With a lever big enough I can move the world (Chapter 1)
A Battletech FanFiction
With a lever big enough I can move the world
Andrew “MageOhki” Norris
All properties not owned by the current rightholders to Battletech(InMediaRes and Microsoft, depending on specifics) and other properties (at this time, not determined) are the property of the writer. However, given this is a derived work, no intent to profit or otherwise infringe on the IP owner’s rights are meant, and this is a work of fiction meant to entertain for free.
This is roughly based on the CYOA’s (Create Your Own Adventure) running around for Battletech such as Valles’ “Tell the World we tried” using this version of it: https://docs. google. com/document/d/1SK7JCvb3J8ytG18XZtHDsi0KGVmUOtKdy84lQ-zCdtY/edit#
Without further ado, grab your neurohelmet, put on the cooling vest, turn the reactor on and let’s go!
Grab a lever and stand.
If you’re reading this, you’re not meant to while I’m alive, I hope. Maybe… if not in this universe, you can, who knows? But… again, this is my own thoughts, my own way to decompress and deal with my insanity and life.
The things you learn over two lifetimes, boil down to key points.
As Star Trek pointed out, Random Omnipotent Beings appear to be assholes, but in reality, are just that. Random.
First impressions count. They stay with people. LRM fire actually is a good one.
There will always be those who seek power for its own sake, to impose their will on others because they want to. Not for the benefit of others, not for the improvement of humanity or their people, not to meet the responsibilities that power brings, but simply because they’re assholes and sociopaths. It’s scary, terrifying, dangerous and difficult to counter them. But it is oh so fun and rewarding to fuck them over.
In BattleTech, no matter where you go, you cannot outrun the past.
Also: Future of the 80’s? Fuck yourself. Hope endures.
But the biggest thing I learned? With a lever big enough, you can move worlds. Just be careful in which direction. Actions have reactions.
From the journals and notes of Kikyo Onishi, New Avalon Press, 3291 AD, as part of the “Century of Chaos: The Movers and Shakers.” series.
Waking up should be one of three ways in my experience. Instant reaching for a weapon to defend yourself or respond to combat is the worst of them, of course. Waking up to start a new day running a normal routine is another. A third way is waking up with your significant other. Learning about a fourth way wasn’t my idea of fun, though it wasn’t unpleasant. Where, on the other hand…
You’ll do. I heard muzzily.
You’ll do quite well to see what this recent spate of … CYOA is all about.
I rarely remember dreams, mind you and on hearing this, I thought to myself I’d forget it. Silly me. Some things will stick with you forever. Considering I never heard that voice again to date, I wonder, I really do.
I’m giving you levers… which way will you move the worlds, young humans? I’ll be watching…
I drifted back out, feeling a flash, a sense of difference, a view of a laughing face, then drifting back into awareness, seeing a mirror in front of me.
Looking into the mirror in this haze, I saw a pretty Japanese face, about 18 to 24, I’d guess, with jade green eyes, dark wine red hair, staring back at me. Memories flashed behind both eyes, feelings swept though the vision. Knowledge was exchanged. A sense of sadness from the jade green eyes, into my blue-green was exchanged.
Not that I’m evil or anything, you understand… you’ll have the full lifespan you should have based on the youngest. At least from ‘natural’ causes, at least, I make no assurances your own actions will not get you killed. And they can. As one of you almost found out. Don’t do that. There’s easier ways to destroy your brains than taking stuff, you realize. However, more than the natural lifespan… you have to earn, children. And you can. Maybe. But your futures are fraught with peril… and will be even more so. You will be given a small amount of time to come to terms with what you are now, so you have a chance to settle into your lives before the peril starts.
With that last line, I felt like snarking, when weren’t they? But, before I could, I felt the world fade again into the comforting warmth of sleep.
Again, it bears repeating. Silly me. I had a lot to learn. Kikyo got the better deal, I think. I don’t know, I haven’t found out either way. Maybe I’ll learn when I die, and possibly meet her again.
Now, back to the fourth way of waking up I learned about. Being very warm, naked, sweaty, sticky and in a pile of bodies as a person is shaking your clammy shoulder, while flesh jiggles on you, is interesting when you’ve spent more than four decades not doing so. Or so you think, since part of you is saying this isn’t the first time.
“Hey, Kiki. We have visitors!” Opening my eyes at the female voice, I saw a face similar to the one I just saw in a mirror, but softer, younger, with blue eyes and black hair. She was grinning, and part of me, part of me in this half state between awareness and sleep, recognized Aiko, my younger sister. The other part didn’t. To be honest, I felt detached, and let myself run on autopilot, not sure what was going on. And reminded, an imperfect response now, was much better than the perfect response too late.
“Oh?” The voice that came out was not what part of me had expected, but the other part felt it was perfectly normal. Even fuzzed with sleep, it sounded like pure molten honey pouring into the ears as well as the low Alto tones promising pleasure and delights. Part of me was pleased with the way it came out, the other part was realizing that either this was a dream, or it was time to panic. Panicking bad, however. “Who is it, Ai?”
Ai, or Aiko Onishi, my jumbled memories fed me, my sister shook her head. “Must have been really fun, Sis, after you pushed me to bed. The lawyers that asked to see you today? Those people?” She grinned. “Must be important, they’re here at 9am on a holiday, after last night?” She tilted her head. “You’re not the only one who indulges, nor your guests.” She cast a glance over the pile. “Maybe too much? You always tell me to wait, and not do things… and yet...”
My mind supplied the response through the slight headache that I discovered as I lifted myself out of the pile. Blinking rapidly, I took a breath, as Ai grabbed my hand and finished pulling my shorter body, both from what one part of me was used to, and to her out of the pile, as she held out a silk yukata in her other hand. “Learn from experience, mine, instead of your own. It’s safer and less likely to get you in trouble.” Pausing a second, I slipped on the yukata, and headed for where I felt the bathroom and shower was.
“Yeah, yeah. But c’mon.” She said quietly, to keep the others still sleeping. “You started having fun about my age… so did Ichigo!” Tilting her head. “Both of you are insisting I can’t. Why?”
Blinking rapidly again at the bright light that shone in my now hurting eyes, I blindly reached for something, only to have a bottle of water shoved into my right hand, and a pill bottle shoved into my left.
“And you really put one on. I can count the number of hangovers you’ve had on my right hand. Though… saw some serious haze around here last night, stayed away, as you asked me to… I can guess why.” Aiko snickered. “Anyways, I’ll tell the lawyers you’ll be a bit.”
Chugging the water, as I watched the teenager walk out the room, her sweatshirt saying “NAIS Class of 3019” on the back, my mind was sounding warning bells. Big, Loud, and insistent though the pain.
One thing most people never really truly understand, is meditation is possible under several situations, and most people do meditation, often enough during routines. Meditation isn’t just clearing your thoughts, or ‘seeking’ enlightenment, it’s understanding yourself, processing information, and last but not least, centering yourself. If you have a routine you can do on autopilot, you can meditate. Apparently my other half agreed.
Going through the morning motions the body and the other half remembered, my mind raced. A very luxurious, but smallish high tech bathroom, with a grated shower that I was in, odd, but... I had seen stranger. Noting carefully the area around, my mind finally informed me I was on a Princess class luxury liner/yacht. That I owned. This was just confirmation of the sweatshirt, however.
Three possibilities, I mused as I dried and combed my hair according to a routine that this body is used to, (and yes, pervs, the drapes and carpet do match, and the body is very much a match for the trained voice, not pure excessive, but shapely, toned, and firm more than handfuls. ). First, this was a dream. If so, fine, go with it, and let it play out, no harm, no foul. Second: Reincarnation event. Since while I did/do believe in reincarnation, I’ve never heard any verifiable proof of a past life coming forward, and honestly, my karma wasn’t that bad, was it, to end up in 3015 on New Avalon? Discount it, holding it as a secondary. Third possibility, given that strange … dream? Before waking up in the pile of flesh. A ROB event. Slang in various communities (my other half didn’t recognize it, must be my half) for where a transcendent being pops you into another universe. Fun to read, yes. But Battletech was one of the more craptastic universes to be put into. Not the worst, mind you, Cyberpunk, Shadowrun, Warhammer (any, really), some parts of Traveller, let’s not even mention most of the Palladium games, all from the 80’s made Battletech look good. But, that wasn’t the point. What to do, was.
Hope for one, operate as three seemed like a plan. Part of that plan would be to *integrate* the two halves. Which was already happening, I could feel. The other part was to go see the lawyers, and pray that the term CYOA didn’t mean what I thought it meant, otherwise…
I keep saying this, but it does bear repeating, people. Silly me.
Walking through a spaceship, was a thrill, no question. To be fair, the part of me from ‘here’, the thrill was more it was hers. Finally. Though to be fair, she hadn’t had much space travel, except for a few movie shoots, or modeling, but that was more than my ‘other’ side had had and she was not a space virgin, nor did she think space travel was ‘a once in a lifetime’ event. Unlike a lot of people, even on New Avalon, one of the richest worlds in the Inner Sphere. It helps to be rich, doesn’t it? Or a popular actress. Or both.
A brief discussion of Battletech’s travel wouldn’t be amiss, I suppose.
As an interstellar civilization, Battletech like most had FTL travel and easy interplanetary travel in a sense. (More on this later. ) Space and star ships could be broken down into three basic types, jumpships (the part that is FTL), dropships, and small craft. Jumpships were pretty much the drive, reactor, batteries and a control module. And docking rings. They stayed in deep space, often ten plus AU from the planet people wanted to get to. So, a solution for reasonable cargo and passenger shipping had to be developed, since small craft just couldn’t carry the load. Which lead to the next major ship type, and the one I was on. Dropship. Build a Jumpship with docking rings, and big ships that could attach to them, and detach after FTL travel. Small craft carried by previous designs of jumpships rarely reached 1,000 tons, while dropships that could land on a planet hit 52,000 tons. Big difference in load. And given that dropships at the least had fifteen mps squared acceleration, they could get to and from the jumpship and planet in a reasonable amount of time.
And I, well, my ‘other’ half, owned one of these massive things. My 20th century self… Squee. My other self, while still squee, wasn’t over the fact of a spaceship, but of freedom and ability to do what she wanted. Without being bound to a planet, or someone else’s ship.
When I mention my other half, I mean the half that grew up on New Avalon, acted as a child actress and model up until now, attended university at the average age for students in this universe (sixteen, if you’re curious, same age to enlist, same age of marriage, same age of several things. ), studied thermonuclear engineering, and several other things! Not the half that grew up in the twentieth century of Terra, fought in a war, gotten a PhD in history, and worked for a government. She had very specific views on how one should dress, even for meeting sharks who’ll try to rip your arms off and eat them.
Which leads to the clicking of tall heels on a spaceship, without gravity unless under thrust, a short black pencil skirt, a low cut white silk blouse and a tasteful black blazer. As well as subtle makeup to enhance what nature had given.
Generally you want to look your best for lawyers who’ve asked to see you on your twentieth birthday, and have insisted on coming to you. Even if it’s one of the universal holidays all of Humanity practices and takes off work from. Most atypical of the amoral creatures. When they’re not yours, it means one of three things. You have money they’re going to take, and lots of it. You have money they want to keep or gain control of, and you’re the ticket to do so. Last, but not least, they’ve been paid a lot of money. That apparently hasn't changed in 1,000 years. Good to know.
Three lawyers, two male, one female rose as I entered the stateroom that Aiko had put them in, and she had thoughtfully seen to their needs, as well as making sure a carafe of coffee was waiting for me. Aiko and I, well local me, had had too much experience with lawyers, me more than her, but in the last four years, way too much experience.
