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May 28, 2014
NOTE: Hi again! Got another story for you. This one is even lonnnnger. It's a bit over 5k words, which in most circles makes it a bona fide short story. I've been wanting to start producing sci-fi/fantasy short stories to start expanding my reach in my writing career, so this was a great way to get some practice with the form. It's certainly different than novel writing and a much more time-consuming endeavor than the vignettes I wrote before (although I still think the vignettes are pretty cool - they just aren't as marketable). Anyway, I'm very eager to hear what you think about this one. I'm pretty happy with it, but since writing short stories is still pretty new to me (haven't written a single one since I attended college back in the Iron Age) I want to know if anything is confusing/slow/unclear, etc.

Aside from that - please to enjoy!

Also, Signal's working on illustrations, but he got hung up by real life, so I'll update when he gets the chance to finish them!


Sirus Conroy
Comstar Associated Press Service
Embedded with the 228th Independent Battlemech Regiment
Gienah, border of Marik-Steiner space

The hum of the sublight engines is barely audible in the main briefing room on board the Jumpship Alcibiades. Sound cancelling insulation embedded in the walls, someone once told me. Makes voices easy to hear. Anywhere else on the ship one has to always talk a little louder than normal to be heard above the constant drone of the power plants. I’ve become used to it, but it makes the relative silence in the room seem eerie and expectant.

“So… this is just a land grab?” Most Likely asks as he shuffles his feet and leans forward in his chair to stare meaningfully at Vercinix. The XO of 228th stands behind the podium on the small stage and shrugs his shoulders in response.

“It’s the contract we’ve got. While the Ceasefire stands none of the major Houses are interested in feeding us, but we still have to pay the bills and…” Vercinix pauses as he looks down at his notes. “Baron Shitstain is being quite generous.”

“Chistain,” Deadfire corrects from where he sits on the left side of the stage with True Leader.

“Right. What’d I say?”

Deadfire snorts and True Leader just shakes her head. A hand shoots up from somewhere in the front row of seats where the five company commanders of the regiment sit with their executive officers. It’s dim in the auditorium and from where I’m seated on a small folding chair on the right side of the stage I can’t make out who it is.

“You don’t have to raise your hand, Jay,” Vercinix says tiredly.

“Right. Well. Forgive me for being polite,” JayZ responds.

“Not your fault,” Painsucker chimes in from a couple seats over. “Vercinix just isn’t used to it.”

Everyone laughs in that way people do when they want something to distract them from the tension in the room. 228th’s briefings are usually informal, but the constant stress endured by everyone over the past year of the Clan Invasion coupled with having to grapple with what an abrupt, galactic-wide ceasefire means to a mercenary regiment has hung a cloud of strange feeling over today’s proceedings.

“But I’m just confused,” Jay continues. “I mean, we haven’t taken this kind of contract since…”

“Since before the invasion,” Panicbutton finishes for him. He’s sitting in the aisle seat closest to me and I can just make out the annoyed expression on his face. “I know. Trust me. Deadfire and Verci and I have hashed this out at length. It’s a stupid, demeaning contract for a regiment like the 228th, but we need these funds if we’re going to have any hope of getting our salvaged ‘mechs into working condition before hostilities break out again.”

“Well, why not just sell them,” Longshank suggests from the middle of the row. “I mean, we have plenty of ‘mechs in reserve. Do we really need the damaged ones?”

Queenblade clucks his tongue from where he sits behind Panicbutton. Everyone remains silent for a moment to see if he adds anything else.

“I think what Queen means to say is that we have no idea what the Clans will throw at us next,” Oblivion says from the seat in back of Most Likely. “It’s better to be prepared with something new rather than just try to fight them with what they’ve already seen.”

Several people nod in agreement. Vercinix glances over at Deadfire and then turns back to the command staff. The CO maintains a stony silence.

“If there are no further questions, I’ll wrap this briefing up with an examination of expected resistance.” When no one objects or raises a hand, Vercinix activates the main view screen that dominates the back of the stage and the lights dim to blackness. An image of a lantern with a ghostly skull trapped within it appears on the giant monitor. Several groans and a few curses rise up out of the audience.

