Never forget. Never forgive
Call it fate, call it karma, call it dumb luck, call it what you like, but the chances of us getting deployed to Wyatt where minuscule, but that's little comfort, given what happened after we arrived. Ok, I'm getting a little ahead of myself here, let me take you back to the beginning, ten years ago:
Back then, we where one of any number of struggling Mercenary units's stuck on Galatea, unable to afford the sort of fees the new Bonding and Review Commission was asking on Outreach, and belay able to field an entire company of Mech's without one of them being more wishful thinking then armour or weaponry. We had a cool name, The Phantom Legion, but that was about all we had going for us.
Then one day the boss came back, told us there was a high risk/high-pay contract going from the Free Worlds League. It was one of those fabled make-or-brake deals that all aspiring Mercenary's want: the big score that'll put us into the big league, maybe even get us to Outreach, and some of that new re-discovered Tech we'd been reading about in Mercenary Monthly: ER-Lasers, Ultra Autocannons, Double Heat Sinks, all the cool stuff.
To get enough cold hard cash to re-fit the entire company, and finally buyout the rest of the DropShip, all we had to do was take out an electronic plant in the Lyran half of the FedCom. Ok, so like a lot of the guys in the unit, I'm Lyran by birth, but the AFFC kicked my sorry ass out years ago when my unit got busted-up during the original Clan invasion, so I felt no great sense of loyalty to my homeland.
So the deal was done, we'd take the mission, attack a world most of us never even knew existed: Wyatt.
I think you can see where this story in going.
I know that most low-end Mercenary's have a bad rep, are 'known' for doing things that would get a line unit put up against a wall and shot, but The Phantom Legion was different: we wanted to be respectable, wanted to be the sort of unit kids dreamed about, like The Wolf's Dragoons or the Kell Hounds. Hell, we would have settled to be like the Black Thorns if it meant we got good contracts every now and then.
So we loaded up the DropShip and headed out to the JumpShip our employers had provided, and jumped Marcus, our staging area for the mission. I know that the hollow-vidzs like to portray Mercenary's as ether gun-ho psychos like Vinson's Vigilantes, or tactical geniuses like the Gray Death Legion, but for the most part it's just a case of running a few simulator mission, going over the maps, and praying that the Intel was right about enemy numbers.
We managed to sneak in-system by using a pirate point, and got within spitting distance of the planet before the defenders knew we where there. It was a simple plan: land the DropShip a couple click's from the target, run in, smash the place up real good, and scarper before the garrison could respond in force.
I took point, my battered old Wolfhound leading the way, threading a path through the industrial sector until we reached the target. The Captain brought up his Archer and the XO's Warhammer, and they blasted the place to scrap, the rest of us doing what we could to keep the locals away: the last thing we wanted was a rep for putting civilians in danger.
But in this universe, when dose what you want have anything to do with what happens.
We where almost back to the DropShip when the shit hit the fan: someone in the garrison force, it was never discovered who or who, decided to try and drop a building on the CO's Mech.
I know we're mercenaries and all, but most of us had served in line units, and knew the rules of war, and how they sometime get blurred by the fog of war, but you don't drop an apartment building full of civilians on top of someone, not matter who they are, or what they've done!
Ok, so we kind of lost it, and the gloves came off: we opened up with everything we had, doing some major damage to the garrison forces as we high-tailed it back to the DropShip as fast as we could. The captain didn't even wait to close the hatch: as soon as the last Mech was up the ramp and inside, he hit the engine, sending us up at a good 3G's, running like hell from some seriously angry Lyrans.So anyway, we managed to get to Outreach, and low and behold, the FedCom had brought us up on charges, claiming we had breached the Ares Convention. Hell, I can quote the passage by heart: Article V --Urban Warfare Restrictions
No battle shall be waged in an urban area except under extreme circumstances. If the military objective of an assault lies in a city center, attacking troops must ensure that any hostile action taken causes the least possible amount of collateral damage. No attack may be made against any civilian target, for any reason. Civilian targets shall be deemed to include such life-supporting equipment such as water and air purifiers, agricultural assets, or any other item that enables a planet's population to continue their existence.
