|Cover artwork||Ray Lundgren|
|First published||6 April 2004|
|Era||Dark Age era|
|Series||MechWarrior: Dark Age Novels|
|Preceded by||Fortress of Lies|
|Followed by||Flight of the Falcon|
From the Back CoverEdit
|“|| Under assault and ill-equipped, Alkalurops has come apart since the loss of its communications grid and the inability of The Republic to reestablish it. But in a universe of powerful players, a leader has to grab power fast if she's going to survive...
Grace O'Malley's people are valiantly making a stand against Loren Hanson's Roughriders, a band of mercenaries destroying everything in their path. Badly outnumbered, her forces need real BattleMechs operated by trained MechWarriors. And they're not going to be easy to afford, especially since the big mine owners refuse to offer any funds for planetary defense. But Grace will not surrender her homeland, no matter what the price.
Even though the ragtag locals are putting a surprising good fight, Hanson remains confident he can defeat them. What he doesn't count on is an opponent determined to write her planet's history in the scorched wreckage of the battlefield...
Grace O'Malley is a miner who uses her MiningMech dubbed Pirate in the hills around her hometown of Falkirk. That future for her and the rest of the miners are in jeopardy since an unknown force has recently landed upon the world of Alkalurops. The planetary net has been screaming that the unknown attackers have 'Mechs that have been stomping through houses, their tanks shooting up shops, and infantry hijacking IndustrialMechs. The attackers have been moving closer and closer to Falkirk with each passing day; in order to protect her town and the people within it, Grace was able to persuade the menfolk of the town and the neighboring Navajo tribesmen to fight back against the invaders. With a little help from the town mechanic, they were able to put some modifications onto the 'Mechs to be more battle effective.
The unknown invaders are actually a mercenary detachment from Hansen's Roughriders being commanded by Captain Loren Hanson who was under contract to raid and steal any decent looking IndustrialMechs or BattleMechs that they come across. As the force was moving towards the extraction point, they notice that the people of Falkirk were trying to set up an ambush for his men. Hanson tells his men to attack feeling that it will be another easy victory and another chance to pick up any available 'Mechs.
The little skirmish between those from Falkirk and the raiding force did not go as planned for Hanson. First off, one of his Condor tanks went on to attack the infantry but ended up driving into one of the many camouflaged holes that the Navajos dug into the battlefield. This enraged Hanson who pushed the rest of his force to assault the remaining of the defenders. Loren pushes his Koshi to attack the MiningMech which, unknowingly to him, is piloted by Grace which seems to be the backbone of the defenders. As he attacks her 'Mech he comes upon issues of falling into another camouflaged hole and encroaching on a modified 'Mech with a flamethrower attached. Using the skills and training that only a true MechWarrior has, he was able to push the two 'Mechs back towards the ridgeline. Hanson decided to cut his losses and take the long way around to the extraction point after he noticed even more infantry and unmodified IndustrialMechs appearing at the top of the ridge.
Cleaning up the messEdit
Once the threat of the raiders attacking Falkirk vanished, the locals began the process of removing the hovertank out of the pit. While they were trying to figure out how to pull it out of the hole, one of the men went into the machine to see how it worked. After a brief overview of the tank, he mentioned to the those assembled that the tank was technologically superior to anything he has seen, and that they were all lucky to have made it out of the skirmish alive.
Not knowing what to do about the current situation, Grace calls together a town meeting to get everyone's idea on how to proceed. The town meeting broke down to how could this happen and why didn't the planetary militia do its job of fending off the raiders. With the meeting going nowhere, Grace calls for a break which everyone obliges. She calls upon the small number of people who she trusts and asks them what each of them personally thinks. The small group reaches a consensus that they should send a representative to Allabad, the capital, and get some answers from the Legate as to how he could let this happen to their home world and that he should be training the citizens to defend themselves if it should ever happen again.
Grace sets out on the journey with two of her colleagues, Chato and Jobe, who are both from the Navajo tribes. On their way to Allabad, they pass by a battleground where the planetary defenders fought against the raiders; the result of the encounter was more deadly than what Grace went through, but the result was the same.
Once the group arrives at the capital, they are informed that the Planetary Governor and the Legate were both found dead after the raid and that the Legate's Ryoken II BattleMech had been stolen. With this new information, an emergency council meeting of the town mayors of Alkalurops had been declared to bring some order within the chaos. When the council meeting started, the first thing that came to order was who should be elected as the new governor of the world until the Republic would return to choose a new mayor. This began a back and forth between the small independent miners versus the big mining corporations in all aspects of the meeting from who should be governor to how many votes should each mayor have.
