By the Horns (A BattleTech Alternate Universe)

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masterarminas
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Re: By the Horns (A BattleTech Alternate Universe)

Post by masterarminas »

Command Lance, 1st Hyades Light Infantry, TDF
Tabernas Wastelands, New Vallis
Taurian Concordat
November 23, 3025


Smoke rose from the shattered hulls of scores—hundreds—of armored fighting vehicles strewn across the rocky and broken ground. Brigadier Tanis Verbet shook her head, sending droplets of sweat flying across the cockpit of her Griffin. The Fusiliers might be idiots to follow that idiot Michael into the grave, she thought, but none here today could deny their courage. Fountains of dirt showered into the air as their artillery landed yet another barrage—piled atop the craters left by the supporting aerospace fighters.

She hadn’t thought—not really, not in her heart—that the Fusiliers would press the assault, not after Edward had destroyed their headquarters in nuclear fire. But they had. Four regiments of armor had thrown themselves forward . . . and if they had gutted themselves in the process, they had managed to shatter the armor and infantry defenders of the New Vallis garrison—and no few of her BattleMechs as well. She had started the day with forty-six BattleMechs under her command . . . all lights and mediums that she had thrown into the fire again and again to support the tanks and entrenched infantry. Of those, just twenty-three remained; all were short on ammunition and many had little-to-no armor remaining.

But the relentless waves of former Davion tanks—Manticores and von Luckners, Shreks and Demolishers, Vedettes and Bulldogs and Scorpions—had done their job. The minefields had been cleared, the defenders were exhausted . . . and now the full force of the Fusilier’s ‘Mechs were approaching. Untouched heavy-weight BattleMechs.

“Nomad Alpha Six Actual,” she broadcast over the radio. “They’ve started the real assault—we can’t hold for long.”

There was a crackle of static, and then a voice answered her. “Roger that, Nomad Alpha Six Actual; you are authorized to bug-out when your position becomes untenable. Be aware, the hammer is about to drop.”

Tanis chuckled grimly and she didn’t answer the Marshal—she just double-clicked the transmitter to let him know that she had received the message. Untenable. Twenty-three heavily damaged ‘Mechs, low on munitions and armor, less than forty tanks (out of the three hundred which had begun this fight), and a few handfuls of shell-shocked infantry. No more minefields, air support was all but fought out, and her artillery support had exhausted their stocks of shells. It was already untenable.

“Nomad Alpha and support elements,” she croaked through a painfully dry throat. “Pull back—fighting withdrawal. Let’s suck them in a little bit more,” she paused. “Lord Edward and Marshal Cory are closing the jaws of the trap on these bastards—payback is incoming, people.”

Mutters of exhausted voices answered her as the tracks began to reverse down the slope of the ridge and infantry piled into the few remaining transports, her ‘Mechs covering their retreat . . . and in the distance, the Fusilier ‘Mechs began to pick up their pace.

Tanis smiled. They think we are running—damn fools, she thought. Brave fools, but fools nonetheless. And then she snorted. It won’t matter how foolish they are if they catch you, Tanis, she thought as the first ignitions of long-range missiles blossomed among their point-guard. Time to go, and she stood on her jump jet trigger and took cover behind the sheltering ridge.


TDF Field Headquarters
Tabernas Wastelands, New Vallis
Taurian Concordat
November 23, 3025


“I thought she would have taken less casualties,” Edward said quietly as he stared at the map; the map where Taurian staff moved markers representing Colonel Jameson’s force of Wylie’s Coyotes and two Taurian ‘Mech battalions down from the Glimmerstream . . . they almost in range to fall on the northern flank of the advancing Fusiliers. From the south, Colonel Erwin Tyrell and his volunteers of the combined noble’s regiments of New Vallis advanced as well. And in the center, moving towards the retreating Taurians under the command of Tanis, the Calderon Red Hand and the Foxhounds were moving as well—the anvil on which the Sixth Fusiliers would break and die this day.

“Young Edward,” Cory answered just as quietly, “just because a man fights for a cause you consider wrong, it does not necessarily follow that he will fight ineptly. Those boys and girls out there are skilled and experienced—and they have no lack of courage. They know they are going to die—and they want to drag as many Taurians down to Hell with them as they can before they fall.” Cory sighed. “She’s held at bay more than four hundred tanks and three thousand infantry for four hours—with just forty-six ‘Mechs, three hundred tanks, and two thousand infantry of her own. Outnumbered in artillery—and outweighed, since most of the guns supporting Tanis are Thumpers, whereas all thirty-six of the ones that the Fusiliers have are Long Toms—and ground-strike ASF and conventional fighters . . . no, Edward,” Cory sighed again. “She did damn good to pull as much out as she has—and she shattered the conventional elements of the Fusiliers in the process.”

Edward didn’t answer, he just nodded, and Cory laid his hand on the boy’s shoulder. “It’s never easy to watch and wait from the sidelines, Eddie boy. You have to put your trust in the men and women out there now—Colonels Jameson, Tyrell, and . . .,” Cory winced as he shook his head at the irony, “Sortek will end this invasion today. We’ll be picking the pieces, though, for months to come.”

“Do they have enough?” Edward asked. “If they are bound and determined to fight us to the last breath—do we have enough?”

Cory snorted. “The enemy has a standard FedRat ‘Mech regiment over there—around one hundred and thirty-two ‘Mechs at full strength, boy! We have damn close to three hundred and fifty fresh ‘Mechs of our own about to hit them. Plus the fighter reserve, and the artillery that we held back until theirs exhausts their stockpiles of munitions—and they must be scrapping the bottom of the barrel. No,” Cory shook his head. “We have enough, Lord Calderon—enough, at least, that I am not about to throw you and your company of bodyguards into the fray,” he finished with a chuckle.