“Although Night Watch is a regiment less than half our size, they have several good pilots and an experienced command staff…”

Vercinix continues the briefing, breaking down probable enemy equipment, disposition and favored tactics. Although everyone is paying attention, I know what most of them are thinking. The Night Watch Mercenary Company has long been considered a sort of ally of the 228th. Among the several hundreds of mercenary units scattered about the Inner Sphere, 228th considers only a handful to be friends and generally spends no small amount of effort to stay clear of directly battling them. Night Watch is one of those. Several people in the auditorium as well as many pilots in the ranks have friends in that unit. As the briefing wraps up, hisses and boos rise up from the darkness.

“I’ve already talked to Blixx and Khavi,” Vercinix says as he holds his hands up in a placating gesture. “They’ve assured me that they signed a similar contract to our own. Rest assured, we’ll both be using the Limited Engagement clause liberally.”

The contract Vercinix is referring to obligates the 228th to support Baron Chistain’s claim on a large portion of the southern landmass of a continent in the western hemisphere of the planet Gienah, which sits on the border of Steiner-Marik. Although the Baron is a member of the Free World’s League, he has claims on several Steiner worlds. Thus, his family has insisted on keeping their honorific title, despite Marik generally despising such pretenses. On the opposite side, ironically enough, is BAS-LED - a large conglomerate of corporations seeking to preserve its gas mining rights in the region.

At the boundary where one major House abuts another, loyalties and culture often mix and never well. 228th involving itself in a minor border dispute among parties neither House cares to truly call their own carries about as much prestige as cleaning toilets for shady bars that never close. But it promises to pay much better than that, of course, and even a merc unit of 228th’s stature is still a for-profit business. At the end of the day, if the net result doesn’t show black, everyone leaves and the lights stop working.

“A Limited Engagement clause basically means the contractor and the contracted agree that the contracted are free to exercise discretion in combat,” True Leader explains as we descend to the planet in a Leopard Class dropship. We’re in comfortable imitation leather seats in the compartment in back of the cockpit. Deadfire and Vercinix sit behind us, eyes glued to banks of monitors and boards of blinking lights whose functions I can’t even begin to guess.

“You mean retreat, right?” I ask in a tone that I hope doesn’t sound offensive.

“We prefer to call it discretionary valor,” True Leader says with an admonishing glare. “Anyway, the point is that the contractor can’t tell us to go sacrifice ourselves without some clear and present need. In this case, since our contractor isn’t on world - and neither is Night Watch’s I’m sure - then we’ll utilize the clause to escape needless bloodshed. If they move into a position from where they can probably destroy us, we can withdraw without risk of contract breach.”

“And vice versa.”


It’s no wonder the Baron agreed to it. While Night Watch has more than a respectable record it doesn’t come close to comparing with 228th’s exploits. The odds are heavily in his favor that his substantial payment would result in the regiment seizing most if not all of his claims on Gienah. The only question, of course, is why the corporate stakeholders employing Night Watch are willing to go along. If Night Watch is driven off world completely, would they still get paid? If not, that seems like it would make them not quite so limited in their engagements. I ask True Leader about it.

“We’ll see,” she says with a resigned shrug.

“What a worthless, piece of crap stretch of land,” says Daxiasun over the comm. I look over Deadfire’s shoulder at the bank of monitors in front of him and see the one that displays Dax’s cockpit camera. After dropping off Swamp Foxes’ Alpha Lance, our dropship has retreated a few miles away and we’re circling in a holding pattern while we wait for contact with the enemy.

On the monitor, I see Dax’s hands flip a few switches as he tries to decide between heat vision and normal mode for his ‘mech’s display feed. “It’s just green muck everywhere,” he adds. “Why’s this guy want this place so bad?”

I see from the monitor feeds that the other pilots in the company are doing the same. While most stick to high-definition normal view, some settle on looking for infra-red signatures. Although the bog that stretches for hundreds of miles in every direction teems with life, a ‘mech’s energy signature should still stand out over the heat generated by all the creeping and crawling inhabitants of the overgrown marsh.

