In the command room of the Battle Wagon, Bill drifted cross legged in front of the large 4’ by 6’ screen that took up nearly a third of the room’s wall. It showed him a birds-eye view of the battlefield of the area surrounding the Luthien Armor Works facility, complete with tactical and strategic overlays, approach vectors and everything else necessary to oversee and direct a combat operation from orbit.
In his left hand he held a datapad which contained all of his checklists, timetables, unit call signs, and personal notes. His right gripped a comms router strapped to his belt. With the press of a button he could communicate with just about any unit or person involved in the battle.
The Commander had wanted to attend to this mission personally, and volunteered Bill to oversee operations from the dropship. That essentially gave him overall command and control authority unless The Commander decided to step in and override him.
Everything was going well so far, and according to plan. At times, directing all of the disparate elements was like herding cats, but everyone knew their role and carried out their tasks with little fuss.
Stationed around him, belted into acceleration couches were the support staff; intel analysts and sensor operators that were monitoring the Battle Wagon’s plethora of scopes and communications gear and imputing the relevant data into the battle computer, which could then be called up on the wall monitor.
The DCMS liaison, Captain Cynthia Ito of the 1st Genyosha had insisted on being present and was now drifting near the command room’s elevator bank, one hand holding an overhead gripping point for support. She watched the proceedings impassively.
Standing a little over 150 centimeters tall, with short black hair, and classical Asian features, she appeared outwardly unassuming; the girl next door that really didn’t draw too much attention. However, something in her eyes and the way she carried herself gave Bill the feeling that she could break him in half without breaking a sweat, and not really feel bad about doing it.
Since joining the Black Omen task force 9 days ago, Captain Ito had been courteous and professional, but not overly friendly with any of the crew. Choosing to take her meals by herself in the cafeteria and not participating in any of the typical amusements dropship crews used to pass the time.
That wasn’t particularly unusual under these circumstances. The DCMS had a long history of despising mercenaries, and despite the Black Omen’s good working relationship with the Combine, some in the DCMS ranks longed for a return to the old ways.
Still, something was off about her. Bill suspected she was an ISF agent of some kind, but he didn’t want to share that thought with anyone, lest any rumors get started. However, maybe he would speak with Jack about it after the mission. Jack had run in those circles and might have some insight.
Bill’s attention was quickly diverted by a flash on the satellite image, about 5 kilometers north of the LAW facility.
One of the sensor operators, ensign Cornell, noticed it too and called it out. “Possible missile launch in grid B16.”
“I see it Sarah,” Bill replied. “Arrow IV artillery?”
“Speed and trajectory matches, sir.”
“Okay, mark it. Lieutenant Graff, get an infrared scan of that area. See how many units we are dealing with”
“Copy that sir.” he replied.
Bill keyed the button on the router that would allow him to address all 14 of the Black Omen battlemechs currently in the field.
“Squirrel Group, Eagle Command. Possible missile artillery launch detected north of your position. Watch for TAGs.”
“Copy that Eagle” Barrett replied. “Squirrel 5 was just TAGed by that Dire Wolf, but it has a bad angle and there is plenty of cover to break locks.”
“Received Squirrel 4. We will re-task an element of Blue Bird flight to take that battery out as soon as they mop up the Wobbie aero. Shouldn’t be more than a minute or so.”
“Copy.” Barrett quickly sent back.
Overall, the battle was unfolding pretty much as Bill expected. The Black Omen had combat dropped their ’mechs only 1 kilometer from the Luthien Armor Works facility and it appeared that it had taken the Word of Blake forces somewhat by surprise.
Their aerospace fighters had reacted quickly enough, moving out of their CAP zone as soon as the Omen ’mechs had started their drop from the Battle Wagon. It was a risky move to drop ’mechs from the upper atmosphere with hostile aero in the vicinity, but the eight Black Omen Transgressors had done an exemplary job of intercepting the Word of Blake fighters and keeping them off the ’mechs.
They were now engaged in a whirling dogfight above the drop zone. To their credit, the Word of Blake pilots appeared to be fairly competent and were putting up a decent fight. However, based on the radio chatter coming from the Omen pilots, it seemed that the Omen had a bit of a firepower advantage and the battle in the air would turn in their favor shortly.
On the ground, the Word of Blake had scrambled to re-deploy their perimeter guards and had waited too long in recalling two lances of ‘mechs patrolling to the north and west. Bill estimated it would take another minute for them to be in a position to engage. That put their ground speed at about 80kph, which could indicate medium ’mechs or fast heavies. Those two lances could potentially cause problems, but Bill could put The Commander’s reserve lance into motion if things got dicey.
The artillery was a little worrying as well. None of the intel they had received from the local militia indicated the Word of Blake had deployed artillery units. However, it was certainly possible that they had re-purposed some weaponry from the LAW facility at some point in the last 9 days.
The seconds ticked by and Bill continued to listen intently to the radio chatter between the ’mechs on the surface, the aerospace pilots, and the various duty stations on the dropship. He also kept a sharp eye on his satellite view. The area in and around the LAW facility was lit with flashes every few seconds and smoke was beginning to shroud the battlefield.
The Word of Blake artillery battery was firing one missile every few seconds, and several had come close to making contact. The Black Omen ‘mechs had done an excellent job at breaking the laser designator locks, causing the missiles to detonate harmlessly overhead. However, it was only a matter of time before one hit home and ruined someone’s day.
A few seconds later, Bill finally heard the transmission he was waiting for.
“Bogey down! Splash four, splash four.” With the Word of Blake aerospace now safely outnumbered, he felt it was time to re-direct two of the Black Omen Transgressor to take out that artillery battery.
“Blue Birds 3 and 4, Eagle Command. vector to grid B16 and reconfigure for ground attack. Your target is an Arrow IV battery approximately 500 meters north of the sharp bend in the river. Over”
“Copy that Eagle. We have their smoke trails. Commencing our attack run now. ETA, six seconds.”
A few seconds later, the area about 90 meters wide and 200 meters long began to glitter and spark as laser fire rippled off the terrain exactly where Bill had specified. There was a quick flash and then smoke began billowing skyward. A moment later Bill saw the two Transgressors streak into the observable area on the satellite display and then peel off to the east.
“Eagle Command, Blue Bird 3. We have secondaries. They were really dug in, but we think we got them.”
“Copy that Blue Bird 3. Make another pass to make sure, then rejoin Blue Bird flight.”
“Copy Eagle Command. Approaching from the north.”
Bill breathed a sigh of relief. With that threat eliminated, his ’mechs could mop up the Word of Blake defenders unimpeded. The two remaining lances had arrived and were working their way towards the fight and would be in weapons range momentarily. They were badly outnumbered 12 ’mechs to 8, so this would probably be over quickly. Still, Bill admired their resolve. It took some serious kōgan to face off against a group that had just decisively beaten more than half your forces with minimal losses.
As the first volleys began between the two groups, Bill twisted around and gave Captain Ito a smile and a thumbs up.
He was met with an icy glare.
Bill suddenly had a feeling that the easy part of the mission was over, and that the hard part was just beginning.