Now Edward sighed. “It was worth a shot,” he said in a quiet voice. “Should I give them one last chance to lay down their arms?”

“These are the hard-core fanatics that followed Michael of their own free will, Eddie. You’ve given the FedRat assholes more chances than I would have—and a good number abandoned the Sixth to accept your offer. All another warning would do is give them a chance to try and escape before we spring this trap shut on them,” Cory answered and then he shook his head. “Fleet Marshal Vickers is in orbit now,” he mused. “We could pull everyone back and let her bombard the shit out of them—we could win this without losing another Taurian life.”

Edward shook his head sadly. “We’re going to need that salvage to recover our losses, Marshal Calderon. Ortillery, if the lectures at the Ècole Militaire I sat through were correct, doesn’t leave much usable material behind. But I wish that we could—too many of our own are going to die out there today. Too many already have,” he finished in a quieter voice.

“They were, and we do need the salvage,” Cory replied. “Just wanted to see if you would admit that to yourself, Eddie—or if you are still viewing the world through those rose-tinted glasses. People die, son. We do our best to cut the losses to the minimum—but we don’t always succeed. We fuck up; we make mistakes—and people die. Our people.” Cory paused. “Even if we get everything right—people die in war, son. As a commander on the field, you can change a good many things—but you can’t change that one simple, sad rule: no matter how you try to prevent it, people will die. Others lose limbs. Some lose their souls. And you can’t stop that—no matter how hard you try. We do our best to give our boys and girls every last chance . . . but in the end, it is their bravery, their courage, their willingness to risk life and limb in defense of the Concordat; in the end, they are the willing sacrifice that we have to place on the altar. And pray that God sends us a ram before the knife falls.”

There was no answer—no verbal answer, anyway—but Edward nodded.

“Sirs,” one of the staff officers interrupted. “Colonel Tyrell reports his command is in position—so is Colonel Jameson. Colonel Sortek and Brigadier Montoya are ready to commence their assault upon your final authorization—artillery and close-air-support are standing by.”

Edward stood straight and he nodded. “Marshal Calderon, will you pass the final orders?”

Cory nodded. “Send to all commands—finish it.”
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Re: By the Horns (A BattleTech Alternate Universe)

Post by masterarminas »

Chapter Three

ComStar Executive Medical Facility
Hilton Head Island, North America
Terra
November 24, 3025


Julian Tiepolo woke with a sudden gasp—he attempted to sit up, but a sudden weakness caused him to collapse back upon the bed. He tried to speak, but his throat was extremely dry and only a hacking cough emerged.

“The sleeper wakes,” a quiet voice said as the lights slowly increased the room’s illumination. “Here, Primus—sip this,” and the face of a sandy-haired Precentor came into Julian’s vision holding a cup with a straw sticking out of the lid.

Julian tried to sip, but his throat was too dry, too constricted, and the man sighed. He raised the cup at an angle and slowly water trickled down the straw and Julian gratefully swallowed.

“Enough, Primus?” the man asked as he took away the cup—and Julian nodded.

“Ves-Ves-Vesar?” Julian stammered.

“Ah, the Primus does remember after all,” Vesar Kristofur said with a bow. “How are you feeling?” he asked with a slightly sardonic smile on his face. “No chest pains? No numbness in the hands?”

“Where is Nicolas?” Julian whispered.

“Dead—my successor as Precentor ROM is dead, Primus,” Vesar said bluntly and he smiled as Julian looked up in alarm. “So is Myndo Waterly—the two idiots nearly destroyed Hilton Head in the war they fought against each other; the rest of the First Circuit were simply . . . collateral damage.”

Julian blinked. “How long was . . .,”

“Were you sleeping? The doctors have kept you in a medically induced coma for the past month, Primus. To ensure your eventual recovery.”

“A MONTH?” Julian hissed in alarm.

“Yes—well, twenty-seven days to be exact since your heart attack and stroke.”

“Wh-who’s in charge?”

“Well, since you asked,” Vesar chuckled as he pointed a thumb at his own chest.

“I exiled you, Vesar.”

“Yes. Yes you did, Julian,” he said as he shook his head. “But given the recent . . . calamity in the Concordat, certain members of our Order here on Terra . . . suggested that I return. I was already en route when you suffered your attack and ComStar nearly suffered a schism which we could ill afford.”

“You will address me as Primus,” Julian growled.

“No, old man—you will address ME as Primus. For that is now my title.”

Julian blanched. “You do not have the support,” he whispered.

“I did not—not when you controlled the First Circuit so tightly, old friend,” Vesar smiled again. “But Nicholas and Myndo managed to eliminate them with quite the bang—and you weren’t here. No one was here to stop me from putting an end to the violence. For reminding our people of what ComStar has as its mission—to unite Mankind once more under our rule. Rule from Terra, Julian.”

“I’ll fight you—you know that.”

“I do. But it is a small matter, Julian. You have been complacent and failed—I shall not. Blood calls to blood, after all,” and he grinned.

Julian jerked himself upright, but then he collapsed back on the bed again—out of breath from the exertion. “No, you dare not—we have no proof, Vesar.”

“I have all the proof that I need, Julian. Jaime Wolf and his Dragoons are but the vanguard of what is to come—and they remain my people’s mortal enemies. They will be dealt with—once and for all. After I finished cleaning up your mess,” he ended with a scowl.

“You threaten all that ComStar stands for—the Hidden must remain Hidden,” Julian pleaded.

“Old man, you are the threat. You have allowed these periphery barbarians under Thomas Calderon to seize control of the HPGs; you are an embarrassment. An asteroid? Playing puppet-master with Liao and Hasek? Sending the Fleet—what little there is—to Taurus? You would take us from the shadows when we are not ready, Julian. I will not allow it to happen—the Taurians will pay; all who oppose ComStar and the Blood WILL pay.”

