With a lever big enough I can move the world (Chapter 8)
A Battletech FanFiction
With a lever big enough I can move the world
Andrew “MageOhki” Norris
See Chapter 1 for disclaimers and other information
I would like to thank Drakensis for kibitzing and Editing, JG/Joe Gunnarson (Of Whateley fame) for the same, Valles, Case/Fosfor, Minako/Scratx for kibitizing. Y'all made this go a LOT faster than the first two, thank you. Psyckosama deserves a special shoutout for helping reinspire, some basic visualization and idea throwing.
One of the debates when you theorize time travel, at least in my 20th century memories was, translated for 31st century people, ‘Would you go back and kill Amaris at 20, no as a baby’, before he had committed the horrors. The question is, that I still don’t have a good answer for, when you know someone is going to be scum, do you kill him first? I never did get a good answer, as in one case, it was the right call not to, in another, it wasn’t.
Diplomacy, politics, hades, most business, is the art of smiling at men and women you’d rather shoot. On occasion, in this universe, you do get to shoot them. But they get to shoot you, too, and incoming fire always has the right of way.
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.
Airlock, Dropship Camelot, New Damasus System, Midday, Dec 20th, 3015.
Hanse had insisted I be by his side as he greeted one of his most powerful vassals. Given it was Michael Hasek, who had added Davion after marrying Hanse’s bastard older sister Marie, I tried to beg off. Didn’t work, so here I was, magboots locked to a bulkhead, as Hanse greeted a lean, thin-faced man with braided black hair, an AFFS uniform with Field Marshal tabs and a practiced smile. I didn’t buy it, nor did Hanse, and Michael’s eyes were a bit flintly, as he turned to me.
"And so, this is the girl who brought us increased production!” His attempt at a jovial tone, wasn’t bad, per say, but my trained ear knew it was false.
"I was just doing my duty to the Federated Suns, as any good citizen should.” I demurred his praise, as Hanse nodded with an amused smile.
Michael hinted at things, and was trying to imply I hadn’t been rewarded enough, yet. “But it’s the duty of the First Prince to reward such attention to duty, isn’t it? And again, when you do it again.”
Hanse interrupted, and shook his head. “We’re still in discussions about the precise rewards she should receive. Kikyo has a will of steel, and isn’t enamoured of certain things most would take with pleasure.”
Michael blinked. “Ah… well.” Michael looked at his liege’s body language, and mine, as Hanse slipped an arm around my waist, to steer us into the briefing room. “I see. Well, then that is one way to reward, I gather…” He shook his head with a smile. “And a pleasant one. So… the media wasn’t a false flag?”
I kept quiet, as Hanse just shook his head. “At first, but… Well, Michael, I seem to remember quite well your pursuit of Marie.”
Michael smiled, though there was a faint ugly cast to it. “As you say. May I offer my hopes that it leads to future happiness for you both and the Suns?”
I smiled, as Hanse nodded. “Thank you, Michael… As I said, we’re still in discussions.” Hanse’s smile indicated several things.
"Well, I am sure most of the Federated Suns hopes for a very fruitful outcome.” Michael nodded. As we headed to the briefing room, I wondered where Marie was.
"May I ask where Her Grace is, Duke Hasek-Davion?” I inquired politely. I actually was curious, since I suspected Marie had some pointed questions for me.
Michael smiled a bit more naturally. “Morgan, our son, isn’t doing too well, from the rapid jumps, so she’s tending to him. She told me she is ah… eager to meet you. And would do so, shortly.” We had arrived at the briefing room, and I looked at Hanse.
"If Her Grace wishes my time, then I need to finish some paperwork and deal with some ah… issues, Hanse? Your Grace? I think she deserves my full attention and as much time as I can give” I was polite about asking to get away from the weasel, and Hanse just nodded.
"Denying us your lovely presence, m’lady? Is a shame, but paperwork waits for no one, as anyone who rules or commands know. And yes, Marie and you have much to discuss, I think. Words that mere males should not be privy to.” He turned to Hanse. “I’m sure we have issues to discuss that is only for senior people to know, don’t we Hanse?”
Hanse tilted his head at Michael, and smiled. There was an edge there that I didn’t like, did the issues between Hanse and Michael go deeper than was hinted at in the future-that-was? Interesting. “Oh, while I wanted to discuss some issues that Kikyo has a stake in, I do have some things that she isn’t cleared for, and this is as good of a time as any, I suppose. And yes, Marie really does want to talk to you, Kikyo, she’s said as much in her letters to me.” I took that as my cue to flee, though I did so without showing anything.
Shortly I was back aboard Xanadu, where Evie and Case waited. Evie looked me up and down, and appeared disappointed, while Case just shook his head.
"I know you’d not skin the Weasel yet, sexpot. Dammit.” Case sighed. “Can I arrange for him to go pop, please?” His attempt at kitten eyes in his scruffy mode amused me.
Evie joined in with her more effective ones. “Pleaase?”
"There is a reason I didn’t bring you two, you realize. And we don’t kill men for what they would do, we are civilized people in a civilized realm, with laws and courts that actually work.”
Evie and Case turned to each other. Looked, turned to me and in unison. “But it’d save the taxpayers money!”
I paused. They had a point, given all things, and the level of havoc Michael had done. But I steeled myself, like Espinoza, we couldn’t kill baby cocksucker in his crib.
"No. If we get proof… we do it right.”
Case and Evie tilted their heads. “Rios needs a raise, she really does.” Case finally said. “She’s working for a bleeding heart.”
Before I could chase the two out to find their own amusements, outside of killing the weasel, Evie had the last words. “Literally if she keeps this up.”
Kikyo’s office, Dropship Xanadu, Early Afternoon
I looked up as Katherine walked in, trailed by three people. I blinked. I blinked again. “Holy shit, it’s Sean Connery and his younger brother, who has a hot redhead poured over him.” I blurted out. Really, seriously, FASA and CAT Labs, what the hell?
Breaking out in laughter, Katherine doubled over, while Jamie shook his head bemused. “That’s now two people who call me that, and I still don’t know why.”
I looked at the laughing Natasha and Katherine, then at the bemused brothers. “... I think Natasha has seen some 20th century movies… I think I actually have a few of Sir Connery’s films in Xanadu’s library…”
"Oh.” Jamie blinked. He paused, blinked again. “That… explains how you knew it, but not Katherine. Nor how you knew that Anton was going to be well… “
Stupid. “Panicked enough to break your contract, and seek leverage over you in any way?”
Jamie nodded, recognizing that I had caught his unsaid word, and was being polite. “As good of a description, I suppose, General.” He tilted his head. I blinked and face palmed, hitting a button.
"Keria, please bring some coffee and… eight mugs, and if you would be so kind as to have Lieutenant Winters and Corporal Kessler come?”
Jamie’s eyebrow rose, but he took the invitation as meant, and settled into one of the loungers I had bolted to the deck in an apparently haphazard arrangement, while the other three Dragoons, ex or otherwise, took their own, though ‘Tasha seemed to like using Joshua as hers. The arrangement wasn’t haphazard, as this way I had a clear view of the main hatch, and only had to slightly turn my head to directly view the majority of the people in the office. As a bonus, I had a fairly large area to have people stand in front of the desk, if I needed that type of environment
I simply waited til Keria arrived,she quietly served coffee, while paying close attention to Natasha Kerensky, as if she was a hungry pit viper, and left the serving setting and a large carafe of coffee. Jamie took a sip, and raised an eyebrow.
"I would pay good money to have your supplier, General…” He trailed off.
"Kikyo, you have time on me, if nothing else.” As I said that, Jamie’s eyes narrowed. He sensed that I didn’t mean age.
"Holy shit, he really is Sean Connery.” A female voice blurted out, as Jamie turned his head, and Evie reacted shocked.
Case looked at both. “And his brother is an evil twin. Both must have gotten serious play.” He grinned at both, and looked at Natasha. “Name the place, name the time, and we’ll see who’s the best… and I got a C-bill saying it’s not you, trashborn.”
Before Natasha even reacted, the Archon-clone wrapped her arm around Case’s neck and rubbed her knuckle on his head. “Don’t pull that crap with her, Case.”
"Kath?” Natasha asked her best friend in confusion.
"Numbskull here thinks he can pick a fight with Number One because he has Hax.”
"I’m that good Lady, what you all had hundred of years of hack scientists trying? I beat by being me. And I’m all natural.” Case waggled his eyebrows. “So… fight me.”
Natasha stared at him for a moment before eyeing Katherine, who ground her knuckles harder in response.
"Challenge her after explanations, you Pole. ‘Tasha, I didn’t say anything. Wait for the explanation, everything will be obvious at that point.”
"I’ll take your word for that, Kath.”
I facepalmed. “Dammit… you Pole.” I looked at Jamie who was amused, and Joshua who was eying a person who made a bespoke spidersilk tunic and Somerset wool turtleneck look scruffy somehow.
Jamie’s voice broke in in exactly the same accent and tone that the actor Sean Connery had used in Hunt for Red October. “Considering that I had some questions, I suspect they’ll be answered here and now, anyways without me asking.” His smile was a bit quirky as ‘Tasha and Joshua turned to him.
I shook my head. “You won’t like them, and the best way to say it, is I doubt you’d believe them, anyways.” I paused. “The answers, at least.”
Katherine dragged Case to a chair and dropped him on it before settling down herself, “Play nice for now. You can play with Natasha later.”
Case sulked, but obeyed, looking at the two older females in the room that were Cav.
"Alright, so. Since we’re all here and sitting down, we may as well get started,” Katherine began. “This is a closely kept secret and, for reasons that will become apparent, it should stay as such. It is on the wild side of things, but… it’s real.”
Natasha was definitely paying close attention to her best friend now, wondering where she was going with it.
"I am sure it might not come as a surprise, given my past as Cloud Cobra, that I have a much more spiritual outlook than most of us.”
"Kath!” Natasha said, looking scandalized she’d name-drop that.
"Chill, ‘Tasha. One of the things that many of us believe is in reincarnation, that our spirits would, after death, return to the living world as a new person. That sometimes the spirits who reincarnate can actually remember some of their past lives and there have always been some reports of such claims over the ages. Rather hard to prove, usually… except, here we are.”
Jaime interrupted before she could finish. “... Really. That… “ Jaime’s eyes flashed with something unusual. “... that explains a lot, if true.” He tilted his head. “Them too?”
I simply nodded.
"Yeah,” Katherine confirmed. “We all are and, whether by accident or design we all have enough in common that Kikyo tracked me down. And this is where things get… crazy-sounding.”
"Reincarnation isn’t crazy-sounding?” ‘Tasha piped in.
"Not in comparison. You see, our spirits came from Terra but from what we can tell it’s not quite this Terra. In that Terra, an entertainment company developed a table-top game in the twentieth century called Battletech. It was designed to allow players to battle with giant war machines called battlemechs and it featured a fictional setting where five Great Houses were fighting over the remnants of a Star League. The lore would develop to encompass events up to the mid-thirty-second century, covering such events as the short-lived Amaris Empire, General Kerensky’s Exodus, the First, Second and Third Succession Wars -”
"Us?” “Tasha broke in, amazed. “Wait… that explains how you knew Anton was a betrayer… What’d he do?”
