"Valhalla Calling" - A Story of the Concertverse Inner Sphere

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"Valhalla Calling" - A Story of the Concertverse Inner Sphere

Post by Steve »

This is from the same alternate continuity introduced in "Emergence", set 92 years before the formation of the Looking Glass. It takes place at the onset of the Terran War, this timeline's rough counterpart to the Clan Invasion, and stars a character created by a friend of mine who goes by the SN of Oshay (and written with his permission and blessing).


It is not going to be a long story, I anticipate just 2 more updates, but I figured I'd get this opening bit out for your enjoyment.




"Valhalla Calling" - A Story of the Concertverse Inner Sphere

Sails a swaying on the crimson rivers
Blood and glory in the fighting fields
Shields a' shatter into splintered timbers
Iron and steel

Fires are rising and the bells are ringing
Glory take us into Odin's halls
Golden glimmer and the sound of singing
Asgard's call


— "Valhalla Calling", 21st Century work by artist "Miracle of Sound", Terra



ShieldHall of the FolksArme
Bolsun, Faeroe Continent
Nox
Free Communal Republic of Rasalhague
10 October 3050



The gentle darkness of dreamless sleep broke from the sound. The tone was not the expected one of the alarm clock, warning that it was time to awaken, but the thrumming thunder of artillery shells pounding the ground above finally rousing a sleeping mind from their rest.

Rising from the cot in his makeshift office, Karl "One-Eye" Sleipson felt his usual morning sensations. They consisted of a stiff back, a dull ache in his forehead, and an itch in his missing eye that no rubbing would ever rid him of. His hands fumbled briefly until the right hand found the eyepatch that would spare him some of the itch. He sat up and fixed the patch in place, wrapping the elastic band attached to it around the long locks of light gray hair that hung in disheveled lengths around his head. The instinct for sleep yet lingered in his brain, stronger now with all of the years of life behind him, but he brushed that aside. His eye went to the clock on the wall and a fearsome growl came from his throat. An hour more. Damn that boy, he presumes too much!

The door to the office opened. His personal adjutant, Löjtnant Gregory Lundsen, entered. The welcome sight of a mug of steaming coffee would yet be insufficient to clear his sin of letting One-Eye sleep in, but it had won the young native of Altenmarkt a reprieve. "Gothi, I apologize for letting you sleep in, but no news had yet come and—"

"Stop." One-Eye snarled the word and brought Lundsen's plea to an end. "I am not an old man to be coddled." He smirked. "Though I admit I am old." Too old, I sometimes feel. He took the drink and guzzled half of it down, as if it were not one of the last mugs of the substance he would ever enjoy. The caffeine would do its work, but the mere smell of it, the memories it inspired, brought him to an early wakefulness. "What news do we have?"

Whatever cheer his young adjutant showed faded. "The 4th Helstrom Brigade's attack was repulsed with heavy losses. The Terran lines around Bolsun remain intact."

"I see. And the 21st Landgruppe?"

"Broken and scattering into the countryside. The survivors of the 1st Einherjar and those companies of the 21st that came to us are the only ones left." Lundsen swallowed. "I'm sorry, Gothi. We have failed Rasalhague. We have failed you."

One-Eye frowned and glared at the young officer. Lundsen flinched at the intensity of it. "Death and defeat are a part of war, Löjtnant. Our warriors fought with courage, and that still matters. What of Generalmajors Chase and Gunnarson? Dead, are they?"

"By reports, yes."

"They were brave men. They now feast with their warriors in the halls of Valhalla." That thought brought a grim smile to the old mercenary. "And they do not feast alone. What word have we received from the faxes?"

Lundsen consulted his data tablet. "Resistance on Skye and Tikonov has collapsed. Atreus has fallen, Tematagi and Arcadia struggle. First Prince Ian leads the Davion Guards in continued resistance on New Avalon, but he has lost most of the capital city and was forced to abandon Mount Davion. Director Masako is confirmed alive and still commanding the defenses of Galedon…"

The litany continued, full of besieged or raided Successor State capitals. Names of rulers and leaders passed through One-Eye's ears, a collection of warriors he respected and politicians he barely tolerated. Yet the news, regardless of the grim situation on Nox, was pleasing.

Despite their successes in battle, the Terrans had yet to secure any submissions beyond the outmatched Hindu Collective and the pacifists of Andurien. Even House Arano bitterly resisted the Terran ravaging of Coromadir. You expected less of us, didn't you, Director-General Kerensky? he pondered, letting the caffeine continue to bring his tired, beleaguered brain to full wakefulness. We neo-barbarians of the Inner Sphere weren't supposed to resist you. We were supposed to turn on one another, to accept Terra's domination if it meant our boots got to stomp on our foes. After all, we were but wolves beyond the borders, snapping and biting at each other for territory. You forgot that wolves are prideful beasts and do not submit to the collar and leash so easily… bah. I am getting whimsical in my dotage. "What of Rasalhague?" he asked bluntly.

Lundsen showed a small smile, full of pride despite everything. "Still standing. Överbefälhavare Keurig reports that General Miraborg's forces hold Reykjavik despite repeated enemy offensives and significant casualties, and he is still in contact with other forces across the Communal Republic maintaining resistance. Överste Magnusson is being singled out for defeating the last Terran advance on the capital."

"Ah." One-Eye smiled grimly. His old friend and long-time commander in chief, Hans Keurig, would be a crafty foe for the Terran invaders in their effort to subjugate the Communal Republic. General Miraborg was a tough and stubborn old Gunzberger, one of the few KungsArme senior officers One-Eye singled out for promotion in the unified FolksArme; he would outlast the Terrans if anything else.

As for that last item… whatever one thought of his father, Ragnar Magnusson was a brave officer and leader of men. One-Eye saw a bright future for their nation if Överste Magnusson remained alive to lead it. Then that leaves me, and my role in this epic. He chuckled to himself. I knew this was coming the moment the Terrans jumped in-system. Very well. It is time for the final verse.

"Leave the reports with me. Tell Överste Hardy I wish to see her immediately, and to have all our surviving pilots prepare to sortie." Over their heads another artillery barrage maintained a drumbeat of vibrations. The ShieldHall's subterranean levels were well-built and reinforced from these attacks even if the building itself was undoubtedly a pile of rubble by now.

"Yes, Gothi, sir." Lundsen stood. "Right away. And I'll make sure the Techs have everything ready."

Given how short they must be on parts and supplies — and sleep! — it will be quite impressive if they accomplish that feat. One-Eye gave his adjutant a final nod and saw the young man rush off. His eye went back to the tablet while he took another drink of his coffee, words and phrases forming in his mind.




Calm finality was long-settled on One-Eye's spirit when he arrived in the large 'Mech bay that serviced the ShieldHall. Ordinarily it was large enough to fit over a regiment. Now half of the stalls instead hosted armored vehicles brought in for secure repair. He stopped counting the stalls with 'Mechs still visible at the fifty mark. Each stall, whatever was in them, was being worked over by Techs in the service jumpsuit of the FolksArme. Each had a sidearm holstered, as if they might have to fight as well. It would not win anything but their deaths, though. Even conventional infantry forces had better armament. The Terrans, undoubtedly aware of their crippling manpower limitations, issued every single infantry soldier they fielded in battle with power armor suits. They lacked mounted weaponry and had barely a fifth the defensive potential of most regular battle armor suits, but carrying adapted crew-served weapons as personal armament, they now reaped heavily from Nox's defending infantry forces, save those in battle armor. They have sought every advantage they could claim in trying to subjugate us again. But it will not be enough!

