Captain Cynthia Ito of the 1st Genyosha, Liason officer to the Black Omen, fully expected much of the nature of the events on Hyner to remain a mystery. After all, the ISF were not known for “getting back to you,” even if they said they would do so. In the normal course of events, they sucked up information like a black hole – everything going in and nothing coming back out. Not to people at her level anyway.
They knew something was off with the supposed “Word of Blake” forces that hit Hyner. Aside from the camo, they really didn’t fight like, nor handle themselves like Blakists. When the battle was over, the mystery just got deeper rather than victory providing any sort of enlightenment. For, under the false Wobbie colors and camo, were the emblems of dead men: the 14th Alshain Avengers. That force was thought to have been entirely wiped out by the Ghost Bear after their ill-fated attack on Alshain. The coordinator himself had declared them traitors and placed a bounty on their heads, should they somehow manage to survive that debacle. And in the roughly five years since that event, nobody had heard a word regarding them. Everyone believed they had to have perished, victims of their own over-reach and the resulting wrath of the Bears.
Where had they been for the past five years?
Who was hiding them?
Where had they been hiding?
And what was their true purpose when they showed up on Hyner, pretending to be Word of Blake?
Capt. Ito had resigned herself to never getting answers to her questions.
Then a communication from her ISF contract was received. “We have a priority mission for your team.”
The briefing revealed some answers but brought up yet more questions. Under interrogation by the ISF, a few of the once-noble warriors had broken. The answer of “where” turned out to be McAlister, a planet which had a substantial history with the 14th. During Operation Bulldog, when the Jaguars launched their counterstrike, it had been the 14th who helped defend the planet. But when she had looked into that history, there were noticeable discrepancies.
One set of records stated “under the combined strength of these defending forces, the Clan invaders were wiped out.” But in other records, she found “The SLDF forces couldn’t stop the Second Jaguar Regulars on McAlister.” Which was it? The various records seemed to agree, though, after the brutal fighting there and after the resolution of Operation Bulldog, the under-strength 14th had been tapped to provide a Battalion to bolster the nominal garrison forces of McAlister until the defenders could build themselves back up to full strength.
That Battalion had remained on McAlister for nearly three years until they unexpectedly left without orders, only to join the rest of the 14th in their ill-fated attack on Alshain. As it turned out, they comprised a majority of the survivors of that battle. It also appears they got warning of their status as “traitors”, likely via the Black Dragons in some way. The survivors, a little under two companies worth, somehow made their way back to McAlister, and used their knowledge of the planet and local connections to lay low.
As to who – After the 14th’s abrupt departure, an under-strength battalion of the 2nd Sword of Light had been assigned to take the 14th’s place on McAlister. They were expected to fill out their ranks with “local recruits”. A process that happened surprisingly rapidly, even when you accounted for the attraction of 2nd’s reputation. It all started to make sense now – no doubt many, or nearly all, of those recruits had come from the remains of the 14th. Small wonder they staffed back up so quickly.
That meant the Black Dragons had their own clandestine force, nearly two companies strong. Nobody was looking for them and they had been operating, doing gods knew what, for the last several years… What had they been up to before Hyner?
She suppressed a shudder for, as chilling as the notion of a rogue mini-battalion running amuck was, the revelation that the 2nd Sword of Light was in some way compromised was even more terrifying. One of the premier units in the DCMS, Elite, Fanatical, under influence of these cursed Black Dragons! Was it just this one Battalion? An entire Regiment? The entire Unit? The prospect of a unit this large and well respected, four Battalions of ’Mechs, plus associated regimental-sized units of Aerospace, Armor, and Infantry – ALL of it potentially under the influence of the Black Dragons – brought a sinking sense of dread to the pit of her stomach.