Katherine nodded, taking the interruption in stride. “Kristofur was actually Precentor ROM, manipulating Anton into bleeding the Dragoons and trying to force a resupply run. ComStar wants to know where we came from and even now they’ve got their Explorer Corps out there, looking for us. They’d find us in 3048, triggering a Clan Invasion. As for what exactly would’ve happened in New Delos that I was trying to derail and Kikyo managed to do so brilliantly, if rather bluntly? Anton would’ve taken our dependents in his HQ hostage, including Joshua, and executed them. Our response would’ve been swift and brutal, with you, ‘Tasha, leading a company of mechs through the backwoods of his HQ, while the woods are on fire. A famous action, but I think we all agree we’d rather have the need for that avoided.”
Jaime nodded. “And you,” He turned to look me in the eye, nodding once. “Wanted to be sure that didn’t happen, did you not?”
I spread my hands slightly. “I rather not have a fellow soul stealer decide killing her way til she found someone to put her out of her misery was a good idea.”
‘Tasha blinked, confused, as Case barked out a laugh. “Not the same red hair type, Cabbit, Evie is the soulstealer, you’re just the succubus.” Evie joined Case in laughing.
"Each freckle is a soul. Where are yours, Major Kerensky?” Evie asked amused. “Otherwise, you’re not a good redhead, out to eat souls…”
Katherine chuckled as Natasha finally caught on to the reference. Instead of snarking, however, she mulled over Kikyo’s words and what they meant before speaking up. “You say I reacted to Joshua’s death by seeking someone capable of killing me?”
"It’s a theory,” Katherine said, “that fits you. We can’t be sure and none of us wants to find out for real.”
I rolled my eyes as Evie coughed. “Bullshit,” was heard at least twice.
I shrugged as ‘Tasha went to glare at Evie. “It’s a working theory, and given group psychology and cultural norms that you grew up with, the most likely one. Humans are social animals, and we tend to prefer relationships. You don't have one, you feel like a useless waste. It’s what it is.”
Evie broke down laughing. “And you would take up the proper course, and become the most listed cause of death in mechwarriors!” She sniggered. “I wonder how many freckles you’d have had…”
Case snorts. “And only to be pulled down by the Jade Pigeons. If I recall right, it took something like two full Trinaries? And even then, half didn’t make it…” He grinned. “Poor shitbirds.”
"Something that we almost certainly butterflied away,” Katherine interjected. “Not that I don’t mind teaching pigeons who the alphas are, but if they stay in the Homeworlds everyone is better off, including themselves. The sheer degree of self-destructiveness the Clans got to after Operation Revival failed is only comparable to the degree of sheer spite and dumbshittery the Word of Blake got to when their cherished ‘Second -”
Three hisses at the name of Word of Blake broke Katherine’s train, as the Strays all made warding signs suited to the cultures they now had grown up with, as if Katherine had mentioned the very Devil himself’s name.
"As I was saying,” Katherine resumed with barely a pause after the unexpected interruption, “The Clans basically self-destructed after the Clan Invasion failed. Split between the Clans that made it to the Inner Sphere and those who didn’t. Then whoever the fuck it was made IlKhan, started reaving Bloodlines left and right and they had a god damned civil war, with bio-weapons manufactured to kill entire bloodlines in the mix. So yeah, let’s not go there.”
Natasha looked horrified even as Katherine shuddered. “Bio-weapons? What… Stravag would use them?”
Case snorted. “Better ask which one wouldn’t, I mean, for all your pious words about civilians, Tanite worlds, what the leadership at the reaving did to Blood Spirits, I could go on, but, your scientists got tired of being below the warriors, and felt, hey, we breed you, so, you should be below us… and subverted Coyote.” He shrugged. “And it’s not so much that the invading Clans were much better, really. Nova Cats get visions leading them to become good little Combine drones, then get wiped, Smoked Kitties glaze a city or two with warships… and let’s not get started on what insanity Wolf gets up to.”
Katherine mutters “Turtle Bay” at the Smoked Kitty reference.
Evie joins in Case’s derison. “It’s like all the clans period compete to see how many war crimes by the Ares Conventions or even Nicholas’ own guidelines they can commit. Honestly… if I recall…” She looks at Kikyo, a question in her eyes.
"Ghost Bears, Diamond Sharks, Hell’s Horses, and Snow Ravens are the cleanest, yes, but outside the first two, if I recall right, even they do a bit of war crime for fun and profit… and the Sharks… well, you know how they play.” I pause. “And frankly, the Ghost Bears by the last time I checked the future-that-was, in what the writers called the Dark Age, aren’t really clan. And counting the Homeworlds and Inner Sphere, I think maybe a dozen are left?”
Case and Evie shrug, turning to Katherine. Before they could speak, Joshua sighed.
"None of that surprises me, not really.” All the heads snap to him. He shrugged. “As much as I hate to admit it, I suspect Kerlin thinks the same, that the Inner Sphere society would corrupt the hell out of the Clans, and the Clans wouldn't take that very well.”
Jaime nods. “I see it in the Dragoons. Even the ones raised and well, the most ardent Clan way believers..” He spread his hands. “Continue, Colonel.”
"There’s some irony there, because the IlKhan that started the Reavings was doing so under the idea they’d been corrupted by the Inner Sphere and he was purifying the Clans. It was poetic justice that the end of that war was marked by his own reaving in the Grand Council by his fellow Khans after someone pointed out he’d been in the Inner Sphere too,” Katherine said. “But that’s less important than the main take-away from this. If the Clans invade? They’ll likely end up self-destructing and it’s vital we ensure they do as little collateral damage to us, in the Inner Sphere, as possible. Ideally, they don’t come at all or we change the situation such that a political settlement might become possible between the Clans and the Inner Sphere. I’ve no real idea how to accomplish that, but given the Clans would most likely want a new Star League? Might come around to establishing one in some form that’s acceptable to them. Or not. I’m more worried about keeping them out right now.”
Katherine paused for a moment before adding, “One way of doing that could just be super-powering a Great House to end the war, too.”
I shook my head. “I’ve mentally noodled that out. Problem is, at best, given what you told us, my sandbox figure is fifteen years before the clans invade, assuming we do manage to piss off Comstar enough to send out lots of ships, at worst, 3050’s. No Great House, not as they stand, can win the wars, unless we superpower a union of two of them. Even then…” I waggle my hand slightly. “Three would be better, though… There is a way, which is deeply depressing to one side of me, that the Clans can fit in.”
Evie’s eyebrows rose at the last. “I call bullshit.”
"Drak did it, in his story, ‘Along Came A Spider.’” I shrugged.
Case looked up. “Thinking Warrior Houses?” I nod in response.
Natasha raised an eyebrow. “As in the Capellans? Making a Clan fit like a Warrior House? Who’s Drak?”
Evie giggled. “Bookwyrm, maniac, singing battleship… Actually a writer. As you might have guessed, any setting gets somewhat or fully creative people altering it, for various reasons, their interpretation, et al, it’s called Fanworks, and Drak, short for Drakensis, did several fanworks, more precisely fanfiction, set in Battletech. I don’t recall the details of the story Kikyo referred to…”
"Alternative universe, where the change from Canon, is instead of … 3055?” I shook my head. “Anyways, instead of dying during and after the Clan Invasion is stopped, Jamie Wolf dies at Misery in 3028. Leaving only one original Dragoon officer alive.” I smiled at Natasha. “You.” I grinned at her recoil in horror. “Kerlin Ward...” All three Dragoons turned to Katherine who just shook her head with a smile, as I continued, “Gave Jamie orders to and I quote, prepare the Inner Sphere for invasion.” I tilted my head. “‘Tasha there wanted to do them, but was actually a bit better than Colonel Wolf, because she realized she was out of her depth on how to do it, while Jaime’s solution was to basically train the IS to fight like Clanners.” I snorted at the last.
Jaime considered the new information, especially regarding Kerlin’s purported orders which he’d already suspected were his intent, but Natasha didn’t react nearly as well. “No… Kerlin wouldn’t do that, would he? You… you’re lying.”
Katherine hopped out of her seat even as Joshua embraced the redhead. The blonde gently turned Tasha’s face to look at her even as she lowered herself to be level with her.
"It makes sense…” I sigh. “Kerlin, and to an extent Ulric, his successor, are Wardens. I’ll admit that I believe they’re the closest to Aleksandr’s views, mind you, so there’s some fondness from me, and if you’re a Warden, whose core view is to defend the Inner Sphere, doesn’t that mean you defend it from the Crusaders?” I tilted my head. “In that view, you could argue that the Crusaders are breaking the Unity, which I don’t really get, mind you, but I understand the importance.” I pause, then Case breaks in.
"And in a way, you could argue he was trying to protect the Clans, too. I doubt that Kerlin had a clue what’d happen, but…” The Pole turned Outworlder shrugged. “But didn’t he actually take as a bondsman a Scorpion so he could drain the guy of all the history knowledge?”
"Tasha, back in Terra, miners used to have a bird called a canary inside a mine’s tunnels as a warning sign that there was poisonous air building up and they had to get out. The Dragoons are the canary for the Inner Sphere. Think about it, if all we’re supposed to do is play mercenary to get some inside information, exactly why did we need to be as big as this? Why not simply send no more than a regiment. Or a battalion. Or even better, send two or three smaller units, hire out to different Houses and get the recon done even faster? Why did we need to come with the things we left behind?”
Katherine made a brief dramatic pause before resuming, “Because Kerlin wanted us to be the warning to the Inner Sphere that the Clans are out there and they will come, and do so in such a way that he can feign innocence and protect Clan Wolf in the process. That is why, Tasha, why we are so damn oversized, why we are riddled with Lostech, why he tried to and in fact succeeded in pushing us into taking hardware, mechs, that were never produced in the Inner Sphere. He wanted everyone to know. He just can’t outright tell anyone, even us, that it is his intent, because that puts Clan Wolf in jeopardy. Not if he has any choice whatsoever about it.”
I nod. “It’s a smart play, and bluntly, the cover’s so threadbare, that everyone suspects it, at least in some sense, that you’re the SLDF-in-Exile.” I shrug. “Even with Katherine doing her best to get the ‘Oh, Hai, there, we’re still inventing stuff!” batshit stupid clues out, just five regiments with a pile of well mantained and equiped gear from ‘nowhere’ would have been enough. Add in the infosec you do well, as well as the stuff Kath couldn’t keep out?” I shrug. “The only question that the spooks have, is, are you a recon in force in prep to invasion, or for ‘Okay, what’s going on’, only. And it’d not surprise me if the OAI has more than a bit of a clue about the existence of the Clans, and I’m honestly surprised the LIC doesn’t, given the Hansa.”
Jaime simply nodded, having come to that conclusion on his own already while mentally noting to ask a question of Katherine soon, who was busy looking at her best friend as she processed yet more information that stomped on her world-view. Much like anyone else, there was only so much she could take in one go without taking her time.
"Tasha?” the blonde asked softly, but the redhead simply curled up on Joshua’s lap and turned to him, hugging him hard.
Yeah, Katherine thought, that was about it for the redhead. Too many shocks. She stepped back and let Joshua comfort her fellow Bloodnamed.
"Kath,” she heard from Connery, “how much do they know about what we left behind?”
"Roughly what we did bring, but not where. It’s the Dragoon’s, nobody else’s. Your call on what to do with it, Jaime, but I have to give you fair warning based on what we know of ComStar. They recovered several warships the Great Father left behind and should have at least three, all new builds, on active duty right now. Their naval bases should primarily be Luyten and Ross, although they also got their hands on Gabriel in the Odessa system. I have no proof but I think, given we have the coordinates of those bases, we could come up with a plan to covertly peek at them and confirm that intel.”
