Kolovraty, Lyran Commonwealth
5 October 3038
Most people in the Innsbruck media were calling it the Battle of Innsbruck, while others (with more historical and military perspectives) were splitting the fight with the pirates into two events: the Battle of Ferdinand Park, and the Battle of Northend Fields. But since the Battle of Innsbruck was the first name heard by the public, that's what the majority of people were calling it. History would attend to itself.
No matter what you called it, there was no question that the raiders had been totally decimated. Five of the nine crewmembers aboard the Leopard class DropShip had been killed when Garadun destroyed the bridge. Of the invading MechWarriors, one was dead, four were wounded, six were uninjured and one had fled. Five of their BattleMechs had been blown to bits, four were badly damaged and might have to be scrapped for parts, one was easily repairable, and another needed a new cockpit. As agreed in their contract, the Militia got claim on all the salvage with the Fusiliers getting monetary compensation. The real prize was the Leopard which, once its cockpit was rebuilt, would be fully operational again. Until then it stayed in the park under guard.
The Scorpion had successfully escaped. The Militia's Boomerang had followed at a safe distance, tailing the retreating 'Mech all the way to its DropShip. It had hurried aboard, and not long after the Union had lifted off and fled for its JumpShip. Kolovraty deep space radar tracked it out to a pirate point, where it vanished from radar a short while later. The ship presumably jumped out of the system.
The captured pirates called themselves Hel's Handmaidens and all of them, from ship's crew to MechWarriors, were women. They were from the Greater Valkyrate; a bandit kingdom that had come into being in 3028 when Morgraine's Valkyrate, led by the infamous Moria Morgraine, merged with the Pirates of Butte Hold, led by the equally infamous Redjack Ryan. The two pirates had gotten married. How nice.
The Handmaidens were now in Innsbruck Prison awaiting trial.
As for the Fighting Fusiliers, they were heroes, every last one. Duke Josef Sheridan had called them that during a press conference two days later, and Mayor Kempder had said exactly the same thing when he gave Alexandra the key to the city. She had been humbled, saying the Fusiliers had simply done their duty, had honoured their contract. She thanked the Innsbruck Militia for their help, making note of how the 1st Light Armour Company had gotten the killing shot on one pirate BattleMech and driven off another. She was extremely proud of her Fusiliers and honoured to have served with the Innsbruck Militia.
Duke Sheridan and Mayor Kempder gained a great deal of political clout from the success of the battle. It completely justified the cost of renovating Innsbruck Barracks and paying to have mercenaries brought all the way to Kolovraty, they said. Members of the City Council who'd said the decision had been a burden on the taxpayers were now either backtracking or staying quiet. The Fusiliers hadn't simply driven off the raiders; they'd obliterated them. It made an extremely convincing argument.
The Fusiliers were proud of themselves and rightly so. No-one could call them greenies anymore. They had kicked some serious butt. Cera and Laura had confirmed kills, and Marie was awarded a victory against the Centurion. Sun-Lao and Sayuki also had confirmed kills, and Ian and Alexandra shared credit for one kill. A Wolverine was declared a Fusiliers/1st Light Armour group kill, with the final blow going to the Militia who were also credited with a victory against the Scorpion.
Most amazingly of all, Garadun was credited with not only four kills for taking down an entire lance of BattleMechs, but awarded a kill against a DropShip. All the Fusiliers were incredibly proud of him, none more so than Cera, his partner. He'd been a nasty scrapper on Solaris but this was something else. As for Garadun, he honestly didn't see what all the fuss was about. He was very proud of the Fusiliers and not the least bit surprised that they had trashed the pirates so thoroughly. He'd told the Duke and Colonel Phillips that that's what they'd do, and they did it. So there.
But in regards to own victories, meh, no big deal. The 'Mechs he'd taken down were all lights and he'd gotten the drop on them, shooting them in the back. He had no problem with shooting them in the back (hey, whatever works, right?) but didn't see it as anything to brag about. The fight with the Panther hadn't been bad, but it wouldn't have gotten much coverage on Solaris. As for the Leopard, well, what was he supposed to have done? Not attack it? Let it ravage the city? He was under contract to protect Kolovraty from raiders and that's what he'd done. It was his job, plain and simple.
There were a handful of City Councillors who complained loudly about his fighting in the middle of Innsbruck, citing destruction of public and private property, to say nothing of risking civilian lives (eighteen wounded). Colonel Phillips, who was in charge of defence, publicly berated the Councillors for questioning the decisions of a soldier under fire. MechWarrior Garadun Morr had acted instantly when a threat to the city arose, attacking and defeating an entire DropShip and its BattleMechs with no regard to his own safety. If they wanted to throw blame around, why not try the bloody pirates? They were the ones who attacked Innsbruck, not Mr Morr.