“Because he wants to build a spa here and relax in the warm mud,” responds Chemie.

“Cut comm chatter, everyone,” interjects Most Likely. “Dax, take your lance up to Gamma. Oblivion, secure Epsilon.”

“Something’s got my leg!” DSkou shouts through the speakers. “Holy shit, it’s a snake! A goddamn huge snake!”

I look at DSkou’s monitor, but I can’t see anything unusual. He fires his Battlemaster’s pulse lasers into the murky water at his feet and steam obscures the view.

“Hold your fire!” Most Likely yells. “DSkou, goddamnit, you’re just caught on a fallen tree trunk. Get your damn head in the game.”

“Oh... Well, I could have sworn I saw something huge move-”

“Get your ass in gear and rejoin Charlie Lance.”

I spare a glance at the tactical overlay on the main monitor hanging above our heads. Our blue triangles move out in three separate groups, but stay relatively close to each other. Over the past few months I’ve learned to read maps like these. As Most Likely’s lance takes up position on a mossy outcropping at the base of a muddy hill near a small waterfall, the other two lances assume positions around two gas mining derricks a couple of kilometers behind and to their left. From where Most Likely is he can view the greater part of the enemy’s probably approach vector.

“Contact!” Sherrod calls out. His Cicada Class Medium ‘mech is watching the company’s extreme left flank. “I saw a Raven and a Jenner.”

“Heading?” Most Likely queries.

“Back into the swamp.”

“Ok. Dax bring up your lance to relieve me. Alpha lance, let’s get on this hill. Charlie Lance, hold position for now.”

Again the triangles move, but this time Alpha Lance’s signatures move more slowly. A few curses float through the speakers.

“Fucking mudslide waiting to happen,” complains VanDamsel. Judging by his cockpit view, his Stalker Class Assault ‘mech is struggling to make it up the slippery slope.

“I see them,” reports Topgun from his Spider Class Light ‘mech. His was the first of Alpha Lance to crest the hill. A large formation of red triangles appear on the screen. “UAV deployed. They’re in the ditch on the opposite side of the hill. Can I open fire?”

“Negative!” Most Likely responds. “Dax, keep Bravo Lance moving and wrap around the base of the hill and see if you can catch their tail.”


“Charlie Lance. Oblivion, hold for a few seconds. Keep them busy and then withdraw and try to get up here. Don’t draw too much fire.”

“Roger. You want fries with that?”

More moving triangles. I’m itching to see what’s going on, but I have to satisfy myself with monitor feeds and radio chatter. I must have cursed out loud, because Deadfire gives me a tired glance.

“Now you know what I get to deal with,” he says before turning back to the command desk.

“Open fire. Legs only, guys,” Most Likely commands. Lasers burn and autocannons bark as Alpha Lance pours fire down onto the enemy formation that is struggling through the swamp, desperately trying to engage Charlie Lance. Oblivion has already ordered their withdrawal and none too soon. I glance at Charlie’s ‘mech readouts and see several of them have taken heavy damage. Even so, after only a few seconds of barrage by Alpha Lance, two of the enemy ‘mechs have been hobbled.

“Leave them!” Most Likely shouts. “Bravo Lance! Turn! They’re sticking to the slope and wrapping around to hit us in the ass! Turn!”

“Got it,” Darklight says from his trailing position in Bravo Lance. His Jagermech pivots and digs into the muddy slope, but manages to gain just enough elevation to greet the first of Night Watch’s ‘mechs to come into view. His set of triple ultra-auto cannons spew forth a deadly stream of fire, but the Atlas on his screen merely shrugs it off and keeps coming.

“Little help here,” Darklight requests as a Thunderbolt jets over the Atlas’s shoulder and stitches his ‘mech with a burst from its triple large pulse lasers. Darklight twists his machine to protect its torso, but it loses an arm in the process. Fortunately, it isn’t one of the arms carrying any of its weapons or ammo.

