With a lever big enough I can move the world (chapter 4)
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.
Adjust the Lever.
It is not often said how much work a senior officer has to do. My previous life’s experience with military service indicated that the higher in rank you went, the more you did during your working hours, and those hours tended to grow. The more high tempo the unit was or needed to be, the more work and more hours you put in. It was amusing in a way to realize even an eon later, some things never change.
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.
Kikyo’s Office, Dropship Xanadu, Winterfell Dropship port, New Avalon, Early Morning, Jan 9th, 3015
“Some things never change.” I muttered as I flicked through the papers Rayanne had left for me to observe, plus the night duty officer of the unit. Two enlisted arrested for drunk and disorderly, receipt for winter parkas, a request to use one of the Mules as a temporary bar and R/R center. I put a note on that last one, today was the day Hanse and I would finalize what he got and what I kept. If possible, I’d keep a few of the SLDF mobile recreation vehicles that we had.
The Star League had apparently decided, in the build up to the coup, that their troops needed secure rest and recreation areas, and having mobile deployable bars, brothels, and entertainment setups for movies, plays, and sports would be a good thing. We had a fair bit of them, and while I knew that Hanse wanted some of them to look at the electronics, at the very least, I wanted to keep a few for their original purposes. I still boggled at a 200 ton land crawler RV meant for a SLDF Major general, but… My original self thought it was a bit plain.
“An hour PT, a pair of hours in martial arts, three hours in mech training, three more hours in field and tabletop exercises, two hours in mingling with the troops, two hours reading and learning all the paperwork needed and laws regarding… for a normal person, that’d leave three hours.” I snorted.
“But since I’m able to run with only 4 hours of sleep, two more hours of working with our recruiters and an hour of shooting for the ‘Real Mercenaries.’” The film crew had stayed, and actually started working on that. It also helped that they got themselves fully vetted by MIIO, and even hired for a record of what we were doing, and the Argo mission. Of course, MIIO and DMI had added a few people, to keep certain things off the film, but that was to be expected.
Kelia walked into the office, while I was still wearing my robe loosely, with a carafe of coffee.
“Bless you.” I poured myself one, fixing it to preference. Taking a sip I sighed. “I know I can operate like this forever, if I want, but why do I want to? Coffee... You are my only friend. You are the only one who understands what it is like, you are the only thing worthy of getting up for in the mornings!”
Kelia snorted. “That would be sad, if true, considering what other habits you’ve had, and are trying to change.” I snorted at that. Some weren’t easy to change, and some were biological. I had managed to restrain certain aspects, but I could tell it would be a challenge to keep it up, and a trial of self control and willpower that I might lose on occasion.
“Laugh it up. It’s not like I haven’t had too little to do. Putting aside the fact you don’t sign paychecks for your lover, or lovers, you know the amount of work I’ve been putting in.”
Kelia nodded. “And it doesn’t help that you push longer and harder than anyone else. We’re not on a reshoot you know, nor are we being pushed to shoot scenes faster to save location money, girl. You own the site, you set the schedule. You don’t have to work yourself into a grave, or work yourself ‘til you explode in a violent string of parties and orgies.”
I snorted. “If only. Military operations don’t work that way, Kelia. We have to be *ready* to go as of 2/1, I might be able to push it to 2/15, but that’d be the latest.” I shook my head. “Prince Davion really is interested in the Argo, and given I know what it is… faster, harder, better.”
Kelia snickered. “Isn’t that what you tell your lovers?”
I snorted. “As if I’d tell.”
“I have listened, Kikyo. Doubt that’s changed.” I blushed slightly, but shooed her off, as I undid my sash, and looked at my folded workout clothing. “It’s time to do morning PT.”
“Ugh.” Kelia’s snort of disgust, was swifty replaced by a giggle and a smirk. “I do love how the majority of these people can’t keep up with us. They really don’t get how much work we do, to stay in shape, as actresses do they?”
I shook my head, as I got dressed. “Not really. To be fair, we know how little they know about an actor’s or actresses’ daily life, just like most of our coworkers have little clue about theirs.” I shrugged. “And I’ll even be more fair and admit, I’m at the extreme end of physical workouts for our profession, and that most military units are harder than this one, but since they spent three months in tin cans… they need to bring their edge back.”
“Uh-huh. Excuses.” Kelia stole a cup of my coffee in a styrofoam cup, to my glare and reaching for a knife. “Bye bye!”
Before my friend and now acting steward and secretary could get stabbed, she was out the door.
FSS Camelot, Winterfell Dropship Port, New Avalon, Late Morning.
Across the table from me, Hanse thumped the papers I had finished signing, he had finished signing, and two witnesses witnessed. “I’m rather pleased.” Hanse finally said, “I thought the final negotiations would be a bit more drawn out. I hope you don’t mind but that was the signal for my people to start… well, collecting.” He grinned roguishly.
“I don’t, I had informed mine that the moment we signed, I expected brown uniformed locusts to descend. And not the Battlemechs.” My smile took the implied sting out of the words, and he responded with rich laughter.
Gry nodded. “With your permission?” He looked at both of us, and I nodded a moment after Hanse did, and he turned to Melinda Davion with a raised eyebrow, and she grinned. They departed to complete the sale, and he leaned back.
“I honestly admit, this was far more painless than I thought it’d be.” In a more serious tone, he added. “You could have held to the letter of the deal, but were very reasonable on everything I wished to change, though I was hoping…” His smile indicated that it was a vain hope and he knew it. “That you’d settle for twenty-five percent of the jumpship and dropship tonnage, and paying cash, instead of the fifteen percent of tonnage.”
I shook my head. “Now, now, there’s a fair exchange, and then there’s putting me on the table and taking me with great vigor, against my will.” I raised an eyebrow. “The twenty-five percent would have been that, and you know it.”
“And would it have been against your will?” His eyebrow quirked a bit roughly reminding me of the comment the time we met in Bun Bun’s cockpit.
“You said the third date, and I will hold you to that, Sirrah!” I raised my chin and sniffed dismissively. “You haven’t even done a first date, and are now discussing wild passion on the table? What type of cad are you?”
Hanse for a long moment, was nonplussed, then his lips started to twitch, finally breaking out in peals of laughter, as he fell off his chair. Finally he got up and settled back down. Shaking his head, he looked at me, a smile on his face. “Well then! A cad I cannot be!”
I blinked. What the hell was he saying?
“A gentleman I am, and as you say, the third date it will be! Therefore, the first date must begin!’ His eyebrows rose, though a look in his eyes indicated that he would not accept a decline.
I skidded to a halt mentally, but rebooted. “As you say, Sir, as you say, it must begin.”
Hanse smiled again, a genuine one, but sobered quickly. “But, not quite yet. We do need to settle details. Team Banzai has agreed, and Yvonne is putting together a training battalion out of Albion and a few other cadets who are ready to go, while Ran is quietly alerting units, and spreading rumors about why he’s going off in durance.” He shook his head. “It was his suggestion, to draw less attention to the mission.”
I nodded. “I’d rather go on 2/15, for lift, but… should be able with a bit of work to hit the first, but it’ll be a fragile-as-spun-glass unit.” I shook my head.
“Needs must. At least the aerospace regiment won’t be?” His eyebrow raised, and I nodded. That was the only bright spot, the pilots had trained hard on the way to New Avalon, and hadn’t let up. While not an organized regiment, yet, they were far closer to it, and unlike ground troops, could train up while in space. They’d be close enough.
I shrugged, and spoke after a moment of thinking. “I’d say at least good enough for them. And you want me to provide transportation, too, I suspect.” I drummed my fingers. Nine Fortresses, four Vengeances, two Titans, six Overlords, six Triumphs, and a clutch of other dropships…
“It’d help, yes, though Team Banzai will only need a ring to transport their Excalibur.”.
I looked upwards as I thought about the numbers. “Not counting cargo ships, we’re talking about 160 mechs, not counting support mechs, call that another 80, right?” Hanse nodded as my eyes met his. “Tanks and similar vees, hmm.” I tilted my head for a second. “Call that roughly 140 to 160 heavy vehicle bays, at least for your forces, and 50 or so of mine for combat.” I nodded once. “About the same support, mostly trucks and like, so they can go semi packed as cargo, but rather not, and about a dozen or so of the super heavy class bays will be needed so if the Argo takes significant time to lift, if nothing else, the troops have a bit more space to spread out.”
Hanse nodded. “Infantry in effect is roughly from my finger calculations about ninety platoons of combat, about forty-five to fifty support, not counting the 700 or so technical support I’m hopefully quietly assembling.” I nodded again.
“Call that, if we load my refitted Mammoths correctly, four each of my combined arms dropships, since they’ll have arty on them, plus can carry infantry, tanks and mechs at once, with maybe an Overlord or two., though I doubt it, since both Fortresses and the Excalibur carry twelve mechs, while the Colossus will carry forty, so a combined total of 252, if my math is right. Adding in the infantry, all combat troops should easily fit in on those, as well as all combat vehicles, all things equal. With the refitted Mammoths, stuffing in everyone, with two additional Monarchs? Easy.”
He thought about it. “That matches my numbers, more or less, yes. In fact, I don’t think you even should bring along the Monarchs, what’s the need?” I tilted my head, nodding. “That’ll mean, counting your assault dropships and one of your carrier groups, the ability to bring along an additional... “ He thought for a moment, running the numbers in his head was easy compared to his daily budget concerns. “Call it fifteen dropships, though where I’ll find that many cargo lifters is a pain in itself.” He shakes his head ruefully.
