(The second part of this episode was played on 2018-02-04, but I condensed this to a single adventure log entry due to the actual battle taking two nights to finish, with most of the actual roleplaying content already being resolved on the earlier date.)
As the dawn of the concluding battle became more imminent, more and more sketchy rumors began circulating in the camp. Kruger heard from his old squadmates that significant sums had been offered from the heads of Alexander and Appleton, and more and more people were growing fearful and weary. The events culminated on the evening before the final battle, when the polish battle suit squads invited the russians for drinks and both Ivan and Josef were surprised of the amount of vodka that was being downed and wages which were being gambled away.
After throwing some money away recklessly, Ivan regained his composure and cleaned the table. Seeing the poles indifferent attitude, he confronted them about their behavior and heard that their squads would be stationed on the eastern front, aiding Black Nebulas skirmish detachment against the Knights. Most considered this to be straight-out suicide and openly questioned the sanity of their leaders, as the battlesuits could not hope to match the speed of the nobles' mechs in an open battle. While the troop disposition was not a matter that either of the russians were privy to, they nevertheless questioned this division of labor and took upon them to phone Heem-Lyeh for details. Things soon escalated and were relayed upwards – within minutes, Alexander was in Appleton's tent discussing the matter with all of the other battlefield commanders.
The paper trail was short. It seemed that Nigel Ashcorp, who commanded the battlesuit squardrons in Iron Pulse, had been hacked and his e-mail identity had been used to deliver faulty information to the men. Realizing what was at stake, a briefing was called to session immediately and all of the men were to be reinstructed of the course of events, so that any misinformation could do no more damage. Fuub himself was extremely worried due to the ever-increasing amount of leasks and espionage, that he quite couldn't nip off, but he also knew that the information advantage on the following day would be instrumental to winning the fight, and dared not delay the attack any further. The deployment would commense mere minutes before the orbital surveillance window opened in order to reserve as much of it as possible to providing information during combat. The final orders were as follows:
- Black Nebula would send a fast skirmish unit to delay the knights and try to force them into a favorable engagement, either in the city or by baiting them and allowing Shadow Flare's slower assets to engage them fully. This unit would consist of the russians, Heem-Lyeh and Charles on fast, yet powerful mechs such as the Crusader, Griffin, Phoenix Hawk and Thanatos.
- Shadow Flare's assets were to aid the skirmish unit.
- Iron Pulse would assault the enemy fortress aided by Black Nebula's heavier assets (two Battlemasters, the Highlander and the improvised fire support vehicles Charles and Jiira had crafted leading to the fight).
- Trident was standing on reserve, and was to either aid whichever group required assistance, or respond to any unforeseen threat.
- At the same time, on Fuub's request, Kra from the second army group would investigate the possibility of doing some damage to Vainerva in the north, and while doing so, provide cover for their assault.
However, as is often customary in war, plans are of limited use and the situation unfolds differently. Rarely had this been as true as it would be today, as the players would soon observe.
Firstly, when the surveillance came online, it became apparent that Cracked Mask had already mobilized, and was just leaving Vainerva to both flank them and attack Terniss. While this was definitely concerning, there was some confidence on Weiss&Son's ability to hold the spaceport. Not wanting to leave this up to chance, Alexander immediately ordered the players' dropship to reinforce the Terniss spaceport with the two mechs they still had on reserve. It would be much more likely that they would be needed there and all of the commanders considered holding Terniss to be of extreme importance, should they be forced to abandon their position in Feoul.
However, the surveillance satellite had more sights to show them. Cracked Mask had much more materiel than they had anticipated and it was questionable whether Fuub's third army could beat both the Knights and the fortress defenders, and still be in a position to face them. This was debated intensely during the advance, but regardless of how the situation unfolded, the commanders had hope that they could use their satellite data to outmanouver the enemy and either regroup with the Kra before facing Cracked Mask, or in a worst-case scenario, retreat west to Terniss.
That, however, would remain to be seen, as there really was no turning back, and everyone turned to focus on the battle ahead. Concerning it, any in-depth analysis already suggested that the situation was nowhere near hopeless, but things would soon turn out further in their favor, as it seemed that just about everyone had misjudged the Knights' position and motivations.
Instead of engaging the players' skirmishing unit, the Knights kept their distance and opened a communication channel. A slick-looking sable-feathered hybrid-class male calling himself "Pitch", spoke on their behalf and proposed a deal – they would immediately withdraw, if princess Tileke and her mentat Seleke would be returned to them. The alternative, of course, would be that the Knights would crush their army or die trying.
While the representative failed to speak any language Alexander could understand, he could nevertheless feel that there was something strange in this persons' demeanor and the comms came alive with whispers of Pitch's past antics. Iron Pulse pilots were assuring everyone that he was deadly accurate and notorious for deliberately shooting to kill in this gentlemen's game of mech combat.
