Mechwarrior PBeM Report 3: Hair of the Dog

This entry continues the third scene of the Hair of the Dog PBeM Mechwarrior Campaign, entitled Hand that Feeds. This portion of the scene is where the characters’ paths once again converged and they continued their headlong plunge into the swift moving waters of insurrection and revolt.  The campaign is being played using the 4th Edition rules: A Time of War.

Hair of the Dog: Scene III

~ Hand that Feeds

Hanachi Military Academy:  The characters come back together in the waiting room next to the Dean’s Administration Office.

GM:

Cool Hand and Blowtorch enter from the extreme cold of the outside and see the door to the Administration office is closed. Mrs. Abercrombie, without your prompting or knocking, opens the door, indicates the waiting area, informs you that the Dean will see you in five minutes, and closes the door again.

Above your head, the giant, skull-adorned clock ticks your lives away. Before too many precious seconds elapse, Mad Dog arrives from deeper in the building. The waiting area has comfortable seats, a connecting door to the Administration office, and refreshments. It also has privacy that the lobby, filled with students streaming into the Main Hall, does not.

Your appointment with the Dean is in 3 minutes.

Mad Dog:

“I heard that Fitz is going to be alright”, I say genuinely concerned.

I glance out the window for a brief moment. Somewhere out there are people, other mechwarriors and others, that I’m going to kill or die fighting. It’s only a matter of time now, like that damn clock is reminding me. I find myself half grinning at the thought. The general consensus must be right: there must be something wrong with me.

Discipline asserts itself; killing the self-indulgent internal monologue as I look to my new friends. I still want to speak to CH about Goetz. Now might not be the time either…

CH:L:

“Fitz will recover, but he’s going to be annoyed for a while. I would have liked for him to be here at this meeting as well. Events are happening on this planet too fast. I don’t like shooting from the hip, but at least we’ve seen that other players are also having to move faster than they would have liked. I think what I need to know for the moment is, are either of you uncomfortable with the path that we have started on today?”

Blowtorch:

This is what happens when I spend all afternoon in the bay, working on the mechs: “I’m out of the fucking loop here, what the fuck happened to Fitz?”

CH:L:

“Fair enough. maybe the next three minutes will be best served getting each other up to date so we can make the decisions we need quickly, but informed. You saw Goetz’s attempt to reach the communicator, but all evidence is pointing to her poisoning Fitz’s coffee back in the staff room. In fact, the same poison was in 5 coffee cups that could have found their way into our hands if not for a twist of luck. That and other evidence point to her being a sleeper agent, though we don’t know whether she was activated externally or of her own choice because recent events. We managed to get Fitz treated at the med bay thanks to Westerly finding the poisoned coffee cups.” “What of you two?”

Blowtorch:

“I’ve been working on the Mechs all afternoon,” I show them my folder filled with filled-out paperwork, “and need to see the Dean in person about getting the armour and specialized equipment for’em. We also need to work out a way to get some ammunition unless we want to go into battle with nothing but lasers and bad language.”

Mad Dog:

“How long was Goetz here on this planet? At first, I thought she might just be a sympathizer looking to switch sides as soon as she could. It was mostly that she seemed to have made slips with various people, including me, that a number of us suspected her of being a security risk as soon as things got serious. It didn’t strike me as the work of a professional spy.

However, perhaps she’s just not the most disciplined agent or just went through a period of growing too relaxed. Maybe she is a sleeper agent. Maybe she was sent here a long time ago, hated it here, and perhaps had no reason to believe that she would ever be needed. Perhaps she felt buried and forgotten here. She grew careless and bored. Then the winds change and she finds herself suddenly useful after all.

What I wanted to talk to you about is that if she is any sort of agent she might have had an opportunity to communicate before things got serious. Perhaps not directly since she might not have a person to contact, but maybe a data depository or something like that. Mechs and a handful of experienced mechwarriors… Until we prove otherwise, I feel we should operate under the possibility—no matter how slim—that our presence and position might already be compromised.