Generally, it could be put into three parts. Lawyers telling local me, I couldn’t have what was mine by earnings, Lawyers telling me to sign contracts for work or endorsements, or lawyers delivering threatening statements, or hints that cooperation in certain issues would be appreciated. Even if I had set the situations up, or encouraged them. Or profited by them.
My memories from local me, made it quite clear, I was very materialistic, and didn’t let little things like laws or general ethics get in the way. Morals? Bit different, I was thankful to say. Apparently the pleasure and love I felt when I looked at Aiko was very much a part of local me, as well as caring and affection for her friends and other family. But… there were downsides. It made enemies, it made waves, and I wasn’t apparently the best at long term thinking.
“Miss. Kikyo Onishi?” The elder male of the pair spoke. “Daughter of Kiko Onishi of Ozawa, and per Lyran law, recognized child of Graf New Osaka?”
Yes, my name is Kikyo Onishi, apparently here and now. But, Brief discussion here. Lyran law, aka Lyran Commonwealth, one of the big five realms of the Inner Sphere of Battletech, has two states for children. Bastardy isn’t formally recognized, but for a parent to recognize a child, he or she has to sign the birth document, with witnesses. It’s not even a social stigma to have a bastard or two, either as mother or father, though at the highest levels, the nobility and very wealthy, married parents are preferred, after all.
However, there is social stigma surrounding bastards. Not taking care of them. So, the Lyrans, being the Lyrans, regulated it. There’s two formal levels of parenthood. First is where you claim them as your son or daughter, second where they are a ‘recognized child. ’ This is a lesser state where you don’t have any claim on their title or the majority of their estate, unless you’re the only child of the noble or ultra rich in question. It doesn’t stop them from leaving you large shares, however. It does however put them on the hook both legally and morally for child support. Yes, by twentieth century standards, I was a bastard of Graf New Osaka’s. And he honored his responsibilities, at least financially. But, back to the lawyers who were waiting for me to sit down.
I nodded in response, and sat down, after pouring myself a cup of coffee, cut with fresh cream and a teaspoon of sugar. Apparently local me didn’t understand the joys of black coffee.
Crossing my legs, I put the saucer and cup on my knee. “You were most insistent
on seeing me this day, but wouldn’t say why? Mr...” I trailed off “And before we actually handle the affairs that brought you here, my solicitor, a Miss. Darwin will be arriving shortly.”
“Ah, I am Lewis Corn, Barrister, and senior partner of Corn and Urkle Legal Affairs.” I
blinked once at the statement, wasn’t the one that faced off most often with Lannesh and Zeem, my law firm, the one Miss. Darwin worked for, officially, though my affairs effectively handled most of her time and also my… ah, clients? I mentally shook my head, and focused back on Mr. Corn as he leaned forward. “It’s not a bad thing, I don’t think. We are here to represent Graf New Osaka’s estate, and finalize his last wishes involving you.” I blinked. I had known that my father in the here and now died, but since I had never met him, my other self had not felt any real sadness at his passing. A bit of curiosity at what’d happen to his estate, but, in reality, any legal obligation he had had towards me ended today, under Lyran law.
“I see. Shall we wait for Miss...” I was interrupted by the door sliding open and a pair of heels clicking. Turning around I studied the severely dressed woman who walked in. Blonde hair, kept in a tight bun, professional black suit and white blouse, sheer hose, and three-inch heels made for a striking sight on a 5’11” woman. In her left hand was a briefcase.
“Gentlemen.” Her tone was frosty, as noted above, the two firms were both elite, and often faced off in court. “Why are we here?” She laid down her briefcase and opened it up.
“As I told your client, we’re here finalizing Graf New Osaka’s estate.” Mr. Corn spoke up, slightly testily. “I’m sure you can handle such a simple matter as advising your client of how to accept a final bequest.”
I carefully kept my face blank, as the two lawyers glared at each other. Finally, Ryanne, Miss. Darwin, spoke up, amusedly. “Couldn’t handle losing the Stone accounts to us, could you?”
The woman with Mr. Corn put her hand on his shoulder before he could fire back. Gathering himself for a moment, he nodded once. “We’re here to see to the estate, and we are only paid so much. So, let’s be about it.”
His assistant, the woman, brought out a holoprojector, and put it on the table. Clicking a button, it started displaying an older male, who was clearly emaciated and missing most of his hair.
“Daughter.” *coff, coff* “When you get this, I’ll be dead, not a question. My last great adventure will start shortly.” A hacking cough sprayed a fine mist of blood outside the hologram.
“And this is because my last adventure here killed me. Or maybe Loki. If Loki gets me before the polonium I managed to ingest, along with far too many of my people as we explored an area. Either way. If it is Loki, do please try to kill a few of them for me, those maniacs.”
I blinked, and shuddered. Polonium poisoning was not a way to go. If Loki did kill him, I might thank them. And exactly why would Loki, the fanatical special forces of the Lyran Commonwealth kill my biological father.
A coughing fit again brought my attention to the display. “I have sent a box containing some information to Corn and Urkle for delivery to you on your birthday, your inheritance, and my remaining people who were sworn to me, plus arranged for new hires to New Avalon, to arrive on your birthday, or as close to it as I could arrange. I do not trust my younger son to care for them properly, nor is my heiress, your niece capable of handling and caring for them. She’s a bit too young.” a wheezing sound issued from the speakers, and a long pause as he seemed to gather himself for a few final words. “Do read the messages in the sealed box, and while I question your judgement and some of your actions over the last few years, I do think you’ve done an admirable job of trying to meet what you see as your responsibilities, and that does make me proud. I know I’ve never said it to you, and this is my last chance. I love you daughter. Shake the world as you can.”
The message ended, with an incredibly secure lockbox slid over from the younger male of the trio of lawyers across from me. “This requires a sample of your blood to unlock, and we have verigraphed proof of it’s security.” A folder was slid over and Ryanne took it, reading through the papers, then nodding.
“The liquid assets that he wished you to have are already in an account with UBS, accounts information and amounts are in the file.” Black haired, sharp features and black eyes created the impression of a computer behind her eyes. “Your actual physical inheritance, besides what is in the lock box, and is also listed in the file, will land at this drop port at 1200 hours tomorrow.” She finished and looked at her superior, Mr. Corn.
He nodded, removing a piece of paper. “This is proof that we have delivered the
folder, the box and the proof of transfer for the physical assets that are arriving. After you sign, we have no further business.” Before you receive the paper, Ryanne studies it and nods once.
“I note that there is mention that the personnel assigned to the delivery as well as those mentioned as hire-ons have been paid for two months. Is this accurate?” Ryanne raises an eyebrow.
“It is. May you have your client sign? It is a simple receipt.” Mr. Corn doesn’t appear flustered by Ryanne’s actions and quiet provocations over their abilities to be accurate.
“It’s fine to sign, Kikyo.” Ryanne pauses. “From all the files I just scanned, it’s clear
they’re just delivery boys, so it seems to be their speed.” All three of the other lawyers shifted a bit at that, but said nothing. Ryanne passes me the receipt and a pen, which I use to sign, and I hand the paper back to Mr. Corn.
“Thank you.” He stands, followed by his two associates. “When you find Miss. Darwin and her firm unsuited to your needs, we would be pleased if you, like your father chose to take proffer of our services.” He nods once, and starts walking out.
“Oh, I doubt she’ll come to you.” Ryanne shoots back. “I’ve had no problems managing her affairs.”
Mr. Corn stops, turns and looks at her. “And the gutter rag reporting wasn’t stopped by you? As I said, Miss Onishi, when you find.” He strides out before Ryanne could respond.
Ryanne blew out a breath as the door closed behind the lawyers escorted by Aiko, who had waited. “Those assholes. They couldn’t have done shit about the paparazzi, and you know it, they’d have been blindsided, we weren’t. And we’re taking steps to mitigate the situation, though it’d help, dear, if you could behave for a while. Or be willing to at least quietly name some names.” Pausing a moment, raising a perfectly sculpted eyebrow, she sighed after a moment of silence. “Didn’t expect so, not right now. As to the inheritance… I know Lyrans are maniacal about accumulating wealth, but this is insane. ”
“Oh?” I honestly didn’t think it’d be much. My memories were that while the Graf did not stint, he wasn’t overly generous, either. He left that for his mother and father, and their gifts to me.
“882 million cbills in several accounts at UBS, six Jumpships, one of which is a Monolith, of all things, hell, it might be the only privately owned one in existence! Seventy dropships, fifty-two of which are combat dropships. I’m pretty sure there’s interstellar nations that don’t own that many, and I don’t mean one or a half dozen world policies, I mean the Outworlds Alliance!”
She paused, clearly rattled. Having regained some balance, she went on. “That
isn’t it, oh, no. Nearly 200 battlemechs, over 100 aerospace fighters, over 500 armored fighting vehicles or infantry fighting vehicles…” She paused. “Quick math shows you could likely form two Star League combined arms brigades, just about, or a full RCT1, with leftovers. More than enough military hardware to conquer a planet!” She shook her head. “My advice, sell most of it and move on. Keep a jumpship or two, a few dropships, but the majority? Only thing it’d be good for is either bribing your way into the AFFS, or being a merc.”
Part of me nodded at that, that was a truth. The other part remembered something. “Father stated he had people he wanted me to look after, not just the new hire ons. How many?”
Flipping through the file, she stopped at one page, scanning down. “Counting ship crews, it looks to be about 2200 people. Give or take.” She paused, checking something else, and nodding once. “Add in the new hires, and you’re looking at north of 3,100 people. Mostly ship crews, but a fair number of technicians of military nature, and combat personnel.”
I thought about it for a moment. “Do try to explore possible buyers, focusing on Davion interests, don’t want to have onii-sama shot by my stuff, after all, but don’t make any firm commitments. I need to think on this, and meet the people involved.”
“Your choice. It’ll do well to lessen some issues, if you’ve provided at fair rates an RCT’s worth of heavy combat equipment, at least to the AFFS, and they have pull. They could make a lot of problems go away, Kiki.” Ryanne sighed. “While we both know, your providing your friends and classmates ways to make money via those with money, wasn’t illegal, nor your activities with our firm, I’m quite aware that we have kept a criminal lawyer for your people ready if needs be. And I’ve been careful not to ask is there anything you’ve done, or people working for you have done that’d require such. I don’t want to know the answer, but with what we’ve been hearing from Avalon City Police… I can guess.”
I thought to myself that I really needed to spend some time sorting through my memories of here, to find out exactly what was going on. This did not sound good. “And I’ll be sure not to tell you unless I have to. And I understand.”
“Look. You need to think about this.” Ryanne leaned forward to look me in the eyes. “Even if you can skate criminally, and get all your friends out, it’ll hurt, and cost money to fix your reputation. It’ll also hurt you with the nobility and those who finance your films, though I’ll admit, with all your other assets, and what you just received, that’s not a problem.” She paused. “But even then, the powers that be, can shitcan the films, and your other projects. You don’t want that. Or so you told me.” Her pleading voice sunk in. “And I doubt you really understand what’s involved in running a mercenary command. Not a good idea, Kiki, not with your age, nor experience. If you really feel the need to take care of your absentee father’s people, set them up, find them new units, if that’s their wish, hire them on in your other ventures of a legal nature if not. There’s options, and you’re looking at well towards, maybe over 10 billion Cbills, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want or aren’t qualified to do.”
I paused for a moment. She was passionate about this, but… “As I said, Ryanne.” I nodded once. “Let me think on it. I can see some edges in having a unit of mercenaries at my disposal. I also understand how bad an idea for me this would be.” I paused for a second, mind whirring. Not quite true, but a lie wouldn’t hurt, would it? “But… and I understand your point about my father… they’re now my people.”