“Enlighten me,” Julian said in a bitter voice.

“Have you forgotten your history? The Core means nothing without scientists and engineers to decipher it—the ship means nothing without a trained crew. Holy Shroud III will take care of those individuals . . . even if it requires years.”

Julian winced. “We haven’t enough agents in place,” he protested.

“Soon enough we shall. I have issued orders already—and the Blood are moving to bolster ROM. Burn the books, burn the teachers; and the Bulls will gain nothing but misery from their possession of this Core. As for Thomas,” Vesar shrugged. “He will pay as well. The ruler must bear the price of his people’s sins . . . Thomas and his heirs will die.”

“We have never acted so boldly, Vesar—you are risking it all.”

“I am saving humanity, Julian,” the new Primus of ComStar said simply. “If Thomas needs to die for that to happen, so be it.”

“He’s not the threat—this alliance between Hanse Davion and Katrina Steiner should be our prime concern.”

Vesar snorted. “An Alliance that requires just one additional thing, Julian. One little act where two people—a man and woman—exchange their vows. Stop that simple ceremony and the alliance will never be born.”

“You are mad,” Julian whispered from the bed. “We have never struck directly at the leaders of the Great Houses—they will destroy you. And ComStar. And your precious Blood.”

“Only if they know who is responsible; it matters not the least that you object . . . the orders to terminate Melissa Steiner are already dispatched. With her death, this Federated Commonwealth nonsense will be stillborn—and we can devote our attention to the true threat that is coming.”

Vesar stood as a doctor entered the room, and he sighed. “Time for your medicine, Julian. I’d wish you rest in the security of Blake’s paradise . . . but I don’t believe in that nonsense anymore than you do. Goodbye.”

Julian began to struggle—but he was weak and exhausted; he began to whimper as the doctor filled a syringe with air and injected it into the intravenous drip inserted into his veins. And when the embolism hit his heart, Julian Tiepolo no longer saw or whimpered any longer.
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Re: By the Horns (A BattleTech Alternate Universe)

Post by masterarminas »

First Circuit of ComStar
Hilton Head Island, North America
Terra
November 25, 3025


Vesar Kristofur waited until the last of the sixteen members of First Circuit had entered the chamber and then he nodded at the guards. In response, they bowed low and sealed the doors—completing the enclosure of the Faraday cage built into the walls, isolating the First Circuit from all eavesdropping.

All sixteen were new to their posts; their predecessors having died during the October Coup . . . or the month that had passed since. Yet, new to their posts they may have been, some still had questions for their so-recently ascended Primus. Questions . . . and concerns about the orders which he had issued.

Vesar smiled and he nodded. So be it, he thought. I do not want sycophants advising me or serving me—that path leads to me like Julian Tiepolo and Myndo Waterly. And he nodded to himself. Give me men and women strong enough to question me—to make me consider my actions. A Council worthy of the Blood.

“Precentors, the Chamber is sealed,” he began. “Ask of me your questions—and I shall answer them plainly.”

“This plan, this order, that you have sent out,” snarled Vincent Palmer, Precentor Oriente, “Holy Shroud II failed to accomplish its goals—yet you seek to start this Operation a third time?”

“Our goals are not as ambitious—Holy Shroud I and II both sought to destroy the research accomplished by scientists of the Inner Sphere (and the scientists as well) throughout the entirety of the Inner Sphere. Destroying information on two thousand separate worlds is an ambitious goal, one that we are not attempting to duplicate. Holy Shroud III will be concerned solely with the Taurian Concordat,” Vesar said with a grim smile. “I do believe that ROM and our special operations units augmenting them will be able to deal with scientists and researchers and educators on a mere thirty-eight worlds. We need not destroy the Taurian Core, ladies and gentlemen; if we kill those who can unlock its secrets than it poses to us no threat.”

“The Taurians have already shown that they are not willing to be pushed—look at the blow they dealt to McCarron’s Armored Cavalry!” interjected Tabitha Shaw, Precentor Sian.

“Ah, Tabitha,” Vesar laughed. “But here there is no invasion of the Concordat. No hated foe which to focus the Taurian people against . . . it is a war of knives in the shadows. A war that we excel at . . . and the Taurians will not realize we are coming until it is too late. Their domestic intelligence services are good, I will grant—but they are not in the same league as ROM. Do you disagree?”

“No, Primus,” Precentor Sian answered. “I would caution, however, that Thomas Calderon is not one to underestimate; others—in this very chamber—have already done so to their great regret.”

“You need fear nothing upon that score, Tabitha,” Vesar nodded his agreement. “He may be a barbarian from the Periphery—but he is a crafty and cunning barbarian. Rest assured that soon enough, Thomas will be of no concern to us; nor his family.” The Primus smiled. “In fact, with the demise of the Calderons, I would expect that internal turmoil will occupy the Concordat for years to come.”

“There are a great many Calderons, Primus,” warned Neil Kikwete, Precentor Altair. “Destroying them all is rather . . . ambitious.”

“Forgive me, Precentor Altair,” Vesar laughed. “I should have said the ruling line of the Calderons—once Thomas, his brother and sister—and all of their children—have been eliminated, strife between the remaining Calderons will need no prodding from us to commence. We will, of course, be targeting high-ranking Calderons in their government and military, as well as the ruling line . . . leaving only those distant relations who will squabble and,” Vesar smiled, “with any luck, instigate a Civil War in the Hyades.”

“True,” added Precentor New Avalon, Janice Kirk, “but as you have said, Primus; the Taurian domestic intelligence is rather good. Their security for the Protector—and his family—is substantial.”