Alexandra was infuriated by the "cowardly, petty bureaucrats" (her words at the same press conference Colonel Phillips had called) for inferring that the damage to the city was her warrior's fault. Garadun stepped up and surprised everyone by apologising. Not for his actions, but to whoever it was whose car he stepped on while trying to catch up with the DropShip. If their insurance wouldn't cover the loss, then he'd pay for a new one out his own salary. Alexandra told him that she would cover the cost if it came to it, since she was the commander of the Fusiliers. Duke Sheridan, who'd been listening from the wings, stepped out at that time and took the podium.
"You hear that, Councillors?" he said with a mix of anger and pride. "This brave warrior whom you would malign for doing his duty, volunteers to replace an aircar destroyed in the course of protecting the city. It's not his fault, yet he still offers. That is honour. You might learn something from him."
In the end, neither Garadun nor Alexandra had to pay for a new aircar. The insurance company initially refused the citizen's claim submission, saying getting stepped on by a 'Mech wasn't included in her coverage. The woman went straight to the press with her story and the public backlash against the insurance company was overwhelming. They capitulated two days later and replaced the totalled aircar. The Councillors who had complained were vilified by the press; one of them resigned and the political future of the others didn't look good either.
The bond of friendship between the Fighting Fusiliers and the Innsbruck Militia was sealed; combat having a tendency to bring people together. They were allies, not rivals, and any reservations Colonel Phillips might have had were gone. The mercenaries were brave and honourable, and had proven they could be relied upon. One of the people who really benefited from the relationship was Jimmy Han. Five Militia technicians (Darrel Todd, Vic Mueller, Zoe Remille, Gareth Bochs and Vivian Green) asked Lady Alexandra if they could sign on with the Fusiliers when their current tour with the Militia ended in three months. She spoke with Jimmy, saying the decision was his since he was the Fusiliers Chief Tech. He was more than happy to have them join the unit as his astechs; it was a relief to finally have some help.
The astechs volunteered their time in any case, and the timing couldn't have been better. Sayuki had been given her Centurion as-is, but its setup had never fully suited her fighting style. So after getting Alexandra's permission (who always wanted the best for her MechWarriors) she went to Jimmy with plans for a complete overhaul. He checked the specs and said it wouldn't be a problem. The Tomodzuru Type 20 autocannon in the right arm and the Holly LRM-5 launcher in the left torso were removed, as were the jump jets in the legs and the CASE system in the right torso. The Photech 806c medium laser in the centre torso stayed put. An extra ton of armour was added and a rear-firing Diverse Optics Type 10 small laser was mounted in the centre torso. A Delta Dart LRM-15 rack with a ton of ammunition was put in place of the Holly, a Magna Hellstar PPC was mounted in the right arm, and four additional heat sinks were installed. The new configuration gave Sayuki a lot more protection and allowed Bonaparte to fight at long range instead of having to get up close.
After consulting with Jimmy and the crew of Shearling on technical matters, Colonel Phillips, with permission and encouragement from Duke Sheridan, sent an HPG message to Galatea. The message actually included several sub-messages, which were orders to a variety of parts suppliers and manufacturers. He ordered an entirely new bridge section for the captured Leopard, and all the parts and limbs needed to repair the badly damaged BattleMechs. It would take at least six months for the orders to be filled and shipped to Kolovraty and the cost was staggering, but the Duke felt it would be more than worth it. By the time everything was returned to fighting trim, the Innsbruck Militia would be the proud owners of their own DropShip and six BattleMechs. The confiscated Centurion was going to Colonel Phillips straight away because it was repairable with parts the Fusiliers already had. He was a MechWarrior and thrilled to no longer be Dispossessed. He had plans for a programme for the Militia, to train members to become pilots.
A month after the battle, at a ceremony on the base, every member of the Fighting Fusiliers and the Innsbruck Militia was awarded the Innsbruck Service Medal by Duke Sheridan for their actions during the Battle of Innsbruck. The LCAF, like any military, had a history of awarding military campaign ribbons. They also had a tendency to award ribbons for every single battle, deployment and campaign as well as all sorts of non-combat deployments. Outsiders derided the practice as empty vanity because you got soldiers who'd seen no combat sporting a chestful of ribbons and medals.
"If you're in the LCAF and go to the latrine, they give you a medal," was one of the sayings among military personnel of other Successor States.
In this case, though, the award was fully justified. The actual ribbon was the same as any other issued to soldiers for centuries – a small, multicoloured bar placed over the left breast. The Innsbruck Service Medal was a band of dark red in the middle, with a band of blue and then purple on either side; the colours of Apollo.
