Battletech™: Loser Lance by C.W. Blaine

Battletech™: Loser Lance

By C.W. Blaine (

Disclaimer: This original work of fiction uses situations and ideas not the property of the author, and is used without permission for fan-related entertainment only. No profits are generated from this work. This original work of fiction is ©2001 by C.W. Blaine and may not be reproduced, posted or archived without the express permission of the author.

Sometime during Operation: Serpent…

Colonel Paul Masters, leader of the Knights of the Inner Sphere and conscience of the multi-governmental Task Force Serpent sent to wipe out Clan Smoke Jaguar, looked out at the devastation that had once been a small training base. The bulk of the fighting was done; the Clan was virtually wiped out. Only small, token resistance groups still harassed the troops of the newly reformed Star League. He would be leaving soon to discuss future operations with the task force commander, Prince Victor Davion, and he was enjoying the brief lull in activity.

"Sir Masters?" came the interruption. Paul turned to see another knight approaching. He recognized him as Sir William Lebeau, one of the newer members of the Knights of the Inner Sphere. He was clad in typical MechWarrior attire.

The MechWarrior was the modern knight, the ultimate warrior of the 31st century. They were the masters of the battlefield, and there were many such fields to master. Strapped inside their BattleMechs, several meters above the mundane hand-to-hand combat of war; they were like gods among ants. The Knights represented an order started by Paul's patron, Captain-General Thomas Marik of the Free Worlds League, which wanted to bring chivalry and fair-play back into war. War was going to happen; the idea of peace was simply naïve; and if there was going to be war, then it should be conducted between militaries and not involve civilians.

The Knights were part of this operation to ensure that the Star League forces did not descend in barbarism, as was common in such military ventures. Clan Smoke Jaguar was to be destroyed as a military force, not eliminated in a fit of genocide. In order to get the most benefit from the operation, Paul had seen to it that many of the "greener" MechWarriors were brought along so that they may get some combat experience. "Yes?" he replied to the breathless knight. The man saluted, which Paul returned.

"Sir…report of a Clan binary in Sector 5…two stars of 'Mechs," the knight replied, taking in gasps of air. It was obvious that he had run all the way out to this remote location. Taking in the information, Paul briefly glanced at his battle-scarred Phoenix Hawk standing against the afternoon sun.

The Clans, descendants of the military forces that had left the original Star League for life in unknown space, had centered their basic military structure around units composed of five components, whereas most Inner Sphere militaries and even mercenary groups, base their structures on four components. Where the Inner Sphere used the lance, composed of four BattleMechs, the Clans used stars, which had five BattleMechs or Elementals or any other damned vehicle they could come up with. A binary meant two stars, or roughly, 10 BattleMechs. "Any reports on the composition of the force?"

The other man wiped some sweat from his brow and looked up into the sky. It was a clear day, relatively, and quite unusual for the planet Huntress. Normally, the sky was a shade of gray. It probably wouldn't last long. "No definites, sir; the call was placed by a small scouting party, but we lost contact with them almost immediately. Based upon what we know of Smoke Jaguar forces that were stationed in this area, we believe it may be a training cadre."

Paul nodded and looked again at the remnants of the base. This had been a very small base; obviously used to simulate actual field conditions. The resistance had been very light, which had led Paul to believe, initially, that they were facing students. Huntress, while the home world of Clan Smoke Jaguar, was not defended very well by the standards of the Inner Sphere. In a society where the warrior is the top of the food chain, it was almost ironic that the center of the culture was staffed with what was considered the failures of the military. Solohma units, those composed of warriors too old to fight (35 years old and above!), and training cadres were what had been awaiting the Inner Sphere armies.

While the Clans may have considered middle-aged warriors obsolete, Paul knew better. The battle to take Huntress had been fierce; perhaps the fiercest fighting he had ever been part of. He silently cursed himself for accepting the token resistance offered by the small force his men had encountered. It had been a feint, a sham that allowed the, most likely, instructors to head into the woods where they would regroup and counter-attack.

Sector 5, however, was at the far end of his area of responsibility and Paul had trouble calling up what units he had out there. "Who do we have?"