After a couple days of deliberation, Mr. Alfred Santorini walked into the meeting and offered to the mayors a proposal which he says would benefit his associates and the citizens of the world. He says that the company that he works for is in the process of looking for a new planet which would become the headquarters; this move would create millions of jobs and bring about the mass influx of immigrants. The only thing that his company would require would be that a suitable defense force be stationed on planet. They would have to pledge loyalty to Jasek Kelswa-Steiner and his army called the Stormhammers. To pay for the protection, they would have to agree to pay a percentage of their world profit.
Grace spoke up with a counter-proposal. Instead of paying an outside force to protect the citizens; why not hire a mercenary force to defend the planet as well as to train the people of Alkalurops to defend themselves when the mercenary contract expires. In order to pay for this mission, each city would have to donate to the cause, far less than what Mr. Santorini proposed. She finishes her proposal with a saying that has been said throughout the centuries, "Alkalurops takes care of its own."
Mercenaries for hireEdit
With the approval of most of the council, Grace's trio begins making preparations for their mission to recruit mercenaries from Galatea to train the citizenry of Alkalurops. They boarded with the first available DropShip that landed on world; and the DropShip attached to the first available Jumpship that was headed to Galatea.
While on the JumpShip, there was a brief confrontation with a thief who stole from Grace; jewels that she was given to help pay for the mercenaries. After a quick pursuit through the ship, Grace encounters Alfred Santorini who is also making a brief stop on Galatea before continuing on his business quest. Alfred has no desire to chit-chat with Grace. He accuses her of wasting his precious time and money traveling to her backwater world to have his generous proposal thrown away to go along with her crazy plan of finding mercenaries to defend her home. With that he turns around and they part ways.
When the DropShip that the trio took finally landed at Galaport; they made their way towards the terminal to get some information on how they should proceed. When they got into the terminal, what they saw was something they were not prepared for. The place was packed with recruiting stations for a plethora of different mercenary companies. The trio saw the insignias for: the Bannson's Raiders, the 21st Centauri Lancers, the Northwind Highlanders, the Eridani Light Horse, and many more which they didn't recognize. They continued down the line until they came across a station that had two men that gave off the aura of strength. The two men at the recruiting station tell them that they represent the Hansen's Roughrider and would be glad to bring the potential clients to their camp.
When the clients arrive at the camp, the newly promoted Major Loren Hanson is ordered to talk to them since he has the most knowledge of the planet. The reason his commander ordered this because he felt that Hanson was getting to uppity for his own good as well as he wanted to enjoy the irony in having the guy who attacked their planet in haggling out a contract to defend it. After a lengthy talk about what the Roughriders can offer and what she is looking for, Loren produces a cost analysis of what a battalion-sized force would run her at the current going rate. When Grace sees what the price comes out to, she tells Hanson that they would not be able to afford it. Loren apologizes, but informs her that there is nothing that he can do.
Friends in dark placesEdit
The three decided to take residence in the shady part of the town due to it being cheaper than anywhere else they were able to find. They payed for the cheaper prices by getting jumped by a group of thugs who wanted whatever valuables the off-worlders had. Grace, Chato, and Jobe are rescued when two locals jumped into the scuffle to save the visitors. Danny O'Bannon, an ex-Highlander mercenary MechWarrior, and Benjork Lone Cat, a deserter from Clan Nova Cat who is also a MechWarrior. These two ex-MechWarriors question the trio as to what they are doing. Grace informs them that they are staying in the city while they search for a mercenary group to defend their planet while training the citizens. Danny and Benjork both agree that their goal is noble. The pair lead Grace and them to a safer hotel where they can continue their search without being attacked or robbed.
Grace's group went to a few other mercenary encampments and got the same result and treatment as when they went to the Roughriders. None of the mercenaries wanted to train civilians as well as the prices between the companies were around the same price. After failing multiple times, the trio decide to head to a bar in an attempt to raise their spirits.