"I can think of three ways, offhand to do it, all of which I’ll give Hanse. Only problem is, at least outside of Odessa, are the odds that ComStar kept what likely was there before they moved on.” I looked at Kath. “While I have not…” Case and Evie snorted. “Asked if there’s any other butterflies with the Dragoons, shall we say…” I looked at the pair of giggling teenagers who had amazingly kept silent… helped by death glares from older women, I’ll have to admit… “And I know what you told them…” I shrug.
Looking Wolf in the eye, I simply stated. “I consider what I’m about to tell you equal to where you are from, and in the future-that-was, while I disagreed with your choices on how to go about Kerlin’s orders, you did them, and you tried to be as good of a Warden as you could be.” I waited til Jamie nodded. “We didn’t just loot Arutu and Spencer.” I smile. “We got the Blackwatch, the ultimate map of SLDF and other Royal or even tighter locations, and Katherine cracked it. And yes, as I suspect you suspect, Artru’s not having a datacore is a lie.”
Jamie simply nodded, as Joshua held out a hand to his brother. “Pay me.”
I rolled my eyes and continued. “One of those locations was the fallback for the fleets in the area… a hidden shipyard that could be disassembled.” Jamie’s eyebrows rose at that, and I let Katherine pick up.
"Essentially, a pair of Hughes stations and a clutch of ships the Great Father opted to not push for a hurried recommissioning. Of greater interest, though, was finding that they were running a development project on powered armor meant for marine operations. If you recall the Nighthawk Powered Armor the SLDF used to have, then you have a good idea of what we’re looking at here, Jaime.”
Jamie nodded once and turned to me. “I doubt you have the Princes’ authorization to tell me this… so. I’m learning to read between the lines, finally. Exactly what are you after, young… or not so young lady?” He grinned at the last, a nod to the reincarnation I suppose.
I smile at him. “Help converting the STAR, that was the name they assigned, though I think we’ll give them a different name…” He nodded at that, chuckling. “To regular infantry suits, or more precisely, armored jump infantry.” Joshua whistled at that thought.
Jamie thought for a moment, and then asked. “I’m surprised you don’t want our aid in developing Elementals.” ‘Tasha gasped at that. “Since you and Kath seem on the same page on how to defend the Inner Sphere from the Crusaders…”
I grin, while I didn’t fully agree with Kath, just the waste of life involved in an quantitative type strategy offended me, she wasn’t far wrong. “I disagree with the cost of her plan, but the basic strategy she outlined would work, just more wasteful of life than most would approve of.” I sigh. “I don’t want you all to get Reaved. Natasha will have, I guess, a daughter in the Invasion, and if our battle armor seemed to be a downteched Elemental…”
Jamie blinked, and winced. “Point taken.”
"It’s best if whatever we get is legitimately an Inner Sphere creation without using Clan blueprints. That doesn’t mean we can’t help, but we can’t just give the blueprints and say ‘build this’. That would make it obvious and land us and Clan Wolf in deep trouble,” Kath said. “We don’t want that.”
Three snorts answered her. “We don’t want it for the current Clan Wolf. What happens after Revival? Those dicks deserve all the screwing they can get, without a reach around. They become as bad as Smoked Kitties.” Case snorted.
"Not arguing otherwise, but that story’s complicated enough. Wolf ended up split in two after all was done, remember? Crusaders on one side, Wardens on the other.”
"A micro-schism to reflect what was going on in the Clans.” Jamie nodded. “But again, I don’t think that’s quite all, General.”
I smiled. “Depends on how crewed your warships are. We’ve implied, and flat out stated Comstar isn’t neutral, and has its own plans.” Jamie nodded. “To pay the share that the Suns owes the Heavy Cavalry… we got most of the shipyard and station. I’d like it to arrive at Panpour intact, mind you, and while it’s getting set up....”
"Insurance against sudden warship attack, I see,” he concluded. “You want us to activate our warships and keep them out of sight, covering our, and your, strategic assets.”
I nod. “It would be very annoying to lose that station, yes.” I smile. “And well, honestly, who better to train future armor wearers than your people.” Jamie chuckled.
"Well, I was going to tell Kath this, but you’re absolutely right in what Kerlin’s been up to. The resupply between the Davion Contract and the Liao-Marik one, basically sent us our own Hughes, to support those warships. He also sent along a clutch of Snowdens…” With that he paused, seeing my nod. “To mine away to feed it. While I didn’t use the station.” He chuckled. “I think seeing us sell jumpships from nowhere would have blown every House Lord’s mind as well as ComStar, and it’d be ‘WHERE’, and no expense spared to find them.” He raised an eyebrow
"I… think you just might underestimate that response.” I was rewarded by everyone, including ‘Tasha laughing in some form or the other.
"However, the station wasn’t idle, and Kerlin had been shipping the metals back to clan space.” He shrugged. “We’ve been doing our reports that way now.”
"Yeah, I didn’t know that,” Katherine admitted, “just how much was he shipping back? Out of curiosity. I’m going to laugh if he’s actually making a profit out of this.”
Jamie smiled. “I’d wonder if our scientists stole some Cobra genetake, yes, if I didn’t know better. Try on average two Behemoth loads a month. About five to ten percent germanium.” He paused. “This of course is not counting the fact the station has produced four Invaders, and two went back.” He paused and nodded, amused. “And the food for the personnel involved, is why we were spending a lot more than you thought we should.” The last was sent to Kath. “I’m not completely insane, Kath.”
Katherine nodded, running figures through her head before laughing. “Kerlin’s expenditures mostly amount to obsolete hardware we had in storage and for that he gets quite a rich supply of minerals and jumpships… If he hasn’t already made the investment back I’ll be very surprised. It’s only the stations and the shipyard themselves that are the biggest expenditure. Jumpships to a certain extent too, but I think some of them got pulled off a cache.”
Jamie nodded. “They did, and would it surprise you that when a Behemoth, also built at the station, doesn’t arrive at the meet point, a Snowden or a replacement shipyard or Alliance component does? I’d say about every month for the last eighteen months. He’s also sending extra people, not warriors, though a few get sent every trip, that way to us. Slowly, but the stations and the planet are self supporting easily, and there’s even warship production now, there.”
I blink. Case and Evie shoot up looking at Jamie. Who simply smiles back.
Katherine grinned. “If he had glasses I’d call him Hara-guro Megane (腹ぐろ眼鏡). Instead, I’ll settle for Magnificent Bastard.”
I shake my head. “He’s topped Shirou, Kath. Shirou at the least didn’t have to do it against eighteen paranoid asshole groups. Damm. And if, and I suggest you do, tell him Comstar has a small explorer fleet…”
"And what would he do with that information? Not that I disagree with informing him, mind,” Jaime asked. “We’ll need confirmation about Luyten and Ross, was it?”
"Yes,” Katherine confirmed. “Luyten, Ross and Gabriel, though the last is probably impossible to get a bead on without being spotted in turn.”
I shake my head. “Gabriel is the easiest, actually, just time consuming. Remember the CIA station we found, Kath?”
"I do. What about it?”
Case and Evie both snorted. “Bets the pair of systems have a similar setup, Kath? If nothing else, they’ll know someone jumped too close to their systems. Odessa is easier to insert a long slow probe in and out of.” Case shrugged. Evie countined.
"It’s like the Navy’s…” She paused and saw sets of blank looks at her. “The United States Navy, I mean, SOSUS arrays, Kath. The big huge sonar nets. Just for KF drives.” She frowned. “We really need to test how sensitive they are, not trusted without adult supervision boss lady.” I snort in reply, then get a thoughtful look.
"I’m familiar with SOSUS and I did figure out what it does… I hadn’t considered ComStar might have their own, good catch. I doubt they can tell the difference between a jumpship and a warship but we can only be sure once we test it. Mass-wise the Dantes are easily within jumpship plus dropships’ range so I don’t think we can tell them apart simply based on mass,” the blonde clarified.
I tilt my head, running things though my mind to various sets of stares. “Without actually doing some serious number crunching and hell, doing an experiment or two, I can’t tell if they could, though I suspect mass is the big one, concede.” I note Jamie’s raised eyebrow. “Wolfnet didn’t report my degree?” Jamie’s eyebrow still remained raised.
"The jump detector is just an array of the same basic sensor in reactors to detect KF fluctuations, and microholes.” Case quietly lectured. “Just larger units, likely built better, lots of them in a huge pattern, with massive computer support to back it up.” Case shrugged. “While the sexpot figured it out first, I’ve been running some numbers. Thirty to sixty light year radius, is an offhand guess, could be as low as fifteen could be as high as ninety, but yeah, as Evie pointed out, traffic makes a difference.” He paused, then nodded. “Is Kikyo paranoid? Yep. Is she paranoid enough? Damned good question, that.” He shrugged. “Which is why the make like a rock plan she has for Gabriel isn’t a really good idea for the other two.” Jamie just looked at the scruffy teenager. Who finally relented. “I’m not an idiot.”
Evie snarked. “No, you just play one, until it’s time for SCIENCE!” Case laughed and I looked at Case.
"Is that why half of Xanadu’s spare parts are missing?” I tilt my head. “You built a mini array?” Case didn’t look me in the eye as he shifted slightly. Katherine laughed.
Evie giggled. “Ask no questions~~~” She paused. “It was fun.”
"Yeah, I would bet it was. I hope the parts are reusable once you’re done experimenting with them, otherwise that’s a pretty big hole in our budget. Those things aren’t cheap,” Katherine said.
Case shrugged. “Sexpot can afford it, worse comes to worse, she does another movie. Flash some leg, lean over, it worked on Hanse.” I glare at Case.
"Now, now, can’t ask Kiki to pick up the tab for everything you do. I wonder what kind of roles you could be cast into… hmm… Han Solo?” Katherine wondered.
I look at Case, framing him as if in a camera lens. “Nah. He doesn’t quite have the vibe you need to be an actor.”
"OI!” Case protested, only to be overridden by Evie’s giggles, and Jamie’s bemused looking at us.
"Ahem.” Jamie smiled slightly. “So… make like a rock?” He tried to get the conversation on track.
"Y’see, it’s like this. Create a very low powered camera and other passive sensor drone, toss it on a ballistic course past your target, collect at the other end. Voila! Info and no one the wiser. If it’s a small space rock, who expects it to be a spy in disguise?” Evie grinned.
I simply nod.
Katherine nodded. “Good girl, that’s the right explanation. Won’t work on Luyten and Ross nearly as well if they have the means to detect a KF Jump without seeing the emergence signature the traditional way but… something to look into. And I’ll be right back, I got something.”
She grinned before briefly vacating the room.
Jamie looked at us, shaking his head. “We have much to think on, and much to discuss, though why would Kerlin want to know? You’re implying he’d …” Jamie quietly stopped and realized. “In the … future-that-was, he cut us off completely, didn’t he?” I nodded. “And if he knows Comstar and others are looking for us, he can use that as the excuse to do it again.”
I nodded softly. I was watching Natasha.
The red-headed bloodnamed was subdued in Joshua’s lap, a haunted expression on her face and, apparently, not in a mood to really speak up at that point.
"It’s the best way, since the Inner Sphere if it held on the original track, even without some discoveries of recovered and hidden information, was beginning to rebuild, and Kerlin could tell that. The Crusaders don’t want honor, they don't want glory, I’m not sure they want the Star League. They want easy prey.”
"And if Kerlin told the truth about everything, they’d come before the Inner Sphere was ready.” Jamie finished. “And in the…” He smiled, liking the term. “future-that-was, it was a near run thing, wasn’t it?” Before I could respond, the door opened once again, admitting the Steiner back in, holding a box of… crayons?
