"There isn't going to be any deal," a haggard voice snarled over
the Combine tac-net channel.
Happousai, Tarou, and Kodachi turned to see a BattleMaster standing
at the edge of the woods, a crushed recon lance Stinger dangling limply
by the neck in its massive left fist. The Cameron Star of the Star League
Defense Force was painted upon its charred and muddy hull, and the double-
barreled PPC in its right hand glinted with wordless malice as a ray of
sunlight broke through the cloud bank to illuminate the dreaded assault
Steam and wisps of smoke swirled from the Black Rose battlemech as
Ryouga tossed it to the ground before him with a heavy thud.
"Who do you think you are?!" Kodachi demanded of him.
"...Ryouga..." Tarou grunted to himself.
Happousai was stunned. The lost boy was alive!? It wasn't possible!
Not even someone as thick-headed as Ryouga could have survived a collapsing
"Ryouga! How did you...?"
"There isn't going to be any deal," Ryouga intoned once more, the
BattleMaster shaking with rage that translated from his mind to the machine
it controlled. "Because *I* have the Library Core now... If you kill me, you
"Ryouga," Tarou said calmly, surprised and dismayed to see his former
comrade. He had expected to in the course of the fighting, but even expecting
it had not prepared him for this encounter. "I'm warning you right now not to
do anything rash... Now what exactly do you want?"
"I'm here to kill you, Tarou," Ryouga said quietly into the microphone.
The fearsome BattleMaster raised its PPC as he took in the sight of the many
Black Rose 'mechs that watched him with dread. A low and urgent tone sounded
in his ears as the six-rack SRM launcher acquired its first target, and the
hot smell of his cockpit filled his nostrils with its acrid fragrance. "I'm
here to kill every last one of you..."
J. Austin Wilde and Fission Park Press proudly present:
BATTLETECH: THE SAOTOME GAMBIT
by J. Austin Wilde
Super Critical Reactor Axe Man,
Fission Park Press
The characters and situations of Ranma 1/2 are the
creation and property of Rumiko Takahashi and
Shogakukan/KITTY/Viz Video. Battletech and its
related materials are the property of FASA, inc.
No infringement of copyright is intended nor
should be inferred by this work of fanfiction.
The Ruins of Ryuugenzawa City
15:10 Local Time
The thunderclap report of a Particle Projection Cannon filled the
cool damp air as Ryouga opened fire. The bolt of lightning slammed into
Happousai's Locust even as the flight of six short range missiles burst
from his launcher and into Tarou's Hunchback. Both 'mechs reeled from the
hits, with Happousai's Locust bursting into flames and tumbling to the
muddy ground as motes of fire coruscated from its spindly, flailing legs.
Happousai's yelp of surprise and alarm was cut short in a squawk of static.
The Hunchback caught most of the volley square in the turret-shaped head,
blasting away the armor in orange clouds of flame.
Kodachi shrieked at Ryouga as he charged at her, the four laser
projectors in the BattleMaster's torso flaying the armor of her black
Marauder in white hot streams of yellow-green light. She answered his
salvo with a double PPC blast of her own, the thunderbolts crisscrossing
with the laser beams in a cat's cradle of annihilation that made the air
shiver and tremble between the two battlemechs.
Ryouga felt the bolts cutting into his torso armor through his
neurohelmet link with the battlemech. The armor was thick, as thick as
any 'mech short of an Atlas, and he knew it would hold up against the
continued onslaught of Kodachi's Marauder - at least long enough for him
to rip her apart limb from limb. The BattleMaster dropped its shoulder
for a collision with her as she realized too late that he wasn't going
The impact sent her Marauder staggering backwards, the derringer
forearm weapon pods turning mad circles in the air as the Black Rose
fought to control her machine. She toppled over onto the ground, knocking
down several tall trees as she fell. Ryouga pivoted the 85 ton BattleMaster
smartly as the rest of her troops shook off the mesmerizing carnage he had
inflicted in just a few seconds, and began to bear down on him. Their
beams and bolts buzzed chaotically around him as he took careful aim with
his own weapons, consumed with a cold fury that meant the deaths of anyone
foolish enough to stand their ground against him.
He was firing every weapon in lethal salvos at his enemies, expertly
maneuvering his monstrous battlemech with the determination to bring his
next target to bear and then destroy it. Black Rose 'mechs staggered and
fell under his onslaught, and a haze fell over the wooded battlefield from
the tremendous heat released from the weapons and pouring from his heat
sinks. The Black Rose forces, mostly Federated Shiratori mercenaries
recruited to Kodachi's banner with the promise of easy wealth and fame,
began to break and run under the barrage of the lone BattleMaster and its
Ryouga pursued them, his mind lost in the moment, wanting only to
annihilate his enemies before they could hurt anyone else today. Only one
'mech stood its ground, a Black Rose Grasshopper whose laser arrays were
steaming with heat from wild, panicked fire.
The BattleMaster's metalshod fist crushed the weakened torso armor of
the Grasshopper as it tried to cover the retreat of its fellows. The arm
sank into the enemy 'mech up to the elbow as Ryouga felt his battlemech's
hand grasp the fiery fusion heart of the 70 ton Grasshopper, and with a
savage snarl that carried over his external speakers to the entire forest
clearing, he ripped the reactor from its mounts in a spray of liquid
nitrogen coolant and plasma flame. The reactor fused itself into a lifeless
grey lump of steaming metal in the BattleMaster's hand as Ryouga held it up
for the fleeing Black Rose 'mechs to see.
He turned slowly to face Tarou, who had righted his battlemech next
to the burning hulk of Happousai's Locust. Ryouga grinned ferally at the
handiwork of his PPC. The last time he had shot Happousai with it, on
Capra, the bolt had just missed hitting the center of mass and all of the
battlemechs' vital internals. This time, his aim had been true, and the
Locust was all but obliterated.
Tarou was in better shape, but only just. The Hunchback's head had
been blasted wide open by his missiles, and he could see his former friend
and companion through the blackened rents and streamers of smoke. The rest
of the 'mech was hardly touched, however, and the Tomodzuru autocannon was
aimed right at him.
"Damn you," Tarou said to him, his voice wracked with pain, and taut
and drawn with smoke inhalation.
