It’s a hot night. The mind races. You think about your knife: the only friend who hasn’t betrayed you, the only friend who won’t be dead by sunup. Sleep tight mates, in your quilted chambray night shirts.
—Anonymous 20th Century Terran Writer
I slammed on the brakes as my Phoenix Hawk made a rough landing and nearly crashed into a tree. I guess you could say I was still getting the hang of this whole piloting a mech. Could you blame me? After all, my last performance report had ended with the following, “Under no circumstances let this man pilot a mech.” And, sadly, I can’t say I disagreed.
Frankly, I hadn’t been paying any attention during the Hauptmann’s somewhat overexcited briefing because I didn’t think circumstances were dire enough (or, frankly, would ever be dire enough) to warrant me piloting a mech. Therefore, imagine my surprise when I heard, “Ersatz, we’re desperate. You’re piloting the Phoenix Hawk.” In the ensuing mad rush to the mechs I did catch the bit about the Kommandant being in trouble, and I figured that that was all the information I needed (if I ran into him on the battlefield, so be it, and if I didn’t, it might actually turn out better for both of us).
Somehow an an enemy Firestarter had wandered into my sights. I knew that he was with the enemy force because all enemy mechs and vehicles were painted in some sort of uniform red paint scheme, which was handy because I wasn’t entirely clear about who was who during the battle. As I discovered to my dismay, all that jumping around (on both of our parts) made it difficult to draw a bead on the enemy. I had more success when I lashed out in frustration and kicked the Firestarter in the leg. The bastard responded by jumping away, but I was hot on his tail. After another salvo of missed shots, I went back to the well for another kick but missed the Firestarter and almost ended up ass over tea kettle for my efforts.
Unfortunately, the Firestarter evaded me and stumbled into the path of the Kommandant who was piloting a Griffin. The Kommandant (dangerously following my lead) finished off the Firestarter with a kick to the damaged leg (he stole my move). Fortunately, the main force (the Rifleman and Atlas) had cleared the bridge leaving only a number of infantry platoons and the Eisenfaust moving to cross the bridge. Naturally, I went after the soft targets. How much damage could infantry units do? I thought. Well, as it turns out, quite a bit as my mech was rocked in a vicious crossfire from multiple infantry platoons. In an effort to get away from their murderous fire, I ran up on the Eisenfaust as it stood next to the river. Before I could unleash my (only good) move on the mech, Leutnant Payne slid in behind the Eisenfaust in his Vulcan and took off the enemy mech’s head with a kick of his own (again, my move had been stolen).
I was dimly aware of a significant firefight occurring south of the bridge between elements of our force consisting of a Flashman, Centurion, two Thunderbolts, and a Shadowhawk (and, who knows, maybe the Kommandant even joined them as well) facing off against the Rifleman, Atlas, and a mixed force of armor and infantry. Even though those little infantry bastards with their lasers were relentless, there was no way I was heading south to tangle with an Atlas. Instead, I settled on getting swarmed by infantry followed by making a temporary tactical retreat.
I am guessing at this point (or some point) that the Kommandant was issuing some sort of orders, but I had long ago tuned out the chatter (aside from Buffschultz and Payne, who, thankfully, were men of few or no words, the rest of the unit was a chatty bunch) from the comm. Unfortunately, with all the heat coming my way, I had lacked the time to concentrate on figuring out how to turn the comm off (just figuring out the movement and firing controls had proving challenging enough). Additionally, I currently was completely focused on eliminating the enemy infantry who had been making a determined (and somewhat successful) effort to end my day; however, once I got down to business with the Phoenix Hawk’s machine guns, I made short work of the infantry. Once I had emerged from my murderous rage (i.e., all the infantrymen were dead), I learned that we had won the day (apparently, the rest of our force had destroyed the Rifleman, Atlas, armor, and remaining infantry) and saved the Kommandant.
I later learned that we had lost a man, (he had been piloting a Flashman, which was capped by a head shot, making the mech salvageable but that was probably cold comfort to the dead pilot), while the Kommandant’s mech fortunately took no damage during the battle. Evidently, command thought that I did well (what battle were they watching?) and praised me for my efforts on behalf of the unit. Now we just needed to get back so that I could speak to someone in personnel regarding my hazard pay.