The Cameron Legacy: The Fall of the Star League

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masterarminas
Jedi Master
Posts: 1039
Joined: 2012-04-09 11:06pm

Re: The Cameron Legacy: The Fall of the Star League

Post by masterarminas » 2013-05-29 11:23pm

Chapter Forty-Nine

April 12, 2768
SLDF 10th Army Headquarters
Nuevo Calais, Electra
Federated Suns (Taurian Rim)


“And I don’t give a flying frak what John Davion agreed to, mister! This is MY world,” screamed Timothy Breton, Duke of Electra. “If you think you are going to come here and give those rabble-rousers a chance to have a say in what happens to ME and MY FAMILY—MY PROPERTY—then you have another thing coming!”

General Sam Anders frowned at the flustered man from where he sat behind his simple wooden desk. Three of his aides sat in chairs along one of the walls, and two civilians—other civilians—were also present in the room, along with the Duke and his so-called Chief of Security; a thug, in actuality.

“Your Grace, you seem to be laboring under a misconception—that any protest you make will stop these events from occurring. You are wrong. The First Prince of the Federated Suns, along with the First Lord of the Star League, have ensured the inhabitants of this world—along with all of the other occupied Taurian worlds along the edge of Davion space—that they WILL get a say in their future. Rabble-rousers? Your Grace, these people, what are supposed to be YOUR people, have been abused and misused by yourself and your predecessors for nigh upon two centuries. They have legitimate grievances against you—and they will be heard.”

“GRIEVANCES? They want everything handed to them on a silver platter, that’s what THEY want! I won’t stand for it, and I sure as Hell will not coddle them because they say they are poor and unskilled! Besides, we have our own local laws here, and it is YOUR job, General Anders, to enforce them—not to overthrow them!”

“You are entirely correct, Sir. It is my job to do just that. Or at least it has been, until I received my orders directly from the mouth of the First Lord himself—my brother-in-law, as I will remind Your Grace. And I feel that he would rather approve of me taking the side of these people you are working and taxing to death instead of a fat bigoted moronic piece of shit like yourself.”

The Davion noble’s eyes bulged out and he began drawing in air to bellow once more.

“YOU WILL BE SILENT!” Anders yelled as he suddenly stood from behind the desk. “I have been patient enough with you, Sir. For the past three months, I have told you to get your bully-boys under control—and you have done nothing. For ninety days, I have asked you to assist me in allowing these representatives of the Concordat to speak with your people, and you have interfered. I am done with being polite, Sir. As you yourself have said, I am a General of the Star League Defense Forces—and I am declaring martial law upon this world. You, Sir, are relieved of all duties and responsibilities herewith. Return to your home and do not leave it on pain of arrest, Your Grace. And as for you,” he said, glaring at the Chief of Security, “I would sincerely hope that you understand the difference between bullying unarmed, underfed civilians and trying to do the same with my boys and girls. Push me ONCE and I will mount your head on a pike outside this building. Do you understand me?”

The security man quickly nodded, even as Duke Breton snarled. “This is not the end of this—GENERAL! I have friends in high places.”

“So be it, Your Grace. I would remind you that it is your own grave you are digging, but if that does not concern you, so be it. Major Geithner will show you out, gentlemen.”

As one of his aides stood and ushered the two from his office, Sam turned towards the other two civilians remaining. “I am sorry that you had to see that, Lady Calderon, Mister Oshner.”

The young lady beamed a smile at him, as she leaned forward, flicking her long black hair out of the way of the green eyes dancing in her face. “Merci, mon General,” she said, “no apologies are needed. That man is an ass, and a stupid one at that. The way he treats the people of his world—as if they are serfs or slaves—it is unconscionable. On behalf of Grand-mama’s government, I thank you.”

Lucien Oshner merely nodded his head in agreement. Older, and more experienced with the twists and turns of Concordat politics—and those of the Star League—he shrugged, but did at least acknowledge Sam’s part. Like most Taurians, Oshner HATED the Star League for what it had done—but he was one of the few that could look past that hate, and approve of what Nicoletta was trying to accomplish. He did not LIKE Sam, but he did not have to; he approved of his blunt, no-nonsense style, and the even-handed way he had conducted himself here on Electra.

Sam leaned back in his chair and considered the two, hand-picked by Nicoletta to serve as her eyes and ears here on one of the most important of the Old Taurian worlds of the Rim. Sandra Calderon was young—very young, at just seventeen—bold and impetuous, lovely and bright, warm and likable. When she spoke at meetings urging the people of Electra to vote to join the Concordat, she might attract listeners because of her beauty, but they paid attention because of her words. Her ideals, her passion about the future that could be made. She believed in the vote that would be held in a few short years, and she believed—deeply and completely—that the Concordat would provide the best for the people here. And when they listened to her, the people began to believe in the possibility that life COULD change for the better.

Lucien Oshner, on the other hand, was well into his sixth decade, and an accomplished machine politician from the highly populated metropolises on Taurus. He understood politicking in a way that few others did, and even if he could not convey the messages that Nicoletta wanted, he could—and did—advise her grand-daughter how SHE best could. And added to that, he knew how other politicians thought, and could make pretty accurate guesses at how many bodies were buried—and where. Between the two of them, they had made a pretty significant inroad into the hearts and minds of the people of Electra, especially since John Davion had not sent out his own team of spokesmen.

But that had well and truly infuriated Tim Breton. As Duke of Electra, Breton controlled the planet, and—like his predecessors—he had taken steps to ensure that it would remain his personal fief for a long, long time to come. The people were uneducated—because the Duke had outlawed any education past the sixth grade for the people native to this world. They were unskilled—because the Duke had exported all their industries to other worlds controlled by members of his family. The long abandoned factories and industries of what had once been a jewel of the Concordat were rusting to dust, while the people worked in back-breaking conditions extracting ores from deep mines, or harvesting crops by hand.

And since the Federated Suns only taxed the RULERS of its worlds, the Duke had instituted crippling taxes—enough to pay his annual tithe four times over. The remainder he kept in banks far, far away. There was no public health services, no assistance for the poor. The entire planet was in debt to him for every service they did receive, with no way to ever recover or dig itself out. Breton had passed new laws, making it illegal for any gathering of more than twenty people—and curtailing the few rights they people of Electra had for speaking out. His security troops had detained hundreds, and put several dozen in the hospital when they resisted. Again and again they had stormed into meeting halls and broken up the public debates Prince John had promised.

Of course, they were not stupid. Not one of them had laid a hand upon either of the two representative from the Concordat, nor had any of them accosted his own troops. But any meeting that began to discuss politics where these two—and his troops—were not present, shortly afterwards, the thugs descended. Things were turning ugly, and Sam’s patience had just about run out.

“I only wish there was more I could have done, sooner, Lady Calderon,” he said.

“Please, mon General, I believe I have asked you to call me Sandra.”

“Of course, Sandra,” Sam said with a genuine smile of affection. The girl was quite the thing, he reflected, thinking back over the past three months here. And she had made some of the darkness recede. Then he turned back to the business at hand. “Lucien, are you still planning that rally over on Cumberland for tonight?”

“Yes, General Anders. Twenty thousand will be in attendance—we cannot cancel. If we did, the people here would begin to believe that Breton—not you—controls the situation. If that happen, it would be a disaster for this world in the referendum.”

Sam nodded, agreeing with the reasoning. “All right, then. But I intend to post troops outside, just to make certain that those thugs stay away.”

The young woman shook her head. “No, Sam. The people here must see that neither Lucien nor myself fear this man; they must believe that they have the power to defy him. Your troops—as grateful as I am to their presence—will keep them from feeling that power, that freedom that he has denied them.”

His stomach knotted as the considered the young woman—did she really know the fire she was playing with here? It shook him, the realization that he was honestly—and personally—concerned for her; about her. “I would rather be safe than sorry, Sandra,” he said quietly.

“I must agree with the young lady, General Anders,” Lucien said dourly. Then the corner of his mouth lifted. “Of course, I do not WANT to be clubbed to the ground at my age, but we must take the Bull by his horns.”

“Very well, then, Mister Oshner. If the two representatives of the Concordat are in agreement, than I will not station troops outside. However,” he said, with a stern glare at them both, “I WILL be on that stage with you.”

Lucien Oshner smiled, and nodded in agreement. From the corner of his eye, Sam saw Sandra blush slightly, and her eyes—those green eyes!—twinkled once more.

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

The rally was packed by people. One of the few pleasures Breton had allowed was sports, although like most else, it was heavily taxed. Cumberland Stadium could hold more than 20,000 fans above a field that hosted baseball, football, and soccer, depending upon the time of the year. Sam stood on the podium besides Lucien as Sandra spoke to the crowds, pleaded with them. Someone, somewhere in the stadium began singing a long forbidden song, and Sandra’s eyes danced in the light as she too began to sing the anthem of Taurus. Soon the entire stadium was throbbing with voices raised in song.

And then he saw it. You damned fool, he thought. Why are you challenging me? Tim Breton, Duke of Electra was riding out onto the field—on horseback, no less!—, surrounded by his security troops on foot. The crowd parted out of the way as the Duke swung his riding crop, and one of the thugs hurried forward, carrying an amp and microphone. Breton took the mike in his hand.

“People of Electra! I am your legal governor—I am YOUR DUKE! This gathering is illegal! Return to your homes at ONCE!”

Sandra stood at the front the stage, and her voice carried across the stadium. “NO. This is the face of your tyranny, People of Pleiades, this is the face of your Oppression! Stand here TODAY, stand in the face of this TYRANT, and DO NOT BE MOVED! HE HAS NO POWER THAT YOU DO NOT ALLOW!”

“Enough of this,” Breton bellowed. “Arrest that harlot!”

A dozen of his men started forward, but Sam was there, and pulled Sandra back from the edge, placing his own body between her and the hired muscle. “Not today, Your Grace, not ever. You will have to go through me, first.”

The Duke laughed. “It is your grave, General. Take him.”

Sam looked out across the crowd. “People of Electra, in the name of the Star League, and the Houses of Davion and Calderon—ARREST THAT MAN FOR THE CRIME OF TREASON!”

Duke Breton laughed again, but then his laughter died away as scores of people came forward from the crowd, all holding bats at the ready. He smiling face contorted, and he made an inarticulate cry, and waved his arm towards the men, and the bully-boys charged. The men and women on the ground—strangely better fed and fit than most of the citizens of Electra—charged back in return, and within minutes, the security troops were running for the exits. Duke Timothy Breton was thrown by his horse, which also fled.

A wild shout went up throughout the stadium, even as helicopters appeared overhead and voices called out over loudspeakers to remain calm. An SLDF chopper landed in the midst of the field, and loaded the Duke onboard, fastening his arms with manacles before placing him inside. A low growl came from the crowd, as Sam grabbed the microphone once again.

“PEOPLE OF ELECTRA! THE DEFENSE FORCES OF THE STAR LEAGUE THANK YOU FOR ASSISTING US! WE THANK YOU FOR SEIZING THE TYRANT BRETON!” He stepped back and looked down at Sandra.

“Are you ok, my Lady?” he whispered, as she fell into his arms.

“My, what surprises you have, mon General,” she said as she hugged him tight and the crowd went wild. Stepping back, she looked him in the eye, and then lifted her head, and kissed him upon the cheek. “I thought we said no SLDF troops on the ground.”

“Lucien,” Sam said, his face beet red, “did you see any SLDF uniforms out there? I know I didn’t.”

“Not a one, General Anders,” Lucien said, smiling broadly.

“And no one ever will—the people of Electra took matters into their own hands tonight, right, Sandra?”

She smiled, and her eyes—those green, green eyes—twinkled at him in the powerful lights.

Lucien Oshner sighed. I really hope she doesn’t expect ME to tell Nicoletta to expect an SLDF General as her grandson-in-law, he thought.

masterarminas
Jedi Master
Posts: 1039
Joined: 2012-04-09 11:06pm

Re: The Cameron Legacy: The Fall of the Star League

Post by masterarminas » 2013-05-29 11:34pm

April 16, 2768
Branson House
Hawkins, Asta
Terran Hegemony


Captain Susan Collins paced outside the First Lord’s office suite even as four pairs of eyes kept watch on her. One of the Black Watch was frowning, and kept deliberately turning his gaze at the chairs lined against the wall, but she did not sit. She kept walking up and down the hall—ten steps forward, turn, and ten steps back. Again and again and again. She was not doing it to annoy the guards—though that was a bonus—she did it to relieve her own tension.

Finally, the doors opened, and Gerald Howe appeared. She stopped and turned to face the Sergeant Major. “How is he, Ger?”

“Not good, Captain Collins. Please, come in,” he said as he held the door wide. Gerald ushered her in, and she looked over the suite—all was immaculate, the staff kept it that way. The old non-com pointed at a chair. “He will be right out, Ma’am.”

The naval officer nodded her thanks as she sank down into one of the comfortable seats. And then she waited.

A few moments later, Stephen Cameron stepped into the room. “Morning, Susie,” he said as he crossed over to the sidebar and poured a glass of whiskey. “Care for one?”

“No thank you.”

“Suit yourself,” he said, as he topped off the tumbler and sat down across from her, taking a long pull from the dark amber liquid.

Susan stared at him—pallid and disheveled, one nerve in his cheek twitched, and his hands shook; she could smell the alcohol oozing from his pores.

“What brings you to the Sanctum Sanctorium today, Susie?”

“Actually, Stephen, you do.”

“Me?”

“Yes. You.”

“And why would that be?” he asked crossly.

“Because you are being an ass.”

Stephen’s head jerked up, and his eyes were shot with red—from drink and from grief. “I beg your pardon, Captain?”

“Look at yourself, Stephen; is this what you want to become, is this what Marianne would have LET you become?”

“Don’t bring her into this.”

“Why? Because she is dead?” Susan said, a tear dropping down her cheek. “She would not let you wallow in this self-pity—and she would slap your ass silly for that atrocity in the Rim Worlds, and you know that.”

Stephen stood, one fist clenching and unclenching as he struggled with himself. “How dare you! She was MY wife, she was . . .,” but Susan stood as well and she cut off Stephen's next words off.

“She was MY friend, Stephen. I loved her, and I still love her . . . just as I love you. But right now, you need to listen to ME, Stephen Cameron. Right NOW you are not the man SHE married. That SHE loved. THAT man wouldn't have done what you did; he would have died first. YOU ordered the death of HUNDREDS of men, women, and children—husbands and wives and sons and daughters—just like Amaris did with YOUR OWN FAMILY. You want Cassie learning that lesson from you?”

Stephen sat down in the chair, and cupped his face in his hands. “I hated them, Susie. I wanted them all to suffer and die just like she did. But I can’t sleep; I can’t feel anymore. There should have been something—I should have felt something. I can’t. I don’t. Why can’t I feel anything but the pain?”

“I don’t know,” she said. “But you need to quit shutting us all out. And you need to try—for Cassie if for nothing else. She’s lost her mother; she doesn’t need to lose her father as well.”

“What do I do, Susie? How do I go on?” he whispered.

“You just do, it is that simple. You pick up and you go on with your life. And you live that life remembering Marianne; you live it to give Cassie something she can respect and be proud of as she grows.”

Susan shook her head and stood up. “And if you can’t do that, and maintain your principles and ideals, Stephen, then you are no better than Stefan Amaris—except that he enjoys it and you don’t. But if you keep down this path, you will begin to feel again; the same things he feels.”

She walked across the room to the door and opened it, then turned back to Stephen who was still staring into the fireplace. “Where does your duty lie, First Lord of the Star League? To whom does your duty lie?”


April 19, 2768
Branson House
Hawkins, Asta
Terran Hegemony


Aleksandyr Kerensky rolled his wheelchair into Stephen’s office, expecting to meet with him privately for the first time since Marianne’s funeral. But the private meeting was not so private after all. Minoru Kurita was already sitting, sipping upon a cup of tea, and Aaron DeChevilier beside him. John Davion was here as well, and Philip Marik—just arrived from Atreus at the head of a Fleet of Marik WarShips. The Amaris strike against Oriente had infuriated the old man, and he had led sixty regiments and three hundred ships of war here to Asta to join the coalition.

Stephen Cameron was here as well, and he stood as Kerensky entered the room. “Lord Aleksandyr,” he said softly, gesturing to a place left open around the fireplace for his chair. Aleksandyr wheeled himself across the room and locked the chair in place. Hiroyoshi Tanaka entered the room with a cup full of steaming Astan tea, which he gave to the crippled man, and then withdrew. And Stephen sat back down.

The six men sat silently for a moment, and then Stephen whispered. “I have not been myself these past weeks. For that I am truly regretful; I have ignored my duties—to my people and to you—to indulge myself in self-pity and retribution against those who had done nothing to earn my wrath.”

“Minoru and John know my grief—and anger—well. They feel it too, deep down inside. As you do Aleksandyr. And yet, what I did, what I had our troops do in MY name, that was not JUSTICE, gentlemen, that was VENGEANCE, and it was wrong. I failed, I was weak and I struck out in hate to punish anyone that was even connected to the Usurper, and it was wrong. It was EVIL, and if Marianne had been here, she would never have let me do it.”

He choked back some deep-welling emotion, and lowered his head as Aleksandyr closed his eyes. Stephen had given him the order, and he should have objected—but he was right. He had wanted to punish them as well—he had hated them enough to allow it happen.

