Leutnant-Colonel William Lange fought for control of his Banshee as the enemy Nightstar circled him and what was left of his company. Fortunately for Lange, the Nightstar had less support; eight of its comrades were crumpled and smoking on the ground while it and its three comrades were in little better condition. Barely remaining upright after that last fusillade from the Nightstar's two LB-X autocannons punctured his own 'Mech's gyroscope casing, Leutnant-Colonel Lange turned his attention toward his secondary monitors. Four Allied tanks were moving in to support the Nightstar and its remaining compatriots.
"Wolves three and eight, break off and hit those Pattons before they eat us for lunch! Two, five, six and eleven, you're with me!"
Lange and his six other Eleventh Arcturan Guards 'Mechs looked like they'd been through hell and back again, but they'd finally tracked down the last few stragglers from the Assault Guards' third batt/bravo company, and they weren't about to let those Allied 'Mechs get away again, The Assault Guards weren't going to give up easily, though. The Nightstar turned and fired again, this time at Hauptmann Krein's Atlas.
"Damn] I'm out, sir." Even through the static and the rumble of the battlefield, Lange could still hear the anger and disappointment in Krein's voice. Or maybe it was that he knew the man so well. "Sonuvabitch musta got my hip." Lange looked to his right and saw Krein's Atlas sprawled out face-down on the ground. Its arms had been blown off earlier in the battle. Short of a recovery crane or two other 'Mechs stopping to help his shattered Atlas up, Krein knew he was finished. "Whoever the hell he is, he's got some moves!"
"Roger, five. The rest of you, get his friends. That Nightstar is mine!" Lange rarely let his emotions get the best of him, but he'd seen that particular Nightstar take down too many of his men. He had no doubt that he could have laid waste to the Nightstar in his Fafnir, but that 'Mech was still down for repairs. So he was piloting Koch's Banshee. At least he had one Heavy Gauss Rifle In the 'Mech.
The Nightstar made a sudden shift to its left, placing a copse of trees between it and Lange's Banshee, while it fired off another barrage from its autocannons, followed quickly by a PPC blast, at Leutnant Orsini's Devastator, toppling yet another assault 'Mech. "Two, are you alright?"
It took five long seconds before Orsini answered Lange. "Affirmative, one. Just shook me up there, that's all." As Lange moved around the copse, he watched Orsini get back up. But before the leutnant could swing her dual Gauss Rifles around to punish the Davion 'Mech, the Nightstar loosed one more fusillade. Lange watched in horror as Leutnant Orsini's left arm lit erally disintegrated in an explosion that tore up her entire left side, dropping the 'Mech to the ground on its other arm, which exploded a second later.
Lange didn't have the time to consider his MechWarrior's fate, however. A Falconer ran into view three hundred meters out. Leutnant-Colonel Lange triggered both his Heavy Gauss and his autocannon, driving both weapons' projectiles directly into the Falconer's torso and dropping the 'Mech. It would never get up again.
"Good shot, one!"
Lange didn't answer. He'd already turned his attention back to the Nightstar. The enemy 'Mech wasn't cooperating, though. "Damn, he's good." The compliment Just slipped out. Not that he expected anything less from a member of the Davion Assault Guards. But there was something about the way the Nightstar moved. Something familiar. Lange dismissed the thought. He'd drilled with literally thousands* of MechWarriors during his thirty-three years in the military, each with their own unique piloting style. But still, he couldn't shake the feeling that he knew this MechWarrior.
Hauptmann Carter and Leutnant Griscom teamed up to take down a Victor and continued to harry a Stalker, leaving only the Nightstar. Suddenly, the enemy assault 'Mech stopped within another copse of trees, obviously lining up a shot on Griscom's Pillager. The Nightstar tired, striking the Pillager with standard munitions. The Lyran MechWarrior remained standing, however, and fired two Gauss rounds back towards the Nightstar, one hitting the Davion 'Mech in the leg and nearly felling it. The attack did spoil the Nightstar's move though, giving Lange the opening he needed.
The Lyran MechWarrior charged forward, bursting into the copse. Realizing he was in danger, the Davion MechWarrior turned to meet the Banshee's charge. Both MechWarriors fired their weapons at the same time. Before Lange fell to the ground, he saw the satisfying crunch of his Heavy Gauss slug rip the 'Mech's already-wounded leg off. He scrambled to get back up before the Nightstar could snap off another round, but the 'Mech just lay there, still.
Then he saw the crack in the cockpit canopy and the subtle splatter o( blood on the Inside. His own LB-X autocannon had found a breach. "Good." His gaze shifted down to the words scrawled beneath the canopy, but it took him a few seconds to process the words he'd just read. No, that can't be right, he thought. He was in the New Syrtis CMM. But he'd taken vaca tion on Alcyone before the war. The Assault Guards were on Ale...
"Oh, Jesus Christ! Jesus Christ, Jes..."
The words 'Leftenant William Lange, Jr.' were clear as day to the leutnant-colonel.
His last word came out barely as a whimper. "Billy..."
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