Mechwarrior PBeM report: Scene 2 – Ambush

Hair of the Dog – Scene II

AMBUSH!

Hanburton Lowlands (Simulation)

Mission Area

July 14, 3028 – 2:29pm

2:29:00pm

Twin AC/10 rounds narrowly miss Lance Commander Lucas ‘Cool Hand Luke’ Rom’s Shadowhawk as it jumps to the northern plateau.

The attacking lance consists of a Hunchback now seeking to use surprise and terrain to close on MadDog’s madly running Griffin, two Quickdraws, one in each of the smaller North/South canyons which connect to the primary canyon, a Wolverine farther down the canyon to the East, closing on MadDog, and somewhere out there – a Rifleman. Five on four, heavies versus mediums – the odds have a strange weighting in this encounter.

The defending lance is familiar to the entire graduating class of Hanachi Military Academy; familiar and feared. Professor Angus Llew ‘Fitz’ Fitzsimmons in his jumping Trebuchet variant, modelled after the real mech he lost in combat, Velika ‘Blowtorch’ Kaldec in one of the school’s two Griffins, Mel ‘MadDog’ Winters in his inherited

Griffin, and Lucas ‘Cool Hand Luke’ Rom in the Shadowhawk variant the rumour mill claims was liberated from behind Steiner lines.

The attackers were to have dropped to the North, and attempted to overrun the defenders who were to have had time to secure their positions. This did not occur. The attacking lance dropped nearly simultaneously with the defending lance into the simulation, and

attacked from the South, seeking destruction of the defenders as a victory condition.

Rather than end the simulation, the mission planner Angus Llew ‘Fitz’ Fitzsimmons, suggested that the attackers be taught a lesson in humility.

2:29:05pm

A second volley of AC/10 rounds strike within metres of the Lance Commander, but visual contact with enemy cannot be established.

Rom moves to the edge of the lengthy East/West canyon that splits the mission area to visually scan it, spotting the Hunchback as it enters the primary canyon from the westward of two smaller, North/South canyons, and a Wolverine as it breaks into a run to close ground on the rear of Mel ‘MadDog’ Winters’ Griffin as it ducks into shelter under the overhang on which Rom has stopped to make his survey.

2:29:10pm

The detonation of an AC20 round from the Hunchback against the North wall under Rom’s Shadowhawk erupts across that confined space with vastly magnified force, throwing a debris cloud for tens of meters in all directions. Immediately afterward, electronic systems were thrown into disarray, comms failed, the HUD destabilized, and all sensor data was useless; scopes displaying nothing but rolling static.

The Shadowhawk known as TLC to the pilots and techs that work around it, standing on an overhang of heavy rock and metallic deposits, was the target of the AC20 salvo. TLC’s pilot, calm and collected, throws his mech into reverse and steps calmly away from the disintegrating surface of the plateau until the mech reaches solid ground again. The collapsing terrain was just inches away from the feet of the medium mech with every backward step, but Rom’s pulse never rises above normal.

MadDog Winters had almost found a way to evade the attackers’ trap and lure them into one of his own, but in the short seconds since the blast hit the wall, everything had changed. MadDog, ducking for cover and position under the outcropping, suddenly found himself needing to reverse course and dash back into the pincer of Hunchback and

Wolverine again to escape the cascade of rocks and debris, cloaked in miasmic dust. He was going to have to find another way to turn their trap against them.

Blowtorch, closing slowly on the rear of the Hunchback, loses sight of MadDog in the rising cloud of dust, but keeps her weapons trained on the Hunchback ahead of her. Closing the distance quickly, it is almost as though the pilot is unware the tech’s Griffin is bringing weapons to bear on the thin rear armour of the feared urban brawler.

Fitz, much farther to the West, and not wanting to be cut off from the others, decides to close across the high ground, and sets off at a run to the East, preparing to jump to the rising surface of the secondary plateau defining the South West quadrant of the mission area.

2:29:15pm

No time is lost to inaction.

TLC turns on its heel and Rom sends it running off to the West to launch an SRM volley at a narrow point in the westward North/South canyon, hoping to give the Quickdraw pilot advancing up that route something extra to think about.

Blowtorch, realizing that the Hunchback has slowed and is much closer than she expected, reverses direction, and begins to retrace her steps backward as she tries to get a good clear shot at its back.

MadDog, running headlong at the charging Wolverine jockeys for just the right position, finger hovering over the jump jets as the distance narrows between the two. The canyon overhangs, obscured by dust and debris are barely wide enough to allow a mech’s shoulders to pass in many places, but the troubled and often demoted mechwarrior is nothing if not insanely talented at the controls of a mech.

