|APAGear II Archives||Volume 2, Number 11||December, 2000|
[NOTE: This article is Dennis' rewrite of an article he wrote for APAGear Volume 2, Number 8. This is a first for APAGear, but it's strongly in the spirit of an APA. -Ed.]
Western Protectorate Literary Archives, Fort Henry
Northern Guard 53rd APA Member, Lieutenant Commander Lewis Wilks
The afternoon sun is continuing its ritual descent, creating shifting shadows along the mountain slopes. At the same time, the routine patrol for the 53rd's Beta mountain squad is finishing its sweep of the ridges 100 kilometers west of Erech. The forward-most hunter signals to the remaining squad of Alpine Hunters to keep moving forward, then stares back at the two stragglers still two hundred meters back.
"Peterson and Jamie what's going on," squad commander Wilks calls out over the comm. "I told you to stay in formation. What's going on?"
"Jamie thought that he saw something on the eastern slopes," Peterson responds.
"What's your HUD saying?" Wilks inquires, signaling for the rest of the squad to hold. Just then, a high pitched whine fills the air.
Before Peterson can answer, a series of mortar rounds explode all around him. The blast shatters his left hip hydraulics, throwing his gear unto its back. Accidentally fumbling the controls to recover from the attack, Peterson's Alpine launches a grenade into the back of Jamie's gear. The shock from the grenade impact throws Jamie's gear into a face plant.
"Artillery fire, artillery fire," Wilks barks. He begins closing the distance between his gear and Peterson's. He calls out, "Charlie and Salador, find cover and acquire trajectory. There have to be spotters nearby. Jamie, you dazed?"
"Uh," Jamie responds. "No sir." Another round of mortar artillery bears down on them. Wilks dives for cover. His gear leaps, head first, behind nearby cover from the eastern slope. Jamie pilots his gear to crawl behind Wilks.
The whine of more incoming artillery cries out over the comm. Wilks' HUD computer quickly isolates the trajectory of the shots. "Artillery, northeast 16 degrees. Probably just heavy mortar fire. Charlie, you targeted those spotters?"
"Negative, we're checking the eastern.... Wait." Charlie pauses. "I see five infantry moving up the eastern hill crest."
"Move to kill," Wilks commands. His gear slams into his rocky defense by concussions of the continuing artillery. "Target and fire at will." Wilks moves toward Peterson's downed gear.
"Roger," Charlie confirms. His gear leaps the rocks, hurrying up the slope.
"I'm with you, Charles," Salador follows, his gear right behind Charlie's.
"I'm acquiring," Charlie calls out, "...firing." Charlie's Alpine fires a pair of missiles at the fleeing CEF troops. The missiles explode, the resulting rockslide obscuring the results.
Suddenly, bursts of 24mm round start impacting around Charlie and Salador. "We've got return fire," Salador calls as the sound of more artillery comes in over the comm.
"Take cover!" Charlie cries out. Both he and Salador hit the ground face first, leaping behind nearby rocks as the mortar rounds impact behind them.
"Cover each other, soldiers," Wilks shouts. Looking back at Jamie, Wilks pleads. "Come on Jamie, get your ass in gear and cover Peterson."
Righting his gear and moving to shield Peterson, Jamie replies saying, "I'm on Peterson." As he turns to look up the slope at Charlie and Salador climbing the steep ridge, more artillery starts carpeting the ravine area.
"Get Peterson out of the line of fire," Wilks calls out, explosions all around. "Get him behind those rocks. Charlie,...Salador, take those spotters down now! We also need to locate that artillery."
"We're moving, sir," Charlie answers. Both he and Salador are almost near the crest of the ridge. Their gears climbing hand over fist to get up the steep slope.
The artillery has seemed to stop. "Jamie, what's Peterson's status?" Wilks inquires.
"The gear looks beat up, and the lower torso is badly damaged. His gear isn't going anywhere. I can't get a comm through to him."
Wilks rights his gear from behind his cover, looking back at Peterson's downed gear. "You're going to be OK, little brother."
As Charlie and Salador clear the ridge, they can see three remaining infantry. The CEF soldiers are sprinting down the jagged slope to the south. In the distance, they can just perceive the faint silhouettes of hovertanks in the reflected sunlight. Charlie's gear signals for Salador to duck down.
