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 Post subject: The Seeker PostPosted: 2012-10-07 09:22pm
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The Seeker

Part I

Chapter One

January 14, 3056
Wolf Dragoon’s DropShip Artemis
Inbound for Outreach
Outreach, Chaos March


Pieter Cortez felt the snap of the cards as he shuffled them together once final time, and then laid them flat on the table. Tapping them once on the upper card, he then sat back and crossed his arms.

“Cut,” he said sardonically to his five companions.

One of the five—clothed like the others in the black and red duty uniform of the Wolf’s Dragoons—frowned, and then reached out and laid his finger upon the deck. Feeling the edges, he parted the cards almost half way through, and laid the upper half to the side.

Cortez unfolded his arms, and rubbed his hands together briskly. “Name of the game, gentlemen, is Texas Hold ‘Em,” he said as picked up the bottom half of the deck and placed it atop the other cards, and then began to deal them out. Setting aside the deck, he shielded his hole cards with one hand and pried them up with his other. Careful not to let any expression reach his face, he saw first one King, and then a second—in Spades and Diamonds.

“Fifty,” he said as he tossed a handful of chips into the pot.

“Fold,” muttered the power technician to his left as he threw his cards in.

“Fold,” answered the Dragoons fighter pilot as he sipped on his bulb of orange energy drink.

The fourth man was huge in size, and frowned as he looked at the cards. Setting them down, he glared at Cortez, but the environmental specialist appeared to be neither fazed nor intimidated by the bulky Elemental who wore a triple braided cord around his right wrist. “I see your fifty and raise you another fifty,” he rumbled.

“Fold, fold,” quickly said the next two players, including the one who had cut the deck.

Cortez grinned. “Lucien, why do you persist when any smart man would give up? I call.”

The tech reached for the deck of cards—but Lucien’s large hand was already there, shooting out like a striking serpent. “Since you and I are all that remain, freebirth, I would ask that someone else finish dealing this hand,” he said in a quiet, but deep, voice that echoed in his chest until it emerged like the bellow of a ship’s fog-horn.

“What, you don’t trust me?”

“I do not. Though I have yet to accuse you of being dezgra and lacking honor—I have not gathered the proof needed, nor do I possess the standing to challenge you to a Trial of Grievance.”

Cortez shrugged, and languidly waved one hand. The pilot reached for the deck—and then stopped. Cocking his head at the elemental warrior, he waited until Lucien nodded his own assent, and then picked up the deck and set aside the top three cards. The next three he flipped over one at a time onto the surface of the table. Two Clubs appeared—a Six and a Nine—along with the third King, in Hearts.

The environmental tech made a show of checking his pile of chips—and then pushed half of it in. “Two hundred and forty.”

The Elemental looked at his own pile—and slowly counted it out. Frowning, he pushed in two hundred and forty C-bills, leaving him with just two chips worth twenty each.

The pilot flipped over the next card—and it was the Ace of Diamonds. Lucien tapped his finger on the table, checking. Cortez smiled again and pushed the last of his chips in—another two fifty worth.

“Can you match that, Lucien?”

“You know I can not, freebirth.”

The tech shrugged again. “Well, you know the rules—you have to match my bet or forfeit the hand. Sure you don’t have anything?”

Stony-faced, the former Jade Falcon elemental slowly and solemnly shook his head. Cortez laughed, and began to reach out towards the pot—when a new voice sounded from the compartment hatch.

“I will back your play, Bondsman,” the new arrival said from where he leaned against the hatch coaming. Dressed in a different fashion from the men and women of the Dragoons, the newcomer wore a dark grey one piece jump suit, the legs precisely bloused into the tops of richly polished black leather boots. A heavy armored tabard matching the jump-suit covered his torso, secured across the waist by a black leather belt, adorned with a golden scorpion on the buckle. On each side of his waist, a scabbard was fastened to the belt; each in turn sheathing a knife, the tasseled hilts pointing forward, with a curved blade descending to the rear and down. Adjacent to the buckle on his right side, he wore a cross-draw holster containing a large caliber hand-gun, along with a fabric pouch holding four spare magazines. The tabard did not extend beyond the shoulders, but thick bracers of ceramic plates and ballistic fabric covered his upper arms and forearms, and heavy gloves of leather his hands. His quiet approach to the hatch had gone unnoticed in the excitement generated by the game.

“Table rules, chum,” said Cortez. “I don’t think YOU have any C-bills about you either, quineg, Clanner?”

“C-Bills, no, Mister Cortez, I do not possess. And yet, I do believe that I have something of worth to provide for the pot,” the man answered calm and steady, leaning against the rim of the hatch, his arms crossed.

“Bondsman, are you familiar with the zulkari I bear?”

Lucien frowned as he considered before answering. “I am aware of them, Star Captain Scott, though I have handled similar blades only once during a weapons display in my sibko involving archaic melee weapons.”

“Yet, you are a skilled judge of the value of most weapons, quiaff?”

“Aff, Star Captain.”

The clan Warrior drew out first one, and then a second wickedly curved knife. The blades were water-patterned steel—Damascene, it was called—and featured a short curved guard, one of brilliant gold and the other a gleaming ebony. The blade with the gold guard featured polished black leather strips criss-crossing the handgrip, while the second was wrapped in golden bindings. A long tassel of silk strands descended from the pommel, one black as night, and the other glimmering gold. Black stones—polished and faceted—adorned the golden guard and golden shimmering ones the ebony.

“These blades, Bondsman, were given to me by my Khan on the day which I earned my Bloodname. You may use these as your stakes,” he said as he stepped forward to the table and placed the two blades before Lucien.

The fighter pilot whistled, and reached out—and then stopped himself. “May I?” he graciously asked in a whisper of the former Clan warrior. Lucien looked at the Jason Scott, who nodded his head, and the pilot lifted first one, and then the second of the matched pair. “They are beautiful—and finely balanced as well,” he said as he weighed them in his hands. Gently taking one, he rolled up his sleeve and quickly drew the steel across the skin, shedding hair that drifted down towards the deck. “And sharp as a razor. What are those gold and black stones set in the guard, Star Captain?”

“We call the black ones Kerensky’s Tears, Lieutenant Potter. From the perspective of a gemologist, they are black diamonds found in volcanic pipes deep within the Spiked Heart Desert on Babylon. The golden stones are a form of corundobum—what you commonly call ruby—that we have named the Eyes of the Scorpion—and are also found only in the Spiked Heart.”

“Thank you, Star Captain, for allowing me to handle them—and for answering my question,” the pilot whispered. Turning to the table, he nodded at his companions. “Those are the real deal—worth a couple of THOUSAND C-bills, maybe even more to a collector.”

Lucien stood and took the two blades from the table. He turned towards Scott, and bowed, extending the knives—the zulkari—towards the Scorpion warrior. “I can not accept this, Star Captain. I am bondsman to these warriors, and weapons are forbidden for all not yet declared as abtakha. And I have nothing to offer you in return, as such a gesture requires.”

“Then return them to me upon your victory, Bondsman. It is done,” he said, clapping the towering giant on his arm. “What value will you give these weapons?” he asked the assembled warriors and techs.

Cortez frowned as the other four Dragoons began to whisper among themselves. Finally, they reached a decision. “Twenty-five hundred C-Bills, Star Captain.”

“Bargained well and done. Bondsman Lucien raises to twenty-five hundred, Mister Cortez. Can you match that bet? By your own rules, if you can not, then you must forfeit the hand, quiaff?”

Cortez gritted his teeth, and opened his money belt, counting out twenty-two hundred C-bill notes, and then added a fifty. “I call,” he grated, beads of sweat popping out on his forehead, as he flipped over his two hole cards, revealing the two Kings that gave him three of a kind.

From the crowd gathered around the table, a faint groan rose. Whispering voices quickly made side bets—most in favor of Cortez. But Jason Scott just leaned back against the rim of the hatch, crossed his arms, and smiled.

Lucien turned over his own two cards, showing the fourth King and the Ace—both of Clubs. Someone in the crowd gasped, and Lucien felt sick at his stomach. Of all the shame and dishonor—he had cost this Scorpion items of great—priceless—value on a reckless wager. Cortez snarled and hissed at the two warriors, “For such genetically superior people, you Clanners are dumber than dog-shit.”

“I would remind you, Mister Cortez, that unlike Bondsman Lucien, I have no prohibition against challenging you to a Trial of Grievance for your insults—and Colonel Wolf would most likely give me leave to conduct that Trial. And lest you forget freebirth, there still remains one card yet to be played.”

Potter took the top card and set it to the side. Taking the next, he flipped over the last polymer plaque, showing the Seven of Clubs. Lucien blinked once and then twice. Three Clubs on the table—and his own Ace and King, both of the same suite. He had won.

Cortez snarled and slammed his fist down upon the table. “How the devil did you know, you bastard!”

“I did not know, freebirth,” Scott answered coldly. “I do know that I dislike you—you have no honor and little worth. And I dislike when someone tries to bully another, on the field of battle or on a gaming table. I was willing to lose—just for the chance at victory. That, Mister Cortez, is the way of the Clans. Remember that should we meet again.”

The Dragoons in the compartment, even those who had just lost money, began to laugh as Cortez—despised by most as a scam-artist and con-man—quickly stormed away. Lucien turned to Scott. “Why?”

“I would trust even a fallen Falcon more than I would that man, Bondsman. You know honor—and you retain it as you strive to divest yourself of those three cords. He does not.”

The elemental bowed and handed Scott back the pair of zulkari. He reached down and took three hundred and forty C-bills worth of chips from the pile, and then the same amount again. “That is what I wagered, Star Captain Jason Scott of Goliath Scorpion. The remainder is your winnings.”

Scott nodded in reply, and took the folded bills Lucien offered him, placing them in a pouch on his belt. At that moment, a klaxon sounded throughout the ship.

“Attention, attention. Prepare for atmospheric entry in five minutes. Secure all stations and compartments for atmospheric entry.”

The announcement began to repeat itself as the Dragoons stowed away the table, cards, and chips, and began to head for their quarters. Scott smiled as he sheathed the two blades in their scabbards and began to walk towards his own cramped cabin aboard the Overlord class vessel. Soon, very soon now, he would meet with Colonel Wolf and he could begin his mission as a Seeker in service to his Clan.

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 Post subject: Re: The Seeker PostPosted: 2012-10-07 09:26pm
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Joined: 2012-04-09 11:06pm
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This is a different story, which features a few characters that I explored in Scorpio Ascendant. However, in this book, the events of Scorpio Ascendant never came to pass, and instead we pick in the canon BT universe at the start of the story. Well, mostly canon. I hope that you folks enjoy it. I have completed several chapters and will go ahead and post them, and then continue on with the story.

MA

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 Post subject: Re: The Seeker PostPosted: 2012-10-07 09:26pm
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Chapter Two

January 18, 3056
Central Dragoons Administrative Center
Harlech, Outreach
Chaos March


“If you will wait here, Star Captain Scott,” the petite young brunette said with a smile as she waved her hand towards several comfortable looking leather seats lining the wall. “Colonel Wolf is running behind this morning, and I apologize for the delay. Would you care for something to drink while you wait?”

Jason gave the woman a half-bow, reached out and took her hand, and then softly kissed the back of it. “Thank you, but no, Madame. That is the proper term, quiaff?”

“Aff,” she said with a grin. “If you change your mind, my name is Danielle and my office is across the hall.”

Sitting down in the very comfortable seat, Jason watched as the young woman—Danielle—sashayed from the waiting area outside of Colonel Wolf’s office. He let out a small sigh as she turned the corner and vanished from sight. Business before pleasure, he sternly told himself. Besides, as saKhan Ward of Clan Wolf had warned him months earlier, just prior to when the Scorpion entered the Inner Sphere, their customs and mores are slightly different than our own.

Four days ago he had landed here in Harlech, and found himself virtually under arrest. Despite saKhan Ward’s writ of safe conduct—countersigned by Khan Kerensky, the IlKhan, and the Precentor Martial—the Dragoon’s security arm had firmly, but politely, escorted him to a rather heavily guarded facility in the city. Jason had expected no less. Any prudent people would determine if the Scorpion in their midst was a danger to them, after all. He had been intensely questioned about his purpose here, on Outreach, in the Inner Sphere. But the interrogations had not progressed beyond the level of a harsh interview. That was surprising. He had expected full mechanical and chemical interrogation—standard procedure for someone that was both unexpected and unknown.

While the Clans did not use such methods upon Warriors—especially Bloodnamed Warriors—it was common when questioning those from outside their closed society. And though the Dragoons were originally Clan, they had declared themselves for the Inner Sphere. Which made him a de facto enemy, writ or no. Yet, he had not been questioned in such a manner. His answers he thought would have caused such, especially if his hosts had been Jaguars and he an Umanyid or Castellian or Jarnfolk! For three days, he had firmly—but politely!—insisted that his business was with Colonel Wolf alone; and that if Jaime Wolf cared to share the information with them afterwards, then he was free to do so. Some of his questioners had been more than ready to take the low road, but late yesterday afternoon, they had ceased their attempts to question him.

His zulkari were still in the possession of the security team, as was the slug-thrower he routinely carried. His belongings were intact, but he was certain they had been searched for additional weapons—not that he had carried any others. From a certain point of view, it was pitiful; these people were led by the survivors of a Clan expeditionary force, and yet they seemingly failed to acknowledge the truth of the matter—there are no deadly weapons, only deadly warriors. If his intent had been mayhem, then he could still accomplish much, for he was a Scorpion warrior bred and trained, bearing a Bloodname earned in battle, no less. Stop it, Jason thought to himself. You are acting as if they have insulted you by not harshly interrogating you. What? You like pain?

He snorted, and drew a single deep breathe into his lungs, holding it until he counted to sixty, and then slowly released it over fifteen seconds. Repeating the calming exercise, he began to relax, taking as his guide the Scorpion his Clan revered. Patience is a virtue to the Scorpion, he recited to himself. The Scorpion waits until the time is right; the Scorpion never acts with haste, but with deliberation instead. He wastes no energy on that which cannot be altered. And he continued to breathe deeply and slowly as the mantras flowed in his thoughts.

The young woman—Danielle—stepped into the room once again. Jason slowly turned his head to face her, as smoothly as a turret tracking on a target. “Colonel Wolf will see you now, Star Captain.”

Jason stood, gradually releasing the last deep breathe he had taken. Glancing at the clock, he saw that twenty-four minutes had passed. He smiled, as he felt the slow, steady pulse of his heart. Petty tricks, Wolf, he mused. It would have worked against a Jaguar or a Falcon or a Viper—but not against a Scorpion.

“Thank you, Danielle. Are you free this evening?” he asked as he stretched, feeling the blood rush back into his limbs, feeling the joy of having defeated even this most minor of enemies.

“Free? For what?” she asked.

“For coupling, perhaps after dinner,” Jason replied in an off-hand manner.

“Excuse me?” she said, her jaw dropping.

“Have I insulted you, Danielle? If so, I do apologize. We of the Clans do not believe in wasting time with frivolities—I desire you, and I believe you me. That is our way.”

“That is not our way,” she said, her eyes wide. But then she smiled. “Dinner, yes, that I think we can do, Star Captain. Coupling will depend on how well dinner goes.”

Jason smiled at the woman and he bowed to her. “Until tonight then, Danielle, may your day be filled with the promise of a pleasant evening.”

She shook her head and soft laughter came from her plump lips, and then she turned and exited the room—her cheeks slightly flushed—as the door to Wolf’s office opened. A Major stepped through and waved Jason forward. The Star Captain crossed the room with steady measured steps and was ushered into a large office. An old man, black hair long since gone gray, sat at the desk. He wore the black and red of the Dragoon’s, though, and he retained the sharpness of eye of any Warrior. Two more men—and a woman—stood behind his chair, flanking him to the left and the right. The Major held out a chair for Jason across the desk, and then walked around to assume his own position behind Jaime Wolf.

Jason sat; his back straight and narrow as he surveyed the office. Two doors, besides the one he entered, but no windows. Furnished in a rather spartan manner, but each piece of furniture was well-crafted and lovingly maintained. Few keep-sakes rested on the shelves along the walls, but those that did were relics of battles waged and wars fought. In a place of honor over a roaring fireplace hung an old battered katana, the Dragon seal of House Kurita still visible upon the scabbard. The surface of the desk at which Wolf sat was clean and polished and empty, save for a green and brown leather blotter directly before the old man.

“I understand you have a message for me, Star Captain Scott,” Jaime Wolf said, his voice a low rumble that hinted he still retained all the deadliness of a warrior of the Clans. Jason nodded. The Wolf may have turned gray, but it was not yet infirm nor had its teeth been loosened.

“Aff, Colonel Wolf. I bear a message to you from my Khan—Ariel Suvorov—of Clan Goliath Scorpion. My Khan sends you greetings, Son of Clan Wolf, the Clan of Kerensky, to whom we owe our surkairede for the redemption and adoption of Ethan Moreau long ago.”

“Your path may have parted from the Clans of the Homeworlds, Jaime Wolf; yet, you remain a Warrior of the Clans. You know honor and you know of our ways. In the spirit of both, my Khan instructs that I ask you for the codex of each of the Warriors of the Scorpion who many years past accompanied your reconnaissance force into the Inner Sphere. We ask that these be given so that we of Goliath Scorpion may honor our fallen trothkin and insure that their progeny know of their heritage and of their deeds.”

“Codex? You traveled the best part of a year for their codex?” One of the men standing behind Wolf blurted out—another Major.

Jaime Wolf raised his hand, and the officer quit sputtering. “The Scorpions sent not just a Warrior of the Clan, Erik, but a true-born who has earned his Bloodname on this errand. That alone shows the seriousness with which they place on this. Why now?”

“The Invasion has been halted, Colonel Wolf. And it is unlikely when it resumes that my Clan will be allowed to return to this our ancient home. Unlikely that either you or I will remain alive by that time. But our legacy—genetic and otherwise—will continue long past either of us. We seek to know what our brother and sister Scorpions accomplished, what honor they earned, and how they fell. And unlike some Clans of late, we remember that you are of us as well—trained by the hands and tradition of the Scorpion. The feats that your Dragoon’s have accomplished, Colonel Wolf, they bring glory and honor upon all of us whom claim status as a Warrior of Kerensky. Seyla.”

“Seyla,” Jaime Wolf intoned softly. He stared deep into Jason’s eyes, a gaze that the Scorpion warrior returned without flinching. “It will be done, Star Captain Scott. The men and women of your Clan who volunteered to accompany our expedition—and who died by doing so—will be honored on the Homeworlds once more.” He stood, and Jason did so as well. “It will take some days to assemble the information and sensor logs of the engagements in which they fought. Until then, Star Captain, you will be our honored guest here in Harlech.”

“My Khan thanks you, Colonel Wolf. I thank you and my Clan thanks you for the honor you show our trothkin. A query, if I may?”

“Go ahead.”

“Have you retained the giftake of these Warriors?”

Colonel Wolf nodded slowly. “For some, yes, Star Captain. The sample was digitized and preserved in their codex. But for others it did not prove possible to obtain at the time of their death. And as the years passed, fewer and fewer of our original number remained to recover the tissue sample—so that practice fell aside. Nonetheless, young Warrior, if we retain any giftakes they will be included for your Scientists.”

“Once again, I thank you, Colonel Wolf.” Jason paused for but a moment, but Jaime Wolf remained as perceptive as a young Wolf pup fresh from his sibko.

“Is there another matter, Star Captain?”

“Onboard the DropShip, I met a Falcon Bondsman named Lucien. Who holds his bond?”