And thus the mission. This particular battalion of the 2nd Sword of Light was to be eliminated. Obviously fully complicit in hiding and providing cover for the remains of the traitorous 14th Alshain Avengers, they would be destroyed. But Combine leadership feared revealing the 2nd’s association with the Black Dragons, lest it lend too much legitimacy to their “movement”. So a cover story was needed, along with credible witnesses to back it up. It had to be 100% deniable and no House unit could be involved. Fortunately the Black Omen were in the neighborhood, were good at keeping secrets, and already had some knowledge of the situation, so nobody new needed be briefed in on the rather sensitive information regarding the extent of the Black Dragon’s corruption.
So far the plan was going well. The 2nd had been ordered away from their base on McAlister under the pretense of a training exercise on the Chupadero. It was an out-of-the-way planet, producing nothing of great military value and garrisoned by a relatively green force. That an experienced unit such as the 2nd would be used as OpFor in order to help train them up played to the 2nd’s ego and was a believable cover story.
In a rather ironic twist, since the 14th had been imitating Wobbies, it would also be Wobbies that decimated the 2nd. “Live as fake Wobbies, Die by fake Wobbies,” someone had said. It was rather poetic justice – Black Dragons pretending to be Blakests had been defeated by the Omen and now the tables were turned 180 degrees. She suppressed a chuckle as the thought that the Omens, with their mix of many Star League and Clan ’Mechs made far more believable Blakests than the 14th had. If the cover story was believed and this also ended up pitting the remaining portions of the 2nd Sword of Light against the Word of Blake, so much the better.
She had to give credit, the leader of the Black Omen was a devious bastard. The idea to extend the “exercises” ruse beyond just getting the 2nd to the planet, and using it to ambush them while loaded with training ammo was a bit of brilliance. Instead of a prolonged series fights it looked as if the 2nd could potentially be swept up all in one neat tidy operation.
Under the pretense of the exercise, the local forces had been tasked with carrying out an ambush, doing a hit-and-run on the 2nd. But when they arrived to setup their ambush, they were in turn ambushed by the Omen in their Wobbie disguises. Loaded with dummy munitions for their ballistic and missile weapons, the local forces had been no match for the Omen. Best of all, the ECM fields had worked and none had been able to raise an alarm, so the 2nd had no clue what was in store for them.
She refocused her attention on the monitors in the Dropship’s C&C where a medium company of 2nd Sword, mostly scout ‘Mechs, was facing a similar fate to the local forces. A Clan ERPPC cleanly removed the entire head from one of the scout ’Mechs, likely vaporizing the pilot in the process. Suddenly one of the other observers called out, "They’re not going for it!" and she shifted focus to a secondary display where the bulk of the 2nd’s forces reversed course and began to make their way out of the remains of the burnt out city that had been the location for the “exercise”. It would appear that this time the nature of the trap had been exposed. “If only they had not legged that dammed Firestarter just outside of the ECM coverage”, she thought. Ah well, Plan A had been a bit optimistic but they had accounted for that. Everyone knew no plan survived contact with the enemy, so of course there had been a Plan B to fall back on. The critical element was to hit the 2nd before they could return to their dropship and load up with real ammo.
Still, the next phase of the fight was going to be a lot more brutal. The enemy ‘Mechs were heavier and nearly outnumbered the Black Omens two to one. Even without live ammo for their missiles and ballistic weapons, the remaining extended company of the 2nd was a force to be respected. And it looked as if only a few of the Omen scout ’Mechs would be able to engage in this phase of the battle, the others being too damaged or too busy running down the remaining ’Mechs and pilots from the 2nd’s scout company.
The remaining forces of the 2nd moved at the full speed of their slowest forces, retracing their way back towards their dropship. Moving faster and more tightly concentrated as they covered known terrain, it would not be long before they emerged onto the open plain. Soon after that they would near the location chosen for plan B, where they would be forced to ford a minor river with tree cover on both sides. She was wondering just how the Omen would use this terrain to their advantage when she heard the acceleration warning and the Omen’s “Battlewagon”, a Star League-era Rhino tug, rapidly descended to a lower orbit in order to drop the remaining Omen ’Mechs into battle.