“C’mon girl, we can do this…” he mutters in the normal heat of the aged cockpit.

Fitz leaps southward to the darker rock of the plateau firing a flight of LRMs at the hastily acquired target of the Hunchback as he descends, intending to hook left after landing to continue his high-speed closure with the rest of his lance.

2:29:20pm

MadDog’s Griffin, impossibly, arcs up and back along the canyon, changing its mad rush to the East for a fiery blast to the West, arcing through a tiny gap in the crumbling walls of the gorge, finally breaking free from the dust cloud as it reaches the apex of what will

ultimately be a 150m jump.

Blowtorch blasts through the rear armour of the Hunchback with her PPC as the mech is further rocked by missile impacts from Fitz’s oncoming Trebuchet. With any luck, the huge cannon housed in the torso will have been disabled by the devastating shot from the Griffin.

TLC whips around and heads back into the debris cloud to sow a little chaos in the path of the other Quickdraw as it approaches the East/West Canyon.

The Wolverine, trying to stay hot on the trail of MadDog fires its jets and slams forcefully into the narrow gap that the Griffin had just negotiated successfully. Canting awkwardly end over end after impact, jets still firing, the medium mech falls back the canyon floor – head down.

Heavily distorted, but discernable, Fitz broadcasts, “S*rr* ** b* *ate,”

2:29:25pm

Too close, but confident in her visual target acquisition, Blowtorch sets loose a volley from her LRM10. The missiles find their mark quickly, peeling and blasting armour off the weakened right torso and left arm.

The Hunchback, turning to face Blowtorch, fires its twin medium lasers at her Griffin, strike with one, searing armour from the mech’s left arm.

As MadDog brings his mech to a graceful and somewhat dramatic landing on the North wall of the primary canyon, overlooking the west North/South canyon down which one of the Quickdraws remains motionless, Fitz unleashes a full volley of missiles from his two LRM 15 racks. MadDog, sighting the blasted wreckage of armour and internal components of the Hunchback, capitalizes on Blowtorch’s attack to add further insult to injury with a second PPC strike to the rear right torso.

The Quickdraw in the East canyon breaks into a full run, pressed close to the West wall of the narrow channel of rock as it races to close with the mechs along the ridgeline.

2:29:30pm

TLC, as a result of its pilot’s penchant for timely and appropriate action, exits the East side of the collapsing debris cloud, preparing to engage the second Quickdraw as it nears the juncture where the primary canyon and the eastern North/South canyon join, and fires its jets.

Reacting quickly, but calmly, as the Shadowhawk’s cockpit erupts with missile tracking alarms, Luke aims and fires his medium and large lasers, while watching the Quickdraw’s flights of long and short range missiles start their deadly arcs toward him. The large laser strikes a glancing blow to the head. The enemy mech’s twin blasts from its arm-mounted medium lasers go wide, and are ignored.

MadDog breaks into a run, trailing CoolHand’s Shadowhawk through the dissipating cloud of dust tward the East, as Fitz closes on Blowtorch’s position from the West.

Still tracking the Hunchback as she gets in position and leaps to the high ground on the south side of the canyon, Blowtorch is rewarded by the sight of the huge AC and the right arm assembly shearing off the upper torso of the medium mech, to collapse sullenly on the sandy floor of the gorge. As the mech staggers to right itself, Fitz’s large cloud of missiles begins to rain down on the crippled Hunchback, slamming into its center torso and head with shattering force.

2:29:35pm

Fitz initiating a jump, sends an enquiry, finally on a clear comm., requesting the lance leader to, “…please advise – OVER.”

Blowtorch, bringing her mech in for a gentle landing on the high ground, keeps tracking the Hunchback as that battered brawler tries to flee the field to the south, seeking escape down the narrow channel of the west, North/South canyon in which its companion Quickdraw has been standing immobile for long second after long second – doing nothing.

TLC digs in, slamming to a full stop to track the jumping Quickdraw as it arcs up and over the edge of the canyon and begins its descent to the north western plateau. At the opportune moment, Rom fires his SRM2, but is denied the seemingly perfect headshot by a last second adjustment of the enemy heavy’s lowering arms. The missiles impact

high and low on the upper arm assembly of the Quickdraw’s left arm, just below the shoulder actuator.

MadDog continues his run to the West North West, the flat, hard ground allowing him to push his griffin to the limits of her speed.

