El Guapo smirks. "I don't know, it's a lot easier to peg those short little stubby mechs when rapid-firing an autocannon than it is to get them with single shots - half the time, you glance off!"
Leraje raises an eyebrow. "Short stubby mechs... like a Marauder?"
El Guapo spreads his hands. "Fair point."
"We've got ten gauss rifles sitting in our dropship right now." Zenn7 points out. "We're not really hurting for spares. Let's just give them to the mercs and move on."
Which is what we do.
March 27, 3051
We clear out the remainder of the sector around our dropships, although we wind up having to repel several more incursions. However, we've got our merc buddies organized and set up so that they can provide artillery support anywhere in the sector.
A practical demonstration of this occurs a few days after we rout the "irregular screening force", when Gamma-Probe lance runs into a patrol consisting of a company of light and heavy tanks, mixed with a heavy and light mech lance (approximately). And by "runs into" I mean "is surrounded by" and calls for backup. Luckily, Gamma-Battle lance is on station nearby, and we also call up some artillery support.
Gamma-Probe is, as before, Akalon/Vulcan, AWS/Pixie LAM, Bass/Pixie 3M, along with a Pixie 3D, and also has a Falcon hovertank. There were two Falcons, but the entire crew of the second one got sidelined - seems they were served some bad tacos or drank a little too much hooch from the still in the Moonraker's engine room.
Gamma-Battle lance is Leraje in the Black Knight (oven variant), Xwraith in a Crusader (the Thunderbolt being in the shop), plus a Catapult and a Rifleman 3C.
"ETA 50 seconds." Leraje calls out. "Artillery barrage beginning now."
"Right. Those missiles better not be landing on top of *us*." Bass grumbles.
Our Falcon hovertank starts the party off by circling around a Skulker and immobilizing it, popping its rear tires off with SRM fire. Akalon, meanwhile, can't get enough of those clan-spec medium lasers. Granted, there are only two of them, but they hit from a lot further away, and the Warhammer to the south feels it.
"Stick together, don't engage the hostiles to the northeast until backup gets here." Akalon instructs the lance.
Bass scoffs. "Sure, if your target was a bunch of random trees nowhere close to any enemy units." His grumbling is then interrupted by the Kurita-variant Warhammer* landing two PPC shots on his mech, one grazing the left leg the other blasting armor off the right torso. Our mechwarrior retaliates by brushing the extended range laser over the enemy mech's head briefly.
AWS and Akalon engage a K2 Catapult** and a Clint***. The Clint loses its right arm to laser fire from both of the mechs, the lightly-armored mech unable to withstand even the relatively limited firepower applied. AWS ducks underneath a swung arm from the Clint, then Akalon applies direct pressure from the Vulcan's foot to the Clint's hip, knocking it to the ground.
The Clint, meanwhile decides that it's had enough and disengages. Having more important things to do, and noting that it doesn't have its long-range weapon any more anyway (the autocannon being on the ground somewhere on the battlefield, in pieces), Akalon moves on to another target.
AWS smirks as a Long Tom round lands on top of a couple of infantry squads that were discharged from the Packrat engaging Bass, as does the latter mechwarrior. "Guess they're not such bad shots after all." he quips, before turning to engage said Packrat with the Phoenix Hawks' lasers. The nimble little vehicle dodges the worst of it only getting a flat tire.
AWS, meanwhile, delivers several laser blasts and a shot from the snub-nose PPC to the Katapult, but is unable to breach armor.
Leraje pounds forward with the Black Knight, blasting armor off the Archer and shrugging off counterattacks. A Wasp joins in the firing as well, but is knocked off the building it lands off by Xwraith as our mechwarrior overheats the Crusader to bring the structure down. The Black Knight and Archer trade physical attacks, each winding up with a bit less leg armor than before, while the ground around them winds up with a lot more armor than before.
Gamma-Battle lance's Rifleman disables a Striker light tank with autocannon fire, which the Catapult then finishes off with its "nose"-mounted lasers.
Bass finishes off the Packrat he was working on, leaving him free to take on a Hermes and an Assassin.
The Archer Leraje is targeting opens up on our Rifleman down the hill, braching its left leg armor and blowing out an actuator with an LRM salvo, but Leraje circles around behind the Kurita command mech and blasts away with the clan-spec large lasers. The weapons easily cut through the weak rear armor, and then a medium laser contacts an LRM ammo bin, causing the entire torso to disappear as the mechwarrior goes for a flight in the ejection seat.