I shake my head in negation. “Fourteen since Xanadu comes along, to play up the ‘non seriousness of the mission.” He grins at that. “And I’d like to take along the rest of my carriers.”
He tilted his head for a moment. “Why?”
“So we can stuff all the fighter bays full. Figuring on Banzai’s twenty, my sixty-six, and your forces integrated forty, that’ll leave give or take another 212 bays we can fill with additional ASF. Who’d dare attack that force.”
“I’ll agree to find 198, and that’ll leave a few empty bays for long term repair, or extra storage.” He thought, then shrugged. “It is easier to put together an aerospace squadron here, and get them to you en route, than it is to actually find fourteen heavy cargo ships, I’ll admit.” He grins slightly. “Nine are a bit easier, I’ll admit.”
I grinned. “Plus, by focusing just on a certain number of ships, refitting enough to go on 2/7 is doable. More?” Hanse grimaced in agreement. He brightened, however at the thought of those refits.
“That should do.” He paused. “As talking about refits, can I ask what you are thinking vis a vis Xanadu?” I blinked. I asked for a refit of my personal dropship, that cut the part and pool deck to half their size, and put them together, freeing up tonnage. As well as modifications. Adding a full trauma center, removing half the ultra luxury and luxury cabins, adding four mech bays, and two ASF bays… while removing two small craft, and finally adding a Super … ah.
“You’re referring to the cubicle for Summer Breeze?” I played with a bit of hair as he snickered.
“That would be it, yes. I could say you’re indulging in your Lyran side, but that doesn’t feel right, not with everything else.” He shook his head. “I will admit the FSN and AFFS are looking intently at your Mammoths. They like the potential they see there.”
“But what if I want people to think that…” I smiled at my thoughts on Xanadu. “As for the Mammoths, agreed. I won’t say it’ll be a Paul or Peter situation for most people, but…” Hanse’s nod indicated he was quite aware of what I was implying. The AFFS was always short of dropships.
Hanse smiled at the reply regarding the Xanadu. “Sneaky, I like that. As you already have your first two year contract nailed, and depending on how things go, may end up with a longer one… Indeed, the FSN would love to just pay you for your dropships.” His attempt to acquire them again, bemused me, and I didn’t respond to the bait, except with a slight smirk.
“It does help.” I shrugged. “It won’t last long, but who knows? It might last long enough to win one or two battles.”
“Worth it in that case, yes.” He nodded. “Oh, while I’m thinking about it, the list of people you were hunting for, MIIO picked up. They’re having some success, Miss Braun was of course known, and we have her unit listed, and in fact, they’re on Hoff now.” I winced, though it wasn’t absolute proof. “A Miss Blackwing, I believe? From the Outworlds?” I nodded. “She’s with Faceless Soldiers Squadron, LLC, her biological father’s unit, a count of the Outworlds. They’re actually heading to New Valencia on a high priority high profit contract, for the Dragoons, after getting royally screwed by the Dragon, to the point that bluntly, they’re effectively done, without a sweetheart contract bigger than what Wolf gave them. As for other names, no, no real joy on those. Not yet. Why?”
I shrugged. “Wouldn’t you recruit a Solaris Champion? And, redhead, might as well go with a theme.”
Hanse nods at that. “And Miss Blackwing is similar, too. Well.” He nodded once “I have a spare Tramp, I’ll contract them out to you as training cadre, and speed them to a meeting point. Though I would be curious exactly how she came to your attention.”
I thought about it, and decided not to bring up old wounds. But… “I presume Dr. Banzai gave you an ethically allowed briefing on my and Case’s health status.”
“To some extent, yes.” Hanse was puzzled, where this is going.
“Case has the same neurological structures you do to some extent, no?” I watched as Hanse grew still. “And if I had to bet, Morgan Kell, Patrick Kell, Yorginia Kurita… and Asha Blackwing. I will not tell you how I know this at this time. But I’d bet on it.”
“... I am almost tempted to promise you anything to get that information on how you knew. But, you are implying something. Spell it out.”
“Phantom Mech. It’s rumors, myths, legends based on Morgan’s recent duel… but Ian showed it first.” I spoke quietly. “It’s not rumors. I’m not precisely sure what it is, and I can for a fact say it’s not related to the rumors about DEST abilities. But there’s scientific proof.”
“I… see.” Before Hanse could continue, I broke in rapidly.
“Don’t. Don’t try to activate it. I don’t know what happened in your brother’s last battle, but what happened to Morgan afterwards, shows it has severe psychological effects, and well, Case isn’t too tightly wrapped as we speak.” I shook my head, pulling out the pen I used to keep my hair in a bun.
“I… see, again.” Hanse drew out a breath. “We will have a discussion on how you knew this, and other things, correct?”
“When I can prove the reason as the most possible, and the only one that explains everything, yes.” I nodded. “But…”
Hanse nodded, shaking off the seriousness. “I have a Battlemaster to choose!” He grinned.
“Actually, you have a combat suit to try on and get fitted for. My compliments.” I raised my hand. “You cannot refuse a lady’s gift, now, can you? Without being a cad?” I grinning.
“Well, in that case…” Hanse smiled and held out his arm. “You will have to tell me where you got such an interest in World War Two history, though American? Really?”
I smiled, as we discussed the naming schemes of my ships.
“Oh, it’s an interesting period. And the show the Americans put on?” I raised an eyebrow, and Hanse laughed as we walked towards the hatch to the rest of the dropship port.
Restaurant Brennan’s of New Avalon, New Avalon, New Avalon, Evening.
Hanse allowed the maitre d’ to take my coat, and admired me in the simple, but deceptive dark green bandage dress. As we were escorted to a table, I noted that to my amused surprise, all the guests should look like they were wearing uniforms, and First Davion ones at that. It wasn’t hard, once you spotted one of them, the rest became easier to spot, and while the arrangements looked normal, and would pass most people, anyone who studied the body language, or looked for thin wires, would have caught them. I was drawn out of my musings by Hanse’s comment. “Melinda told me about this place, opened by a chief cook from the original one in New Orleans, on Terra of course.” I blinked, but he continued. “I’m immensely curious about it. Outside a few worlds near Terra, Cajun cooking is not really known.”
I thought about it and smiled slightly. “It should be an experience, then. Though I hope it’s authentic, not tourist.” His eyebrow rose.
I thought about it for a moment and smiled suddenly. “I’ve heard from someone born on Fianna, there’s two types of Cajun cooking, what they really eat, and what they sucker Tourists to eat.” Hanse laughed at that, as we reached our table.
“By any chance, did he tell you the difference?” Hanse pulled out my chair, and allowed me to settle in, as he did the gentlemanly thing, and held it while I sat.
“Apparently, blackened was a thing for tourists, and realistically, while spices were used, the tourists got set on fire, outside crayfish boils.” I smiled inwardly. Crawfish etouffee here I come. “He whipped up some jambalaya, and it wasn’t spicy at all. Couldn’t do Gumbo, not enough time, and etouffee was too difficult, for what we had to cook with, and he didn’t trust the shellfish.”
Hanse raised an eyebrow. “A shoot?” I nodded. “Well, then.” He opened the menu, raising an eyebrow at me, when I didn’t open mine.
“Well… I take it you have an idea of what you want to try?” Hanse waited for an answer.
“Crawfish etouffee, if they have it.” I nodded. Hanse scanned the menu, and smiled.
“That does make it easy, and well. Bon Chance, non?” Hanse’s french came out with a New Avalon accent, while my response in the same, came out with an accent that would be expected of someone from Houma, Louisiana.
“Oui. Tis only right.” I grinned. “Fianna apparently had a lot of Cajuns settle, and they kept the accent, as well as the cooking.” I responded to his slight smile.
Hanse thought about it for a second. “A talent for mimicry, helps with acting, I would suppose?”
“It doesn't hurt, no.” Before I could expand on that thought, the waiter arrived.
“Two crawfish etouffee, please, and the appropriate wine.” Hanse stated.
“Very good sir.” the Waiter nodded, and departed. I shook my head slightly amused, the two artfully curled loose locks along my cheekbones moving a bit.
“Well, stuffy waiter down, I would say.” Hanse’s response was a bit bemused.
I couldn’t help but snicker a bit at that but sobered. “I’ve always thought that Cajuns were a bit friendly.” I tilted my head. “Maybe he’s trying to be what you expect?’
Hanse’s lips frowned a bit. “I’d be hoping for the experience, at a restaurant like this, wouldn’t you?”
“Oh, of course, but waiters seek to maximize their tips by giving the customers what they think would be good service for the customer.” I smiled a bit crookedly. “I’d suspect you’d get more of the real service if the First Guards weren’t assuring them of profit.”
“... I concede that point. Though I’ll have to admit, not many would have caught it, they are good at blending in.” Hanse’s lips tugged in a rueful smile. I nodded agreeing. “Just their luck at having an observant person aware of what to look for.” He clearly shifted the subject, feeling it was a bit too close to ‘work’. “Do you get the same type of response from waiters and the like?”
I thought about it, both lives. “Less than you’d think, considering how often I’m in the entertainment sections, but more than I’d prefer, to be honest.”
Hanse leaned forward, clasping his hands. “What is it like being an actress? Not the glamour, the actual job?”