2:29:40pm

At the other end of the mission area, Blowtorch, and Fitz respond quickly to the sudden re-entry of the west Quickdraw into the battle. As the heavy jumps free of the narrow canyon, and tries to close for a toe-to-toe with the Griffin, the Trebuchet changes the angle of its own jets to hook around and drop immediately behind it. The pilot, perhaps victim of tunnel vision, focuses on Blowtorch, firing both of its arm-mounted medium lasers.

Fitz tears into the mech from behind, first firing his matched set of medium lasers from one arm, before slamming his left fist into the left arm of the Quickdraw, fist-firing the medium laser on that arm on impact to tremendous effect! The heavy mech staggers under the ferocious attack and falls.

On the east side of the plateau, TLC is guided through a short, hooking manoeuvre to the North, to trick the guidance system of the Quickdraw before landing suddenly. The Shadowhawk pilot holds his fire, but the Quickdraw fires two medium lasers, missing narrowly with both.

MadDog, turning to face the heavy mech firing on his lancemate, triggers his PPC, scoring a solid hit on the mech’s left arm. He also unleashes a salvo from the LRM launcher, but even in the early stages of the launch it is obvious that the missiles have not acquired their target and will arc off across the plateau uselessly.

Over the comm., Cool Hand’s calm tones order the lance to, “Regroup, North.”

2:29:45pm

Fitz and MadDog respond to the regroup order, before all hell breaks loose in an exchange of heavy weapons fire.

The East Quickdraw launches a flight from its SRM4, striking solidly with the full spread across the front torso armour of the Shadowhawk.

TLC responds with its medium laser, large laser, and SRM2 – striking with all of them, rocking the heavy mech, despite its crouched and ready position.

Across the plateau, Fitz fires his jets and arcs backward across the narrow canyon through which the Hunchback is trying to flee. Blowtorch walks backward to create range, and as the fallen Quickdraw tried to rise, she fires a bolt from her PPC into its left arm, blasting through the shattered armour there, and destroying the shoulder actuator.

It responds by firing its LRM at Blowtorch, and its SRM at Fitz, but both shots miss. The LRM10 flight goes wide. The 4 short-range missiles streak past the Trebuchet, two narrowly missing as the coil around each other and arc past the mech’s head.

As the LRMs drift across the plateau looking for a target they will never find, Blowtorch responds to the order, “Copy, be right there.”

2:29:50pm

With each member of the lance having broadcast their compliance with the order to regroup, Cool Hand sends a revision in light of the shifting circumstances of the battle – ordering each pair to circle their target, keeping one of their number in the forward and one in the rearward arc at all times.

Blowtorch and Fitz, with their Quickdraw bracketed between them, unleash their full complement of LRMs, while the heavy starts a long sprint to close the distance between itself and the tech’s Griffin.

To the East, TLC acquires a solid lock with its LRM5 and unloads it, while MadDog, slamming to a sudden stop, fires both his PPC and LRM10 at the Quickdraw. As with its partner across the plateau, the Quickdraw hurls itself into a fast sprint across the hard stone of the plateau, intending to close range with the Griffin. The sudden shift in speed and vector throws off MadDog’s shot, but the flight of long range missiles from the Shadowhawk home in relentlessly.

2:29:55pm

Luke’s missiles impact on the Quickdraw’s centre torso as the heavy mech rushes at MadDog’s Griffin. MadDog, overheating and cockpit full of warnings, pushes his mech to its top speed to maintain the distance between them.

Slipping in behind the Quickdraw, TLC opens fire with its large laser, searing the armour from the centre rear with deadly precision. The damaged mech responds with fire from its rearward facing medium lasers, but misses with both.

Blowtorch sends her mech jumping across the East/West Canyon as she waits for her LRM10 to recycle. Fitz likewise heads North at a run, in contravention of the lance leader’s orders. While she is in the air over the gorge, Blowtorch’s flight of missiles, and Fitz’s, impact on the enemy, causing it to stagger under the successive concussive explosions. Retaining its footing, the heavy mech continues its northward course, trying to keep close to the Griffin. Almost as an afterthought, it sends a volley of LRMs toward Fitz’s Trebuchet, and unsurprisingly the flight never acquires its target.

2:30:00pm

Facing South, perched on the perilous edge of the canyon rim, directly in the teeth of her onrushing pursuer, Blowtorch readies and fires her PPC and LRM10 as the Quickdraw triggers its jump jets to assist a drop down to the canyon floor, 30 or more metres below. The descent is too rapid for the system to track properly and the particle beam does nothing but blow rock fragments clear of the southern wall of the gorge. Likewise, the long range missiles, fired too close once again, do nothing but drive themselves into the stone of the canyon wall.