The other man seemed reluctant to answer, and Paul was afraid he was about to be told that there was nobody in the area, except for the small scout force that had obviously been overrun. This would be disastrous. Certainly, two stars of BattleMechs would not reverse the destiny of the Smoke Jaguars, but it could lead to unnecessary casualties. Worse, if they managed to link up with other roaming Clan units, then a sizable fighting force might be able to be created. "Speak up, good knight; remember, the truth will set you free," Paul said, quoting an old Christian proverb.

"Aye, sir, the truth might well set you off," the knight said. "The only unit in that sector is…" Again there was hesitation, as if speaking the name of the unit would damn the sweating knight to hell.

Paul sighed. "Answer the damn question, Captain!" he snapped.

The knight straightened up with military order and bearing. "Sir, the only unit in the area is Sir Simmons' Black Knights."

Paul's jaw dropped and his eyes widened. "We're doomed."

Merrick Simmons, Knight of the Inner Sphere, wiped his wet brow and slung the sweat to the floor of the cockpit of his Bushwhacker. The 55-ton medium 'Mech was moving at a decent pace, in the lead of the Black Knight's lance. His lance.

He was not the type of MechWarrior one would think to be part of something so high and mighty as the Knights of the Inner Sphere. He had not been a soldier, regular army or mercenary, but instead had trained in the piloting of a BattleMech with the Circus Mechinus, a traveling show of daredevil and stunt MechWarriors. When Thomas Marik had put out the call for those pilots who wanted to be part of something bigger than them, he had answered, much to his own chagrin. Initially, he had been rejected entry into the organization, along with the three other members of his lance, but heavy casualties sustained bringing down a rebellion had gained them spots in the 150 warrior organization.

His lance, however, had no combat experience and had been relegated to every nasty job a 'Mech could be used for; from guarding the extreme rear to protecting the garbage hover trucks. His second-in-command, Dame Lydia Courant, nicknamed Jiggles because of her inability to hold a targeting reticule on an enemy 'Mech (and not because of her ample female attributes as the rumor was), was the daughter of Sylus Courant, owner of one of the largest PPC manufacturing plants in the Inner Sphere. It was because of her that Thomas Marik was able to arm his Knights with the particle projection cannons at very reduced cost.

He checked his status screen and saw that her Hunchback was keeping pace behind him. She and him had once been more than comrades in arms, but those days were long since gone. Now, they were good friends and only occasional lovers. It depended on how far away they were from her husband. "BK2, this is BK1," he said into his helm-mike.

"Go ahead," she replied in her usual lax tone. Because of his position within the Knights, he had to put on the face of someone who could appreciate military discipline. That included proper use of communications. Lydia, on the other hand, knew that she could say just about anything and get away with it, so significant was the discount her father extended to the Free World's League.

"Any sign of Frick and Frack?" he asked, indicating the other two members of his lance.

In response, the mellow voice of Tommy Yasoka came across the comm. channel. "Yo, dude, I'm over here!"

Merrick torso-twisted to the left and then the right and just above the treetops he saw the waving of a Victor. Sir Yasoka was a distant relative of Theodore Kurita, Coordinator of the Draconis Combine, and had been accepted into the Knights as a token to the Combine. A competent pilot, his attitude, considered to be inherited from his Lyran-born mother, was what prevented him from having a promising career in the service of the Dragon, as the Coordinator was often referred to. After two years in the supply corps, he was discharged and had no place to go. Tommy wanted to be a MechWarrior and he was a good one; it was the military he had a real problem with. Because of his place in Draconis society, there was no way he could ever become a mercenary. The Knights of the Inner Sphere offered a happy medium. "Sargent," Merrick said, "keep your eyes peeled over there."

"Yeah, like I'd pilot with my eyes closed," came the response. Suddenly, the Victor stumbled into the path of Merrick and Lydia, walking about as if drunk. The 80-ton 'Mech knocked down trees and stumbled into the forest on the left side of the path. "Damn it, Tommy, open your eyes!" Merrick called.

