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.
War is often theorized to be diplomacy by violent means, and politics by non-verbal expressions, as thinkers have theorized. I prefer Sun Tzu’s theory, that supreme excellence in battle comes from winning without said battle. Anyone who has actually been in combat, and isn’t a complete murderer does. The trick is pulling it off. Sometimes you do. And you’ll never realize it.
One thing about politics, diplomacy and in essence, human interaction on a societal scale, is it is a massively complex system. An old Terran movie, once had the main character comment: “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’ll get.” Any action at that level, meant to shape that level… is often like that. You never do know what you’ll get, though you can often predict… but often, your actions will blindside you. The real trick, in the end, is it for the better?
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.
Main Control Room, Castle Watchtower, Morning, Dec 10th, 3015.
Hanse’s eyes swept all of us, as he ended last night’s meeting then and there, for all to as he put it, ‘consider’ the ramifications. He then called us back together the next morning.
Thank you all for coming.” He looked at Lutens, and nodded once. “You were wise to remain out of the meeting, Mr. Lutens, and I applaud you.” The man nodded.
Thank you, Sire.” He tilted his head. “By any chance, did you read the information I sent?”
Hanse sighed. “I did not, please summarize for me. Last evening’s meeting was a bit distracting.” I couldn’t hold a snort back, and Case’s soft chuckle indicated he agreed with me. I dreaded to think what Evie was up to, but she wasn’t here.
Newport News,” the head shipwright was referring to the Newgrange, “has all internals except her transit drive fully certified, though the acid test…” Hanse nodded in understanding. “We are placing armor on all but the rear as we speak, and that part should be done roughly by the fifteenth. We are ahead of schedule, and it looks like no later than by the first of February, she’ll be ready to slip her moorings and test her drives.”
Hanse smiled. “Excellent.” He nodded once. “And I brought along enough crew to at least nurse her to a hidden system close to New Avalon, so that problem isn’t yours.”
Thank you, sire. We are doing two jumpships at a time, and have already activated five, with now three in process, I estimate about another sixteen months, though it’s possible I can cut that down to twelve, if we’re allowed to keep the Newgrange here, while we fix the Detroit.” He smiled at that. The Detroit was the Belknap ship, which was designed to build factories, as Kerensky aptly proved in the Rim after conquering it. Amaris Empire Forces during the early states of the Liberation campaign had struck at the class without mercy, and given the losses in the Uprising, it was no surprise that only one had made it to Terra, and she was unaccounted for, as Kath had confirmed that Cologne hadn’t gone with the Exodus.
Hanse’s eyes narrowed, but he waved the shipwright to continue. The man did. “All the spare parts, that we haven’t earmarked for Detroit, or the jumpships, are loaded on the Behemoths, ready to go, as those are activated, and I’d say honestly, by the time we release Detroit and Newport News, all of them are able to go as well. The other easily portable equipment? Phaf. Colonel Steiner’s report says enough.”
Outstanding. Do please focus on the warships enough to jump them, and then of course the Monoliths, Star Lords, and Invaders.” He received a nod. “We can afford…” He paused, wondering at his words, then shook himself with a smile. “As I was saying, we can afford to lose the Merchants and Scouts. What we cannot lose is Detroit and Newport News.” He fixed the man with a steely stare. “Which is why I am very concerned about keeping Newport News here.”
The man looked solidly at his prince, and responded. “Two, no three reasons, Sire.” Hanse nodded, impressed at the man’s steel. “First, we are fabricating Detroit’s replacement drive with the tooling here. As well as her armor plate and other parts she needs. Second, even compared to Newport News, this station is far ahead of her ability to repair. While the Newgranges live up to their reputation, make no mistake, Sire, they are slower than a proper shipyard, which this Hughes is.” Hanse nodded, signaling he understood. “Finally, Sire, it was actually not my initial idea, but Colonel Steiner’s.”
Hanse turned to the blonde.
When we get Detroit ready to go, sir, we can move out the ultra large components, the main Newgrange class core extruder, and those bays associated with her. While they’re jumpable, they need warships to do so. And they’ll fit compacted or attached to Detroit and Newport News. And we can load other components, dropships, and raw metals, as well into and on the ships.”
Hanse thought about it a moment. “Agreed. Approved. It just means the roughly four aerospace regiments I have here aren’t going anywhere.” He shrugged. “I was hoping to bring two home, but what is, is.” He nodded once. “When Detroit is certified to leave, and come to New Avalon, one regiment comes home, second does when the last Warship is ready, and the last two come when the jumpships are leaving, with the last station modules. Regarding those, Richard, “ He was referring to the shipwright, who reacted in pleasure, “How hard will it be to remove them?”
Not very. Not very at all, in fact.” He shrugged. “Putting aside that while they buried them in an asteroid, to begin with, it is fairly clear part of the time they spent prepping the station to be moved. Outside power runs, and tunnels, and some other quarters and a few small factories, which we will pack up, realistically, we can unlock and have ready to start heading to New Avalon, each station part in a day. Two at most.”
Outstanding.” Hanse’s smile was savage. “Richard, I promise you, when you return home, your grandchildren will be amazed at what you bring them. I’m thinking of at least a County.”
Lutens began to protest, only to have his monarch raise a hand.
Hanse grinned. “To those who do great deeds, and beyond any reasonable expectations, come great rewards. Our best case was twenty-four months from now. You’re telling me seventeen months. Even if it slips by a month, or even two?” He shook his head. “You’ve earned it. No argument.”
Sire, it’d not have been possible without the Baroness’ people.” He protested. “I’m not sure…”
Hanse tsked. “And if you think I don’t have plans about that, Richard, you’re mistaken. Don’t worry, it’s all being prepared.” I started to feel a sandbag falling. I shook it off, I’d figure a way out of it.
Well.” The shipwright thought for a moment, then stood up. “I’d like to make it twelve, so if I could…”
With not only my permission, but my sincere gratitude and pleasure.” Hanse grinned.
Hanse waited til only Ran, Kath, Case, Justin and I were still in the room. “Well.”
Justin actually picked up the conversation for his prince. “You all do realize we’re going to want more details about the … how did you put it, Colonel? The Future that was?”
Kath snickered. “Yes, and I suspect narco interrogation is planned.”
Hanse snorted. “I’d not say no if you agreed, since it also includes memory enhances, as Justin explained to me last night, but in this case, not required.” He looked at Justin. “And if certain people suggest it, they will be looking for work immediately. If I don’t have them shot.”
My blink was met by Hanse’s eyes. “I’d have to say…” He cut off my statement.
What you have done, and what you’ve put on the table is more than enough to earn you any consideration my realm can give you. Even if it’s not in the Realm’s best interest. Or so I think. And my thoughts are what matters.”
Case shrugged. “Meh, I expected it, plus it’s been a while since I’ve last read the shit, at least a year for Kikyo, even if she wrote what she remembered down, and might have wrongly, as for the rest?” He snickered. “I want the video tape. I need blackmail!”
Hanse snickered at that. “You realize they’ll have blackmail on you, do you not?”
Case’s grin was amusing. “What’s blackmail between friends?” Hanse’s laugh answered him. Case sloppily saluted and nodded once. “I’m going to go play with SCIENCE!”
As amusing as that may be, permission will be sought.” He nodded. Turning to Ran, he nodded once. “As I’ve noted, Kathryn and half her unit have already left, and honestly should be on New Avalon, I understand you’ve sent some of yours, as well as Kikyo sending some of hers?” Case had slipped out after that.
Yes Sire.” Ran collected his thoughts for a moment then nodded once. “We sent by and large, all the foot infantry, and in fact, all the ground vehicles, and by this time, all reconnaissance elements. We’ve also sent at least a company each of ‘Mechs back.” Hanse’s eyebrow indicated he wanted the Marshall to expand.
The ground vehicles and their crews really didn’t add much to either our combat ability or our capability to well, acquire this asset.” Hanse nodded. “Same with the Foot infantry, and the reconnaissance elements, plus their need to keep in training. The Jump infantry at least has some ability and understanding about space infantry combat, and of course the Marines. We sent back the least capable mechwarriors, as well, for the same reason. I believe we’re sending along another company each, just about when the chain’s charged, plus the rest of the ground vehicles, plus the support personnel least suited for this.” He looked at me.
I nodded. “That is more or less what we’re planning. And as we start disassembling the station, more of the support personnel will go back. Less here, less questions about exactly what we found, no?”
Hanse nodded. “And the Marines and Aerospace elements stay as long as needed?”
Kath picked up that. “Actually, yes. We really want the Marines, in consideration, considering that for the year before the Uprising, it appears that the SLN was testing a Nighthawk variant here.” Hanse’s eyebrow rose.
They removed several of the reconnaissance aspects, but kept the stealth armor, to fit in space operation capability, including the needed thrusters. It’s in essence, powered armored marine infantry.”
Hanse blinked. Blinked again, and then took a deep breath. “Please tell me the specifications for Nighthawk is here? I’ve looked at what the cores have… and while it didn’t say…”
No, they don’t. We likely could develop an ersatz Nighthawk from this, no question, or quite possibly the real one once we reverse engineer their electronics, but only what appears to be the actual full field testing version of what I’m calling the Devil Dog.” She tilted her head. “I’m lead on that aspect, since I uncovered it while trying to figure out why the Commanding General didn’t take the station.” Kath paused and Hanse interjected
Any luck there?” Hanse was very interested.
Kath shrugged. “Nothing I can say for sure is accurate, but some station personal logs make it clear, that Kerensky was short personnel, and didn’t want to send people here, instead of along the exodus route. As his only reply put it… ‘If Amaris and the Great Houses haven’t found you yet, it’s unlikely they will over time, and I need you, not your equipment. I already have two full Hughes.’”
So… a combination of a lack of people to crew the ships and move the station, and well, a lack of need?” Hanse tilted his head. “That doesn’t quite…”
I’m not sure, but it’s quite possible he was hoping that some things would remain and eventually be found after well, you all got finished blowing each other to bits.” Katherine didn’t mention it was also possible he didn't want to bring more warfighting along with him. His actions on arriving in the Pentagon, plus along his route, showed he was disarming, not preparing for a new campaign.
Possible, doubtful but possible.” Hanse shrugged. “In the end does it really matter why?”
No, Your Highness, it doesn’t.” Katherine Steiner, Freeborn Bloodnamed of Cloud Cobra and Clan Wolf agreed with a Scavenger Lord. “It just means you can rebuild now.”
That it does.” Hanse’s eyes grew distant. “That it does. This time, gods, I hope, for the better.”
Dining Lounge, Dropship Xanadu, Castle Watchtower, Evening
One thing that wasn’t mentioned in the books, though hinted at, is Hanse can be and usually is a gentleman, and treats the ladies in his life as such. There’s hints that other Davion males generally did so as well. Explains why they seemed to have decent married lives, at least.
