Mechwarrior PBeM Report 5 ~ Hair of the Dog ~ Story I Act IV Scene 5 & 6

This entry continues the ‘behind the scenes’ look at how the Hair of the Dog campaign, using Catalyst Game Labs’  RPG rules, set in the brilliant Battletech Universe, is being conducted as a PBeM. The layout of these reports highlights the interplay between the players in and out of character, and the flow of shaping and pacing a story when the players are worlds apart in space and time.

If you are new to the story being created in this campaign, you might want to start at the beginning…  HERE. These earlier reports have had all game elements removed and have been edited into a more dramatic and continuous form. For further detail about the setting and how the campaign came about, you can check this link.

Scene 5 of Act 4 can be found below, as well as links to the three solo scenes which spring from it to form Scene 6. Earlier Scenes in this Act can be found here:

Please be aware, for those for whom harsh language is of concern, that here be curse words~

Campaign:  Hair of the Dog

Story 1:  Running with the Big Dogs

Act 4: Bites,  Scene 5: ,  PoV: All Players

Cast:

  • Captain Lucas Rom, callsign – Cool Hand Luke, CH:L
  • Lieutenant Mel Winters, callsign – Mad Dog
  • Master Sergeant Velika Kadlec, callsign – Blowtorch
  • Major Angus Llew ‘Fitz’ Fiztsimmons, callsign – Death Breath
  • Captain Westerlie Plantagenet, callsign – Vertigo

GM

November 22, 3028 – 3am – Hanachi Military Academy

It was hard to tear yourselves away from that place of wonder, but eventually even the fittest warrior must rest and a tomb is no place to do that. Exploring the two all-important tunnels revealed much work that must be done to shore up supports and clear debris. Experts will be needed for that grueling job.

The further you explored, the closer you seemed to get to the effects of the attack. More bodies are uncovered, some Brigadier, some unidentified commandos. Something will have to be done for the dead so that the living can return to this place, and everyone can have peace.

The exit to the rail station proved to be impassable, but to your inexpert eyes does not seem irreparable. Air flows can be detected when the hourly trains blast past at their insane speeds. The blockage cannot extend too far.

It proved possible to crawl through the rubble at the end of the Proving Grounds exit, although it takes the better part of an hour to do so. Stepping out into the frigid darkness of the early morning, the events of the past day take on a surreal quality, but the rolling thunder and lightning flashes of the still-raging storm visible high above you in the mountains was a stark reminder of the war to come.

This winter will be a monster.

Oddly, the hardest decision to make all night was how to get back to the school. With the roads higher in the mountains already well on their way to becoming impassable for the winter, and the wind and low-visibility made an aerial pick-up seem unlikely even if Westerlie could be raised at such an hour through the storm in the middle of the night. Trudging back through the tunnels, past the crabs and the contaminants did not much appeal – and it occurred at some point that the scandal leading to the shutting down of the school may very well have been linked to that chemical contamination.

Through fatigue, however, the realization that there must be a way around the crabs begins to seem more and more like a reality. Taking a little time to tinker with the Tactical Table, you were able to not only plot several easier courses to the school exit, completely avoiding the R&D sections of the testing course tunnels, you were able to spot the crabs themselves… all 8 of them. They appear to all be on the very lowest levels of the tunnels, in close proximity to the ruined aquarium and the Decontamination Chamber entrance. There are several tunnel courses that run above the water course, as well as access tunnels for techs which are sized for people – not mechs…or crabs.

The return trip seems longer, but is much shorter than the trip in. Tired, but clean and warm, you dropped by to visit Fitz in the infirmary. He was awake and looking much better. He told you how he came across Goetz at the coffee station and he somewhat abashedly revealed what you all already knew, that he was more than a little turned on by the hot Ms Goetz. When he saw her bending over the coffee table he lost all reason and broke his no-pros rule, and started to chat her up. She flirted back, and poured him coffee to take back to… and he paused and took on a more serious look, “…all my little mechwarrior buddies.”

He thought she was just teasing, but now he realizes that she was up to no good. It takes some time to convince him that everyone else is ok.

While you are chatting, Westerlie comes in to check on him just before starting her shift. Seeing all of you dressed as you are and looking serious, she pulls up a chair and says simply, “Spill it. What’s up?”

