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Not a Bug Report: Hide and Seek
While I thoroughly enjoy playing ATB campaigns, I admit there is somewhat of a lack of canonism.  About 95% of all the ATB battle end abruptly with both sides still having viable fighting forces.  This isn't a knock on the system, nor a knock on the AI.  It's just an observation that the Bot doesn't known when the battle is over and should be withdrawing.  I can only imagine the nightmare that it would be to code such a system into the bot, so it's not a request for that either.

I had an ATB battle last night that fell into that other 5%, it was nerve wracking, I got my teeth kicked in, but I enjoyed it so much, that I turned the whole battle into a short story, one that I think fits canonly.  I felt like I needed to share it, and this seemed like the best place to put it.  (note I use the word canonism and canonly in place of realism because this is fiction from the beginning, we don't have giant walking battle machines)

Umbrain Plains
Benjamin Military District, Draconis Combine
25 May 3056

Erica feathered her Jump Jets as she came down in one of several small groves of trees on her patrol route.  There were several things about her brand new Penetrator that she was still getting used to.  Slower, shorter jumping range, displays not duct taped to the console.  And probably more distinctly, that new 'Mech smell.  Her husband hadn't gotten the 'Mech for free, but had used his political connections to make sure that they could get one straight off the Kallon Industries line.  She glanced out of the corner of her eye and caught her old ride, an aging Phoenix Hawk-2, now being piloted by her Exec, Sergeant Major Ramon Franco, coming in for a landing of it's own.  It wasn't as big of a transition for him since he had moved up from an even older Stinger.

She had asked her tech, Sergeant Durtnell, how long the smell would linger, he had told her that it would go as soon as she pushed the heat exchanger system, and it would be replaced by her smell.  She had been in it a dozen times since they received the unit earlier in the month, but it had never been more than an uneventful patrol, much like this one was shaping up to be.  It seemed that the Snakes were scared of them.  They were part of a raid orchestrated by Duke Sandoval, their goal was to get out an undercover cell that unfortunately ran afoul of the O5P.  Her husband had made the first extraction 10 days ago, but the rest of the unit had to pretend like they were after something else.
Suddenly several lights winked on on her Tactical map.  Ramon caught it too, "I have eight contacts that just powered up!  Six 'Mechs, 2 Tanks! 200 Meters out!"

200 Meters! That's Pulse Laser Range! How did they get that close?  She stabbed her finger at the Tactical Map and keyed her mic, "Chris, Insertion Point Alpha is marked and logged, go get 'em.  Grear, where are you?"

Sergeant Christopher Kelly shot back a confirmation tone as his Maxim Heavy Hover Transport shot forward from her formation.

"We're about 200 Meters behind you ourselves, Captain, be there in 30 seconds."  Sergeant Major Grear Hickman commanded the Grey Death Legion Power Armor that was attached to her lance, a little slower than the rest of them, they usually pulled rear guard.  Their advanced sensors probably would have been useful at spotting this ambush earlier, but at least nothing would sneak up behind them.

Ramon triggered his Jump Jets and set him self down near another patch of trees along the path of the Maxim.  Not choosing to land in the trees probably cost him as he drew the attention of one of the 'Mechs, a Hunchback-4G, which wasted no time slamming its giant Kaliyama Autocannon into the right flank of his 'Mech.  His old Stinger would have been annihilated immediately and she would have already had to call for a retreat, but he took the hit, and even though he had no armor left on his right flank, he looked otherwise unhurt.
Chris weaved his Maxim around the Hunchback and rushed past one of the tanks, a Vedette.  His crew opened up an SRM broadside on the Vedette as he passed. Six of the eight missiles peppered the Vedette, and the flash from underneath the tank told everyone that the tank's engine was disabled.

Erica focused her attention on the four 'Mechs that were standing in front of her.  Wait, Five now that their escort, an AFFC Commando-3A decided to charge the four 'Mechs.  Stupid Lyran!  You're not in an Atlas!  She quickly changed her mind about hitting the Griffin and decided to try to drive off the easier target, a slower and smaller Panther.  She stabbed two firing studs on the top of her control sticks and unleashed her two heavy lasers into the right flank of the Panther.  The beams sliced through armor, and burned away support structure, so much so that the remaining metal creaked under the weight of the arm and snapped off.  The Panther's right arm, and PPC, fell to the ground, along with a full ton of SRM ammo.

The Commando, for his part, managed to get off a decent barrage at, of course, the largest 'Mech in the group, the Griffin, but didn't come close to breaching the heavy armor of the Griffin.  But then put an exclamation point on his intelligence by attempting to kick it.  He almost got away with it from sheer luck, but the Griffin's response grazed his plant leg, and while that didn't break through, it was enough to make the Commando lose his balance and come crashing down on his back.

Erica chose to stay in her trees and select her next target.  As she did so, the Commando attempted to get back up but lost his footing and fell back over on his right side.  When it didn't make a second attempt, she realized that he must have blacked out.  So too, did the Combine 'Mechs as they all turned their attention to the downed Commando.  She quickly settled the crosshairs over the back of the Griffin and let loose her heavy lasers again.  One struck the Griffin in the PPC, but failed to get through the armor, it did however disrupt the aim enough that the man-made lightning bolt hit the ground next to the head of the Commando.  The other laser drilled square into the back of the Griffin.  Bright flashes of light told her that she sheared off quite a bit of shielding from the 'Mech's fusion reactor.

