With a lever big enough I can move the world (Chapter 2)
A Battletech FanFiction
With a lever big enough I can move the world
Andrew “MageOhki” Norris
See Chapter 1 for disclaimers and other information
Find your footing.
When dealing with those who are powerful, sly and cunning, much less rulers of interstellar policies of great size, be bold, is not always a good strategy. But the timid don’t win.
Bluffing and lying work, but sooner or later, your bluffs will be called, and your lies will be exposed. Be prepared to cover them. Better yet, only do it when you have to… and still have a plan B.
There are three things you can always trust to screw you over. A person’s greed, a mule’s stubbornness, and your own inability to recognize when you’re over your head.
Be careful with trusting people, even family. Even if they have loyalty to you, a question you must ask is… who else are they loyal to?
Letting anyone into your heart is a risk, you might get it broken. But being alone is so much worse.
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.
New Avalon Capital Spaceport, Morning, January 2nd, 3015
As we strode out of the warehouse that was an impromptu hanger, I listened to the chatter of my passengers.
“Huh. Much better than the last time I rode with you.” Kelia muttered. “These mechs are something else.”
Ichigo was paying attention to what I was doing. “She’s using mostly automated programs, and pretty much letting Bun Bun’s computers do the work. Smart.”
I rolled my eyes, as we stepped out into the sunlight, and Debora quickly veered to the side. “Where are we going.”
“Loaded with a local waypoint map?” Ichigo asked, and got my nod, as I pulled up the map he was referring to. “Waypoint Bravo-3, Waypoint Bravo-5, Delta -3, then Echo-7. Let the computers do the work.”
Punching those in, I took my feet off the pedals, and kept light hands on the joysticks, as autopilot engaged. Even current mechs could do this safely, given the nature of a Dropship spaceport, Bun Bun just did it as if he had a veteran at the controls. I had already transmitted our course to the Ground Traffic control center. Didn’t want to get vaporized by a dropship, after all.
A Dropship port is a fairly big place, so going to where we were supposed to go took a fair bit of time. Before we could get to the last waypoint, Two Battlemechs painted in the Heavy Guards colors stepped in front of us, and a transmission rattled over my speakers.
“Halt and state your business.” The male voice was professional and to the point.
I halted Bun Bun, and before I could reach my radio’s frequency settings, Bun Bun had already set the radio to transmit on the correct frequency.
“Kikyo Onishi, to watch arrival of several dropships which are now mine.” I would have added more, but Ichigo’s hand cut me off.
“Captain Onishi here, why have the Heavy Guards been deployed?” Ichigo’s tone was curious. “The dropships were expected, after all.”
“Wait one.” Within a moment, a third mech, another Archer had stepped around the buildings, and stopped in front of us. The Archer then proceed to lean down and let a pair of uniformed soldiers climb aboard a hand, which was then raised, and the Archer stepped forward, bringing the hand to where the soldiers could look into the cockpit, as I opened the hatch.
The female of the pair was holding a video camera, and Ichigo waved at it. “Kunoichi, why are there three women in the cockpit, besides you?”
I spun my head to look at Ichigo, while Aiko did the same, mouthing ‘Kunoichi’?
“One is the owner of this mech, and the dropships arriving, my sister... The youngest is my youngest sister, Aiko, and the other is a friend, Kelia Harper.” Ichigo’s tone was a bit frosty
“Aaa, see you didn’t tell them your call sign, then. I wonder why.” The voice sounded amused. “Must be a good friend, considering…”
“Virgin, respectfully, shut up.” Ichigo shot back. “Kikyo has a right to see her property, does she not?”
The Mechwarrior call signed Virgin responded, still amused. “Ayep. What’s the loadout status?”
“Safe the lasers, and you’re good to proceed.” The voice was now more serious.
I did so, and Ichigo nodded. “Done, sir, now again, may I ask why my unit seems to be out in force?”
“Besides the fact we have enough military dropships to fully carry us and a bit more landing?” The tone was asking ‘Are you stupid?’ “Classified. Miss Onishi, your waypoints are Echo-7, Gamma-3, Hotel-5, you will be met by someone at Hotel-5.”
My smart ass mode engaged. “Understood, ah, I didn’t get your name, just your call sign… which if you want fixed is possible, you know…”
A moment of silence as several snickers were heard from other units on the net. “Major Zibler, Miss Onishi, and I’m married.”
“Aaaa. Must be a story.” I plugged in the waypoints, and nodded at the receipt. “Good to go.”
“Understood.” The three mechs stepped aside, and I let Bun Bun’s autopilot engage.
As Bun Bun strode forward at a sedate 20 kph, Aiko finally asked. “Kunoichi?” Her voice was delighted. “Wouldn’t that be Kiki’s or my nickname?”
“Callsigns aren’t flattering.” Kelia responded, still amused. “Though I’ll admit those two were epic.” Ichigo’s jaw was a bit tense.
I shot back, amused as well. “Could be worse, Ichigo could be Virgin instead.”
“That one I’ve got to hear.” Kelia nodded. Ichigo sighed.
“Can we drop it?” Three feminine eyes looked at each other.
“For now.” “Only until I want you to do something.” “Oh, I’ll be kind.”
Ichigo just shook his head. “Yuk it up. At least I’m not Zibler.”
“And how did he get that?” Kelia responded.
“Idiot on his first night partying at Albion stated he would only have sex on his wedding night. A friend of his shot back. ‘So forever a virgin you will remain!’ It stuck.” Ichigo grinned.
Aiko snickered. “And Kunoichi?”
Ichigo rolled his eyes. “Was given that because Mom was a single mother, and I’m pretty decent at being stealthy.” He paused, and nodded once. “‘So, Subaltern Onishi, what you’re saying is your family is a Kunoichi family?’”
I sighed. Aiko signed and nodded. “Not so bad, then, I guess.”
“Ayup.” Ichigo settled back a bit.
Before any of us could continue harassing the poor man, we saw a Battlemaster, with a collection of other mechs turn and look at us. Along it’s left side were two stripes running heightwise, one red, one white, while the rest of the mech’s metal was in Davion Blue, with sunbursts and swords on the Shoulders. All the mechs except my white and grey Bun Bun were in variants of that pattern, which confirmed they were the Heavy Guards.
Ichigo had stiffened, then sighed. “Well, that explains why the Heavy’s here.”
I didn’t turn to look, but I know he felt my question, and he answered it. “I’d be very unsurprised, Kiki, if that’s not the First Prince himself.”
“Oh.” I concentrated on being *very* inoffensive. “Oh. You think he’s…”
Ichigo’s shrug was felt by all of us. “Partly here to gawk, partly here to likely start sounding you out about getting all that stuff, would be my bet.”
I would have commented, but the Battlemaster had waved, then pointed at a spot next to the assault class mech. I understood what that meant.
“I’m pretty sure they radio’ed ahead.” I said dryly. “I suspect he wants to raid the henhouse early on.”
Ichigo’s look I felt through the seat.
“Hey, the family symbol is a Fox.” I shot back as I carefully and slowly moved Bun Bun next to the Battlemaster, so our shoulders would be less than a meter apart, as we overlooked the spaceport.
“Uh-huh. Pop the top so we can climb out and see.” Aiko called out, and I obliged. Shortly, the two other women were out and sitting on Bun Bun’s shoulders, having moved carefully, while Ichigo unfolded the Rumble seat to watch.
I flipped a camera to watch the Battlemaster, while the main view was on the spaceport, and Ichigo told me the channel to listen for Flight control.
Shortly, Flight control’s channel grew frantic, and we had the awe inspiring sight of dropship after dropship landing. Most impressive were the Colossi and the Mammoths, respectively the largest ever military dropship, and the largest planetary capable cargo dropship.
70 dropships. That was well beyond 2 billion Cbills in hardware, capable of transporting over a hundred and fifty thousand tons of cargo, over two Regimental Combat teams, just about, the largest formations in combat currently comprised of 9 plus regiments of front line combat troops, split among battlemechs, tanks and infantry. What was in them would easily equip at least one of the RCT’s. My displays presented which dropship was which, likely force composition, and other detailed analysis. I was totally impressed with the data flowing across the screens.
I was distracted from watching the last aerodyne shaped dropship taxi to join the rest of the flotilla, as well as the data streaming through my Heads Up Display, by the Battlemaster turning to face one of the mechs. I was irresistibly reminded of an argument going on, even though I couldn’t hear anything, it was just the body language the mechs were displaying. Shortly, the Battlemaster’s language turned satisfied, and the Victor’s was a bit rejected, but the Victor held out a hand near where I suspected the hatch was.
“Miss Onishi.” The radio crackled, and the unfamiliar male voice on it continued. “Please do not move, you have someone who wishes to talk to you.” The voice put action to words, as a man stepped onto the hand, only wearing a cooling vest, very short shorts and a pair of boots, accompanied by a pistol on his leg and a knife in his boot, stepped onto the hand.
Shortly a voice called out after the Victor had put itself in front of me, and raised the hand to the hatch. “Can I drop in?” Ichigo’s stiffening wasn’t needed to tell me who it was, though part of me was going “Shatner?”
“Of course, Your Highness.” I responded before Ichigo could.
I looked up and discovered three things. A: Hanse Davion really was a James Kirk expy. B: He also had the same bare chest thing going Kirk did. C: Kikyo really liked the look and vibe, who knew she was fond of older and more powerful males.
With a thump Hanse Davion arrived into Bun Bun’s cockpit. “Captain, Miss Onishi.”
“Sir.” “Your Highness.” He waved off our attempts to stand, and respectively salute or bow, and looked around.
“... This is not a standard Archer, a 2R, I believe, that’s in it’s documentation.” He didn’t sound accusing or threatening, just amused.
I thought for a moment, and shrugged. “Nope. Didn’t really know about it, til I fired it up.” Pausing for a moment, I grinned at the look on his face. Complete incomprension. “Couldn’t, the conservator was being… restrictive on more than just liquid assets.”
“Excuse me?” Hanse’s tone wasn’t just the polite inquiry of a gentleman, he was honestly curious to what I was implying, instead of not using a Battlemech, as his mind couldn’t wrap around anyone with one not learning all about it or using it.
“When Ichigo was assigned to the Guards, and assigned off planet, while I was emancipated, I still needed by law a conservator.” Hanse nodded, understanding, and I continued. “She was quite… strict on the limitations, and I quote, what does an actress need with a Battlemech, but no judge would sign off on selling property, so…”
“I.. see.” He turned to look at Ichigo. “And pray tell, Captain, why was this not handled?”
Ichigo shot me a look. “Sire, I was not informed, for my sister tends to believe she can do anything.”
“Ah…” Hanse leaned against the cockpit wall. “Then this should be at least less unpleasant than I hoped. I do intend to try to gain what you inherited.” He paused looking at me. “For fair value, of course, of course. While there are legal means to rend it from you, mind you, considering some of the dropships… I’d much rather not have to go through the process. Not only would it be dimly looked upon… it likely would be more expensive.”
I nodded. Squishing an internal voice that demanded certain considerations of a more intimate nature in lieu of cash, I instead asked… “Exactly what do you want?”
“The jumpship and military dropships to start, honestly. Would you like a Duchy?” Hanse smiled roguishly. “All things considered, I’m going to try very hard to make sure that Monolith doesn’t leave New Avalon without being in AFFS colours. And I am prepared to make strenuous efforts and legal at that to keep the Colossi in the same state. I’m stunned they got here, in fact”
I nodded at that. “I’m afraid some of your goals will be difficult to attain. But first I have to see what the people with them, my father’s people, now my people, want.” I shrugged. “I’m responsible for them, so…”
“I see.” Hanse leaned back and looked at me, his eyes piercing. “I do see indeed. I’m quite prepared to sweeten the dealmaking, you realize.”
“Perhaps. But, I’m not going to make any decisions til I know exactly what the people want, and what I have to work with.” I spread my hands, taking a deep breath, noting the quick flicker of Hanse’s eyes to my valley. “Even then, I do have a few plans of my own.”
Hanse’s eyes bored in. “Elaborate.” His tone brooked no disobedience.
“Well, I’ve been given a few places that might be interesting to visit…” I trailed off, letting him fill in the blanks.
“Your father was a bit of a treasure hunter, I believe, as so proven, in fact… Ah, he sent a list of places he couldn’t visit?” His question was more of a statement.
