Though no-longer exclusive to the planet Vixen, battle-trained hipposaurs are still a rare (and imposing) sight. As the Jihad wound down, the planets Vixen and Thraxa in the Magistracy of Canopus, were the target of frequent raids from the Marian Hegemony and pirates from Astrokaszy. Vixen, a resort world, was rich in fresh-water, a coveted resource and the primary target of the raiders. With only one battalion on planet, the Magistracy Cavaliers were hard pressed to respond to raids in remote, wetland terrain with their ‘mechs or combat vehicles. So, they turned to an indigenous resource.
Easily domesticated, hipposaurs are often used as beasts of burden on Vixen. Pressing them into service as battle mounts was rare, but not without precedence. The Cavaliers recognized that their semi-aquatic lifestyle was suited to just the kind of terrain they needed to defend and worked with local breeders to specially train and equip them. Within two years, hipposaur patrols were defending the coveted rivers and wetlands on Vixen.
With a broad area to cover and no reliable way to predict exactly where the raiders would touch down, the hipposaur patrols were widely deployed when incoming hostiles were detected in orbit. To cover the most area, each hipposaur and crew were deployed as independent units or sometimes in pairs. They were often deployed for weeks or even months until the raiders were repelled. With the frequency of the raids and the extended deployments, the four-man hipposaur crews became very attached to their beasts.
Even though a hipposaur has a tough hide, can carry a heavy payload and weighs as much as a light tank, it can’t be expected to go head to head with a ‘mech, or even a combat vehicle. Instead, the Cavaliers trained their hipposaur patrols target the water purification equipment of the raiders. Remaining submerged or partially submerged in the water, a hipposaur squad would attempt to approach undetected, quickly kill or drive off the operating personnel, trample the water processing equipment, and retreat back into the water before the armored units could respond. The first such patrols were highly successful at destroying the equipment, but casualties were very high.
To improve their survival rate, the Cavaliers began equipping the patrols with mimetic sneak suits. They even went so far as to develop a mimetic “saddle blanket” for the hipposaur, making the beast and riders nearly invisible when in the water. This tripled the survival rate for the patrols and quickly became standard equipment.
Their mission profile also quickly dictated the standard armament for the patrols. Even the first patrols were equipped exclusively with energy weapons to operate above or below the water line. After a few experiments, the most successful weapon mix became standard. Three support pulse laser mounts, each manned by a separate trooper, provide ranged firepower and can quickly clear an area of any operating crew. Though unable to operate a support weapon and guide the beast, the driver/squad leader is usually equipped with a blazer rifle to pick off stragglers. However, this weaponry is just the opening salvo. Once at close range, the hipposaur can ram its enemies. The charge is powerful enough to destroy or topple light structures or vehicles and is almost certain death for any infantry or personnel in its path. This tactic was particularly effective at turning the raider’s water purification equipment to scrap.
Reports of the effectiveness of the hipposaur patrols in defending Vixen’s water resources eventually reached other worlds in the Magistracy of Canopus, the Fronc Reaches, and eventually even the Taurian Condordat. This prompted several inquiries about exporting the creatures to defend other fresh water-rich worlds. Ultimately, this proved possible, though expensive. Not only were the creatures massive but they had to be transported in a custom semiaquatic environment container. Even so, they proved adaptable to other fresh water worlds and breeding programs have been set up on several of them.
Watcher in the Water – One of the original hipposaurs trained by the Cavaliers on Vixen, Watcher in the Water and his crew have been on more than 50 sorties together along the river Sirannon. Unlike most hipposaurs, Watcher had an innate grasp of stealth. Once an enemy water harvesting site was located, Watcher was willing to sit motionless hidden in foliage at the surface of the water for hours waiting for the right time to strike. Then, when his handler, Lt. Sam Ford, would give the signal, he would spring into action with shocking quickness.