The surviving MechWarriors of the 1st Einherjar and 21st Landgruppe were assembled towards the middle of the bay, giving the overworked Techs the room they needed. One-Eye tromped up to them before clambering on top of a pallet of armor plating. They turned to him and saluted. He nodded, smiling, at the fire in their eyes before saluting them in return. For weeks they'd seen the deaths of their fellow warriors. They'd lost friends, rivals, and lovers to the Terrans' quantity of superior weaponry and machines. But the spirit within them was not quenched. They were fighting for their nation and their kin.

He'd considered his planned words well, it seemed. There were none needed to stoke the fire, only to give it direction, and the brutal honesty to inspire every man to take his place in the epic of Rasalhague.

"Warriors of Free Rasalhague, we now see how the Norns carved our fates." One-Eye's voice boomed through the bay, and even some of the Techs stopped what they were doing to pay attention. "We will not live to see another sunrise. So let us seize that fate! For our people, for our way of life, for Rasalhague, we will show these 'Terrans' what real 'barbarian' rage looks like! My last order to you, my Einherjar, is to fight with every breath you have left! When next we meet, it will be at the feasts awaiting us in Valhalla!"

The result were several cheers or hoots of agreement, with most heads nodding. Grim, determined eyes met the Gothi's. He'd only declared what they already felt, given their situation.

He had more to say. "If you worry that we are going to blunder into death like a pack of rabid Kuritan dogs, settle your hearts. The enemy will think us berserkers, but we are out to do more than simply kill invaders. We will strike a blow for our people that will aid the defense of Rasalhague. Our target is General Showers and his command staff!"

Vicious smiles were the reply.

"The command officers of the Terrans' 22nd Brigade have moved up toward the front, undoubtedly to oversee their final lunge at our base. They are within striking range. Your Kaptens and Majors have your assignments for the coming battle. Whether you join the central strike or fight on the flank, know this. You are forging your place in the Epic of Rasalhague. So long as there is a Rasalhague, the skalds will sing of this day! All MechWarriors, fall out, and mount your machines!"

After a final roar and cheer, they obeyed. In the end, only three other figures remained with One-Eye as he clambered down from his place. They were his handpicked few, the warriors who would fight directly at his side. The youngest of them, Löjtnant Sigurd Minamoto, was a son of Mannedorf. He had Japanese ancestry, Kuritan ancestry many whispered, but his heart and soul was for Rasalhague, and he'd been a top cadet at Holmgang on Tukayyid with several victories in the invasion with his Höggspjót heavy 'Mech.

Beside him was Kapten Yvonne Stralsund; short, stocky, built tough as a woman of Vipaava and its higher gravity. She was the veteran pilot of a Rasalhaguan-built Viking assault 'Mech. It was a bruiser of a machine, relying upon friendly support fire and intentional heating to trigger the triple strength myomer that would let it run faster and deliver crushing blows with the axe in the right hand.

Overseeing them was Major Jan Haclev. A brilliant field commander and pilot during the War of Rasalhaguan Reunification and the Oberon War, Haclev served as chief aide to One-Eye. Once the pilot of a Battlemaster that made its way into the ranks of the old NordArme, he currently enjoyed one of the handful of Jarl 'Mechs in the unit. It was a hundred ton OmniMech configured with twin Gauss Rifles and, for foes who drew too close, six medium-caliber pulse lasers. A stub jutted out from the pod space in the head module, reflecting the extended range small laser that would provide an extra sting in close quarters.

Haclev saluted once more, out of respect, prompting the others to do the same. Not a one of the group said anything, they didn't need to say anything. They were as ready as anyone else and they were going to follow One-Eye into the deaths he'd promised.

With pride One-Eye returned the salute. "Mount your machines. I will be in mine shortly." They walked on while One-Eye awaited for the approach of Överste Claudia Hardy. The dark-haired Arcturan commanded the Einherjar regiment proper and despite her rank was present in cooling vest, undershirt, and shorts, the traditional BDUs of a MechWarrior. She would be joining the warriors of the Einherjar in their final battle, leaving the minutiae of command in the HQ to her chief of staff and other aides. "All is ready?" he asked her.

"We will only get a few salvos before enemy counter-battery fire hits us," Hardy replied. "But I have assurances from Major Hendriksson and the others that the guns will keep firing until they are out of ammunition or destroyed. Any surviving gun crew will take up arms and report for duty as infantry."

"If they cannot, they should disperse and form the cells the Republic will need to support our eventual liberation," One-Eye said, his voice brimming with absolute faith in that prospect.

"I will pass that on," Hardy assured him. She gave him a final salute before walking towards her machine, another of the Jarls, this one sporting a pair of Mjolnir Class 2 PPCs on one arm and a pair of Rasalhague Arsenal autocannons on the other. It stood out among the others for the laser mounted to each hip, the only potential pod space available for them.

With all other business attended to, One-Eye completed his own final journey. His Stalker's battle damage was repaired. The STK-3Q was a unique variant built right here on Nox. The "arms", nothing more than extensions of the torso with no elbow or hand actuators, carried Odin's Eye SRM launchers with streak technology for preserving ammunition. They were the short range punch of the 'Mech, complementing the pair of Mjolnir Class 1 PPCs built into the torso frame. These were old model PPCs, lacking the range or hitting power of the Class 2s and 3s, but still quite respectable punchers in a fight. Lastly, in the housing below the cockpit of the colossal machine, a pair of M2 extended range lasers from Rasalhague Arsenal Co-Operative rounded out offensive firepower, while above the cockpit a single chaingun mount held a RACO CIWS weapon, an anti-missile gun for downing incoming enemy volleys.

There were bigger 'Mechs that he might have taken, but One-Eye knew this machine. It'd been rebuilt from the Stalker he piloted in the years of chaos before the Second Age of War, when most of the Inner Sphere was a collection of independent star systems under warlords, pirates, oligarchies, communes, and all sorts of combinations of the above. He'd fought on many of those systems in his mercenary days, staying one step ahead of enemy 'Mechs and Terran creditors alike, until he'd found the fulfillment of his ideals with the founding of the Rasalhague Commune on Nox and its later merger with the Principality of Rasalhague.

And now here, at the end, his enemies had finally caught up with him. He would make them regret it.

He took the bay lift up to the hatch and entered the cockpit area. The faint smell of smoke still wafted here, courtesy of the fire fight a few days before where they'd stamped down a Terran probing strike. The Techs had everything in working order at least. He went through the usual startup procedure by rote instinct, from throwing the lever to put the fusion plant into ready mode to the final checks. The neurohelmet was an older model that restricted shoulder movement. That weight felt strangely appropriate, a sensation stretching back through the many years and battles of his life to this moment.

His alphanumeric checkphrase was nothing fancy like some pilots, it was meant to be a security password after all, and it brought the Stalker to life. The feminine voice universal to such machines spoke. "Reactor online. Sensors online. Weapons online. All systems nominal." "Bitching Betty" was the common term he'd heard for the voice, but he preferred the simple title of "shieldmaiden". It was a better fit in his mind.

Other 'Mechs were already in motion towards the 'Mech bay doors. The tunnel beyond would take them to the surface of ravaged Bolsun, where so many of his people were fighting and dying against the sheer power the Terrans had brought to bear. They could not win this battle. He could not. But they could lose well, and even in defeat, light the way for the peoples of Rasalhague to win the final triumph and assert their independence against the grasping tyranny of Terra.