"Fancy snacks for the Evie! For a job well done,” she said before walking over and dropping it on her lap.
Evie took one out, and looked at it. “If fancy, where’s the glue?”
Case broke out in laughter as even Natasha, who was dealing with her worldviews being stomped on by stiletto heels, joined the other two Dragoons in looking at Evie.
"Oh, my, you’re right, I seem to have forgotten about the glue. What a shame. Still, you have crayons, why don’t you open them up?” she said with a grin.
Evie does so, looking at the foil wrapped crayons. She pulled one out, and unwrapped it, studying it. “This isn’t a crayon…” With that, she bit and groaned.
"So.” I finally said. “That’s where my white chocolate went.”
"You need to stick to a diet to stay in shape anyways, Kiki, physical exercise notwithstanding,” she said grinning. “Besides, how could you deny Evie her crayons? That would be cruel~”
Jamie tilted his head with a smile. “I propose, General, that we take a break. I do believe that the Duchess of New Syrtis should be visiting you shortly, and at least on my side, I have several things to think on before we come to agreements. And I believe you have a thief to punish. With your permission?” He didn’t need to ask, per say, but I nodded quietly, as the two male Dragoons stood, with Joshua still holding Natasha. I watched as they left, with Jamie smiling at Katherine for some reason.
Turning to the blonde I just gave her my own sharp smile as Evie was in bliss, and Case had slipped out. “Do you know how hard Dephi White is to get in New Avalon?”
Kikyo’s office, Dropship Xanadu, Mid-late Afternoon.
I looked up as my hatch opened and a redheaded woman walked in, and sat across from my eyes, uninvited. I recognized her, of course, Marie Hasek-Davion.
"Your Grace. Welcome.” I politely responded to her rudeness, as I again pressed for Keria’s attention and the second buzz was a hint for drinks. “It will be only a moment for refreshment. If you had called ahead...”
Marie’s eyes flashed slightly. “As soon as my son was settled from the jumps we’ve done, I came. I have some pointed questions.”
I didn’t nod, just looked at her. “I understand. After all I’m a threat to your son’s inheritance.” This was a probe, to confirm she wasn’t thrilled with the idea of Morgan Hasek-Davion, her son, inheriting the throne.
Her snort answered that. “If that was my only concern, I’d march you to the altar with a sword at your back myself.”
I blinked. That was… blunt. “I… see.” Marie was cut off by Keria’s entry and her quiet service. I had to suppress a smile, Keria was drawing on period movies to provide the perfect ‘maid’ type service, and I knew it amused her at the same time it grated on her.
Marie sipped and an eyebrow raised. “I may have to steal your steward.”
"That’s twice now someone’s made grabby motions at my coffee… how hard is it to order?” I wondered out loud.
Marie didn’t respond, but looked at me. “You, Baroness, are an actress, reputed to be somewhat of loose morals, a gold digger, or so it’s said, and reckless in the extreme.”
I tilted my head. “First… accurate. Second… I’d argue, but the reputation is there, and as for the third…” I snort. “Pure money isn’t a problem. Not anymore.” I shake my head. “As for the fourth… I suppose I can be. Is this where you decide if I’m good enough for your little brother?” I tilted my head. “I must admit, I’m only mildly impressed with your approach.”
Marie blinked. Then she smiled slightly. “Well. That answers one question.” Putting her coffee aside, she interlaced her fingers in front of her face, her blue eyes peering at me. “Now, why shouldn’t I put all my ability into crushing this?”
"... Honestly?” She nodded. “My view… for reasons you cannot know, and for some you can, is you should.” Marie seemed taken aback. “I’m a product of late Star League science, with drawbacks that aren’t conductive to a marriage, not without serious work, though I’ll concede marriages are that in themselves, I have a reputation, that has some truth in it, I am not willing at this time to simply surrender my freedom of action to do things to be the Princess-consort, and breeder of future Davion heirs.”
Marie was still silent, so I continued on. “I can’t say why, but at least until recently, there was someone that’d make him happy and at least compliment him in areas he dislikes or is weak in. It might have taken some time, but I truly know he’d be happy in the end. And better suited. Now?” I sigh. “I don’t know. But, you’re right, in a way, that I wouldn’t be ideal as Princess-consort, and take this as no offense, but while being your mother to your father, is tempting, Hanse deserves better. Not an actress and treasure hunter who takes risks and doesn’t fully think long term, though I’m working on that. Not someone who has similar traits and interests and desires to do things that he does. And most certainly not a person who doesn’t really understand what she’d have to do as Princess-Consort. Nor would she want it.”
Marie leaned back. For a long moment, she said or did nothing, then she finally shook her head. “Well. This is not going at all how I expected it to.” Hanse’s elder sister seemed to deflate just a little. “Why did you have to derail me from the word go?”
"Because we’re women, it’s not worth our time, as well to play games, and if you are here for Hanse’s happiness, well, I can’t blame you, and that deserves the best and most honest response you can get.” I shrug. “And I find being honest works the best.”
"It should, you’re right. Your two ragamuffins you call assistants alone would point to that.” She gave me a wry look. “Yes I have been paying attention to you since the rumors arose. Just like I know Hanse was dating a body double of you for a few months. I have paid closer attention to what has been going on of late than the news outlets have.”
"I doubt you have fully, not without Yvonne trusting you a hell of a lot more than she trusts your husband.” I nodded once. “But I concede that. But they’re not my assistants. They’re my friends.” I grin and softly sing… “I get by with a little help…”
Marie snorted. “I don’t need Yvonne to brief me on my brother. He wasn’t acting like he does around you the way he did with the lady in the news casts. Rather like he was different between…” she stopped, leaving the thought hanging. “Never mind, that’s an old wound, one I’ve no intent to reopen.”
I nod. “He… well. Let me say this, he’s difficult to resist when he has his mind set on something.” I smile slightly crookedly. “Quite intense.” I nodded to myself. “And I know what you’re referring to, leave it there.” I paused, then nodded once. “I can’t say I don’t want him, but I don’t want the First Prince. And we both know the truth of that position.”
"Can’t have one without the other,” Marie said, finally settling into a chair. “And yes, Hanse is rather like a Battlemaster run amok in a horde of Wasps when he sets his mind to something. It’s one of the things that makes him a good First Prince. He doesn’t allow himself to second-guess. He’s no interest in anyone who sees the title before they see him.”
I snorted at that last. “And that’s everyone’s mistake. He can be, if not the best First Prince we’ve had, at least in the discussion. He truly wants what’s best for the Suns, and he doesn’t want endless war. Win it? Sure. But not for vainglory.” My hair twitched slightly. “Though I’ll admit he’s fond of his grand gestures, and he’s… a bit fond of risk taking himself.” I smile fondly. “What he truly wants, I want. What he, as Hanse Davion thinks is important. He doesn’t…” I stop, rethinking for a second, then nodding. “He deserves respect for himself. Not his title, not his position, not his name, but for what he has, is, and will do. He’s earned it. But...”
"But how many will see that?” Marie got a catlike smirk. “I’m willing to bet you and your little crew are driving Truston batty right now. He’s overthinking your group.”
"To be fair to the esteemed head of the MIIO and your aunt, who did a similar job before, they’re lacking information.” I roll my eyes. “I’ll bet if they did have the information, they’d be thinking clearer. But back to why you’re here. I agree with you. He either needs an equal, or someone who meets him…” I snorted at that. “Without realizing he’s the First Prince. But, the one thing that I know he takes seriously, is his duty. As any wife he takes must do, to be worthy of the position. And that’s to do what is best for the Suns. I’m not it. My reputation, perhaps could be dealt with. As could a few other issues… But, in a way, there’s better for him. But I’m not sure he’ll wait.”
"Yes and no. My father confided in me once, that his failure that led to me kind of broke the way things needed to be. It is the First Prince’s duty to be what the Federated Suns needs. It is to the First Prince that the lion’s share of the burden falls. But the woman he marries, or if a woman, her husband’s first duty isn’t to the nation. It’s to his or her family, not the cameras and the nobility. If the First Prince needs someone who can look pretty and handle business behind the scenes, she needs to be that.”
Marie smirked slightly, “But even if Hanse needs that publically he’ll never settle for anything less than someone who can meet him eye to eye and challenge him. It’s who he is, and bluntly? It’s why he never really got back into the ‘market’ as it were. He doesn’t need a trophy wife who wants a position.”
"Agreed, there.” I ponder for a moment. “As I’ve stated, there’s reasons I believe there is that, and one that while would challenge him, would not try to compete with him in areas that he, rightfully so, considers himself good in. And at least until I wandered into his life with enough equipment to equip the Davion Guards, she’d have made him happy” I sigh. “But here and now, I don’t know what’s the right choice, not just for myself, not just for him, but everyone those choices affect.”
With a crooked smile, I admitted. “The one thing he would get from me, besides as you say, looking pretty and being his shadow, would be a pin. Which would be harder than you’d believe, because, dammit, he’s often right… but at times…” I shook my head. “If I am Hanse Davion’s best choice, so be it. But I don’t know if I am.”
"From the mouths of babes…”You know, when I was talking to a friend of mine about how to cut past the actress and see how you really were, it was Morgan that gave the answer?” She gave a fond smile at the mention of her son. “If you want to see if she’s mean watch how she plays with her friends,’ he said.” Her amused look was a mix of pride and amusement, likely at my expense. “I’m surprised at how little your attitude changes when you’re being earnest from when you’re dealing with your ragamuffins, except with less cussing and dark humor.”
I thought for a moment. “Everyone has masks. It’s rare to let them all down. Everyone expects certain behaviors from you. With as you say, the ragamuffins, Kath, or as they like to call themselves, the Strays…” I grin at that. “They don’t expect much. They have dark humor for several reasons, some of which are easy to find out, some I know, and only I, and I share that with them.” I look at her. “I remember my first acting tutor saying this. ‘Yes, you’re playing a role, young girl, but the best way to play is to be.’ My friends need me to be that with them, so I am. You want, no, you need to see who I am, so I give that. That simple. It’s not the easiest way to live, but I love my friends, my family, and they get the best I can give, even if it’s not me.”
"Wow, you're so full of shit your eyes are turning brown.” Marie grinned. “I did spend some time watching when you weren’t in a classified meeting. I grew up in New Avalon. I know all the best places to hide. You’re the same with the foul-mouthed redhead, as you are with Katherine Archon-clone, and the obnoxious boy who wants to fight everyone. What I wanted to know, was if you would try to lie to me. I appreciate you didn’t, until you tried to convince me that you’re still acting.”
My brow furrowed. “I’m… not quite sure what you mean.” I tilted my head, reviewing everything. “My friends, expect me to be myself. I am with them. What I meant was I am what they want, though I tend to prefer less dark humor, I’m a bit more ribald in my tastes there. However, if they need someone else, or find someone else that helps them to be relaxed, happy, and above all true to themselves? Even if it hurts… I’ll help them get that.” I nodded. “That’s what love is to me. Giving the best you can, no matter the cost to yourself, for those you love.”
"There you are…” Marie’s eyes narrowed as she got a hunting cat’s grin. “Just remember, while you’re there for everyone else to lean on, figure out who you can lean on and hold to. I know that look. Hanse gets that look. Ian always had that look. Don’t try to be the rock for everyone at all times. That way lies a martyr complex and an early grave.”