“ROM has already considered that . . . haven’t you, Charles?” Vesar answered with a nod at the very young man whom he had appointed to run ComStar’s intelligence agency.

Charles Seneca nodded and he smiled. “We have indeed. It helps that the Calderons do not isolate themselves or their families behind fortifications; they are seen among the denizens of their capital quite frequently . . . which gives my people a shot at accomplishing this task.”

Dennis Rainer (Precentor Tharkad) snorted. “That’s all well and good—but I can tell you for a fact that Melissa Arthur Steiner is a far more difficult target than any of the Calderons.”

Vesar laughed. “She is indeed—but she has a wild heart, Dennis. I do believe that I read in the dossier that she loves to leave behind the Triad and wander in the wilds surrounding Tharkad City . . . with a very small detail trailing her.” He shivered theatrically. “Brings to mind several faerie tales of little princesses getting lost in the woods, all alone. But this faerie tale will not end well for little Melissa; no, not this time.”

“It won’t be as easy as that, Primus,” Dennis said as he shook his head.

“Nothing ever is, Precentor Tharkad,” Vesar answered with a bow. “Any further questions? Inquiries? Requests?”

For a moment there was silence, and then Jan Chow, Precentor Dieron looked up from his podium. “I would know of this . . . sect within our Order known as the Blood. Before this week, I had never heard of them; and yet, with your assumption of power, they are now coming out into the open in great numbers and being set over men and women who have earned their place in our ranks. Primus, I would know who these people are—what is their purpose? And why have they been hidden?”

“Excellent questions, Precentor Dieron,” Vesar answered. “I must ask that you all bear with me—because the story of the Blood is a long one. And I cannot tell you all—but I shall tell you what I can. In 2825, an unknown military unit using SLDF Regular Army equipment and markings attack four worlds in the Draconis Combine: Svelvik, Trondheim, Jarett, and Richmond; in that order. Primus Toyama, fearing that General Kerensky had chosen to return to the Inner Sphere, dispatched a force under the command of Precentor Emilo Travis to investigate this band of soldiers who refused to communicate with anyone."

Vesar paused. "Today, we know these invaders as the Minnesota Tribe . . . so named because of the discovery of two combat patches on the body of one soldier killed during the attacks. The first patch resembled that of the 331st Royal BattleMech Division . . . and contained an outline of the North American province of Minnesota. The second patch was that of a white Wolverine with bloody fangs."

Several of the assembled Precentors nodded . . . so far, the tale was what they had learned long ago. Vesar smiled. "Here, is where truth and reality depart from common knowledge. Precentor Travis DID succeed in making contact with the Tribe . . . the last survivors of a faction of Kerensky's Exodus known as Clan Wolverine. The full tale of why they fled is far too long to recite here today . . . but Precentors, know this. Out there, among the stars, the remnants of Kerensky's Army waits. One day they will return to enslave us all."

The Primus paused again as he turned his gaze on each and every one of the men and women who comprised his First Circuit. "Learning of the plight of these refugees, and no doubt desiring to incorporate yet more of the former SLDF under his own command, Primus Toyama extended to the Tribe his hand in friendship. He offered them refuge in exchange for information concerning the descendants of the SLDF; more than that, he offered the Tribe the opportunity of one day securing their vengeance against the Children of Kerensky."

"You must understand," Vesar said quietly. "The Tribe was all but broken; all but vanquished. Fewer than one-in-twenty of the Warriors who defended them had survived; young Warriors for the most, fresh from training and led by a merest handful of scarred veterans. But the Tribe consisted not only of those Warriors . . .it had civilians to protect. And so, they accepted Toyama's offer. Travis led them through dead systems until they reached Terra . . . but here, Toyama's paranoia poised more difficulties."

Several members of First Council bristled at this statement, but Vesar only smiled sadly. "You believe that Conrad Toyama was infallible, Vincent? You are mistaken. Toyama was but a man with all of the baggage that being a human being carries with him. He feared the Tribe . . . and once they arrived on the surface of Terra, he attempted to disarm them."

Vesar snorted. “Toyama quickly learned the difference in quality between his security forces and the Wolverine soldiers of the Blood Cluster. Despite his fears, the First Circuit managed to convince the Primus—well, along with the three WarShips possessed by the Tribe in orbit over Terra—that a conflict would only harm us all. The Tribe were settled in southern Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, where they mostly remain to this day. It was good that Toyama overcame his distrust, because the Blood had information on several Star League caches . . . worlds abandoned by Kerensky, yet still filled with valuable—priceless!—equipment much needed here on Terra.”

“Over the next century we looted the Five Hidden Worlds,” Vesar shrugged. “Their populations were long gone, lost in the cataclysms of the Succession Wars and to internal conflicts . . . but we salvaged enough to restore the BattleMech factories here on Terra—and the Titan Yards—to full capacity. Tribe scientists worked hand-in-glove with our own researchers and we rebuilt our society . . . but as a part of Earth. Of Terra. Of humanity—not Clan.”

Vesar paused again. “It is funny,” he said finally, “ironic, perhaps is the best word choice. When my ancestors left Kerensky’s dream so long ago, they had just begun experimentations on improving humanity—altering it. Corrupting it. The Clans of Kerensky are the threat that we must be prepared to face, Precentors. They believe in no law, but the law of the gun—might makes right in their society. And if one is not a Warrior . . . well,” Vesar shrugged. “Then he is worthless and has no voice.”

Shocked disbelief registered on the faces of the Precentors and Vesar nodded. “Each one of you—intelligent, educated, and trained to lead would have no voice and no place in their society. That is reserved only for the Warriors who take what—and whom—they want for their own pleasure and gain. Which is why my ancestors fled; Kerensky and his sons abandoned the ideals of the Star League to make a pact with the devil himself. Khan Sarah sacrificed herself and ninety-five percent of the Wolverine Touman in order to give those so very few civilians of her Clan a chance at freedom.”