Otherwise, she tried to kill me with a knife, and there was powder in her purse. It will probably match. Seems sloppy to find that there, but maybe she felt rushed or something happened. She was very good with a knife, though.”

CH:L:

“You are right of course. If she was activated externally or managed to get a message out, we will have to assume the worst for the time being. The upcoming storm may give us some short term cover, and we will be wise to jump on it. We can interrogate her later, but of course any info she provides will be suspect. Assuming she survived you disarming her? I can assure you that she has had her fair share of ‘professional’ training, but again, all of your background theories are possible. Dean Liscombe may be able to give us more information on the likelihood that she has gotten contact through…And on that note, I think we will have to be direct and concise in this short meeting: I suggest we tell the Dean immediately of our resolve to resist the occupation and retake the planet.

I’m sure he has been updated on Fitz and Goetz, so no need to spend time there. What information does he have on the strength and makeup of the occupying force? We should ask if there are any planetary resources which he knows of to solve our immediate needs for supplies and a base. Longer term discussions can wait till our current urgencies abate.

Anything else that we should bring up?”

Mad Dog:

“I think I remember seeing an outpost of some kind when I was first shipped in. I’d have to check the maps and charts, but whatever it was—observation, research, storage or who knows—could make a possible place to go depending on distance and other factors. It might warrant a recon for evaluation if there is a chance for it.”

GM:

Mrs. Abercrombie opens the connecting door and says, “The Dean will see you now.”

Stepping back to allow any who wish to pass by her to assemble in front of the Dean’s closed door, Abercrombie makes eye contact with each person who chooses to attend the meeting. Her stern face and steely eyes make it very certain that this is a moment from which there is no coming back.

CH:L:

“Thank you Mrs Abercrombie” I walk in meeting her gaze.

Mad Dog:

I go in saying nothing—perhaps a nod if she looks at me as I enter.

Blowtorch:

Tightening my grip on my folder, I too meet Mrs. Abercrombie’s gaze as I pass the point of no return.

GM:

The formidable woman steps to the door and opens it for the three of you, ushering you past her and into the Dean’s office.

As the last of you passes her, she closes the door firmly, sealing you in with the Dean. Liscombe is seated at the desk as you enter, but he rises as you do, indicating that you seat yourselves in the chairs arrayed in an arc before the desk.

As usual, the desk is nearly bare, but the holo of the Dean’s lost Lancelot is active and running through its short recorded cycle. A holographic display, from the desk terminal, blanked, is active – showing only the logo of school.

“Thank you for coming,” he says, with his customary grace. “I asked you here because I know what may be in your minds and I want to urge you to carry it out with determination, sophistication, unwavering courage, endless compassion for the citizens of this world, and no mercy for the cowardly invader who has crept into our house to plunder and murder.”

Waving his hand over the desktop, he brings the screen to light, revealing the figures printed in light in the air.

“By now, the disinformation campaign of our new Lyran overlords will have many believing that the 18th has abandoned us. This is, of course, not true. All Marik Militia have been ordered to bolster defences against an enormous invasion fleet two jumps from here. The space forces arranged against the Free Worlds League represent nearly the entire Lyran fleet and preliminary reports suggest that Liao borders are crumbling from within and without, allowing Davion forces to move in, freeing up Lyran units for reallocation to the new front. I am saddened to tell you that our borders have been pushed back so far as to have brought about the sudden stripping of the defence forces of eight worlds. I have just gotten word, however, that our defences are holding and the Lyran push has been soundly thwarted.

Other news in our favour is that in order for their space forces to stand against our combined fleets, the Lyran occupying force stationed here is – for the time being – left with the most minimal of air and space support, and that their forces on the ground account for little more than a regiment. While we will have to concede the loss of the capital city and the southern reaches of the continent, the timely arrival of seasonal storms has ensured that the program to seize control here in the north has failed, and that nothing but Mech forces may be mobilized against any defence we might raise until the weather breaks in the spring. This is a small advantage, but one nonetheless. This advantage, equipment and facilities I am aware of, plus the military materiel I have managed to amass in my time here, may allow you to light a fire of rebellion which will burn bright and hot enough to sustain Oliver until our fleets can return to sweep these ravaging dogs from our sight.”