Ryanne sighed. “As expected. At least think about what I said, Kiki? I need to get back to the firm to finish up some paperwork on all your assets being finally returned to your full control, plus now, adding this to it.” She shook her head. “Tomorrow, when you inspect the cargo and ships, I need a full list of what they are. Full.” She stood and raised an eyebrow. “I do agree with at least thinking, now. At times, I wonder if you really think about the long term or even medium term effects of your actions!”
I blushed slightly, but nodded at her.
“Good.” With that, Ryanne walked out. “Be well and stay out of sight, Kiki. We don’t need, nor want the press to badger you. At all.”
“... yes.” I answered. “I’ll stay here till tomorrow.”
The door closed behind Ryanne. Intentionally. So I didn’t have to listen to her reply.
As I went to what my mind had labeled ‘my stateroom’, it was empty. Apparently the room I had woken up in was something called a playroom. I could guess.
“Hey, onee-sama.” Aiko stopped me before I could enter, and continued in Japanese. <”Your guests are gone, both the lawyers and those who partied with you last night. Why were they here, and why was Ryanne here?”>
I paused, and thought about what to say. “I’ll tell you later, but it was about my absentee father. He’s dead, and he left me some things.” I carefully slanted it to seem minor.
“Uh-huh.” Aiko leaned against a bulkhead, arms crossed. “Lawyers don’t come on New Year’s day, just to deliver bequests of a minor nature. Try again.”
Aiko was not stupid, just young, my mind supplied, not that I needed further proof of that. Looking her in the eye, I finally responded. “As I said, I’ll tell you later. I need to think on it.”
A tilt of the head was my response, for a long minute of time. Finally Aiko sighed. “Must be some heavy stuff. You gloated about getting Xanadu the moment you got the title.” I nodded at that. Xanadu was the name of the Princess we were in. A gift from a fan, Duchess Numeror, she who was the first to have a tame Numeror Wolf… called Fluffy, of all things, Xanadu had been found in a valley on some world she didn’t mention, semi crashed from the early First Succession War. The Duchess had the damage repaired, and all systems restored, then realized she didn’t want the dropship. So.. give it to her favorite young actress. At least she was talked out of sending one of Fluffy’s cubs with Xanadu.
“It is.” I paused. “It means… lots of things. Father didn’t just leave me money, stocks, bonds, even physical assets. He left me people.”
Aiko facepalmed. “And you’re already thinking on how to put them into your little network and keep them, take care of them, see to them. Because that’s how you are.” She shook her head. “I’ll let you think on this, but Sis? These aren’t your people. You owe Graf New Osaka nothing. If Mom wasn’t the way she was, she’d have been alive, and we’d have shared the same father. But no… you’re striving to be just like her. That got her in a bad place and killed. ” Aiko paused for a moment. “No, no, you’re not striving to be her, you’re striving to surpass her. Not only that, but you keep taking on responsibilities, that aren’t yours. Doing whatever it takes, to your mind to meet those. And damn what it costs or could cost you.” Aiko’s eyes glittered. “If you don’t slow down and think about things, and not take everything on, you’ll kill yourself.” She pushed off the bulkhead, and stormed past me.
I honestly didn’t know what to say about that. I really needed to meditate and work my way through the memories that I had from Kikyo. I hoped she was working through my memories, but I had no idea. Putting that thought to action, I went into the stateroom, and locked the door behind me. Folding into seiza, I closed my eyes, and put myself into a position to figure out exactly what was going on. I had a feeling that it was worse than I feared.
Now, at least this time, I wasn’t being silly. Yay, me. Improvement! Even if I wanted to be silly.
To understand where I found myself, a brief, well, not so brief story has to be told for those who don’t know where I was. At this point, and this location, as far as I could guess, I was in what my 20th century self would call a Battletech universe. Renamed from the FASA game Battledroids, Battletech could and should be considered the Stompy Robot TableTop game, which spawned several video games, role-playing games, novels, and lots more. FASA pretty much wrote a game to have ten plus meter (thirty feet or better for those using Imperial) tall robots piloted by ‘Mechwarriors’ (From the fact in universe said robots are called Battlemechs), shooting the everloving shit out of each other. The setting was to justify this combat.
Therefore, Battletech is a crapsack world (it doesn’t sell product if it’s all sweetness and light, eh?). Not the worst, not by far, but on a scale of 1 (Meh, you have a high chance as a player character to live out your life and do well, ala Traveller/MegaTraveller) to 10 (Ohgods, we is all gonna die… and not leave a good looking corpse, and nothing will change! Hi, Warhammer 40k) Battletech by the time I entered it had over thirty years of in universe lore, development and rules. The Setting was a solid 6 to 7 on the crapsack scale. To be fair, this was due to all the lore, and there were periods of time that to in-universe characters, the crapsack scale barely rated a 2. A Brief history is really needed to understand the time I’m in, so I’m summarizing for quick comprehension.
Late 20th century, wars happen. Earth unifies. 2108 AD, first Interstellar travel. Late 23rd century, Terran colonies both revolt and are abandoned by the one species (Human) government. Shortly afterwards, Terra replaces that government with a new one, as the abandoned colonies form their own interstellar governments. Wars happen. Bigger and Bigger states form. Until mid 25th Century, the Battlemech is developed.
Due to its weight to firepower to crew ratio, and its ability to fight somewhat on almost all terrains, it becomes the premier combat asset to take and hold planets. During all this lead up, Humanity in effect reverts back (some would say never left) to in primus, a feudalistic society to greater and lesser extent, given the limitations of the star drive and the stresses of colonization. (It doesn’t help that until the 27th century, there is no FTL communications in widespread use. ). Everyone besides the Terran Hegemony (the Terran successor government, and the first users of Battlemechs) gets Battlemechs, and the beat goes on. Flash to the end of the 26th Century, Ian Cameron, “Director-General” of the Terran Hegemony has managed to sucker (my view) the five states surrounding the Hegemony into a superstate, where he (and his heirs) are first among ‘equals’ (again, my view).
This isn’t working out too well, so he decides to bring the last free states (who told him either politely or politely, looking at you, Taurus, to bugger off. ) to heel. Twenty-five years later, with a death toll to equal barely the totals from all the wars before, The Star League rules over 99% of humanity. But the ones who told him to bugger off don’t get even the ‘lesser’ say that the five states (called Great Houses now, since they are comprised of a ruling house over several hundred established worlds) get. These states who aren’t great houses are called the Periphery, and are on the Periphery of what’s now called the “Inner Sphere”. This, of course leads to their exploitation and resentment.
Okay, it’s now the 28th Century, towards the end of the Century. Three of the four major Periphery states are tired of being bitchslapped around by the Star league and their pockets ran though for any and all loose change. So’s the 4th, but their ruling house has a *plan!* He sets up the other three to revolt, while he’s schmoozing up to the last heir of Ian Cameron, who’s a minor, orphan, and pretty much left alone by anyone else with morals, ethics, or power.
Yeah, you can see where this is going. As Kerensky, the official regent while Richard Cameron was underage, and the Commanding General of the Star League defense forces, finished squishing Amaris’ covert rebellions, he however had to use almost all the SLDF, and Amaris was able to convince Richard to let Amaris’ troops be his guards. Yeah, we all can predict where this is going.
Anyways, ten years later, Kerensky shoots Amaris, destroys his nation, then tells the Great House lords, “Sod you all for a game of Soldiers” and (again, my point of view) deserts the Star League, and the Succession Wars begin. The 1st and 2nd are total war, and pretty much blast each other a good 400 years downward in technology and even more so in industrial capability. Too many worlds die during this period, too. And not marginal or only habitable due to ultra high tech, either.
By the time I was at, the waning years of the Third succession wars, battles were very small affairs, and more along the lines of raiding more than missions of conquest, since transporting troops to take worlds was difficult, and required effort. Jumpships, the FTL spaceships are down to maybe a tenth of what they were before the wars, and if the Inner Sphere could add ten a year to the fleets, it was a good year. So, the Star League was regarded as the “Shining city on the hill”, and wars were fought nominally over who’d rule. Not that all the Star League was gone, it had one known surviving element. The Ministry of Communications, renamed Comstar. More on them later.
This is why nearly 200 Battlemechs as an inheritance was mind boggling. Battles to conquer worlds very rarely had more engaging. That was about a third of the ‘Mechs produced in one year, in the fallen times. Not to mention six Jumpships, out of which maybe 2000 of them still remained. This does put a big target on your back.
Having meditated on the memories and everything else, I found myself and the ‘previous’ memories integrating, creating what could be called, Kikyo-me merge, or Kikyo-me for short. What I found, was a twenty year old woman, who had problems with impulse control, mild case of disinhibition, stubborn as all hell, dedicated to those she called hers, and working on being a cross between Lindsay Lohan and and your average college coed who didn’t want student loans at the same time.
This was a bit of a shock to a forty-five year old combat veteran of a republican nation, who was while not straight-laced, fairly ‘tame’ by any reasonable standard. Kikyo was not, and she had a bad habit of not thinking things through, not thinking of consequences at all.
The situation Kikyo had left her new self meant that, at very best, I was viewed… not in the best light with my home nation’s government or nobility, and my father, another state’s noble, due to putting the functional equivalent of nearly three percent of their Battlemechs into my hands, instead of his Liege’s… well, his own government likely wouldn’t be too thrilled with me.
This is why I wasn’t being silly when I thought it was worse than I knew. Those two governments above, were arguably lead by the two most moral and ethical leaders, and the states themselves were, for the period, out of the Great Houses, decent places to live both for rights, and actual opportunities to be had. And here I was, considered at best, a greedy and amoral Lindsay Lohan, or someone who was a traitor’s daughter. Yeah. I actually asked myself. “How could it get worse?”
Trust me, I know I asked for it, and, yes, I got it. Good and hard.
After that session, I decided that I needed another shower, to unknotify my legs, in the dropship’s sinfully appointed bathroom. Fusion power meant unlimited hot water, considering that I was planetside, and the nozzles were perfectly located to massage every bit of my body.
While relaxing, I was considering what I needed to do. The big one was find out what version of the Battletech universe I was in. That meant checking for a nation that didn’t exist in the ‘main’ setting, to cover one video game, checking some facts out to cover fan fiction versions I didn’t know about, praying a singing battleship didn’t exist or had existed.
Looking for some people, here, Alpheratz, Terra, there, and everywhere would be part of it, lucky me, I just needed to spend money, and since I had nearly a billion of the local interstellar currency, which equated to ten billion at least of the currency I was used to, that was easy. Some alternate realities of the Battletech franchise wouldn’t have their divergence points obvious yet, nor the key figures. Some would. Also would need to dig to see if any other large windfalls had been delivered… Oh, and if a bastard Calderon by the name of Jack existed.
He wasn’t the only one on the find list with a vengeance, to be fair, but I doubted he was in existence. Or that I could find him. Some of those I’d personally kill, without question were mainline characters, who just needed to die. Let’s not mention looting a few sites where I knew LosTech (lost technology) was. Helm was number one of course.
Before I could ponder more, Aiko stuck her head into the shower, eating a mouthful of water. After coughing for a few moments, as I turned the water off and grabbed a towel, she gulped air down.
“Kiki.” Pausing to make sure she wasn’t going to cough again, she continued. “Ichigo’s here! He’s back. And…” She looked a bit unsure of herself, but plowed on. “And he doesn’t look happy, not at all.”
Drying off, and putting my wet hair into a towel that I wound on my head, I pondered this event, as Aiko waited. Ichigo had joined the military of our birth nation, the Federated Suns, ruled by one of the Five Great Houses, House Davion. The Armed Forces of the Federated Suns, AFFS for short, served the realm quite well over the last 150 years, though before that, their record was much more muddled. Ichigo being an honor graduate of one of the three premier military academies, was able to pick his assignment, and qualified on loyalty not just to the Suns, but to House Davion, get it.
