Clan Goliath Scorpion Headquarters Complex, Lieurus
Roche, Clan Homeworlds
June 17, 3030
“Nikolai,” Mikhail said as he rose from his seat and extended a hand towards the young ristar. “That was certainly prompt.”
“My Khan orders and I obey,” Star Captain Nikolai Djerassi said with a grin as he shook the Khan’s hand firmly.
Mikhail chuckled. “SaKhan David Ben-Shimon, I do not believe that you have been introduced to young Nikolai here. He tested out as a Star Captain three years ago and it was his Trinary that won two of three trials we Scorpions have successfully completed during that time.” And here, Mikhail’s mood shifted. Three successful Trials in three years—and twenty-eight more that the Clan had lost. It was good that the Clans did not often share information among each other, for the weakness the Scorpions had shown would have normally caused a deluge of trials as Clans began snapping up the limited Scorpion resources left and left.
“SaKhan,” Nikolai said, as he shook the older man’s hand as well.
“Star Captain Djerassi.”
“Chief Scientist Philip,” Mikhail continued, indicating one of three civilian caste members, before moving on to the others, “Merchant Factor Thomas, and Technical Master Olivia.”
“Sirs, and Madame,” Nikolai greeted each of the civilians gravely.
“Take a seat, Star Captain,” Mikhail said as he sat, followed his subordinates. “I have just returned from an inspection tour of all Scorpio facilities in the Pentagon and the Homeworlds, Star Captain Djerassi—and I am most distressed at our current state of affairs.”
Mikhail paused and he turned back to the three civilians. “And this budget you have given me to review; frankly I cannot make any sense of it, which is why I called you in here to explain to me exactly where our resources as a Clan are going?”
Merchant Factor Thomas smiled thinly, and he sat forward. “Technically, as you are well aware, my Khan, we do not have an official standard of currency in the Homeworlds. Money is, after all, one of the evils that Nicolas Kerensky, may be blessed in all that he wrought, sought to do away with. However, we have a de facto currency, which we in the Merchant Caste refer to as the kerensky, ironically enough. In the first days of the Clans, even while ilKhan Nicolas refused to accept printing or minting of a new monetary system, he realized that an intra-Clan system of resource transference would be needed. He didn’t like it, he recognized the importance. A kerensky, my Khan, is based upon the value of one standard burst of machine-gun ammunition; a full ton thus having the value of 100 kerenskys.”
“Having this unchanging standard as our basis, the Merchant Castes were able to estimate the value of all other items produced by our society, from food, fuel, munitions, OmniMechs, to construction projects, Orbital Stations, and WarShips. Accordingly, we can trade this de facto currency between Clans, bankers such as the Falcons can generate a profit on making loans available, and we can gauge how efficiently each Clan uses the raw resources at its disposal.”
Mikhail nodded. “I understand that, Thomas. I do not comprehend this budget document,” he flatly stated as he tapped the two-thousand plus bound pages of figures and percentiles. “The numbers do not add up; totaling all of the line item expenses listed here, we are missing 4.2% of our total revenues for the Clan. Factor Thomas, I need an explanation for this discrepancy.”
The Merchant squirmed, and the Scientist and Technician both edged away from him. “Ah, then you were not briefed on Operation Pathfinder, then? My Khan?”
“No. Pray tell, Factor Thomas, what is Pathfinder?”
“Fourteen years ago, Khan Yeh decided that the Dragoon reports from the Inner Sphere were . . . incomplete. There were gaps in the information that we received, gaps that appeared—to him—be deliberate. He decided to begin a clandestine project codenamed Pathfinder.”
Mikhail groaned, and he lowered his head into his hands, his elbows propped up on the desk; the saKhan looked absolutely furious. “I am not going to like this, am I?”
“I doubt that you will, my Khan. Pathfinder is a scouting expedition undertaken by certain . . . naval assets . . . assets that are not . . . officially part of our toumen. Supported by the Seekers and directed by the Loremaster.”
