Mercenary’s Star by William H. Keith Jr.
Continuing on directly from Decision at Thunder Rift, Mercenary’s Star sees the fledgling legion struggling to find a new client. With limited funds remaining Grayson Death Carlyle has limited options available to him as his reinforced battalion of mechs and infantry is still an unknown force. While their initial battles on Trellwan which led to the formation of the legion hold promise data is still scarce on their true capabilities and skills.
Forced to accept a contract as trainers for a guerrilla army on Verthandi, the only saving grace for Carlyle is that he is once again being provided with an opportunity to battle the forces of the Draconis Combine. The Kuritans or “Dracs” were directly responsible for the destruction of Carlyle’s old command and the death of his father. This is a debt that he desperately wants to collect on, but at the same time as the commander of the Legion, he has greater responsibilities.
When Verthandi was surrendered to the Combine in 3015 it was not a happy decision for the citizens of the planet. After 10 years of failed rebellion though, the forces on planet realize they need some professionals to help them if they expect to be successful. Citizen Devic Erudin travels to the Mercenary’s Star of Galatea to look for a force to help the planet. With limited resources and a mission that looks hopeless, his options are limited also.
With the Legion looking for work and the citizens of Verthandi looking for a force to fight the Combine it looks like a match made in heaven. However not everything is as clear cut as it seems. While the Legion is contracted on the Mercenary’s Star to break through the blockade, smuggle a consignment of arms and equipment to the rebels, and provide cadre duty for at least 900 hours, it turns out that the plan is something Citizen Erudin is the architect of. Unfortunately this means that information on the waiting Combine forces is somewhat lacking. When the Legion is confronted by Combine forces on their path insystem, their dropship is shot at and crashes on Verthandi seemingly stranding the forces.
Fortunately for the Grey Death Legion forces, they make contact with rebel forces before the Combine finds the wreck. Teaming up with the rebels they are able to successfully repel the Combine forces. Carlyle comes up with an innovative solution to hide the damaged dropship and they jury-rig a propulsion system to get it to another port almost 500 km away.
Grayson takes on the task of training the rebels and while the forces show promise, he admits to himself that it will take a significant amount of time. However, the rebel leadership aims for a quick victory. Against Carlyle’s advice, their Rangers soon launch an ill-fated attack against the capital city of Regis, hoping to decapitate the occupying forces’ government. Although the Gray Death Legion was explicitly not hired to fight, Carlyle moves his ‘Mechs to Regis on a hunch and, involving his unit in the fight against orders, manages to save some of the trapped Rangers and lead them back to their secret base on Fox Island. Almost against his will, he becomes their war leader following the death of the rebel general in the attack.
While this is going on, the Draconis Combine forces are not sitting idle. Breaking a captive through deception, they discover the secret base for the rebels. They then send Combine special forces – DEST troopers – to attack the base, capturing the leadership council of the rebels and all of their equipment.
Fortunately, the bulk of the Rangers were away on a mission thus survive the attack. Under Carlyle’s skilled leadership they begin a very successful guerrilla campaign against the Kurita occupation. As they continue to forment unrest across Verthandi the Combine leadership resort to ever more vicious retaliations. Governor General Nagumo inadvertedly sparks a full rebellion by arresting and executing high-ranking government officials for supporting the rebellion, after having learned their names from a captive.
Carlyle however is not just trying to win the battle but the war itself. While he’s fighting on Verthandi, he has Renfred Tor (the Captain of the Legions Jumpship) negotiating with the Lyran Commonwealth to try and get assistance from the Lyrans. Persuading the Lyran’s that the Combines mining efforts on Verthandi imply a hidden supply of key minerals he manages to negotiate a relief force for the Legion.
However, Verthandi is under the control of Duke Hassid Ricol – the real force behind Carlyle’s issues on Trellwan. Ricol is significantly more capable than the existing leadership and the rebel forces are quickly put on their back foot. However, Ricol is unable to keep his gains, and leaves Nagumo in control. Over time, the rebellion continues to gain steam and soon the Kuritans only retain control over the capital city and startport.
Nagumo realizes the rebels are still dependant on raiding Kurita supply depots, and prepares one to be a trap. Led by Carlyle, the raiding force narrowly escapes the trap but leaves Lori Kalmar as a captive. Carlyle mounts a rescue mission but he is left to do so without the assistance of the Rangers. The Legion manages to sneak their BattleMechs and infantry onto the University perimeter through a secret tunnel and start a mass-breakout of prisoners. The entire city of Regis joins in the uprising, ejecting the Kurita troops.
Over the next days, Kurita forces from across the planet move to the starport, the only area they still hold, and a standoff ensues. Both the Lyran Commonwealth and Duke Ricol have sent relief fleets which arrive within a few days of each other, keeping each other in check. Ricol has little choice but to accept the peace agreement the ranking Draconis Combine officer had already signed.
As mentioned in previous posts, Scribd has an excellent selection of Battletech novels. However they are somewhat out of sequence as I’ve discussed earlier and this book is considered #25 in the Legends imprint.