I laughed. “It’s a job. One of the pitfalls of being an actor or actress, or director or writer, is you make fantasy. You have to keep that in mind. I’d go farther, and say too many of my fellows forget that reality is stranger, and we’re portraying images for people to escape into. Not real life.” I shook my head, and with his prompting, expanded on what a typical day on a shoot was like. And what I did to keep in shape, and set up. His eyes were amused, and attentive.
Before we could segue on, and I pick his brains about mechwarrior status, the food arrived. While the wine was excellent, the etouffee? Well, they were trying for a blonde roux, then decided red pepper was the way to go. I quickly sipped at my water, to Hanse’s gulps.
I looked at the etouffee and at Hanse who was looking at his as if it was a Kuritan he wanted to stab. “I’m afraid this isn’t Etouffee.”
“... I’m not going to argue, and have a pointed question for Melinda. How about we find real food? Not only is it a bit too spicy for the shellfish or wine, I’ll be fair, I expected something different.”
“Like?” I didn’t mention real food and real sizes was something I’d be down for. As he should know, I could and did eat around 4,000 calories a day, to fuel myself. “And I’ll be honest, I think they’re trading off the name and Terran link, not their sizes.”
“I happen to know a place near the Palace, it’s a bit of a hole in the wall, but they don’t stint. Shall we?” Hanse grinned. I smiled back.
“That sounds wonderful.” I couldn’t help but have a real smile at that, as Hanse made our apologies, and the smile turned slightly impish as the guards seemed to freeze in confusion. “If we ever make it to Fianna, we’ll have to try real Cajun food and report back.”
Hanse’s eyes clouded a bit, then smiled. “You’re a bit more likely than I, so I’ll hold you to that report.” He grinned. “I refuse to believe that was the height of cooking for one of the most social towns of the old United States!” My impish grin and nod agreed with him.
The rest of the night went much better. Hamburgers, fries, and talk over technology and battlemechs, with Hanse holding out on some of the more esoteric options, and what he joked about in movies, with me pointing out why we did that, made for a much more pleasant night than a stuffy tourist trap.
Kikyo’s cabin, Dropship Xanadu, Winterfell Dropship Port, Late Night.
I was ambushed before I could even finish opening the hatch to my cabin.
“Kiiiki.” Kelia drawled as she pounced. Her demand for information was obvious, and I tilted my head.
“Don’t I pay your salary?” I undid my hair letting it fall out of the twirl, as I started unzipping the dress, muttering fell things about zippers.
‘Yes, but we’re friends… sooo…” Her lewd grin answered what she wanted. “How was he?”
“A perfect gentleman, at least for the second half of the night, in a small hole in the wall.” I answered. “He seemed interested in how acting really goes for us professionals, listened intently, and when I gave him a chance to talk about what he did before getting chained to the throne, he gave plenty of good advice on the ins and outs of mechwarriorhood. I really enjoyed the night. He said, and I think he meant it, he did too. Some good jokes from both of us.”
“... I meant in bed, though you don’t look ravished.” She frowned slightly, as I finished removing my heels.
“I wasn’t. I did say he was a perfect gentleman, did I not.”
Kelia’s head titled. “Kiki… you didn’t bed him? I mean… I know he trips most, if not all your buttons. And you’re… well, I don’t say easy, but putting aside the subtle transactional relationships you tend to have, you are very much want, take, have. And let’s be honest, any man who at least didn’t make a serious pass at you after a good dinner, I’d wonder about their sexuality” I blushed at that.
“He’s a Prince. He can’t just go hopping into beds.” I shook my head. “This isn’t Canopus, or Solaris, or Herotius.”
“Sure, but still.” She paused. “Kikyo… are you making a play? I mean, we all joked about bagging his brother, then him, but no one was serious, even you about it.”
I blinked in confusion. “Uh… what?” I honestly didn’t understand what she was saying.
“I mean, as in, you are trying to be the Princess-Consort.” Kelia’s look was a teacher explaining something to someone dim.
“I wouldn’t want the position.” I shook my head. “I’ll be fair, his lover?” I finally admitted that much, that the body did control the brain here. “Without question I’d indulge. But to be his other half in all his duties?” Part of me, the original part thought it sounded good. The original part was not amused, and the merged part… knew a simple fact. Can’t happen. I was a party girl with the reputation, and now a wanna be merc, not suitable for the First Prince, and it’d block me from doing what I really wanted to do. There were too many worlds to be saved. “I can’t.”
“I’d say if the night went as you say, and with the way he looked at you, when you weren’t looking? You might have to rethink can’t.” Kelia picked up the dress and stockings. “I’ll just put this away, as you think about it. Go take a shower.” She suddenly smiled. “I think a cold one is just what you need.”
I blushed again, knowing what she was referring to. Hanse had of course, made a polite pass, as expected, I rejected it, in our dance. My body on the other hand… did not approve of the rejection. “Yeah. I better.” With that, I put action to words. Though I knew it wouldn't be quite enough to calm the feeling.
Converted Warehouse, Winterfell Dropship Port, Midday, Jan 10th, 3015
Carefully concealing my feelings, I was the last one to enter the room, noting the Prince, and his Champion. I had confirmed with Aiko it was Justin Allard, who picked her up and moved her to the palace, after Ichigo had been put on heel to toe rotation, by orders from above. He had been even apologetic about it to her and Ichigo, but pointed out the risks of Aiko in the small house on the Heavy Guard’s base.
I quietly muttered under my breath. “Unsecure my ass.” Though to determined operators, likely true. Justin’s explanation of the Prince being concerned about her safety and use on me as a lever, was confirmed by him, and his admittance that he wasn’t blind it could be used as a lever on me by him, but… his point was very frank. “Why would I? You’re doing at least eighty percent of what I’d want you to do without it, why ruin a perfectly good business relationship to get the remaining, when I can either be patient or find your price without breeding discontent.”
While Ichigo’s own digging had confirmed it had come from the Fox’s Den, aka the command post of House Davion, my feeling and Ichigo’s as well, given that if it was Hanse, it’d sour loyalty of Ichigo to him, something Hanse wasn’t inclined to do, on top of my dislike… So it was Yvonne behind the move. Justin when asked by Ichigo wouldn’t confirm it, but would say that Hanse hadn’t given any orders about personnel to Ran, at all.
I was pulled out of my fuming about that situation by Hanse’s voice, which derailed my thoughts on Aiko’s situation, and her complaints she couldn’t go anywhere without a dozen guards. His rich tenor however cut though that irritation.
“Welcome, senior officers of Operation MEDEA. The recovery of the Dropship Argo, if it is where intelligence reports it to be, and exploration of immediate locations near it, which the SLS Argo should have.” He looked around and nodded once. “Overall authority for the mission is in Marshal Felsner’s as overall forces commander, while strategic direction authority as well as go and no go on various aspects of the mission is in a joint group of Felsner, General Onishi and Colonel Dr. Banzai. Units assigned to this are to be as follows.” He paused and waited at the attentive faces of my senior officers, and nodded once as we had no questions.
“A combined arms regiment from the Heavy Cavalry along with at least one aerospace regiment as well as the majority of jumpships and dropships, to remind you from the Heavy Cavalry, under General Onishi.” He paused to let that sink in, but continued a moment later. “A combat command comprised of one wing, one battalion of mechs, a regiment of armor and another of infantry, plus support from the Heavy Guards, directly under Marshal Felsner, the New Avalon Training battalion, similar formation, under Katheryn Sandoval, and finally Team Banzai, in entire.” As I looked around, I noted the senior officers of all the units listed, and smiled a bit bemused, at the thought of an actress being equal to several of these.
“Additional technical help of up to two regiments in personnel will be provided. At this time, we are unsure of additional dropship elements from the AFFS, though two Behemoths and four Mammoths have been assured. The FSN may contribute additional jumpships, but at this time we are also unsure of that. Independent ASF regiments are being quietly assembled for additional support, with the Space assets, meaning jump and dropships, small craft, and all aerospace fighters under Adm. Ahmed of the Heavy Cavalry. The FSN will not be providing additional assault dropship support, nor will there be any combat dropship support from them. In effect, you will have an RCT with massive aerospace support.” He paused, and nodded, giving the floor to Yvonne. My anger spiked again, but I stomped on it, and paid attention behind an impassive facade.
“First, departure date from New Avalon will be 2/7/3015, for hopeful departure from the system no later than 2/15. Second, the official cover is an anti pirate mission, with hopes of ah, ending the threat of the Domains once and for all, explaining why an additional battalion of FSN marines are onboard the various ships. After a certain point, best determined by the commanders on mission, the task force will jump to dead systems and in between systems, to disappear from tracking.” She nodded once. “As we have the location of the system where the Argo is supposedly lost at, after that disappearance, the Task Force should not be seen again in any habitable system, which General Onishi’s Danais’ will be useful for, along with an Aqueduct tanker we are trying to arrange. If the mission has to be aborted, that restriction is over.”
Katheryn Sandoval, a willowy black haired and black eyed tanned lean woman with the rank tabs of a Colonel, raised her hand, as Yvonne scanned the room. “Ma’am? None of these units will have much ability to shake down… are you not expecting contact?”
Yvonne smiled slightly. “Outside the Heavy Guards, you are correct, Colonel. While we all expect the Aerospace elements to be well prepared, the ground fighting will have to be mostly born by the Heavy Guards, though what little hard intelligence we have indicates that the Heavy Guards will be able to punch through with little risk. Think of your extra units and equipment as a little bit of insurance. Now if there are no additional questions, we will break up into smaller groups.” Her tone at the last indicated there better not be more.