I was reminded of this, simply by a private dinner for two, Hanse was a perfect gentleman, doing everything that the classics would do while dining with a lady. Hold your chair, wait til you’re seated before sitting, you name it. Even with said lady in a little black dress, all he did was the appreciative and slightly lingering enough to indicate to the lady in question, that yes, he noticed, and yes, m’lady, you look like a million C-bills, and yes I do appreciate it, without going over the line into drooling or open perversion. In my and the original Kikyo’s experiences, that’s a hard trick to pull off.
I couldn’t resist. “I’m afraid I have to ask, do you have tutors for being a perfect gentleman? The books didn’t say nor state how good you are at being such.” Hanse blinked, then grinned.
Of course I did. But I found watching Jimmy Stewart, Bogart, and Errol Flynn much better examples.” He nodded seriously, though the twinkle in his eye indicated he wasn’t being that serious.
I broke out into laughter. “I’m sure that Grant and Wayne would be so disappointed to have missed out on being legend for behavior, though based on what I know of General Stewart, I believe he’d be pleased.”
Hanse snickered. “Was he really a general? That was a thousand years ago, and while I’m not saying history’s been edited…” He paused for a moment. “And considering America’s so called stars of a similar age twenty to thirty years later… bit hard to see it.”
I nodded. “Bit before my memories go, but yes, an Air Force General. Had to scheme, from what I knew to get his twenty-fiftieth mission as a bomber pilot over Germany.” I shrugged slightly. “Best way to put it, was, and I guess I can be an authority on this, even though I didn’t live through it, I studied it as a historian, last life…” Hanse’s eyes narrowed at that, but I wondered why. “Was the era of 1946-1970, in a lot of ways, the Baby Boomer era, more or less, rapid upheaval, and rapid shock at America assuming the world leadership role.” I shrugged. “Another theory, and my view, was the kids reacted to their parents cloying influences, and well, reacted.”
Ah.” He shrugged. “We’ll get back to that, I think… but first, business, before the food comes out.” He looked slightly sheepishly. “I have some ideas on how the split should really go.” He pushed over a small folder, and I opened it, while sipping at water. My eyebrows rose slightly, as I leafed through it all. “Are you sure you can get away with this, without the courts or your champion knifing you in the back?”
Hanse sighed. “Yvonne is not in the best of situations with me at this moment. I had Truxon and Allard do a full review of some actions, and some situations in Supply and other aspects. Let’s say this, some of Michael’s and the Dragoon’s complaints previously, are well warranted, and I know why.” He shook his head.
Michael is a snake, and I’m not sure if he’s a cocksucker yet, but he will be!” I shot back, a bit rattled. “I am the first to admit, I’m not fond of your champion, and seeing her a bit restrained, well.” I shrugged, calming down. “But I fully agree with her on your brother in law.”
Hanse blinked, both on the strong language and the curse I used on his brother in law. “...Normally you’re restrained in your language, so I must ask. ‘Cocksucker?’” His tone was amused.
I blinked. “I picked it up from my memories of technothrillers. Supposedly FBI slang for a traitor, a person who spies on his home nation for another power, etc.” Hanse’s eyes narrowed for a moment, then he nodded.
Ah, the Federal Bureau of Investigations. And I have to admit, that’s a fair term. Better than I’ve heard in some ways, worse in others.” He shrugged. “I don’t disagree with the thoughts. What I disagree with is what it endangers.” His eyebrow rose.
I thought for a moment. “Putting aside personnel and even equi.. Oh, hell. Yvonne blew it, if she wanted to screw the weasel, didn’t she?”
Hanse smiled. “If he’s a - as you so bluntly put it - cocksucker, one thing he’d do before moving to openly visit glory holes.” I sputtered at how Hanse put it, unable to hold back giggles, to his roguish smile. “Rhett Butler is such a cad, isn’t he?” I laughed outright at that. “Anyways… he’d be sure of his troops and march. Yvonne playing silly buggers with supplies just helps him.” He nodded at that. “Most miss that.”
Yes.” I sighed. “However, a Carrack?” I tiled my head, “That’d make the the fourth strongest power in the Inner Sphere, at least warship wise.”
Hanse’s eyebrows furrowed. “Me, I can see, who else?”
Comstar, you, Dragoons, me.” His eyebrows shot up, as his eyes widened, then narrowed.
Wolf’s mothballed them, hasn’t he? And he’s a SLDF-in-Exile?” Hanse’s tones were decisive, indicating he didn’t think he needed the answer.
Yes, in basic, to both, though the second is far more complex. And no, Katherine Steiner didn’t say boo, we strays already knew it.” I smiled slightly. “She’s not into betraying them, for one, and generally, I’ll be honest, they’re not bad people.”
I see.” Hanse thought about it, and then shrugged. “I wondered why Wolf stated he couldn’t accept my apology, for what went down on his first contract with us, but he appreciated that I honestly meant it, and that I would see to admends.”
Now you know. I won’t go into details, and those elements are the one area Kath doesn’t want to talk about at all. What the SLDF-in-Exile is right now, sure. The Dragoons specifically?”
Hanse nodded, “I have some ideas.already, mind you, and none good, but you’re implying that it’s possible they’re not quite accurate.”
I shrugged. “This is a pleasant dinner, not full on debriefing, none of it’s critical now.” I shook my hair, the curls along my jaw trailing. “Something to discuss…”
Hanse’s roguish grin answered. “But when it’s time for it. And that’s not now.” He nodded at the folder. “So?”
At a first glance, it seems generous to us, at a second…” I shrugged. “If Helm pays out along with New Dallas…”
It’d be hard pressed to say you aren’t owed more, yes.” He shrugged. “I daresay Sandoval would have sharp words now, in fact…” He smiled. “Which I’ve already taken into account, this is just a modification of the agreed upon contract, in a way that benefits everyone.” I nodded.
You want to stick my parts of the station at Panpour to fix Challenge, and what better way?” I tilted my head. It was a neat solution. The AFFS gets out of the notes they held on Challenge Systems that they couldn’t collect, and the Federated Suns out of the notes, both real and implied, that I and my people were owed that arguably the Suns couldn’t pay, while getting a small shipyard (and hopefully a bigger one, a bit later) where one already had existed. Win-win, except...
Hanse nodded. “That’s the idea. I thought it was quite neat.”
I tilted my head and smiled slightly. On some things, Kikyo original, and I’ll admit, the 20th century person I was, was quite willing to be lead on. Several areas I wasn’t, and Hanse decided that he’d step on those lines. Hanse’s expression indicated he knew something was amiss, but couldn’t figure out what.
I knew, because it was an out of context problem. While it was more later, that it was obvious, that Hanse Davion was a control freak in his own way, he was also a master of delegation, and a lot of his initial and mid-range choices, remarkably like Elizabeth the Great, come to think of it, were very good at what they were picked for. But, as military, and in primus, being a Davion absolute federal ruler… not to mention an astute student of history, himself, he was programmed pretty much to be a control freak. 3025 and later didn’t help. He was very much used to self confidence, in himself, and trust in his judgement.
The longer he lived, the more he was generally proved if not right, at least not wrong, the more this built. It’d not surprise me that by the end of his life, Ardan, his right hand, his moral lodestone, was the only person who’d challenge him on any idea, or at least out of those who he trusted, as 3025 put a dent in that ability. I doubted Melissa Steiner would be a voice in military areas, Justin Allard… Good man, good agent, I just didn’t really think he was the best at running an agency.
I can tell you’re missing why I’m smiling.”
You, to be fair, like me, have the vices of your virtutes, mind and training.” I kept smiling. “While I am quite willing to accept direction, and to be even more fair, have no interest in running a corporation, I’m not that Lyran…”
He laughed at that.
And I let the smile flicker away for an instant. “I do not appreciate being told who’ll run my assets, without even a ‘with your permission’.”
Hanse blinked. He blinked again. It was clear he didn’t really understand. “Richard Samethal is if not the best businessman in terms of raw profit, is one of the best managers currently alive and not already a major CEO somewhere.” He tilted his head. “He’s MIIO vetted, and undergoing it again, in fact, and was my shortlist to take over salvaging Challenge before you came along.” He started to expand on this to only stop at my nodding, which hinted to him, it wasn’t the problem.
I can believe that. I can even believe he’s the perfect man, who understands deferred profits, that workers are as important as machinery, and honestly less replaceable, and that he’s so ethical and moral, it’d make St. Loyola look and nod at him in respect.” I smiled sharply now. “It’s that I have had one conservator and manager of my assets that was all that. I can’t quite figure out a way to sue her yet, but I’m working on it. That’s not going to happen again, not on my watch. Or would you like a regent appointed for you at fifteen you had no say in? When we talk about me effectively becoming a major shipbuilder, by taking over a distressed company, I will want to be sure that the people I appoint, or have appointed to be in charge can do the job the way I want it done.”
He blinked. I had the lovely experience of seeing Hanse Davion, completely, utterly, and totally taken off balance, to the point he simply facepalmed at himself.
Well… huh.” He thought for a moment. “Huh.” Shaking himself. “Okay. I see that now.” He smiled ruefully. “I’m not sure I agree there, but I’m sure we can come to a compromise, on that, and I’d like to suggest him as the first to interview.”
I thought for a moment. “That’s fine. I don’t mind having a potential best choice pointed out. But …”
Locking you in without a hey do you think?” He tilted his head. “I guess I assumed as an actress, you’d be more willing…”
I shook my head, amused. “I’ll say this, once I could voice a preference in directors, I made sure I got them.” I tilted my head. “Some are easy to work with, but bad at it, some are hard to work with, but they are masters, some are the rarest of them all, good to work with, and masters at their craft.” I shrugged. “Guess which I always shot for?”
He laughed, agreeing. “And I suspect, you’d default to hard to work with, but knowing what they were doing, over easy.”
Art isn’t, agreed.” I shrugged doing interesting things to my bust line, which his eyes flickered to, just briefly. “But, if this is a suggestion, pending review, and evaluation, without it being..”
Oh, agreed.” Hanse sighed. “I didn’t think.” His grin was a bit sheepish. “I read the update as-of-before-I-left-New-Avalon profile, I thought I thought through the implications of what you said yesterday…” He trailed off.
I smiled normally, and let him off the hook. “But this…” I tapped on the folder “Was such a great idea, and neatly solved all the current problems, and older ones, how could anyone but agree?”
Hanse snickered. “Add in the fact, that well…”
JAWOHL, MY PRINCE!” I barked out, snickering afterwards to Hanse’s blinking, then guffaws.
He finally calmed down. “And… that, yes.” He couldn’t help but shake his head. “Well, outside that, and another piece of business… those were the main issues that were of a not personal nature, though I will admit, I’ve learned a few things.” He thought for a moment. “Some unpleasant things I thought I had under control. Annoying.”