“Oh, calm down,” DSkou says as he arrives at Darklight’s shoulder and lays a burst of medium pulse laser fire into the Atlas’s broad chest. It’s enough to make the massive ‘mech twist and prevent the use of the AC20 bulging out from its right torso. At the same time, Alpha Lance races down the slope and starts firing on both ‘mechs. Even though they are slipping and sliding, they get enough shots on target to make the rest of Night Watch’s formation hesitate and attempt to support from deeper in the surrounding foliage.

“Charlie Lance here,” Oblivion says. “Hitting them in the ass now.”

In another couple of seconds, two more enemy ‘mechs have been disabled. A light blinks on Deadfire’s console. He looks at it in annoyance and then hits a switch.

“Yes?” Deadfire frowns as somebody says something into his headset, but I can’t make out what it is. “Ok, let him through.” The Colonel flips another switch.

“Well played, 228th.” The voice of Khavi Vetali, the battlefield commander of Night Watch’s engaged company comes through the speakers. “We thought we could catch one of your lances out in the open, but we couldn’t wrap them up in time. Request Limited Engagement.”

“Limited Engagement granted. Good fight, Khavi. Better luck next time.” Deadfire toggles the commlink and finds Most Likely’s frequency. “Cease fire, Swamp Foxes. The day is ours. Let the enemy withdraw. Good job everyone.”

A week has passed. The opposing forces have engaged in several battles, all resulting in 228th pushing Night Watch back to their suspected base of operations. It’s a town called Haven Marsh. By all reports, it’s barely a town at all. It was founded by the BAS-LED conglomerate about thirty years ago and has failed to grow much beyond its initial size. It does little more than house and serve the gas miners, the company reps and the various ancillary industries required to survive in the hostile swamp environment.

Many suspect that today’s battle will be the last one on this world. All of the 228th pilots sincerely hope that’s the case. No small percentage of them have been infected with various diseases and fevers from the ever present swarm of bugs carrying their foreign-born pathogens. On top of that, some of the regiment’s tracked vehicles and ‘mechs have fallen into nearly undetectable sinkholes and fields of quicksand. Some pilots flat out refuse to fight unless it’s in a ‘mech with jump-jets.

While the officers struggle to re-organize drop decks to make their companies operate effectively in the hostile environment, the med staff has been working non-stop to treat the afflicted and get the pilots rehydrated and re-equipped with rations of anti-venoms and anti-toxins or reinforced body armor.

Most pilots are loathe to wear the armor. It’s hot enough in a ‘mech’s cockpit under normal conditions, never mind adding the oppressive humidity seeping in through the enviro-filters. To add the layer of unbreathable and heavy protection of an infantryman’s outfit on top of that makes it unbearable. They’d rather pilot a ‘mech while fevered and suffering from dysentery than pass out from heat exhaustion before the fight even begins.

228th is betting Night Watch is going to make a last stand at Haven to protect the dropships that are currently evacuating all non-essential personnel. Black Watch Company is already within striking distance, while the Golden Talons and Wild Ones are closing in to seal off any terrestrial escape routes. Meanwhile, the Swamp Foxes are charged with holding the largest of the major gas fields just south of the town.

The regiment’s command staff decided there was a possibility Night Watch may choose to retake the lucrative gas mines in the marshlands and carry out guerrilla operations in order to prolong the fight. There are plenty of small supply depots and trading stations that could easily support such an effort. Depending on the details of their contract, this could be the more favorable move for them, but most suspect the enemy will make a good show of a last stand at Haven and then surrender and get off world as quickly as possible. After all, it’s likely they want to get out of this hellish marsh just as much as we do.

“Hey, Van,” Foxy’s voice crackles over the portable radio near my feet. “This gas derrick kinda reminds me of your mom.”


I can’t see Foxy’s Firestarter, but I know where it is. I’m looking over the expanse of the gas field from the deck of a small observation tower situated on a cliff behind where the Swamp Foxes are deployed. Foxy is down in a water-choked gully that is obscured by giant, willowy trees standing at least a hundred feet tall that have more in common with lily pads than any sort of arboreal vegetation. The only thing that rises above that layer of green is the very top of the gigantic gas derrick Foxy is guarding. 