He looks up. “Questions?”

CH:L:

“Major Liscombe, Your support means a lot. Thank you. As for Questions? I have many, but permit me to start with the assumptions that I have made? We should be more efficient in questions once our conceptions are confirmed or dispelled.

Our current force consists of two lances of mechs in more-or-less battle readiness plus maybe a handful of mining mechs. We have enough instructors and – granted green – students to field both of these lances. I am assuming that you have at your disposal sufficient supplies and ammo to get us equipped for at least initial hostilities. You may also have access to mechs or combat vehicles to bring us up to a full company. This will be our initial resistance to a roughly 126 mech regiment?

I assume that off planet help will be very slow in coming, if it comes at all, for either side. I assume that our planetary forces made it very difficult for the Lyran forces to begin any significant production in the on planet factories, as we will be relying heavily on slow attrition of their forces. Unfortunately, I also assume that we will also be unable to make use of these mech factories during a large portion of our resistance.

Until a few minutes ago, I was assuming that we would have to abandon this base immediately, but I would like to give that more thought in light of this new information, and speaking of which, would it possible to get an itemized – and encrypted – account of our resources with which we can start our plans?

I also assume that you have been left with no ‘official’ orders regarding the retaking of this planet.

Finally, I assume that the wording of your support means that you will not be taking an overt role in this venture?”

Mad Dog:

“What plans do we have for civilian personnel and the students?” The question is simple enough, but the depth of sincerity and concern on the hotheaded warrior’s face tells the story of the raging torrent of questions beneath the surface:

Can we hide them somewhere safe? Will some of them slow us down and compromise us with their lack of knowledge and expertise and so on? Can we do without the extra mechs being manned by students, but on the other hand could we ethically place students in harm’s way? Would they just screw up and get us all killed if we did? Should we just form a core elite team, head to the hills, hide everyone else somewhere else, and operate on a smaller but more efficient level for now?

Jumping ahead to a related, but burning question, Winters concludes with, “Won’t you be implementing a formal military command structure and taking charge, Sir?”

GM:

The Dean waves his palm across the desk again, and a short precis of the Lyran mech forces springs into being in a font large enough to be read from where you are seated.

As the list resolves into full focus, he states, “I will not be engaging in field actions, my days of piloting a mech are over. As the force will have to be mobile and inspired by its leader’s conviction and combat prowess, I do not think I can serve as anything other than an advisor, and as an additional layer of protection and obfuscation when the Lyrans eventually do come knocking.

____________________Holograph_____________________

Known Lyran Forces In-system

0-1 Jumpships, Invader or Merchant class

2 Excaliber Class Drop Ships (Location Unknown)

1 Leopard Class Drop Ship (Location Unknown)

1 Union Class Dropship (Stationed in Capital)

Command Lance

• Hammerhands, Rifleman, Archer, Warhammer (Elite)