Wolf frowned, and turned to one of the others standing with him. The woman drew out a hand computer and consulted the data. “Major Devries, Sir.”

“Why do you ask me this?” he inquired, raising one eyebrow.

“With your permission, Colonel Wolf, I would ask for the right to challenge Major Devries in a Trial of Possession for the Bondsman Lucien,” Jason answered with a wry grin. “This errand is not my only reason for being here—I Seek. And my vision showed that a Falcon would guide the way.”

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 Post subject: Re: The Seeker PostPosted: 2012-10-07 09:27pm
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Chapter Three

January 21, 3056
Open Proving Grounds
Harlech, Outreach
Chaos March


On the shores of Lake Kearny, a crowd of people had gathered in a natural bowl of land the Dragoons had shaped and sculpted into an amphitheatre. Already, the rows of seats above Jason were filling to capacity with off-duty Dragoons come to watch this Trial. And others besides them—mercenaries of all types, their colorful and distinctive uniforms standing out amidst the sea of red and black, white-robed acolytes of ComStar, observers in civilian dress from some of the Great Houses—all these and more had come to watch the bout between himself and Major Devries.

Strange, he thought to himself that so many have come over what amounts to a trifling Trial between the two of us. Among the crowds, he could see the holo-vid cameras—apparently the Dragoons were even recording the event, perhaps for local viewing pleasure. He had known of the popularity of the Solaris events; perhaps that was why. Regardless, the recording would serve as an excellent record of the event for his codex; he made a mental note to ask Colonel Wolf for a copy before his departure next week.

Two days before, he had met Samantha Devries and formally announced his intention to seek a Trial against her for the possession of Bondsman Lucien. She had accepted his challenge without hesitation—but with conditions.

“Star Captain,” she had said, “I am no MechWarrior. I am an infantry trooper in this mercenary command. I will fight your trial, but you must fight me hand-to-hand.”

“Agreed, Major Devries,” Jason answered. “Armed or unarmed?”

“Armed with melee weapons only—and they must be unpowered melee weapons at that, Star Captain. And further, since you have earned a Bloodname, and as is my right in a Trial of this nature, I bid myself and two Warriors that I shall select—you must defeat all three of us to win.”

Jason had smiled a grin that any Strana Mechty Dire Wolf would have envied. “Bargained well and done, Major.”

Now, he stood alone and waited just outside of the circle that the Dragoon’s had drawn in the dirt of the shore. Danielle had offered to stand with him, but Jason had simply smiled and kissed her after she made the gesture last night. Today was a day for Warriors—and that despite all of her warmth and kindness she was no Warrior.

He waited motionless as the crowd slowly settled into their seats, his back to the lake as he faced the dark tunnel bored into the hillside beyond. A flicker of movement in the darkness caught his eye, and then he could see Colonel Wolf and a half-dozen of his officers emerge into the light, followed by Devries and her warriors—and the bondsman Lucien. Devries, her warriors, and the bondsman stopped just outside of the circle, but Wolf and the others continued across.

“Are you prepared for this Trial, Warrior?” the old man asked.

“Aff,” Jason said as he bowed his head in respect. “A question before we begin?”

Jaime Wolf nodded his head yes.

“These warriors are of your Dragoons. Would you prefer for them to suffer lethal or non-lethal injury in the Circle today?”

One of the officers behind Wolf sucked in a sudden gasp of air, and several tensed—but one man, older even than Jaime Wolf by his appearance laughed out loud. “By Kerensky’s seed, Colonel, he is indeed a Warrior of the Clans!”

Colonel Wolf smiled, but his eyes were cold. “Yes he is, Elliot. And to answer your question, Star Captain Scott, I would prefer them to remain alive.”

“And so they shall remain, Colonel,” Jason said as he bowed his head again. “No killing blows shall the Scorpion strike this day.”

A dark haired woman frowned. “You are so confident, then? There are three of them against you, in succession one after the other?”

“I am a Warrior of the Scorpion,” Jason answered, lifting his head up so that the sun above filled his face with warmth. “I do not fear odds of merely three-to-one against.”

“Those are no mere infantry—Warrior of the Scorpion. Major Devries serves the Dragoon’s in the Seventh Kommando, and there are few enough able to match her in battle. And she has chosen two of her finest to fight alongside.”

“I had presumed that she was not a typical infantry trooper, Captain. After all, did she not capture a Falcon Elemental alive, quiaff?”

“Aff,” she answered, still shaking her head. But she made no further comment.

Colonel Wolf beckoned to two of his men standing over against the base of the amphitheatre wall. The two marched steadily over towards Jason and the officers, and then stopped, one saluting. The other was carrying a polished wooden box. Colonel Wolf returned the salute, and waved the second man forward.

“You weapons, Star Captain Scott; your zulkari; they are now returned to you. Fight well, Scorpion, and fight with honor—and may victory show the truth—and yield the prize.”

“Seyla,” Jason replied as the second man opened the box and he reached within and took the zulkari from the satin lined interior. He placed each of the blades within its own lacquered sheath on his belt, and then he in turn pulled each of his leather gauntlets taut.

Colonel Wolf and his officers walked away and seated themselves in a small box just outside the Circle.

Yet another Dragoons officer walked out into the center of the twenty-meter diameter circle upon the ground. Pointing first at Jason, and then Devries and her people, he motioned them to him. Jason moved forward, as did the three Dragoons, stopping when he stood a mere two paces distant from his opponents.

“I am Captain Danton,” the officer said, “and I shall serve as referee for the Trial fought today. Star Captain Scott, when I signal you may enter the Circle. The Trial will begin the instant your opponent enters after that point. You will face one opponent at a time—but the moment I declare one is down, another may enter. Leaving the Circle for any reason—including being thrown from it—will result in immediate elimination for the individual in question. You have chosen your weapons, and each party has been informed of that choice. If at any time, either party wishes to yield, I will issue a command to cease—that command will be immediately obeyed. Medics are standing by—but they will not enter the Circle until the Trial is complete. Do you all understand the rules?”

Jason—and his opponents—nodded their answer. “Excellent. Warriors, please leave the Circle, and prepare for battle.”

Jason walked back to his staging area, and then turned to face across the Circle once more. The referee nodded and pointed at him, and the Scorpion drew in a deep breath and then he stepped within the Circle.

*****************************************************

From his box, Colonel Wolf watched as the Scorpion Warrior stepped into the Circle of Equals. He was calm and steady, relaxed, his arms resting easy at his side. His weapons remained in their sheaths. In the center, Danton signaled at Devries, and then he stepped back, out of the way of the combatents. A tall, powerfully built man stepped forward into the sand, twirling an iron-shod quarterstaff in his hands as he came.

Beside Jaime Wolf on his right sat the woman he had adopted as his own daughter and intended successor—Maeve, wearing the uniform of a Captain that she had earned. On the left, there was one of the few surviving officers that had originally accompanied the Dragoon’s—J. Elliot Jamison, of Zeta Battalion.

“I know Cantonelli,” Maeve whispered amid the roars of the crowd, “he is vicious with that staff.”

“Perhaps,” mused Jaime Wolf.

Cantonelli advanced across the sand, spinning the iron-shod wooden weapon slowly in front of him as he advanced. Yet Jason simply stood there, three meters from the edge of the Circle of Honor. The Dragoon grinned as he kept closing, twisting the staff in sweeping arcs downward from right-to-left, and then from left-to-right, the motions coming faster and faster as the distance shrank.

Finally, as the crowd began to boo and hiss at the Scorpion's inaction, Cantonelli surged forward, slashing downwards the iron ferrule tip with his full strength at the still motionless Scorpion. And Jason moved. Like a bolt of lightning unleashed, he matched Cantonelli’s movement, staying inside the arc of the staff, inside of the lethal reach of those iron tips. Planting one foot into the sand, he reached out and grasped the Dragoon’s forearms, and used the momentum of Cantonelli’s swing and the leverage of his own hip to pull his opponent off-balance and throw him back towards the circles edge.

The Dragoon hit the ground hard, and was forced to drop his staff to keep himself inside the circle. But he rolled back up to his feet and faced Jason. The Scorpion had not waited, however, and Cantonelli’s jaw took the full impact of Jason’s boot. He reeled back from the blow as Jason reset and spun, the spinning back kick catching the Dragoon square in the chest—forcing him across the line.

Danton blew his whistle, releasing the next combatant.

“He was so focused on what he was trying to do, Maeve, that he forgot that Scorpion down there might have other ideas,” Jaime Wolf spoke loudly against the roar of the crowd. “Did you see how the Scorpion observed his opponent? How he anticipated his moves? Cantonelli did not, and that is why he lost.”

The second warrior entered the circle—this one wielding two leather wrapped bamboo fighting sticks. Grinning, Jason nodded to his opponent across the circle and drew his own pair of weapons.

The two began to dance and probe against each other—razor’s edge against rib-crushing impact—but neither seriously attempted to land a blow. Both warriors were probing their opponent to discover his weaknesses.

“What is the way of the warrior, Maeve?” Jaime Wolf asked his daughter as she watched the fight spellbound, the two combatants lunging and parrying as they danced like a pair of butterflies around and around the center of the circle.

“To defeat your enemies?”

“Not quite. The Way of the Warrior is to understand your enemy and to use his own strengths against him—so that he defeats himself. The Scorpions have always understood that—watch him closely, Maeve. See what he sees.”

The young woman frowned and watched as Jason and the second Dragoon kept circling and probing. And then the Scorpion lashed out with one knife. The Dragoon swept the blow aside and thrust forward with his own free stick, but the strike had been naught but a feint. Jason dropped to the ground beneath the stick and spun, the heel of his boot striking the Dragoon in the side of the knee-cap. A sickening crack sounded across the amphitheatre, and the Dragoon dropped to the sand as Jason rolled back and stood once more, holding both zulkari before him as he gauged his wounded opponent.

The crowd snarled at the low blow against one of their own, and began to howl for the blood of the Scorpion below.

“Roberts thought he was sparring in a traditional match—and the Scorpion let him think that. He was not expecting him to use something other than his weapons—and because of that he failed. Scott saw that—and used it.”

“But that move is illegal,” she protested.

J. Elliot Jamison made a rude sound from the other side of Jaime Wolf. “And so what? It was not listed in the rules given in this trial as illegal—and it just gave him the victory over Roberts, quiaff? Best that you understand this now before you face the Clans, Maeve Wolf—against a real Clan warrior you face death incarnate. That Scorpion was not joking when he asked the Colonel if he wanted those men dead or alive at the end of the match—and that was a courtesy damn few Clanners would have given.”

On the sands below, Roberts dropped one of his sticks, and tore a strip from his shirt as Jason gave him time to recover. Holding his damaged leg out straight, he quickly bound the stick to it, and then hauled himself upright, with but a single weapon. But his injured leg meant he could barely move, and Jason circled, keeping out of the area where Roberts could strike him. The zulkari flashed out and a slashing flow of crimson erupted from the back of the hand in which Roberts held his last stick. Before it could hit the sand, Jason spun, and hit it with a snap-kick that sent it flying outside of the circle.

The Scorpion lowered his weapons and stepped back two paces, outside of the reach of Roberts, hobbled as he was. From the stands Maeve and the others could see the two warriors speaking, but they were too far distant—and the crowd too noisy—to hear what was said.

“What is he doing?” Maeve asked.

“Offering hegira, probably,” Jamison answered gruffly. “Of course, if Roberts accepts, it means that Devries will forfeit.”

Roberts shook his head, and limped forward, his fists raised, though his face was strained by pain. Jason nodded solemnly at the injured man, and sheathed his zulkari, raising his own arms and fists in a defensive guard position.

He waited and Roberts lunged forward on his good leg jabbing forward with his right fist, and trying for a knock-out blow with a powerful haymaker from his left. Yet, the Scorpion easily dodged both blows, spinning out the way, and three rapid strikes slammed into Roberts’s right kidney, causing the Dragoon to double over in agony. A fourth blow slammed into the Dragoons temple, and Roberts collapsed unconscious to the ground.

The whistle blew a second time, as Danton motioned Devries into the circle.

She advanced, holding a pair of long knives that glittered in the sunlight, her eyes fixed on her opponent with a murderous gaze. Jason drew his own blades once more as she approached. The woman began to circle, but then charged in with blinding speed, using both knives to cut a path. Jason spun aside, parrying the blows with his own steel, but one of the Dragoons blades sliced against his right side, spilling blood.

The crowd roared as the Dragoons watching the contest cheered for their own—but then something changed in the arena below. Jason began to dance, weaving his blades around him as he moved—not striking, but using them to parry only. Devries drove in, her own blades flashing as she struck, and three more times she cut him, leaving blood on the sand below.

“Watch closely, Maeve,” Jaime Wolf shouted above the crowd. “Few outsiders ever gain the honor of watching the Dance of the Scars. He is giving her great honor, by Scorpion lights.”

As Devries pressed in, Jason spun and lashed out with a single blade, scoring a hit on her right shoulder. His free hand parried two blows that should have opened his belly. Spinning around, he lightly slashed her left shoulder, and then he dove backwards—out of her reach as she struck back. Landing on his feet, he bounced up and forward—and he ignored her blades reaching out for him. Struck in the right shoulder and his stomach, he slid both of his own knives along her waist—first the left, and then the right—and then he spun away again, dripping blood profusely from a half-dozen wounds, but leaving Devries with four of her own.

Dancing across the sand, splattering it with his blood, he circled her as Devries assessed the damage. She snarled at him as she judged the blood loss to be in her favor, and knew that he could not continue for long. She charged forward, slicing and slashing, a veritable dervish as her arms whirled. And yet, none of her strikes connected with his flesh.

Jason parried every strike and sparks from the conflicting blades flashed in the arena. He bobbed and weaved around her—and then one leg hooked out and caught her behind the knee, and he straightened, throwing her off-balance and into him. She stabbed downward, and her knife drove deep into his thigh, but the two of them fell—with Jason’s body pinning her other arm, her other knife. Dropping one of his own blades, he clamped a hand on the knife buried in his thigh and held it there, while his other plunged down directly over her heart—and stopped just as the blade pierced the flesh deep enough to draw blood, but not one millimeter further.

The stadium went quiet as Devries struggled, but the Scorpion warrior held her pinned, and the knife was poised against her sternum. At last she relaxed her grip and moved her arm to slap the sand three times, and Danton cried out in a thunderous shout, “Down!”

Jason pulled the knife away from her body, and staggered to his feet as medics rushed into the circle of equals. Ignoring them, he turned to Colonel Wolf, and saluted, holding the bloody blade high as the Dragoons and their guests howled their wonder at his victory.

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 Post subject: Re: The Seeker PostPosted: 2012-10-07 09:29pm
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Chapter Four

January 27, 3056
Wolf Dragoon’s DropShip Artemis
Outbound to Zenith Jump Point
Outreach, Chaos March


“Star Captain, you requested my presence?” Lucien asked as he stood outside the hatch to the small cabin that had been assigned to the Scorpion who now held his bond.

“Aff, Bondsman. Please come in,” Jason answered without looking up from the screen of the small—yet powerful—portable computer that bore an embossed scorpion upon its case. Nodding as he continued to scroll through tiny lines of data, Jason finally sighed and sat back as he lowered the screen into the closed position, and then he rubbed his eyes and face.

“I could never have been a Scientist, I fear; the mere thought of spending the majority of my life, nose buried into an illuminated screen deciphering arcane symbology causes me to shudder. And yet, we do as we must to serve our Clan, quiaff?”

“Aff, Star Captain.”

Jason pivoted the chair around to face Lucien in the cramped cabin, and then he cocked his head to one side—in either humor or frustration. Lowering it, shaking it from side-to-side, he pointed at the single bunk. “Please sit, Bondsman Lucien. I have but the one chair, and I shall not ask you to squat on the floor simply to speak with you at eye level.”

The giant elemental warrior sat on the edge of the bunk, his weight under the pseudo-gravity of the DropShips acceleration causing the foam mattress to compress radically.

“That is better. What do you know of your new Clan, Bondsman Lucien?”

Frowning, the former Falcon slowly shook his head. “Little enough, Star Captain, other than the teachings of our instructors in the sibko and what my fellow warriors told me of your Clan. I had never even considered being captured on the field of battle; which meant that I never sought out any additional information beyond what I needed to perform my assigned duties.”

Jason nodded. “I imagine that you were told we Scorpions are nothing but hedonistic drug-addled nar-do-wells who waste our lives and resources digging up relics of the past, quiaff?”

Lucien’s face flushed crimson as he whispered back in reply, “Aff.”

“I suspect that you will discover such that such simplistic views are in reality far more complex, Bondsman. We of the Scorpion do enjoy ourselves—to a degree that few other Clans find . . . comforting. But pleasure for its own sake is not our goal; despite all of our genetic tinkering, we remain human beings; people, Bondsman Lucien. And all people feel . . . something. We seek to experience pleasure, joy, sorrow, sadness—and many, many other shades of emotion. We Scorpions emphasize these positive emotional traits so that we may better serve our Clan; other Clans seem to rely upon negative motivations of jealousy, hatred, shame, and pure undying rage.”

“Contrary to popular belief among our brother and sister Clans, we are not addicts seeking a new thrill to augment the effects of necrosia; indeed, for many of our nest-mates, necrosia is tasted but once in their entire lives. Some do abuse the concoction, but they are quickly weeded out from the Warrior caste and spend their lives in haze of drug-altered sensations where they cannot harm any but themselves.”

“And we do Seek the relics of the past, but we Seek in order to gain perspective on both the present and the future. For it is in understanding from where we have come, Bondsman, that we gain insight on which roads to travel ahead—and on what dangers those roads may pose for the unwary.”

Jason smiled and shook his head. “But those lessons remain for the days yet to come, Bondsman. Suffice it to say that the simple view is not always the correct view. Today, we shall discuss your bond-cord and what that means to the Clan and Warriors of the Scorpion.”

“The cords that you wear about your wrist, Bondsman, in all of the Clans of Kerensky they are symbols of your new status. Three cords; each of the finest silk strands; each of a different shade; each symbolizing a different trait which you must demonstrate to me in order to be declared abtakha and adopted into our ranks. Among the Scorpions, the shades are gold, red, and black; and each has both a meaning and a lesson.”

“The golden cord represents integrity. We of the Scorpion value this trait—as do all true children of Kerensky—because it is beneath a Warrior to lie. But here is where we differ from the other Clans, your former Clan included. It is not enough to speak the truth, Bondsman; it is not enough to avoid deceit and treachery; it is your responsibility—it is your Duty—to avoid lying to yourself. Do you understand?”

“Neg.”

“It is easy to live your life, Bondsman Lucien being truthful to others in a society that values such, as ours does. It is a mark of honor to conduct oneself with integrity towards ones foes; which is why we are taught from the cradle to respect all Warriors—of all Clans—that prove themselves worthy of that title. These are the easy steps of integrity. The truly difficult task lies in acknowledging absolute truth within your own, well,” the Star Captain grinned as he shrugged, “let us call it your own soul.”

“To be a Scorpion, the Warrior must acknowledge his own faults, his own doubts, his own failings. He must steadfastly refuse to deceive himself, especially when to do so would be quicker, would be easier, would be simpler." Jason paused and cocked his head. "What is your purpose in life, Bondsman Lucien?”

“I do not understand the question, Star Captain.”

“Your reason for being, the purpose for which you are now here in the place that life has taken you and formed you into the man that you are. You must have some idea.”

Lucien frowned as he concentrated on the Star Captain’s question. Never—not once—in his twenty-two years of life had any of his instructors asked him such a question. He did not know the answer; indeed, he could barely conceive of the question. He swallowed and wet his lips, his mouth suddenly dry. “I am a Warrior of Kerensky—born and bred as a Jade Falcon, Star Captain. I live to serve my Clan.”