Fitz triggers his jets and crosses back across the narrow canyon to land on the lower edge ringing the highest portions of the south plateau, losing sight of the Quickdraw due to the intervening terrain and elevation.

MadDog continues to hurtle forward, pushing the mech against the output limiters hard-coded into the mech’s engine while it struggles to cool down. His pursuer launches a barrage of long and short range missiles toward him, the long predictably going off course, but the short surprisingly finding their target with the three of the four warheads, erupting in a tight cluster on the Griffin’s right side.

Cool Hand fires his mech’s medium laser and SRM2, hitting with the laser and missing with the warheads. Once again laser fire had found the Quickdraw’s right arm.

Over the comm., Luke continues to offer direction on splitting the heavy mechs off from potential support, keeping them pinned from constant fire from opposite arcs, and harrying them every step of the way.

As if operating on the same wavelength, Rom requests a detailed scan from MadDog of the North, to seek out the missing Rifleman, only to get an instant response from the Griffin pilot, giving the all clear: no mechs to the North.

2:30:05pm

Trying to initiate a successful pinning attack as Luke and MadDog had done, Blowtorch sets her mech in motion to the West as the Quickdraw rushes across the floor of the canyon to the North. Fitz holds position and begins to home in on the heavy with his medium lasers, seeming to take forever before finally firing, just as the enemy presses up against the North wall of the canyon, out of Blowtorch’s line of sight. All three weapons strike home.

Surprisingly, the mech staggers, slams up against the stone wall of the canyon and then pitches forward in a loose heap to tumble over onto its back. Sparks and smoke boil out of the large rents in its useless centre torso armour, as the pilot tries to regain control of the suddenly ungainly mech.

The Quickdraw on the eastern edge of the plateau suddenly triggers his jets and jumps, losing speed, but gaining unpredictable movement in exchange. Calmly keeping the mech in his sights, Cool Hand Luke hits it with a shot from TLC’s large laser, burning deep into the already damaged left arm.

MadDog, arcing to the South and being rewarded by a return to normal engine output levels keeps his attention focused on the jumping mech between him and TLC. Holding fire is agony, but in just a few more seconds, everything will be perfect…

2:30:10pm

Against all logic and instinct, the Quickdraw pilot suddenly changes the trajectory of his jump and arcs due south to come down for a rough landing directly in the kill zone between his two opponents. The left arm, severed by the large laser attack a heartbeat before, continues on its original course to impact limply on the rocky terrain, still sparking.

Both MadDog and Lucas set about to punish him for the error. TLC fires its medium laser and SRM2, hitting with the latter, while MadDog, displaying uncharacteristic patience holds off for a second longer before striking a powerful blow with his PPC to the upper torso. The Quickdraw’s return fire of LRM10, SRM4 and its sole remaining forward facing medium laser fail to find the Griffin, or anything else.

Fitz, humming into the comm. as he tends to do when concentrating on a shot, unleashes two flights of missiles from his launchers despite the close range, seeing them detonate early across the severely damaged torso sections of the downed mech. Almost instantly heat and smoke bloom from the dangerous engine hit through the gaping tears in the centre torso armour, signalling a surge of heat and loss of power in the heavy mech.

Blowtorch, having positioned herself to the west of the enemy, drops into the gorge to seal the trap as planned, in perfect range for both weapons systems to strike the Quickdraw with impunity.

2:30:15pm

A chain of events occur in rapid succession.

The Hunchback signals it is leaving the field of battle, the eastern Quickdraw, sprinting southward recklessly, suddenly drops through the surface of the plateau, its legs disappearing almost instantly and its torso and head slamming into the stone of the plateau at a velocity significantly in excess of its listed, safe running speed. The western Quickdraw signals its surrender; unable to stand, and unsure of the extent of damage to the engine, the pilot requests permission to leave the field in defeat.

Growing silence begins to spread across the plateau as the discharges from heavy weapons cease, and as each battlemech slows and come to rest – keeping watch over the remnants of the enemy lance. Quick messages are relayed back and forth between lance mates, before the surrender is accepted and the simulation is terminated. The recriminations, discussions about honor, and heartfelt apologies from each of the students, will come later.

Surveying the HUD and seeing no further enemies, Cool Hand orders the unconditional surrender of all enemy combatants.

Unconditional Surrender is offered.

2:30:20pm

The simulation ends.

3:00:00pm

Discussions with the students begins.