I smiled with a bit of empathy. “Difficult things, about ourselves, to control and keep in check aren’t easy, and when we think…” I simply sighed. “Annoying. Understatement.”
Hanse nodded simply at that. “Second is more an idea, that is being worked on. Didn’t bring it with me, because it’s still an outline.” My eyebrow rose in question.
Operation IDES.” I blinked.
And I assume you want to use the Heavy Cavalry?” I tilted my head.
His nod answered me. “The go date is roughly July 1st, though not solid yet, and will involve all the Dragoons, your first Brigade, the Heavy Guards, and several other units. We’re actually ahead of where our best hopes were in terms of equipment, though we’re not at a point where we can begin raising new units.” He sighed. “One thing Detroit, your station, and well, a fair bit of the other industrial related equipment will be going is to establishing new component lines. Then more lines, but focusing on vehicles. Your Vedette variants look promising, as well as the Partisan ones.”
I nodded. Battlemech factories were more assembly points, often with frames, armor and some items assembled there, but weapons, electronics, engines, often shipped to them in interstellar freight. Putting aside the need to ship them, there were limits, and those factories too had slowed down and needed repair and replacement parts.
Make sure this time we don’t repeat the Cameron’s intentional setup? Please keep components on the same world as the main factory?” I pleaded.
That, m’dear, you can be sure of.” He nodded seriously. “But, back to the operation, in primus, I want Epsilon Eridani.” He smiled. “Not only does the map of the Argo that Colonel Steiner so nicely opened for us, confirm your statement nearly a year ago, I’ve seen your rebuilt Brutuses run around. Militia tanks my ass.” He nodded. “Better that factory and its output be in the hands of those who appreciate a good tank, wouldn’t you say?”
I snickered at that. “That was also something that happened in the future that would be, though much later.” I conceded. “So… basically Ronel, Small world, Epsilon Indi, Bryant and of course Erandi?” His grin indicated I figured out his intent.
By and large, yes. Stretch goals depending on factors would be Outreach, Sirius and Keid.” He shrugged. “Carver V would also be on the list. But I’m pondering telling Janos, and seeing what he does, tempting.”
I thought for a moment. “Heavy Guards, the 1st Brigade…” I tilted my head. “You want Sirius as an apology gift.” I nodded sharply. “That’s roughly six jumps from Helm, and we could be there, with a bit of work within weeks after wrapping up Eridani.”
He grinned. “Nicely caught. Good mind there, and you’re missing a play. I might go ahead and give some of the weapons we found here, as well.” He was referring to the five thousand nuclear weapons we found in Castle Watchtower. All needed their hydrogen replaced, but in other regards, they were ready to go. The Star League had built to last, and had made the weapons pure hydrogen based, cutting out the need for fission triggers.
He shrugged. “Maybe even some of the equipment, while selling some to Katrina.” He waggled his hand. “Both Katrina and Janos have interests in common with the Federated Suns, Katrina is wise enough to know I will need to mend fences with Janos, but can’t neglect her.” He nodded. “The alliance temptation is still there, mind you. And I think we can bring Janos in.”
I thought for a moment and shrugged. “All I can say was he rejected it in 3020. Then again, it could quite simply be on who offered it, and his suspicions on why.” Which ironically to some degree matched mine. Hanse’s eyebrow rose, demanding an explanation. “I’d say that he was noting she was building more equipment than he was, and wasn’t as in deep of a hole. The peace would benefit her the most, allowing her to restore the LCAF faster than he could rebuild the Free World’s forces, and could disrupt his control over the nation.” A slight shrug. “Which, honestly considering things? Might have been her objective all along. Buy time.”
He pondered for a moment, nodding. “Makes sense. And a valid reason but… you implied I changed her calculations?”
Correct.” I thought for a moment, then added, reluctantly. “It didn’t hurt that you were the only one not to reject it rudely, nor completely out of hand, indicating that at this time you didn’t think it was viable, and all things equal…” I toyed with one of my curls for a moment in thought. “The AFFS was the strongest and best it had ever been, and you were kicking everyone’s ass.”
Why stop?” Hanse nodded. “Not when peace, even a short one would at best be a draw for the Sun in benefit, I see. And if only I had responded as a leader and gentleman should… There’s another way to build a military worthy of the name and fix problems. Gold gets you good soldiers.”
I thought about it, and nodded. “I’m sure that wasn’t her only calculation, nor even her main one… but I can’t disagree. I do think being a mother, and seeing the risks to Melissa, put finding a way to change the paradigm of the Succession wars, on the top of her list of things to do, after all.”
Well said, and nicely thought of.” Hanse agreed. “But, she was raised with an eye to sit on the Archon’s throne, unlike me, to some extent, and she is very good at what she does. If the Lyrans can’t do it themselves, buy who can.” He said calmly. “And until you, I will admit, Lyran money is very tempting.”
I shifted tone. “Back to the Operation, in primus, I agree, will want more details, and I have an idea or two on how to deal with the Highlanders, and some suggestions on how to distract the other main reaction force.”
Hanse nodded. “And I’d want to hear them, but I just wanted you thinking. It’s quite possible you’d have a second brigade ready to go, too. Won’t be rejected at all.” He smiled. “The more you use…”
The less you lose.” It was a hilarious concept of war. The concept of elite, highly trained personnel was the truth of warfare, and the losses in them were grievous. But when you could focus numbers of them, gaining not just a quality superiority, but a quantity superiority in the battle, the less both in absolute and in relative numbers did you lose. Or as Murphy's laws of combat, still worshipped here and now would say. “Buddies are important. It gives the enemy more to shoot at.”
Some things never change.” Hanse’s tone was somber. “But… that’s all for business.” He pressed a button, and a steward, my bet an highly trained AFFS officer, came in and refilled our wine glasses. “If it is at all possible…”
Of course, Sir, Madam.” He bowed slightly. “It will be ten minutes, once I inform the chef. Please excuse me.”
Of course.” “With great eagerness.” Was the steward’s response, with a slight smile playing on his lips, as he departed.
At least he’s amused.” I tilted my head. “A Captain?”
Hanse snickered. “For something this important? Sergeant Major, of course.”
I paused and snicker. “True, officers aren’t allowed to tie their own shoes, generally.”
Oh, well said. All enlisted would so agree.” He had to laugh at that statement. We shared a chuckle and a smile.
Well.” He leaned forward, eyes intense. “I’d like to ask some personal… well, what could be considered personal questions. Some might be offensive or painful, and neither is intended, but … I have reasons, which at least I think are good, to know, or at least try to get answers to.”
I raised my eyebrows. “With the caveat, I retain the lady’s right…”
He smiled at that. “Ah, quite. On these questions… while I feel they are important, I’d concede the Suns don’t need the answer. But I’d want the answer. Agreed. Want does not mean I get.” His smile widened, then he added. “As I just got reminded sharply.”
I snickered and leaned back, sipping at the refilled wine.
He took that as permission. For a moment he studied his wineglass, and thought. Finally, he spoke. “How?” I didn’t quite get it, and I must have shown that. “How do you keep going, who are you?”
The last was answered first, immediately and pointedly. “Kikyo Onishi, daughter of Miya Onishi, younger sister to Ichigo Onishi, who needs more slaps, apparently, older sister to Aiko Onishi, who will do awesome things with the right backing.” I shrugged. “Who I was in a past life, or another life, is immaterial.”
He blinked at that. “I… see.” His tone didn’t quite say he did, though, so I answered the first question.
I dealt with a drug induced dream, or an ultra powerful being, who wasn’t incarnate, by simply deciding that I had to be who I am. Figuring that out is a lifetime, anyways, and I suspect by my own views one of the reasons we are here.” I shrugged helplessly, not sure what he was asking. “But, I got myself together, first by just keeping too busy, then when I felt I could, by accepting what is, is, and moving on. I’ll be the first to admit, Aiko in her own way, by existing, was a great help, it gave me something to focus on, and care for, the twin sets of memories, both blessing and curse.” I paused, nodding once. “And those who’ve already dealt with it, also helped. Kath just shrugged, and reminded me in both lives I was raised with heavy Buddist and Shinto views. Case… well. He pointed out that at least I didn’t have to remember going through childhood twice, anyways, personally.”
Hanse blinked at that. He had to shake his head. “...I never thought of that. I’m imagining that would be… unpleasant.”
He’s implied it was, and that his parents held to the more… typical Outworlders, yes.” I tilted my head, amused. “Let’s just say I’m not surprised where he is, and what he’s done.”
Ha.” He nodded at that. He paused and nodded again, speaking. “Given what I know about Shinto and Buddists, it’d have been a help, yes, I suppose. But the better question…” He thought and then nodded. “One set of your memories, I suppose, as you put it, left behind a life, suddenly. It’d not surprise me if you had a family and ones you loved back then.” He shook his head. “Some of the questions I’d want to ask, I don’t suspect, I know, you’d deflect, now.” He grinned at that. “So, how?”
I nodded, it didn’t surprise me he’d ask that question. “I answered.” I grin suddenly, and start to sing. “I get by with a little help…” Hanse blinked. I stopped the tune, and picked up. “By having things to focus on. By my friends. By my family here and now. By accepting what was, was, what is, is, what will be, will be, and I will do my best to make the will be, the best I can. I can’t change the past, I can’t go back, I can only deal with here and now. I said goodbye and my hopes for them months ago. None of them would want me to linger.”
He leaned back. “... I see.” It sounded like he meant something different. Before I could inquire, he shook himself. “No. I think I do see. And I admire that strength.”
I shook my head. “More like screaming heebie jeebies at the future that would have been.”
You could have fled.” He returned to the intense stare.
No. I didn’t join the United States Army in ‘89, because I was a coward. I didn't join for just the GI bill and other bonuses. I believe that good men, and good women cannot stand idly by.”
Hanse breathed. “All it takes for evil to triumph.” A Sharp nod.
I sipped my wine, and with a smile. “Quite. I confront my fears, I don’t take their counsel.”
Hanse thought for a moment, then smiled. “Well, then. While I had other questions, those are the ones I most needed. Thank you.” He was very sincere.
You are welcome.” I smile back, playing with my hair. This was after all the third date, and Kikyo-original and now me, had very specific tastes for ideal. And I was looking at a very yummy dish.
Before he could say more, the meal came out. Very tasty, but simple. Steak, fine potatoes, steamed broccoli, and shrimp we had kept alive, all from Artu. I had a pleased smile.
I’m afraid I’m guilty of presumption and control here… again.” Hanse semi apologized.
I waved my hand with a slight smile. “Actually, this is the one time gentlemen not only get away with such presumption, they’re expected to do so. Secret:” I grinned at him. “We ladies use it as a test to see how much you’ve learned.”
Hanse blinked. Then just shook his head. “That… explains some things.” He raises an eyebrow as the steward was patiently waiting. I shook my head.