The Davion Brigade of Guards, aka House Davion’s personal household troops, was what he picked. Not only for the most loyal to House Davion, they also had to be the best that the Federated Suns had. Quite a feather in his cap, to get in straight from an academy. For the first two years, he had served with the Light Guards, one of their subunits, fighting.
Since his first two year tour, and until now, he had been with the Heavy Guards, Hanse Davion’s, the current incarnation of House Davion, and the ruler of the Federated Suns, favorite unit. I had known he’d be back from the frontlines of the Third Succession war soon, just didn’t realize it was today.
“I see.” I paused, grabbing a robe and slipping on the sinfully soft terry cloth, I belted it, and nodded at Aiko. “I don’t think we should keep him waiting, then.”
Aiko nodded, and lead the way. Shortly, we were in the area where he was waiting; Xanadu’s park deck, a carefully constructed luxury for a dropship. A veritable garden of exotic flowers and plants to enjoy during travels. It wasn’t total luxury, after all, they did play a function in air recycling, but the Princess class was the only dropship class period, to have one as stock. All others started with relying on air scrubbers or other mechanical methods to clean their air.
Hearing the thump of Aiko’s sneakers, a strawberry blond-haired, tall man, dressed in an orangish flight suit with leather jacket on, and a ballcap held in his hands turned around from the viewport. His sharp jaw clenched slightly on seeing me, but relaxed, with a resigned twinkle as he took in his two younger sisters.
“Right. Congratulations on getting into NAIS, Aiko.” He smiled naturally at our younger
Sister. “And congratulations on graduating, Kikyo.” He paused at our nods. “Sorry I couldn’t be there, but…”
“We know.” Aiko shot me a look. “The demands of the war. Your gifts were nice, though!”
“I tried. And Aiko? I suggest you go to bed, it is two am.” He looked stern at the youngest.
Aiko opened her mouth to protest… but caught the hidden message, and shook her head. “No, brother. Not this time. I’m pretty sure you two will need a referee to keep from wrecking the deck.”
“We’re not that bad.” I protested before Ichigo could open his mouth. Aiko just looked at the two of us.
Strawberry blond hair tilted in it’s buzz cut. Eyes narrowed, and Ichigo sighed. “Fine, you’re old enough to fight, old enough to at least listen to this.” Turning back to the older of the two young women. “Explain.” Crossing his arms, he leaned back against a bracer. “I’m really curious to know what you’ve been up to enough to get the commander of the Heavy guards personally cutting my orders for a leave.”
I tilted my head, my jade green eyes boring into his amber eyes, conveying my irritation at the way he was approaching this. “Are you sure you really want to know?”
I shrugged. “You remember how a new trustee was assigned to watch over my assets, correct?”
Ichigo tilted his head. “As well as Aiko’s, yes.” He paused. “As I was shipping out to the Light Guards, I couldn’t do it, so…”
I nodded. “Said trustee in essence… ah... extremely limited funds.” I spread my hands. “No extra funding for Aiko’s tutors, no extra funding to maintain the lifestyle we had been living, and every penny she made sure was accounted for, and put any earnings from my acting or residuals into the funds. And yes, I tried to convince her otherwise.”
“Okay. I see that.” Ichigo thought for a moment. “You could have contacted me, and I
could have gotten Family support involved to find a guardian a bit less… tight.”
I blinked. Flipping through my memories, the only real response was… “My responsibility, I told you I’d take care of Aiko and home, while you were fighting so you didn’t have to worry about us…” I paused. “Family support could have done that?”
“Pretty sure, one of my wing had an issue come up, and family support got a guardian assigned to his son long enough to get the kid to where we were garrisoned…” Ichigo shrugged. “Getting a new guardian assigned would be fairly tame I’d figure.”
I tilted my head and acted innocent. “Well, I wasn’t told that… so I did a bit of… ah, trading.”
Ichigo’s eyes narrow. “Trading what, sister mine? I’m getting the distinct impression that you chose to get the money you thought you needed in ways that aren’t the most ethical.” He paused and nodded once. “Given everything, you chose to pick up mother’s tricks towards the nobility and weren’t discreet about it, and started playing the nobles off each other.
Aiko winced, but I bulled on, not impressed with his growing anger. “It’s not illegal. And well, if they were going to…”
Taking a deep breath, he finally held up a hand. “I’m not going to debate the legalities of it. Nor the ethics, nor what it could do to all our situations, politically. That’s an argument for later.” He nodded once. “Now, to be really honest, that’s not enough for the Marshal to call me in personally. All of it. Now.” The last line came out hammered and precise, brooking no disobedience.
“Well, some of my classmates and friends were feeling even more ah.. Pinched…” I
trailed off, not wanting to admit exactly what I did.
“Introduced them on how to play nobles against each other for favors. Sugar daddy’ing. That could be considered corruption.” That came out flat and hammered. Before he could continue, or I threw a nasty comment at him, Aiko interrupted.
“Let’s not forget throwing parties, with party favors, or getting nobles and the very rich stuff they shouldn’t be getting, such as those party favors or items that are on a heavy tariff or restricted list.”
I shot Aiko a betrayed look, only to have my head snap back to Ichigo.
“What.” He responded in a strangled tone, pushing himself off the brace. “Drugs and illegal goods trafficking?”
“Ah…” I thought how to explain this, derailed from being irritated with him. “Not… quite.”
“Not quite?” Running his hand through his hair, he took a deep breath. “Exactly what do you mean by quite? And did you get caught?”
I hurried on. “Well, the nobles just wanted this or that, I made a few connections and delivered on both sides, not an actual ah… organization to do so. Or directly selling. And all my friends were of age, so. Not illegal!” I paused, nodded once. “And no, I didn’t get arrested or even brought in for questioning!”
“Uh-huh.” Ichigo took a step forward, then gathered himself. “But that is something that would attract the attention of an AFFS senior officer, and have him send a junior officer to squish.” Rubbing his chin for a moment, he nodded once. “Which means, the police don’t have enough to act on, or all things being considered, want to handle it very quietly. Which we are going to do.”
“Uh…” I stopped. I had no idea what Ichigo was referring to, how to handle the situation. Finally, I looked at him. “That’s not including what my biological father sent or is sending as an inheritance.”
“What?” Ichigo looked derailed for a second, and shook himself. “You mean there are more reasons for the senior staff to have their eyes laser focused on you?” He paused, clearly restraining his temper. “You realize that Aiko’s attending NAIS can be hammered flat by them at will? And if they feel she’s a security risk, and they would, given just the above, they will?”
I paused. No, I hadn’t realized that, nor even really thought about it. Nor what it’d do to Ichigo's clearances. Before I could open my mouth, Ichigo just raised a hand.
“Don’t bother. I can tell you didn’t.” He just shook his head. “Just like when younger, you thought several roles would be fun, not caring that they might get you type-cast, or actually turn off your fans who pay to see you. You’re worse than I am about long term thinking! And that says something, since I’m not a poster child for restraint!” Ichigo muttered the last under his breath. Taking a deep breath. “Now, what the hell did Graf New Osaka leave you that Aiko thinks would have the AFFS’s attention?”
I paused, nodded once, pulling out a folder I had hidden in my robe. “Here’s a copy of the list.”
He took it and muttered a bit, at several lines, then paused a long moment, and a strangled voice came out. “A Monolith?” Shaking loose from the shock, he continued on. Finally, after several long moments, he passed it to Aiko who had her hand out impatiently.
Silence went through as Aiko scanned. She stopped, blinked, continued on, and finally snapped the folder shut. “... My question is what are the dropships, the battlemechs and all that. The details were somewhat sparse on that. Does the box you got include that information?”
“Good question.” Amber eyes locked into mine. “And yes, I really understand why I was pushed here asap. So, what are they? If the box Aiko’s referring to, tells you.”
I tilted my head and sheepishly admitted. “Ah.. would you believe I haven’t looked?”
“ARGGGGHHH!” Ichigo threw his hands up. “Seriously? That’s …” He paused, tilting his head for a minute, then letting his chin hit his chest. “So us. You still have a battlemech in the holds you haven’t even turned on.”
I didn’t have a comeback, since we all had a habit of ripping open gifts the moment they were in our hands, but putting them aside once we saw what they were, to play with other things, if they weren’t part of our interests or desires at the time. And since I knew it was a message from my dead father, I didn’t think about if it was time critical or a more detailed listing, since exactly what the items were might be something national governments would be intensely interested in. Putting a Battlemech, a war machine of considerable power aside, was par for the course, I was an actress, not a Mechwarrior, though I had learned the basics for roles.
Taking a long, deep breath, Ichigo pointed at Aiko. “Fetch box. Bring box. Now.”
Aiko scurried to obey, as Ichigo glared at me. Finally he relented, and admitted. “Upside, we can get your stunts squished, fairly easily. AFFS pays well for equipment. Even basic stuff. Sell some without major hassle or greed, and as a condition, squish this, with a promise…” He trailed off, nodding once. “Not to do more of what has their attention, maybe give some names, and it’ll all blow over, and your career is fine.” Blowing a deep breath, he nods once. “Bad, but fixable, thankfully.”
I wanted to shoot back about ratting people out, but Aiko came in with the box. “Here!”
Ichigo studied the box for a second, then gestured at me. “Open it.” Ichigo rarely took control of any situation we were all in, mostly due to .. well. Nuff said, my memories indicated he was used to being the only male in a household of women who had iron whims all the time. The AFFS was good for him, in letting him build up a backbone to corral us.
I put my thumb against the spot and felt a sting. The box popped open and revealed a rack of datachips, a small holographic projector and a datareader. On top of this was a written note. Simple, sweet and to the point. “Play the holomessage first.”
Ichigo raised an eyebrow. I sighed, and took the three items out, putting the chips and datareader aside. Putting the projector on a ledge, I hit it’s play button since it was a portable one.
A holograph came out, clearer and neater than most that I was used to. In it, my father, looking better than the previous message appeared.
“Daughter. I don’t have much time, and much to do, so I will keep this short and sweet. These chips in this box have a detailed listing of your inheritance, the first two chips listing the equipment, its’ state, and basic technical details, the third through sixth listing the personnel I dearly wish you would care for, or at least see them properly settled, the seventh is exact spatial coordinates for the location of a Star League temporary naval support station, as well as a map on how to get there from Terra, with some options for other locations. The eighth and final chip is my best guess on what it is. I verified that it exists, but that’s all. And before I could move to collect it, well. My message you’ll receive with the lawyers will make it obvious.”
He paused, and nodded once. “I’ve followed your life, even after Miho died, and what I’ve left you will either allow you to do whatever you want, conquer a planet outside the Great Houses, live a life of total luxury with as many boytoys as any girl could want, film the invasion of Terra, whatever. I was not surprised you are getting into trouble, after all you are my and your mother’s daughter. It would be more of a surprise if you didn’t. And you did, in a way that both disappoints me, and doesn’t surprise me. The casting couch is alive and well, and you’d not be the first Lyran girl to accept using it to your benefit.” Ichigo just facepalms. “This will help you get out of it.”
He coughed once, a racking sound, then took several deep breaths. “Right. My final and likely only advice to you. Trust but verify everyone. Even your older brother via Miho, or the people I am sending to you. Don’t fully trust without severe verification any House Lord. Do not trust Comstar. I cannot repeat that enough, daughter. Do not. And make sure your little sister doesn’t do too well in NAIS, or she takes a non science field. Or doesn’t go into research. And if she does, she stays inside Davion’s guards. With what I have left you… no matter what, if you parley it right, a planet, a whole planet can be yours. I would not deal with the Coordinator, putting aside all hate, simply because you are a woman, and well.” His shrug is speaking.
