[Author’s note: This was a story I started back when I was assisting with the secret production of Jihad Secrets: Blake Documents. I had intended for it to be published via Battlecorps shortly after the book’s release, but then completely forgot about it. I rediscovered it during my Wars of Reaving writing, did some tweaking to fit that material, and then promptly forgot about it again. Until about a week ago. I decided I needed more of my stuff on my blog, even if it’s not ‘canon’ to the universe, so here it is.
Evciler, Clan Jade Falcon OZ
12 August 3071
In the time it took the Hellions to sort themselves out, Pryde’s Alpha Galaxy had formed a kilometer-wide circle, intermixed with various Hellion forces previously seen down below in the valley. He had not moved from his perch on the hill; as he scanned his HUD he could see the silent sentinels of his Galaxy surrounding him. A witness to his test of honor.
Or his death.
Brian was not clear on which they preferred.
He glanced at the countdown clock as the last minutes ticked away. He watched the last of the enemy below trickle away, making it clear who his opponent would be.
Brian wasn’t surprised at the Hellion Khan’s temerity, leaving behind a full Star of ProtoMechs. She truly wanted to make his loss as dishonorable as possible. Like stylized demigods of ancient Terra, the twenty-five oversized battle armor – or perhaps micro-sized BattleMechs? – pulled into formation at the bottom of the hill. Montose clearly thought she was being clever by using the smaller machines within the letter of Clan law for Trials, in order to bring down further humiliation upon the Falcons.
“I have given the honor of your defeat to Star Colonel Katya and her Blizzard Star,” crackled Khan Montose’s voice over the com system. “You may, of course, withdraw now from the field with no loss of honor.” Brian could practically hear Raina sneering as she spoke the words.
He shook his head, knowing full well the Khan could not see the motion. “Neg, Khan Montose. I gladly accept your challenge.” He glanced at the countdown clock, noting the last seconds tick away. “The Trial begins…now.”
The Hellions gathered below wasted no time and they surged up the hill towards him, drifting into Points. Calmly, he settled his targeting reticules on three different machines within one Point and gently squeezed his triggers. Pryde welcomed the short, rapid booms of his hyper-assault gauss cannons mounted deep in the Jupiter’s torso and smiled grimly as two Orcs dropped onto their backs, hideous rents belching black smoke. Another Orc tripped over its suddenly-prone comrade, dropping its head into line with Brian’s PPC beam. The headless ProtoMech flopped on top of its Pointmate but he knew it would rise again soon; he had been aiming for the machine’s torso, precisely where the tiny cockpit was located.
While he knew holding the high ground was tactically sound, it would only give him an edge for a few more moments. Once the Hellions crested the hill, they would utilize their superior speed and mobility in an attempt to kill him by pieces. He slipped his multiple crosshairs across his HUD, tapping fire commands with his fingers as they slid over the oncoming targets. Two more ProtoMechs stumbled to the ground, one with a leg amputated at the hip and another catapulting backwards down the hill, a smoking hole blasted through its chestplate. Missiles bloomed from his shoulder mounts, cascading explosive rain down into the mass of Hellion machines, popping delicately-tooled armor and scorching the grassy slope below in a hellish firestorm.
The Hellions reached optimal range halfway through their charge; several missiles clawed up the hillside towards the massive Falcon ‘Mech and crimson beams from lasers scythed across its legs. The explosions from detonating shells and autocannon fire shook the assault machine but failed to dislodge it; with rock-steady deliberation, Brian raised its left arm and cut loose with another PPC blast, eviscerating a Cercerops. It was the last ranged blast he could muster before the first ProtoMech point surged the hillcrest, the lizard-faced Basilisks swarming around him and unleashing their volley together.
Well, seems some of them learned how to cooperate. The Jupiter shook hard enough to force him in breaking his stance. Stepping back, he braced and spun to the left, sweeping a massive arm alongside him to collide with one of the Basilisks in the head, caving in half of the metal skull. Without thinking, he squeezed his triggers again, vaporizing the leg of an oncoming Orc. He barely registered the falling crash of the ProtoMech before turning again to vomit two full salvos of missiles. Two more Basilisks took the brunt of the attack and went down quickly as the Brian moved the Jupiter back a few more steps.
The battle devolved into a stream of consciousness. Without so much as a stop to breathe, the Falcon warrior had the Jupiter dancing along the ridgeline, slamming PPC and HAG fire into his opponents as he twisted and turned. The ProtoMechs tried to flank the assault ‘Mech with their superior speed but to no avail. The Jupiter kept moving in such a delicate martial dance, its weaker rear armor only visible for scant moments, denying all attempts to receive Hellion fire. The ProtoMechs unleashed volley after volley of lasers and missiles at the raging beast among them, the sheer volume of uncoordinated fire soon covering the ‘Mech with smoking pits, laser creases, and ragged gaps.