“A scouting expedition to where, exactly?” David Ben-Shimon growled. “And what naval assets that I, as the ranking Star Admiral of the Scorpion Fleet was unaware of?”
Thomas swallowed heavily. “We are scouting the Inner Sphere, my Khans. With three Tracker-class surveillance vessels mistakenly classified as Merchant-class JumpShips.”
Silence filled the office, and all three Scorpion officers stared at the merchant in abject horror. “Khan Yeh sent his own expedition to the Inner Sphere? Against the direct order of the Grand Council of Khans?” Nikolai blurted out, before he blushed and lowered his head. “My apologies, Khan Kirov.”
Mikhail waved it off. “Continue.”
“That missing part of the budget is why I am aware of the Project, my Khan. I was not the Clan’s Merchant Factor when Pathfinder was begun, but I was given need to know in order to conceal the loss of the revenue—at the direct order of Khan Yeh, saKhan Lunde, and Loremaster Tazegul. These ships cycle back and forth between the Homeworlds and the Inner Sphere, delivering Seekers searching for lost artifacts of the Star League, and collecting data on the Inner Sphere since the reports from the Dragoon Expedition ceased.”
“I want those ships—and Seekers—recalled immediately. Is that understood, Factor Thomas?”
“Only the Loremaster has the means to contact them, my Khan. And, if I may speak frankly, Sir, she has no great love of you or for your proposed reforms. My merchants have heard . . . chatter . . . from her agents in Gamma Galaxy. Nothing more than talk, perhaps, but the words chosen by these Warriors has given me pause.”
“I see,” Mikhail said and he exchanged a long look with his saKhan. “That matter will be corrected in very short order, Factor Thomas, I assure you. Along with the budget allotment that provides the Temple of the Nine Muses, the Loremaster, and her Seekers with the same proportion of the Clan’s resources as the entire fighting toumen of the Clan. Nikolai, you are probably wondering why I summoned you here to this meeting, and why I have permitted you to sit here and listen. It has been so that you might know my reasons for commanding this of you. I want you to challenge Angela Tazegul to a Trial of Grievance, Star Colonel Djerassi. You must recover the recall codes and HPG communications protocols to contact the various components of Pathfinder, and you must do so without raising the suspicions of the Watch or the Grand Council. And once you have those codes and protocols, Nikolai, I want Angela Tazegul dead. Can you do this, for the Clan?”
“Yes, my Khan,” the young Warrior answered in a confident voice. “She will not escape her crimes.”
“Good. I have recalled the 20th Cuirassier Cluster here to Roche, and through a judicious amount of reassignments, I have brought that Cluster up to 120% of TO&E strength—with the finest Warriors in our Clan. None of whom are necrosia abusers. That is your Cluster, Star Colonel. Go, gather your Warriors, bid well, and end this problem before it comes to the attention of the other Clans.”
Nikolai stood, and he bowed. “My sting shall strike true, Khan Kirov.” He then turned on his heel and left the office. The corner of Mikhail’s mouth twisted in a smile, and he focused his attention on the civilians once more. “And now, lady and gentlemen, we will go through this budget line-by-line and see what we can afford to cut and what we must, as a Clan, retain in order to become strong and proud once more.”
[bTemple of the Nine Muses
]Roche, Clan Homeworlds
June 18, 3030[/b]
“I do apologize, Star Colonel, but at the orders of the Loremaster, your troops cannot enter the Temple,” the Elemental stated as he held one out raised hand towards Nikolai.
“Understood, Warrior,” Nikolai said with a genial smile. “May I have your rank, name, and Blood Lineage?”
“Point Commander Marcus, of Demos, Star Colonel,” he answered . . . and then paused. “Why do you inquire as to my Blood Lineage, Sir?”
“To ensure that the Scientists remove the proper genetic legacy from our breeding program, of course,” Nikolai replied, his smile twisting to show his bare teeth. “Would you expect anything less of a Warrior who disobeys his Khan to follow the orders of a lower ranking officer?”
“The Khan? I have received no orders from the Khan, Star Colonel.”