The infirmary is deserted. The other injured were taken by hover-tank to Hanburton. The duty nurse is dozing in the outer office. The walls are thick and shielded.

CH:L

“Westerlie. Fitz. Things are looking up. [Grinning, he closes the door to prying ears]. We’ve found the remnants of an old underground repair and training facility that used to belong to the old Scorpion plant. By clearing out of the school here on the surface and moving operations underground, we can have our cake and eat it too. This base is going to have to be the best kept secret on the planet though, so before we take the rest of the staff and students down, Westerlie, Blowtorch and myself will set up a security surveillance team with the sensor system that’s down there.”

My latest thought on our next mission is actually to cheat and try for two strokes at once. I think we should take our best lance of mechs and strike a blow to a target where the Lyrans are advancing on the northern continent. This target should be very near where we believe the Northwind Highlanders are holed up. If we are going to convince veteran mechwarriors to join our cause, we have to give them reason to think we can succeed first. We need a very flashy attack that will spread the word. The location that the Northwind Highlanders are at is also in danger of being swallowed by Lyran front lines, so time is an issue here. Mad Dog, I agree with your idea of mixing up targets on the southern continent, but we’ll save those for second and third strikes to keep the Lyrans guessing.

So let’s see where the Highlanders are being held on the map, and see if Saint has any intel on its defending forces.”

GM: [Fitz]

Fitz fiddles with his pillow to try to get into a better sitting position, and with Wersterlie’s help, succeeds.

“I can fill you in a bit on how things lie, Captain,” he says. “According to the news, the Lyran front line has been expanding southward at a greater rate than northward, but as of their announcement at our local noon, it has begun a concerted push to the East. My guess is that whatever airpower he has been able to muster or commandeer, has been directed by sea to the East. That Eastern foothold gives Axthelm access to a second land route to secure the remainder of our continent… if that is indeed a goal. If he can secure the cooperation of the Hanachi family, then all the Brigadier holdings automatically fall into his service, don’t they?

Beasville is the largest city of this continent within the Lyran zone of control and also the northernmost population centre within that zone. It is slowly becoming a cultural and academic centre, but it started life as a manufacturing and distribution hub before the capital was moved south to Gordon. Brigadier’s original air and space port is there, along with a large myomer factory. Quickcell also has a few factories there, but nothing we can immediately use, or that the Lyrans can’t get elsewhere.

Off the top of my head, I would cite the following things as important targets: the Beasville power station, the Quickcell Regional HQ, the Brigadier Regional HQ, their Myomer Manufactory and aerodrome, and the former Naval Command… and – don’t laugh – the Ward Marik Museum of Military History… I hear it has some very compelling exhibits,” he winks.

Growing serious again he finishes off with, “I think we should avoid the Brigadier Rail link like the plague so they do not rush any faster to control it themselves… and Captain? If I were a betting man, I’d say that the Lyran infantry are quartered in the old Navy Base, and that your old friend Axthelm has already tried to get permission to use the Aerodrome as a base of operations for his mechs, and just might publicly take it and their other holdings over if they have turned him down. Remember that Coy Chilton and Sander Hanachi both disappeared around the date we suspect the Lyrans actually landed… Only Coy came back. I think it is wise to assume that the upper echelons of Brigadier are under pressure, and that if we were to look for the Hanachi family we would not find them. Coy came back angry and would not discuss where he had been… I think he chose to remain, and I think he did so in order to fight the Lyrans. I would also be willing to wager that he is not the only one with ties to Brigadier who would feel that way.”

He falls back against his pillow, and reaches out for the glass of water beside his bed.

GM [Westerlie]

Westerlie, seated by the head of his bed, obliges and adds, “I have been to that aerodrome more times than I can count, and lifted off to orbit command on a monthly basis ever since I got to this rock. It has all the facilities he would need to build a repair center, it is already fairly well defended, with a hardened wall and very restricted access. The site has a large underground storage facility with a direct link to the rail line. It is the second-to-last stop. The Myomer factory is on the Northern edge of town, the third-to-last stop on the rail link. I don’t know much about it, but it is a sprawling place, east of the power station, with long, narrow, one and two storey buildings. The perimeter fence is chain, but it has a moat and again, very limited access by road. Brigadier seems to favour sites with geographic features which allow them to isolate points of access… I guess that’s a result of being a military contractor for centuries.”