I snort. “I know.” I pause. “To be honest, Case isn’t someone to lean on. Great man, smart as hell, can style so hard that it’d make the Palace tutors ask for lessons, he works at being a scruffy nerf herder. But… in his own way, he’s a brother, with his own problems, and he’s bitter, cynical and hasn’t healed. But he doesn’t stop.” I sigh. “Kath… coldly? She may never heal. What she’s been through, putting aside what is known, is so horrific, the fact she’s where she’s at, makes me deeply, deeply honored to be her friend, and amazed at her strength, but it’s taken its toll.” I smile. “Evie… give her two to three more years, and then well. But not right now. She’s lost too much.. But she’s a stubborn bitch, and won’t let herself be stopped. The universe took away what she values most? She’ll get it back, even if she has to make it. I draw strength from them. And I hope I can heal them.” I stopped. “Rephrase. I hope I can help them to heal. But that means they need to lean on me now.”
"I think you’ll do fine. We shall see how things play out. But for now I want your promise, if being in his life hurts Hanse… get out. But if your presence helps him, stay. But don’t stay because you feel obligated to do so. Hanse has passion, but he couldn’t handle codependence.”
I thought. “The truth is, I’ve already made that promise. He will be a ‘great’ Prince. But I think he can be Good Prince Hanse. And that’s what I want for him. It’s what he wants. He doesn’t want to be great, but he wants good for the people he’s responsible for. I want what he wants. I won’t stand in his way. I won’t let him hurt himself if I can prevent it. That’s a betrayal of him. If... if I’m convinced I can help him be who he wants to be, and would make him truly happy? I will stay.” I committed myself. “But if I stand in his way, and my presence hurts him? I’ll quietly disappear. Be the sakura blossom he remembers fondly, but nothing more.”
"Then for now, peace. Now, tell me. Is my baby brother taking care of himself?”
Briefing Room, Fox’s Den, New Avalon, Afternoon, Dec 23rd, 3015.
As I sat at the table, I looked at everyone here. At the head was Hanse Davion in his AFFS uniform, to his left was Yvonne Davion, to his right was Ran Felsner. Along the table was Stephan Davion, commander of the Assault Guards, me, Jamie Wolf, and several other officers, including the COs of the Illyrian Lancers and Crater Cobras, plus the 17th Hussars commander and the 5th Syrtis Fusiliers. Micheal Hasek Davion and Duke Robinson were also present. Rounding this group out, was our staff and other intelligence personnel.
"Welcome all, to the first brief of OPERATION IDES.” Hanse spoke, his tones reaching everyone easily. In the holo display rose a map of the Capellan Confederation. “As you can tell, this operation is to strike at Liao, taking away industrial worlds. It has two objectives. The weakening of the CCAF and associated long term mercenary commands with it, and the taking of Epsilon Eridani, to cost them a useful tank factory that they don’t realize they have.” He smiled. “Now, if we get more, I won’t complain, and a preliminary objective is the taking of Ronel to cut an easy link between the Confederation and the Combine.” The worlds were highlighted.
Yvonne took over as Hanse sat. “The Dragoons…” She nodded at Jaime. “Will strike at New Hessen, with the intent of damaging the units there, and hopefully drawing the Highlanders to battle, to damage them. New Hessen is not an occupation target as we believe that the CCAF will move units that they don’t have to take it back if we tried. Crater Cobras are your reserve, Colonel Wolf.” Everyone nodded.
"Ares is the target of the Lancers and the Assault Guards. The Fifth Syrtis will support if needs be, if Stephan thinks there’s a reasonable chance to take the world. The primary objective is however the Big MAC. Hammer them, Stephan.” The named Davion simply smiled.
"Ronel, is the target of the Heavy Guards, the Seventeenth Hussars and the Heavy Cavalry. It’s to be taken, and used as a stepping stone.” We all nodded at that.
Hanse stood up, and tapped a command. “Landing for the Ronel forces is roughly March 15th, with the world to be secured hopefully no later than June 1st, so we can move on. Colonel Wolf will move into reserve at the same time, after New Hessen, while the Armored Cavalry joins us.” He looked around, seeing the nods. “Then the Crater Cobras and 17th strike at Epsilon Indi, while the Heavy Cav, the Heavy Guards, and the Armored Cav hammer at Small World, which is the primary objective of Wave Two.” He saw the nods there. “We project unless exceptionally lucky at Ronel, August 1st to be the date we hit that world.”
Yvonne picked up again. “While taking Epsilon Indi would be pleasant, it’s not an objective. Wolf’s forces are going to be in reserve if the Highlanders don’t play on New Hessen, to help whichever attack gains their attention, since at this point, Liao has to honor the threat.” More nods.
"Finally, once one of the two worlds is secured, the primary task forces move to Eridani, with the full intent of taking the world, to hold it. We project no later than October, unless, once again, we’re unreasonably lucky.” Yvonne looked around. “We hope to have this operation concluded by the end of next year, gentlemen, and a nice gift for the AFFS in our hands.”
Hanse once again spoke. “Gentlemen, you can and will take additional risks to secure the prizes. We are producing and buying nearly an additional one hundred mechs a month, and thirty are earmarked for each major thrust as replacements.” He received nods at that, and pleased grins. “General Onishi and Colonel Wolf are to be thanked for the production increases.” Several people turned to me, and I simply nodded.
"Finally, as you understand, the primary objective is weakening the Confederation, over the long haul, not destroying your own commands, and yes, the Lancers, the Cobras, the Dragoons and the Cav are on the list to gain replacements if they need them. At our expense. Marshal Sandoval?” The named duke straightened. “While you’ll be receiving more equipment, you are to spend this year preparing. Michael? You stockpiled what we sent you last year, so, this year, we’re focusing your normal arrivals on the thrust.” Hasek-Davion looked displeased.
Before anyone else could speak, Michael did. “We should also make a thrust at Texlos!” I actually saw the logic there, denying the Capellans aerospace was not a bad idea. Hanse shook his head.
"If you had spread those ‘Mechs out to your Militias and other units, I’d be tempted, honestly, Michael… But, that might be a step too far.” Hanse nodded. “However, depending on how the main thrusts go, we’ll revisit.” Hanse gave the Duke of New Syrtis a look, and he subsided. He really couldn’t complain, since he had been agitating for more action against Liao, and Hanse was delivering.
My eyes, as well as Yvonne’s had narrowed at the look that crossed the Duke’s face. While Robinson was content, Hasek-Davion wasn’t. I knew Hanse knew the man was going to pull something to try to gain glory, more than Hanse would in the upcoming offensive.
"Sir.” Everyone turned to Colonel Wolf. “I presume that if the Highlanders aren’t in play by the third wave, the Dragoons would be sent to take them on on where they’re based?”
Hanse smiled. “Actually, in that case, depending on factors, I may have you sent to Tikonov.” Wolf smiled at that.
"I see. Well, plans change, and we’ll see.” Wolf’s lazy smile indicated he was amused. Hanse returned the smile.
"I don’t expect a repeat on your end of New Aragon, Colonel, but the Highlanders are to be dealt with, if at all possible.” Wolf nodded. He looked around the room. “Any more questions?”
No one was bold enough, and Hanse nodded. “This of course, is Sword-One, gentlemen, and further information and intelligence briefings are being handed out. Good luck, and good hunting. May next Christmas be as joyous to the people of the Federated Suns as this year is, thanks to you, Duke Robinson.” The Duke smiled, as he straightened. Recovering Tancredi IV was a coup and an honor for him. Hanse wanted to do the same on the Capellian front. It was time to deliver publicly for the Heavy Cavalry.
Main Ballroom, Castle Davion, New Avalon, Late Evening
My memories, both sets, to be fair, had the memories of these types of gatherings, just without nobility well entrenched. The one thing they didn’t, was when you were the hostess, and the hot new thing on top of it. Marie ironically gave the best advice. “Pretend that you’re just happy to be there, and nothing more. A little overwhelmed wouldn’t be bad either.”
Good advice that, and if you kept away from her husband, fairly easy to do. After several hours of this though, I was getting a bit tired of happy smiles and polite but veiled conversations. At least the ones from the younger female nobility were easier to deal with, concealed, or not so concealed hostility was something I was very used to. Before I could escape for a few moments to regain my senses, a voice interrupted me.
"General, a moment of your time?” The tones and accent told me who it was before I could turn, but I still did so.
"Of course, Colonel Wolf.” I looked back at the small gathering I had, and smiled. “Excuse me, Colonel Wolf wants a moment of my time, likely to discuss upcoming operations, so, please forgive me.” I smiled with a hint of apology, and made my escape to the ‘of course’ and other comments.
"I’d not say you don’t play that game fairly well, but after a few hours of them… I’d … no, I have been ready to chew my own leg off to escape.” Wolf’s low voice included a soft chuckle.
"I can’t say you’re wrong, but I’m actually somewhat used to it.” I shrug. “You’d be surprised at how much acting is actually meeting people.”
"And not killing them at times.” Wolf’s low tones carried a hint of mischief. “As tempting as it can be.”
I had to smile. “They can’t go see your movies, paying ticket price if they’re dead, no?”
Wolf pretended to be enlightened. “Ah, so that’s why!” He was steering us to a private alcove, and as we arrived, he took out a jammer.
Clicking it on, he nodded. “There, we won’t be overheard, and no one really wants to interrupt military commanders for political games in the Suns.” I snorted at that. He nodded. “Correction, most, at least.”
"So, why the level of security?” I was curious. “It can’t actually be over the upcoming plans.”
"Quite so. I’ve talked to the Prince. About what we’ve already discussed.” He was being somewhat oblique, but I easily followed what he was saying. “I appreciate the attempt to prevent our internal secrets from coming out, but the major one is the one that you all wish to give.” He smirked. “But, as I told him, what I don’t see, I don’t have to report.”
I blinked at that. Did Katherine convert Jamie fully onboard to defending the Inner sphere? Before I could formulate a question, he continued on.
"I tend to believe that the purpose of a soldier or sailor in a military is to defend, not otherwise harm civilians, and I’ve been here long enough to know what some of the people where I grew up would do, not to mention that they have no real idea what it’d take to be here.”
I nodded. Message received. “I see, and understand, Colonel. But… you could have talked to Kath and gotten the message that way.”
"Oh, I could.” He agreed, but then continued on. “He’s informed me of some of the gains you have or are bringing home.” He thought for a moment, then nodded. “I’d be more than willing to... well, help staff your new corporation, especially in the more trickier bits. But, value for value is something that is a common theme everywhere.”
"And what is it you propose is fair value?” I was interested, what he was hinting at would significantly cut time to get the factories and stations up and running.
"Three things. First, you’ll confirm that Katherine paid her debt to Snord with the equipment she’ll ‘send’ him from your haul.” My eyebrows rose. “Of course those items will be not quite from the haul itself, but…” He spread his hands, amused.
"I can do that, I suppose, I’d need…” I trailed off as Jamie interrupted, with a grin.
"Already approved by Hanse. He’s amused.” He would be, yes, I thought, but Wolf continued on. “Second, you’ll help funnel the excess personnel I have here and there, mostly admittedly for your projects, but there’s a few spaces where some good techs, or even mechwarriors could make a difference, wouldn’t you say?”
I nodded. “I think that can be done but I’d want details and how Hanse would help. I don’t doubt you talked to him about that, either.”
"I cannot accuse a lady of being wrong…” He trailed off, then nodded. “When she’s right.” He nodded again. “And last, a joint agreement that Blackwell and whatever you end up calling your new mega corporation, are strategic partners. I can see a use for powered infantry easily, as you can well guess.” I had to smile at that. “Much less what you’d like to have. I’m actually somewhat short of far thinking design engineers. Something I doubt you’d be.”