“Ah, then we must remedy that forthwith, Point Commander Marcus. Here is an electronic copy of his orders for the 20th Cuirassier to enter the Temple on Clan business.”
Nikolai held out a data-pad, and the Elemental attached one lead to his arm mounted computer data-port. Nikolai watched as the information was downloaded, and then the Elemental stood straight. “I do not disobey my Khan, Star Colonel.”
“Of course not; such disobedience is a grave matter of dishonor, Point Commander. By the authority of the Khan, you and your men are relieved of duty—return to your barracks and await orders from your new commander. My men will assume responsibility for guarding the Temple.”
“My new commander, Star Colonel?”
“Khan Kirov is most . . . displeased with the bearing and attitude of Star Colonel Solheim—the 14th Grenadiers will be receiving a new commander within the next twenty-four hours. Until then, I have orders to take him into custody and confine him to his quarters.”
The Elemental didn’t move for several moments, and then he leaned forward, the mirror image of Nikolai in his visor distorting slightly. “Star Colonel, Gamma Galaxy has the right to select its new officers from within its own ranks—it is tradition. The other Clusters, they will not . . .”
“Matter, Point Commander Marcus. The 3rd Cuirassiers, 16th Dragoons, and 8th Uhlans are on field training exercises and are at least two days travel away. Should the commanders of those Clusters choose to disobey their Khan, the consequences for their legacy will be grim. Their Warriors as well will suffer. I do not believe they would risk such a schism for Andrei Solheim, or Angela Tazegul. We will take your warning under advisement, however.”
The Elemental saluted and then he led his point off into the Temple. “Post guards on all the choke-points and entrances, Randall,” Nikolai said to his second-in-command, Star Captain Randall Posavatz. “Has Epsilon and Zeta secured the airfield?”
“Two minutes ago, Star Colonel.”
“Very well, post the remaining ‘Mechs here to garrison the entrance, have the fighters land, refuel, and remain on standby; the Elementals are to accompany me. You are to assume command here—allow no one to pass without either my authorization or the Khan’s.”
Nikolai began to descend the ramp into the Temple of the Nine Muses, with Battle Armor clad Elementals trailing behind him.
Angela Tazegul was still pulling on her field jacket as she exited her quarters. The sounds of gunfire—gunfire in the Temple—had awakened her, and no one was answering her calls! But the sight before her in the Grand Cathedral brought her to a halt. Several of the men and women most loyal to her lay bleeding out on the flagstones—and the massive hall was filled with Elementals whose armor was marked with a blue shield adorned by several stars, forming the ancient constellation of Scorpio, as seen from old Terra.
One young officer, clad not in armor, but in his field uniform smiled at her and he clicked his heels together and bowed slightly. “Loremaster Tazegul; how good of you to join us this evening.”
“What is the meaning of this? I will have you torn limb from limb for spilling blood in this sacred hall!”
“I bear a message for you, Loremaster, from our Khan—and these . . . former Warriors did not wish to allow me to present it to you.”
“Oh, he has sent a message. Invading the Temple, desecrating this shrine to our past; I shall shed his blood and his dishonor will be made manifest!”
“You sound more like a Cobra than a Scorpion, Loremaster,” the Star Colonel answered with a wry grin. “Our Khan is more than slightly displeased with you given that more than a month has passed since his election, and yet you have not met with him once, or answered his summons to meetings important to the Clan’s future. Are the broken artifacts of our past truly more important to you than the future of our Clan?”
“What is your name?” Angela snarled. “I will have your genes annihilated.”
“Nikolai Djerassi, commander of the 20th Cuirassier, Loremaster. I would say at your service, but I serve only the Scorpion and the Khans whom he deigns to place over us Warriors.”
“I am the Loremaster, Djerassi—my place was confirmed again by the Blood Named at the Council. Your insolence will be your undoing.”
“And your arrogance will be yours, Loremaster.”
Another Scorpion officer briskly walked up to Nikolai and saluted. “The Temple is secured, Star Colonel. Our pre-assault intelligence has been confirmed—there are no visitors from the other Clans present at this time.”