4 Scout Lances

1 Stinger, Locust, Locust, Wasp (Veteran)

2 Stinger, Stinger, Stinger, Stinger (Veteran)

3 Wasp, Commando, Locust, Flea (Experienced)

4 Stinger, Commando, Jenner, Wasp (Green)

8 Medium Lances

1 Phoenix Hawk, Clint, Trebuchet, Dervish (Vet)

2 Griffin, Wolverine, Centurion, Shadow Hawk (Exp)

3 Wolverine, Wolverine, Wolverine, Trebuchet (Vet)

4 Shadow Hawk, Clint, Centurion, Vulcan (Gr)

5 Dervish, Dervish, Assassin, Hachetman (Exp)

6 Wolverine, Trebuchet, Dervish, Centurion (Gr)

7 Vulcan, Centurion, Assassin, Jenner (Vet)

8 Centurion, Trebuchet, Commando, Wolfhound (Exp)

4 Heavy Lances

1 Crusader, Thunderbolt, Quickdraw, Rifleman (Vet)

2 Quickdraw, Thunderbolt, Catapult, Marauder (Vet)

3 Jagermech, Rifleman, Archer, Catapult (Exp)

4 Warhammer, Marauder, Thunderbolt, Orion (Exp)

2 Assault Lances

1 Victor, Zeus, Cyclops, Goliath (Exp)

2 Zeus, Banshee, Stalker, Annihilator (Exp)

________________________________________________

“Now, as for our assets: Things are not as bad as they might seem – if you can act quickly, decisively, and unite the people behind you. Although – victory conditions should be made clear from the outset. If you aim for complete liberation of Oliver from the Lyrans we may be fighting for the rest of our lives.” He clears his throat.

“I have managed over the years to secure almost 20 tons of LRM and SRM munitions, as well as significant amounts of armour and other equipment for repairs. These, are stored in the bunkers under the stable for the most part, but the more sensitive materials are stored at a more secure location.

What the Lyrans have tended to lack, despite their advantages, is a good knowledge of local history. Hopefully that will play to our advantage. One thing I have tried hard to keep out of the histories of this place, and one thing my predecessors did not remember or realize, was that this academy was built on the original site of the Scorpion Factory so famously destroyed here on Oliver. What you may find down there, beyond my weapons caches is up to you to recover and catalogue. You can access the facility through the bunker at the end of the target range.

In addition, Marik forces have been so kind as to leave us at least two secret military bases: one at the site of the Hanburton Secondary Power Generator, and one a bit farther down the mountain, sadly cut off from normal traffic by the depth of the snow and the strength of the wind. If you can get to it before the Lyrans know to look for it, and get their troops in position here in the North, it will be a huge asset.

Finally, there is the mine and its workers.

CH:L:

“We will need to make exploring those facilities a priority, then. Followed by the mines and the military bases. we need to know our strength before any planning can commence. The mining consortium has a full survey of the area, correct? Including mine layouts? We will need to know if any mining tunnels connect to, or come close to this school or the underground plant. How well do you know the head of the consortium? Could they be trusted to help us build a network of tunnels we could use?

As for victory conditions, I hadn’t considered anything other than planetary victory or escaping the system, but I will have to give thought as to possible ‘Nash equilibriums’ that may fall somewhere in the middle.

Also, I do somewhat agree with Mel regarding rank – we will need some type of structure that our forces can understand, though it may be a looser structure than what we are used to. Major Liscombe, everyone in this school will certainly look to you to first fill that role, and then to at least define it. The last thing we need is uncertainty of direction in these early weeks. If we three are the core of this rebellion, I propose that we each have relatively autonomous command in our relative spheres of influence: Vel: Repairs and logistics, Mel, You have a far more formal military background than I do, so battlefield operations, discipline, training new recruits, and strike lance command. I will take strategy, planning and company command. Obviously these will grow as our numbers grow. I realize my rank is civilian, but this seems to make the most strategic sense at the moment. Would you all support this?”

Mad Dog:

I nod in agreement.

GM:

The former major, and retired war hero looks at you all from across the dark wooden desk made long before any of you were born. “You will need to see to your own rank and unit structure. Keep it fluid, and keep it believable. I think it’s best you use your actual ranks. At your grade in the…service, Mr. Rom, that would work out to be a captain, but as I was a Navy man – Lieutenant Commander would be the actual designation for you. Mr. Winters, your last punitive demotion was always intended to be temporary, and as war has found you – Lieutenant, Senior Grade. ‘Blowtorch’ here already knows her rank, like any good CPO. She has to use it every day unlike we lazy Academics.

