Colonel Bernard Colesfeld was outside of Richstag proper, in the suburban and semi-forested living spaces at the outskirts of the city. The houses here which were single-story didn't offer much cover for his mech but the two-story buildings did fine. Though the wood, brick, sheetrock, and light metals of their construction did nothing to stop incoming enemy fire. As if on cue one of the Queen's Army Roamer tanks - one of the hovering green-faction battle tanks - circled around a house a couple blocks away to unload a pair of the semi-plasma warheads into the building he was passing. He responded in kind with his mech's heavy bolter sending several purple-hued blasts in his enemy's direction. One shot landed on the Roamer's right side. It spun around a few times as the pilot attempted to regain control. Colesfeld fired again, this time nailing his target dead on. The front armor buckled and melted under the onslaught and crashed into an abandoned domicile.
"Damn these Queen bastards, they're putting up one hell of a fight," Colesfeld said to his squad mate, Lieutenant Dahl.
Dahl's blue-faction mech was just unloading its plasma cannon into a house and reducing it to rubble. Colesfeld was going to ask if that was necessary but didn't have the chance as Dahl responded to him, "Well that's just a few less of them now." Dahl paused as he looped in the infantry support team's frequency, "Hammer One-Two to Platoon Four-Four, you should be clear on this block now. Enemy infantry holed up in that house are neutralized."
"Copy, One-Two. We're moving up the road to inspect the next block," Sergeant Zeil's voice came back over the comm. Colesfeld didn't know the man personally but had the opportunity to review the brief after-action reports of the first invasion into Richstag. The Sergeant was aggressive but not brutal, so Colesfeld was happy to be supporting the infantry platoon. The battle lines had shifted and the infantry units had been digging into housing sectors outside the city proper. This put a lot of lives at risk on both sides but it also gave the infantry cover.
If Colesfeld's mech corps could keep the Queen's armor units away then the enemy's infantry couldn't push forward. That meant men like Zeil and his soldiers could dig in in the suburban areas. Colesfeld liked this plan as it meant that the Queen would absolutely have to respond with artillery attacks on the suburban housing or would have to continue to be bogged down in door-to-door combat. Large numbers of armor couldn't be sent in because that'd be equally disastrous to their suburban infrastructure.
"Hammer Actual this is Platoon Four-Four, looping you in on some new intel. Standby, over," Zeil's voice said in Colesfeld's ear.
There was a minor burst of static as Colefeld adjusted his radio to listen to what was coming over the RF, "-toon Three-Three-Niner. I say again, artillery from Queen's position has come to a halt. No additional barrages on grids Epsilon Three through Five, Foxtrot Two through Five. Recon spotters have confirmed the artillery's cannons have been lowered. Preparing to push forward on grid Epsilon Four! Three-Three-Niner, over."
A frown crossed Colesfeld's face. Why would they Queen stop shelling so suddenly after more than a week of near-constant bombardment?
"Four-Four to Hammer Actual, we've got eyes on two mechs coming up the street, dead ahead, over," Zeil said.
"I see them, Four-Four. One-Two take point and let's light them up," Colesfeld called and started typing in targeting priorities. He wanted to use Dahl's heavily armored mech as point to take a couple hits then he'd unload with his walker's heavy bolter. They'd have to be fast as one of the green sniper bots was coming up behind a low-slung red walker.
But Dahl hadn't moved, "Lieutenant, get moving!"
"Uh, I've got a problem here," Dahl reported.
"Then fix it," Colesfeld called looking at the man's machine through his walker's camera.
"I've got no control! All of my screens have gone dead! They're all displaying the same thing!" Panic was starting to creep into the younger man's voice.
Colesfeld started moving his mech closer to Dahl's as the Lieutenant was right in the middle of an intersection giving the sniper a perfect unobstructed shot of a unmoving target. "What's it saying?" he asked.
"The have the words 'Commander signal detected. Control override enacted. Awaiting orders.' I've never seen this, sir," Dahl detailed.
"What the hell does that mean?" Colesfeld said aloud without meaning to.
"I've not got the foggiest idea. But I've still got no controls; my reactor is online, the weapons are hot, but my keyboard is off, the hatch won't release, and my shields are starting a power-down phase," Dahl reported.
"Pull the hydraulic release, Dahl. Get your ass out of there!" Colesfeld knew there wouldn't be time to fix whatever had screwed up on his walker. "Sergeant Zeil, get your people on your APC and evac. We can't hold this position. Dahl's walker is down."
"Copy Hammer, we're loading up now," the Sergeant's calm voice reported.
Colesfeld's mech came around the corner of a short yellow house as he pulled up his targeting computer and fired down the street at the oncoming red mech. The sniper wasn't anywhere to be seen, so he must be getting in position to take out Dahl. The enemy mech peeled off to the left, tearing through the corner of a house onto the next road over. Zeil's APC was coming up another side street.