"We need to get a better target lock to transmit coordinates to command," Charlie states.
"And how the hell are we going to transmit?" Salador replies. "Peterson has the Sat Uplink."
"Damn." Charlie looks down the slope to the southeast. "We need to get closer though, so we can at least give tally of the enemy's size.
Salador's gear points northeast. "Let's head down there. We should get sufficient cover from their lidar moving through those rocks."
Charlie's gear nods in agreement. "Let's go," Charlie confirms. The two gears start leaping and bounding through the rocky terrain, ducking behind whatever cover they can.
The crackle of Peterson's comm frequency is picked up by Wilks' own system. "Peterson, can you hear me?"
"Big bro," the faint voice of Peterson responds. "Is that you?"
"Yes, it's me," Wilks sighs with relief. "You're gear is pretty beat up, but your computer tells me that your injuries aren't critical. You need to stay conscious though. We're getting help."
"I feel like crap," Peterson responds weakly, his voice trailing off into static.
"Jamie, you take care of Peterson." Wilks looks up the ridge. "I need to go after Charlie and Salador. That was heavy mortar artillery. They may need more support. Take the portable Sat Uplink and try to contact command. I want reinforcements, air support, whatever,...just get us some backup."
"Yes, sir," Jamie replies.
"I'll be back soon, little brother." Wilks' gear salutes Jamie, turns and heads off, running up the ridge.
A quarter hour has passed, and Charlie and Salador have sneaked their way within a hundred fifty meters of the CEF forces. The past faint silhouettes now show a mobile fire base in clearer view.
"I see three Predators and a two Lob Hoppers," Salador specifies. "Probably about thirty to thirty-five support personnel and infantry.
"Affirmative," Charlie confirms. "The Lobbers are being reloaded. With the amount of artillery we were put under, I'm not surprised."
"This is a cozy little base,...and it's only a hundred kilometers from Erech." Salador adjusts the focus on his sensor eye. "I can understand why they wouldn't want anyone stumbling across this. So, now what do you want to do?"
"We are clearly outclassed with only two of us." Charlie sighs. "We will just need to sneak back and report our findings. Hopefully, the base will still be here for the air forces to clear ou.... What the hell!" Charlie exclaims, his gear looking south. "Ah, shit!"
Salador adjusts his gear's view to see. There is commotion among the personnel in the camp. The Predator's are firing up their hover jets. In the distance, Salador can just make out a single gear dodging between the rocks across the camp. The familiar whump of launching grenades sounds the air as closely following explosions fill the base. "That's Wilks," Salador exclaims.
Charlie sighs. "Well, I guess that answers our question. Let's see if we can surprise them from behind." Charlie maneuvers his gear over their rocky shelter, letting a grenade fly toward the nearest group of infantry.
"Roger that," Salador follows. His gear right behind Charlie's, rockets blazing.
Zigzagging over the rocks and crevices, the two soldiers pilot their Alpines, using the terrain to its best advantage. The CEF forces rear their nearest forces to face the new onslaught from Charlie and Salador.
"Charlie and Salador...is that you?" Wilks calls out over the comm. "Prophet, am I glad to see you two."
"Glad to oblige a CO," Charlie jests as he scrambles over another boulder to avoid an incoming salvo of missiles. "You blew our cover."
"Complain about it later," Wilks replies. "I see an opening. I'm going after the Lobbers. Some grenade fire would be nice," he grins.
"Don't be smug," Charlie jaunts, launching a grenade from behind his boulder. "Salador, the boss needs some fire." Another explosion chips away at Charlie's sanctuary, showering Charlie's gear in the debris. "It might just help us too."
"I hate that smirk," Salador protests from behind his cover.
"It's a good day to die," Charlie rebuffs.
"Stop quoting Joe Gear. It just pisses me off." Salador leaps out from behind his cover. A nearby hovertank takes aim as Salador's gear sprints toward camp. The gear unleashes its rockets. The hovertank reels amid the fury of fire.