Well, I can tell you this, we weren't the ones who tried to drop a block of flats on a Mech. Ok, so we where the one's who decided to take a short cut through the neighbourhood, but that was only to avoid fighting in the middle of a major gasworks.
We got luck though: as the prosecutors, the FedCom couldn't sit on the council, leaving it up to the Free World League, the Free Rasalhague Republic and a member of the Northwind Highlanders to decide our fate. We new the Leaguers would back us: they had been the one's who paid for the attack after all. We handed over our gun-camera footage and gave our testimony, telling it like it was. The council decided that we had acted to preserve human life, and that it was the fault of the garrison commander that those people had been killed.
We where rich, ranked well by the Bonding and Review Commission, and our Mech's where re-fitted with the best gear we could afford. We had a few new recruits, allowing us to expand to two whole companies, giving us an edge when it came to contract negotiations.
The next ten years where good to us: we had jobs all over the place, from the Chaos March to the Rim Collection, from the St. Ives Compact to the Combine/Clan border, even a stint on Wolcott. Yes sir, life was good to The Phantom Legion, and I even got promoted to company commander when we expanded to battalion size.
So anyways, after the SLDF kicked Clan Smoke Jaguars teeth in, and the Clan treat was perceived to be over, we suddenly found ourselves too big for small jobs, and to small for big jobs. So the Major came up wit 'The Plan': the battalion would split down to the individual companies, and we'd find our own contracts.
Anyways, I find myself responsible for negotiating a contract. As fate would have it, the FedCom Civil War started, and it started raining contracts for any Mercenary unit willing to take them. Now, my momma didn't raise no fool: I knew that picking sides in the war would only get my company smashed, so I passed on all the combat assignments, and instead to a job garrisoning a world on the Lyran/ Free World League border, going where ever we where needed most.
I don't believe in fate: I like to think I control my own destiny, but when I was told we where being sent to garrison Wyatt, I decided that someone, somewhere, had it in for me. I guess the guys at Lyran high command didn't check our background that far back, or just didn't care.
I decided to scout ahead of the rest of the company, to check out how the local felt: it was a decision that saved my life, but may have cost me my sanity.
Using a set of false paper I had acquired a long time ago on Galatea, I got a hotel room and hired a hover-car, and started checking out the local bars and such, trying to get a feeling for how the local felt. I should have known it was a set up when no one seemed to remember that it was The Phantom Legion who had executed the raid ten years before.
Here's a lessen for you: Lyrans never forget, or forgive.
I found a nice quite place to watch the DropShip land and stretched out on the hood of my rental, enjoying the awe-inspiring site of a Union Class DropShip land. I tell you; it sure defies belief to see something so big come down so slowly.
The instant the DropShip was own and it's engines had died, the entire landing pad exploded, shattering the ship like an egg. Even from ten miles away, I felt the concussion wave. The DropShip's fuel tanks went up in a sympathetic explosion, sending what little remained of the superstructure spinning across the landscape in a fiery display of destructive power.
I wept; I'm not ashamed to admit it. I wept for my lost friends, people I had known for years, people who had come through some of the toughest fighting you could imagine without a scratch, their lives snuffed out in a heart beat. I slid from the hood of my car, fists pounding the ground in frustration.
The sound of footstep brought me back to reality. I looked round, and saw the Lyran officer who had negotiated the contract standing before me, hands in pockets, "Leave" he said, "leave and never come back."
So I left, taking passage on the first JumpShip heading toward Outreach.
The rest of the Legion was shocked to silence when I told them what had happened, even more so when the investigation into the explosion decided that a ruptured underground storage tank coursed it, and that fuel vapour had been ignited by the DropShip's drive, and the resulting explosion had blown a crater 200-meters across. The insurance paid up, and the Mech and DropShip where replaced, but I couldn't return to active duty after what I had seen.
I left the Legion, mustered out with a pension my savings. I found a real dive of a bar in Harlech, and crawled into a bottle, never to come out again.