"Is that all that you have to say to me, Tarou!?" Ryouga returned.
"We could have worked something out," Tarou replied with a cough, the
Hunchback moving slowly to circle the BattleMaster. Ryouga rotated to follow
the 'mech, not trusting his one-time friend for a moment. "Happousai was
my enemy too, or have you forgotten that?"
"You were ready to cut a deal with him!" Ryouga shot back.
Tarou laughed bitterly. "Do you think for one moment that I would
have honored a deal with that inhuman piece of shit?"
"I guess you're right," Ryouga said evenly. "But then, you didn't keep
your promise to Akane either."
The Hunchback tensed for a moment - a mental flinch translated through
Tarou's neurohelmet to his battlemech. Ryouga noted the reaction with a
"That's right," Tarou admitted at length. "I've always looked out for
Number One, Ryouga. I've never hidden that fact about me from you."
"There was time when you were my friend, Tarou," Ryouga returned, his
voice losing some of its scorn for a softer, regretful tone. "We may not
have seen eye to eye on things, but we always looked out for each other on
the battlefield. Were you looking out for 'Number One' then, too?"
Tarou was silent for a moment before responding. "What do you think,
The BattleMaster, its hull blackened and trailing wisps of smoke from
its savaged armor plating, wavered for a moment.
"I want to believe that there was a time when you actually cared about
someone other than yourself and your petty revenge," Ryouga replied.
"Don't talk to me about petty revenge!" Tarou snorted. "You were ready
to tear Saotome's head off over a stupid bread feud when we ran into him on
Capra! How long did you nurse that grudge, Ryouga? Seven years?"
"I got over it!" Ryouga snarled back, his fingers tensing on the weapon
release triggers the way he knew Tarou's must have been. "I've made my peace
with Ranma, and worked to make the Expedition a success! You sold us out the
first chance you got! You broke your promise to Akane, and by bringing the
Black Rose to Ryuugenzawa, you've hurt and threatened people I care about!"
He almost expected Tarou to fire in that moment, and with his weapons
aimed at the Hunchback's head, the exchange would have been instantly fatal
to both of them. Instead, the Hunchback lowered its arms and stood silent
"It doesn't have to end like this, Ryouga," Tarou said quietly.
"If you and Kodachi leave this planet, it won't," he returned.
"We can still make a deal," Tarou pressed. "You need us to fight off
the Commonwealth. If we join forces, we can still escape the system with
the Library Core. Think about it, Ryouga."
Ryouga wanted to squeeze the triggers, but his fingers wouldn't move
that last millimeter.
He did not see that Kodachi's Marauder had risen to its cloven-hoofed
feet behind him, the forearm weapon pods poised to strike him down in twin
bolts of particle beam fire.
Tarou, however, did.
"Aim for the legs!" he cried, throwing his Hunchback clear as Ryouga
realized too late that Kodachi was behind him. "We need that Library Core
The bolts slammed into the backs of the BattleMaster's thighs. The
armor held, but the double impact sent him staggering forward, the aft-
mounted medium lasers of his 'mech firing wildly at her in return. He
twisted as he stumbled forward, bringing his own PPC to bear on Tarou,
as more bolts of particle beam fire struck him in the back.
His guns fired at Tarou, striking the Hunchback square in the chest
and just low of his intended target - the head. Then he was toppling over
to fall face-first onto the ground. He fought his controls as he tried
to roll upright and continue the struggle, all with Kodachi cackling
maniacally in his headset.
"What's the matter, dear?" she chortled with mock-sweetness. The
Marauder loomed over him as he rolled onto his back, the twin weapon
pods aimed low at his battlemech's torso and the vital gyroscope mount
that maintained his stability. "Did we fall down?"
"Give us the Library Core," Tarou added. "It's all we want. When we
get it, we'll lift off and never visit this mudball again."
"Speak for yourself, lover," Kodachi snorted. "As long as I'm here,
I want to kill Akane Tendo."
"Never," Ryouga spat before Tarou could rebutt his Combine mistress.
"You'll have to kill me."
"If necessary," Tarou returned.
"Let's be done with this," Kodachi sniffed. "He's caused more damage
to my regiment than I care to think about." She dropped one of her weapon
pods down at the BattleMaster's bulbous cockpit canopy until it was
touching the clear polycarbonate armor, the medium laser mounted just
beneath the PPC emitter aimed squarely at Ryouga's lower cockpit seat. She
could burn through the canopy and fry him without risking harm to the
armored strongbox in the other seat.
"Don't you touch him!" a girl's voice cried out over the tac-net.
The voice was followed by the staccatto crackle of a heavy pulselaser,
and brilliant flashes of coherent light slamming into the hull of
The Black Rose pivoted on her heels to face Ranma in her Super Phoenix
"Do I know you?" Kodachi asked her, her voice dripping with menace.
"That's Saotome!" Tarou cried. "Kill him!"
"Ranma Saotome?" Kodachi asked incredulously. The voice she heard
over the radio sounded nothing like the man who had defied her attempt
to kill Akane Tendo on the planet Capra. "Are you joking, my love? THAT'S
"It's him!" Tarou confirmed. "Trust me!"
Ranma goosed her jets, her LAM leaping into the air as Kodachi
hesitated. She soared overhead to land behind the Black Rose, and hammered
her once more with pulselaser fire from her engine/weapon pod. Tarou let
fly with a wild shot from his autocannon, the depleted uranium dart clipping
a chunk of armor off the pod before sailing on uselessly downrange.
"You okay, Ryouga!?" Ranma asked worriedly while hosing pulselaser
fire back at Tarou.
"Leave Tarou to me, Ranma!" Ryouga snarled, drawing his BattleMaster
up to its full height, and stomping towards the misshapen battlemech while
it was busy fending off Ranma's barrage.
"No argument, man," Ranma returned. "Good to see you're still alive."
Kodachi interrupted them with a long burst from her autocannon, the
shells howling around Ranma's Super Phoenix Hawk as she juked and dodged
wildly to avoid them. As she gained altitude in Airmech Mode, she saw that
the rest of Kodachi's forces were rallying near the burning ruins of the
colony town, and were starting their return to the fight.
"We've got more company on the way," she cautioned Ryouga.