Silence hung over the chamber, until at last one voice spoke up. “What assets can they provide us with, Primus?” asked Diana Barker, Precentor New Earth.

“Not much at the moment, Precentor,” Vesar said with a sigh. “Short-sighted Primus’ such as Tiepolo and his predecessors limited the Blood in what they could build and train. Fearing a leak, they even prevented my people from conducting research into weapons—weapons that make Star League equipment appear as nothing more than the toys of children playing at war. But that is now changed,” he continued as he lifted his head and nodded. “I have issued orders for our prototypes to be placed in production; for new training cadres to be raised here on Terra; for the ship-yards to restore to working order ALL of our Fleet.”

“It will take time, Precentors—time for us to complete this task. And to do so, we must stop the knowledge of the Taurian Core from spreading and we must end this talk of a Steiner-Davion Alliance.” Vesar bared his teeth and he smiled a wicked smile. “And we must put an end to the Clan spies who lurk among us.”

And on the monitor screen in the background, the emblem of Wolf’s Dragoons appeared.
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Re: By the Horns (A BattleTech Alternate Universe)

Post by Vehrec »

.... No. No, no, no, no, no, this is stupid, this is stupid this is stupid...

FUCK THE FUCKING WOLVERINES, THEY'RE DEAD AND THEY SHOULD STAY DEAD!
Image

Image

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GAAAAAH! If there is one thing I hate more than anything else in battletech, it's their obsession with those stupid, idiotic ex-clanners. And people like them and keep bringing them back, against all sense and logic! Well Fuck that, I'm making my opinion known! This story is dead to me, dead! 1/5 stars, will not recommend.
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Re: By the Horns (A BattleTech Alternate Universe)

Post by Eternal_Freedom »

As a (somewhat more restrained) counterpoint, I'm jolly interested.
Baltar: "I don't want to miss a moment of the last Battlestar's destruction!"
Centurion: "Sir, I really think you should look at the other Battlestar."
Baltar: "What are you babbling about other...it's impossible!"
Centurion: "No. It is a Battlestar."

Corrax Entry 7:17: So you walk eternally through the shadow realms, standing against evil where all others falter. May your thirst for retribution never quench, may the blood on your sword never dry, and may we never need you again.
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Re: By the Horns (A BattleTech Alternate Universe)

Post by Crayz9000 »

Having read Arminias' other works, I think he'll do a decent job of balancing out any issues they may cause. It's one thing to have a secret uberweapon in your back pocket. It's another thing to know how to use it, and Arminias seems to have a good grasp of the damage that can be caused to plans by contact with the enemy.
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Re: By the Horns (A BattleTech Alternate Universe)

Post by masterarminas »

Cháteau des Calderon
Samantha City, Taurus
Taurian Concordat
November 27, 3025


“Happy birthday to you; happy birthday to you; happy birthday, dear Thomas (Uncle, Dad); happy birthday to you!”

Thomas Calderon tried his best to look surprised at the song as the lights snapped on in the third-floor parlor with its balcony overlooking the lake. And through the double doors which led to the hall (and the elevators beyond), the staff were wheeling in a cart and with it, the frosted cake bearing forty-one lit candles.

“Happy birthday, Tom,” his brother Raoul laughed amid the chaos created by Thomas’s three youngest children (well, until the arrival of his next child, for Katherine was visibly expecting), Raoul’s twins, and their sister Nicole’s three! Of his immediate family, only Edward was absent today—and Thomas smiled at the thought of his eldest son.

He was proud of the boy—proud of the way he had conducted himself on New Vallis, and prouder still that he was proving himself a worthy heir to the seat of Samantha Calderon herself. The final battle on New Vallis had proven every bit as bloody as he had feared . . . and it would be months before the forces there managed to recover their full strength, if not a full year or more; Thomas frowned at that. But the salvage recovered—both Taurian and Davion—was sufficient to not only restore those battalions to their pre-fight strength, but might just prove enough to raise another regular force battalion of the TDF.

Thomas snorted as he stepped up the cake and nodded his head at his kin (and security), raising one hand to get (somewhat) silence.

“Thank you all for this wonderful surprise,” he began—although it hadn’t been a surprise, not really anyway. “I have presents of my own for the Concordat—from messages that I received just a short time ago. First, there is an inquiry by Colonel Jaime Wolf of Wolf’s Dragoons as to whether or not the Taurian Concordat would be interested in hiring his Regiments for a five-year contract to garrison our worlds and act as a training OpFor for the TDF to hone its edge.”

“Son of a bitch,” Brenda Calderon—newly returned to Taurus from her fight over MacLeod’s Land—whispered in a shocked voice. Shock that was mirrored on the faces of many of the other adults. Shock that quickly faded into glee as Thomas nodded his head, telling them, yes, this is the truth.

With the Wolves on the border watching the Federated Suns and Capellan Confederation, the fears and warmongering of many of his most Davion-phobic supporters would be—somewhat—relieved. Contracting Wolf would increase the overall strength of the TDF by at least a third . . . and no one in the Inner Sphere discounted the sheer élan and experience of Jaime Wolf and his command. The shot-in-the-arm for morale alone would be worth the expense; the possibility of having Wolf’s troopers teaching their hard-won knowledge to Thomas’s men and women was of inestimable value.

“And secondly,” Thomas’ face grew solemn. “I have received a message from ComStar. Julian Tiepolo has suffered a severe stroke following our actions here in the Concordat,” and a cheer went up from the guests as Thomas smiled, “and he is not expected to live out the month. Primus . . . Kristofur,” he paused to make certain that he got the name correct, “has inquired as to how we want Julian’s head delivered—and when we can begin talks to work out our current . . . differences.”