"Come, my old friend," he murmured quietly to his Stalker. "Our last battle awaits."
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

DONALD J. TRUMP IS A SEDITIOUS TRAITOR AND MUST BE IMPEACHED
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Re: "Valhalla Calling" - A Story of the Concertverse Inner Sphere

Post by LadyTevar »

"The knight came home from the quest/ Muddled and sore he came
Battered of shield and crest/ Bannerless bruised and maim
In fighting we take no shame/ Better is man for a fall
Merrily borne the bugle horn/ Answered the warder's call
And here is my lance to mend
And here is my horse to be shot
Ah, yes they were strong, and the fight was long,
But I paid as good as I got
Yea I paid as good as I got!

Oh dark and deep their van/ that mocked my battle cry!
I could not miss my man/ But I could not carry by
Utterly whelmed was I/ Flung under horse and all
Merrily borne the bugler's horn/ Answered the warder's call

My wounds are noised abroad/ but theirs my foemen cloaked/
You see my broken sword/ but n'er the blades she broke!
Paying them stroke for stroke/ Good bargaining overall!
Merrily borne the bugler's horn/Answered the warder's call

My shame you count and know/ you say my quest is vain
But you have not seen my foe/ ye have not seen his slain
Surely he fights again, again/ But when you prove his line
There will come to your aid my broken blade/ In this last, lost fight of mine!
And here is my lance to mend
And here is my horse to be shot
Ah, yes they were strong, and the fight was long,
But I gave as good as I got,
Yea I gave as good as I got!"

Rudyard Kipling "The Quest", as put to music by Michael Longcor
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Nitram, slightly high on cough syrup: Do you know you're beautiful?
Me: Nope, that's why I have you around to tell me.
Nitram: You -are- beautiful. Anyone tries to tell you otherwise kill them.

"A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP" -- Leonard Nimoy, last Tweet
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Re: "Valhalla Calling" - A Story of the Concertverse Inner Sphere

Post by Steve »

In the off-chance you've never heard of the song that inspired the title (and is quoted), this will hopefully tide you over... and get you in the mood for the story post tonight.

”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

DONALD J. TRUMP IS A SEDITIOUS TRAITOR AND MUST BE IMPEACHED
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Steve
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Re: "Valhalla Calling" - A Story of the Concertverse Inner Sphere

Post by Steve »

"Oh ho oh
The echoes of eternity
Oh ho oh
Valhalla calling me
Oh ho oh
To pluck the strings of destiny
Oh ho oh
Valhalla calling me
Valhalla calling me"


— "Valhalla Calling", 21st Century work by artist "Miracle of Sound", Terra


The weeks of deadly battle had long made a ruin of One-Eye's beloved capital. The people of Bolsun were gone, either serving in the militia dying by the droves each day or evacuated into the countryside and some safety from the Terran forces raging against those who defied their will. Even with all the devastation he'd seen in his earlier life, to see Bolsun reduced to this filled him with a quiet, cold rage. He wished to tear the throat out of Director-General Kerensky and her cruel ambition. But that is not to be my fate. It will fall to one of my peers to deliver the death blow to Kerensky. And Odin's halls will ring with my laughter when the deed is done.

The Einherjar moved as swiftly as their machines allowed once on the surface. In the lead, Major Bergman led the company of light 'Mechs and light battle armor serving as scout-killers to disorientate the enemy once contact was confirmed. Tracer and laser fire marked the night sky from the Partisan tanks raking the skies for any Terran VTOLs or aircraft attempting bombing runs. One such craft braved the fire and delivered a bomb into a half-ruined structure two blocks over. The blast vibrated through One-Eye's 'Mech, leaving behind a whole ruin in its wake. This is truly our final day. The Terrans would have us surrounded and helpless if we do not strike now. Certainly they know this too, and anticipate it. I will not disappoint them on that count.

Distant flashes of PPC fire told him Bergman's light 'Mechs were engaged. Only the new, hardy Wolf 'Mechs remained from the brutal attrition of the last month of battle, proving themselves once again. Using the imaging on the Stalker, and incoming feeds, One-Eye observed the lithe humanoid machines jumping and rushing about, their shoulder-mounted heavy PPCs engaging a group of Terran Stingers and Javelins. The tonnage difference was not so great an advantage since the Terran machines, using lighter XL engines and superior Terran ferro-fibrous armor, were quite well-armed and equipped for scouts. The latter machines frequently sent SRMs corkscrewing through the air, dealing damage and ruin to Bolsun when they weren't blasting armor from Bergman's machines or damaging the Churl-equipped armored infantry supporting Bergman with swarm attacks and massed machine gun fire. He felt a surge of pride as one of his pilots, ignoring damage from a massed SRM volley, fired a heavy PPC shot that blew the head off one of the Javelins.

"Viking One to Speaker One." Hardy's voice crackled over the radio. "Recon teams through the lines confirm enemy movement. They know we're out in force and they're coming."

"A chance to finish the siege of Bolsun today and meet their deadline to their Director-General," One-Eye thought aloud. He opened the command laser link web connecting him to all the subordinate commands. "All artillery batteries, stand-by!"

Ahead of his position, the 22nd Landgruppe's armored and infantry battalions advanced to meet the enemy first. They were joined by their Einherjar counterparts and the scattered kampfgruppe that One-Eye's commanders had formed from the detritus of a dozen shattered regiments. These brave tankers and infantry knew their lives were likely to end shortly but, like the MechWarriors, they did not flinch. Joining them were a lance of medium 'Mechs from the 22nd Landgruppe, old designs hastily repaired for this final battle.

The enemy came on, and true to their nature, had no intention of a straight fight. Even as the Terran 'Mechs and vehicles rumbled through the ruins and along the damaged avenues of Bolsun, sensors confirmed the incoming artillery barrage. One-Eye put his Stalker in motion with the rest of the heavier 'Mechs of the Einherjar. The tactical sensors projected landing points for incoming rounds, the red circles so thick on his holotank he had to carefully maneuver to fit between them. The projections proved off as yellow color splashed over his display, reflecting the outermost layer of armor along the left side of the Stalker had been stripped by the submunitions of a nearby shell.

The barrage made rubble of half-broken buildings. Clouds of pulverized ferro-crete and other debris mushroomed out from the collapsing structures. None all were empty. Vehicles were being buried, if they'd survived the direct hits, and battle armor infantry likewise left amongst the debris. Their suffering was only surpassed by the non-armored infantry teams caught in the blasts. Artillery was the great killer of infantry here as anywhere else. The valkyries will have their fill today. He looked skyward as if he might yet see the Choosers of the Slain. He wondered which, if any, would be the one to decide on his worthiness when the end came.

The killing hadn't ended, indeed had only just begun. With their artillery shattering the Rasalhaguan vanguard, the Terran forces moved forward to engage and reap the benefits. One-Eye pulled the right joystick of his controls to move the crosshairs over a Kintaro in the deep blue, white, and black of the 22nd Royal Brigade. His sensors confirmed the range was too great for a missile lock and that a PPC shot would be unlikely to penetrate the 'Mech's armor even if he hit. He fired one shot anyway and watched it demolish the building beside the advancing Kintaro. SRMs erupted from its launchers and detonated along the hull of a damaged Manticore. The armor held against most of the hits, but one of the missiles broke through and blasted apart the tread, crippling the machine.

The crew didn't evacuate. Their PPC flashed to life and scourged armor from the approaching 'Mech, and every weapon aboard kept firing until the Terran pilot speared the turret with a sapphire laser beam. Missile ammunition within cooked under the heat of the laser. The tank blew apart in a fiery explosion. The burning wreckage made for a fitting funeral pyre for the crew entombed within.