CH:L:

“Then only other issue then, is the students. I suspect it will be impossible to mount a resistance and insure their safety at the same time, so I suggest that we offer each student their certificate of graduation (they are ready for the most part), and offer them the choice of enlisting as mechwarriors or assistance off planet. We need to stress that both are honorable options. Sir, do you have contacts that could help hide or offer transport to those who choose not to fight?

GM:

The Dean shakes his head slowly – “Where would they go? Is there anywhere on this planet that is not about to be put under the thumb of an occupying force? We can release them from their studies and hold their graduation. Those who wish to stay and fight are welcome to do so – if you will have them, or believe that they can be made ready in the time you have left. Those who wish to stay and help to maintain the charade of a quiet military academy for disaffected young men and women, are also welcome to do so. Those who would turn their backs on the defense of their homeworld have learned nothing from us, and as far as I am concerned, may continue on their self-destructive path toward all the fruits that that path will bring them. No student here is defenseless, nor are they citizens who require protection. They are warriors. If they will not stand as warriors with us, then they are cowards or to be counted among the enemy. Either way, they will take no more of our time and resources, we have too few of either. ”

The Dean’s unusual nickname from his mechwarrior days… ‘Saint’… seems like much more than a half-funny play on his first name, and much more like the call sign of a true believer. The quiet fire you have all sensed in him over time, seems to be fanning itself into a blaze.

CH:L:

I assume you will be announcing war time protocols including carrying firearms? I would very much like to stay to hear your speech, but immediately after that, Mel, Vel and I should gather some equipment… battery packs, weapons… and meet at the entrance to the bunker.

Could you also announce the first meeting for 0800 hours tomorrow for anyone who wants in on this first resistance unit?

I’m sure we will all have more questions as time marches on, but I think it may be time to move on what we know now

Mad Dog:

“Major…”

“Sir, it’s my opinion that they are ready for some mech duties, but not combat—at least not any sort of tough fight.

Any who stay on will have to cut their teeth in a real fight sometime. Until they stand a decent chance of not getting killed in a simple engagement, however, I strongly recommend that we keep them in reserve. Perhaps simple recon missions with me babysitting them…

A lot of waking up needs to happen with that lot. Sir…”

Blowtorch:

Velika nods and when an opportune point in the conversation presents itself, adds, “First thing, the mechs need to be outfitted before we can mount any kind of resistance. It’s also important to make sure we secure everything useful before the enemy grabs it for themselves. So, yeah, I think Cool Hand has the right idea about exploring those facilities you talked about.” (beat) “I was thinking, about victory conditions. It is for the people to know about, to know there is hope in resisting, right? It needs to be something simple, something flashy that gets attention, something clear. The Lyrans had a propaganda video where they showed on of our Mechs getting taken apart. Well, we should take apart one of their lances, and get it in film for everyone to see.”

Mad Dog:

“We can present the image of a real Marik military presence. That’s one of the many reasons why I’m emphasizing that we stick with what many of us know: a military structure for armed conflict. We could be organized in a ‘Bob, Jane, and Harry intellectuals resisting in the hills’ fashion, but if we are *for real* as Marik military operation then we never need to try to ‘fake it’.

The people of this planet need to feel that a real Marik military presence is here, even if isolated and outnumbered, and that it’s not going to hesitate for one moment to do it’s duty to protect them even in the face of overwhelming odds. They might feel abandoned by House Marik. If a small Marik military force fights against all odds for the people of this planet and they have the opportunity to find out, that will say more than any propaganda or spirit-crushing campaign. We don’t even need to win to make a difference in their hearts—we merely need to last for a time, not be blown away easily like what we saw on TV, and do our duty.

CH, I doubt it will matter if your rank is from the reg forces, or militia reserves. It doesn’t matter if you were a city mayor, an elementary school teacher, or whatever this ‘my rank is more civilian’ means. I have no idea what it means, and I honestly don’t care. We’re at war. If we don’t have a captain or commander, and we—the soldiers—recognize you as our commander then just wear the uniform and assume the role, my friend. I believe that if we we are seen by the people of this planet or by the students who join us, they should see you wearing the stripes and brass, hear me calling you captain or commander, and see me keeping my trap shut if you tell me to keep quiet.