“Tell them they can stuff their talks up their freakin- . . .,” muttered Raoul, and Thomas laughed. And then he sighed.

“I wish we could, but Vandenberg Mechanized Industries and Taurus Territorial Industries, among others, are already complaining—vehemently!—about the loss of foreign revenue since we have been cut off from ComStar’s banking. And I did tell ComStar that we would talk about a resolution if they sent me Tiepolo’s head,” he snorted. “Wouldn’t want them to think we Taurians don’t keep to our word.”

“They’re gonna ship his head from Terra to Taurus? ICK!” commented Janice, the five-year old daughter of Thomas.

“They want to send a delegation to Taurus?” asked Henri Jouett—one of the few non-family members present today.

“They’ve offered just that—or a meeting on a neutral planet of our choice. And Primus Kristofur has informed me that due to the crimes committed against the Taurian people by Precentor Taurus, he will not be demanding the return of that individual—although he does expect to see a trial under Taurian law. Should we—somehow—find the good Precentor innocent of the charges levied against him, the Primus did indicate that ComStar will prosecute him for abuse of his power on station here. In fact, they already have in absentia and found him guilty—sentenced him to death, to be precise.”

“Holy shit,” whispered Henri—and now the shocked silence was deafening.

“If this offer is genuine,” Thomas continued, “we need to consider it,” and then he scowled. “Of course, they are going to want their HPGs back, so it might not come to much.”

“Enough politics, Tom,” Katherine ordered as she stepped forward and handed the Protector a knife. “You’ve got candles to blow out, the ice cream is starting to melt, and the children—even the grown-up children—want a slice of cake.”

“Yes, dear,” Thomas laughed as he took the knife and leaned over the cake.

“MAKE A WISH!” the children yelled and Thomas closed his eyes and smiled. Then he BLEW. And applause erupted as the forty-one candles were extinguished.

“What did you wish for, Uncle Thomas?” Isabella asked.

“No, dummy,” chimed in Amelia, “you can’t tell anyone your wish or you don’t get it to come true!”

“Not true!”

“Is too!”

“CHILDREN!” boomed Thomas, and the twins stopped their argument. “If you are going to argue, you aren’t getting any of my cake!” he threatened with a wide smile, and the noise level immediately dropped.

“And when everyone has their cake and ice cream,” Raoul said as he walked over and put his arm around Thomas’ shoulders. “Then we will retire to the theatre where Tom will get his present.”

“The theatre?”

“Yes. You have NO IDEA how difficult it was to find an original copy of your favorite movie—or what it took for Taurus Light & Magic to restore it.”

“My fav-. . .,” Thomas sputtered, his eye growing wide. “You got me an original copy of The Magnificent Seven? Not that bull-shit remake from the 2400s?”

“Language, Thomas! There are children here,” Katherine growled, and Thomas waved one hand, acknowledging the point.

“Remastered and the score performed by the Samantha City Symphony Orchestra—complete with performances by that bald-headed fellow you like so much.” He nodded to Nicole, who smiled and she turned on the intercom and the theme from that ancient film began to play throughout the room.

“Oh my god,” whispered Thomas, and then he smiled. “This is the best birthday, EVER.”
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Re: By the Horns (A BattleTech Alternate Universe)

Post by masterarminas »

University of Taurus Campus Quad
Samantha City, Taurus
Taurian Concordat
November 27, 3025


“Max, don’t get too close,” the whispered voice emerged from the wireless receiver hooked over Maxwell Danforth’s right ear.

“Right, CONTROL,” the SAFE agent answered as he sat down on a bench and unfolded his copy of the Samantha City Tribune—one of eight daily newspapers that the Taurian capital boasted of. And probably the best for hard news reporting, Max thought as he opened the old-fashioned hard-copy to a random page and pretended to read . . . while he was actually watching a group of surprisingly fit ‘students’ moving crates into the Performing Arts Center. A structure that was located less than a hundred meters across the tree-lined boulevard from the heavily guarded Computer Sciences Center.

Max sighed and he turned the page, peering over the edge of the news sheets and he shook his head slightly. While today was a national holiday in the Taurian Concordat—the Protector’s Birthday—the campus wasn’t as deserted as he would have thought. No, like the rest of the population of the city, the Taurians had turned out for a PARTY. And Max smiled. Live bands were set up, and the students—and people of similar age and mindset!—were dancing in the streets, sampling food from a hundred different grills and chests, drinking beer and alcohol and coffee alike . . . all waiting for the sun to go down and the fireworks to begin.

The SAFE agent snorted to himself. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise that the Taurians—of all of the major and minor Houses throughout the Inner Sphere and Periphery—were in love with fireworks of all kinds. The official program listed no fewer than eighty-two different displays in the hours leading up to midnight . . . capped off by the multi-million bull display paid for the Calderon family themselves. Never mind the fireworks purchased by individuals who were already letting off screamers and sparklers and poppers.

Max turned the page again as a woman sat down beside him and he glanced across at her and returned her smile.

“You aren’t having any fun, sweetheart,” she said with a bat of her eyes. “Buy a girl a drink?”

“Oh, but I am having fun, my dear,” Max answered as he folded his newspaper and stood, tipping his hat to the young lady. “Watching you and the rest is quite the experience.”

“New to Samantha City?”

“Not really—but this is the first major holiday I’ve spent here,” the field agent answered. “Are they all so . . . raucous?”

She laughed. “Christmas is quiet . . . usually cold and snowing too. The Protector’s Birthday is one of the big ones, though . . . only the Fall and Exodus Celebrations are bigger and louder. Founding Day,” January 23, Max thought, “comes close.”