When they enter the bar, they notice that Danny and Benjork are in a corner of the bar also having drinks. When Danny notices them, he heads on over to them to ask them how their search is going. When he is told that each of the mercenary commands told them that they didn't want to train civilians he had to agree. Danny goes on to tell them the landscape of warfare has changed dramatically from the days of old. Each of the soldiers train together day after day in order to build a trust between them while they fight on the battlefield. They would never want to train a "temp warrior" because they would never be able to trust them.
When Benjork finally awakens from one of his visions, he joins Grace and tells her that he and Danny would be honored to travel with them back to Alkalurops to train civilians to be soldiers. Ben is able to recruit other well endowed individuals to join the party to help defend Grace's home world. They are able to recruit: Victoria and Sean who are both MechWarrior pilots, George Stillwell who fights in tanks, Betsy Ross who is a specialist in infantry combat, a lady named Syn who is also a MechWarrior, and a mechanic named Sven who is a master at repairing and re-configuring 'Mechs.
Preparing for invasionEdit
Before the Grace's entourage would make the trip back to Alkalurops, Sven persuaded Grace to head to a used 'Mech parts yard in order to acquire some equipment in order to configure IndustrialMechs into a fighting capable 'Mech. They were able to purchase BattleMech equipment that included targeting computers and a machine to make BattleMech style armor. After acquiring the equipment, they quickly load it onto the DropShip and begin the return trip to Alkalurops.
At the Roughriders' camp, Major Hanson was ordered to finally fulfill his raid contract on Alkalurops. The client was able to use vague language that was hidden within the contract to change the original meaning. The new contract specifies that the original length of the contract is now extended six months more and that the objective is no longer a raid but now a seize and hold of the planet Alkalurops. Finally, the client has specified that the commander of the raid has to be the commander for the invasion.
Upon Grace's return to Alkalurops, she finds out that the council has not done anything other than electing a Governor Pro Tem. Grace takes center stage and introduces each of the mercenaries that have come along to help defend the planet. Instead of everyone being excited, as was the initial thought, most were disdainful of them and Grace. They blamed her for superseding the council and hiring mercenaries without first consulting with the council. Before they could get any further with their discussion, an unknown JumpShip jumped into the system. The reason that alarms were going off was that it used the pirate jump point and was not responding to any communications.
Fearing the worst, many of the mayors left to return to their towns. Grace, along with her companions, took a few trucks loaded with the supplies from Galatea and headed towards Falkirk. When they finally arrive, the group split off into different groups to start working on what they do best. They send word through the grapevine that Falkirk has become a recruiting point for anyone wanting to train in ways to defend their home world. Fresh recruits start to come in everyday; along with those from nearby towns who are willing to donate supplies which could be used for battle. An example as such is a fertilizer plant is donating supplies while a painter gave his paint. Combining the two products together, they have the perfect recipe for a medium range rocket.
When the mysterious force finally landed on Alkalurops, Grace became aware that it was none other than Major Hanson and his Roughriders. Hanson issued their demands for a peaceful conquest of the planet and that martial law will be in effect. Due to their not being enough men, supplies, or time to train the forces under the command of Grace; the temporary government of Alkalurops had no choice but to give in to the demands of the Roughriders.
Within two weeks of the invasion, Hanson was able to occupy half of the planet, the independent miners portion, his mysterious employer specifically said to leave the business half of the planet alone. In addition, his occupation force swelled with new recruits; however, not everything was going as how Major Hanson planned. First, his employer finally jumped into the system to claim Alkalurops; however, he was ignoring all communications from the planet. Second, the citizens were easily subdued; however, they were beginning their operation of civil disobedience. Since Loren is a man of the military and fights with honor, as long as none of his men are harmed, he has no reason to take it out on the citizenry.
With Hanson not taking any severe actions against the citizens, the resistance fighters use any means necessary to make life difficult for the invaders. They salt the gas tanks, stop the convoys, and even going as far as kidnapping some of the soldiers. When the news of the kidnapping finally reaches the ears of Hanson, he seeks out Grace and informs her that she is trekking on thin ice and that he wants his men back unharmed. Grace agrees that they will remain unharmed as long as he does not harm her people.
When the employer of the Roughriders finally makes landfall and docks at the Spaceport, the same group of mayors who were at the first meeting when Hanson made his announcement were also there to welcome the new owner. Three BattleMechs came out to welcome the attendees: a Legionnaire, a Jupiter, and a Ryoken II which bore a striking resemblance to the one that the late Legate used to pilot. The cockpit of the Ryoken II opened to show Alfred Santorini sitting behind the controls. He announces to the crowd that since they refused his original business proposal, he has no other choice to force upon them a new proposal as a conqueror. In addition, martial law will stay in effect and any infractions against his rules would be dealt with swift executions. To show that he meant what he was saying, he used the Ryoken IIs autocannons to swiftly massacre twelve mayors; these mayors were the leaders of the cities where the civilians were being disobedient.