I simply smiled, letting him draw the conclusions. His eyes narrowed, finally he spoke. “I’m inclined to slightly disbelieve that, but reports did say a courier with a secure box arrived to his lawyers here, and all things considered… But details.”
“Well, some information has come to light that the Star League depots and repair centers in Epsilon Eridani aren’t as gone as we thought.” I shrugged slightly. “From what I’ve been given, there’s two worth investigating. One that might have a dropship in it, another that seems to be a major repair and refit center for the ground forces. No idea what’s in there, though I suspect a lot of automated tooling and repair bays, from what I can gather. Or at least bits of them.”
“And?” Hanse wasn’t satisfied.
“Let’s say this. I’m pretty sure, that Minoru’s decision to personally lead the looting of Helm wasn’t based on bad intel. I have some suspicions, but there’s some easily verifiable facts that'll make it fairly easy to prove if I’m on the right track. Plus, I figured out the perfect cover to loot it, and get away clean.” I smiled at that.
Hanse’s raised eyebrow was matched by Ichigo’s facepalm, but I obliged his question.
“Well, I *am* a Fedrat, and wouldn’t it be natural to make a movie about yet another Weeaboo actroity?”
Hanse’s expression was a prize. You could see him just blanking for a moment, then going “Weeaboo?”
“Wannabe Imperial Japanese maniac.” Ichigo’s voice dryly answered the question.
Hanse for a long moment was quiet. “Weeaboo. Weeaboo. I like that.” He smiled. “Almost as much as I like the idea of stealing Helm from underneath Janos, without a clue on his part.” Pausing. “But is it *worth* it to me to risk a serious bird in the hand?”
I paused for a moment. “Information on exactly what Major Keeler hid away is iffy, anywhere from a regiment to at least six regiments of mechs, plus equivalents in other areas, and spare parts, of course. Plus possibly ah… special weapons.” Hanse’s eyebrow was still cocked slightly indicating he wasn’t convinced. I sighed, finally agreeing to reveal my trump card. “Some, some information has come to light that indicates he saw where we, as in the Successor states were going, and the likely result. And he took steps to at least prevent the loss of knowledge. Not saying that he got his hands on Prometheus, but some hints are that he did his best to recreate it. But not verifiable, and it’s just a … likely suspicion”
Hanse went still. Finally, after a long moment, he thought about it. “I’ll want to see your logic on the possibility of the cache being there. I’m almost tempted to say damn the cost, and get to the cache now. Just the possibility of a put together Prometheus...” He paused again. “No, I am tempted. Explain your logic on why you think Major Keeler did so.”
“He’s an engineer. He fought the Liberation wars, and saw what happened to the Terrans, and the SLDF. He also likely studied history, and well… Doesn’t take much to draw conclusions.” I paused, “And if you’re already in a pessimistic mood…”
“I would say that’s a thin reed.” Hanse pondered. “A thin reed indeed.”
I nodded. “And our relations as I understand it with the Free World league are fairly profitable and not worth ah… disturbing over a slim possibility. And considering that we have a decent shot at getting away with the cache cleanly, without ...”
“There *is* that.” Hanse shrugged. “While our relations are generally good, as you pointed out with the Free World League, we, as in the Federated suns have occasionally undertaken raids, some recently, against them, and if I was even halfway convinced that the information you say was there, I’d go myself with your brother covering my troops.”
He carefully studied me. “As it stands, I’m not sure I believe you at all. I will think on this. I do think you’re not telling me everything, and I know you’re trying to convince me of what you want to do. The question I have, is it what you are telling me, or is it a cover up.”
I thought for a moment. “True to the first.” I paused. “On the second, I can say it’s my goal, but again…”
“Quite.” He thought for a moment, then nodded. “I can see the idea you got about Helm, given your brother’s article on it. I will want to see some more data on the location.” He paused again. “As for allowing you to acquire it in the method, I’m of two minds on it. Epsilon Eridani can be collected by *my* people, if you give the information. While part of me, truly wishes to be about this as fast and as powerfully as possible, your brother’s loyalty, and your mother’s service to the realm, has also earned you a fair bit of leeway.” My confusion at the last showed clearly.
His raised eyebrow at Ichigo and a shake of the head that answered the question. He then turned to me, and nodded once. “Your mother was Order of Five Pillars.” The Order of the Five Pillars was one of the two security services of the Draconis Combine, the most hated rival of the Federated Suns, and tied for the worst Successor state, in my view.
“She defected, blowing open a century long spy ring, plus several others, and secrets. I thought you knew.” He shrugged. “Ian offered her a barony, she turned it down.” He turned to Ichigo who wasn’t looking happy. “She has every right to know. Considering what the Order was doing, and your family line, Captain, she has to know, as it’s DMI’s view she was killed by an ISF agent.”
Ichigo’s expression was stone. “Sire. I… was trying to think on how to …”
Hanse’s raised hand cut him off. “Understandable.” He turned back to me. “Even if I go along with this, I will insist on conditions, as you are my subject, and by tradition and law, owe me fealty. But House Davion has avoided compelling service. I do not want to be the first to do so.”
I was still rattled by everything, and my mouth ran away with me. “Well, if you ordered me to your bed, Sire, I don’t think I’d consider that a hardship. In fact, I’d consider it very fun.”
The strangled sound from my brother really wanted me to have a camera, but Hanse’s response even caught me off guard. “That’d be the third date, I’m afraid. Not the first.”
I just gaped, completely taken aback. He grinned, then sobered. “I assume your mouth ran away with you, of course, mind you, as that was quite gauche of you. And unlike your usual behavior, from what I understand. I’ll chalk it up to the revelation I just laid on you.” He turned to my gaping brother who was choking. “Breathe, man, breathe. It’s not the first, nor the last offer I’ve received, though to be fair, it’s one of the most direct.”
Ichigo finally caught his breath, his face still completely shocked. “Kikyo. Seriously. Are you insane? You don’t say that!”
I winced slightly. “I apologize, Sire. It was… more than gauche, all things considered. What are the conditions?”
Hanse thought shortly. “NAIS and DMI technical personnel go through the ships and mechs for anything of interest. Either buy it direct or loan it to the NAIS. The Colossus, the Excaliburs, the Vengeances and oh, those Titans and the Monolith are leased to the AFFS, with indemnity bonds if lost.” He thought for a moment. “I provide any and all needed personnel, of course to fill out the unit. Though I’d like to know exactly what are you thinking unit wise.”
He held up his hand. “Your youngest sister remains, not only is the NAIS the best place to grow such a mind, NAIS itself would benefit. And of course, one of you will accept the Barony that your mother refused.”
Ichigo broke in. “Sire, I’d not recommend the majority of the unit being AFFS or former AFFS, that’ll make it obvious that we’re a cover to anyone with a brain.”
Hanse paused, nodded. “At least a fair amount, mind you. Your sister…”
“I understand and agree, Sire. Minders are a good idea.” Ichigo smiled at me.
I open my mouth, but before I could say anything Hanse smiled as well. “And you’ll be one of them Captain, who better?”
Ichigo nods. “Can I assume this won’t affect my career?” Hanse nods.
“Personal detailing by the First Prince always looks good on a young officer’s resume.” Hanse nodded for a moment, then added. “While I’d suggest that you don’t command the unit directly, Kikyo, it’s also a tradition the owner does. I’ll look around for a very competent XO, in that case.”
I thought for a moment. “Right now, unit wise, I’m eying a Brigade type formation, though in reality it’d be a Alliance wing. One regiment of ASF, one of mechs, one of armor, one of infantry, supported by a battalion of ADA, arty, MP, Engineers, and logistical support elements. With the amount of mechs supposedly there, I might have two. Always wondered why the 1st Cav wasn’t that, it’d fit so nicely with the DLC doctrine.”
Hanse paused, and thought about it. “Viable.” He finally stated. “And you can try the idea out for us, if it DOES work, well, more Armored Cav is never a bad idea.”
I nodded. “As for the ships, no. Stripping them of Royal technology? Yes. But if this is to work, more transport is better. It also makes us less tied visibility to you, though if Aiko remains, that’s your assurance we’ll come back, at least for a while. Any mech or vehicle that is SLDF Late regular or Royal, unless it’s already a personal ride, I have no problems selling, or more precisely exchanging for other mechs.”
I tapped my chin. “It’s going to be difficult enough convincing Marik to agree to at least headquarter a full Brigade, much less two on Helm, without them thinking we’re Davion pet mercs. This isn’t to say I intend to keep all the dropships, putting aside from what information I had, they had to skeleton crew a fair chunk of them to get them here.”
Hanse pondered. “And for dropships you don’t intend to keep?”
“Sell them, though my initial thinking is trade them to either the Lyrans or Marik for an additional jumpship or two. I won’t sell the heavier units, since they simplify transport.”
“I understand that logic, which is why I’m not inclined to pass up a chance to simplify my own shipping issues.” Hanse smiled a bit crookedly at that.
“I’m not disinclined to write a contract where if the unit folds, the AFFS has absolute first refusal to buy the jumpships and heavier dropships, verified by Comstar as little as I trust them.” I shrugged slightly. “Similar to a lien.” I shrugged. “This is also contingent on of course the people in the unit being inclined to go along with me. And…”
I pondered a moment as The Fox just looked at me, a bit impassive. “After the Marik contract, the FS has first refusal on the unit’s services?” I paused for a moment. “Oh, and we do the Eridani hit for you, or as part. Even without the planned sales, I’m pretty sure as is, at best, I’d still have open lift, so…”
“That would help a tad, in justifying it, yes.” Hanse looked through the open hatch for a moment, then back at me. “Which ones are you considering selling?”
“Unions, Buccaneers, Danais for sure, possibly others, though keeping the Mammoths and Mules is on my list.” I could tell I hadn’t sold Hanse on the idea. “But, remember, there’s possibly that Colossus in the Severon Mountains… while I want it…”
“I would argue a bird in the hand, is better than two in the bush, young lady.” Hanse smiled, to take the sting out of it. “But your object is to attain additional jumpships, is it not?”
“By and large, yes, and keep my landing transport to a decent amount. It’d also be a reassurance I’d be tempted to not stay.” Hanse nodded at that. “I’m seriously resistant on the idea of losing my heaviest dropships. Putting aside my own personal preferences, they make the number of jumpships less, meaning I can free up lift. Unless you want to back a hit on Tortuga, and capturing all their jumpships…” I snorted.
Ichigo twitched slightly. Hasne’s eyebrow rose, then lowered, as he clearly pondered that.
“That… has potential. That does have potential as a viable idea.” Hanse leaned back. “Removing their jumpships, or even a fair fraction would be a serious help, yes.”
Ichigo thought for a second. “Sire… would it be possible to get OWA backing on this? Perhaps a wing of their famed Nightmares to support the hit on the jumpships.” He nodded once, looking at me. “It’d also help recruiting. And when were you going to tell him about other sites?”
Hanse’s eyebrow was raised at the last. I looked at my brother. “I’m not sure of other sites, Brother dear.” My voice was a bit venom filled with the last, then I nodded. “Plus, I’m not sure how to get to the Rim World hidden base, yet that Father assured was there.”
“A Rim World hidden base? One of the ones they used to support the Uprising?”
I nodded. “That’s what the information says.”
“Outside Lyran space, sadly.” Hanse nodded at the last, putting it aside.
“I agree on the OWA idea, and to be honest, while MIIO has some information on the Domains, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Outworlders have more, just from captured data over the years. I hadn’t considered asking.” He nodded once, clearly making a mental note. “They’ll want some considerations for the pirate stomp, mind you, but I’m sure they’ll go along with it. As for the hidden Uprising support base, as well as any other you have a strong feeling about… Well. I think we have a way to get what we both want.”
I understood. I had screwed up, severely. Hanse was in the driver’s seat now, and he wanted what I knew about other lostech sites. I wasn’t going to give him all, but enough to whet his appetite.
“Castle Brian on Illyria, a crashed Argo class dropship that was making deliveries to Castle Brians in what’s now the Reach, another Colossus on Phecda, but I think that’s buried, another Castle Brian on Clinton, and last but not least, New Dallas.” I ticked off what I could recall. “Those are what I know of for sure, though Illyria is a maybe, while New Dallas is big trouble, if not done just right.” I nodded once. “And I’ll appreciate you not asking how I know all of those. Until I can prove what I know, that’s why I didn’t want to tell you more. Plus… well, I see a possibility that’ll upend the board we’re all on. There are more, but I’d really need to dig through and prove them, or are so risky that I’d not do it without warship support.”