Max nodded. Only the Taurians had a national holiday celebrating the Fall of the Star League; August 12 of each year. Then, on July 8, they had yet another holiday commemorating the Exodus of the Star League Defense Forces into the unknown. He reached into his pocket and handed the young woman a five-note. “While I don’t have time to buy you a drink, I’ll let you buy one for yourself,” he said with a smile.

The girl beamed at him and she stood and kissed Max on the cheek. “You get some free time tonight, come back and dance with me!” Then she sashayed away, and Max sighed.

“Focus, Maxwell,” said a different voice—a woman’s voice—in his earbug.

“On it, CONTROL,” he answered as folded the newspaper and looked at the very well-defined rear-end of the young lady walking away. “I do have to stay in character though—are you getting the picture okay?”

“We’re getting the picture,” the woman snarled. “The whole picture.”

“Okay—making my pass. Record their faces; we can hope that we have their IDs loaded in the facial recognition program,” he ordered as he placed the newspaper under his arm, adjusted his hat and tie, and then walked down the street and right next to the van that the ‘students’ were unloading.

One of them looked up at Max as he approached, and the agent suddenly took a tumble, holding his ankle and cursing—the man shook his head and ignored Max as he picked up another box and headed inside.

“That wasn’t smart, Maxwell,” the woman hissed.

“You okay?” another student—this one actually looking like a student!—asked Max as he knelt down next to him. “We’ve got an aid station set up right down the street if you need help.”

“Only my pride is bruised, thank you sir,” Max answered. “If you could give me a hand?” he asked as he held out one hand—and the athletic student helped him up as Max looked at his hand-held phone . . . and the blood drained from his cheeks as the device translated the data from the sensor concealed in his right shoe heel.

“Sure you’re okay? You look a little pale,” the good Samaritan asked in a worried tone.

“I’ll be fine, thanks—if you could help me to my car right there?”

“Sure,” the young man answered and he assisted Max to the cheap sedan commonly used by junior instructors at the University, and after reassuring the man that he was indeed fine to drive, Max shut the door and started the engine.

“Uploading the sensor runs now, CONTROL,” he announced. “I picked up traces of Plutonium-239; they’ve either got, or have been close to, a fissile package.”

There was silence for a moment and then the earbug crackled. “We confirm, Max. How many?”

“At least a dozen, CONTROL—too many for us to deal with.”

“Alert Taurian security?” the woman asked as Max started the car and began to back out, then put it in drive and rolled slowly down the street—being careful to keep his eyes away from the van and those unloading it.

“We do that, we lose any chance at nabbing the Core ourselves,” he answered after a moment. “The Bulls will move it and triple security across the board.”

“And we lose it if that bomb goes off, too.”

“You know, CONTROL, my grand-father always said that half-a-loaf is better than no loaf at all.”

“No. No. No, Maxwell Danforth, we are NOT going to invite MI-4 and the others to get in on our play.”

“Option 1, we do nothing and we lose the Core when the big firecracker goes off. Option 2, we call the Taurians and lose the Core because they move it—and the big firecracker might STILL go off. Option 3, we already know they are here—the other agencies. We can’t take these guys alone—I’ll bet you a thousand C-Bills they are Death Commandoes or DEST, probably here on a suicide run. But if we team up, we might still get a copy of the Core and save tens—if not hundreds—of thousands of innocent lives. Depending on how big the firecracker really is.”

The woman groaned. “Central Command on Atreus will go freaking ballistic—we will never get a promotion or a good field assignment again!”

“If you have another idea, I’m open to suggestions,” Max said and then he began to count. Before he reached five, the woman sighed.

“I don’t. And I guess that you know where they are? The Davions and Centrellas and the Steiners and probably even the O’Reilly’s!”

“As a matter of fact, I do know a local café, CONTROL,” Max said with a smile. “Just do me a favor.”

“What?”

“Keep that ass Krogh behind a desk in the Embassy—he’s screwed up this op more than enough already.”

“Done. I left the Ambassador my own handcuffs.”

“The padded ones?” Max asked with a raised eyebrow.

“No, darling, I keep those for you.”

And Maxwell Danforth laughed as he cautiously drove through the celebrating streets of the Taurian capital.
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Re: By the Horns (A BattleTech Alternate Universe)

Post by LadyTevar »

oh. Shit.
Even if this is going to be hilarious fun with all the different Intel folks working together, if they fail, there's gonna be a big boom.
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Re: By the Horns (A BattleTech Alternate Universe)

Post by masterarminas »

Café la Fleur
Samantha City, Taurus
Taurian Concordat
November 27, 3025


Not again, Phil thought as a shadow fell across the table he was sitting at in the bustling café and he looked up at the man who was joining him. It had been a pleasant day, warm for the late autumn, but with a nice gentle breeze blowing through the trees that lined the streets. Streets that were filled with celebrating people and music.

“You have to acknowledge that the Taurians do know how to throw a party,” Victor Li mused as he sat down at the table and sipped at his cup of espresso.

“What do you want?” the MI-4 agent asked sourly, setting down his own cup of sweet—too sweet—iced tea.

“Some of those bar-b-que oysters on the half-shell would be nice—say, is that the famous la Fleur stuffed artichoke you have there?”

Phil frowned, and then he sighed and slid the plates across the table; Victor smiled and he lifted a piece of the artichoke stuffed with peppers and crab meat and placed it within his mouth—he smiled as he chewed with his eyes closed.

“Oh, that is good,” he said after swallowing.

“What do you want?” Phil asked again, and then he frowned as he saw the Samantha City Metro ticket that the Capellan had set on the table. “Going somewhere? Not staying around for the fireworks tonight?”