Ryouga didn't respond, because he was busy attacking Tarou. The
Hunchback bobbed and weaved to avoid his blasts meant for the battlemech's
vulnerable head, and in turn Tarou was handicapped by the need to cripple
his foe without risking the destruction of the library core. The two 'mechs
spiralled around each other, firing madly as they went.
"It ends here, Tarou!" he barked.
"I've worked too hard for this to let you stop me!" Tarou returned
fiercely. A shell from his autocannon slammed into the BattleMaster's knee,
blasting apart the armor and damaging the actuator. The assault 'mech
staggered with the hit, but not before the final missile volley from its
six-rack SRM launcher slammed home into the Hunchback's torso.
Both battlemechs went down, obscured by smoke and flames. Ranma cried
out Ryouga's name, and was answered only by another burst of autocannon
fire from Kodachi. The shells spanged off her armor, gouging craters in
the precious ferro-fibrous plating that protected her, and haloing her in
a nimbus of golden sparks.
"That's about enough outta you, sister!" she yelled at Kodachi, and
put her LAM into a power dive. Kodachi raised her derringer weapon pods
to blow her away with a double PPC barrage, only to lose an arm at the
elbow joint as the Super Phoenix Hawk swooped overhead, grabbing the limb,
and ripping it out of its ball-and-socket connection.
"How dare you!?" Kodachi shrieked indignantly at Ranma. "Assaulting
the Black Rose of the Furinkan Combine?! Such impertinence!"
The Phoenix Hawk LAM cast the severed limb aside as it banked for
"Yeah, what do you think I was gonna do, lady? Let you shoot me?"
Kodachi was wroth, and it showed in her voice. "It's the least you
can do, peasant!"
"Man," Ranma snorted. "You sound just like your idiot brother."
Kodachi gasped in disgust at the idea. "You horrible creature!" she
cried angrily. "To think that I once desired you!"
Ranma tried to suppress a cold shiver at the notion that Kodachi
wanted her. It was too sick to think about.
The Black Rose fired another long burst at Ranma with her autocannon,
which succeeded only in chewing up the forest around the agile LAM as it
"Hold still, you!" she cried impatiently. "At least try to die with
some dignity and grace!"
Ranma gave her a wet raspberry over the tac-net as she raced away
from the battle in the hopes of drawing the Black Rose away from Ryouga
and Tarou. The BattleMaster didn't look like it was up to a two-on-one
confrontation. She did not see how the two combatants had knocked each
other over as she fled with Kodachi in hot pursuit.
* * *
"Hold on, Sayuri," Yuka begged her friend, who was growing paler by
The thump of heavy battlemech feet made her look up with a mixture of
hope and dread. A Centurion burst through the trees, its heavy autocannon
probing for the enemy. When she saw that it was Doctor Tofu and not an
enemy, Yuka waved and yelled frantically for its attention.
Tofu dismounted at once with his medical kit and a portable cutting
torch in hand. A Victor stomped into the small clearing formed by the
crashlanding Phoenix Hawk LAM, and took up the job of protecting them while
Tofu went to work.
He blanched at the sight of what had happened, and understood the
need for the cutting tools.
"How bad is it, Doctor Tofu?" Kasumi called over the external speakers.
"I might need your help, Kasumi," he replied.
"I'll be right there."
Yuka hovered over the doctor as he checked Sayuri's vital signs and
pronounced her condition as grave. He dug into his kit for the bags of
whole blood and his transfusion apparatus, knowing that he needed to
replace her blood volume now before any attempts could be made to cut
her free. More than the whole blood though, he needed lots of blood
plasma for Sayuri to keep her pressure up, a commodity he did not possess.
There were other concerns, for the shard of metal had clearly pierced her
left lung, and she risked aspirating blood into the uninjured right lung
if he could not drain it and repair the damage.
"One step at a time," he told himself. If he didn't stabilize Sayuri,
and soon, none of his other concerns would matter. "Set up that cutting
torch," he ordered Yuka, more to keep her out of his way while he did his
work than anything else. Kasumi's gasp of horror at the grisly sight of
Sayuri's injuries was his first indication that she was there. The fear
that he would seize up when Sayuri needed him most gripped him, but to his
surprise he found that with something urgent to occupy his mind, he could
"I need you to elevate this for me, please," he told the woman of
his dreams, and handed her the bag of precious type-B whole blood.
"Of course, Doctor Tofu," Kasumi replied coolly. "Do you think you
can save her?"
Tofu caught the worried look in Yuka's eyes and nodded. "I haven't
lost a patient on this expedition, and I don't plan on starting now."
The transfusion started, he began assessing the situation. The best
way to release her from the piece of metal that impaled her was to cut it
from both ends and remove her from the cockpit with the rest still inside.
He didn't have the facilities to try and remove all of it safely in the
"Start about five centimeters back from the point of penetration,"
Tofu advised Yuka. "The metal will act as a heat sink for the torch, but
under the circumstances, it should work in our favor. Any cauterization
caused by it will slow the bleeding until I can get her to Sickbay on
"I don't know if I can do this," Yuka said uneasily.
"Then hold this," Tofu told her impatiently, taking the bag of whole
blood that drained into Sayuri's vein from Kasumi and handing it to her.
"Kasumi, I need you to steady Sayuri while I make the cut."
"Of course, Doctor," she replied quietly. The crush of heavy
battlemech feet made the ground tremble slightly, and she wondered if
she was really serving them better by standing here, and not in her
It was awkward having to work in such a narrow space as the gap in
the canopy afforded, and he wasn't the most experienced hand with a
cutting torch. He struck the flame and edged carefully into the cockpit
as Sayuri emitted a low gasp of pain. He drew the plasma torch over the
section of wing as quickly as he dared, trying to vaporize as much metal
as possible without dribbling molten drops of it onto the girl's legs and
torso. He was mostly successful, and the pressure suit's ablative lining
helped with the rest, but she was probably going to have a few small
burn scars when all was said and done. Her tiny hisses of pain through
her unconsciousness were enough to tell him that.
When he was through with the first section, he wrenched at the canopy,
shoving it clear and giving him more room to work with. The section of
wingtip that had penetrated through her body and into the seat came free,
and Sayuri pitched forward. The section that had penetrated her back was
much shorter than he had feared, and Tofu decided to leave well enough
"Let's get her out," he said to the two women, and lifted Sayri
gently out of her cockpit seat.
