Stein’s Folly, Capellan March
17 October 3065
Memories from a childhood purposefully forgotten rose like an inexorable storm surge. Unconsciously MechWarrior Jane’s right hand maneuvered the joystick, and the right arm of Paralyzer, her forty-five-ton Hellspawn, rose gracefully. The ugly weapon-mount stub of a twenty-tube rocket launcher and twinned extended-range medium lasers became the long-lost arm of a child. With frightful agility, the weapon apertures touched the overhead leaves, only causing a slight flutter. Orange light from the planet’s K6-class star fell through the heavy canopy of deciduous woodlands carpeting the Halcion Highlands. A riot of colors—from the deepest ocher red to the wildest light yellows she’d ever witnessed—met her eyes. And the sunlight, backlighting nature’s leaf-stained windows of exquisite beauty….
Jane found herself breathing rapidly, despite the lack of heat buildup or the exertion of too many long days in a cockpit during conflicts. While there were differences—the colors were off due to the orange sunlight; the alien flora of Stein’s Folly included hues and shapes she’d never seen; and, of course, she was ensconced a dozen meters above the ground in a war-forged, bipedal BattleMech—one of her only childhood memories that didn’t bring pain surged further to the surface, and her eyes itched. A child’s arm reaching to touch a similarly dappled forest canopy, but never able to reach.
Thoughts bubbled as flotsam pushed ahead of such current. Where is that girl? If she’d never gone on that vacation, would life be different for her? Could she be…
Jane savagely bit her cheek until tears ran for pain and focus sprang back to the moment. The easy gait of the Hellspawn became a savage stalk to match her mood.
“Jane, you okay?”” a voice broke across the commline.
Memories still floated like the leaves torn off by the passage of her Hellspawn, spinning in the wake as fall worked its magic. For a moment she felt trapped, unable to move…unable to change and push past it all…. Her throat slowly clenched as old terrors gibbered for exposure, scratching at the edges of memories she’d long sought to expunge.
“Jane? Seriously, girl. Don’t tell me your commline went down in that fine new ride of yours you love to prance in front of us?”
The friendly tone filled her cockpit to bursting, ending the dreaded silence. Through the window of her cumbersome neurohelmet, her eyes blazed—a sun baking away the last of the resurrected memories, once more locking them away behind her carefully constructed façade. The clench of teeth moved beyond terror to anger. And determination.
Halperin. Right. I’m Halperin. “Jane” is only what they see. I’m Halperin.
“Nah, I’m good. Just like to keep you waiting,” she fired back, the struggles of the moment subsumed…and gone.
Captain Tanik Jepso laughed uproariously, sparking additional chuckles from the other members of the ad hoc company. Seven in all, including Halperin. The roar matched the titanic woman that stood well over two meters, with flashing eyes and a brilliant halo of the blackest hair. Her current commander had worked with half a dozen mercenary forces, including a small stint with the Eridani Light Horse, a testament to her battlefield acumen. But Tanik would never be a follower, even for such a prestige billet. Ultimately she could only forge her own way and thus was born Jepso’s Jaguars.
Halperin’s smile smoothly transitioned from façade to genuine, at the honest mirth and affection from her commander.
“Keep me waiting. Me! Gonna have to slap you silly for that one once we’re done with this patrol.”
Her hackles would’ve risen over such comments in her previous missions. But Jepso…she was something…extra special. Halperin had been with the Jaguars less than four months, and already she felt a kinship with Jepso she’d never tasted before.
Her left hand eased the throttle back a hair, and her footwork on the pedals moved the Hellspawn from a stomp back into her usually smooth gait, while her mind wandered.
Such an easy gig. With the Federated Commonwealth tearing itself asunder in glorious fashion, some bureaucratic idiot decided that since the Capellan Confederation invaded Stein’s Folly a few decades back, they might do it again with the Commonwealth so occupied. And with all the usual forces tied up in their civil war, even the smallest of merc forces were getting a boost.
A break appeared in the forest, and she found Tanik’s BattleMech, a Wolverine, moving confidently before her as their patrol lines overlapped. An honest warmth crept over her at the time she’d spent with such a strong woman.
The timer on her console reached zero exactly at the same moment warning klaxons of target locks from a well-laid ambush burst across the Jaguars’ systems. Halperin casually brought up both of her Paralyzer’s arms, locking the four medium lasers onto the back of Tanik’s Wolverine, targeting the weakened area the techs never could seem to fix, and unleashed megajoules of energy.
She kept the warmth of those feelings for Tanik bright as the Wolverine dropped to ground like a puppet with its strings cut as the fusion engine was gutted. One of her few good memories to overlay so many bad. Thank you, Tanik.
Like a flood, the rest of her pirate band swarmed the Jaguars. Time to finish securing this salvage.
The Clan Invasion and its abrupt increase in technological relevance for the modern battlefield showcased the need to replace many aging BattleMech models. One such model was the venerable fifty-five-ton Dervish, which dated back to the Star League. While the ’Mech had served admirably for centuries, General Motors put it firmly in its crosshairs as it designed a more mobile chassis that would accomplish the same mission parameters with a bevy of new technologies. The final result, the Hellspawn, clocked in at forty-five tons and with a 12 percent overall speed increase.
MechWarrior Halperin—if that’s even her real name—is a master chameleon. Able to fit any new mold she spins for herself, she and her pirates have been the death of half a dozen small merc forces to date. While their primary base of operations remains unknown—due to the surprisingly large 100-plus light-year radius of their strikes—her modus operandi isn’t. She infiltrates a mercenary force, then betrays them from within at a crucial moment, and her pirate band sweeps in. Survivors are trussed up and ransomed, if any rich nobles are caught in the web, and Halperin’s pirates ultimately make off with equipment and salvage. Despite bounties posted across dozens of worlds noting that she pilots a Hellspawn, the ploy continues to work. She’s too good at changing her persona; too many Hellspawns are operating in both Federated Commonwealth and Lyran Alliance forces, and too many small merc forces are desperate for her skills and the technological edge her Hellspawn “Paralyzer” brings.
Unfortunately, the field will continue to be ripe for Halperin’s unusual tactics for some time to come.
Written by Randall Neil Bills
Catalyst Game Labs