“Very good, Star Commander,” Nikolai answered and he turned back to face Angela. “We know about Pathfinder, Loremaster,” he said calmly, and Angela’s face drained of color. “We know of the funds that you have diverted—and your Khan demands an answer for both.”
Nikolai walked over to a display case and he opened it, and lifted an ancient pistol, encrusted with gemstones and gild with gold plate. He smiled and shook his head. “This is the very weapon that Stefan Amaris used to murder Richard Cameron. According to the diaries of General DeChevilier; of course, he could have lied or been mistaken. Does it still work, Loremaster?”
Nikolai turned back to face her, still holding the pistol, not quite directly pointed at—but neither was it pointed away.
“You cannot simply kill me, Star Colonel—that is against the Way of the Clans.”
“Well, I could quite easily simply kill you, Loremaster. And my troops would not give a damn in the slightest over the death of a traitor such as yourself. But I will not resort to killing you—not in this manner, at least, and not with this tainted weapon.”
Nikolai placed the laser back in its case and closed the lid. “Where are the recall codes and communication protocols for Pathfinder, Loremaster?”
She smirked. She actually smirked at Nikolai. “Your Khan will not issue those orders—that decision is mine alone.”
“I believe you, Loremaster. But let us test the resolve of that fiery spirit of yours.” Nikolai snapped his fingers and four Elementals entered the room, followed by a half-dozen technicians. Between them they carried an interrogation couch, the pharmaceuticals, the pain-inducing machines, and Angela blanched.
“I demand a Trial of Refusal!” she cried.
“Granted, and I shall face you—after we extract what we need, Loremaster.”
The Loremaster turned to run, but Elementals grabbed her arms and dragged her screaming towards the couch, where she was strapped down and needles shoved into her veins.
Nikolai stood over her. “One last chance to end this, Loremaster: where are the recall codes and communication protocols?”
She spat on him. “You will burn! The entire Clan will burn if you follow Kirov! He will break away from the tradition of Nicolas Kerensky, from the Path we Scorpions must follow!”
Nikolai nodded and he calmly wiped away the spittle from his face. “We do this the hard way then—never fear, Loremaster. I shall give you time to recover afterwards so that you may face me at your fullest strength and skill. Gentlemen, you may begin.”
Temple of the Nine Muses
Roche, Clan Homeworlds
June 19, 3030
Nikolai tried not to think about the tens of thousands of tons suspended over his head as he exited the open cage elevator into the vast cavern his men had reported. “How far down are we?” he asked the Archivist of the Temple.
“Not all that far, Star Colonel—only three hundred and forty-four meters below the surface. Although if you count from the top of the mesa upon which the Temple is constructed, that adds another one hundred and eighteen meters to the total,” the civilian replied in answer.
The Warrior shivered slightly—not from a chill, for it was actually quite warm in the vast cavern—but from a slight touch of claustrophobia. Nikolai shook his head, and sternly told his stomach to stop fluttering. “And the equipment?”
“All of it is original, Star Colonel. We discovered this series of caverns forty years ago after an accident revealed the elevator shaft. It appears that the Widowmakers sealed it away either just before or during their Absorption Trial. Quite a remarkable find, actually.”
Nikolai walked out across the uneven floor of the cavern until he reached the point where that first generation of Clansmen had smoothed away the granite to install row after row and bank after bank of complex manufacturing instruments. The Archivist—and his assistants—followed Nikolai, pointing out each of the complexes machines and what they were meant to produce.
The cavern stretched for nearly half a kilometer in length, and was close to two hundred meters in width, and almost every square millimeter was filled with machinery to produce or move equipment. Not all, certainly, and Nikolai looked into a gaping sheer pit in the floor that plunged into blackness, and his stomach lurched again.
“Ah, yes, Star Colonel. The Spider’s Pipe, we call it. It extends another two hundred meters in a nearly vertical shaft before reaching a small cavern that the Widowmakers used to discard refuse.”