"Which 'mech should we transport her in?" Kasumi asked.
"Yours, I think," Tofu replied. He turned to Yuka. "Ever pilot a
Yuka rubbed at her temple, relieved that her friend was no longer
pinned into her wrecked fighter. "Once. I wasn't very good at it."
"Consider this a second chance," the doctor told her. "The neurohelmet
is in the cockpit."
Yuka nodded reluctantly, and started for the Centurion. Tofu, holding
Sayuri in his arms as Kasumi took back the blood transfusion, gave her a
"I don't want to lose anyone, Kasumi," he said quietly as they walked
carefully towards the Victor. "But I know it might be too much to hope."
"I know, Doctor," she replied, thinking about the suffering she had
witnessed on Oni. "All we can do is try, and I admire you for not giving
up on anyone."
He blushed at this, and tried not to drop his precious charge in his
delirium. It was difficult, because hearing such a thing from Kasumi made
his heart leap in his chest.
* * *
"Ranma! Where the heck do you think you're going?!" a certain Tomboy
cried out over the tac-net as Ranma's Phoenix Hawk LAM evaded Kodachi's
"Why are you asking me such dumb questions?" she retorted.
"Akane Tendo?!" Kodachi shrilled before Ranma's fiancee could muster
up a scream. "Is that really you?"
Akane's face appeared abruptly on the Black Rose's display. She was
wrathful and grim, a combination that the Combine princess found quite
unsettling. "It's me, Kodachi. I'm three hundred meters north of you right
now, so if you want to finish what we started on Port Said, I'd be happy
to oblige you."
"Done and done!" Kodachi cried happily in spite of her misgivings.
"May we fight in all fairness!"
"Oh no!" Akane shot back. "I'm not falling for that again."
"Why, you detestable little trollop, whatever do you mean?" Kodachi
said, her voice dripping with malice.
"You know what I'm talking about, you crazy witch!" Akane cried
angrily. "For every crime you've perpetrated on the people of the
Confederation, I'm going to pay it back with interest, and I'm going
to do it in spite of your dirty tricks!"
"You and what army, harridan!" Kodachi trilled.
"I don't need an army, Kodachi. Remember what I did to you on Port
Said!" Akane pointed out gleefully. "You couldn't retreat fast enough
"How dare you accuse the Black Rose of cowardice!?"
"It's easy: I just tell it like it happened!"
Kodachi let out a strangled gasp of rage and frustration, and then
abandoned her pursuit of Ranma to attack Akane.
Ranma watched the two close with each other at full speed. "And
people say the two of *us* bicker?" she remarked to herself.
Akane was ready when Kodachi's Marauder bore down on her. As the black
battlemech cleared a row of trees that separated them, she let her enemy
have it with both Donal PPCs. The weapon arms spat forth twin arcs of blue-
white lightning that tore into the Marauder's leg armor. She corrected for
her low aim as her father positioned his Warhammer for a shot of his own
against the Black Rose, and Ukyou triggered her Hatchetman's jump jets to
attack from behind.
"Kodachi's mine," she growled to them. "Help Ranma and Ryouga!"
"If you insist, hon'," Ukyou replied, and maneuvered in mid jump to
put her closer to the dueling BattleMaster and Hunchback. Soun moved past
the two combatants at a distance, followed by a wary Genma Saotome in his
"Your confidence amuses me," Kodachi chuckled, and returned fire with
her autocannon, blazing streams of armor piercing shells that spanged off
the Warhammer's torso in flurries of red and gold sparks. "Though it is
completely without merit."
"I beat you once," Akane returned. "I'll do it again."
"A fluke," Kodachi sniffed. She slowed her advance to bring her
remaining PPC to bear. "I shall defeat you with only one arm!"
The PPC fired, and the thunderbolt crashed into the Warhammer as Akane
triggered her six-rack SRM launcher. Fingers of electricity crackled from
the impact point of the particle beam, reaching out to caress the stubby
missiles as they sprang from their tubes. The missiles began to explode
right in front of the Warhammer, engulfing it in a fireball.
Kodachi shrieked laughter at her sudden windfall, and charged in to
attack in the confusion. As the fireball blackened into a column of oily
smoke, the long armored tube of a Donal PPC appeared, clouting the Marauder
across the snout-like cockpit with a resounding impact.
"Wicked strumpet!" Kodachi cried indignantly, reaching up underneath
her neurohelmet to rub her temple, sore after getting rattled in her
cockpit. Akane's Warhammer stepped through the smoke with the other arm
coming up to deal a second blow. "You cheated, making me think that you
had exploded so conveniently!"
The Black Rose turned it aside with the stump of her Marauder's
right arm, and followed through with a backhanded bitch-slap across
the Warhammer's cockpit visor with her remaining derringer arm. The
Warhammer reeled from the blow, but its low center of gravity kept it
from toppling over. Kodachi then hammered away at point blank range
with her Whirlwind autocannon, one of the few weapons she could use
effectively this close. Then, receiving a sudden flash of inspiration,
she shifted her fire into the trees behind the Warhammer, cutting them
down and sending them crashing into the battlemech.
The Warhammer staggered under the hits of ancient hardwood trees,
and was engulfed in their green foliage. The gun-barrel PPC arms swiped
madly at the branches in an attempt to clear them away from her blinded
sensors, but lacking actual hands, the task was less than successful.
Kodachi blasted her with her remaining PPC while she struggled, chortling
over the external PA with her victory.
"Now who's the cheat!?" Akane snarled accusingly. She wiped at the
thin line of blood that trickled from her lip where she had bitten down
on it with the force of Kodachi's slap. As she moved, the weight of the
trees dragged them off her hull, and finally cleared her view.
She began to backpedal, moving under a hail of 90mm shells and
the assault of Kodachi's maniacal laughter, to give herself an effective
field of fire with her twin gun clusters. She raked the Marauder with
laser and machinegun fire, tearing into the two turbine-driven cooling
pods on either side of the battlemech's cannon. The intakes caught a
stream of fire that disintegrated the thinly armored intake screens and
then proceeded to blast apart the turbines.