“Know why?”

“No, Foxy.”

Van’s Stalker is perched on a gentle slope that leads up from the gully to the drier land above it. Even though he can’t see his partner, he can easily step down and aid him with a massive amount of firepower if needed.

“Because it needs constant, rhythmic pumping in order to function.”

“Foxy… You’re why mercs aren’t allowed in polite society.”

“Clear comms!” Oblivion shouts over the radio. “Contact! A full company of Night Watch is coming hard along the base of Point Rock. Looks like they mean to seal off the gully.”

“Roger,” Most Likely responds. “Van, get your lance out of there and regroup.”

“Copy. Ok, Foxy. Quit playing with the lilies and let’s evac.”

“I can’t!” yells Foxy.

“What? Why?”

“Snakes! Giant fucking snakes! Everywhere! They’re all over me!”

I adjust my binoculars and see Vandamsel’s Stalker begin to descend the slope. More screaming erupts from Foxy. I rush inside the tower, accidentally kicking the radio in the process and sending it skittering along the narrow walkway to plummet over the edge. As I enter, I see Deadfire and True Leader gaping at the giant bank of monitors.

“What the…” Deadfire breathes. I look at Foxy’s feed video and see a slithering mass of snake-like reptiles writhing in the murky waters at his ‘mech’s feet. One of his Firestarter’s arms swings into view and I see it is wrapped in a coiled serpent that must be as long as the small ‘mech is tall. Foxy screeches and tries to scrape the thing off, only to see his other arm is similarly encumbered.

“Foxy!” Van’s voice comes over the comms. “Stay still. Just don’t move! It’s not like they can bite through your cockpit.”

“Tell that to them!” Foxy says as a giant, fanged mouth strikes out and thuds against the reinforced plasti-glass of his canopy.

“Just hold still. I’ll try to shoot a few to scare them off.”

At this point I notice all the monitor feeds from Swamp Foxes begin the shake. At first, I think it’s a glitch, but when several pilots break comms and give frightened shouts, I realize they’re experiencing some sort of earthquake. In another second, I feel it too. The tower sways, but only slightly. The three of us exchange worried looks.

“What the…” Deadfire repeats. True Leader just shakes her head in disbelief.

“Well at least the snakes are clearing out.” Foxy’s voice comes across almost as shaky as his cockpit view. I can just barely make out dozens of slithering forms slipping off his ‘mech and gliding away from him in every direction through the suspiciously bubbling water.

With a terrified shriek, Foxy’s feed suddenly goes black. An explosive roar echoes across the swamp. I look at Van’s monitor and see his ‘mech’s view screen show sky as his ‘mech topples backward. He curses and then gasps. As fountains of water and mud cascade down on his cockpit and then clear away, I see something that I feel sure will haunt my nightmares for years to come.

Emerging from a hole in the ground where Foxy and the gas derrick had been is a towering and monstrous form of bulging segments covered in a chitinous carapace. Multiple similarly armored legs sprout from its sides and stamp and thrash in the muck in an attempt to keep the massive body upright. The dense growth of lily-like trees have been completely blasted away. From Van’s cockpit view, I can clearly see the thing sway and attempt to stabilize itself. It rises far above anything else within site. It must be four hundred feet tall if it’s an inch and that’s just the part of it that is above ground.

“Help!” Van finally manages to gasp.

“Gotcha,” Dskou reports as the Victor Class Assault ‘Mech he had insisted on piloting glides down on jump-jets and uses its arms to help the Stalker back onto its feet. “See? Told you guys I saw a snake.”

“Foxes!” Most Likely calls out. “Converge on Van’s position and fire on… Well, fire on the big monster thingee!”

Confirmations come in and I see the Foxes’ blue triangles descend from the high ground to approach the giant insect. Or reptile. Or some hideous combination. After a few volleys of fire which I can see on Van’s and DSkou’s screens, several disbelieving shouts erupt from the radio.

“…lasers do nothing!”

“…gauss to the chest and it’s like throwing a needle at a haystack!”