“Shouldn’t there be safety rails or something?” Nikolai asked, and the Archivists looked at him askance.
“That would alter the condition of this find, Star Colonel! We would never dare to do that. We retain it all in pristine condition, as if the Widowmakers had sealed these chambers just yesterday and not more than a century ago.”
“Yes, Star Colonel. This is Manufacturing Complex Alpha. There is also Beta, Gamma, and Delta, plus the Assembly Cavern, which is truly magnificent—three times as large.”
Nikolai blinked and then he noticed something. All of the controls for the massive machinery were showing a yellow light indicating the systems were on standby mode. “This facility is operational?” he barked.
“Of course, Star Colonel. We restored everything to pristine condition as a means to discover the truth of our ancestors and determine what the Widowmakers were producing. These complexes can produce every single weapon, sensor, electronic device, power plant, and auxiliary systems required for combat vehicles and BattleMechs—with the exception of endo-steel internal structure which must be spun in zero-g conditions, of course.”
“And this was never reported to the Khan?”
“Well, we had to catalogue everything and establish the historical use, first Star Colonel. And then, the Loremasters instructed us not to inform the Khan. Did you know they implied that the Khan would remove this equipment and put it to use?”
Nikolai only stared at the civilian, and then he shook his head. “Can this machinery produce modern systems, or only Star League systems?”
The Chief Archivist frowned, but his assistant spoke up eagerly. “Much of the machinery is automated, although it requires supervision by the members of the Technical caste to operate, Star Colonel. Updating the database is easily accomplished and would provide a means of manufacturing modern weapons and equipment. That is,” he continued as the Chief Archivist glared at him, “we could if that did not entail altering this exhibit.”
“Exhibit?” Nikolai asked with one raised eyebrow.
“Yes, Star Colonel,” the Chief Archivist answered frostily. “This entire complex is a historical find of unique importance. It is worth far more to our Clan to be studied, not put into operation.”
“As a purely theoretical exercise, of course,” Nikolai continued, “exactly what could this facility produce in say . . . a month’s time if it were fully operational? BattleMechs? OmniMechs? Tanks? Battle Armor? Small arms?”
“Oh, all of the above, Star Colonel,” the assistant answered promptly. “We have estimated that between ten and fifteen BattleMechs—or OmniMechs, if the machinery was properly programmed and updated—could be produced each month, plus another ten Aerospace Fighters, ten combat vehicles, a hundred suits of Battle Armor, and tons of ordnance or replacement radars, radios, sensor arrays . . . it is a discovery that dwarfs all others. The limit on production is actually the Assembly area—that section is not fully automated and would require a sizeable number of Technicians and Laborers and Scientists working on an assembly line to complete a number of combat units. And, of course, the internal skeletal structures and armor would have to be shipped in from another location.”
“That many . . .” Nikolai’s voice trailed off. “How did, in theory, the Widowmakers get this to the surface?”
The assistant opened his mouth, but the Chief slapped him on the back of his head. “We discovered another tunnel in the Assembly Chamber that slopes up to a hidden entrance fifteen kilometers away. There is a smaller underground fortification there which provided a means of protecting that entrance, and the tunnel was sealed. Of course, we discovered the perimeter fort when this section of Roche was given to our Clan, Star Colonel—the tunnel came as a more recent surprise.”
“Very well. On my own authority, I want this facility prepared to be handed over to the control of the Khan, who will determine whether or not it is to be brought back online. That means, I will need complete schematics and a concise report that details the potential of this facility.”
“Absolutely not, Star Colonel!” The Chief Archivist barked. “This is a historical dig site, not one of your warmongering factories! What can be learned here is priceless—absolutely priceless. This site will teach us of the earliest history of the Clans, and what we learn here will influence us forever more. Weapons will only serve for the transient present, Star Colonel. Knowledge is eternal.”
Nikolai glared at the civilian. “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it, Chief Archivist. You have seen my orders from Khan Kirov placing me in command of the Temple. For the last time, Chief Archivist will you refuse this order?"
“I will fight such an abomination with all of my strength, Star Colonel!”