We quickly broke up into our smaller groups, with Felsner, Sandoval and Banzai joining me, in approaching the Prince and his Champion. Banzai’s eyebrows narrowed slightly at the slight twitch in my eye when I came close to Yvonne Davion, but he said nothing.
“I note you have a question, Colonel.” Hanse raised an eyebrow and looked at Sandoval.
“Sire, yes. I understand why I was promoted and given the new unit, even as a temporary measure, politics overall, and I’ve been a bit of a ah… well.” She waved her hand. “You can be seen giving my father a hand by trying to settle me down.” Hanse smiled. “My question is this. If we’re to go as fast as we can, why don’t we go now?”
Hanse turned his head to me, quirking his lips, and I took the hint. “Because I don’t have the people yet, nor even basic organization down. The dropships are being refitted as we speak, and won’t be finished and tested before the fifth, if we’re lucky. It’s quite possible the testing will be their liftoff for the mission.” Katheryn winced in sympathy at my harsh tone at the last. “I’m sure the AFFS’s in a similar boat.” Hanse grinned as I punted the problem back to him.
“Acquiring all your command’s personnel is a bit of a challenge. Don’t be surprised if some are transferred via small craft on the 15th, Katheryn. Same with our part of the fighters and dropships.” He nodded. “In fact, the sheer speed of this, is being put down as rumors, as Felsner drew royal disapproval.” Katheryn’s head snapped to the urbane and civilized marshal, who simply nodded.
“It was my idea, yes. I’m not quite sure exactly what will be spread, but, needs must and all that.” HIs urbane tone indicated this was just another duty for him, and not one that troubled him. “Worse comes to worse, I can always log some more wood.” His ending line, drew a giggle from Katheryn who was aware of the Felsner’s association with logging.
“Excellent.” He looked around and nodded once. “Well, I and Yvonne have to return, so… unless you all have any other questions for me, I’ll depart now. Katheryn, your unit too will assemble here. Felsner’s troops will move to here by the third for some basic wargames, then you all go. So?” He swept us and got nods of acceptance.
I watched as he strode out, with a nod at us, Yvonne talking to him quietly as soon as she thought she was out of earshot, though while I could hear her talking, she was a bit too far to make out the words. Shrugging slightly, I turned to the other two. “Questions of me?”
Katheryn looked me up and down, noting the legs. “I was going to have some pointed questions on how you even think you can fight, then I did the research. Your own stunts, your own martial arts, and you own your own battlemech, an Archer, and at least have the basics on how to use it. Do you think you can run a regiment?”
I looked upwards for a second. “I have good people to listen to, as well as a good second who’ll act as ground tactical, Ferro, Major Ferro.” I smiled slightly. “I also know the best secret of good leadership.”
“Which is?” Kathryen asked, a bit challenging.
“Pick the right people, listen to them, and get out of their way.” I grinned. Her sharp laughter indicated her agreement. Then she leaned forward slightly, and commented. “So… wanna see how you stack up against me, in partying and fighting?”
Ran broke in, amused. “There will be time for both, before we go, today is laying the groundwork, ladies, Shall we?” He gestured at the other groups. One of which was how my recruits were being vetted and collected. I winced. If Hanse didn’t have plans to convert my brigades as I planned into AFFS units, he was staffing them as if he did. I wasn’t as naive to believe he didn’t, though as above, he’d pay for them, likely with a nice planet or two. Aiko needed her own title, didn’t she, he joked during the date. Well, it was time to get to the nuts and bolts.
Converted Warehouse, HQ of Taskforce Medea, WinterFell Dropship Port, Winterfell, Evening, New Avalon, Jan 15th, 3015
“Well.” Case snarked. “That could have gone better.” I thumped my head on the table.
Katheryn joined in the snark. “Not so movie like, is it?”
“Ha, ha.” I sighed. I had managed to put together a unit of mechs, mind you, and Ran offered a company of his Heavy Guards to play opforce for the unit on the first field exercise we did. As an added bonus, Uri decided he wouldn’t help one bit, and both Ran and Katheryn had agreed.
Uri shrugged. “We were going to get schooled no matter what. That was the point. The Marshal picked his best for that purpose. Actually, the fact that his heavy company was down to a half wrecked lance, as we retreated, is better than I thought we’d do.”
Katheryn stared. “You had the weight, and the numbers, you should have overrun him.”
Ran hummed. “Actually, I tend to agree with Major Ferro. I also had a company of tanks, and a company of dug in infantry. The fact is, I had maybe two lances of force totally left, and General Onishi managed to extract half her command from it, admittedly, most in desperate need of repair…” He shrugged. “In the end, while I agree that she did not take her objective, and in fact, failed in the secondary objective, she was going up against me and the Heavy Guards. I was mildly impressed.”
“Thank you ever so much.” I drawled from the desk. “I dislike losing. I dislike failing even more. I got both.”
“I believe you said it, Ferret.” Uri snarked. “Bloodless battles, bloody drills.” He shrugged. “As I said, we did better for the first attempt than anyone could reasonably expect. Could we have done better? Sure. Could Kikyo have used her mechs better? Oh, yeah. But was it bad? Eh. I’ve seen worse.”
Katheryn shrugged. “Her biggest mistake, was she got too aggressive. She tried too hard to punch in, instead of sparring and using the longer ranged capabilities she had at her disposal. Not quite a beginner’s mistake, but an aggressive commander’s mistake.” She looked at the frozen reply. “Not to mention, while the basic idea was sound, she didn’t keep her recon elements tighter.” She paused. “To be fair, they were fairly hefty, and once they engaged, the Marshal’s hovertanks meant they couldn’t break out, and instead of concentrating on them, Onishi chose to focus on the ‘Mechs. Toss up, but once she realized what the Guards had, she quickly shifted to breaking contact, instead of following up and slamming it home. That’s what I’d have done, but…”
“The reserve I had wasn’t optimized for close in, a pair of Archers, a 2R Marauder, and a Battlemaster wasn’t ideal for close in combat.” I sighed. “Of course, I could have gotten closer with the command lance, and used it to take pressure off, but by being a good klick behind the main body, I cut my effectiveness for the two Archers by at least half, I’d say.”
Ran smiled. “It wasn’t you lacked the right instincts, I’d say, I suspect your issue, is the opposite of one I’ve seen too often in young bloods, agree Uri?”
“Yeah, she was trying too hard to keep tactical control and oversight. Plus, she was trying to fight at longer ranges than really suited for the situation. Not too surprising, but still. A lot of tyros make that mistake. Effective range isn’t maximum range, and well…”
I nodded. “I confused the two. Sure, a PPC can do damage out to an easy two or 3 clicks, but our computers even in Bun Bun or your 2R, Uri, can’t even hope to get lock at that range. Bun Bun was a bit better off, but…” Uri nodded, satisfied at my response.
Ran sighed, looking at Case, still wearing his scruffy leather jacket, and leaning back, smirking. “It doesn’t help that Lt. Winter managed to not get hit,and once you put him into play, was responsible for the de facto destruction of my armor company, by himself. You held him too tightly. Wise, as a bodyguard, in a sense, but in reality, he should have been given free rein earlier. I have not seen a mechwarrior better than him.”
Case grinned. “And this was me not taking it seriously. You ain’t seen anything yet, darlings. I’ll kick ass and take names on anyone you can think of, y’hear? Oh, and thanks to your sister, cabbit for the fix on Redline. Annoying to have the Gauss Rifle knock me on my ass when firing.”
“... Case. Go find a beer.” I didn’t want his attitude rubbing the AFFS officers the wrong way. Much less Marshal Felsner who he headshotted from the extreme edge of the effective Gauss range thanks to Redline sporting one now. That was all that allowed us to break contact and lick our wounds. I also didn’t want to know that Aiko had a taste for the scruffy. I really didn’t.
Case saluted lazily as he pushed off the wall. “No hard feelings, Marshal? You were a big target, so… yeah, get rid of the Assault first.”
“Not unwise, though I would be bedeviled in how you managed that shot, young man.” Felnser nodded.
“Talent and practice. Too many snakes found that out.” Case’s savage smile smoothed out as he nodded at the General, and then walked out.
“Bit too cocky and gloating after he took me out, I’d say… but can’t say he didn’t deserve some kudos.” Ran rubbed his chin. “That ability of his… I’ll say this. I have some ideas on how to deal with it. I’ll set it up. You’ll enjoy it, I promise.”
I looked at Katheryn and asked quietly. “Is this where I go ahead and cry?”
“... It’d not help.” Sandoval patted me on the back. “Really, it wouldn’t.” She paused. “Cheer up, tomorrow it’s my turn to get shredded.”
“... I’ll buy the drinks afterwards.” I nodded. “If nothing else…”
“We can bond over sadistic Marshals. Good thinking!” With that, we switched to discussing more precise details on how I screwed up, and what I could have done better, but what I did right. This would take most of the rest of the afternoon.
Acting HQ, OHC, Winterfell Dropship Port, Winterfell, New Avalon, Morning, Jan 26th, 3015
Kelia stuck her head into the office I was using. “A… Captain Steiner is here to see you?” I paused on that.
“Before you let her in, get Case here now.” I paused. “And toss me that pistol.”