“Janos… no, but it’s more because I don’t think he’s at all trustworthy. Liao? Please.” He nods. “Given all things, you’ll not have an easy time with the last two, but they’re at least honorable and pragmatic… if you remember that they take their duties seriously into account. But, you’re going to have to deal with them. Not me. And I didn’t help at all here. Good luck, and I hope you’ll do your name and your blood proud.” The holograph turns off and a chip appears, to be pulled out at will.
Ichigo tilts his head, picking up the reader and the first two chips. “Let me scan this really quick, I’m far more up to date than you are on military stuff, dear little sister who only plays a mechwarrior on screen.”
I looked at him, sourly. “At least I know how to drive one, brother-mine, unlike you.”
Ichigo doesn’t comment as he reads slowly the information. One of his eyebrows twitches, and shortly, a quiet “Bullshit…” is breathed. His face turns stone after that. Somehow he plows through, even though by the end, he’s whiter than some of the linen aboard Xanadu, or our mother’s funeral kimono.
“Ichigo?” Aiko asks, concerned. He’s afraid. I’m concerned too. I could not recall when he was afraid. Ever. He’s always been head on, meet any challenge and overcome it. He feared nothing.
“First, hire security right the hell now. And by security, I mean ex Rabid Foxes.” Ichigo finally responds. “Loki is going to be out to kill you. If they don’t know yet, they will, and they’re going to want you dead thanks to the Graf.” He pauses. “And we need to talk to the Heavy Guards CO. Once we verify this.”
I tilt my head. “Why?”
“Because this is the biggest trove of Lostech this side of what C*’s hiding on Terra.” Aiko has stolen the datapad, and is also growing white. Ichigo continues, regaining his balance. “And that means everyone is going to want it. Which means it’s in your best interest to get rid of it. Now.”
My eyes narrowed. Sure, we hadn’t been close the last eight years, but… Ichigo had to be reacting, not thinking. I paused at that. Something else we apparently shared, besides our family. But…
I bit out, clearly restraining my temper. “Excuse me?” Apparently I didn’t keep enough anger out of my voice. Aiko winced and carefully eyed our positions.
“Get rid of it. All of it. Pay off and help the people he sent settle into other places, and be quit.” He nodded as it was the most obvious thing.
Holding onto my temper by the slimmest of margins, I managed to simply hold a hand to Aiko, who passed the data reader to me. Scanning the reader, I came to the conclusion while he was only reacting, … all things considered he was not wrong in a very viable solution. In fact, I suspected he was even more right than he thought. Putting aside every nation in the Sphere, Comstar was a threat too… and I knew from being not all just Kikyo, they had warships.
But… “Dear brother.” I purred, “You are making some serious assumptions.” I paused for effect. “First, it’s impolite to make others’ decisions for them. Second, they may want to stay together, and may have verbal promises from my father on what they get. Third: I’m thinking this might be a good way to get away from New Avalon for a bit. Maybe run a reality show focusing on a merc unit. Real mercs.” Before I could continue, Ichigo made a strangled sound and reached for me. Ingrained training and instinct honed by both my mother and a sensei that had taken a shine to us siblings, snapped into action.
Wham. My hands snapped out, spreading Ichigo’s out, as I dimly recognized the sound of Aiko running off, but I was more focused on leaping back after kneeing him in the abdomen.
Ichigo spent a moment bent over, then straightened. He stepped back and eyed me. “So. That’s how we’re going to have to play this.” Nodding once, he started to move forward, as I positioned myself to break his set jaw with my foot.
Completely derailed, we both heard an annoyed voice. “Both of you. Stop that!” Feeling my towel unravel, and staring at my brother’s hair with pieces of balloon in it, I realized Aiko had hit us both with water balloons left over from last night’s fun. Cold water balloons. Without realizing it, we both mirrored each other, and looked at Aiko who was bouncing more water balloons in her hand. “Are you going to act as adults, and do nothing that’ll have to send either of you to the hospital? Or never talk to each other again?” Her arch tone at the last matched the raised eyebrow. Trying to show how irritated she was with the supposed adults in the room, she misjudged one toss, pushing it higher and slightly backwards, and her head tracked the balloon, as it arched down. Straight on her nose.
Ichigo was the first to lose it, joined by my giggling. Aiko pouted at the two of us, though that just made us laugh harder, at her drowned kitten look.
Ichigo sobered up first, but I finally wound down the giggling. “Right. Right.” Ichigo ran his hands through his hair, removing the bits of balloon. “Look. Let’s all just sleep on this. We can decide when we have more information. Let’s try to not scream and leap for once?”
I nodded, and Aiko relaxed and sighed.
“Right. Kikyo, where’s a bed for me so I can at least get some sleep? I’ve been up for nearly thirty hours now.” Ichigo let the tiredness show. I tend to forget, that while he was always AFFS mad; when I got talent scouted, he too had picked up some roles. “So, yeah. Let’s just all sleep on it.”
I nodded. “This way.” I paused, debating with myself, then giving in. “And I’ll even get you a bed warmer, too. I…” I pause. I am bitten by a bug that can’t be resisted. “Never mind, brother, just get some rest.” I smile innocently.
His eyes narrow at me as we walk through the hall. “Why don’t I completely believe that.” We stop at a door which I palm open.
“Your room with what you left with me.” I smile. “And I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Uh-huh.” He yawns. “Too tired to try to indulge or otherwise derail your whims right now.” He puts actions to his words by tossing his two bags next to the bed he then falls into. “Love you, little minx.” he mutters tiredly.
“Love you too, annoyance.” I smile. One thing I remembered was that he had a crush on an actress who had played an older sister to me in a movie. And said actress, Kelia Harper was still acting, was still a good friend, and more importantly, because she hadn’t made the transfer to adult roles as well, someone who’d be counted on for discreet entertaining. Plus Kelia thought my brother was a dear. And had a thing for flyboys. Putting actions to thoughts, I moved to contact her and invite her here. Should be a great, though late christmas present!
I paused at the door of my own stateroom. I needed to also start some investigations. I remembered this possible recruit on Alpheratz. She’d either be getting an inheritance herself, useful information to have, or she’d not have the personality download, and be a very useful recruit.
As I waited for my family and guest to arrive, I looked over the list I had made on a separate, non networked datapad. Besides setting in motion finding a possible Phantom Mech pilot, I had started checks on names I had remembered from various forums for quests and stories that had Self Inserts or similar concepts executed. Some would seriously hinder plans, some would require running away as fast as possible to a hole no one could find us, some would be useful allies, even if they weren’t actual Self Inserts. It could also be that none of them existed. I had also called a technician I knew, one Debora Hickey to inspect and fire up the mech I actually did own in my own name. I had hopes I could recruit her to be Bun Bun’s permanent tech, as she had just gotten her certification and out of the AFFS.
“Hey, Sis.” A head plopped on my shoulder and a cheerfully sweet voice was in my ear. “What are you studying so carefully?” Aiko’s breath blew into my ear, being extremely distracting. One downside to our family, was that we were all morning people and generally operated on less sleep than most. And we were smart.
I shook her head off, to her grumble as I clicked off the screen. “A list of things to do.”
“Uh-huh. I saw names, and a few notes about books or maps you wanted to get.” Aiko’s blue eyes looked into mine. “You have a plan. And I want to know. More importantly, who are those people, and why various locations. How’d you know someone in Samantha, of all places, the Concordat’s capital world? Much less that boondock of a capital for the Outworlds, ”
“Ah.” I did mention that my family was smart. Ichigo often joked he was the dummy of the family… yet he managed to breeze through one of the three best military academies in the Federated Suns, dual tracking branches, and officer training… while still making the top ten at the same time he was picking up most of a serious science degree.
I was smarter, of course, though that wasn’t really meant as a boast, Ichigo was far more physically inclined than me or Aiko, and was better than average in those areas, as I blew the grade curve. This was on top of more and better tutoring. However, I had gotten in trouble because Aiko’s brains put mine to shame, and I spent like water to have her tutoring and schooling put mine and Ichigo’s to shame. She got the best I could get, no matter the cost or risk. Pausing a moment, I thought and then shrugged.
“Would you believe before you woke me up I had a very detailed dream?” I shrugged.
“... what did you take at the party.” Aiko’s blue eyes bored into my jade green, clearly worried.
“A bit of Brace, a sniff of Can-do…” I trailed off ticking my fingers, realizing that my previous partying could be lethal, given the drugs involved. Also a good explanation of everything, so maybe I was crazy. … “And a sniff of Melange. Oh, and of course the usual drinks and some …” Before I could finish, my head was driven into my plate by a hard slap.
“Idiot.” a female tired voice accompanied the slap. “Didn’t what happened to me, teach you anything?” Kelia Harper, she of the slap and the hiss, a dusky skinned young woman with a near match to my hair color, met my eyes with her forest green ones as I looked up at her. At 5’8”, she’d tower over me, and she was angry. For good reason, though. “But, no, you had to mix psychoactives, to boot! One of which is frigging unpredictable. Space Sand, really?”
She had overdone Can-Do, a sensory enhancement drug at a party, and the crash was epic even for the drug, which triggered depression after the high. She hung herself, barely being undone in time to save her life, but the drugs used to keep her breathing and from brain damage, threw her into even more of a loop. Eighteen months later she could finally resume her life, but it had hammered her career, and even though she had been drug free since then, making the hustlings of parties, bars and all that kept her previous party ways in visible, meaning she had problems getting any serious project or roles.
“Ah…” I responded, debating on how pissed she was. Her tired but satisfied body language contrasted with her clear anger about the party, and Ichigo behind her, looking well rested, was making strangling gestures behind her back at my neck. “I didn’t buy it…”
Aiko hissed. “No, you just arranged for it. Sister…” Ichigo took the other side of the table.
“She’s right.” Ichigo’s expression was stern. “We’ll talk later.”
I wiped my breakfast, which I had made, off my face. Aiko had grabbed a box of cereal, while Ichigo looked around. “... We’ll see.”
“No, we will.” Ichigo’s voice was unyielding. “And on this, don’t push it. We both know what can happen. Look, Minx. I want to be driven nuts by your stunts for a long time.”
I couldn’t respond to that, while Ichigo kept looking around.
“Okay, minx. Where’s breakfast? Staff?” Ichigo finally broke down and asked.
“I gave them the day off, so they could figure out if they wanted to move onto the dropship…” I shrugged. Kelia just rolled her eyes, and moved to the galley.
“I got it. I have a feeling that I don’t want to hear the screaming match.” She sashayed out, still looking tired, but satisfied, and even more relaxed now that she wasn’t part of yet another family spat.
Ichigo sipped from a coffee cup put in front of him by Aiko. A long moment as my two siblings simply stared at me. Finally, Ichigo spoke. “We have too much to do, but I’m beginning to think getting you, and Aiko…” He turned to look at Aiko who shook her head no at the implied question. “Off planet for a while might be smart. Seriously. Melange?” He paused. “I could actually understand Brace. Even Can-do. Maybe. Booze? Eh. Some stims, sure. But mixing Melange on top of those others?” He paused, nodded once. “I know I can’t say much about drug use or drinking, but I do the first under orders, and only when there is serious need.”
A brief on Melange reads, unpredictable, especially when mixed with others. Oddly enough Brace had a tendency, if you kept both drugs small doses to mellow out Can-do’s crash. But… Ichigo was absolutely right to be pissed about Melange. Named after the critical drug of an early spaceflight sci fi series, Melange’s effects were as noted, unpredictable, with the gamut ranging from mental acumen improving, nothing, a mellow feeling, a disassociation with reality, mild to severe hallucinations, and supposedly, in rare cases, when mixed with other drugs, psychic visions, though no one really had proof of such. Or so people said, but… people kept trying. The effects got more dangerous and random when you mixed it with other drugs, with the LD-50 dropping severely. Brace was just a relaxant, reducing tensions and stress, and Can-Do was a sensory enhancement drug, both semi legal, and fairly safe in moderation.