“By doing this, I have become what Amaris is—a murderer and a criminal. But NEVER AGAIN, gentlemen,” and Stephen lifted his head high, tears shining unshed in his eyes. “Never again will we sink to his level. We are better than that. We WILL have JUSTICE for our sacred dead, for those who have given the last full measure of devotion, but we will do so in a way we can be proud of. There will be no more reprisals. NONE. If the enemy asks for quarter, we will grant it. We will treat our prisioners with respect—if they have committed crimes, they will be punished for it; but if they were simple soldiers and spacers doing their jobs, we will release them after this war is ended. It is the only way for us to keep what little of our souls we have left.”

For a long moment, there was only silence, and then Philip Marik whispered in the hushed room. “So say we all.”

One by one each of the men nodded their own agreement.


April 22, 2768
Asta Defense Headquarters
Hawkins, Asta
Terran Hegemony


Nine hundred officers—from six separate nations and a dozen different services—filled the auditorium to overflow. Army commanders, Corps commanders, Division commanders; Fleet and Task Force commanders, Squadron commanders; five heads of state; scores of staffers and aides. The highest ranking officers of the military forces assembled at Asta sat in the room, summoned by their Supreme Commander.

The lights dimmed as Aaron DeChevilier walked out onto the stage, and a massive holo-graphic projection flickered on behind him, showing a ‘TOP SECRET’ cover sheet. “Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Assembled her on Asta is the largest military expedition in the history of the Human Race—the most powerful, at least. Star League Defense Forces, the Draconis Combine Mustered Soldiery, the Armed Forces of the Federated Suns, the Free Worlds League Military and volunteers from both the Capellan Confederation and the Lyran Commonwealth. Today, we no longer recognize those differences. Today we all are brothers in arms, united for a common cause, a singular goal.”

“Beside you are MechWarriors, armored crewmen, infantry, pilots, spacers, and support staff. Your lives depend upon them—as theirs will depend upon you. Today we will begin a series of briefings on where we go from here in this War against the Usurper. Today, you officers will learn of our next Operation—and of the role each of you will play.”

Turning to the holo-projector, Aaron clicked a controller, and the holo-gram blanked and brought up a system schematic of the Terran solar system. The chamber grew so quiet that a pin striking the tiled floor would have resounded and echoed throughout; jaws dropped, eyes grew wide, and the slowly an intense growl began to emerge. Aaron grinned and he nodded in confirmation. “Terra. Old Earth. Ladies and gentlemen, this is your target for Operation Ragnarok. On November 6th, 2768, the first waves will combat jump into the Terran System to liberate this world from the forces of Stefan Amaris. Today’s briefing will contain a basic overview of the operation plan, after which we will break into smaller discussion groups and go over your specific roles. Beginning tomorrow, we will train your troops to accomplish their goals according to the plan. Ladies and gentlemen, in seven months, we will begin the Liberation of the Homeworld—and Amaris will run out of time.”

“The first phase of the operation . . .”


April 24, 2768
Archon’s Palace, Tharkad City
Boreal Continent, Tharkad
Lyran Commonwealth


Robert Steiner sipped upon his hot drink as he watched the fires leap and dance in the fireplace. It was late, and why Erik could not wait until tomorrow, Robert did not know. But he pulled the thick furs closer about his body, and drank deeply again—the thick, rich liquor within the cocoa relaxing his body.

The door to his private study opened, and Erik smartly entered the room, tossing off a sardonic salute. “Hail, my Archon,” he smirked, “I come bearing tidings.”

“Tidings so important it could not have waited until tomorrow morning—at a decent hour?”

“I do believe, my Archon that you will want to see this message. Shall I?” he asked as he proffered the comm-disk to his liege.

Robert waved his hand and took another deep sip, letting the steam work its way into his sinuses, which had troubling him of late.

Erik smiled, and loaded the disk into a small projector, and thumbed the play button to ON.

Light flicker about the projector, and then an image of Stefan Amaris appeared, twirling his long mustache with one hand.

“Greetings, Robert. We have not spoken in forever it would seem. Others have said that you are deliberately ignoring me, your rightful First Lord and Emperor, but I know that is not true. Of all of the Lords of the Council, you, Archon Steiner have ALWAYS been my favorite. Kenyon might have shared my righteous rage with General Kerensky, but he was a fool, whereas you, Bobby; why, your hate burns as cold the Tharkad night in the depth of winter.”

“What is this,” snarled Robert.

“I have faith that you have neglected showing your support for me out of deference towards your citizens—and that I cannot fault. The first duty of a ruler must be to preserve his power, after all. Still, I owe you my thanks, Bobby, for your dedication in my service. A masterful stroke you conducted, ordering the murder of the First Lord and his family. Masterful, even if it did not completely succeed.”

Robert spat the hot liquid out through his nose and began coughing intensely. Erik paused the recording until he had recovered, and then it resumed.

“Don’t be so surprised, Bobby. My agents are everywhere—one even sits with you now. Yes,” the recording said, as Roberts eyes bulged and his face grew red, “Erik Kiplinger—your intelligence chief—is mine, and has been for many, many years. He has given me the evidence of your actions against Cameron, and so I am pleased with you, Bobby. And I must thank you and Gloria both for the supplies and weapons the Commonwealth has been funneling to my troops in the Hegemony. That is documented as well.”

“Still, I feel something is missing from our relationship, Archon Steiner. I feel that you are not fully committed to my cause. Of course I could be mistaken—and believe me, Bobby, as a just and loving Emperor I so want to be mistaken in this instance. I would hate to deliver the evidence of your crimes to Kerensky—or to Stephen Cameron, since it was his wife that you murdered. Yes, the tapes are quite clear in your instructions to the Loki team that NONE must survive.”

The image of Stefan Amaris grinned, and his eyes appeared to twinkle. “Erik will have further instructions for you in my service. If he disappears—or worse—as I am certain you are NOT considering have happen, then I will be most disappointed. Chancellor Liao may not care for me, but she will not hesitate to convey such—incriminating—evidence to the Traitor Cameron. I look forward, Bobby, to a long and profitable relationship.”

The image flickered off, and Erik Kiplinger stood, extracting the disk. He stood over Robert and smiled upon him. Robert Steiner looked up, and gasped out a single question. “Why?”

“Because it amuses me, my Archon, to have you dance while I pull the strings.”



To Be Continued in Book III—The Long Road Home

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MondoMage
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Re: The Cameron Legacy: The Fall of the Star League

Post by MondoMage » 2013-05-30 07:42am

masterarminas wrote: The image flickered off, and Erik Kiplinger stood, extracting the disk. He stood over Robert and smiled upon him. Robert Steiner looked up, and gasped out a single question. “Why?”

“Because it amuses me, my Archon, to have you dance while I pull the strings.”
Well, I guess there actually might be worse things than having their involvement with the attack on the First Lord's family become known to the SLDF... no matter how this shakes out, the fallout is going to be bad for the Steiners. And maybe the entire Commonwealth, as well.

masterarminas
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Posts: 1039
Joined: 2012-04-09 11:06pm

Re: The Cameron Legacy: The Fall of the Star League

Post by masterarminas » 2013-05-30 10:09am

THE LONG ROAD HOME

Book III of The Cameron Legacy: The Fall of the Star League

A fictional novel in three parts set in an alternate history of the Classic BattleTech Universe

by

Stephen T Bynum

All rights reserved, copyright 2009.
This is an original work of fiction.


Part One

Chapter One

July 4, Olympic Peninsula
North America, Terra
Empire of Amaris (Terran Hegemony)


The cold rain feel in an irregular rhythm—first light drizzle blown by the steady wind, and then a heavy downpour along with a solid gust, and then back to the constant light soaking cold. Even through the heavy SLDF fatigue blouse Liz wore, she could feel the icy water’s impact on her hot, flushed skin. Eighteen months of constant fighting—and fear—had taken their toll among her Ghosts, on her as well, and the unusual weather was not helping. What should have been high summer was cold and miserable in this ‘year without a spring’. The scores of nuclear detonations eighteen months ago—combined with a massive volcanic eruption five months past in Indonesia—had produced a nuclear (or volcanic) ‘autumn’ effect, causing world-wide temperatures to plunge. Eighteen months. Has it only been a year and a half since the Coup, she asked herself?

Slipping in the slick undergrowth of the steep hillside, she slammed her rump down onto the wet muddy ground, splashing more of the cold wetness up as she landed. She shook her head, and sighed before placing the butt of her rifle solidly into the ground. Reuben paused as he passed by and cocked his head, but she shook her own in an empathic NO. He shrugged and carefully made his own way down the slope. Using the rifle as a support, she slowly stood, making certain that her feet were braced on forest floor not quite as slippery as the rest. When the leader of the guerillas was once again standing, she placed the rifles sling over her neck, and tightened the strap against her chest, the rifle pointing down towards the ground, away from her fellow insurgents. Keeping the weapon tucked tight in against her right shoulder, she began making her way down-hill once more. Just another thirty minutes, Liz, she thought—a half-hour and we can take a breather.

She almost took another misstep, but caught herself just in the nick of time to avoid stepping onto the muddy rut in the ground where one of her people had slid three meters. She stopped again, and tried to draw in a deep breath, but she gasped as her lungs ached. She began to cough, a deep barking cough filled with phlegm that she spat out onto the ferns that surrounded her. Overheated, she pulled open her jacket, and loosened the scarf she wore around her throat, letting the wonderfully cold air and moisture cause steam to rise from the red flesh below. She was lagging behind—and she knew it—and she made her self take another step. And then another. And then the forest began to spin and everything went black.

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

As she woke, she shivered and her head pounded. She could feel a heavy warmth piled all around her, but she didn’t understand. Where was the woods? Where was the rain? She tried to sit up, and once again, her world spun, and she retched a dry heave before she collapsed back upon the cot upon which she lay.

“Easy, Liz,” a gentle voice whispered. She opened her eyes, but could not see—she felt a cool wetness covering them, and her forehead. “You gave us quite a scare, you know.”

“Bear?” she croaked.

“The one and only; you were perhaps expecting Vince or Bernie to tend to your illness?” his voice sounded amused.

“My head . . .” she began, but Bear cut her off.

“Hurts like hell—and you can’t breath real well, can you?” He snorted. “How long have you been feeling ill?”

“A few days, but I took some aspirin and a few cough tablets.”

“Why, Oh Lord,” Bear intoned in the darkness around her, “why do people that KNOW better, insist upon treating themselves instead of letting me—the only QUALIFIED physician in the bunch—take a look and render a real diagnosis.”

She winced, as a sudden pain her temple hit her like a white-hot ice-pick, and then she began coughing again—a deep wracking cough that she did not have enough breath to finish. Bear lifted her up into a sitting position, and she began to breath better, but even she heard a rattle from inside her lungs.

Someone else—several someones, in fact—were nearby, and placed some soft covers behind her back, as Bear laid her back down, laying at an elevated angle. “Liz, you had a chest cold—but it is has gone and morphed into pneumonia. I’ve shot you full of antibiotics, but you need some rest. Here—this will help you sleep,” he said as she felt a sharp prick on the inside of her elbow, and a cool, almost cold liquid squirted into her veins.

“Where . . . tell Reuben . . .” she began, as the pain-killer and sedative started to take hold.

“Don’t you worry none, Liz; Reuben has everything under control. Just go to sleep and give your body a chance to fight off the infection.”

She slid back into the depths of unconsciousness, hearing his voice slowly fade away.

masterarminas
Jedi Master
Posts: 1039
Joined: 2012-04-09 11:06pm

Re: The Cameron Legacy: The Fall of the Star League

Post by masterarminas » 2013-05-30 10:13am

Chapter Two

July 7, Olympic Peninsula
North America, Terra
Empire of Amaris (Terran Hegemony)


She rolled over in the warm bed even before she realized she was awake. The room that she lay in was lit only by the crackling fire in a stone hearth set against the wall. Her head didn’t hurt, that was her first thought. She sat up, pushing aside the thick sheets and spreads that covered her, and she drew in a deep breath—or tried to. Halfway through, she began to cough, and she retched up a tremendous glob of phlegm, barely getting the metal pan on the bedside beneath her in time.

Still, Liz felt better than she had when Bear had given her the shot. Her stomach rumbled as she listened to the fire hissing and popping—and through the wooden door she could hear music. She could FEEL music; the room seemed to vibrate with a thick, heavy bass even as the walls diluted the sound to something that was barely audible. She put her bare feet on the floor—the COLD floor—and then held onto the edge of the bed as the room slowly spun for a brief moment. Shaking her head, she waited until the vertigo faded away, and then attempted to stand.

The muscles in her long slim legs trembled, and she had to grab the bedpost to avoid falling over, but she stood. Taking a long woolen robe from a peg set in the wall, she pulled it on over her body, and tied the belt around her waist. There were three doors in the room she was in, and she picked one at random—it opened to reveal a walk-in closet, with clothes in her size hanging from metal hangers, and boots and thick warm socks and underclothes lined up a shelf below.

The second door led to a bath—and Liz filled the sink with water as she looked at herself in the mirror. You don’t look too good, she thought to herself, as she considered the thick oily hair and her wan complexion. She bent over and splashed the cold water on her face, and then turned to the ceramic tub. Adjusting the water until it flowed hot and fast from the shower head, she found some soap and a bottle of shampoo, along with a sponge and several bathing clothes. Closing the door behind her, she dropped the warm robe, grabbed the sponge, soap, and shampoo, and stepped into the tub, drawing the curtain closed behind her.

For a long time, she scrubbed her skin and her hair, her face, her arms, her chest, clean of the last lingering signs of her illness. She scrubbed and she scrubbed until the water began to turn tepid and the steam began to die away. Shutting down the shower, she grabbed one of the thick towels and patted her dry. Standing before the fogged up mirror, she wiped one hand across it until she could she herself again, and began to wring the excess water from her long hair.

Shortly after, she stood once again in the bedroom, and she pulled clothes from the closet onto the bed. There didn’t seem to be any weapons, none that she could find, at least. Dressed once more, in clean, warm clothes, she braided back her hair in a single long strand which kept it out of her eyes and turned to the third door. As she opened it, the music increased in volume, the pressure of the sound hard and heavy against her.

“Good evening, Captain,” Vince said from the chair he sat in outside her room, his feet propped up on a stool as he blocked the wooden hall leading towards a flight of stairs going down. He set down the book he was reading and cocked his head towards her. “Should you be up and about before our resident MD has had a chance to proclaim your health—or lack thereof?”

Liz snorted. “Where are we, Vince?”

“Bill Tanner’s place, down in Sheridan. After you collapsed, Elizabeth, we needed to find a place pretty quick—Bill’s a good guy and he took some of us in. The other Ghosts found some deserted buildings about two miles up the slope and are hanging out there, but some of us stayed back here with you.”

“And you decided to have a party?” she asked, the corner of her mouth twitched.

“Oh, Heaven forbid, Captain my Captain. Bill runs the only honky-tonk still open in Sheridan; what did you think he would close and lose money because a bunch of terrorist criminal traitors are hanging out in his upstairs rooms?”

“Vince,” she growled, and he held up his hand.

“He’s a good guy, Liz. You needed to get out of the weather while you healed up—and me and Bernie and Bear have been here the entire time. People around here don’t ask questions, and the few times any Rim-jobs have passed through, Bill covered for us pretty decently. Just so you know, you are his sister Abigail from over in Boulder, come out here to help him and his wife with the twins born last year.”

“And you and Bernie?”

“We are Vince and Bernie—what else could we be? Bill played a half-season our rookie year, but he blew out a knee and had to leave the NFL. We’re visiting an old buddy from the days gone by—after all we aren’t exactly wanted by NAME, are we?”

“And Bear?”

Vince coughed. “Well, we did need to come up with a reason for him being here and all, Captain.”

Liz frowned. He was up to something, and she knew it. “Spit it out.”

“Well, turns out Abigail is married, so we couldn’t have her come out here without her husband and, well you know . . .”

“And so you decided to tell everyone that Bear and I are married.”

“It seemed like the thing to do, Liz,” Vince said with an innocent grin. “Poor Rob—that’s your husband’s name, by the way—been worried sick about his bride being on death’s door. Which is why he is down-stairs dancing his troubles away.”

She shook her head and asked plaintively, “I’m never going to live this down, am I?”

Vince’s grin widened, revealing gleaming white teeth, as his eyes glittered with amusement. “No, not really.”

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

After laughing at her situation with Vince, Liz carefully made her way down the stairs, still weak from her illness. Spread out before her was a large space, crammed tight with tables and packed with people. On a stage set off to one side, a local band was playing enthusiastically—if not especially well—and dozens of men and women were dancing. A long bar lined the far wall, with two ladies behind the counter topping off drinks and collecting cash. Four more women—girls, really—in tight shorts and half-open shirts moved through crowd, delivering shots and beer and baskets filled with steaming food.

Beside the front door, a big man—almost the size of the twins—sat on a high stool, sipping on a bottle of beer as he watched the crowd. Standing next to him was Bernie, his foot tapping as he watched the dancers gyrate on the floor. Bernie spotted her standing there, and smiled. He lumbered through the room, the crowd parting at his passing like water in the wake of a battleship.

“Abby Girl,” he called out as he reached the bottom of the stairs. “Awake at long last, huh?”

He reached her and gave her a crushing hug that lifted her from her feet. “Right jacket pocket, Colt-Walther, one up the spout and ten in the mag,” he whispered.