Kelia tossed me the pistol, a Serak 7875D, more or less the Federated Suns’s version of the legendary Colt M1911, and one I was actually fond of. I checked it over, charged it, and clipped it to my uniform’s belt, while l left the flap unbuttoned.
Case sauntered in, a beer in hand, knocking on the door even as he entered. "Soooo... did you eat him alive yet, or did you just nibble?" he waggled his eyebrows.
I rolled my eyes. "I behaved. He's a Prince. And one worthy of respect, you Pole." I shook my head. "A Captain Steiner, you know the one I'm referring to, the Ex-Dragoon, supposedly." I pause and share a long look with Case about how likely that was. "Is here."
"Oh," for once an almost alien look of calm was on the mech jock's face as he pondered for a moment, setting the beer aside after a moment "I wondered why you looked ready for the shootout in the OK Corral," he said finally, before pulling out his gun from the shoulder holster, humming under his breath something that sounded suspiciously like 'hi ho, hi ho, a clanner killing we shall go' as he checked the mag, before sliding it back in and reholstering the weapon.
I nod, my entire mode shifting to something no one would recognize, but a stillness that only a pit viper could equal. "Kelia, please send her in, now."
We waited quietly, and then a stunning blonde Steiner walked in.
The statuesque blonde walks in, a practical clone of the Archon by the looks of it aside from her clothing. Wearing pants, blouse and a jacket, her stride is confident but her eyes betray her alertness as she reflexively scans the room before she focuses on Kikyo, noting Case as a curiosity or, perhaps, a bodyguard. If an odd one at that, she noted, wondering if he was even an adult yet.
With a smile, she asks. "General Onishi. I received your letter, and the offer. Since I've had a bit of a falling out with the Colonel, I'm wondering if the offer is still on the table."
I smile back, it not reaching my eyes. “It’ll depend on the answer to this question, Captain.” I pause for a second. “How’s the weather on Strana Mechty?”
Case looked at Kikyo incredulously "...seriously? THAT's your opener you fucking
I don’t look away, as I respond. “Hey, Ed would demand it!”
Katherine stares for a moment, her mind running through that exchange, tid-bits of old bringing back to mind where the reference really came from. With a shake of her head, she simply says, "The weather is Fragmented enough... 'fraid I don't have a gold coin for you. And I was right, when I read the letter I knew you were going to give me headaches."
I relax, but before I could speak, Case interrupted.
"I'm deeply confused now," the teen scratched his head "On one hand, you're a
Clanner and as everybody knows - the universe smiles on you when you kill a Clanner. On the other hand..." he trailed off "...what a strange feeling."
“Don’t feel too bad, think of her as a deep cover agent in the cold, Pole. Yeah, long time for you, I suppose, and yes, Scarlet forever! The Pole’s there, and you?” I quirk an eyebrow at the not so Clanner person. “And what the hell have you been doing to prepare the Inner sphere for those inbred fucks?”
"Pole? ... Does that mean... Case? Wolf in Sheep's Clothing? Reload?... Yeah, I remember now. And the raging hatred boner for Clanners. Can't blame him for that one," she noted drily. "As for what I've been doing? Deadman watch with everything I know, biding my time for Kerlin to cut us loose and trying to nudge events just enough that my friends don't bite it or lose anyone they deeply care about. And trying to stay alive."
There was no bitterness whatsoever on that last bit. Nope, no siree, or so Kikyo thought amused.
"Wow. Restraint. I'd have probably started killing those brain-dead fuckers the moment I got my hands on a mech in the Trial of Position," Case shuddered "Until my teens with Clanners... eugh... I feel sick just thinking about it."
“... Restraint, isn’t that a sexual position?” I snarked. “More seriously. Minako? Really?”
"I'm sure you'd know all about that particular use of restraint, given some of what I heard. But leaving that aside, and lucky you, Case. Do you know how valuable predictability is? Doesn't matter now, your letter was the tipping point, that and my own work behind the scenes finally culminating in something I hadn't predicted." Kath’s voice was a bit bemused.
I snicker, but quirk an eyebrow in question.
Kath sighs. In a slightly annoyed tone, she responded. "Kerlin's doubling and tripling down on my suggestions to make Blackwell the logistical support to the Dragoons in the Inner Sphere. He's shipping in a supply run for Blackwell and that, in turn, finally clued Jaime in that we never were intended to be a reconnaissance force. Not by our own Khan. No, we've always been the canary."
"I was always wondering, is Jaime that attached to Clanner culture after all he had seen or is he simply that stupid," Case pondered "Both qualify for dismissal since that idiot is clearly not fit to lead the Dragoons."
I shrugged in response, and responded. “I think he didn’t know what to do, plus, let’s be honest, the Clans don’t do long term thinking as a rule, and in a lot of ways, their solution to problems generally is ‘I got the gun…’, and the Inner sphere didn’t treat Jamie much better than the Clans did.”
Katherine sighed. "I don't know what Jaime was thinking in Oh Tee Elle after Kerlin's orders. I know what he's thinking now and, beyond being convinced that I should be the one leading the Dragoons... Yes, shocker, beyond that... He's convinced the Crusaders are the same rot that allowed Amaris to gain his perch and keep it until the Great Father kicked his ass."
"That is why," she continued, "he wants me to turn you and your unit into a Clan-killer. The Crusaders will keep pushing until they get what they want, so..." She smiled. "Let's give them what they want and let them choke on it if they dare."
"So... let me see if I understand this correctly," the teen said slowly, an odd expression on his face "His idea of stopping the Clans is to train a limited number of people in how the Clans fight. Maybe to graciously disseminate some technology, no matter how stupendously limited, and to meet the Clans in a 'fair fight'?" the quotation marks were almost visible "Yeah. That's it. I'm taking whatever vacation time I have, my mech and I'm going to go kill that stupid asshole and anyone he considers an advisor. He's clearly too stupid to live."
Katherine shook her head. "No, that isn't the entirety of his plan. Did you miss the Blackwell supply run I mentioned?"
I shake in suppressed laughter, and finally break loose. After a long moment. “While… yes, I can fully agree with that, he does realize our solution to the clans is grid square removal the Russian way?” I smile broadly.
"Artillery, air strikes, guerilla warfare, tanks..." Case eyes almost mist over "A lot of tanks."
"I believe he's finally understanding, as I told him more than once, that the Inner Sphere's problem isn't the manpower. Blackwell's production caps are being removed as we speak and any production beyond what the Dragoons need will be made available for sale," she said before smirking, "I think Hanse will want to take a bite out of pretty much all of it but as a stockholder of Blackwell myself I can make sure this unit has priority after the Dragoons."
I nod. “Good. Though Hanse owes us big. And is stripping my dropships of their last generation Royal bays for mechs and like.” I smile.
"Halleluyah," Case muttered, pinching the bridge of his nose "Fucking clanners... 'Oh, fight us fairly, you dishonorable surats, fight us one-on-one, it isn't like we have far superior technology that gives us every possible advantage or anything!'"
"Not in the Homeworlds we don't," she replied. "Think about it, even the Blood Spirits have access to the same technology as everyone else, just in lesser amounts. I don't think anyone other than us really groks just how much of a difference it makes. And that's what Blackwell will begin to fix. Supply run will, if nobody interferes with it, let us open multiple new production lines of just about everything. Battlemechs, aerospace fighters, combat vehicles. Christ, Kerlin's sending a mobile shipyard. If anything, we might have to keep the Dragoons pinned to New Valencia just to keep everyone from attacking it."
I shake my head. "And we're going after the Argo and the Artu cores, then Helm, which Hanse knows about, we talked about it last night over dinner." I smile crookedly. "I should watch my virtue around him, shouldn't I?"
"Move into Federated Suns," Case shrugged. "Problem solved. I mean, I'm not the Davion fanboy that the furball is but this thing is already wide open. At this point Hanse is going to kick asses left and right if he's half as competent as the novels make him out to be. The patented idiot here already blabbed about the Argo and the Helm core," he nodded at Kikyo "We might as well add insult to injury."
Case paused, looking at her "By the way, Hanse better fucking help the Aranos, or I'm holding you responsible."
I roll my eyes in annoyance. “Actually, I didn’t blab exactly to him. My brother here and now did. Silly me, previous memories of here, said Ichigo, said brother was trustworthy. Should have thought about his being loyal enough to be an officer of the Heavy Guards!” I snap. “And as for the Aranos… they blew up a Castle Brian with a memory core! But, I’ll see to it.”
The Archon-clone looked at the two in turn before focusing on Kikyo once again. "Why am I not surprised," she drily stated. "I pussy-foot for over a decade trying not to make waves before I'm ready to make a move and you nuke everything within... Wait a minute. I bloody worked with you during the movie shoot. You didn't recognize me back then?"
"Oh please," Case rolled his eyes "I spent sixteen years keeping my mouth shut and literally putting away pennies to eventually play the stock market and get enough capital and manpower to go after stuff quietly. She blabbed it all out in, what, five days?" he paused for a moment, before shaking his head "No, wait, it probably wasn't even that long, Christ... put that tart anywhere near FedSuns, watch her blab everything to the fucking stupendously awesome totally needs to be the absolute ruler of all known space Hanse-goddamn-he's-so-cool-Davion. UGH."
Katherine laughed at that.
I shook my head. “I’ve only been here since the first. I woke up then, I guess. Blame transition shock, I guess. Or the amount of drugs the original Kikyo did.”
"...aaaaand now I'm even more worried," the mechjock deadpanned.