Hanse nodded at the last. “And what is this possibility you see?”
“An alliance.” I realized I was about to butterfly away one upcoming event.
Hanse snorted. “With Janos? Not likely. No offense to the Periphery states, the only one worth the effort hates us, for admittedly good reason. Who? Katrina? What’d she gain by that.”
“The strongest military combined with the strongest economy.” Ichigo said slowly, realizing it. Hanse stopped and thought about it.
“We would have interests in common, and it’s an open debate if Tamar or Sandoval hates the Dragon more…” Hanse thought about it. “And all things being equal… Our relations with the Lyrans are while not the best, admittedly, nowhere near the worst.”
I nodded. “And she’s a soldier, and is after reforming her military.”
Hanse was clearly deep in thought. “How would this come about, you think?”
I shrugged helplessly. “It’s just my read of the Archon. See seems disinclined to expend her daughter’s life on endless war. If anyone knows the cost of this war, it’s her. No offense, Sire, but while you have fought, and fought well, she led Infantry. She’d be searching for a way to change the nature of the game, I would suspect. And you have to admit, no one’s considered it… or if they have, they didn’t try.” I shuddered. Being an infantryman in this period was not a safe occupation, even for the military.
“... I would contest, but I understand and grant you, that she knows what infantry suffers better than I do. Something to consider, something to consider indeed. And you’re right, it at least has the virtue of something different.” Hanse was clearly intrigued by the proposal. “And as your brother points out, we have what she lacks, and she has what we lack…” He had been derailed by the vistas that opened up. After a long moment he shook his head and returned to reality.
“As much as I would consider it, I’d need more than just your view of her, to even remotely consider it, Kikyo. But I can at the least look into it.” He nodded. “And well, let’s say this. Bring me Helm, and it’s even half of what you think it is, and I’ll have room to approach her, without her approaching me. Tortuga is a prize to help, admittedly, though I’d prefer if we squish the den. Taking it’s jumpships though would help for a while.”
I shook my head. “Not without my unit being at full strength, Sire, and in a way, we’d need to put boots on the ground long term to hold it. Otherwise...”
Hanse nodded. “Well. Even removing a clutch of jumpships from their custody would be enough, I think.”
I nodded. “It won’t be fast, I’ll need to recruit up to at least some strength, I think we should also try as hard as hell to take as many dropships as we can.” Hanse nodded at that. “Unless we can find an occupation force for a long time, we’re out of very many good options.”
He nodded. “I’ll think on that.” He pauses. “However.” He flashed a rogue’s grin. “You need to see if you can even put together the unit, and have my people go over the equipment.” He nods once, unclasping his vest as Ichigo had just stuck his head out to look around, and leans slightly forward. “How about this, we seriously conduct negotiations at dinner, say… tomorrow evening?”
I nodded, swallowing to get moisture back in my mouth. Hanse kept in shape during this period.
“Outstanding!” He straightened, and nodded once. “I’ll have my Guards collect you, say around 5? For a private dinner? Do bring a preliminary TOO for Onishi’s Armored Cavalry.”
“Yes, Your Highness.” Really, what else could I say.
“Captain, help me to the other mech.” Hanse’s tone was of an order, which Ichigo hurried to obey.
After the Victor started to step away, Ichigo waved at the two girls, who started back. He turned to me. “And you… what were you thinking agreeing to a private dinner. He’s going to try to seduce you into signing everything away to him, even with the information, or to giving him specific details.”
I glared back at Ichigo. “My life, my choices. And I’m not that foolish.”
“Uh, huh. We need to meet your people.” Ichigo made it clear he wasn’t happy and that future discussions would happen. However, as Aiko and Kelia dropped in, I started moving Bun Bun towards the dropships, reaching for the responsibility, and my mind thinking though the unit.
The nature of space travel and the size of the interstellar economy at its peak, not what it has fallen to, was brought home, as I walked through the grounded dropships of the dropship port. All of mine were put at the farthest possible location from Avalon city, which meant from where I watched them land was a good 40 kilometer hike, and I hadn’t watched them land from the other edge.
Given traffic rules and laws for the port, it took slightly more than an hour before I could get to the dropships, and I had to shake my head. By the time Bun Bun had reached the first of my ships, my father’s people had managed to set up a basic security cordon.
Said Security cordon included several mechs which made it quite clear that I’d have to stop, and I found a perfect place to do so, as I saw Ryanne plus the film crew I had arranged. Shrugging, I turned to my passengers. “Looks like it’s time to dismount, and do things.”
Ichigo leaned forward to look out the cockpit, and nodded. “Yep.” Aiko and Kelia had already undogged the hatch and tossed out the rope ladder that was in a locker.
“Fun.” Kelia commented as Aiko was already out of the cockpit, as she tested the ladder. “I’m beginning to see why Mechwarriors are fit.” Before I could shoot back a response, she was already climbing out, and Ichigo was watching her do so.
“Enjoying the view, brother?” I snarked as I noticed where his eyes were.
Ichigo’s tone was amused. “Oh, of course. I am a fighter pilot.” He grabbed the rope and begun to haul himself out, and as a parting shot stated. “So, let’s see if you’re still in shape, bet you can’t beat my time down!”
I watched as he scurried down, and grinned. One thing about a movie I had done, was the consultants, actual mechwarriors, had not only taught me the basics of driving a mech, but explained a few tricks. Fishing out a pair of gloves from my jumpsuit, I put them on, and waited til Ichigo had hit the ground.
As I looked down from the lip of the cockpit, I grinned, and shouted down at Ichigo. “Let’s see about that time.” With that, I grabbed the rope ladder, and proceed to rappel down, bouncing all the way, while I treated the rope ladder as straight rope.
“... Okkkaaay.” Ichigo paused as I grinned at him. “I should have known you were saving that trick… Learned it on a set?”
I nodded, noting Aiko’s facepalm. Kelia had just smiled at Ichigo, as she patted him on his arm.
Before I could ask Aiko, Ryanne had stomped over. “Can you tell these neanderthals, I’m your lawyer, and that they’re to let me in…. Why the film crew?”
I nodded at her, and smiled. “Well, might as well get started with the ‘Real Lives of Mercenaries’, no? Even if it doesn’t go anywhere, introducing myself and explaining things to them, would be a good idea to have on film, anyways.”
Ryanne nodded. “Fine, let’s get this going.” Before either of us could move, a towering blonde mustached man, with a single lock of blond hair to keep him from being totally bald walked over. I glanced over his muscular frame, clearly shown by no shirt, metal gauntlets and baggy pants, and a errant mental thought crossed my mind, clearly Kikyo!original’s thinking, wondering about if his stamina matched up.
“Are you really Kikyo Onishi? The star of ‘Freedom’s Price?’” I didn’t wince, but mentioning that B-movie I had starred in, simply for the money, though I had to admit, the on site consultants were good and we had tried to make more of it than the script had planned, but there was only so much that could be done.
“I am. Not my personal best, I’ll admit, but…” I trailed off.
“Oh, wow, I loved you in that film! You were so good as an insurgent stealing mechs from the Kurtians!” My mind reminded myself of how some were acquired, and a impish part of me suggested I reenact those scenes with the good man in front of me. “Can you sign my copy of the movie’s poster?”
“Sure… in a bit?” I smiled impishly. “Why are you on New Avalon?”
“We’re here to meet the new owner of Fuji’s Mercenaries.” The man nodded. “Though I don’t know who it is, every time I ask, I just get laughed at.” He paused, facepalming. Removing his hand, he continued on. “Forgive me, Miss Onishi, I’m Alexander Armstrong, one of the platoon sergeants for the Infantry. Can I ask why you’re here?”
My impish side couldn’t resist the opening father’s people had given me. “I’m Fuji’s recognized daughter, Sergeant.” I waited as he blinked. Blinked again.
“Oh. Err...” I could see the thoughts running through his head. After a quiet minute, he stopped, and then nodded once. “Of course, Ma’am. I’m sorry for delaying…”
I held up a hand, smiling at him. “You didn’t, and I’ll be by your quarters to sign the poster anyways. Always nice to meet a fan.” My smile shifted to an impish grin, at the slight look of worry that crossed his eyes. “Don’t worry, I’m not going to inspect quarters today, I believe. And I’m quite aware that posters of me sell well. Not ashamed of it.” His relief was visible, as he started to lead us to the guards.
“And who is this lovely blonde next to you… and the people behind them?” Alexander’s inquiry wasn’t pro forma, but honestly curious.
“My Lawyer, Ryanne Darwin, and a film crew to record my introductory address to the Unit.” I paused. “Fuji’s Mercenaries? Really? Father couldn’t have thought of a better name?”
Armstrong shrugged. “It is a holding name, to get us here, I was told. The new owner…” He trailed off, and blushed slightly. “Sorry, you, are to actually give us our official name. Any ideas?”
I would swear the sparkles as he puppy eyed me would blind anyone. But, I indulged his curiosity. “I’m thinking Kiki’s Heavy Cavalry.”
“... Use Onishi, I’d suggest. Sounds more professional.” Darwin interrupted. “That is if you’ve lost your mind.”
I shot her a look. “I still need to address the unit and find what they want to do.” I nodded at Alexander. “It’s only proper.”
Alexander was spared answering, as we reached the gate, where an older, weatherbeaten man was waiting. “Colonel Sved, I present to you Miss Kikyo Onishi, her guests, her lawyer, a Ryanne Darwin, and a film crew.”
His bass voice matched his body, a very Viking warrior look, though his accent made Ichigo’s eyes narrow. “I accept the responsibility, Sergeant. Return to your post.” He turned to look at me, scanning up and down my body, eyes narrowing slightly at something, then looking over the rest of the group. “Ma’am, what are your intentions for our people?”
I nodded at him. “First, to address them, and film it so our people on the jumpships and those with other duties may see it. This address will be to lay out what is going on, and what I would like to have happen. I will simply ask, does the unit wish to stay together as a mercenary unit, and have me as owner and commander, with competent seconds, or disband and move on. I do have a few things we could be doing, as a unit. Then I will meet with our senior officers who are on planet, and discuss House Davion’s interest in our equipment.”
He studied me for a long moment. “Understood. I should warn you a few of the mechs and ASF have been earmarked for people in the unit. Only a few, 4 mechs and one tank. Oh, and a recommendation from your lord father, that you take one of the mechs. I do advise you, if we do try to make the unit a success, we keep the dropships, we’ll need them.”
I thought about it for a moment, then nodded. “That shouldn’t be a problem on the mechs or the tank. As for Father’s suggestion, without good reason, I’ll stick with Bun Bun.” I smiled innocently. “He’s quite deceptive.” The Colonel’s eyes swept over the Archer in the background.
“Archers are not uncommon command mechs, no. And I’ll take your word for his deceptive qualities. The dropships?”
I shook my head. “We aren’t going to be able to keep the technology, if they are Royal. House Davion would be arguably criminally negligent not to get their hands on that many samples to reverse engineer. The actual dropships, on the other hand… oh, you better believe I’ll do my best to keep them. I counted how many we have, vs. how many rings we have. I did not like that math.” My voice had dropped slightly on that last.
A grim chuckle rumbled out of his chest. Turning, he lead us slightly deeper into the landing zone. “That’s sadly the way the universe is, Ma’am. We’re lucky to have as many jumpships as we do now. I think only the Dragoons have enough interstellar lift to completely transport themselves.”
“I understand that. Doesn’t mean I have to like it.” I shook my head.
“Corporal!” Sved pointed at one man. “Spread the word, unit assembly at the First Colossus in a half hour.” With that, the pointed out young man rabbited away to spread the word. “Apologies, I believe it’s best to get the address done as soon as possible.” I nodded at that, and he continued. “And no, you don’t. Just deal with it. Which is why keeping our Colossi and others is important, Ma’am, as I see you understand.”
I didn’t respond to that, as we kept walking towards a towering dropship, the aforementioned Colossus. “Are the ships named yet, Colonel?” I idly asked.
“Not names that we gave them, Ma’am.” He shook his head. “Your lord father had made it clear that we were to wait til we were ready, or you were in charge to do so.”
“Ah.” I paused. “I take it you’ve been with him a while.”
“Aye, before you were even a lustful thought in his head.” Sved smiled a bit at that, clearly testing the waters of my reaction.