The Marauder twitched spasmodically at her hit, nearly falling to
its knees. Akane fired the six-rack SRM launcher once more, and without
a particle beam bolt to interfere with her shot, was rewarded with the
sight of all six missiles hitting. The black Marauder's steeply-sloped
armor made the hits less than effective, however, as most of the
explosive force was spread out along the long curved sweep of the
battlemech's flanks. Head-on fire at the torso wasn't going to work;
she needed to hit it from an oblique angle at the every least, and
directly from the sides at best.
At least her gun clusters had been effective. She could see the
expanding waves of heat mirage coming from Kodachi's radiators, and knew
that without the turbine fans blowing tons of air across them, her ability
to dissipate heat was going to be greatly diminished. Hopefully, she'd
think twice about firing her remaining PPC.
"Where do you think you're going?" Kodachi demanded in a shaky voice
as Akane moved her Warhammer away in a flanking attempt. "Running away
already, are we?" Her autocannon pivoted on its mast-like mount to continue
spraying the Warhammer with fire.
To hear fear creeping into the Black Rose's voice made Akane's heart
swell. Kodachi had done so much damage to the Confederation in the past,
ended so many innocent lives, and terrorized entire planets. Now she was
alone, fighting to the death in a battlemech that was half-crippled. Now
the debts she had accrued against the Confederation would be repaid.
"I don't have to explain myself to the likes of you," Akane retorted,
and let Kodachi have it with both Donal PPCs. The twin thunderbolts gushed
from the tube-like weapon arms with deafening reports, and dashed against
the Marauder's broad expanse of torso flank. The chattering of the
autocannon stopped abruptly, followed immediately by the stacatto flashes
of ammunition cooking off within the weapon's magazine. The force of the
blast ripped the intact left arm off at the shoulder joint, venting
catastrophically from the torn armor, and flinging blobs of bright green
tracers in lazy arcs into the remaining trees.
The Marauder toppled over and crashed in a twisted heap. Long plumes
of black smoke poured from the carbonized hole in the torso armor, and
small fires burned within. Akane brought her Warhammer up to inspect her
fallen enemy, and noted with satisfaction that the Marauder remained as
silent and still as death.
She sank into her ejector seat with a long, drawn-out, and weary
sigh. This was the ending that should have happened on Port Said six
months ago. Kodachi Kuno, the Black Rose of the Furinkan Combine, was
* * *
"I'd watch those damaged knees if I were you," Tarou observed
sardonically as he maneuvered through dense woods to evade Ryouga's
particle beam riposte. "They'll be the death of you."
Ryouga knew it without needing a reminder from his enemy. The
actuator damage his 'mech had suffered was slowing him down. He was at
full throttle and only managing cruise speed in his pursuit. Another
good hit would tear off a leg, which he was sure was what Tarou had in
mind. He was as obsessed with the library core as Happousai had been.
He also knew that Tarou was almost out of shells for his Tomodzuru
autocannon, and that when they were expended, he would be down to a pair
of medium lasers for his armament. Ryouga still had his formidable array
of lasers, plus his PPC. That came out to a significant advantage in a
Getting Tarou to use those last two or three shots without being hit
was the challenge.
The battered Hunchback turned around the copse of trees to come back
at him. He responded with all four of his medium lasers, the beams crackling
through the air at the battlemech, and cutting four black swaths through
the torso. Sparks flashed from the rents in Tarou's armor, and for a moment
Ryouga thought he had set off the autocannon's ammunition.
The depleted uranium dart that crashed into his torso was proof enough
that he hadn't. The impact staggered his 'mech, and spoiled his aim with
the hand held PPC. His armor was practically gone over his right torso, the
last hit gouging a crater in the thick plating with a diameter big enough
for a man to stand inside.
How many of those do you have left, Tarou? he wondered angrily. The
patient and loving work Akari had invested in his Battlemaster was being
destroyed by that terrible weapon, and he wasn't going to stand for it.
"I'm going to finish this, Tarou!" he cried. "Now, stand and fight
it out, Monster-boy!"
"Be reasonable and eject!" Tarou returned. "Or if you're so eager to
die, at least eject your rear seat and spare the library core!"
"I'd rather see it destroyed than have you or Kodachi get your hands
Ryouga put his 'mech into a charge, intent on running down the
Hunchback that he out-massed by thirty-five tons. Tarou stopped short and
fired another shot from his autocannon that crashed into the center of the
BattleMaster's torso. Armor spalled off in waves, and curled up into steel
shavings at the red hot edges of the crater, but the plating was at its
thickest there, and it held - barely.
"You're forcing me to kill you, Ryouga!" Tarou answered, hosing laser
fire at the BattleMaster's legs. "I've tried to avoid that so far, but you
leave me no choice!"
Ryouga triggered his lasers again, the beams slicing apart an arm
in clouds of ionized gas. "I won't allow you to profit from your betrayal!"
He could see the Hunchback tense for another autocannon shot and knew
that he wouldn't reach it in time to ram. One more hit from that thing would
be enough to destroy him, and if Tarou's aim was true, he would lose a leg,
and his enemy would win.
The shot did not come, nor did he hear Tarou's scream of frustration
over the din of his own war cry. The BattleMaster crashed into the smaller
Hunchback, forcing it up into the air as its massive limbs grappled. Still
yelling his lungs out, Ryouga wrenched the Hunchback up over his battlemech's
head before throwing it down with all his might. The BattleMaster's myomer
bundles groaned in protest over the load as he exerted them to their very
The Hunchback hit the ground with a crash, bits of metal and clods of
dirt flying from the huge divot it made. Ryouga spun his BattleMaster around,
kicking the fallen 'mech with a full power blow. The Hunchback's right arm
was torn away from the elbow joint, leaving it completely defenseless to his
He laid into Tarou with everything he had; punches, kicks, stomps,
and more. Sparks flew from his battlemech's hands as they smashed apart
armor, foamed aluminum skeletal components, and magnetic-piston actuators.
He continued pounding on the Hunchback in a rage, long after it had ceased
to be a battlemech; it was now nothing more than an ugly, formless lump of
steel and composites that smoldered and leaked nameless fluids from the
folds and rents.