Katherine's laughter cut off as Kikyo's words sank in, then she stared at the former actress. "Kiki... I'm thirty six, closing in on thirty seven. Each and every one of those moments I can remember I've had my extra memories in the back of my head... and you're telling me you only woke those up this January?... I don't know what to say or think."
I blink, and turn to look at Case. "Uh... you?"
"I was... three, I think?" Case frowned, eyes unfocused "I might have been younger but that's where my memory really started to fire off. I think I scared the ever-loving shit out of my parents. The old man swore that my first words were 'what is this bullshit?' at the top of my lungs... or so I was told."
I blink, and summarize what I was told before I woke up in Kikyo. “So, you see… this is… odd, I’d say.”
"I'm not sure, to be honest. I have... fragments, bits and pieces." he hesitated "They involve my farm and agro-mechs. No way they are mine so... birth trauma? Insufficient brain development? My birth was... complicated on my birth mother and there was a risk I'd be brain dead," he shrugged "We'll never know, I guess."
"Huh... That could be a problem for the Cabbit. I mean," she started elaborating on her thoughts, "I've had decades to basically become me. I know myself, there's not going to be any surprises there. You, Case? Same deal, except you're younger. But since you've grown up, well... Miss Onishi, on the other hand?" Her eyes bore into the general. "She might have issues."
"Subscriptions, probably," Case waved his hand dismissively "But what can you do? Honestly, I had a smooth ride. I just had to get used to this mug and I was fine. Well, that and living on a farm among pacifists." he winced "Not too bad until you tell your parents that farming or engineering are totally passe and mercenary work pays better."
I rolled my eyes. “I’m not addicted to any drugs, though thanks to apparently Mom being an Kurtian genie, and well, an Order of Five Pillars… yeah, I don’t go to bed without private exercise. To say the least. Plus others.”
"I couldn't tell you what my genes have without asking geneticists to map the whole thing and tell me what they think of it. I'm actually a freeborn, though it doesn't matter," she admitted, "But here I am," she said grinning and then posing with her right arm extended and her fingers in a V, "ready to kick ass for the Inner Sphere. I'd rather avoid the color orange this time around, though I'm definitely a hot blonde."
"I'd love to see your genetic map, honestly," Case perked up "Katherine Steiner? Are you actually related to the MILF-Archon or is it just Clanners being Clanners?"
"Biologically I'm descended from Kailen Steiner," she pointed out, returning to a relaxed pose, "so I am related to her in a sense. There is no lineage, though, not in the legal sense. My mother was a Trueborn, with all that it implies."
I shudder in response. "Fun, fun. Okay. I have a meeting with an Outworlders ASF merc owner, and his daughter, one Asha Blackwing. Like Minako's story... hey, yeah, you wrote the first of us in Battletech... this is all your fault!" I point at Kath. "Want to bet that Asha is actually Valles?"
Katherine blinked. "Wait, Asha Blackwing is around? She could be Valles, alright. What do you mean, my story?"
“You wrote a story, pretty much… well, you as Katherine Steiner, and as soon as you and the Dragoons got here, basically, LOKI nabbed you, thinking you were the MILF of Archonhood, Lisa Steiner figured it out, broke you in tears, adopted you… you ended up saving Ian Davion and marrying him.” I nod. Pausing for a second. “Hey, you are owned by a cat, aren’t you?”
Katherine stared at Kikyo, automatically responding to her even as her brain blue-screened briefly. "Tika, yes. 'Tasha's owned by her brother, Pooka. They're all here on-planet". Moments later, her brain caught up and incredulously said, "Wait, what the hell are you saying, LOKI nabbed me, Lisa Steiner broke me into tears and adopted me? I saved Ian and married him?"
"...am I the only person in this room who isn't related or entangled with some main character?" Case just stared at them both "Holy shit, that's disgusting how Mary Sue you two are."
“Yep.” I popped the P. I phhbted at Case. “Better than being a dirt farmer, y’know? And well, we’re going up against the Clans and the Wobbies.”
The blonde simply stared in incomprehension for a few more moments as she processed the scenario, trying to figure out how in the blazes it could possibly have happened. Sure, she looked just like the Archon... she could buy LOKI kidnapping her thinking she was Katrina. But why would they do that? It's not like they didn't know where Katrina was, right?... Wait a moment, she thought. "How early was this kidnapping?"
I thought, while picking up a paper from Rayanne. “About a month after you all arrived on New Valencia? What I remember anyways.” I read the paper, my eyes widening.
"... Katrina was playing Red Corsair at the time, wasn't she?" she considered as she thought about timings, "That... I'm not sure when exactly she disappeared but... that does leave enough time for her to... alright, that's plausible, Kiki. But the rest... Christ. Why would I marry Ian?"
"You fell in love?" I shrug, scanning the document again, grinning.
"With Ian," she flatly stated. "That... I have no idea what to think of it. And if Hanse ever finds out I have no idea what he will think."
"...don't tell him?" Case spread his hands "I mean, come on people!"
"It's the Cabbit," she said as flatly as she could manage.
"We get her a very pretty, permanent gag?" Case rolled his eyes.
"It'd look kinky. Which might fit the expectations around her, actually." Katherine then gave Kiki a studying look as if she was actually considering it.
I answer distracted by what I was reading for the third time. “I wouldn’t. He hates the Snakes enough. To find out that there is a universe where he isn’t stuck with a job he doesn’t want, would make him try to take Luthien by coup de main.” I pause, and do a fist pump.
"...and now you know how I feel," Case shrugged helplessly at Kikyo's words ""You know how I got my mech? I scoured junkyards and got parts off of battlefields even the most frugal mercs would consider 'unsalvageable' and then begged, borrowed or stolen tools to fix all that up. I was lucky as hell that the 4G is such a long-lived design, and so simple I could actually hammer that into a real mech. I get here and find that this tart, prettiest thing in four planet range of course, just inherited a mercenary company full of Lostech. And Jumpships. Of course." He sighed "I have a headache just thinking about it.”
“Then go visit the Doctor. Or the bar.” I rolled my eyes, as Case suddenly tensed. I flipped my esoteric senses, but outside two people, one very healthy, blazing with ki, the other crippled, walking towards us, I didn’t sense anything. “Case?”
“Huh. Off feeling, maybe I will do as you say.” Case pushed off the wall, and waved at Kath. “See yah, fake clanner. We’ll see who’s better later.” He was out the back door before I or Kath could say a word.
“That was… odd.” I tilted my head.
"If he wants to have a drink I'm fine with that. I'll see what he's worth in the field later," the blonde said.
Kelia poked her head in. “Colonel Rostig and his daughter, do you want… ?” She trailed off looking at Kath. I simply nodded. “I can trust Captain Steiner, even without her scribbling her name on paper.”
"I guess I'll take Case's seat and thank him later for warming it for me?" And with that she took the recently vacated seat.
I rolled my eyes as the older man and younger woman walked in. My eyes flicked over both, noting the missing legs on the man, and the taut fitness and grace of the young lady.
Colonel Sieg Rostig had never been a big man, despite what had obviously been an extensive physical training regimen; he maneuvered his own wheelchair with an ease that belied how relatively recent his injuries were, and despite both size and injuries he managed to project more than enough command presence to go with his rank. “General Onishi,” he said, rolling up to the desk and extending a hand across it to shake. “A pleasure to meet you in person.”
His daughter shared his slight build and black hair, and stopped a couple of steps behind where her father had, grey eyes matching Kiki’s evaluation - and lingering for a few moments more than that over both of the women already present before snapping away.
I walked around my temporary desk made of two planks of wood on stacks of boxes. I took the Colonel’s hand, and shook it firmly, with no attempt at dominance, though I had to suppress the preening that the younger woman’s evaluation had made me want to do. Out of amusement, I flashed my ki slightly, while I spoke.
Asha tensed slightly, but didn’t say anything, just seemed to fade a little more deliberately into the background.
“It is a pleasure to meet you, Colonel. While you took gruesome losses against the Kurtians, what you inflicted has a chance to change the balance of power on that front for months. Ten to one losses, is not a winning move.” I pause. “As for their MRB stunts… well, I can assure you…” I quickly looked at Kath, to back me up here. “No one who isn’t a weeaboo would take that more than the snakes being snakes.”
“I haven’t interacted a lot with snakes but I’ve heard enough, Colonel. You have little to worry about from our end,” the blonde Archon-clone said before standing up and saluting, “Captain Katherine Steiner, formerly of the Wolf Dragoons. I still need to discuss exact terms, but I’m joining the General’s unit.”
“Pardon, a what?” the Colonel asked, looking puzzled.
“An unfortunate individual who apes an obsession with traditional Japanese culture and trappings without any actual understanding,” his daughter summarized after a moment, then grimaced. “And despite their delusions of Magic Bushido Hands, the only winning move for any of us there would have been not to play.”
Katherine grinned. “One of us~”
Kikyo snickered, but brought her giggles under control. “Your daughter, sir, is in primus, correct.” I shrugged. “And we all know Shiro Kurita, and several who followed him knew as much of Traditional Japan, as I do of the Free Worlds Politics currently. They chose to focus their worship on Imperial Era Japan.” I shrugged. “However, I asked you to attend for a simple reason. I need good fighter pilots and commanders of such. I have a line on one, a Io Sawagawa, a former Nightmare Wing Commander… but I would be amiss in not collecting as many as I can.”