Patting him on the back with one arm, she snaked the other into his pocket and quickly pulled out the weapon. Hidden from view by his bulk, she slid the holster beneath her sweater and clipped it to the back of her pants.

“Bernie, how did you know what to get me as a get-well gift?” she chuckled.

“Liz,” he whispered, “I’d give fifty-to-one odds you’d rather be here naked than disarmed.” He stepped back and looked down at her, cocking his head to one side. “Of course, I’d be happy to pay OFF those odds if you were willing.”

She grinned and punched him lightly in the shoulder. He pantomimed injury amidst the loud music, and took her hand, leading her to a table with three people sitting there.

“I’m so glad that you folks are leaving,” Bernie said as he loomed over the three young men. “My friend needs a chair—but not the company.” He smiled as he cracked his knuckles, and the men considered the situation for a moment. The face of one twisted up, and he began to stand, but the other two pulled him back down as Vince came across from the stairs and grinned at them. The three stood and walked away, and then Bernie pulled out a leather bound chair for Liz.

She shook her head in amusement, but sat down quickly. Her legs were already trembling, and she knew that she needed to go back to bed shortly. “Now, then,” Bernie yelled into her ear, “why don’t I get Donna over there to bring you a plate of food—but no alcohol. Doctor’s orders.”

“Speaking of the devil, where IS Rob?”

Vince and Bernie both grinned and pointed at the dance floor, where the young former medical student was slow-grinding away with a girl dressed for partying. Liz tried to hold back her laughter; the doctor was so staid and reserved, but he seemed to be relaxed and enjoying himself. She sat back and languidly waved her hand at Bernie. “Go on, I’m hungry enough to eat a horse.”

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

After devouring half a cheeseburger, a basket of onion rings, and a tall glass of cold sweet tea, Liz pushed her plate away and relaxed back into the seat. Bear had been by, and checked her temperature and the clearness of her eyes, and told her thirty minutes—no more. Then back to bed. Vince and Bernie were hanging out with Bill—the owner of the joint—over by the door, and Bear had gone back to his conversation with the twenty-something he had found an interest in.

Some marriage, she thought, as she smiled. She couldn’t remember the last time she had been this relaxed, this at peace.

“May we sit,” a voice asked at her elbow. Startled, Liz snapped out of her reverie and looked up at three men standing next to her. Caught up in the music and the feeling of warmth and peace, she had zoned out and not even noticed as they approached.

“Sorry,” she said, flashing a blinding smile and raising her left hand. “Waiting for my husband.”

“Thank you,” the oldest of the three said, as he sat down. The other two also found seats. One—the youngest—looked nervous, while the third kept his eyes on Bernie and Vince next to the door.

“I said no, or didn’t you hear?”

“Oh, I heard you, Elizabeth Hazen; but I think you are going to want to speak to me.”

masterarminas
Jedi Master
Posts: 1039
Joined: 2012-04-09 11:06pm

Re: The Cameron Legacy: The Fall of the Star League

Post by masterarminas » 2013-05-30 10:16am

Chapter Three

July 7, Olympic Peninsula
North America, Terra
Empire of Amaris (Terran Hegemony)


“I believe that you have mistaken me for someone else,” Liz said coldly as she considered how best to reach the pistol at her back. Three of them and just one of me; best to play for time, she thought. Vince and Bernie—hell, even Bear—will check up on me pretty damn quick.

The older man’s lips twitched in smile, and he shook his head. “Zach, you are CERTAIN that this woman is Captain Elizabeth Hazen—former officer commanding, Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, Royal Black Watch Regiment, I Corps, First Army, Star League Defense Forces?”

“Yes, sir, Major sir,” the nervous young man answered, his voice low and in a whisper Liz could barely hear over the music. “Well, facial recognition is at 99.9%, so there could be a slight possibility she could be someone else. I could cross-check over the ‘net,” he said as he began to unfold his comm, but the third man gently—but most firmly—laid his own hand on Zach’s forearm.

“I don’t think any of us would appreciate having that information in the system, Senior Chief—and I doubt we would survive if you tried,” he said wryly, still looking towards Vince and Bernie, who had noticed Liz’s company at the table.

The young man—Zach—blushed, and put away his comm. “Sorry, Captain, I didn’t think that through.”

“Who are you people,” Liz whispered.

The older man smiled again, and pointed across the table at Zach. “Senior Chief Technical Officer Zachary Hancock, Brevet Captain Malachi Olds,” as his finger shifted to the third man, who nodded in return, and then came back to rest before him, “and Major Saul Weiling—all members of the Rim Worlds Army, Captain Hazen—or should I say Sarah Copland, or maybe even Abigail Jansen.”

“Before you do something incredibly brave and stupid,” he continued before she could respond, “and get all four of us killed, Liz—that is what you prefer to be called, yes?—let me preface this by saying that we are not here to take you into custody, nor are we going to call IntSec or the Makos or anyone else in a current position of authority.”

Both Zach and Mal nodded their heads, but the sandy-haired MechWarrior growled softly across the table. “Company is inbound, and it looks mean.”

Liz looked up as Vince and Bernie approached the table. Both of the big men looked grim—and determined, with Bernie cracking his knuckles as he closed the distance in a rather menacing manner. Zach swallowed a lump in his throat, and then tapped at the table, as if judging how effective a shield the wood would provide. Glancing back at the two former linebackers, he quickly shook his head in a rather empathic NO, and then slumped back in his chair, resigned at the thought of a beating, and looking rather glum.

Saul grinned, and popped the young man on the upper arm. “Buck up, Senior Chief; there are far worse things that could happen than a few bruises if we don’t cover our trail.”

“Blow-torches, the rack, sharp needles under the finger-nails, pliers ripping out toe-nails and teeth,” Mal helpfully intoned from across the table, “all sorts of fun and games I for one would rather avoid.”

Liz’s jaw dropped and she shook her head. “WHO the HELL are you people?” she whispered again.

“Just a few disgruntled men and women that have seen which way the wind is blowing, Captain Hazen. We—the three of us and a few others—have decided we want to take our toys and go home. We don’t want to play this game no more, you see,” Saul said, as Vince spun around a chair and took a seat.

“Are you gentlemen bothering my friend?” he asked in a surprisingly civil manner as he glared down at them.

“Yes, I think we are, Vince—or is it Bernie? I can’t ever tell which one of you is which. In your rookie season, didn’t the head coach tell you two to each shave a different half of your head, just so he could tell the difference?” Saul replied.

Vince growled, but Liz reached out and patted his arm. “Why don’t we continue this somewhere a little more private?”

“Excellent idea,” Saul answered as he stood, beaming with a dazzling smile.

“Hopefully not private enough for electro-shock, water-boarding, eye-gouging, or finger-breaking,” Mal grumbled from across the table as he stood as well.

Vince cocked his head, and looked down at Liz, who nodded back up at him, and then again at Bernie. “Get Bear, and meet us upstairs, would you Bernie?” she asked.

As Bernie nodded and turned to the dance floor, Mal lightly tapped him on the elbow. “Ask Denise—that’s the red-head your man is dancing with—if she would mind joining us as well.”

As Liz stared at him, he shrugged. “Hell, I didn’t know if you people were just going to start shooting before we could even get a chance to talk—and I don’t like taking chances, especially when there are spooks involved,” he added, glaring at Saul. “And don’t think Denise is the only one of my boys and girls present tonight.”

“Any spook in a storm, eh,” Saul chuckled. “Come on Zach, looks like we get to live on and fight another day.”

“Hanging and branding and rubber hoses and vivisection, oh joy,” Mal mumbled as the group began to make their way towards the stairs.

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

A short time later, the eight of them were gathered upstairs in a small den adjacent to Liz’s bedroom, Vince and Bernie standing to either side of the door—Vince with his pistol out and drawn, but pointed towards the floor. Bear had already checked her temperature once again—and frowning at her, had made her swallow two pills and then covered her with a thick blanket.

The four Rim Worlders had taken seats around the room—after Bernie searched them for weapons, coming up empty-handed.

“All right, why shouldn’t we just shoot you and dump the bodies in the forest:” Vince asked.

“That would be a bad idea, Mister Patella,” Zach began, and then blushed and shut down once more, looking sheepishly across at the two older men and the red-haired woman.

Saul glanced across at Mal, who shrugged and then nodded. Lightly kicking the young man in the ankle, he growled, “Well go on, Senior Chief—tell them why it would be a bad idea.”

“Sorry, Sir. Well,” he continued as he looked back up at Vince, “we tracked you people here through the survey sats. I crossed-checked local security footage from every camera in town, along with voice-prints across open phone and ‘net lines, and got positive IDs—almost positive IDs, at least—on the four of you. The rest of your group—the Ghosts, I think you call yourselves—are 3.81 kilometers up the valley at the old Windham place; been deserted for ages, so it makes a pretty good hidey-hole. Of course, I did all of this on my own system—deleting all info queries into the main-frame for sat redeployment and computer time, so there is no data there linking you people together.”

Saul sighed. He had tried to bring Zach along into becoming a more outgoing individual, but he reckoned while you could lead a techno-geek to a dance floor you couldn’t make him dance. “The techno-babble and magic that that young man can do with anything remotely related to sensor surveillance aside, the reason it would be a bad idea is because there are a couple of dozen ‘Mechs of his,” he pointed at Mal, “battalion holed up half-a-klick away from the rest of your group. Any of our vitals drop off the grid—or even go unconscious—and they have orders to level it.”

“I was getting there, Major,” Zach said, a faint smile breaking across his face.

“I know you were, Senior Chief—but sometimes your getting there takes half of forever.”

Zach nodded his understanding, and then frowned. “Not that we WANT that to happen, though. It’s a fail-safe, just in case.”

Bernie frowned and glared down at Zach. “And how will they know that your vitals change?”

“I am really, really GOOD at my job, Mister Patella. I got this place so dialed in that I could tell you the blood alcohol content of your urine from earlier today. And the blood-sugar levels—you might want to consider getting your doctor to check you out, those are a little bit high; but that could just be a daily fluctuation of your physiological systems. You need to watch your cholesterol count as well; it is elevated too.”

The former pro-ball player’s eyes bulged outwards as the Rim techno-geek sincerely nodded up at him like a loyal puppy, and Saul Weiling erupted in laughter.

“If I believed in Black Magic, then I’d say Zach here sold his soul to the Devil long ago—but as it is, he is the BEST damn surveillance analyst I have ever frakkin’ seen. If he says he did it, then I for one believe him.”

Liz spoke up from her chair. “You said downstairs you ‘don’t want to play no more’. Does that mean you intend to ask us—a bunch of wanted terrorists on the run—to offer you asylum?”

Saul and Mal exchanged another look—a wry one, this time. “And join you on the lam? At the moment, Captain, there is very little you can do to help us—but when the time comes, there might be a LOT that we can do to help you—and General Kerensky.”

He paused, clearly thinking over how to phrase his next few words. “We didn’t know what was going to happen when we were sent to Terra. All we knew was that we were given sealed orders to be opened at 0600 on December 27th—and by then it was far too late to stop the Coup. Not that I would have at the time,” he said squarely while meeting the gaze of Liz. “I was a loyal officer to the Rim, Captain, and Richard was an ass. But I can’t say that we got much better. His Imperial Majesty has lost it—if he ever had it. Taking the Hegemony was one thing—but this constant stream of brutality he has unleashed against its peoples is something entirely different. And Kerensky is out there, waiting to return. After the use of WMDs on a dozen worlds—Drac and FedRat alike—and him giving the orders to kill the wife and unborn child of the Last Cameron, we—the four of us and a few others—have decided that we are dead men and women if we stay loyal to Fat Boy and Vampire von Strang.”

“We want OUT, Captain. None of us have committed atrocities—oh, we have fought for our homeland and our gooney master—but we aren’t guilty of mass murder or rape or any other war crimes. Thing is, we wait until the SLDF comes back—backed up by the Free Worlds, the Federated Suns, and the Draconis Combine, no less—and there is a good chance that they won’t be taking prisoners after what Fat Boy has done to provoke them. From a certain point of view, he is a genius—because now most of his troops will fight to the death to defend themselves against a foe that is going to kill them anyway. But I don’t like the outcome of that binary set solution—and neither do these people with me. I want a third answer that lets me—and my people—live when this is all over and done with.”

“Now, between me and Zach here, we’ve got Planetary Surveillance sewed up pretty damn tight. We, along with a few men and women in the department, can insure that no one will track you. Olds and Gallagher,” he said pointing to Denise, “are with the 23rd Light Dragoons. That regiment got so busted up by your SLDF comrades in SouthAm and guerillas and insurgents in Europe, they have been rotated out here, since we are rated as a ‘low-intensity area of operation’; and I’ve ensured that Olds will be on hand for the immediate future. In fact, I’ve got a transfer in the works for him and his people to serve as our perimeter security—local terrorist activity should sharply scale up in the near future, I’m thinking. Especially after we begin to feed you specific targets of opportunity.”

“Why should we trust you?” Bear asked.

“Who the Hell said anything about trust?” Weiling snorted. “It’s quid pro quo, Captain—I keep Vampire von Strang and his bunch off your ass, AND give you heads-up on some juicy targets that I would not mind seeing go down, and in exchange when Kerensky comes back you take us in and vouch for us. I’m not looking to know the locations of all your secret caches that you have been bouncing back and forth from—but I will let you know some of them are not quite as secret as you think. The one you are heading towards up near Wasilla, for example; that one we found three weeks ago and its being watched.”

“And if we don’t keep our end of the bargain, Major Weiling?” Liz asked softly.

Saul shifted a bit in his seat. “If we come to an agreement, Captain Hazen, I think you will keep it—honor of the regiment and all of that. If you don’t, then we are all dead anyway.”

The unspoken threat hung over them all—I found you once, it said, I can find you again and that time give you up to the other Rim forces. Liz nodded in agreement. “I can live with that, Major Weiling, but for this I will have to consult with the others of my group’s leadership. They might not all agree.”

The Rim officer waved his hand. “I’m not asking them; I’m asking YOU—based in large part of what Zach here has dug up on your psych profile from SLDF records. You give me YOUR word, and I’ll run with it—what those others say or think don’t matter a hill of beans to me.”

He rubbed his face over his chin and mouth with one hand, and sighed. “And I will sweeten the pot, Liz. Give her the file, Zach.”

The young man grimaced, but reached—slowly—into his jacket and pulled out a data-chip, which he handed to Bear, who gave it to Vince. Placing it in his own pocket-comp, he scanned it for electronic whisper bugs and viruses, and noting it was clean, handed the entire device over to Liz.

She took it in her hand and looked down at the screen—and froze as the face of the Rim officer who had ordered the bomb strike on her brothers hospital appeared in the center. Her head spun, and her jaw dropped; her pulse quickened and her face flushed. She could see it happen again—the officer turning to his staff and nodding, giving them the go-ahead to fire-bomb the still full military hospital. The hospital that contained four hundred and seventy-four military patients, one of whom had been her baby brother.

“His name, unit, and current location are in the file, Captain Hazen. Along with where he hangs out, what he drinks, and what type of woman he likes to hit upon—literally in this case. The man is a pig that gives all Republicans a bad name, so I don’t give a shit what you do to him. But is it worth a ticket for a chance at life for a few dozen people who just want this to be over?”

“Oh, yes,” she whispered as she stared at the face staring at her out of the screen. “Oh, yes, Major Weiling, it is worth that much and more.”

masterarminas
Jedi Master
Posts: 1039
Joined: 2012-04-09 11:06pm

Re: The Cameron Legacy: The Fall of the Star League

Post by masterarminas » 2013-05-30 10:25am

Chapter Four

July 10, 2768
Fort Tobias Harrison
North Continent, Asta
Terran Hegemony


Two guards snapped to attention as Colonel Ethan Moreau approached the door labeled MORGUE in the basement of the SLDF base hospital. Nodding briskly at the two, the young Colonel pushed through, slamming the door back against the wall. Within, it was cool—almost cold, in fact—and the lights had been dimmed. Over by the freezers set into one wall, four compartment doors hung open, and the only bright light in the room shone down on the remains of what had once been four men. And a fifth, wearing the same uniform as Moreau as he examined the bodies for what must have been the hundredth time.

“Thought I would find you down here, Hiroyoshi,” Moreau said quietly. “Haven’t you stared at them long enough?”

“I am off-duty, Colonel,” Hiroyoshi Tanaka replied. “And no, I have not yet found my answers.”

“Answers that have managed to elude every coroner and forensic pathologist to examine them?”

The corners of Hiroyoshi’s mouth twitched at that as he stared down at the corpse of the man Absalom Truscott had killed. “The answers I seek are not those medical science can find, Colonel.”

“No, they are not, are they? Hiro, I will not tell you that you cannot continue to hold these bodies here, even though Medical Command is insisting that regulations state we have to bury them. I will not tell you that you cannot come down here, even though the coroners have issued complaints about you arriving at odd hours and staying here just staring at them. I will not tell you to give this up, because you are clearly not ready for that.”

“What I will do, on the other hand,” he said as he leaned back against an empty stainless steel examination table, “is to simply remind you that it was not your fault. And if it had not been for your decision to send Truscott to the Regiment, it would have been far, far worse.”