His eye focused from the sight towards the holotank's wider tactical projection. The losses in the front ranks were growing. Exhausted Rasalhaguan forces died before the enemy advance. Yet the foe didn't push as hard as they might have. They suspect something, but not what. But it is too late. He keyed the command links again. "Fire Command, commence fire missions now."

Behind the lines, the better part of a battalion of Long Tom and Arrow IV-mounted vehicles came out of the battered bunkers and ruined structures they'd been hidden in. The Einherjar artillery gunners swiftly finalized their firing calculations before opening up on the Terran lines. TAG lasers flared to life among the various surviving infantry, drawing the Arrow IV missiles in for direct hits on the largest of the enemy 'Mechs. The Kintaro One-Eye had fired upon took a direct hit. The explosion that resulted was quickly followed by a second, larger one from the 'Mech's SRM stores, blasting the machine and the pilot into broken ruin. Heavy munitions landed among the Terran lines. Anti-infantry munitions reaped as greatly from their armored infantry as theirs had from the brave Rasalhaguan troops in the vanguard while the heavier munitions flipped tanks and knocked over BattleMechs. Those machines that took direct hits rarely survived the experience and were doomed regardless in their wrecked states.

One-Eye keyed his comms to the open link for all the Rasalhaguan forces. "Forward my Einherjar! For Rasalhague!" He broke the Stalker into a run and then pushed it into a sprint, sending status indicators for his machine's myomer bundles to their upper limits. At this speed shooting was impossible and the slightest misstep might tip him over, but it was a risk worth taking. The artillery bombardment wouldn't last forever, but following it through, they could breach the 22nd's front lines and engage their command unit.

Haclev's speed matched his and required the same sprinting posture, but the power of her Viking's 400-rated XL engine allowed Stralsund to move past at a regular running gait, Minamoto's Höggspjót running along beside her. The Viking's speed picked up steadily, going past the usual for its power plant with the aid of the MASC system installed into the machine's musculature. Stralsund's left arm rose and a lance of cerulean lightning erupted from the barrel on it. The shot grazed the leg of one of the Terran 'Mechs ahead. The machine turned and revealed itself to be an Archer. Its missile launcher covers flipped open a moment before it fired. Stralsund's skill with the Viking allowed her to evade the incoming fire, causing over half the salvo to miss or hit ineffectually against the armored skin of her charging 'Mech. Though she wasn't in melee range, her right arm raised momentarily to brandish the powerful hatchet clutched in the hand actuator, embodying the spirit of its name.

The Höggspjót's PPC fired next, at extreme effective range for the heavy weapon. Minamoto's aim was slightly off, but it did force the Archer pilot to step into cover, buying them precious seconds while another LRM volley, this time from their side, peppered the enemy machine's position.

Another series of ferocious explosions went off in the combat zone. The surviving Einherjar artillery's second barrage was underway, creeping just ahead of their advancing units to keep the Terrans from recovering. One-Eye's focus on his sprinting gait was such that he initially failed to recognize the contrails of Terran artillery missiles flying overhead. It was not until their mid-flight detection was confirmed over his commlinks that he registered their existence. Yet the battle called him forward and he had no spare focus to think on what it meant.

Not until the radio crackled with the cries of his dying soldiers. Major Hendriksson's voice cut through it. "Fire Command here. Four guns lost. We are resuming fire mission."

Another group of Arrow IV missiles were already streaking overhead. Fewer diverted to specific targets this time, representing the unavoidable loss of the targeting spotters to enemy fire. They hit their pre-programmed saturation targets instead to add to the mayhem of the barrage. Others struck home. Terran war machines suffered and died, furthering the disintegration of their lines.

An icon on his HUD brought One-Eye into a slower, running gait. He tracked a Terran Thunderbolt bristling with laser emplacements and missiles. It's right arm was gone, torn away by a direct Arrow IV hit that gutted the right side of the machine, but while smoke poured liberally from the damaged engine, the Terran pilot kept the machine upright and turning towards him. One-Eye's fingers tensed on his triggers. Twin spears of cerulean energy shot out and tore into the Thunderbolt. One scourged armor from the mostly-intact left side, but thanks to his integrated targeting computer, the other found the compromised armor over the engine and shattered it completely. The heat sensors moved up towards orange at the stroke of his other thumb triggers. The Terran pilot turned enough to cover their damaged side, causing the twin emerald beams of the Stalker's medium lasers to melt down, but not pierce, the solid armor along the left side and hip.

A four-shot missile launcher spat SRMs at him in grim defiance. The chaingun over the cockpit tracked and fired. Given the range, none of the missiles survived the barrage. The enemy pilot followed with the arm-mounted pulse laser. It spat blue sapphire towards the Stalker, stitching wounds across the assault machine's right side before the final darts of light struck open air, while two torso-mounted lasers struck out and sliced armor from the extended "arm" covering his SRMs. With a calm, steady hand One-Eye settled the crosshairs over the Thunderbolt. The Stalker's targeting computer confirmed a hardlock immediately. The moment the tone reached his ears, he triggered one of his Mjolnir PPCs. The bolt struck dead-on, scourging armor in molten, blackened chunks from the enemy machine's hide.

It also had the effect he'd hoped for. The wounded machine's uneven body, the impacts of his weapons, the loss of tons of armor, it was too much. The pilot couldn't keep the Thunderbolt upright. They desperately tried to roll onto their exposed side but the battered building they tipped over into held them in place. A quick twitch of his joystick brought One-Eye's crosshair onto the blackened metal of the Thunderbolt's open right flank. He pulled the trigger again, risking the heat buildup of his PPCs and lasers in tandem to ensure he got the engine. Plasma briefly surged from the wound before the Terran 'Mech's power signature vanished from his screens. It was down.

Twenty seconds. That was all it'd taken for what was less a battle and more an execution.

He pushed the Stalker into another sprint, rushing past where Stralsund was digging her hatchet out of a shattered Terran Wolverine. A Black Knight nearby, half-broken with damage, put a single ineffectual laser into Stralsund before Haclev's Gauss Rifles smashed its chest open with two pinpoint shots. He almost slowed to finish the Terran off, but Minamoto got there first. His heavy PPC, every bit as lethal as a Terran extended range model, tore the Black Knight's entire head module off in a single blast.

A glance at his holotank, with what attention he could spare, told One-Eye the story was repeating across the battlespace. The Terrans hadn't expected an artillery barrage and their forces weren't ready for its brutal power on their lines. Now the Einherjar punished them for that hubris.

The layout of ruins and roadways forced One-Eye to slow to a running gait so he could maneuver through the debris. He looked into the shell of one broken building and noted with quiet fury the detritus of what was once a playground. Now all that was left was a carousel bearing two broken Churl suits and a Terran Black Watch-suited soldier sprawled over the splintered pole of a swing set. The North Bolsun Primary School, he realized upon seeing the broken remains of a sign along the ruined wall nearest him. His mind flashed back just three months ago, a mere week before the HPG network suddenly went dark and heralded the Terran onslaught. He'd visited this school. He'd spoken with the happy young children, basked in their admiration and pride as he encouraged them as his fellow Rasalhaguans.

I knew the Terrans would do something, but I hadn't yet realized the scope of Director-General Kerensky's ambitions. Now my capital is in ruins. My people suffer the deprivations of war and Rasalhague is threatened with oppression once more. If those children are to have a future as something more than Terran thralls, we must win this war. Gods above, I am not a praying mind, but I only ask, let me strike the blow to see my people to safety. I will die content.

Another exchange of artillery fire sounded overhead, joined by the familiar thunder of aerospace fighters. Tracer fire lit up the sky at them before explosions flowered in and around the Rasalhaguan forces. One Terran fighter, one of their new Boyars, appeared on his holotank on a clear attack run. He lifted the Stalker's nose and fired off his PPCs, knowing they would miss, and for a brief moment he wondered if the Terrans might just kill him now.