I thought for a moment. As much as part of me wanted to lay into Ichigo, the fact there were no bodies from the New Year’s Eve party was a near miracle. “Okay. You’re right. In my defense, when Sasha.” A director we all knew, Sasha From was someone who always couldn’t quite make it big, but had constantly worked, doing just enough to keep in studio’s books by low profit, but still profitable films and shows, overall. It also helped that he threw awesome parties and got talent, aka actresses and actors to help hustle the money men. Recently though, he had started to lose his touch in directing, as he grew older, simply because his charming routine combined with his looks no longer worked on young women. Price of partying too often. “Brought it out, we were all two-thirds of the way to blasted out of our minds on Firewine.”
Ichigo’s eyes narrowed. Aiko groaned. “Sasha’s slime.” She threw up her hands, barely keeping the spoon she had from flying off. “Seriously, why invite him? You don’t need him, you don’t have to deal with him. I swear, every time I see him, I want to take a shower. Slimy!”
Ichigo sighed. “He’s useful. He’s got all the ears.” Shrugging. “Though I agree. He’s not to be at parties, and given that Brace and Melange are on several lists, I’ll see if I can get him busted. Melange especially. That one will get him twenty years on Jessup, if nothing else. And you better not have been touching or arranging for it, sister.”
I shook my head no, rapidly. He was right, too about the legal consequences of the drug. Melange remained trafficked, even with it’s high unpredictability, and high risks, because while as noted above, there was no proof of ‘contacting the universe’, there was enough hearsay, to make desperate people or those already on the other side of sane take it, for a change in lifestyle, or answers to questions they had. Or the lure of powers. Whichever. Given that resulted in, an agonizing death a day from the drug as parts of brains rewrote themselves, the Avalon City police were zero tolerance on it.
“No, I won’t deal it, and I can’t honestly remember why I thought it was a good idea. Really.” I shuddered.
“Uh-huh.” Ichigo sighed. “First, and I will personally make sure of this, Sasha is a dead man. Or at the very least, doing twenty as a miner. Second, I’m seriously considering monitoring you closely.”
I started to rise, heated words coming to my lips, then I sat back down. As much as I wanted to, oh, how I wanted to… one thing we all agreed on was to look after each other as much as we could, and protect each other. I didn’t need a minder… but Melange? Mixing that with all the others? “Fine.” I bit. It wasn’t that Ichigo was being a hypocritical son of a bitch, it was he was genuinely concerned. While we had all been lucky not to see anyone die from it, we knew of several who in the entertainment industry tried to use it for the next great hit, only to become a drooling mess, or even die.
Ichigo narrowed his eyes again, then nodded. “Good. I think you’ve realized how insane you were.”
Aiko rolled her eyes and hit him on the shoulder. “Put it aside. I wanna hear about this dream.”
Ichigo turned and looked betrayed at his baby sister. “Aiko…”
“Hey, there’s a reason why even with the severe penalties of law, people still take it.”
She shrugged. “Even though I agree with you, that Sis had chugged too much ethanol, and poured her brains out of her ears…” Aiko paused, and I saw the worry on her face. “And I know what melange can do. That’s…” She pauses. After a moment she nods once. “Really weird chemical structure on top of a reputation for other things… and seriously, worm farts? What was the universe on when it came up with that?”
Kelia walked in. “Melange? Who knows. Though I’ll bet you all who thought it was a good idea. What possessed you to invite Sasha? Man’s last two films have bombed, and people have been steering sweet young talent away from him, recently. He needs a hit or two, and willing people to star in it.”
Watching as she put a plate in front of Ichigo and an empty seat, I thought about it. “Actually… “ I sighed. “I didn’t have the heart to kick him out. He slipped in with Zinaida and had brought a couple bottles with him, so… we all took pity on him.”
“I hope that’s over with.” Kelia took a bite of her eggs. “No proof, but I’m pretty sure he was the one to ah… enhance what I took.” Kelia never really talked to others about exactly that night, but rumors were rumors. “And well.”
Aiko nodded. “Yeah, the paparazzi have been linking him to some shady deals.” She shot me a look. “Which is likely how they decided to dig into your life.”
I shook my head. “Moot point. I agree. I had to be stoned out of my mind to even consider the idea.” I shot Ichigo who was smirking, a look. “And I don’t need a minder to remind me of that.”
Ichigo didn’t look impressed by the look, and just shook his head. “We’ll see. Hmm… possible angle to get out of a lot of this, dump it all on Sasha’s head. Guy was an ass anyways.”
Kelia and I had to snicker at that. Aiko looked, as she finished her cereal, her blue eyes narrowing.
“Okay, enough stalling. If nothing else, I wanna know these dreams. If repeating them and they’re as freaky as some are, it’ll only help you to remember.” She grinned. “Plus you tell and write decent stories!”
I rolled my eyes. Taking a deep breath, I started. “Well. It’s pretty much this: I dreamed of a life lived in a universe, oh, around the twentieth century on Terra, where we were living in a game. As in, someone created the game, wrote lore for it, and that’s where we are.”
Ichigo snorted. “That’s about as fantastic as the rumors around Mechwarriors who can appear invisible with their mechs or …” He paused, and I picked up.
“Prince Ian’s last fight?” Ichigo went still. After a minute, he blew out a breath and added. “I’d ask how you know, but you could…” He stopped at my raised hand. Aiko’s eyes narrowed.
“It’s not impossible, I guess… “ She shrugged. “I mean there’s been always strange things, Jonathan Cameron, rumors of mechwarriors able to make their mechs invisible, people not really knowing why they did something, just a hunch…” Aiko pondered. “And let’s be honest, quantum theory demands alternate realities, it’s direct in the KF equations.”
I nodded, while Ichigo looked a bit conflicted. Kelia snorted.
“Oh, please. It’s a drug dream, you all can’t be taking it seriously.” Kelia just shook her head. “It’s bad science fiction.”
Ichigo looked at the ceiling of the dining area. “It’s not that I’m taking it as gospel, it’s that I’m aware enough that to know truth is stranger than fiction.”
“Would you say some of New Kyoto or Ozawa’s anime is bad martial arts?” Aiko shot.
Kelia snorted. “Of course, hell, the Street Fighter series is proof of that. Ki? Please.”
Three snickers responded to her derisions. I was able to beat the other two. “While not true, the ability to use life force to do things… exists.”
“Ha. No way.” She shook her head. “The Kuritans would have used it against us by now.”
“They do.” Ichigo was quiet. “While, yes, ki blasts, all that stuff is beyond reality, the ability to use your own internal energy to enhance your personal fighting, stealth, even appear more attractive or personable exists.” Kelia’s head whipped around to stare at Ichigo, only to whip around to Aiko.
“Or you thought Kikyo’s popularity when fans meet her was just due to how good she is at presenting a nice personality?” An arched eyebrow from Aiko indicated how little Kelia should believe it.
I shook my head, glaring at Aiko. “It’s not that bad, but yes, basically you can enhance what you already have. But not to too far beyond human norm, so…” I shrug. “Most people just assume it’s in variance, since not only do you need specific training for it, the ability to use it is fairly rare and people generally assume easily.”
“Then why isn’t it in heavy use?” Kelia shot back.
“Because it’s really only good for martial arts, personal appearances, espionage, assassinations. Generally, it enhances, not makes you a god.” Ichigo shrugs. “Which is why I thought those myths were possibly some unique ki ability.” At Kelia’s incredulous look, he grinned and his hand began to glow with an incredibly faint warm black light to my eyes, but not Kelia’s, that he rubbed on her shoulder, to her leaping back.
“What the…” She turned to Aiko who shook her head.
“Not unlocked mine yet.” Aiko shrugged and Kelia turned to look at me, and I responded with my own aura. Normally a soft red and gold, hints of blue are now visible to those sensitive to ki. If Kelia wasn’t explicitly looking for what the aura did, she’d have missed it.
Blowing out a breath, I let the tiredness show. “Doing that takes energy.”
Kelia simply looked at us. “You felt more ‘here’.” She paused. “More attractive, more friendly… and that thing with Ichigo’s hand? Yow… I thought I was going to be burned.” Ichigo nodded shortly.
“Yep. It’s almost always subtle. Which is why I’m only thinking the ghost stories are a possibility. Quite possibly some stealth Lostech, too, never discount the easiest explanation.”
I narrowed my eyes, and then shook my head. “I doubt ki, Annoyance. I’d dread the amount of training or ability needed to make a ‘Mech invisible, much less an Archer.”
Kelia blew out a breath. “So, basically, you three aren’t discounting the possibility.”
“Anything’s possible.” Ichigo shrugged. “It’d help if there was some easy to prove factoids you got from this lore… but there’s enough undreamed of under the heavens...” He trailed off. Nodding once. “And your ki color is off, too. You shouldn't have? blue. And your gold tints are stronger.”
“What color?” Kelia looked lost.
“Battle aura.” Aiko snorted. “Ki potentials and adepts can see it, those without, can’t. Answers that question about you.”
I snickered. “That it does, you don’t have it.” I shrugged. “Think of it if it’d help as an extra muscle or knack, nothing more. Just like you’re very good at projecting a role, or Aiko with anything scientific.”
Kelia blew out a breath. “I’d say you’re pulling special effects, but I watched Ichigo get dressed, no way he could put on sheer gloves and a heater without me seeing. Okay. Let’s assume it’s possible. Melange is weird anyways, and has really weird effects on occasion.” She took a deep breath. “Is there anything as Ichigo said that is easy to prove or disprove? I mean, only reason even with your little stunts, I’m taking this seriously, is myths and legends have some truths.” We all nodded at that.
I shook my head. “Said person was a decent fan of the game, though rants about our technology were amusing.” I tapped my chin. “And haunting bulletin boards where fanworks were performed…” Ichigo nodded.
Aiko grounded, and banged her head. “Oh, gods, so many ‘interpretations’.” Kelia joined her in wincing.
“So… you have to sort through. Any easy ones?” Ichigo raised an eyebrow.
“Epsilon Eridani.” Three blank stares.
I grinned at their look. “Supposedly, when one of the cities was leveled during the First Succession War… a… “ I narrowed my eyes, thinking. Trying to pull a memory and was successful. “Madison, their capital before and after the Coup, not only had a Star League Mint, but a depot for the Defense Force. And there’s another one in the Shamus Mountains with a Colossus, that’s the only hard detail that’s ah, easy to prove and from ‘official’ canon of the game.”
I shrugged. “Names, and rest from ‘fanworks’ I’ve already started. Apparently the dream guy had a habit of making basic plans for every situation.”
Aiko snorted. “Sounds like an officer of a competent military.” Ichigo nodded.
Kelia’s head titled. “He, as in a guy? Ouch. THat must have been fun.”
“Eh… past lives.” Kelia shook her head.
“You buddhists. Tsk.” She grinned to remove the sting. “But nothing on the Depot in Madison?”
I shook my head. “No specific details, but implications of a semi or fully automated repair/refurbishment center.”
Ichigo narrowed his eyes. “That’s your easy?” He looked up.
I sighed. “It’s proof at least in concept, if not there, then the lore was just that, fiction. If there, or some of the names I started searches on are here…”
Ichigo nodded. “Then it’s worth investigating more. Otherwise…”
Aiko opened her mouth, then closed it for a moment. “And you have a shake and bake, add people merc unit. … this is sounding like bad fiction.”