Nikolai's boot flashed out in snap-kick, and the Chief Archivist grunted as took one, two, and then a third step backwards. That third step however was into the entire air of the Spider’s Pit and the civilians screams rang out as he fell. His assistants and aides rushed to the edge, but he had already vanished into the dark with only his piercing wail as evidence—until it suddenly cut off with the echo of a dull thud.
Nikolai turned to the assistant. “Now, Chief Archivist, on my own authority, I want this facility prepared to be handed over to the control of the Khan, who will determine whether or not it is to be brought back online. Or will history repeat itself yet again?"
The new Chief Archivist looked down the yawning shaft of the Pipe, and he shuddered, but then he turned back to Nikolai. “It will be ready before your departure, Star Colonel.”
“Excellent, Chief Archivist. And install some safety rails here, or better yet, cap that shaft. It is clearly a safety hazard.”
Scorpion Trial Grounds
Roche, Clan Homeworlds
June 26, 3030
Angela Tazegul glared at Nikolai, ignoring the Clan’s saKhan who stood between them. Nikolai gave her smile and brief bow. “Loremaster, it is good to see that you have recovered your strength,” he said.
“I will kill you today, Djerassi,” she hissed.
“You are welcome to try, Loremaster. Need I remind you that over the last four years you have fought no Trials, except for your annual qualifications. I, on the other hand, have fought seven against Scorpion Warriors and four versus other Clans, outside of my qualifications testing, and I won them all, Loremaster. Today, you will remember why a Scorpion Warrior is the deadliest creature in all of creation, Loremaster.” Nikolai’s smile broadened to a grin. “And not the Scorpion bureaucrats.”
David Ben-Shimon cleared his throat. “Enough of this bickering, Warriors of the Scorpion. It is beneath you both. Angela Tazegul, Loremaster of the Goliath Scorpions; you have demanded a Trial of Refusal and Grievance against Nikolai Djerassi, who has accepted your bid. As is his right, he has chosen augmented combat. Star Colonel Djerassi, your Grizzly awaits you. Loremaster Tazegul, your Gargoyle likewise stands by. Have either of you any final words to say before you are escorted to you chosen vehicles?”
Both remained silent, and the saKhan nodded. “Then go. And let the Scorpion grant victory to he whose cause is favored in this Trial.”
The VTOL dropped Nikolai off beside his powered down Grizzly. He quickly climbed the rope ladder to the cockpit and hauled himself onboard, buckling the safety straps and powering up the 70-ton war machine where it stood. The dim red emergency lighting brightened as the fusion plant came to life, but the veteran warrior waited until his screens had stabilized. He ran through a hurried checklist, and when all systems had been confirmed as green, he retracted the ladder and lowered, then sealed, his cockpit.
He walked the Grizzly forward and examined the harsh and broken terrain closely. The Scorpion Trial Grounds encompassed nearly nine hundred square kilometers of waste lands, filled with steep-sided rocky gullies and treacherous shifting sands. Buttes and mesas reached towards the sky, but a few specks of green revealed precious water. Underground perhaps, but the trees and brushes didn’t lie about such things.
His master display showed a map image of the 30 kilometer by 30 kilometer box, divided into nine grid squares 10 kilometers to the side. Somewhere out there, in the Wastes, was Angela Tazegul. But before he could kill, first he had to find her. Many Clans of Kerensky considered it odd that the Scorpions would conduct such a Trial on an open field; the Jaguars especially preferred to land, deploy into a line, and then open fire on their chosen. But for the Goliath Scorpions, the hunt was as much part and parcel of the Trial as the kill.
Nikolai made certain his restraining harness was tight, and then moved the throttle forward, and the Grizzly began to eat up terrain.
The blazing heat of day had turned into a cold, bitter chill shortly after Roche’s golden sun dipped beneath the horizon. Nikolai's Grizzly stood motionless, almost powered down, the radars and active sensors off-line. Only his passive thermal sensors were sweeping the wastes from his perch against a massive obsidian boulder that still radiated the heat of the day.