“That is a lie.”

The elementals eyes went wide and he opened his mouth to protest, but Jason interrupted him.

“It is not a lie of your conscious self, Bondsman, and you are not a liar because of it. Such an idea, such a concept; this was never asked you before was it?”

“Neg.”

“And with good reason. The other Clans believe that to serve the Clan is the complete and total sum of existence. The Falcons—of which stock you are from—fear the dissent that such inner knowledge—such self-awareness—might stir in their ranks. You still have the memories of the Culling embedded deep in your psyche; so much so that Falcons conform to the point where those who say things not sanctioned are officially shunned by their fellows.”

“They are not alone in that, for there are few Clans that would welcome such introspection among their ranks. But we do. We of the Scorpion expect our Warriors to examine themselves in minute detail, questioning why and for what cause we live and give our lives. We expect our Warriors to know themselves, and to thine own self be true—to paraphrase an ancient poet.”

Jason leaned forward, his hands clasped together and his elbows on his knees. “We want our Warriors to question themselves, to ask the difficult questions—the terrifying questions—about what lies beneath their surface. It is our belief that by doing so, we are made stronger. That through knowing oneself absolutely, we are freed to act without hesitation and remorse when we are called upon to do so.”

“The answer, Bondsman, is that you, and I, and every Warrior of Kerensky who has ever lived—be they free-birth or true-born—do have a specific purpose in this life. Would you like to know what that purpose is?”

“Aff,” Lucien whispered, mesmerized by intensity of the Scorpion Warrior seated across from him.

“The truth is that we are killers.”

Jason sat back and crossed his arms. “Our purpose—our only purpose—as defined by the Great Father and the Founders is to kill those who would oppose the Clans. Other castes grow our food and produce our weapons and heal our wounds. They build our cities and generate power, but we—the WARRIORS—we do nothing but kill.”

“That is not true! We protect, we defend, we . . .”

“Lies, all lies, that we tell ourselves to protect us from the truth of our own being. Accept this, Bondsman Lucien, we are born and bred and genetically engineered to kill. Oh, we kill for a higher purpose by defending those who cannot fight. But we are killers at heart, in the core of our being. That is our purpose. It is a burden that Nicolas Kerensky laid upon our caste, so that the lower castes never have to face the horrors that we are expected to bear without question daily. And only by acknowledging what we are, what our purpose is, can we move forward and become more than a mere Warrior.”

“We do not kill indiscriminately, Bondsman Lucien. We follow rules and we live by honor, but kill we do with a precision and an efficiency that few others in history have achieved. Because of that, the Scorpion feels that we must understand why we kill. Killing in anger, over some dispute or disagreement—that is wrong. So we teach ourselves not to simply accept, but to overcome. When the Scorpion must kill, he does so—without regret, without remorse, and without anger. He does so dispassionately knowing full well that he is taking a life. But when we are not required to kill, then we do not. The Scorpion never kills for pleasure, never for personal gain, but a killer he remains nonetheless.”

“It is a sad truth, but truth it is, my brother. Many who would become Scorpion abtakha cannot accept this, but it is so. And when you learn to no longer lie to yourself, when you learn to accept without reservation who and what you are truly are, then shall the golden cord be cut.”

Jason smiled and lifted the red cord on Luciens wrist.

“The red cord is representative of your fighting prowess. Are you accomplished in that area, Bondsman Lucien?”

Lucien opened his mouth to answer, but then he stopped. Don’t lie to yourself, a quiet voice inside whispered. “I must not have been, Star Captain, for I was defeated and taken in battle.”

The corner of Jason’s mouth twitched as he forced himself not to smile at the disheartened Warrior sitting across from him. “Believe it or not, Bondsman Lucien, we learn from our failures. This is something else the Scorpion teaches and the other Clans do not. Answer this, in your sibko, if you failed in a test were you immediately taken outside and terminated?”

“Neg.”

“That is because without failure we cannot comprehend the reality of success. As a child we learn in that manner, each successive time avoiding the mistakes of the past and adapting to the present. And yet, having passed your Trial of Position, suddenly now you no longer need to learn, to grow, to expand? The Scorpion does not demand that you always succeed; the Scorpion demands of its Warriors that we always strive to our fullest possible ability—and that we learn from our mistakes what not to repeat in the future.”

“Tomorrow, and every day thereafter, we shall work together on this, Bondsman Lucien. Do you know tai chi?”

“Only the basics we were taught in sibko, Star Captain. There are other—more effective—fighting styles.”

“Then you do not know tai chi. The Scorpion uses this form of moving meditation to allow a Warrior to learn about himself and to hone his body into a living weapon. We are not like our brother Clans, Bondsman Lucien. We do not accept randomness in the actions we choose. Some say that our obsession with precision is a negative trait, but among the Warriors of the Scorpion, we see it as a strength, as a positive influence. The Scorpion has but one true weapon—the stinger. And while we may feint with the claws, to deliver our venom we must be precise in the application of that weapon. So we teach, so we live, and so shall we die.”

“The kata which I shall teach you will give you time to learn about yourself, and to transform your body into that weapon—the stinger—, a weapon directed by your thought, your spirit, your will. On the field of battle, chaos reigns—but we stand aloof without neither passion nor empathy. We are aware, Bondsman Lucien, of all that happens around us. We place our blows with pin-point accuracy on the precise locations where our opponents are the most vulnerable."

"For in truth, Bondsman, it is not precision that the Scorpion possesses, but perception. We perceive all things that occur around us, and we are aware of the openings that our opponents provide us. This is what you learn, though you must first unlearn the lessons of your previous life. Once you have mastered the basics, we will advance to armed and unarmed combat, and then—when you are ready and the red cord cut—you will once again don a suit of Elemental armor as one of the deadliest creatures in all of creation—a Scorpion Warrior.”

Jason left the hulking elemental digest this and then he lifted the third cord.

“The final cord—the black cord—is fidelity. Nicolas Kerensky selected the Goliath Scorpion for the manner in which it defended its nest, as well as the lethality of its venom. All Scorpions—regardless of caste or rank—are now your brothers and sisters, Bondsman Lucien. We kill to protect them; we kill to retain what we possess. We give our very lives in payment to ensure the survival of our Clan and those who are unable to defend themselves.”

“Our commitment to fidelity, however, concerns far more than our fellow Scorpions. We must show faith to what the Great Father and the Founders intended. We of the Scorpion are Wardens—by and large. And yet, seeing for myself what the jackals who rule this Inner Sphere have made of the worlds that were once jewels of the Star League, I question that we have followed the right path.”

“The Crusaders are wrong in their belief that we must conquer and rule the people of the Inner Sphere as chattel. But we have been wrong in standing aside and permitting the vermin that call themselves Lords and Ladies to remain in power. The Great Father called upon us—the Clans, though we were not such at the time—to return one day to protect the people of the Inner Sphere. We have failed to live up to his command.”

Jason wryly smile and looked up at the elemental warrior before him. “It is up to you and to I and to every Scorpion living that we learn from this and correct it. We must be faithful to who we as a people are, and to what the Great Father and his son expected of us to accomplish.”

“When you demonstrate to me your absolute commitment to sharing that faith, then shall the third cord be severed and you will be declared as abtakha. You will be inducted into the embrace of the Scorpion and you will become one with us all.”

“Go, and retire to your cabin for the remainder of the day, Bondsman Lucien. Consider carefully all that I have spoken of; mull over these words in your heart of hearts. For tomorrow,” Jason said with a smile, “tomorrow, you will begin to learn what being a Scorpion truly means.”

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 Post subject: Re: The Seeker PostPosted: 2012-10-07 09:30pm
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Chapter Five

April 3, 3056
Wolf Dragoon’s DropShip Artemis
Zenith Jump Point
Tukayyid, Free Rasalhague Republic


“THAT junked-out Merchant is what your people sent for you?” Cortez exclaimed into the silence that had descended onto the bridge of the Dragoon’s Overlord as the battered old JumpShip had floated into the bridge's expansive armored-glass screens field of view. He barked out a burst of laughter, while many of the other Dragoons looked away quietly. “For such a Very Important Personage as yourself, Scorpion, this is the best your Clan can do?”

Jason gazed out through the viewing port with his hands crossed behind his back, the DropShips acceleration providing enough pseudo-gravity that he did not—yet—have to worry about free-floating in zero-g. And then he turned to face the environmental systems tech.

“Appearances can be deceptive, Mister Cortez. And considering that my mission—the second half of my mission, that is—will take me deeper into the Inner Sphere, would it not be appropriate to use a ship which does not appear out of place among the free-traders and general mercantile traffic? GSS Jenna Scott may not look like much, gentlemen, but she is far more than she appears to be.”

The Dragoon commanding Artemis nodded in agreement. “Just a run-of-the-mill Merchant class, eh, Cortez? Nothing special, right? Well, Mister, you just go on believing that, along with everyone else that picks her up on sensors.”

The old, white-haired man who had once lived in the Homeworlds turned to face Jason. “Which one was she, sir?”

Pathfinder, Captain Humphrey. And she has an entirely new kit-bag of tricks to add to her arsenal as well, including a lithium-fusion battery and a hyper-pulse generator station. Her guns have been rather thoroughly updated and expanded, and her armor replaced with the latest generation of lamellar ferro-carbide. But for all intents and purposes, she still looks—and appears on sensor arrays—as an early-flight Merchant class; making her ideal for my purposes.”

“You can’t squeeze all of that into a Merchant, I don’t care whether you are Clan or not. It won’t physically fit,” sneered Cortez.

“If you will recall, Mister Cortez,” replied Jason, “I never said she was a Merchant-class ship—you did.”

As Cortez opened his mouth again, Humphrey spoke up, “Stow it Pieter. That is something I never—in all my days—expected to ever see again; certainly not in active service; a Tracker-class WarShip.”

Someone whistled as the bridge went quiet. “Skip, are you sure? I mean, there haven’t been any of those around since the early 2600’s?” asked one of the Dragoon fighter pilots.

“Sure I’m sure, Garnier. First assignment I ever had as a Wolf free-born warrior was in the Clan Naval Depot at Strana Mechty. I spent almost a year doing nothing but watching over a whole bunch of moth-balled ships floating in space, just in case the Dark Caste tried to steal them. There were three Trackers in the Exodus fleet, but they look so much like a Merchant I’m not surprised people got confused. I have no idea how they ended up there, though.”

Jason smiled. “It was a matter of bureaucratic confusion. The three wound up moth-balled in the SLDF Alula Australis Naval Reserve Depot after the Reunification Wars. They were supposed to be assigned to the Graham Depot for disposal—and the paperwork got bungled. SLDF Naval Headquarters had copies of the original order for disposal of three Trackers at Graham, and an acknowledgement from the Graham Depot that there were no longer any more of that class in the Reserve. Not that they had disposed of them, mind you, but that they did not have any to dispose of. Some bureaucrat on first on Keid and then on Earth misread the communication and marked the ships off the naval rolls. From that point forward, as far as the bureaucracy was concerned, the three ships at Alula Australis simply did not exist. By 2685, the Depot commanders there had quit even trying to correct the snafu and placed the ships in the trailing Trojan orbit behind the gas giant Vermillion. And there they sat until the Usurper overthrew the Star League and killed Richard Cameron.”

“The Rim Worlds Navy considered putting them back into active service during the Amaris Coup, but they had their hands full with the rest of the Reserve—and the Trackers were far too lightly-armed and armored to garner much attention. So they remained untouched up to the Exodus, when the Great Father’s staff found them still floating in orbit. He needed every ship he could get his hands on, so they came with us on the Exodus; after which they were promptly mothballed once more, this time in the Clan Homeworlds.”

“At least until we dispatched the Dragoon’s on their recon mission, Captain Humphrey. That same year, Khan Djerassi of my Clan petitioned the Grand Council for permission to reactivate the ships; the other Khans considered them almost worthless as WarShips, so he got them. We rebuilt them—or rather had the Ravens rebuild them—and ever since they have quietly served in our Toumen. We of the Clans do always advertise when we are around, after all.”

Humphrey snorted. “I know better—so do MOST of the original Dragoons—but you would think the rest of the Inner Sphere would be concerned over that prospect.”

“With the exception of your former Clan, Captain, those involved in the Invasion were not overly concerned with concealing who and what they were. Even the Wolves in the end threw away any attempt to use surveillance and recon, relying instead upon their agreement with ComStar. I would suspect that beside the Scorpions, perhaps only the Adders would have used such assets. To the rest, it too closely resembles a deliberate lie.”

The Scorpion Star Captain turned to face his bondsman squarely. “What is the difference here, Bondsman Lucien?”

The former Falcon warrior straightened in response to the direct question as he considered it carefully. “Star Captain, the difference is that we are not telling a lie—directly that is,” he frowned as he considered his words. Thinking like a Scorpion was so very much different than his previous life! “We do not make any statement one way or the other on the matter; if our opponent fails to see what is before him, is that our fault?”

“Most correct, Bondsman Lucien,” Jason said with a grin. “Though some of the Clans of Kerensky would consider it a lie of omission, it is not a lie of commission; and thus, to the Scorpions not a lie at all. There before us floats GSS Jenna Scott, and if you can not see clearly enough to realize she is more than she appears, why then that is your own fault and not ours. Which is the reason that the Scorpion trains our Warriors to see and to understand all that which surrounds them; to question even the most innocuous event; things are not always as they appear to be.”

“Captain Humphrey, on behalf of my Khan and my Clan—and for myself as well—I thank you, Sir, for the voyage both to Outreach and back. You are a credit to the Dragoon’s—and to the Clans.”

The old man nodded solemnly. “It was a pleasure, Star Captain Scott. Good luck—and good hunting, Sir.”

“Well, then, Bondsman Lucien, shall we prepare to transfer between ships?”

*****************************************************

”The data-packet and genetic samples have been transferred to the Orpheus, Star Captain Scott,” said the commanding officer of GSS Jenna Scott. “She is preparing for her first jump back to the Homeworlds even as we speak.”

The Essex-class destroyer was one of two openly Scorpion ships that traveled regularly between the Homeworlds and the Occupation Zone. This time the former SLDF ship had carried saKhan Nelson Elam for consultations with the IlKhan over some matter of dispute back home. The saKhans arrival had been scheduled to coincide with his own in order to carry back the codices of the Dragoon’s Scorpion warriors, giftakes samples, and sensor logs to Khan Surorov.

“That is excellent news, Star Captain Gregor; and our own departure?”

“First jump will occur in thirty minutes, followed by each successive jump every eighty-four hours until we reach your destination.”

“And the ceremony?”

“Everything is in order, Seeker. Your instructions have been followed to the letter.”

“Then let us welcome to the nest our newest brother.”

*****************************************************

Lucien had finished stowing his few possessions—mostly clothing—in the cabin he had been assigned aboard the Jenna Scott. Unlike his quarters aboard Artemis, these were actually large enough for him to have enough room to stretch and pace. Star Captain Scott had not been joking when he said this ancient ship had been rebuilt! The corridors had all been widened, enough at least so that an Elemental Warrior in full battle-armor could walk two abreast with ample clearance to each side and above. Not all Clan ships had featured such an extensive—and costly—refit; many, even in his original Clan, were too cramped to allow the use of standard battle armor. On board those ships, Elementals were reduced to using light powered armor, little more effective than the original Nighthawk PA(L) used by the special forces of the SLDF.

He had been assigned a cabin adjacent to Star Captain Scott; so that he could be at his bond-holders beck and call around the clock. It was clear, however, that Scott had sent word ahead, for the bunk had been designed for the elemental phenotype, and the overhead panels elevated almost a full half-meter. Aboard Artemis, he had been forced to sleep on the deck, for the bunk was simply too small to accommodate his giant-sized frame. He had not protested—of course!—because that was not the way the Clans worked. One made do with what one had, after all.

The cabin even included a workstation console on the desk—with the chair sized for him as well, by the blood of Kerensky!—and while he was locked out of certain portions of the ship’s systems, he had full access to the educational and recreational materials stored within. The former Falcon had almost neglected to stow his gear when he discovered a complete copy of the Remembrance on the console. The Scorpion version of the Remembrance; so different from the Falcon telling he knew so well. Scott had promised him that he would receive a copy when they got aboard, but he had not expected it to be on the network.

Curiosity had made him almost sit down to read it; but then his sense of duty returned. First things, first, he had thought to himself. And then, he noticed that there was an audio version! So as he arranged his quarters and stowed away his gear, he could hear the voices of Scorpion Loremasters—beginning with that of Ethan Moreau himself!—reciting the epic tale.

The hatch to his cabin slid open with a hiss, and Lucien turned to see who was entering his cabin.

In the corridor beyond, there stood three Scorpion warriors—two men and one woman—garbed in full ceremonial regalia. Each wore a tight leather body-suit, glossy black in color, reflecting the subdued lighting in the cabin and the corridor beyond. Patterns of a dark—almost charcoal—gray piping outlined the ebb and flow of each warrior’s musculature, giving the uniform an almost segmented appearance and emphasizing the fitness of their bodies. Their polished black leather boots reached almost to the knee; seamlessly meeting the body-suit legs bloused tightly inside, marked only by a ring of gold across the top of the boot.

Each warrior wore around his waist a belt of black metal links a hands-width across, secured in the center of the stomach with a clasp shaped like a scorpion with two golden eyes. And on each of the belts were fixed a pair of scabbards holding two zulkari, the tasseled hilts pointing forward, tight against the warrior’s sides. Black leather gauntlets—long enough to reach half-way to the elbow, and skin-tight—covered their hands and lower arms, a single ring of golden trim marking their upper edge.

The leather suits ended in a tight, high collar fastened around the neck, marked only with a golden dagger-star in the center of the throat. Each of the warriors also wore a smooth, polished black metal helm, the face-plate made from dark reflective smoky glass making it impossible to see who was within. Two more golden dagger-stars highlighted the helmet, but these were surrounded with a crimson outline; looking like nothing so much as a pair of hotly burning eyes. Unlike many Clans—including his former one—there was no bare skin to be seen, nothing to soften the fearsome and intimidating appearance.

The female warrior wore a black cape as well, trimmed in threads of the finest golden silk embroidery. Two clasps—formed of a polished black metal and gold, shaped in the fashion of a scorpion grasping a sun disk in their claws—were fastened to the upper torso, between her shoulders and her breasts, holding the cape in place. Across her upper torso, a loose chain of black metal links, polished to the same glossy finish as the rest of his ensemble, connected the two clasps together as it followed the curves of her body across the leather.

“Bondsman Lucien,” an alto voice softly emerged from the woman’s mask, “the Scorpion requires your presence. You are instructed to accompany us.”

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 Post subject: Re: The Seeker PostPosted: 2012-10-07 09:32pm
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Chapter Six

April 3, 3056
Goliath Scorpion Ship Jenna Scott
Zenith Jump Point
Meacham, Federated Commonwealth


The three Warriors escorted Lucien along the corridors of the ship, through hatch after hatch, before finally halting outside one unmarked compartment. The woman pressed a short code into the keypad, and the hatch swung silently open.

From behind, another of the Scorpions pushed Lucien forward. Inside, the room was bare, save for a reclining chair, and another hatch on the far wall. A fourth Scorpion—a laborer, this one, lacking the ceremonial regalia—stood beside the chair, a towel across his arm, holding a razor and a pair of scissors in one hand.

“Obey him, Bondsman,” the alto voice emerged once more from the featureless helmet as the woman closed the hatch behind her, sealing Lucien and the laborer alone together.