Hiroyoshi nodded as he continued to stare down at the corpses of the four men who had sought to kill Stephen Cameron and his family—who had been successful in killing his pregnant wife and their unborn daughter. “Is that what you think I am here for, Colonel; as an expression of some angst-ridden self-loathing of my failure?”

Moreau started to answer, but then closed his mouth as he thought about the older man’s answer. “Why ARE you here, then, Lt. Colonel Tanaka?”

“Something about these four men is not right, Colonel,” Hiroyoshi whispered. “I know it; I can feel it inside of me. I have read the reports and the autopsies; I have viewed these bodies inside and out, and yet something, some instinct perhaps, is screaming inside my chest that there is something WRONG here.”

The former DEST commando began to pace across the floor in front of Moreau as he continued speaking. “The entire operation was out of character for the Makos; they do not operate in that fashion. And FOUR of them? Even when I sparred with them in service to Minoru Kurita before the War, they NEVER operated together. Cats-paws, they used in plenty, but they always pulled the strings and watched from afar. Not because they did not want to get their hands dirty, but because they had responsibilities to the House of Amaris not to give up their lives in waste.”

“The First Lord was a target Amaris would sacrifice anything to get,” Moreau said gently, “even the lives of agents that are irreplaceable at the moment.”

“Hai. And yet, something still nags at me. That ship the DCA captured at Pesht, the one that got delayed by six hours and failed to hit its target—there was not a single Mako aboard. It could be argued those missions were at least as important to the goals of Amaris as this; but here we have four dead Makos and there we have none? At New Avalon there were none recovered from the dead as well. This is not their style, their methods; which is why I come here hoping to gleam some insight from the dead.”

Moreau frowned as he considered the words, the ideas that Hiroyoshi had voiced. He had never served in any intelligence branch before—but it seemed to be half of what consumed his time now as the commanding officer of the Black Watch. He had never been trained for the duties of what was at its core a vastly oversized protection detail—but his executive officer had been. Never given to making impulsive calls—even if it appeared to the rest of world that he did—his nimble mind leaped from possibility to possibility as he contemplated the idea.

“You believe these men were not Makos?” he asked. “That they were not sent by Stefan Amaris?”

“I do not yet know, Colonel,” Hiroyoshi answered softly as he stopped his pacing. “But if I am right, then we have another enemy whom we have yet to see in this conflict.”

“And an unseen foe is all the more lethal, for it can strike at any time and place of its choosing,” Moreau finished, as Hiroyoshi nodded in agreement. “All right, then. I do not have the slightest idea if you are right or if this some wild goose chase you can’t simply put down—but never again is what we swore after Farthington Pass. And that, Lt. Colonel Tanaka is an oath I intend to see kept. What do you suggest?”

Hiroyoshi stood ramrod straight and looked his younger superior directly in the eye. “Did any Blackhearts survive the Coup, Sir? If so, I think we need to bring them to Asta right now.”

Ethan Moreau bared his teeth, and even one of Amaris’s pet fish would have skittered away in fear at the sight.


July 12, 2768
The Green Dragon
Hawkins, Asta
Terran Hegemony


Smoke filled the air above the wooden tables as loud music reverberated from the walls of the bar. It was just after sunset, and the place was packed with Astans, SLDF troopers, Highlanders, Liao MechWarriors, DCMS soldiers, DCA spacers, and scores of others. At a table in the rear, Hiroyoshi, Ethan, and Gerald Howe sat, nursing their drinks. Decorated in the fashion of its literary predecessor, the bar included genuine sawdust on the floor, and fresh plants and flowers drooping from pots hung on chains from metal hooks in the ceiling. Instead of electrical lighting, what seemed to be torch sconces hung on the walls, each one dancing with a smoky taper of flame—but fed not by wood. No, the first owners of the establishment had decided to rely on natural gas for their lighting; even if it did not quite it fit the genre they wanted to portray. And unlike more modern establishments, the girls and women weaving through the clad did not expose great deals of flesh—they wore long dresses, with their hair bound in scarves and braided in long strands. Of course, most of them showed rather more cleavage than the original owners would have allowed—but the Green Dragon had remained part of the culture of Hawkins for over two centuries, and those owners were long since departed from this world.

Real oak kegs of beer, ale, and mead lined the walls, along with decorations of rather small medieval weaponry and armor and shields—sized almost for a child, in fact. In the center of the room lay a brick fire-pit, and two husky young men slowly turned the suckling Ridgeback suspended on an iron rod over the flames as they slathered its sides in the sauce the house used for seasoning. That sauce rendered even the toughest meat tender enough to fall apart when pulled at by the fingers of the customers—which was good, since the staff of the Green Dragon deemed it as ‘out-of-character’ to give them silverware. In the two hundred years since the bar had first opened, that secret sauce had given rise to more espionage than most House Lords had used to attain the secrets of BattleMech technology long ago. And yet, it remained a secret known only to the owners of the Green Dragon.

“How the devil did you find this place,” Gerald snarled as he wiped the foam from a black and bitter ale off his upper lip, “and why haven’t you told me about it before now?”

Hiroyoshi grinned, as he set the rib he had been gnawing upon down upon the wooden platter before him, and wiped his face and hands free of the sauce. “Man does not live by saki alone, Sergeant Major, and literacy is not yet forbidden in the Combine. Indeed, except for the first children’s tale—the slaying of a Dragon and all that—the other writings of that man are quite widely accepted among my people. As to why I have not spoken of its existence to you; this place mellows me. And if it has the same effect upon you, the Regiment might well suffer.”

Moreau laughed as he sipped upon his own honey-mead, thick and sweet and syrupy. “The man has a point, Sergeant-Major. I for one am not certain the troops could survive the shock of seeing you being mellow.”

Gerald frowned at the two of them. “I keep my mellowness to myself, Sirs. And just for that, neither of you get any more of those spiced potatoes,” he said as he took the bowl and moved it over his side of the table.

“Seriously,” he whispered, “as much as I like being out and having good food, good drink, and quite a few good sights for these old eyes, why are we here?”

“Because you are waiting for me, Sergeant-Major Howe,” a man said as he slid into the last free chair. Dressed in civilian clothes, the man was slender, but his arms were tight with bundled muscle; his face hard, and his eyes as cold as ice.

Gerald slowly sat back, keeping his eyes on the stranger.

“Really,” asked Moreau. “And who might you be?”

“You put out a request for one of us yesterday, Colonel Moreau—to arrive ASAP at your HQ on Asta. Well, I was in the neighborhood, so to speak. What does the Royal Black Watch need with the Blackhearts?”

Moreau waved his hand over at Hiroyoshi. “And you are . . .” he asked.

“You don’t need to know my name, Lt. Colonel—former Tai-sa—Tanaka. However, the word of the day is zephyr, no?”

Hiroyoshi leaned forward. “Are you certain you wish to discuss this here? There are far more secure facilities available?”

“All of which are watched by SOMEONE. Here is fine—the noise and smoke kill any bugs, and this table is backed by solid feroak on two sides.”

“We need to know if someone wanted us to think it was the Makos that arranged that business at Farthington Pass. We need to know if we have another enemy waiting out there.”

“Right. As you know, gentlemen, our support structure was all in the Hegemony—and fewer than two dozen of us operatives escaped. But I have some contacts and will do some digging.” The man paused as he pulled a piece of steaming pork from the platter and swallowed it, chewing briskly. “You have evidence that it wasn’t?”

“No evidence, sir,” said Hiroyoshi, “just a feeling.”

The man nodded. “In this business, sometimes that is all you ever have. I’ll be in touch,” he said as he stood and left, quickly becoming lost in the crowd.

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Re: The Cameron Legacy: The Fall of the Star League

Post by masterarminas » 2013-05-30 10:31am

Chapter Five

July 27, 2768
Star League Jump Station Protector
Zenith Jump Point, Asta
Terran Hegemony


Admiral Michael von der Taan floated into the Combat Information Center of his command fortress. The dim chamber, lit only with red light, was situated at the core of the massive structure the SLDF had constructed here at the Zenith point to coordinate a defense against enemy vessels. As large as many battleships, the jump station had but one purpose—to defend a jump point against hostile attack. Since they were incapable of acceleration or of jumping, such stations could devote all of the mass used by warships for those systems to additional weapons and armor—and the SLDF Guardian class did so in spades. An early product of the SDS program, the Guardians bristled with more than three times the weaponry of a McKenna class Battleship, and four times the armor plating of a Texas.

Virtually all Guardian class stations deployed in the Hegemony had been destroyed during the Coup, and Asta had never had one to begin with. Twelve reserve stations, however, had remained in depot stores at Star League naval yards outside of the Terran Hegemony. Prepackaged and crated in prefab modules for quick assembly in the field, each of the stations had required six freighters and a yard-ship to transport them to Asta and assemble them on station. But now all twelve had been transported and activated and manned with four stationed at the zenith point, four more at the nadir, and yet another four orbiting in geo-synchronous orbit above Asta itself.

Von der Taan floated across the crisp cold air in the zero-gravity environment, and then he reached out and snagged a hand-hold adjacent to his senior tactical officer. Pulling himself to a stop, he hooked one leg around a nearby strut and glanced down at the console.

“What have we got, Simon?” he asked the younger officer.

“Pre-emergence wave—multiple waves, Admiral,” answered Commander Simon Gelder. “Plotting makes it fifteen seconds to emergence.”

The Star League Admiral nodded. Roughly a minute before a K-F Drive vessel materialized, it began sending streams of neutrinos through its emergence point. Of course to detect the damned emissions, you had to have specialized sensors—which the Guardian class stations had, of course—and be damned close to the jump point. Close enough that on rare occasion a ship would emerge too close—mere kilometers away—and then bad things happened to everyone involved.

The SLDF had figured out a way around that almost twenty years ago—but the sensor buoys normally used for that purpose in Hegemony systems had not been found in the storage depots. Apparently, they had been diverted to form part of the Reagan network in the Terran system—and had never been replaced. So von der Taan and his fortress crews—press-ganged from ships of the Fleet—were up close and personal in the old-fashioned way.

“Weapons status?” he asked calmly.

“All stations are closed up and manned with warshots in the tubes and hot rounds chambered, Sir. All compartments report that they are secured for battle and crews are donning pressure suits by shift in rotation.”

“Very good, Commander,” he said as the clock ticked down the last few seconds. “Open fire ONLY on my command or if you are fired upon. Understood?”

“Aye, aye, Sir.”

Von der Taan bared his teeth at the icons on the screen. If you are Rimmers, then you are bloody stupid to be trying this, he thought; and if you aren’t, then you had better ID yourself damn quick, or it’ll be too late for anything but an ‘oops’.” Four full wings of fighters—216 in all—hovered just outside the radius of the jump-point, waiting for the order to commence their attack runs, he saw as he glanced at the monitor. Still further out, the ships and fighters of 4th Fleet were coming to action stations, ready to back up the forts if they needed help.

“We have emergence,” a lone voice called out crisply from tracking. “Multiple emergence signatures—vessels are compact core WarShips, warbook is running recognition patterns now.”

Wrong answer assholes, von der Taan thought; if you are friendly than you should have let us know you were coming BEFORE you arrived. He opened his mouth to give the command to fire, when another voice suddenly broke across CIC.

“They are transmitting in the clear, Admiral! All ships broadcasting LYRAN IDs across the board.”

“Confirm that!” he snapped. The tactical officer bent down over his console and consulted the sensor readings. Simon Gelder turned in his chair and nodded at his admiral. “Confirmed, Sir; those are ships of the Lyran Commonwealth Navy, and they are asking to speak with someone in authority.”

Michael hurriedly donned one of the communications headsets, and flicked the line to active, allowing him to receive and transmit. “This is Admiral von der Taan of the Star League Defense Forces. You have entered a restricted system. State your intentions.”

The delay was less than a second, but it seemed to stretch on into forever. Finally, however, a rich baritone voice came across the earpiece. “Admiral, this is Archon Robert Steiner of the Lyran Commonwealth. I have come to join the First Lord in putting down this madman Amaris—and I have brought the Lyran Commonwealth Armed Forces with me. Where do you want us to park?”


July 27, 2768
Branson House
Hawkins, Asta
Terran Hegemony


“Would you repeat that, please, General Marik?” Stephen asked as he slowly leaned back in his seat—his mouth slightly agape at the young deputy commander of the Supreme Allied Headquarters.

The young man smiled broadly and nodded his head at the First Lord. “Archon Steiner has arrived at the jump point with 200 ships of war and as many transports escorting fifty-four Lyran BattleMech Regiments and twenty-seven lesser regiments, plus supporting units. That is three full-strength Corps, my Lord, in total.”

“Not that part, Thomas, the next.”

“He sends his condolences for the murder of your wife and unborn child, my Lord. Regardless of his dispute with you personally, he said that he has come to realize that if Amaris is not stopped it will be the end of all the Lyran people hold dear. Accordingly, he has come here—at the head of the Lyran Armed Forces—to join your crusade to free the worlds of the Hegemony from the madman. Those were his words, my Lord, not my own.”

Stephen nodded and tapped his fingers on the top of the desk. “How long until he arrives in orbit?”

“Eight days, my Lord.”

“Very well, General Marik; I will send a reply directly to the Archon myself. Thank you for informing me in person.”

Thomas Marik gave a half-bow. “Supreme Commander Lord Kerensky thought that you might want to be given this news in person, First Lord. Otherwise, he said, you might well not believe it until you saw the ships arrive with your own eyes.”

“True enough, General. That is true enough. Give Aleksandyr my regards and ask him if his staff will prepare to brief the Archon upon his arrival.”

“It is already being done, my Lord.” With that, the young man bowed again, and withdrew from the office.

Stephen stood and began to pace, ignoring the four guards in the corners of the room. Over the course of the past year, they had become such a part of his life that he no longer fretted over their presence. Steiner is joining—with three Corps, no less. A field army equal in size to the one provided by John Davion—and the one originally promised by Minoru Kurita. Furious with the attacks upon their homeland, he and his cousin Vincent had proceeded to strip the interior of the Combine of every last troop that could be spared—and many that could not be. Even the borders with both Davion and Steiner—and the Rim—had been gleaned of their best troops. Seven Corps of Combine troops were now either on Asta or nearby on the Hegemony-Combine border, leaving just eighteen ‘Mech regiments to defend Minoru’s entire realm. His Assault Command included another 27 regiments of Combine ‘Mechs—in addition to the Liao volunteers and the Highlanders, which doubled that number.

John had been taken aback when Minoru revealed the true strength and size of his military—as had Philip Marik. Exceeding even the limits of the Edict of 2752 that had allowed the House Lords to double their military strength, he—and his father before—had kept hidden the units that he now revealed. Though they all—Stephen, John, and Philip—recognized the fact that these units would now fight on the side of the Star League, they all knew they had been built for a different purpose entirely.

The Combine Navy was still under-strength from the vicious Second Battle of Asta, but new ships were beginning to leave the slipways. There too, the Combine had cheated. At four hidden shipyards deep in the interior of his realm, Takiro Kurita had pre-positioned components, weapons, and the materials required for warships. Dozens—scores—of keels had been laid, but then work suspended, since it would impossible to hide the ships if they entered active service. But that secret work of preparation decades ago allowed Minoru to surge new warships to completion in far quicker time than anyone had deemed possible. By the time the SLDF would be ready to launch the assault on Terra, the DCA would be restored its pre-war strength—indeed, they would be stronger than their pre-war strength. And nine-tenths of that Fleet had been committed to the operation.

John had laid the matter aside—although he had privately told Stephen that he and Vincent needed to have a long heart-to-heart discussion after this was all over and done with—and yet, he could not free up more of his forces. With the attack on five of his worlds—and the death his younger brother David on Robinson—the civil war he had feared had died still-born as the population responded just as furiously as that of the Combine. Still, the resistive, smoldering resentment of the nobles required that he keep more than half of his own forces at home, stamping out small flare-ups of violence and reminding the nobles who held the whip this time.

And part of that problem was—as John had predicted—with the Capellan March. Duke Morand of New Syrtis had been removed as the head of the March after his stream of protests at the upcoming plebiscite in the Taurian Rim. Now a fanatically loyal supporter of John’s—Gregory Hassak—held that post. The violence had not faded away, however. Aaron responded by shifting most of his surviving Special Armed Services units—along with the majority of the Blackheart operatives still available—to the region, but there seemed to be an entrenched network of cells driving the old hatreds forward with rhetoric. Cells that both Stephen and John thought to have been sponsored and supported by Amaris.

Barbara Liao had once again declined to come fully aboard—but she did allow the volunteers from her service—21 regiments worth—to travel to Northwind, along with the Highlanders. And her fleet had slapped down hard the single attempt Amaris made to enter her space. She was supplying John and the SAHQ with intelligence, however; her spies had made solid inroads into those groups, and the information she provided had allowed Davion’s own MI branch and the SAS troops to shut down dozens of cells.

Philip Marik was another matter completely. The attack on the shipyards and planet of Oriente had thrown the entire League into a fury. Many provinces had sent their own troops, and the federal government of the Free Worlds had contributed a Corps of their own, overstrength by a full division. But it was their navy that was their most powerful contribution. Burning for revenge over Oriente, the FWLN were working hand-in-hand with the SLDF and DCA to plan exactly how to neutralize the Caspers, the Rim Fleet, and the SDS installations on Terra itself. The old man intended to make Amaris pay for his crimes and had announced that he would personally lead his forces from the command deck of the battleship FWS Atreus.