Our Phoenix Hawk 3D meanwhile swaps out with AWS briefly to engage the Catapult K2, the armor damage knocking the enemy mech to the ground as it perches up on a rock trying to fire at AWS's Phoenix Hawk.
Akalon scores another victory for our side, getting in behind the Warhammer, ducking under a PPC shot and flaying armor off its right leg with lasers and flamers before crunching the exposed structure - the weakened leg rips off as the Warhammer tries to step forward and the 70-ton heavy flops forward.
Leraje rolls his eyes. "Yeah, we need to designate targets for you with a TAG laser when you launch those. We don't have a TAG here - cease fire, you're just wasting ammo." Our mechwarrior looks south, where an enemy Harasser is, well, harassing, our Catapult with SRMs, aims the Black Knight's lasers at it and spears it through the side. The light hovercraft remains intact, but the armor breach has got the crew thinking about pulling out.
A Striker gets out from under Leraje's foot and opens fire on Xwraith, pinging some LRMs off the Crusader, then receives some lasers and SRMs in return. Our mechwarrior's expertise at mid-range shots pays off and the Striker is blown away.
Meanwhile, Bass engages the Hermes, taking a flamer burst but returning fire with lasers. This distracts said mech so that our Phoenix Hawk 3D is able to land an extended-range laser shot center of mass, singing the gyro.
The Katapult takes a lot of fire from AWS, losing a significant amount of armor and a lot of heat sinks - the enemy mechwarrior is unable to keep the mech upright and it drops to the ground, crunching a PPC.
With their biggest units crippled or destroyed, the remaining hostiles pull back. A small favor for them is that our artillery support appears to have run out of standard Arrow IV missiles and was lobbing homing ones for a while, with zero effect since we didn't have any TAG with us. They did manage to take out some infantry and apparently caused an armor breach on a Pike support vehicle, which we never even saw - the main evidence is a large chunk of its turret and armor lying on a hill side next to a crater.
Salvage is pretty good - we grab the Warhammer for spare parts for Wolf's mech (or we could fix that up and give it to Wolf?), and the Scimitar with the TAG and NARC systems. We already know about TAG - it's a laser designation system for indirect fire - LRMs and homing Arrow IVs and that sort of thing. NARC is basically a little beacon that attaches to the target and then attracts NARC-capable warheads from various launchers. Could be pretty useful.
 Stay in the Grasshopper for now (greater mobility via jump jets, better armor, shorter range)
 Keep the Warhammer WHM-6K (standard heavy mobility, a bit less armor, long range)
The rest of the salvaged wrecks will get stripped for armor and ammo then shoved into our cargo holds for sale when we get back to non-hostile territory.
Akalon, AWS and Bass collectively decide to buy the Falcon crew some hooch to celebrate their skill in taking out hostile units and luck in avoiding the usual fate of auxiliary hovercraft. What's on tap?
 Akalon has a case of Timbiqui Dark kicking around (classic, mild)
 AWS has a couple of bottles of Gojo Berry brew (strong, fruity)
 Bass doesn't go in for fancy drinks, but he's got some "high quality" dropship reactor room hooch (ultra-strong, brain cell massacre)
For now, though, we've got a few more incursions into our controlled area to deal with, including a swarm of aerospace fighters and two more forces moving on a second artillery firebase the Dislocators have set up.
* The Warhammer is basically the archetypical heavy mech. The Kurita variant, like the R, is loaded up with twin PPCs and two packs of lasers as well as an SRM launcher, but has ditched the machine guns in favor of additional heat sink capacity.
** The Catapult K2 is a Kurita-designed depature from the standard bird-legged Catapult, replacing the box LRM/15 launchers on the shoulders with a pair of PPCs while ditching the jump jets and two medium lasers in favor of a pair of machine guns and the heat sinks necessary to run the PPCs. It's generally derided elsewhere in the Inner Sphere, but the Combine's mechwarriors can't get enough of it.
*** The Clint is a fast, jump-capable 40-ton mech mounting an AC/5 as its main gun with two medium lasers for backup. The price for mounting the AC/5 is that it has the armor of a 20-ton bug mech.
**** The Hermes, like the greek messenger god, is a fleet mech relying on high ground speed. Unlike the greek god, it mounts an AC/5, a medium laser and a flamer.