“If the Bondsman would please disrobe,” the laborer said, bowing his head towards the floor, “and pass through the far hatch, we can begin.”

“I . . .” Lucien began to speak but was interrupted.

“If it pleases the Bondsman, he is neither allowed to address me, nor is he to question me. Place your clothing on the deck in the square outlined in black, please.”

Lucien frowned, but he closed his mouth and began to unfasten his tunic.

“Thank you. When the Bondsman completely disrobes, he is to pass through the hatch before him. Within the compartment awaits three laborers. He will follow their instructions and then return here once he has completed the task,” the laborer paused for moment, and then bent his head once more, gazing down at the deck. “The Bondsman is not permitted to speak, he may not question; he must obey. If it pleases the Bondsman.”

Nodding, the elemental stripped until all that remained were the three cords around his left wrist. Lucien then folded his clothing neatly into a small pile, placing it in the center of the square tile outlined in black, laying his boots down upon the top of the clothing. He turned and walked to the hatch, which opened at his touch.

Within lay a steam filled compartment, gurgling with the sound of rushing water. The heat was extreme; the humidity worse.

A soft gentle hand took his forearm—a woman’s hand. “If it pleases the Bondsman,” she said, “follow me.”

She was nude, as were the two other women laborers, and he followed them to another hatch. Within was a lavatory.

The woman lifted a vial from a shelf and placed it within his hand. “If the Bondsman pleases, enter, drink the contents, and return to us when he has recovered.”

She bowed, and backed out the hatch, closing it behind her, leaving Lucien alone—naked—in the small head. The vial was filled with a clear liquid, and he unscrewed the cap and sniffed; there was no odor. The mighty Elemental threw back his head and drank the liquid—it melted into the lining of his throat, entering his blood-stream.

Placing the cap back on the vial, he set it on the shelf. Should I go back out now, he asked himself. And then the pain caught in deep in his abdomen. He began to sweat as his bowels roiled and barely managed to seat himself before they exploded. And then he leaned forward to vomit into the sink.

*****************************************************

Sometime later, a pale-faced and shaken Lucien emerged from the lavatory into the steam filled area once more. Immediately, two pairs of hands took his arms and guided him into a sunken tub filled with frothing hot water.

“The purgatives have cleansed you within, Bondsman,” the third woman said as she knelt in the water. “Allow us to now cleanse you without.”

Easing him down onto an inclined seat in the tub, the women began to scrub every inch of his skin, while the bubbling waters soothed him. Soon, he could no longer smell the filth from earlier.

They scrubbed him from head to toe, attacking even the smallest portion of his skin with soap and brushes. And then they led him from the pool and made him stand in the center of the room, and lathered him—every inch of him below his jaw line—with a substance that lightly burned. One of the laborers took a shower hose from the wall and rinsed away the lather with water as cold as ice. With the lather went every hair from his throat down to the soles of his feet, leaving only pink, scrubbed skin behind.

“If it pleases the Bondsman, pass through the next hatch,” she said, “and there remain until one of us comes for you.”

Lucien passed through the third hatch—and recoiled at the immense heat from within. The wooden floored sauna was roughly six feet across, with the heat emanating from a brazier in the center of the room. A wooden pail filled with water sat besides the heat source, a long-handled ladle rising from within. Lucien entered and sat, breathing in deeply of the moist, extremely hot air.

From a speaker mounted on the wall, he could hear the woman’s voice once more. “If the Bondsman pleases, take one scoop of water from the bucket on the floor, and cover the stones. He is to do this three times.”

The first dash of water sent a cloud of scalding steam into the air, and Lucien swayed as he began to feel light-headed. The second scoop so filled the room that he could not see far past his nose. Relying on his mental image, he then placed the third right atop the rocks, even as his head swam.

“Step back two paces, Bondsman,” the soft voice said from the wall. “Step back; sit; and allow the steam and the heat to clear your mind of all thought.”

*****************************************************

Somehow—Lucien did not know how—he was back in the outer chamber, his arms grasped by the women. He felt cold as they ushered him into a pool of freezing water. He gasped as his overheated body suddenly cooled, but the laborers ignored his outcry, and they plunged him beneath the water, not once, not twice, but three times; and then they pulled him up once more and toweled him dry.

Two of them knelt, and the third lowered her head to gaze at the deck. “If it pleases the Bondsman, he is too return to the outside.”

And then she knelt as well.

*****************************************************

”If it pleases the Bondsman,” the laborer standing beside the chair said, “will he sit?”

Still nude, Lucien sat in the chair and the laborer began to cut away his hair. “All must go; all must be destroyed. Through death we gain our life, our rebirth, our return into the nest.”

Lock by lock, Lucien’s hair fell away, and then the laborer set aside the scissors and briskly rubbed lather across his scalp, his cheeks, his neck, his upper lip. He extended the straight-edged razor with a flick of his wrist, and began to closely shave Lucien. Even the eye-brows were removed.

When he had finished, the laborer toweled Lucien dry, and knelt on the deck. “If it pleases the Bondsman, he may now leave.”

The elemental turned to the hatch from where he first entered, and pushed it open, emerging into the corridor once more. Waiting for him were three Scorpion Warriors who had first summoned him.

Without a word, the woman Warrior began to march down the corridor again, and Lucien followed, the two males in his wake. Ahead of him, the corridor lights gradually dimmed, until the only light was flickering patterns of yellow and gold coming from an open hatch.

The female Warrior came to a halt just past the hatch and—turning around—she motioned Lucien in. He stepped across the threshold.

Dozens—scores—of candles lined the walls of this compartment. Instead of stepping onto metal, his bare feet touched cold stone; black polished basalt tiles that reflected the flickering tapers, enhancing their illumination. Scorpion warriors stood around the room; how many Lucien could not tell in the darkness; all were dressed in their ceremonial uniform.

In the very center of the room, two candelabras of gold stood to either side of a low alter, made of black stone, and engraved with the scorpion symbol of his new clan, the lines filled with liquid gold allowed to cool and harden in place. A chalice rested atop the alter, and past them both stood Jason Scott—the only Scorpion Lucien could see that was not wearing the face-concealing helmet.

“Come, Bondsman Lucien; come forward and kneel here before the Scorpion,” the Star Captain slowly intoned.

Lucien advanced and he knelt on his right knee—and then two Warriors placed his left hand on the alter, holding his right tight behind the back.

“Taken in combat, taken in Trial,” Jason intoned into the darkness, “we have before us a Warrior who wears the three cords of bond. This night, amid the stars that we long ago left to follow the Great Father into exile, we welcome into the nest one who may yet be a new Brother to us all.”

“The Scorpion seeks, Bondsman Lucien, and the Scorpion sees. Through its venom we are transformed, and by its code we live and we die. Like the Scorpion, we are patient; be warned that your cords may never be cut, for we do not give Warrior rights to those who have yet to prove themselves. Your entire life may be spent in the quest to become abtakha, know this before we begin.”

“To be a Scorpion, one must have integrity, and fighting prowess, and fidelity; but one must also endure. One must be welcomed into the nest. One must willingly give himself into the grasp and the sting of the Scorpion.”

“Our sibkin are tested from early youth, until only the fittest among them claim the title of Warrior. Our trothkin that surround you have endured; they have lasted and they have survived. Our destiny may kill us, Bondsman, but our legacy shall persevere into the far distant future, when the Great Father’s vision is fulfilled.”

“En route to this chamber, upon this evening, you have been stripped bare of all that you possess. This symbolizes that you—henceforth and forever—leave behind all that you were and might have been, abandoning your past to join with the Scorpion.”

“You have been cleansed—both within and without—purging all impurities. This represents your willingness to forsake your prior teachings and open yourself to the Scorpion and his instruction.”

“You have been shorn of all hair, coming to us as bare as the day you were born. Tonight, Lucien of the Falcon dies, and Lucien of the Scorpion will be reborn anew. A new birth; into your new nest, into your new family, your Brothers and Sisters all.”

“If you wish it, Bondsman Lucien. The path set before you is long; it is arduous. Speak, and tell the Scorpion if it is your desire to tread the path of a Scorpion Warrior. Speak!”

Lucien swallowed, but his gaze never wavered from Jason’s face. “It is my desire.”

“Seyla,” intoned all of the assembled Scorpions in the chamber.

Jason leaned forward and lifted up the chalice towards the sky, somewhere past the deck above, somewhere outside the ship they were contained within. “Seyla,” he said softy as he lowered the chalice.

“Take from me this golden chalice, Bondsman Lucien, and drink of what is within. Drink until the chalice is drained. Drink until the dregs are all that remains. Take within you the necrosia distilled from the venom of the Scorpion and see with Scorpion eyes what may yet be. Drink, honored Bondsman, and should you survive, you will be one of our own, a Brother to our nest, a Son of the Scorpion in truth.”

The Warriors holding him suddenly released their grip, and Lucien swayed for a moment. Balancing himself, he reached forward and took the chalice from Jason’s hands. Lifting it as he had just witnessed Jason do, he then lowered it.

“Three times must you drink, Bondsman,” the woman Warrior’s soft voice whispered in his ear, “three times and you must drain the chalice dry. Dishonor neither yourself nor your new Clan in this.”

Lucien placed his mouth on the rim and tilted the chalice towards him. The pale green, faintly luminescent liquid swirled into his mouth, and he drank deeply, and then lowered the chalice. The liquid tasted bitter, and had a sharp tang to it, and Lucien could feel his hands going numb as the room swam around him.

Warriors lit sticks of incense in a circle around him with the flames of candles taken from the wall. As the sweet odor rose into the air, Lucien drank a second time, the liquid quickly being absorbed by his dehydrated body, and then the lowered the chalice once more.

Raising the golden bowl above his head a third time, his head spinning and the room going blurry, he lowered it one final time to his lips and drank and drank and drank, until no more was to be had.

It was difficult to see, with his vision blurred, his pulse racing, his heart pumping far more rapidly than normal, but he set down the chalice on the alter and released it with hands he could no longer feel. The Scorpions around him took him in their arms and laid him flat against the cold stone of the deck, but even that sensation began to fade. Nothing seemed real, nothing except the distilled venom of the Scorpion within his own blood.

With his last vision, he could see Jason knell down beside him, and as if from far, far away heard him speak. “See now what the future might hold, Bondsman Lucien; see if the Scorpion will accept your life as his own.”

*****************************************************

The Elemental woke with a start, covered with sweat. He sat up, as he tried to remember the vision he had had seen, and then he heard a familiar voice.

“The offering—the sacrifice—has been accepted, trothkin! We have among us a new Brother. Seyla!”

“Seyla!” the Warriors answered.

Lucien tried to control his breathing as he located Jason in the circle of Scorpions standing over him. He swallowed, he closed his eyes, and he knelt before the blood-named Warrior.

“I have SEEN!” he cried, his voice hoarse but joyous. “I know now what you Seek, Seeker. The blood-heir of the Cameron line; you seek she who is the rightful heir of Richard Cameron, of Ian Cameron, of James McKenna. You SEEK the one true First Lord of the Star League! YOU SEEK, and I shall follow!”

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 Post subject: Re: The Seeker PostPosted: 2012-10-07 09:33pm
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Joined: 2012-04-09 11:06pm
Posts: 1039
Chapter Seven

May 4, 3056
Goliath Scorpion Ship Jenna Scott
Nadir Jump Point
Pencader, Lyran Commonwealth


Lucien stood from his workstation and frowned down at the tiny screen on the desk. He began to pace back and forth across the ships lounge. Located on one of the ships two grav-decks, the small compartment retained its spin-gravity even as the massive vessel floated motionless to recharge its jump-sail. Other Scorpions—some Warriors, some not—looked up at the Elemental as he paced back and forth, his head slowly shaking.

“Are you experiencing difficulty with your studies, Bondsman Lucien?” Jason asked from where he leaned against the frame of the compartments open hatch.

“Aff,” the former Falcon replied, his pacing not slowed one second by the brief answer.

Jason grinned, a grin returned by several of the warriors present. “And that difficulty seems to be?”

Lucien stopped and looked directly at his bond-holder, his face showing signs of the emotional distress the Elemental was suffering. “This material . . . it makes no . . . it does . . . it is not the Way of the Clans!” he wailed.

“On the contrary, Bondsman, the philosophy of Rousseau was a central part of Nicolas’s ideals that formed our society. Rousseau believed that only through the instrument of civilization was humanity uplifted to true consciousness—in his native state, without the dictates of society, man is neither good nor evil, but submits to his instincts and needs without concern for the approval or disapproval of others. It is only once civilization and with it society has been established that humanity becomes able to reason—and that ability outweighs all that which the native man sacrificed in order to embrace society. Only within a society can a human being be ennobled—by an idea, a concept, or a cause. Rousseau stipulates that when the voice of duty takes the place of physical impulses and the right of appetite, does man, who so far had considered only himself, find that he is forced to act on different principles, and to consult his reason before listening to his inclinations. In short Bondsman, what the philosopher is saying is that without our Duty we are nothing more than unthinking animals—and that is precisely the basis on which Nicolas Kerensky created our society—to restrain our desire to return to that native state wherein society would collapse in anarchy and ruinous conflict.”

Lucien stared at the Scorpion, his mouth agape as Jason recited the exact passage that he had just finished reading! “But what has that to do with our purpose, Star Captain? What has this philosophy to do with anything related to our duty?”

Everything, Bondsman Lucien. It has everything to do with our duty and our purpose. Our Clan believes that in order to serve our society—our Clan—we must understand our society and how it came to be. We must understand ourselves and what makes us who we are. You are not just an Elemental Warrior, Bondsman Lucien, you are a living, breathing, thinking human being, one that has just as much value in absolute terms as any ilKhan or a common laborer—no more, no less. In order to appreciate that, you must first learn to leave your natural state, as Rousseau terms it, and discover your ability to reason. No other Clan would condone you reading such material—indeed, you might go your entire life without ever hearing the name Rousseau, or Locke, or Hobbes, or Voltaire. But you are a Scorpion now, Bondsman Lucien, and we demand more than the other Clans. We Scorpions demand that you become a human being, instead of a Warrior cog that while it may serve has no awareness of self or purpose.”

Jason smiled as the massive warrior continued to shake his head. “But that is enough of philosophy for today, Bondsman Lucien—it is time to see what you have learned of the katas in which you have been given instruction. Come.”

*****************************************************

As the two men walked through the corridors of the grav-deck, they passed by members of the ship’s crew. Suddenly, Lucien spun around and blocked a crewman that reached out with a stun-stick in her hand. Jason stepped back and observed as his charge snapped the woman’s forearm, causing her to drop the weapon, and then the Elemental pivoted on his heel and set himself, thrusting one outstretched palm forward to catch a second attacker square in the solar plexus.

“Bravo, Bondsman, bravo,” Jason said as he clapped. “How did you know they were attacking?”

Lucien shook his head. “I just tried to do what you showed me, Star Captain, to pay attention to things around me.”

“But what specifically, Bondsman?”

“I . . . I saw the technician tense as she passed me—or I thought I did, I wasn’t certain, but I reacted . . .”

“And had she not attacked you, your reaction would have been to parry a blow that would never have been launched. Instead, you stopped an attack that could have potentially incapacitated you—because you have learned to become aware, Bondsman Lucien. And the second attacker?”

“I heard his boot scrape on the deck plating, and I decided to catch him off-guard by letting him think he had caught me by surprise.”

Jason nodded in satisfaction, but also held up a hand in warning. “And if he had anticipated that, you might have paid dearly for the mistake. This time, however, you were indeed correct, Bondsman.”

The blood-named Scorpion bent down and assisted the woman tech—who Lucien suddenly realized was none other than the female Scorpion warrior who had escorted him to his necrosia ritual—to her feet. “There is no permanent injury, quineg?”

“Neg,” she replied. “Just a broken arm—although I think he might have cracked some of Samuel’s ribs as well. He is certainly a strong one.”

“Very well, Star Commander—report to medical.”

“Yes, Star Captain.”

Jason turned back to Lucien. “Come then, Bondsman, today we begin instruction on the proper use of knives in combat.”

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 Post subject: Re: The Seeker PostPosted: 2012-10-07 09:34pm
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Joined: 2012-04-09 11:06pm
Posts: 1039
Chapter Eight

May 9, 3056
Goliath Scorpion Ship Jenna Scott
Pirate Jump Point
Circinus, Circinus Federation


“Attention on deck!” sang out one of the ship’s Elementals as Jason and Star Captain Gregor Ben-Shimon entered the crowed briefing room, trailed by Jason’s bondsman. The assembly of Warriors and ship crewmen quickly stood as the master and commander of their ship stepped over the hatch coaming.

“As you were,” Gregor said with a languid wave of one hand. “Take your seats, people, and listen up. We are about to find out exactly why we are so far from home, and I for one do not care to miss an important piece of information because someone was not paying attention. Quineg?”

“Quineg!” roared the attendees in response.

The naval officer nodded and sat down in the chair reserved for him at the very front of the audience. “You may proceed, then, Star Captain Scott.”

“Thank you, Star Captain Ben-Shimon,” Jason answered as he stepped forward to a small podium and lifted the remote that gave him access to the projection screen behind him. “Circinus, the capital of the so-called Circinus Federation,” he said as a planet zoomed into view. “This periphery state consists of a dozen worlds and is little more than a collection of bandits and dezgra mercenaries unable to secure employment elsewhere. With just fifty percent of the planetary surface being covered with water, Circinus is an arid world, with the land masses generally being dry and lacking in atmospheric humidity. There are exceptions, but unless Star Captain Ben-Shimon arranges for Jenna Scott to make a crash landing, I doubt they will concern us today.”

Chuckles filled the compartment as the Scorpions present accepted Jason’s invitation for laughter—even Gregor smiled slightly.

“Currently, the Jenna Scott is at the Lagrange Point immediately star-ward of Circinus, which means that we will be able to land one of our Onagers after just nine hours of flight time—saving us rather more than six days of powered flight had we arrived at either the Zenith or Nadir points. Recharge time will be one hundred and eighty-four hours and seventeen minutes, as of this very moment, although our good commander does have our reserve charge on standby. I, and a small contingent from this vessel, will be taking the Alpha DropShip to the surface. Once there, Star Commander Tomas will attempt to sell his cargo, preserving our identity as a wandering merchantman. While we are grounded, myself, Bondsman Lucien, and Star Commander Amanda Djerassi will see if what we have come so far for is actually here.”

The Scorpion paused and looked around the compartment at the men and women who were waiting. All had heard rumors of what Lucien’s vision during his ritual had revealed, and now they were on edge to find out exactly how much truth lay within it.

Jason smiled. “Yes, there is a chance—a small chance—that an heir of Richard Cameron may indeed be living upon Circinus. According to a portion of a journal that once belonged to Aaron DeChevilier, in the year immediately before the Coup, First Lord Richard Cameron forcibly raped one of the young women of his household staff, and then attempted to have her tried for assaulting him.”

A low muttering growl rose throughout the compartment. Although not prudes in any sense of the term, the very concept of one forcing himself upon an unwilling partner was almost unknown in Clan society. Almost. For it occasionally happened, and when it did the judicial response was swift and extreme.

No longer smiling, Jason nodded in somber agreement. “He was quite a bastard, quiaff? However, Aaron DeChevilier personally smuggled the girl off Terra in defiance of Richard—and he never told Kerensky what had actually happened. The woman was pregnant, and she bore a child—Richard’s child.”

“Years later, when the SLDF left their encampment on Circinus to begin the liberation of the Hegemony, she and the child remained behind. DeChevilier’s journal records her name, and also that she decided to remain in the Inner Sphere when the SLDF left on the Exodus.”