"Ryouga!" Ukyou called to him. "That's enough already!"
He didn't hear her as she again called to him to stop. It took a
mechanized hand on his cocked fist to get his attention.
"You got him," she said quietly. "Trust me on this one, honey."
His throat was raw from screaming, and it took him a moment to find
his voice. It unnerved him to think that he had become so mindless and
insane in a battle, even one on which so much depended.
"Okay," he panted finally. "You're right."
He turned to see the Warhammers of Akane and her father, Commander
Saotome's Orion, and Ranma's Super Phoenix Hawk LAM standing in a line,
watching him worriedly.
"Are you okay, Ryouga?" Akane asked.
"Yeah," he gushed. He did not want Akane to see him like this, not
like some wild animal that needed to put down for its own good. "I'm all
right... Wha-What about the rest of Kodachi's troops?"
"Makin' a run for it," Ranma replied. "It seems you scare the piss
outta them, Ryouga." The Super Phoenix Hawk's head inclined in Akane's
direction. "And with the cavalry coming like it did, they totally lost
"Great," Ryouga huffed wearily. "What now?"
"Musk Dynasty forces are approaching the _Palomino's_ position,"
Akane replied. "There's no chance of us getting back there in time to
stop them, even if we had the numbers to do it, but I just spoke with
Captain Grant, and he says they're ready to lift off."
"So we headin' to the bunker then?" Ranma asked her. She was all
for leaving the planet as soon as possible.
"Just as soon as we link up with Kasumi and Doctor Tofu," she
confirmed. "I only hope Sayuri can hold on a little longer."
"Let's move out," Soun said to them. "We can't stay here."
Akane's Warhammer set a PPC arm against Ranma's Super Phoenix
Hawk LAM as the rest agreed and turned northwest. "Stay with me on
the ground for awhile, Ranma," she said to him.
The battlemech cocked its head at her, aping the gesture Ranma
made within her cockpit.
"What for? You'll need an eye in the sky if you want to avoid
those Musk jokers."
The Warhammer emitted a puff of steam from its heat sinks, an
autonomous heat dumping function that was utterly coincidental with
Akane's mood shift. Ranma's 'mech edged away nervously from her
"I just wanted to see you," Akane said to her through clenched
teeth. "You worry me half to death with your wandering off and not
reporting in, then you take on a force ten times your own without
so much as a simple request for help, then you... Oh, nevermind."
"All right already," Ranma replied. "I'll stick around for a
few minutes if it'll make you feel better. Jeez..."
The two 'mechs began walking together, leaving Ryouga behind.
The fanged mechwarrior took one last look at the ruins of Pansuto
Tarou's Hunchback, and tried to forget the years they had been
comrades. Though those days had been anything but idyllic, they
represented a simpler time that was now forever lost to him.
"Goodbye, Tarou," he said to the pile of burnt scrap.
"Coming, Ryouga?" Akane asked him over the radio.
He nodded his head, looked over his shoulder at the armored
strongbox that contained the library core, and let out a sigh.
"On my way," he replied.
The DropShip _Palomino_
15:18 Local Time
"Kick the tires and light the fires!" Grant yelled to his crew while
stepping onto the Flight Deck with his pressure suit helmet under his arm.
"We've got less than ten minutes before this position gets overrun." He
wanted to give Lady Akane and the others more time to return, but the Musk
Dynasty wasn't allowing it.
"Commencing reactor start-up," the Co-Pilot declared, punching in the
commands to his board. The DropShip's computer acknowledged the command
with an automated warning over the ship's 1MC intercom circuit. "Ignition
in five... four... three... two... one... mark!"
The lights flickered for a moment. Displays shifted and danced on
the Flight Deck as vital systems prepared themselves automatically for
"The reactor is online. Fusion plant power indications stable and
ranging within normal variances," the Co-Pilot announced. "Port cooling
loop pressure holding steady. Shifting the power distribution system to
a normal full-power line up."
"Main Engine sequence start," the Pilot added. The massive engine
turbines in the Port Atmospheric Manuevering Engine began to spool up with
a deep drone well aft of the cockpit. The DropShip shifted slightly on its
landing gear, as if anticipating its coming leap into the sky. "Main Engine
induction pressure rising. Main Engine low induction pressure alarm clear."
Captain Grant nodded coolly for them and then turned back to face Tad
and the two Gunner's Mates.
"Status of weapons and sensors?" he asked them.
"Fire Control is green. All weapon mounts indicate ready."
Petty Officer Howard gave him a 'thumbs up.' "All active and passive
arrays are green. Request permission to radiate with active radar."
"Hold off on the active radar," Grant cautioned him. "I want to make
certain we can get off the ground before I advertise our presence. With Yuka
and Sayuri down, we have no air support."
"Main Engines ready for lift-off," the Pilot announced a moment later.
"Good," Grant rumbled. "Inform Lady Akane that we are lifting off,
and that we will meet her and the rest of Red Lance at the secondary
"Aye aye, sir," the Co-Pilot acknowledged.
"Take us up," Grant ordered.
The Pilot throttled up, and with a roar of fusion heated turbojets,
the _Palomino_ began to rise into the air. A cheer went up as the Pilot
rotated the ship ninety degrees to put it on the proper heading, and then
began edging forward slowly so as not to overtax the engines.
"Quiet!" Grant barked. "We're not out of this yet! Tad, you keep your
sensors peeled for the bad guys. We know they're close."
Tad was already hunched over his displays as the DropShip picked up
"Aye sir, scanning now... Captain, I'm picking up ground based search
radar, Garrett-type air defense sets." He bit his lip nervously as he
punched in several command functions into the sensory gear. "Bearing
two-two-six, relative; range is real damn close, sir!"
"How close?" Grant demanded. "I want specifics!"
Autocannon tracers lit into them as he asked, and the DropShip
trembled as they bit into the thick portside armor.
"Eight hundred meters!" Tad replied. "Enemy battlemechs bearing
two-two-six, relative; range eight hundred meters!"
"Increase speed!" Grant ordered the Pilot. "Return fire!"
The *whooosh* of the port-side LRM-20 rack was quickly followed by
the crackle of the twin heavy laser and point defense medium laser turrets.