___________

Scene Coda

The simulation, designed by Angus Llew ‘Fitz’ Fitzsimmons as the mid-term exam, was intended to allow the students to demonstrate their understanding of basic lance operations, their grasp of the tactical considerations taught so far this term, and their progress in overcoming shortcomings cited in previous examinations.

The student lance was to have approached through two narrow passes to the North and was assigned the task of assaulting and overrunning an entrenched force, the Instructor Lance. As the class sizes are somewhat truncated for this final year of Hanachi Military Academy, the student lance consisted of 5 mechs. To even out the scenario, two of those mechs were not jump-capable, making the final victory condition of exiting from the South end of the mission area, a matter of no small concern.

As the lance was getting in position for defense against a surprise attack from the North, the student lance began to attack from behind. The briefing had them arriving from the North, on the ground. They instead dropped from low orbit to the South only moments behind the Instructor Lance. The defenders’ drop point was set to be along the E/W gorge. They appeared in two columns marching up the twin N/S canyons.

After the exam, hours were spent cross-examining each of the five students to determine if, and if so, how, they had managed to reprogram the simulators, who among them were directly responsible, if any staff were complicit in the escapade, and what they had expected to accomplish.

During the simulation, Fitz, who had set the mission parametres, seemed shocked at first, as the first AC rounds from the Rifleman began to rain down, but then decided it might be best to beat them at their own game. “New orders Lance Leader” he had quipped to Luke. “Send ’em back in body bags.”

Afterward, he felt that even if the students ended up failing the exam, the lance, as instructors, ought to comment on the students tactics in the simulation itself.

The pilot of the Rifleman is the star of the class, Coy Chilton. Coming from wealthy parents, good connections, and destined to inherit a dropship factory, Coy carries a certain confidence that inspires his classmates but tends to irritate or worry his instructors. His complete disappearance early in the simulation was a matter of no small embarrassment to him. After using data from the aerial pass of the departing dropship to fire on the Instructor lance, his first step caused his Rifleman to plummet into a sinkhole, falling 30m and becoming trapped.

The Wolverine pilot, Kyle Kenworth is something of a hot-head who seems desperate to become a mechwarrior. This performance will not help him. He is here on a scholarship and he has been showing signs of pressure and of pushing himself too hard. Many instructors believe he is at odds with his family, and that the Dean is somehow interceding on his behalf. The complete destruction of his own cockpit from his uncontrolled jump just 15 seconds into the combat will not be something he will be able to easily let go.

QuickDraw East’s pilot, Alphonse Custer has lots of enthusiasm and confidence, but does not understand the tactical material as a related discipline, just as discrete concepts. His performance in the simulation reflects this failure, and his almost random selection of tactical choices further reinforces a growing suspicion among the mech instructors that none of it seems real to the boy. Suddenly falling prey to a sink hole seems to have come as a relief to the boy as he was in over his head in dealing with the deadly pincer of MadDog and Cool Hand Luke.

Cooper Brown, the pilot of QuickDraw West is the eldest in the student lance, having been held back a year in high school. He is more methodical than bright, and prone to embarrassment, over-sensitivity, and low self-esteem. He hates to see others in trouble, and gets very agitated when things get cruel in conversation, or hot in contests, gambling, or on tests. He was silent to the point of catatonia when the simulation ended, clearly stricken by both his own failures on the field and what would happen to his classmates as a result of the cheating. It did not go without notice by the others that he was the only one directly bested in combat to the point of surrender. He did not fight back with the obvious retorts about jump accidents and catastrophic torso damage which most would have used in self-defense.

The Hunchback pilot is the only girl in the unit, and the class. She is aggressive and clever, but wants to be the best without doing the work. While the others drill, study, and practice, Allie King is often talking about drilling, studying, or practicing. She is talented enough to go far, but doesn’t seem to realize how much work is required – even for talented people. Of the 5, she was the only one with an air of satisfaction, brought on it was later discovered, because she felt she was the only one to do significant damage, and also complete the mission objectives.

Students were assigned the usual punishments, required to take the exam again – properly – at a steep grading penalty, and were further required to undergo remedial counseling after class with the instructors.

_________________

Later, in discussions at Dick’s Cafe Andurien with Fitz and the lead programmer on the school’s simulator, Conner Smith, the lance learned that the terrain and its unusual effects are as close to those of the actual site as they could code them to be. The mine consortium had surveyed the area in great detail, including a complete 3D model with geological surveys running 500m below the surface, as a possible location for a strip mine for some of the rarer minerals and compounds required for their military clients. The instability of the plateau, and the proximity to a planned housing development, put the entire project on hold.

No mention was made of where the programmer had gotten the Consortium’s 3D terrain model.

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