Everything was coming into place, then, Stephen thought as he paced across the carpet in front of the fireplace. Why, then, he asked himself, do I feel as though the wheels are about to come off?

Shaking his head, he returned to his desk and began to compose the note he would record and broadcast to Robert Steiner, welcoming him to the campaign.


July 27, 2768
LCS Tharkad
Inbound to Asta
Terran Hegemony


Robert Steiner paced along the cramped quarters of his private stateroom aboard the Lyran Battlecruiser Tharkad, wringing his hands as he went. “Are you certain of this?” he hissed at his associate.

Erik Kiplinger smiled up at the man he had once served as he lifted a snifter of cognac. “Certainly, my Archon. His Imperial Majesty deems it most wise of you to join forces with Kerensky and his puppet Cameron. After all, once we know their plans, we can inform Terra of them in advance.”

“They are not fools, Erik.”

“No? Perhaps they are not, Robert. BUT, they are very focused on their target. Who else but Stefan Amaris could have done these deeds? Who else could have aided him? And here you are now coming to the defense of the Star League at the head of an army. As a Lord of the Council, you will have to be kept in the loop, so to speak—and thus, so shall his Imperial Majesty.”

“But if they discover this . . .”

“Will it be any worse than if they discover you ordered the death of that man’s wife and unborn child? The risk is minimal—if you play your role correctly.”

“He can’t think that he will win, can he?” the Archon asked.

“Who knows, my Archon? So far, he has won almost all he has waged in the Great Game. And if he spends the next decade or so inflicting massive casualties upon this ‘Star League’ as it comes after him—when he has been warned in advance of the action by you—they may choose to give up this war.”

Robert Steiner shook his head. They are both fools, he thought, but fools who know too much, who can reveal too much about me. For now, I will continue to play along. Continue to string them along until I find a way of freeing myself from their hooks.

“Perhaps, Erik, you are right. I do apologize; I seem to be getting nervous overly much these days,” Robert said in a pensive voice.

“Quite all right, my Archon,” Erik replied with a languid wave of his hand. “Just play your role—I would hate to see your cousin Jennifer’s reaction to those tapes we have of you, after all.”

Robert frowned again, as Erik threw back his head and laughed, the sound echoing across the compartment.

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Re: The Cameron Legacy: The Fall of the Star League

Post by Deebles » 2013-05-30 12:08pm

This Erik Kiplinger doesn't quite add up. Dragging his faction into a war which promises to be uniquely devastating, and putting himself on the firing line to boot, quite aside from the many other ways this game of blackmail may well blow up in his face, and all just to make Robert Steiner suffer? Either he's bat***t crazy, or there's rather more to his motives and plans than he's letting on, and he simply put that suggestion out there as something that would appeal to a petty and vindictive egomaniac ("of course this is all about you, m'lord").

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Re: The Cameron Legacy: The Fall of the Star League

Post by MondoMage » 2013-05-30 03:59pm

Deebles wrote:This Erik Kiplinger doesn't quite add up. Dragging his faction into a war which promises to be uniquely devastating, and putting himself on the firing line to boot, quite aside from the many other ways this game of blackmail may well blow up in his face, and all just to make Robert Steiner suffer?
That may just be icing on the cake. If he is loyal to Amaris, then everything he's doing isn't so hard to understand. Of course, the question would then become how someone who's loyalties were not solidly in line with the Commonwealth wound up in such a critically important position. Subverting the frakking Intelligence Chief of one of the major houses? Something is seriously rotten in the Lyran intelligence/security apparatus. Moreso than usual, at least :shock:

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Re: The Cameron Legacy: The Fall of the Star League

Post by LadyTevar » 2013-05-30 06:17pm

MondoMage wrote:
Deebles wrote:This Erik Kiplinger doesn't quite add up. Dragging his faction into a war which promises to be uniquely devastating, and putting himself on the firing line to boot, quite aside from the many other ways this game of blackmail may well blow up in his face, and all just to make Robert Steiner suffer?
That may just be icing on the cake. If he is loyal to Amaris, then everything he's doing isn't so hard to understand. Of course, the question would then become how someone who's loyalties were not solidly in line with the Commonwealth wound up in such a critically important position. Subverting the frakking Intelligence Chief of one of the major houses? Something is seriously rotten in the Lyran intelligence/security apparatus. Moreso than usual, at least :shock:
Perhaps, Gentlemen, you should refer back to Hiroyoshi's list of why the four assassins should not, Could Not, be Mako, and then look harder at Erik Kiplinger's long years of building his way up into the one man "Bobby" could not survive without. :angelic:
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Re: The Cameron Legacy: The Fall of the Star League

Post by Deebles » 2013-05-30 08:28pm

What I'm thinking is that if I were him...
Spoiler
I wouldn't play this game for long. Partly because it's a very dangerous dance. Partly, because he should soon see the Star League have a pretty decent plan to finish the conflict. On seeing that, his best course would be to sell out RS to the Star League reasonably soon, in such a way as to ensure that only RS takes the consequences and that RS dies without the chance to make counter-revelations, claiming to be shocked and appalled at these events, while also feeding Amaris false intel that means he focuses on defending somewhere-other-than-Earth. That way, Kiplinger could ensure that he, and his faction, come out of it in a pretty solid position.

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Re: The Cameron Legacy: The Fall of the Star League

Post by masterarminas » 2013-05-30 11:13pm

Chapter Six

August 4, 2768
Asta Defense Headquarters
North Continent, Asta
Terran Hegemony


General Kerensky forced himself to smile broadly as his aide—Colonel Tricia Hall—ushered the Archon of the Lyran Commonwealth into his office, trailed by a pair of his own officers. “Archon Steiner, welcome to Asta,” he said from behind his desk.

Robert sharply nodded his head at the crippled man, but his face was set and his eyes were cold. “Lord Kerensky, pleasure to see you once again. I trust that you are well?”

“I am, Archon. Would you care to have a seat?”

“Thank you,” Robert said as he began to sit down, and then he frowned and stood facing Kerensky once again. “My apologies, Lord Kerensky, but I believe you know my Intelligence Chief—Erik Kiplinger, yes?” He paused long enough for Kerensky to politely nod his head at Erik, and then continued. “But I am given to understand that you have not yet been introduced to my young cousin—General and Margrave Jennifer Steiner, LCAF.”

“A pleasure, madame,” Kerensky said with a smile towards the woman with her long blonde hair secured behind her in a thick braid. The two Steiners shared a certain familial resemblance, but Robert was naturally stocky, his bulk slowly turning into fat. She—on the other hand—was slender, her body taut and fit. Both shared the same deep-blue eyes the Steiner family was famous for, but hers were warm and sparkling; whereas those of the Archon were hard and icy. “I understand that you handily placed in the top percentile of your class at the Nagelring Academy, General Steiner, and your troops—according to my sources, at least—tell only good things of your time as first a battalion and then a regimental commander.”

She shook her head, the corner of her lips twitching as she did so. “If that is the case, Lord Kerensky, I did not accomplish my job as either a battalion or a regimental commander. If my troops liked me, then obviously I was not working them hard enough.”

“Perhaps, General, perhaps. But my sources say that your units had some of the best readiness rates of any in the Lyran Commonwealth Armed Forces—rates given me by SLDF analysts. That is no mean feat,” he replied. Especially for a force given to ‘Social Generals’ and extreme nepotism, he thought to himself.

“I have always firmly believed, Lord Kerensky, that a little mud and dirt and sweat on a soldier in times of peace means less blood and tears in a time of war—and I attempted to conduct myself and the units I have had the honor to command in just that fashion.”

Aleksandyr smiled rather broadly at that and began to chuckle. “My own thoughts on the matter exactly, General Steiner,” he said as he turned back towards Archon Robert. “We have prepared a quite thorough briefing for you later today, Archon Steiner. It should take about four hours of your time, but first I want to have a brief chat with the two of you. Mister Kiplinger,” he spoke as he turned to face the spook, “what exactly is your role here?”

“Pardon me, Lord Kerensky?” Erik asked.

“The Lyran Intelligence Corps is a separate entity from the LCAF, Mister Kiplinger; an entity that does not normally concern itself with military operations. Why should I allow you to be included in the briefing?”

Robert frowned. “I do not care for your tone, Lord Kerensky. Erik is valued counselor and a trusted advisor—and I shall have his opinions.”

“Care for it; don’t care for it; frankly Archon Steiner I fail to give a damn. My staff will brief both you and General Steiner today, but no one else.”

“Sir, you go too . . .” Robert began to say, his face turning a fiery red, but then he was interrupted by Erik.

“My Archon, it is of no concern. I understand the Generals—Lord Kerensky, that is—need to keep certain information compartmentalized so that none leaks out. I will await your return at the embassy, if you will permit me to do so?”

Robert sat back, and curtly nodded his head. Erik stood and bowed slightly to Aleksandyr and then turned to leave.

“There is one more thing, Mister Kiplinger.”

“Yes, Lord Kerensky?”

“All three of you should be warned in advance—the information that Archon and General Steiner will be given today is vital, and must be held very close to the chest. They cannot share it with anyone until that person is cleared by my staff—and that, Mister Kiplinger, includes you. If I should discover that they have divulged information to you, I will hold you in confinement for the duration of this war. Try to restrain your curiosity, if you please, Mister Kiplinger. Your accommodations will be so much more pleasant if you do that.”

Archon Steiner simply glared at Aleksandyr, but Erik’s lips twitched in the barest hint of a smile. And he bowed towards him once more. “As they say, curiosity killed the cat, Lord Kerensky. I will attempt to pry none of your secrets from either the Archon or the General.”

“Very well, then Mister Kiplinger. A member of my staff will escort you from the facility.”

Colonel Hall opened the door and ushered the LIC chief outside, shutting the portal behind her as she left the room as well.

Robert swallowed as he realized now was the chance. Come clean now and place the blame on Erik, claiming that he and Amaris were attempting to frame the Archon for the death of Cameron’s wife. He even opened his mouth, but Kerensky’s steady gaze stopped him. No. They will not believe me. They hate me—even Jennifer hates me. If I give them the chance they will destroy me as surely as Amaris and Erik will. He looked down at the floor and shook his head, and then raised it to defiantly stare Kerensky in the eye once more.

“That was uncalled for, Lord Kerensky. It was beneath you.”

“Perhaps, Archon Steiner, but it was also required. Before we get into the operational details of the plan the briefing will cover, I am going to give you the highlights. Operation Ragnorak is the name given to this operation. We will be hitting Terra itself with the full might of the SLDF and all allied contingents. First . . .”

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

August 4, 2768
Lyran Embassy, Hawkins
North Continent, Asta
Terran Hegemony


“An audacious plan, my Archon,” Erik said as he digested the information that Robert recited to him. “Quite bold and it should be a death blow to the dreams of His Imperial Majesty. Now, how best to convey this information off-world?”

“Are you mad?” Robert snapped. “Only official SLDF HPG transmissions are being permitted—and NO ships are allowed to leave Asta, except on SLDF business. If you try and are caught, then we are both dead men.”

“Leave the details of that to me, my Archon. I am QUITE good at this business, as you may remember. There are certain channels that have been arranged; I must merely activate them,” Erik looked up from his snifter at his realms lord and master. “I am very pleased with you as well, my Archon. It would have been a perfect opportunity for you to reveal all—and have me carted away to some dank dark dungeon. Why did you not?”

“I never even considered it—we have a deal.”

“Lie to others, Robert; not to me. You fear that Kerensky and Cameron will not believe you—and that Jennifer, our dear sweet cousin Jenny—will use that as excuse to remove you from power.”

Erik laughed as Robert frowned down at him. “Worry about Asta’s star suddenly deciding to go nova, my Archon, worry about a freak asteroid strike on this very house. Worry yourself about anything other than my getting caught passing this information along. The few counter-intelligence people Kerensky has left are all tied up with that business in the Capellan March and the upcoming Taurian plebiscite. Yes, you keep doing this well, and my true master might well reward you for your service to his glorious Empire that shall be.”

Robert sat down and took a slug of his own brandy. “And what of Jennifer?”

Erik smiled as he swirled the amber liquid languidly around and around in the crystal chalice. “It will be such a tragic shame; the common people love her greatly, you know. But being a soldier is SUCH a dangerous profession. Accidents happen all the time, and since she is often in the field with her troops training for this massive operation; well, who can predict what might occur?”

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Re: The Cameron Legacy: The Fall of the Star League

Post by masterarminas » 2013-05-30 11:18pm

Chapter Seven

August 5, 2768
Fort Tobias Harrison
North Continent, Asta
Terran Hegemony


“Attention to orders!” bellowed Gerald. In front of him, the assembled men and women of the Royal Black Watch Regiment—minus those currently on duty or standing by at ready status—crisply snapped to attention, their boot heels making a crisp perfectly timed CRACK as more than six hundred troopers obeyed the order. Gerald looked out over their ranks, and nodded to himself and then the pivoted on his own heel and sharply saluted Hiroyoshi and Ethan.

“Sir, the Regiment is assembled with all present and accounted for, awaiting your instructions.”

Colonel Ethan Moreau solemnly returned the salute, and then he took a step back and turned on his own boot heel to face Stephen Cameron and his daughter Cassie.

“My Lord,” he said, the amplified voice booming across the parade field, “your Regiment stands ready.”

Stephen nodded at Ethan and stepped forward on the grand-stand, holding in his right hand a black jewel case.

“Lieutenant Absalom Truscott,” Gerald’s voice thundered, “front and center!”

One soldier slowly limped forward from his place in the formation, turning first to salute his company commander, and then the Regimental Colors. He marched out in front of the Regiment, standing directly before the assembled officers and dignitaries on the platform, and then the saluted them.

Stephen Cameron returned the salute as he took Gerald’s place at the microphone. “Lieutenant Absalom Truscott,” he began, “for valorous actions at Farthington Pass, for keeping the honor of this Regiment intact—despite your own injuries and despite being outnumbered by the enemy; for this we assemble here today. There are no media here to memorialize this event, there are no cameras. We few do not need such to remember your deeds. I am in your debt, CAPTAIN Truscott,” Stephen continued with a sudden smile, “for saving the life of my daughter that day.”

“I am in the debt of each and every one of you who have volunteered for service in this unit. You all have lives—and family—that you choose to set aside in order to place your own flesh and blood between my family and harm’s way. None of you had to do this, but you did so anyway—and I will always remember that you have done so. My Heir will remember that you have done so.”

Stephen climbed down the steps of the grand-stand to stand directly in front of Absalom, and he opened the leather-bounded jewel case that he carried in his right hand. “Captain Truscott, accept this as a small token honoring what you have done.”

Stephen handed the case to Gerald, who held it as the First Lord withdrew a glittering star of silver and gold and bronze, hung from a long blue and white ribbon. The Star League Medal of Valor glistened in the noon-day sun, reflecting from the polished arms of the star, from the finely wrought wreath that surrounded it, from the metal wings of the eagle whose talons grasped it and whose wings supported upon on the ribbon.

A tear leaking down his cheek, Stephen placed the medal over Absalom’s head and then stepped back two steps. The First Lord of the Star League crisply saluted the young Captain, as did the officers on the grand-stand behind him. Absalom returned the salute.

Stephen leaned close in to the young man. “I am honored, Absalom, to have you as one of my Swords. Thank you,” he whispered as he shook the junior officer’s hand.

Absalom Truscott swallowed hard, and nodded. “Thank you, First Lord.”


August 5, 2768
Branson House, Hawkins
North Continent, Asta
Terran Hegemony


“So, Captain, have you given any thought to what assignment you want?” asked Stephen as the servers cleared away the last remains of dessert from the table.

“Sir?” Absalom asked as he looked up in surprise.

From the far end of the table, Aleksandyr Kerensky chuckled, followed by Aaron DeChevilier, Hiroyoshi, Ethan, Gerald, Ezra Bradley, and Thomas Marik from where they sat around the dinner table.

“Captain Truscott,” the Supreme Commander began, “it is traditional that when the Medal of Valor is awarded, the recipient may select his next posting. I believe that you did want a front-line command at one time, no?”

Beside Stephen, Cassie looked up at the man who had saved her life, and nodded enthusiastically. “You can go anywhere you want—Daddy said so.”

The table filled once again with chuckles as Stephen shook his head. It still hurt—oh, God did it hurt—but he was able to see past the pain now. And Cassie had been a god-send in all of this. She still had nightmares, but she had bounced back and regained her own innocent enthusiasm about life; which in turned had spurred Stephen to pull himself together, even more so than Susie’s well-timed tongue lashing had.

“Absalom, in this case my daughter is quite correct. The question is, what do you want?”

The young officer looked down for a moment, and forced himself to swallow the lump in his throat. And then he looked Stephen squarely in the eyes.

“If you would allow it, Sir, I think I would like to remain at my current posting.”

“And here I thought that you were so disheartened over not being involved in combat operations against Amaris,” Hiroyoshi said with a broad smile.

“I did, Sir, at the time we spoke. I,” and Absalom began blushing heavily as he said this, “thought at the time this was mainly a ceremonial post. But its not, is it? I am still not at a hundred-percent, sir; but if the Regiment will keep me around, then this is where I want to be.”

Stephen studied the young man for a few moments, and then nodded. “Then its done. Ethan, can the Regiment still use him?”

“Oh, I think we can find plenty for Captain Truscott to do while he finishes his rehab, Boss.”

