemental had not said how many men and machines were with her, nor of her intentions once she landed. Let them sweat.

One person at least was disgusted with her orders. Jax sat in his make-shift chair, harnesses as tight as possible whilst he recited his complete litany of swear words. He even invented a few new ones. Walter had regained his Mechwarrior mentality, if he had ever lost it, and concentrated on the readiness of his war machine. There had been no further external communication, so that Jax was none the wiser to their ultimate fate. All that he was concerned about right now was survival.

The first stage of their planet-bound journey was fine, it was when they hit the atmosphere that Jax’s fear became disproportionately active. The pod encasing their Omnimech began to shudder. Protected inside the machine’s armoured body he both felt and heard how the thin air resisted them and tried to tear them into little pieces. He could imagine the flames pouring from the pod’s nose and wondered if the heat would melt away any chance of braking.

Walter laughed with glee. He had missed this. The drop was always a moment of indecision, of uncertainty. In this case they were falling towards friendly forces, so he was more concerned of what would happen after they landed. It would be necessary to choose the right moment and Jax needed to fulfil his own destiny. In spite of the man’s terror at his current predicament, Walter believed in Jax and knew that he would fulfil his mission.

Retro’s roared into life and Walter heard Jax’s accompanying scream. Just wait until the explosive bolts blow, he thought and grinned wickedly.

*

“We have received information of another Clan landing here,” said the Major, “There will be a co-ordinated strike by all FedCom forces. I have explained your thoughts on what we should do and it has been decided that you will not take part in this attack.”

Men suddenly appeared from the shadows, rifles in hand.

“Captain Sheehan, you and your people are under arrest. These men will ensure that you remain here to await our return, when you will be formally tried for desertion.”

Sheehan waved Otho back, “Desertion?” he asked, looking around, “Can you tell me when we actually left? It seems to have slipped my mind.”

“You have deserted your duty. You will be tried when I return,” snapped Stewart.

“I don’t think so,” said Sheehan.

The soldiers tensed, weapons ready.

“Are you refusing to surrender?” hissed Major Stewart.

“No,” Sheehan said, “It’s just I doubt you’ll be coming back. Idiots tend to die young.”

*

“What is your plan?” Otho sat next to him. He talked quietly, Hans and Gerta’s bulk hiding them from their guards.

“We wait,” said Sheehan, “this base will be very useful for us. The good Major has shown not only a lack of good sense, but envy for our success. I have no doubt that he is going to do something stupid. He has a point to prove, and unfortunately not to the Jade Falcons.”

Otho indicated their guards, “These men are only following orders.”

“Yeah. The biggest excuse for idiocy there is,” Sheehan said, “We’ll use our time well. Elias and David can make sure that we are physically ready for the expected outcome. We’ll let the lances leave, before we make our move.”

“You fell no loyalty to these men?” Otho seemed puzzled.

“No. That disappeared with Stewart’s good sense. Right now, our only thought must be in this unit and our impending fight with the Clans. Ensure that everyone is prepared for Stewart’s failure. We are going to be the only ones capable of resisting the Clans once this offensive is finished.

“I have thought about this long and hard. Not everyone here will be in agreement with Major Stewart. Our task is to find those local to Winfield. They have a personal stake in the outcome of this war.

“They will need us, just as much as we will need their support. This unit, is now actively recruiting. The Clans will have certainly have cause to remember our name.”

“And what name would that be?” asked Otho, eagerly.

“Today will be celebrated as the day the Dark Falcons were born, and Winfield truly began to fight for its independence. Pass the word.”

*

Trevor Stewart was happy. He had led his three Mech Lances out of the tunnels and now used the rocky terrain to his advantage. Things would soon be back to normal and the arrogant Captain Sheehan would be shown clearly who was in charge on Winfield. His action in ordering the arrest had been his own idea. It did no good to allow insubordination. Neither did it bode well to have an independent unit working to undermine an established Fedcom structure.

There had been an understated admiration for Sheehan and his men. Their audacity had won over a number of his Mechwarriors. The defacing of the enemy’s emblem and its incorporation in their own unit had shown a defiance, which many of his young warriors shared. No, he thought, all it would need would be a decisive victory and they would forget all about Captain Al Sheehan.

They had covered much of the distance towards their rendezvous point, when the first reports came in. Fiery trails peppered the sky, indicating the arrival of even more Clan forces. In his arrogance, Major Stewart dismissed the spectacular light show. He had just received the order to advance and they were committed now.



The Wildwose

A Guiding Light

Sudden Dearth

Gerard A. Whitfield

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 Post subject: Re: The Dark Falcons Book 1 - The Awakening (BT) - Chapter 9 PostPosted: 2011-02-08 02:30pm
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Yeah, Capt Stewart is an idjit and about to die. Unfortunately, he's gonna take good men with him



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 Post subject: Re: The Dark Falcons Book 1 - The Awakening (BT) - Chapter 1 PostPosted: 2011-02-10 06:27am
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Chapter Ten


Elana had certainly not expected a warm welcome. She heard the first reports as her Dropship asked for permission to land. It was refused and the Garrison Commander ordered her to deploy all of her forces. FedCom troops had mounted a direct attack on the base and they needed her men on the ground directly.

There was frantic activity in the Mech Bay and her Elemental Star awaited her. Her tight grin was mirrored in their faces as they prepared for battle. The lucky coincidence of her showy entrance and the Inner Sphere attack, might well solve all of her problems at once.

*

Chunks of armour flew skyward, as the PPC stitched a pattern of hits across Stewart’s Mech. He twisted his machine’s torso and sent a volley of autocannon fire into the chest of the attacking Omnimech. Two Mechs from his first lance were already down and the support from other FedCom troops was slow in coming. They were too busy fighting off Jade Falcon Mech’s of their own.

Nothing seemed to work. The Clan Mechs took all that they could throw at them, and just kept coming. Something slammed into the right arm of his Hatchetman and he watched in horror as it twisted away. Strands of miomer still held, but the weight of his melee weapon unbalanced him. It dragged along the floor as he tried to move forward. Stewart fired off his medium lasers. His hope of extricating himself from the fight died, as he saw the twin muzzles lock onto his Mech.

“Frak!” he screamed, as the Omnimech belched fire. The last thought that passed through his mind, before oblivion, was that Sheehan had been right.

All across the battlefield, Clan Mechs scythed their way through the hopelessly underpowered opposition. Elementals shot Inferno missiles, whose corrosive gel melted away armour and muscles beneath. Groups of them latched onto unsuspecting FedCom Mechs, their lasers aimed straight into vulnerable joints.

A fusion plant blew, swatting the armoured figures away in its furious explosion. More Omnimechs appeared, SRMs raining down onto their severely damaged opponents. They herded the surviving lance members together, concentrating their firepower on the rapidly diminishing circle. Pilots ejected, leaving their headless Mechs to fall to a forlorn and ungraceful end. Soon, it was all over.

Two Mechs limped away. They had been from Stewart’s Third Lance and had exhausted their ammunition in a vain attempt to force their way through to the beleaguered and doomed forces. It was a pattern repeated across the plains.

Five Omnimechs watched them go. It had been they who had refused their entry into the debacle below. Their fire had been limited, their intention only to hold the Inner Sphere Mechs at bay. In his Summoner, their Commander watched. He shook his head at their pitiful resistence and then spoke.

“It’s up to you now, Jax,” said Walter, “follow them. You know what you have to do.”


*

Elana looked out over the scene of destruction. Smoke rose from the twisted and charred remains of the Inner Sphere Mechs. It had been a crushing success. Her own forces were arrayed behind her as she strode towards the
Garrison Commander’s Omnimech. An exit port opened and the man climbed down. He was smiling, glad to show his worth, but Elana had no intention of letting him enjoy his minor victory, as she saw it.

The lack of salute or honorific when she spoke caused a rush of blood to his face. Good. Anger was never the way to approach any fight.

“Your Khan is displeased,” she said, “and more than that, your Clan is dishonoured by your existence.”

He tried to say something, but her hand cut through the air in dismissal.

“I invoke the right for a Trial of Position. We will demonstrate to all here, the price for failure.”

“You do not have the right…” he began.

“Oh, but I do,” she said, “the right of every Trueblood warrior. We will meet in a circle of equals, if you have the stomach for it. What do you choose? Augmented I suppose?”

“My Mech will be ready in a short while. Let no-one say I took advantage of your arrival here to press my case.”

“No. It is for me to choose the time and place. Right here. Right now.”

The Elemental motioned for one of her men to bring her helmet, “Let us finish this quickly, I have work to do.”

*
It took little time for the ground to be prepared. She knew that many thought this already over. How could a single Elemental beat the Omnimech in front of her? On open ground, impossible.

Elana grinned to herself. Not only did she have a little surprise for her opponent, but his Mech had taken damage in the fight. Her arrival had been calculated. If it had been necessary, she would have committed all of her forces to the battle. However, the Clan Technology had proved overwhelming. Even so, the Omnimech in front of her had taken damage, which was clear to her scanners.

As the order was given for combat, she dropped to one knee. A flashing icon indicated a lock on her chosen target and she instantly fired her SRM’s. Whilst the OathMaster had counted down, she had made sure of her first shot. The Omnimech’s left knee joint was weakened and it was here she struck.

All of her missiles hit. They tore deep into the Mech’s armour, exploding miomer and ceramite high into the air. Immediately after her volley, she activated her jump jets which threw her into a flat dive towards her opponent. With a thud she hit the leg, locking her power claw into place. PPC and laser fire scorched through where she had knelt, but nothing touched her.

Elana concentrated on only one thing, the gaping hole in front of her. She knew that the Omnimech’s weapons would even now be realigned on her small shape, although she felt no worry. Reaching back she removed the explosive charge from her belt and stuffed it deep into the wounded knee. With a whoosh, she jumped away and let go with all of her weapons. The result was spectacular.

A huge ball of flame tore its way through the weakened structure. It blasted the Omnimech’s leg into two shattered parts and caused the machine to tumble sideways. When she touched earth, Elana jumped straight back towards the crippled machine. That was when her luck petered out.

As he fell, the Garrison Commander’s PPC fire sliced the air. There was an instant of searing pain and Elana’s left arm disappeared. Instantly her suit reacted, black gel sealed the joint and her body was infused with a potent cocktail of drugs. The Elemental’s pupils dilated, she snarled as she landed on the downed Mech’s cockpit and pulse after pulse of laser fire drilled its way into the cabin.

A last she stood, triumphant, and surveyed her new troops. The pain was forgotten as cheers rang out. Now, she thought, they know and fear me. It is a start.

*

“Captain.”

Sheehan turned. A small group of soldiers waited patiently, weapons lowered. He indicated their spokesman to continue.

“We have received some garbled communications, Sir,” he said, head bowed, “Major Stewart is dead and the Fedcom forces routed. It seems that two of the Mechs from the Third Lance survived and, although heavily damaged, are on their way back here.”

“And what would you have me do…?”

“Corporal, Corporal James, Sir.”

Al nodded in brief acknowledgement, “Aren’t we currently under arrest?”

“Not any more, Sir. The lads and I have been talking,” the others murmured in agreement, “and we’d like you to take command.”

“Are you sure?” asked Sheehan, “Do you know what people will call you?”

“Yes Sir,” grinned the Corporal, “Dark Falcons, Sir!”

*

The first thing that Sheehan made his men do, was a full inventory. This cache had been well-prepared, food, spares and ammunition in abundance. With his reduced force, he had more than enough to mount his planned guerrilla war. It was James though who surprised them all.

“Do you have a moment, Sir?” asked the Corporal sheepishly.

“Of course, Corporal,” answered Sheehan.

“If you could follow me, Sir?”

Curious Sheehan followed him. They crossed the cavern and entered a shadowed man-made tunnel. Their footsteps echoed in the darkness and Al peered after the scurrying man. He heard scratching, a click and then lights flared.

“Frak!” exclaimed the Captain. Otho laughed at his surprise. There before them, stood the menacing shape of a Victor BattleMech. It was pristine, untouched by combat. No markings marred its armoured body.

“Where did this come from?” queried Sheehan as he gazed longingly at the huge engine of destruction.

“The Major, Sir,” replied James, “he kept it as a spare.”

“What?” Sheehan was astonished. His disgust at Stewart’s ignorant behaviour had just reached new heights.

“He was saving it for when he really needed it, Sir,” mumbled the abashed Corporal.

“Well, we certainly need it now,” Sheehan said, “and it’s ready to go?”

“Oh yes, Sir,” confirmed James, “it just needs a pilot.”

“Not any more,” Otho said, the gleam in Sheehan’s eyes obvious.

“Otho?” whispered Sheehan.

“Yes, Captain?” he replied.

“You just got your Elementals back. And Elias?”