“Now, in addition to searching for this woman’s descendants—who according to our traditions may be free-birth, but are eligible for a restored Cameron Blood Name—I also intend to see how intact the old SLDF facilities on the minor continent of Laredo are.”

Gregor frowned, and Jason paused so that the ship commander could frame his question.

“Nothing in our pre-departure briefing from Khan Suvorov even suggested that the Circinian ruins hold any remaining value for us. Those facilities have been looted for nearly three centuries, Star Captain Scott.”

“Yes, the training facilities on the main continent of Circinus—High Plains—have been quite thoroughly looted during our prolonged absence from the Inner Sphere. But, Laredo is uninhabited and it was that continent—not High Plains—that was the location of General Kerensky’s headquarters complex. Furthermore, contrary to public opinion, the SLDF did build factories on Circinus, all underground on Laredo. Those factories turned out massive amounts of munitions and parts to resupply and support the SLDF during the Liberation and afterwards—and when the SLDF departed, they mothballed those facilities and hid them.”

Another officer spoke up. “Are you certain they have not been found, Star Captain?”

Jason shook his head. “Neg. But, a discovery of this magnitude would have attracted the Scavenger Lords like vultures circling a rotting carcass in the midst of the desert. No one could have kept a find of this level secret—except ComStar, and they would have destroyed the facilities.”

“I plan to travel to Laredo—with Lucien and Amanda—and find out for myself and my Clan if these facilities still exist; and if they do still remain intact, whether or not we Scorpions will be the ones to use them in the future.”


May 10, 3056
Space Port
Claybourne Remembered
Circinus, Circinus Federation


Lucien’s mouth gaped open as he stared at the hustle and bustle of the filthy refuse laden streets of the capital city of Circinus. The air was thick and heavy with smog, carrying foul odors from the open sewage that stagnated in shallow gutters between the broken streets and the cracked sidewalks.

“People live like this?” he whispered.

“Aff, Lucien,” Jason answered just as quietly. “People and animals who once were people often live just like this.”

“These conditions,” said Amanda with a shudder, “not even our lowest caste would be permitted to wallow in such.”

“No. And that is one of the reasons that I feel the stance our Clan has chosen on the Invasion is mistaken,” the leader of the three answered. “This city is the worst on the entire planet, but make no mistake, my Scorpions, there is just as much misery in even the smallest of villages here. Their only hope for a better tomorrow lies with us—I am growing more and more convinced of that.”

“Seyla,” the bondsman and the female warrior intoned.

“Guard yourselves well, brethren, for truly we walk amidst the Dark Caste in this place. Have you the package that I requested, Amanda?”

She snorted. “As if I would forget, Jason. But are you certain? It does break with tradition, after all?”

“I am certain,” he answered. He took a canvas wrapped item from Amanda and turned to face the former Falcon elemental.

“Lucien, on this world, in this city, none who are free go about unarmed. Neither shall you.”

The stoutly built man blinked his eyes twice in surprise, as Jason unwrapped the canvas and revealed a gun-belt, a weapon already holstered amid loops of individual bullets—large bullets.

“Take this instrument, Bondsman, and use it to defend yourself, your fellow Clansmen, and your honor for as long as we remain on this world.”

Lucien reached out and reverently took the belt, but then he frowned. “Star Cap. . . .Jason, I am unfamiliar with this weapon.”

Jason grinned and Amanda scowled. Although he had been instructed to call both of them by name, rather than title, his companion MechWarrior had wagered twenty Kerensky’s that the Falcon would have to be reminded—a bet that she had just lost.

“It is a dreiling, Lucien. Which is also known as a drilling—one that has been very heavily modified, but it remains a drilling nonetheless.”

Lucien buckled the belt around his waist, and tied the long holster to his right leg, then he drew the massive three-barreled pistol to examine it more closely.

“It is an old weapon, one which predates space-flight by more than century, Lucien. A drilling is a combination weapon that has three—sometimes four—separate barrels, divided among smooth bores for shot and rifled bores for bullets. This particular drilling is a Taurian weapon, captured from the body of a dead TDF officer during the Reunification War, and is more than five centuries old. Most drillings were rifle-length, but this one has barrels of just eight inches in length and a pistol grip. The two upper rifled barrels are chambered for .577 Magnum shells—that’s 14.9mm, Lucien. The lower barrel is a 10-gauge shotgun—19.7mm. Each barrel holds one cartridge, and that lever on the side breaks open the weapon to reload. There is no safety, but the hammers must be cocked before the weapon can fire. It has a single trigger, which controls all three hammers—any that are cocked are released, so you fire one, two, or all three simultaneously.”

“By Turkina’s Beak,” the elemental warrior whispered as he caressed the rich polished walnut fore-stock that covered the lower half of the barrels. “How did the Taurian ever expect to fire this weapon?”

Amanda laughed. “I told you that even the Elemental would think that thing is too much gun for anyone!”

Jason grinned. “It has a kick like a mule, Lucien, but it functions—and it is an extremely intimidating weapon.”

“That, I can believe,” he answered as he holstered the drilling. And then he began to examine the individual bullets and shells lining his belt. The shells for the 10-gauge (each nearly five inches in overall length) were brightly colored in green, gold, and red casings.

“These shells . . . what is their difference?” he asked.

“Good eyes, Scorpion,” replied Jason. “Green are standard 00 shot—throws a pattern of shells similar to a hunting gun, but the short barrel means the expansion is fast. Gold are solid slugs, while the red contains 35 grams of oxtandite explosive and an impact fuse. Not to mention the roughly fifteen grams of preformed ceramic shards that gives the blast significant fragmentation.”

“It is a grenade launcher, too?” Lucien asked, his eyes have expanded even further.

“I like to think of it as a Swiss army handgun, Lucien—there is something for every situation. Of course, if you do not believe that you can handle it . . .”

“Neg!” the Elemental quickly replied, but then he blushed. “I mean, no, Jason. I think this will do just fine. Just fine indeed.”

“By the founders,” said Amanda, her grin widening, “I think he is in love, Jason!”

“And let that be a lesson to you sib-kin, there is no such thing as too much gun for an Elemental Warrior.”

*****************************************************

“Jason, are you certain we are not lost?” Amanda asked.

“Of course we are not lost—we are in Claybourne Remembered,” Jason answered with a grin on his face, as Amanda shook her head.

“You have a unique sense of humor, quiaff?”

“Aff. It is a genetic failing that the scientists have long tried to breed from the Scott line, but they have so far failed because they have absolutely no comprehension of humor, or sarcasm, or wit.”

Lucien suddenly stopped on the crowded street, his eyes drawn to a doorway across the trio. Jason followed his gaze, and saw what precisely had caught the large man’s attention.

A man had just struck down a young woman—a girl, rather; a dirty, unkempt, and underfed girl—with a wicked back hand blow. Her dress (or lack thereof) made clear to Jason exactly what the child was, and what her relationship to the man therefore must be. But Lucien was frowning.

“What troubles you, Lucien?”

“He struck a child with enough force to down a grown man, Jason,” the Elemental whispered. “It is not right. Why would he do such a thing?”

“She is a prostitute, Lucien, and that man is what they call her ‘pimp’. I imagine that she did not earn enough money to satisfy him; it is the way of these people.”

The former Falcon frowned, and Amanda sighed.

“She’s a sex worker, Lucien.”

And Lucien frowned even more. “But that is an honorable profession that helps people—she looks more like a laborer than a sex worker.”

Now Jason scowled. “I doubt that she chose such a profession, Lucien. She is probably forced to couple by that man under threat of violence—and actual violence.”

“Forced?” the single word was choked and Jason fully understood the anger that rumbled in the large man’s throat.

Jason began to walk away, to leave this filthy section of the city behind him, but then he remembered his vision, and he stopped. For a moment, he considered, and then spoke to Lucien. “Take whatever action you deem appropriate, Lucien. Whatever your own honor demands.”

Amanda jerked as though someone had touched her with a live electrical wire. “I thought we were keeping a low profile?”

“A Falcon will guide the way, Amanda,” Jason whispered. “You and I would pass this by, for it does not concern us, but Lucien’s sense of honor, of right and wrong, is more raw, more primal. Let us see what happens here.”

Lucien had already crossed the street and he stood facing the man who was verbally berating the girl-child. Then the man noticed him and looked up, a smug smile on his face.

“You are interested in good time, yes? Girl will please you greatly—you may even beat her if you wish.”

“The child is coming with me,” Lucien growled. “Leave now and I will not break your spine.”

“The girl is my property—I have the papers to prove it! You leave now, and you keep your unscarred face as it is.”

“You own her?” Lucien asked.

“Yes, paid good money for the wench who eats too much and earns too little.”

Lucien struck as fast a coiled serpent, his massive fist catching the pimp on the side of the face and sending him reeling back into the wall, before he collapsed unconscious to the ground.

“Come, child. That man no longer has any claim over you,” he said, extending his hand to the little girl.

She started to take his hand, but then shrank back as several men wielding pieces of iron rebar filed into the street.

“Don’t think it will be so easy as all that, berk,” said their red-jacketed leader, a gold ring dangling from his nose. “You see, old Tanner here ain’t much of a man, but he’s one of my men. That means you owe me for breaking him. Your choice—blood and broken bones or fresh script.”

Lucien’s eyes narrowed and he looked over the men with an eye well honed from hours upon hours of practice aboard the Jenna Scott. Once upon a time, he would have just laid into the men, but now he waited and he took in his surroundings. He perceived.

Sure enough, two more of the thugs waited within the building, their forms (mostly) hidden by the shadows of the windows they watched from. And at least one carried a firearm of some sort.

Lucien began to open his mouth, but then he heard Jason, and instead he merely smiled.

“No need for that, friends,” the Scorpion said as he and Amanda stepped forward to either side of Lucien. “We shall collect our companion and be on our way—with the girl. And as for script, that I think we can arrange. How much does he owe?”

“Oh, look at the dandy!” snarled one of the thugs. “He owes more than you’ve got—however much you’ve got. But hand all of the coin over—and those weapons—and we might just rethink things.”

“Yeah, you might walk out of this after all.”

Laughter came from the thugs. Their leader stepped forward, slapping his left hand with the piece of iron he held in his right. “But you ain’t taking the gravy train, mister. She’s got a debt to work off.”

“So, you want all of our money and our weapons and you still might do us physical harm? And you intend to keep the girl against her will. Am I correct in my understanding of the situation?” Jason asked.

“I think you understand well, friend,” red jacket answered.

Jason smiled and turned to Amanda. “Fifty says the nose ring is big enough, Amanda.”

She stared at Jason, turned back to look at the leader and gold ring dangling from the center of his nose. She looked at Jason again.

“It is big enough! But not even you can make the shot!”

The thugs simply looked confused, and one of them asked, “What shot?”

“My lady friend here does not seem to believe that I can put a bullet through the center of that ring—without scuffing the gold. I say I can.”

Laughter rang out, and one of the thugs said, “I’d pay 500 com-dollars in gold to see THAT!”

“Bargained well and done,” answered Jason as he smoothly drew his slug-thrower and fired from the hip. The back of the leader’s head exploded, before any of the thugs could react, and Jason kept the weapon trained on the men before him. Lucien had also drawn his weapon and fired it into the first window—the thunderous explosion of the big-bore weapon reverberating from the alley walls. The second sniper began to raise his rifle, but a laser beam from Amanda’s own gun drilled straight through the forehead.

“You,” Jason said in a cold voice, pointing the pistol to one of the thugs. “Check the ring.”

Slowly, the man stepped forward and reached down, he lifted the intact and untouched gold ring from the corpse—the bullet hole directly behind it.

Jason smiled. “I believe you now owe me 500 C-bills, gentlemen. I will give you to the count of three and then I will instead recover it from your corpses. One. Two.”

The former companions of the pimp dropped their weapons and pulled out wads of cash. Jason nodded, and one of them collected the bills and gingerly stepped over to hand them to Amanda.

“In that case, our business is done. I would suggest you leave. NOW.”

They fled without waiting for another word. And Jason smiled. “And we are not lost,” he said pointing down the street to an old three-story mansion surrounded by a high wall. “There it is.”

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 Post subject: Re: The Seeker PostPosted: 2012-10-08 01:36pm
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Joined: 2012-04-09 11:06pm
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Chapter Eight

May 10, 3056
Shanty-town
Clayborne Remembered
Circinus, Circinus Federation


“It is a bloody fortress,” growled Lucien as he stared at the three story mansion, once the three companions (and the girl) had clambered over the broken and rusted wrought iron gates. The grounds were filled with brown dead grass, a dry fountain that may (at a distant time in the past) have once flowed with water, and broken statuary.

But the mansion itself was a stark difference from the rest of the buildings nearby. The walls, pocked-marked with bullet impacts and even the mark of a light autocannon, were solidly built, and Lucien pointed towards one section where the granite had been broken. “Stone on the outside, but that is armor underneath—BattleMech armor, Jason. Not a single window on the ground level, and that entrance is covered by the overhang . . . are those murder holes above?”

Jason grinned. “I imagine they are, Lucien—see the scorched flagstones? I bet they spew inferno gel, not merely boiling oil. And those two abstract sculptures flanking the entrance—do those look like stylized turrets to you?”

“Aye,” the one-time Falcon replied. “Auto-blazer cannon, I would wager—nothing else is that compact and they have no recoil. The windows on the second flight are all narrow slits, and the ones on the third story are covered in armored shutters . . . never mind the razor-wire coils lining the walls. And that roof is too steep to allow someone to easily traverse it—looks slick as well.”

The Bondsman turned his eyes away from the mansion and gazed at his bond-holder. “You think the Cameron is inside?”

“Neg, Lucien. If the heir even exists, however, there is a good chance that the owner may well know where she is—and if not, I am certain he can aid us in our second mission.”

Jason nodded quickly and he stepped forward towards the entrance—and sure enough, both of the decorative sculptures twisted in place to track him. He bounced up the steps and he politely knocked on the double doors, doing his best to ignore the shafts above his head which would rain down pure Hell upon him if things went wrong.

“Go away!” came a muffled voice from within. “Don’t want what you are peddling—if you aren’t off my property in five, they will be picking up pieces of you for the next week!”

“I need to speak with Walker Roche—the matter is urgent.”

“Are you deaf? I said leave!”

Jason faced a small video picked buried in the wall and he nodded. He removed his jacket and unbuttoned the cuff of his right arm sleeve, rolling back the shirt to his elbow. And he held up his right arm before the monitor, presenting to it his codex.

“If this is the abode of Master Roche, he will wish to speak with me and my companions. If he is not here, then I apologize for disturbing you and will go away.”

The lock on the doors snapped open and one side slowly opened, revealing an old white-haired man, holding a riot gun in one hand.

“I am Walker Roche—you took your own sweet time getting here, didn’t you?”

*****************************************************

The interior was surprisingly clean and well-keep, although filled with relics and books and artifacts. Walker had let the four of them into his home, and then he secured the thick doors again, and bared them as well. He had started to ask questions, but then he nodded when he saw the frightened and battered girl and shook his head.

“Find a seat and take a load off—and touch nothing!” he snarled as he made his way between stacks of books, papers, and furniture to disappear within the warren. The girl shivered and Lucien patted her gently on the head and picked her up, putting her in a plush sofa chair, and placing a thick comforter over her. “You need not worry, girl,” he said. “He will not harm you—and you are going somewhere better.” He examined the couches and shook his head. “I think I will remain standing, Jason—I would hate to break his furniture by sitting on it.”

Jason just sat on a couch next to Amanda. Walker came back into the room and he carried a mug and a plate—thick battered cuts of friend potatoes filled the plate, along with a golden mustard. “Here,” he growled at the girl. “You look hungry,” he said as he handed her the food and the mug filled with chilled juice.

The waif waited until Lucien nodded and then she gingerly took them both, setting the plate in her lap and began to gobble up the food, pausing only long enough to slake her thirst with the juice.

“Slowly, girl!” Lucien barked. “Too much of a feast after nothing will make you sick—take it slow.”

She flinched, but did as he commanded.

The old man nodded. “Took you bloody long enough to come here for me. I’ve been expecting visitors since the Invasion began seven years ago! Did you forget about Walker Roche?”

“Who are you, old man?” Lucien asked.

“Walker Roche—former Scorpion, former Dragoon, former Irregular, and resident historian for President McIntyre.”

Jason nodded. “We lost track of you after the Dragoons quit sending reports—and neither Cranston Snord nor his daughter Rhonda were forthcoming with information on your whereabouts. Never mind that the Scorpions were not part and parcel of the Invasion and that limited how many of our resources we could bring to bear.”

“Yeah, Cranston and Jamie both have their fool idea that the Vulture Lords are better for the common man than the Clans—despite all they have suffered at the hands of those same carrion-crows! Is it too much to ask that you have come to bring me home?”

Lucien frowned. “You were on the Dragoon Expedition? Why didn’t you answer the recall? You could have been home six years ago?”

“Do you realize how much it would have cost to buy passage for me and my collection to the Occupation Zone? I would have had to sell these items I have spent half a century collecting!” Walker Roche glared at the Elemental, and then he shrugged. “And who exactly are you?”

“Jason Scott, Star Captain, Clan Goliath Scorpion Touman. My companions are Star Commander Amanda Djerassi and Bondsman Lucien,” Jason paused and he grinned. “The girl has not told us her name. I do not believe she trusts us yet.”

Walker snorted. “She bloody damn well better not trust you! Or me. That is how you survive in the capital city of Circinus—trust no one. Calling this place a cesspool is an insult to sewers galaxy-wide.”

“We are here because I Seek, Walker Roche,” Jason said as he leaned forward. “And I think we can arrange your transport back to the Homeworlds—if that is your wish.”

The old man nodded and he sighed. “Aye,” he whispered. “I took the name of my homeworld as my honor-name when I joined the Dragoons. I would like to see her skies once more before my time is up—I’ve seen eighty-six years, boy. Never thought to see so many, but I am tired and I want to return home.”

“It will be done, Walker Roche, and you will be received by the Khan herself and honored for your service.”

A tear trickled down one cheek of the old Warrior and he nodded. “You Seek, eh? Damned if I haven’t been Seeking for half a century—what are you Seeking?”

“Two things,” Jason answered. “There is a family that dwelt on Circinus following Kerensky’s departure—a woman named Mira Levin and her daughter Colleen. I am Seeking their descendants.”

Walker grimaced and shook his head. “And I can guess why. You won’t like what you find, Seeker, but I know where you can find Mira Levin’s sole surviving heir—and he is every bit as screwed up as his as great-great-great Grandsire Richard. And the second item?”

Jason grinned. “Tell me about Laredo.”

Walker smiled in return. “Kerensky’s HQ . . . that’s the real reason you are here, isn’t it?”

The Scorpion did not answer and the old mercenary warrior/spy shook his head. “I’ve done some prospecting over on Laredo—you have to hand it to Aleksandyr, he certainly hid it well. And his depopulating that entire continent helped to shield it.”

“He massacred the people there?” asked Amanda in shock.

“Displaced them,” the historian corrected. “Claimed that the Rim World defenders had used nukes and persistent chemicals on Laredo that made it too hazardous to stay—moved ‘em lock, stock, and barrel here to High Plains. And he did test Rim chemical and nuclear warheads on a chain of islands between here and there. Those places are damned lethal to this day, so not too many folks continue on to Laredo if the outer islands are still irradiated and poisoned. Damn shame, too. Laredo is far enough north that it is a lot more temperate, with actual forests and ample fresh water, even a few glaciers up in the mountains. But it is a small continent, as continents go—more a large island, really—and the local animal life thrives there.”