Explosions from submunitions flowered over the broad-winged craft. A refitted Partisan tank coming up from behind, using LB-type autocannons, sprayed the air with cluster rounds. The Boyar banked away and broke off. A PPC bolt erupted from the ground and struck the craft square in the belly. The armor evidently held but the pilot seemed suitably dissuaded, breaking off.

More cries echoed over the commlink. A new female voice spoke, her voice rough and accented. "Kapten Zuk here. Major Hendriksson is dead, I am now Fire Command. We've lost two thirds of our guns and all our Arrow IV launchers. Resuming fire mission."

One-Eye nodded to himself at that news. I will see you in Odin's halls, Major Hendriksson.

Their course brought them up to the Haakon Nystrom Memorial Highway. All but a couple of the overpass spans were broken and collapsed. His Stalker's feet stomped over and through the shattered concrete that remained of the road. One-Eye remembered the name that honored the broken road, the rebel who'd led Nox's militia to victory over the Draconis Combine during House Kurita's collapse in the 2840s. Nystrom gave his life for a free Nox and the possibility of a free Rasalhague. Now more of our blood spills to preserve that victory.

The Northern Bolsun Community Gardens and Park lay beyond. Some of the trees and other spaces remained alive. Burnt patches marked where war machines had scourged the land with their fury or their deaths. The shattered husk of a Viper VTOL in Landgruppe colors showed on his magscan spectrum.

The magscan also confirmed the presence of nearby vehicles. Most were an assortment of military transport vehicles, with an extended Field HQ flanked by soldiers in Terran power armor suits. Battle armor troopers surged ahead, with Terran-made Demolisher and Manticore tanks in quick-pour ferrocrete positions. An assortment of 'Mechs stood in various points in the park, including a mixed company of heavy and assault 'Mechs. He recognized the Terrans' new, deadly variants to the Orion, Thug, and Highlander.

And looming over them all, standing tall amidst the park, was a new Terran Atlas II, with the larger upper piece to the head, like a protective helmet and crown, and sharper, more angular lines than the regulars. It was a machine of domination and power marked in the colors of the 22nd Royal Brigade.

Immediately One-Eye recognized that he wasn't the only one doing something unexpected. He felt it in his bones and switched to IR. A handful of heat signatures were present in the Field HQ, true, but not nearly enough.

"Attention Gothi Sleipson of the Rasalhague Communal Republic." A baritone voice boomed over his speaker, courtesy of a broadband transmission. "This is General Leo Showers, 22nd Royal BattleMech Brigade. In the name of First Lord Natasha Kerensky of the Star League, I offer you a final chance to save the lives of your surviving soldiers and surrender. You missed your chance to join her as a Council Lord, but you'll get to live."

Potential answers filled One-Eye's mind. He could mock the offer. He could spit out the hate in his heart for the Terrans and their presumption, their arrogance, their attitude that only they mattered and the rest of the Inner Sphere existed to serve their needs. He could scream the defiance burning coldly in his heart.

No, not just defiance, contempt. Life ends. One way or another, a man dies, and only his legacy endures. To be remembered as a puppet of Terra would be a fate worse than death. He snorted, dismissing the idea of responding with any of this. It would be wasted breath.

One-Eye settled his crosshairs on the only 'Mech Showers could be in. "You wish my surrender? Allow me to give you an appropriately Terran response." An instant later he pulled his triggers.

Guided by the targeting hardware integrated into his Stalker, the two PPCs blazed to life. Twin bolts of cerulean lightning converged on the Atlas II… and struck it directly in the head module. Leo Showers died in an instant as the entire head module blew apart, leaving nothing but a hollow skull of burnt metal as the terrifying machine crumbled to the grass below.

As the park erupted into light and fury, One-Eye smiled grimly at his handiwork and pushed the Stalker into a run. One of the best shots in my career. The Gods smile on me today. His cockpit screamed multiple warnings at missile hardlocks and armor loss as several particle bolts, autocannon shells, and gauss slugs impacted the Stalker and the territory around it. His damage displays lit up crimson and orange. The enemy had focused their rage on him and the damage he was suffering reflected that.

The rest of his troops were all opening up as well. Their volume of fire matched the Terrans, even if their gear did not allow the same accuracy, contributing to the conflagration consuming the park. Missed shots set aflame the greenery and sent wisps of steam from the lakes and streams. The wreckage of war machines gutted by internal explosions added to the devastation.

He eye-clicked his command link to the fire support channel. The Stalker shuddered from another gauss slug impact, a direct hit that barely failed to penetrate the armor over his left hip actuator. "This is Speaker One to Fire Command. Target grid square—" he double-checked his display for the right sequence "—Six-Six-Echo-Three. Fire everything you have left."

"Fire Command here. Adjusting fire." There was an audible strain in Kapten Zuk's voice. Most of the battalion was likely already lost to the Terran air support and counter-battery fire. "We are firing now. All guns—" Her voice was drowned out by the sonic boom of an aerospace craft passing overhead. A moment later an involuntary cry of surprise and pain echoed through the link before the transmission cut completely.

After a few moments, another voice spoke, this one male and older than Zuk. "Sergeant Fredericks speaking. Fire Command is gone. Individual batteries resuming fire mission."

One-Eye turned the Stalker and tracked on the first enemy 'Mech he found. The Orion's LRM launcher spewed missiles at him directly. The AMS chaingun opened up, shooting down several if the incoming projectiles before the rest chipped armor and mass from his 'Mech. Bolts of sapphire light leapt from the muzzles on the weapon's arms and chewed armor from his machine. He leveled the crosshairs and fired, his PPCs coming to life once more and delivering solid hits on the Orion's chest. The SRMs did not fire from a failure to achieve a hardlock at this expanded range. He finished his turn, his torso tracking as he did, to close the distance on the Orion.

A Thug stepped up beside it. Two PPC bolts of greater intensity than his lashed out. One-Eye was quick enough that one merely grazed against his surviving armor, but the other bit deep into the right hip. The Stalker stuttered under him. A red warning covered the right leg of his 'Mech's status display. He didn't need to read the text to know his hip actuator had just been melted to slag. He fought to keep the 'Mech's balance while the system auto-corrected for the frozen limb. Through it all he kept his crosshairs on the Orion and was rewarded by the ping of his SRM Streak systems confirming hardlock even at the greater range. He stroked his triggers. Fire gouted from either side of his Stalker as twenty-four SRMs erupted from their launchers. They raced swiftly across the intervening meters before nearly half the salvo slammed home on the Orion.

Just as it staggered from the hits, a gauss slug slammed into its chest and broke through into the guts. The Orion wobbled and tilted over onto its side, felled by the failure of the gyro. One-Eye pulled the crosshairs over the downed machine's head module and triggered his freshly-recharged PPCs. One shot was off enough that it blasted chunks of blackened, broken armor from the Orion's chest, but the second struck home on the head module, shearing off all the armor protecting it. One-Eye's fingers tensed on his laser triggers and sent two emerald beams into the exposed head, slicing through the cockpit.

He half expected to see the Thug's PPCs strike him again, but it had its own problems. Stralsund had closed toward melee range, her Viking's MASC accelerating her to nearly a hundred kph even at a standard run. The PPCs on her machine fired in tandem, the snub-nosed weapons flaying armor from the Thug's limbs while the extended range weapon tore into its side. The Thug pilot fell back and retorted with his own weapons. As the PPC bolts and SRMs stripped armor from the advancing Viking, One-Eye's weapons locked onto the Thug. He triggered his missiles. One of the launchers failed to confirm the hardlock, but the others sent missiles spiraling through the air and into the Thug just as another PPC bolt from the Viking tore into its leg. The machine staggered, though it remained upright, and stopped its backward movement. One-Eye turned away as Stralsund's axe came down on the Thug and cleaved through its upraised left arm.