That will be all, Sergeant Major, you have our thanks and when we’re ready for dessert, and after meal, I’ll call, do please leave the wine?” He was polite and considerate.
As you will, Sir.” The Sergeant Major was getting a kick out of doing this, I could tell. The stories he’d be able to tell.
We waited and sampled the food. Simple, but done perfectly. Not easy to do on a dropship, even one set up like Xanadu, or Camelot, Hanse’s own dropship, and I nodded in appreciation. The steak was actually to my preference, the seasonings were about as close to perfect as was possible, and the wine was a perfect compliment to the food.
I see you used MIIO.” I couldn’t resist snarking. “Good choice.”
He grinned. “They were amused, yes.” He waved his fork. “I’ll admit, Chef Roberts has outdone herself.” He tilted his head to my sudden pause. “No, no kidnapping her for your own. She’s convinced I’d starve or eat junk food if I didn’t have her.”
I pause. “Drat.”
I know, I know. Don’t feel too bad, you’re not the first to have acquisitive thoughts about her.” He grinned to take the sting out. “I do suggest we pay her the highest compliment, though.”
With that, we set to doing so. Some light discussion on differences between military rations (I agreed that the quality of military food hadn’t changed, or at least the bitching about it, but I did point out I was a spoiled Actress from an early age.). To be honest, I thought military food had improved somewhat.
Soon enough, the dessert, and I would kill cheerfully to know how she got the mousse perfect, on a dropship, of all things, was devoured, and the wine and us moved to an nook near my cabin, with very plush seating, with lovely plants and a pleasant and fragrant perfume to enhance it’s comfort.
Hanse smiled. “Princesses, even ones modified like your lady, are sinful.” I smiled in response, my mind already plotting the distance to the cabin. “I’m sure you’re curious on why I had an MIIO agent portray you as my girlfriend.” I actually wasn’t, I thought I had the reasons nailed.
No, not really, I assumed it was a shell game. ‘Oh, hey, look, she can’t be lostech hunting if she’s here, no?’ As well as a smokescreen to find anyone who’d be interested in making sure you didn’t have a heir, as well as arm candy to keep greedy gold diggers off you.”
He blinked. “First and third, yes. Easily. Second… I will ask Yvonne, all things considered if that was part of the plan, or at least did she and the agent use it for that.”
I see.” I shrugged. “Two out of three isn’t bad.” He grinned at that. I was sipping at my wine, when he smiled with a slightly devilish look in his eyes.
Now, it won’t be just a decoy. I think you’d make an ideal one, since I had a third reason you missed. Well, besides of course, the fact that I’ve been wondering exactly what you’re wearing under that little black dress.” He had cleverly leaned slightly to his right, as my spit take had sprayed my mouthful of very expensive wine into the plant behind him.
After I had finished coughing for a second, I shot him a glare. “You’ll have to explain that logic. The first part. Second, that was the idea. Now, I’m beginning to rethink that.”
Hanse blinked, then hurried to explain. “It’s very simple. You intrigue me. Beauty isn’t everything, as we’re both aware, for various reasons, nor should it be. Our second meeting, “ He was referring to Bun Bun’s cockpit. “The situation was different than I expected, and that attracted my thoughts. All other issues aside, and I took care of one possible issue, tonight, you caught my attention by not being 99% of the Federated Suns population. I know why, now, admittedly, but…”
I thought about that for a moment. “... Well, you’re Hanse fucking Davion, badass and one of the biggest trolls in the Galaxy, I’d say.” Pause. “And for this time and age, one of the best. The setting pumped you up to be well, James Kirk of Battletech. You don’t need groveling or ego stroking or respect because you got a title, you get respect because you damn well are worth it, all flaws, bad actions, bad choices put aside. That’s what I see, at least.”
He laughed at that. “I’d hope I didn’t emulate some of his other behaviors.” He put that aside. “And that’s what got me. I was extremely lucky, and to the point, I didn’t think I’d be that lucky again, with Dana.” He sighed, showing the wound was still there. “But you said it best, she’d kick my ass if I didn’t move on. She didn’t want to be a Duchess, she didn’t want to be Princess-consort. But she accepted that, and kicked my ass when I needed it. You’d be surprised on how rare that is.”
...actually, no, I wouldn’t, sadly.” I shook my head. “Let me say this, I know more or less when you’re slated to die and from what… and yes, it’s on the list of things to change.” He laughed at that. “But by that point, if you had two people on a regular basis that’d kick your ass when you needed it, I’d be shocked. Your wife …” I shook my hand slightly. “Not to speak ill of her. She isn’t at all bad, and grows into her own, I do hope, but… the books and lore get quirky.”
I see, something to cover later. But… I think if I seize the moment, I can be lucky twice.” I didn’t quite catch what he was implying, after all, I knew who his wife was to be, and he was right. He did get lucky, and the match had ended up a love match.
Eh, you did.” I shrugged. “3028 you marry her.”
His intense stare unsettled me. “I disagree. You said she’d not yank my chain, at least in general, and I’d rather not wait thirteen years.”
My blank look, from the video Hanse had managed to get set up, I learned later, had really amused Hanse, who didn’t show it. “It’s simple. It’s clear that while you’re still not quite used to yanking my chain, you show no fear in doing so. Dana did. I have a chance to get what I need, to be the best man I can. You’ve clearly implied you know who I ended up married, and I’m seeing a hint, she was second best, or a compromise, or at best, me doing my duty to the Suns. I don’t want that. I was the product of that. Ian was. Our father loved us, and cared for our mother, but… she wasn't his heart. I think you can be. I’m not comparing you to Dana. That would be a disservice to you both. But, I think she’d approve of you, in basic. Some things…” He waved his hand.
I was skittering on ice. What have I done.
Uh…” I floundered for a second. “Wait, you have a wife for you, one that you will have children with, and a healthy partnership.”
He raised his eyebrow. “I’m not thinking that from what little I’ve heard. And I note you don’t speak of my children with her. Who, out of curiosity.”
... Melissa.” His flat stare was indicating that he really wanted the last name not to be what he feared it was. “Steiner, yes.”
Oh… fuck no.” He snapped. “Now I see why you aren’t Katrina’s fan.” He shook his head. “She’s twenty-five years younger than me. What the hell?”
Why not Morgan?” Hanse’s mind had snapped into calculation mode. “Oh, Michael.”
I nodded. Hanse lived up to his reputation from the novels and lore.
Right, no. Seven to eight, at most nine year difference is much more tolerable than twenty-five years. No matter how much you’re implying it wasn’t a marriage of hate or at least pure politics.”
I repeat myself, once again. Silly me. I thought I was in control of how the new future would turn out. Ladies and Gentlemen, see how silly I was?
Hanse leaned forward. “I want to see where we can go. I think you want what I want. Not the glory, but at the end I want people to be safe, happy, and better off. I think you’re the one that can make that happen. If not directly, by my side… if needed, yanking my leash.” I had the hilarious mental image of Hanse in a gimp suit, which I squished.
... uh…” I cast aside for a reason to escape this. He had already implied he was going to pursue what he wanted. Me.
If you’re wondering about your reputation, meh, most of the noble girls and those who associate have similar, early on. Ran even has a lady he hasn’t married yet, who’s a Countess.” Hanse grinned roguishly. “If you want a practical reason … You’ve implied I’m a great man, and did many things to improve the Future that Would have been.” He paused. “I like that phrase…” He shook himself. “But you’re clear that I wasn’t perfect, I made mistakes, avoidable ones in your eyes, and that I could have done better.” He was intense.
I couldn’t speak, feeling like a mouse trapped in front of a hungry viper.
I will be honest, I understand the saying behind every great man…” He shook his head. “Let’s just say, you want to stop evil? Here’s your chance. You’ll have the biggest lever of them all over a major figure.” His roguish grin returned. “The couch.”
Breakfast nook, Dropship Xanadu, Late Morning, Dec 11th, 3015
I came into the nook where the Strays tended to assemble, slightly sore, and very satisfied. No, I’m not going to tell you how easily Hanse could carry me less than 50 steps, nor will I tell you what he found under the little black dress, or how he talked me into showing him after he completely trolled and blindsided me. Man was good, and a perfect gentleman in all senses. I could have likely killed Hanse’s interest by being a dead fish, but first, I’m not that good of an actress with my body being the way it is, and second, remember what I said about him being a perfect gentleman? It applied everywhere. And he very much enjoyed what was under the little black dress, and the return that a lady does to a perfect gentleman.
All hail the cougar!” Evie snarked. I blushed slightly.
Not that old!”
Asha’s dry tones “Maybe physically…” She shrugged. “I have to admit, I think I’m going to have that poleaxed look framed. Might be the only time we see a real one from you, gods… I hope so.”
Case drily commented. “We got the video up to when he picked you up.” What?
Kath shrugged. “That’s one way to avoid the FedCom civil war. I seriously doubt you’d allow Victor to keep head in ass.”
I blinked, blinked again. Say what?
Evie laughed. “Dammit, and we don’t have our own video cameras!”
I finally rebooted. “He mentioned the greatest lever. Couch. He just might find out quicker than he thought.”
A toast with a cup of coffee was Case’s response, with a dry laugh. “Sounds like you’re taking his proposal seriously.” He paused. “You realize that’ll mean you can’t do shit we need done. Don’t you?”
I shake my head. “Not all of it, no.” I sighed, looking at Asha. “And in your story, you weren’t allowed to be a carefree merc either. I should have seen this coming.”
Kath’s response was to the point. “Could have, should have, would have. Whatever. Now what’s next?” She looked around. “Yeah, Kikyo wanted to bone the Troll, who cares. She has and Hanse is in the mood to get more sweet and sour.”
Oi!” I shot back, unamused of the Germanic blonde’s snark.
Evie was too busy laughing, and Case snickering. “Isn’t that sushi?” was his response.
I could throttle the Pole. “No comment. I don’t kiss and tell.”
Uh-huh.” He shot back, a reluctant grin on his face. “Downside. I was actually hoping we could keep that on track, Sexpot. But nooo… someone had to wag her shapely ass in front of his nose.” He sighed.
Kath shot back, responding. “Upside, no FedCom civil War. For the same reasons.”
We could have avoided it!” Case finally admitted to the truth, he was fully on board and not an asshole, not only in it for money, women and booze. “But noooo.”
I shook my head. “To be honest, I don’t know if we could have avoided wrecking it.” I look at all of them. “You did see his reaction to her name, didn’t you?”
Case sighed. “Yeah, I should have figured that, myself, and told you to keep your mouth shut.” I looked at him. “Fuck, yeah, I know, I’d have ranted about the Bitch, too.” He shook his head. Kath shuddered as her mind briefly thought about that woman and then mercilessly crushed those very thoughts.
Yeah. If his instant reaction, and our babbling about Morgan’s trustworthiness, “ I was referring to Morgan Hasek-Davion, Hanse’s heir at this point, though his father was the aforementioned cocksucker… “Victor and Katherine would have nuked it.”