“I can believe that.” I thought for a second. “So, he’s been assembling this for a while, then?”
“The last few years, yes. He wasn’t the most fond of Alessandro, shall we say? Not that anyone could blame him, but… it lead to some rash choices, which he decided to undo.” His eyebrow rose slightly to question did I understand what wasn’t being said.
“No one can blame him for not trusting Alessandro’s abilities, no, given all things… And well, who wouldn’t want to make a fresh start with a new, and more competent Archon, considering the climate in Skye. Not sure he picked the right way to do it, but…” I trailed off.
“Quite so. It is where we’re at.” As we walked closer to the ship, he quietly asked. “I take it you are taking responsibility for us? As your lord father wished?”
“If you’ll have me, that is, and we can come to agreements.” I looked at the people gathering. “I didn’t quite expect this level of responsibility, but… Needs must.”
The Colonel didn’t say a word for a long moment. “Aye, they do. And calling Summer a devil is apt. He has his claws into your older brother by Lord Fuji. All I can say about that situation on New Kyoto, is at least your niece, the Lord’s heir, isn’t against you, but… she couldn’t be responsible for us, and we would have drawn too much attention to her at this critical time.”
“Oh?” My tone indicated idle curiosity, nothing more.
His tone answered the question in the same way. “She’s 17, m’lady. And has a regent assigned by Katrina. Though she has seen some of your movies, and wants to meet you herself, I was lead to understand.”
“Ah.” My response indicated I understood all the messages that the Colonel, who just smiled at the answer, was trying to pass. “Well, that won’t be immediately, I’m afraid to say.”
He just nodded, as we boarded the dropship, my family and friends following a minute later. Ichigo had been silent during our discussion.
The Colonel turned to face me fully, and nodded once. “I’ll go to seeing that the unit is ready for your speech and send Armstrong to get you when it’s time. With your permission, of course?”
I knew the question he asked wasn’t a question. “Of course.” I watched as he left, then turned to Ichigo.
“You’re quiet.” I quirked an eyebrow at my more military inclined brother.
“Was studying the people and the equipment.” Ichigo hadn’t turned to face me, but was looking at a Battlemech. Finally, he turned to face me. “I’m getting the impression the Colonel expected you to keep the unit together. I know you found out yesterday, but did you…” I cut him off.
“No.” I paused. “I noted that myself, Itchy.” For a moment I thought on how to put it as we both watched Aiko and Kelia look at the various mechs in the bay. The filming crew had already gone out to set up to tape the address. After a moment I nodded.
“My suspicion is that the Colonel knows about the find outside the Lyran Commonwealth. And well..” I raised an eyebrow.
“A merc unit with some loyalty would be a smart play, and you’d want to have a security force once that stuff was brought home.” Ichigo nodded. “It’s also helpful he’s from Rasalhague, meaning no love for the DC, and wouldn’t mind a stronger FS, leaning as proof that the find is factory related, as your father stated.”
I tilted my head at Ichigo. “And why you didn’t go MIIO is clear. It’s likely you’re right about his loyalties. But… please, O5P, much less ISF would be more than willing to insert listeners into a merc unit.” Listeners was the slang term for friendly people who simply passed on information to actual case agents of an intelligence or security organization, an example would be an accountant inside a business, who’d report odd funding or odd spending on a project to his friends in the intel agency. In Battletech, given the nature of any decently sized mercenary unit, a lot of their recruits came from national armies, making it easy for intelligence agencies to gather information that way.
Ichigo simply rolled his eyes. “While still possible, Kiki, unlikely, as handing this over to the Weeaboos would set him up for life. That’s why I don’t think so.”
“Trust, but verify, and agreed.” I tapped my hip slightly. “As well as something we need to remember.” Ichigo got the point as he nodded. “But…”
“Yeah. Decided what you’ll say?” The raised eyebrow was clearly questioning my sanity at this, but not denying the benefits.
“The truth. Has the novelty of being rarely done. As for more, Adlib it.” I shrugged. “It’s not like I haven’t watched speeches of military personnel before.”
“Who hasn’t?” Ichigo agreed. “Not a bad plan, but keep it short and simple.” Aiko had wandered up and snorted at that.
“She couldn’t keep it simple if she tried. Nor short.” Aiko’s innocent smile wasn’t believed by either of us as Ichigo and I looked at her.
“Ha. Ha. Ha.” I paused, and nodded once. “And we need to plot some ideas. Did you bring an IS map?” I had asked Ichigo if he could get an 2760 or so era map, listing systems, planets and moons.
“Yep. Standard reader format. Why?” Ichigo’s eyebrow rose.
“Plotting how we do this.” Aiko grinned. “What path, time, the works.”
I turned to my little sister and shook my head. “Not we. It’s highly unlikely Prince Davion is going to let you off planet until he’s sure of our loyalty. And by sure… I mean sure, which means bringing home prizes he can’t deny.”
Aiko opened her mouth, only to have Ichigo’s stare shut it. After a moment, she sighed. “I’ll figure…”
A snort from the sole male in the bay ended her thought. “Good luck outfoxing the Fox, Aiko. Kiki hasn’t done it yet, he’s reserving judgement.” Ichigo shook his head. “And we’re not even sure the Prince’s going to agree. And to be honest, I’m torn about the ideas. Part of me wants to do it, simply for the good we’d do for the Suns, the other part of me wants to just give all the info to the Prince, and keep both of you out of the line of fire. So expecting me to disagree with my liege, on something that keeps you safe…”
“And means I’m a hostage.” Aiko shot back. “And what do you mean that the Prince hasn’t agreed?”
“Yes. But since we don’t plan to betray our birth nation… “ I trailed off. “Low risk, and you can get the best education that the Suns can buy. If, as Ichigo says, Prince Davion agrees to let us go. Aiko, even if we give him all the advanced technology, or enough of it, these are Colossus class Dropships, Excalibur class too. Not to mention the Vengeances and Titans.”
Ichigo picked up my statement. “To be deadly blunt, the three Excaliburs can carry a third of an RCT into battle, the Colossus, assuming stock, could, with say…” His pause was clearly to do a bit of math, “one Vengeance and… call it three Triumphs…” He nodded, sasified, and continued. “Carry an entire RCT into battle, Achy. He’d be a fool to pass it up. The FSN is desperately short of transport. Just the Colossuses and Excaliburs alone represents roughly an 1% increase in the FSN’s combat dropship lift. That’s not mentioning the Monolith, the 6 Overlords, or the rest.”
I picked up from Ichigo’s pause. “And 180 mechs, 120 ASF, 500 plus combat AFV, means he could build at least one more RCT, or Two, with some add ons. At a very *cheap* price. Ichigo knows more, but I’m pretty sure we’re barely keeping up with losses…”
“Pretty much.” Ichigo nods. “It’d be more likely used to bring other units up to strength, most units are lucky if they’re at 90% of mechs, ASF and combat vees.”
Aiko looked at both of us. “We’re Federated Suns citizens, he can’t just take it.”
Ichigo nodded. “Not quite true, but politically, you’re correct.” Ichigo sighed. “He’s an absolute monarch, Aiko. The High Council really doesn’t exist.”
I interrupted. “And while the Nobles and other wealthy members of the Suns would throw three types of bitchfits if he just seized it, if he paid fair value, or went through the courts, using some previous laws, he’d get away with it. The Suns seized jumpships in the 1st Succession war, Aiko. And while yes, they paid rental and eventually compensation for losses…”
“We’re still paying a bit, from the military’s budget.” Ichigo responded. “And as a unit with maybe 10% of our strength in personnel compared to equipment… The courts would side.”
Aiko looked at both of us. “Why? Why would he do theft at …”
“Because it’s good for the Suns. It means a stronger military. If one actress gets cash instead of hardware, no one would care, figuring a 20-year-old wild party girl couldn’t use the equipment anywhere near as good as the AFFS could.” Kelia broke in.
I nodded. “And in a way, without what we know, he’s right.” I paused and nodded once. “This isn’t to say what I know from…” I shrugged, careful to imply what happened, but not say it. “Says he’d do it lightly, nor that he’d like it. And what he said to me in Bun Bun indicates the same… but his personal ethics and morality have to be put aside for The Federated Suns. That’s the meaning of the oaths he took. To be the Devil himself if needs must.”
Ichigo nodded. “Doesn’t mean he’s not a good man, just…” He sighed. “The truth is, the higher up you get, the more honor and integrity, and morality have to be put aside for duty.”
“I’m not saying I won’t work with him. I was born here, my ‘other’ memories indicate that he’d be one of the better First Princes, and he’s about as good as a man can be in his position, but he’s in the same boat as Katrina, who would dearly love to burn LOKI to the ground, but can’t. Because she needs them, as amoral, reckless, and frankly disgusting they are, they’re a tool she needs to keep normal Lyrans safe.” I nodded once, and Ichigo picked up for me.
“House Davion does a decent job, generally. House Steiner, not too bad either, but that’s about it in this period. Well, not counting the Periphery states, but...” He shrugged. “I’m loyal to him, but I’m not blind to his faults, nor that he can’t live up to the ideal we have of him and his house. That he tries to do the best he can, is enough, in this flawed universe.”
I looked her in the eyes, and tried to convey how deadly serious this was. “This does not mean we can’t make it better. I’ve been given a big enough lever, and I will find the fulcrum to move worlds.” I smiled. “For the better.”
“But that means we have to work with what we have now.” Ichigo nodded at me. “And that means recognizing flaws and the facts as they are. And that at times, levers get stepped on. Which we don’t want for you.”
Aiko looked at us both, trying to think of some argument that would counter what we had said and implied. Finally she sighed.
“I guess.” She blew out a breath. “You’ll get this done fast… right? And safely?”
Ichigo looked at me and I looked back at him, and we both turned. “We’re not leaving yet, Achy.” Ichigo smiled. “And Well… I’m pretty good, so I’ll make sure Ferret here doesn’t get over her head.” I hit him for the ferret crack, but before I could respond to his crack Aiko commented sourly.
“And who’ll keep you from getting over his head, Kunoichi…”
“Me.” Kelia grinned. “I’ve been there, so I have a good idea on how to get out.” She tapped her lips. “And these two maniacs need a minder, older, wiser, more cynical…”
“Hey, wait a second.” “I’m the same age as you, Kelia!” I and Ichigo responded.
“Ma’am? We’re ready.” Armstrong stomped up, interrupting and being clear that he hadn’t listened in.
“Saved by the bell, I do believe.” Kelia grinned as I shot her a dirty look.
“Keep it simple, keep it easy.” Ichigo advised again as we walked out, which triggered something in me.
I paused for a moment, and turned to look at him with a sweet smile. “Dear brother… my unit, my people, and I do believe I have more experience in public speaking than you do.” I paused again, stomping on the panic at not having a script to work off of, and continued smiling. “I do think you believe you are in charge.” My smile dropped. “Correct that belief. These are my people, my responsibility, not yours. I have to inform them of who am I, what I intend, and convince them that they should stay under a 20 year old who’s rep is ‘party girl actress’, not a halfway decent battlefield commander or one with the potential to be such.”
I resumed walking, and threw over my shoulder. “Me. Not you. You might be assigned to join me, or be part of this unit, yes, but you will never be the one who the buck stops for here. You made your choices, live with them. I did.” I threw my hair back and strode to the podium, leaving dead silence behind me, and feeling a bit lighter. Apparently I had some anger towards Ichigo’s choices in life. Something to work on, but... Time to give a speech.
Stepping up to the mic, seeing the cameras zooming in on me behind the gathered personnel, which a quick count showed well over 500 people, I knew it was showtime. Time to convince people who had no good reason to trust my abilities. Drawing a deep breath, I started and leaned slightly into the microphone. An impish thought took me, and for a brief second, I examined it. And then ran with it.
“Hello, everyone. I’m Kiyko Onishi. I’m not an actress portraying your new commander, I am the owner and commander today. This wasn’t what I planned on. This wasn’t what you planned on, this wasn’t what my father planned on, clearly. But that’s the universe for you.” Looking around at the reactions, I nodded once and continued on.
“I didn't know much about my father, except he was competent and did his best to meet his responsibilities. I didn’t know that he was putting together a mercenary regiment. I didn’t know he was going to leave it to me, or I’d have studied a few other areas than the engineering program I just finished, magna cum laude, I might add.” Sipping at a glass of water, I took the moment to gather my thoughts.