CH:L

“And here is our dilemma. We need to know what they control to decide what to attack, and then we need to know their strength to decide how to attack it. We can’t need to attack their force directly to be seen as liberators and absolutely minimize any aggression towards on planet, potentially friendly industries.

Given their spread of territory, and the importance of targets in this city, I would say they have allocated at most one company of mechs to this city. More likely one or two lances with heavy infantry support. The Lyrans will spread their infantry pretty thick until they know where to station their mech forces.

Here is my proposal, but it depends on Intel bearing out my assumptions:

-assuming the Lyrans have already bullied into a position of control at the aerodrome, the myomer plant and the naval base.

-assuming they have one command lance permanently guarding the aerodrome, one medium lance patrolling at or near the myomer plant, and a decent infantry presence at the naval base.

-at least, that’s what I would do.

1) first we stage an attack with our command lance in our best, fast medium mechs against the aerodrome. Even broadcast that we are avenging the “Gordon Four”. We need to get that command lance outside the walls of the aerodrome. They will almost certainly outgun us, and we need to start fighting a brave withdrawal action once we see how ‘desperate’ the situation. We may not have to act that hard.

2) Once they begin the chase, Fitz in command of our heavy strike lance (Quickdraws, Rifleman and Orion), and a scout lance (Scorpions, Phoenix Hawk) will lay siege to our real target: the myomer plant. If it’s unguarded, you merely have to announce its liberation to the management, and state the legitimate Free Worlds League government will be in touch with contracts for its services. Be sure to mention our government policy is much friendlier to free enterprise.

3) There will likely be a medium lance guarding nearby and the Lyrans will certainly send infantry backup. When infantry is spotted, the Heavy Lance will split off to deal with the mechs, the light lance will split off to deal with infantry. Word of the infernos on the Pheonix Hawk will spread among the Lyran infantry, with any luck. Not my first choice of tactic, but anyone who attacks a mech is fair game.

4) Once the infantry is distracted, Westerlie will take a small ground crew to the Comstar station and pay to make a planet-wide announcement that the legitimate Free World government supported by Rom’s Regulars is taking back Oliver. Legitimate industry and mercenary concerns are urged to resist the illegal actions of Axthelm’s invasion. Once finished, return to the myomer base with your crew to help with any salvage.

4) The ideal result will be taking out the medium lance and infantry. Remove their ability to defend and control the myomer plant. Our goal against the command lance for now will be to survive and escape in our medium command lance. Our other lances will be mostly green pilots, but they should outmatch anything they meet so overwhelmingly that it should be good experience.

5) Our back-up, backup plan will be the two Crusaders and two tanks guarding our retreat. They should remain stationed at the northern training grounds and under no circumstances come to our rescue – only ambush if attacking forces come into the comm jamming area of the training grounds. Any lance that runs into trouble, make your way back there, and coordinate an ambush with the crusaders. The heavy and scout lances should retreat immediately if they encounter superior forces.

6) If the weather suddenly clears, do not make your way back to base. Make a show of going back to the eastern part of the northern continent, then double back once cloud or storms resume.

So, any input? A back-up, back-up, backup plan perhaps? Otherwise let’s get the intel we need to make this happen.

Mad Dog

“Do we want to mount a recon mission for the Highlanders, Carson’s Raiders, or conduct any harassment missions to distract the enemy and slow their increasing grip on these regions and assets?”

“We’re behind you all the way, Captain,” becoming more comfortable with his address given the more public and ‘normal’ the military conversation this time. “It sounds like an excellent major operation but it will take time to be ready for it. A few of us can be ready for simpler missions almost immediately—as soon as our mechs are prepared.”

CH:L

I’m hoping the publicity from this will make first contact with merc units, miners and industry go a little smoother. We will be less like beggers.

I think we can be up and running for this one fairly quickly since all the mechs we need are operational. We will be busy preparing the move and security for a at least a few days while BT gets the mechs ready.

We will be needed here to get this ready, and I’d rather not send a green lance out alone for harrassment.