I believe they need that. If I’m going to take your orders, I need that.

If you want to assume command and me back you based merely on my instincts about your good character—because that’s all I’m basing it on, I know nothing about your background beyond a few hints over beer—you’ll have to do it all the way. The resistance needs a military leader.

As for your past that you never speak about, that can stay a secret if need be so long as we give the troops something to believe in. Perhaps we can even emphasize it: the mysterious commander that no one knows anything about. Intimidating, no? We just need to make it clear that someone is in charge, and that there is a Marik military force here.

We also need to instill trust. Bold effective leadership for the soldiers and good deeds for the oppressed people should take care of that over time.

As for me handling battlefield operations, discipline, and lance operations, I accept. I’ve experience in all of those fields and even served as a 2nd in command once. As for discipline and being a stern 2nd-in-command, I can handle that”, I say with a grin.

“As to other long-term goals…

I’m not advising that we rush to end our lives. One lance is a good start, as Sergeant Kaldek suggested. Ideally, I’d like to slowly take them apart piece by piece. I want them to feel hunted, to know it’s coming, and realize that they’re going to die. I want to crush the enemy, attack their confidence, destroy their ability to fight, and make a mockery out of their numbers. We can’t hope to win tactical control of this planet under current conditions, but we might hope to force them to send reinforcements back from their front lines facing off with the bulk of our home forces. This way we can help the bigger battle even if in a small way.

The good news is that I doubt we’ll run out of enemies to kill.

We’ll need to be mobile as the Major said. We need to find those bases and keep them hidden. If the enemy can find us and pin us down it will soon be over. We’ll need as few dependencies as possible. We’ll need to obtain as much munitions, and resources as we can and get them to some place safe from which we can operate in secret.

Any ideas how we’ll do that if the weather doesn’t clear before then? Vehicles can’t travel the mountain roads in this. Have the mechs carry loads, maybe?” I say frowning.

CH:L:

“It sounds like we are mostly in agreement, and we can work out the details as soon as we get a better sense of our relative strength. Dean Liscomb, is there anything you can think of that we are missing?

I assume you will be announcing war time protocols including carrying firearms? I would very much like to stay to hear your speech, but immediately after that, Mel, Vel and I should gather some equipment… battery packs, weapons… and meet at the entrance to the bunker.

I would still appreciate if you could use any contacts you have to ascertain – Information on the rest of the Lyran regiment, rumours of any other Marik splinter groups on planet, whether we have to worry about Lyran presence off planet (satellites, the two moons or jump points), and whether we have anyone with Zero-G experience to deal with them, and whether Goetz was able to contact her handlers.

Could you also announce the first meeting for 0800 hours tomorrow for anyone who wants in on this first resistance unit?

GM:

No false hope, gentlemen. There are no forces you can count on other than those you claim, convince, or inspire to join the cause. For a three person rebellion, we have mechs aplenty. For a sustained resistance against the Lyran Commonwealth, we are woefully ill-equipped. It’s a matter of perspective. I will tell you this, however: I have heard through the grapevine that in September, a small detachment of the Northwind Highlanders was granted asylum here on Oliver, and their case was to be heard by Courts later this year. I expect that court date has been postponed. They and their equipment were all interned at the ‘secret base’ mentioned by Mad Dog, here. It is actually Fort Liscombe, named for my grandfather, and is on the lower steppes, about 100 km East of the Brigadier Electronics Complex in Hanstanople. (The largest northern city).

CH:L:

I’m sure we will all have more questions as time marches on, but I think it may be time to move on what we know now. On that note, I believe we have an inspirational message from our Dean to watch”

GM

The dean gestures and the holographic display fades out. “Yes…”he says. “Time for war.” He nods toward the door and steps out from behind the huge wooden desk.

“After you~”

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