The Tech had followed them and stood waiting by Otho.

“Sir?”

“You’ve got some painting to do.”


*

The Med-Techs had stabilised what was left of Elana’s arm and had left her spitting and cursing at their perceived ineptitude. She sat now in the Garrison Commander’s office and tried to make some sense out of all the conflicting data in front of her. It seemed as though their success had destroyed all organised FedCom resistance. However, she was unhappy about the wealth of reports on a renegade Clan unit. It especially hurt that it was made up of Elementals.

The latest information, spoke of their escape in the Eastern Mountains. A number of Clan Mechs had been damaged and Elementals killed in action, with at least one missing. Their defacement of the Jade Falcon badge was, she thought, a direct slap in the face. She had just finished reading when the door chimed.

“Enter,” she growled.

Her new aide came in and she instantly knew that something was wrong.

“What is it?” she snapped and beads of sweat appeared on the man’s forehead.

“We have a problem, Sir,” he said, his Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed nervously.

“Tell me!” she shouted and he ducked instinctively, as though to avoid a blow.

“Five Omnimechs are missing, Sir.”

“What?”

“I said….”

“I heard you,” Elana snarled, “whose Star?”

“No-one’s, Sir. They were reserves, sent to support you and fill any gaps with loyal troops.”

Elana tried to calm her breathing, and when she thought that she had achieved her goal, tried again.

“Were they destroyed?”

“It appears not, Sir,” said the aide, “rather that they left together.”

“And where did they go,” she whispered, her teeth clenched in frustration.

“They were last seen, heading towards the Eastern Mountains.”

*

Jax pushed his way through the undergrowth. He could still hear the laboured whine of the Mechs’ servo-motors. It had been easy to follow them as they limped towards safety. Walter had assured him that his unit would follow and provide screening cover. The only thing that worried Jax was the possibility of attack from the air.

It was towards night when he watched the two Mechs enter a small canyon. He waited until here was sure that they would not return, before following. His training had prepared him for silent insertion, and so he moved cautiously, intent on discovering any outlying sentries.

Before he entered the canyon, he sent one final message to Walter on a tight beam transmission. Jax had just finished when powerful arms gripped him and he felt the cold sharpness of a blade against his throat.

“What do we have here?” questioned a deep, bass voice.



The Wildwose

A Guiding Light

Sudden Dearth

Gerard A. Whitfield

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 Post subject: Re: The Dark Falcons Book 1 - The Awakening (BT) - Chapter 1 PostPosted: 2011-02-11 05:09pm
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Chapter Eleven



“I have contacts, Star Commander,” the voice crackled in Water’s headset.

“Acknowledged, Jurgen, I see them too.”

Well, thought Walter, it was only a matter of time. Even Elana could only be so incompetent. He opened his circuit and spoke clearly.

“We will meet them here. The ground will give them little advantage. Remember, no heroics, although we do need to give Jax time to complete his part of the plan.”

Short acknowledgements of his orders were quickly followed by a widening of the distance between each Mech. A small range of hills hid the advancing Clan forces, but all doubt of the intent of the Clansmen was brushed aside as Mech after Mech crested the ridge.

*

“You must take me to your leader,” insisted Jax. The Elemental in front of him seemed puzzled by his request.

“Why?” asked the big man.

“It is extremely important. I have a message for Otho Pershaw.”

A grunted laugh was his immediate reply.

“He is not our leader,” said the man, “you can give me your message and if I think it is worth doing, I will transmit it to the right person.”

“You don’t understand,” screamed Jax in frustration, “Star Commander Walter sent me. Why won’t you listen to me?”

“I just did,” was the succinct reply, “Bring him!”

*

“We found him outside, looking for a way into the base. It seems he followed them back,” Sheehan nodded at Hans and turned once again to survey the remains of the two Mechs. In truth, that was what they were. Shattered limbs, burnt out weapons and desolate pilots. They were a mess.

“And who might you be?” he asked, still facing towards the disfigured war machines.

“My name is Jax. I was taken as a Bondsman in the first attack on Winfield. The Clans seemed to have a plan for me, but their treatment was nothing more than subterfuge. Whilst they trained and used me, I met someone who helped me. He asked me to search out an old comrade of his. It seems that they had hatched some kind of plan together.”

“So, what is the name of your benefactor?” queried Sheehan, turning to face Jax.

“Star Commander Walter,” came the reply, but not from Jax, instead from Otho’s hulking frame.

“You know him?”

“Yes,” said Otho, “and it appears that he has decided at last to face the true nature of the Jade Falcon Clan. He also was a little thick-headed.”

Jax was suddenly angered, “Right now he’s facing the Clans with a small group of loyal warriors. He felt, for some reason, that it was more important I find you than fight alongside him.”

Sheehan placed a comforting hand on his shoulder, “He was right. It looks like the Dark Falcons have a job to do.”


*


Far out beyond detection range of the planet, the fabric of space twisted and shuddered. A moment later a huge Jumpship winked into existence. Deep inside the body of the craft, a lone man stood in front of the eerie glow from a holotank. Someone coughed.

“Are the troops ready,” he asked.

“Ready and waiting for your orders…My Khan.”

*

The Tech’s had done the best that they could with the damaged Whitworth and Trebuchet. They at least had ammunition again. Sheehan chafed at the limited pace of his unit, but thrilled in the feeling of being in a Mech again. Jax had joined him in the cockpit of his Victor, strapped into the jump suit below him. Otho and his men ranged ahead, transmitting data on the terrain in front of them.

All the Mechs now sported the distinctive black design, as did each suit of Battle Armour. Every one of the soldiers within their base had wanted to take part, but Sheehan knew that this was an armoured fight. He had been surprised when Corporal James had admitted to some experience in a Mech, and Otho had put him through his paces. The big man was closer to being of a size with the Elementals and they had tentatively accepted him into their ranks. The Elemental leader once again had a Star.

Al was under no illusion of the problems they would face. It would be an unequal fight. Jax had spoken of the four Omimechs under Walter’s command, but they would be seriously outmatched. He could only hope that belief in Walter’s ability and the lesser stature of the Garrison troops was correct.

The only role he could see for his damaged Mech’s was fire support, and he would have to rely on the Elementals’ spotting abilities. They again had to reduce their speed, as they traversed some particularly rocky ground and Sheehan cursed. He just hoped that they would get their in time.

*

Walter gritted his teeth and accelerated his Summoner to its top speed. He had already fired a volley of LRMs which had done little to the two Omnimechs facing him. Their inexperience and unreliability as warriors was his only advantage. Tracer rounds from his autocannon tore into his first opponent, opening a ragged gash across its chest. His PPC flashed across the intervening space and burned its way into the opening he had created. The Clan Mech staggered, as its pilot tried to control it.

Gyro problems, he thought and hit it with everything he had. Before he could finish it off, he felt the impact of slugs against his own machine. Armour melted away from his left side, as the second Clan Mech tracked. With atwist of his torso, he changed direction and raced towards his antagonist. As the Clansmen targeted him he cut to the right and then immediately back to the left. Momentarily, his enemy lost him.

The Star Commander poured on speed and triggered his autocannon. Without slowing, he slammed the right shoulder of his Mech into the Clansman’s machine, punching it back. With a heave, he tore his machine away and brought both of the Summoner’s arms together. They pointed straight towards the Omnimech’s cockpit and the Clan Mechwarrior did not wait for the obvious outcome. Explosive bolt blew, the front of the cockpit sheared away and the Clansman disappeared beneath the exhaust jets of his escape pod.

Coward, thought Walter, twisting his Mech’s body round in an effort to find the first Mech. It lay smoking on its side, chest ripped apart. He saw Jurgen stride past and raised his arm in salute. There would be enough for everyone.

*

“Captain?” Otho’s voice came clearly across the comm circuit.

“Go ahead, Otho,” said Sheehan as his studied his tactical display.

“We have found them,” said the Elemental, “they are beyond the next ridge.”

“What is your estimation of the situation?”

“There were facing at least a Trinary of Mechs,” said Otho.

“Were?” Sheehan was a little confused.

“Yes, it seems that the Star Commander has not lost his edge.”

Sheehan laughed, “Do not, I repeat, do not engage until we arrive.”

“Acknowledged, although I think you should try to get here as soon as possible.”

“Why is that? Have you seen more troops?” asked Sheehan worriedly.

“Yes, but that is not …” the communication was garbled for a moment and then came back stronger, “Correction. Please check your tactical readouts, the situation appears to have become slightly more difficult.”

“Otho!” shouted Sheehan, but his only answer was silence.

He activated the general circuit, “Falcons will advance at top speed, we have a problem …”


*

Despite the seriousness of the situation, Sheehan thrilled to the feel of his Victor Mech. Never had he piloted such a machine. A Gauss rifle in his left arm, SRM’s in his torso and a heavy autocannon is his right, meant that he could hold his own with any Mech on the battlefield. His one weakness, he knew, was the need to get close to the Clan Omnimechs in order to nullify their advantage. Of course, there was one other problem, how was he supposed to identify the friendly Clan forces?

Diana raced along at his left in her Centurion, the two fire support Mechs struggling along behind. His orders to them had been clear; get to the ridge and hit every Clan machine they could.

There was no time to worry about Otho as they crested the ridge and pounded down into the valley. A line of Omnimechs faced into the valley below, pouring fire into a twisting melee of machines. Much simpler than he had expected. Sheehan fired his Gauss rifle, its silvery projectile slamming into the back of the machine in front of him. SRM’s followed and the Omnimech crashed onto its face. A volley of Medium laser fire from Diana made sure it stayed down and Sheehan cut to the right, his autocannon tearing shards of armour from the left leg of the next Mech in line.

Now he began to receive fire. A PPC burst across his vision, peeling away plating from his chest. He shrugged it off and fired more SRM’s, the Omnimech disappearing in a ball of fire. Again he changed direction, his autocannon hammering away at the machine. Where was his fire support?

As if in answer, flight after flight of missiles rained down all around them. Sheehan had been clear. The two damaged Mechs were to exhaust their supply and then return to the base. They were in no condition to fight at close quarters with the Clan forces. Their other weapons would be for defence only.

His Mech shuddered again, as he received fire. A read-out showed the level of damage as acceptable. He really liked his new Mech. Sheehan swung his left arm round and pumped a Gauss round directly into the cockpit of a nearby Clan Mech. Its head disappeared in a welter of glass and metal shards. One less to fight.

Diana’s plea for assistance echoed in his speakers and he forced the Victor round, his autocannon spitting fire.

*

Otho had waited obediently for Sheehan’s arrival. His silence had been necessary because of the arrival of Jade Falcon Elementals onto the battlefield. Their behaviour was strange, as they hung back from the fight, protecting the armoured vehicle in their midst. He had wanted to find out who was inside, but the Dark Falcons’ precipitous entrance had tipped his hand.

Still, he waited until the LRMs began to fall from their own side, before he gave the command to engage. The time saved, helped him identify Star Commander Walter amidst the carnage. No matter what respect he held for the man, his duty was clear. He gave the order and then activated his jump jets. As a group, the Dark Falcon Elementals arrowed towards their beleaguered leader, anxious to join the fight.

*

Elana sat within her Command vehicle and studied her tactical displays. Five Omnimechs had been joined by two Inner Sphere Mechs and they were decimating her forces. On the ridge to the east, two more Inner Sphere Mechs shot volley after volley of missiles into the fight below. She had just decided to send out her Elementals to deal with these two, when she saw them turn and leave. The damage had, however been done.

“Where are my aerofighters?” she snarled to her aide, “I thought I ordered them committed.”

“Get them for me, now!”

Shortly after, he nodded to indicate that the connection was made.

“This is your Commander. I want no more excuses. You will obey my orders immediately or face the consequences.”

“I am afraid that it is impossible to follow your instructions, Sir,” was the sneered reply, “your order has been cancelled.”

“What?” she screamed, grasping her aide by his throat with her good hand, “who dares…”

Another familiar voice cut across the aerospace commander’s, “I dare, Elana. You will order an immediate withdrawal and wait for me at your base. It seems that I will have to take a personal interest in this affair.”

“Y-yes, My Khan,” she stammered, “at once.”



The Wildwose

A Guiding Light

Sudden Dearth

Gerard A. Whitfield

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 Post subject: Re: The Dark Falcons Book 1 - The Awakening (BT) - Chapter 1 PostPosted: 2011-02-12 03:40pm
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Chapter Twelve



“Where are they going?” Diana’s voice was subdued, as the Jade Falcon Mechs withdrew, “Did we beat them?”

“No,” replied Sheehan, “we hit them hard, but not enough to declare victory. There must be another reason.”

“Whatever it is,” said Diana, “I’m just grateful that this is over for now, at least.”

“I would be,” muttered Sheehan, “if at least knew the reason for their disengagement.”