"That's the point, lieutenant." Charlie launches another grenade as he starts running and leaping from boulder to boulder, avoiding enemy fire. He spots Wilks' gear weaving its way toward the still motionless Lobbers. He lets his rockets and anti-personnel grenades fly, strafing the base. The infantry and personnel scatter, helpless against the gear's firepower.
Hand grenade in gear's hand, Wilks leaps atop the first Lob Hopper, dropping the grenade atop a startled tank commander and into the open hatch. His gear leaps and rolls with the blast as the grenade explodes, ripping off the turret, the exposed mortar shells add in explosions. "Pop goes the hopper," he grunts over the comm.
"Woohoo," Salador cheers. He moves to dodge another hovertank's aim, but the Predator's aim is true. Salador's gear is knocked back as the particle beam impacts the gear's shoulder, ripping the right arm clean off.
"Salador!" Charlie shouts. He spins his gear, setting the rest of his rockets free at the offending tank. The hovertank drives its nose into the sand under the salvo of fire, its front jets damaged.
Salador's gear leaps up, drawing his vibroblade and charges at the struggling Predator. "You son of bitch," he curses as he cuts open the hatch. "Die vat bastards!" He fires his rockets at the torn hatch point blank as he leaps back. The tank buckles under the heavy missile fire. Its remaining fans whirl down. Salador's breath pants in satisfaction over the comm.
"Look out!" Wilks calls out. His gear slams into Salador's, knocking him out of incoming fire from the remaining two Predators. Rolling off Salador's gear, Wilks rights his gear and fires his grenades and rockets as fast as he can at the approaching tanks. "This is no time to gloat. We've still got three tanks to go."
"I'm on the other Lobber," Charlie affirms. The remaining Lob Hopper is now maneuvering to aid the other tanks. Charlie's gear kicks into a run, coming up behind the hovertank. His grenade launcher empties into the tank's rear armor, damaging its rear fans. "The Lobber is going down," Charlie calls out in encouragement.
Ducking behind a boulder, Wilks, out of ammo except for a hand grenade and his vibroknife, grunts in affirmation. "We're in too deep to back out now," he commands.
The Predators circle the meager shelter of the solitaire boulder quickly. Wilks leaps up over the top of the boulder to avoid the particle beams.
Salador skirts around the backside. He makes a sprinting break at the nearest tank, blade in gear hand. He howls like dawg, "Woooowl. Let's finish this." However, Salador's stride is cut short by an anti-tank missile. His gear's lower torso explodes underneath him, sending the upper remains of his gear cartwheeling into the ground. Wilks, following behind Salador, leaps onto the Predator, but is thrown off by a particle beam blast from the other tank.
"Salador,...Wilks?" Charlie exclaims, running toward the fray, leaving the flaming remains of the Lob Hopper behind. His vibroblade gleaming.
Wilks rolls and rights his gear, only to find that his last grenade is lost in the fall. He spins to look back at the hovering tanks. Their turrets aim squarely at his battle weary gear. "It's over," he resigns to himself. "I'm sorry, little brother."
The roar of a missile fills the air. Suddenly, the further tank erupts in a ball of fire. The forward tank reels to recover from the blast as another missile slams into its hull. In seconds, it's all over.
"What the hell?" Wilks exclaims in disbelief. He pans his gear's scope to see two Dragonfly and an Orca approaching from the west.
"Hey boss, it's the calvary," Charlie extols. "...and not a moment to soon."
Wilks takes a deep breath. The comm crackles as the Orca's signal clicks in. "..oger that Blue and Green Fly,...make a perimeter sweep. Beta squad, this is Kangaroo. How are you guys holding up?"
"Tired, very tired," Wilks responds. "I've got a downed man here and two more pilots about a half kilometer over the ridge to the west."
"Roger that," the Orca replies. "We've picked up your two pilots. Lieutenant Jamie wanted me to let you know that Peterson is doing fine. We're touching down to dust you out of here."
"Roger Kangaroo." Wilks takes another deep breath. "OK, Charlie, good fighting. Let's check on Salador. We're going home."
The Lob Hopper (or Lobbers as most Terranovan soldiers call them) is a code name for the CEF HT-63 Hovertank. The vehicle is slightly larger than the HT-68 Predator, carrying a turreted pair of Heavy Guided Mortars and a higher payload of ATMs. The performance and armor statistics are nearly identical to the Predator HT-68. Deployed for fire and artillery support, the Lob Hopper has been used to great effect in the mountain ranges of Terra Nova where indirect fire is a necessity.