Walker paused and he collected his thoughts. “Evolution here on Circinus never really got above the reptile stage—but reptiles have flourished. Along with insects and fish. There are nearly three hundred species of snakes alone here—including two who fly. Well, one flies, the second glides. At least one hundred are venomous. We’ve got reptiles as big as a pachyderm, and smaller carnivores that are just plain vicious. They’ve had three centuries to reclaim Laredo for themselves—and they have, boy. They have.”

“But, yeah. I’ve got a good idea of where it is—and a few ways to get inside without heavy excavating equipment. But we won’t be able to get anything out without a full-scale excavation—and if you do that, the Black Warriors will be on top of you before you can say abracadabra,” he shrugged. “Might not be anything left there, anyway. Time ruins all things, boy, but no one has broken into it, as far as I can tell.”

Jason nodded. “I need to see it with my own eyes—so I report to the Khan on what remains intact. There may come a day when the Scorpion needs it. Can you take us there?”

The old man paused and then he nodded. “I can—but I wouldn’t advise taking the girl along. McIntyre keeps me under watch, but, I’ve got a couple of tunnels he doesn’t know about.” He paused and shrugged again. “We’ll have to get my collection out through them—if he thinks I am planning on bolting ship, he will try to seize everything. And shoot you.”

“The girl will stay with the DropShip—and I will have Star Commander Tomas and his people begin moving your collection aboard. And if President McIntyre truly does not know about your tunnels, we will be long gone before he discovers your absence.”

“That’s the sixth problem,” Walker said sourly. “First, the gangs on Circinus don’t often help each other—but you are an outsider. And none of them like seeing an outsider kill their own and steal their property,” he said pointing to the girl. “Second problem, that gang-banger you shot and killed is related to one of the senior Black Warriors and probably would have been a ‘MechWarrior in a few years, and his family is gonna be pissed at you. Third problem, assuming you stay your ass alive to this point, is getting to Gordan Cameron—yes, he’s taken the name of his ancestor—without getting shot up in the process. He holds down an high position in McIntyre’s government and is a powerful big fish in our small Circinian pond. Fourth problem is that while Circinus might be backward and primitive, McIntyre has set up a pretty decent air-defense network—getting off of High Plains and onto Laredo ain’t gonna be a walk in the park. Fifth, once we get to Laredo, we’ve got all that indigenous life to deal with while we find a place to an entrance. It ain’t gonna be as simple as pick a clearing, walk twenty yards, and say ‘Open Sesame’, Aladdin. You’ve gotta deal with those first, Seeker, before we event think about sailing off into the deep black.”

“Fore-warned is fore-armed, Walker. Do not worry yourself about me—I fully intend to finish this mission and return to my Khan.”

Walker snorted. “So did I, my boy. So did I. And look how—and where—I ended up.”

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 Post subject: Re: The Seeker PostPosted: 2012-10-11 07:09pm
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Joined: 2012-04-09 11:06pm
Posts: 1039
Chapter Nine

May 10, 3056
Roche Estate
Clayborne Remembered
Circinus, Circinus Federation


“I thank you, Warrior,” Jason said as he shook Walker Roche’s hand at the door of his home. “We will meet you at the pub within the space-port—and I will assign crewmen to haul your collection through the tunnels.”

The old man shook his head and pointed at the crowd waiting outside his gates. “First, boy, you have to get through that alive. I’d keep the girl, but they would see that as me taking sides—and my defenses won’t hold against that mob.”

Jason smiled. “We will get through—just you keep to the rendezvous.”

“Good luck, lad. I’ll see at the Bloody Talon, or in Hell one.”

And with that, Walker closed and barred his door.

Jason walked down the steps and he joined his companions at the base, where Lucien was glaring at the mob and caressing the handle of his drilling. “A hard fight, if they mean us harm, Jason,” he growled.

Amanda nodded and she took out her own laser, check the capacitor charges, and then reholstered the weapon. “If you are planning on a dust-off, now would be the time.”

“It is taken care, Warriors,” said Jason with a grin. “Come! Back to the space-port we shall go.”

He walked down the flagstoned lane the crowd outside—the mob—began to growl. Weapons were present in large numbers, but no firearms, Jason noted. The gangs seemed to want to tear them apart with their fists, knives, clubs, and improvised weapons. He stopped just outside of the gates.

“You gentlemen are blocking my path,” he said calmly. “Make a hole and allow us passage.”

One older man shook his head and he spat on the ground. “You ain’t paid the toll yet—and that toll will put you in the hospital. You dun killed the wrong folks, mate, and you stole our rightful property. And for that, you’ve gotta pay.”

“Well, that settles who my first target is,” Jason said, his left hand tapping the grip of his revolver. “Any volunteers for second?”

The gang-banger whitened, but another spoke up. “You’ve got six shots—the big man has three. She’s got a laser, but she can’t have many charges.”

“Number Two. Is there a third?”

No one else spoke up, but neither did the mob move back. And Jason smiled. “Gentlemen, I do not want to kill any of you—but if you force my hand, I will kill all of you.”

A voice from the back shouted out. “There’s a hundred of us, outsider! A hundred! We will bury you.”

The Scorpion officer shrugged. “Perhaps, but you see, I am not here alone.”

The gang members began to exchange glances, and then there were shouts and protests from the back of the mob as they were parted like wave curling around a rock. Twenty-five very large men and women walked forward—the smallest of them measured seven feet in her stocking feet, the tallest nearly eight-and-a-half in his. Each one wore thick leather gloves, and they carried stout cudgels.

“These are my friends,” Jason said coldly. “And you may outnumber us in raw numbers, but not in quality—four to one odds, I will fight at that happily if you force me to.”

One of the Elementals from the DropShip grinned at the leader of the gang members, and suddenly that leader looked down, wincing as he re-calculated the odds. “Your choice,” the Elemental rumbled. “I cannot say that I would not mind breaking a few skulls, Master Scott.”

Jason held up one hand. “The ball is in your court, gentlemen. Shall we play? Or do you wish to go home in one piece—alive, I might add?”

Slowly, the gang-members began to disperse, as those along the outside—those not really wanting to be here in the first place slinked away. Their numbers bled and then, with only thirty left, the gang-leader nodded. “I had best not catch you alone, stranger.”

“For you sake, I hope not,” replied Jason to the man’s back as he turned away and walked off.

“Amanda, Lucien, shall we?”

Amanda Djerassi shook her head. “It would have killed you to tell us you called for backup?”

Jason grinned. “What? You have a lack of trust in me?”

“Sometimes, Jason, I think you are more than a bit reckless. But I will continue to follow you,” she answered. Then she shook her head again and continued in a lower voice. “Probably to my death, but I will follow you.”

“But not today, Amanda,” the Star Captain said. “Let us get back to the port before they gather their courage—or collect their rifles.”

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 Post subject: Re: The Seeker PostPosted: 2012-10-12 11:58pm
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Joined: 2012-04-09 11:06pm
Posts: 1039
May 10, 3056
McIntyre Spaceport
Clayborne Remembered
Circinus, Circinus Federation


“Jason,” the Elemental said as he stared at the approaching column of mercenary troops marching through the gate in the fence that separated the city itself from the port. “Is this a deliberate lie we are engaged in?”

The Scorpion chuckled. “Lucien, Lucien, Lucien. Of course it is. In this case, however, our opponents lower than the most dezgra of bandits—they have less honor than the Dark Caste. You have seen it for yourself, their corruption, their lack of concern about their own people, their greed.” Jason smiled. “Misleading them, even with deliberate lies, is allowed for, Lucien. But remember, what is the best lie?”

“A misleading truth,” he answered.

“That is an excellent answer, Bondsman. But I was thinking that the best lie is oftentimes silence . . . letting our enemies assume for themselves what they believe to be the truth and taking no action to correct them.”

Lucien frowned. “And how do we do that?”

“Unless we are forced otherwise, we tell them the truth—from a certain point of view,” Jason said laughing. “Watch and learn, young padawan.”

Amanda chuckled as well. “You watched those ancient films a thousand times when you should have been sleeping in the sibko—I am surprised that you have not yet forced Lucien to suffer through them.”

“We will have ample time for that on our journey back home, Amanda. For now, he must learn to be a Scorpion—later will come his indoctrination in culture.”

“Culture? Culture? Culture is Mozart or Irving Berlin or the films of Hanks—not Lucas,” she snarled.

“My dear Amanda, you are such a snob. Time for your game faces, trothkin.”

The mercenaries from the Black Warriors—mercenaries in name only, since they were primary Circinian defense force and all but ran this miserable ball of rock—came to halt close to where the three Scorpions were standing. Behind Jason and his companions, the crew of the DropShip continued to work, hauling crates out and stacking them, and moving fresh supplies aboard.

Jason waited until the officer commanding the detachment started forward and he stepped up. “Well, you certainly managed to take long enough to get here. Jason Scott, commander of this motley crew—when do we meet with President McIntyre?”

The officer blinked with surprise, but he quickly recovered his balance with a subtle shake of his head. “You are under arrest for the murder of a citizen of the Federation—you will come with us.”

“And if I do not?”

“I can have you killed here and now.”

Jason nodded thoughtfully. “Perhaps you could, but did it fail to escape your notice that my crew is comprised of Clan Elementals amongst others—or that my DropShip is armed and that no fewer than six anti-personnel turrets are now trained upon you and your men? You certainly might succeed in killing me, but none of you will exit the spaceport alive in exchange,” he grinned broadly. “You see, the Clans of Kerensky do not answer well to threats, Captain . . . ?”

“Diall. Jan Diall,” the Circinian replied. “You threaten us, here, in the heart of Clayborne Remembered? Clanner, we own this world, and one trading vessel will not survive to lift off if you open fire.”

“Oh, really? Did you gain that knowledge on the front fighting Falcons or Wolves? Bears or Jaguars? Cats or Vipers? Do you intend to start a war between my people and your own—a war that you will lose?”

Diall’s lips twisted in a sneer. “We are below the truce-line—if your Clan comes across, the ComGuards will destroy them.”

Jason shook his head. “The Truce of Tukayyid applies only to the Inner Sphere, Captain Diall—Circinus lies in the Periphery. ComStar will no more come to your aid than the cold corpse of Hanse Davion will rise from his grave to lead the campaign. But come now, I am not here to fight, or to give you a reason to suffer annihilation.”

“Why are you here?”

The Scorpion beamed. “Lucien! Bring up the samples.”

“Samples? You are a merchant?”

“Why else would I be here?” asked Jason with a friendly grin that any used-hovercar salesman would have admired. “I would have thought that Calvin McIntyre would have already sent for us, after all. It is not every day that someone offers him Clan equipment in trade.”

Lucien walked up with a heavy case that he sat on the ground, and Jason nodded. The Elemental opened the case and Diall whistled. “Are those . . .” but he was cut off by Jason.

“Mk XX half-rifles, the same ones used by the SLDF,” he said as he lifted one of the compact and light-weight weapons in a single hand. “This weapon does the same damage as a heavy man-portable laser, but at a third of the bulk and weight—more capacitor charge as well. At full strength you have got fifty full-power shots on the internal power cell; each of which is the size of one of your rifle magazines. Only these are not SLDF relics, Captain Diall, they are newly manufactured in the Clan Homeworlds. We added a few bells and whistles—including pulse capability and a holographic sight for long-distance shooting.”

“WHAT Clan are you with again?” the incredulous officer asked.

“I was decanted a Scorpion—Lucien here was a Falcon. I have even got a former Raven among my crew, and a Warrior free-born into the Coyotes.”

“Renegades,” the officer whistled as a smile began to extend across his face.

Jason shrugged. “What? You think the Clans do not have their own bandits and disreputable men amongst their ranks? We even call those kinds the Dark Caste, and they are, by and large, part of who we are, albeit outside the norm of our society.”

Diall looked down again at the lasers stacked up in neat rows in the case and Jason nodded. “Want to try one out? Come on, Captain. I have never met a Warrior yet who does not desire to test a new weapon for himself.”

The Circinian twitched and he began to reach for one and then he shook his head. “I still have orders to bring you in.”

“Get President McIntyre on the radio and inform him that things have changed—he can give me a pardon or I will load these weapons up and be on my way to . . . other destinations. Perhaps the Marians would like an opportunity such as we are offering you good people. But I would rather deal with him, here, today, than with someone else later.”

Diall’s eyes narrowed and then he pulled out his radio. Jason stepped back as he began to yell at someone on the other end to get the President on the horn—and he smiled. He leaned over to Lucien and he chuckled. “Not an actual lie among it, my apprentice,” he whispered. "And I believe that the fish has taken the bait, hook and all," he said as the conversation Diall was having came to a close.

"Master Scott," the officer said with a slight bow, "President McIntyre wishes to welcome you to Circinus in person. I apologize for having . . . mistaken you for a common criminal and would be honored to escort you and your wares to the Palace."

"My assistant," Jason said, pointing to Amanda, "will accompany me. Along with him," he said pointing at Lucien. And then Jason raised one eyebrow. "Unless you would rather carry the 75-kilogram case?"

The officer smiled wanly. "That is acceptable. The President does want to know if small arms are the limit of what you are willing to negotiate for."

Jason shrugged. "Let us walk before we dance, shall we? If our meeting goes well, and if President McIntyre and I can work out a deal, then we can discuss . . . heavier equipment. Much heavier equipment."

Diall nodded. "This way then."

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 Post subject: Re: The Seeker PostPosted: 2012-10-13 03:33pm
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Joined: 2012-04-09 11:06pm
Posts: 1039
May 10, 3056
Presidential Palace
Clayborne Remembered
Circinus, Circinus Federation


Calvin McIntyre stared with pure greed and lust at the open case before him. Then he smiled and looked back up at Jason. “Twenty of these weapons are mere curiosities, nothing more. We wonder how many you might be able to provide to Our troops? Should We find that such is in Our interest, that is.”

Jason bowed. “These are but samples of the wares my superiors have made available for you, Mister President. And they are a gift, yours to keep regardless of how our negotiations bear fruit. As to the numbers we have available, I have somewhere around a thousand of these particular weapons aboard my ship.”

“A thousand!” Calvin repeated, his eyes bulging from his head. “With that many, We could rearm Our entire infantry force,” he whispered.

“One thousand of these weapons alone, Mister President; I also have cases upon case of Clan grenades, support weapons, laser assault rifles with integral grenade launchers, vibro-blades, sidearms, and helmets with integral communications gear and visual augmentation. All manufactured in the Clan homeworlds to our standards—lighter weight, less bulk, greater range and damage than your local equivalents.”

A somber faced man dressed in robes shook his head. “Be not fooled by his offer of bribes, Mister President—he is Clan and they cannot be trusted. You need no such wares as he offers, not when Blake himself stands beside you.”

“And what concern is it of ComStar that causes them to advise the ruler of this entire Federation not to accept arms of a quality far above what he might otherwise obtain?”

“I am not with the heretics of ComStar, Clanner! I represent the Word of Blake!”

Jason nodded. “Ah, yes, the splinter faction that broke away after your Primus attempted to betray the bargain her ComGuards won on Tukayyid. You are lucky that she was struck down when she was—for if she had lived, such a heinous show of dishonor would have brought the ten Clans you have yet to encounter into the Inner Sphere . . . and Terra would burn.”

“BLASPHEMY!” the Blakist screamed at the top of his lungs. “Mister President, you must hand these wretches over to me so that they may be put to the question!”

“I must, Demi-Precentor Sand? I must? You forget your place . . . it was your offer of lower prices on your services that convinced me to allow the Word to assume control of the HPG stations here from ComStar, and it is your words now that may have me alter that deal. If you do not shut up.”

Calvin sat back in this throne and he nodded. “Infantry arms are good and well, but what of BattleMechs? Can your superiors supply those as well?”

“We can, Mister President, although not in the same numbers, of course. But should my mission here be successful, I believe that I can guarantee you will see our BattleMechs first hand. I have none aboard my ship, and we will have to arrange a time and place for them to arrive . . . but if our discussions are fruitful, and if I find what I am looking for here, then yes. We can, if we decide to do so, transport several hundred BattleMechs to your world, although I must remind you of the distances involved and that it will take years to arrange such a transfer.”

“And what are you looking for, Master Scott?” Calvin asked as he leaned forward.

“Something of enough value to make it worth my superiors time and effort, Mister President,” and Jason grinned.

“Gordan?” the President said as he sat back again.

Jason appraised the man that was one of the reasons for coming here today—he was attractive, well-built, tall, strong . . . and the expression on his face would have perfectly in tune with a rabid hyena. The Scorpion shook his head. So, Richard’s madness has passed down through his own blood—there is nothing here of any value for my Clan to claim on that score.

“President McIntyre,” Gordan Cameron said as he opened chests filled with coins and jewelry, “has agreed to purchase your stores of arms . . . will this suffice?”

Jason laughed. “Increase your offer by ten-fold, and you might pique my interest. Were the Sharks here negotiating, you would find that such an offer would end their interest immediately, and cost you the chance of acquiring our goods. I, however, will give you another opportunity.”

“Space is dangerous—and ships do not always arrive at their destinations, Clanner,” said Gordan softly. “And even Elementals can be killed.”

“And now you start the threats? Gentlemen, what you offer has little value to those I represent. Here is the minimum of what we will require for the small arms I carry,” he said as he passed a data-pad across to a servant, who carried it up to Calvin McIntyre upon his high throne. “Anything less and I leave.” Jason paused and he stared directly into Gordan Cameron’s eyes. “And if you think you can stop me, you are certainly welcome to try. All you will get from the effort is your own annihilation.”

“We will see,” snarled the seneschal of the ruler of Circinus. “Guards!” he snapped. “Take them into custody! Warriors, seize his DropShip!”

Jason sighed and he watched Calvin McIntyre smirk on his throne. And then he shook his head.

“So, you have no doubt by now attempted to capture my JumpShip, have you? If I were you, Mister President, I would check with the survivors that attempted such a deed before you clap us in irons—or do something I would consider to be irrevocable for our future relationship.”

At that moment, a junior military officer, his face pale with shock came running into the room—he whispered into the ear of his superior, who gaped in horror at the news. And then he whispered to his superior, who in turn spoke quietly into the ear of Gordan.

“You destroyed our DropShip!” he thundered. “A DropShip that stated it was performing a lawful customs inspection!”

Calvin McIntyre jerked on his throne and Jason coldly nodded. “Mister President, our JumpShip is not nearly as defenseless as your advisors had presumed it to be—you have lost a Leopard-class carrier this day and the brave men and women who crewed it. Be mindful that you do not provoke me into making you lose even more.”

“GORDAN!” the President bellowed as he stood. “How did this happen! I did not authorize any such attack on their ship—General Radchik, were your soldiers so incompetent that they managed to get killed by an unarmed JumpShip!” Jason restrained himself from chuckling as contradictory statements emerged from the mouth of the ruler of Circinus.

The seneschal shook his head and he clenched his fists as he glared at Jason. “The other DropShip launched fighters—ten of them! And that JumpShip was not unarmed; the power and range of her weapons was . . . it is hard to credit such exaggerations.”

No Clan JumpShip is unarmed, Gordan,” Jason said slowly. “You see, we realize that space is a dangerous place and we take precautions to avoid that danger—or deal with it if it forced upon us. And to honest with you, that is no JumpShip sitting at the proximity point, but a WarShip, gentlemen. A wolf in sheep’s clothing, if you will. You can certainly kill me, and those with me, and if you do then this city will die with everyone inside, including your own august self, Mister President.”