The sensors beeped and Nikolai zoomed in. There you are, Loremaster, he thought with a tired grin as he made out the form of her Gargoyle moving across the landscape, her arms ready to fire, twisting left and right in search of Nikolai.
Nikolai carefully backed the heavy BattleMech up, never bringing his power plant above 10%, and then he dropped to the shelter of the rocks below. Bringing his engines and weapons fully on-line, he moved around the butte and into the narrow crevice of a shallow canyon. If the maps were right, this route should bring him out behind her.
Nikolai waited, and he could hear the thump, thump, thump of his opponents Gargoyle as it drew closer and closer to him. Sand and dirt and small debris rained down on his Grizzly from above as her foot impacts shook the very earth. And then she was past him. Nikolai turned his power back to full, and the stepped down upon the jump jet controls; the Grizzly soared out of the canyon on four blazing jets of fire, twisting around until Tazegul’s Gargoyle was centered in his targeting sights. The reticule turned green as the computer locked onto her back, but Tazegul had spotted him and was twisting wildly in an attempt to spoil Nikolai’s aim.
But the veteran Star Colonel anticipated her moves and he slowly squeezed first one trigger, and then the second and he pushed the throttle to the stops charging forward towards her.
With a shrill whine, the right arm Gauss Rifle spat an iridescent penetrator that connected solidly against her left rear armor, and it crashed through. Meanwhile the static electricity of a PPC buildup ionized the atmosphere in the cockpit, and then a blazing azure bolt tore through the night sky, removing the armor on the center torso’s rear—and Nikolai smiled as Tazegul’s OmniMech suddenly increased in temperature. He had caught the engine shielding with that blast.
He pressed down his thumb on the firing stud and four ER Small Lasers spat green lancelets of light that spattered off her right arm, right left, and right torso—but the fourth shot went home in the gaping hole the Gauss Rifle had gouged in the left torso. Her targeting computer blinked yellow as his combat computer estimated the damage. Good enough, Nikolai, thought.
But Angela Tazegul was no mere bandit—she was a Loremaster of Clan Goliath Scorpion. Fighting to keep her feet under the withering fire Nikolai had laid into her, she twisted around shot a ruby beam that hammered into his chest, followed by a series of cyan bolts, that raced along his arm. But Nikolai’s armor held.
He stood on the jump jet pedals again and the Grizzly flew past the Loremaster’s OmniMech, even as he spun around to stay in her rear; this time he didn’t wait for a computer lock, but squeezed first one and then the second trigger as he felt the shot line up. Another PPC bolt lit the night sky, and it tore through her (mostly) intact right torso rear armor, and then the crash of the Gauss Rifle as the slug broke through the sound barrier slammed into her center torso rear—and Angela Tazegul fell forward to land on the rim of the ravine. The ground began to crumble, and then slide, and her Gargoyle toppled the twenty meters to the bottom of the narrow ravine.
Nikolai froze as he heard Angela cry out in terror, and he fired his own jets again landing on the floor of the ravine. Her Gargoyle lay broken on the ground, one of its legs snapped in two (the weakest point of that design) and her cockpit was shattered open. But black shapes were moving on the floor of the ravine, and small arms fire lit her cockpit.
The Scorpion Warrior activated his floodlights, and he drew in a deep breath as he saw the mass of juvenile Goliath Scorpions leaving their nests in the walls and swarming over the downed OmniMech. In the flash of the laser light from within that broken cockpit, he could see stings dashing forward, and claws ripping away flesh.
Nikolai heard the rustling of claws on armor outside his own cockpit and he turned to look an adult Goliath Scorpion directly into its golden eyes. But the Scorpion didn’t strike at Nikolai; it met the Warriors gaze and then it turned back to the fallen Loremaster, who still wailed, and it flicked it's sting forward. Nikolai activated his targeting computer, and he trained his ER PPC on Tazegul’s cockpit. Then he pulled the trigger and ended her agony.
Last edited by masterarminas on 2012-06-16 11:40pm, edited 1 time in total.