Its already winter here in the mountains, and I’d like to make this major hit before winter in the rest of the north.

Mad Dog

“I’ve kept a close eye on the cadets, and last I saw, the best and brightest would get themselves killed in a simpler operation than this even if we were looking out for them and guiding them through it. They might be ready soon, but until they show me they have a chance of surviving I have a duty to not commit them to any such operation. As our CO you can always countermand my orders and commit them any way, but I felt you should know what to expect, Captain.”

CH:L

“From what I’ve seen on that last training exam, these kids are competent, green pilots and there is only so much you can learn from training simulations. Our best three students; maybe Cooper, Allie and Coy with the firm hand of Fitz leading the lance to give it experienced presence. I also suspect they will also have a roughly 40 to 80 ton weight advantage against their opposing lance: if there even is one. The light lance will likely not encounter mechs at all. We will of course revise this if intel shows anything different, but we have to start thinking of these kids as green mechwarriors, and not students. We won’t find many other encounters where they can cut their teeth outclassing their opponent by such a wide margin. I will keep your reservations in mind though, and wait till intel comes in for a final decision.

Umm, Fitz… Is there something you need to tell us about the museum?”

GM: Fitz

Fitz nods his head, takes another swallow of water, signals for the anti-nausea pills by his bedside and responds to both points.

“The museum is not likely to be guarded, but it will be a key prize if the Lyrans ever think to do anything other than collect taxes, extort local businesses, and talk about how great they are. The Hall of Honour is a very large display in the museum which features early production models of major Free Worlds ‘Mech designs. The last time I was there I saw a GLT-4D or maybe 4L, an Orion of some description… I think it was a K, a Thug if you can believe that, and at least one Hermes. One thing that sticks in my head is that the brochure indicated that the collection was rotated seasonally – meaning those are not the only mechs that they have, and that the mechs are in some way functional… ”

CH:L

“Fitz, I think you may have the perfect compromise there. We need time to get organized here. Westerllie needs time to flush out any bad seeds, and we need to get out there and kick some butt.

How about this: We break into the museum in an old infantry style raid. Me, Mad Dog, Fitz, and BT in case we have trouble with those old mechs. We break out what we can, and hit them from the inside! We will have one lance of students a few km outside town on the way back, in case we get into trouble. Maybe a supply vehicle with some ammo in case the museum is dry. Make sure we hit the garrison where we suspect the Highlanders have been detained on the way back. Best case we disrupt the advance, get some good video, and don’t show the Lyrans any of our current strength”

GM: Fitz

“I thought you might find that bit of trivia useful, Captain” Fitz smiles. “Anyway! I agree with both of you about the students. I keep reminding myself that they are adults in their 20’s and that they have been training for years, but then I remember all the blank looks in my tactics classes and the innumerable times their chain of command fell apart in drills because they would not think about the larger picture. Do they have the raw skills? Yes, certainly. One on one I think they are killers… as a lance, or even members of a lance… they just do not have the experience or the maturity that comes from hardship….to….”

He takes the pills from Westerlie and swallows them, starting again once they are down. “It’s war now. If we keep them from combat because they don’t have enough experience to enter combat, they will never get any experience. I think we all need to put ourselves in their shoes, for a moment, too…. If you were their age, in this place, at this time… who could have kept you from the line of battle? Further… where do you think they are right now? If I were a betting man, I’d lay money that at least one of them is at Cacophony trying to chat up a certain hot waitress to get her to call a certain sickly student and agree to visit him privately in exchange for that certain sickly, but oh-so-smart student by-passing the mech start-up sequence on the student lance… any takers?”

Mad Dog

“Really?” Mad Dog says with a raise of an eyebrow, “We might want to do something about that.”

“Hear me out on this topic…After their last little stunt in September, I went over their files and gave their further study careful consideration. We met and I laid it on the line for them. They listened, but they did not understand. This was before things changed with the invasion. Honestly, as a group, I’m proud of them and think they can all be fine mechwarriors if they can overcome some personal problems.

“I’ve been trying to see if I could get their heads on straight, because that’s what they need to not be a liability to their lance or to themselves. In terms of skills, they are good enough to be typical green recruits and they’ve got talent to become better than that. It’s not about coddling them, but about a good hard cold slap and getting their heads in the game.