"I'm here, sir," Corporal Richard Kerensky called, a bit of sarcasm on the last word. Kerensky was a second generation 'Mech inventor. His name, however, being the same as Alexander and Nicholas Kerensky, the founders of the Clans, prevented him from getting work with any 'Mech manufacturers (the invasion of 3050 was still fresh on everyone's minds). A very capable pilot, the only way he could support his wife and ten children was to become a MechWarrior by profession. However, his disdain for combat, killing in particular, did not set well with mercenary units. His age didn't help either. Well past forty, he had finally found a sponsor for inclusion in the Knights.

Technically, he represented the Duchy of Mantacor, the smallest land grant in the Inner Sphere. If not for his excellent technical ability (he could repair any 'Mech, as was evidenced by the Clan Mad Cat he was currently piloting; his Raven had been rendered inoperable during the first engagements on Huntress), there was no doubt that he never would have been accepted into the Knights. It wasn't that they were a group of misfits; they simply did not fit in anywhere else in the Knights organization. "You need to keep an eye out as well."

Kerensky blew a raspberry into the mike. "Bunch of damn vegetables chasing us." It was no secret that Kerensky hated the Clans, if only for the fact that he was so often associated with them because of his name (Kerensky was a bloodname associated with Clan Wolf). Add to that his distaste for the Clan genetics program by which natural child creation was looked upon with disgust, and you had the perfect combination to give the junior man in the lance a very bad attitude towards clanners in general.

A computerized, yet feminine voice broke into the conversation. "'Mech power-up detected."

Merrick immediately checked his screen and said a silent curse. Five red blips appeared, indicating the fusion engines of Clan BattleMechs. "Black Knights, form up around me," he said, watching as the enemy 'Mechs moved towards them. The minutes ticked by slowly as his lance took on a simple firing line. The plan was to simply ask for surrender, and Merrick hoped that the clanners would take the offer.

He had his doubts when he saw the first Smoke Jaguar 'Mech come into view. It was a Daishi, a 100-ton 'Mech. "Great green globs of gopher snot!" Kerensky called. "I'm leaving."

The Mad Cat started to turn to walk away. "Hold position, mister," Merrick said in his most authorative tone. He hoped he sounded very military-like since he guessed that the clanners were monitoring their communications. "We have to wait to see of they offer us a batchall," Merrick said, indicating the Clan ritual challenge for combat.

The other Clan 'Mechs came into view at the end of the roadway they had been following. It was a hodgepodge of 'Mechs of varying classes and weights, obviously thrown together in haste. The Daishi, being the largest 'Mech, would hold the star commander. "Dude, I like hate to break the news to you and all, especially at this most dire moment, but, like the Smoke Jaguar's stopped issuing challenges. They just attack now."

Merrick smacked his forehead as he remembered the briefing with Colonel Masters several days before when it was made known that the issuing of ritual challenges had been dropped by this clan when dealing with Inner Sphere forces, since they were considered dishonorable savages. Still, it would be nice to know what the clanners intended. The enemy 'Mechs were not in the best of shape, and Merrick knew that hey had to be low on expendables, relying more on energy weapons than anything else.

That could be a good or a bad thing, depending on how good the pilot of the enemy 'Mech was. Energy weapons tended to build up heat, and heat was a BattleMech's Achilles Heel. Then mighty war machines built up large amounts of heat that had to be dissipated in order to run efficiently. Using too many energy weapons and the 'Mech would either shut down or blow up. "So, you want to do something tonight?" Lydia said in a lusty voice.

Since the clanners weren't doing any talking, Merrick shrugged and keyed the transmit button. "Feel like playing around?"

Before his lover could answer, there was some static and then a deep baritone voice boomed over the speakers in the knights' cockpits "I am Star Captain Simon of Clan Smoke Jaguar and your freebirth speech is most offensive! For that alone, I will see you dead before me."

"Did he just call me a freebirth?" Kerensky yelled. It was a common derogatory statement used by clansman to describe those individuals born by the physical union of man and woman. "Look here, you fungus…"

"Fungus?" came a new voice. "Star Captain, these stravags do not deserve the honor of a batchall! They dare to compare us to plants!"

"Grown in a dish like a germ!" Kerensky called.