While Alexander and the rest strongly questioned the validity of this deal, especially faced with these testimonies of Pitch's character, the Shadow Flare's leaders and Fuub, who ultimately made the call, seemed to value the integrity of the Knights promise greatly. It was not divulged exactly why this was so, but it could be said that Fuub accepted almost immediately. He was not to be disappointed either – the Knights made sure Tileke and Seleke were unharmed and withdreq immediately, greatly tipping the balance of the battle to the players' favor. Only Jiira seemed discontent, as he had became fixated in besting the Mist Lynx pilot in battle, and was not happy to be denied the opportunity.
While this was going on, also the enemy comms came alive. Vlaslav Krga, who apparently commanded the fortress's forces, simply couldn't keep his cool in the face of these developments. He cursed the shit-coloured bird to the lowest circle of hell and told him to say hi to brutus, but the Knights were utterly deaf to these words and left him to his own devices. Vlaslav would nevertheless play to win, and started to retreat into the safety of he fortress, seeing that he couldn't hope to beat everyone by himself. This, in turn, allowed Fuub and the players to reassign their responsibilities.
Black Nebula would cut the retreat off, and if unable to do so, would refrain from attacking the fortress and contain Krga's forces. All of the rest would turn around and face Cracked Mask, which would ensure that they had well enough forces to soundly beat them. Once Cracked Mask was taken care of, they would have immense numerical superiority and taking on the fortress or simply forcing a surrender would be merely a matter of time.
Alexander was a bit greedy, however, and wasn't content on merely containing Krga. Knowing the enemy route, he set up an ambush with the fire support vehicles in firing range and took further advantage of the russians' ECM cababilities by flanking Krga's faster mechs which were trying to flank him. The battle was well contained and the players had almost perfect information, but regardless of all these advantages, the fight would probe to be extremely close and bloody. Vlaslav was an able commander and he fielded a sizeable force of assault mechs and tanks, with the force composition heavily focusing on range and survivability. He also spread his forces just enough that the cruise missiles from the players' dropship were not as effective as they had been in the past, and Alexander's decision to only fire three of them almost cost him the field.
Unlike in most of their fights, the players were out-tonned and out-armored. The improvised fire support vehicles were also too far back to be used to their fullest extent. Krga was well equipped to trade shots and whittle down on the players' more fragile units without losing any heavy hitters of his own. Heem-Lyeh's Warhammer was lost early into the fight, and when an enemy Malice disabled Charles's Crusader, Alexander was on the brink of ordering a retreat. However, Jiira managed to trade his Battlemaster for the enemy Victor and the threat of cruise missile impacts succeeded in forcing the enemy tanks out of position for long enough that the improvised fire support vehicles had time to do their damage. The final tipping point of the battle was when Ivan proved too much for the enemy Wolverines to handle and Josef pierced a Malice's armor, causing a devastating ammo explosion. Despite the odds stacking against him, Krga refused to surrender and ultimately faced the same fate as the Malice pilot, dying on the field.
As the smoke cleared, Alexander ordered the Hemostasis to return and begin hasty salvage operations. However, the day had not yet exhausted its supply of surprises, and the players' expectations were to be defied once again.
The Cracked Mask forces reached Terniss before Kra could aid Weiss&Son, and even though the brits were outnumbered, they possessed reinforced defensive positions and had a clear advantage. However, due to bad luck and a few bad calls from Bernard Weiss, the battle was eventually lost. Furthermore, when Kra tried to recoup this loss and assaulted the weakened enemy forces, the Cracked Mask commander quickly manned said defensive positions and managed to drive back the attack, thus securing the spaceport and dealing a devastating blow to the convent.
Reeling from this blow, the forces in Feoul prepared to face their own share of Cracked Mask, but this time things managed to turn even worse. The polish battlesuid squads, who had been reprimanded earlier, betrayed the defenders on a critical moment and detonated hidden explosives in the joints of Iron Pulse's commanding mechs. The defenders fell into disarray and the battle became extremely one-sided, with both Shadow Flare and Iron Pulse being utterly crushed in the field and only scraps of Trident escaping within an inch of their life.
Alexander and Heem-Lyeh could do nothing but listen to their comms as Fuub-Ark's army crumbled before them, with its dropships taking flight and heading west. Many of their allied officers were dead and they themselves were now deep within enemy lines, battered, beaten and trying to salvage their own disabled equipment while an army was approaching from the north.
This time, Murphy's law had really done a number on them – not all was lost, but most of it, certainly. Alexander stood dumbfouned and could barely register the chatter on the comms as Fuub was trying to gather the strings and form some kind of a plan.