A series of explosions snaked across the battlefield. The artillery barrage of handful of remaining Einherjar gunners brought havoc to the combat zone. A successful penetration detonated a Demolisher before its double heavy autocannons could finish off a damaged Einherjar 'Mech. One of Hardy's lancemates fell over, half their 'Mech demolished, the same blast smashing to pieces the Terran 'Mech they'd grappled with a moment before. A blast from behind sprayed cluster munitions through the rear armor of the Thug, gutting the machine almost entirely.

One-Eye's hobbled 'Mech did not escape. A nearby shell hit shook him in his seat, followed immediately by a much stronger blast that rocked him in the command couch. It took every erg of his will to keep his machine standing despite the leg damage. The entire left side of his machine was marked with red and black. Ammo explosion. Engine damage severe. Targeting computer down. He bit down on his lip and felt a familiar, yet fresh ache in his ribs. Command couches could never be sufficiently padded against the sheer violence a MechWarrior could experience in the confines of his cockpit. Broken rib? Or just bruised. Pain means I am still alive. But not for long.

He scanned the battlefield and found the Terran Highlander he'd noted before. The pilot's missile launchers fired into Stralsund's Viking even as it turned to face the Highlander. Repeated missile strikes blew off chunks of armor from the horned humanoid machine. At first it seemed none had successfully penetrated, but a crackle of electrical wiring showed through a wound in the armor. The myomer circuitry, he realized, while by instinct his crosshairs settled on the Highlander. He hit his triggers and felt the heat spike in his 'Mech. Wailing alarms told him he was in danger of provoking another ammunition detonation, all while SRMs spiraled through the air in the wake of a PPC bolt and twin laser beams. The lasers played across the legs of the Highlander while it rose in the air on plumes of fusion plasma. Stralsund's PPCs fired after it as well, but none managed a penetrating hit for all the damage they did. The Terran pilot brought their right arm around in mid-air. A ripple of compressed air and the faint light of an intense magnetic field formed at the muzzle. One-Eye expected a mid-air shot like that to miss or barely hit.

The gauss slug smashed into the head of the Viking. Stralsund had no time to say anything, not even to cry out, before her life ended.

The Gods do not favor me alone, it seems. One-Eye waited for the Highlander pilot to land before daring another shot. His launchers confirmed a hardlock and fired, as did his lasers, though he held back the PPC for the moment given his battered machine's heat levels. The Highlander endured the hits without flinching.

He expected Stralsund's killer to face him next, but he tracked another target and fired, a full salvo of long and short range missiles followed by lasers and another gauss slug. The barrage caught Haclev's Jarl in the flank while it focused its multiple pulse lasers on a Terran Manticore tank. The attack failed to save the tank, but even with a laser miss the barrage was sufficient to tear one of the Jarl's arms off. Haclev turned and fired the surviving gauss weapon on his opposite arm. The shot was good, the slug tearing into the Highlander's SRM launcher and wrecking it. One-Eye added a PPC shot, judging his heat just low enough to take the risk. The meter went orange and shrieked warnings while the bolt scourged armor from the Highlander's right arm.

Icons flashed on One-Eye's holotank. A series of heat signatures thundered in from above, low and swift. He twisted the torso of his 'Mech just in time to catch the bomb blast on his intact rear armor instead of what tattered remnants remained of the Stalker's left side. His damage display flashed black, showing most of his rear armor plates were no longer intact.

Haclev's Jarl suffered worse. Trails of SRMs descended from above, joined by a series of tracer rounds from an autocannon burst. The hits peeled away armor from the chest and belly of the hundred ton 'Mech. For a moment that seemed the entirety of Haclev's damage, but a second sonic boom followed and a tremendous blast erupted across the front of the Jarl. It was blown onto its back, black oily smoke from burning coolant billowing from a great chest wound.

The Highlander pilot acted ruthlessly. Even as One-Eye's fingers stroked his triggers, firing a barrage of his SRMs and pulse lasers, the arm-mounted rifle fired a new slug into the Jarl's wrecked chest. The slug slammed through what was left of his gyro and brought Haclev's machine down. One-Eye's shots tore the offending weapon free, too late to preserve Haclev. The motionless machine allowed the Terran pilot and their deadly aim to hit the cockpit with three pulse laser shots.

Yet again the Highlander tracked away from One-Eye, as if seeking to insult him as unworthy. His target proved to be Minamoto. The young lad's Höggspjót stood tall over a newly-fallen Grasshopper in Terran colors, bearing some scars of battle but without any major damage. "Speaker Four, your left flank!" One-Eye called while keeping his targeting crosshairs on the Highlander. The moment his indicators went green he fired again. Even without his targeting computer the fire was effective, emerald light carving molten ruin over the Highlander's hip as SRMs crashed home on it. The machine's LRM launcher fired on the Höggspjót, along with its large-caliber pulse laser. Minamoto took the pulse laser hit on his left arm while the missiles rained down around him, chipping armor away. His right arm came over send a solid PPC bolt into the Highlander, tearing through the left arm's elbow. One-Eye's fingers likewise tensed on the trigger again. The SRM launchers weren't ready, but the lasers left a deep wound on the Highlander's rear. I will die today, Terran, but so will you.

The Stalker shook furiously as autocannon shells tore through the tattered remnants of its rear armor. The 'Mech's alarms blared gyro failure warnings and no amount of concentration could keep the assault machine standing, not with its right leg locked up. The Stalker toppled over onto its heavier, intact right side, exposing the wounded side and ensuring a clean shot would remove him from the battle. One-Eye's holotank shifted to portray the digital image of a Terran Thunderbolt behind him, its arm-mounted autocannon pointed his way.

So I am defeated. A wolf with a ravaged flank, a broken leg, a lost eye, and half my teeth missing. A ferocious snarl formed on his face, turning quickly into a grin. But I still have some teeth. He leveled the crosshairs on the Highlander's back and gave the triggers one last squeeze.

To his surprise the SRM launchers fired, managing a hardlock despite his prone state. Three of the missiles plowed into the burning grass, but the remaining nine flew on. His surviving PPC lashed molten armor and metal from the Highlander's exposed rear. Spurts of burning coolant rushed from the wound with oily black smoke, his lasers carving the wounds open further. The remaining SRMs struck home in quick, repeated plumes of flame and broken metal. He was certain at least two got into the Highlander's guts and struck the engine, given the way the machine shuddered and stopped.

The last SRM was not the last explosion. It hit home and drew forth a colossal fireball that enveloped the left side of the Highlander, gutting half of the machine's chest from the detonation of its LRM stores. Fusion plasma briefly surged from within before the assault 'Mech toppled forward, dead upon the land, the final confirmed kill of Karl "One-Eye" Sleipson's life.

Beyond, he saw Minamoto's Höggspjót looming over the broken foe. The humanoid 'Mech's right arm came up and emerald light stuttered in darts against a target beyond One-Eye's immediate vision.

More weapons fire struck into the fallen Stalker. This time the burst of autocannon shells found their mark. The Stalker's displays died with a final blaring warning of power loss and engine failure. Only a battery-powered digital display and comm-link remained for One-Eye.