Merrick blew out. "Star Captain Simon, I am Captain Merrick Simmons…"

"How dare they invoke a bloodname!" shouted a third clansman. The use of a surname was reserved only to those warriors in clan society that had proven themselves worthy of one. "Allow me the honor of killing them, Star Captain!"

"Ha! Sounds to me like Star Captain Crunch there never earned a bloodname either, dude," Tommy called in his most obnoxious tone. "Must have been too busy being, you know, a loser.  Loooooossssser!" Tommy laughed.

Merrick knew he had to gain control of the situation. The problem was that when they normally acted this way, it was during exercises with other Knights; this was their first actual combat experience and he was worried about their chances of getting away with their lives. "Black Knights, stand down, that's an order."

"The challenge has been issued," Simon said, his voice still booming. "I challenge the pilot of the Victor to a Circle of Equals. Whomever wins is the victor of this battle; the defeated agrees to surrender their entire star."

There was an eerie silence, and Merrick could just imagine the Star Captain smiling to himself, so sure was he of victory. The Daishi was no match for the combined firepower of his lance; but one on one against any of them, the clanner would definitely be the winner. Tommy was a good pilot, but he was sure that the Star Captain was an experienced and seasoned warrior. None of them were; only Richard had any kills and that had been accidental.

He was sure that Tommy was appraising the situation and if he imagined the young man thinking about his family and the traditions he would expected to uphold with this challenge. The code of Bushido normally guided the actions of the Draconis Combine MechWarrior and Merrick actually felt a little pride, imagining Tommy sticking his chest out and calling to his ancestors for their blessings and guidance.

"Well, dog, do you accept my challenge?" came the impatient request of Star Captain Simon.

"Huh? What, dude? I'm like sorry, I had my radio turned up and couldn't hear you." He then laughed obnoxiously.

Kerensky broke in. "Fungus-boy wants to fight you."

"No way! He's like bigger than me!" The Victor turned to Merrick's Bushwhacker. "He can bite me if he thinks I'm going up against that!"

"Must you speak so, dogs?" Simon said, a snarl in his voice. Merrick remembered that the use of contractions was considered insulting and vulgar in clan society. He was about to tell Tommy to be quiet again when he started to think about how ridiculous the situation was. "Have none of you the courage to come and face me?"

Merrick looked down at his status board and saw that the turning Victor was trying to raise him via direct-sight laser communication. He switched to the appropriate frequency and keyed the mike. "Go ahead, I'm listening."

There was the sound of deflating lungs. "Dude, we got to get that big momma to come a little closer. If we can all hit him at once, he'll go down."

"That's not very fair, Sarge," Merrick said with a grin, suddenly realizing the other pilot's plan. "Not to mention below the standards of the Knights of the Inner Sphere."

"Piss on chivalry, that's a Daishi out there, fully loaded too, oh fearless leader. If you want to go toe to toe with him, be my guest; I'm sure I can keep the luscious Lydia most warm on cold nights."

Merrick snorted and then keyed up his extremely private line with Lydia. "Hey, babe, is that clanner still yapping?"

There was a momentary pause and then he heard her speak, a slight giggle in her voice. "Yeah, Corporal Kerensky just asked what the ingredients to make a trueborn wuss were. I'm picking up some movement to out left." Her sensors were much more powerful than his own. "The way they're moving I'd say they were light 'Mechs."

"That's not so bad…it's probably only training 'Mechs," Merrick said, putting aside the flanking 'Mechs as he concentrated on the Daishi. It wasn't that it was a supremely powerful 'Mech, but it was a big one, outweighing Kerensky's salvaged Mad Cat by at least 25 tons. He hit the zoom on his HUD and made out two of the other 'Mechs ahead of them. He recognized one as older model scout 'Mechs, no threat to his lance. However, they could become a true menace after a fight with an assault-class 'Mech.

That was the real problem at the moment. He looked over at the Victor. The humanoid BattleMech was making some sort of obscene gesture and he noted that the Daishi started to move forward slowly. "Man-oh-man," came the booming voice of Kerensky, "must be nice to be part of a clan…pop a few cells in the microwave and out pops a Star Captain!"

The Daishi took another step forward. "Dogs! You dare to wear the insignia of the Star League on your 'Mechs! Dishonorable scum such as you could never hope to aspire to the ideals of the Star League!"