“Cool,” Cassie said with a beaming smile. “Can he command the soldiers who are going to take me to school this fall? I won’t have ANY problems with a teacher with HIM around.”

“That is NOT what your guards are going to be there for, little lady,” Stephen said with scowl.

Ethan jerked his head up at the entire exchange, a puzzled look on his face. “School? First Lord, I thought it had been decided that Cassie was going to have private tutors here at Branson House? Having her attended a public—or even private—school will complicate our protective coverage a great deal.”

“Ethan, I know we have talked about doing it that way, but as time is wearing on, I have been having second thoughts. What made Richard go so bad?” he asked as he looked around the table. “No offense, Aleksandyr, but a large part was that he had no one around him that would treat him like the child he was.”

“None taken,” the balding officer said with a grin of his own.

“Richard was isolated from any possible interaction with anyone EXCEPT syphocants; he was never allowed to be a child, never experienced what normal children do. I am not having my daughter grow in that same hot-house environment. She will go to school, with children of her own age. She will learn and play and make friends; she will do her homework and take her tests and be grounded if she doesn’t behave herself.”

Cassie shrunk down a little and tried beaming a smile at Stephen, but he still frowned at everyone at the table. Then she sighed. “Don’t go all pater familias on us, Daddy.”

Aaron laughed. “At least the Latin is sticking, First Lord.”

Even Stephen cracked a smile at that, but then he turned the frown back on Cassie. “You will have guards, Cassie, and they will make sure you are safe. But you will get into fights, try to cut class, fall in love, act out, get paddled, and experience what EVERY child goes through in this life. And they are not going to stop it.”

Suddenly he smiled. “Except when you get old enough to want to date; when that happens, I might just have the guards start to shoot the boys that begin to pester you.”

“DADDY!” Cassie shrieked as the table exploded with laughter.

masterarminas
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Re: The Cameron Legacy: The Fall of the Star League

Post by masterarminas » 2013-05-30 11:23pm

Chapter Eight

August 8, 2768
Pastries and More
Nuevo Calais, Electra
Federated Suns (Taurian Rim)


Anna Ross scuffed her shoe—her brand new shoe—on the tiled floor of the shop as her mother haggled with the baker behind the counter. She was only six, after all, and she was bored. First, Anna had to get dressed up for Sunday services, and then listen to the minister drone on and on and on about how God wanted the good people of the Pleiades to vote in the referendum. Whatever that was, she thought sourly. Then, instead of going home—or to a motion picture show or the zoo—her mother had to go grocery shopping. Her friends would have left to go swimming by now, their good church clothes thrown over their beds and exchanged for bathing suits and plastic floaties. But no, she was here, and to make matters even worse, her mother was not going to get any of the sweet pastries. She was here for just plain ole bread instead, bread for tonight’s supper.

Anna sighed and leaned against the glass counter, her back to all of the confections laced with cream and icing that her mother was not going to buy and frowned at the customers filling the store. A dozen tables sat on the tile, each surrounded by four metal chairs, and most of them were full. Full with people drinking steaming cups of coffee and eating the rich, warm pastries that Anna wasn’t allowed to have today.

One table near the counter had just a single man sitting there, and as she watched he folded up his newspaper and checked his watch. He glanced over, and saw Anna standing there, and the man smiled at her. Anna looked down at the floor, but then looked back up at the man. And he nodded at her, smiled again, and stood. Putting some bills and coins on the table, he tucked the paper beneath his arm and walked out from the shop. Anna smiled again, and then she saw something.

“Mamma,” she said as she pulled on her mother’s skirt, “Mamma!”

The young mother looked down, and shushed Anna, turning back to the baker and her haggling. “But Mamma!”

“What is it now, Anna?” she asked in an exasperated tone.

“That man, he left his bag, Mamma,” Anna said pointing at the empty table.

Her mother looked over and saw the satchel resting against an empty chair and shrugged. “Well, he is gone now; perhaps he will come back for it.”

The baker nodded. People leaving packages and satchels behind was all too common. He stepped out from behind the counter and picked up the brown leather bag. “I’ll put it in back in case he does.”

He stopped as a wisp of smoke sprayed out from the flap, followed by an intense burning smell. He never finished the frown his face had begun to form when the bomb exploded in his hands.


August 9, 2768
SLDF 10th Army Headquarters
Nuevo Calais, Electra
Federated Suns (Taurian Rim)


“Thirty-eight children?” asked Sam Anders, his face ashen.

“Yes, sir, out of one hundred and forty-three confirmed dead. The bomber struck just after the conclusion of church services and the market square in down-town was packed. Six bombs went off in shops all around the perimeter; shops and cafes that were full. The hospitals are reporting another two hundred plus wounded, some of whom they don’t expect to recover,” his aide, Major Alex Geithner replied.

Sam felt his stomach lurch. He had known the bombing yesterday was pretty bad, but this was worse than he had imagined. “Has anyone taken responsibility for the attack?”

The aide shook his head.

No, it wouldn’t be that easy, Sam thought. “Hank, how many groups have your field agents IDed that have the technical capability to do this?”

Hank Tibbets—Sam’s chief of intelligence and a reformed Blackheart—sat back in his chair and crossed his legs. “There are at least six groups organized by the Concordat operating in the Pleiades at the moment, four of whom have—in the past—had contact with the Taurian Freedom Army. Officially, all six have renounced violence, though they are more than capable of carrying off this attack.”

Geithner snorted. “This attack was in a Taurian loyalist section of the city, Mr. Tibbets. Are you suggesting that they bombed their own?”

“General Anders asked who had the capability, Major,” Tibbets answered coldly. “And yes, some of those bastards are quite ruthless enough to bomb their own and pin the blame on someone else. There are also seven organizations backed by ‘volunteers’ from the Davion nobility here to organize against the referendum. Many of those volunteers are not political operatives, but strangely enough trained military and para-military personnel. Of course, those organizations deny any sinister purpose, insisting that in light of the ‘troubles’ out here in the Capellan March that those particular members are present to ensure their own security.”

“Plus, we have the ‘Free Pleiades’ nut-jobs that want total independence from everyone. To be fair to the crazies though, we haven’t found anything that would even remotely suggest they had the skills and organization to carry out a simultaneous bombing of this magnitude.”

Sam thrummed his fingers against the top of his desk as he considered the actions available to him. There were not many options. And then he sat back and smiled.

“So there are fourteen groups out there, right Hank? How many total people are we talking about?”

“We keep a pretty close eye on all of them—between eight and nine hundred all together.”

“Do you know where these people are?”

“Most of them, yes.”

“Their leadership?” Sam pressed.

“Yes.”

“All right, the bastards—which group of inglorious bastards these are—want to play dirty? Let’s oblige them. I want a full-court press—take ALL of them into custody tonight, at the same time. Once we get them in our hands, Hank, I want those leaders—ALL of the leaders—sweated. I want to know who did what and when. And most definitely why.”

“There are rules and limits on interrogations, sir, we may not be able to . . .”

“Not anymore. Bombing a public market? Killing children to make a political point? Those sons-of-bitches don’t have any rights as this moment. Sweat ‘em, bleed ‘em, do anything you want short of killing ‘em off like cockroaches, Hank, but you get me that information.”

Tibbets and Geithner exchanged a worried look, and then the intel chief looked back at Sam. “Some of the Davion sponsored groups have pretty high up backers, boss. Are you certain you want to do this?”

“The First Lord sent me out here to keep the peace until this referendum goes through, gentlemen. I will do that even if it means killing every last fanatical piece of shit that means to derail the process. Let me worry about pissing off those nobles—or Nicoletta, for that matter. If any of them have a problem with my handling this matter, then they can take it up with me,” he said as his face broke into a smile. “After all, dueling is still legal in the Pleiades, and I ain’t called a gunslinger for nothing.”

masterarminas
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Re: The Cameron Legacy: The Fall of the Star League

Post by masterarminas » 2013-05-30 11:27pm

Chapter Nine

August 8, 2768
SLDF 10th Army Headquarters
Nuevo Calais, Electra
Federated Suns (Taurian Rim)


“. . . I don’t know,” the man sobbed from the chair where the restraints held him firmly, an IV drip having been inserted into his right arm. “I tell you—God’s honest truth—I don’t know who was behind the bombing!”

Seated behind a partition blocking him from the weeping man, an SLDF medical technician consulted his equipment, marking a scrolling tape filled with lines in red ink. He turned to face the interrogator and shook his head.

The interrogator smiled grimly and returned his attention to the prisoner. “Why do you keep lying to my, Mister Paterson? This will only get worse as time goes by. We know that you had contact with the bombers; we know that you withdrew a sizable amount of money—in cash—three weeks ago from your bank; we know that you then received an even greater windfall from someone off-planet. We are tracing the route of that money now, Mister Paterson, and we will find who funneled it to you.”

In the interrogators ear-bud, he heard the voice of Doctor Hunt. “His blood pressure is soaring; I’m increasing the sedative slightly to compensate.”

Pulling up a stool of his own, the interrogator sat down facing the prisoner. “Just one name, Mister Paterson; one name, that is all that we want from you. One name and this ends; if you give me the real name, of course. Lie to me again, and then things will turn more physical. So far, Mister Paterson, so far we have restricted ourselves to the use of drugs and more traditional, non-invasive methods of questioning you. Some of those drugs are not pleasant to experience—as you have discovered—but they are nothing compared to what comes next if you force me to take off the gloves.”

He leaned forward, so that his mouth was mere millimeters from Paterson’s ear. “Who? And why?” he whispered. “Tell me and this stops now, while you are still a functioning male and not a eunuch.”

Blake Paterson began to cry again, his shoulders quivering against the restraints.

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

“It was Duke Albrecht, then?”

“Yes, sir,” Hank Tibbets answered. “Blake Paterson was their conduit for funds and instructions, through his local office for Albrecht’s Legal Defense Fund. We have confirmation from six other employees of that office as well.”

“Legal confirmation?” Alex Geithner asked.

“Depends. Electra is under martial law, which means that none of the local or Federated Suns laws apply—not even the civil Hegemony codes are applicable. Technically, nothing we did violates the SLDF Uniform Code, but some people will have a conniption over how we connected the dots to Paterson in the first place.”

“It doesn’t matter—there won’t be any trials,” said Sam.

“No trials, Sir? These people have to be brought to justice.”

“Justice will be given out, Alex, but these scum are not going to be given a trial to try and make themselves martyrs. Hank, hand over everyone in custody on Electra that had so much as an inkling that this was going down over to the firing squad. Summary execution is within my authority under martial law, and that is what we are going to do.”

Geithner stared at Sam, his eyes bulging. “That violates every civil code of the Hegemony, General. The prisoners do have rights, Sir.”

“No, Alex, they don’t. Read General Order 42 again—it has never been rescinded.”

“General Order 42 was issued during the Reunification Wars, General Anders,” chimed in Hank Tibbets. “It is long since out of date.”

Sam smiled. “Read it, Hank. There was no expiration date on the Order. Instead, it states that in the Taurian Theatre of Operations—which, of course, Electra is within—that the officer commanding said theatre is authorized by the First Lord of the Star League to maintain public order and safety through any measure deemed appropriate in any area where the SLDF has declared martial law in effect. It then goes on to specifically list what actions are appropriate—including summary execution for treason and murder. Both of which are applicable here.”

Tibbets nodded slowly. “It is rules lawyering, General, and the folks back home will raise all sorts of holy hell over it. And I am dead certain that your legal staff would differ with you; but it does present us with a way to go.”

“That won’t let us touch Albrecht, though. Cumberland was never a part of the TTO back in the day,” Alex mused.

“Leave Albrecht to me,” Sam said rather grimly. “I will leave tonight aboard the Marlborough for Cumberland.”

“Yes, sir; I’ll have my bags packed within the hour,” Alex said.

“No. I want you to stay here and assist Hank on keeping the lid nailed shut. If any of those fanatical bastards decides to play rough, then I want to you shut them down hard and fast.”

“But, Sir, you can’t go without an escort,” Alex exclaimed.

“I will be taking the 11th Heavy Cavalry Regiment with me, along with the Federated Suns and Taurian Concordat representatives and their assigned escorts. If Duke Albrecht does not want to surrender himself peacefully, I will have more than enough of an assault force to take him—dead or alive.”

masterarminas
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Re: The Cameron Legacy: The Fall of the Star League

Post by masterarminas » 2013-05-31 04:42pm

Chapter Ten

August 11, 2768
DCS Mikasa
Standard Orbit, Asta
Terran Hegemony


The hatch quietly shut behind the last of the Otomo to leave Minoru Kurita’s cabin aboard his flagship. Seated around the table were three of his field commanders—and oldest surviving comrades— Hideki Matasuke, Gregor Samasov, and Mitsuo Fujita, along with his newly designated heir, Vincent Kurita.

The four men waited as Minoru took a sip of his steaming tea and then set the cup down precisely in the center of the rectangular mat before him.

“Thank you all for coming,” he said. “We have much to discuss this day—about a subject that both Vincent and myself agree must be aired with you in private, but one that could embarrass the Dragon if it becomes publicly known.”

Admiral Matasuke glanced at General Samasov and General Fujita—both men nodded their heads in agreement. “My Lord, it is you we serve; your secrets are ours, until death takes us all.”

“Thank you, old friends. There has been much speculation among the remains of the Court and our nobility back in the Combine that I should take a new wife and sire a new heir. This is not possible.”

Samasov frowned. “Sire, we know that you still mourn your wife’s passing, but in time you might find another who pleases you. You are still young and virile, after all. No offense, Lord Vincent, to either your age or to your health; we all know that you are still well able to pilot a ‘Mech on the field of battle and lead men.”

“None taken, General Samasov,” wheezed the old man, the cousin of Minoru’s father. “I may be old and grey, but I can still take any of you in the cockpit of a ‘Mech.”

Fujita laughed. “Not even my DEST would slow you down were to take that BattleMaster of yours into the field against them, Lord Vincent. It has a storied reputation second only to your own.”

Minoru joined in the laughter, and then he extended his hand. The table grew silent once more.

“Both Vincent and I suffer from a condition that afflicts many of the Kurita line. Three years ago, I was diagnosed with testicular cancer by my private physician. The organs had to be removed. I literally cannot sire another child. Vincent has not been able to for over twenty years.”

The three men at the table sat still for a moment, absorbing the blow those words dealt. With no heir beyond Vincent, then who would lead the Combine in the future?

“Hai. You see the problem we face,” Minoru continued after a moment. “There are other Kuritas in the Combine—but each are removed from the ruling line. We risk civil war as each would gain the support of their local officials and military units—the Combine could be torn apart, helpless before the foes of the Dragon as it struggles with itself.”

“But perhaps there is another way,” he finished.

“And what way might that be, my Lord?” asked Matasuke.

“If I were to discover that I had sired a bastard during my youth, then he could be acknowledged by me in public as heir.”

“A bastard?” mused Samasov. “It has been done before—and if you acknowledge him publicly, the DCMS and DCA will follow him, regardless of what the Warlords and the nobility want.”

“There is just one problem, however,” Vincent whispered, pausing as the other three men looked over at him. “I know Minoru well enough to know that he has never dallied with anyone outside of his marriage.”

Minoru nodded. “That is the problem, gentlemen. I need a bastard, and unlike most of my line, I do not seem to have one. Privately, that is. In public, I can acknowledge a man of my choice as my child out-of-wedlock and declare him as Coordinator. Who is to know the difference?”

“The person you choose? His mother—the woman you are supposed to have had an affair with? The husband that you must have cuckolded?” Fujita answered with questions of his own.

“There is a possibility, my Lord,” whispered Matasuke.

“Yes?”

“Megumi was in our cadet class at the Academy, no?”

“Hai.”

“She died years ago, but she left the academy to marry a young officer—and had his child soon enough thereafter that rumor followed her for years. Her husband is also dead, so neither of them can contradict the story.”

Vincent frowned. “It is important to consider these things, but it is more important to choose the right man for the role. What if her son is an incompetent drunkard?”

Fujita laughed. “It is perfect, my Lord. And it will silence all of those young turks who followed . . ., well, I mean . . .”

“You mean the men and women who followed my son Jinjiro into his dishonor?”

“Yes, my Lord. Forgive me.”

“Forgiveness is not necessary, Mitsuo. My son lived his life in a manner that dishonored himself and his name—he ended his life in such a fashion to restore that honor and make himself a legend in the annals of our family,” Minoru said, swallowing a lump in his throat, while Vincent nodded his agreement. “Finish your thought.”

“My Lord,” Fujita continued, “the man that Megumi married was Chu-I Akira Tanaka. He was the father of Tai-Sa Hiroyoshi Tanaka. Gentlemen, I believe that if this must be done, that no other candidate could possibly be as worthy.”

“Tanaka,” Minoru whispered as he mulled over the thought. Seeing that Matasuke and Samasov were nodding their agreement, and Vincent was beaming with a grin so wide it was a wonder the hull had not ruptured, he also nodded. “Very well, then old friends—I seem to have a bastard son after all. And a new heir.”

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Re: The Cameron Legacy: The Fall of the Star League

Post by masterarminas » 2013-05-31 04:46pm

August 13, 2768
Asta Defense Headquarters
North Continent, Asta
Terran Hegemony


“Colonel Tanaka?” Minoru Kurita’s aide-de-camp asked. “The Coordinator and the First Lord have requested your presence inside.”