Cheering echoed inside his helmet, yet Sheehan was concerned. He had an awful feeling that he had missed something.

“Otho?” he transmitted on his private circuit.

“Yes, Captain?”

“Follow them for a while and at least make sure they’re truly gone.”

“At once, Captain,” was the reply, “Hans and Greta are on their way now.”

*

It had been confirmed. They had retreated back towards their base. Otho had left his two Elementals on watch and had joined Sheehan. There was an uneasy truce with the five Omnimechs, which now stood silent and menacing. An exit opened with the noise of released pressure and a grey-haired man climbed down to the floor. Sheehan was already waiting.

He had sent word via Corporal James for his other Mechs to continue on their way to the cavern and for salvage crews to return. It would soon be dark, but their was valuable equipment left behind. There was even one almost complete Omnimech, whose pilot had taken the easy way out, rather than face Walter. His escape pod had been found, but he was absent.

It was a sobering sight. Shattered armour lay all around. Metallic arms reached skywards in mute testimony to the ferocity of the encounter. Craters pocked the landscape and smoke floated wanly upwards.

“Star Captain,” the Clansman held out his hand to Otho, as he approached.

“Star Commander,” acknowledged Otho.

“Not any more,” said Walter, turning his gaze on Sheehan, “and you must be the infamous bandit, that all are talking about.”

“This is Captain Sheehan,” said Jax, who had now arrived, “and on Winfield, I fear that you are more bandit than he.”

“Ah, Jax, ever the comedian,” laughed Walter.

“Before Jax could let fly with an angry retort, Sheehan interrupted, “As we’ve finished with introductions, might I ask what you are doing here?”

“You have not told him?” Walter asked Pershaw.

“None of us know why you are really here, Star Commander, perhaps you could explain,” said Otho.

“Why, we are here to join you,” grinned Walter, “and we brought some equipment with us.”

Sheehan nodded graciously, then asked the question burning in his mind, “Why did the Jade Falcons leave?”

“I fear,” said Walter, “that they were ordered to do so, and that can only mean one thing…”

“And that would be?” queried Sheehan.

“You have caught the attention of someone just a little more senior than our dear Elana…”


*

A harsh light bracketed the chained figure in the centre of the room. Muted whispering filtered through her battered mind. She did not remember when she had been chained, arm and leg. The beatings though, those she would not forget. Even crouched, she dwarfed the hunched figure who approached. He wore a long gown and, seeming to weigh him down, an ornate mask.

It was a work of art. The wild fierceness of the bird was portrayed masterfully. Beak open, jade eyes glittering, it seemed to scream forth its defiance. The muttering died down as the man approached. She knew who he was and she hated him for what he had done to her. Anger threatened to overtake the passive and unconcerned face she wore.

“Well, well,” the voice rang hollow, affected by the mask, “who do we have here?”

“You…know…who…I…am!” The words were hard to spit out, they had left her mouth black and swollen.

“Yes, the one-armed failure. What use are you to your Clan?”

“You…tricked…me!” she slumped down, her chains dragging her back.

“Politics, Elana. There were no tricks, just your own greed and arrogance. Now look at you!”

Laughter resonated from those unseen. A sneering disdainful sound. Her shoulders shook.

“Tears, Elana?”

She looked up, squinting against the light. Her face was suffused with blood and she trembled with rage.

“You…are..not…my…Kahn!” she gasped before blackness took her.

Khan Elias Crichell removed his helm, and snarled at the woman below him.

“If, I am not your Khan,” he spat, “you are nothing more than carrion.”

“Take her away,” he roared, “and leave her where the beasts of prey can dispose of her!”

*

Jax was glad to be back outside the cavern. James had put away his army and had organised, as he put it, some real infantry work. His time with the Clans had more than prepared Jax to be a part of their group.

He heard the ground car approach and was the first to sight the men who dragged their prisoner out. Chains were wrapped around the figure and roughly they booted the body to the floor, before leaving, their ribald laughter echoing behind them.

The first there, Jax recognised the battered and bloodied Elemental. She spat at him as he looked down on her. He smiled.

“Hello Elana,” he said, just before his rifle butt slammed down, “Now who’s the Bondsman, eh?”

*

Sheehan looked over the furious activity below him. Both Inner Sphere and Clan worked well together here within the Dark Falcons. Already the Omnimechs had been repainted with the common emblem. Now too, the ex-FedCom soldiers and technicians wore a similar home-made patch with pride. Two rows of five Mechs stood in the centre of the open space and men and women worked hard to repair and improve them.

It had been an unprecedented success and Sheehan just hoped that they would have enough time to prepare, before the next assault. That there would beone, he had no doubt. Elana had filled them in on the Khan’s arrival and his intention to prosecute a new campaign. The number of Clansmen and equipment he was alleged to have brought with him was staggering.

The big Elemental now followed Jax around. She wore her Bondcord with a curious determination on her remaining wrist and seemed set on fulfilling both her duty and her sworn revenge. It was almost comical to see them together; the huge woman and he who had once served her. Someone had cobbled together an Infantry uniform for her and she avoided the other Elementals. Elana was recovering rapidly and now wore a large knife belted to her waist. The Clan honour system and their apparent fundamental inability to lie still amazed Sheehan. Jax it seemed, also had some problem with the concept.

As a unit, the Dark Falcons had developed quickly and now he could no longer steer by gut feel. In Star Commander Walter, he had an experienced leader who quite easily had deferred to him. A fact which still surprised Sheehan.

Rank could also be a problem, but strangely enough, there had already been an acceptance of Clan titles, although the soldiers still clung to the FedCom system. They called him Captain, as did the Clansmen, yet accepted him as they would have a Star Captain of their own. If they ever got out of this, he would definitely have some explaining to do.

Otho had been pushing for a strike at one of the Jade Falcons smaller supply depots, but Sheehan wanted to wait. He would certainly like to have all of his unit operational before he committed them.

*

The Khan had returned to his jumpship, leaving an improved garrison behind. He had enough firepower to decimate Winfield with planetary bombardment, but then he would never know whether these bandits had been killed or not. There was also the issue of the political statement. Not only on Winfield, but within his own people. A public humiliation was necessary.

However, he could not stay here much longer. The Clan Invasion was now in full force and he needed to play his own part. No, it would have to be swift and decisive. Any delay would be seen badly by all, and could well leave him open to attack by his peers.

*

“Call in,” the voice buzzed in Jax’s ear. He pressed the send button three times in confirmation that they were in position. Behind him Elana laughed in anticipation. Her attitude annoyed him, it was as is she was laughing at him personally. When he glanced, all he saw in her eyes was excitement.

“Ah, Freebirth!” she exclaimed, “It will be good to fight again.”

A whistled signal interrupted whatever exchange was about to take place and Jax hunkered back down, fingering the stock of his rifle nervously. Sheehan had given him command of one of the infantry platoons and by right, Elana had followed him. Whilst there was quiet, it had been decided to instigate a strategy of hit and run. Each of the groups of soldiers had been allocated an area for patrol, their orders being to watch, and when possible, disrupt the Clans supply chains. If that was not possible, they were to seed destruction and fear amongst the Jade Falcon people.

This place had been chosen as an ideal spot for an ambush. The road ran through a small gorge and for a short moment, anyone passing below would be isolated. Explosive charges had been placed exactly where they would cause the most damage, as well as effectively sealing off any Clan escape route.

For two days they had carried out surveillance, each Clan movement had been studied and they had chosen this regular supply train as their target. Their intention was not to carry away anything, merely to destroy.

Jax heard the clicks in his comm. circuit and gave his whispered orders. A column of poorly guarded vehicles passed below him. Just as the last car entered, he tapped the helmet of the soldier next to him.

The distinctive crack of explosive charges was heard, flat and menacing. Then came the accompanying roar as rock shattered and fell. Both entrance and exit were now sealed. He gripped his rifle tighter and breathed once, deeply.

“Falcons!” he roared, his voice cracking with tension, “time for a little payback!”

As one they rose, their rush down into the mayhem disciplined, despite high adrenaline levels. Rifles fired, people screamed and Jax led them on, Elana laughing by his side.

*

Jax was losing control. The intention had been for a quick in-and-out. They did not have enough men for anything more. Now though, he had become separated from the rest of his troops. Out of the confusion, a bloodied Clan guard swung his rifle towards Jax. With a quick movement, Jax used his rifle barrel to parry and then smashed the stock into the side of the man’s head. A quick look around showed struggling bodies and then he saw Elana.

From somewhere she had picked up a metal bar, which she was swinging with abandon. In her hand it looked tiny, yet it was extremely effective. He shouted at her, but she either could not hear or was simply ignoring him. Jax wove his way through the carnage and reached her, just in time to see that she had the bar wedged into the lock on the back of one of the vehicles. One-handed it was almost impossible.

“What the frak are you doing!” he screamed into her ear.

“We need some help,” she replied.

He slapped his right hand against the side of her head, “We need to get out of here, before they realise how few we really are.”

“Exactly,” she grunted as the lock finally gave. Huddled inside were a group of men and women; prisoners in tattered FedCom uniforms.

Jax was astonished and bile rose into his throat. This was no supply train! How many of these people had he already killed?

“Here are your troops,” she said, moving to another ground car.

“Let me,” he said, aiming his auto rifle at the lock.

Behind him, the ex-prisoners were scouring bodies and the ground for any kind of weapon. Then they waited expectantly, as more of their maltreated companions emerged from their confinement. A pathetic hope and gratitude sparked within them, as they waited.

The next vehicle lay shattered on its side, broken bodies strewn both inside and out. Anger coursed through Jax. His mission as such was forgotten. Now he just wanted to kill.

“Falcons on me!” transmitted Jax, as a cold calm settled over him, “there’s been a change of plans.”

*

“Weapons and ammunition check!”

Jax strode up and down the line. His own men looked confident, and angry. Amongst the ex-prisoners there were a motley collection of weapons, ranging from appropriated rifles to knives and clubs. The latter had been copied from Elana, who swung her new metal bar with as much vigour as he had done the old bent one. Her pistol she had passed on, she seemed much more at home with her blunt instrument.

“We will have time for one assault. This will inflict the maximum damage possible and then we will withdraw. There will be no waiting for those caught up in the excitement of the moment. When I say we go, there will be no discussion. Am I clear?”

At this last comment, he looked directly at Elana, who grinned back and chorused with the rest, “Yes, Sir!”

“Rifles, front and centre!”

They formed a thin line. Jax himself moved to the head, indicating the wedge formation he required.

“We will open the door. The rest will follow. Do not get ahead of us, as there will be no cessation of fire for enthusiasm. Ready?”

Instead of the affirmative reply he expected, he heard a deep voice begin the chant, “F-a-alcons! F-a-alcons!” It rose in volume as one-by-one they all joined in. Jax felt the pressure build within him, it forced its way out of his throat, the words becoming incoherently mixed into an ululating scream. He ran. Straight towards the enemy position, his rifle stuttering its own cadence. Its sound was echoed by the others, the crack of their fire becoming one continuous roll. A wall of slugs tore through the air, demanding passage for the screaming mob which followed.



The Wildwose

A Guiding Light

Sudden Dearth

Gerard A. Whitfield

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 Post subject: Re: The Dark Falcons Book 1 - The Awakening (BT) - Chapter 1 PostPosted: 2011-02-13 05:00pm
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Chapter Thirteen



“How much further do we have to go?” gasped Jax, the pain is his side excruciating. Although the laser had self-cauterised, he struggled to keep up with the rest of his men. He had taken the wound shortly after they had broken through. The fighting had become hand-to-hand, knives and bars more useful then rifles and pistol. It was as they had started the climb up the steeper part of the hillside that they had come under fire. Jax had led a small group back down the slope and had felt the searing heat of the laser. His legs had crumpledwith the shock racing through him, and Elana’s bulk had steadied him. It was the Elemental who had taken command, routed the attackers and then drove the survivors back towards the top of the ridge.

“Not much further, Freebirth,” she said, as Jax’s vision blurred and finally faded to nothing.

He never heard her say “You have done very well,” nor her commanding voice, which rang clearly through the air.

“You and you,” she pointed, “give me your belts and tie this Stravag to my back.”

She bent and picked up the rifle Jax had dropped.

“Falcons!” they all stopped to listen, and the name felt good to her ears, “we leave no-one behind.”

Elana settled Jax’s weight with a shrug, then sent the two fastest of the remaining soldiers back to the cavern. Then she shouted, chivvied, kicked and cursed her strange new family onward.

*

Jax woke to the sound of gunfire. He was laid, his head resting on the lap of one of the freed women prisoners. She smiled at him and, although he could have laid there all day, he pushed himself to his feet. Half-stumbling, half-walking, he made his way to Elana’s side. They were in rough defile and receiving heavy fire from two different directions.