“What I do know is he was an excellent leader, an excellent judge of character, and someone who had the ability to pick those who’d be best for the jobs he had in mind. He was also a explorer, both of space and history. The proof is literally in front of me and behind me.” I waved at the Colossus that was behind me, then at the senior people of the unit.
“I also know that the primary purpose of a mercenary unit can be summed up as ‘Make the other sorry son of a bitch die for his nation or contract.’ I also know that I can learn to truly command a unit, and do well. Otherwise, Father would not have sent you to me, he had other children, and of course his heir to his title. I know I can fight a battlemech, and even have some training to do so. I know, given time, I can do what my father wanted. Which is to command you. Lead you. Fight with you. He sent you to me, because he could no longer meet his responsibility towards you. He entrusted me with that, and I will not let you down. I will not break up what he started. I will not fail in the trust he left me.”
Leaning forward even more, I grew more intense. “What I need from you, is your decision. Do you want me to lead you. Do you want to stay in the unit. Do you trust me to rise to what you need me to be? And I need that answer by tomorrow afternoon. Time waits for no one, and as always, vultures gather. Again, I am Kikyo Onishi, your new commander and leader. And I will lead us well. Which means I will listen, I will learn, and I will care. Which means I have a lot of learning to do, and a lot of work to do, to get up to speed.”
I stepped back and nodded once. “Dismissed.” Murmurs rose as the people clumped together to talk to each other, and I turned to the closer group. Father’s senior people who survived, and of course my family and friends.
“Nice speech.” Sved spoke in a soft rumble as I approached. “I’ve told the senior officers to assemble, but this is Evie Cook, our chief technician.”
A weathered dirty blond looked over my clothing, tsking. “No cooling suit, even walking on a tarmac?”
“Bun Bun runs very cool.” I smiled.
“He’s an Archer, that’d have to be a modified one… How much training do you have?” Evie asked.
“About 3 to 4 months instruction by mercs, plus since I got Bun Bun an half hour to hour a day sim practice.” I shrugged. “My conservator was quite pointed that I… ah, how did she put it? Ah! ‘Did not need to use a Battlemech, even if she owned it, since an actress or fusion engineer had no place…’” I sighed. “So…”
Evie thought for a moment. “I see. I’ll get several techs to look her over. She’s not standard, that’s for sure. Too smooth for a rookie.”
“He.” I shook my head.
“Ah.” The tech shrugged. “No matter. He was moving too smooth to be anything less than fine tuned, either you had very good techs, are much better than you indicate or…” Before she could finish a rough voice broke in.
“She’s fluff. Hasn’t even thought about fighting a day in her life, Evie. And she couldn’t have moved the mech, she’s not been trained to do so.” A bearded giant of a man strode forward, looking like a wall of muscle. He glared down at me, and I shot him a look, itching to just show him. “We should have been sent to Baron Azula, not her.” Before I could shoot back at him, Gry rumbled.
“We weren’t, because he is, in order, first a shit commander, second a traitor to the Archon, third so politically naive he actually believes the crap Lestrange is peddling. Kikyo at least isn’t stupid, has been used to direction so if needs be we can shape her, which you are good at, and is also very much a person who looks after her own. Or so the very expensive private detectives her father hired indicated.” He smiled. “Among other things, some of which was easy to find out.”
“Azula isn’t that bad…” Uri started, only to be looked at by a still young looking blonde who walked up.
“Uri, he is, and he blames it on his subordinates. Or do you not remember how I came to the Count’s attention?” As Uri paused for a moment, she turned to me. “Hey, I’m a fan of your movies… not as bad as Armstrong, but who is?” She winked. “Jaroslava, one of your mechwarriors.”
I nodded, smiling at her, then turning to Uri. “I see.” My smile grew sharp and Ichigo started muttering under his breath. “Care to put your pride where your mouth is?”
“Here, now, unarmed, first to be knocked out.” I smiled innocently at him. “It’s not like you have anything to fear, is it?”
Uri looked up and down. “You have no training, girl…” He paused. “And this isn’t a movie set.”
I looked at Gry. “You said Father made a file on me…” He nodded. “Did Uri read it?”
“He did.” I blinked at the response
“Give my lawyer the detectives’ names, we want that money back.” I nodded, and turned to Uri, who was considering me as he looked up and down my frame, noting that for all the softness of my curves, there was muscle and tone backing it up, plus his expression was saying something about me bothered him.
“Bah. She’s just fluff. Movie fluff.” He stripped off his jacket, and settled into a boxing stance.
“Call it.” I looked at Gry, who nodded, as I stepped roughly ten feet away from him and settled into a watchful stance.
“No lethal blows, no crippling.” Gry waited til we both nodded, but before he could speak the starting words, Jaroslava broke in.
“You all know she actually does all her own fight scenes, right?” The blonde grinned, as she looked at the giant.
Gry shook his head. “Go.”
I let my ki flow, and hit the watchful state that all good practitioners needed as Uri advanced, careful to keep his guard up, and watching my hands.
As his fist darted in, I flowed down, and into a kick, aiming for his side, to disable him as fast as possible, but for a man of his size, he was quick, though my kick did stagger him enough that my follow through jump kick caught his jaw, knocking him to one side, and as I came down, I spun again in another kick.
This one connected firmly on his temple, and down he went.
“Good thing you used the side of your foot.” Gry said mildly.
A redheaded woman, with a bag with a red cross on it dropped next to the fallen giant. “Next time you feel the need to beat sense into Uri, ma’am, make sure he’s wearing headgear.” A pause, as she checked his eyes. “And don’t kick him in the temple. He’s got a mild concussion I suspect.”
I shrugged, but before I could respond, a man spoke. “Flashy, but I recognize the style from another lady I saw fight, when I was still a believer in the crap sold in the Combine.” I looked at an half asian man. “I’m Tokutomi Kartodirdjo, your father saved me from being killed by ISF, when I thought flying starships for the DCA was not a good idea anymore. Cumin here,” He jerked a thumb at a swarthy redheaded man, “is my boss, and runs the Fleet.” I nodded at both men, who had the classic pale look of spacers.
“My mother taught me, and I learned some from here and there, as well.” I smiled.
“Uh-huh. I’m not asking any more questions.” He shrugged and leaned against the podium.
“Urg..” Uri groaned as the doctor put smelling salts under his nose…
“What were you doing?” The redhead’s voice was calm.
“Showing some fluff she wasn’t on a movie set… why am I on the ground?”
“Yeah, you have a mild concussion, because she kicked your ass.” The Doctor stated amused. “And she made it look easy.”
Ichigo broke in. “Thank you, sincerely on agreeing to being her kicking bag today. She needed to blow off steam. And I was getting the feeling it was time for another of our… ah, spars. I rather not replace another cup this week, thank you very much.”
Uri with a bit of help eyed me blearly. “Okay.” He winced at the sunlight. “So, you’re not totally fluff.” He paused, rubbing his side. “And kick like a cornered rabbit. I should know better.” He straightened, and shook his head. “Okay, okay. I deserved that. But will you listen to what we have to say?”
“Of course.” I shrugged. “I’d be a fool not to listen to those who know what they’re doing in their fields.”
“Good… good… now I’m going to go get an ice pack.” He staggered off, followed by a few others.
“Huh.” I shook myself. “Okay, I do need to see Gry, Cumin and Evie, I think, plus whoever’s in charge of the dropships… and the rest can go get information on what our people want to do?” I looked around at everyone, some I just met, some who hadn’t been introduced. Several nods responded to my statement. “Right, let’s get going. The clock’s ticking, we’re not a proven by law unit yet, and the Federated Suns, specifically the First Prince, is eying his checkbook, and wondering how much the courts will say he has to pay to get our stuff.” I clapped my hands. “Go, go… I have dinner with him tomorrow, and I want to give him an answer that means we stay together and keep most, if not all our stuff.” Several smiles, several nods.
Gry nodded at the three I mentioned, and to the others, backed me up. “Get to it, people, she’s right, time’s a ticking.”
As the rest scattered, I looked at the two remaining who Gry had waved at. “Ma’am, this is Tim Nichols, our overall dropship commander, he flies a Mammoth.” The weathered spacer nodded at me, and he was of a cut my inner Kikyo found tasty, slim, ripped and a bit salt and pepper with piercing black eyes. His wave at the younger Indian looking woman, who spoke.
“I’m Meheitav’el Mari, I fly a Vengeance, and acting overall combat dropship CO.” Her smooth alto was soft. She had the look Ichigo and fellow pilots did, though the metal peeking out of her jumpsuit’s leg said why she wasn’t in a cockpit. She noticed my glance. “Bad ejection from a Sparrowhawk. As your brother can tell you, it’s not healthy taking one of those up against the Snakes.”
“Lucky they didn’t shoot you while you were *out* of your Sparrowhawk.” Ichigo mildly noted.
“They tried. Is why I have a new leg. Nowhere good as the older model, alas.” She shrugged. “Was bumming around for a bit, your sister’s father picked me up to run the ships, since I had some experience in covering assault ops, both from a command deck and an fighter.”
Ichigo’s eyebrow rose a bit, but he nodded.
“Right.” Clapping my hands together, I drew the five’s attention to me. “Issues. Evie, as Chief Technician, you’re also handling supplies?” She nodded. “What’s the major issue we have to solve right now.”
Evie raised her eyebrow as to ask where did I figure there was one. “Food, well, coffee and food, plus Diesel. We’re virtually out of the former two, except the jumpships having two months worth each, and we’re out of gas for our ICE. Which do I prioritize, and do you have any good sources?”
“Coffee, then food. Don’t worry about fuel for the ICE, hydrogen though… And” I turned to look at Ryanne who nodded. “Ryanne can help there.”
“No fuel? Not for our tanks?” Gry asked mildly, a clear question, as if he was questioning my thinking.
I grinned, looking at Aiko who was bouncing in glee, based off one of our discussions on how stupid logistics were in the 31st century. “Nope. Well, low priority, as with a bit of luck, we’ll replace all engines with fuel cells.”
Evie’s eyebrows drew together as she narrowed her eyes, while Gry and Uri who had walked back in were about to speak.
It was Mari who spoke up first. “Aren’t those just for civilian use? Not reliable enough? Cranky? Short ranged?”
I shook my head, a few loose bangs flying around. “Don’t our industrial mechs have them? As for reliability, they’re pretty solid. I’m thinking of not having to tote around two types of fuel.”
“She’s right. They’re as reliable as the ICE’s we got, and I’ll admit, not having to tote Diesel, just water or hydrogen around would simplify things a bit, and water’s easy to get. Yeah, we’d take a range hit, but the cells, offhand, are lighter, so we might be able to make up the range by bigger tanks.” She paused, then nodded. “Risk of explosions due to the hydrogen instead of Diesel, but realistically, tanks burn easy anyways.”
Gry’s eyes narrowed, and a slight smile crossed his face. “And the fact no one uses them for military?”
Evie shrugged slightly. “NIH? Laziness? Annoyance at having to reequip? Scarborough Tried with the J-Edgar, DCMS wasn’t buying, which also likely threw off people. Of course, since you had to add heat sinks to the poor hover, in that case, to keep it’s weapon load, it did suck.”
Uri snorted. “And the others?” Evie shrugged.
“Don’t ballistics and missiles not need cooling on tanks?” I raised an eyebrow at Evie. “And well…” I shrugged. “Less fuel types, and one that requires processing our reactors can do…” I paused, and nodded once. “I figure since the SLDF didn’t use them at all for military use, most people missed the boat, and well… ‘If the SLDF didn’t do it…’”
A snort there was shared. I grinned. “Exactly. Evie, is it possible?”
“Sure.” She looked at the others. “It’d require people, and money to buy the cells, and time, of course.”
Several more people walked up. “Hey. I’m Meta Jinks. I run your infantry” The short and weathered black woman waved a hand at the man that stepped next to her. ”Albert here, Albert Shelton, “ a classic English looking man nodded. “Is your tanker boss.”
A Half Japanese woman eyed me, her gray hair speaking to her age, though the small number of wrinkles indicated she wasn’t too old. “I’m Micte Messana, your fighter boss. Hydrogen? Why?”
“I’d be curious, myself.” Albert spoke up in a New Avalon accent himself.
Evie raised her eyebrows at me. I nodded.