A Northco predecessor to the Mountain Jaguar, the Alpine Hunter was one of the very few gears rugged and simple enough to survive as a successful mountaineering gear. Using the common Hunter chassis, Northco engineers found a challenge in adapting the gear to the rugged conditions of the mountains. Reinforcing the legs with climbing claws and off-road hydraulics was difficult but ended up being manageable. However, attempts at integrating a ground movement system with all the larger leg braces and hydraulics proved exceedingly difficult for the engineers. In the end, the Northco designers were forced to abandon using any ground system altogether. This was resolved to be only a minor downgrade in open ground performance under which the machine was not expected to perform regularly.
The Mk IV anti-personnel grenade launcher was kept, as were the standard M-2A hand grenades and the HW-VB1 vibroknife. The Riley M222 autocannon was replaced with the Ankerson G-60 Grenade Launcher, providing excellent offensive capabilities in the uneven terrain allowing the machine to push hostiles out from behind cover. Also, the powerful rockets of the GH-6 replaced the smaller RP-109 Pepperbox, adding punch and distance to the machine's firepower.
The Alpine Hunter entered service in TN 1862, just ten years after the release of the Hunter MkII. Mountain gear squads, who enjoyed the enhanced rugged abilities, quickly praised it. Later in 1870, the gear began serving as escort to powerful ThunderHammer striders in the 53rd Armored Regiment, the Highland Rangers. During its service with Western Protectorate forces in the War of the Alliance, it assisted in clearing out CEF holdings all along the Serpentine Range. Over time, the 53rd, along with support from the armor of the 168th, had effectively cut off vital supply lines through the Serpentine Range to the CEF forces occupying the Eastern Desert. The success of their shared efforts gave the Peace River Army time to regroup and join the Northern and Southern forces to flank the Earth forces out of the Eastern Desert, eventually ending the war.
A year after the war, in 1918, CNCS high command, embarrassed by the field superiority of the Southern Desert Viper MkII demonstrated in the War of the Alliance, commissioned Northco to produce an improved mountain gear that gave even better performance. Northco quickly saw that the simple improvements applied to the BearHunter might provide the answer to CNCS high commands concerns. Installing the S-V790T V-engine on the Alpine Hunter's chassis, they quickly began running field tests. However, the heavier powerplant proved to cause annoying instability for the gear's mountain traversing requirements. In addition, one of the prototypes was badly damaged after the S-790T powerplant stalled and shut down, a known mechanical problem with that engine, causing a severe fifty-meter fall that killed the test pilot. With these early reports, a frustrated CNCS high command issued instructions that it wanted the new gear to be based off of the heavier Jaguar chassis. Northco agreed, and the Alpine Hunter was later replaced by the Mountain Jaguar in TN 1921. Due to its commercial objectives, Northco has currently ceased all new production of the Alpine Hunter, but continues to manufacture field replacement parts.
Code Name: Alpine Hunter Production Code: HACS-01MG-ALP Production Type: Mass Production/Discontinued Cost: 519,000 marks Manufacturer: Northco Use: Mountain Combat Gear Height: 4.3 meters Width: 3.0 meters Average armor thickness: 45mm Armor Material: Durasheet w/alloy Standard operational weight: 7415 kg Primary Movement Mode: Walk (72 kph) Secondary Movement Mode: N/A Deployment Range: 500 km Sensor Range: 40 hexes/2 km Communications Range: 200 hexes/10 km Powerplant: S-V950A V-engine Horsepower: 450 Hp
Add: LGL (F, 20 grenades), MRP/9 (F, 9 rockets), Chassis Reinforcement, Improved Off-Road, Rugged Movement System, Climbing Apparatus Remove: LAC, LRP/24 Change: No Ground Movement System Modified Threat Value: 692 Offensive: 823 Defensive: 249 Miscellaneous: 1003
Availability Threshold: 5 Max. No. of Units in Field: Nearly Unlimited Individual Lemon Dice: 3
|APAGear II Archives||Volume 2, Number 11||December, 2000|
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