"Your knowledge, my thinking?” I hinted.
His nod indicated the problem. “As a student of history yourself, I’d compare the Clans in a lot of ways to the Japanese people, for a long time. Good engineers, not good inventors.” He shook his head. “And that’ll be a problem. But…”
"Combine the two.” I nodded. “Again, Colonel, I see no reason why not to.”
Wolf nodded. “With of course the caveat that the Prince approves, I suppose.” I simply nodded. “Well, then, it’s rare in something like this, I don’t have to fight or at least negotiate.”
"Oh, there’s a few things that can be adjusted. Help with tooling, I suppose, though that’d be per unit, maybe some other designs we can agree needed, or transfer of some of your designs. Specifics on right of refusal for the Dragoons or Cav from each other… but as a basic agreement…”
Wolf blinked, then smiled. “I think that’s what lawyers are for, isn’t it?” His grin said he understood.
"Correct, Colonel. But even that, is a bit not really enough for the level of paranoia common in the Inner Sphere at this level..” Wolf sobered up.
"Natasha still isn’t happy. She’s refused to talk to anyone for the last few days. Could I ask…”
"If you want Katherine to beat sense into her, that’s fine.” Wolf snorted at that.
"If that was the problem, I’d do it myself. I’m not thinking that.” He shook his head.
I really couldn’t understand what he was thinking. “Okay, I’ll admit it, I’m lost.”
"I’m thinking you or your strays, not Kath, can have a pointed word about how to deal with having your worlds torn apart. I’m sure you’re all still dealing with that. ‘Tasha isn’t, and frankly, while Kath, Jousha and I were seeing what is and will be coming, as soon as Kerlin can arrange it and get away with it, ‘Tasha never paid attention to the clues he did give us.” He sighed. “It’s really one of the great failings of the Clans, we don’t think past the next battle, by and large. Kerlin can easily, a few others I know about in Wolf can, and Kath, of course. Joshua seems to have the knack as well, not as good as Kath, and between them, I’m beginning to figure it out.”
I stared. “...I’d say I’m pleased, but I’m trying to reboot.”
His laughter rang out. “That tells me a lot. It really does.”
"I’m sorry?” I couldn’t quite really believe how this conversation was going.
"Don’t be. I’m a father, and I want a better future for my children, and now that you’ve saved them, I suspect, I still want that.” Jamie sighed. “And I owe debts for that, and they will be paid. Not sure how yet, but I’m thinking about a few things.” He stood up, offering his hand to me to help me, and I accepted.
"That you don’t, because well…” I shrugged. “There are several reasons to have helped you. If nothing else, pointing you at our biggest enemy now is a help for everyone.” Wolf’s eyes narrowed, and he smiled.
"Perhaps, but it’s not what you feel, General, you did what you did for your own reasons, the debt is from me. Remember that, for both good and ill, your actions place others into situations. And they will try to counter them, or otherwise pay you back for them.”
I couldn’t help but feel a chill at his words. “I’ll remember that.”
Manor Winterfell, New Avalon, Morning, Dec 26th, 3015
I suppose it was inevitable that when I put Evangeline Kessler into a room with Natasha Kerensky that things would go south in a hurry. In retrospect, I should have made sure they interacted somewhere that was not my fancy new home on New Avalon. My first warning should have been when I walked in on the Brothers Wolf huddled in the security room watching the feeds.
"What are you two doing?” I asked, still groggy from waking up, and having gotten no bedtime fun the night before. “And how did you get in my house?”
"Case let us in,” Jaime said mildly. “He offered to fight Natasha again, but I don’t think she was really into it. He got pissy, so we steered her into your sarcastic new tagalong. Evie, was her name I believe?”
I froze. “Wait, you put a sulky, bitchy Tasha in a room with Evie?” I asked quietly.
"We just asked her to see if she could cheer Tasha up a bit. She seems like a safe bet. All bark, no real bite,” Jamie said mildly. “Not irritating enough to trigger Tasha into killing her.”
Katherine caught me from behind as I turned in a blind panic to intercept this fiasco. “No Dammit Kath, my tables! My plates!”
"What? They’re just sitting there, being sulky. Evie’s about as antisocial as an elemental stuck in a room with thirty mech jocks and no purpose in life.” Joshua pointed at the screens showing Evangeline placidly eating a plate of eggs and bacon of some variety she’d cooked up for herself. She was sitting at the counter, with a stool between herself and Tasha, who was staring into space like she was lost in her own head.
"You do realize you’ve put Tasha in the room with the only…”
Kath was cut off as the security feed caught Evie’s first words to the sulky Dragoon. “Holy shit, are you gonna wake up or are you gonna sit there and stew about your daddy issues with Kerlin Ward?” The Aurigan accent was in full play, a far cry from Evie’s normal manner of talking.
The punch caught Evangeline in the side of the head like a viper strike, and the smaller redhead kinda sat there and shook her head, blinking as Natasha leaned over “You don’t get to talk about things you have no understanding of!” it was, by all accounts, a friendly type of warning from Natasha.
I let out a pained moan that almost made the other three miss Evie’s response, which surprised everyone but me. Evangeline doesn’t look like much, a young and curvy, pretty thing that is the stereotype of sexy farm girls. What her flannel and loose pants hid was the fact that despite being short and curvy, she was compact and capable of picking up and tossing hay bales.
Joshua let out a noise of shock when Evie hopped off her stool, picked it up and used it to knock Natasha Kerensky three feet into my wall. Which used to have a cabinet. Full of fragile dinnerware.
"Evangeline’s memories were born of a twentieth century, shocktrooper infantryman,” I said with a hollow, horrified voice as the Aurigan girl delicately set down the now-damaged stool, stepped over to the Dragoon and just started talking.
"I understand that I’m looking at what used to be the most ferocious bitch in the Inner Sphere and Clan space moping around like a depressed teenager feeling sorry for herself.” Evie’s voice wasn’t pained, or thready. “So your daddy figure turned up to what, actually give a fuck about the consequences and you can’t handle that? Typical fucking Trashborn, can’t think past the next fight or the next fuck to see what’s…”
The thrown dishes as Tasha came up elicited a pained whine from me as both shattered, with one embedding shards in my nice walls! Jamie Wolf let out a low whistle as Tasha came up and punched Evangeline twice in the face and kicked at her abdomen, only to have the more petite redhead catch her foot and swing her like a baseball bat into the counter, which buckled and collapsed as the Aurigan girl got kicked square in the tits by her opponent and staggered back, actually feeling her oversized chest’s drawbacks in a fight as the now livid Kerensky came out from under the wreckage of my breakfast bar!
"I LIKED that breakfast bar,” I whined, trying to escape Kath’s grip.
Jamie wordlessly handed a small wad of C-Bills to his brother. “You were right, she’s not all bark and no bite.”
"So you know what it’s like to find out nothing you know is real?” Natasha almost screamed at Evie, right before picking up a beam of very expensive wood from my wrecked breakfast bar and swinging it at Evie.
To the Aurigan girl’s credit I hadn’t really taken her seriously about her self-described “fighting style” when I knew her in the other life. But I was watching the obviously bruised and bleeding farm girl take hits like her skin was made of tank armor. Apparently not actually giving a fuck had some power.
"Oh you fucking poor baby,” Evie said after the beam hit her in the side, her arm snapping down to pin the beam to her ribs. Apparently Natasha hadn’t learned from the kick, because the reincarnation of loud mouth and attitude simply twisted and ripped it from Natasha’s hand after Natasha realized she was going to get thrown.
"I’ve got a little tale to spin you, of having uninterrupted memories of another life, fading to black from a gunshot wound. Then waking up in a fucking dark hole, face down in the dirt in a new life and stuck with all the shitty memories of the old one.” Evie tossed the beam aside. “All the memories of having to hold back and just take the pounding for fear of doing too much damage in response. And then just when I thought that I might be getting rewarded for not being a complete asshole in my old life I got to watch everyone and everything I cared about die.”
Evie actually caught Natasha’s fist and stopped her cold. “Stupid. Fucking. Clanner. All fight. No thought.” What came next wasn’t quite the Hulk slamming Loki back and forth before declaring him a “Puny God” but Evie gave a good go of it, wrecking my dining table, several chairs and a china cabinet with her new weapon of choice: Natasha Fucking Kerensky.
"I’m going to kill both of them, then I’m going to make you three clean up the mess and repair the damage, then I’m going to kill you all for wrecking my HOUSE!” Perhaps it would have been more intimidating if Kath wasn’t manhandling me more easily than anyone in either life had ever gotten away with.
Natasha was just as tough, or just as rhino-stubborn as Evie because she came right back up swinging, tearing the Aurigan up. She must have hit Evie twenty times before the smaller redhead slammed her away into another wall, then rushed in, grabbed her head and slammed it into the hardwood like a battering ram.
"Fuck, you, you little runt,” Natasha spat out as she pulled herself back up. “Everything I know, my whole life is a goddamn lie. And you just don’t…”
"Oh shut the fuck up.” Evie cut her off. “Fuck it, let’s call this a trial of possession. I’m taking Joshua cause you couldn’t recognize when you had a good thing if it hit you…”
Evie never got to finish the sentence as the red-haired Dragoon lost all semblance of anything resembling rationality and went off on Evie with renewed fury and energy as the one person she truly cared about was threatened. Evie answered the onslaught in kind, and I began to lose the details of the actual fight as I saw all of the nice things that had been given to me by someone I considered special in that room seem to disintegrate in a whirling dervish of red hair, purple flannel and black leather.
I found out that Tasha’s aim worked equally well with PPCs and shot glasses, or even wine snifters. I also found out that Evie could crack an inch-thick granite countertop by slamming someone down on it.
It was at the end when both of the brawling women were sprawled out in the wreckage, too injured to move well that Jamie and Joshua looked over at my despairing look. Kath had let me go, and I wanted to go do something, but it was too late. My new, perfect kitchen was wrecked, and a burst pipe was trickling water along the floor like an expanding puddle of piss, complete with appropriate noises perfectly picked up by the camera feeds.
"We should…” Jamie began as his brother picked up “See if they’re okay,” Joshua finished as the pair went out to check on the barely-moving duo of Ruin and Hate.
I looked at Kath. “Why my kitchen?” It was that plantitive question to the Archon-clone that finally got a reaction, even if one that i didn’t appreciate.
"It was either that or an area with bystanders,” Kath shrugged.
"But… Why my kitchen?” I asked again, plantitively, turning to follow the Wolf brothers, dreading to see the reality.
It was actually somehow worse when I saw it in person. The entire kitchen was an unsalvageable ruin. There were bits of cutlery embedded in the walls and countertops from when Kerensky had tried to stab or throw knives at Evie. The reality of the dent in the front of the refrigeration unit was almost enough to get me to cry.
Then I saw Evie. For a moment I thought the obnoxious little Aurigan was dead, lying still with a face so swollen she couldn’t see, and the docs would have to cut her to drain the blood away from her eyes. The cough tipped me off that she wasn’t dead, and when I went to check on her, she was, of course, bleeding. There were a couple shallow knife cuts that would need stitches, I don’t think an inch of her body would be any color but bruise for the rest of the month, and the way she plantitively whimpered when I touched her, I figured that there were cracked ribs at least.
"Holy fuck I’m gonna feel this tomorrow,” she said quietly before passing out.