“What is our situation?” he asked, and the big woman turned, surprised at his appearance.

“We are still some distance from the cavern,” she said quietly, “and it appears that we have company.”

Jax laughed, then ducked as a machine gun peppered the top of their shallow trench, showering them with dirt.

“The Clans?”

“So it would appear,” she replied, “and they are very angry.”

There was a roaring sound and then the earth seemed to shake. When he could see and hear, he found himself once again laid on the rocky earth.

“What was that?” he shouted, as Elana cursed.

“They appear to have found some courage, now that reinforcements have arrived,” Elana stated.

“Is it bad?” Sheehan asked.

“Omnimechs and Elementals have arrived,” she spat, “we can expect them shortly, I think.”

“Well,” Sheehan grunted as he stood once more, “at least now they have a chance.”

He heard the distinctive sound of the slow, ominous tread of the war machines. There was a sudden explosion of cheering, which surprised him. Then, massive shapes appeared, their shadows falling protectively over them.

A voice boomed out, “I hope you have left some for us,” and Jax was cheering now. The Dark Falcons had come for them.


*

In the last two weeks, the Infantry unit under Jax had, with the help of his new Sergeant, begun to strike fear into the Clan castes. Lieutenant Jax, who had at first been ill-disposed to accept his Field Commission, had continued to terrorise the Clan supply lines. With the aid of Otho and his Elementals they had struck at increasingly more difficult targets. Their two-fold objective was to leave the Clansmen jittery and also fit out the growing unit. It had been enormously successful.

Now they waited before their next target. The men and women of the Infantry ready and willing to repay the Jade Falcons for their cruel and vicious invasion.

“Sergeant?” whispered Jax.

“Sir?”

It still surprised Jax that Elana had ignored the invitation to rejoin the ranks of Elementals. Instead she had waved at her empty left sleeve, before indicating that Jax would probably get killed if she left him to his own devices. This Clan Bondsman idea still puzzled Jax, but whatever the reason, he was glad that Elana had chosen to remain by his side.

“Time to move out,” said Jax, as he sent the confirmation to their scouts.

There was silence for a short while and then a message was transmitted back on his private circuit.

“Sir, you’ll want to see this. They’ve gone.”

“What? Explain, soldier,” barked Jax.

“The Clans, Sir. They’ve gone and have left a little message for us,” replied the man, his voice a little shaky.

“We’ll be right there,” Jax said, before turning to Elana.

“Sergeant, everyone is at maximum alert. I want the perimeter secure. It seems that we were anticipated.”

She nodded as he moved away, something, she thought, did not smell right. What was Critchell up to?

*

As the scout had mentioned, the base was empty. Cleaned out. In the centre of the parade square was a group of bound and gagged people. His scouts had started to release them and Jax could see a mixture of ex-soldiery and civilians. He approached the frightened group slowly, auto rifle slung across his shoulders. One of the men seemed more aware than the others and it was to him that Jax directed his question.

“What’s happened here?” he asked.

The man shook his head as if to clear his mind and then spoke, “The Clansmen herded us all together here. At first, we thought that it was to be a mass execution, but once they had tied us up, their leader read some type of proclamation from their Khan. It appears that he has decided that the people of Winfield are no longer his problem. The Dark Falcons claim to represent them, so they can take care of the problem…”

Jax passed him some water from his thermos when he faltered.

“Thanks. I can’t remember the exact words, but basically they will be delivering all of Winfield’s citizens into the care of the Dark Falcons. Base by base, town by town they will round up the people and leave them where the Dark Falcons can find them. He said the Khan feels he no longer has any responsibility for this planet.”

“So they’re leaving?” asked Jax.

“No,” said the man gravely, “the final part of the message was that The Dark Falcons have five days to evacuate these people. Afterwards he will start burning the fields, destroying the cities and killing whoever is left. He will assume that those who remain, The Dark Falcons don’t want either.”

Jax paused for a moment, before opening a circuit to Elana.

“Sergeant, get our troops down here. We have some people to take with us and a message to deliver. One, I think, which will not be well received.”


*

The Dark Falcon War Council was a strange mix. Captain Sheehan sat at the end of the cobbled together table. By his side, sat Otho Pershaw and Star Commander Walter. Arranged along either edge were the Mechwarriors, intermingled, their past forgotten. The far end of the table was occupied by Jax, Elana and two other Sergeants of the Infantry. The rest of the Elementals and Jax’s squad formed a barrier ringing the table. They were turned outwards, watching the crowd of people milling about inside the Cavern.

“We have a decision to make,” began Sheehan, “but first we need answers. Otho, you and Walter know the Khan well. Will he really destroy all these people?”

“You can be certain of it,” rumbled Otho, “he will see this as a way to bring us out into the open. If we do not take his bait, he will destroy every city and its inhabitants until we do.”

Walter nodded in agreement, “Yes. He will see this as a valid strategy. These people are nothing more than chips on his political board. The Khan wants us, but is not afraid to kill innocent civilians as a means to reach us.”

“I do not agree,” it was Elana. She leaned forward fixing Sheehan with a steely gaze, “This is not his plan.”

Sheehan had to call for order, as angry voices were raised.

“What then, pray tell Sergeant,” asked Sheehan is his plan?”

“Oh,” said Elana, “I have no doubt he will kill everyone he says he will. That, though, is a secondary bonus as far as Elias Critchell is concerned. His main priority is our destruction. The Invasion continues and he cannot waste any more time and resources here. No, he has devised a means in which he can finish this quickly.

“It is a double strategy and he will win either way, as far as he is concerned. What do you think is happening now, as his message is diffused throughout this whole area?”

“Of course!” exclaimed Jax, “there will be a mass exodus of people, and they will all come here for protection.”

“Exactly,” continued Elana, “they, in their panic, will pin-point our location. Critchell then will pursue a scorched earth policy. He will burn everything. There will be no supplies for these hungry people and we will have to fight on his terms.”

“And the second strategy?” Sheehan asked, “the obvious one, no doubt? As we spread ourselves thin, trying to save as many as possible, he will strike?”

“Correct, My Captain,” agreed Elana.

“So,” mused Sheehan, “we must give him what he wants, but not how he wants it.”

“You mean to attack, then?” said Otho.

“I do,” agreed Sheehan, “and not piecemeal. We will give him a battle he will never forget.”

“What of our people?” said Jax quietly, “What will become of them if we lose?”

“I do not intend to lose,” Sheehan replied, “but we must consider that possibility and that is why we need to attack now, before Critchell decimates this planet. At least then, the survivors could rebuild.”

“There is another option,” interrupted Elana, “The Dropship which brought me here remains where I left it. We could take it.”

“We will not desert our people,” snarled Walter.

Simultaneously, Jax and Sheehan reached the same conclusion, and their joint “Yes!” startled the group.

“I see where she is taking this,” Sheehan said, smiling at his Infantrymen, “we can take the fight directly to Critchell in a totally unexpected way. I like it!”



The Wildwose

A Guiding Light

Sudden Dearth

Gerard A. Whitfield

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 Post subject: Re: The Dark Falcons Book 1 - The Awakening (BT) - Chapter 1 PostPosted: 2011-02-15 12:20am
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Hehehehe. Dropship up to the Jumpship. Oh I like these Mercs.



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Nitram: You -are- beautiful. Anyone tries to tell you otherwise kill them.

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 Post subject: Re: The Dark Falcons Book 1 - The Awakening (BT) - Chapter 1 PostPosted: 2011-02-15 06:46am
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LadyTevar wrote:
Hehehehe. Dropship up to the Jumpship. Oh I like these Mercs.


...me too :wink:

More to follow



The Wildwose

A Guiding Light

Sudden Dearth

Gerard A. Whitfield

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 Post subject: Re: The Dark Falcons Book 1 - The Awakening (BT) - Chapter 1 PostPosted: 2011-02-15 06:53am
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Chapter Fourteen



“All is ready, as you ordered, My Khan.”

Critchell turned and smiled, “The demonstration will be yet another reminder for these Dark Falcons. Fools that they are, they imagine I will be wait a full five days. Their surprise will add to the sweetness of our victory. You may go.”

The Khan of the Jade Falcons was pleased with his own cleverness. His Mechs stationed within the confines of the city, would easily deal with this rag-tag force. One swift annihilating action and then he could concentrate on the Invasion fully.

“My Khan!” his aide had returned and his agitation was palpable.

“What?” snapped Critchell, angry that his victorious dream was broken.

“They are attacking!”

“Where man?”

“In the city. The fools are attacking our Mechs and Elementals.” He gasped, his amazement obvious.

“Who, The Dark Falcons?” Elias asked unconcerned.

“No, My Khan. There is no evidence of Mechs. The populace has risen. They are attacking our forces with everything they have!”

“It will be a short fight then. Pass the order to the Star Commander there. He is to crush this rebellion and destroy the city. When he has finished, he will withdraw and rejoin the dropship. Once they are clear of the area, we will wipe it off the map. These Dark Falcons have shown their true colours, at last. No doubt they will stay hidden and blame us for this atrocity. So be it.”

*

Pershaw used his advanced vision to check the area. There were a pair of patrolling Omnimechs and movement confirmed the presence of Elementals. He felt no qualms over what he was about to do. These men belonged to the past and were soon to be shown what the future held for them.

Lights played around the hull of the dropship itself and he had no doubt that its crew would bring their own weapons into play, if they were allowed to. Speed and timing were the key here, that and just a little bit of luck.

“You have a go,” Sheehan’s voice crackled in his headset.

“Fire!” said Pershaw and from five separate positions, Inferno missiles arced down.

At this range they could not miss. The projectiles struck directly on their targets, their liquid fire spraying over the legs and chests of the two Omnimechs. Then a second wave of missiles struck, this time from the right. These were Swarm munitions and their secondary warheads started a staccato roll of thunder.

“Move!” shouted Otho, as he sprang into motion, his targets clear.

Projectiles whistled by and he saw the first Omnimech fold double, before crashing to the floor. The second Mech twisted as its hip joint was shattered by the impact of a Gauss projectile. Dark Falcon Mech’s appeared now, running at full speed. A cannonade of slugs span the Clan Elementals from their feet, they tried to rise, but were being split into ever smaller pieces by precision laser fire.

Otho could not concern himself with the main battlefield. He had to get inside, before they sealed the entrance. With a roar he led his Elementals pounding up the ramp. Their lasers spat death at the Techs who were frantically trying to close their way in. More Elementals appeared and Otho fired a constant stream of machine gun shells. They could worry about the Clansmen, once they were inside.

The flash of laser fire caused his visor to darken and he realised that the dropship crew were fighting back. He only hoped that Jax’s luck was a little better than his own.

*

The landscape was a scene from nightmare. Huge beasts stalked the land, in their hands flails of searing heat. From their maws spat bolts of death which screamed and whistled, before exploding in a cacophony of destructive sounds. Smaller demons spat bolts of metal which sheared limbs and crushed bodies. It was into this maelstrom that Jax walked.

Their message had been heard by the inhabitants; fight or die in your beds, and had been taken up with a terrified relish. Rifles answered the beasts in kind, ground cars skewed and slammed into the machines, yet it was not enough. That was the reason that Jax and the Dark Falcon Infantry were here.

They had been tasked with keeping the Clansmen occupied, but this hellish inferno had changed their plans. Mines and satchel charges had been laid, rockets and missiles were waiting and all they needed was to attract the Jade Falcons’ attention.

“One is coming,” Elana’s voice rang clear in Jax’s ears.

“Ready,” he cautioned his men, “Steady, wait for it.”

As if in direct answer to his words, a Clan Omnimech turned the corner. Its PPC spat lightening at the fleeing soldiers, burning and melting with glee.

“Now!” Jax said and his men reacted.

One after another, they discharged their weapons. Steel spikes shot forward to smash armour. The tips of their grapnels splayed open as they emerged from the Mech’s legs on the opposite side. Thick braided chain whined as the gas-propelled grapnel tore it free from its roll.

“Again!” shouted Jax, and the gunners fired once more.

Now a seemingly pitiful spider’s web of chain trailed criss-cross from the Mech’s legs as it stomped forward. Suddenly one leg halted in mid-air, tugging uselessly at its imprisoning threads. The war machine staggered, swayed and then fell crashing to the ground.
With a savage grin, Jax depressed the button on his transmitter and there was a muffled crunch of metal. The Omnimech’s body heaved upwards in a series of unbidden jerks in response to the explosive power it contained underneath. Then it was still. A shattered remnant of its once magnificent self.

“They come,” transmitted Elana, “and in force.”

“Good,” mummbled Jax, “I only want to do this once.”