I snickered, but Kelia blinked. “Yes… that does actually make things… interesting. God.. or to you heathens, the Universe does not do conidicendes.” Several nods with that.
Ichigo shrugged. “Then you give everything you know or dreamed to MIIO, and we’re golden.” He grinned. “Hell, you might get a planet of your very own to turn into a sin palace, to compete with Hardcore!” His smile took the sting out of it.
“No, before that, and even before the Colossus recovery, there’s some things we can do.”
“Any expert on Combine culture, has to know Helm’s got the cache.” I looked at Ichigo, who nodded softly.
“Yes, the Coordinator himself wouldn’t have gone himself, unless he reasonably expected it to be there, and it explains the temper tantrum he threw. Face.” He rolled his eyes and his tone came out disgusted. The Imperial Japanese wannabes of the Draconis Combine had been some of the worst offenders of the conga train of planetary destruction that took part in the First and Second Succession wars over the empty throne of the Star League. While Kentarus, a world where they replicated the Imperial Japanese Army’s Rape of Nanking, but on a planetary scale to the tune of eighty-five million bayoneted, beheaded, tortured to death, and all that, was a ‘high’ point of their genocidal activities, Helm got the Draconis Combine’s touch as well, just from orbital fire, nukes and impersonal slaughter.
My face was impassive, at his last words. However, I didn’t let the disgust I felt, stronger than normal at genocidal Snakes, show in my voice. “What the memories did show is the cache would be found in 3028, and how it was found.” I paused, and grinned. “And where, and how to get in. Which if we can verify the geology that the novel described, fairly unique…”
Ichigo blinked. Kelia blinked. Aiko grinned.
“Not proof, but…” Ichigo interrupted her.
“Underground river, dammed up, near Freeport, I’d have to fully write it down, and do some sketches, plus ask a planetary surveyor or geologist.”
“And we know some!” Aiko cheered. “Anything else?”
“Yep. And you can help, Ichigo.” His eyebrows rose.
“Oh?” A wealth of meaning there.
“Ask MIIO for some trivia on Helm, like what the senior nobility for the planet got as regalia, as part of Castle Helmfast.” Ichigo’s eyebrow rose at that, and I answered his question. “Key item is a data chip. It’s not only important as some info is on it, maps, precisely, but acts as a key to the hidden depot. Don’t use it and try to force the doors… boom. No idea why the belt and pistol are part of it.” I shrugged.
Ichigo nodded. “I don’t recall those specifics on the Helm landhold, so I doubt you’d have any reason to know them. MIIO should, and shouldn’t be that classified. As for confirming that the SLDF used an underground cavern system carved out by a river, we’d just need some maps, and a surveyor who’s good at that type of analysis to look at.”
“Doesn’t solve the problem of getting it.” Kelia shrugged. “I mean, raiding…”
I grinned. “And that we won’t be doing.”
“Huh?” “What?” “You have to be kidding me…” Kelia was the last to speak, a bit bemused.
“Oh, think about this. I own the merc unit, am an actress who’s written some ah… fiction.”
“Uh-huh…” Aiko was the first to verbalize the ‘What the hell are you thinking’ implication, but they were all thinking.
I looked at Kelia. “How much you want to bet the FWLM would swallow an actress wanting to do a movie about Helm’s hammering by the snakes, considering said actress is from the Suns, and is willing to hang around the region for five years while doing it?”
Ichigo blinked. Aiko blinked. Kelia paused. Paused some more. “Got a role for me, I hope…” I nodded at that. “Could work, yes.” Kelia thought about it some more. “And I’m sure that they’d not get the idea we’re actually cache hunting…”
“We?” Ichigo and Aiko chorused.
“If you think I would believe you’d let Kiki wander off to do this insanity alone, you’re crazy. And getting away from New Avalon wouldn’t be a bad idea for her or me.” She shrugged. “If nothing else, I could while not filming either do PIO work, or if nothing else, act as a maid… what’s the military term for that?”
“Steward.” Ichigo stated. “Yeah, that’d work. Though Aiko has NAIS, I have the Guards.” He looked at the room. “But… This might work. IF we have some proof before the long haul.” Nodding once. “Kelia, I don’t think I need to tell you not to tell anyone under the Sword’s rules.”
She shook her head. “Well, then we need to meet with the people coming… about 1700 zulu, and then decide and see what we have to work with.” I tamped down irritation at Ichigo’s assuming command, but he was used to it, and the fact is, I’d have to lean on him to make this work.
“I have a tech coming by to fire Bun Bun up, I think it’d make a bigger and better impression on the people if I could show them I could at least walk a mech.” I tapped my lips. “Couldn’t hurt.”
Ichigo shook his head. “No, it couldn’t. Right, We have…” He looked at a big watch on his left wrist and nodded. “Six hours. Let’s get what we need done before we have to go meet them.” Pausing a moment, he nodded once, and in Japanese spoke into Aiko’s ears. <”Make sure Kelia doesn’t go anywhere else.”> With hearing that I realized what I had done. My previous self here trusted Kelia. My other previous self had known better, but hadn’t twigged to the danger, lulled by the trust. I winced, subtle enough that only Ichigo picked up on it, and as he stood up, he winked and nodded. “See you all in a bit.” With that, he strode out, followed by Kelia who had indicated she was going to take a nap until then.
“Before you even think about trying to lecture me about staying in NAIS, I’ll remind you I can study and take the tests remotely or via challenge.” She sniffed. “Or take a few years off, come back, and then finish my degree.” She shook her head. “I want to be part of this… think of the things we can find…” She grew starry eyed, then shook herself back to reality. “And if it’s false, well, it’s only a semester. Not a big deal.”
I didn’t have a response. Part of me was very much aware this was risky, but that’d not bother Aiko, the other part of me realized leaving her behind was almost, no, maybe more risky. Putting aside national states, there were many players behind the scenes that could and would not only threaten Aiko but either kill her or worse, kidnap her to get to me and what I held.
“We’ll see.” I finally said. Aiko stood up and walked out, shooting a look that I had no problems translating as ‘No, we won’t. ’
Battlemechs. The disputed kings of Battle. Well, depending who you talked to. Any serious professional who studied history, knew that the Artillery was still king, just not often brought to the battlefield. The reason for the Battletech game, in fact. Basic concept? Big Giant Stompy robots that can level city blocks in a short amount of time. Piloted by one person, who became the knights of the setting. Pretty much the whole thing.
Now, being in a ‘real’ world that ran close to what those, in universes where they didn’t exist, would consider ‘real physics’, how did they work? The fundamental issue with combat Mecha was ground pressure, which this universe’s designers had solved earlier on. It’s called oversized feet, in relation to their height, and in primus, Battlemechs weren’t much more, and in several cases placing less pressure than your average human, on the ground, and we put some serious pressure on the ground.
The other issue, is how did they become kings of the battlefield? They’re tall, they’re visible, they’re costly, they’re ultra high tech. Even with Battletech’s technology favoring mostly non hanger queen and endurance designs, Battlemechs shouldn’t have taken over the premier shock role from tanks, or so ‘realists’ argue. But they did.
Because for all their flaws, all their cost, they had several edges that couldn’t be countered. Far more terrain independent than tanks, more nimble than tanks, and more importantly, even the lightest tanks in terms of crew couldn’t match the training years of a Mechwarrior. (In essence, the twenty and twenty-five ton two-man tanks needed four man-years for a crew to be trained, a Battlemech pilot, aka Mechwarrior, needed two to three. This only got more divergent with heavier tanks. )
All things equal, when you factor in interstellar lift, crew training needs, and their terrain ability, Battlemechs actually make sense as a supplement for tanks. Add in the glamour of being knights in their armor?
Yeah. What a lot of people who played the game and talked about how unlike ‘reality’, didn’t get, was it made sense. You in space lift, have to carry the most effective assets you can, that can do the most. Add in crew training and crew lift costs? Battlemechs’ superiority on the battlefield was more the nature of war. The Hollywood effect was just bonus. I’ll admit in universe people took the hollywood effect too far, at times, but in reality, there were sound reasons. And I lived in a realm where they weren’t completely worshipped.
All this flashed through my head as I stared at the white and grey Battlemech with long shoulders, forward cockpit, and armored fists in front of me. An Archer, at seventy tons, was the premier fire support design. Armed with generally forty long ranged missiles per salvo, and backup weapons, Archers filled the role of direct distance fire and short ranged artillery on the battlefields, and often were used as commander’s rides. In fact, one senior commander of the time, the famous mercenary Jamie Wolf, used an Archer as his command vehicle. Another who was about to become famous, Morgan Kell also used an Archer.
As I looked at Debora Hickey, a just mustered out AFFS mech tech, as well as a (slightly younger than I) former child actress, swarm down from Bun Bun’s cockpit, I pondered the amusement of the universe. Battlemechs, by and large ran hot.
It’s not an understatement to say that some battlemechs ran hot enough to vaporize the sweat off their mechwarrior’s body as they fought, though at that point they almost always shut down. To combat that, mechwarriors had cooling systems they wore, really glorified nouveau freon piping and similar to keep the heat from literally boiling the mechwarrior.
At first, and since the fall of technology cooling suits are in essence vests over the chest, and piping in a giant bulky neurohelmet, the item that allows mechwarriors to really pilot their mechs, connected to the Battlemech’s own cooling system.
However, the Star League had better. Much better. Instead of just a vest worn with as little, in fact one fiction set in the game’s universe had a female mechwarrior of this general period remove her vest and reveal the only thing she was wearing was her panties… Men were no more dressed either, so don’t think it’s pure sexism, just read above about Battlemechs and cockpit heat.
The suit that had come with Bun Bun from my paternal grandparents, was a Star League cooling suit of the Civil War era. Not only did it have the tubing vest, but it had tubes covering the thighs and several other areas to help reduce the heat load on the Mechwarrior. The tubes were smaller, a bit more flexible, connected to a smaller helm, made out of material that transmitted temperature better, and last but not least, linked to pumps carried on the belt, as well as an extra heat exchanger so the suit itself did some of the work. And it allowed a reasonable skintight outfit to be worn under it, of some heat conductivity.
Only problem is, I knew I was hot, so… I had to be amused. The suit I had would do a better job, and keep me warm OUTSIDE the mech, but the cheesecake factor of the current cooling models, I was ideal for. Upside, the suit, while still scaled for a 5’4” ish woman, was skintight, and had mesh arms, so some more tasteful cheesecake was still possible. As proven by the skintight catsuit I was currently wearing, in a tasteful black.
“Oi, Kiki.” A voice broke into my amusement, as Debora eyed me. “Bun Bun’s ready for initial calibration, which stuns me you haven’t done it before. Plus security.” She hissed the last, stunned that I hadn’t done that.
“Right.” I replied, looking at the sandy haired grease stained young woman. I felt Ichigo step to my side, with Kelia studying the hanger near Xanadu where Bun Bun stood proud a few feet away. “Status?”
“Good for a couple of months of full use on hydrogen, weapons passed basic in hanger check, all electronics and reactor did too, though the acid test is firing them. Ammo state is zero, no LRMS for the launchers. And may I say that’s the best computer system in a mech I’ve worked with?” I raised my eyebrow at her. “Responsive as hell, plus whoever put him to bed did a good job. Also some oddities. You really need a senior tech to take a look at this, and tell you some differences, this guy’s hardware is good, Kiki.”
Ichigo’s voice sounded a bit bemused. “How so, Deb? It’s an Archer.”
“Yes, built in 2764, last log entry 2783, kept sealed and quiet until now, and a SLDF serial number, Ichi.” She shrugged. “Even if Bun Bun wasn’t royal, he’s still a late era SLDF Mech, which means a lot of nifty electronics we can’t build.”