Natasha had said something to Joshua while his brother tallied the damage, realizing that his profits were receding with each passing repair that would be needed. But Joshua’s response to whatever the similarly-injured Natasha had said was particularly apt.
"You crazy bitch, why would you think anyone could take me from you with a stupid Trial?”
Fox’s Den, New Avalon, Morning, Jan 2nd, 3016
I sipped at a cup of coffee as I watched the first interview. Ironically, it was Evie who got the first interview, simply because she had the least complex chemical brew in her body. Case was being set up, then they were evaluating Kath and me for it.
"She’d have fit in well in some elemental sibkos, I’d say.” A voice spoke up behind me, and I somehow managed to keep from whirling and strangling the battered redhead that had somehow snuck up on me. “But, really… fuck the Clans.”
I blinked. “And what brings this on, Major.” I was shocked.
"After your pet honey badger…” I felt the grin from her. “And let me say when I found out about them, I wondered why in hell no one picked them as a totem animal.”
I snickered. “I’ll give you that, so do I.”
"Anyways, after she pounded me and well, I pounded her, I had a long talk and some thoughts on Clan Space.” She sounded amused.
"And?” I was curious.
"Joshua pointed something out. What, what of anything lasting have we created?” I understood what she meant.
I snorted. “Well, Kath says you have some shows…” But I understood what she meant.
"Yeah, and well, how Clans view things. I’m not saying that the Inner Sphere is better, just… different.” I heard her shrug.
"I’m wondering how much of what the four people I respect the most’s thinking is that we’ll destroy something, and wondering how much I really care. I’m not good at thinking about tomorrow. But… what’d I’d be doing in the Homeworlds?”
I thought about it. Natasha was pushing her mid-thirties. “You’re bloodnamed, so …”
The snort that answered that was a bit amusing. “I’d be expected to either be challenging Kerlin for leadership, or leading a Galaxy.” A chuckle. “And you can just imagine how much fun I’d consider that.”
"Quite.” I thought about it, and asked. “By being here, you’re aware of what’s going to be given to the Suns, isn’t that a problem?”
"Oh, quite the reverse. If the four people I respect the most think this is the right path… well, who am I to argue? I could, I suppose.” She sounded thoughtful. “I’d not place high odds on winning…” I turned at that, and saw her battered face grinning at me.
"Not you, not your hellion, not even that maniac you call scruffy. I’d put even odds Jamie could beat me, Joshua not far behind, and I don’t think Kath has ever gone all out against me.” She noted my eyebrows rising. “Yeah, I finally figured out why Kath at least didn’t go that critical edge needed to beat me the first time we tangled. Joshua? Yeah, no, not happening. And Jamie… he won the trials to lead the Dragoons. Not me.”
"Yet, you’re the best mechwarrior.” I couldn’t help but answer.
"And how good is that when you’re trying to feed people, figure out what or who to fight for, or hell, anything besides the field?” Natasha snickered. “I dunno what happened in the.. Oh, yeah, Future that was… but I can tell you, Khan, I’m not meant to be.”
I thought about it. I shrugged. “You were, though. SaKhan, at the least.”
Natasha’s stare at me was hilarious. “How insane was Clan Wolf, or how insane was I?”
I thought about it and nodded once. “I’d say all things equal? You were seeking what no one could give you. I don’t recall exactly, but in the end it took at least a … binary, and this nearly forty years from now, of Pidgeons to bring you down. And most did not come back.”
"Heh.” She was serious with her next words. “Joshua died, didn’t he?” I simply nodded. “In fact, I suspect he’s already supposed to be dead, I take it?”
"Fate isn’t set in stone, Kerensky.” I quietly answered. “Sometimes, it’s unavoidable, because people don’t listen, sometimes…”
"It is. Because people do.” Natasha looked me in the eye. “And that I owe you for.” She snickered. “I’m sure Jamie’s said the same.”
"I didn’t do it just for you or him.” I shrugged. “I always thought out of the pair, he was the smarter one.”
"Jamie agrees, usually.” Natasha’s smile was soft. “But, it is what it is.” Her statement inferred much. “Out of curiosity, why aren’t you or Kath first?”
I shrugged. “They calibrated for unusual neuropathy, but they didn’t calibrate for unusual blood chemistry.” I thought about it, and shrugged. “Genetic modifications aren’t a free lunch, and apparently Kath has enough of the Steiner package that it’s annoying, and I have my own. My turn. Why is Joshua still single?”
"Ah.” Natasha smirked at the next lines. “Because apparently he hasn’t clued in, that we’re not in the homeworlds anymore, perhaps?” She smiled impishly. “If he doesn’t get a clue soon…”
"I’ll send Evie.”
"Oooh, nice. Just be sure to explain to her Joshua isn’t as hard headed.”
Medical wing, Castle Avalon, MIdday, Jan 16th, 3015
White blurry tiles entered my swimming vision. I really didn’t remember much since I sat down and they stuck an IV in me, except… ugh, it’s been twenty plus years since one set of memories looked at circuit patterns, why was one in my head?
"Ah, General, you’re awake.” Dr. Banzai’s cultured tones greeted me. “Forgive us, we thought we had taken into account your blood chemistry. Apparently we were mistaken, though it did work.”
"Oh…” instead of my usual sultry tones, it was a rasping tone, and a straw was placed at my lips, soon gushing water. After a few gulps, and swishing water around, I responded again. “How… long?”
"It is the sixteenth, General.” My eyes were closed again, though a soft groan escaped my lips. I had promised to spend time with Aiko.
"Lovely.” I took some more sips of water. “Why?”
"An adverse reaction. Completely unpredictable.” Dr. Banzai sounded mildly irritated. “When dealing with rare and exotic blood chemistries, such as yours, and to a lesser extent Colonel Steiner’s… even the best and most exhaustive research cannot account for every variable. It is fascinating in a way.”
I didn’t scream at him, it’d have hurt my throat. “Uh… huh.”
Dr. Banzai’s next words indicated he did understand the meaning behind my words. “Except to those who are the lab rats, I’d suppose.” A pause. “Do know that while the interviewers and analysis personnel assigned to the case want more, it will be at least a year before you can undergo this again, and at least six months before Colonel Steiner. Lieutenant Winters and Corporal Kessler are already undergoing a second round.”
"Sucks to be them.” I finally snarked. “Did they?”
"Get everything? I don’t believe so, but enough that they’re very eager to get to work, and start cross referencing. In yours and the Colonel’s case, while that’s part of it, both of your previous educational efforts are fascinating.” Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck.
I thought about it. “Uh. Huh. Someone educated in advanced computer science and engineering from the days of binary integrated silicon circuits is an interesting factoid, I’d suppose.” I paused. “And someone who spent even longer learning more in depth, at least programming.” I thought for a moment. “Sucks that I never finished that degree, and never used it at all.”
"The drugs used are quite potent at restoring memories, and whatever transferred those memories seem to be quite intent on every memory. As you well know, all information the brain gathers is stored, it is only if connections are made.” His tone had entered a lecturing mode.
"Spare me, Doctor. I took fusion engineering for a reason.” I couldn’t help but smile.
I felt his amused smile. “We all have passions, General. It is a failing of most that we wish to share those.”
"I do try to keep people from mine, simply because how many people would want to listen to my horrible taste in jokes.”
"... I’d estimate at least five.” A pause. “All of whom are headed here.”
Ah. Well. Time to start putting myself together.
Dr. Banzai had clearly seen something. “Ah, no, none of that. They understand and have been told. It isn’t your fault, after all.” He was surprisingly strong for his build. “You will stay in bed, General. Doctor’s orders.”
"... and doctors win over stars.” I finally said.
"Yes, we do.”
Small Private Breakfast Nook, Castle Avalon, Morning, Jan 17th, 3016
I looked up from my coffee and reports, I was still a bit woozy, but enough that they didn’t keep me in a hospital bed anymore. Walking towards me was Colonel Wolf.
"Mind if I ask a question, Kikyo?” He nodded at my gesture towards a seat, and took the chair.
"... If you don’t mind the possibility of no answer.” Wolf smiled at my reply.
He nodded, sliding over a folder. “I received this message as a priority today. I even had to pay for it. Annoying. I was hoping you would understand it. Couldn’t find Kath or your…” He smiled. “Honey badger, and I was afraid of the cackling where Case was.”
I took the folder and opened it. Verigraphed paper, and a Comstar heading indicated it was a message from them. I started to read.
"Colonel Wolf, please relay to Kikyo Onishi, I assure you she will cover the costs of this message. MSG STARTS: Cabbit, holding 250 years writing hostage. Send a tow to Delos. Thomas 'Drakensis' Praetorian. MSG ENDS."
I look up at him, shock in my eyes. “Uh… Send me the bill, yes.” I shout, hurting my throat. “JARHEAD, CASE, DUTCHMAN, CLONE STEINER. NOWWWWW!”
Wolf saw various Davion personnel dart off, and raised his eyebrow. “I take it you recognize this.”
I giggled. I then broke out in maniacal laughing. Wolf was eying me. As I fell to the floor laughing and rolling in tears, he looked towards the pounding feet.
Katherine Steiner sprinted in, stopping at my feet. She had Asha crash into her from behind, then Case bowled them all over with Evie snickering as she came from the other direction
Wolf simply pointed at the folder, and then at the anointed Honey Badger.
Evie picked up the message and rapidly scanned it. She began laughing maniacally, only to grip her ribs and utter “ow” several times between psychotic laughter. When she finally caught Wolf’s wary expression, the Aurigan honey badger grinned maniacally and looked at the other strays. “Drak’s back!”
Case stepped on Kath, who tried to toss him off her only for him to leap to Evie. Snatching the message, he read quickly. He reread. He began to laugh. Laughed so hard, he too fell to the floor, joining Kikyo in tears.
Kath finally got up and grabbed the message. After reading it, a silly grin crossed her face. “Oh… my.”
Asha snatched the paper and read herself as Kath joined the other two on the ground, with tears rolling out of her eyes. Finally, as befitting the one sane woman, she spoke. “Three things come to mind. One, he and I need to start a band. Sky Cancer.” She nodded. “Second, Hanse is going to hate our fees. And third, why does he need a tow?” She paused. “And Fourth, once I verify he’s not completely lost to time, I CAN RETIRE BEING THE ONE SANE WOMAN!” a silly grin crossed her face.
Hanse had walked up, looked at Wolf who had shrugged helplessly. “A tow?”
"We’re sorry, that information is classified “Stray Bullet,” Evie grinned. “What’s with the Praetorian tag anyway?” She looked at the message, picking it up.
Hanse blinked. “I am cleared for that, I do believe, so is Colonel Wolf. and odd last name.”
I gasped from the ground. “SLS Praetorian. Modified…” I gulped down air. “Texas class battleship.”
Case picked up. “They made it into a M-6, and, well, Drak, Drakensis…” He stopped for a moment, catching up with his air. “Is the brain.” He paused. “Two hundred and fifty years of his writing to catch up on…” He goes off in a trance.
"Wait, you’re telling me that somehow Drak is a Caspar II?” Evie asked incredulously.
I just nodded helplessly, as I clutched my sides.
"I think his transit drive is damaged.” Asha had dropped the grin for a frown. “I’m not sure, but it’d explain why no reports of a singing battleship were heard during the coup, a misjump?”
"A Caspar II… with Drak as the brain… in a Texas-class battleship.” Evie’s eyes looked glazed. “I’m about to have a nerdgasm. Hold me…”
Hanse just looked poleaxed, while Wolf facepalmed. Finally the mercenary spoke. “The strangest thing about this… is I’m not surprised. If he misjumped that badly, his transit drive may be damaged. I’ll get some people out to him fast, so he can be repaired.”