Correct.” Kath nodded. “And he has a solution he thinks will work. And he wants.” She suddenly grinned. “You’re a match in that. See, want, have. Very clanlike, if I dare say so.” She was hissed at by four people, but undeterred, finished her trolling. “He likes that, add in our view of well, royalty for royalty sake, which we all have? You pretty much set yourself up to be taken. Repeatedly. Was it at least enjoyable?”
Kath!” I sputtered. “I’m not that bad.” Four flat stares answered me.
Shiny. You want, you get. Pleaaaase.” Case shot back. “Bloody magpie.”
Kath snickered, then responded as Evie was proving the truth about teenagers, and reminding me to thank the spirits I brought food in bulk. Reminds me. Need to order crayons in bulk too. I shook my head of the idle thought as Kath spoke.
First and foremost, we’ve derailed, no matter how, the Hanse and Melissa marriage. I dunno if it’s good or bad…”
Neither.” Asha’s soft voice broke in. “The odds of Victor and Kathrine…” She shot a smile and an apology look at Kath’s shudder, “Existing in our new timeline as it stood, were… low.” She shrugged. “Which pleased our resident Pole, I suspect.”
Case looked at her dryly. “Try all of us, and you know it, girl. I know you derailed it in your story, so drop the act.”
It was a bit distasteful, admittedly.” She sighed. “And to Hanse’s credit, and my annoyance, the cabbit was right.” I couldn’t help but preen. “And I suspect that he went into it like his father did, for the good of the Suns.”
I winced at that. “That’s not good… at least he got beyond it.”
In the future that would have been…” Kath shot back, looking. “Here? Once he started looking at Kikyo here seriously?”
Fuck.” I summed up.
Case nodded. “When you fuck up by the numbers, you don’t do it halfway, do you?”
I didn’t set …” Evie looked up from her latest pile of pancakes.
Didn’t, couldn’t, wouldn’t, doesn't matter. Drive on, deal with here and now. He’s got one point, and one good one.”
We all looked at the girl with no ability to color coordinate, and apparently a black hole for a reactor. “And what’s that, besides… don’t you want crayons?” I couldn’t help but snark.
That’s a treat, and he’s right. None of us are going to hesitate to yank his chain in private if he gets too far off the reservation. Not us. We’re already dead once, we know it, we know what comes next, so, yeah, No fear. And we’re faithful. Grow up, be glad he wants you back, and take him. Remind him who really is in charge. Repeatedly. You’re nicer laid.”
I spat out my coffee and Kath wiped her face. Afterwards, as I was trying to catch my breath, the blonde clanner turned to the younger redhead. “You, Evie, are despicable.”
The bright grin that answered her was all the proof we needed to know Evie would fit right in for sure. And was recovering from the trauma of all the things she had experienced. Still… I didn’t know if I really wanted this lever.
Briefing Room, Dropship Camelot, Evening.
Hanse flipped through the report, as he looked at Justin. “So…” He shrugged. “Summarize.”
They didn’t take the simulation seriously.” Justin sounded upset about that. “I’ll admit that General Onishi tried, but honestly, Sire… they treated it in general as a video game, and even the Baroness did, though she tried hard to not.”
Hanse shook his head, amused. “I treat sims as a video game, Justin, so does Ardan, so does your father. I’m not interested in their performance, I’m, like the profilers, interested in how they interacted. They played to win, mind you.”
Yes, Sire.” Justin clearly thought on how to say it. “As the Champion’s junior aide, I didn’t think I’d be doing this… but my view, is they have a general view of what each other is capable of, and I’d point out that outside of immediate tactics, they referred to Colonel Steiner or the Baroness.” He paused, thinking on how to say this. “While I would say the General, aside from Kessler, is the least trained or experienced mechwarrior, she and the Colonel are the most experienced in tactical and operational thinking. As you say, they played to win. They also played to have fun at yours and a few Heavy Guard’s expenses.”
Hanse quirked a smile. “As they should, sometimes being a troll is useful.”
Justin nodded. “It was clear that while they all referred to Onishi, or if she pointed at Steiner, her, they all had their points and views, and it was a free flow of thought and communication. I won’t say hive mind, but they do know each other very well, and were just nudging, and well, their behavior indicated they weren’t taking it seriously, unlike the BattleROMs we have from all their mechs.”
As in they were friends who knew how each other thought. And didn’t stand on pride, formality or well, what most would consider good behavior?” Hanse pressed.
Exactly.” Justin paused and nodded once. “Baseline reactions and new profiles are in there, but… we are still using enhanced interviewing techniques, are we not?”
I would prefer not to.” Hanse quietly stated. “And do you think it’s really needed, Justin? I know your father didn’t not tell you about his work.”
You misunderstand, Sire. I suspect why they’re all willing, with caveats in Colonel’s Steiner’s case involving the Dragoons, understandable, that, I would be…” He paused, and shook himself. “Forgive me. I was just trying to…”
Hanse smiled. “Place yourself in their shoes. Good trait, Justin, and an excellent one. It turns enemies into friends if you use it right.” Justin nodded.
I hope so, and as I was saying…” He thought for a moment. “I understand your reluctance, they are proving to if not be loyal to the Suns or you personally, at least honest fellow travelers for your goals, which honestly, I would feel…”
Well said.” Hanse smiled. “There’s other traits I value as well, but consider thinking on those, as lessons for your future service.” Justin didn’t quite understand, but nodded anyways.
The reason I think, and our profilers agree, is they want to maximize what they have.” Justin finished.
Hanse’s eyebrows furrowed. Kikyo had admitted she had forgotten stuff she read from her sources to him during some discussion last night, as she amused him with some tall tales that she had read. Or had a hand in writing. “... Which is why you used interview, instead of interrogation, is it not. You’re trying to imply debriefing.”
Yes, Sire.” Justin didn’t sigh, but Hanse noted he’d need to work on body language anyways.
The drugs include memory enhancers, as well as a more free flow thought, as well as disinhibition and several other traits, or so I was told.” Hanse finally finished. “You’re thinking of the first two options.”
Justin nodded. “That is exactly the reason. Colonel Steiner and Leftenant Winter are at least fifteen years past when they last were in a position to examine the Future that would have been.”
Justin’s lips twitched upwards, to Hanse’s own, and the shared amusement of those in the know. “And Corporal Kessler, General Onishi and Commander Blackwing have admitted that their memories aren’t perfect.”
He paused. Hanse thought about it for a moment. Then another. Finally, he sighed. “I don’t like it. And I’ll want certain questions explicitly off limits, and the debriefers to understand, if information comes up related directly to those topics, they are to forget it. And it never existed.”
Justin nodded. “I can think of several ones that are… as the lady said, immaterial, now.” Hanse grinned, his accomplice in trolling was learning.
And it’s to wait til New Avalon. I think your father would be ideal to supervise.” Hanse relaxed, and stood up. “Now, I go face the music.”
You don’t have to worry about the couch… yet.” Justin smiled.
Justin, you are young. I can tell you this. Maybe not tonight. Maybe not this month. But I will be on the couch, hopefully if my goals work out, for last night. I promise you that.” Hanse grinned. “And it’d have been worth it.”
Justin’s eyebrows furrowed. “Are you sure that a lady that’d remember that far, and take vengeance patiently…”
That’s the best quality in a lady worth any man’s time. The trick is convincing them it’s not worth it, or that you’ve apologized… okay, groveled enough. I need to get to work on that, now…” Hanse smiled as he clapped the younger man on the back, and walked off, whistling off key a tune only a few historians would recognize… and two redheaded females, one of which would grin, the other would facepalm.
Castle Cormorant, Coromodir VI , Late Evening, Dec 15th, 3015.
Wearing what wasn’t considered high court fashion on New Avalon or Comorodor, but was a classy, to me at least form fitting, silver laced, backless and sleeveless black evening gown, with a slight train, that framed my ah, assets perfectly, made me stand out, as if being on Prince Davion’s arm and announced as his plus one didn’t. Hanse had made his view of my choice of fashion quite clear.
The Strays following behind, along with Marshal Felser didn’t attract as much attention, since the Marshal was escorting Kath, and Case, once again proving he was almost as good of an actor as I was, was looking properly attired and dare I say, Bondish? He’d have given Pierce Brosnan or Sean Connery a bit of a run, I’d say. He decided a cleaned up and properly attired Evie Kessler would work as his plus one, and her struggles to not be properly dressed amused Kath and I.
Shortly we were circulating, greeting the lesser nobles and political players of the Realm, as a fair bit of their children of age would be going with us, plus sixty of the Reach’s most promising. Those were the real payoff to House Arano. They would return with arguably the best education anyone could buy, of a level if not equal to what could be had on Terra, just below. And in areas the Reach - no, the Inner Sphere - desperately needed. The nobility and other shining lights would form a well trained professional core to build a military around. Forty College of Military Science officers, spread out over the areas, would translate into down the road, a hard core of military professionals, with the accumulated knowledge of 5,000 or more years of warfare, pounded into their heads by experienced professionals who knew what worked and didn’t.
Give the Augirans a pair of decades after both sets of students returned, and their successors, and the Reach would have a shot at being a player strong enough that no one would challenge them, lest they get challenged in return. Right now, they only survived as a viable nation state because no one wanted what they had enough to risk a possible invasion by their enemies, though I’d say all three of their major threats could take them fast enough that the risk wasn’t as high as they believed.
Their new asset on Arutu would require careful handling to keep that status, however, and one of the prizes they had won, while not a full treaty of alliance, was a ‘Treaty of recognition and Friendship’ with the Federated Suns. Just the recognition of their existence officially by the Federated Suns was a prize, and the ‘friendship’ bit added to the implicit threat that the Suns were watching. But it’d not be enough, if the Capellians or Taruians really wanted them. Though if I read Hanse’s mind right, the Capellians wouldn’t be an issue much longer, as he ‘approved’ of some of my ah, suggestions that I made late last night on Xanadu.
After a bit, and discussing certain things, Hanse went to talk to Lord Arano and his brother in law, while I had the duty of entertaining the heir and Espinosa’s daughter.
Baroness, isn’t that cold?” Was the first words out of Victoria’s mouth, while Kamea just looked a bit shocked.
I smiled at the pair. “No, it’s not, though I do have a fur coat. Silver Ice Weasel, a mammal that lives in my barony, and is quite popular.” I looked around. “With the climate controls you have, I’d say most of you would be too warm.”
Kamea thought for a moment, then firmly stated. “Father thought that since New Avalon, both the city and the world, are a mild climate, the winter desert nights would be a bit unfair to his guests.”
I shrugged slightly. “New Avalon does have some winter areas, New Scotland, for example has some wicked winters, and fine skiing. There’s a reason Winterfell has her name, after all.” I smile, as if to share a joke. “But, I’d say after being on dropships for the fair amount of a year, any winter would be a bit much.” I admitted.
