“Stick to the bar, I’ll handle negotiations.” I said. The young black woman nodded before taking an empty stool and ordering a drink. I kept walking, the people in the bar weren’t especially close to each other, but you could feel that they were organized. Their presences all seemed overbearing, and restrictive, probably intimidating to someone whose never been in a knife fight with a Massakari.

I slid into the booth, taking in the blood shot eyes and pale complexion of the man across from me. It would be hard to tell with the smell of New Hanover cigarettes filling the tiny space if he was drunk now or this morning. Either way he took another puff before finally speaking.

“So you want to hire me to fly around your little expedition in ole’ Charlotte. Now we’ve got the obvious questions, like why should I stick my neck out for you, but I’ve got something a little more personal. You see, I’m not so short on contacts I can’t get the digs on some ole’ glory hound from the clan wars. So what I want to know is, what happened on Huntress?” He leaned forward, his serious face looking almost demented with the light gleaming off the sheen of sweat covering his pale skin. “Why are you here, like some backwoods retiree, but have the whole of the Eridani Light Horse singing your praises like a goddamn military genius.”

I leaned back letting the memories run through my mind, feeling the pain of old wounds. “Towards the end of the fighting on Huntress we were in constant retreat up into the mountains, about half our company had broken off to deal with light ‘mech harassment along our flanks. Problem is we didn’t have very good maps of the area and followed some bad indicators only to wind up way off the mark. What we hadn’t known at the time was that there was a great big vein of magnetite to the south. Our previous route had been unintentionally shielding us from it, but our current position had it completely screwing up our on board compasses. Comms with the ships were through other units, and we didn’t have the equipment to set up a good link.

So South we went, but not quite straight South, and we wound up missing the enemies main forces. Problem is, we didn’t know, ran into their rear guard, three light omni ‘mechs. We had a medium lance, three hunchies including mine and a centurion, our company commander’s Archer and a couple commandos. One of them had a PPC and got a lucky shot on the commanders cockpit, thinking hell was three steps behind these guys we opened up on ‘em to slow em down and booked it in full retreat. A full retreat right into at least a company of enemy ‘mechs.

With our company commander out of action we didn’t really know who was in charge so I just started shouting. We’d caught them flat footed so I called for a knife fight around the edges, catch them in their own crossfire if possible. Finally, I just decided we didn’t have a chance and came up with something really crazy. I set my Hunchback to self destruct and waded into the middle while the others hemmed them in close. My best friend, Mac…

Well, mac waded in there with me, took a lot of big hits so I didn’t have to. He’d been hurt, wasn’t responding right, I tried to get him to eject but he kept saying he would when I did. Time came and I pulled the ejection lever. I pulled it a bit early even. Was just thinking of him, just wanted to see him eject. So I flew up into the sky, and hung there, all those mountains everywhere but I was just looking at Mac’s Hunchback waiting for him to pop right on out. Nothing. Then, just as I was really starting to worry, my reactor exploded. Took out most of the clanners all right, but Mac didn’t make it out. The rest of the fight was over before I hit bottom, all that was left of us was the last hunchback and enough of each commando to keep one moving.

Turns out it was enough. The 11th Lyran were force marching their way through to reach the rest of the Eridani and they’d picked up our radio chatter during the fight. Figured we’d saved them from an ambush and I’d been some sort of ace field commander. Their report made it up the line in the Eridani, and before I knew it I was a war hero.”

I’d had my eyes closed for a while, not really finding the thought of being watched as I said all this bearable. Finally I opened them to see him leaning back, watching the ceiling with a serious expression.

“What’s the payload?” He finally asked.

“A seventy-five ton omni-’mech, and a thirty-five ton light ‘mech. Twenty tons in ordinance and another five is sensitive equipment. Roughly one four zero tons all told.”

“Meet me at pad three in four hours, and you’re covering the fuel.”

I sat there in a state of semi-shock as he walked away. I’d thought he would have been the hardest to recruit. Breaking out of my stupor I got up and walked back to Billie.

“Pad three, four hours. Make sure you have a full survival kit in your mech.”

31 comments to “No Man’s War – Distant Dreams and Bad Memories”

  1. Longasc says:

    Great! The story is apparently set in the pre-Dark-Ages/Destruction era, I like that.

Leave a Comment