“We have irresponsible behaviour, actions endangering lance mates, and all round bad decision making. Those are the hotshots and stars… On the more troubled end we have freezing under pressure and having a mech and its pilot standing there doing nothing.

“You,” he says looking at CH, “Made them my responsibility, and all I’m saying is that I need to clear them first and I haven’t had a chance to do that. I did say that some of them are very close to that approval. We won’t be bypassing that step unless our CO here shuts me down on that and gives the job to someone else. That would be fine with me since, like all of us, I’m over-tasked and don’t have enough time for tactical and lance command as it is. Either way, I will not pass them for service until I’ve had a chance to properly evaluate their readiness first. I trust all of you appreciate why I’m insisting on that small detail. They’re not our students anymore, but our soldiers, and as such they deserve that much.”

CH:L

I said they were yours to train, and I meant it. Tell them what they need to hear to get them ready, but get them ready. One point I want to remind everyone about that training exercise: After we realized they ‘adjusted’ the test, we made the decision to slap them down – hard. As only a veteran lance can, using all of our tricks. They didn’t have a chance, but you are completely right that they could have done a lot better. I think a big lesson you should remind them is that no matter how clever they think they are there is always someone better.

They want to be in this fight, and we need them in this fight. Let’s do what we can to get them through it one piece. They will either listen to us or not.

On that note, Fitz is suggesting your charges may be hot-wiring some equipment as we speak. Plan to do anything about that? [Grinning] If you plan on giving them some rope and need a couple of lance mates to help you follow them, let us know. [Grinning ear to ear]

Mad Dog

“I’d like someone’s help with that, especially Blowtorch if we can spare her. She can make the best assessment of any tampering we might find.

Salutes to his friend and grins, “I’ll get you some pilots from that lot ASAP.”

CH:L

“I think Fitz was suggesting they might be taking a few mechs for a joy ride. No? Maybe taking to the field to prove their worth to us? You and BT could definitely shut them down before they get started, but perhaps we could let them succeed and follow them from a discreet distance to keep them out of trouble or teach them a lesson? I will consider this a matter of discipline, either way, and up to your discretion. Just let me know if you want me to suit up.”

Mad Dog

“I’d rather they not get out anywhere. Why help the Lyrans find us?”

Blowtorch

“Fuck if I let them fuck up my Mechs and take them on a fucking joyride!” Blowtorch snarls impatiently. “Those amateur fuckwits are going to burn out the cockshitting wiring and I am going to have to weld the hundreds of cunting wires back together or else we’ll be stuck with fuckin’ Mechs that can only steer to the fucking left!”

She stands and stretches, restless, fidgety, “Look, I’m not big on the war planning; I just want to fix Mechs and shoot the enemy. I’m going to trust whatever plan you guys come up with, but I’m going to say a couple things: I don’t trust those students enough to send’em out on their own. They’ll just get themselves killed. But they can support. With the right leader to help’em keep their head on straight,” glance at MD, “they can get better without getting killed.”

“I think we should start with something simple and decisive, with simple objectives and a clear victory. Less moving parts means less can go wrong. Like, taking out a partol lance. Raiding an ammutions depot and making off with the goods,” glancing at Fitz, “or attack that museum to grab the mechs and designs.” Looking at CH, “We’re not strong enough to keep any facilities or territories right now, so we should attack places we can loot and burn to deprive the enemy of those things.”

“Now look, this is what we have for Mechs: us gearheads here can get the school mechs up and running in a few hours, but getting our buried treasure out and combat ready is going to take longer. A lot longer. Mechs have got to be inspected and repaired, maybe refitted, and the fucking tunnels have to be cleared out if the Mechs are going to actually go anywhere. Clearing the tunnels is going to take a couple days by my best guess and that assumes no fucking crabs show up and interrupt our work. I’ll also have to bring a team of trusted techs in with me to take care of the Mechs if we’re going to have any hope of getting them out and going this season.”

“Now if it’s OK with you guys, I’m going to go and make sure nobody’s fucked up my Mechs.”

Scene 6: Wayward Students

                   Cool Hand Luke              Mad Dog                Blowtorch

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