Victoria thought at that and nodded, not understanding, but accepting it was an adult thing. Kamea on the other hand, had her eyes narrow. “And Spencer wasn’t too out of sorts for you?”
My eyebrow didn’t raise at that, but the way she had phrased it… “When a major nation state wishes to acquire items, M’lady, they will, by and large. I will point out that while we tried to do it without violence, and in fact were not the first to start firing… I was explicitly under orders to do what we did. Maybe not in those words, ‘Go get the lostech on Spencer’, but was quite clear what my mission was, and as a mercenary commander, obedience to legal orders by the rules of interstellar states, is required, if you want to stay in business and keep your people fed.” I shrugged. “Is it nice? No. Is it right?” I paused for a moment, thinking.
Before I could, Victoria broke in. “She had to do it, because Prince Davion told her, and if he didn’t, he’d be failing his realm. As a Prince, he has to do whatever it takes for the Suns.” She turned an admiring eye on him, and my hackles rose, though settled when I realized it wasn’t lust, but of what the person was, or thought to be.
And how she treated the Spencer militia, and the world? What about her duty to them, as well?” Kamea’s response was immediate, showing an on going debate between them.
Ladies.” I paused. “There is that. And I’d point out we did leave some material behind, which from what I understand, Janos has brokered a deal with them, with two of his corporations supplying the funds.” That was information we had received today, and Hanse’s smile indicated he had pulled off a tasty henhouse raid. As far as I was concerned, extra Stalkers and aerospace I could buy wasn’t a bad thing.
For war material. Not items that improve their people’s lives.” Kamea replied softly. “And what did you take from them that might have changed that?”
I thought long and hard. Taking a sip of the wine I had snagged during Kamea’s statement, I responded afterwards. “While classified, Lady Kamea, I can assure you, outside one item, and I’d suspect they’d have traded that for more war material as you so aptly pointed out, the other items, honestly? Were not worth much, to anyone, except as items to fill in gaps or historical curiosities. And most likely, MIM or SAFE would have stolen them, if the Maskirovka did not.” I shrugged. It was a lie, but it was one that both girls seemed to buy, and their ill concealed pleasure at being brought into a secret, made them not question why I was doing it.
Your Prince could have offered them something similar to what my father negotiated with you…” Kamea finally spoke. I nodded. “That would have been an option, at least before the shooting started. And I will concede that it would have been my preference.” I shrugged slightly, amused by the two’s slight glaze at my words. “But orders are orders, and Spencer was a mission discovered after those orders. And I’ll be even more fair, those orders didn’t change until Artru’s situation was clear.”
Victoria’s face grew pinched, while Kamea’s was a bit sad at those words. “My father had thanked you for your aid, and I need to do so as well. You didn’t have to…” I raised my hand to stop her flow of words.
That was being a decent human being. While one could argue it was a contract breach, at that point.. I am Suns born, Suns raised, and I happen to know the Prince’s mind. Plus once we deployed that many ships, we honestly didn’t expect the ruse to stand much longer, anyways.”
How many mercenaries would be that decent?” Victoria asked. “I mean, honestly, most are just in it for the money. No better than pirates, just official.”
I sipped again at my wine. “Lady Victoria, I’d say you’d be surprised.” I thought about how to put it, then nodded. “There are units with reputations for decency, famous ones. Does the Fifteenth Dracon mean anything?” I paused. “Several other units, while not as noted for their work of that nature do go out of their way to help, and most, agreed on not all, most are at least conscious of decent relations… and there is a fine line between objective raids to recover nationally important assets, and just taking every dish a normal civilian owns. Or Slavery.” I shot back. Victoria blinked at that. “And I can tell you, there are those who put Honor. Duty. Humanity… first, over contract.” I tilted my head.
You must remember, you can divide about eighty-five percent of your mercs into two broad categories: Those who got kicked out or left their national militaries for being, well unsuited for that service, to put it mildly, and find the mercenary trade to their liking, or those who grew up in it, and that’s all they know. I’ll concede the remaining fifteen percent aren’t, but I’d point out that’s where the fair amount of problems come from.”
Kamea thought for a moment. “You’re saying most mercenaries are just like anyone else?”
I nodded, as Victoria clearly wasn’t sure about that. “By and large, yes. We practice a more violent trade, but it’s a trade. Outside your regimental-sized formations, most of our work is anti-piracy or protection, when the main militaries are away.” I smiled. “I’d point out that Colonel Wolf smacked the Domains pretty hard a while back.” Both girls nodded at that.
Ladies.” Hanse and their fathers appeared, while we were talking. Hanse had broken in, amused. “While I’m sure an interesting discussion, it’s time to sign the treaties, and General Onishi is my witness, so if you would be…” Both young ladies nodded, as Hanse slipped my arm into his.
After the ceremonies and speeches, Hanse once again claimed me, and we began what he admitted he hated, the circulation routine. Once finished with that, we had a few moments to ourselves. Hanse broke the quiet moment. “Espinosa worries me. He’s too much of a patriot and a strong man.” My eyebrow raised at the last, and he ruefully grinned. “Perhaps it takes one…” He trailed off
You'll want to talk to Case and the others more, what dealt with the Reach, was a game, and they played it, I didn’t.” I shrugged slightly, while speaking quietly. “But yes, he’s got the potential for being the worst type of…” with this I grinned wickedly. “Cocksucker, shall we say?”
I… see. Worse than Michael?” His eyebrow raised at the last, curious to what I’d say.
Yes. As much as I’d be loathe to admit it, Michael didn’t cross that last, fatal line that would damn him as much as Amaris or even Anton. It’s one reason why I argued for having their jumpship fleet refitted and refurbished at preferential rates. Can’t be sure, but best to remove one possibility.”
I… see, then Kamea?” Hanse’s tone was light, his words were dark.
I nodded. “She’s got a good heart. I disliked some of her choices, but her heart is closer to where it should be. Maybe too much so, she thought we should have bought Spencer off.”
Hanse barked a laugh at that. “If they weren’t willing to stay bought, or at least try for a deal with a Lyran noble, I doubt they’d have tried to deal straight with us.” He shook his head.
There is that.” I smiled as another noble started towards us, and once again, we began the gladhanding. You’d think being a noble meant you’d not have to deal with gladhanding or other such political activities. I wish I could be doing something more fun, and Hanse clearly agreed after politely fawning over one middle aged lady. His twinkle indicated he had an idea or two, a very enjoyable idea or two for later. But duty called first. And this was only the first of these nights, which would be a long stretch, if I agreed to what Hanse wanted, or at least thought he did.
Kikyo’s stateroom, Dropship Xanadu, Puta System (Dead), Moring, New Avalon time, Dec 19th, 3015
Hanse looked at his tablet, as he leaned back against the pillows piled up against the bed’s headrest. While he hadn’t moved into my dropship, he made the preference for sleeping arrangements clear. As he put it, the pillows were better. The fact he could say this with a straight face, impressed us all. His eyebrows rose and he clearly wanted to pitch his tablet into the wall. Sadly, he was wearing a loose sweatshirt with NAMA on it, hiding his chest.
I rolled over and rested my cheek in my hand, as the sheets slipped slightly, distracting him and changing his mood. “So, exactly why do you want to dent my bulkhead?” I asked teasingly, the slight laughter causing the sheets to slip a bit more.
While his eyes roamed at the view, he sighed. “Duke New Syrtis is ‘hooking’” he quoted with air quotes, as the tablet was clipped to the nightstand. Even though we were under spin for simulated gravity, otherwise I’d have the sheets locked to the bed, so we’d not float off, habits died hard. It only took the first floating tablet… okay, two, for you to learn to secure everything. Just in case. I was distracted as Hanse countined. “To the chain at New Damasus.” I tilted my head, outside the one system in the Reach, Guldra, we were in the black until New Damasus.
I see.” I thought for a moment, then shrugged. “That is where we first actually appear in the Suns, actually, so…” I thought for a moment. “Why do I think you have given orders no one not cleared by you or Yvonne are allowed on any of the Medusa ships?” Hanse grinned at that.
I suspect however,” Hanse being a bit more serious as he fully looked at me, “He’s heard enough rumors to start ah… requesting shares, and when stonewalled by the Den, he’s coming to make his case personally. And see if there’s any truth to the rumors about well.”
Us.” I shrugged, giving him more to look at. Which he appreciated. “If that’s the truth, would your sister be with him as well?” He nodded at that.
Would not surprise me. Court ended somewhat early this year, and this way she can spend Christmas on New Avalon.” He sighed. “Which we will be in time for. Too much time, in fact.” I winced, noting what he was implying.
And instead of being a guest, and able to play the game, I’ll be the hostess on your arm, and focus for the game.” I shot back.
And of course rivals sizing you up for a knife in the back, Michael if what you’ve implied is true, figuring out how to make you a non-problem…” Hanse listed. One thing I’d credit him with, was even though he wanted me, and was seriously considering long term, he didn’t sugarcoat what that’d mean. Well, he hadn’t come out and say my days of driving Bun Bun around the battlefields were over, but looking over some of his plans for the upcoming operation, lead me to realize that was on his list of things to do. As if.
I really rather not have him near anything important.” Hanse finally admitted. “Putting aside the suspicions you’ve raised, which to be honest, you share with Yvonne… I don’t trust him, I don’t think he’d use them for the betterment of the entire Suns, and I don’t think he thinks long enough term to realize what they mean.” He shook his head. “As per your suggestion, the idea of a double blind attack, focusing on Ares for the second prong, to draw the Big MAC into that battle… has merit. I think I’ll present that plus a slight twist.” My eyebrows went up.
Oh?” He nodded at my curious tone, his hands beginning to wander.
Yes, I’ll hint that the deployment of the forces assigned to the actual thrust, is a cover for Tikonov. If he leaks it to Max, it’s buyable, if he doesn’t, nothing lost.” Hanse smiled as he started to distract me.
I gasped in a slightly breathy tone, “Ah…” I paused, debating to bat his hands away, but decided to finish my thoughts and let my hands wander. “And if the Big MAC is waiting at Ares…”
I have… plans…” Hanse leaned forward, and started to execute one. It didn’t take much for me to be helpless to resist his assault…
Briefing Room, Dropship Camelot, Puta System (Dead), Mid Afternoon, New Avalon time, Dec 19th, 3015
As the dropship we were running the sim on was being winded back to the jumpship, Kath’s bright grin indicated someone had fun in the sims, as she maglocked herself to the deck. I, on the other hand was wrung out, exhausted, and was keeping my head on the table. Evie had joined me, while Asha was floating, with a loose grip on a handhold. Hanse, while looking like he was put through a wringer, had a relaxed smile, and Case was just belted into his seat, chilling out, completely loose.