Yet the machine seemed to briefly lift off the ground as a violent roar filled his ears and rocked him about. Even without instruments, he intuitively understood what had happened. The Thunderbolt's shots had penetrated across the entirety of his rear and left side into his damaged right section, finding his remaining SRM magazine. The explosion rocked him in his command couch, sending fresh pain through his old body. A sharp pain filled his head from the violence with which he was thrown about, though the neurohelmet protected him from the worst of it. Ribs broken this time. I am certain. He drew in a pained breath and tried to focus his eyes. The sky above, lit with laser light, and particle bolt, and flaming contrail, and red-hot tracer, had a cruel yet familiar beauty. As if the shapes they formed were not just a chaotic pattern, but the outline of a figure, with outstretched arms. The thought came to his bloodied lips. "Chooser of the Slain."

Then it was gone, replaced by the underside of a massive metal foot coming straight down for him.

One-Eye laughed.
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

DONALD J. TRUMP IS A SEDITIOUS TRAITOR AND MUST BE IMPEACHED
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Steve
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Re: "Valhalla Calling" - A Story of the Concertverse Inner Sphere

Post by Steve »

My thanks to Oshay and CptOrsai for their contributions.
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

DONALD J. TRUMP IS A SEDITIOUS TRAITOR AND MUST BE IMPEACHED
User avatar
Steve
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Posts: 9671
Joined: 2002-07-03 01:09pm
Location: Florida USA
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Re: "Valhalla Calling" - A Story of the Concertverse Inner Sphere

Post by Steve »

My thanks to LadyTevar for the inspiration to use the Kipling quote.


3rd Stanza, Final Verse


My wounds are noised abroad/ but theirs my foemen cloaked/
You see my broken sword/ but n'er the blades she broke!
Paying them stroke for stroke/ Good bargaining overall!
Merrily borne the bugler's horn/Answered the warder's call

My shame you count and know/ you say my quest is vain
But you have not seen my foe/ ye have not seen his slain
Surely he fights again, again/ But when you prove his line
There will come to your aid my broken blade/ In this last, lost fight of mine!


Rudyard Kipling "The Quest", 19th Century, Terra, as put to music by Michael Longcor, 21st Century, Terra


Northern Bolsun Community Gardens and Park
Bolsun, Faeroe Continent
Nox
Free Communal Republic of Rasalhague
(Formerly Terran Administrative Occupation Sector 12-10)
14 August 3055



The battle-scarred park was an oasis of quiet in the city of Bolsun. Compared to the tumult of marching troops, rumbling vehicles, stomping 'Mechs, and the ever-present whipping of helicopter rotor blades, the footfalls of even an assault-weight BattleMech were sweet silence. Chirping birds and the rustling of leaves on surviving trees provided the only accompaniment to this.

As peaceful as it sounded, the park was filled with the ruined husks of war. Broken remains of BattleMechs and tanks and VTOLs remained scattered, and even after all these years. Some of the points of grass and shrubbery had yet to grow back from being burnt down to the root. The Terran occupiers had devoted their energies to other priorities once they'd seen to their own wounded and dead and, whether out of unintentional oversight or intentional spite, forbade the resources or permissions for the citizenry to reclaim their park space.

Two towering humanoid machines stomped through the park towards their final destination. It took a few minutes to confirm the scouts' description and identification, but magscans quickly confirmed the remnants of a shattered Stalker tipped onto its right side, its conical cockpit crushed.

The lead machine was a Jarl, much like a couple of the broken remains about the park. Blackened armor plate and primer showed it had all too recently seen battle. The towering machine bore the crest of unified Rasalhague upon an intact plate of armor on the chest, the wolf's head and draconic snake's head back-to-back on a Nordic Sun Cross. It had an urban combat color scheme that matched the faded remnants of color on the shattered hulks about it. The 'Mech knelt down upon one knee as if to pay homage to the Stalker.

A couple minutes later, the hatch at the side of the head module swung open. A long rope ladder descended the remaining eight or so meters to the ground, allowing the MechWarrior within to dismount the Jarl. The dark-haired man wore the latest MechWarrior BDUs, a full cooling suit of knee and elbow-length material with internal fitted sensors and coolant lines, colored in the dark blue of the Rasalhaguan FolksArme. He had a short beard of dark hair matching that on his head and a general Eurasian ancestry, with a hint of East Asian parentage in the shape of his eyes. A scar line ran across his right cheek right by the eye, marking him as another warrior touched by the war that had come yet again to Nox. The insignia on his collar matched that on his 'Mech. It was not to identify him as a MechWarrior of Rasalhague in general but to reflect his rank as the highest military authority in the Communal Republic.

Gothi Ragnar Magnusson looked up at the broken machine of his predecessor. After five years of warfare, five years of desperate struggle, he was finally here to give his respects. One-Eye had not been an easy man to live with, but whatever else he was, he'd been a true son of Rasalhague and his defiance against the odds an inspiration to the people of Rasalhague in their moment of greatest trial. If he had surrendered, had he not fought to the bloody end, would we have held Reykjavik? Had he not wiped out the upper echelons of the Terrans' 22nd Royals, would they have turned the tide against us in the struggle for our capital? He knew historians would eternally debate the answer, citing statistics, logistical constraints, and all sorts of minutiae, but in his heart, he knew the answer.

The sound of footfalls on grass prompted Ragnar to turn his body and head. Beside his Jarl, a Terran-made Highlander of jet black sat crouched amongst the ruins. Its pilot now approached with a poise akin to a cat. That he heard Masako Honda at all was because the Director of the Galedon Co-Prosperity Sphere allowed it. She fit the popular image to a "T", a woman of primarily East Asian blood, lithe, graceful, and by his own experience, utterly deadly. She'd aged fairly well besides the crow's feet at the corners of her eyes.

It was not age but war that had truly left its mark upon her. The right side of her face was a massive clump of scar tissue, giving her a perpetual snarl with how it curled the tip of her mouth and lips, and an artificial blue eye shined just off the color of her other natural eye. Her dark hair only covered the top and left side of her head; the right third of the scalp now a mass of old burns and scar tissue. The remaining hair had grayed at the fringes from the force of time and the stress of the greatest interstellar war in two hundred years.

The Terrans have left their mark on both of us. His mind flashed back once again to those desperate days five years ago. The Terrans struck everywhere. Their fleet seemed insurmountable, their armies unstoppable. Every capital attacked, most invaded, some completely overrun. The HPGs were down, removed by ComStar's treachery, and only the thin network of black boxes and JumpShip captains kept everyone appraised of one another. Yet we resisted. The Terrans tried to turn us against one another. They thought it would work. But we remained true to those we had little means to speak with and so much distrust for. Now we push them back, meter by bloody meter, planet by blood-soaked planet. But it came so close. If not for your stand, and all of those who fell as you did… He stopped that thought. With the tide finally turning, with old enemies uniting to face the Terrans together, he didn't want to imagine that other terrible outcome that could have been.

Masako's eyes barely seemed to note him. They focused on the broken ruins of One-Eye's Stalker. She grinned. "So here he is. He did not survive that."

Ragnar shook his head quietly. "No. He would have never let himself survive their captivity, had he fallen into it."

"I always thought the rumors of his surviving a prisoner were ludicrous. The Terrans would have placed him before one of their show trials. One-Eye's history was bloody enough it might have even had some truth to it."

"It was." Ragnar thought back over twenty years to some of One-Eye's brutal choices and those of his subordinates that he took responsibility for. The bombardment of Pesht, the slaughter of the McAllister Shogunate survivors that fled to Irian, the burning of the Rengo diplomats on Paracale. "He never pretended to be anything other than a bloody old Viking."