He rushed to the building's roof, just in time to see four Mechs stalk into the main plaza, their weapons firing in response to the target-rich environment. Another explosion from their fallen comrade’s Mech drew their attention and they increased their speed. Jax would not let them reach its final resting place, his intention was to continue the fight elsewhere. Collateral damage was unavoidable, but he wanted to make sure the odds were evened just a little.

As the last of them passed the street entrance, their heads now shaded from view by the tall buildings, he adjusted the frequency of his transmitter.

“Night, night,” he said, as again he stabbed the button.

With an earth-shattering roar, the tall buildings disappeared beneath a holocaust of flame, brick and metal. They twisted, toppled and crashed down, burying the Omnimechs in an overwhelming tidal wave of masonry.

Jax did not wait to see what had been the final outcome, he was needed elsewhere. Even if their pilots survived, it would take them some time to dig their way out, if it was even possible. No, with his limited forces he had struck a mighty blow, which had cost him most of his explosive charges. Now he would continue with his original mission and, even after all of this, he still had a few missiles left.

*

“Otho!” Sheehan shouted into his transmitter.

“Yes, Captain?” the calm voice replied. Sheehan could hear the echo of gunfire and explosions amid the background noise.

“We are taking too much fire here. The dropship turrets need to be disabled or there will be no Mechs left for the next stage.” The Captain said, twisting his Mech to one side and firing a burst from his autocannon.

“The situation here is delicate. What would you have me do?” asked Otho quietly.

“Do something inventive,” snapped Sheehan, “think like a Dark Falcon.”

“Understood,” replied Otho, peering at the hastily created barrier in front of him.

“Hans, you heard the Captain. It is time to change our tactics.”

The Elemental laughed, stood up and fired his SRM in one fluid movement. Barrier, men and dropship wall disappeared in a ball of roiling flame. Otho and the rest of his Star leapt to their feet and advanced. A solid wall of fire swept away the defenders, as an almost continuous volley roared.

“Is that what the Captain wanted?” asked Greta, her helmet almost touching Pershaw’s.

“It is certainly the sort of thing he would do,” replied Otho, “it is a pity about the wall, though”

*

The fight in the city was becoming desperate. Aerofighters had now joined with their Clan brothers and laser and missile fire lashed down. Clan Omnimechs had withdrawn to the main plaza and simply poured fire outwards. Any movement was answered with a barrage of death.

Jax and his squad had worked their way to the far side of the Clan positions and the new Lieutenant chewed his bottom lip in reflection.

“Elana?” he asked.

“Sir?” she replied, moving away from helping one of the injured soldiers.

“Why do they wait? Are they frightened of us?”

“No,” she laughed, “these are Garrison troops. They are waiting for orders. None will take a decision which the Khan would see as erroneous.”

“We need for them to enter in the city, it is only there we can break them up and perhaps stand a chance of picking them off. The other problem I see is that the Clans have not committed all of their forces.”

“Yes,” she agreed, “the Elementals. Where are they?”

“Exactly. Why would they...”

As if in answer to his unspoken question, the side-wall exploded outwards and armoured figures stormed through the gaping wall. Bodies tumbled, blood sprayed and Jax found hiself gazing into the unwavering barrel of a laser.

“Oh, frak!” he said as an incandescent beam flashed towards him. He saw Elana dive across the room, her shoulder crashing into the powerful figure. A searing heat caressed his face as he twisted sideways, his voice crying out in anguish. There was no time to collapse into the comforting blackness which awaited him and his needler spat ineffectually back, its rounds pinging off the armour in front of him.

One arm swung and Elana was swatted aside, crunching into a mound of rubble. Still he fired. As he swayed on his feet, he saw one of his men leap onto the Elemental’s back. A single word rang out, “Falcons!” before the soldier set off the last satchel charge, which swung loosely from his wrist.

The floor gave. Elana roared. Darkness crushed him, amidst a fog of brick and plaster, and Jax at last gave in to the pressure of unconsciousness.


*

Blackness enfolded Jax when he woke. A suffocating, cough-inducing and oppressive atmosphere. It took him a few moments to remember what had happened and his hands felt weakly about him. All he encountered was loose stone, his hands raising more dust which set him coughing again. Faint light filtered from the distance and slowly he crawled towards it.

The door he found was twisted and partly blocked by rubble. Half-way up there was a jagged crack, through which the hazy light entered. Bracing his feet, he heaved and managed to open it a little further. Peering through, Jax saw the remains of a shop window and beyond the square. By letting in more light, he could now see a little more clearly and he began to search for his companions, a weapon, anything.

*

Pain flared in Elana’s remaining arm, as she was dragged unceremoniously into the main square. She cracked her eyes open and saw the armour-suited figure who roughly dumped her on the ground. By moving her head slightly, she could see others of her companions, but no Jax.

A kick thudded into her side and she grunted in response.

“Wake up, Surat!” the command came from an unsuited Elemental, “Play acting will not help you now.”

Elana rolled awkwardly to her feet and swayed away from the next blow. The man’s punch slammed into her skull, but she had twisted and this time the pain was his and he struck bone. She smiled as he cursed loudly, then winked at one of her companions, who grinned back. Her little mutiny was costly as a nuero-whip lashed savagely across her back. With an enormous effort she maintained her own grin as long as she could, as blow after blow struck her.

*

His search had yielded both fruit and pain. Jax had found the crushed bodies of two of his troopers and the outstretched arm of a Clan Elemental. The latter was buried deep beneath the rubble and would cause no problem. From the soldiers he had retrieved a pack and one functioning auto-rifle. Another rifle was there, but its stock and firing mechanism was shattered. It did make a good lever though. He used it to pry away at the barrier before him, which at last gave way.

With a lot of grunting, cursing and torn flesh, he finally managed to wriggle through to the shop. After a short rest, he scurried crab-like to the window and looked out. In front of him, he saw a group of Elementals and what was left of his squad. Jax was in time to witness Elana’s savage beating and his finger tightened reflexively on the rifle’s trigger. Breathing deeply, he slowly released the pressure. Now, was not the time.

There was no evidence of Clan Mechs and little sound of firing. He hoped that they had managed to stall the Jade Falcons long enough for the Captain to achieve his objective, but in truth, that was of little concern right now. His men were out there and he wanted them back.

Jax watched carefully as Elana’s limp body was tossed amongst the rest of the Falcon Infantry. He saw their defiant stares and heard the sneering laughter. One auto-rifle was not enough. He needed more firepower and at least a small chance of success. A scan of the shop showed little, except that the stairs remained intact, so with no other plan, he cautiously climbed them.

The floor above was non-existent with no indication that he and his men had been hiding there a short while before, so he continued upward. Jax had almost reached the roof, when he felt the cold metal of a rifle barrel touch the side of his face.

His reaction was instantaneous. Jax span into his foe, his quick turn putting him inside the man’s reach. He was already bringing his own rifle, when a shouted, “Sir!” snapped him to his senses. Another soldier stepped from the shadows, clearly recognisable by the dark emblem stitched to his tunic.

“We thought you were dead, Sir,” said the first who he recognised as one of his recent recruits.

“No, Duran,” he said, “just extremely angry. Are there any more of you?”

“Two more, Sir,” replied Duran.

“Weapons?” Jax asked eagerly.

“Auto-rifles, Sir,” replied the man eagerly.

Jax was disappointed and it must have shown on his face. Rifles would not be enough.

“Sir?” Duran tugged at Jax’s sleeve, excitement on his face, “And the missiles, Sir. Won’t they do?”

The man was shocked when Jax flung his arms round him, “They, soldier, will do nicely!”



The Wildwose

A Guiding Light

Sudden Dearth

Gerard A. Whitfield

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 Post subject: Re: The Dark Falcons Book 1 - The Awakening (BT) - Chapter 1 PostPosted: 2011-02-16 07:43am
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Chapter Fifteen


Khan Elias Critchell was pleased. The face of his Garrison Commander disappeared from the screen and he allowed himself a chuckle. Now, Winfield was his. Granted, the city was in ruins and the populace decimated, but he had made his point. His plan had worked. These Dark Falcon bandits had been forced to commit. In the city their Infantry had been buried beneath the burning rubble and the attempt on the Dropship had been snuffed out.

The Garrison Mechs had left the city to reinforce the landing site and reports had clearly indicated the number of downed Bandit Mechs. Once the area was clear, the Dropship would rejoin him and they could leave this annoying planet. He had achieved that which the rest of his people had been unable to do and felt not a little pride in the whole affair.

“My Khan?” interrupted his aide.

“Yes?”

“We have received the confirmation from the Dropship, they will be with us shortly.”

“Good,” said Critchell, “pass the order that we will leave, as soon as they have docked.”

“Yes, My Khan,” the man bowed and left.

*

It had been a massacre. The Garrison Commander had dispatched a mere five Omnimechs to the landing site. Of course, Pershaw’s message had helped convince him and his arrogance had done the rest. A minefield had been seeded in their path, the placement of the infernal weaponry such that no Mech would be spared. Walter had protested about the un-warrior-like behaviour but Sheehan was not in the mood to listen.

He had at first patiently explained that they had an overall objective, but when the veteran had insisted, Sheehan had merely ordered him. The ambush site had been in a heavily wooded area, through which the road passed. It dipped there, dropping below the banked sides.

Walter had waited on the further edge of the woodland and his Omnimech had calmed the approaching Clansmen. That is until the mines exploded. They were terrible weapons, the initial explosions throwing up bomblets of canister, which threaded armour and myomer alike. Metal joints sheared, fixing the targets in place as the Dark Falcon Mechs finished the job. At such close range and under such concentrated fire, they had stood no chance.

The surprise had been total. No message was transmitted warning the Jade Falcons of the loss of their people, rather all that remained were gnarled and smoking Mechs. Otho did report the skirmish, claiming it as a grand victory, just in case any fly over spotted the smoke trailing skyward.

Then the Dark Falcon Mechs stalked majestically onto the waiting Dropship. A short while later it roared upwards, leaving a happy Garrison Commander behind and with an expectant Khan in front of it.

*

Sheehan stared aghast at the shattered corridors. It had taken him a while to make his way from the Mech bay. Whole swaths of corridors had been sealed and he wondered at the state of the damage, if those through which he had passed had been the better ones.

“A hard fight?” he asked Otho, when he reached the Bridge.

“Hans and Greta were, shall we say, a little enthusiastic,” replied the big man, “they took the shortest and most effective route possible. The ship still functions, though.”

“I’m glad to hear it,” said Sheehan, “where are they?”

“They are re-educating our new Bondsman,” Otho laughed, “preparing them for our assault on the Jump ship.”

It never ceased to amaze Sheehan how quickly the Clansmen accepted their new status in life. He no longer questioned the loyalty of captured Jade Falcon personnel, merely accepted their loyalty.

“They truly believe that we have been defeated?” he asked.

“Of course,” Pershaw said, “and they expect loyal Falcons to join them for the further invasion of the Inner Sphere.”

“Oh,” smiled Sheehan, “they’ll be getting loyal Falcons. Just not the ones they are waiting for.”

*

“What are they doing?” asked the Jade Falcon Tech, as the approaching Dropship slowed down, “and look at all that damage.”

“Yes,” said his companion, as he watched the spurt of retro’s, “see, they are still working on it. If you look closely, you can even pick out the work crews.”

“Still, I am going to have a word with their flight crew,” he reached for the transmission button, then stopped. “Work crews, you say? What are they doing, now?”

His partner dialled up the magnification and then gasped, as more jets of flame could be seen, “Those are not work crews, they are...”

The Jump ship rocked and alarms screamed, as missiles smashed into the outer skin. Sheehan had managed to bring his vessel close and now it was too late.

Walter had jumped his Omnimechs across the shortening distance, Otho in hot pursuit. Metal gaped open in front of them, jagged edges through which the newly reinforced Elementals flew. Star Commander Walter clamped his Mech’s feet onto the outer skin, followed quickly by Jurgen and his men. Methodically, they began to create a new hole.

“Get us docked now!” shouted Sheehan, running towards his waiting men. His Mech would be no use here; it was time to try out a Power Suit again. He called Hans and Greta to follow him, they had their own specific mission to complete.

*

Otho led his Elementals inside. An explosive charge blew the bulkhead in front of him and air whistled out. Without waiting, he dived through the hole torn in the metal fabric before him, machine gun on full auto. His slugs tore through the Navy crew who had been preparing for a holding defence. The surprise attack had caught them all asleep, but it would not be long before the Jade Falcon Elementals responded.

The corridor around him rocked and tilted and he cursed. If Walter was too enthusiastic, he would shoot away their entrance point. Any indecision was wiped away as he saw the familiar flash of armour. He dropped to one knee and sent one of his SRM’s screaming down the corridor. Now and again, Hans really did have a good idea.