Silence descended over the room as jaws dropped open and eyes grew wide, but then Jason smiled. “I do not blame you of course; I am certain that such an attempt to seize my vessel was in fact nothing more than an over-zealous flunky seeking to ingratiate himself with your good will.” Gordan flushed at this and Jason grinned at him. “I will accept the items listed upon that data-pad, Mister President, in exchange for my wares—and one item more. Him,” the Scorpion said, as he pointed his finger at Gordan. “I want his head on a silver platter . . . literally. You may keep the body. It is to be delivered to be no later than 1800 hours this evening, or I lift for orbit and you get nothing.”

“Now that the unpleasantness is behind us, perhaps we should discuss how we might go about setting up future missions to deliver BattleMechs to your world? Clan BattleMechs and even OmniMechs, Mister President. Or would you rather that we end this here and now? Other powers in this neighborhood might well be willing to bargain even if you are not.”

Calvin McIntyre sat back in his chair and he frowned. But then he nodded. “Guards, find a silver platter from the kitchen and removes Gordan’s head from his body. Do you need a cover as well for the dish?”

“That is not necessary, but I thank you for the offer, Mister President.”

“Very well, We have need of a new seneschal, one who will serve Us better. Adrian, ah, yes . . . Adrian, the job is yours,” Calvin continued as the guards drug away a screaming, kicking Gordan Cameron. The aide that the President pointed to went white as the blood drained away from his face, but he did nothing but bow deeply.

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 Post subject: Re: The Seeker PostPosted: 2012-10-13 08:07pm
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Joined: 2012-04-09 11:06pm
Posts: 1039
May 10, 3056
The Bloody Talon
Clayborne Remembered
Circinus, Circinus Federation


“Keeping a low profile, are you? HAH!” snapped Walker Roche, as he shook his head and picked up his glass of ale. “Good god, boy, you not only told them you are Clan, but you let them know your ship is an actual WarShip! And I cannot believe you sold weapons—Clan weapons—to that pig!”

Jason and Amanda chuckled, and then Jason sighed at the expression on Lucien’s face. “Relax, Lucien, Walker. Have not either of you read The Purloined Letter, after all?”

Lucien’s face was blank, but Walker’s suddenly shone and his eyes blinked. He started to laugh as well. “Hide who are you in plain sight, when they are expecting subtle spies and infiltrators, walk right in through the front door as if you had nothing to conceal.”

“Exactly, Walker. The Warriors and other castes under my command are good, but even the Dragoon Expedition made its own share of mistakes early on. And a good portion of my people are true-born, not free-birth . . . that is without mentioning it would be rather impossible to hide the presence of Elemental Warriors amongst us. By now, all the Inner Sphere and near Periphery know something of the Clans of Kerensky—and we use that knowledge against them. McIntyre is a brigand chieftain, no more, no less. His Black Warriors have been—and still are—pirates. Give him the chance to see that the rumors of the Dark Caste in the Clans and renegades are true, and what he knows of human nature, it was nearly certain he would come to believe its veracity. Especially when his greed propelled him forward along that line of thought.”

“We do not pretend to be normal traders of the Inner Sphere, we come here as proud—and loud—Clanners, to use their term. Our targets own experiences will fill in the details for them that we leave out, and they believe that we are nothing more—and nothing less—than what they imagine. It is human nature.”

Walker nodded. “Of course, you know how Poe prefaced that tale—nil sapientiae odiosius acumine nimio, you young whelp.”

Jason smiled. “Lucien can you translate?”

The Elemental blinked, not once, but twice. “Ah . . . neg, Jason,” he answered.

“Amanda, add Latin to Lucien’s study schedule. Nothing is more hateful to wisdom than excessive cleverness, ascribed by Poe to Seneca, supposedly in reference to his one-time student, the Emperor Nero . . .”

“And this is not a classroom, Jason,” said Amanda with a grin. “Those lessons can wait, quiaff?”

“Aff,” Jason agreed. “I make no claim to be among the Wise, Walker. I must admit, that I am fairly clever, however. Cleverness is a weapon, and like all weapons it is one that I will use in the service of the Scorpion.”

“Hah,” the old man snorted. “Be like one day you will be hoisted on that petard of yours, Jason Scott. Still, if it works,” and he raised his bottle of Timbiqui Dark, “don’t fiddle with the parts.”

Lucien was still frowning though and Jason shook his head. “What bothers you, Bondsman?”

“The weapons. We are giving the bandits weapons.”

“I did mention that we added a few bells and whistles to the weapons—oh, did I forget to tell President McIntyre that each one, in a section of the weapon that is not normally disassembled, contains 35-grams of J-11 plastic-explosive on a delayed fuse timer?”

“Now that you mention it, Star Captain Scott, I believe you did forget to inform him of that small fact," Amanda answered promptly.

“Oh, dear,” Jason said, and then he sighed theatrically. “In fourteen hours every Mark XX, every Mauser, every grenade, every vibro-blade, every combat helmet we just sold to McIntyre will go boom. It would behoove us to be off-planet, or at least off this continent, before then, quiaff?”

“Aff,” answered Amanda, as Walker laughed so hard that tears began to leak from his eyes. But Lucien still wore a frown.

“What is it, Lucien? We are on schedule, and the last of Walker’s collection will be here shortly for loading. We know that Gordan Cameron has no siblings, no children, and no living relatives. So what problem remains that bothers you so?”

“Well, about that part of no siblings—that isn’t exactly true,” Walker said, as he took another sip, before the Elemental could respond.

Excuse me?” asked Jason.

“He had a sister—an elder sister. She disappeared a few months ago and Gordan had her proclaimed dead and inherited her estates to add to his own. Everyone believes that he had her killed, but I have heard rumors that she was sold as a slave.”

“Time to detonation?” Jason asked.

“Fourteen hours, eleven minutes, twenty seconds . . . mark,” answered Amanda.

“This would have been good to know before I sent McIntyre his load of party-favors, Walker.”

“Look boy, it might just be rumors.”

“Only if my luck has altered for the better,” Jason said sourly. “Okay, then before we lift, we need to find her—or find out if she is dead. I want all non-essential personnel on this—scour the records, hack into whatever databases you need, but we need to find her, or proof of her death. Lucien, your problem?”

“You had Gordan killed, Star Captain . . . why? ‘The Scorpion never kills for pleasure, never for personal gain, but a killer he remains nonetheless.’ Your words, yet you had Gordan Cameron killed.”

“Well, you were paying attention. It was not for personal gain, nor for pleasure, Lucien. He was our enemy—we embarrassed him in front of McIntyre and he was not the type of man to let that go unanswered. He would have tried to strike back, whether through attempting to assassinate me, or having Amanda kidnapped and sold off as a sex-slave, or bombing our people. It was a proactive measure of self-defense—nothing more, nothing less. And I asked for his head on a platter, because we are running the DNA now to confirm that he was of the Cameron blood-line, Richard’s blood-line. Do you understand, Bondsman?”

“Aff, Star Captain. I was not going to shed tears for his loss, but I was not certain why you acted as you did—I do now. And I will try to learn as fast as I am able. Being a Scorpion is much more difficult than being a Falcon ever was, I fear.”

“Well, it is,” Lucien said in an exasperated tone as the three Scorpions sitting at the table all burst out laughing. “It really is.”

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 Post subject: Re: The Seeker PostPosted: 2012-10-15 01:24pm
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Joined: 2012-04-09 11:06pm
Posts: 1039
May 10, 3056
Scorpion DropShip Scott-Alpha
Clayborne Remembered
Circinus, Circinus Federation


“Come!” Jason snapped at the knock on the partition door that separated his cramped cabin from the rest of the DropShip. He closed the monitor screen as the door opened and two men entered.

“Star Captain Scott,” the senior of the two said with a slight bow.

“Scientist Charles, what can I do for you?”

“I believe that we may have a lead on Joan Levin—Gordan Cameron’s sister.”

Jason nodded and he sat back in his chair. “Our plundering the Circinian data-bases revealed this information?”

The Scientist winced and then he shook his head. “Our search has indicated where that information may be stored—we confirmed that Gordan Cameron received money at the same time that his sister disappeared, money deposited into his account that does not come from any known source of income. Which pointed us in the direction of a possible source of information . . . we shall need your authorization to continue with the search, however.”

Jason frowned. It was not common for any Seeker to have an actual Scientist—no matter how lowly his rank—in his retinue. But for this mission, the Khan herself had assigned Charles to verify the genetic heritage of those discovered with a possible link to the family of the First Lord. And while Charles was very, very good at his specialty, he was not the most . . . flexible of Scientists.

“My authorization?”

“Daniel?” Charles said, motioning the other Scientist, a low-ranking Scientist assigned to the crew of the Jenna Scott forward.

“Star Captain, I believe that the information we need is stored within the secure data-base at the Word of Blake HPG compound. There were references in the Circinian data-bases which linked back to them—and the payment itself came from their accounts. I think that I can get inside, and find the information, but . . .”

“We are prohibited—on the orders of the Khan—from prying into ComStar’s secrets,” finished Charles.

The Seeker nodded and he smiled slightly. “As they themselves insist that they are not ComStar, I think we can safely consider that concern as being overcome, Scientist Charles. Scientist Daniel, you believe that you can successfully locate and extract the data from the Word compound without detection?”

Charles grimaced and Daniel shook his head. “Not without detection. I have . . . probed . . . their system on my own initiative, Star Captain. Their firewalls and software are very, very good. To get inside, I will have to do a brute force hack, using the computers here aboard the DropShip, networked wirelessly to gain access without a physical connection. Their architecture is quite distinct, and I know that once I breach their outer defenses, I can copy the data I need—if we arrange a diversionary attack from Jenna Scott at the same time.”

“Diversionary attack?”

“The Techs aboard ship will make a play at the Word’s most secure systems—what they keep their secrets upon. As their computer security responds to that, I will launch a second attack on the local data-base they retain for confidential dealings with the people of Circinus. I doubt that they are prepared for a two-prong attack, and the one from Jenna Scott will raise enough alarms that they will concentrate their best technicians there in response. That should leave me enough of an opening to get the information you need.”

Jason measured the young Scientist and mentally reviewed what he knew of him. Daniel had been ‘exiled’ to Jenna Scott three years ago, after he had been caught reviewing files where he had not had any need to know clearance. That he had successfully broken the protection on those files and accessed secure data-cores had impressed the Scorpion Scientist Council—and infuriated them. So he had been transferred here, where his inquisitiveness could serve the Clan . . . without access to the secrets of his superiors. He nodded.

“Will they be able to track our activity?”

“I cannot guarantee they will not, Star Captain,” Daniel answered calmly. “They well launch a counter-attack with software viruses upon both us and the ship—but our defenses are quite a bit stronger and our architecture far different from what they are accustomed to; I expect such an attack to fail, if they manage to launch it in the first place. There is a good probability, however, that they will manage to identify us as the source of the hack.”

“Authorized, gentlemen. Good hunting, Scientist Daniel. And Daniel?”

"Star Captain?"

"Do not artificially restrict yourself to just the information we are after. Let us see if you are truly as gifted at computer theft as the Council claims . . . I want the entire Word data-base if possible. Is that within your ability?"

"Aff, Star Captain!" the young Scientist answered as he stood up straight, his eyes wide, as Charles winced at his side.

"Then dismissed, I have work to finish," Jason finished, reopening the monitor screen and resuming the work on his paperwork as the two Scientists bowed and left his cabin behind.

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 Post subject: Re: The Seeker PostPosted: 2012-10-15 03:22pm
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Joined: 2012-04-09 11:06pm
Posts: 1039
May 10, 3056
Goliath Scorpion Ship Jenna Scott
Pirate Jump Point
Circinus, Circinus Federation


“Systems ready?” asked Star Captain Gregor Ben-Shimon as he floated over the shoulders of his computer technicians.

“Aff, Star Captain. We will not be able to adjust the software attack in real-time, however—I have written out the program to shift our vector in compensation on a random basis,” the technician chuckled. “Never thought I would get a chance to do this, Star Captain. Never.”

“So we are ready then, quiaff?”

“Aff.”

“Power up the HPG transmitter, make your coordinates the Word of Blake compound on Circinus, and maintain the transmission until I order otherwise. Technician Yvonne, you may start your attack upon establishment of the link.”

Yvonne grinned and she double-checked the pre-loaded software routines one final time as the Scorpion WarShip diverted power to the Hyper-Pulse Generator.

“HPG . . . engaged,” reported another crewman.

“And so it begins,” Yvonne whispered as she hit the enter key.


May 10, 3056
Word of Blake HPG Compound Circinus
Clayborne Remembered
Circinus, Circinus Federation


“Incoming transmission,” the Acolyte reported, and Demi-Precentor Justin Hawk frowned.

“This time of night? What the . . .” his words were cut off as alarms suddenly began to scream.

“Demi-Precentor! The network is under attack! I’ve got three dozen separate viruses trying to get through our security—outer firewall breached!”

“Disconnect from wireless reception,” Hawk barked, but then one of the techs spun around.

“It’s coming from the HPG itself! We cannot isolate the data-base from the HPG!”

“Activate emergency protocols!” he barked, pulling up a schematic of the computer systems on the his screen. The outer firewall was down, and the secondary was under heavy assault. This was no mere finesse attack, it was a brute-force hack that must be using more computer power than was present on the entire planet! “Track the transmission back!”

“Point of origination the Clan vessel at the jump-point, Sir.”

Oh, you sons-of-bitches, he thought. “Power up the HPG. They want to play games? Let’s play. Gold watch, keep them out of the data-base—blue watch, hit them back.”

Off-duty personnel raced into the command complex and began to spin up complicated computer programs, both attack and defense. Hawk nodded. “Let’s see if that rust-bucket can take a real cyber-attack.”

And unnoticed in the noise and confusion of the massive load of viral programs coming through the HPG, a solitary worm slinked through in the background and weaved through the defenses.


May 10, 3056
Scorpion DropShip Scott-Alpha
Clayborne Remembered
Circinus, Circinus Federation


“Inner firewall penetrated!” Daniel crowed. “Yes, take that, you free-birth scum!”

“Celebrate when the mission is over, Scientist Daniel,” Jason said calmly.

“Aff, Star Captain. Sorry about that,” the Scientist replied as he bent over his console. “Down-loading . . . now!”


May 10, 3056
Word of Blake HPG Compound Circinus
Clayborne Remembered
Circinus, Circinus Federation


Hawk’s face drained of blood as another alarm went off—the main and secondary data-cores were being down-loaded. Down-loaded! “How the hell did they get through?”

“They haven’t, Demi-Precentor—we are fighting them off and holding them at bay . . . it is . . . oh shit. Second penetration attempt! Local wireless network! It snuck in while we were fighting off the first assault.”

“Take the cores off-line! Now!”

“Computer commands comprised—their viruses are preventing disconnect!”

Hawk stared at the screen at the percentage of down-load spun rapidly upwards and he blanched at the thought of what his superiors would do if this Clan cyber-assault succeeded. He raised the cover over a red button that was never intended to be used and he pushed it.

Buried deep beneath the HPG compound, the fusion power plant went into emergency shutdown; explosive charges severed every power line leading into the compound as well. And every electronic device, computer, light, and power supply in the compound suddenly ceased working.


May 10, 3056
Scorpion DropShip Scott-Alpha
Clayborne Remembered
Circinus, Circinus Federation


“BLOOD OF KERENSKY!” cursed Daniel. “Those stravag dezgra assholes!” he bellowed. “They just cut power to everything,” he cried as the computer started flashing DOWNLOAD INTERUPTED.

“How much did you retrieve?”

“A full copy of the secondary data-core, and about half the primary—but the primary is heavily fragmented. Call it . . . 35-38% of the data after we put it back together.”

“The secondary data-core is intact?” asked Jason.

“Running the search now . . . got it,” Daniel answered as a printer nearby began to whine and spit sheets. Jason tore them off and scanned them quickly, he slowed and read—and then reread—one section carefully.

“Time to detonation?”

“Two hours fourteen minutes . . . mark,” answered Amanda.

“Assemble a strike team—she is alive and we are going to retrieve her before lift-off.”

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 Post subject: Re: The Seeker PostPosted: 2012-10-16 12:37pm
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Joined: 2012-04-09 11:06pm
Posts: 1039
May 10, 3056
Scorpion Strike Team
Clayborne Remembered
Circinus, Circinus Federation


The delivery van ‘borrowed’ from the Bloody Talon Pub bounced along down the pot-holed filled alleys, but Jason easily kept his balance in the crowd cargo bay. “Time is not our ally, Warriors,” he said to the ten Elementals wearing non-powered body armor and cradling Mauser pulse-laser assault rifles. “And we lack any intelligence on what lies within our target, or even the floor-plan. We go in hard and fast—flash-bangs on entry and do not hesitate to terminate any armed opponent. There may well be non-combatants present, so check your fire—you have all memorized the features of the woman we are after, quiaff?”

“Aff,” they answered.

“She is the target—we are retrieving her alive, if she puts up a fight, incapacitate her, but I want her alive, quiaff?

“AFF!”

“Get in, get the job done, get out, and if Kerensky smiles upon us, we will lift before the locals ever get their act together. Evelyn,” he said to the senior Point Commander, “final instructions.”

“Aff, Star Captain,” she replied. “Mikhail on point, standard search-and-clear pattern, we clear ground level and go down. Point Two ride explosive-breech entry through the second-storey windows here and here,” she pointed to an exterior view of the map, “they are probably armored, but not likely to resist a double-breaching charge. Search and clear the upper floors. Command,” she nodded to Jason, Amanda, and Lucien, “follows us in. Transport remains at the front door, cargo bay open facing the house. The estate belongs to a senior member of the Black Warriors—count on armed guards being present, perhaps attack dogs. Do not underestimate them—give them the boot, not the piss!”

“AFF!”

“Do we evac the non-combatants?” asked a Warrior.

“Neg,” replied Jason. “Only the target. The owner probably has a panic button, so time is short—I want to be in and out in three minutes. Any longer and we are going to be engaging local Circinian defense forces with armored vehicles and ‘Mechs.” The van lurched again, and the driver called out, “fifteen seconds.”

“Final check: weapons?”

“CHECK!”

“Comm?”

“CHECK!’

“Attitude?”

“SCORPIONS LEAD THE WAY!”

“Game time,” said Jason as the van slammed through an iron gate and fishtailed around directly in front of the mansions doors. The strike team poured out of the vehicle, half charging the doors, the second firing grapple launchers to the roof before ascending the ropes.

Mikhail lifted the heavy-bore entry weapon and fired a 20mm slug into the lock; without slowing he dropped the weapon and raised his Mauser to his shoulder as he crashed through the doors, his grenade launcher coughing as it ripped off a burst of flash-bang grenades. The armored helmets worn by the Elemental strike team automatically compensated for the sudden glare of blinding light and the deafening CRACK-CRACK-CRACK-CRACK-CRACK as the grenades lit off—those inside were stunned into immobility at the unexpected intrusion.

A fusillade of laser-fire spat out, criss-crossing the room, and those men and women who wore arms dropped dead to the floor—not one of them having managed to draw their weapons.

“CLEAR!” five voices yelled and the team proceeded deeper into the house, clearing room by room as Jason, his bondsman, and Amanda followed in their wake.