"But practical. Practicality cloaked in wolf fur. That is why I respected him." She breathed a short sigh and bowed her head once to the broken Stalker. "Celebrate wherever you are, you old wolf. You will be seeing Kerensky soon enough."

The snarling grin that formed on her lips almost sent a chill through Ragnar, but he grinned in despite of that. The Dragon Lady of Galedon pays homage to the Wolf of Rasalhague. One-Eye would chuckle if he were here. Ragnar pulled his perscomp from the pouch on his suit and brought it to his lips. "This is Gothi Magnusson to the ShieldHall. Is everything ready?"

"Yes, Gothi," replied one of his subordinates. "Major Keurig wishes to see you, by the way. He just got back from the camps. He says it's urgent."

Ragnar nodded. "I'll be there shortly. Alert Major Keurig that I want burial details out to the Northern Bolsun Community Gardens immediately. We have loyal children of Rasalhague who remain unburied."

"Will do, sir."




The old ShieldHall was as much a ruin as anything else on the planet. The underground 'Mech bay had only a few operational stalls that the Terrans hadn't wrecked before surrendering and the only reason the command center was operational was the persistence of the technicians in jury-rigging new connections, replacing broken holo-projectors and vidscreens, and bringing in generators to power everything. Ragnar observed with satisfaction the combined efforts of Techs in the uniformed jumpsuits not just of Rasalhague and Galedon but Sudeten and Hartshill as well, representing the four armies that had seen to the liberation of One-Eye's old capital.

Masako was busy taking updates on the wider campaign. Ragnar overheard the confirmation of victory on Tok Do by Galedonian and Azami forces and the success of the Arcadian-Donegalian and Sudetener forces on Buckminster. The Terrans' entire "12th Administrative Occupation Oversector" was collapsing in the vice there, just as the other Successor States were driving them out of the old Marik Commonwealth and the Isle of Skye. At this rate, Skye and Tikonov will be liberated by the end of next year. Then we can begin a descent upon the Terran Union itself. He didn't let himself add "If our armies are intact enough to do it" as his father might have lamented. The Terrans will not be given a second chance. Our people will not have suffered and died just to give our foes another shot at domination in the future.

The door opened. As he'd expected, Major Olaf Keurig entered, well-trimmed beard and short-cut hair of golden blond, the spitting image of his father Överbefälhavare Hans Keurig. He nodded and grinned at Ragnar before saluting. A man of mostly East Asian ancestry stepped in beside him and saluted as well. The newcomer wore a Löjtnant's bar on his FolksArme BDUs. They looked starched and fresh, telling Ragnar they'd just come out of the packaging. Burning emotion shined in the younger officer's eyes. Ragnar would guess he was in his mid-thirties, but quickly amended that to more likely the late twenties, and a former POW. He'd seen that burning gaze before, amongst others freed from Terran cages. This man seemed particularly raw, such that shame and eagerness alike radiated from him. "Gothi Magnusson," Keurig said to introduce him.

"Gothi." The Löjtnant only lowered his hand when Ragnar finished his return salute. "I am Löjtnant Sigurd Minamoto, 1st Einherjar, formerly of Gothi Sleipson's command lance."

Ah, that explains it. No wonder he seems to vibrate with shame. "Löjtnant Minamoto. Welcome back. Rasalhague salutes our loyal brother."

"I should have died with my comrades, my Gothi," Minamoto said. Only great discipline and forbearance were keeping the man from breaking down in tears. "I have lived through my dishonor so I might report the truth of the Gothi's sacrifice for Rasalhague, and how he and my other lancemates died with courage on the field of battle."

Masako's attention was drawn to them. She said nothing, but Ragnar recognized a hint of curiosity at Minamoto. Others in the room were likewise turning towards them, and undoubtedly Minamoto's identity was heard by enough of them that the word would spread once they left the room. With that in mind Ragnar considered what was most important to hear from Minamoto. "Before I ask anything else, Löjtnant, do you know what happened to Gothi Sleipson? I saw the ruins of his 'Mech, but was he alive when it fell?"

"Wounded, but alive. He was crushed by an enemy pilot in a Thunderbolt." Minamoto briefly grinned despite his raw emotion. "But the Terran MechWarrior did not live to boast. I saw to that."

"Good!" That left the other critical question. "Now Löjtnant, to clear the weight on your soul—" Ragnar kept a level gaze on Minamoto "—did you surrender?"

"No!" Minamoto's voice echoed through the room from the heat in it. The answer was no surprise to Ragnar. "I was denied my death when my ammunition was detonated by enemy fire. If not for my machine's cellular ammunition storage I would have been killed, but instead I was knocked unconscious. The enemy took me captive."

Ragnar reached forward and clapped Minamoto's shoulder. "I saw that battlefield. I don't doubt you fought bravely before being incapacitated. Let the shame fall from your shoulders, Löjtnant, feel pride that you served so well in one of our nation's darkest hours."

"I wish to rejoin the Einherjar, Gothi Magnusson," Minamoto said, all raw emotion in his voice. "I beg the honor of continuing to serve. My 'Mech is still out there, the recorder should be intact, you can see how well I fight."

"A man worthy of being One-Eye Sleipson's lancemate will fight again, that I promise. For now, Löjtnant, you will serve our nation best as the eyewitness to Gothi Sleipson's last battle, while you recover from the ordeal of the past five years." Sensing this was not what this man wanted to hear, Ragnar pulled himself closer and took him into a brotherly embrace. "I pledge on my honor that so long as you draw breath you will see the battlefield again, Löjtnant Minamoto. I will have you at my side when the Einherjar land on Terra."

"I will be there, my Gothi," Minamoto replied. "I swear it."

"Good. Now…" Ragnar pulled away. "Director Honda, Major Keurig, I apologize, for I have something to see to. Let me know if anything of importance happens."

Masako nodded wordlessly. Keurig did the same.

"Come, Sigurd Minamoto. I'm sure the Terrans fed you piss and slop in the camp. We have something to put meat on your bones, with the best mead and ale the FolksArme can provide." Ragnar guided Minamoto towards the door. "In fact, I have a keg of old Timbiqui Dark, pre-Marian Conquest, and hearing the story of One-Eye's last battle is the perfect way to drink it!"

After all, Ragnar thought, that is just how old One-Eye would want it told.


End of Verse
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LadyTevar
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Re: "Valhalla Calling" - A Story of the Concertverse Inner Sphere

Post by LadyTevar »

Hail the Warrior. Hail the Hero.

Another Poem, "The Last Hero" stanza 3 and 4, for Gothi One-Eye
The wind blew out from Bergen to the dawning of the day
They ride and race with fifty spears to break and bar my way
I shall not die alone, alone, but kin to all the powers
As merry as the ancient sun, and fighting like the flowers!
How white their steel! How bright their eyes! I love each laughing knave
Cry high and bid him welcome to the banquet of the brave
Yea, I will bless them as they bend, and love them where they lie
When upon their skulls the sword I swing falls shattering from the sky
That hour when death is like a light, and blood is as a rose -
You never loved your friends, my friends, as I will love my foes!

Know you what you shall lose this night, what rich uncounted loans
What heavy gold of tales untold you bury with my bones
My loves in deep dim meadows, my ships that rode at ease
Ruffling the purple plumage of strange and secret seas
To see this fair earth as it stands, to me alone was given
The blow that breaks my brow tonight shall break the dome of heaven
The skies I saw, the trees I saw, after, no eye shall see
Tonight I die the death of God - the stars shall die with me!
One sound shall sunder all the spears, and break the trumpet's breath -
You never laughed in all your life, as I shall laugh in death!
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