“…fucking missiles just make him angry. Watch out! Here he comes!”

The gargantuan head of the beast comes into view on Oblivion’s monitor as it dives toward his lance, but they manage to scatter or jet out of the way in time to avoid getting gobbled up. I see the armored and menacing face of the thing. A maw filled with rows of razor sharp teeth do little to hide several tentacle-like tongues that hungrily lash out in every direction. The several dozen eyes that dominate the upper portion of its head seem crazed with rage as it rears back and casts about in search of the source of its constant irritation.

“Colonel.” An unfamiliar voice bursts in over the tower’s comm system. “This is Baron Chistain. I’ve been monitoring your progress and I’m very pleased, but do not, repeat, DO NOT kill the animal. I am invoking the Endangered Species clause. Please keep it busy while I dispatch my dropship. I mean to capture it.”

Deadfire’s eyes roll in his head almost as crazily as the swamp beast’s. He slams his fist down on the command desk in crashing frustration.

“Are you fucking kidding me?” The spittle from his frothing mouth flies onto the lower bank of monitors. True Leader leaps to his side and quickly reaches out a hand and slaps a button to mute the call. Deadfire doesn’t notice and keeps shouting at the speaker. “I will fucking reach down your cock-choked throat and rip out whatever worm-eaten piece of dung you call a heart and shove it up your hemorrhoid-riddled ass, you useless piece of human… waste!”

“Colonel!” True Leader shouts as she shakes Deadfire. He looks at her and recovers some of his composure.

“What? What would you have me do? This is ridiculous!”

“Get your people out of there. Any way you can. I’ll deal with the Baron.” With that she disappears through an interior door, robes of office flowing behind her. Deadfire spares one admiring glance at her before slamming his hand back down on the regiment-wide comm switch.

“Attention all lances of Death From Above! Longshank! Zito! Get the 206th moving toward the Swamp Foxes and pour everything you’ve got at that thing! Foxes! When 206th starts laying down covering fire, I want you to try to pull out of there.”

Confirmation replies come in. The 206th “Death From Above” company is the newest addition to the 228th. They had been holding in reserve in support of Swamp Foxes and are mere minutes away. Unfortunately, I don’t think the Swamp Foxes have many minutes to spare.

“Fuuuuuuuuuuuuck.” A quick look at the video feed from Chemie’s Raven shows its legs are wrapped in one of the monster’s tentacle-tongues. In an instant, Chemie’s feed goes dead. I look over at Van’s rocking cockpit camera and see the massive jaw of the monster elevating and gulping down his lancemate. Looking across the monitors I see the company is scattered and attempting to get behind rocks in order to escape being easily devoured. Even though they are firing at the beast as best they can, none of them can coordinate well enough to deliver concentrated fire on a specified segment of the giant, writhing beast.

A blinking yellow light summons Deadfire’s attention and he impatiently slaps at it.


“Colonel, this is Blixx.” The Night Watch company commander’s voice comes over the comm. “We’re here to kill the Marsh Wyrm. We request a ceasefire while we engage it.”

“Marsh Wyrm? You mean you know what this thing is? Are you saying you fucking knew about this the whole time?”

“Need to know only, Colonel. Sorry.”

“I’ve already lost a couple…” Deadfire pauses and then straightens and smooths back his thinning hair. “Understood, Commander. You’re free to engage. Deadfire to all companies. Do not engage Night Watch forces. Repeat. Do not engage Night Watch forces. If anything, see if you can take some heat off of them.” He’s looking at the main screen where a UAV shows Night Watch ‘mechs marching dangerously close to the giant heat signature that the computer is having difficulty identifying. “They’re pushing up on it now.”

“Colonel, this is Longshank. 206th is on the ridge behind the… thing. We’re laying down fire now.”

Longshank’s monitor shows a massive amount of ballistic, laser and missile fire from his company hitting the seemingly impenetrable carapace of the Marsh Wyrm. All of the fire is concentrated on more or less one segment that could be considered the back of the beast’s neck. It gives a painful bellow that I don’t even need the comm feed to hear. The tower vibrates with the echo.