Hiroyoshi nodded crisply and made his way towards the guarded door that lead into the secure briefing room where Stephen, Minoru, and Vincent Kurita were meeting. The two Black Watch guards straightened as he approached, and one of them opened the thick, sound-proof door. The former-DEST commando entered, and heard the door click shut behind him, feeling his ears pop as the rooms internal pressure stabilized at a slightly higher level than that of the rest of the HQ facility.

The lord and master of the Draconis Combine sat at the head of the long table, Vincent on his left, and the First Lord of the Star League beside him on the right—and Stephen was grinning like a demented Cheshire Cat. Hiroyoshi felt a slight chill run down his spine; whatever had Stephen Cameron so giddy would either be wonderful news, or terrible for anyone other than him. Hiroyoshi had grown to know the First Lord so well that that conclusion was certain.

“Lord Minoru,” he said bowing deeply. “Lord Vincent, First Lord Stephen. You have asked for me, my Lords?”

“We did, Lieutenant Colonel Tanaka,” Stephen answered in a somber, formal voice that completely belied his treacherous grin. “Lord Minoru has . . . a matter to discuss with you. Before he does so, I will tell you now that I approve—in advance—whatever decision that you choose to make. And that if you accept, you are free from my service to accept this . . . most unusual offer.”

The First Lord stood, still grinning like a seven-year old with a secret. “Lord Minoru, I will leave the three of you so that you may have this discussion in private. You and Vincent are still joining Cassie and me for dinner, this evening, I hope?”

“Hai,” answered Minoru Kurita.

“Until then, my brother. Hiroyoshi, best of luck to you, my friend, Godspeed,” Stephen said as he walked up to the bodyguard and extended his hand. Hiroyoshi took it and Stephen briskly shook it. And then he shook his head—still with that inane grin on his face—and exited the room.

“Tai-Sa Tanaka,” spoke Lord Kurita from his seat, “please join us here.”

Hiroyoshi sat, the sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach growing stronger by the second, for now Vincent was grinning in anticipation—although Minoru’s face have could well have been carved from stone.

“As you may be aware, Tai-Sa, I have lost both my sons—my heirs. I have no more children, and Vincent shall be Coordinator after me,” Minoru said.

“Hai, my Lord Minoru.”

“Vincent has no heirs, either. Not since Drago and his children were murdered by the Usurper on Terra.”

“Hai, my Lord Minoru.”

“There are many at the Imperial Court who have suggested that I take another wife, or a concubine, and produce a new heir. There is a problem which prevents that from becoming a solution, however. Both Vincent and I have been rendered infertile due to a medical condition endemic to the Kurita line. There will no more children that I or Vincent can sire; which leaves the Draconis Combine with a most difficult situation.”

“There are many lines of Kurita blood in the Combine, Tai-Sa; but none which have a clear claim to the Imperial Throne. If an heir is not found, it will mean civil war as claimants contest their right to rule the Combine. You own wife is of a Kurita blood-line, is she not?”

“Hai, my Lord Minoru. She is a descendant of Sanethia Kurita.”

“Good, that is distant enough that there shall be no stigma of consanguine mingling associated with your children.”

Hiroyoshi snapped up in his seat, a startled look on his face. And Minoru smiled slightly.

“I must have an heir of the Blood, Hiroyoshi Tanaka, and I attended the Academy with your mother before she resigned to marry Akira Tanaka—from which you were then born just six months later. If I were to claim you as my first-born son, the timing could not be more perfect.”

Hiroyoshi’s eyes bulged outwards in shock, and his jaw gaped open.

Vincent chuckled. “Of course, it is a lie, Tai-Sa Tanaka. My cousin Minoru never had a dalliance with your mother; Akira Tanaka is your father by blood. But is it a necessary lie that will preserve the Combine—the same Combine that you have taken a blood-oath to serve with your life or death, Hiroyoshi Tanaka.”

Minoru nodded in agreement. “You are the man that I have selected to become my heir—the Heir to the Dragon. If you agree, you must participate in this lie for the remainder of your life, Hiroyoshi. But it is the only way that I see to preserve the future of the Draconis Combine. Neither I, nor Stephen Cameron, will order you to do this. I ask you to.”

Hiroyoshi sat back in his seat, his mouth suddenly dry and his palms filled with sweat. His head spun, and he could see just how radically his life—and his children’s—would forever be changed if he agreed. But then he looked up at Minoru, looked deep into the older man’s eyes, and saw within a sadness that he knew meant that Minoru was deeply aware of the sacrifice he was asking his servant to take—and the shame that he would bring onto his real father as a common cuckold.

But Hiroyoshi had raised to a life of service, and he slowly nodded his head in agreement. “If my by life—or death—I may serve, than I am yours, my Lord Minoru.”

“So be it, Hiroyoshi Kurita. So be it.”

masterarminas
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Re: The Cameron Legacy: The Fall of the Star League

Post by masterarminas » 2013-05-31 04:52pm

Chapter Eleven

August 25, 2768
SLS Shuttle Marlborough-Four
Descent Orbit, Cumberland
Federated Suns (Capellan March)


“We’re in for some chop, gentlemen, so strap in and we will clear the thunderheads in just a few moments,” the pilot’s voice came over the intercom in the SLDF Aries class personnel shuttle just after it entered the upper troposphere on its descent to Cumberland’s surface beneath the storm clouds below.

The one-hundred and seventy-ton vessel rocked hard as it was buffeted by the high winds and ionization charges began to build along the wing edges. However, the pilot kept the nose high to present the thick thermal blanket than covered the belly against the plasma dancing along on the ventral surfaces. Red, orange, and white flames streaked past the small window to Sam’s right even as the SLDF general tightened his restraints still further. A massive electrical discharge from the storm lit the interior of the shuttle in a blue-white flash and the Aries rocked even harder.

“General Anders,” said the man seated across the aisle to Sam’s left, “have I thanked you for getting me out of the office and going on a field trip to straighten up this mess your Taurian friends have got us into?”

“Not that I remember, Duke Hasek.”

“Good. I hate flying, especially when we,” the man winced as another incredibly powerful lightning bolt cracked across the sky, “when we have to fly through a thunderstorm.”

“Well, your grace, then it’s a good thing we are not so much flying at the moment as we are falling,” Sam replied through gritted teeth.

“That just makes me feel so much better, General Anders,” Hasek said dryly.

“How are you doing, back there, Sandra?” Sam asked.

“Lovely, mon General,” she replied with a chuckle. “but the best part if coming up next!”

“What part is coming up next?” asked the Davion Duke.

“When the pilot fires his braking thrusters, Your Grace,” the young Taurian woman replied. “It just squeezes the breath right out of . . . UMMPH!”

Just as if on cue, the powerful belly thrusters engaged and immediately slowed the descent, leaving the passengers feeling as if they hit the full reach of a bungee cord and then rebounded upwards. The pilot dropped the nose, and suddenly daylight streamed in through Sam’s window, the thick heavy black clouds falling rapidly behind as the shuttle now flew deeper into the atmosphere.

“And now we are flying, Your Grace,” Sam said.

Only the sound of retching came from the across the aisle, and Sam’s nose detect the pungent stench of stomach acid as Duke Hasek threw up his breakfast into the air-sickness bag he had been clutching like a life preserver.

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Re: The Cameron Legacy: The Fall of the Star League

Post by masterarminas » 2013-05-31 04:53pm

The Aries class shuttle set down on the landing field tarmac located just half a kilometer from Duke Albrecht’s mansion. As Sam exited the SLDF small craft, he took a good look at the surrounding terrain. The Duke had a flair for the gothic, Sam thought, as he surveyed the imposing four-storey edifice. Perched on the rim of a good-sized mesa that overlooked the river valley below, the home was all grey stone, covered with vines and moss, surrounded by a wall surmounted by statues of lions and gargoyles. A pair of iron gates stood open, flanking the macadamized roadway that led from the landing field to the estate proper. That same road continued on, and circled the mesa in a winding ramp that wrapped about the butte towards his subjects far below. Several heavy weapon turrets guarded the road where it descended, cleverly set back so that they could take no hostile fire from below—and the switchback in the road prevented attackers from using long-range weapons to silence them. Two more turrets covered the landing field.

The capital of Cumberland—Middlesboro—consisted of low structures, with the occasional high stack that belched thick, heavy smoke into the air. Cumberland was rich in coal and other minerals with a high energy content, and apparently the Dukes who lived here had decided that the abundance and cheapness of this source of energy were well worth the environmental and health hazards that accompanied the burning of this rock. Sam shook his head ruefully; what a waste he thought. Cumberland had clean water, beautiful primeval forests, and yet, the people who had settled here (or their rulers) had chosen to ruin it rather than spend a few more dollars to clean technology that would have provided ten times the energy output.

He turned, and helped Sandra down the steep stairs leading to the shuttle’s passenger bay as an ancient Bentley pulled into a parking lot a few dozen meters away. Two heavy-duty trucks painted in camo followed the Bentley, each of which unloaded several squads of infantry troops after coming to a stop. The driver’s door opened as Duke Hasek descended the steps, still looking slightly green from the ride, trailed by Lucien Oshner. The driver of the limo walked around to the back of the vehicle and opened the door, as the troops surrounded the shuttle—and the dignitaries—and raised their weapons.

From the back seat of the Bentley, an old man emerged, dressed formally and relying upon a silver-chased cane to balance him. He hobbled across the short distance and stopped, looking at Sam and his companions.

“Who are you? And why have you come to my world?”

Sam turned to Gregory Hasek. “I take it this is His Grace, Hollis Albrecht, Duke of Cumberland?”

“It is,” answered the Duke of the Crucis March.

Sam turned back to face the old man. “Sir, I am General Sam Anders, Star League Defense Force, commanding officer 10th Army. May I introduce Duke Gregory Hasek, the ruler of the Capellan March in the name of First Prince John Davion?”

Albrecht snorted. “I know Hasek, General. And you are probably here to try and intimidate me into ceasing my political contributions to keeping Federated Suns systems as belonging to our realm.”

“No, Your Grace. I am here to put a stop to your funding of terrorists who have committed murder and treason in the Pleiades. Specifically on the world of Electra in the Pleiades.”

“Ahh. Yes, I have been informed that your interrogations have implicated me in the activities of those patriots. But I have also been informed your confessions were illegally obtained and that I stand little chance of being convicted either by the Star League or the Federated Suns—fruit of the poisoned tree, and all of that.”

Sam smiled. “You are correct, Your Grace. Neither the Star League nor the Federated Suns can touch you legally for the crimes that you sponsored. That is not why I am here. It seems that a civil law suit was filed on Electra against you for these activities, and we are present to inform of that suit’s outcome.”

“Outcome! There hasn’t even been a trial!” Albrecht barked, his face turning a shade of puce.

“Oh, but there has been, Your Grace. You see, the plaintiffs appealed directly to Duke Hasek here since it appears that the legal system in the Pleiades might be biased against them. He rendered his judgment three days ago—and First Prince John Davion has already approved it. There will be no appeal of the ruling for you.”

Gregory stepped forward, his skin having regained its normal pallor. “Duke Hollis Albrecht, I hereby inform you that all of your lands, revenues, monetary possessions, and incomes have been seized and awarded to the families of the one hundred and seventy-four victims killed in the bombings for which you paid. You are hereby stripped of your titles and rendered a commoner—a penniless commoner.”

“How dare you!” Albrecht shrieked. “I am a patriot of the Federated Suns—killing Taurians is far from a crime, you miserable syphocant. And this world—and its people—belong to me. Kill them,” he snarled to the head of the guard detail.

“Oh, Hollis,” chuckled Sam. “You see, THAT right there IS attempted murder. For giving that order alone, I can arrest in the name of the Star League and throw you in some deep dark Taurian jail cell for the rest of your natural life. Have you given any thought to the fact that I am the commanding general of an entire frakking Star League Field Army, you son-of-a-bitch?”

The small microphone clipped to Sam’s collar picked up every word, and suddenly the roar of jump jets filled the air. From the base of the Mesa, thirty-six heavy BattleMechs, Royal Exterminators with their stealth systems fully activated, surged upwards and landed in series of massive thuds that caused dust to rise from the tarmac. As one, each ‘Mech raised its right and left arms, the muzzles and emitter heads of lasers and PPCs opening as the weapons were armed by the MechWarriors, the Star League MechWarriors who piloted the massive machines.

“I think you will find, Hollis, that your guards are nowhere near as eager to lay down their lives for you as you might otherwise believe,” the General continued. “Drop those weapons, gentlemen and you will live.”

A clatter rang out as dozens of rifles and carbines dropped to the surface of the airfield. Sam turned to the Taurian representatives as a Fury class DropShip streaked in across the sky, it’s side hatches open and filled with jump infantry getting ready to deploy. “Madame Calderon, Representative Oshner; do you believe that would Nicoletta be willing to house this criminal until his trial?”

Sandra smiled—a smile that only Sam could say held any warmth at all—and nodded her head. “Oui, mon General, I do believe that Grand-mama would be most willing.”

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Re: The Cameron Legacy: The Fall of the Star League

Post by masterarminas » 2013-05-31 05:01pm

August 27, 2768
SLS Marlborough
En-route to Zenith Jump Point
Cumberland
Federated Suns (Capellan March)


“Thank you again for your assistance, Your Grace,” Sam said over the radio link between the Sovetskii Soyuz class Cruiser and the much smaller Robinson class Transport that had conveyed the Duke of the Capellan March.

“It was only my duty, General Anders, as a servant of the First Prince. I trust that you should now be able to restrain my more . . . shall we say, volatile . . . countrymen in how they choose to express their frustrations at the plebiscite?”

“I believe that the nobles may finally receive the messages we have been trying to send, Your Grace. Although it might cause you some difficulty in the future.”

“As Hollis Albrecht learned, General Anders, there is a great deal of difference between a planetary Duke and the Commander of an entire March—let alone the First Prince of the Federated Suns. With Marshall Burkett cleansing the AFFS of the Old Guard, the malcontents will have no recourse to armed insurrection—none, at least that shall succeed. I bid you a good journey, General. And I do hope if we simply must repeat this exercise in the future, you manage to schedule our landing flight to avoid thunderstorms?”

“My apologizes again, Your Grace, but it was necessary in order to allow the 11th’s special operations battalion to get on the ground ahead of us and undetected.”

“Well, we all do as we must, General. Bon voyage.”

With a click the radio transmission ceased. Sam stood from the communications station and turned to face Captain Ralph Gephardt, the master and commander of SLS Marlborough. “And since that is over and done with, good Captain, I believe that I shall retire for the evening.”

The captain nodded. “Good night, Sir. We will alert you if you are needed.”

As Sam walked through the ship’s labyrinth of passages, his mind churned. Despite his quick assertions to Gregory (and Gregory’s back at him), he was certain that this was by no means over. No, the men and women who hated the idea of giving back star systems they had won as prizes in war would instead go deeper into hiding, and none would be quite so easily tracked down as Albrecht. The bloodshed was not over, not by a long shot, he thought.

Nodding at various crewmen as he wandered, Sam eventually arrived at his compartment and he opened the hatch, stepping through—and saw that he was not alone.

The compartment lights were turned down to a soft glow that illuminated the VIP suite only faintly, but dozens of candles had been lit, surrounding the bed. A bed upon which lay Sandra Calderon, dressed in a long night-gown of lace and white satin. Sam stopped cold in shock, as the hatch automatically closed behind him and sealed, and then it heard it lock as Sandra picked up a remote and pressed the control.

The young woman stood, her soft curves concealed and revealed all the more alluring in the flickering light of the candles.

“I could not sleep, mon General, and I see that you have been working when you should have been resting.”

“My lady Calderon, . . . I . . . we . . . you . . .,” Sam stammered, but Sandra held one finger to her lips and the SLDF gunslinger heard her softly make a shushing sound.

“You have won the heart of at least one Taurian, mon General,” she said softly as she pulled the ties that held her gown around her body, releasing it, and letting it fall to the deck. She stood there in the soft candle-light, her nude body glistening with anticipation. “Come and claim you prize, mon General. Come to me and let us forget for a time politics and war and loss; come to me, Sam.”

And Sam did.

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Re: The Cameron Legacy: The Fall of the Star League

Post by Darth Yoshi » 2013-06-01 07:11am

It's a rather sad commentary on your life that people wouldn't believe you when you say that the enemy is trying to frame you, Archon.

Anyway, the entirety of my knowledge of Battletech is the fluff included with MechWarrior 2, but this is pretty engrossing. Good work.
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Re: The Cameron Legacy: The Fall of the Star League

Post by masterarminas » 2013-06-01 09:06am

Chapter Thirteen

September 1, 2768
Winson Estate, Hawkins
North Continent, Asta
Terran Hegemony


The window popped out with only the barest whisper of a sound. Two gloved hands appeared on the sill, and then a man quickly levered himself up and into the private study of Charles Winson, the owner of the single largest daily publication on Asta. The man wore dark clothing, but it was assorted pieces, from the fleece turtleneck, to the light windbreaker, to the black pants, and thick leather boots. Anyone seeing the man would have suspected him to be a common criminal—an assumption that the man wanted others to make.