*

Walter’s plan was simple. He intended to breach the ship’s hull in as many places as possible. If he could keep the defenders busy, then they might just have a chance. His major concern was the arrival of the aerofighters. Things at that point would get very messy.

They had studied the jumpship during their approach and he had pointed out the fighter launching bays. They were the dropship and Diana’s responsibility, at least on their side of the ship. Those were not the fighters he was worried about. He just hoped Sheehan would stick to the plan and not get too inventive, although, he mused, that indeed is a vain hope.

*

The initial explosions stunned Critchell. He had been lounging self-contentedly in his chair, a cool drink in his hand, when the Dark Falcons struck. His exit from his quarters had been blocked by the Elementals outside and the news that the ship’s emergency system had automatically closed pressure doors.

“What is going on?” he screamed into the transmitter he had been passed.

“We are being attacked,” said his aide.

“Tell me something that I do not know!”

“It appears that the reports from the planet were false,” the aide commented cautiously, “Mechs and Elementals from the ship are even now firing at us.”

“Are our fighters ready?” asked the Khan snappily.

“Yes, but...” began the aide.

“Never mind your thoughts on the situation,” interrupted Critchell, “I want them out there and I want that ship and its occupants eradicated.”

Critchell did not wait for a reply, but slammed the transmitter back in the Elemental’s hand.

“Get me to the Bridge,” he snarled.

“I am sorry, My Khan, we will just have to wait here for now, until the corridors are cleared,” said the Elemental.

The Khan fumed impatiently, but in his own arrogance, dismissed the significance of the attack. It was a bad mistake.

*

Sheehan indeed had strayed from the originally agreed plan. He had seen a flaw in their thinking and was on his way to correct it. Hans and Greta accompanied him, and the three made imposing figures in their Dark Falcon armour. It was a short march around the docking ring, to where the Khan’s Dropship waited. If these reinforcements joined the battle, Otho would face stiff opposition. Al had it in his mind to make sure that did not happen.

They reached the main lock at almost the same time as the first Clan troops were leaving. Laser fire peppered the area around them, as they huddled down for a quick conference.

“What now, Captain?” asked Hans.

“We need something innovative,” said Sheehan, “we certainly can’t spend long here.”

“I am beginning to like this way of the Inner Sphere,” laughed Hans, “there is always a solution, no matter how bad the situation.”

“Yes,” agreed Sheehan, “But this time we need a Clan-based strategy.”

Hans watched on amazed, as Sheehan stood and activated his external speakers.

“I am Captain Sheehan of the Dark Falcons. Who amongst you is warrior enough to accept my challenge?”

One of the Elementals stood, his arms wide, the action clearing signalling his men to cease fire.

“What do you bid, Freebirth?” his voice boomed out.

“I will fight whoever you suggest, one-on-one, right now. If I fall, my men will give you free passage.”

The Clansman replied, his voice dripping with scorn, “Why offer what we can simply take?”

“Perhaps,” Sheehan said as he moved away from the temporary shelter, “but if nothing else you will be delayed. In that time, my men will complete their mission and your Khan will face them without your aid. Even now my other troops are on their way, when they arrive Khan Elias Critchell will be defeated. I am giving you the option of at least dying by his side.”

“What other troops?” whispered Greta to Hans.

“There are none,” said Hans, “I like the Captain’s strategy.”

“It will fail,” said Greta matter-of-factly.

“Never underestimate the Captain,” replied Hans, “too many people have done so and paid heavily for their mistake.”

*

“Your answer?” asked Sheehan.

“Very well,” said the Elemental, “I, Jurgen Mattlov, will teach you a short lesson. Do not worry, Freebirth, you will suffer little, we do not have the time to enjoy this too much.”

“This is insane,” said Greta, “Mattlov has the choice of weaponry. It will be unaugmented and Sheehan will die.”

“I, for one,” said Hans firmly, “believe in him. He has proven himself as a warrior and he does this for the rest of us. The Captain has a chance.”

As he watched the men stripping off their Armour and compared their physique, even his undying belief began to wane.

*

“Ready?” asked Sheehan, wondering to himself how he managed to get into these situations. Mattlov was enormous. Just to reach his head, he would have to jump.

“Come, little man,” said Mattlov, “do your worst.”

For Al, it was all about giving Otho and Walter time. So, he began circling. Anger suffused Mattlov’s face, at what he saw as cowardice, and after a few moments waiting, he leapt forward. Sheehan ducked under the massive blow, which had it landed would have taken his head clean off, spun and found himself behind the Elemental. He moved away and continued with his slow circling.

Four more times, Mattlov tried to reach him in vain. His blows though had partially landed and Sheehan moved more slowly. One had grazed his face, splitting the skin above his left eye. Another he had blocked, but the power of the strike had numbed his arm and he knew that he was tiring.

A cold anger swamped him and as Mattlov struck again, Sheehan did the unexpected. The Elemental had rushed in, his arms widely spread in attempt to catch hold of his adversary. What he had not been expecting was for Sheehan to rush to meet him. Sheehan used Mattlov’s outstretched knee to support his leap, driving up off his back leg and slamming his own knee up under the Elemental’s chin. An explosive grunt was his reward, that and a spray of blood as Mattlov bit through his own tongue.

Al knew that he could not stop now and struck with his elbow, smashing the man’s nose to pieces. Still Mattlov managed to continue, half-blinded with pain, he caught hold of Sheehan and began to squeeze. It was what Al had been waiting for. He reared back his head and with all of his momentum butted Mattlov right onto the already shattered nose.

The Elemental’s arms opened in an involuntary spasm, letting Sheehan fall. Mercilessly he drove kick after kick into Mattlov’s body; groin, head, kidneys, none were spared. Long after the man was down, Sheehan continued, his booted feet stomping down onto the bloodied figure below him.

At last he stood, squinting out from between his swollen eye and faced the Clansmen.

“Right,” he said, spitting blood and tooth fragments onto the floor, “who’s next?”



The Wildwose

A Guiding Light

Sudden Dearth

Gerard A. Whitfield

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 Post subject: Re: The Dark Falcons Book 1 - The Awakening (BT) - Chapter 1 PostPosted: 2011-02-17 09:32am
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Chapter Sixteen



Jax had studied the guards’ routine. The Elementals had left the prisoners with them, obviously feeling that their care was beneath them. A rough chain cordon had been set up in the centre of the square, with armoured personnel carriers on watch. Somehow, Jax felt more comfortable with them, than with the Elementals. Even though each of them was mounted with laser and machine gun, they lacked mobility.

“We’ll wait just a little longer,” he said to Duran, “then I’m going down there. You’ll be in charge in my absence and you know what you have to do. Just make sure you pick the right moment.”

Duran saluted and nodded eagerly, the strange movement made Jax laugh, which brought a grin from the soldier in return. Satisfied, Jax made his way down the stairs to the familiar shop front and tried to make himself comfortable.

*

Dusk had just fallen when Jax made his move. The lengthening shadows provided cover as he exited the shop and made his way carefully to his pre-arranged position. One of the guards passed this way and would be momentarily hidden from the rest of his comrades. Jax ducked into a doorway and waited.

These Clansmen were bored, they had seen no threat, either real or perceived for hours and their arrogant supremacy had reasserted itself. The man’s auto rifle hung loosely in his grip and no doubt, his thoughts were turned more towards his relief, than the possibility of Freebirth attack. There was a momentary pain as Jax yanked the man roughly back by his hair, the stinging caress of a sharp blade, and then oblivion.

Quickly, Jax dragged the man into the shadows and peered out of his cover. No-one had noticed anything yet. He clicked his transmitter twice, checked his rifle and took a deep breath.

Silence was broken by the roar of the missiles, their vaporous contrails twisting behind them as they arrowed towards their first target. There was a concussive explosion and a ball of fire raced skywards. Jax had already moved, racing towards the chain fence with the smoke billowing from the burning APC hiding him from the remaining guards.

Even as the second APC swung its turret towards the roof of the building from which the missiles had been fired, a second volley flew towards it. Now Jax knew he was on his own, his men had nothing left except their rifles and would be scurrying down the stairs to his aid.

The staccato fire of a heavy machine gun told him that the second APC was still in play. He risked a quick glance and saw it smoking from the rear. They had missed. Things had just got a whole lot worse.

Slowing down was not an option and with rasping breath he reached the rear of the first crippled APC. Heat rolled off it in waves, meaning he could not get too close. He also knew that staying behind the vehicle was pointless, so he did the opposite. Rifle blasting, screaming the name of the Falcons at the top of his voice, he charged.

*

Elana’s bruised eyelids had snapped open at the sound of the incoming missiles. She had half-risen to her feet when the APC exploded and had just regained them, when the second unsuccessful volley struck. It has to be Jax, she thought, no-one else could be this stupid.

“Be ready,” she hissed to her fellow prisoners and sidled towards the fence.

As the second APC’s machine gun barked out its challenge, the guards joined in gleefully. Elana saw one swatted back towards the fence, blood spraying outwards, and there, just as she had predicted was Jax. Slugs tore into the group of guards, twisting one half-around and announcing to them that they had been flanked. As one, they swung their weapons towards the Lieutenant and pulled their triggers.

*

Sergeant Elana did not wait to see her Lieutenant’s body riddled with rifle rounds. She pushed her arm through the chain fence, spikes of metal tearing into her flesh and dragged the body of the unconscious guard towards her.

“Help me!” she shouted, and soldiers rushed to her aid.

Once the guard’s body was held against the fence, and with Elana’s huge bulk on the other, the remaining Falcon Infantry had a bridge, of sorts. The first was boosted over, his booted feet crushing Elana further into the torturous metal. He dropped to the other side and scrambled to retrieve the fallen guard’s rifle. Without waiting for his fellows, he too opened fire on the Clan guards grouped before him.

One after the other, Elana’s men vaulted over her to freedom. The last was the worst. He had to physically use Elana as a ladder, his movements causing deep lacerations of her skin. Now it was her turn. Three of her men lifted the body of the guard and heaved it onto the top of the fence. She knew it would help, but the first part of the climb would be murder.

Elana took hold with her right hand and prepared herself. A face peered back from the other side and a voice said, “Wait, Sergeant.” Two of her men stood with their backs to the sharpened metal spikes of the fence and the third climbed. At the top, he unslung his belt and dropped it down, urging her to loop it round her fist.

“Now!” he cried and leaned back.

She could hear the cries of pain from below, quickly muffled. How, she thought to herself, could I ever think that these men were less than the Clans? She fixed her gaze on the Dark Falcon emblem on the soldiers’ arms and suddenly knew the answer.


*

Jax ran. Bullets whined past or dug into the earth under his feet, spraying miniature geysers of dust all around. Still he ran. He saw the turret begin to turn and the guards steady their aim and he ran faster, his own fire pinging off the APC’s armour. A second rifle joined his, Elana must have got my message, he thought, without halting his mad dash. Duran and his men joined the fray, but Jax knew they would be of little help as they were too far away. At least though, they got the APC gunner’s attention.

Something tugged at his sleeve, but he felt nothing. Fumbling, he changed his ammunition clip on the fly and kept firing. He was not far from the guards now and dove towards them, intent on getting in close. Miraculously he had crossed the bullet strewn plaza without serious injury. His initial thought had merely been to take some of the guards with him and give Elana a chance, now he would need a real plan.

His roll brought him in amongst them and he began to strike wildly about, his rifle butt contacting with flesh. Running footsteps made his hope die until a solid group barrelled straight into the guards. It was then that things got really messy.

Elana and her men had nothing but their feet, fists and teeth. Not one of them wavered, even when an infantry body was shredded by rifle fire. Instead they leaped upon their prey with animal-like growls. Jax saw one man latch his teeth onto one of the guard’s throat, whilst he strained to hold off his foe. The Lieutenant took aim and placed a welcome round in the Clansman’s head. His soldier looked up and grinned with a blood-stained mouth, before bending and ripping the man’s rifle free.

A harsh yet rhythmic pounding from above, reminded Jax of the gunner inside the APC and his other mens’ predicament. The solution though eluded him. When he looked back to the fight, he saw that all of the guards plus two of his own men had fallen. Elana joined him, as with the survivors they squatted beside the APC, out of reach of its machine gun.

“What now, Lieutenant?” gasped Elana.

“My plan consisted in getting this far. I didn’t really think that I would need to think beyond this point,” he grinned self-depreciatingly.

“I think,” said Elana, pointing towards the far end of the plaza, “that now would be a good time to come up with a brilliant plan.”

“Oh, frak!” muttered Jax, as he saw the flare of jump jets. The Clan Elementals had returned.

*

Diana’s lance had been given a difficult assignment. The first part had gone smoothly. Together they had poured volley after volley of missiles into the fighter launching bays they could see. No-one would be flying anything out of the twisted mass of metal. However, her secondary mission was to remain with the dropship and provide cover against those fighters which could be launched.