“Replace all our ICE’s with Fuel cells.” I saw a bit of puzzlement finally breaking through on my words, so I expanded. “Hydrogen burning engines, not fusion reactors.” I sighed. “Okay, simple? You take hydrogen gas, oxygen, run it through an electrical setup, out comes water and electricity. And as any person who has studied fusion engineering or worked on reactors, or had ‘Emergency fueling 101 of your mech’ knows, crackers, or the device used to break hydrogen and oxygen apart from water, is built into every fusion reactor just about.” I grinned. “Or Fusion Design 101 lied to me.”
Albert narrowed his eyes. “That’d help, but Hydrogen is explosive… but.” He shrugged. “I doubt it’s much more of a risk than Diesel, in some cases. Why hasn’t more people done this?” Evie answered him in an aside, quietly.
“Any other pressing issues tech or supply wise that has to be handled now?” I raised an eyebrow as Evie finished.
“Yes.” Evie raised an eyebrow. “‘Fusion Design 101 lying to you’?”
“Magna Cum Laude, Capitol City University, Fusion Engineering.” I smiled sweetly. I shrugged at the slight looks of amusement and questions. “I figured it’d be cheaper to maintain Bun Bun, if I could do a lot of the work myself. And acting degrees are for posers. If I’m going to spend money on a degree, I’m getting a degree that pays well in a career that I can have as backup.”
Evie grinned. “Smart.” Several nods ran around at that.
I looked at her. “Anything else?” She shook her head and waved at Cummin.
“Fuel for the jump and dropships, and all fusion reactors are done, Ma’am, and while I’d want to set up a rotation for liberty, I can handle that, though would like to know how long we’ll be here.” The swarthy jumpship officer nodded. “I expect a bit while recruiting.” I nodded at that.
“Okay. I’ll get you that info as fast as possible.” I nodded and turned to look at the others.
Gry pointed at Albert.
“I’d appreciate some range time and exercise time for my crews, considering you’re going to sideline their vehicles, but, it’s not critical. And I’ll add to Gry’s request for more people, as I expect he’ll do.” I nodded at the officer that Ichigo was staring at.
“I understand, and in fact, if at all possible, schedule in field exercises for all units. I’ll see about renting some training grounds.” I looked at everyone who nodded. “Give me… well, give me and Ryanne,” The named woman sighed, put upon, though I didn’t miss the cash register sounds in her mind. “2 days?” I looked at everyone, who nodded again.
Gry looked around at everyone else who shook their head, leaving it to him. I raised an eyebrow.
He smiled. “As you can guess, we need to register our new name with the MRB, “
The Mercenary Review Board, aka Comstar’s attempt to control the mercs was the rating and bonding agency for the mercenary units and the houses. “And of course, get you registered with the Mercenary Guild.” The Guild was for the mercenaries themselves. It did what the MRB did for units, but for individual mercenaries. I nodded.
“And start recruiting as fast as possible?” I smiled innocently. He grinned back.
“You understand. As you, yourself pointed out, the First Prince knows, and well, why make it easy for him?” Gry’s slight smile was shared by most, though Albert and Ichigo looked a bit bothered.
“Can’t say that’s a bad idea.” I paused. “Right, I have dinner with him scheduled tomorrow, do we have a uniform yet?” Gry shook his head, and I grinned. “That I can take care of shortly.” Gry’s eyebrow rose at that statement.
“Professionalism. Not only should we have a uniform, it helps with recruiting and with morale, so our people know we’re a unit. Not a cast together bunch headed mostly in one direction. And...” I smiled at Ichigo. “Prince Davion will understand the message of me in a uniform that’s registered with the Guild and MRB means.”
Uri relaxed slightly at that, and several more nods. I looked around, and noted that no one seemed to want to press the issue, though Jinks and Uri were trading looks. Finally Uri himself spoke. “No insult to the First Prince intended, but you need a security detail. Putting aside the threat that LOKI provides, your half brother was very angry, and well… can’t argue he’s capable of doing some dumb things.”
Ichigo interrupted. “Got a call in to a person who owes me a favor, for a good detail, or at least a solid line on one.” Uri looked stubborn til Jenks herself spoke up.
“I’ll detail Armstrong’s squad for short term, until your line comes though, though I’d want to verify their skills.” She shook her head. “It’s not just LOKI, or an idiot…” She mildly glared at Uri, who raised his hand in a manner indicating between the two to drop it. “Or even other national actors I’m concerned about. Let’s… say lostech finders have had a bad habit of ending up dead. By ‘unknown’ actors.” Her voice dripped sarcasm.
Ichigo nodded. “Works for me.”
I looked around, a bit annoyed. “If you’re all finished making decisions for me…”
Gry interrupted. “Ma’am, Meta’s in charge of security. Let her do her job… and Uri is the person I had slated to actually act as somewhat of a mentor.”
I blushed slightly. “Oh.” I paused and nodded once. “Good leaders find people and let them do their jobs.” I shook my head.
“Exactly.” He looked around and nodded. “I’ll go with you to see the uniform idea, and then we can go deal with the Board and Guild.” He raised an eyebrow at that, seeing if I’d challenge him. Since I agreed with him, I simply nodded. “REST of you, get to work. Bed down the people in the warehouses, so they can spread out, and start uncrating the equipment.” Everyone nodded and with various salutes, departed.
Evie had remained behind for a moment. “Can I have Bun Bun’s override? So we can get him into a bay?”
I shook my head. “A friend, who’s also a tech has it, Debora Hickey. She’s next to him.” Evie nodded with this, and moved off to where Bun Bun was waiting.
Gry turned to look at me. “We also have to discuss organization ma’am… and ranks.”
I pulled out a chip from my valley and handed it to him. “My thinking on targeting recruiting, Table of Organization, Table of Equipment, and rank structure, Brigadier, if I may be so bold…”
His eyebrows hit his hairline.
“I didn’t sleep much last night.”
Pulling out a clunky datapad, my mind screamed. Fuck you futurists of the 80’s. Unlike the sleekness of a Kindle or Ipad of the other world me would know, this looked like something you’d see in Star Trek, the original series for that. Did explain why his side cargo pocket on his trousers bulgeled, though. Putting the chip in, he used the controls to tab throughout the document I had spent several hours creating. By the time he finished a fast scan though, I’d have sworn his eyebrows hit the back of his neck.
Finally he looked at me. “Remarkably complete and has some things that, unless you leaned on your brother, it shouldn’t. Most units don’t organise support that deeply.” Ichigo raised an eyebrow, and was passed the datapad. “But workable, very workable. I note the uniform design, though I only saw it in monochrome. Will do for a dress or semi formal one.”
“We really do need to form the Command unit as fast as we can, I believe.” I nodded. “That’ll make any other issue moot, with courts or unit, if there’s a solid combined arms regiment with support to build around…” I trailed off.
“Agreed. I’d not say that it’d completely constrain anyone, but the Suns, like the Commonwealth, is a nation of laws. That’s before the Review Board, and it’s master Comstar gets involved.” He nodded. “And outside the advanced technology, Davion wouldn’t have a leg to stand on, if there is a unit. I have a car arranged, let’s pick up Armstrong and his squad, and get to the offices, if you’re meeting with Davion tomorrow.”
I grinned. “Let’s.”
Guifier’s Clothier, Avalon City, New Avalon, Early Afternoon, Jan 2nd, 3015,
“Kiki, Kiki, Kiki.” The man shook his head sorrowfully. “You never write, you never call, unless you need something. A man would think you don’t love him anymore…”
I rolled my eyes. “Didn’t we talk New Year’s eve?” I grinned taking the sting out.
He put his hand to his heart, “But that was business! Not pleasure!”
“Uh-huh, and you staying for most of the party?” I just shook my head.
He grinned. “Well, so many…”
“Right, pretty pretty boys you call men.” I singsonged. His laughter rang.
Ichigo and Gry were just looking at each other, sighing. Richard, the proprietor of the shop finally stopped pulling my chain, and turned to look at the two gentlemen. “Does your brother need a new dress uniform, Kikyo? And this gentleman a tuxedo for an event?” He walked around the two men. Ichigo just snickered at Gry’s uneasiness.
“No, and stop the ham.” I mentally marked my XO’s discomfort, and wondered was it the frank appraisal, or Rich’s usual routine with customers who didn’t know him very well. “How is your wife… and five children.”
“Six. And you well know how Lisa is, since she catered your party for New Year’s” He answered absently. Gry’s head snapped around.
“Yes, Richard’s a fan of the classic style, where in New York City in the 80’s all the fashion designers were gay.” I rolled my eyes. “It’s all a clever trick to get young women to strip and let him feel them up, even though he’s dedicated to his wife.”
“But it works.” Richard protested. “And I can’t say I don’t love my job!”
“Ah… It’s not the flamboyant act. It’s I thought we were here for uniforms, a tux? Really?” Gry finally spoke, bemused. He shook his head. “I’ve seen worse. You should see Mira butch it up when she’s of the mind.”
Richard turned to me. “Uniforms? You?”
I shrugged my shoulders. “Hanse Davion wants to ah… acquire my inheritance from my father.” I tapped my lips with a finger and nodded once. “It’s mostly equipment, but with a solid core to form a merc unit, right now… combined arms regiment, give or take?”
“With lift, lots of lift, yes, ma’am.” Gry nodded.
“But there’s enough equipment easily for a division.” I nodded. “And some of it… well. I can’t blame the Prince for wanting it. But there’s implicit.. Duty involved.”
“Uh-huh.” Richard looked long and hard for a moment. “I’m not quite sure I buy that. You spent too much getting that gift from his parents fitted right.” He shrugged a bit though. “However, do you have sketches of the uniform?” He accepted a chip from me, and put it into a reader on his counter.
The holo fuzzed a bit, til Richard thumped the display, then it steadied. I grinned. “So?”
“Kikyo, dear…” He shook his head as he pulled up a display and went to work, adjusting, redrawing some lines, checking layers. “Do you have preference for color… ah, I see. Hmm, delineated by branch of service, nice touch…. Oh, Kiki, kiki, kiki. You didn’t talk to Ichigo, did you?”
“Oh?” I tilted my head.
“Turtleneck pullover of a soft wool blend for summer? And this fabric choice. Gah! You’ve driven mechs before, Kikyo, you know how hot they get.” Richard looked at me slightly amused. Gry’s wince could be heard.
“Oh… I wasn’t thinking Summer.” Richard and Ichigo both shot me a look that said ‘Clearly.’ Gry snickered a bit.
Richard returned to the display and nodded once. “But workable. Very much so. While I don’t get many commissions for merc units, I’m aware the better ones do… the fly by nights or small ones… don’t.” He paused. “With these modifications, it’ll present the image you want, yes. More breathable fabric, and a light pullover with a turtleneck collar for summer will generally do, though you have a notation, this is duty, not combat or work uniform. For a dress variant, may I suggest adding a cape?” He sketched one on, and let it show, with four images in the holo. Two male, two female, one without, one with cape, and the caped ones wearing a slim rapier next to it.
Gry leaned forward, and Richard looked at me. “My XO.” Richard leaned back to let Gry study the images. First, starting from the bottom were cavalry, or shin high boots, female version having a two to three inch heel, then for males, baggy black trousers, tucked into the boots, the female uniform with a straight a-line skirt with it’s hemline at just below the knee. A single-breasted space jacket with a black stripe along a sealing strip, which attached to a over the right shoulder strap which held the rank of the wearer covered the torso and waist, clinched by a belt with a Houou,my family crest or kamon as I thought of it.
“Silver piping for enlisted along the sealing, rank bars the same for enlisted, gold for officer, their pips in gold as well.” Richard commented sotto voice. “Branch color is the turtleneck, strap and name plate, except for mechwarriors, where the name’s in white, since their branch color is black. Space personnel use a red color for the jacket, not black. I removed the cuff band, no need for it, not really.”
“Cycle the colors, show the work uniform.” Gry commanded mildly, and Richard put it into words.
“No taste for the work uniforms, none at all, Kikyo.” Richard shook his head sorrowfully. The technician and medical jumpsuits had their shoulders and to their breast line in their branch color, with rank pins at the same place they’d be on the duty uniform, while the rest tended to have fatigues of the late 20th century US Army, also called BDU’s, with branch color for their name, and rank in dull white or yellow depending on enlisted or officer at their right collar. To the self from the 20th century, I recognized the Star trek uniform, modified of course. The capes on the ‘dress’ versions only went to the waist, and were the same color of the jacket. They attached to the uniform at carefully hidden clasps at the collarbone points, and had a braided rope in branch color connecting the two clasps
“I have to admit, I like the touch of the leather jacket, Richard for flight crew” Ichigo spoke up after that image had shown, a soft leather jacket in the style called bomber, with a strap for rank and rank.
“That was Kikyo's idea, I just adjusted it slightly.” Richard looked at Ichigo’s jacket pointedly. “I wonder where she got the idea.”
“Yep.” Ichigo’s amusement could be heard in his word.
“It’ll do. It’ll do very well.” Gry pronounced. “It’s professional, yet conveys a image, and works to unify the unit. And the shoulder patches are a nice touch, left shoulder for the overall flash, right for the regimental flash, if we end up being multi regimental, that is”
“Dear Kikyo forgot one thing.” Richard returned to his keyboard, and typed in a few commands. “May I suggest a Beret of this style? It’s called American, with the regimental flash on it, except for senior senior officers, who wear the overall crest?”
I paused, grinning. My inner old self demanded this. I really wanted now the Black Beret back. “In branch color?”
Gry tilted his head one way, then the other. “And rank pins on it, as well, over the flash, and we’re good. Perfect. At least outside actual field work, then we’d want helmets, but for garrison or day uniforms, much less formals, yes. How long for one for the boss, one for me? Do provide the capes. And I gather providing full pattern for mass production is a non issue?”
“Oh… yes.” He grinned. “I don’t do mass production, m’boy. But patterns for shops that do? Yes. There’s been several times, studios needed uniforms of a ‘design’, and came to me for the pattern.” Gry nodded at Richard. “As for how long… Hmm. I’d have to fit you, that’d take … call it an hour for that. Berets, Trousers, the pullover? Half hour per person, I have those or can quickly put one together, it’s a stock pattern. Patches… I can send the design to a shop that’ll have them here in 2 hours. Jacket’s the pain,and Kikyo’s skirt.” He pulled the holo up and looked closer. “Bomber Jacket, I’d have to order, at least the dye job on it, that’ll take time, I don’t do that. Cape’s trivial. It’s the jacket. Call it… hour at most to sketch it… say two to make it at most.” He paused. “A skirt for Kikyo isn’t a real problem, it’s putting in the mag strip at the stripe so she can move if needs be.”
“I see.” Gry turned to me and nodded.
“Okay… 3 hours, then?” I sighed. “Your normal account?”
“Oh, yes, invoice will be delivered, with the pattern.” He grinned knowing why I sighed. He was the best on planet, but charged as such. Richard turned to Gry. “And as for you, I’ll let Melissa put her hands all over you. Not my thing, you understand.” He winked.
Gry dryly replied. “And having a woman run her hands over me, does happen to be a thing of mine, so we’re both pleased.”
“Excellent!” Richard turned to look at Ichigo who simply shook his head.
“But while we wait, Richard, can I use your phone?” Richard nodded at Ichigo, who walked behind the counter.
I watched as Gry got measured, and slowly drifted over to the counter, listening to Ichigo’s second call.
“Hey, Morgan, this is Ichigo.” He nodded at the response he got. “Right, right, you said you owed me one. Collecting on it.” He grinned at the response. “Well, this is easy. Need at least a good name for a bodyguard, highly professional. Someone who can put in a full detail.” He nodded at the response. “Kikyo, you met her once, picked up a merc unit as inheritance.” The snicker that escaped him from the response had my eyebrow climbing. After he caught himself. “So, I need a name or some. Got any?”
Ichigo blinked at the response. “Really? Seriously? Who?” His expression went blank on the response. “I got to hear this. When?” He tilted his head. “Well, you know of Guifier’s?” He nodded at the response. “So… Cheerful Hopes, half hour?” He grinned. “Yeah, I’ll buy the first, least I can do. I got to hear this, Morgan. See you.”
Hanging up the phone, he raised his voice. “We lucked out, it appears the guy I was owed a major favor not only is at loose ends right now, but is willing to personally consider the detail role.”
“Who?” Gry’s voice raised.
“Major Morgan Blackhand.” Ichigo grinned. “Kiki met him… what, five years ago?” I nodded, a cigar smoking stubble faced man appearing in my memories, who had said he owed Ichy big.
“... what does he do?” Gry didn’t move an inch, but was curious.
“Can’t say, though he wears DMI patches.” Ichigo’s voice rose in a challenge.
Gry’s silence said he understood.
I tilted my head. “Okay, why would he be willing to do it himself?” I tilted my head the other way. “And he’s a Rabid Fox, I’d bet.” Ichigo’s wince confirmed what I said. “Again, why?”
“He’ll tell you, when he tells me, but apparently.. Well, black ops stink for a reason.”
Gry’s voice dryly responded. “You’d be shocked at how many mercs have done them before becoming a merc, and been covered with the aftereffects.”
Ichigo and I paused. Finally I sighed. “It’s likely less than I expect, Gry. Much less.”
Gry paused at that. “That’s a story there, Ma’am… that’s a story on how you are that cynical.”
“And one you might never know.” Ichigo responded before I could, only to grimace as my fist impacted his waist.
“Don’t answer for me. Even if right.” I turned to Gry and raised my voice. “Not today at the very least, Gry, not today.”
“Ah.” The pause indicated several things. “Everyone has secrets, Ma’am, mercs more than most, and a past. As long as it doesn’t come back to bite, in the end… no one cares.”
I grinned. “That’s the plan. That’s the plan. To have the past stay the past.”
Cheerful Hopes, Capital City, New Avalon, Mid afternoon.
Stepping through the doors, my eyes casually swept the bar, comparing it to several other times I had been in it. I froze when my mind came up with a mismatch, and said that at least a dozen people were too fit and too observant to be the normal bar crowd. Gry had stopped when I did, only to follow me as I had recognized the man we were to meet, who had a quirked eyebrow as Ichigo hadn’t broken stride. Shortly we were at his table.
“Major Blackhand, I presume.” I said dryly. “And your friends.” He smirked, looking at Ichigo who blinked and scanned the room, with Gry nodding behind me, understanding why I had frozen slightly.
“Good instincts.” His gravelly voice was approving. “More than your brother.” He waved at a chair, and I dropped my Silver Ice Weasel fur coat in the chair next to him.
“I’m wondering at times how he survived on the Kuritan Front, yes.” I dryly commented, shooting him a glare. “Or other times.” Ichigo didn’t say a word, knowing that he was in trouble for several things though he wasn’t sure what. “I’m surprised. When did Cheerful Hopes become… Frothy Fox, I think it is?”
Morgan grinned around his cigar. “You’re right there. Got a few drinks on order, hope your XO doesn’t mind, but got him a Timbuktu Dark.” Gry nodded his thanks.
“So.” I looked at Gry who raised an eyebrow, indicating this was my job. Turning back to Morgan, I steepled my fingers together. “Why are you willing to quit MI6?” MI6, or Military Intelligence, Section 6 of the Department of Military Intelligence, was the Davion’s version of the SAS or Delta, the best of the best, the most qualified operators for direct action missions, and used in the most critical situations. They had earned the name Rabid Foxes and it wasn’t a compliment, not when first used for them.
Morgan snorted at that. “Willing? No. But I’m not accepting a return to leading a troop, instead of my company, or being kicked out of MI6, for some asshole not telling me the details, and expecting me to slaughter an orphanage.” My eyebrows rose at that.
“We’re the Federated Suns. We’re not supposed to do that.” I paused, nodding once. “Though I’m realistic enough to know you might have to, but…”
Morgan sipped his beer and before he could speak, the somewhat rattled waitress had arrived. He waited til she was again out of earshot, and I had sipped at the Cuba Libre that was placed in front of me.
“Well. Good to see you’re not total fluff.” He paused, and shrugged. “Let’s say this. I wasn’t given the information needed to make the on site call I had to, and I made one that was not acceptable to command, however, I made it based on the information I had.” He shrugged. “I’ll say if I had the information I was supposed to have, or at least more, I’d likely have made a different choice, or at the very least, be more sanguine about the situation, but, in this case, someone’s covering their ass and I don’t like it. Fuck ‘em.”
His look at me was challenging.
Ichigo was about to speak only to have my eyes boring into his. “Hush, brother.” Turning back to Morgan, I smiled sweetly. “Why didn’t you bring your case to Yvonne or the First Prince? Neither would be… unsympathetic to the situation. Nor would they blame you for following policy without reason to override that you knew. I wouldn’t.”
Morgan blew out a breath. “Because, in a way, it’s not worth it.” He shook his head. “What, you think all our ops are Real Tales of…” He snorted, mentioning a off and on again holovid supposedly dramazing the Rabid Foxes.
I shook my head in them. “I act, yes, but unlike enough of my well, fellows in that field, I’m quite aware that if any television show including news is even 25% accurate, much less ah, dramatizations, I’d be honestly shocked.” I twirled a finger. “Even if I do plan to shoot a reality show using the Heavy Cav, I’m not going to try that hard to make it realistic.” Morgan laughed out loud at that.
“I like your sense.” He leaned forward. “I don’t have a problem with at least a short term gig til shit hits the fan again, and I get my company back… Let’s talk numbers.”
“I don’t want you for just a bodyguard.” I nodded. Internally squealing, I was gloating. Gloating. An elite operator? Who was an officer and at least 10 year veteran of such? Oh, yes.
Morgan took a puff and blew out the smoke. “Oh?”
“Having you, just as a bodyguard, or leader of such, or hell, just leading the recon elements for a multi regimental force, is a waste.” I nodded seriously. “So… how’d you feel about putting together and leading a Direct Action unit? At least company, though I’d prefer at least a battalion.” I heard Gry’s sharp intake of breath. He was right to be shocked. Very few mercenary commands could boast of operators, and maybe only a dozen could boast of a company. Battalion? Maybe 3 or 4 at best.
“You think big. Time scale.” Morgan’s grin was infectious.
“Depends. I figure at worst you could put together a company ready for operations of a limited nature in 6 months, no less. Full Battalion, with a bit of luck, and this does require you recruiting only no longer working operators, and those still mostly qualified… I’d expect nothing less than a year. Three if we had to train them.” I leaned back at him.
Morgan’s eyes narrowed. “Good and mostly accurate thinking there. Costly though.”
I smiled innocently. “I asked around and thought about it. If anything, your people have to be, no, are better trained before they step on the field than anyone else. So… first your people have to be proven, then go through training as intense as flight school, SERE, and space operations, then add in more training on top of that. At the least. That takes time.” I titled my head at him. “Am I wrong?”
He blew the cigar smoke and I sniffed appreciatively. “No, you’re not, though I think you’re underestimating how hard the training is. And the cost.”
“If we have to train operators, if 1 in 4 make it, and you don’t kill or cripple for life one in ten, during the training, I’d be pleasantly surprised.” I answered coldly, and hiding the pleasure of the shocked expression crossing Morgan’s face. “And it’s worth every penny afterwards.” I paused, face tight as I bit out the next. “And it’d save countless of not just of your operators, but the line personnel. Worth it in the long run.”
“Well.. huh.” He took a long drag of his cigar, finally stubbing it out. “You’ve got a clear idea at least on what it’d take.” He looked thoughtful. “Well. I can see some potential here. Still, numbers?”
I slipped a piece of paper out of hiding, and slipped it over to him, after circling the top number. His eyebrows rose slightly. “Pay as an o-5 top flight Mechwarrior with bonuses, I see.”
“And the authority to go with it, if we go full bore.” I nodded. “I don’t stint.”
He nodded. “And what does Sved here think of this brainstorm of yours.”
Gry looked a bit uncomfortable. “I’m not sure.” He turned to look at me, with a sigh. “You realize, if we do this, we’re going to be heavily marked, and we’ll have to bring Blackhand in on most everything? I’d suggest even more than you’re bringing me in.”
I nodded. Morgan grinned more. Gry just shook his head. “I’m torn. I like the idea, on one point, it’d allow us to really charge, on the other… well. Dirty business.”
Morgan snorted, and I barely held back from joining him. “We’re in a dirty business, period. What it takes so we come home and spend our paychecks is good.” I paused, turning to look at Morgan. “Not that that means slaughtering orphanages. Ever. Nothing could be worth that. If it is, we’ll find a different way.”
Gry looked somewhat uncomfortable. “I really think this is a case of where the past may be needed to know, Ma’am, stuff that wasn’t…” I held up my hand.
“When I’m sure I can trust you. Or are you willing to undergo babblejuice?” I raised my eyebrow. “I’ve already made a mistake in trusting one person.” I didn’t look at the said person.
Gry’s eyebrows rose slightly. “I… see.” He didn’t answer the question, and I left it at that.
“Which raises a question, are you, at least for limited questioning?” Morgan’s eyebrow’s hit his pompadour.
“Huh.” He paused and lit another cigar, drawing it. When it was properly drawing again, he grinned once again. “Limited, and agreed on questions before, with someone who has a clue of what they’re doing? Sure. It’ll be fun. It’s been a while since me and my team have had fun juicing each other.”
“I’m afraid I’ll not be able to let your boys juice you, but I’m sure we can both come to an agreement on who. At least. Maybe a pair, one each?” Morgan grinned.
“I see we understand each other. Almost tempted to get you to agree to some juicing.” I raised my eyebrows.
“It includes memory enhancement, doesn’t it?” I tilted my head. He nodded, curious where I was going. “Then I just might have to agree to such. I do hope you can find a qualified interrogator.”
“That’s not a problem. As for the company you want. Got checks handy?” Morgan stood up, waving at a woman.
I raised my eyes. “On me, no. Gettable in a couple hours, yes.” The Why was unsaid.
Morgan smiled. “Eh, paperwork can wait.” He turned to the vaguely hispanic woman that had stepped up, observing me. Her shock of white hair over her eye contrasted with the tight black braid quite elegantly. Her trench coat covered a tight fitting pair of trousers and a black blouse, as well as the weapons I knew she had on her. “Ma’am, this is Captain Rios, called Rogue. I’ll have her handle your close in with a squad.”
“Ma’am.” Her eyebrow rose in a question at Blackhand.
“Well, you did say the company would follow me, and I said only if I could make sure you all weren’t going to be screwed by it. Meet our new employer who wants a Direct Action company.” The woman’s eyebrow was joined by another. “For her mercenary command.” Captain Rios turned to scan me, and finally in a soft soprano spoke.
“... I… see. Sir, before we depart the Service, may I suggest something?” Her tone was frosty.
“Strangle an MI2 profiler?” His smile already indicated that he had that thought. “Ahead of you, there. I’ll go collect the rest to see if they were serious, but for now, I’d want you and your squad on close.” Rogue nodded at her superior.
I thought of protesting, but shelved it. Morgan was right, more than he knew, actually, and more importantly, best not piss off the man who’d be responsible for my personal safety and my unit’s most critical missions. But… “You know Guifier’s, right?” I received a nod. “Well, we’ll be there waiting for two uniforms, and fitting the Captain’s, though her rank will be higher I think…” I trailed off. “As well as her squad’s…”
Rios developed a slight smile. “And dare I hope when Solo finds us, his?”
“Hey!” I returned her smile at Morgan’s exclamation.
“I do what to see what’s under his trenchcoat and pullover, yes, I do…”
Rios smiled a bit more. “I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. At least looking.”
“... I may need to rethink this.” Morgan muttered. “At least putting you two together.”
I tilted my head, and smiled innocently, looking at my watch. “Well, we need to go, several meetings to do, dropping you off to have a uniform tailored, along with a few of your people…” I paused as he seemed to wilt a bit, then muttered under my breath. “Seems like old times, like Ranger school to me. Always running.” I wasn’t sure, but Morgan’s eyes seemed to narrow slightly at the last.
Dropship Xanadu, Avalon Spaceport, Avalon City, New Avalon, Late Evening.
I rolled my eyes, as Rios directed her platoon throughout Xanadu. I understood what she was doing, but as it stood, if anyone got in, we were screwed anyways. I quirked an eyebrow at Morgan who just grinned.
“We’ll deal with full security once we get a full crew for her, Ma’am.” the stubble faced man smiled around his cigar. “For now, let Rios soothe her paranoia. She’s good at this.”
I snrked. “And she didn’t really like the fact she’s good looking enough to be a pinup herself, and that I drafted her.”
Morgan shrugged. “Her beer money thanks you though.”
I rolled my eyes. “Uh-huh.” I nodded as Rios waved that it was clear.
Shortly, the senior staff was assembled in a convenient nook of the park deck. Morgan grinned as Rios swept the area for bugs.
“Now that institutional paranoia is satisfied, can we handle business? I hope everyone’s read the brief and unit organization.” I raised an eyebrow
Gry nodded, but looked around, finally ending up on Morgan, after sorting though Cummin, Evie, Mari, Tim, Micte, Albert and Arwan. “You’re first, Blackhand.”
He nodded. “My impression? You’re going nuts. Merc units do not and I need to repeat this, do not have the need or want for the support elements you want. Unless you’re really serious about having a multi regimental combat team size, or at the least a old SLDF division, Boss. Which I’d question how’d you afford the people and hell, just finding the gear. Much less transport.”
Several nods. I responded after a moment to see how others reacted, but that was the general view. “For the money, I don’t intend to give Hanse Davion, one damned thing. He’ll pay.” I grinned. “As for acquiring the equipment…” I sighed. “Look again at Deep support. Evie?”
“It’s… oh, hell.” She nodded. “We can’t buy the equipment finished? We buy the frames, the parts, and do it ourselves. Commodore, how many contacts do you know that could source even full ASF frames? Or …”
“That’s workable.” Cummin nodded at Evie. “Very much so. Time consuming, so unless you get a favorable contract from Davion… we’re going to have to scrounge our asses off to make it viable. But it is.”
I nodded. “And once up and running, well, I’m sure the Dragoons or Light Horse make money providing that to smaller units.”
Gry nodded. “As well as their host nation units. Clever, very clever. That just leaves transport. Assuming we can get money out of Davion.”
I nodded. “That… honestly, likely will take a *lot* of time to make work. Unless any of you have a list of sites Father forgot to tell me that had a pile of dropships.”
Gry shook his head. “Only thing I knew about was a lead on where the Argo crashed.” He raised an eyebrow.
“The Star League concept for a heavy support and forward base with a grav deck?” I quirked an eyebrow.
“That be it.” He was mildly impressed. I shrugged.
“One visiting lecturer commented on her drive and reactor from what little Gainax has of the plans.” I shrugged. “Stuck in the mind.”
Evie nodded. “Understandable.” She paused. “Now, the big issue. Hiring. You mentioned recruiting posters and like?”
I grinned. “Why do you think the film crew ran around shooting stills? Of just about anything we let them?”
“And that’s why Ryanne isn’t here.” Gry nodded. “She’s with the ad exec to put the campaign together. Are you serious about the docu-drama idea?”
“Money, money, money. Every extra shilling counts!” I smiled innocently. I sobered. “If people want out because of it, we can let them go, if they just don’t want to be on TV, that’s doable.”
Evie shook her head. “I don’t have a problem, and so far not many of my people even have raised it.” She looked around with a slight challenge. “If nothing else, long term, it might pay out, if young kids see how techs are critical, might get more into science and engineering, much less actual techs.”
Gry nodded. Blackhand raised an hand. “My only issue is operational security, and keeping our operators, outside… well, maybe your bodyguard platoon, say?” He raised a eyebrow at me. I nodded understanding. “Outside the camera lens, or at the very least we get to edit shit and ‘shop it so our people aren’t marked.”
“Understood, agreed, and I’m mildly surprised to see you letting any on camera.” I shot back.
“Rogue abuse.” Several snickers were done in response. Evie stopped the laughing for a moment, and nodded once.
“Only other issue *I* have, honestly, is how and why you want that many medics. One medically, at least paramedic level trained per squad?” She shot me a look. “That’s beyond excessive. Only Canopus does that. And…” I held up my head, reenforcing the command with a look.
“Our people will have the best treatment and care we can get them. Putting aside having more people in a unit able to do medical duties, basic, at least, is a good thing for morale and internal capabilities, here’s a question for you.” I looked at Morgan with a smile. “How likely will people be to start shit with us on planet, if we’re treating their kid’s fevers or broken bones? Fixing their teeth? Helping their parents with heart issues?” I raised an sculpted eyebrow. I turned to look at Mari and Gry. “Same with our engineers. If we build roads, repair buildings, string power lines…” I trailed off.
Gry nodded. “That helps, as I’m sure Blackhand would agree Hearts and minds is an important bit. But it also leads to garrison work of recently conquered worlds, which… well. I didn’t do it as a merc, but there’s times… and that’s Marik space, not Draconic held.”
I nodded. “We’ll just have to be careful til we’re sure we can handle it. Though… I’d not be fond of being on recently liberated worlds from the Combine, I’d not trust the ISF not to bury cells to try to kill us.”
Morgan snorted. “I’d trust them.” He paused and shifted his cigar. “To do exactly that, and try to set it up to blame us for other things.”
Various nods at that. I continued and added. “But between those two reasons, that’s my thinking.”
Evie thought about it. “Canopians have high retention rates in their units, maybe that’s a reason. Worth a try at least.”
Gry shrugged. “It’ll help with infantry and armor recruiting, they’re always a pain, since a lot of people consider them unimportant. As for the specialist combat arms… make that part of the deal with Hanse. Getting them otherwise… difficult.” Before I could respond, a knock, and hatch opening interrupted us.
Kelia stepped in with Ryanne following her. “Hey.” Trailing behind her was a man I had met several times before. De'Ath Bredon. Handsome in a sleek way, and with an great sense of humor, he had done a lot of work on various ad campaigns for my movies and other activities. He had an eye to targeting military as well, but had never really gotten noticed by the executives of various firms for bigger and better things. A tad just into middle age, he had taken his ‘failure’ to go beyond mid level manager with grace.
“Yo, Kikyo.” The man smiled. “Got some test pictures and text to try out for the posters you wanted. Wasn’t too difficult.” He laid out the posters he had in mind, and put pages on the table.
Gry scanned through the papers, and put one aside. “This, this will work for pros.” Morgan looked at it, quirked an eyebrow and nodded.
“Should do… now let’s see the bait.” He grinned.
It was hilarious, I mean come on. I know I look damn good, better than most in fact and i know that my personal presence and ability to command attention was why I was so successful as an actress. But here, my athletic figure hinted at a more obvious hourglass, breasts emphasized to look bigger than they actually were, and airbrushing to make my hair look redder, my eyes more emerald and my skin more porcelain. It was a fantasy, but this fantasy would make money, and send people into the unit.
Gry snorted. “Uniform in front of the troops, cooling suit with Rios next to her holding the rifle up, and the one where she leans forward at the table. Tasteful, but still *not* unprofessional.”
I tilted my head. “Keep some of the others, might run them as limited prints. The shot of Rios and Morgan working out is nice, Scythe boy.”
Evie grinned. “I like the one of me and a few of my minions disassembling that tank. Might work for targeted recruiting.”
“Yeah, my thought. The more cheesecake ones, like Gry boarding his Highlander, nah, whoever shot those didn’t get the message.” He paused. “So as I must, I’ll snip those for personal or limited sales. ALong with several ah… ‘action’ shots.”
I nodded. “I like the one where it’s a wide view of the unit in front of my speech. Whoever did the overlay of the uniforms…”
“Can’t clip her yet, she’s new but she’s got talent, Kikyo.” He sobered.
I wagged my finger. “No reaping! You’re paid to immortalize, not cut people short!” I grinned at him.
He grinned back. “So… that’s why I’m not allowed at parties anymore. Tsk.”
I shook my head sorrowfully. “No, that’s because you make too many bad jokes.” I grinned, then turned serious. “That’s enough?”
“Those three, and the Text, yes.” He returned to serious mode. “I can have a set ready to run to the Guild and other places in … call it a half hour for the final three to be proofed then an hour to run off 100 each?” He raised an eyebrow.
“Works!” I grinned. “Gry?”
“When they’re ready, I’ll send Uri to the Guild to post them and register recruiting, and to the MRB to also include it in our package and register everything. I’ll go around a few bars and post as well.” Gry nodded, looking at Uri who had trailed behind the ad executive.
“Outstanding, I don’t want to be a grim and ruin people’s drinking, as people accuse me of…” De’Ath was grinning as he spoke. “Anyways, let me go and handle this.” He nodded.
I toyed with the idea of inviting him back after he was done with that for a talk and a possible private recruitment session, but I squashed it, at least in front of my minions.