Hanse thought for a moment. “After reading the interviews, I’m going to join you in your thought.” He agreed with the Colonel and helped me up. “Dear, you’re still recovering.” He childed, and I just stuck my tongue out at him, and he had to laugh. “More seriously, if I send you and your strays out on a command circuit can you confirm this?” I nodded.
"Excellent, it’ll take a bit to set up, but I suspect by the 1st, and you’ll be back by the end of February, then, enough time.” He had thought a moment before that, then decided.
Asha smiled. “And then we have something to do all the transit time…”
Outside NAIS (New Avalon Institute of Sciences), New Avalon, Midday, Jan 21st, 3016
Aiko looked at me, with a pout. “I don’t understand why you have to spend another month travelling.” This reminded me that she was a teenager. “It’s not even to a battlefield, but some outback world.” She sounded upset, and glory be, reason. She had been told that I’d be around ‘til March, but… now I was going again.
"Orders, Aiko, and you’re not cleared on why.” She looked stubborn, but against my resolve face, she relented.
"It’s not fair.” She finally stated. “You get to go everywhere, and I’m stuck on New Avalon.”
"At the NAIS.” I pointed out. “Hanse’s dream and dedication to the future. If it’s not the best university yet, it will be.”
Aiko still wasn’t happy, and I made a note to give her her car soon, before I left, so she’d not be too unhappy. The last supercar made for export on Terra, a Ferrari Wolf Spider should be a good gift, shouldn’t it? Natasha loved hers. Joshua… I hope he was joking when he dryly thanked me for his grey hairs and indented hands.
Rios was scanning the area as we walked out of the tour of the campus, and onto the main streets, where the armored cars were parked, that Aiko had gotten us, as classes were to begin at the first of the month, and Hanse of course wanted me to see his pride and joy. Well, as he said, his current one, where my brilliant sister would easily learn to be the best.
I don’t know what, in particular, clued me in that something was wrong. I could point at a thousand isolated things, from Sergeant Esteban, Rios’ NCO for my detail looking at someone with a tight jaw and a twitchy hand. It could have been the fact that we seemed to have walked into an area mostly bereft of foot traffic. It might have been Rios abruptly stopping and scanning. A thousand little things added up, but not fast enough.
The ground shaking, the loud booms and plumes of smoke and fire on the skyline were more obvious. I grabbed Aiko as Howling threw me to the ground, unlimbering a collapsible carbine from a zip bag while Rios roared “CONTACTS! Four-’o-clock! Lay down fire and move the primary!”
It used to be that I didn’t, or more accurately wasn’t allowed to, wander around unarmed, and my hip suddenly felt naked without the now-unfamiliar weight of my CZ-75 from an eon ago.
For some reason the Serrak seemed inadequate as a very heavy man’s body slammed down on me as he rolled to my side and pulled me in close. The Junior man of my detail was doing the same with my sister. The concussion from the explosions hit me, and I, and Aiko were dazed, groggy, the man that had dived on my sister pressing a hand on his head.
I rolled over and saw the blank stare of a dead man too young to be taken by the reaper staring at me where he had shielded me from the grenades with his body. It seemed important in my dazed, shocked state to gently press his eyes closed.
When my hearing came back I heard an engine rev, and then a crashing noise with shattering glass and crumpled steel as the groundcar skidded a few inches closer. I breathed a sigh of relief as the groundcar shielding me barely moved to hit me and Aiko. I rushed over, grabbed my sister and had dragged her towards a building when a sudden loud noise was accompanied by the wall I had intended to hide myself and my sister behind rushed forward to hit me. The world went black.
Medical Center, Castle Avalon, New Avalon, Mid-Morning, Jan 24th, 3016.
Another set of white tiles, I fuzzily thought, and heard. “Can you hear me, General?”
My mind quickly reviewed, and I asked, well croaked, “... Aiko? Rayanne? The Detail?”
Natasha’s voice rang slightly in my ears. “Sister’s fine, your personal detail’s alive, Aiko’s detail from the Davion Guards ate about half their number…” I winced at that, and Natasha saw. “Sorry, but Rayanne and her entire law firm is gone, along with Yvonne Davion who was meeting her at the time.”
I closed my eyes. “Dammit.” I wanted to say something else, and maybe cry a bit for the guardsmen who died doing their jobs, and Rayanne, a friend, but Natasha wouldn’t be impressed.
"Yeah. Got worse, a hit was done on your brother. He’s gonna live, but good thing we had some docs here working on that Outworlder Admiral you have. New legs and balls.”
I stopped. “... what?” My heart was cold. I snapped my eyes open, and looked into Natasha’s blue ones.
She nodded, keeping eye contact. “And someone tried to smuggle a nuke aboard Xanadu.” I went completely still and white.
"Excuse me?” That was the only thing I could say.
Before Natasha could respond, Hanse walked in, face tight, and angry. “Thank you, Colonel Kerensky for watching her and being here when she woke up, since I couldn’t be.”
"Not a problem, Your Highness.” She paused. “Did they finally break?”
"Thanks to your people, yes.” His tone was … tight. “Colonel Wolf is informed.”
"My, considering that Kath got cut up with Ichigo, he’s not going to be too pleased.” Natasha’s words belied her tone and just said she wasn’t pleased at all.
Dr. Banzai walked in, and did the usual medical checkups. “You will be perfectly fine, and no need for plastic surgery to repair any cosmetic damage. While we think there is no brain damage, we did keep you in a medical coma while the slight swelling in your cranial case went down. You of course, will need to have a neurohelm test, and might still be having some tinnitus, from the explosion.” The last, I had noted already.
I had cleared my throat, and taken enough water, so while my voice was still rough, it sounded mostly normal. “Understood… and my family? My people?”
"Your unit’s fine, some cuts and scrapes. The group smuggling the weapon aboard the Xanadu offended Morgan enough that he decided to discuss it with them at length. One of the Saboteur groups managed to run headlong into Evie, Case and Asha. Case is responsible for two of the captures we have, albeit without working limbs, and Evie’s aim is apparently phenomenal. We’ll need to discuss how she got a sidearm into a weapons-restricted area, but no one is complaining so far. Asha apparently is insane, played distraction for the other two and broke more necks than Case did.”
Banzai blithely continued on. “One of the groups that fled from the three strays ran right into two squads of your jump infantry with predictable results. Other than that, I’m afraid your immediate family took the brunt of it. Ichigo lost his legs, but the docs are prepping his replacements as we speak. Unfortunately he won’t be having children any time in the immediate future. Aiko’s better off but she’s still contending with broken bones, a concussion and we had to keep her in surgery for a few hours to extract shrapnel matching what went into your own ass.”
Natasha broke in. “Hold off on the replacements, Doc, we got this, he’ll be fine after a few months in our hands.” She was referring to the Clan doctors with the Dragoons, who could do cloning and full replacements.
I had closed my eyes, and was trying to keep from screaming.
"Banzai handled Aiko’s injuries, as much as I wanted him to make you a priority, he reminded me that if we didn’t tend to Aiko you’d kill us both.” Hanse said wryly.
Eyes still closed, I asked. “And Rayanne? The explosion was near or at her building. Did we take anyone alive, for questioning?” I thought I had heard something about that.
"Like I said, Case brought two alive. By literally breaking all four of their limbs and dragging them wailing to the guard. Morgan brought in a team. A couple other groups got caught by your people.” Banzai changed out my IV bag as he spoke. “Hanse had to personally keep Evangeline and Case from requisitioning a ‘pair of pliers and a blowtorch’ to have a chat with a few of them. Your family’s hurt, but your people are angry, and just this side of a killing fury.”
As I processed this, he sighed. “We did lose a team of your retired Rabids. One of the attack teams blew themselves up in a park near civilians. We lost Smith, Peck, Baracus, Allen, and Murdoch.”
"Dammit, that was our A-Team,” I said plantitively. Then I closed my eyes. I didn’t know them, but they still were my people.
Banzai nodded sympathetically.
I thought for a moment. “And who are they? Though I suspect some things.” I quietly looked at Natasha who shrugged.
"I wasn’t allowed to help Case and Evie, girl. Something about we wanted them to talk, not scream.” Her shrug was more of a ‘what can you do?’ type movement, than actual dismay. “But they tried to spout some bullshit, then one of Jamie’s guards broke out our toys and drugs. Pretty sure they sang, besides the group that bit down on hidden poison teeth.”
I turned to look at Hanse, who by this time had captured my hand, and was squeezing it, partly in reassurance to me, partly in reassurance to himself that I was still here.
"And she’s right. They did.” He paused, collecting his thoughts. “That means my plan to send you and your strays out to fetch the strayest of you all, is still valid, but you’ll be departing once Xanadu’s been completely rechecked. Another day or two, I think.” I almost protested, but a squeeze from him shut me up.
Dr. Banzai had taken the hint to depart that Hanse had given him. Hanse waited til the door was closed, and turned to Natasha Kerensky. “I don’t suppose that you’d like to depart, either?”
Her toothy smile answered him. “If you think I’m not going to find out who tried to kill that cute little Honey Badger, and my friend, I’m going to laugh at your profilers.”
Hanse ran his free hand through his hair, and sighed again. “Quite. Comstar. They were all Comstar. Given an immediate, all costs order to terminate you, and clear up any possible data drops you may have had. You’re right, Rayanne Dawson is gone, the law firm you had, and the entire building went up like a blowtorch, as they detonated nearly thirty tons of propane in the parking garage. Yvonne was with her, discussing something.” His eyes closed, and I squeezed his hand, when I realized he too was hurting.
"They tried to spin that they were really SAFE, but..” Yeah, I could tell no one believed that, just from his snort. “Then Loki…” Natasha’s snort at that was epic. “But the motive wasn’t there, so.”
"Colonel Wolf provided you aid to get the real story.” I said, looking at him, seeing the bags under his eyes, while still worried about Aiko and Ichigo, and I would insist on seeing them and the Strays very soon, but he was clearly stressed.
"Yes. I knew from your debriefs that Comstar was dirty as sin, but to have proof delivered in such a manner.” He was very icy when he said that. “We haven’t leaked a word outside the Palace or MIIO’s deepest pits, but the press is running wild with who it was.”
"I… see.” My mind was churning away, the icy rage banked for a moment as I took care of immediate details. “What’s going to leak, and who are you going to point at?”
Hanse tilted his head, arrested out of his fury and worry. “I’m … a bit surprised.” He struggled for a moment, then sighed again. “I’d have thought you’d want the Primus’ head on a platter.”
I smiled. Natasha’s and Hanse’s eyebrows went up on that smile. “I do. But, I know I can’t get it now. But... “
Hanse nodded, a similar smile gracing his face. “When we can.” He tried to stop me from struggling up into a sitting position, then swinging my legs over the bed. “Wait, what are you doing?”
"Getting up.” I said, calmly, as Natasha snickered. “I will see my people.” Hanse held me back for a moment, as I swayed, the ringing sounds a bit louder in my ears.
Hanse sighed, as Natasha’s laughter grew. “Fine. I’ll carry you, then back to bed.” He put actions to words, as I squeaked. I gave up, as I wasn’t sure I could walk without aid.
"Fine… but we’ll talk about who to blame, and how to punish the actual guilty players…” I muttered, unhappy.
“Soon.” Hanse’s shark like smile returned as my head was on his shoulder. “Very soon.”
End Chapter 8