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Knight 2-3 (Melvin): ?Knight 2-1, Knight 2-3. Thermals show four vehicles in the village square. Signature indicates ICEs. Range indicates fire support mission type. Given current conditions threat level negligible. Request permission to reconnoiter ridgeline at Papa-November 02-40.?

Knight 2-1 (Phantom): ?Knight 2-3, permission granted. Get eyes on that valley and return to this position. All Knights, stand fast. Avoid engagement.?

Knight 2-3: ?Moving. Estimated time-to-target 30 seconds.?

Muffled reports echo over the company net.

Knight 2-1: ?Taking fire. Fire ineffective. Withdrawing further.?

Knight 2-4 (Appaloosa): ?Knight 2-1, Knight 2-4. Hostile armor advancing. Positive ID on one Vedette, one Pike.?

Knight 2-1: ?Copy Knight 2-4. All Knights, hold position. Prepare to advance on my mark.?

Knight 2-3: ?Knight 2-1, Knight 2-3. Positive ID on one carrier, one Bulldog. No further signatures. Continuing recon.?

A dull thump and a flashing red icon on Phantom's holographic Stinger indicates a hit. The hit is minor, but the fact that it's a hit at all is worrying. Only the fact that it's light caliber autocannon fire keeps the situation room calm.

Knight 2-3: ?Knight 2-1, Knight 2-3. Objective reached. Eyes on a small supply depot. Two cargo trucks, one heavy APC, several offloaded crates of marked ordnance. Static defenses present. RTB in 20 seconds.?

Several tense moments pass, interrupted sporadically with muffled cannonfire and idle chitchat between the scouts in the field. The pirates are not good shots, especially in these conditions, and nothing those cannons were capable of moving downrange were enough to worry even the Light 'Mechs hunkering in the field.

Knight 2-3: ?Recon complete. En route to rally point. ETA 30 seconds.?

Knight 2-1: ?Copy 2-3. All Knights, fall back to rally point charlie on my mark.?

Melvin's Ostscout covers the ground in leaps and bounds, but the pirate tanks noticed him the first time. His return trip isn't as carefree.

Knight 2-3: ?Taking heavy missile fire. Carrier confirmed Lima model. Evading.?

I was struck by how clinical the whole thing sounded. I was just the admin puke, the paper pusher, the coffee transportation vehicle. These were the real soldiers, and Derrick had eight months to turn them into a well-oiled machine.

Melvin's 'Mech skipped past the town, missiles putting craters in the soft dirt behind him. None of them really had a chance of hitting him at that speed, and it looked like Scout lance would get off scot-free this time. The tanks were getting closer to Phantom's Stinger, however. There wasn't a lot of margin for error, but there wasn't a whole lot of error showing up in this op.


Knight 2-3: ?Enemy line clear. Heading for rally point charlie.?

Knight 2-1: ?Copy Knight 2-3. All Knights, mark.?

Every 'Mech stands up at the same time, and in a matter of seconds all of them are scampering out of range of the enemy tanks. There was no way in hell that the pirates could catch them in those plodding bricks.

Only Phantom's 'Mech suffered any damage, a few dozen kilos that a stray couple shells had scraped off the left side. It took our techs less than 20 minutes to get the repairs done. All in all, a successful operation. A good one; builds morale.

I'll do the paperwork in the morning.

- Phantom has 6 experience and may choose to learn another skill
- Melvin has 6 experience and may choose to learn another skill