Within the Jupiter, Brian heard the quiet alarms, the burnt smoke tickling his nose as his eyes flicked with fierce determination from HUD to console to readouts and back again. The heat steadily rose in the cockpit until his skin was slick with sweat, his fingers twitching with purpose and finality as each shot was acquired and dispatched in the blink of an eye.
Gradually he began to notice he was running out of targets. Less than a point of ProtoMechs remained, the survivors more worse for his wear. With almost casual indifference, he dispatched another Basilisk with a PPC blast at near point-blank range, the ‘Mech’s left hand reaching out and grabbing a Roc with metal fingers. The diminutive machine struggled, firing its last missile salvo over the Jupiter’s head as Brian squeezed his hand inside the small sleeve on his command chair. Outside, the massive metal fingers closed into a tightening vice. He watched as a limping Cecerops fled down the hill; bracing the Jupiter‘s legs, he turned the war machine’s torso and unleashed the last shot from his torso-mounted HAG. The hailstorm of high-speed metal slugs screamed from the barrel and slammed into the back of the fleeing ProtoMech. It fell in a tangle of limbs, nearly cut in half from the violence of the shot.
“Khan Montose,” Brian bellowed into his microphone, watching the Roc go limp as the Jupiter’s fist continued to close, “this Trial is over. Clan Jade Falcon claims victory in this matter; release your DropShips to us.” He paused.
“And, as you will recall, you are now my bondsman.”
An incoherent scream of rage and bitterness erupted from the cockpit’s internal speakers.
Typical, thought Pryde, a small smile creasing his face.
The speaker crackled. “Clan Ice Hellion recognizes the victory won by Galaxy Commander Pryde of the Jade Falcons,” Montose responded, her voice flat. “The DropShips are yours.”
“Thank you, Khan.”
“You fought well, Commander. For a solahma Falcon.” He could hear the bitterness dripping from the Khan’s reply.
Brian snorted, turning the Jupiter to stare across the littered ridgeline into the valley below. “And your forces just fought.”
“But I regret to inform you that my duties as Khan interfere with being your bondsman.”
He swung the ‘Mech’s left arm forward, relaxing the left hand and letting momentum take the lifeless Roc forward. The ProtoMech crashed to the ground a short distance away, rolling a quarter of the way down the hill in a tangle of shattered armor and leaking coolant, mixed with bits of pilot. “Why am I not surprised that a Hellion cannot keep an honorable agreement?”
The Ice Hellion Khan spluttered a response but he ignored it, switching to Alpha’s frequency. “Alpha Galaxy, form up and march. Coordinates as previously discussed,” he said, pausing. “The Khan has also broken our well-bargained agreement. They are dezgra for as long as they exist on this planet.
“Therefore, you are free to remove their blight from this land. The end of the Hellion disease poisoning Jade Falcon space begins today.” Brian could not help but smile as he turned the battle-torn Jupiter back towards the Falcon encampment.
He saw the flashing light of an incoming message from Clees. One battle won, another on the horizon. He knew with the victory that he had violated the Khan’s orders.
As Alpha Galaxy moved around him to engage the now-fleeing Hellions, Brian switched the comm line over to the waiting saKhan. “My Khan…”
Samantha cut him off with a chortling, grunting laugh. “Well played, Galaxy Commander. While you have violated the letter of my orders to you, you have retained its spirit.” A brief explosion to his left punctuated the saKhan’s statement. A Falcon Marauder IIc stalked through the smoke and fire, moving away from him and seeking another victim. “You have goaded Montose into breaking faith, giving us an opening to eviscerate her forces in a proper manner in the Way of the Clans, as well as keep this system in our hands.” She paused. “Well done.”
Brian watched as the Alpha’s lone Turkina crossed in front of him, its low-slung HAG cannons belching thunder and fire. Was she praising him?
Her throaty voice continued to fill his ears. “Reclaimed your personal honor and furthered the Falcon’s goals on Evciler, giving us a victory when none could be found?” She chuckled. “You are more than Pershaw says.”
He swallowed hard, still grasping at her compliment. “Thank you, saKhan.”
“Finish removing the vermin, then return. We must plot our next step, and I require your…inventiveness.” She paused. Brian shuffled the battered Jupiter around, following his command as they pursued the retreating Hellions from their encampment.
“We will win this war, Pryde. And I am proud to have such a worthy warrior at my side,” Clees responded after a moment. “Venture forth, and claim the blood and spoils due our Clan.”
“Seylah, my Khan.” Brian snapped the comm line off. The sounds of distant autocannon fire and the thrum of the Jupiter‘s systems enveloped him in comfortable familiarity. He felt himself relax, his fingers idly stroking the triggers underneath his touch. He smiled.
Today, my honor begins anew.