I broke in. “Are you saying my grandparents, sent me a Royal?” Royal mechs were the most advanced, most high tech mechs ever produced to Inner sphere knowledge. Filled with all the toys possible, they increased combat capability by an easy fifty percent per ton, generally over the pitiful number of new mechs built now.
“Maybe. If it’s a 2Rb, it’s missing Artemis, though given that it seems to have room for an extra ton of ammo, as well as the Machine gun next to it’s right med, makes sense. It’s most certainly got freezers and Endo steel, which means double strength heat sinks, and a lighter frame…” She trailed off, then nodded once, picking up the train of thought. “So, given that and it’s computer systems? Yeah, it’s a Royal.”
I stared. Ichigo just facepalmed while Aiko snickered. Finally I just shook my head. “That does explain where the cooling suit came from.”
“Which you need a tailor who can work with it for, not me. I can uncrate a mech, sure, with the toys you have to repair stuff? Easy. Modify that suit?” The sandy haired tech snickered. “Not. Even if I wanted to get my hands all over your hot little bod.. Can’t do it.”
I winked at her, showing off a bit but nodded. “But for just walking…”
“Bun Bun would be nice and chill with just stretching his legs, Kiki.” Deb snickered. “Hell, even firing all his piss off weapons would not make him run hot. But still, better get that done if you’re going to do more than just walk him. Which would be a huge shame.” She nodded. “I get the sense he’s in the mood to kill some things.”
I rolled my eyes. “And I’m the Japanese girl who’s supposed to believe in kami, Deb, not you.”
She shrugged. “My view, m’kay, shorty?” She was taller than me, but still, calling me short was a bit of an annoyance.
“Right.” Ichigo finally broke in. “We have about 2 hours left, so get in there, and start calibration.” His head shake indicated he just didn’t want to deal with anything but the impending situation.
Walking over to the raisable platform, I nodded at Debora, who pressed a button and
the lift rose to the top of the cockpit, where the hatch was open and waiting. Boarding mechs was idiosyncratic to each mech, and the Archer’s hatch was on the top of the cockpit, and we were now level with the opening. A part of the gantry was extending to let a person walk out to the waiting mech.
“Well.” Debora stated. “Get in, the gantry’s extended and you drop into it.” She tilted her head and smiled. “I’ll stay out here, you put this cord into where I’ve marked.” With that, she handed me a cord.
“Got it.” Walking to the edge of the gantry, I simply stepped off, half spinning and catching the gantry’s lip to keep from squishing, instead of using the rope ladder that had come attached to the portable gantry lift. Using the grip I had gotten, to slow down my descent, I released and fell the remaining few meters into the cockpit, bending slightly to absorb the shock.
A faint shout from twelve meters below indicated what the onlookers thought. “Showoff!” in a female tone indicated that Aiko was watching, as I truly entered the battlemech.
Looking around the cockpit, I found Debora’s sticky note, and put the cord in. After a moment, the speakers crackled. “Right, Kiki. First, I’ve already done and put in your baseline from 5 years ago, that’ll help as it compares the current and previous patterns. Second, there’s another sticky note where you plug in that datachip I had you make. Put it in.”
I nodded. Debora was insistent I put the security vocal cues and responses in privately, or with no one that I didn’t trust implicitly in the room. I had done so, with Aiko helping, and now, Debora was uploading the ones I had done.
“Two … ah. One for powering up and sensors on, one for weapons free and movement free. Nice. Good check.” Pausing a moment, then her voice, satisfied continued.. “Right, go ahead and fire up, I can’t hear you since I disabled the mech, and once it’s verified to work, the chip will be erased.”
Flipping the master Start switch, a contralto voice spoke. “What is required for evil to triumph?”
“For good men to stand by.”
“Master start activated. Reactor Online, Systems Check. Warning, Machine gun is out of ammunition, Warning, No LRM Ammunition in Magazine 1, Warning, No LRM Ammunition in Magazine 2.” Lights began to turn from red to yellow to green in various spots, though a selection of lights remained red, the gyro and limb actuator status lights as well as the weapon status lights.
“I do not stand idly by.”
“Sensors online, All movement Systems online. All weapons Online. Warning. No LRM ammunition. Warning. No Machine Gun Ammunition, Warning. Pilot is not wearing a neurohelmet. Warning. No full synchronicity with Pilot Ferret has been determined.”
I stared at that. Making a mental note to stab Debora somewhere soft, after asking where did she hear of Sluggy Freelance, since it was after all the divergent dates, I put the neurohelmet on my lap, thrilling in the hum of the reactor behind me, the sense of power that Bun Bun possessed, even half disarmed. I began to understand dimly what Mechwarriors really felt.
Shaking the thought loose, I started to go through the mental checklist I had memorized, but before I could even finish a tenth of it, a voice broke in. Debora again. “Right, now that almost all’s green, I can hear you. First, we’re going to put on the neurohelmet. You know it’s the most important bit.”
I gathered my hair, and took off a hairband from my wrist. Putting it into a ponytail, I let my hands expertly wind it into a bun, which I used a pin out of my vest pocket to secure. Having done that, I put on what made Battlemechs truly possible as weapons of war.
The neurohelmet. This, over the programming and sensors and automation built into Battlemechs, made the war machines possible. At it’s basic, it was a EKG reader, able to translate the neurons firing into something the computer understood. This allowed for various activities, such as the computers knowing the pilot really wanted to step just a little bit, when the controls couldn’t parse it, how much to grip with hands or when to override the very conservative movement programs, so a Battlemech could actually dance, if the pilot was good enough. I wasn’t.
Current versions were the size of giant buckets, and rested on people’s shoulders, and could only do the most basic, while smaller versions, more oversized motorcycle like, or even more compact had existed, none were being made. As with my cooling suit, Bun Bun came with one of the best ever made. Not only could it read more types of thoughts, it did it better, and could allow computers not set to track multiple targets track them.
Even better, both compact versions could transmit information to the pilot. Very basic information (usually where you were hit), but the more advanced could give nudges on what the pilot should be paying attention.
The downside of course, was a fairly complex process of calibration to the neurohelmet as well as to the Battlemech. Baselines could be done, and I had had one, but even then a fair bit of time was needed to make the Battlemech and it’s pilot understand each other.
“Right. Beginning comparison map. Think of walking.” A pair of lights had gone red, as well as several other lights have gone yellow, indicating a helm mismatch.
“Doing so.” I responded.
“Think of swinging your arms.” Debora ran through several dozen more matches, then finished sourly “Good news, you’re fine to go with Neurohelmets. Bad news is, whoever did your calibration before fucked it. Barely 75% match on baseline.”
I wasn’t going to tell her what happened, I realized how insane that’d be, but I had a better guess on what caused the conflict. Putting that aside… “So…”
“Now we spend the next hour and a half getting some of the stuff out of the way. Let’s have you take your hands off the controls, if not already, and I’m going to run you through a checklist of what you need to think. It’s going to take a while, sadly, then you’re going to have to do more!” The Tech answered with a bit of sadism. “Let’s get this started.”
Sighing, I spent the next hour and a half doing what she said, which involved mostly answering questions, thinking about certain movements, twitching certain body parts and on and on.
As Debora stopped, I sourly spoke, a bit sweaty, already having unzipped my front to my waistline. “I thought you said Bun Bun would be cool.”
“For a battlemech he is. You’re the idiot who thought putting on a skintight non mesh bodysuit was a good idea.” Debora’s voice shot back.
“I’m going to stab you somewhere soft. And where did you learn about Sluggy Freelance?”
“Dad. He’s a fan of late 20th century newspaper comic strips.” She replied. “So, Ferret-girl, with these reads, Bun Bun won’t stab you if you move him, though I’d avoid fighting him yet. And don’t try anything too fancy. Walking at most.” She paused. “And we need to get this done, so… block time. But given the glare below, I want the cable back, and I’ll let Ichigo get up here.” Punching the release for the cable, I sat back and waited. Her face shortly appeared at the cockpit canopy, as the gantry lowered down. She was cheerfully waving pixie sticks at me.
“I will get her, somehow…” I muttered. Pulling out the booklet I had put in my valley, I opened it to the pages of cockpit lights, and started double checking what each light meant. While Battlemechs had vocal systems to inform pilots, and some, like Bun Bun tried to tell their pilots things via the neurohelmet, backups such as display lights, HUDs, and other MFD existed for helping the pilot keep an eye on various aspects of his or her mech. Managing these systems was nearly half the training involved with piloting a mech.
Shortly a thump was heard, and I turned around to look behind me. The rope ladder I had seen earlier, was in the cockpit, and Aiko was scrambling down it, and as she stepped aside, Ichigo and then Kelia followed. I felt very crowded, even as the three got very well acquainted as they squished together.
Given the size of cockpits for Battlemechs, one additional person besides the pilot could fit in, two more were pushing it, and three over the pilot was a very tight fit, even after adjusting the seat and pedals to fit my very small size, at least for Battlemech pilots.
“It warms my heart to see my friends and family growing closer.” I remarked a bit sardonically. “But I do have to wonder why you all are here.”
Ichigo rolled his eyes. “I’m here to get you to the dropship pads where your fleet is landing, Aiko because she’s curious, and Kelia… not sure.”
“Better than being tied up by Aiko and kept in Xanadu.” The named woman shot back. “I gathered you don’t quite trust me.”
Aiko shot back from where she was squished, a bit out of breath. “Would… off, get elbow out of my chest, Kelia! You, in our ow! Shoes?” She finally got settled where she would not be squished and having sharp joints put into her body. “Seriously.”
Kelia just smiled. “Of course not, I could write that script myself.”
“Ha, ha.” Ichigo snorted. “And where did you learn to tie up people, Aiko?”
“Hojojutsu, got into Mom’s books.” I suspect Ichigo and Kelia felt Aiko’s shrug.
I shot back. “And who did you practice with?” I said quietly, full of menace.
I felt a grin on my back. “No one, which is why I’m not happy with Kelia.” Aiko chirped at me.
“Okay, you three.” Kelia interrupted a bit bemused. “Hojojutsu?”
Ichigo rolled his eyes. “Art of tying prisoners up, basically.”
“Uh-huh. And Kiki didn’t get a bit lethal when she asked who Aiko practiced with. Full story.” Kelia’s tone was amused.
I shot back as I watched the gantry roll away, and Debora hop out to a waiting truck, where a flag had been taped to the roll bar. :”Ichigo isn’t telling the whole story. It has a devolved art, called Shibari.”
“Oh…” Kelia’s tone indicated she understood. “Did Ichigo study that book? And does he need a sparring partner?”
A moment of quiet was in the cockpit, finally broken by Aiko. “Do not want to know. Do not want to hear. Do not need to know.”
Ichigo’s voice was amused. “I’ll be buying you dinner tonight. Justice is served.”
“Why thank you.”
I cut in. “We’re about to move. Hold on.” I put my feet into the pedals, and my hands on the joysticks. As Debora pulled the truck to a lead position, I waved the left hand of Bun Bun, which she understood as ‘ready’. With that, she puttered the truck forward, guiding Bun Bun out into the open. I grinned as I hit the pedals, and Bun Bun’s onboard autopilots took over. “Let’s go!” I sang softly, thrilling to Bun Buns barely restrained power as he strode into the sunlight, smooth as silk.
End Chapter 1
1: RCT, aka Regimental Combat Team. Nine to ten regiments of combat units, one of which was almost always a Battlemech regiment (120 or so battlemechs) or equivalent in unit size to a Star League division. Fills the same basic role as a corps did in previous wars. Ryanne isn’t kidding in this period of Battletech history, an RCT can and often did take a planet.