Walking back to my chair, I leaned back slightly. “Let’s be honest, Comstar screwed you. Even without House Davion or House Steiner paying one shilling towards what the weeaboos claimed, the MRB won’t insure your contracts, and you’ll have to work at lower rates. Further, you won’t get the good contracts you deserve. Added in the lien on your equipment, and the terms of the fine…” I spread my hands.
Rostig leaned back in his own wheelchair. “And so, you have an offer for us,” he said.
I nodded. “Not a great one, nor one you truly deserve, but a fair one offered with some compassion.” I spread my hands again, after clasping them. “I have duties to my own, and myself, after all.”
Rostig nodded. “I wouldn’t expect otherwise,” he said. “And I’m certainly happy to hear a fair offer, even if I’m not desperate enough to throw in the towel and dissolve the unit yet.”
I nodded. “Nor would you have to, a ballpark estimate, backed by MRB’s last rating of your unit, subtracting your losses, and your recent additions, verified by DMI, puts your net worth at about one point two to one point five billion Cbills. This of course, is not counting personnel.” I shrugged. “You wouldn’t have to dissolve, if Comstar executed the lien. It’d just make life a lot more difficult.”
Rostig nodded again. “I’m glad we understand each other, then. What did you have in mind?” A scrap of humor crossed his face. “I, of course, couldn’t begin to speculate.”
“I can easily afford to pay your fine. I can in fact easily afford all your equipment.” I smiled. “What I cannot easily afford is your talents, and your pilots talents. Until the… recent event, if there was a better group of aerospace pilots not in the OWA, I don’t think anyone knew of them.” I tilted my head. “Given the twin hits of your losses in personnel, and to be frank, reputation, I don’t doubt that Comstar will execute the lien, the moment you miss one interest payment, and that will be sooner than later, given everything. Even if you can crew your new equipment with as good of quality of pilots...”
Rostig’s expression flickered through a moment of ‘Get on with it, kid’ before smoothing out again, and he hummed thoughtfully. “If you just wanted to buy the lien, you could go through Comstar,” he said. “But if you’re emphasizing my pilots like that… You want a training school. Cadre work.”
I waved my hand slightly. “At first, for my second and following aerospace regiments, yes. Hanse Davion owes me a fair fortune which we are collecting in equipment, to some extent.” I smiled toothly. “Second, try cadre for the said regiments.” I looked him in the eye. “It will be years, maybe decades, before you can clear your reputation, enough to be a viable concern. Not without high risk and low payout situations. As you well know.”
I nodded once. “It’s very simple. You buy into the Heavy Cavalry. I’ve been informed you had met my father a few times, and I’ll say he’s left a few places he couldn’t get to. This gives you time to reset opinions of your people and situations, and once you accumulate, and I’ll be honest, there’s a fair chance that you and your people might do so faster than you believe possible, a fairly agreed upon price to buy your equipment or equal in value back. Or you can take the cash and buy all new equipment. I have a feeling that equipment will not be as tight as before, at least for the Federated Suns.”
I tilted my head. “And if the First Prince’s message and payment for this meeting didn’t indicate it, you likely will have his thanks and consideration.” I smiled. “No small thing, I’d say.”
“Davion is good about debts, but not always good,” Rostig said dryly. “And I’ve built this unit once, I can do it again… So I think it all comes down to the details.”
Asha stepped forward and whispered something in her father’s ear, then stepped back again. Rostig turned whatever she’d said - it had been too quiet for even genie ears - over in his mind, then repeated, “All in the details,” and pulled a datapad out of one of his wheelchair’s storage pockets, then flipped through the files on it and settled on one to bring up and offer to Kiki.
I raise my eyebrow and read it. I smiled. “Nice try Colonel. But you did note the Hou-ou on over one hundred of those birds on the field, did you not? As well as the converted Triumphs? Rest assured, they have the room on our carriers to fit, with room to spare. My counter offer.”
I presented a piece of paper. On it, in primus, the Soldiers would retain their own identity formed into a regiment, and several companies of the Home Defense command, as well as buying a share of the Heavy Cavalry with the Colonel being part of the board of directors. WIth the option, as noted, to buy their equipment out at will, at buy in price, or if the Heavy Cavalry folded, the ability to walk away, free and clear with their equipment, or replacements of equal value. Until such time as they chose to exercise that option, the unit’s actual owner or heirs would receive 2% of the Heavy Cavarly’s net profit per annum.
Below the basic deal, was a variable buyout price, based on time of service, finally ending at 800 million after 10 years, starting at 2.2 billion within the first year.
“For your information, Gry Syed, Cummin Ahmed, Katherine Steiner if she agrees, Morgan Blackhand, and Evie Cook, besides myself, of course, represent the board. The board’s authority is to decide on long term plans, and of course contracts we accept.” I steepled my hands, waiting for his response. I paused for a second, nodding once.
“You noted the lack of Dropships, I suppose.” I smiled. “That’s because Hanse Davion is refitting them, to take out the last generation Royal Star League Cubicles in them, since as your daughter should be aware, they also drive a lot of the remaining factories we do have. That should make your decisions easier, no?”
A digression. The Star League heavily automated factories to the point the blue collar workers on them were quality control and observers to make sure the system ran smoothly. Efficient, constant and never labour striking, and able to deliver incredible precision repeatedly, they took over almost all factories and shipyards. Only problem is, Terra and a few worlds around it, the most heavily destroyed during the Civil War, were the only place the computers were made. So, as they warped and died… no replacements.
Until now. Kerensky wasn’t an idiot, nor was the Star League Navy, their automated systems and even non-automated cubicles, aka repair bays on dropships and jumpships for various mechs, aerospace fighters and vehicles, used the same computers, because it was cheaper. And they did the job quite well, repurposed from driving automated factory lines.
“Your show, General, I’m not in the Board yet and I didn’t talk with you beforehand about hiring the Colonel so I don’t want to back-seat this. All I’ll add is that as a Blackwell Industries’ stockholder I can ensure the Heavy Cavalry gets priority shipments from it and our plans are to expand production further,” Katherine said.
I nodded. “And I can sweeten the deal a bit more. We managed to keep from Hanse Davion, somehow… don’t ask questions.” I grin saucily, while continuing. “Last Generation SLDF Medical command MASH units and equipment. I have another possibility, but I can get you legs at the least good enough to get back in the cockpit.” I paused. “That must have been the final blow on top of already painful losses.”
Rostig… Laughed. “I won’t hesitate to take advantage of that,” he said, “but letting me work myself up expecting the worst ahead of time already did what you needed.” He tucked the draft contract away in one of his pockets. “I’ll have my legal look it over,” he added, and extended his hand again. “But unless you’ve hidden something very nasty in there, I think you can count the hook as set. You’ve got yourself a junior partner, young lady.”
I grinned, walking over taking his hand. “If Rayanne did, I’ll take her into the Dojo and show her that her AFFS Close quarter Combat isn’t a match for a family art. As I can trust Asha, and you now have the right to know, we depart for recovery of the Argo no later than the seventh of next month. Not a lot of time, mind you, but given my information and Gry’s indicated that it wasn’t just swanning around, but seconded to Blackwatch Blackhearts… Want to bet what’s in the computers?”
Rostig finished the handshake and turned his chair to look at his daughter. She looked embarrassed. “I couldn’t find any confirmation that the Argo even existed,” she said. “But maps of Helm were easier. She was an experimental dropship, same size as a Behemoth, designed to serve as a mobile base station for planetary system surveys.”
He shook his head, but he was smiling. “I understand,” he said, and turned to Kiki to confide, “Least confident ace I ever met. And if this Argo of yours is a Blackheart project, she’s worth going for first. I’ve been running a training camp on my candidates all through Captain Steiner’s contract, so we’ll be able to give you a strike wing by your deadline.”
Katherine nodded, she’d noticed the drilling.
I shook my head. “I have a full up regiment of ASF, needing polish and working up, plus more crewed. Only thing first regiment, the command regiment is missing, is a clutch of Lightings for attack mission.” I pulled out a tablet. “On this is our basic plans. Three full up brigades, at the least, in Alliance pattern, with integrated anti air, arty, and other support, designed so they function alone, one command combined arms regiment with support, and a full ASF regiment as a swing force, though I may include an equivalent to Zeta of the Dragoons, and a Home Defense Regiment, I foresee your ground force commander getting that slot, with the same support as the command.” I smiled.
“The only real issue is putting it all together. We even have four Colossus, six Excaliburs, nine Fortresses, plus additional dropships, along with a Monolith and four squadrons of jumpships, each a Star Lord, an Invader and finally a Merchant. I foresee your role working with Gry, Mari, defacto fighter boss, though if you want that role, it’s yours,” I nodded, and then continued.
“Even though she can’t fly an aerospace fighter yet, Jinks, our infantry CO and Shedon, senior surviving tanker, to put it all together. Outside Gry, none of them, has had anything more than a single regiment of experience in command, and generally focused on tactical, not operational aspects of running a large unit. I won’t say you’ve done what I plan, but you’re one of three I know of I can pick brains for multi regimental forces, combined with heavy air cover. For example: What do you think of Gunboats like the TiG 15?”
“If all you want is a long range scout or something to bully civilian droppers with, it’s the best thing out there,” Rostig said. “If either your budget or your mission are too small for a dropship, it’ll carry cargo and you can do boarding with it. If you’re only clearing out air-breathers, it’ll even do aerospace cover. But if you can get real fighters instead, do. The things it’s good at rather than make-do at are too rare and too specialized for mercenary work.”
He cracked a grin. “Of course, if you’ve already got them, I can find some uses for them.”
“Search and rescue?” his daughter suggested, hopefully.
“That’s one of ‘em,” he agreed. “If we’re prospecting they’ll be right in their comfort zone scouting sites, and while they’re overkill for medevac, they can do it as well as any chopper.”
I smiled. “I got a pile with my father’s bequest, and was able to pick up a pile more cheaply. I tend to view them as hard boarding, hostile space SAR, and long range or endurance patrol/CAP. Outside the Titans and Assault dropships we have, see page three, they can keep up easily with any other dropship. The Taurians use them very effectively, even though I concede, ton for ton, a proper ASF will eat them alive. They’re niche, but if you recognize that niche… and use it?” I grinned back. “I’ll admit I didn’t think of the scouting role for them as we kept a few Hellcat II’s, specifically the 213 Bravos. Fully intact.”
Rostig went still for a moment, then hummed thoughtfully. “Different shells,” he mumbled, but despite the words he nodded. “The Hellcats’ll do that scouting role a treat, though they’ll need fuel pods for it. Standing cover on the Tigresses… Maybe. Maybe. I haven’t seen it done and I can see some problems, but we’ll have time to try a drill or three.”
“While I'm only a dilettante about aerospace work, though I have logged a few hours.” I grinned. “As well as did time in basic for the Militia…” I shrugged. “I’m a Davion girl, even though your daughter’s wondering where my family art came from. Freebie. Order of Five Pillars. Ex, thankfully.” I shrugged. “I primarily drive an Archer, a modified 2Rb.”
Katherine mentally suppressed the facepalm. Ex-O5P. She was going to get the story behind that sooner or later, she decided.
“Back to my thoughts on the role of CAP. I propose a variant of the old American CBG, with the Tigresses standing in for the American Greyhound. With fast dogfighters and interceptors on ready five.” I raise an eyebrow. “Considering right now we’re operating two carrier groups off a Titan, a pair of Vengeances, and a pair of converted Triumphs.” I pause sadly. “I know the risks of that arrangement… and as cold as it is… losing a Tigress, or even three, beats losing a Triumph, much less a Vengeance.”
“Not familiar with the reference,” Rostig said, “but by the sound of it you’ll be asking them to do early warning tripwire and a bit of delaying action? That, they can manage. I’ve never run on a Titan, but if you set things up right a Vengeance can get her first flight into the black as fast as you can get the pilots to ‘em. Triumphs’ll take a little longer, but not that long. Hard on the Tigress riders, but…” he trailed off and shrugged. “If we can find the collars, escort droppers wouldn’t hurt.”
“The Titans can take care of themselves,” Asha said. “But even they’ll have a hard time launching and fighting at the same time.”
“And while we have the collars for combat lift, and to be fair a fair number of escort dropships, or dropships that fit the role, even if they can be tasked to guard the carriers, extra warning from a heavy strike is not amiss. Greyhounds were the American Carrier’s Airborne Early Warning, by the by.” I shrugged.
Picking up my thread, “Not to mention, what makes our assault dropships, outside the Titans… good at escort, also makes them good on point and hard assault, or heavy ground attack. Or escorting the transport dropships, or the cargo dropships. We only have a pair of Achilles, and a quartet of Avengers. And Achilles aren’t easy to get, and I’m already pushing viable combat jumping with what we have. See page five of the list of dropships, and links to combat details and carrying details of each one. I still need to name the Jumpships, dangit...” I sulk slightly. “Page twenty is what we’re getting from Hanse, and the period of arrival.” I shrug.
Rostig grinned slightly. “Well, if I’m signing on, the list of jumpships just got three longer, didn’t it? I have a pair of Avengers still.” He paused, then nodded sharply. “All right, I can make it work. Anything else before we start?”
I nodded. “Two short things. Tonight’s a welcome mixer, and I’d like to do a private spar with your daughter before hand, and second, tell Cummin or Nicholas, our dropship Commander, what you have specifically, and so we can get it here. I don’t foresee your dropship or jumpship assets going on the Argo mission, but I can be mistaken. We’re taking the command unit I’ve cobbled together, a combat command of the Heavy Guards, one ‘New Avalon’ Training Battalion of the Davions, more or less another of their combat commands of a standard RCT, Team Banzai, and an additional three regiments of aerospace fighters. Which tells you how much Hanse thinks this is really worth.” I smile.
“And last but not least, this is personal. Do not be surprised if you, sir, are waylaid by Doctor Colonel Kirkup. She very much wants to use what she has to heal people. This assumes that the other line I have falls though. I don’t want to get your hopes up, you understand, but I can assure you you will fly again.” I pause, and nod. “As it stands, I’m assigning you a rank of Commodore, since all fixed wing assets or space assets belong to the naval service…” I grin amused at my conceit. Fuck you Air Force! Navy wins. “But don’t be surprised if a pair of Admiral's stars and your own brigade happens.”
Rostig shook his head and smiled. “Well, we’ll see,” he said.
Asha, though, laughed. “The Taurians are going to shit themselves,” she predicted. “But Hanse is taking good advice, if he needed it.”
Rostig nodded to Kiki. “With your permission, then, Ma’am,” he said.
“Granted, Commodore.” I nod, returning his outworlder salute with an American.
He gave his daughter a squeeze of the hand - since, seated, he couldn’t reach her shoulder - and wheeled himself out. Asha turned to face Kiki directly, and visibly braced herself. “So, I take it we’re all a long way from home,” she said.
“Very. Out of curiosity, how long?” Katherine asked. I was curious myself, so I kept quiet.
“About six years, now,” she said, and scrubbed one hand up her face and into her hair. “It’s been… rough,” she admitted, and dropped into one of the available chairs.
“You were lucky,” said the Steiner, “I’ve been awake pretty much from being a baby, or at least that’s what I recall. In Clan-space. Yeah, to say I had it rough… Sorry, I’m not fishing for sympathy here, but the Cabbit here apparently woke up this January.”
“...Cabbit,” Asha said, and then laughed. “Yeah, the complete lack of restraint fits.” She pulled herself together and looked at Katherine. “Yeah, I’m sorry to hear that. What I remember of the books sounds like a fucking nightmare.”
“I admit I don’t know what was worse. What they were doing to me… or knowing exactly what they were doing to me,” she admitted in turn. “Cloud Cobra isn’t the worst by far and I was lucky for a Freeborn, but still… I have stories and not of the fun kind. I can share some of those later… I think the Cabbit needs to have a word herself now.”
And, with that, she looked at me.
I nod. I summarize what I experienced. “Not sure if it was Melange, or real.” I finally summarize. “Or something else. Hanse knows about Epsilon Eridani, Helm, Artu, the Argo and Illyria, plus a few hints about others. Putting aside your written love for the MILF Archon, Valles, right?” I look at her, then continue. “I’d point out she sold Melissa into a marriage, to buy the Davion Guards.” I pause and shake my head. “I agree it was the right thing to do, but to Hanse? Who only did it because at the time, he couldn’t, and Katrina agreed, trust Morgan. As in Hasek-Davion, I should say, geeze…” I count on my fingers then snicker.
“I think I know of three Morgans right the hell now. Wow.” I shake my head from the aside. “And, let’s also be honest. NAIS, was founded to take advantage of Halstead Station, no question. But, Hanse’s public, and I’d say private reason, his overriding reason, was medical care. He’s not a Warlord.” I shrug. “Plus… snakes. Clanners…” I look at Kath. “No offense. And last but not least, Sunny-Sue and of course the Word of Blake. Fuck the Dark Ages, and let’s do it now.”
I look at them. “Case, yes, another lost soul, Asha… same as Kath, too come to think of it… is down for most of it, though he just wants money, battlemech, sex and fun.” I pause… “And killing Clanners.” I shake my head. “While admittedly not my initial plan, that got shafted by Kikyo’s here and now memories, and trusts, we can tell the world we tried to use the levers we had for the good of humanity here. I’m all for that.” I look again at them, eyes blazing. “And I’ve been given a chance to make a difference.”
Asha… nodded. “If you’ve told him basically everything, I don’t think he’ll need our help,” she said, “but yes, I’m in. Five point nine of one, six point one of the other.” A shadow crossed her expression at the mention of ‘killing Clanners’, but she didn’t object.
“No offense taken,” Katherine admitted, “I don’t want the Clans here either. I’m in.”
I hold out my hand, palm up, a clear gesture for the pact. “And Asha? I didn’t. Not everything, in fact not very much of it. I needed and wanted proof he couldn’t deny. Argo would be that, with it’s databanks, no?”
Asha nodded. “It will that,” she agreed, then cracked a grin and took the hand to shake. “I guess that means that the Standard Battletech Insert plan has changed. You don’t go to Helm first.”
I turn to Katherine. “She’s right, oddly enough…”
“Helm is overrated, anyways,” she replied with a crooked smile. “Argo first. Then we have the proof and the locations… I still remember from examining the Wolf Core’s cartography a lot of points of interest I may be able to cross with the Argo, too. Should be interesting. And there’s always Columbus, New Dallas and so forth as well.”
“I’d argue about getting greedy, but this is Battletech. Let’s be about it, and move worlds with the levers we know.”
“Indeed,” the blonde said, joining her hand with theirs.
End Chapter 4