First, I would like to thank Prince Davion for letting us use Camelot’s computers, since only Xanadu has a similar setup, and we couldn’t connect her to the other dropships. Hopefully that’ll be fixed soon, once Argo is up and running.”
Hanse nodded. “I was curious what sims you wanted to run. Thank you for running me though one.”
Kath waved her hand. “Not a problem, thank you for subbing in for me, in the Lance, though a Battlemaster was a bit annoying.”
I muttered under my breath. “And what would have been more than a bit…”
Kath pretended to not hear, though Asha snickered, and Case guffawed, while Evie just flipped a finger at the blonde.
Well, I’ll summarize this quick. You all ran the sims that we… err.” Kath paused and shook herself. “Well, okay, the Dragoons did. It’s a graded sim, and seventy is the minimum we require to be active. For your information, Prince Davion, the Davion Guards ran this sim yesterday, and while only a few excelled, none failed.”
Hanse grinned. “That’s pleasant to know.”
Case whistled. “Dare I ask if the hot redhead that was your boss got a 100?”
Kath smiled. “When she does, we recalibrate. This is the fourth version.”
Case just nodded, smiling. Asha sighed.
As you all should have figured out, it’s set to filter out natural talents, so we don’t use it on brand new recruits, but I have a baseline on all of you. Only thing that gives it fits, is Phantom, Asha, so I disabled that for you, until I figure it out. Then you really will suffer.”
I see.” Asha’s neutral tone indicated that she understood the upcoming fun for her.
Kath looked around. “First, ..” She was broken off by a clang, as Camelot docked. The thirty minute to jump warning sounded, and she smiled. “Okay, let’s get this quick. Tactical and lance group score. Eighty-three. Not too bad. Could be better, but working in Prince Davion, and well… Yes.” her smile turned evil. “Scores from best to worst, individual average of the two sets of sims. First was your individual dueling and fighting along, second was how you did in the group.” She received nods from everyone, with Case snickering still.
Case! Ninety-nine first run, ninety-eight second run. You are one crazy motherfucker, and I will never tell ‘Tasha, otherwise she’d do her best to kidnap you for Red Black.” Kath was serious on the last.
Ha. I’d show her what she’s missing, and show her who the real mechwarrior is.” Case waggled his eyebrows, as he just grinned back.
Kath paused for a long moment. “... I’m tempted to tell her now.” She shook herself. “Asha, Air ops, eighty-seven tactical, eighty-four first, eighty-nine second. If you get tired of Kikyo’s service, I’m sure most units would take one look at your ability and scoop you up. Remember, this doesn’t include your knack.” Asha nodded.
It was… challenging. And… I thought nothing was as bad as that last fight in the Combine.” The dark haired asian woman admitted, somewhat haunted.
It’s meant to push you to the limit and beyond. Harder you sweat, less everyone bleeds.” Kath was however sympathetic to Asha’s distress.
She then turned to Hanse. “Eighty-five, eighty-one, if you weren’t concentrating on a certain shapely rear, you’d have been higher.” Hanse nodded.
I figured she needed the help.” He admitted.
Blonde locks shook in weightness, as Kath shook her head. “Sim is meant to counteract that, and well, yeah. Wasn’t the best idea.”
Turning to the other two redheads, the blonde grinned. “I’m sure you know what I’m about to say, but when we get back to New Avalon, expect pain. I’m saying neither of you should be near a battlefield.” I winced, without raising my head. Evie just flipped her off again. “And yes, the sim can handle and did your trick of iron shooting. I do it, precisely so assholes like Morgan Kell or well, ladies, like our own Asha… don’t screw me.”
Hanse looked interested at that, but didn’t say anything. Kath nodded, and went on.
Evie, Trollcust, fifty-tow. King Crab, forty-three. Second sim, in your trollcust, fifty-nine. You do work well with a team, you just need to get better.” Evie made a sound that sounded like agreement. I sighed, not raising my head.
Kikyo! First, fifty-two. You really need to remember you are not a infantryman. And Infantry are very squishy. And you need to learn you are a commander, and you are piloting a fire support mech.” She shook her head, as Case nodded.
Absolutely RIGHT. I could have 100’ed if I wasn’t busy bailing your ass out, Cabbit!” Case snarked.
Actually, that was factored into your score. Second was fifty-five, like Evie you do better with others, but really, you need to break habits and also get better being a mechwarrior.” She sighed. “I know Hanse won’t get this, but both of you would be eaten alive by my old sibko before graduation tests, much less after. You should not be on the battlefield.”
I just made a noise of disgust.
Kath softened the blow, as she sat down and strapped herself in. “Well, at least right now. You both have the ability to be good, not a Case, not me, but well within Hanse’s range, or hell, most elite formations. But you have a long way to go. And if that battle where Bun Bun’s cockpit windshield had to be replaced didn’t tell you that, maybe this will.” I didn’t notice Hanse’s narrowed eyes, and a sense he was making notes, and thinking about this.
Fifty-two on a Dragoon sim without ever having an actual trainer when I was expecting a Twenty-Two. I’ll take it.” Evie snarked. “King Crab’s still offline and waiting for some parts that are hard to get ahold of or I need to co-opt a machine shop to make so I’ll stick to the Trollcust for now.”
Kath smiled evilly. “As I said… I got confirmation that Gry built a version of the Gauntlet at Winterfell.” Her smile grew wider, as the one minute alarm blared. “I’m sure you both will enjoy it.”
I simply looked at the demon with blond hair. I hated losing, but I had to wonder if getting a friend back was worth the demon I let into my life, and who seemed to want to make me her clone… in a week. Before I could bring up a response, I felt reality dissolve and twist around me, and I began losing my lunch.
Kikyo’s Office, Dropship Xanadu, New Damasus Nadir Point, Late Evening, New Avalon time, Dec 19th, 3015
I looked up as Kath came in the door, looking just a bit annoyed. “Yes?” I was curious what pissed off our resident clanner.
First, why did I have to fish Evie out of the Trash disposal on the Park and Pool deck?” Kath’s tone indicated that she was mildly curious.
She made a crack that I was pregnant.” I sniff. “Sorry, I am very much protected from that.” I didn’t catch the sudden flash of something in the blonde’s eyes, but caught her deep breath.
Second. Kikyo, dear, what the hell are you thinking?” She threw up her hands, and a tablet slipped out, and slammed against the upper deck, dislodging the chip that was in it.
Uh… what?” I was puzzled.
I looked over the adjusted contract and agreement to divide the spoils. In basic, fine, and the rest of the council sent basic approval, yes. But, we need to talk.” Kath put her tablet back with the data chip she had, and thwapped it to fix the screen.
Okaaaay…” I was puzzled. Seriously, what was the problem?
Oh, gods, I can see you can’t tell the problem.” Kath’s sigh was obvious. “You’re too frigging generous.” I blinked. “You cannot keep giving out bonuses of this size. I concede that some are owed that, but to the unit as a whole? I’ll be honest, they’ll rather want the money to go to long term investments to keep us fed and in basic pay.”
I blinked. I blinked again. Before I could counter…
And remember, while Hanse is paying some of the costs of Challenge and us taking it over, we’ll still need money over and beyond that! We have factories to build, people to hire, security to run… Great Father!” She threw up her hand, and the poor tablet hit the wall, this time breaking into three parts.
Uh…” I thought on how to put this. Kikyo before her twentieth birthday ironically for someone money grubbing was strangely free with it, and really didn’t wonder where her next meal was coming from. The twentieth century person, was similar.
Never mind. Sign this.” She looked at her tablet. “Okay, scratch that. I’ll get a new one, and a verigraphed copy, you’ll sign that!”
I paused. “What am I signing?”
Me, in charge of the finances and contracts for the Unit, and your business manager. Kerensky only knows you need one. And Rayanne already is worshipping my feet, for some reason. I’m wondering if your conservator didn’t have some good reason.”
I almost rose, forgetting I was belted in, then sat back down. “You’re saying I’m going though money too fast, and need to hold a lot more back.”
Yes. We’ll need it to expand Challenge, to keep the unit running so we can be picky about contracts, and other such things. You just thought the people were doing well, and should have a share in the windfall. Not long term about keeping them employed, or their pensions, or their death benefits.” She finished her spiel.
I really wished I could let my head fall to the desk, but… “Fine. Get it.” It came out petulant, and frankly, I wasn’t sure I was happy with this, but I saw her point. I forgot I had no nation state to back me up, and even with the agreements and contracts that Challenge would get it’d be a fair long term project before it became the money printer it should be.
Good.” Kath spun on her heel, the mag lock whining. She could have at least picked up the tablet bits!
Park Deck Lounge, Dropship Xanadu, New Damasus Nadir Point, Night, New Avalon time, Dec 19th, 3015
We were sitting in the nook, as Katherine Steiner brought us all up to date in short, pithy statements, to what had happened on the various fronts. While generally butterflies hadn’t flapped that hard, a slightly higher than the ‘Future that Was’ tempo of operations on the Draconis front had indicated that the AFFS was feeling its oats as ‘Mechs began to flow to units. As far as she could guess, it had inflicted more losses as well as the surprise fall of Tancredi, after Brion’s Legion had surrendered Tancredi II to the well supplied Davion units.
That had happened about a month ago, and operational tempo had fallen significantly, but from what Kath had picked up from Wolfnet and what DMI and MIIO were giving her, in primus, the Snakes had been hammered, though it had cost the AFFS in numbers, if not every single new mech and ASF, but enough that Sandoval had pretty much ordered a operational pause, since in effect, the AFFS in his March was more or less the same as it was at the start of the year, in strength, and much more battered and exhausted. But Tancredi IV, one of the founding worlds of the Federated Suns… was back.
Oddly enough, even with supply issues being dealt with by Hanse for the Capellian march, no operations had changed, and it seemed that the tempo was about the same. Kath’s theory was that Hasek Davion was stockpiling in preparation for a coup, and if nothing else to keep the myth of New Avalon’s neglect up. I’d ask Hanse later if there was more.
The big change from what we remembered was the Anton Marik situation. In primus, Anton had actually accelerated the demand to surrender effective command and control of the Dragoons and penny packet them, by nearly two weeks. Two months later, the Dragoons were on New Valencia and Hanse had snapped them up on a short term garrison and then normal contract. I raised my eyebrows, but Kath shrugged.
With the decampment of the Dragoons from Anton and they claimed Marik service due to a contract breach (Jamie had recorded it, and presented it and the contract to the MRB and others, and with that, C*, gritting their teeth upheld the Dragoon’s decampment.) Anton’s troops collapsed, with the vast majority surrendering, when Janos promised no junior officer or enlisted would be executed or tainted for treason, only Majors and above, and even those if they surrendered right now, could escape the noose… except for his son and Anton, of course. While the vast majority took him up on that offer, roughly a battalion and a half of the Ducal guard had fled to Sian with Anton and Gerald in tow.