“Targets sighted,” was the command she had been dreading, and when the confirmation of incoming fighters was given, she reluctantly passed the information along.

Her strategy was simple. Survival. She had, however, a couple of surprises prepared for the pilots.

Five fighters flew in a tight formation directly at the stationary Mechs. Diana saw the spark of their missile barrage almost at the same time as proximity alarms screamed in her ears. She launched her own flight of missiles in response, as did her lance. Still the fighters closed, laser fire and autocannon slugs taking over from the failed missiles.

Diana responded in kind, her lance hammered away at the speeding craft, ignoring their melting armour.

“Wait for it, wait for it,” muttered Diana, then screamed “NOW!” as the fighters levelled out for a point-blank strafing run.

Airlocks opened on the drophip and an odd mixture of garbage whistled outwards. Radar would see it only as metallic and the pilots jump to the wrong conclusion, hopefully.

The first Visigoth smashed into the cloud of objects, its pilot desperately twisting away. His roll continued and his wing tip sliced into a gangway, spinning him into the Jump ship as a ball of coruscating fire. Others were more lucky, although their gyrations opened their more vulnerable underbelly to the Mechs on the dropship.

A cannonade of missiles, lasers and autocannon slugs shredded three of the fighters. One survived, spinning helplessly away with one of its wings bent double. An explosive puff of bolts threw its pilot clear, the craft continuing on its dizzy spiral into the oblivion of cold space.

Diana knew that her trick could only work once. The next time the result would be very different. Sheehan had better hurry up. What was keeping him?

*
Walter’s job was done. The ring of walkways that connected the Dropships to the Jumpship’s main body was a tortured wreck. Now he ordered the withdrawal of his Mech’s back to the Dropship and jump jets flred in answer to his transmission. Now it was up to Otho and the Elementals to finish their part of the plan.

“Diana, this is Walter,” he transmitted, “we are pulling back. If necessary, please provide covering fire and let the Captain know of our success.”

“I would if I could,” replied Diana, “but we have lost contact with Captain Sheehan.”

“What do you mean?” queried Walter as he negotiated his Mech clear of the Jumpship.

“Exactly as I said,” Diana confirmed, “the Captain said he had something to do and forgot to share it with us.”

“Understood. We will be with you shortly.”

Cutting his transmission, Walter cursed. He could only hope that Sheehan knew what he was doing.

*

Otho heard the signal calling him back to the ship. Their time was up. For them, the objective had been simple; maximum damage and confusion, in a minimum of time. If at all possible, they were to have reached the bridge, but the Jade Falcon warriors had made that impossible. They had formed a human barricade and died there.

“Okay,” said Pershaw, “you are to offload all excess munitions. We will leave straight afterwards.

A volley of SRM’s streaked towards the knot of Jade Falcon Warriors protecting the access to the Control Room. Bodies literally disintegrated in a futile human shield, yet the sheer volume of missiles meant that at least one made it through. The doors burst open and the projectile rushed through, impacting against the main panels and volatilising the Naval Officers who watched its trajectory open-mouthed.

Alarms blared in protest, but Otho and his men had not waited to see the results of their work. Instead they raced back, confident that Sheehan’s plan had worked.

*

“Get us out of here!” screamed the Khan into his transmitter, “we will leave these Surats behind and return to wipe their planet from all known records!”

As the Captain of the vessel made to acknowledge his Khan’s order, Pershaw’s last missile struck. The transmitter went dead and all that could be heard was the Khan’s scream of frustration as it echoed around his chambers.



The Wildwose

A Guiding Light

Sudden Dearth

Gerard A. Whitfield

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 Post subject: Re: The Dark Falcons Book 1 - The Awakening (BT) -Update PostPosted: 2011-02-17 02:37pm
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For those of you following, I thought that I would give you an idea of my planning around posting this story. I am trying to post one chapter a day until Book 1 is complete. Then I will do the same for Book II and Book III as far as it is written.

That will then allow me to continue with my other stuff.

Hope you are enjoying this

Rayo



The Wildwose

A Guiding Light

Sudden Dearth

Gerard A. Whitfield

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 Post subject: Re: The Dark Falcons Book 1 - The Awakening (BT) - Chapter 1 PostPosted: 2011-02-18 12:05am
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Hello Khan, welcome to FUBAR :twisted:



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Nitram: You -are- beautiful. Anyone tries to tell you otherwise kill them.

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 Post subject: Re: The Dark Falcons Book 1 - The Awakening (BT) - Chapter 1 PostPosted: 2011-02-18 04:46pm
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Chapter Seventeen


A fist slammed into the side of Sheehan’s head. Sparks of light flashed before his eyes, as he twisted away. In an unconscious reflex, he supported his falling body on his arms and pushed up as he span. His back leg whipped round, his booted heel crashing into his opponent’s temple. There was a crack, the bones in the Elemental’s skull depressed and the big man crashed to the floor.

Sheehan knelt where he had fallen, his chest heaving and his breath rasping in and out. It hurt to breathe. Bloody spittle dribbled unchecked from his open mouth as the room swayed and slowly came back into focus.

Hans watched in awe. This, the third Elemental had almost done for his Captain, yet he still lived. He saw Sheehan push up with first one hand and then another, until he stood in a pained half-crouch. His right eye was now swollen shut, his left cheek a bruised mess. The way he held himself, Hans knew that ribs were broken, but the man raised his fists in defiance and from between his cracked and broken lips came a mumbled, “Next?”

By his side, Greta stood proud. Tears streaked the huge woman’s cheeks and as Sheehan stumbled, she involuntarily twitched, ready to rush to him.

“Hans?” the question came almost as a plea.

The big man strode to Sheehan’s side, “Yes, My Captain?”

“You...need to go...to Pershaw. Get them off this ship. Tell them...”

“I will not leave your side!” objected Hans angrily.

“It is...an order,” wheezed Sheehan, “would you...fail me now?”

With a roar of frustration, Hans turned and ran. As he passed Greta, he slowed, “Stay with him. I will be back!” With that, he raced away.

Greta moved to Sheehan’s side. She took his right arm in her large hand and helped him stand upright.

“I challenge...” began another of the Jade Falcon Elementals.

Greta turned on him in rage, but calmed as she felt Sheehan press her hand weakly. He smiled up at her, it was more the grimace of a man who had nothing else to lose.

“Give him a moment,” she asked quietly, and her fellow Elemental bowed his head in acquiesence.

*

Hans met Pershaw half-way back to the Dropship, with him was Walter and a body of soldiers.

“What are you doing here?” Pershaw asked him, “Where is Captain Sheehan.”

“He sent me to deliver his message. You are to leave in the Dropship immediately,” said Hans turning away.

“Where are you going?” asked Walter.

“To die with my Captain,” snarled Hans over his shoulder, as he disappeared down the corridor.

*

“I...cannot wait...any longer,” insisted Sheehan, pushing himself away from Greta and straightening up as best he could.

He nodded at the waiting Elemental and clenched his fists, but the man stood motionless. Turning he saw that Greta had not moved, instead she had dropped to one knee, her head bowed.

“Greta?” he whispered.

“I will not leave your side...My Khan,” she said, rising and placing herself on his left.

Disgra...” hissed the Jade Falcon Elemental.

“Then I share it!” snapped Hans who had now returned.

“And I!” roared Otho Pershaw, as he appeared.

“And I!...And I!” the word echoed off the walls, as more and more Dark Falcons joined Sheehan.

As one they knelt to the Freebirth who had become their Khan; men from the Inner Sphere, Mechwarriors and Elementals. Each of them placed their closed fists against the Dark Falcon emblems on their chest.

First one, then another of the Jade Falcon Clansmen knelt, until only Sheehan stood, swaying from side to side as if to the vagaries of an intermittent breeze.

“I guess...” he gasped, “that no-one else...wants to...fight me?”

Then he closed his good eye, sighed deeply and fell to the floor.


*

Khan Elias Critchell drove his men hard. The bridge was a mess, although the damage was repairable. He knew that in its current state, the Jumpship was an easy target for his enemies, both from the Inner Sphere and other Clans. No longer was he concerned about this insignificant planet, indeed, he knew he could return at any time and deal with these Dark Falcons. His biggest worries were his loss of face and the possibility of attack.

Therefore he ignored the loss of his people, even to the point of dismissing the reports of the two dropships which left for Winfield. The fighter wings which had been prepared to restart the assault on the Dark Falcons’ dropship were recalled and instead set to patrol the surrounding space. It was one of these small craft which first reported the arrival of two new vessels. They were still far out yet their identity was unmistakable.

The Khan urged his technicians on. There was only one possibility of survival and that was the least palatable dish for any Clansman. They had to run away.

*

Sheehan was half-laid in a chair in their newly acquired Dropship. Walter had returned to the damaged vessel and was making all haste back to Winfield. Otho had stayed with him and even now was taking an inventory of their new acquisition.

Amazingly, Jurgen Mattlov had survived the vicious beating he had received from Sheehan. He in fact looked in better condition than the newly acclaimed Khan and watched him carefully, from his chair close by. So, they both heard the warning of the arrival of the new jumpships together.

“Were you expecting company?” asked Sheehan, moving a little in his chair, as he sought to find a part of his body which did not hurt.

“No, My Khan,” replied Mattlov.

Sheehan winced, he would need some time to get used to the honorific and the reverence with which his men treated him.

“Can we identify them?”

“It appears that we may have a problem,” said Mattlov, “the closest vessel is definitely of Clan design, but they are ignoring Critchell’s hails.”

“And the other?” pressed Sheehan.

“It is hard to say,” Mattlov said perplexed, “I would also say Clan, but there is something not quite correct about it.”

“What will they do?” questioned Sheehan.

“That, indeed, depends on who they are,” answered Mattlov, “first of all they will deal with the Jade Falcons. Normally they would issue batchall, before they began their ground assault.”

“In that case, we have some time,” Sheehan said, “get us planet-side as soon as possible, we have some preparations to make.”

*

Jax was stunned by the arrival of the Elementals. The gun in the APC’s turret fell silent and this allowed Duran and his men to join them. Even now, they were huddled together behind the vehicle, peering out occasionally at the slowly advancing figures in their Battle Armour.

“Now what?” Jax asked Elana, “Why have they not opened fire?”

“They are probably savouring the moment,” she replied, “and in particular, the kill itself.”

“Frak this!” said Jax, moving out from behind the APC, his autorifle raised to his shoulder, “when I give the word, I want you all to run for the nearest building.”

“What do you intend to do?” Elana was puzzled. One man with an autorifle was no match for a power-armoured Clansman, never mind a Star.

“It’s a surprise,” laughed Jax, “now, RUN!”

*

The Lieutenant had seen something none of the others had. Amongst the bodies roughly piled before him was that of one of the Jade Falcon guards. He had obviously taken a fancy to some of his prisoners’ things and a satchel hung limply off his harness. Jax stooped and rummaged in the pack and smiled when he found what he had been looking for. It had been a gamble, but it had paid off.

With a grunt he carefully pulled the small explosive charge free and hefted it in his free hand. Placing his rifle on the floor, he set the timer and with a sudden burst of energy flung it towards the approaching Elementals. Now he needed to get their attention.

His finger drew back and a constant stream of rounds sprayed out, pinging off the foremost armoured figure. The Clansman turned on his external speakers and a deep laugh rang out.

“Come on, come on!” muttered Jax, “Just a little furth...”

With a gout of dirt and flame, the charge exploded in front of the lead figure, flinging the Clansman up and back. With savage glee, Jax continued firing.

“One down,” he crowed, “and more where that came from!”

There was an instant reaction, as lasers, machine guns and finally what he had been waiting for, a missile tore towards him. He flung himself to the floor and cowered behind his barricade of corpses. The projectile tore into the APC, destroying it with an ear-splitting roar. Now, the Clansmen came in hot pursuit of Jax, but he had not waited. The Lieutenant raced towards the deceptive shelter of the building, glad that he had at least taken one more of the invaders down.

As he skidded to a halt, inside the door of the building, he heard a groan of dismay from Duran. Spinning round he saw the descending Dropship, emblazoned with the striking Falcon of the Clans. Now, they were really in trouble.

*

Omnimechs stalked imperiously from the vessel, their torsos twisting as their pilots surveyed the plaza. Two stars of Elementals jetted out to join them and Jax realised it was over. They did not even have to enter the building now; a few well-placed shots from one of the giant war machines and it would be all over.

A voice boomed from the cabin of the lead Mech, “It is over, lay down your weapons,” and Jax nodded at his men, leading them from the building, their hands raised in defeat.

There was the crackle of a PPC and the heavy ripping sound of an autocannon and he watched in astonishment as two of the Elementals were smashed into the ground.