"I hate to break it to you, Star Captain, but we are the Star League now," Lydia said, a lusty sneer in her voice, "and you guys are nothing more than well-organized bandits."

That was enough to enrage the clan star leader beyond reasonable thought. In truth, Merrick decided that he felt sorry for the unlucky clansmen. They had, no doubt, upon recognizing the colors and insignia of the Knights of the Inner Sphere, probably assumed that his lance would be "honorable", as compared to other Inner Sphere units. The issue of the formal challenge was a clear indication that this particular Star Captain was probably not such a bad guy.

The Daishi began to move forward, the remainder of its star behind it in perfect inverted "V" formation. The smaller 'Mechs began firing immediately, lasers and missiles flying towards the Inner Sphere lance. Merrick prepared for the initial brunt of the attack, while still putting his own firing reticule on the advancing Daishi. Small and medium lasers were the first to strike his Bushwhacker, burning off paint more than anything else. BattleMechs could take a lot of damage, so these first volleys were nothing more than casual introductions between the combatants.

Lydia was the first to return fire, her Hunchback steeping forward and firing a dual PPC blast at the lead clan 'Mech. The blue spheres of man-made lightning smacked into the right leg of the Daishi, sending small ripples of electric lightning traveling all over the 'Mech's body. Lydia's PPC cannons were special prototype models from her father's company and they packed more kilojoules of power than any standard or clan model. Their only drawback was the incredible amount of heat that they produced.

As such, Lydia tended to operate her 'Mech without the benefit of any clothing, except her cooling vest.

As such, it was never very difficult for Lydia to get someone to partner up on patrol with her.

The Daishi slowed slightly as its heat sinks overloaded and Merrick fired his two large pulse lasers as the 'Mech's damaged right leg. Tommy's Victor broke off to the left, crashing into the trees as he yelled "tallyho". One of the scout 'Mechs, an old Locust, broke out of the formation to pursue him. "That'll be a short fight," Merrick said to himself, backing the Bushwhacker up.

During all of this, Kerensky simply sat there, taking laser blasts and missile hits, his Mad Cat turning back and forth. "Damn it, Kerensky, would you please decide what you are going to do and then do it!" Lydia screamed into her mike. Merrick could see the distortion of the air around her 'Mech as her heat sinks worked to get rid of the waste heat generated by her PPC's.

The Daishi, though slowed down, kept coming and Merrick saw that it was apparently coming after him. Since both he and Lydia had attacked a single enemy, the clanners would feel free to gang up on them now as well. As Merrick aimed for another blast to the Daishi's wounded leg, Kerensky opened up with an Alpha Strike to the right flank of the star leader.

The Alpha Strike was generally reserved for a last-ditch, final option. Essentially, the MechWarrior tied all of his or her weapons into one group and fired them all at once. The Mad Cat that Kerensky was piloting was armed with Streak SRM's and medium pulse lasers. This provided for a very devastating attack, but would then leave the BattleMech initiating the strike defenseless. Very few models would be able to absorb so much heat without shutting down, unless the pilot hit the manual override, and that would lead to even more danger.

The Star Captain had not been expecting the attack, as was evidenced by the way the Daishi seemed to jerk suddenly. The short-ranged missiles impacted, weakening armor up and down the right side of the clan 'Mech. The medium pulse lasers bore into the cracked structures, digging deep and severing myomer muscles and melting titanium bones. "Stravag dogs! Cowards! Have you no courage? Where is the honor of the Knights of the Inner Sphere!"

In reply, Merrick saw the form of a Locust, missing one leg, come flying from the woods where Tommy's Victor had disappeared. The twenty-ton scout 'Mech crashed into the Daishi, and both machines tumbled into the mud. While Lydia moved across Merrick's filed of fire on her way to cover Kerensky's shutdown Mad Cat, the lance commander smiled an evil smile and opened the general communications channel. "Star Captain Simon of Clan Smoke Jaguar, I claim you as asshola in the name of the Star League Defense Force!"

There was static before the reply. "Illiterate fool! The word is isorla!"