Garadun sat on his living room sofa with Wasp and Stinger snoozing lightly beside him as he held up his new campaign medal to his holorecorder, which was sitting on the table in front of him. He gave the recorder a smile.
"So there it is: the Innsbruck Service Medal. Pretty, huh? Everyone in the Fusiliers got one, including Cera and Sayuki." He lowered the ribbon and stared into the lens.
"Cera led the Battle Lance while I was busy fighting a bunch of other pirates, and needless to say she wiped the floor with them. So did Laura and Marie. They all took down the 'Mechs they were fighting.
"Sayuki did her duty honourably and without showing any fear. She kicked ass and got a kill all on her own, blowing the crap out of a Shadow Hawk. You can tell her family they should be bloody proud of her. I sure am, and so are the rest of the Fusiliers and Lady Alexandra."
Garadun took a breath. "So as of right now I'm done spying for you, Igawa-sama. You wanted to me to keep tabs on her and Cera, and I have. If you were worried about Sayuki, if she was going to uphold the clan honour or not, then you worried for nothing. She's a damned good MechWarrior and I'm proud to call her my friend. If you wanna know anything more, then ask her yourself. I'm done. Sayonara."
He switched off the holorecorder and took out the datachip. Next time he went into town he'd stop by the ComStar compound and have the message sent to Kobe. There was a knock at the front door, but before he could get up he heard the door open and Cera came into the modest hut, stopping to take off her boots.
"Hey there, beautiful."
"Hi," said Cera and looked at him in confusion. "What're you doing?"
"Uh, sitting here?"
"Why aren't you dressed?" she said, waving a hand. He was in faded black fatigues, socks, and a white t-shirt with THUNDERBOLTS ARE GO on the front.
"I am dressed," he countered, tugging on his shirt. "See? Clothes."
"You know what I mean," she said, sighing. "Why aren't you in your dress uniform? The Duke's reception starts in two hours."
Garadun picked up a remote, turning on his holovid player. "Not going."
"What? Gar, you have to go! The whole unit's been invited!" she cried, and the kittens woke with a start. "The ball's in our honour."
"So? You go. I'm staying here and watching some vid," he said, leaning over to see past her. "Bunch of nobles poncing around with rich merchants and who knows who else, lot of boring talk and all the rest of that snob stuff. At least on Solaris these kinds of stupid parties could lead to fight contracts. Not that we got invited to many."
Cera stepped in front of the holoscreen. "Gar, listen to me. This party isn't optional. The Duke's throwing it and he's our top boss. Everyone's going to be there, including all the Militia's officers and head NCOs. Not to mention this means the world to Alexandra. She's worked her whole life for this."
Garadun stared at the wall. He did not like stuffy bluebloods, corporate execs, phoney politicians, armchair generals, vapid holovid stars, or anybody else belonging to the so-called "elite" of the Successor States. It was one of the reasons he'd never made it to the Big Time on Solaris. He kept telling rich, influential people what he really thought, and that wasn't a good way to suck up to them.
On the other hand, Cera had a point. The ball was in their honour and it did mean a great deal to Alexandra. This kind of social event was what she excelled at and it would probably reflect badly on her if he wasn't there. He really didn't want to hurt her feelings. And it obviously meant a lot to Cera, which was the clincher.
"Okay, fine, I'll go," he said in surrender.
"Domo arigato gozaimasu," she said in relief, bowing.
"Shigata ga nai. I still think I'll look like a git."
Cera got her usual smile back. "No, you'll look dashing."
"Bollocks. You make that work 'cause you're so gorgeous," he said, staring at her in open admiration. Looking at her was always enjoyable.
Cera was clad in the Fighting Fusiliers' brand-new dress uniform. Hers was cut and shaped for a woman's figure of course, but otherwise was no different from the man's version. This included a white handmade shirt and a dark green jacket with three rows of pewter buttons and black elements. It had a high collar and about her neck was a black kerchief. On the left breast was her Innsbruck Service Medal ribbon. Her close-fitting trousers were the same dark green, and there was a black sash around her waist. Tucked under her arm was a black shako hat with crossed rifles in pewter on the front. Her finely polished black boots were currently by the door. The outfit was very nineteenth century, not thirty-first. Archaic, yet classy.
"You really think so?" she said, blushing.
"Of course. You look amazing."
"Domo arigato," she said, and leaned down to kiss him on the cheek. "Now go get cleaned up and dressed. Alexandra wants to be sure we're there on time."
Garadun sighed heavily, then hauled himself up from the sofa and trudged off toward the bathroom to shave and shower before getting into his dress uniform. It hung at the back of his small bedroom closet, still in its plastic bag, the hat still in its cardboard box on the top shelf, unopened.
"Stupid dumbass royal ball," he muttered.