Katrina hadn’t done anything unexpected, actually, so in a lot of ways, outside the collapse of Anton earlier, and his escape, and the celebrations over the return of Tancredi IV being nearly seven years before it was supposed to happen. We already knew about the increased production of the Suns, though Blackwell’s increase again surprised all but Kath.
So, wait, the Snakes gave up Tancredi?” Case demanded. “Seriously?”
Not really, Pole.” Kath shook her head. “It’s more that Robinson was more or less feeding the roughly twenty to twenty-five new mechs a month he was getting into taking that world back. We have reserves finally convinced the Dragon, that holding Tancredi wasn’t going to be possible, so as a ‘temporary’ measure, saved what they could.” She snickered. “It really didn’t help that Robinson was launching raids up and down the border.”
Case smiled a bit coldly. “Well, damm. Sucks to be them. One world down, several more to go. I so hope we can be there when Hanse retakes Mara.”
Kath snorted. “I have serious doubts that we, as in the command task force will ever see action on the Combine front.” She looked at me. “He might be willing to bend on the Capellian front, but on that? No. He’s not going to risk that hurt again.” She snorted at Case’s groan.
No, you had to give into the shiny and get the shiniest prize of them all! Now we can’t go kill snakes, dammit!” Case threw up his empty hand, as the other had a bottle of Timbuktu dark in it. “I knew that’d come back and bite me.”
Kath soothed. “It’s not like she’ll always be with us, it’s quite possible that I’ll be tasked to take over the command TF, on occasion.”
Case suddenly looked up, starry eyed. “Really? And then we go kill Snakes?” He paused. “I’d even serve under you in that case!” His tone implied more than just service in battle, mind you.
Perv.” She shook her head. “Too young, back to the fish pond with you.”
Case sighed. “Dammit, the ladies old enough for me, won’t touch me unless they’re hard core cougars and those scare me… and those who will, are way too young.”
Sucks to be a teenager again, don’t it!” Evie chirped. Her attempt to paintball me for the trash incident, met an odd fate, when she realized she had hit a dummy I was using to spar on, instead of me, as I had moved just at the same time she fired. I had then spent an hour chasing her around Xanadu.
Uh, huh.” I sighed, looking upwards. “And you are one too, get used to it.”
The other redhead flopped across from me, in that boneless way that teenagers often seemed able to do. “Meh, rather not. So, when are we gonna get to killing things?’
I shrugged. “I doubt Kath is going to let us near the battlefield.”
Before the blond could speak, Case burped from a pull on his bottle. “ANd if she lost her mind, I’d beat what the US Army should have beat into your pretty little head. Stars do not fight. You of all fucking people, in this time, should frigging know this.”
I sighed. He was right. “Look, pole, I never commanded a battalion, much less higher. So yeah. While I was taught it, I never did it.” I nodded. “I’ll need to be reminded of that.”
Two voices, one female, one male, answered as one. “Oh, count on it.”
Hilton Head, Terra, Morning Local Time, Dec 20th, 3019
Tojo Jarlath, the new official Precentor ROM, head of Comstar’s Intelligence, walked into his superior’s office, and the Primus was enjoying a fine cup of Blue Mountain coffee.
Ah, Tojo, would you like a cup?” Julian Tiepolo was in a fine mood. “We finally got the exact blend of how the American presidents had their coffee during the last period of that so called Cold War of theirs. Quite excellent.”
Tojo noted it’d not only be rude to refuse, but as he was a coffee connoisseur, an insult to his hobby. Softly, he answered. “I would be delighted, sir.”
Excellent!” Julian bustled, serving his subordinate personally, a rare gesture, and shortly both me were sipping the beverage the most powerful man on Terra once drank. Julian’s smile indicated he knew the irony of the drink, and how much more powerful he was.
Alas, all good things come to an end, thought Tojo, who reluctantly didn’t ask for a second cup. “As you know, you placed a tasking on ROM, Primus, it’s complete.”
Julian tilted his head. “Did I not… oh, you wished to be complete, I presume.”
As well as some more recent information has come in, from one of one of our Adepts, nominally part of Rho, but really a ComGuard Mechwarrior we tapped for a mission. One Erin Larkin. I’m actually quite pleased with her performance, all things considered, even though I must admit I wished we had given her full training in Rho.”
Julian’s eyebrow rose as he sipped at a second cup, then he snorted. “Don’t be that way, Tojo, pour yourself a second cup, it’s Christmas, and unless you report Hanse has Prometheus, nothing can spoil this week.”
Tojo obeyed with a rare thin smile. “Thank you. As I was saying, Adept Larkin was assigned to join Baron Naka, the younger son of the Count of New Osaka?” Julian nodded following along.
I presume to see if he was left anything, and any locations?”
I would not be so gauche to say you are wrong, and you are of course correct in any manner.” Tojo responded.
No, you wouldn’t, as if you had one vice and weakness, it would be a new coffee blend. I already have your gift this year, thankfully.” Julian smiled, and Tojo returned it.
She was able to give some information, then the young baron fell out of contact.” Tojo gave a shrug. “She recently reported in, and is arriving on Terra for a debrief shortly, but in essence, the Baron was left enough to form a so-called mercenary band that did not register with us, then a location. Illyria.”
He was in command of that?” Julian was disturbed. “If the young adept took part in that, I will be… most disappointed. Make sure that’s found out.” Tojo nodded in response. Illyira had been sacked brutally by a combined arms regiment that hammered it flat. Only pictures were a purported mercenary command, and a death warrant issued by Katrina Steiner for the Baron, after his attainment.
I don’t believe she did, and even if she did, it could be argued it was needed for the mission we gave her, Sir.” Tojo reminded his superior.
... Find out, however, which it was if at all.” Julian sighed. “So. He did. What?”
The field library that Illyria had. Including its hardware research into Project SHIELD, or what Adept Black called CASPER III. The next generation of SDS systems, I believe.” Tojo winced, at the look of fury on Julian’s face.
Sir. She got a copy, and we have it. She thinks she may have been able to corrupt elements, focusing on those specifically and HPG research in the core, but she’s not sure.”
Julian’s tirade was held just to hear that, then a slight smile crossed his face. “Just the recovery of the data for ourselves, is a not so minor coup, I apologize, and a wonderful gift the young adept brought us, and as if you say, she has done a well done.”
Tojo nodded. “She also attempted to destroy the jumpships and dropships, but that wasn’t successful.”
Truly a shame that.” Julian shrugged. “But, as you say, she is really ComGuard, not Rho, so what she did, was exceptional on it’s own, I wager.”
As I said, I wish we had her trained in Rho, and if possible, I would like her.” Julian’s eyebrow rose. That was high praise.
Let’s give her some time to recover, then offer her the choice, shall we, my friend?” Julian shook his head. “As I remember right, those in Rho don’t just have to be good at what they do, but like it to some extent?”
Tojo nodded. “Yes, sir.”
So… do we know where the young ex-Baron is going? And with what?” Julian raised his eyebrow.
Two automated last generation Star League Defense Force dropship bays, about the equivalent of two dozen mech bays of the same nature, a few odds and ends, including one ground drone. And Adept Larkin believes, the Combine.”
Julian’s eyebrows furrowed. “Remind me again, about the automated bays you refer to?”
Tojo paused for a moment, then spoke. “As you know, part of the CASPER system was the Automated Repair Bay Systems, used to repair and rearm various craft.”
Yes, I do.” Julian wasn’t upset, he understood that the man wanted to be clear.
Tojo nodded, and continued on. “The Star League sometime in 2750 apparently developed a variant that was used normally on Royal Command and other units, including some Outpost Castles. I’ve done some research, and we knew about them, just that we thought they were all destroyed.”
The Primus tilted his head. “I take that wasn’t the case.”
No, sir. They also use the same computers and similar tooling as most late generation factories, such as Wagknar’s or Corean’s.”
I… see. Miss Onishi, no Baroness WinterFell, now, her dropships had these.” Julian nodded. One question answered, and a wry smile crossed his face. “Well, that answered how Hanse increased his production.”
Tojo nodded. “And presents us with a unique possibility.” Julian tilted his head.
We send technicians to help the Combine install these in a few factories, increasing their mech production by a small amount, say twenty to thirty a month… and as our price, acquire some for ourselves, which we will sell to the Confederation. We are helping with the project they have going, after all…” Tojo trailed off, to Julian’s thoughtful hum.
I like it. I really do, Make it happen, Tojo, and I assume that our technicians will be trying to see what data was recovered?” He received a nod.
Well, then. We’ll keep having them find a clutch of buried Battlemechs in reserve, then, since once your agents disable Hanse’s recent windfall…”
Quite so, though the cost of taking Tancredi IV back, pretty much expended the increased production the AFFS assigned to the Draconic Front, and Hasek Davion is playing games with his.” Tojo spread his hands. “The mission to infiltrate the production factories and the NAIS is still ongoing.”
And Miss Onishi’s little activities recently?” Julian asked idly.
We don’t believe she recovered a datacore, at least not yet. Hanse Davion would be crowing about it, I believe. Though given what she and he left the Reach, it’s fair to say they regained some more components for factories.” Tojo sighed. “We don’t know how much, and it may be needed to - instead of ‘Mechs - have the Combine and Confederation find some of their own automated bays, to fix their factories, since we now know how to build them, or shortly will.”
We’ll keep that in reserve, Jarleth.” Julian shook his head. “I can imagine the screaming at the young Adept’s ‘failure’.” The Primus snorted. “As you said, she didn’t have the training. What she attempted and did successfully do, was more than we could reasonably expect, no? She at least tried to deny the Scavenger Lords the ability to increase their warmaking potential. At great risk and cost.”
I thank you for that consideration. She seems to have a talent.” Julian smiled at Tojo. Who continued on, finishing his report. “In summary, we think the upcoming operation is aimed at weakening the Confederation, but won’t go for a year or more. It’s possible, we presume it could go as early as March, but our views of the Heavy Cavalry and Dragoons, which we expect to play a role in the battle, is that they’re not yet ready for the roles. Both units are still integrating new personnel, and while large, not at where they want to be, or so we think.”
Julian took another sip of his coffee, thinking for a moment. “At this time, I don’t think we want to derail that. Let Maximilian learn his place.” Julian smiled cruelly. “He will need us more, and so will Takashi. Hanse will do Blake’s will… then they will.”
And the young baroness?” Tojo’s question seemed innocent, but was one he had asked before.
I think now, yes, Tojo, if you could be so kind.” Julian greenlit the request. “And as for her sister, and brother? They too. And let us make sure that she didn’t leave anything behind for others to find.”
Pointing at…” Tojo trailed off.
Julian Tiepolo, the Primus of Comstar, and one of the most powerful people in the Inner Sphere… “Marik. Hanse is getting too close to them. Failing that, his attempts to woo Katrina annoy me. Loki makes a good foil.”
Blake’s will will be done, Sir.”