As it attempts to twist to meet this new threat, I see a glowing orange spot on one of its belly segments. The Night Watch ‘mechs form a firing line among the toppled giant lilies and open fire on the exposed belly as the thing arches its back. Many of them manage to hit the glowing spot.

With another roar of pain and frustration, the wyrm spits a gout of fire high into the air.

As a boy, I used to read about dragons in fairy tales and fantasy stories, but I had never believed they actually existed. Even so, when I grew up and started to explore the Inner Sphere, I had always held out hope I’d one day see one, or something like it, on some remote planet of the explored galaxy.

I still haven’t.

Shooting out of the giant’s maw comes a jump-jetting Firestarter with all of its flamers firing followed quickly by Chemie’s tumbling Raven.

“Fuuuuuuuuuck yoooooooooooooooooou!” shouts Foxy as he keeps his flamers ignited and tries to control his glide back down to the ground with what’s left of his jet fuel. Poor Chemie doesn’t have the same luck. His ‘mech lands in a heap on its head on a muddy slope and begins to slide down to the gully. Luckily, his monitor is still showing his vitals in good condition.

“Eat that ulcer,” comes a voice over the Night Watch comm. “Eat it.” Deadfire must have switched the feed to reach all friendly frequencies at some point, because all the ‘mechs from both regiments open fire on the melting belly segment of the wyrm. It tries to collapse back into its hole, but instead folds at the weak point. The top half of it detaches from the rest and lands with a wet crash in the boiling gully. Steam and mud erupt everywhere, but when the screens clear, I can see the crazed light has gone out of the Wyrm’s eyes. A few ‘mechs probe it with well-placed shots to its face, but it doesn’t move. The rest of its hulking body smolders in the hole it had made when it had appeared.

There is no sign that the gas derrick had ever been there. A blinking blue light summons Deadfire from his reverie. He moves a hand and gently presses it.


“I managed to cool down the Baron, Colonel,” announces True Leader over the channel. “But I think we should get ready to leave. While he won’t be filing a complaint, he certainly isn’t interested in paying us anymore.”

“What? He doesn’t want the gas fields anymore?”

“Seems like he only wanted the land to try to capture the Wyrm.”

“Why the hell didn’t he just tell us that from the beginning?”

“He was afraid we wouldn’t take the contract.”

“He’s goddamn right about that,” Deadfire said under his breath.

“What’s that?”

“Nothing. What’s the status on contract fulfillment? Will we be in breach?”

“Well… He claims we violated Endangered Species, but I countered with Withholding Mission Critical Information, Limited Engagement and Subterfuge. That last one is a stretch, but it sounds nice. Anyway, he didn’t like that so much, so I suggested maybe the lawyers can sort it out for us.”

“What’d he say to that?”

“Not sure. He hung up.”

“Understood, True Leader. Thanks.” Deadfire slouches back in his chair and rubs his head. After a moment, he reaches out a hand and flips a switch. “All companies, this is Colonel Deadfire. Retire to extraction points. Repeat. Retire to extraction points.”

As the confirmations come in, he gets up and crosses the small control room to get two bottles of beer out of a small cooler. He opens them and hands me one. I concentrate on enjoying the coldness of the glass in my hand before taking a sip. He tips his back and almost downs the whole thing in one draw. After a sigh and a burp, he wipes his mouth and looks at me.

“Looks like we’ll let the lawyers have the final fight on this one.”


Regimental HQ
Jun 2, 2013
Back from the dead! Eat that suckas!

Two problems with this story....
1. I was in a firestarter :p
2. Only 1 your mom joke? Lets be real here.

Rest, spot on!
Good read, had my laughing in my apartment late at night, if I had another living creature present, I'd have gotten the "What the fuck do you find so funny at 1 am look" Will continue to read these. I'm glad I'm not super cereal serious, makes me very happy.
Oct 1, 2014
Agreed. More than 1 "your mom" joke is a necessity.
That, and me assaulting Foxy and beating him half-to-death with a concrete dildo.

Yep...I'm thinking mechwarriors across the galaxy would pay to see that! :eek: