With a lever big enough I can move the world (Chapter 3)
A Battletech FanFiction
With a lever big enough I can move the world
Andrew “MageOhki” Norris
See Chapter 1 for disclaimers and other information
I would like to thank Drakensis for kibitzing and Editing, JG/Joe Gunnarson (Of Whateley fame) for the same, Valles, Case/Fosfor, Minako/Scratx for kibitizing. Y'all made this go a LOT faster than the first two, thank you. Psyckosama deserves a special shoutout for helping reinspire, some basic visualization and idea throwing.
Select your fulcrum.
Never forget, people who seem to have the edge on you, have weaknesses of their own, and often are aware of them. This helps to counter your weaknesses. Knowing about them is even better.
Duty, as in what you perceive it to be, is often what others do not think your duty is. Be clear on what you see your duty as. Also, be sure to have them be clear on what their duty is.
Always double check the small details. They might be costly if you don’t.
Friends are precious. Friends who know what you’re going through are even more precious. Friends suffering along with you, golden. And last but not least, friends who’ll tell you to your face you’re doing it wrong, and why… Keep them alive.
As noted before, first impressions matter. One problem is, sometimes that first impression has already been done.
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.
Dropship Xanadu, Avalon Spaceport, Avalon City, New Avalon, early Morning, 1/3/3015
One oddity about spacecraft, is that there are hatches everywhere possible. In retrospect this is obvious why, it’s a chance to save some of the crew. However… it does lead to funny situations.
“OW” and a thump was heard as I opened my hatch on my stateroom. Funny, that wasn’t supposed to happen. Stepping out I closed the hatch and looked at the man on the floor.
“Hello, Major.” I commented as he was pinching his nose shut. My smile was playful. I, thanks to my memories of 20th century Terra, had a good idea what he was up to, but was waiting for confirmation. It was a good thing Aiko was being taken to her tutors by one of my new minions.
“Whud the hell ure you doing ub?” I didn’t giggle, though it was a near run thing, as he continued. “You’re subbosed to be sleebing!”
He was staring accusingly at me, and I schooled my face and voice before he could see the humor I had at this situation. “Well, Major Ferro, it’s like this. I exercise and practice every day. I slacked off the last three days, but that needs to stop.”
I could see that statement processing though his head. I’ll concede privately, most starlets, including Keira, didn’t work out that much as teenagers or like, and that hadn’t changed. But, Kikyo did all her own stunts, and was a trained martial artist. As well didn’t like to diet or count calories, so she exercised. Between a thousand years of sports medicine improvement, and, to be honest, tailored genetics, remaining fit while being shapely as she was, was only an hour a day’s work. Keeping her art at a decent level only added an half hour to that time.
Uri took a deep breath, and shook himself, clearing his nose. I made a slight moue as some blood flicked onto the bulkheads. “Right…” He gathered himself. “Well, let’s see what you do, then. I’ll see today if it’s up to snuff.”
His eyes flicked across my frame, noting the leotard, the legwarmers, and the well worn sneakers I was wearing, plus a bag slung over my shoulder. Kikyo, for all her ferret on pixie sticks nature at times, had a well worn routine that I was following.
“Do you like what you see?” I teased. Uri’s shrug was a bit odd.
“Nice packaging, but is it serious workout wear?” His eyes were challenging, as he was in a muscle shirt, combat boots, and fatigue trousers. Kikyo’s part approved of the display.
I shrugged. “It’s what I’m used to.” Before I could finish, Rios’ voice broke in.
“We’ll get her used to regular workout wear later, Ferro.” She was in a similar set of clothing as he was, except she was wearing load bearing gear, and had a rifle slung across her back. “We’ll be escorting you on your runs from now on, Ma’am. The rest of the squad is waiting.”
I nodded and waved at her to lead the way, as I expected she wanted. Uri fell behind me, lost in thought. A quick glance at him indicated he was troubled. “Problems, Major?”
He waited a few moments as we walked through the ship. “... I was going to say no, but yeah. You actually have a mech certification from a reliable testing agency, your shoes say you put in exercise at least running, anyways, and you’re more up to speed on military matters than any civilian should be. Even one who paid attention to her family in.” His tone was challenging. “Makes no sense for an actress.”
Rios’s suppressed giggle indicated she was really amused by the statement. I pretended not to notice. “I could say that your views of an actress need adjustment, possibly, though I’m forced to admit that I know many you’d be right about.” I shrugged. “I, from a young age studied the martial arts, do my own stunts, a lot of them, and I paid good money to a expert how to keep my shape while keeping good tone and flexibility.”
“That doesn’t answer the rest.” He said a bit challengingly. I noted Rios listening in as well.
I smiled a bit mysteriously. “Some things I’ll leave a mystery, Major.” I paused. “At least for now.”
Uri didn’t say anything, as we reached the hatch leading to the outside, but he was dissatisfied. Rios might have been as well, but I couldn’t tell.
“Well.” She spoke as she turned to face me, her face impassive. “We have a course laid out, and we’ll let you set the pace. How long do you want to run for?”
I looked at my watch, and set a timer on it. “Once I push go on the timer, til it beeps. 40 minutes or so. And I tend to keep a steady pace.”
Rios nodded. “Right. Let us get used to it for a bit, then we’ll put you in the center of us. When you’re ready?” She stepped next to me, with Uri and the rest of her squad falling in.
“Go!” I grinned, having already stretched and warmed up, though Rios had one of her minions take my bag.
As we ran, I set a 4 minute a kilometer pace, within minutes, Rios’ people had matched it and surrounded us in a casual manner, as if this was a light workout, while Uri gamely kept up for the first while.
By the seventh kilometer, he was gasping, and finally staggered to the side. I and the rest stopped, and I looked at him.
“Problems?” I asked sweetly.
“... how many was that?” He gasped out as I got a bottle of water out of my bag, which I passed to him.
After a quick glance at my watch. “Seven kilometers.” I took the chance to have some water myself, while I was able to still go, I *was* thirsty.
“... I do five, and not that hard…” He grumbled.
“Three more to go!” I looked at Rios who nodded, as we left him behind.
“Mean, ma’am.” I nodded at Rios’ dry comment, not even sounding like she was out of breath. “Now, if I was to be to you… I’d set the pace.”
“... No… I don’t think so.” I said in a slightly out of breath tone. “Consider that an order.”
She just laughed.
We had slotted neatly into the rest of the unit, who Uri lead though 20 minutes (apparently Rios had raido’ed ahead when I told her the morning plans) of the traditional caltenstics the military used. I felt vaguely unsatisfied by missing a few exercises I did normally, but I figured I’d catch them before a shower, or adjust my routines to the unit’s. One thing I noted during the PT, was the wide mix of outfits everyone was wearing, and mentally noting to fix that. Stopping at the Xanadu, I noticed Uri’s gasping, as he caught his breath.
“Can’t…” Uri took a deep breath of air. “Say you’re out of shape at least.” Finally he nodded. “Right. What next?”
I nodded. “Well, tonight I have that… dinner.” implying many things, not all of them good. “With the First Prince. Have Gry meet me in my quarters in the Xanadu in 45 minutes, and all the other senior officers in an hour?” I quirked an eyebrow.
Uri and Rios nodded, indicating to me my idea was good. I really wanted to know why the unit wasn’t set up to have Gry commanding, his record outside one blemish, which was as much a political disaster as a military one, was outstanding. The rest weren’t quite as good, but any would be competent to command the multi regimental force I had inherited, while I learned the trade if I was so inclined.
“While you’re all doing that, I’ll go get cleaned up.” I put actions to words, Rios’ squad following me, as I heard a snicker and a muttered comment from Uri.
“Won’t be able to do that in the field, and battle stinks, might as well get used to it.” His comment I well knew, but I didn’t want him to know that yet.
Kikyo’s cabin, Dropship Xanadu, New Avalon Spaceport, New Avalon, Morning
I noticed Gry helping himself to a cup of admittedly fine coffee from my carafe on my desk, as I stepped out of the bathing area.
“Hope you don’t mind if I got started a bit early.” His rumbling voice implied a bit of a challenge as he continued. “I have a feeling you want to ask a few very off the record questions.”
“First, no, I don’t, I invited you, and yes, I wanted you to be at least at ease. Second, only one. Why not a more realistic arrangement. You’re very competent, at least the Guild says so, Evie could run the unit, Micte easily, even Albert. Meta could, if infantry ran commands anyways, still would be less of a problem than me. I’m a starlet, ran for a long time by the Maus, a true Mausketeer, and once free, started the usual path, though I got a few good movies in.”
“The Price of Glory was very good, I’ll agree. Very realistic. What did you do, get mercs and ex Davion boys to write the script as you directed it?” Gry was referring to the only movie I directed, one that was while not the smash everyone hoped for, oddly popular with mercs and AFFS personnel.
“I had some help in writing the script, yes.” I shrugged. “Now… the question?” I poured myself a cup of coffee, sipping, then adding a bit of creamer and sugar. “I better get used to black coffee.”
“Eh, some do, some don’t. Meta can’t, as you pointed out, Infantry. Evie’s a tech, at heart, doesn't want the paperwork and the number of times I had to stop her from personally picking up a wrench… Well. Not viable. Albert… agreed, except the man has no head for finance beyond his paycheck. Micte?” He smiled a bit twisted. “She’d be taken for a ride by any sob story, without someone checking her.” Gry shrugged. “As for me… well, I suspect you read about Midale.” I nodded.
“And? That was nearly thirty-five years ago. And all things being equal… the Guild had nice comments.” I quirked my eyebrow. A raid on a Davion world hired by a Lord Warden of the Taurian Concordat, Gry’s combined arms battalion, had gotten off the planet with four working mechs and a platoon of various personnel, and their Fortress. It was exceptionally bad intelligence, and a setup by the local Warden, to raise more paranoia about the Davions, who were actually rotating a unit for rest and refit.
“I could say several things.” He shrugged, and looked me in the eye. “I know I’m good. I’ll even admit, I’m not that young headstrong man anymore, but… I thought I knew the score, even suspected we were being used as a political chip. But looking a man in the eye, and trusting him? And then losing my family because of his backstabbing ways?” He shook his head. “I can’t do that again. You’re a bit more apt with people, I believe. And I can warn you. I did for your father for many years, I even warned him about the trap we were walking into. He didn’t believe it, and the Blackheart’s last deal caught him.”
I furrowed my eyebrows. The Blackhearts were the nickname of the Star League Defense Force Special Operations units. “Um… explain?”
He rolled his eyes. “Your father confirmed as we left the base we had found, there was a message from an SLDF officer.” He shrugged. “Gloating how we took the bait and how those who would steal the League's secrets got what they deserved. Or so your father said.”
“Ah.” I understood and knew it was quite likely true, all things equal. “... Okay. I can’t realistically command this unit, not at this size. I can be the face, I can learn the trade under you, but I need an actual field commander, who knows his way. You do.”
Gry nodded. “I did it for your father, it’s not a problem to do it for you, though I won’t last forever, and would like to retire sooner or later.” He smiled a bit crookedly, the salt and pepper in his beard seeming more salt than pepper.
“So, what you’re saying is learn fast?” I smiled crookedly myself. “I do.”
“Good.” With that he stood. “I’ll just excuse myself for a few minutes.”
I prepared to get ready for the meeting, by pulling out the new uniform I had gotten, while gathering up copies of a proposed reorganization for the unit’s personnel and what I thought we could reasonably shoot for from Hanse Davion. As well as informing them that until Gry thought I was ready, the same situation as under my father would continue.
Outside Dropship Xanadu, Early Evening.
I walked up as Gry looked at the recovery vehicle carrying a mech and another couple of trucks arrived. “Gry?”
“Morgan said a friend called, asking if he knew of a merc unit they could drop a teenager with his own mech off at, that would be good for the kid. Grew up in one, the unit got wiped on Mallory’s World. Kid’s a bit shell shocked, but made it off, and well, eventually got here on the AFFS’s dime, and with spare parts and his mech. Morgan…” He watched as the skeleton of a mech was unloaded, with missing armor plates, weapons and some missing myomer bundles. That would explain the massive crates being unloaded next to the putative mech. “Looks like a Hunchback. We can use him.”
I nodded. “It’s some added weight to us being a going concern I suppose, should we go meet him?” I received a nod, and shortly we were in front of a gawking teenager who finally noticed us.
"Zak White, where's the boss?" The kid looked around the dropships... "Niccceee... are we going to keep it?"
"I am the boss." I paused. "Zac... as in Zackary?" I asked a bit bemused. The universe couldn't be that evil, right?
“Damn, eye candy to work for. Shame. And yeah. Can we get this hire on done?” The thin scruffy looking teenager raked his eyes over my body. I didn’t preen, because… if I was right…
“Are you ever going to write more Yume? I mean Neji has to have blue balls now.” I smirk. Gry twiched in confusion at that statement.
"Of course you're the prettiest goddamn tart around. How is that I build my mech with hard work, sweat and tears and you just get a mercenary company again? 1 out of 10, would not peruse this Isekai again." Zac facepalmed.
I grinned. “You’re hired, Case. We’ll get your mech repaired.” I pause and sober. “By any chance, did you run across a grumpy Texan?”
Zac’s stormy grey eyes went cold as he responded. "And since when is universe this kind to me? No, I didn't. I'm also not doing your fucking paperwork."
I nodded sadly at him. “On the first, no universe is that kind to either of us. And uh… um, you know the laws here pretty well, right?” I sighed, hoping since he was here, another friend was, but that was foolish. Count myself lucky.
"I could recite laws as dealing with mercenary activity in my sleep. Neural plasticity of a child is a wonderful thing when you have overbearingly pacifistic parents and a lot of time to read." Zac rolled his eyes. “Why?”
“I have dinner with the First Prince tonight, he wants everything here.” I smile. “Perhaps that’s why I’m the rich tart?”
Zac just sighed. “He wants your stuff, doesn’t he?”
“Yes…” I tilt my head.
“You are registered, right?” Zac looked around. “Otherwise… you have a huge problem.”
I turn to Gry, who’s smiling. “What does he mean by Registered, Gry?”
Gry nodded. “Registered with the MRB.” The MRB, or Mercenary Review board was in a lot of way the Merc companies trade union against the Great Houses. Comstar ran it, and therefore it shouldn’t be trusted fully, but it usually worked to protect the merc commands from Great House greed and stupidity. If you were fee paying, of course.
Zac looked at the Viking next to me with an intent look. “How long, any contracts?” he inquired.
“Have paid the fees for a year. No contracts. Kikyo took over effective yesterday.” Gry apparently knew what Zac was after, while I didn’t, not really. I didn’t know everything about the universe, and the mercs weren’t an interest of mine on the nuts and bolts.
“Hmm.” Zac’s eyes narrowed, some of the manic energy he seemed to be vibrating with dissipating as he thought. “Seeing your dues paid, is easy. The question is, were you in abeyance, as in not actively recruiting when possible, unless at full strength?”
“Was at full strength for six months, then had a major incident killing a fair bit of us, and the previous owner. Less than a month after that, in transit to new owner, for nearly four months. Did a bit of recruiting after the incident, but didn’t have time to get enough mostly trustworthy bodies.” Gry graveled out, understanding Zac’s question.
Zac looked heavenward. “Well… shit. Four months?” He shook his head. “Better get me registered and hired.. Now, I’d say. Would depend on how asshole the toasterboys want to be. Then you got ninety days to prove the unit, tart.” He looked at me. “And I don’t know about you, furball, but I want to get rich.” Pause. “And kill Kuritans, by stomping on them in Redline. Oh, and fuck FanPro and CATLabs. Can’t forget that.” He paused. “And get hot clanner bondswomen. Oh, yeah. Really want that.”
Gry froze at the last line, and I just facepalmed. “Goddammit, Case. Just… Goddammit. I hadn’t told them yet.” I felt Gry’s and Morgan’s look as he walked up.
“Told us what?” Morgan grinned around his cigar.
Zac blinked. “Oh. Ooops?”
I just sighed between my hands. “Shut up, sign the nice paperwork, and don’t leave the cantonment, you… you… POLE.”
“Well… I was asked to destress his ass. I can see he really needs it. Suggestions on how to do that inside the catantoment, boss?” Morgan was still grinning.
I looked heavenward finally. “Stuff him in Xanadu, get someone to inventory his stuff, and start working on Redline, raid the bar in the room next to mine, and… I’ll make some calls to see if a few starlets want to thank a Kuritan killer.” I shot Morgan an icy look. “No debriefing til I explain. I had good reasons not to without proof.”
The named Pole just grinned. “Dammit, I really should make mistakes like that more often. Booze and women? Shit yeah!”
“Ah… I’ll get right on that.” Morgan grinned. He turned to grab the teenager. “You’ll fit in just fine. Johnny told me a few things about you, Kid.” Case instantly freezes as the grizzled veteran steered him away.
“I assume I will learn some of these things, Ma’am?” Gry’s voice is formal.
I nod. “Just… when I have a moment.”
“That I can understand. But make one soon.” His tone doesn’t brook disrespect.
“I…” I pause, part of me wanted to simply dump all this on Hanse Davion, and enjoy the wealth. The other part of me… knew I had a lever. And wanted to use it. “I will. We can do a lot of good.”
Gry didn’t answer that, but his eyebrow rose at the conviction in my voice.
I paused. “Come with me. I not only need to get started on getting the Starlets, but need to pick his brain as he pickles it.” With that, my heels began to click on the cermacrete.
“Oh?” He asked.
“To see exactly what to extort out of Hanse Davion.” I didn’t resist the impish thought. “Besides him and a bed, of course.”
A mildly reproving tone entered my XO’s voice. “Besides that, yes.”
About thirty minutes later, I walked into the lounge aboard Xanadu where Morgan had stashed Zackery. “So, here’s the story. You’re going to say you were at Mara, killing snakes galore, and the starlets I called will eat it up. This is New Avalon, saying you are fresh off Mara, fighting the Snakes, is always a good way to start successful pickup attempts. The three will eat it up. Who knows, there is a cabin for you here.”
The scruffy teenager looked at me puzzled. “Uh, Cabbit? I was there, Mara that is. Fucking snakes have been raiding hard for the last fuck… year?” He shakes his head. “Johnny’s Samurai got wiped intentionally by a Dieron regular unit, in a raid, then they pushed it though. I fought there… what, nine months, before that asshole Ziber said the contract was completed, even though it wasn’t, and MRB backed him up, since the AFFS was paying in full, with bonus…” He shrugs, exhausted. “At least they gave me a ride here.”
I stared. Mara had been intense raiding for a good eleven months, now, and now I knew why. Of course the DCMS would take insult to a new merc unit not of the Combine calling itself Samurai.
“Right. Well. That’ll help. Wow the girls with your tales.” I nod. “They’ll be here in about a half hour.”
“Hopefully I won’t be too drunk… hey, they are over eighteen, right?” Case asked.
“Yes.” I answered distractedly, as I was pulling out papers from a briefcase.
Case shivered as he made warding signs against the papers. “I signed, I signed, Gry has them!” He paused, eyes quirking. “Okay, what are those?”
“Our inventory.” I finish unloading it. “I wanted to take a glance at it before I go to Hanse. Apparently my father was a pack rat to make Army supply officers look well… uncaring of what they have.”
“US Army?” Case blinked. “Your stories…”
“Yep.” I smile, noting Morgan’s slight twitch.
“Huh. Well. Not my problem!” Case put words to action by a long pull on a Timbuktu dark he had been nursing. “So, you get all gussied up, knowing Hanse won’t let your cleavage influence his bargaining, and be a pretty little starlet, and don’t sell us out for too much.”
I roll my eyes. “Gry, Evie, Cummin, and a few others are coming to at least hammer out what we should accept, but start to offer. You got a brain, you can say.”
Case snorted but before he could finish, Morgan broke in. “We really need to have that talk. There is no way an Outworders mechajock should hear stories about the United States Army supply officers from a New Avalon Maus product. Period. Not when Zackary White has never been on New Avalon.”
Case giggled at my sigh. “Oh, sure. Doesn’t mean we haven’t met, at least virtually before.” He grins. “You explain why I’m a teenager again, and you’re a sexpot as usual!” He caroled, slamming the rest of the beer back, while opening another one.
“Wait for the others, Brigadier.” I ordered, a crisp tone in my voice. “We’ll only do this lonce.” Morgan raised an eyebrow, but didn’t say anything. “You did sweep this room, correct?”
Morgan’s eyebrow raised even higher, but he nodded. “Short of literally tearing it apart, yes. And honestly, the bugs that’d need that aren’t the most reliable anyways.” He shrugs. “We’re as secure as we can be, outside maybe the Den.”
“Good” I pulled my own Timbuktu Dark and popped the top off with a bottle opener. “This will not be fun.”
“Ha! For me, it will be!” Case cackled as Morgan and I waited for the rest.
We didn’t have to wait that long but Case had proven his liver was still as tough as it was as a Pole, as he was on his second six pack. The others filed in, and took seats, as well as beers themselves.
Case looked around, grinning. “Your Show~~~~” Apparently Case could sing very well, as he caroled that line, and I sighed.
“Thank you.” I didn’t manage to keep the venom out of my voice, but sighed again, and continued on. “This is going to sound crazy. But, I’ll concede that I didn’t intend to tell you at all, at least for a bit, until I could get proof. Asshole there…” Case grinned wider as he toasted me, on the other hand… “Well, is proof.”
“Damned fine Snake killing, future Clan killing, and general badass intending to get rich and have my own Canopus Pleasure caravan! Proof. Get it right, carrot eater.” He opened his ninth bottle, only to have Morgan shove a pita in his mouth.
“Eat, kid. You can’t chug like that without food, and not get wrecked.” He tsked, then turned to me as Case grumbled but ate.
I took a deep breath, noting Uri’s and Albert’s reactions to such, and Morgan’s grin, and Case’s disinterest, and started. “You see… it’s like this…” I gave an explanation, similar to the one I gave Ichigo and Aiko, leaving out certain things, such as Melange. “... I know it’s a lot to believe… but…”
Case shrugged. “It’s all true. Hell, fifteen years ago, I woke up a squalling brat, after being hit by a truck. By the time I was able to figure out where the hell I was, I was three, and cursing at the top of my lungs. Why not Solaris, dammit!”
I stared. “Seriously. Isekai’ed, for real?” I couldn’t keep the giggles out of my voice.
“Ha. Ha.” Case responded deadpan.
The rest, including Rogue, aka Rios, my newest shadow, were quiet for a long moment. Finally Morgan looked at her and nodded.
“Welp.” He lit a cigar. “That actually, mind you, explains some things. Not saying you’re right, but… hey, what’s his name Cameron, John, Jonthan?” He gets a nod at the last from a rolling eye Rios, and continues on. “Thanks, Rogue for confirming his name, anyways, the guy did have visions of what happened. Might not be what you say… but..” He holds out his hands widely. “I’ve seen enough strange shit not to discount it, anyways.”
“And the fact I know similar stuff, remember being a Pole who did customer support?” Case sniffs, on his three pita. “That doesn’t change things?”
Rios snorted slightly. “Case, I think that’ll stick, short for Head Case… we already knew something was very weird about you, your brain is weird, or so AFFS docs sent us. As for Ferret?” She snorted again. “It actually explains some things. Am I saying she’s right? No. But it might be how her brain handed a reincarnation event… Though I have a bet on what triggered the revelations of memory.”
I stare at the female operator. “Uh…”
“I’m a buddist, I can believe it.” She shrugged. “Expected to see proof? Now… different story, but it’s as good of an explanation as any. And she was smart enough to wait to tell us ‘til she had proof we couldn’t just wave away. Case’s good for that.”
Gry was silent, the others in the room looking at him. Finally he nodded once. “You said you knew of the Argo from a game there, one you didn’t play, but you read up on it.”
“Yes?” I was curious to where this was going, as well as Case, who leaned forward.
“Where is it?” Gry’s challenge was clear.
“Aylus, Alyis… No, Axylus, that’s it!” I snap my fingers. Case groans.
“Some things never change, you managed to screw it up in speech. Not your spellchecker!” He leans back. “Yeah, crashed there during the Uprising. Has a SLDF Black site map. Gotta avoid uploading anything from Artu we don’t double check with elite programmers, ‘hough.” He takes yet another pull of his beer.
Gry turns to me, his eyebrow still raised in silent question.
“Not sure, but Artu is a Castle Brian location, and has a virus called Lourca, I think in it. Fucks the shit out of computers, and bluntly? My bet is that’s where they started counter SDS research.” I shrug, as Case reacts
“Locura, dammit, carrot eater.” The teen grumbles, but is ignored by everyone.
Gry thinks for a long moment. “There is no way you could know that. Only the Aranos and your father did. He told me to use it as a test… to see if you had the same lust for change he did.”
I raise an eyebrow. “The Argo itself is nice, it’s the SLDF Black Map, I want. And we’re gonna get it. That will change things, if we’re good about it. Shame Hanse got told about it, thanks to my brother.” I sigh. “But as House Lords go, he’s the best around in this period.”
Albert shrugged. “If Gry’s willing to accept this, I’m game still. And I happen to think the Archon isn’t that bad…”
I shake my head. “Let’s say this, she is fit for her office, both good and bad. But being willing to sell your daughter for Davion troops…”
Case laughed evilly. “Germans, what can you do?” He shrugged and looked at Gry. “Good enough?”
“Good enough to go with.” He turns to Morgan. “Babble juice?”
Morgan sighs. “I got a source on some, yes, but what we need is a solid team of debriefers and interrogators to plumb their memory. Which means DMI.”
Case groans, and I wince. “I'd rather not give Hanse Davion everything, Morgan, I’d like something to use with him.”
Morgan raises an eyebrow. “You implied the universe would get better, then go to shit as bad or worse and stay that way. And you implied it’d hit the FS hard. I might be out, but I’m still a Rabid Fox. Not going to let my future brothers get fucked.”
I nodded at that. “I’ll.. think about it. We might be able to work around it. But… I have to ask. Anyone not in, or at least willing to consider this?”
While Evie’s face was a study, the rest all pointed to Gry, who simply nodded. “Ma’am, how it happened… I don’t know, don’t want to know, maybe it was what Rogue said. Maybe it’s what you saw. Souls are the same, though, and you’re clearly out to move the worlds. Let’s see what the levers are.” While this didn’t completely set Evie at ease, the rest shrugged and made it clear they were going along with Gry, for now.
Evie just looked around, finally resting her eyes on Gry. “.... This isn’t science. No one’s proven shit. Johnthan could have just been a good analysis of trends, and no one knows what the hell happened on Mallory’s world. No one who is talking, at least. You can’t all be going along with this!”
Micte shrugged, her new leather bomber jacket creaking. “It’s more we’re going along with Gry, Evie. And the Count wasn’t all tightly wrapped either as you well know.”
“But…” Evie tried again to be cut off by Albert.
“Gry supports her. Gry always had the right clue. Far as I’m concerned, unless she proves unfit, she can be as crazy as she wants.” The Tanker shrugged. “Bouncing around in cans tends to make you focus on immediate things, y’know.”
Rogue breaks in before Evie can try to rally more support. “Two, no three things. Gry basically confirmed he had a test for Ferret, and she passed when she should not have been able to. Second, I had a little talk with Deborah, the tech who reactivated Bun Bun. Kikyo’s presets and what Bun Bun read were way off. You’re a mech tech. You tell me. Third? I have a feeling the fact Zack Winter was deadheaded here under a different name was to protect him from the AFFS medical.”
Case raised an eyebrow. “Oh? Why would they want me? Hot Nurses…”
“Your brain is, and I quote, weird. As in none of the neurologists have seen anything quite like it.” Rogue shrugged. “I think they wanted you as a lab rat.”
“... no thank you, I’ll take the Trifecta, please.” Case grins.
Rogue doesn’t roll her eyes at Morgan’s snicker, but finishes speaking to Evie. “One? Agreed. I’d support you. Two, with other information? I’ve gone up against DEST, Morgan has. I’m still trying to figure out how a platoon of Rabids missed seeing a DEST commando walk past them. When it was on film.”
Evie turned to look at me. She ran her right hand through her hair, and finally asked. “Right. Before I even consider it, I did see in Bun Bun’s logs the mismatch. But, I want some more proof. Gry gets that much at least, me waiting for the proof. Most competent techs keep a copy of initial scans. Who did yours?”
Case snickers. I shrug. “Katherine Steiner of the Dragoons.” I pause, turn to look at Case. “Wait a…”
“MOTHERFUCKER.” Case leaps up. “MOTHERFUCKING TRASHBORN SCUMSUCKING…”
“Case!” I shot. He turns and looks at me. “She isn’t canon.”
Case blinks. “... I remember that name from somewhere, though…”
“... not sure, I think I do.. Besides the fact she and ‘Tasha were the consultants on a movie I did where I first learned how to pilot.” I shrug. “Can’t recall where.”
Case grumbles, then has an idea. “Why don’t you send her a letter, inviting her to join us?”
I tilt my head, vaguely recalling a blonde woman’s joking comment. I smile. “You know… that might work. That just might.” Turning to Evie. “Would that help?”
“It would.” Evie sighed. “Dammit. The Count was crazy, but he never claimed to be reborn, just had a knack of knowing where to go.” She shakes her head. “I’ll give you some time. Or another way to prove it.”
Case stands up, scruffiness on display as his battered leather jacket creaks, and I idly note the word Samurai on the back. “How about this. We get the Argo. We get the map. We get Artu, you see the crazy killer program, and know for a fact there’s no way we could have known about both? That good enough?” His face was in Evie’s, cold grey eyes boring into hers.
“Ah…” She was a bit flustered as she stepped back.
“Aye, it would more than be enough, I’d say.” Gry rumbles, looking at Evie. “Wouldn’t you?”
She looks at everyone else, and drops her head. “... the one sane woman again, you guys?”
Meta snerks at her. “Someone’s got to do it. None of us qualify.” She pauses, nods once. “Canon?”
“Err, you did hear me say that..” I started.
Meta rolled her eyes. “That this is a fictional universe, yes, yes. I’m more curious about the ‘isn’t canon’.”
Case broke in, after sitting back down. “Canon means ‘from official published materials’ or similar.” He shrugs. “Miss Steiner isn’t.”
Uri shoots back: “Then wouldn’t that mean some of the knowledge you claim to have is wrong?”
“Could be, could be. The big stuff? No. I doubt it, most of the fan made stuff generally followed the canon for background, at least until the change of the non canon character.” Case started on his eleventh beer, and another plate of nachos. “Some? Sure. Depends what is what. From our memories, of ‘here’, it doesn’t seem that there’s much change, though.” Meta nodded at that and waved the rest of us on, silencing the others.
I sigh. Standing up, I turn to Gry, nodding at him. “Right, time to set up the fulcrum for the first lever we need to grab. To see what additional levers we have.”
Gry blinks, then starts to slowly smile. “Hanse Davion.”
“Hanse Davion.” I smile back. “WIth a bit of luck, we can even get him to pay us for this.”
Case snickers, as he grabs a plate of Nachos out of the dumbwaiter. “The best way to do things! I knew you had it in you! Make sure you take him for every penny.”
“Are we going to tell him?” Morgan waved his hand, indicating about what.
I pause for a moment, part of me giggling, and saying yes, the other part… “I… don’t know for sure. Not yet. Not without a solid bona fide.” I shake my head. “Otherwise…”
Morgan’s jaw is set, and for a long moment I wonder what’s though his head. “But… once we get those bona fides?”
“Yes.” With that, Morgan nods, and turns to the others.
“Let’s get this on the road, then. Put our heads together and see what we can take the Prince for.” His smile around his cigar was a bit vicious.
Evie groused. “Aren’t you loyal to the Suns?”
“Eh, I’d like to see a Fox get outfoxed once or twice. And this is a safe way, though my money is on the Fox.” He grins back. “But we don’t have to make it easy for him, he’d be insulted.”
I facepalm slightly, but join in the discussion, and eventually, just before Case’s soon to be new starlet friends arrive, we have a basic offer to give to the Prince. With that, I stretch. “Okay, I better go get ready.” I turn to look at Case. “Behave, these aren’t bad people.”
“You know me.” Case waves another nacho at me.
Morgan rolls his eyes, and steals a beer. “I’ll make sure of that. Rest of us got things to do, no?” His eyes sweep around, backed up by Gry’s looking at everyone, implying that no one was to talk, and it was time for business for everyone. Nods answered back, and Gry saluted me.
“With your permission?”
“Dismissed.” I responded crisply.
En route to Palace Davion, New Avalon, Evening.
We had been sent a limo and two cars from Palace Davion to take my party to the Palace for the dinner Hanse Davion had requested. My eyes raked over Morgan Blackhand and Sofia Rios, both in their dress uniform variants. Both wore the single breasted wrap around jacket tunic, black, piped in gold, with their names on their left breast, their belts buckled by a Hou-ou in a circle. Their rank tabs showed Brigadier and Major respectively, while the patch at the top of the upper right arm had the unit’s symbol, name and motto on it. Left arm was currently bare, but a flash was planned for that side as well. I was pleased with how the “Lead the Way” looked under the Hou-ou. Richard had charged well for it. That was where the similarities ended.
Rios had the mid-shin high cavalry boots with three-inch heels, while Morgan had flat heeled male versions of those, and Rios was wearing an A-line, just above the knee, skirt, while Morgan’s baggy trousers hid his legs. The other major difference was the color of their pullover under the Jacket matching the rank stripe color. Morgan’s was in white, while Rios’ was in dark green, symbolizing Command and Special Operations respectively.
Both of them had their black berets tucked into their belt. Finally finishing this off was a half cape to the waist, with a rapier at their hips. I was wearing the same as Rios, just with Command white instead, and I winced at the money it had cost to get all this ready on time.
I looked over Rayanne in her professional suit skirt outfit, as well as Mari in the Midnight blue variant meant for the naval personnel which included the ASF pilots, but with Command white accents. In the second vehicle, was Uri, in Mechwarrior gold, and Cummin, making up the last of my party, besides the half platoon strong security detail, which was why Morgan was here, he’d get them through, or so he had claimed.
Rayanne looked at me. “Remember, don’t give up the store. Hanse’s reputed to be charming and able to use the same tricks you do to twist a young noble around.” I rolled my eyes. “I still think you should sell out, but in the end… I’m your lawyer, not your conservator. Baroness Shieldmaiden…” Rios winced at that name… “Oh, you know of her?”
“I do. I had the joy of being a Sergeant under her, while she was a regimental commander. My sympathies, Ma’am.” Rios’ tone implied a lot.
“... Same to you.” I responded after a moment. Turning back to Rayanne. “I’m not of the mood to screw those my birth father left behind, nor am I of a mood just to give him everything and sit back like a good little girl.” Pausing once more, I nodded sharply. “I can, and I will make a difference. I’ve been to worlds where they’re recovering from the battles, and Kentares, and even a system where the Liaos killed the planet. I rather not see more of those that I can prevent, neh?”
The Blonde lawyer sighed, and leaned forward. “Kikyo. This is a bad idea.” She shook her head. “It’s just asking to die young, not doing anything. You have a career and enough young nobles on a string to live a life of luxury where you want. You don’t have to do this to prove you’re more than fluff. A fusion engineering degree is enough proof you do have a brain, and if you feel guilty about that, do a four year tour in the AFFS, they’d love to have you as PIO.” Morgan and Rios snickered at the last, implying that love might be too mild of a term.
“I know. I have reasons.” I rolled my eyes. “Unless you signed up, didn’t you say you flew Boomerangs for a while?” I asked idly. “You won’t get to know why til it’s done.”
Rayanne’s eyes narrowed. “Really.”
“Really.” Before the lawyer could reply, we had pulled up to the gates of Palace Davion. Morgan handled the basic pass though, and shortly we were on our way. After a while, Rayanne looked up from her reviewing of the papers we had brought with us.
“I think you’re going too high to start…” Rayanne muttered, looking back down at the two page printout of what was on offer, and what we expected. “This is going to get him tempted to just seize.”
I shook my head. “It’s a first offer, not quite insulting, but clearly not meant to be taken seriously.” I grinned. “The inclusion of an option to shift the tonnage to drop or jumpships makes that clear, after all.” I shrug again. “With you helping Evie to sell the stuff that we both agreed that Hanse wouldn’t want to dicker over, and that we had absolutely no good use for? Money isn’t an issue I’m worried about. My late father was a packrat to end packrats. What the hell he was thinking I’d not know.”
“... Let’s hope he sees it the same.” Rayanne would have said more, but we were at the gates to the fairyland palace countless generations of Davions had called home.
Rios held us all back, ‘til one squad had squared off against their 1st Davion counterparts, who were clearly unsettled. “Oh, good, they did get the message.” the redheaded woman mentioned. “Okay, let’s go, Ferret last.”
I stepped out last, as Rios had instructed only to see Morgan and a Lt. Colonel of Infantry argue.
“Look, I’m still on the books as safe, so is the rest of the detail. The paperwork hasn’t fully gone through, but it’s all ricky tick.” Morgan sighed. “If you think I’m letting my principal go around unarmed and uncovered, you don’t remember me.”
“Oh, I do Solo.” The officer looked back. “And while technically, you’re right. This is the Palace. The Prince is in residence. You no longer work for him. Try that again.”
I put my hand on Morgan’s arm. “Let me try.” I looked the Colonel up and down. “Colonel… Fenton?” He nodded. “Why don’t you split the knot? I’m sure it’s regulations and rules you are following, that you can’t just discard.” He nodded a slight smile at my reasonableness. “But there should be someone who could, no? I am invited, and I can assure you the First Prince would be most dismayed if I chose to leave because reasonable security concerns couldn’t be managed for both sides.”
Morgan twitched slightly, but stayed silent. Fenton nodded reluctantly. He stepped back, and used his radio to contact someone, but I couldn’t hear who, or what he got in response. After a minute, almost to the second, he blinked, and nodded once, sharply and then stepped forward.
“It has been authorized.” Morgan shot the Colonel a look. “Against several people’s better judgement, but it has been. However… no armed guards or weapons inside the dining room.” He paused. “Well, your rapiers aren’t considered weapons, for this purpose, at least.”
“That’s just gauche. And it ruins the taste of food.” I nod seriously. “How do you deal with the taste of gunpowder in the caviar after all?” The Colonel and Morgan both choked off laughs at my whimsical tone. “But in more seriousness, thank you Colonel.”
“You are welcome.” He stepped aside and the two guards at the large doors opened them for us to troop though.
A majordomo in Davion colors awaited us. “This way, General, guests. The First Prince and his companions are expecting you.” I didn’t rubberneck as we walked through the Palace, I had been there once or twice before, once recently, for a pre Christmas party, nor did Morgan or Rios, or even Rayanne. Gry did flick his eyes a bit, but was clearly not unused to seeing this level of display. The others kept admirable composure, but clearly wanted to do a bit of rubbernecking. The Davions had spared no effort in making the Palace both a display of tasteful wealth and class, as well as a centerpiece for the Suns’ artistic expression.
I watched, slightly amused by the reluctance of the two Rabid Foxes that were going in with me, to unclip their pistols, but they did, and handed them to various members of the squad we brought with us, who peeled off to join their equals from the 1st Davion providing guards for the First Prince. When done, the Major Domo opened the door, and began to announce us, in order of rank.
“General Onishi of the Onishi Heavy Cavalry.” I walked in with that, and the rest followed as their names and ranks were called out, though I barely managed to keep moving without interruption when Rios of all people was called Honorable, meaning from a noble family. I’d have to get that from her.
Hanse stood up, also in AFFS dress uniform, his eyes raking my uniform, with a slight quirk to his lips. He got the message.
“Well, just in time, to make introductions.” Of course Hanse would not be so gauche as to imply we were late. “I’ve heard your people’s names, though two are familiar to me from elsewhere… I’d congratulate you on your poaching, but that’d imply I approve.” His tone turned a bit serious at the last, but a slight smile countered it.
He went around the table, introducing people, starting with a grandmotherly lady, his Champion, Yvonne Davion; then moving onto a cousin of his, and his minster for the Crucis March, Melinda Davion; the minster for Ways and Means, Joan Davion; his Field Marshal for Logistics, Nelitha Green-Davion; Marshal Ran Felsner, commander of the Heavy Guards; and finally a Dr. Colonel B. Banzai. I, somehow kept from staring as a clone of Peter Weller bowed his head in greetings. The sheer amount of Davion Red hair on display, on the other hand didn’t phase me.
I stomped on a very bad thought. Asking Dr. Banzai to wear powered armor would be very inappropriate at this dinner, but I couldn’t and didn’t try to resist a play on an old joke. “My, the number of redheads at this table now must make people wondering if a soul stealer convention is happening.” Blank faces crossed most except Nelitha, who snickered drawing all the other redheads attention.
“Oh, an old prespace Joke. British, actually, I believe, about the Irish who supposedly had no soul, and each freckle represented a soul they had stolen. Something about them being Catholic, or so I believe.” She waved her hand amused.
“Pretty much what I learned, yes.” I took the seat the staff held out for me. “And well, I suppose according to Liao or Kuritan propaganda…”
Hanse grins. “Oh, yes.” He shakes his head as the rest are settled. “While I’m sure that the Kuritans at least don’t know the root of the joke, the Liaos might actually.” He shrugs, as the first course is brought out. “I’d like to just have a free flowing discussion of various things, then after dinner is finished, we can truly discuss what we’re here for. I hope no one minds?”
To no one’s surprise, I do believe, no one had any disagreements, or at least didn’t voice any. After all it’s rude to go against your host’s wishes for a pleasant meal, and that goes double when he is a Prince.
“I do have one question I’d like answered first, Hanse.” Yvonne’s tone was slightly repoving. “Brigadier, I believe, Blackhand? Why have you put in your papers and accepted a position with the young lady? I’m most curious to know, as you took your entire company with you.”
Morgan waved his hand. “Your Grace…” He was cut off by Hanse.
“Regimental Mess rules, I’m afraid, or we’d be here all night calling each other by long winded titles or ranks.” He shook his head. “Doesn’t aid in the digestion, I’ve found.”
“As you say.” Morgan inclined his head. Turning back to Yvonne he grinned roughsily. “As with Hanse’s clear desire, I’ll tell you later, Yvonne. It isn’t quite pleasant dinner conversation.”
Yvonne’s eyes narrowed, then she nodded sharply once. “I will hold you to that, Morgan.”
With that, conversation flowed. Hanse was interested on how long Gry and the others had been with my father, and some details that they were willing to share of his more fun treasure hunts, while Yvonne and Joan picked everyone’s mind, including mine, of worlds we had seen. They were very interested in the off planet shoots I had done. Others had a free flowing discussion as well. It was amazingly pleasant, and showed Hanse at his most disarming. I was quite aware of what he was up to, but knew the original Kikyo wouldn’t be.
As coffee and wine was served after a dessert that both sets of memories agreed was as sinful and decadent as any ever tasted, Hanse grinned a bit. “As we all know, you’ve done what’s commonly called Mechploitation movies.” He snickered. “I’m sure that it wouldn’t surprise any of us here that the genre is a guilty pleasure of many a mechwarrior, and I’d dare say most of the males.”
Yvonne broke in, slightly reproving. “Especially when they are the ones that feature young female mechwarriors, no?”
I shrugged modestly. “It pays the bills, yes. And far be it from me to deny that at least one set of posters makes the rounds of barracks.”
Hanse and Ran laughed, admitting the truth. Young men hadn’t changed in eons, after all, and a symbol of what they were fighting for, would always be in the barracks. Well, most of them, at least.
“True, true. I’m sure if I did a snap inspection of the 1st Guards, I’d find one at least.” Hanse tilted his coffee cup at me, while I returned the gesture with my wine glass. I smiled inwardly. I had taken wine, mostly to keep Hanse off balance. Kikyo’s tolerance was high, and so was mine, but it might play into what Hanse expected, so… worth the effort.
Ran had leaned forward, his eyes intense. “What impressed me about your latest one, The Price of Glory? Wasn’t how typical of the genre it is. I’ll admit, as a young and not so young mechwarrior, one of the reasons for the pleasure is poking fun at the mistakes in the movies.” He smiles, at my smile to that. “I’m sure you’re quite aware of how accurate the vast majority are.”
“As in not?” I grinned. “What I think you’re asking, is why are the reviews and what I suspect you noticed, The Price of Glory? different from the typical one?” He nodded with a slight smile, as well as Hanse’s smile, who had asked that same question at the last party I had attended here, to my sudden recollection. Oh… my. I managed to keep that thought out of my head, but paused for a second, setting myself to answer without indicating I’ve done this before to at least one person here.
Ran’s eyes locked onto my face, as I spoke, with a slight smile. “Roger Coleman, Baron of New Vancouver on Macintosh, agreed with my ranting about yet another badly directed one. He challenged me to personally direct it, and I called in a few favors with a few small merc commands…” I spread my hands. “This doesn’t count the fact that the first time I did a mechwarrior movie, I had instruction from Natasha Kerensky and Katherine Steiner of the Dragoons, after all.”
“And as of course, while it didn’t get much critical acclaim, it’s done very well financially, to no one’s surprise. The baron has a knack for never losing money, after all.” Joan snorted slightly. “But it does explain that, doesn’t it, Ran?” The Marshall nodded. Before we could pick up other topics Hanse tapped his water glass, a clear chime.
“I’m afraid as pleasant as the discussions have been, it’s time for the distasteful parts of this evening. Where I try to loot as much as I can, while I suspect Rayanne and Kikyo attempt to do the same to me.” He grinned, taking the sting out. “I don’t suppose you have a list of what you’re willing to sell outright, with your initial offer handy, do you?”
“By chance, I do, actually.” I smiled, and pulled out a set of folded papers from my jacket’s flap and passed it to him. He opened it and read both pages carefully, his eyebrows raising higher than they did at the list on the first page, at the 2nd page, where the actual initial bid was. He passed it to Yvonne, who snorted after reading it, then it went to Joan who didn’t even twitch.
“I.. see.” Hanse leaned forward slightly, smiling with a hint of mischief. “I do hope that’s an opening offer, not a hard and fast line. I’d be disappointed, since it’d lack the opening for vigorous negotiations ”
I smiled back. “Nothing is absolute, at this point, of course.” I spread my hands. “I’d be curious to see what you intend.”
“Well then. Shall we get to it?” With his question, I and Rayanne prepared and opened battle figuratively speaking. He wasn’t joking about vigorous, with all but Ran of his guests piping in to adjust the terms, while I and Rayanne carried most of the work on our side, Gry and even Uri made pointed comments about already privately owned equipment, and several other points. We even covered some details about the hunt for the Argo and other possible Lostech sites, except for the explicit one that my father had left, but in several hours we came to a at least acceptable agreement in principle.
“I’d want to verify this list, and several other things, but I do believe we have an initial agreement, at least.” Hanse leaned back, sipping a glass of wine. “A bit pricey, but not quite extreme. Stocks, Cash, replacement tonnage or like for what we acquire now, and a split in principal for the rest, to be finalized when the mission for the Argo goes.” He looks around, and notes the disappointed look on Joan’s face. “Now, now, the tax free bit, to the second order disturbment, is fair.” He grinned. “At least I talked her out of jumpships, now.”
“That wasn’t a serious bid, Hanse.” Joan groused. “She knows as well as we do how short the AFFS is. She used that as leverage.” She was busy neatly writing a finalized agreement, as she spoke.
Out of my people, only Gry seemed anything but a bit stunned. They knew what we had, and the Davion side didn’t fully, so they knew the amount of money, stocks, and equipment that’d be changing hands shortly. So did I, and I somehow managed to keep my glee out of my expression, tripling my value in one day? Yes, please. Though I’d lose a fair chunk as my people would get paid.
As Joan finished the agreement, and passed it to Hanse and me, for initial signing, and notarization, Hanse was quiet. As Rayanne verified it was what we agreed on, I initialed, and signed, with Gry wintessing. Hanse signed, Ran witnessing, and Joan notarizing. Hanse nodded once, and tilted his now full wine glass at me.
“This was actually harder than I thought, and I didn’t get everything I wanted.” He grins. “I’m not too disappointed, mind you, and I thought the offer of marriage was a nice touch, too.”
“You weren’t serious.” I crinkled my nose. “Plus, Davions tend to marry for love, I’d not want you to break that streak.”
“I see, I see.” He sipped his wine. “I will say this, I came out far better than my worst case, and to be even more honest, better than my middle case. I do want the jumpers, but I can accept just hiring the unit, to get use of them. The AFFS has done similar before.” He smiled. “And you?”
“I didn’t get my ultimate goals, admittedly.” I shrug. Having been told that Hanse thought he got away cheaply, even though he didn’t have to find a planet for me, or heavy equipment, stung. I thought asking for major stocks in the companies he’d be fixing up was a good thing. Then again… I don’t think he really realized how much he would be looking over. “Though I got more than I thought I would.”
“Then, honestly? I think we have a good deal. If both sides think they came off well..” he spread his hand. “I know you weren’t raised Lyran, but Uri, isn’t that the definition of a good deal?”
The Major, who had been quiet, nodded once. “Yes, sir.”
“Excellent!” He grinned. “I think we should all take our retirement for the night and meet bright and early at Xanadu, to begin this process, don’t you?” He received several nods. “Normally, I’d not attend, but the sheer range? Certainly. At least internally.” He smiled. “I think… Nathlia, Yvonne and myself, initially.” He looked at the two who nodded. “Joan, I assume you can send an accountant who's Sword One?” He received a nod. “Now, Mendlina, you have research to do. So.” He clapped his hands. “I bid you all a good night, and a pleasant morning tomorrow.” He grinned. “I still haven’t decided if I am going to ennoble you, yet, Kikyo, I’ll sleep on it.” I almost protested, but his smile stopped me. Before I could voice any thought at that statement, Joan broke in dryly.
“As for the privately owned mechs, that are lostech, do try to keep it fairly low numbers, and the ink at least dry before we get there, please?”
Snickers broke out at that as we all took our leave with that statement.
Dropship Xanadu primary boarding Ramp, New Avalon Dropship Port, Early Morning, 1/4/3015
One thing Kikyo, the original Kikyo learned well from her mother was the fact that she, Aiko, and Ichigo were genies. Like her mother, the genepack bred 100% true in females, males not so much. Putting aside why the Kuritans developed it, the pack had some fun edges, such as no hangovers, high tolerance and resistance to drugs and diseases, and most importantly, the ability to easily function on only four hours of sleep a night indefinitely. The Kuritans paid good money to a Canopian renegade, I figured.
Unlike Evie or Gry, the former much more content with me when the final deal was laid out, including the fact Hanse would pay us top rate to go treasure hunting, not to mention the loot we got out of him. But both named people were the first of the senior staff who had joined me in a massive party. Outside Case, who was snickering at them, everyone else except Rios, who hadn’t indulged at all, or me, with my gene pack, they were suffering. I had mastered my immense annoyance at waking up alone, and while the rest dealt with the morning, I had taken care of one of the gene pack’s designed ‘flaws’, at least in my eyes. Toys were useful, since everyone at the party was my employee or bodyguard, after all. Not to mention I was more choosy and less likely to indulge than the original Kikyo was, after all.
“You know, I did try to tell you to go to bed, Evie.” I commented cheerfully. “Not to mention to drink plenty of water.”
Evie’s sharp retort of a raised finger as she winced at my voice and the dawn, told me all I needed to know.
A soft, slightly pained rumbled responded for both of them. “Aye, you did but go easy on her. We haven’t had much to celebrate after all, and you announcing that a fair amount would be split among us, helped. I don’t recommend too much, mind you, we need the funds, as reserve if nothing else.” Gry’s rumble trailed off, as the 1st Davion Guards and their Prince arrived.
“I wasn’t planning on too much, first let’s see if he recovers from the shock. We didn’t show him amounts.” I smiled. It’s always fun springing an ambush on someone. While Hanse believed, and with Case’s bitching, during the party, that he had scored a great deal, I had mentioned I tripled our net worth without giving up a single jumpship. There was a reason for that. As I noted earlier, my father was a pack rat to end pack rats. If it was working, and technological? He picked it up. Even items no one sane could use or even parts no one, period could use.
“That’s a good point.” Case smiles. “Ever see a First Prince choke on his coffee? We’re going to, I think.” He started cackling as two Davion guardsmen walked up, looking at him.
“He’s just imagining the fun to be had this morning. Has the First Prince had breakfast yet?” I inquired. “We haven’t.” I noticed Gry turning slightly green and Evie grey at the thought of breakfast, and so did Hanse Davion, walking up.
“... did they celebrate?” He tilted his head. “I know the deal was decent, but I didn’t think that they would consider it that good…”
I grinned. “May I offer you breakfast? And a complete inventory?”
The redheaded prince paused. His tilted head froze for a second, then he facepalmed. “I didn’t ask how many items, did I?”
“Nooooooope.” I popped the p, as Rios showed the guards. “Come, look at the complete inventory over a meal.”
Hanse watched as the cackling teenager was led off by a hungover Morgan, while his people nodded that Xanadu was secure enough for them. “I’m not sure I should, but what’s the harm.”
Gry was very careful to cover his rumble as Nathlia and Yvonne Davion walked up accompanied by Ran Feltser and Ardan Sortek. “Famous last words, your highness, famous last words.”
Hanse spoke once a passing dropship was by. “I decided to get a start on the Argo mission by inviting Ran and Ardan Sortek, a friend…”
I paused. Out of all the men in the Federated Suns, Ardan Sortek was that rare person. Loyal, moral, ethical, honest, and unafraid. It’s hard to say if any one man could be the moral conscience of an entire interstellar realm, but he acted as such later on for Hanse. Before, thankfully, I could gush at him, I saw someone. “It is a high pleasure to meet you Colonel, but I need to talk to my brother. Please excuse me.” I bowed slightly, as Hanse just nodded.
“We’ll just take advantage of your cooks, then, shall we?” The last was directed at the four with him. “And I suppose that my guards are included, are they not?”
“Of course!” I responded as I hurried off.
“Kikyo.” Ichigo stopped as I hurried up to him. “... not too bad in the uniform, but it’s the wrong one…” I held up my hand.
“You will do three things today, some of which will continue until I release it. Period.” My jade green eyes bored into his. “You will not give Hanse Davion or any other any information I gave you. You will not discuss what we discussed earlier about the memories. Last but not least, you will not undercut me. Do you understand?” My tone brooked no disobedience. I didn’t lay out what I’d do, because I wanted him to think about it. Having a regiment of trained killers at your back did give one options, though killing my brother in blood, this universe was never on the table.
Ichigo’s jaw clenched, but his tone was moderate. “I do hope you intend to not make me a traitor to my oaths, and that you will give them to the Suns.”
“That was always the plan, it’s how to use it for humanity’s benefit, that I want to control. I have no doubt that Hanse is the best of the House lords currently, but even he is still a House Lord, and still prone to vendetta and missing the tree for the forest.” I paused. “And to a Davion, often everything looks like it needs a dose of autocannon fire.”
“He’s not that…” Ichigo paused. “Okay, he has a temper, but he controls it.” I shook my head.
“We discussed Operation Rat, and I pointed out the failings. You agreed to them.” Ichigo winced at my elegantly upraised eyebrow.
“... We’ll talk about it later.” He finally said. “But, as long as I have your assurances you will come clean… I’ll hold my tongue easily for today, and if you show me a decent plan, until you want.” He ran his hand through his hair. “I don’t like it, and I don’t think it’s a good idea considering my oaths… but you’re not asking me to break them, precisely. Just… let you handle the information, correct?”
I nodded. “That’s the plan.” His eyebrow rose, then lowered.
“Right. I’ll go keep Aiko company. Maybe see what her tutors are up to.” Ichigo strode off, stiff from our conversation.
I looked at his back, and sighed. I didn’t like that conversation, but it had to be had. Ichigo had proven that, like me, he took his oaths seriously, and might put them over his family. I couldn’t argue he would be wrong, in this case, to do so… But the good that could be done? The levers I could pull? I smiled. Operation Rat, the 3028 invasion of the Capellan Confederation, was the most successful operation in four Succession wars, but even putting aside Sun-Tzu being a designer's favorite, or the desire to balance factions, was a strategic mistake, on a lot of levels. A rarity for Hanse, but it ended up costing the Suns dearly.
This time? Oh, no. The Suns would not be taken to the cleaners by the unholy abortion of North Korea and Imperial China, at the same time the Imperal Weeaboos gutted them. New Avalon wouldn’t fall. And I wasn’t sure which part of me was most insistent.
Meal Lounge, Dropship Xanadu, Morning.
I walked in as Hanse was chatting with Rios, while the others were having an Irish breakfast. I could indulge in a proper breakfast, and did from the buffet laid out.
“So… ready to see?” I smiled innocently, as Case perked up.
Hanse looked down at his half eaten plate, then at the folders I was holding. Three of them, copies, one each for the three major decision makers here. “Why not.” Hanse finally decided. “I can read and eat, too. Very nice for a serving line, good cooks. And your ship is lovely. Overdone, but… It’s a Princess.”
“Xanadu was a gift, and came as is.” I shrugged. “At least it didn’t come with a Numenor Dire Wolf puppy.” I shivered. Only one of the massive wolves of Numenor had ever been tamed enough not to eat or try to a human. Contrary to what Ichigo and some of my personnel might thing, I wasn’t that crazy to think I could get the second one.
“... Duchess Numenor was an interesting person.” Hanse smiled. He held his hand out. “Let’s see how badly you tricked me.” He took the sting out of the words with a roguish grin. Two other folders went to the head of AFFS Logistics, and of course, the Prince’s Champion.
Hanse flipped though, stopping at one page as he took a sip of coffee, only to be still drinking as he hit the bottom line. The spray of coffee onto my face, caused Case to cackle madly, while I couldn’t help but snicker. “Was that page three, or page seven?”
Yvonne and Nathlia had done the smart thing apparently, and let Hanse read and eat. They managed to master their curiosity long enough for Hanse to recover his breath, and just shake his head. “Page three.” he finally responded, taking a sip of water to finish clearing his throat.
Gry rumbled amused. “Ahh, the XLFE engines.”
“Yes. Well into enough to reverse engineer them, maybe even figure out how to make them.” He smiles cooly. “Well worth it.”
I and Case shared a look, and the teenager of us looked at it. “Oh, just wait. Kikyo! Twenty pounds on him having a heart attack.”
“... I won’t take that bet. Not this year.” I pause, at Hanse’s raised eyebrow, and smile. “Cackle like a loon, putting you to shame, 100.”
“Done!” Case turns to Hanse. “Get to reading, Prince! I got pounds to win!”
Yvonne stirred about to lay into Case, but a raised hand stopped her. “Let him have his fun. I would too in his shoes, I do believe.”
Everyone waited, as Hanse carefully worked his way through his meal and second cup of coffee, slowly going though, stopping before he hit page seven. Putting aside his clean plate, and now empty coffee cup, with a grin, as to indicate he had learned, he flipped to page seven. Reading it, his eyebrows rose. Rose higher. Rose to where I would have sworn they had gone past his hairline, but that was impossible.
“Bwahahahahahahahahahahahaha.” Hanse’s cackling was awesome.
“Told you.” I walked over to Case. “My pounds, please?” Hanse’s eyes indicated to at least me and Yvonne he was partly playing this up, as well as using it to cover his shock.
Yvonne stared, flipping to the page in question and reading it in question. She simply stared at it, trying to comprehend what it was saying. Finally, she spoke loud enough to be heard over Hanse’s maniacal laughter. “If you hadn’t already come to terms, the terms now would be: Hanse with my Atlas at his back, and a laser pointed at it, you in a white dress. Tomorrow.” She paused and suddenly in a sharp tone spoke. “Everyone who isn’t cleared by me, personally, or didn’t personally verify this…” She looked at Gry who pointed at everyone but Case of the unit, and she nodded in response. “Out. Now. This means everyone. Including you, Major Rios, and all guards.”
I turn after waving Case’s slightly annoyed expression at having no cash, muttering to him. “De nada.” I quirk an eyebrow. “And how would you get me down that aisle, Champion?”
“I’m sure Ardan could be counted on for a bit of work in that case.” She paused, looking at Case. “And why aren’t you leaving, son?”
Case’s expression grew cold as he shot back. “I’m cleared by the carrot eater.” His thumb jerked at me, and I nodded.
“I trust no one in the unit more, to be honest.” I shrugged, but Ardan spoke before Yvonne could speak. She shot a glare at the scruffy mechwarrior that promised he’d not die if this leaked. Case just mimed zipped lips with a grin.
“... I would be?” Ardan’s expression was completely confused.
Yvonne waited ‘til the door was closed, and Morgan personally sealed it, after double-checking for bugs. She finally spoke. “Yes. Let’s just say, just this page alone, is the answer to at least a dozen corporations' most heartfelt prayers, and the CEO’s would literally sell their souls. As would Nelitha.” She looked. “Or how would you and your people like at least 300 battlemchs and ASF a month, as a rough guess, Nathlia… to distribute?” She shook her head. “Melinda would know more for sure, but even what I know, makes this page alone worth twice, at the very least the deal.”
Ardan huhed. “I… don’t know Hanse, Miss Onishi, I’d have to say that’s mighty tempting. I wouldn’t, of course, but… I can see why it’d be considered.”
I blew out a breath. I really didn’t want to get married yet, and Hanse had a bride waiting for him. Now… just to make sure his children weren’t total screw ups. “So can I, to be honest.” I shrugged.
“... But that does raise a point.” Hanse leaned back. “I know we both agreed to the deal, and your people thought it was good… but honestly… this is changing everything. I thought it was maybe a few bays, at most to fix one of Wangker’s lines for their Corsairs, still priceless, I admit, but …”
Hanse’s eyes grew distant. “This changes everything if we can get it in place. We will finally have the ability to build new units and sustain them through heavy combat. Win the Succession Wars?” He shook his head. “Unlikely.” But he smiled. “Make sure that the Federated Suns are the strongest ever, and finally push the Kuritans back beyond the old Star League borders for good?” His smile grew cold. “Oh… yes, that we will do.”
Yvonne’s and everyone else’s smiles, including mine, I must admit, were just as cold. Hanse shook himself. “Are you sure that you don’t want a ring? That was on the table, and I am thinking it’s not a bad thing.”
I paused, part of me, the original Kikyo, leaping up and down going ‘yes yes yes’. The other part of me, and the merged shook her head. “I don’t think it’s a big enough dowry, to be honest. Some would, but… not me.”
Hanse leaned back. “I’m tempted to ask what you would consider big enough. Part of me worries you can find it. The other part wants to be surprised.” He grins. Standing up, he nods once. “First, we’re going to need to verify it, and I want to look at some of the mechs and armored fighting vehicles that I might be getting. Second, you are not going to talk me out of an idea I had while getting ready for bed last night. I insist.”
I nod. “Sire.” I speak seriously, looking at Morgan. “I cannot stress enough, that whoever you have do the verification undergoes interrogation to prove their loyalty.” Hanse’s eyebrow rose, but he didn’t interrupt. “Make sure, besides the usual actors, they check for loyalty and willingness to talk to Comstar. Or ROM.” Hanse and Yvonne go still at the last.
“I would ask how you learned about something we only suspect, but I believe the answer would be your father.” Yvonne sighed. “You suspect them of being willing to destroy this material?”
My eyes became harder than the stone they so resembled. “Suspect? No. Know? Yes.” I paused. “Please don’t ask how. But I’ll say the Adept who came to inquire about me selling to them was a tip off, and not only that, insulting to boot.”
Hanse’s eyebrow clearly wanted to ask ‘How insulting’?
“Two billion for everything, except the jumpships and two billion for those. And of course the knowledge I had done Blake’s will in preserving lost treasures of the Star League.” I explained dryly. “At least the Lyran Ambassador was more polite about it, and offered to beat any deal you made, plus a duchy.”
“They would, wouldn’t they?” Hanse clearly referred to the Lyrans, but sobered up. “I see your point about Comstar. Yvonne?”
“It will be done, but I want the idea you told me on the way here done now.” She nodded sharply. “It will be much easier to secure them there, plus an odd orbit for her Vengeances and Behemoths.”
“Agreed.” Hanse takes a breath and nods once. “I seem to recall one of your Maus Corporation movies, being at Winterfell.” My eyebrows knitted as I went through my memories.
“Yess…” I finally said. The movie was a tween summer camp movie, formula, and all that. Didn’t do badly, though, but I continued on. “Bit run down, seemed like a dying resort area in the winter, though there is some possibility for cool summer activities, if I recall the area right, somewhat similar to the Tahoe area of California, on Terra…”
His eyebrow rose at the latter, but he continued on. “The last baron died two years ago, leaving the barony to House Davion. I can just make you the baroness. There’s the bonus of it also not being heavily populated, with if not standoffish people, those who don’t easily care for interlopers nor those who threaten the Suns.” Yvonne nodded at that. “We were evaluating it for testing areas for research and development, that’s why we know the latter. Putting you as Baroness, and your unit there?” He grins. “Solves a lot of problems. It does have a dropport big enough for your unit…” He pauses. “Barely.”
Gry thought. “We can move in three hours, if our dropships are topped off. I’ve already assigned crew to Xanadu, via Admiral Ahmad, so we’re good to go there. All our equipment except Bun Bun and a few vehicles are on the dropships, so no loading there.” He looks up. “We’re just waiting on some food, and we’re good to go.”
I shrugged. “All my belongings are on Xanadu except Summer Breeze, and I suppose that can be shipped to me.”
Hanse’s eyebrow quirked. “Summer Breeze?”
Hanse grins. “Aaah. I see. Yes.” He shakes his head, and nods at Yvonne. “I presume you’re ready to contact Aerospace control?”
“Now. We’ll provide food, and have it delivered in an hour after you land. Load the ships, I want this done. All your people here?”
Gry’s eyebrow rose, but he nodded. Standing he nodded at me. “With your permission, I’ll see to it. Forty-five minutes, and I presume the port has fuel there?”
“It does. Or I’ll have it brought in.” Hanse nods. He too stands. “Let’s go. Yvonne?”
I felt blown away by the speed. Battletech was supposed to be sloth speed. Not this hurricane, but I too stood, and spoke to Gry. “You have it, General.”
“Thank you, General, I’ll get going. See you at Winterfell.”
Dropship Xanadu, Bridge, Winterfell Dropship Port, Barony of Winterfell, New Avalon, Evening.
Hanse winced as we walked though what was the Baronial estate. “I don’t recall it being this bad.”
“According to the records you gave me, it’s been ten years. At least the tram from Lake Fell is still in great shape as well as the docks. It looks like Summer Breeze has a nice home.” I smiled. Kikyo-original adored that ship. Not only was it a fun way to entertain those who wanted a bit more discreet location, it was a way to get away and not be bothered. Also useful for some filming, but not often. Xanadu was actually rigged to lift a yacht slightly bigger and store it, and then return it to water, but Hanse and Yvonne were having MIIO tear the ship apart making sure it was clean of anything, and in good working order.
“Don’t worry, it’ll only be a week.” He grins. “And it’s not boating weather here.” I nod, shivering slightly in my fur coat. I was a city girl, and while New Avalon, the city, wasn’t located on the equator, it was fairly temperate, even in Winter. New Scotland, even on the south-east shore of Loch Arthur, wasn’t. This was when the locals made the majority of their money, bringing in the silver ice weasel fur that adorned noble women’s bodies during winter. Like my coat. Which was helping, but the manor had clearly not been maintained at all, and while built well, a few bad blizzards had damaged areas while trees and branches had done in many windows, allowing snow here and there. Most of the manor had been stripped of belongings, though some furnishings still remained here and there.
Finally we came across a room with a fireplace, and drop covered couches. Even better, Hanse’s eyes alight on a stack of firewood. My eye could tell it was likely there from before the manor was shut down, but it was still good. I watched amused as he tried to build a fire, finally commenting.
“You might want to check the flue before you light it, otherwise…” I couldn’t help but grin.
Hanse blinked, and facepalmed, but one of his guardsmen snickered, and moved to actually both clear the flue, and build a good fire. Hanse looked a bit bemused at it, but let the guard do so.
“Thank you, Sergeant. I am at no risk, but the rest of the manor should be checked out.”
“Sire.” The sergeant saluted, and closed the doors behind him and his squad, though I was certain that at least a pair stayed to guard the door.
He clapped his hands, and moved to pull off several covers, and sat down in a lounge. “Sinfully comfortable. You should try one.”
I paused, and shook my head. “Anyone tell you you are a tease?”
“That and a troll, yes.” He grinned. “I’m not oblivious, I recognize the natural setup, a script writer couldn’t write it better.” He dropped into what was an expression of exaggerated lust, and said in a cheesy tone. “You’re shivering, why don’t you sit with me and we’ll find a way to warm up.” He held the expression for a second, and burst out laughing at my bemused expression. “I did say not until the third date, and I’d daresay we haven’t had three of those.”
I thought about arguing, but he was the Prince, and in fiction he won more far more than he lost, though when he lost, he lost hard. “As you say.” I sat in the chair across from him. “I suppose you have something you want to discuss?”
“I do. First, how long do you think you could have an all up combined arms regiment ready to go? As well as at least a company of Marines, and one of Morgan’s platoons?” Hanse quirked an eyebrow.
“To my satisfaction?” I thought. “Three to six months. Major holes were blown in my father’s people. Even at six months I’d be leery of taking them into pitched sustained battle.” I shrugged. “That’s of course if I left a serious cadre behind to keep expanding. “
“Interesting. From what my people say, you have enough to put together the size I asked now. You deny this?” His eyebrows rose in channel.
“The people? Yes. And a bit more, though I did point out leaving behind a cadre, did I not?” He nodded. “It’s not the numbers, it’s the time to shake a unit down. You know this.”
“And you shouldn’t.” His eyes bored into me. “I asked Ichigo, and he stated you showed little interest in military matters to him.”
I didn’t wince at a slip up I had just made, but I had a cover. “At the time Lt. Steiner was more than just an instructor on how to pilot a mech, she gave bits and pieces on other things… and I’m sure you can ask Marie, your sister how much she wanted to learn from her brothers.”
He paused and nodded at the last. “Or us from her, I suppose. Fair enough. But.” He leaned back, the fires casting shadows on his face, and making his eyes entrancingly alight. “You have secrets and aren’t as you should be. This intrigues me.”
“All women have secrets, Your highness.” I couldn’t bring myself to call him Sire. That was nobility and royalty, and I still was part American. “Sometimes we share them… sometimes we don’t. Only time will tell if I will, with you. Or what price you’ll need to pay.”
“I… see.” He paused. “Do they threaten the Suns?”
“In the wrong hands… they could, admittedly.” I shrugged. Being honest was something that was worth its weight in gold, and in this case, the only way to go. Hanse wasn’t the Fox for nothing, after all, and I couldn’t put past lie detection as one of his many talents. “But I assure you that my hands aren’t the wrong ones, for I want to use them to the Sun’s benefits. You are, without a doubt, if not the best current living House lord, tied with Katrina and Avellar, and maybe the current Calderon. I’d put you ahead of the Archon, and the Calderon, but it’s hard generally to beat the Avellars, in a lot of ways, it’s a shame they have so little to work with.”
“High praise, I suspect.” He leaned forward. “I’d contest it, but I’m flattered, though considering my competition…”
“Damned by faint praise comes to mind, agreed.” I shook my head. “Didn’t you found the NAIS for medical purposes first and foremost?”
“Outside the Avallars, who’d do that? Discount the Canopians, as that’s their big claim to fame outside their honey pots. Which really, from what I know, they sell to the highest bidder, too.” I raised an eyebrow.
“... I would say anyone would, but we both know that’s a lie, since my intent is to make it’s gains known to all the Suns, and even others.” He shook his head. “Thank you.”
I wagged a finger. “It doesn’t mean you don’t have some vices, and some of your virtues are vices in themselves, Prince. But it does mean you are at least trying to be worthy of being a good steward to your people. That’s rare enough.”
“... I would argue, but history would prove you right.” Hanse smiled grimly. “Answer me truly. Will you ever tell me them?”
“... I cannot say yes for sure. But I can say I would want to, at least some of them. All?” I shrug. “Some are not mine to share. Some are ones that are best left where they came from. Some are immaterial, in fact. But those that are useful? I want to.”
Hanse studied me for a long moment. It grew warm enough, for me to remove my coat, and I did. Finally he broke the silence. “I’ll hold you to that. And I hope you find the proof I suspect you want before you tell me some.”
I nod. “So do I.” I didn’t try to deny it. He was right. Without proof, more than just Case, more than just maybe Lt. Steiner of the Dragoons, and that was a guess, I couldn’t. Too much required me to be footloose and fancy free, or at least not in a straightjacket.
“Well. I will help you staff your unit, but I want you moving by February 1st. My current plan is to have your combined arms regiment, a training battalion formed of Albion graduates, and one task force of the Guards, under Ran Felster’s command go pirate hunting, and ‘disappear’. In reality…”
“Go get the Argo.” He nodded at my response. “... Doable, barely. May I suggest an addition?”
His eyebrow rose. “Oh?”
“Team Banzai. They’re supposedly good, and have high technical ability. May be useful, no?” I raised my eye in challenge.
“Concede.” He thought about it for a moment, then nodded. “Doable. If they agree.”
“I’d like to also take an aerospace regiment along, out of my people.” I raised an eyebrow in challenge.
“Last but not least, I have a few leads and if they pan out, I’d like your help to get them here. Some from the Outwordlers.”
“Trying to poach one or two of their Flying Nightmares? If it’s practical…” He agreed.
“And…” I trailed off.
His eyes narrowed. “And?”
“Well, Katherine did joke that she’d offer me a place in the Dragoons if I got tired of acting. Given the odds of Anton not trying something as stupid as that governor did on the Light Horse, I’d like to give her a heads up and possible home if it all…” I spread my hands apart.
“I… see. You think Anton would be that … insane?” Hanse shook his head. “I find that hard to credit.”
I thought on how to put that I didn’t think, I knew. Vesar was a viper. As well as ROM. And wanted the Dragoons broken. But… Ah. “Would you trust a man who turned his hand against his brother, his nephew against the nephew’s father? And one who is losing?”
“... I wouldn’t, no, your point is taken. Samuel Johnson had a quote I believe,” he replied finally.
“Trust me, Sir, when a man knows he’ll be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.” I responded.
“Exactly. Write your letter to her, and I’ll see it gets to her as soon as possible.” He nodded finally.
“Thank you.” I smiled. I looked around and sighed. “Anything else?”
“Not at this moment, but I would suggest you think about agreeing to exchange some of that tonnage and cash for dropships and maybe even jumpships from me.” Hanse shrugged. “I’ve reconsidered, and that might be the most effective way to handle it.” He looked upwards, studying teh flickers on the ceiling. “The tonnage will be far more than I’d like to give up, at least in ‘Mechs and vehicles for a while, unless you want to spread it out over a near decade. Even with the likely improvements to industry.” He shook his head. “I am pondering a deal, that would lessen the sting of this arrangement, so don’t trouble yourself on that.”
I nodded. “Still..”
He waved his hand. “It is only a thought, at this point. A lot will depend on actual situations.”
I didn’t pout, I was more than willing to make that deal, depending on the tonnage required. But again. Patience, Kikyo, Patience. “Of course.”
“Excellent.” He stood, putting his greatcoat back on. I stood as well, as he strode over, picking up and holding out my coat to slip into. “I do believe we should return to the dropport.”
I nodded, smiling ruefully. “I think it’ll be a bit before this place is livable, yes.”
Winterfell Dropship Port, Barony of Winterfell, Late Evening.
As Hanse departed towards his waiting transportation, I turned to the annoyed Infantry Brigadier, and the amused Operator next to her.
“Oookay… what’s the problem.” I tilted my head.
“We have an unauthorized person going over our vehicles, and Morgan and Evie don’t care.” Meta sounded irritated. “And they won’t tell me why.”
I turn to Morgan, raising an eyebrow. “And you will tell me, no?”
“Dr. Banzai.” Morgan grinned, to a slight confusion on Jinks’ face.
I sigh. “He’s authorized, or if he’s not, that’s more the paperwork hasn’t caught up to us yet.” I pause. “Or been done, to be fair. But it will be. He’s arguably the best man to look at the medical gear, mind you, outside of Terra and the Belt.”
Morgan nodded. “That’s a fact. I might have been called the best Rabid Fox, able to solo companies, but he’s on another level when it comes to tech, and isn’t far behind when you talk about neuroscience.”
Meta sighed. “Okay, can you talk to him, and remind that man it’s impolite to go onto another’s cantonment without being invited? Not done.”
I nod, and look at Morgan, who pulls a radio. “This is Solo. Where is Banzai.”
“Colossus 3, sir, at Bun Bun’s bay.” the reply was immediate. “He’d also like to see Winter.”
Morgan tilts his head at me, and I nod at the question. “Boss says get him. Make it happen.” With that, he waves me on to a waiting car.
One thing to understand about Dropship ports. They’re big. Winterfell's was always a small one, and more auxiliary for the other ports on New Avalon and given the current traffic, only saw one or two dropships a day normally, at best. Still, it could park all my landable dropships, with a bit of juggling, and still have room for a few more. That made the port huge by any 21st century person’s view.
To someone like Morgan, who was used to New Avalon’s main port or other major worlds, Winterfell’s port was easily the clone of Missoula’s international airport, compared to New Avalon’s JFK. Which neatly explained his next comment as the sedan we were in parked next to a Colossus class Dropship.
“That was faster than I thought.” Morgan got out, sweeping the area, and waving me out.
“Small port.” I agreed, though thinking that it seemed long to the merged me.
“Ah.. and there’s Zack.” Morgan grinned as the teenager walked up, and shivered.
“It’s cold!” He was grinning. “I love it!”
“You’re shivering.” Morgan’s deadpan was evident.
Case tilted his head. “I fought mostly in the tropics for a year, then spent time on a dropship on top of that. And where I grew up wasn’t that cold either. I’ll get used to it.” He grinned. “And… Banzai wants to meet me?” He punched the air. “YES!”
I rolled my eyes. “Let’s not keep the good doctor waiting.” We were led up by a spacer named Neda, who was quiet, and studying us three as if we were chicks about to starve or freeze. As she finished leading us, and pointed at Bun Bun, where I saw someone looking into his cockpit, she commented softly. “Young people should dress for the weather, and you, boy, need to eat more.” Before either of us could comment, she had disappeared
I strode over to the lift next to Bun Bun, and Redline, Case’s half disassembled Hunchback was in the bay next to him. Before Morgan or Case could get in, I punched it up, and if this wasn’t Evie or Deb, or a tech they personally authorized from my unit, I was going to kill a bitch.
As I reached the platform to get to Bun Bun’s cockpit, I pulled out a pistol I had kept, and cocked it. Stepping out, the pistol was in a two handed grip and pointed down, but ready to bring into battery. “You have three seconds to explain who you are and why you are in my mech’s cockpit. One…”
The head snapped up and Peter Weller’s clone looked at me. “I was just seeing if there was anything unexpected about Bun Bun’s neurological interface.” That didn’t get the pistol taken away from him, and he raised an eyebrow as he continued. “Cook asked me to. My reputation, you see…”
“And why did she?” I safed the pistol, and put it back in it’s hostler. “And going around poking in my battlemech, without being authorized by me, Colonel Banzai, makes me a bit paranoid. While I concede you’re unlikely to do harm to Bun Bun, not all I can say the same about.”
He paused for a second and then nodded. “I’d say properly cautious, and I apologize.” His relaxed expression hadn’t changed at all, and he leaned back against the railing of the platform. “She told me about your original baseline being different radically according to Bun Bun, and she wanted to see if Bun Bun’s SLDF electronics could explain it. Or your neurohelmet. While I haven’t seen either in such excellent condition before, I have seen and examined similar before, and I can say that they’re not at fault.”
I raised an eyebrow, since I got the sense he was curious.
“And as well, her comment about Mr. Winter’s unusual neurology, or so she’d was told.” His eyebrow went up. “You do know neurological damage can cause change in brain patterns.”
I rolled my eyes. “I do, yes.” I paused. “I take it you’d like to examine me and Case, then, using one of the MASHes we have?”
“You are correct, and since a quick look shows it’s a full up Royal setup, I’ll be able to do a lot. We are setting up one at NAIS, but it’s half broken, and barely able to do about half what that one can do.” His eagerness to see what the setup could do, was obvious in a restrained and relaxed way.
“And…” I tilted my head.
“I don’t know why Miss Cook wants to see, but if you’re having issues, and Case is as well, it’s better to know now, so treatment if needed can be arranged.” He spreads his hands. “It’s something to get ahead of.”
“And if there’s no treatment?” My eyes narrowed.
He paused, his face still neutral. He looked up, and nodded once. “Then you’ll know, and can make decisions. I would, and we both have major responsibilities don’t we?”
I paused. While I was sure I was fine, he didn’t know that, and who knew what Case’s brain was like. “Okay.”
“Excellent.” He strode over to the lift, expecting me to follow, and I did. Shortly we were at the ground, and Case was clearly annoyed with Evie, who was glaring back at him.
“Cabbit! She wants me to get a brain scan!” His rant was building and I could guess how it could go, so I cut it off.
“It’s done by Dr. Banzai.” I was amused on how fast Case’s head snapped to the doctor, and a manic light entered his head.
“Oh. FOR SCIENCE! then.” I, Morgan and Evie stared at him. How did he manage to make his statement sound like that?
“Proper attitude, young man, let’s be about this.” Dr. Banzai had a faint smile, as he ushered us along. “I believe Miss. Cook has prepared one of your MASH units for this. Evie nodded.
“She’s ready, yes. Bet you’ve never had a full medical workup done with the best Hardware the Terries ever built.” She grinned. “Might as well get that out of the way, too, no?”
Case started to protest, only to be cut off by Evie. “It’s in your contract, and the General’s getting it too.”
Case’s head tilted for a moment. “Hot nurses?”
Evie’s facepalm was joined by my and Morgan’s snickers and Banzai’s amused curling of his lips.
“Sorry, no, just me and Dr. Kirkup.” Case’s head turned to me and I nodded. That was the redheaded doctor who treated Uri after I put him on the ground.
“CMO of the outfit, Case. She’s at least a redhead.”
“With NEEDLES.” Case shivered. “I better get candy.”
Evie snorted and responded to that, as we stepped outside the dropship. “Are you sure you’re a decorated and honored Marksman of Marksman?” Evie was referring to the Mechwarrior term for Ace, Marksman. Just like Ace of Aces, Marksman of Marksmen meant Case had attained 25 kills or more in battle. I reconsidered the scruffy mechwarrior in front of me.
“Twenty five? In less than a year?” I said quietly. There were mechwarriors who could go their entire lives without that many. In fact, out of my unit, only Uri and Gry could claim more than ten kills, and only Gry could claim the twenty-five, while only two of my pilots had hit Ace of Aces.
“Twenty-nine, and would have been thirty, if that last snake didn’t trip his mech.” Case shrugged.
“Impressive, though…” Dr. Banzai frowned. “Have you talked to a psychiatrist? You may be suffering from battle stress, you realize.”
“Duh.” Case snorted. “I’m not stupid, and I’m pretty sure I need some serious downtime. You don’t go through what I went through without having the shakes.”
Evie and Dr. Banzai’s eyes narrowed jointly, while Morgan nodded as we arrived at the MASH.
For those of you expecting a tent, or a prefab building, the Star League had that beat. They had a tractor trailer type arrangement that collapsed into a convenient driving unit, and could expand into a full function, small, mind you, but still full function trauma center able to handle nearly a dozen patients in surgery at a time. It also only took a few hours to set up, or break down for transport. And the SLDF didn’t stint. It was accurate to say that this was the best trauma center at least equipment wise, off Terra. Even New Avalon’s new one at the new university that Hanse was founding, wasn’t as good, simply because some of the electronics just didn’t exist anymore. At least outside the Sol System.
Dr. Banzai finally responded as we reached the door of the expanded MASH. “That’s a remarkably mature attitude to have, Mr. Winter. I honestly didn’t expect it.”
Case just grinned. “I’m full of surprises.” Dr. Banzai nodded at that, and shortly we were undressing in the heated MASH, to be fully examined.
Case went first, while I waited in a gown. It took longer than I reasonably expected to get though each step, and my memories of even New Avalon treatment indicated it was. Partly because of the sheer amount of tests that were being run, some of which I had never heard of, partly becasue of…
“Hey! This is awesome.” a voice shot out. “I get to see my brain in 3-D. Awesome! How in hell does this work, I can see DNA in the cells...” Case. He had pestered Banzai with hordes of questions, since Banzai chose to run him through the routine tests first, while patiently answering his questions with me and Dr. Kirkup following, then handing the nervous system on me himself.
Finally it was my turn in the tube that in a lot of ways reminded me of a Star Trek medical bed. Dr. Banzai hadn’t even twitched at my nude body, after he stated it was required for the tube. I made a mental note to ask Dr. Kirkup if it really was.
The medical scanner literally could examine a patient at levels I knew 21st century doctors, or even doctors in New Avalon would simply kill for. Finally, a near clone of my neuro helmet was placed on my head, and a series of questions were asked. I answered as best as I could, and a basic neuro helm test was run finally, with me moving a little toy robot around with my mind. I didn’t keep the glee fully off my face, but Dr. Banzai and Dr. Kirkup didn’t say a word.
Finally, a good hour past midnight, that was two hours of waiting, and Case semi-nodding off, but snapping awake, Dr. Banzai hummed, walking into the waiting room, as he had two sheafs of paper with him. I and Case shook our heads about being told separately. Case was half dead on his feet, as I found out he hadn’t slept yet.
“First. Basic medical status, Patient Zackary Winter. Slightly malnourished, otherwise outside the brain, in remarkably good health outside that. All indicators of physical capability high, reflexes, flexibility, hand eye coordination, responsiveness, all well into the ninety nine percentile range. Neurological activity consistent with similar level of ability in intelligence and other areas which the brain has dominance over. Above human normals in all but vision, which is near to human ideal. High likelihood of genetic alterations done in biological ansector’s past.” He paused and nodded
“Patient Kikyo Onishi. Good health consistent with decent diet and exercise. Physical ability outside pure lifting capability also in the ninety nine percentile range, lifting capability above average but within general human maximums. As with Patient Winters, high mental capability, also within the ninety nine percentile. Sensory response on hearing, taste and smell also within that percentile.” He paused. “Unusual flexibility in all joints, and tongue, unusual shape and function of certain sweat organs, unusual chemical makeup of bodily fluids testable. Unusual shape of exocrine glands in general. Abnormal hormonal levels, though they appear to be normal for Patient Onishi. Finally, clear signs of genetic modification, in biological past on biological ancestors. Believed associated with several of the above conditions.”
Case’s tired laughter answered that line. “Of course. Not like most people back in the Star League didn’t play that way.” Dr. Banzai nodded. “And of course, the cabbit is a genie meant to be a sexpot, I bet. Kuritans!”
I shrugged. I knew I was a genie, but the precise specifics of what I was supposed to be was not told to me. I now had some guesses, though, and I’d put money on Case’s snark being right.
“Possibly.” Dr. Banzai’s neutral and deadpan tone squished the tired scruffy teenager’s words, as he continued.
“Finally, neurological.” He paused for a moment and clearly thought on how to say what he wanted. Finally, he just did.
“Patient Winters shows very abnormal neurological development, one that would be expected in a person three times his age. Further, his brain retains a beyond human maximum plasticity for his age, as well as several abnormal structures, which at this time, the function of which are unknown. Last but not least, he shows abnormalities consistent with post traumatic stress as well as extreme feedback from neurohelm use in combat when his mech was damaged. However both conditions are well below what would be expected with his reported history of combat, and there are indications that they are recovering. His neural connectivity is above recorded records, his ability to pass the neuro helm capability test is also beyond reasonable expectations. However the patient is showing clear signs of sleep deprivation.”
Case snickered. “I’m still alive, I’ll get better. I got a mech to fix, and no time to do it, while I deal with the Cabbit’s insanity. And you’ll see for SCIENCE!” a nod at Dr. Kirkup had an injector at Case’s neck before he could react, and an indignant “Hey!” was the last thing Case said as he passed out.
“Now, Patient Onishi shows similar abnormal neurological development, with signs that the majority of the development was very recent. She shows abnormal development in areas unusual to humans previously examined, but not similar to Patient Winters. Indications of short term neurological trauma associated with psychoactive use present, though fading. Neural plasticity extremely high, but not above recorded human capability at patient’s biological age, but close. As with Patient Winters, neural connectivity is high, though not quite beyond known human maximum capability. Neuro helm capability is similar. Indications both conditions are a recent affect.”
My eyebrows had risen and risen during this. Finally, I asked. “Summarize.”
“Patient Winter is an exceptional mechwarrior or pilot. Quite possibly the best ever, with some oddities to his brain to possibly explain it. He’ll learn excessively fast, has the knowledge and personality of someone three times his biological age, and while has growths that are abnormal, are not a health risk nor seem to be doing him any harm. I’ve seen hints of similar in another patient.” Dr. Banzai nodded.
He looked at me. “As for you, you learn exceptionally fast as well, have the ability to easily function on half the normal sleep requirements, are also an exceptional mechwarrior or pilot, though you won’t be the most extreme example, unlike Patient Winter, but well into the top 1% when fully trained. I have seen your abnormal structures and development before in captured and dead DEST commandos, which leads me to consider I might discuss with you some more supposedly mystical rumors about DEST.” His eyes bore into mine.
“You’re biologically prone to having mental issues relating to socialibty, impulse and inhibition control. and all your bodily excretions seem to have a psychoactive effect, that you aren’t immune to, but mild. I would have to do more study to see if it’s addictive.” He flipped through the printouts, and nodded once. “While I would write Patient Winters development off as a unusuality, yours confirms his, and again, shows biological and mental age differences of an extreme nature. I am very curious to ask why.” As he put down the paperwork, he looked at Dr. Kirkup. “This is of course, medically privileged, and will be treated as such. I do not see any long term mental issues, outside the ones discussed above for either patient, and in a physical sense, they at this time are healthy, though follow up is recommended.”
I couldn’t help but ask. “Dr. Banzai, Dr. Kirkup, do you have explanations for the mental and physical age difference?”
Dr, Kirkup snorted. “The few I could come up with, the other markers aren’t there. Moving your brain into a new body? Yeah, no. Both of you have records long enough with proof of birth to deny extreme longevity with associated slow aging. Rejuvenation? Possible, but I’d have no idea, and Dr. Banzai is pretty sure that too would leave markers we’d see.”
Dr. Banzai’s bland tone confirmed that. “As I said, I’m very curious to see if you have a reason we haven’t considered. While there may be ones we haven’t, I’m honestly puzzled by this. Everything else, I have some idea, well, with the exception of Case’s unusual structures, though I suspect they’re related to his ability to be a Mechwarrior. The extreme plasticity of Patient Winters, and the severe mismatch of both your mental ages and biological ages, however, I have no explanation, and genetic editing wouldn’t explain this. Other signs would be present and they are not, and your records I have been assured are valid, which excludes the possibility I had considered. The other possibility I have, is more religious than scientific, so, I won’t consider it at this time.”
“I do, but I don’t know you well enough, and you take Prince Davion’s pound, sir. As well as discussing the religious aspects… until you are willing, there is no point in talking, I suppose. ” I paused. “However, I do authorize you to tell the mental age aspects to Evie.” I shrug. “I might tell you later, though.”
He simply looks at me as Dr. Kirkup nods and departs to talk to Evie. “I will hold you to that.” He puts the papers back into a pair of folders, and places them in a briefcase. “This is for Dr. Kirkup to file where she wants. I’d like to study your equipment some more, as well as discuss the potential for the rumored abilities of the DEST commandos I have encountered, and I expect Prince Davion to return in a few days, at worst, so I’ll do so, if I have your permission?”
“You do, Doctor.” He nodded his thanks, and departed the waiting room himself. Turning to look at the sleeping body next to me, I sighed. “Okay, Pole, time to dump ass in bed.”
Kikyo’s Cabin, Dropship Xanadu, Winterfell Dropship Port, Very Early Morning
I played the message from Ichigo, after Aiko’s, again. Ichigo’s voice sounded clear and unpressured, but what it said severely irritated me.
“Achy? I’m going to be on space watch for the next two weeks, with the Heavy Guard Aero wing, so it’s constant alert for me. I’ll be at the ready barracks, or in vacuum.” He paused, and continued on after a moment. “Marshal Felsner was kind enough to inform me, to inform you that the Prince’s Champion had made arrangements for Aiko, while we were occupied by our duties.” I seethed as Ichigo’s voice continued. “I was surprised that they moved her into the Palace. Then I realized…”
He had trailed off, his tone still bland, but I could imagine the frustration in his expression. “Well. The Davions do look after their people, and those who give them prizes. And, well, with them ennobling both of us… we more than qualify to get some special attention, I suppose. I got to go, but I wanted you to know Aiko’s fine. And yes, I signed off on it, in your stead.” I seethed at the latter. Ichigo technically could do that, but… I took a deep breath, and stopped and deleted the recording.
I picked up a brush, and began angrily brushing my unbound hair, using this to think this though. Would Hanse do this? Part of me wanted to say no. He had other options to compel loyalty, and he knew it. It wouldn’t be his first choice. I hoped. Otherwise I misread him both in fiction and in reality badly, and that spoke volumes of the hell I could consign the universe to.
Yvonne Davion, on the other hand? Perhaps. In fact, she was DMI for a long time, and despised the Haseks, to the point of screwing with their supplies, which put the Fusiliers at risk of increased deaths. She was quite able to be ruthless, and sell Hanse on the need for it. And as she knew the Prince all his life, she could push buttons, and make it seem to Hanse, that he was doing me a favor, and voila.
My question was how did she sell it to the Prince, to be fair, if she did, or did she do it and present it as a fait accompli and stated it was for ‘security’. I stopped brushing for a second, hoping that the grandmotherly woman honestly did have security as part of her reason, not just what did I tell my sister and her lever against me. But I couldn’t be sure.
“I give you my word, whoever ordered this, you owe me a debt. And I will collect.” I drew blood with my fingernails as I hissed the oath. Someone would rue the day they chose to try to use my sister as hostage. With that, I took a deep breath, and started dictating a letter for a certain Clanner. It needed to get to New Delos fast.
End Chapter 2
One thing you do need to remember, things don’t happen in a vacuum. Even if you don’t intend other effects, what you do affects others. What others do affects you. Always something to remember. The trick is to remember it, and plan the affects. Not easy.
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.
Hanse’s Private Office, New Avalon, Morning, Jan 5th, 3015
Hanse’s eyes were cold, yet he was smiling as he studied the list that he had. Joan, his chief bean counter as he joked, to her dismay, she preferred tax collector, had stared over the list.
“We can’t afford all of this, Hanse, not at the deal you made. It’s not the money.” She shook her head, her graying red hair shifting. “Seventy or more Royal or last generation Royal mechs, thirty or so ASF, 200 plus combat vehicles, nearly 500 support vehicles, just the tonnage off the dropships and the nearly 100 kilotons of spare parts?”
“Over 2700 last-generation Royal Command mech bays or their equivalents.” Hanse breathed. “We’ll have to replace them, but those computers and robotics. Worth every pound.”
Joan nodded. One of Ways and Means’ unofficial tasks was keeping an eye on how much the companies who still had semi working or not working automated factory lines would pay for even one of those bays. The computers alone could be used by just about every industrialist in the Suns, outside Challenger, perhaps. The other bits? Corean and Wangker’s CEO would sell their souls for a dozen.
“I checked with Melinda last night, but my off the cuff guess of at least an additional 300 mechs a month, or ASF, or armored vehicles, is the floor we can expect. Adding in Gainax?” She paused. “The problem is, really, we can’t afford the tonnage, if we cut the number of spare parts we’re willing to take, even if she’s reasonable about the delivery schedule. Not and pay her, not and buy the majority of that production, even at discounted rates, over our normal ones.” She paused. “Are you sure you don’t want a shotgun marriage?”
“An unwilling wife is worse than no wife.” Hanse dismissed. “It’d not be a shotgun on my part, I assure you.”
Joan sighed. “We can’t do it. Not with a preliminary request.”
“I know.” Hanse drummed his fingers. “But… We could cut the High Council’s booze budget?”
Joan snorted. “Do you want to lose your head? And it’d not make enough of a difference. The issue is the sheer amount of projects we have. Delay NAIS?”
Hanse shook his head. “Not acceptable, not with those MASH units, those are last-generation SLDF Royal MASHes, with basically a complete Terran trauma ward and small hospital in each one, fit to treat the First Lord. With the books from Halstead station, Dana’s legacy is secure. We need more money, is what you’re saying. Can we raise bonds?”
“I'd really rather not. It’d leak why.” She shook her head. “Not until we’re ready.”
Hanse paused. “She did say she’s willing to take jumpships, right?”
Joan winced. “Robbing Peter to pay Paul? The FSN will whine at losing their budget to her.”
He waved his hand. “Not only will they get over it, I think when Galax starts producing more dropships, they’ll be happy. And run this through your head. I offer Janos a bite at our production, at FS prices, he offers us a bite at his jumpship production, he’s bleeding mechs and men like nothing else, but not jumpships.”
Joan’s eyes narrowed as she ran through the numbers. She suddenly smiled. “It’ll work, if he bites, and we let the LC as well buy at slightly higher rates…” She trailed off. “And we charge the companies who get the bay parts, the difference? I’ll have to run the numbers, and it’d help if you can get some of the tonnage back, as well as some of the cash. But it’s workable.” She still winced. “See if you can delay the delivery of the rest of the hardware, too, Nal will be happier, and you’ll only have one part of the AFFS muttering dark things, Hanse.”
Hanse nodded agreeing. “I could run the offer of marriage again, it might work this time…” Joan just shook her head.
“None of us meant it seriously, though it’d solve a few problems. Oh, well, I’ll just make the shillings cry.”
Hanse’s tone became cold and focused. “And what those tears will buy is the vengeance long delayed on Luthien. Joan, make no mistake. We now can win, given time.”
“Yes. But will we have it?”
Colonel Wolf’s office, New Delos, Mid afternoon, Jan 7th, 3015
Jamie Wolf, Colonel of the Wolf’s Dragoons, arguably the best and largest of the mercenary commands of the Inner sphere looked up at the knock at his door. “Come in Captain Steiner.”
The door opened and a woman in Dragoon uniform whom could be best described as the Archon’s twin entered, closing the door behind her and stood to attention. “Colonel, came in as soon as I heard.”
“Please, have a seat, Captain… we have much to talk about,” he said.
“Yes, sir,” the statuesque blonde replied to mister Connery, as she liked to refer to him in jest and sat before him.
Jamie steepled his hands together and looked at his most promising officer. “You do remember that starlet you mentored back in… ‘09, I believe? A Kikyo Onishi?”
Katherine pondered for a moment before nodding. “A talented would-be mechwarrior if she devoted her time and attention to learning the trade. Yes, I recall, me and ‘Tasha had a lot of fun consulting for her movie. Did she take my offer and apply for a position in the Dragoons?”
Jamie smiled a bit crookedly. “Yes, I remember ‘Tasha’s comments about her.” His smile dimmed a bit, but was still present. “Alas, no, and if yours and ‘Tasha’s praise was even half accurate, and not saying it wasn’t accurate, Captain.” He grinned at that last. “It is a true shame. We can use talent like that.” He shook his head.
Continuing on, he nodded once. “Did you happen to catch yesterday’s Around the Sphere? The entertainment section?”
Katherine’s mind flashed back to what she’d done the day before - helping cover Natasha’s paperwork as the CO of Red Black Battalion so she could go on a date with Joshua without worrying about late work - and she knew she’d completely missed that show. Not that she really cared all that much about it, but sometimes it was nice to decompress by laughing at mindless fun.
“I’m afraid not, sir. I was busy shuffling papers around.”
Jamie smiled. “And not your own, or the Dragoon’s logistics, or Blackwell’s reports and requests, I suspect.” He raised a hand and shook his head. “No, don’t answer that. I’m quite aware of what Joshua and ‘Tasha were up to yesterday.” He sobered. “But if you had, you’d have caught a three day old report from New Avalon, which I have more details from Wolfnet on. It seems your potential protege inherited Count New Osaka’s people and all the equipment he found.” His eyes grew a bit sharp.
“And Wolfnet has some explaining to do on exactly how did they miss the amount of equipment the good Count acquired. While the show didn’t go into details, it seems Miss Onishi is the proud owner of a mercenary command with over seventy dropships, nine jumpships, and at least two full brigades of equipment. Some of it confirmed LosTech.” He shook his head. “Everyone knew the man was a treasure hunter, and his ‘mercenary’ command was just his guards and fellow Lostech hunters, but he managed to blindside everyone with what he had squirreled away.”
Tossing an envelope on the desk to slide near Katherine, Jamie finished. “And she reached out to you, with this letter. Via Hanse Davion, delivered by MIIO. The agent states that he decoded it correctly, but…”
Katherine stared at Connery for a moment, processing what he’d just said. That level of firepower was unheard of in the Inner Sphere for a mere treasure hunter, alright. Hell, even Snord hadn’t found a tenth of that haul and he’d been given several coordinates to check out based on what data they had in the Wolf Core. She took the letter and read it, wondering just what else was going to drop on her lap now.
She could already imagine the headaches coming her way.
To Captain Steiner of the Wolf Dragoons.
I hope this letter finds you in good health in your dangerous profession, and with your even for your profession, risky contract. I was amiss in not sending you congratulations on your promotion, and I apologize, and congratulate you on your abilities being recognized by the foremost commander of mercenaries in the Inner Sphere.
However, as you may have learned in this time, I have come into a not so small inheritance from my biological father, and while his parents, my grandparent’s sixteenth birthday gift would be quite appros to taking you up on your offer, I think you’d like Bun Bun, he loves carrots, though I’ve gained an appreciation for them recently, myself… Ahem, I digress. My father’s last gift to me is very unsuited for taking you up on your offer you made at the end of the filming of ‘Saving Sherwood.’, but I find myself in need of a trusted elder voice in yours, now our profession.
I cannot imagine that you are at all content in your service with the Dragoons, considering all things. Then again, perhaps you are. Mayhap you could explain how, to me, since it is unlikely I will be able to avoid similar situations, but how can you trust a man who betrayed Kin, who caused a son to betray his father, who betrayed his oaths to his liege and nation, and who is losing, and must be growing desperate? How can you trust your dependents unguarded by your own pack, to such a man?
I would not, for I would easily foresee him taking my dependents hostage, and given what you told me about Colonel Wolf? I do not see them surviving such an outcome. If I am wrong, and you do worry about this, perhaps you would feel happier in a unit that would listen to such worries, and that the commander in name, at least, for now, will listen and learn, and has many questions to ask of an elder.
However, time grows short if I wish this to get to you in a timely manner. I’d ask ‘Tasha, since we all know scarlets have to stick together, but I’ve always felt your blonde hair was hiding something, and that must be the real red roots you have.
With fond memories,
“I’ve read it myself. Someone else fully agrees with you about Anton.” Jamie’s voice rumbled. “Are you discontent?”
She had no idea what to think of the letter as she read it. Some pieces of it tickled in the back of her head, some long ago memories that she should never have had but for the grace of God, but the whole letter? What in the hell was she looking at?
“Sir… Jaime, I’m trying to figure out what this is. I… look, I made no secret I think Anton’s the wrong horse and he doesn’t feel all that stable in the head… and you know the story I got from the Eridani Light Horse and why they have a unit twenty-four-seven dedicated towards protecting their dependents and why it is considered their highest honor to doing so. My best guess here? MIIO’s picked up on something and they’re using Onishi as the vehicle to bring it to us. Why Onishi in particular?... I don’t know.”
Why did she feel like the carrots and the color references were important? Wait a moment, she thought...
“Jaime, when did she inherit the whole thing? And how fast do you think this letter could’ve arrived?”
“The paperwork naming her sole owner took effect with the MRB on January 1st, this year, her twentieth birthday. The equipment arrived the next day, and the transfer was formalized at the start of business, on New Avalon, on the 3rd. Given Wolfnet believes that Hanse was there to see the ships land..” He shrugged. “Considering he used a MIIO agent as courier, and it would not surprise me if the message went out that night, or at worst, the night of the 4th.” He paused. “You did remark on her intelligence, if I recall. As well as she picking your brain on investment advice.”
Her brain spun at a thousand miles an hour. Things weren’t adding up and the itch in the back of her head was if anything growing. How could inheriting the whole pile be somehow tied to sending out the warning? Was it a coincidence? God worked in mysterious ways, she knew, but this was… odd.
“Yeah… Frankly? I think I need to have a chat with Miss Onishi. I’m not discontent with the Dragoons, just our current contract… particularly our employer. But you know this, Jaime. We do have friends in the AFFS from our time back in their employ so I can see them warning us, it’s just… Miss Onishi and her inheritance at the same time seem to be an incredible coincidence.”
Not to mention Hanse Davion possibly being involved. She pondered for a second before speaking up again, “Are we going to act on her warning?”
Jamie looked at Katherine. “I knew you weren’t discontent with the Dragoons. I will be honest, I am surprised you haven’t called me into a Trial of Grievance, given your opinion of the situation.” He paused, leaning back. “Let me say this. I’m going to do several things at once, that solves several problems, as well as take into consideration this and your warnings about the… Captain General.” Jamie’s voice grew dry on the last two words.
Shaking his head, he soldiered on. “I set a message to Kerlin by the previous chain we had set up a while ago, again, at your suggestion, and I got a reply two days ago. While your efforts to convince him to effectively set up Blackwell as our providers and suppliers has borne fruit, to the point that we had to keep them from producing as many mechs as they are capable of, Kerlin has stated he is sending more tooling to expand our efforts, as well as additional mechs, people and equipment.”
“That’s good… I assume they’ll be headed towards New Valencia?”
“That’s what the plan is, I’m not quite sure when the new personnel and equipment will arrive, but yes. So.” He leans back. “We’re going to solve three problems at once if you’re agreeable.”
“Go ahead, Jaime. I’m listening.”
“First, the dependents will be leaving within twenty-four hours, I’ve arranged, and am just waiting on confirmation of an express route to New Valencia.” He smiled. “If it works out as planned, they’ll arrive on the 30th.” He leaned back. “Second, to guard them, as well as cut our footprint in this, I’m sending all excess personnel, Hephaestus, which is already disassembled, and Red Black. Plus, hired the Black Aces to guard it and make sure it arrives in the Federated Suns. This will include Joshua, who’ll be taking some of your assistants that you’ve trained up, to help with our logistics, as well as other aspects of Blackwell.” He paused, seemingly waiting on the statuesque blonde in front of him.
That sounded like a solid plan, she thought. Get the dependents out of the way, have Red Black provide security… oh, he said three things, didn’t he?
“Not wasting any time whatsoever, Jaime, I see. Our employer might wonder if we’re going to bail on him, though. We best not give him any more excuses… and if he gives us reason to bail, we should. But if I’m not wrong that will be more your problem than mine? If I go with Red Black I’ll probably be at New Valencia by the time Anton reacts. But you said three things and named only two… is this going to be about Miss Onishi? We do owe her for the warning, I believe.”
And, Katherine realised, there were also the questions of where the damn hardware came from. She’d had a lot of time to look at the locations marked on Clan Wolf’s maps and there were quite a few locations that had been marked as secret from their host nations - like the depot on Galtor III - which was likely the reason why so long from the fall of the Star League the business of LosTech prospecting still paid.
“Not to mention,” she added, “that so much hardware must’ve come from somewhere.”
She looked at Connery, waiting for him to drop the likely bombshell she was already expecting - why else would he have made a dramatic pause?
His slight smile indicated he caught onto her catching onto his game. “Pity. I was hoping you would ask what’s the third thing.” He leaned forward. “Officially. And I do mean Officially, your complaints about this contract have been noted by more than just the senior staff and are causing dissension. This will not go on your record with the Guild, and it pains me to lose one of my most critical officers, and the Dragoons will always have a place for you. Isn’t it fortunate that a prospective slot for an officer of your talents opened up in a new and upcoming unit of a large size.” He paused, quirking an eyebrow.
“I see,” Katherine noted as her mind looked over what Connery was saying. “Officially, an honorable discharge from the Dragoons due to irreconcilable differences in opinion regarding the current contract. Unofficially, I’m being spun out to join Onishi’s and find out if there’s anything nefarious about her and discharge the debt the Dragoons owe her by handing her one of our best officers? Am I summing it up correctly?”
“There is no debt, at least yet.” He shook his head. “While I concede if Anton does do something.. Unwise, shall we say?” He nodded at that, and moved on. “We will be in a position to withstand it, with no risk, and then, I would concede a debt is owed.” He leaned back and looked upwards. “I want to know what the hell was found, how much is it going to affect the Inner Sphere, and if the actress’ father left any more sites for her. She gets to get trained by honestly, the person I think should be commanding this mission, and this force.”
He nods again. “Finally, your mustering out bonus will including a fair bit of Blackwell’s stock, as we, as in the Dragoons, officially own it. That will give you a reason to keep in close contact with Blackwell, and though them, us. This also gives you the ability to keep an eye on them that I can’t, and as well, if needed, order spare parts for your mech.”
“Point, he hasn’t stabbed us in the back yet,” Katherine conceded. “I understand what you’re aiming for and I thank you for your high praise, Jaime. I really do. I see the logic for the Blackwell connection, too… I get to keep the Marauder? It’s Red Black’s.”
Jamie snickered. “Actually, I filed the paperwork years ago for all officers, at the least, to have ownership of their mech of the time, with specific caveats. This is the Inner Sphere, for one, and not unusual. Even the Great Father owned his own mech, after all. I also thought in a worse case situation, the officers could at least find their own way, via their mechs back to Clan space if so inclined.” He shook his head. “Otherwise, those who hold technical liens on the Dragoons, such as our contract holders, could seize the mechs.”
Katherine facepalmed. “And I missed that, somehow. Help me, I’m buried in paperwork,” the blonde said melodramatically before straightening up again. “No downgrading, then? Not like we have the time to do that before shipping out if we’re doing it this rushed.”
He shook his head. “Two reasons, one: It’s an edge that’ll keep you alive at least once. Second: It’s known we have bits of lostech, and you’re one of the senior officers, therefore it’d be odd if yours did not have any.” He paused. “Before you go, can you answer a question I’ve been noodling, since I saw the equipment Kerlin’s sending?”
“Always, Jaime,” Katherine responded. “What’s he sending that you have questions about?”
“Two more stations, one a modified Alliance like ours, but more configured to machine tooling, and second, a Hughes class mobile station. At least a half dozen Behemoths filled with factory tooling. I have a complete list here or there, your replacement in logistics is going to have kittens reading this, if he’s half as twitchy about stuff as you are.”
The blonde almost choked and took several seconds to compose herself.
“Subtlety is the fist of an Atlas, it seems. I can only guess that Kerlin’s decided to go all in on ensuring we can produce anything we might ever need now or in the future, up to and including Clan-grade hardware or Jumpships… although I doubt he intends us to produce anything that the Inner Sphere isn’t capable of producing, naturally. There’s also the added benefit that… depending on what we’re getting we may actually be entirely able to sustain the Dragoons merely from the profits of Blackwell bolstered by what Kerlin’s sending. Certainly, if we’re getting a station capable of building jumpships, the premium we could get for those alone?... Boy, we might need to keep half the Dragoons at New Valencia just to ensure it’s a hard target against anyone aiming to remove that capability from us and, by proxy, House Davion.”
The Steiner paused for a moment before adding, “If he’s got more in mind than that it belongs to the sphere of speculation and I would have to start guessing at our Khan’s motivations at that point, which I am rather loathe to do right now.”
“I don’t blame you. But in this case, start guessing. I hate surprises, and without at least a thought of what he’s thinking from someone else, I have to speculate on my own, and I don't like what I’m thinking.”
Katherine pondered for a moment, debating whether she should voice some of her thoughts or not… but it seemed that Jaime was already coming around to the same conclusion she had been getting to.
“The size of the Dragoons by themselves, for a mere recon mission, was already on the… shall we say, large size? Including the stuff we left behind, there was no way it wasn’t going to make waves no matter how much or how little damage the Inner Sphere had taken. Given some of the… lack of forethought about what kind of units were actually knowingly available here, it’s a good question where some of the mistakes made were actually mistakes. I don’t like saying this, but I think we’ve always been intended to be a backhanded warning. And now Kerlin may be doubling down on it and wants us to prepare. If the Grand Council isn’t letting go of the issue of whether to invade the Inner Sphere or not, we may not have the time to spare… the question here is, thus, whether we go along exclusively with the intent of the mission handed to us by the Grand Council or whether we align with what seems to be the implicit intent of our Khan.”
She paused for effect for a moment before adding, “It’s not like we have to report back to the Grand Council that we’ve likely got the biggest industrial complex in the Inner Sphere working for us.”
“And considering our reports go though Kerlin… I doubt he’d tell them even if we did send the information..” He pondered for a long moment. “Katherine, I want to be clear, you are saying he wants us to counter the invasion of the Crusaders. By not only fighting them, but by building the Inner sphere up?”
“What the Inner Sphere lacks isn’t competent soldiers or leadership. We’ve had fights like New Aragon that proved this. They lack the material to fight with. We produce more Timber Wolves in Strana Mechty than the entire Federated Suns’ combined mech output. If we build up their production capacity and close the technological gap to, say, late SLDF Royal technology level? They won’t even need us to beat back the Crusaders. Frankly, I find it rather abhorrent that the Crusaders want to come here and attack everyone. Isn’t that what the Great Father wanted our ancestors not to do? What was the point of the Exodus if we come back and use the very weapons the Great Father took away to burn everything to the ground?”
Jamie closed his eyes for a long moment. “‘Tasha can’t know about this, not yet. Joshua suspects the same as I and you, though I was hoping, your … relative newness to our clan would give you a different impression. We are Wardens, and we were weeded very hard to be such. I figured that out myself. What the Great Father feared did happen to a great extent, but the House Lords thankfully stopped themselves. But this? He is asking us to betray the Clans. And for what? I will be honest. I’m fond of Hanse Davion, I know the common people are generally unconcerned with what their leaders are doing, or generally support it, but how many nobles are worth their titles? How many of them have even proven their valor, much less competence to lead? How many of them are held back from the madness of the First and Second Succession wars, by fear that if they don’t hold back, there won’t be anything to gloat over? And I will be honest, several of the more ardent crusaders would unleash the horrors that the Inner sphere fears, from experience, because they’d say the Inner sphere deserves it for betrayal or simply in truth, pique that they don’t fight the same way.”
Katherine began speaking shortly after Jaime stopped.
“If we want to look at betrayals, bringing the weapons we’ve forged in the Homeworlds to bear down on the Inner Sphere is itself a betrayal of all of our ancestors who sacrificed their livelihoods and even their lives to get the SLDF out of the hands of the Great Houses. The Clans have no understanding of what the people of the Inner Sphere are like, nor the Great Houses themselves. They ate the propaganda all of us are given from the Creche onwards, not knowing better… I won’t pretend all the Great Houses are nice and good or even most. I won’t pretend all the people of the Inner Sphere are saints. But in the end, people are people. I can name half a dozen Khans who aren’t worth a damn. And God help me, far too many Warriors, even Bloodnamed, are such utter assholes I wouldn’t want to help them up if they slipped on a banana peel short of being ordered to doing so. And I might still call a Trial of Refusal over that in regards to some.”
Katherine paused for a moment, breathing in, before resuming. “People are people, but the Clans will destroy the social fabric of the Inner Sphere and then wreck everything far more thoroughly than the Great Father was afraid might happen. Civilians resisting occupation? Burn it all down, kill them all. Jesus Christ, Jaime. It’s nightmare fuel. There’s stories from the Tanites enough and I know a lot of misinformation around, but there was a resistance movement and some excesses were made. That alone gave Clan Cloud Cobra an inkling of what might be required… or at least I think it did. I recall there were arguments over the significance of the events there vis a vis the Crusader movement and it did chill them somewhat. I’d expect Cloud Cobra to at least not be in any delusions about the bidding towards a potential invasion of the Inner Sphere. Of course, they’re just one of seventeen and for good reasons the Khans didn’t want to make it all public. Airing dirty laundry and all that and the people involved were duly punished so...”
She sighed. “Frankly, even my best guesses are only guesses. My suggestion would be to build up Blackwell with what our Khan sent us, avoid any obvious LosTech and make a profit while possibly even expanding the Dragoons. Hire out to continue the mission while keeping a beefed up garrison on New Valencia. And if supplying the AFFS breaks the balance of the powers in the Inner Sphere, at whose cost does it come? The Confederation we’ve seen from the inside and I’m far from impressed. The Combine? They started the Succession Wars, Jaime. They deserve the punishment of losing badly. Give Hanse all his toys and he’ll mete out justice that is long overdue.”
“In the end, though, whatever we do it is best we do while giving Kerlin as much plausible deniability as possible in order to protect Clan Wolf. Any building up of factories and such we do should be limited to Blackwell for the time being… and if he later on gives us an overt order to prepare the Inner Sphere for an invasion that we all know is only a matter of time at this rate? Well, we’d have the springboard ready for that moment.”
The blonde then stopped, waiting to see Jaime’s reaction fully knowing that she’d just voiced things that would’ve gotten her most likely executed in the Homeworlds. But this was the Inner Sphere and they were all Wardens here.
He smiled. “I know Hanse. The Davions have had a track record of if not being the best family, at least the least assholic of them. And they don’t take families prisoners.” He nodded once. “Star Captain Katherine Steiner. Attend to your Galaxy Commander’s Orders and Desires.”
Her reaction was near instant and picture perfect as she stood up to attention. “Yes, Galaxy Commander?”
“As the SLDF was the Protectors of the Star League, and of Humanity, so are the Clans. I have found that the Crusaders are the same rot, as the House Lords were, and they too will allow in an Usurper. The SLDF was a brotherhood of warriors and soldiers meant to defend, not destroy. We are their heirs. You will report on what the Grand Council specifically asked for, while embedded in Onishi’s unit. If I recall correctly, that is the political state, the military state, and the industrial state as we arrived, and their ability to affect the Clans, or defy the Clans in restoring the Star League. We were given those orders as of 3005. I note a glaring exception. Don’t you?”
His tone was grave, but a fire was in his eyes as he thundered on.
“As for what you will do besides that in Onishi’s unit. You will shape her to fight the rotten ones. To inspire others to do so. To do what the SLDF has always meant to do. Defend Humanity. From itself, it needs be. As I will shape the Dragoons. And if I fall, you shall bring Onishi to the Dragoons, and take her and her unit under the Dragoon’s banner, as it shall be yours. Do you accept this mission?”
She couldn’t help but feel her heart fluttering in joy as she understood the order. “Sir, yes Sir!”
She couldn’t quite keep the grin off her face, either.
“Dismissed.” Jamie stood and saluted with that word.
Saluting back, Katherine soon found herself heading back to her quarters with a skip, happy that things were headed in a much better direction than they’d been going less than twenty-four hours earlier. Despite her annoyance of the predictability of the timeline being thrown out of the airlock the very fact that the Dragoon dependents were being removed from the line of fire, combined with her new assignment, were worth far more than any predictability she could’ve kept.
Which, truth be told, her very presence and subtle influence in the Dragoons had been eroding in any case.
Her mind couldn’t help but come back to that little itch in the back of her head, though. Why did her mind keep going back to the carrots? She’d gotten the impression Onishi was fishing for something if it was not a mere fanciful rambling and damned if she wasn’t feeling like she should be picking up on it.
So, what was she missing? Carrots, Bun Bun… no, Bun Bun wasn’t it. Carrots. Inheritance. Scarlet… she mentioned the color as well. Carrots are orange, though, why would scarlet be…
The pieces clicked into position and she stopped cold in surprise.
Primus’s Office, Hilton Head, North America, Terra, Evening, Jan 8th, 3015.
Julian Tiepolo, Primus of ComStar, the most powerful man in the Inner sphere, or so he believed, watched as Tojo Jarlath, his acting head of ROM, the best intelligence service in the Inner Sphere, since they controlled all communications and had lots of people who thought well of them. Tojo was the acting head, as Vesar Kristofur was handling Anton and the Dragoons.
“So, you asked to see me, Precentor Jarlath?” Julian rose and poured both of them a cup of a tea that the Primus preferred, and one he knew Tojo wasn’t fond of.
“I did, Primus.” Tojo took a sip of the tea, and set it aside, to present an image of someone not wishing to waste his superiors time. “I have new information on a few issues you wished to be kept abreast on.”
Julian sat back, and leaned in his chair, crossing his fingers below his chin. “Oh?”
“Yes, sir.” Tojo clearly gathered his thoughts, and then dived right into the matters.
“First, the New Osaka situation, has had several updates. As you know, our adept was sent to acquire the material the count sent to his recognized child.. It was believed that Hanse Davion or others could acquire it from her easily, for a ducal title and likely no more than several billion C-bills.” Julian nodded at the recap as his acting head of intelligence continued on.
“He was not successful, and I have included a recording of why, as the young actress recorded it, and sent it to Precentor New Avalon. I have to admit, I too would have laughed in the adept’s face.”
Julian’s eyebrows rose. “Summarize, please. I have a feeling this is both amusing and something that an adept will regret.”
“In short? Our estimates were the equipment was four to eight billion cbills in value. Since we did not have a clear accounting, our adept offered two billion initially, and of course, the thanks of Comstar and Blake. She laughed in the Adept’s face, and in essence, said ‘I understand lowballing, please, I have had contract disputes, and negotiations, but insulting? No thank you.’”
“... a third of the value, without other considerations?” Tiepolo blinked. “Did we not authorized at least four billion, plus a scholarship for both of the Onishi daughters to a Terran University, or serious backing and distribution for the elder’s films” His tone was bemused.
“We did, with other considerations, as well, of course.” He nodded. “Needless to say…”
Julian rubbed his chin. “Indeed. I suppose the adept will justify this as we did instruct him to try to save as much money as possible.”
The bland expression on Tojo’s face didn’t change. “As you say, but that’s immaterial now, and we realistically didn’t count on getting the majority of the material, after all.”
Julian nodded. “True, true. So?”
“The Lyran ambassador made an offer, and it was rejected, but from what we have intercepted, it was a pleasant exchange, and in general, the young lady pointed out she was a Davion subject, therefore…” Jarlath’s slight shrug indicated no surprise there. “And Hanse Davion made his move, though we don’t know the specifics of the deal made, though it appears two baronies were accepted, and before we could infiltrate people into the cantonment, to see what he had acquired, they were moved, and MIIO and DMI are placing a firm guard around the new Heavy Cavalry.”
“... I see. Well, he will either attempt to reverse engineer how it was made, or he’ll use it to be thrown at his enemies. If the latter, well. Problem solved soon enough. If the former, well, you are tasked to infiltrate NAIS, are you not? See to it that other projects are also… handled.”
“Of course, and Miss Onishi? It is believed that her father passed along other locations.”
“Just keep an eye on her. At this time, well. Lostech hunters end up badly, generally, see her father, and well, not very many are successful, so I doubt it’ll be a problem.”
Tojo nodded. “As you say. The other matter, Vesar’s efforts with the Dragoons and Anton.”
Julian leaned forward. “Tell me.”
“I’m afraid the Dragoons are preparing to at least decamp rapidly when Anton fails. It’s only a matter of time before Janos closes his fist on New Delos’ neck.” Julian nodded in response. “However, it appears to be another year at least, and with a bit of luck, the remains of the Dragoons will be able to escort him to Sian, and well.” Julian nodded. He had no faith in the plan to have Anton as the Captain General, but it was a nice try. The backup of forcing the Dragoons to do a supply run and follow them to see where they were from, and if some of the ideas were right, was the goal Julian held out hope for.
“Why do you say this?” Julian sipped his tea, finally.
“As of this morning, our time, Dragoon dependents, the Red Black departed New Delos, on a prearranged express route to New Valencia. He also sent a fair bit of his excess personnel, as well. His statement to Anton, was he wanted to be prepared for any situation, and this would allow him to free up the personnel he had guarding them. Plausible, but given the friction between Colonel Wolf and Marik?” Tojo simply stated, then continued. “While again, plausible on its face, it is known that Captain Steiner has been pointing out the Sendai clause and why it exists.”
“Ah, and Wolf chose not to risk it?” Julian smiled. “If I remember right from a previous briefing, he has a combined arms regiment plus at least one addtional infantry regiment, officially Blackwell’s security, but considering that he expanded the camp he built to include Blackwell on New Valencia…”
Julian shrugged philosophically. “It would have been nice to have Wolf’s dependents as hostages, but in the end, our object was more to just force him to make a supply run at the least. I see no reason to worry about this.”
“You don’t wish to have an interception arranged?” Tojo’s eyebrow rose slightly. “Even with their guards and the additional ASF forces he hired, it shouldn't..” He was cut off by a raised hand.
“Too much risk of it going wrong, and too much risk of it pointing at us, Tojo, plus, people would question who’d attack dependents like that. Further, as you implied, the chain has been set up, and it would be fast. I suspect an interception would be difficult as it stands, and would too easily point at us.” Julian leaned back in his chair. “As well as this might give us a chance to break Blackwell’s security.”
Tojo nodded at the Primus’ thoughts. Blackwell’s security since the Dragoons had entered into a partnership, then outright bought it, had been fiendishly difficult to penetrate.
“By your wish, then. Those are the only two matters of immediate importance, that I thought you would want to know right now.”
“And I did, yes.” Julian stood with a smile, to walk Tojo out. Pausing for a moment, as he saw a news report of a student protest at one of Terra’s Universities, he had a sudden thought.
“I might have a solution for Miss Onishi, actually, and one that I think would benefit her and her sister.” Julian smiled a bit crookedly.
Tojo’s expression became attentive. “Sir?”
“Why, isn’t the young Aiko Onishi a rare genius? It would be a shame if she couldn’t attend the best universities in the Sphere, and we know the young actress spared no effort or expense to get the best she could for her sister.”
Tojo bowed. “While it is policy to recruit the brightest, when possible, and I think we placed an offer in front of the elder, I believe we can do much with this. I will see to it.”
“Excellent.” Julian smiled. He did so love when he could do several things to solve a problem that would greatly benefit Comstar. Another genius for Comstar, and a lever on the possible LosTech hunter whose father had a clear success? Well done.
Katrina’s Office, Triad, Thrakad, Lyran Commonwealth, late local evening, Jan 8th 3015
Katrina Stenier, the ruler of the richest realm, studied her spymaster. “So, not only do we not have a complete idea what Count New Osaka left for his child, she’s flat out refused to sell it to us, or even tell us what we missed out on.”
“Accurate.” Simon sighed.
“This on top of your idea to have the Count trip a trap, on a lostech site I knew about, was in a way more successful than you thought. While it did kill him, and some of his most loyal, it killed nearly two thousand others.” Katrina’s tone was mild, but a bit disapproving. “Who’s only sin was working for a potential traitor.”
“I would say a confirmed traitor. Those dropships and mechs alone…” Simon defended himself, only to be cut off by a snort.
“Then would you call my husband one?” Katrina’s tone was dry, and indicated a line he was walking very close to, to the experienced spymaster.
“Ah, no. I meant just the lostech, and of course, not letting us examine or buy it first, only. Your husband did none of that.” Simon conceded her point.
Katrina sighed. “At least we didn’t strain any potential relationship, if the girl does convert the remains of her father’s people into a true unit, and we can hire it.”
Simon brightened at that. “Well said. Her reason for denying us the chance to make a serious bid, was she was a Davion girl, born and raised, so the First Prince had to have a fair shot.”
Katrina snorted. “She’d be right, too, in a way.” The graceful shrug indicated no great distress. “A couple of dropships, and maybe a regiment in mechs, is no great benefit to the Federated Suns, but the tech in them is. But, either he’ll try to reverse engineer how it was made, or use it against his enemies, including the Dragon. If the first, we buy or steal it from him, if the second? Well, less snakes. Either way.”
“I’d say the first is more preferable, and honestly, our read of him, more likely. But, even if he goes for a military victory to secure his rule… well. The Dragon is the biggest threat, though Tikonov has been a major target of the Suns for centuries. If he takes it, he improves his industry, and builds bigger forces. As you say, either way we win.”
“Exactly. While not ideal, a token effort and accepting the defeat keeps him from thinking of us badly. I could argue in court that I should have had first refusal, and it’s quite likely that ComStar would have backed us up, but I suspect if I had done that, Comstar would have… arranged for issues.”
“We still don’t know the full extent of their activities, and I disagree there, I think they’d be neutral, and simply shrug. As you say, it’s not a great amount of hardware, and even if you think they are playing a game to keep us all at our throats, for their own protection…”
Katrina smiled. “It would neatly explain some of their actions in the past, that we know about, as well as things suspected, but the more paranoid theories? Oh, please. Comstar likes being the masters of Terra, and interstellar communications. Let’s admit it, that gives the Primus the equal rank with the rest of us. Now, if one of us won.” She snorted at that. “The great game for the empty throne on Terra, he’d no longer have that rank or seat. Easily enough.”
“I would argue, but all things being considered, I doubt you’re wrong. If they truly wished to rule humanity, they’d have done more actions, and we’d have had proof of it by now.”
Katrina nodded. “Well, we can put the Onishi affair to bed, I suppose.” She snorted at that line, considering the information she had read about the girl. “I almost wonder if she’s keeping the unit to have a harem.”
Simon had to smile as well. “We will be attempting to insert agents, of course, as she recruits up to her capabilities, and we have a few potential males who from profile would tickle her fancy.”
Katrina had to snicker at that. “Approved. Come to think of it, you don’t need my approval for that type of mission, under the strictest reading of the law, but well. Better safe than sorry.”
“As she is a noble’s daughter, yes.” Simon nodded. “Anyways, I doubt she was left any more places to explore, if she was, given profile, the ships would have already been en route, is our view in LIC.”
Katrina shrugged. “She’s an actress, she knows a bit about waiting around, I suppose, and listens well to directors, so…”
Simon considered that. “Well, either way. It’s late, and I think you want to be with Melissa.”
“Oh, yes.” Katrina smiled. “Have a good night, Simon.”
“You as well, Archon.”
Hanse’s private Office, Fox’s Den, New Avalon, Late Night, Jan 9th, 3015
Hanse studied his brandy in the sniffer, as Yvonne and Ardan walked in, Ardan pouring himself and Yvonne a brandy. After they settled, he smiled.
“Well. Tomorrow will be fun, I have to go back and renegotiate a deal.” His rueful tone drew a laugh out of Ardan, who was departing for his unit tomorrow, and a snort from Yvonne.
“She’ll take what we offer.” Her tone sounded sure of that.
Hanse shook his head. “Yvonne, we’ve talked about that. We’re doing her a favor by hosting Aiko. We are not going to use the girl as a lever against her sister.” His tone was slightly disapproving.
“Then why host her?” Yvonne shot back.
Ardan turned to Yvonne but before he could say something, Hanse raised his hand.
“Because not all are as moral as Ardan, or even I. I agree that Michael would use the young genius, and he’d be the nicest about it. Others?” He shook his head. “But no, we don’t need the lever. And as Ardan would say…” Hanse smiled at his friend. “We are better than that. And we are. Or in this case, at least not as desperate as all that. She has shown a willingness to work and deal with us fairly and has shown no disloyalty.”
Ardan still looked a bit angry, until Hanse raised his hand. “I’m sorry Ardan, but I can’t tell you why I can’t really blame Yvonne for thinking as she is. And in fact…”
“Ah.” Ardan looked into his half drunk brandy. “Then I’ll just finish this up, and sleep. Ship’s leaving early anyways.” He put words to action, and stood up.
“I’m sorry, and I’d love nothing better to bring you in on this fully, but.” Hanse shrugged helplessly. “There is the old saw about how to keep a secret, no?”
“Just don’t let the need to keep that secret keep you from doing the right thing, Hanse. Ian would be so disappointed.” Ardan nodded after saying that, and departed the room.
Yvonne snorted. “And what’s the right thing? We need what she has. The right thing is getting it by any cost. I don’t think Ardan understands that.”
“Even if he knew the extent…” Hanse reproved. “I have no doubt he’d be of the same mindset. What worth the crown, if you lose your soul?” His eyes stared in the fireplace, and a slight smile crossed his lips.
“Humph.” Yvonne crossed her legs, and continued on. “However, I still think we should accept no less than 20% of the ships we’re offering her as tonnage swaps. And they should be used.”
Hanse shook his head. “As you know, I received a very favorable reply to the suggestion I made Janos. He buys some of our production, at our official rates, he allows us to buy a Monolith and a pair of Merchants at his price. He wants details and how much and how long, but in principal we have a basic agreement.”
“As we had with that girl.” Yvonne looked at her nephew and Prince. “Now we have to go back, hand on knee, to change it.”
“She will.” Hanse was assured.
“At what price, she’ll sense the desperation and drive harder than you want.” Yvonne snorted suddenly. “Joan and Melinda still think the idea of a autocannon wedding was the best.”
“She refused.” Hanse smiled crookedly. “Outright.”
Yvonne glared at the fire. “And how that shocked all the profilers.”
Hanse nodded, still amused. “Oh, yes. They keep forgetting she’s an actress.” He paused, and grew more serious. “Though I agree, the speed and decisiveness, for someone who hit on me in her battlemech’s cockpit, was a bit of a surprise.” He grinned again. “No counteroffer of a night of wild passion.”
Yvonne snorted. “So, if you’re interested in that, why didn’t you collect her when trying that fireplace stunt?”
Hanse grinned ruefully again. “Partly because I wanted to see what she’d do. A bit of a surprise she didn’t make a move, she’s very much, or so the profile says, want, take, care about the price later… type of girl.” He paused again, nodding once. “The profile was wrong anyways. I know you noticed how she observed and ‘was’ at the dinner.”
“She is a martial artist, Hanse, and trained by her mother.” Yvonne mentioned idly. “But, I see your point, there’s a difference in training by a parent and only done as such for a possibly useful skill, and what she showed. When you compare her to Rios or Blackhand, it’s almost like she was one of them. A Rabid Fox, and elite out of them. Not quite the same, a bit of blowing the rust off that state, or still learning it fully, but not one she should have.”
“Yes. And a much more delightful dinner guest than I expected, as well as more educated. And more self assured.” Hanse grew thoughtful. “It’s almost as if… Ah. An old soul in a young body.”
Yvonne’s snort caught what he didn’t say. “You didn’t say what every under-thirty member of the AFFS who isn’t outright gay would say. ‘A young hot hardbody.’. ‘With a Mech.’ ‘And a bar.’”
Hanse snickered, at Yvonne’s implication. “Well, they do say what a mechwarrior wants is a hot nymphomaniac with her daddy owning a bar, or herself, after all.”
Yvonne sobered a bit. “You’re interested in her.”
Hanse’s eyebrow raised. “Of course, she’s far more of a puzzle than she should be.”
Yvonne’s eyes looked over her glasses. “Not that way, and you know what I meant.”
“Well. Perhaps. But, not now, though I’ll be fair, and if she did accept the marriage I’d be unlikely to have to think of Avalon.” He crookedly grinned at that, one of Joan’s suggestions before the dinner.
Yvonne’s snort answered that witticism.
“Still. Her reputation isn’t the best, and well… politics.” Hanse shook his head. The Davions had generally married for love, by and large, and even when politics was the main factor, they ended up in love, more often than not. It didn’t change that Kikyo at best was a wild child, and only a commoner, with no martial glory or riches, well until now, to justify it.
“Of course.” Yvonne shrugged. “Well, Hanse, I’m not as young as I used to be, and I need to be up early to set up the processes we need to have done so we can make use of what we’re buying as fast as possible.”
Hanse stood up, and walked to her. Kissing her cheek, he smiled. “I’ll just stay up a few longer, running things through my head, Auntie.”
“You see that it stays a few.” Yvonne’s smile took the sting out of her words, and she turned and walked out the door, as Hanse settled back into his chair.
“I didn’t say this, Auntie, but it’s an exotic combination, her looks as well as how she is as a person. Perhaps… eh, it’ll be just a passing fancy. I’ve had those before. I can’t be lucky twice.” His fist closed around the sniffer, causing it to creak, as he remembered his previous luck in love… and how it ended. “But, I should thank her. She’s given me… no, she’s given the Suns, if we use it right, the ability to avenge all our dead.” He stood up putting the cracked sniffer down. “Maybe I will indulge her.” He grinned, bad mood banked, as he walked out of the office.
End Interlude 1