It was a relatively small amount of firepower, but with luck, sufficient
to the task of harassing the enemy and denying them an easy shot.
The _Palomino_ began to shake again as more autocannon fire struck
the ship. Then two particle beam cannon bolts slammed into the aft section,
sounding alarms on the Flight Deck. The gunner on the port side returned
fire with all he had, and yet he did nothing to stop the onslaught.
"There's a whole battalion down there," he shrieked, still firing
his weapons as fast as the systems would permit.
"Pressure's dropping in the port coolant loop!" the Co-Pilot added.
An alarm wailed as he spoke. "Port Loop Low Pressure Alarm!"
"I'm losing thrust in the manuevering engines," the Pilot intoned.
"Switching to HEPLAR drive; hang on!"
The DropShip's plasma drive ignited with a roar, and the sudden
increase in thrust threw off the Musk Dynasty aim, giving them a few
blessed seconds of relief. The _Palomino_ careened just above the verdant
Ryuugenzawa forest, trailing lines of smoke from its wounds as it sought
"Damage report!" Grant ordered, watching as the Engineering repeater
display began hemorrhaging red light.
Akari's quavering voice answered for the Engineer. "We have a leak
in the port loop!" she said over the intercom. "We're compensating by
injecting fresh coolant from the cryogenic plant, but once we run out
of liquid nitrogen..."
"How long?" Grant asked bitterly.
"Ten minutes at present rate of consumption, sir. Probably less
than that if the leak rate increases with pipe erosion through the
source of the leak."
"Keep the pressure above the safety shutdown point," Grant ordered.
"Strike that!" he amended. "I order you to take the Reactor Protection
System console to Battleshort!"
"Take the RPS console to Battleshort, aye," Akari replied. The
Battleshort Mode would disable all of the fusion plant's automated
safety shut-down commands. Grant intended to run the reactor into
the ground if necessary to escape the Musk Dynasty. "Flight Deck,
Engineering; the RPS console is set to Battleshort."
Grant acknowledged Akari's report and turned to his Pilot. "Keep us
in the air," he told him. "Plot a course for the Orochi bunker. We can
get that far at least, and then have the _Tautog's_ shuttles pick us up
"I'll keep us in the air," the Pilot returned. "But I don't like the
idea of abandoning ship."
"Neither do I," Grant said tersely. "But we've got to keep our options
* * *
Musk Dynasty Headquarters Company
Ian Cameron Starport
15:22 Local Time
"<That was unexpected,>" Mechwarrior General Herb said to himself as
the _Palomino_ escaped. There had been no reports of Black Rose DropShips
within the bounds of the starport.
"<Track them,>" he ordered his operations section. "<Dispatch a lance
of fighters to destroy that ship at once.>"
The thought occured to him that the ship might in fact belong to the
Confederation, that they had in fact survived the Orochi. It made the case
for Shampoo's survival that much more compelling, and made him wonder again
where Mousse had run off to. Lime and Mint had thus far failed to find him.
"<A change in plans,>" he told his Operations Officer. "<Have the
fighters tail the DropShip at a distance, but do not have them engage. If
the ship should land for any reason, I want its location reported to me
"<At once, my lord General,>" the officer replied.
The matter settled, he returned his attention to the starport. He wasn't
impressed. The place looked as if it had been mauled a very long time ago. If
there was anything of value here, he would need a lot of uninterrupted time
to search for it.
As his 'mechs cleared the ruined hulk of an ancient Leopard class DropShip,
he spied several battlemechs standing in a line, their arms at their sides, and
their systems apparently quiescent. One of them, a Centurion, had been heavily
and recently damaged. The others; a Wasp, another Centurion, and two Catapults,
looked pristine in their SLDF livery.
"<Hold your fire,>" he ordered his troops. "<Approach with caution, but
I want those 'mechs captured intact.>"
We must have frightened the DropShip off with our advance, he realized.
These Confederation fools obviously know where this world's treasures can be
An officer with a hulking bear-like frame and yellow ursine eyes
appeared on his display, interrupting his train of thought.
"<My lord General, our scouts have located a pitched battle twenty
kilometers south of our position between Black Rose forces and an unknown
third party. They are requesting further instruction.>"
Herb considered this. The third party in question most likely belonged
to the Confederation. He needed knowledgable prisoners if he was going to
make his search for lostech more efficient.
"<Have them remain out of sight, but in contact with the battle. They
are not to engage. If they are attacked, they are to withdraw while keeping
me informed of the enemy's positions,>" he declared. "<Order Fox and Serpent
Companies to turn south and engage the Black Rose's troops. Any other 'mechs
encountered are to be captured with their mechwarriors alive. The remaining
companies will stay here and secure the starport.>"
"<At once, my lord General!>"
He turned his Grand Dragon on its heels, and headed back towards his
personal DropShip. He would wait there for any prisoners that were captured,
or for news of the Confederation DropShip's destination. The planet was by
all rights his now, all that was left was the extermination of Kodachi Kuno's
rag-tag regiment, and the final disposition of Mousse and Shampoo. Tatewaki's
fleet was surely headed inexorably towards their deaths at the hands of the
Orochi, and he wanted to be close to his sources of information for the battle
in orbit to confirm this.
15:23 Local Time
"Engineering, report status of restoring main power," Captain Hinako
Ninomiya ordered. They had been dead in space for over half an hour since
they had successfully fired their Main Gun to destroy an Orochi satellite,
an act which had quenched their fusion reactor in the process. A back-up
fission plant was to have come on to provide emergency power, but it too
had inexplicably failed.
Lieutenant Fulton, Hinako's Assistant Engineer from the _Dragonfly,_
and currently Chief Engineer of the _Coronet,_ answered her over the
"Ma'am, we think we've got the problem isolated to a logic controller
in the power distribution system," Fulton replied. His face was damp with
sweat, as the engineering crew was operating without the luxury of the
ventilation system to conserve the cruiser's emergency batteries. "It's
holding up both powerplants on a switchgear fault, making their controllers
believe that the main distribution switchgear is grounded, and keeping them
"What does all that mean in terms of time to restore power?" she asked
him. Engineers tended to speak as if everyone within earshot understood their
arcane jargon, and it had been a long time since she had attended the basic
engineering courses required of prospective starship commanders.