"Naw, dud, you are an ass-hole-uh," Tommy said, his Victor coming out where the Locust had just came from. A clan Kit Fox, badly damaged from Lydia's PPC's, struggled over to engage the larger 'Mech. Tommy's 'Mech immediately leapt into the air on plasma plumes as the Victor engaged its jump jets. The 80-ton 'Mech landed feet first on top of the Kit Fox, destroying it in a move called "Death From Above" by MechWarriors. "Aw, man, I've got Truebirth on my shoe!"

Merrick saw the Mad Cat finally begin to move, indicating it had bled off the excess waste heat. Both he and Lydia's Hunchback were advancing on the remaining clan 'Mechs, and Merrick saw the glint of metal in the woods just beyond visual range. The other star had arrived.

Moving forward and wiping his brow, he stepped past the fallen Daishi and its embarrassed pilot, hoping to get to the right flank of the two other 'Mechs. His sensors indicated that the new Clan star was making a flanking move. Tommy's Victor disengaged itself from the remains of the Kit Fox and began moving into the woods.

"Clan MechWarriors," Merrick heard Lydia saying to the remains of Star Captain Simon's star, "Your commander has been defeated and your hopes of an honorable death in combat have disappeared. Your 'Mechs are no match for ours, even with your reinforcements. You are solohma units, old and worthless to your clan, sent here only to annoy us. You may believe you have honor, but we have strength." She had that cocksure tone to her voice that drove many young warriors wild.

Merrick finally got past the initial group of trees to find a small dirt road that ran behind the area where the battle had just taken place. Less than a tenth of a kilometer away was the star he had been searching for. It was comprised entirely of old model Jenner's and they appeared to be very lightly armed.

Merrick smiled. Tonight, he would share his bed with the wife of another man, regaling in the glory of his first victory.

Sir Paul Masters, Knight of the Inner Sphere, looked upon the four MechWarrior's (he dared not to think of them as fellow knights) standing at attention before him. Each was dressed in their formal dress uniform, but it looked as if none of them had bothered to wash theirs. "Could someone please, for the love of God, tell me exactly how it was that you not only lost your battle against training 'Mechs, but managed to allow the clan to capture your 'Mechs intact?"

He began to pace up and down in front of them. "You engaged an enemy force that, despite superior numbers, lacked your training and weapons…yet," he had to control the shaking of his hand and he clenched it into a fist, "I now have a renegade star captain out there with a lance of my 'Mechs, engaging my forces…"

"Sir, I'd take full responsibility, but these guys wouldn't listen to me," Merrick said.

"Quiet!" Paul shouted, his voice seeming to carry throughout the Knight's encampment. "You are all out of the Knights of the Inner Sphere. I don't care how talented you are, how pretty, or who your father knows! You are out! You are all hereby stripped of your knighthood, of your rank and of your status in the military forces of the Star League." He stopped in front of them, centered on their line. "I'd do more except that at least one of you does have the connections necessary that prevent me from doing what I want. In all of my life, I have never heard of such things as making jokes at the enemy then ganging up on them. We are the Knights of the Inner Sphere, not some street gang!"

"Sir Paul, dude, you need to chill…"

"I cannot even fathom what manner of genetic defect in the Kurita line produced someone with your disposition!" Paul was near the point some people would call stark raving mad. "This is the military…not a country club!"

Kerensky spoke up. "Sir Masters, you just said we were no longer in the Knights of the Inner Sphere, so…technically, of course, we are no longer in the military…"

Paul screamed something primal and unintelligible, causing the four disgraced MechWarriors to flinch. All four knew that the loss of the BattleMechs to the training cadre had sealed their fates. They had even contemplated desertion, but had decided against it. While the Knights did not execute deserters, the entire operation was under the control of House Davion, and they had no qualms about shooting those they felt had betrayed them.

As Sir Paul continued his ranting, Merrick smiled inwardly. It would be weeks, despite his former commander's wishes, before they would be shipped off-planet. They could protest the actions against them, take them up with Prince Victor Davion, but Merrick actually had another idea.

They were dispossessed, MechWarriors without 'Mechs on a world full of warrior-less machines.

There were still opportunities to be had.

Not the end…