Closing shut the window behind him, he drew the curtains close and made his way across the study to the safe that was hidden behind one of the wood panels on the wall. Although he had never actually been in this room, the man worked quickly and quietly to remove the false panel, revealing the blinking electronics set in the armored door. Reaching into his jacket, he drew out a small pouch, which then revealed a device—a device that he attached to the safe. Pressing one recessed green button, the mechanism sprang into action and within seconds began to project the proper sequence of numbers and letters that would open the safe.

A soft beep signaled that the device had finished, and the man removed the leads and punched in the correct combination. With a hiss, the safe door cracked open, and the intruder returned the device to its pouch and the pouch to his jacket. Ignoring the cash and jewelry stored within, the man instead extracted a thick bundle of papers, bound within a folder. Placing them on the desk, he took out a small camera and began to photograph each and every page.

You’ve been a busy little beaver, Charlie boy, he thought to himself as he scanned the documents. And then he stopped. Ah. He smiled, too busy, I see. Quickly, the man finished his work and then he replaced the documents, closed the safe, and fixed the false panel back, flush with the remainder of the wall.

But instead of the window, the man quietly crossed the floor to the single exit, which he carefully opened and stepped through. Three steps to his left, the stairs began to rise to the second floor, and he slowly and carefully made his way to their summit. Winson’s wife and children were gone for the weekend, visiting her mother up in the tiny township of Cold Pines, a fact which the man had known before he broke into Winson’s home. But Winson himself had stayed behind, citing work. Of course, he couldn’t tell his wife how much he hated her mother, but everyone who knew Winson knew that he did.

The man stopped at the door to Winson’s bedroom and drew out a silenced pistol from the small of his back. Throwing the door open, he heard the claws of Winson’s hounds scraping on the wooden floor—but his arm was already raised, and with first one quiet “THFFT” and then a second, both animals were laying dead on the hardwood, their blood pooling around the gaping wounds in their throats. A third shot fired, and Charles Winson gasped as scores of needles pierced his right hand—the hand that had been reaching for his telephone.

“None of that, Mister Winson. You and I are going to have a little chat, my friend. And afterwards, I may leave you alive, or I may leave you dead—that choice is entirely up to you,” the man said quietly. “Nelson Gruber, the photo-journalist that you hired several months ago, Mr. Winson—tell me about the man from off-world that came so highly recommended. The man that later took part in the killing of Marianne Cameron. Tell me everything.”

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Re: The Cameron Legacy: The Fall of the Star League

Post by masterarminas » 2013-06-01 09:09am

September 2, 2768
South Cape Training Ground
North Continent, Asta
Terran Hegemony


“Captain Truscott?”

Absalom turned towards the sound of Colonel Moreau’s voice and snapped to attention—but remembering the admonitions of the former second-in-command of the Regiment, he did not salute. “Sir.”

Ethan grinned, when he saw the Captain—still limping, but dressed in the full body cooling sock of an SLDF MechWarrior. “Captain, just what the devil are you doing here?”

“Sir, Sergeant-Major Howe told me that if I wanted to join in this field training exercise, I had best get out here ASAP.”

“Really? Were your non-existent skills at typing, filing, and your lack of familiarity with the intricacies of SLDF paperwork finally the reason that the RSM kicked your butt out of Regimental HQ?”

“Sir, I don’t know, sir. But the Sergeant-Major told me to grab my kit and get out here—and that neither he nor Sergeant McCormick wanted to see me posted there again.”

The officer commanding nodded. “And the leg? You are still limping, Captain Truscott; have the doctors cleared you for field service?”

“I haven’t asked, Sir. And I shouldn’t have many problems if you put me back in ‘Mechs cockpit, sir, rather than with the Nighthawks.”

“Well, there is just one small problem with that Captain,” Ethan replied. “We don’t have a ‘Mech assigned to you at the moment—some problem with the paperwork that was filed informing SLDF command that we had just thirty-nine active duty MechWarriors instead of forty.”

“Well, technically, Sir, I haven’t really been active duty . . .”

“And the top brass do not need to know that, Captain. You know how famished the entire Defense Force is for BattleMechs right now—so since we had only thirty-nine active duty MechWarriors in the Regiment, they stopped your Griffin II and sent it as a replacement to the 501st Pathfinders.”

Ethan Moreau shook his head as he walked up to the young man and placed his arm around his shoulder. “You see son, the brass are a lot like a seven-year old child; they don’t need to know everything that goes on, even if they demand it. They don’t understand what happens in the field, and how we conduct ourselves, so we just tell them what they really, really need to know. And not one bit of information more. Sometimes, I think that whenever someone gets a star or two and then gets stuck behind a desk, they get captured by the bureaucrats that really run the SLDF. Everything boils down to what is written in the regs and no one uses their common fracking sense.”

Absalom’s face fell in disappointment, but then he straightened up. “In that case, Sir, permission to report to the observation bunker—I know I’m not assigned to the First Lord’s detail, but an extra eye couldn’t hurt.”

“Oh, no, Captain. I think I’ve got something better for you—follow me.”

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

“What the hell is that? Sir?” blurted out Absalom as the two officers entered a ‘Mech hanger on the edge of the three hundred square mile reservation.

“That, my young padawan, is a Royal Grasshopper, the Grasshopper II. But, you’ve never even seen a GHR-5H Grasshopper, have you? It was a brand new design that will fill a few badly needed niches in the ranks—but Amaris captured most of the factories that makes them. We’re retooling a few outside the Hegemony to produce the GHR-5H for the SLDF, but the Army got its hands on about a hundred of the basic model—twenty of the Royal version—just before the Coup went down. This puppy is my ride, Captain Truscott, and you don’t want to know how many strings I pulled to get her in the Regiment. She masses 70 tons, moves as fast and jumps as far as your Griffin, carries as much armor as a Thunderbolt, and is armed with two Snub-nosed PPCs, three medium lasers, and a five-tube LRM rack with a total loadout of 120 missiles. Please, she has enough heat sinks to shoot everything and jump 150 meters without cooking me alive.”

“I think I’m in love,” Absalom whispered.

Ethan grinned. “Well, then, Captain. Since I have to attend the First Lord in the observation bunker today, why don’t you take her out on the FTX—keys are in the ignition and you had best not even scratch the paint job. Comprende?”

“Sir, yes, Sir!” Absalom said with broad grin as he snapped to attention.

“Carry on, then.”

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Re: The Cameron Legacy: The Fall of the Star League

Post by masterarminas » 2013-06-01 09:13am

General and Margrave Jennifer Steiner watched the FTX unfold from the cockpit of her ZEU-6Sc Zeus assault-class BattleMech. Not only was the BattleMech appropriate to her rank and station, she had chosen it because of the excellent cockpit that gave her a wonderful view of everything around her—and because of the expansive computer support that allowed her to coordinate the actions of her 4th Royal Guards as they maneuvered against the Star League’s 10th Brigade. Frowning at the displays, she reached down to her command console and flipped one of the controllers.

“Colonel Bennington, your 8th Lyran Guards are getting their flank rolled—send your reserves to counter, and watch out for their tanks, they are very deadly machines.”

Static crackled across the frequency, and then broke as a voice emerged from the speakers. “But ma’am, they are just using light and medium ‘Mechs against us—no match for my heavies. In fact, they are beginning to run away, request permission to pursue.”

“Negative, Colonel, they are not running, they are trying to draw you after them! Pull your line back to link with the 4th Royals immediately.”

But her order came too late, and as the SLDF flankers broke off, the scream of artillery shells inbound began to sound. Thirty-six explosions of white smoke detonated simultaneously in the center of the 8th Lyran. Had it been the air-burst HE shells used in a normal engagement, half of Bennington’s BattleMechs would have been rocked by the concussion and shell fragments—badly damaged or destroyed by the blast. And sure enough, the SLDF lights and mediums reversed course and charged right back in, now supported by a battalion of heavy tanks that stuck their turrets above the rim of a ridge-line and began to rake the 8th Lyran.

Sneaky, sneaky, sneaky, Lord Kerensky, Jennifer thought. But I have an answer for that as well. “Rainbow Six, execute Cutthroat.”

Two clicks were her only answer over the speakers, but then eighteen Chippewa heavy fighters tore over the ridge, each dropping ten tons of infernos, high-explosive, and cluster bombs—all simulated, of course. But that pass tore out the heart of the SLDF armored battalion, and the heavy fire savaging the 8th Lyran petered out. On her display, six Chippewas began to flash red, as the simulator master computer ruled that Star League anti-air units had clawed them out of the sky, but the remainder completed their turns and made one final pass against the heavy SLDF elements defending against her 4th Royals. Two dozen large lasers and an equal number of mediums flashed beams of coherent light as the fighters strafed the BattleMechs below.

Now is the time, Jennifer thought. “All Lyran units, advance now! GO, GO, GO!”

The surviving units of three Lyran Regiments (the mostly intact 4th Royals, the now badly under strength 8th Guards, and the 13th Arcturan Guards ) charged the ridge that marked the 10th Brigades main line of resistance—but then her lead ‘Mechs began to come to a halt as explosions of smoke and fire erupted from the ground around them. Damn! They mined the bloody ridge, she thought. The pre-op briefing had indicated that this was a hasty defense, and so she had unconsciously ruled out pre-positioned minefields, but here they were.

Suddenly, her threat monitor turned crimson as yet another force of SLDF BattleMechs appeared—a battalions worth, emerging from the lake behind her! And these ‘Mechs all bore the crossed six-shooters worn by gunslingers. Great, just great, she thought. And now we get the Black Watch at our backs.

Spinning her Zeus around, Jennifer raised her left arm LRM launcher and triggered a flight of missiles at the Phoenix Hawk leading a pair of Falcons and a Clint. And nothing happened.

The weapon didn’t fire, but suddenly her console flickered, and her systems began to go haywire.

“What the . . .” she started to say, but then she stopped cold as the display showed all of her heat sinks going off-line—even the ones internal to the engine core. And the reactor jumped to 140%, sending temperatures soaring within the chassis. Jennifer hit the emergency shutdown not once, not twice, but three times, but the engine remained live and locked on its emergency maximum power load.

“Central, Margrave Steiner—terminate exercise immediately. I am declaring an emergency, my reactor is locked on overload and will not shut down. Overrides have failed, heat sinks are off-line—core explosion in one eighteen from mark: MARK!”

For a second only static came over the speakers, and then a robust baritone voice cut in. “All units, this is the First Lord—terminate exercise and clear the area. Margrave Steiner abandon via ejection; I’ve got a skimmer coming in for a fast pickup.”

“Roger, First Lord. Eject, eject, EJECT!” she yelled as pulled the emergency cables, and nothing happened. “Damn it,” she yelled into the microphone. “Ejector malfunction! I’m abandoning by foot,” she screamed as she threw the control that would blow the armored canopy—but that too failed. She hit the manual release and pushed—but the canopy did not budge. “Frak me,” she whispered.

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

“Frak me,” she whispered over the speakers of the observation bunker. “Canopy will not release. I repeat, it will not release even after disengaging the manual interlocks.”

Stephen stared at Ethan Moreau with horror dawning on his face. “She can’t get out?”

“No, Sir. And her ‘Mech has no hands—so she can’t even pull the canopy off.” The Black Watch CO picked up a hand transmitter. “Rescue Three, abort. I say again, abort.”

“EIGHTY-THREE SECONDS TO CORE DETONATION, MARK,” the bunker control computer announced.

“My god,” whispered Stephen. “How could so many systems fail—at once?”

“They can’t my Lord,” Ethan answered. “Both the canopy controls and the ejection system are separate from the remainder of the internal controls—neither is networked with any other system. Short of battle damage, this shouldn’t be happening.”

Or sabotage, both men thought, nodding at each other in silent acknowledgement.

“Sir!” one of the sensor techs running the FTX computers shouted. “It’s Black Watch Beta Six!”

Stephen and Ethan turned backed to the monitors and saw the Grasshopper piloted by Absalom Truscott fly over the ridge and the minefield, hitting the ground beyond it running full-bore towards the Zeus, which was now emitting steam and smoke from every gap in the armored chassis.

“SIXTY-TWO SECONDS TO CORE DETONATION, MARK,” the bunker control computer announced.

“What the hell is he doing!” Ethan barked.

Stephen, on the other hand smiled. “Exactly what you or I would do, Ethan. He is going to save that woman, or die trying.”

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

The joints and myomers of the borrowed Grasshopper groaned with the stress as Absalom kept the engine power at 130% of rated maximum—sending him careening over the ground at nearly one hundred kilometers per hour. As he approached the distressed and dying Zeus, he skidded to a halt and barked out a command of his own.

“General, cover your face!”

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

Within the cockpit of the Zeus, Jennifer Steiner watched the Grasshopper and its crazy pilot charge across the open field, sliding to a halt beside her. She heard, the radio transmission and felt one of the massive hand actuators of Grasshopper grab her Zeus’s shoulder, and the second took hold of her canopy.

“Oh scheise,” she said as she raised both arms to cover her head, narrowly avoid the shower of shattered armored glass as the canopy panes were crushed, and then she heard a terrific screech as the canopy was ripped free and thrown a hundred meters. The gull-wing canopy on the left side of the Grasshopper’s head opened, and the BattleMech straightened its arm, forming a bridge between her now open cockpit and the Grasshopper’s.

Jennifer released her restraints and scrambled out of the cockpit, crawling over shattered armor-glass and twisted, torn metal. Bleeding from a dozen cuts on her bare legs and torso, she heard the control centers announcement behind her. “FORTY-ONE SECONDS TO CORE DETONATION, MARK.”

But then she stopped, and turned around, and bent down into the cockpit and began to tug at a specific computer memory module.

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

“FORTY-ONE SECONDS TO CORE DETONATION, MARK.” The radio announced as Absalom saw General Steiner exit the BattleMech and begin to make her way across his Grasshopper’s outstretched arm, but then she turned around and ben down into her cockpit, leaving him with a lovely view of her rear end.

“What the hell?” he asked himself, and triggered the external PA. “General Steiner, get your pretty ass in motion and get over here NOW! Just leave whatever you looking for, we’ve gotta go now!”

Finally, she emerged once again, holding in one hand a computer memory module from the central processing core. She raced across the arm and dove into the cockpit, and Absalom grabbed hold of her as he fired the BattleMech’s jump-jets and rotated away from the Zeus. He hit the ground running and pushed his own engine to the firewall.

“Where is your jump-seat?” the General asked from his lap as the gull-wing canopy cycled closed.

“There isn’t one in this model.”

“What? You mean I’ve got to ride in your lap, Captain?”

“That is exactly what I am saying, General, now if you would kindly get your cooling vest out of my eyes, I need to see where I am going!”

“TWENTY SECONDS TO CORE DETONATION, MARK.”

“If we get behind the ridge, we should be fine, General. Just a little bit more now,” Absalom said as he jumped the Grasshopper above the minefield of smoke bombs—but the ammunition bin aboard Zeus detonated from the soaring temperatures; the that explosion ruptured the over-stressed engine core. The detonation caught the Grasshopper in mid-flight, hurling it up and over the ridge, to come down in a tumbled heap beyond.

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

Flashing red lights lit the control panels of the Grasshopper as Absalom shook his head, trying to clear his head from the massive concussion wave that had picked up his ‘Mech and carried it two hundred meters beyond what its jump jets were rated for. His restraining straps were digging into his shoulders and he realized the ‘Mech was laying face up on its back—and its rear armor was missing. Colonel Moreau is going to kill me, he thought, as he saw critical damage lights flashing on both hips—and it looked like the gyro was dead as well. But at least he had jettisoned the LRMs before he began his wild ride, and that had avoided a torso-gutting ammunition explosion.

He winched as felt a sharp pain in his right side; not his ribs—again! General Steiner was lying flat against him, atop of him. He shook her shoulder. “Wake up, General, we’re still alive after all.”

Jennifer stirred, shaking her head, and she turned to look Absalom directly in his eyes, their noses almost touching. “What, Hauptmann . . . it seems that I do not even know the name of my savior?”

“Truscott, ma’am. Absalom Truscott, Royal Black Watch.”

“Well then, Hauptmann Truscott, do not you enjoy my pretty ass being in your lap?”

Absalom flushed, and sweat began to bead on his face. “Well, it was just a saying, Your Grace, I mean that . . .”

“That you do not think my ass is pretty, Hauptman?” she asked in tone of voice that could freeze water. Her warm blue eyes turned flinty and resemble chipped pieces of ancient sea ice.

The young MechWarrior flinched, and he shook his head. “I think I will just say that I saved your life, Your Grace, and then shut up before I dig myself a deeper grave.” He flushed skin faded, becoming a pale white as he spoke.

Jennifer chuckled as she pushed the sweat beads aside with a single finger. “I see you a wise man, Hauptmann, as well as brave, not to mention incredibly foolhardy.” She leaned down a kissed him deeply, and then pulled back, a coquettish smile on her face. “I find that combination of qualities in a man to be incredibly sexy, Hauptmann Absalom Truscott—do you agree?”

But Truscott gave no answer, and his eyes were closed, the lids faintly fluttering.

“Absalom? Hauptmann?” Jennifer asked in growing alarm, and then she saw the blood pooling on the cockpit surface beneath the two of them, blood coming from the puncture wound where a spalling piece of the cockpit armor plate had sliced through Truscott’s ejection seat and into his back.

Glancing around, she spotted the emergency field radio still in its clip against the cockpit’s bulkhead, and pulled it loose. Switching it on, she keyed the microphone. “We are both alive, but Hauptman Truscott is injured—get the medics rolling!” she ordered.

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