With the Panther withdrawing, only a Spider and a second Vedette stayed around the downed Commando with the Griffin.  The Spider surgically removed the Left Arm and Left flank with its pair of medium lasers, while the Vedette destroyed the Commando's head armor with its Armstrong J11 Autocannon.  The Firestarter, which was originally in the cluster of four 'Mechs, swapped positions with the Vedette and jumped after the Maxim. Probably realizing that the Maxim was going to deploy Infantry.

Meanwhile, Ramon continued his duel with the Hunchback, using his 'Mech's superior maneuverability to stay out of the arc of the Kaliyama.  If he could do that, he would easily win that duel, as his two medium lasers, doubled what the Hunchback could use on him.  Unfortunately, a Swayback, a rather accurate, if unaffectionate term for a Hunchback-4P because of what removing the massive Kaliyama autocannon does to the design, decided that he wasn't going to let his mate go through with the duel, slipped in behind Ramon, and let loose his entire arsenal into Ramon's backside.  A flash of light from Ramon's back told her that his engine shielding had been hit as well.

With the offloading of the SRM Infantry Platoon complete, Christopher fired up his lift fans to enter the battle as a skirmisher, intending to draw some fire away from the Ramon, as he jumped his 'Mech back towards the hill they had passed a few hundred meters earlier.  But as the Maxim began to move, the Infantry ramp door fell open and sent the Hover transport into a spin.  Erica realized that there was now two in desperate trouble, and she was no where near Christopher, she throttled her Penetrator to maximum and charged the position of the downed Commando.  The enemy Firestarter and Vedette, both backed away, wanting nothing to do with her 75 ton monster.  But the Spider decided that it would be the brave (and very foolish) one.  She smiled as she slightly turned her 'Mech's torso towards the Spider and skewered it with her medium pulse lasers.  Six ruby machine guns flayed the armor of the Spider, another flash from the Spider's chest indicated that yet another engine shield had been hit.

Christopher did accomplish his goal of drawing fire away from Ramon, as the Firestarter and the Hunchback turned their attention to them.  The Firestarter sprayed the Maxim with machine gun fire, but the Hunchback let loose its Kaliyama right into the turret of the Maxim.  The resulting impact crushed the turret and sent the hovercraft rolling end over end.  "CHRIS!!"  All Erica could do was scream helplessly as the Maxim's hulk rolled away from the battle.

There was no time to speculate as to the fate of Christopher and his crew, as the destruction of the Maxim left the Infantry now dangerously exposed.  Grear and her Battle Armor squad had made it's way up to the downed Commando, freeing Erica to run in toward the Infantry's position.  Ramon had settled his Phoenix Hawk behind the hill he was jumping towards and began sniping with his heavy laser, while Erica settled her sights on the right flank of the Hunchback that just possibly killed four of her friends.  Her own heavy lasers cut into the meaty flank of the Hunchback, at the same time over a dozen rockets stuck the Hunchback's front side from the Infantry's position. Staggered, the Hunchback fell over onto its back.  She was almost feeling better about the situation when a series of sickening screams filled the comm-channel.  The Firestarter had turned it's flamethrowers onto the Infantry platoon.  She was still too far away to make out how many had gotten hit, but Sergeant Hedviga Husvar had been able to calm things down enough to get them to hunker down and not outright rout.

Suddenly, the sound of a deafening explosion filled the battlefield. Erica glanced at her Tactical Map just in time to see the Griffin's icon wink out of existence.  Looking over in that direction, she saw an expanding cloud of smoke and what was left of the Griffin raining down on the ground around it.  Realizing that hers was the only unit close enough to still hit it, she deduced that the Griffin's ammo must have cooked off from the shielding damage she had inflicted only a 20 seconds earlier.

"Erica, This is Grear.  Keij is awake, and he's withdrawing.  He also told me to tell you that you should have done a better job covering his advance."

Erica just about punched her radio, "I could have had the whole company and couldn't have covered that moron's advance!"  She stomped down on her Jump Jet peddles, "I don't have time to argue, I've got Infantry to save.  If he's decided to remove his august presence from the battlefield, get up here and see what you can do to help out Hedy."

"Roger that, On our way."

She set her Penetrator down right between the Firestarter and the Swayback, both of which decided that taking a few steps back was probably the smart idea.  Her gaze locked onto the Vedette that either decided to not notice her presence, or didn't care.  She clenched her fists around the control sticks and six medium pulse lasers poured into the left side of the tank.  To her left, the Hunchback had returned to its feet and opened up on the Infantry's position with its lasers.  But Ramon's heavy laser struck it in it's left shoulder and fused the actuator in place.

That was apparently enough for the Hunchback and the Swayback as they both began to retreat, the Firestarter pilot seemed to think that she was going to sneak in and get one more shot at finishing the Infantry off. Erica growled as she moved her 'Mech between the Firestarter and the Infantry.  As the Vedette turned around, she put her six pulse lasers again into the right side of the tank, one of which caught its fuel tank and ignited it.  Then as she focused her thoughts, her Penetrator reared back with its right leg and swung it forward, catching the Firestarter just above its right knee and snapping the leg clean off, the Firestarter had no choice but to prostrate itself in front of her.

As she watched the two Hunchbacks continue their withdraw, she lowered her right arm and set the crosshairs over the back of the Firestarter's head. She was ready to press her thumb button and finish the pilot, when the canopy of the Firestarter popped open and the woman piloting it crawled out.  She glanced around one more time before relaxing her grip on the control sticks, then reached over to toggle the radio as Grear took the pilot into custody.  "Base, this is Recon-Alpha.  I need a medical evac team, ASAP."
Loved reading this writeup. Thumbs up!

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