"If we swap the controller out with a spare, factor in time to
load the program from the archives, and everything actually works as
advertised, I'd say we can start up the fusion plant within forty-five
Hinako slapped her forehead with the palm of her hand. A look from
Captain Hauptmann at the Fire Control station confirmed her misgivings.
"Fulton, we don't *have* forty-five minutes. There are six troop carrier
shuttles on their way to take this ship as a prize."
Fulton grimaced at the news. "I don't know what to tell you, ma'am.
This process is pretty straightforward. There really aren't any corners
to cut, but we'll do our best."
Hinako sighed wearily and signed off. Captain Hauptmann waved her over
to the Fire Control station. Passive sensor data was displayed for them,
showing the six Furinkan Combine ships on an intercept course.
"ETA is nineteen minutes," Hauptmann declared. "If we don't get our
drives back before then, we're in trouble."
"That's probably not going to happen," Hinako told him flatly. She had
been against firing the Main Gun, but not for the reasons she now regretted.
"What are our options?"
"The _Tautog_ is having its own problems right now, so we can't expect
any help from them in the near future. Olivera says they are at bare minimum
combat capability, and their current orbit has them drifting over the
planetary horizon in ten minutes. They won't come back around for another
two hours and twenty-five minutes."
Hinako had to agree that this was not good. "What can we do from our
Hauptmann pointed at the fire control panels. "The primary gun batteries
won't fire without main power, but we have our secondary turrets. Those can
operate off the emergency battery, and if we use the lasers sparingly, we
shouldn't drain too much juice."
Hinako considered it. "It's probably more than enough firepower to
stop those shuttles," she replied. "But what then?"
Hauptmann cocked his head at her. "It buys us time to get this crate
back to full capacity. I don't want to be anywhere near when the Orochi
Network and the Combine fleet go at it hammer and tongs." He shrugged. "If
you have a better idea, Captain Ninomiya, I'm all ears."
A smile lit up Hinako's face.
"Something just came to me," she said. "I'll need everyone you can
spare to meet me in the shuttle bay."
Hauptmann looked at her questioningly. "What exactly do you mean by
'everyone I can spare'?"
"The absolute bare minimum to navigate. One person at the sensors.
One person at fire control. The minimum watchstanders in Engineering. The
Chief of the Watch can handle commo from his station."
Hinako crossed her arms over her breasts. "You'll have to trust me
on this, Captain Hauptmann."
* * *
"Captain Hauptmann," the Chief of the Watch called out. "The Furinkan
Combine boarding party demands that we surrender our vessel at once."
Hauptmann punched the intercom for the shuttle bay staging area. "Our
guests are about to arrive, Captain Ninomiya. Are you ready for them?"
"You betcha!" a child's voice chirped back in reply.
Hauptmann shook his head gravely and turned to the Chief of the Watch.
"Tell them that we surrender. Open the shuttle bay doors to receive them."
The Chief of the Watch did so. "Aye, Captain. Shuttle Bay doors
"This had better work..." Hauptmann muttered.
* * *
"Spread out," the Furinkan Combine Marine sergeant barked to his men
in the Shuttle Bay. "Don't bunch up! We don't know what kind of welcome
we're going to get on the other side of that door."
The other five shuttles started to disgorge their troops, until there
were sixty heavily armed and armored Marines waiting to charge through the
airtight door and into the interior of the ship. They were armed with
machete-like short swords, two-meter long boarding pikes, nailguns, and
laser pistols for close combat within a fragile starship. They didn't
expect much resistance from the crew, but that would be of small condolence
to anyone who ended up dead.
When the airtight door suddenly slid open with a hiss, the Marines
were ready with every weapon they had. They were not ready, however, for
the sight of an eight-year-old girl in the ill-fitting uniform of a
Confederation Navy Captain.
"Hello everybody!" the girl cried happily to them.
"What is this, sarge?" one of the Marines hissed to the sergeant.
"Some kinda joke?"
The sergeant gave a noncommital grunt. "It's the lieutenant's problem
now. Keep your heater on the door and your eyes peeled."
"Is everyone here?" the girl asked them, skipping up to the center
of their ranks.
The Combine Marine lieutenant stepped forward to greet Hinako with
a look of reproach. "Look here, little girl. I don't know what your
parents think they'll accomplish by sending you to us, but it won't
work." He raised his voice to the open airtight door. "I demand to speak
to the master of this vessel at once, that I may accept his formal
Hinako tugged at his armored hand.
"I'm right here," she pouted.
He brushed her off. "Go away, little girl." He affected an irritated
look for his sergeant. "Sergeant, take this child to the shuttle at once."
"Hey!" Hinako cried shrilly. "I'm NOT a little girl! I'm the Captain
of this ship! One of them, anyway..."
The lieutenant looked to the open airtight door, feeling that there
was something wrong about this situation. Something horribly wrong. What
kind of barbarians would send a child into the ranks of their enemy if they
intended to resist?
It came to him as a Marine scooped up Hinako and carried her screaming
towards a shuttle. They were planning on resisting, and this was their way
of ensuring that she didn't get hurt. Clever bastards...
"Sergeant, have the first squad advance through the door," he ordered.
"They have premission to fire without warning."
Hinako's wailing ceased abruptly, followed by the sound of something
heavy hitting the deck of the shuttle. In the tension of the moment, all
the lieutenant noticed was that the child's crying had mercifully stopped.
"Yes sir," the sergeant grunted. "First Squad up!"
"Hello boys," a sultry voice called to them from the shuttles.
The Marines turned as one to see Hinako Ninomiya in her two-sizes
too short miniskirt and extra-tight red turtleneck uniform sweater. Jaws
dropped appreciatively as she raised a fifty-yen coin between two fingers
and leveled it at them with a smile and a wink.
* * *
"Captain Hauptmann, Captain Ninomiya reports that the Shuttle Bay is
secure, and that the prisoners are in custody," the Chief of the Watch
Hauptmann and his Helmsman traded looks. Neither had much faith in
Hinako's plan, but they were happy in this instance to be proven wrong.
"Ask the Captain what she plans to do next."
The Chief of the Watch relayed the question.
"She says that depends on the outcome of the battle between the Orochi
and the Combine fleet."