Within the Hanseatic League, there had long been stories of lost Star League bases. From its original foundation, the inner circle of the ruling council had zealously guarded the sacred logs of their Star League forefathers. In them, were detailed accounts of the wonders of satellite defence systems, caches and machinery. The avarice of this mercantile league, and its position of force within the Deep Periphery had driven its steady expansion.
On the capital world of Bremen, an order of state-funded scholars and technicians reverentially maintained records of recognition codes, equipment specifications and three receiving devices. These machines were monitored continuously, and it was one of these which had caught the computer-generated message.
Quickly, a combined force of Regional Defence and Convoy Protection was put together; an unheard of undertaking, which consisted of a brigade-size unit of BattleMechs and Combat Vehicles, plus Marines, Aerospace Assets, Assault Dropships and Jumpships. This was too great a prize to be taken unawares. Captain General De La Cruz was given overall command and was charged with success at all costs.
Once the area and technology had been secured, merchant vessels would follow to carry back the technology and perhaps seed the new world with colonists. It had been a good plan, but had been doomed to failure from the beginning. One of the Leagues fundamental premises had been flawed; they were not the only ones to know of the signal.
Kael Pershaw had not expected to be the last to arrive, nor that his welcoming committee would be so large and hostile. Even with his warship and all of its assets, he could see that they were outmatched. If they could get down onto the ground, he was sure of victory, but the fact that one of the drone warships and its complement of fighters was heading directly for him, had not escaped his notice.
He gave the order to launch his own fighters and to prepare for battle. His only hope was that the second ship and the Hanseatic League assets did not join the fight. Pragmatically, he knew that he either had to control or destroy this old Star League base. If it became necessary, he would withdraw and bring back allies, although that was not his first choice.
Pershaw bared his teeth in a feral grin as the anticipation of battle coursed through him. No-one had answered his batchall and so he was not limited by restricted resources. Perhaps, he would not need any help after all.
Hans fired his jets, leaping back away from the laser round. This was getting just a little hot. Two of his men were down, their suits trying their best to maintain the broken bodies within. One of the Chevalier tanks was stationary; three of its wheels had been shredded away and its turret whirred in frustration as it tried to hit one of the rapidly moving Elementals. The other two tanks were still aggressively trying to erase the rest of his unit. It was then he heard more growling echoing from the underground tunnel and Hans knew they were in trouble.
He watched first one and then another of the beasts emerged. They were slow and stately, yet deadly in their intent. These machines were slightly different, blisters of strange shapes clung to their sides and the lead tank had an unsightly protuberance perched high on its turret. Knowing it was less than useless, but determined to take at least one of these machines with him, Hand sighted on the turret itself, awaiting the familiar sound of his last missile locking on target. Just as he was about to fire, he heard a familiar voice.
“I really would not do that, if I was you.”
“Elias!” shouted Hans, as the blisters unfurled to reveal the crouching forms of Arn and his men, “You took your time.”
“We had one or two minor setbacks,” replied the Tech cheerfully. Hans could hear mutterings from Arn, something about “minor, my frakking backside!” and then he gladly watched the initial tanks power down.
“So, we do not need to blow this up?”
“No,” Elias said, “I am afraid we could not, even if we wanted to. A rather sophisticated defence system, if I might say.”
“Was it worth the pain and effort?” Hans asked, indicating his downed men.
“Definitely,” Elias said, now very serious, “and you need to get Lieutenant Jax here at once. This place is enormous and I have only just started cataloguing it. Just let me say that these tanks are the least of what I have found.”
Arn liked the tanks. Now that he had accepted that they were no longer demon beasts, he thrilled to the idea of riding in one. Elias had told him that normally, these machines were designed to be piloted by humans.
The Tech’s descriptions of what they could do had been hard to understand, but the thought of commanding one had filled him with a childish glee. When Elias had talked about the difference between these and BattleMechs, Arn and Conn had scoffed. Machines as tall as a palace, which made the Elementals look like babies. Very hard to believe.
He heard Elias talking to the Leftenant and Jax’s command that they wait where they were for his arrival. Arn patted the machine on its armoured flank affectionately and moved off to help with the recovery of Hans’ men and to set up an initial perimeter. That was a least something he knew how to do and if Elias was right, would become increasingly necessary as it appeared that they could expect unwelcome visitors shortly.
Elana had returned to the training camp under instructions from Jax to accelerate the pace of graduation. She knew that if the enemy forces reached the planet her group of recruits were poorly armed, both mentally and technologically, to resist. It was her job to somehow even the odds.
Her first instruction was that all of the recent graduations were recalled. Imperial soldiers, still awaiting induction, would need to take up their old duties for now. They would be given crash courses in the use of the new rifles being issued, but there was not enough time to complete their training.
Two classes were ready for their passing out and this she brought forward. There were another two groups halfway through their training, but now they would need to finish their education on the job. She sent the shuttle for all of the spare autorifles and ammunition available and called her training cadre together. Improvisation would be the name of the game and it was something she had learnt from a master.
Jax’s shuttle landed on an open space in front of two of the tanks. Their menacing shapes gave him a slight fright as the turrets tracked his descent, but Elias assured him that they were on standby and that his pilot had transmitted the correct identification signal. No longer did the old Star League code work, rather now that of Elias’ own invention; a particularly Dark Falcon recognition.
The Tech himself was waiting for Jax as he stepped out of the shuttle. Grouped with him, as though forming a guard of honour, were Hans, Arn and their men. Brief formalities over, Elias led him down into the complex.
Muted light aided their passage and the tramp of booted feet gave Jax a comforting feeling. They passed through damaged corridors, this time directly crossing the large cavernous space where Arn and his men had met the first tank, and finally reached the control centre. It was bright in contrast to the rest of the areas that they had passed, although this too showed the residual effect of the Dark Falcons’ passage.
Elias led him to one of the central control panel and bade him sit in one of the less damaged seats.
“What can you tell me that can be of some help to us?” Jax asked.
“I can do better than that,” said the excited Tech, flicking switches and coalescing a holo-image, “I can show you...”