Excerps from the contract:
'Nominal opposition is 3 AA emplacements'
'Full cost of transport is covered by the employer'
'Allow the dropship to land unopposed' (prime objective)
'Support the crew to retrieve all available ore'
'Failure to aquire the prime objective against nominal defense will void transport coverage'
'[Mission is aborted when] mine (entrance) is destroyed' (abort clausule 5a)
Altair mining district, febuari 3016: When two dogs fight
The directional radio worked. Squeeking and full of white noise, but it worked. Radiation outside was still safe for human activity, but general radio activity... Even long range radar was fuzzy. They needed to hurry though, the 18th Dieron Regulars were already in system, and when they arrived lance level raids would be suicide, even with a communication blanket like the current solar storm.
David was a bit nervous about the mission: clearly captain Hansen could have gone herself, with the second wolverine, the Phoenix-Hawk, and the Trebuchet. It would have fitted in the Leopard and would have been a better force: especially because the Wolverines and PHawks comm systems were known to handle radiation well. But she sent him and his last mission had been a failure. He hoped that Blake would smile on this mission. A Trebuchet, a Spider, and two untested Flankers, he hoped it would be enough.
Cato chaved at their speed. Only 80 kliks. He could do 110. Just a quick recon ahead. But that would brake radio contact and the captain would roast him over a low fire, or worse, sent him back home. Earth was boring. Training, waiting and the endless talk about being the good guys. He did not want to be a good guy, he wanted to be infamous. Only 80 kliks - but wait, did he see something on his radar?
David switched his weapons online as he saw the mining buildings: all 4 of them, and 3 being AA bunkers. This planet was raided so often that they often stored mined material underground, to stop raiders just breaking open the sheds and walking of. No problem, he just had to take out the bunkers and allow the second dropship, a Mule with some extra infantry and loadermechs, to land and raid, while the Leopard kept guard and would pick them up when the Mule was almost full. Good. this mission would go according to...
"2 blips, vector-9 3 kliks, vector-1 4 kliks", Cato called and David felt his stomach wrench.
"Give me an ETA", he ordered Cato, "Peter, get in long range and destroy those AA emplacements." At least he had the advantage of having an LRM mech versus AA AC/5 emplacements: they would be taken out with only the slimmest chance on return damage. It would deplete the Rocky's magazines, but they had expected little resistance otherwise.
Time passed while the barage of the Trebuchet pounded the emplacements to bits. They returned fire, but the Rocky moved enough that near-misses where the best they got. Cato used the order as an excuse to run up a small hill to get the best possible view; both forces moved slowly, only 50-60 kph, so by the time the Rocky took out the last emplacement, they were not yet in weapon range, yet their equipment could be guested:
"Dave, first has heavy and light mech and vehicle lance. No camo, they're purple", Cato reported ignoring ranks, "second 2 mediums and vehicle lance, but feels like a Cap color scheme."
"Purple?" Peter asked, "the only guys and girls I know who do that are Silicon, Davion heavy mercs, really tough guys."
Galil had been watching and waiting, keeping an eye on the other approaches and air vectors. Two incoming units, possibly both non-kuritan - Galil suddenly smelled a rat: if they failed the prime objective then the unit was liable for the full cost of the mission, and those other units were no defenders. The Free Worlds League was trying to indenture them. He tried to remember escapes - luckily the captain had been afraid of Kuritan suicide missions. He switched to their private channel.
"Rocky, have you've got any missile left?", Galil asked.
"Yes, one salvo for each of my launchers", Peter replied.
"Lieutenant, we've got to use clause 5a, and block the mine entrance", Galil told David, "Cato and I will delay those purple guys."
As the Trebuchet and Spider made for the mine entrance, the two Flankers turned towards the nearest opposition, moving at flank speed. Their battle computers had been upgraded with some of the current designs, but could only identify the heavy as a Thunderbolt and two of the vehicles as Strikers. They split up and moved around their opponents, taking long range shots with their large lasers. The Silicon unit, however, refused to take the bait and stayed together, returning occasional lrm fire. They had to slow down though, to protect the vulnerable rears of the two mechs. The light mech turned out to be a Javelin, which worried Galil little, but the vehicles were a Striker, Striker-L, a Swift-Wind and a von-Luckner, which each were dangerous, through speed, range, or damage potential.
David recalled both Flankers as he moved his lance away from the mine entrance. Being caught in the middle was not an error he would be making. He ordered cadet Ronson to keep his remaining salvo for emergencies and told corporals Barasda and Elajeh to make pounces and to lure the two other groups against eachother.
As expected the fighting took the stilted and spasmodic look of a three way lock. The Capellan group consisted of a Blackjack and an Enforcer, supported by a Vedette, twin Striker-Ls, and a Packrat, but an early mistake by advancing to quick allowed the Spider and Flankers to destroy one of the Strikers and severely damaging the Packrat. With the Silicon Thunderbolt and vonLuckner being the slowest units on the field, David made certain that they were in the middle. He was sure that if Silicon retreated he could handle the Cappellans, as their Blackjack clearly had sensor problems from a stray lrm hit, and the Enforcer was very vulnerable to any quick mech.
The Silicon units got damaged, but they fought on, carefully positioning themselves so that vulnerable spots were covered or pointed away. Then a chance shot of the Thunderbolt penetrated L-magazine of the Trebuchet, containing his last salvo. Although the explosion did not destroy his mech, Peter was wounded and the centre torso heavily damaged.
"Aborting", David called as he remotely detonated the carefully placed missiles, blowing up the mine entrance. He switched frequencies and informed the dropships that an explosion had occured at the mine entrance, blocking it, and that he would break off towards the backup pickup zone.
Trebuchet and Spider started their retreat, but Galil asked Cato to cover for him, as he paused to pick up the Rocky's blown-off arm. 'Spare parts are rare', the captain had said.