"Dahl, get out!" Colesfeld called. "Zeil is coming up with the APC. We're going to make a mad dash back a few blocks to Hammer Two's position."
"Almost... got it!" Dahl called just as a neon particle beam was birthed into existence just above Colesfeld's mech. It nailed Dahl's walked just right of the cockpit, the shield popped out of existence with a sound like a lightning bolt, and sent the mech tumbling on its left side. Smoke poured skyward.
"Dahl!" Colesfeld called just as his targeting computer beeped at him to indicate it had acquired a new target. Colesfeld tried to get his head around fast enough to engage but the enemy mech had the drop on him as it came out of cover, its heavy bolter tearing into his walker's left side.
Colesfeld was rocked by the impacts. The ever-calm mechanical voice of the walker's internal computer spoke aloud, "Left arm actuator requires maintenance. Left shoulder actuator requires maintenance. Left weapons pod requires maintenance."
Colesfeld ignored it and flipped on his right arm's still working bolter and fired down the road somewhat blindly at his target. The enemy had moved back out of sight behind other houses and the scattered trees.
The colonel looked to see that Zeil's APC had arrived and a couple men were dismounting to see if they could help Dahl evacuate his mech. As he brought his attention back to the street a green light flashed across his external video feeds and thunder deafened him. Gravity shifted then as his mech fell over backwards. The calm voice added, "Right torso requires overhaul. Right hip actuator requires overhaul. Right shoulder actuator requires overhaul. Right-"
"I know, shut up!" Colesfeld shouted as he hit the release for his cockpit hatch. After struggling with the seat harness he scrambled out. His helmet scraped on the pavement as he gracelessly fell out of the damned thing. Standing up and pulling free his sidearm he ran around the corner of Dahl's fallen mech. The left arm had been crushed underneath the weight of the machine. Smoke billowed out still and fire was starting to consume some flammable material underneath the armor plating.
"Sergeant! Status!" Colesfeld barked as he got within sight of the APC behind Dahl's felled walker. He pulled his helmet off knowing it would do him little good against either of the mech's weapons which had targeted them.
"Just got the Lieutenant free," Zeil said as two of the troops were helping the pilot into the back of the APC. His head was bleeding and the left shoulder of his jumpsuit looked burned. But the man was conscious.
"Haul ass. And don't drive too straight. Likely they'll take a couple pot-shots at us but they won't pay too much attention to a lone APC leaving the front lines," Colesfeld said to the infantry platoon's commander as he climbed in the back of the six-wheeled vehicle.
Colesfeld wasn't sure that was the case but he was sure hoping the Queen's mechs would let them make an easy get away. What the fuck happened back there?
General Mardonnis of the Queen's Army climbed into the control booth of the Demolisher artillery platform. "What the hell is this?" She eyed the screen which read, "Commander signal detected. Control override enacted. Awaiting orders."
"What does this mean, corporal?" She asked, losing her patience. All of her artillery platforms had shut down without rhyme or reason.
"We don't know, ma'am. It's happening on everything up here; all of the Ancient blue faction units are shutting down and becoming completely unresponsive to controls," the young man said.
Mardonnis pulled out the keyboard and verified all of the connections to the central console were solid. She disconnected an reconnected all of the leads without any change being made.
About that time one of the operation captains ran up, "General! We've got field reports of all blue armor units going offline. Every single one of them."
"What's the battle line looking like?" she asked as she jumped free of the cockpit, jerking a thumb over to the corporal to signal him to get on fixing the problem.
"Relatively the same. We've had some push from the Larries but nothing major. A couple forward positions began to lose ground but rallied quickly to preserve our footing," the captain reported.
Mardonnis and her subordinate started walking back towards the command tent when a lieutenant burst through the flaps, "General, Captain! Recon Four-Niner is on the line, saying that Larenthal blue units are also shutting down."
"What?!" Mardonnis exclaimed louder than she meant to. She rushed inside and found the technician listening to the radio transmission.
She grabbed the headset from the young woman and started listening to Recon Four-Niner. She interrupted the transmission after a second, "Recon Four-Niner this is Forthright Actual. Repeat your last transmission in detail, over."
"Copy, Forthright. We have visual confirmation of Larenthal blue-faction armored units which just stopped moving. I just watched a Larry blue mech get sniped by one of our units. The pilot had to get pulled from the wreckage by some of his infantry buddies. And I can see through my binoculars a squad of tanks just stop in the middle of the street. Looks to me like their pilots are inspecting the outsides trying to see what's happening. I'm too far away to hear what they're saying but I think the group is running around looking panicked. They don't know what's happening either. Over," Corporal Elise Nathan called. The woman had been out in the field being Mardonnis' most reliable eyes and ears since before the siege had started.
Mardonnis pulled the headset off, "What the fuck just happened?"