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 Post subject: Re: The Seeker PostPosted: 2012-10-16 12:38pm
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I am sad that there are no comments at all? You folks don't like this one? By the way, can you believe that we have now reached 68 pages in MS Word (Georgia 11 font, single-spaced) in a BattleTech story without seeing a single BattleMech! :)

MA

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 Post subject: Re: The Seeker PostPosted: 2012-10-16 02:03pm
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Joined: 2012-04-09 11:06pm
Posts: 1039
May 10, 3056
Scorpion Strike Team
Clayborne Remembered
Circinus, Circinus Federation


The bodies were still twitching when Jason strode into the parlor; he could hear the whine of the lasers and crash of the flash-bangs both above and below and he frowned as voices rang out in the distance, “CLEAR, CLEAR”, but no reports of their target were made. “Was out intelligence wrong?” he asked Amanda quietly.

“No, Lambert purchased her—she should be here, this is the only property he owns,” his sibkin replied in a soft voice. Jason nodded and he began to speak, but then he noticed Lucien staring intently at a painting.

“Lucien?”

“Star Captain—the eyes in that painting moved, I am certain of it,” and Jason saw it as well as whoever was standing in the walls behind the painted pulled back. The Elemental lowered his shoulder and he charged the portrait and slammed into it—and through it into the hidden passageway beyond.

“Strike Alpha and Beta—hidden passage, level 1! Follow me!” Jason snapped into his radio as he drew his pistol with one hand and a zulkari in the second and followed Lucien as the former Falcon chased after the person who had been spying upon them, Amanda in his wake.

The passage was narrow—barely wide enough to allow Lucien passage—and dark, but ahead Jason could hear the sounds of combat; he emerged into a room with no doors and no windows, and Lucien was fighting against four men, all of whom were armed.

The once-Falcon, now-Scorpion Bondsman tore into them in a fury, ignoring their blades and stun-sticks as his fists and feet and elbows and knees slammed into them in a whirlwind flurry of blows—one of the men drew back a long knife and began to plunge it into the Elemental’s back, but Jason fired a single round—which arrived just as Lucien spun around and caught the man’s arm in one might fist, snapping the bones in the forearm like twigs.

Past the enraged Bondsman, Jason could their target lying unconscious upon a divan—she was chained and apparently drugged, in a stupor where she could not understand what was happening. With a meaty thunk, the last of Lucien’s opponents fell, and he stood there, slowing his breathing for a moment before he nodded at Jason. The Elemental knelt down and pulled a ring of keys from the belt of one of the men, and tossed them to Amanda, who unlocked the woman’s chains.

“Strike Team, package retrieved, begin extraction!” Jason ordered as Amanda found the right key and unlocked the manacles. Lucien picked up the woman and they made their way quickly through the narrow passage, through the parlor and the entry hall, and into the van. Evelyn was standing besides the door and she waited until Jason boarded before she stepped inside. “GO!” she ordered, even before closing the doors, and the van’s tires screamed as it burnt rubber and tore away down the streets.

“Mission time?” asked Jason.

“Two minutes, ten seconds, start to finish. We have fourteen minutes to detonation . . . mark,” answered Amanda. “It will take nine to get to the spaceport and loaded, so we are good on the dead-line, Jason.”

The Scorpion nodded and he took a canteen one of the Warriors passed him, taking a long pull of the tepid water within. The woman—the target—finally began to struggle, but another elemental held an injector to her neck; it hissed and she collapsed unconscious.

“Lucien.”

“Yes, Star Captain?”

Jason grinned. “Hold out your arm, Lucien,” he commanded as he redrew one of his zulkari. The hulking Elemental drew in a sharp intake of air as Jason lifted the red bond cord that wrapped around his wrist, and the Scorpion officer nodded. The other Elementals grinned their own approval. “Tonight, Bondsman, you showed me that your fighting prowess is more than good enough for a Warrior of Clan Goliath Scorpion.” The blade of the knife flashed, and the severed cord fell towards the floor of the van, but another Warrior caught it and did not allow it to touch the surface. “I free you this night of the red cord of bond—your first step in becoming acknowledged as abtakha is now complete. Among the Scorpions, none will now question your fitness to bear weapons, Bondsman. Although not yet a Warrior of the Clan, you may even wear Elemental Armor once more, under my command.”

Jason leaned back in the cramped bay and he sheathed the zulkari. The Warrior who had caught the cord handed it to Lucien, and she grinned. “We have a tradition in the Scorpions, Bondsman Lucien,” she said. “A small ceremony in which the cord is burnt and the Bondsman is honored—would you allow us to arrange for such?”

“I would be honored,” Lucien said, but then he shook head. “After I return from accompanying the Star Captain to Laredo, that is.”

Soft laughter filled the compartment, and Jason grinned. “Phase II is now underway, Warriors—now we find out if we came all this way for nothing, or for a prize that has so far remained hidden and lost.” He took another sip of water and then passed the canteen back. “And as soon as we are out of this nest of dezgra bandits and en route back home, I intend to throw you Warriors a party that will be spoken of in the Remembrance itself,” more laughter rang out. Jason grinned and he continued. "And yes, I will open my personal cellar to quench your thirst that night. Try to leave me some brandy, at the least."

“Well done, Warriors. Well done,” Jason finished.

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 Post subject: Re: The Seeker PostPosted: 2012-10-16 07:21pm
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Posts: 36
Location: Columbus, Ohio
I have been thoroughly enjoying this piece and look forward to more. I have read little to no history of BT aside from the fluff in the 1st edition game. Your works have opened me to a depth of BT I never knew. The characters are well rounded, and the pacing works. Hope for more soon.

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 Post subject: Re: The Seeker PostPosted: 2012-10-17 12:06pm
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Posts: 1039
Chapter Ten

May 10, 3056
Presidential Palace
Clayborne Remembered
Circinus, Circinus Federation


“Mister President, you cannot trust them! They are Clan!” Demi-Precentor Hawk thundered at Calvin McIntyre . . . and the face of the President of Circinus grew hotter and hotter as the Word of Blake representative lectured him.

“They violated the sanctity of our network—accessed your own private data! They are no friends to you or to Circinus—they seek nothing more than your destruction and enslavement to their caste system! I beg of you, Mister President, order their destruction now before it becomes too late to act!”

Calvin stood and he drew the fine weapon which the Clan rogues had given him, and his face twisted. “I am in charge here, Demi-Precentor! I rule Circinus! Tell me one more time, what I must do, and I will . . .”

He never got the chance to say what he would do because the weapon suddenly grew warm in his hand and Calvin frowned at it—then the world erupted in bright, hot light and his vision faded to black.

****************************************************************************

“Do not struggle, Mister President,” the voice came through Calvin’s throbbing eardrums, and the President gasped in pain and shock. “DO NOT MOVE!” the Word of Blake agent ordered, and then more people were beside him, and Calvin felt a cool injection enter his neck and the pain—the incredible pain—lessened.

“Wha-, wha-,” he tried to ask.

“The perfidious Clans have betrayed you—they have tried to assassinate you, Mister President. They cannot be trusted,” Hawk replied, and Calvin shook his head.

His arm, his hand burned and he lift it, and stared in shock at the bloody stump a medic was working on.

“HOLD STILL!” the physician barked as he clamped off the bleeding arteries and veins.

Hawk smiled. “Do you see now the threat they pose? The Word remains your only friend, Mister President—we will rebuild you, give you back the use of your arm that the Clans have stolen. We will make you stronger, able to take your vengenance, for we are your true friends. Give your Warriors permission to kill them, before it is too late, Mister President—they have not yet lifted from the spaceport.”

“They are lifting for orbit as we speak,” said some Captain that Calvin did not recognize. “Where is Major Yothers?” Calvin asked.

Hawk’s face was grim as he hovered over the injured leader. “He was wearing his ‘gift’, Mister President. It removed most of one hip and his manhood—he isn’t expected to survive the night. Give the order.”

“The Word will aid us?” he asked as he felt the room start to spin.

“I have forces en route now, Mister President, but we must act at this moment before they escape.”

“Then kill them. Kill them all,” Calvin whispered as he slipped away into unconsciousness.

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 Post subject: Re: The Seeker PostPosted: 2012-10-17 01:52pm
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Joined: 2012-04-09 11:06pm
Posts: 1039
May 10, 3056
WBS Light of Hope
Deep Space
Waypoint 1027-B, Circinus Federation


“Transmission confirmed—we have our orders,” snapped Demi-Precentor Francis Hyugin. “Jump coordinates plotted?”

“Aye, sir. Destination Circinus Proximity Point Three.”

“Start the clock, all hands prepare for jump,” the commander ordered.

The bustle of crew across the bridge looked efficient and ordered to the Adept who sat next to the commander of the ancient Baron-class Destroyer, only recently returned to active duty in the Word’s small—but growing—Fleet.

“Will we emerge within weapons range?” he asked.

Hyugin frowned. “Jumps are not that precise, Adept Smyth—we may emerge in weapons range, we may be several thousand kilometers outside of range,” he paused, and smiled grimly, “and we may emerge directly atop of them if they are preparing to jump and destroy both ships.”

“Surely the latter is a remote possibility,” the Adept asked, and the commander shrugged in response.

“It happens, Adept. And considering that this crew only reported aboard three weeks ago and that we are still evaluating the reactivation of all systems—I would not bet the farm against it.”

“Understand, Demi-Precentor, I want their ship disabled—my ROM troops will secure it and add it to our own forces.”

The commander did not frown—he did not allow any expression to reach his face. Although he outranked the Adept, ranks did not matter to ROM. They ensured the loyalty of the Word of Blake and they did so with a fervor that shocked the uninitiated. Ever since the Schism that had divided ComStar, ROM had become even more frightening, resorting to . . . terrible experimentation into cybernetic augmented warriors such as the one sitting beside him.

“With Blake’s Grace, we shall do so, Adept.”

“See that you do. You know the price of failure.”

“All systems charged, coordinates plotted, the ship is ready for jump, Demi-Precentor,” the XO reported.

“Jump!” Hyugin barked.

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 Post subject: Re: The Seeker PostPosted: 2012-10-17 03:17pm
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Joined: 2012-04-09 11:06pm
Posts: 1039
May 10, 3056
Scorpion DropShip Scott-Alpha
Low Orbit
Circinus, Circinus Federation


“Fighters scrambling from the surface, Star Captain,” Star Commander Tomas—the commander of the DropShip reported over the radio. “The will clear atmosphere in . . . two minutes, thirty seconds.”

“Understood, Star Captain—have we cleared the sensor perimeter of the Circinian air defense?”

“Crossing the planet limb now on course for rendezvous with Jenna Scott. Star Captain Ben-Shimon’s fighters are moving to escort us home.”

“Then we will see you at the rendezvous in ten days—Pilot Tyrell, get us under way.”

“Aff, Star Captain. Golf Sierra Four One Seven, requesting launch clearance,” the pilot sang out over the radio.

“Granted, Golf Sierra Four One Seven—happy hunting.”

Jason tightened braced as the electromagnetic catapult hurled the small craft free of the accelerating DropShip—the fusion engine lit off and the shuttle streaked back down towards the planet, towards the isolated continental mass of Laredo.

“Star Captain Scott, Ben-Shimon, here. We have a problem.”


May 10, 3056
Goliath Scorpion Ship Jenna Scott
Pirate Jump Point
Circinus, Circinus Federation


“Emergence! Negative IFF—Baron-class Destroyer! Her weapons are hot and she is coming around on an intercept vector!”

Gregor Ben-Shimon cursed at the sight of the 480,000-ton WarShip—four times the mass of his own ship, with far greater numbers of weapons (and more powerful weapons) and heavier armor than Jenna Scott. Thankfully, the Scorpion vessel was able to accelerate faster—and the Word of Blake ship still lay far outside of weapons range. Except for those capital missiles, a quartet of which blossomed onto his display. Thankfully, the old surveillance ship had received the full point defense upgrade authorized by the Khan.

“Bring us about to intercept our Dropper and run for the limit, maximum acceleration—I want three points of our fighters back here to keep theirs off our back! Point-defense free for capital missile interdiction.”

“Plotted.”

“Sound acceleration warning and execute!”

The commander of the Scorpion WarShip grunted as the powerful transit drives flared to life and drove Jenna Scott forward at 2.5-g’s of acceleration—a full gravity more than the ancient destroyer bearing on them was capable of achieving. The bearings-only attack swept in even, as the destroyer bleched a second flight, but the massed AMS (anti-missile systems shot down first one, then the second, and then in sequence numbers three and four, although the last managed to crawl within a mere two hundred meters of hull before it exploded. He activated his radio.

“Star Captain Scott, Ben-Shimon, here. We have a problem.”

“Go ahead.”

“A hostile WarShip has just appeared at the pirate point—they seem to want to dance. And they are now launching fighters—just six, however.”

“Options?” asked Jason in a clipped voice.

“We cannot outfight them, but we can outrun them—they will force us away from the proximity point, however, and they are between us and the rest of the Circinian proximity points close to the planet. I will have to head to the outer system to jump—nine days transit time. That will push our schedule back on retrieving you to sixteen days, Star Captain, if we retain the charge on the lithium-fusion batteries. If we do not, we might well jump in-system with no charge, with a WarShip present—in that case we can lose the entire ship and crew.”

“Understood, retrieve the DropShip and evade; we will rendezvous at Point Omega in sixteen days—Scott out.”


May 10, 3056
Shuttle GS-417
Low Orbit
Circinus, Circinus Federation


“Tyrell, are we still out of sensor range of those fighters?”

“Aff, Star Captain—but that WarShip has us nailed, her sensor suite is far more powerful and she is tracking us.”

“Damn,” whispered Jason. “No crying over split milk, Pilot. Take us in at a steep angle and get us on the ground.”

“Aff, Star Captain—they will be able to track our reentry, primary landing site is clear . . . the secondary site is experiencing heavy thunderstorms, which should obstruct their ability to pin-point our landing coordinates.”

“Thank Kerensky for small favors, Pilot, put down at the secondary,” Jason whispered. He keyed the intercom. “Slight change in plans, people—I seem to have underestimated exactly how upset the Word is, they sent a WarShip. We are continuing on mission, but lock down all emissions—we going to run silent from here to rendezvous.”

Jason shut down the radar and the radio from his perch in the copilot seat and then the shuttle began to buck as it hit the upper reaches of the atmosphere.


May 10, 3056
WBS Light of Hope
Pirate Jump Point
Circinus, Circinus Federation


“Adept Smyth—they are running and we cannot catch them. Our fighters do not have the firepower to stop them,” Demi-Precentor Hyugin reported, and the ROM agent glared at the ship commander. “However, the Clanners have a shuttle inbound for the Laredo continent of Circinus—and they are leaving it behind.”

The ROM agent nodded and he turned to the holographic map projection. “Laredo . . . it is uninhabited, so why are they heading the-. . .” he thought aloud as he dug into the main computer’s archival data-banks and then he nodded.

“I know what they are after—and they shall not have it. Prepare my shuttle—prepare all of the shuttles. I will follow them and deal with them on the surface. Hound that ship from this system, Demi-Precentor. I do not want these Clanners on the surface to have any means of escape.”

And with that, Adept Smyth unfastened his safety belts and stood up against the force of the pseudo-gravity created by the ship’s acceleration and strode off the bridge.

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 Post subject: Re: The Seeker PostPosted: 2012-10-17 10:11pm
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Location: Tahalshia Manor
masterarminas wrote:
I am sad that there are no comments at all? You folks don't like this one? By the way, can you believe that we have now reached 68 pages in MS Word (Georgia 11 font, single-spaced) in a BattleTech story without seeing a single BattleMech! :)

MA

I've been OffLine for a while, ok? Now shut up and let me finish reading :-P



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Me: Nope, that's why I have you around to tell me.
Nitram: You -are- beautiful. Anyone tries to tell you otherwise kill them.

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 Post subject: Re: The Seeker PostPosted: 2012-10-17 10:19pm
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Joined: 2012-04-09 11:06pm
Posts: 1039
May 10, 3056
Shuttle GS-417
Laredo
Circinus, Circinus Federation


The shuttle dropped precipitously as the wings caught a drown-draft, but the pilot compensated almost immediately. Heavy droplets of rain and flurries of hail hit the cockpit windows hard, eliminating what little vision the thick clouds would have allowed; the darkness of the interior of the thunderstorm was randomly lit by fierce bolts of lightning—two had already struck the shuttle.

“Warm up the radar,” Tyrell ordered as they passed through five thousand meters. Jason grimaced, but in this case it was the pilot in charge and not him—he brought the sensors on-line. A moment passed, and then two, and then the display lit with images of the terrain below and ahead. “Clear,” Jason reported. “Ridges to the south-west, two kilometers—looks as though we drifting north-north-east.”

“Aff,” the pilot replied tersely. “Heavy winds, Star Captain,” but he brought the shuttle back on course for the designated landing zone. Another bolt of lightning struck the shuttle and the electronics flickered, but then they came back on. “This is not ideal conditions for a vertical landing,” Tyrell muttered.

“You can land us, right Tyrell?” Jason asked.

“Landing is not the problem—keeping the shuttle in piece while landing, that is problem, Star Captain. Passing two thousand meters—where the devil is that clearing we picked out?”

Jason compared the coordinates with the map images—Tyrell was right, the clearing that had been picked from orbit was not there . . . and then he groaned. “It is a fire-scar—old growth forest around it, and what we thought was a clearing is new growth, a different shade to the vegetation.”

“Well . . . shit,” Tyrell muttered. “Star Captain, I have got to have a clear space to land this bird—triple canopy jungle is not an option.”

A third voice from further back in the cockpit spoke up. “We are armed, Pilot Tyrell,” the Technician flight engineer said. “Can be blast a hole in the canopy?”

“We could, Technician Robin,” answered Jason, but it would give away our position to those after us.” He stared at the digital imaging of the landscape and then he nodded. “Tyrell, this river—is that bend wide enough to get the shuttle down?”

“Aff—barely. But is there room under the canopy overhang—and that close to the river bank, that ground might be awfully soft.”

“One way to find out, Pilot—take her down,” Jason ordered.

“Aff. Robin, I am putting the wings in full swept—retract the outer panels for docking, that will cut our beam by a full-third.”

“Aff,” the tech answered briskly as the shuttle slowed still more. “Vertical lift-fans on-line and in stand-by mode.”

The massive shuttlecraft slowed to a crawl it gradually dropped altitude as it sank down over the raging river, the lift-jets blasting up plumes of water spray from the water below.

On the holographic display, the forward-looking infrared imager showed the thick vegetation and Tyrell nodded. “I think we have just enough room,” he whispered as he eased the shuttle under the trees. Jason watched intently, but he kept his hands away from the controls as the Pilot gradually glided the shuttle like a thread into the eye of a needle, and then he let out a breath as Tyrell came to a halt, the bole of a giant hardwood just millimeters from the tip of the nose.

“Deploy landing skids,” the pilot ordered.

“Skids down and locked,” Robin answered.

“Now we see if this is solid ground or mud, Star Captain,” he said as he began to reduce power to the lifters. The shuttle descended and Jason could feel when the skids hydraulics began to take up the weight of the craft and then the vessel was motionless. Tyrell waited for several moments and then he nodded. “Looks like it is solid enough,” he said as he spun down the engines and the roar slowly died away.

“Good news is we are down in one piece, Star Captain. The bad news is we are thirty-four kilometers away from where you wanted to be.”

“No, Pilot Tyrell, the bad news is we cannot depend on this shuttle not being found by our pursuers—which means I cannot leave you and Technician Roberts here. So you will be joining us on our march through this jungle and swamp.”

The lightly build pilot grimaced and he nodded. “On the bright side, you need me and Robin to fly you out—so try and keep the two of us alive, Star Captain.”

“True, Pilot. And if you will excuse me,” Jason said as he unstrapped from the safety restraints, “I should inform our people that we have a long walk ahead of us. And a short time to get there.”

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