“I said,” the voice came again, “lay down your weapons. You are now prisoners of the Dark Falcons.”

Elana thumped Jax on the back with her good arm, almost breaking bones with the force of her jubilation. The machine walked forward and Sheehan’s now recognisible voice echoed round the plaza.

“Lieutenant Jax. Why is it that I can never leave you alone for a moment? You’re always getting into some sort of trouble, aren’t you?”

Jax slumped to the floor in relief and then began to laugh, as the Dark Falcon Elementals secured the area.



The Wildwose

A Guiding Light

Sudden Dearth

Gerard A. Whitfield

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 Post subject: Re: The Dark Falcons Book 1 - The Awakening (BT) - Chapter 1 PostPosted: 2011-02-19 12:06pm
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Chapter Eighteen


The two Jumpships followed different elliptical courses, yet both bored on at full speed for the planet. Constant updates were given to the Khan, both on their progression and the temporary repairs needed to escape the apparently inevitable battle. None of his imperious hails had been answered, so that he could only assume the worst.

Jade Falcon Visigoths patrolled the area close to his vessel, but this was more of a mute defiance than an actual tactical decision.

Then at last he heard the message he had been waiting for.

“My Khan, the engines are charged and we have re-established control,” said his Aide.

“Good,” replied Critchell as he studied his holotank, “now get us out of here.”

“But...the fighters, our pilots are still out there!” protested his Aide.

“You heard me!” snarled Critchell.

“Yes, My Khan,” the man turned and issued the order.

A short while later the battered remnant of a once proud ship winked out of normal space, leaving its deserted fighters behind. They buzzed futilely around the site it had occupied, then as one turned and raced down towards the planet.

Unphased by the disappearance of the Jade Falcon ship, the unidentified Jumpships continued on their collision course. It was obvious that their goal was, and always had been, the planet itself.

*

Sheehan sat at the make-shift conference table. How different a few short weeks had made of his own personal situation. From a position of disaster, he had now reached the illustrious high point of today. All of his combined force treated him with respect and looked to him for their orders. There had still not been time to assess the ultimate damage caused to Winfield and he knew that job would be a long and arduous one.

Sat around the room were the mix of Clan and Inner Sphere officers who made up the core of his new unit. He had also brought into the conference Elias, who had worked wonders on the recovery and integration of the Clan Tech left on the battlefield. If they ever had the time, he knew that the Dark Falcons would have resources available to few of the Inner Sphere companies.

He rubbed his hand over his aching face, wincing where one finger caught against the scabs adorning his visage. As he called the meeting to order, one of the Clan communications officers rushed into the room.

“My Khan,” he said, interrupting the proceedings, “we have received a message from a wing of Jade Falcon fighters. They are requesting permission to land.”

“They wish to fight us?” asked Mattlov.

“No, Star Commander,” replied the man, “they wish to join us. They are also reporting the arrival of two unknown jumpships. What should I say to them?”

All eyes turned to Sheehan, who sighed deeply before responding, “Tell them that they are welcome in the Dark Falcons, and ask their commander to land and report here.”

Then, after thinking for a few moments, he spoke sharply, “It appears that our trials and tribulations have yet to end. It is time to convince yet another foe, of the consequences inherent in attacking this planet.

“Walter?”

“Yes, My Khan?” replied the Mechwarrior.

“You and Diana will take your lances to the base in the Eastern Mountains. Get them out of sight and ready to support the rest of us. We should expect the possibility of an orbital bombardment, so I want the rest of our forces dispersed.

“Mattlov, you and Otho will be with me, and the rest of our Mechs. Bring me the pilot, as soon as he lands, we have some planning to do.”

“Excuse me,” Elias’ voice was almost apologetic, “but we may be able to help.”

The Clansmen could not help but show their disgust at the temerity of the Tech, but Sheehan nodded in encouragement.

“We have,” said Elias, “been working on a number of weapons which we recovered from destroyed Mechs. I think that Lieutenant Jax and his Infantry will find them of use.”

“Very good, Elias,” Sheehan said, “take the Lieutenant with you and bring him up to speed. We need to move quickly and evacuate as many people as we can out of the city. When we face the Clans here, I want the only collateral damage suffered, to belong to the buildings and the Clans themselves.”

Jax followed Elias outside to the central Plaza. The Tech was smiling happily, but Jax could not see anything worth such contentment. There was one APC with a strange barrel, and the usual number of hover trucks, with their ubiquitous tarpaulins pulled tight over their cargo. The material heaped underneath did look a little too much, but really there was nothing else.

“Okay, Elias,” Jax said with a sigh, as he came to a halt next to the APC, “what was it that you wanted to show me?”

“I was thinking that you could do with a little assistance when next you face the Clans,” he grinned, “so David and I, with the help of the other Techs of course, worked on a temporary solution.”

“Is this it?” asked Jax, peering more closely at the APC.

“Part of it,” said Elias, nodding in agreement and shouting to David, “and this is the rest.”

The tarpaulins fell from the hover trucks, revealing their payloads and now it was Jax’s turn to grin.

“Frak!” he cursed in appreciation, “Now the Dark Falcons have Mobile Infantry!”

*

Each of the trucks was different, yet carried the look of a rush job. Fresh welds held the mountings for each structure, which contained obviously recognisable Mech parts. The first was a long-barrelled weapon, whose ammunition lay by its side. It consisted of thick metal rods and canisters. On the second truck was an Omnimech missile pod, the third a triple laser and the last carried a number of suits of armour, painted with the distinctive pattern of camouflage. What, thought Jax, the heck was the weapon on top of the APC?

“This,” said Elias, patting the weapon on the first truck, “is a powered down Gauss rifle. Due to the nature of its energy source, we concentrated more on speed of recharge than sophistication. It is, as you can see, breech loading and we have designed its ammunition to accommodate the fact.

“Here on the second truck we have more of a rocket launcher than a sophisticated missile system. Each projectile has a proximity sensor and a simple guidance system programmed by the operator. Following that we have a medium laser set-up, which has a very short life, due to the drain on its power cells and last but not least, we have the battle armour.

“You will see that it carries only one primary weapon, its machine gun. We have made it faster by reducing the demands of a laser or the computing power necessary for a missile system. Right now, there are only sufficient suits for the commanders and perhaps a small fast response unit. We will, however, improve on this in time.”

“And the APC?” asked Jax, amazed at what Elias and his team had done in such a short time.

“Now that,” said Elias, “is the best of all.”

*

Walter stopped his Mech and trained his weapons on the Clan Omnimechs he saw peering at him from around the entrance to the Cavern.

“I have contacts,” he said, “with zero readings from their fusion plants, but they are there none the less.”

Diana’s laughter bubbled from his headset, “I would guess that we have found Elias’ little surprise.”

As if in answer, they received a tight-beam communication from the Cavern, giving them permission to approach.

“Permission?” squawked Walter, “Who are they to give us permission?”

Coming closer, they could see that the bottom half of the Omnimechs were sheared away, their hips fastened to a platform. The torso of one of the static machines twisted and it followed them as they passed. Diana could see the pods of weapons arrayed on its shoulders and the dark maw of the cannons it held within each arm.

“Someone,” she said, “is in for a nasty surprise. I’m just glad that Elias is on our side.”

*

The holo-image flickered, wavered and then strengthened again. Sheehan stared at the face portrayed there closely.

“Freebirth!” cursed Mattlov, then looked apologetically at Sheehan before speaking again.

“It is saKahn Vandervahn Chistu,” he said, “of the Jade Falcons.”

“Then why would he ignore Critchell?” asked Sheehan in a puzzled voice.

“Politics,” rumbled Otho, “he could score a great victory here, now that Critchell has fled.”

“Should not the Khan have recognised one of his own vessels?” Sheehan mused.

Otho laughed, “I think he was more concerned in saving his own skin, than staying to identify his would-be allies.”

“And the second jumpship? More Jade Falcons?” now Sheehan was worried.

“I think not,” said Mattlov shaking his head, “there is a game being played out here at our expense. We will have to wait for them to contact us, but should not expect any favours.”

“More politics?” questioned Sheehan.

“Without a doubt,” replied Mattlov, “but with what aim I am still unsure.”

Before they could reply to the imperious message from the Jade Falcons’ saKahn, another image appeared. Behind the speaker could clearly be seen a different clan device and Sheehan heard the sounds of barely concealed amusement from the ex-Clansmen.

“What?” he snapped, “you can at least let me in on the joke.”

“True,” agreed Otho, waving at Mattlov as he collapsed into fits of laughter, “you…tell him.”

Mattlov smiled, “It is, My Khan, a very good joke,” as he pointed to the screen, “That is Perigard Zalman…Khan of the Steel Vipers!” and then he could restrain himself no longer.

“Obviously, I’m missing something,” Sheehan said sarcastically, “whenever you gentlemen are ready, I would like a little more explanation.”

Otho wiped the tears from his eyes, started to speak, but Mattlov gasped “Zalman” and he again roared with laughter.

“”I’ll wait then, shall I?” asked Sheehan, as he shook his head in wonderment at his men. Clansmen with a sense of humour, he thought, whatever next?

*

“You were right to follow them, My Khan.”

Zalman turned to look at his Aide, his eyes hooded at his pondered the situation. It appeared that the Jade Falcons had suffered a reverse here on Winfield. He had become tired of waiting for someone to include his Clan in the main fight. They had been tasked with nothing more exciting than being the reserve force for the Invasion. It was a crude insult and one he found extremely hard to bear.

It could only be some poor Spheroid unit, left behind on this pitiful world. No matter, he had sufficient troops with him to deal with the threat on the ground from either side.

“Prepare our Commanders,” he said, “I intend this to be swift and decisive. We will shorten the wings of our arrogant brothers, before we deal with the Freebirth rabble on the planet. It is time our Brothers realised our worth in this invasion. This destruction of the Jade Falcons will be a clear reminder to them of that the Way of the Viper produces superior warriors.”

“Yes, My Khan,” acknowledged the Aide, a terrible grin of anticipation on his face.

*

Sheehan was drawn from his study of the rapidly approaching forces by a babble of voices. He saw Jax enter, followed by three robed figures. The Lieutenant seemed just a little upset and was restraining Elana who looked as though she was about to kill something.

“What is it?” he asked, annoyance colouring his voice.

“We found these sneaking around outside,” said Jax, “it appears that they feel that they have something important to say.”

Elana moved aside, yet Jax placed himself in between Sheehan and the robed figures. The first of them moved aside his hood and spoke.

“The Peace of Blake be with you,” said the man, “I am Demi-Precentor…”

“I can see what you are,” said Sheehan, “the question I have is why you are here.”

The ComStar official drew himself up, which made him look a little ridiculous. His short, plump figure was not built for measuring himself against the warriors in the room. More used to obsequious respect than unconcerned dismissal, his face turned red with anger.

“I demand…”

“Here you do not demand,” snapped Sheehan, “we are in the middle of a warzone and until now we have heard little from yourselves. Not unusual of course with one of your kind.”

“You would do better to change your tone if you wish our aid in this matter, or to avail yourselves of our services,” said the Demi-Precentor.

“Oh?” queried Sheehan, “and what services would that be?”

On more steady ground, the ComStar official continued, “We are here to mediate. You have caused a number of problems with your continued interference here. It has come to our notice, that our agreement to administrate this world peacefully has been affected by your continued interference. I have even received a communication from our Primus as to this matter. You would do best to cease and desist.”

As he spoke, he seemed to swell with importance, his eyes shining in righteous indignation.

“That’s it?” laughed Sheehan, “Very well, you may go. As you can see, we have more important matters to discuss right now than stroking the ego of your sect. Lieutenant Jax?”

“Sir?” grinned Jax.

“You may escort the gentlemen out,” Sheehan said as he turned back to his table.

“Out of my way!” snapped the Demi-Precentor, his finger jabbing into Jax’s chest.

“You really should not have done that,” muttered Elana, as Jax grabbed the man’s outstretched digit and twisted violently. There was a crack as the finger was doubled over, a scream of pain and the man huddled over his ruined hand, weeping.

The two acolytes threw by their robes, reaching for their pistols. They too, had little success as Elana hammered her fist into one’s temple and Jax kicked the last one in the groin. Soldiers bent to heave the useless bodies upright and drag them away.

“Jax?”

“Sir?” replied the Lieutenant, as Sheehan once more faced him.

“I have changed my mind. Take your unit and make the ComStar facility secure. I do not want them using the HPG to send messages to their collaborators. We have enough visitors to deal with as it is. You will hold the facility, until further orders. Understood?”

“Sir!” said Jax, snapping a salute, before following his men from the room.



The Wildwose

A Guiding Light

Sudden Dearth

Gerard A. Whitfield


Last edited by Rayo Azul on 2011-02-20 04:45am, edited 1 time in total.
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