Life or deathEdit
Alfred, the new master of Alkalurops, forced upon the citizens higher taxes and payments to him in order to pay for their "security." This included higher prices for basic necessities such as food and fuel. Alfred also had his Special Police, called the Black and Red due to the color of their uniforms, go to everyone's place of residence and take thirty percent of what it was worth, by any means necessary. If they were unable to pay the tax, then the security forces would take the residence by either evicting the residents, or by killing them.
Due to the Secret Police's ruthless tactics, the planet of Alkalurops became a powder keg that just needed the right light to explode into an all out war. That light came from a family of farmers and their AgroMechs. The family was on their way to the city to sell their produce but was instead taken by the Black and Reds to have their goods sold to the government-owned plants. Instead, the farmer and his two kids took their 'Mechs and shredded the men to nothing. They ran northward towards Falkirk, where Grace and her army were stationed to protect the citizens of Alkalurops.
Powder keg explodesEdit
Alfred immediately began a recruitment drive for his Special Police by obtaining more men as well as more firepower. He recruited men from the jails and confiscated any IndustrialMechs that they could find. Their task was to find the family and bring them back alive for Santorini to make an example of them. They went about this task with the same ruthlessness that they have been known for since the beginning. Whenever they came across a town, they demanded information on the location of the runaway family. If they believed that you were hiding information from them or hindering their search, they would hang the corpse of the people from the light poles.
The task force that the Black and Reds sent out to find the farmers was completely destroyed in the first battle for reclamation of Alkalurops by Grace's army. Her army showed no restraint in killing any soldier that wore the colors; they believed that since the Special Police shows no restraint killing civilians, that there should be no restraint killing them. When they fought against the Roughriders; Grace's army went about it differently. Instead of attacking with the intent to kill, they went about attacking and falling back. In the process destroying the vehicles and destroying the body armor of the men to slow them down and hope that they wont continue the assault. The resistance went to great lengths to ensure that none of them were killed.
Hanson and his Roughriders kept a methodical push towards the town of Falkirk. They were slowed down by Grace's resistance inflicting over twenty percent damage to Hanson's force without killing a single person. He was losing tank and 'Mech parts due to booby traps that were placed before the Alkalurops' defenders retreated. All was for naught for Loren Hanson, fighting against Grace has given him and the men he commands a whole new respect for the battlefield. The defenders of Alkalurops have been using anything and everything that they can to slow down and harm the Roughriders.
Alkalurops for AlkaluropsEdit
Hanson believed the climactic battle for the planet would be fought in the town of Kilkenny; however, Grace had other plans. Instead of fighting the Roughriders for the city, she communicates to Loren that she would like to discuss her terms for surrender. Hanson believes it to be a trick, but she goes on to say that she is a miner, not a killer. She also informs him that one of the mercenaries that joined up with them on Galatea, Betsy Ross, has some information which could be life saving to the Major. The information is in fact documented plans on how Alfred Santorini is going to kill Major Hanson and make the remaining Roughriders part of his army. This new information is just what Hanson needed to cut the contract with Alfred; and to thank Grace for this, he becomes part of her plan to kill Alfred and free her planet from his oppression.
The plan was to feign that the leadership of the resistance was captured and be brought close to Santorini. The "prisoners" would look to be chained but be able to freed rather quickly so they can throw bottles full of fuel and some firebombs to hopefully distract him long enough for someone to kill him. The plan goes off better than Grace ever imagined. The combination of fuel and fire was able to get inside the cockpit of the Ryoken II burning Alfred alive before the cockpit explodes from within. With his death, most of the Black and Reds surrender while the remaining had to be hunted down.
After the chaotic struggle that happened within Allabad, another council meeting was called to figure out what the people should do going forward. It was unanimously decided that Grace O'Malley should be the new Governor of Alkalurops after she gave a stunning speech about how the history of Alkalurops is chock-full of how they take care of themselves. Alkalurops is not rebelling against the Republic, they are going to show them that they can take care of themselves and does not need them in order to survive.