Victor smiled and he shrugged. “I hear the fishing is good along the coast—they are biting tonight.”

Phil’s eyes narrowed and he shook his head. “Your boys are making a play for the Core tonight—we both know that they are. Why are you leaving before the job is done?”

“Not my boys—they don’t work for me,” the Capellan answered as he placed the ticket back in his jacket pocket. “And they don’t play by the normal rules, Phil,” he warned.

The Davion agent nodded slowly. “Didn’t think they looked like normal field agents from the Mask—Death Commandoes?”

Victor smiled, but he said nothing, and Phil nodded again.

“The Chancellors bully-boys themselves; they planning on shooting their way in and extracting the Core?”

“Phil,” Victor chuckled. “I do like you—you are one of the better agents that Quintus has out here in the real world. You know I cannot answer that.”

“I know that you wouldn’t be leaving on the eve of the mission getting underway . . . unless,” Phil suddenly cursed and he sucked in a deep breath of air.

“The fireworks will be rather . . . spectacular tonight, so I understand,” the Capellan said with a nod. And then his face grew rather serious. “If things go according to plan, I would imagine that you could see them from orbit!”

Phil looked around, but the two men were—relatively—isolated in the bustling open-air patio. He leaned forward and whispered. “Are they out of their fucking minds?”

Victor shrugged again. “To those men, the mission comes first—and if the Chancellor cannot have the Core, then no one will.”

“The Bulls will go berserk, Victor,” Phil hissed quietly, and then he blanched. “Michael. You got Davion warheads from Michael, didn’t you?”

Victor smiled—but he didn’t answer. He didn’t need to.

“Shit, shit, shit,” whispered Phil. “Why tell me?”

“I respect you—you are a worthy opponent, Phil Sheridan. You can do as I am doing—and leave Samantha City before the . . . display erupts. Or, you can try to stop them from lighting the fuse. Either way, I owe you for the time you saved my life on Kittery. Consider that debt payed, whichever choice you make.”

Phil sat back and he exhaled slowly . . . and he nodded. Field intelligence work sometimes made for strange bed-fellows, he thought. And if Victor Li was anything, it was honorable. Or as honorable as the job allowed for.

“You won’t be lending a hand, I presume?”

“Against loyal Capellans operating at—what has to be—the direct authority of the Chancellor? Would you go against an operation that you knew Hanse Davion had started—even if you objected?”

“I’d like to think so,” muttered Phil, “but it would all depend on the circumstances.”

Victor bowed his head, lifting one hand to acknowledge the point.

“What the hell am I supposed to do?” Phil asked in a bitter voice. “I’ve got two other field agents—both MI-4—tasked with observing this cluster-fuck, not getting in the way. There are at least a dozen of those Commandoes—how the hell can I stop them by myself?”

“Well, you can ask for help,” chuckled a woman’s soprano voice, and Phil groaned as Victor smiled.

“Nicky Kirkland,” the Capellan said as he rose to his feet. “It is good to see you again,” he told the MIM agent. “And your companion?”

“Victor Li, Phil Sheridan,” she said with a smile, “may I introduce Hauptmann-Kommandant Gerhadt Manstein.”

“Retired Hauptmann-Kommandant, my dear,” the Lyran added. “Now, I am just a Lyran businessman who seeks to return a profit to my home.”

Phil cursed again, and Victor chuckled. “And business is good, ja?” the Capellan asked.

“Business . . . could be better,” Gerhadt answered. “It has been difficult to break into the Taurian markets. At least through conventional practices.”

“This just gets better and better,” muttered Phil. “A Norn and Nicky. This is my backup? To stop your guys?”

“They are not my guys,” Victor repeated. And then his smile got even larger. “And it looks as if we have two more guests arriving.”

“Does everyone on this freaking planet know we are foreign agents?” Phil muttered.

“Only those of us who take the time and effort to observe, Mister Sheridan,” Maxwell Danforth answered as he took off his hat and bowed to the Canopian agent, “Madame, it is a pleasure,” he said as he kissed the back of her hand.

“Phil, you could learn a thing or two from this gentlemen . . . who is?” Nicky cooed as she batted her eyelids.

“Maxwell Danforth—agent of SAFE,” the Marik spy answered.

“SAFE?” four surprised voices sputtered in unison.

“SAFE,” Maxwell said with a grin, “you don’t think we are ALL as incompetent as Walter Krogh, do you?”

No one answered and Max laughed. “And may I introduce to you Osami Koga, of the Draconis Combine Internal Security Force.”

“Who’s next—the Outworlders?”

“They are busy trying to find the Core on the Gamma continent,” Maxwell answered with a grin. “But we—we six—have something that we must discuss. A certain Death Commando operation that will kill many, many innocent Taurians this very night unless we manage to stop it.”

“I am here because you asked, Danforth,” replied the Kurita, “but why should I care about the lives of Taurians, innocent or otherwise?”

“Because the Commandoes will be destroying the Core that your master sent you to recover, Osami,” Max answered simply. “The Core that we are ALL tasked with recovering. I doubt that any of you have orders NOT to cooperate with other agents—I know I don’t.”

“That’s because it is so insane that none of our superiors would WRITE such an order!” sputtered Phil, and there were nods of agreement.

“A dozen Death Commandoes and at least one nuclear device, ladies and gentlemen,” Maxwell continued. “Alone, we cannot stop them from reaching the Core and destroying it—along with a good part of Samantha City. Together? Ah, together,” he said with a smile. “Together, we can stop them AND recover a copy of the Core for our superiors.”

“You say that as if we do not have our own plans for the Core,” replied Nicky.

“You mean those two nubile young women you have snuck into the chief researcher’s bed, Miss Kirkland? Yes, they will DIE tonight when the Death Commandoes barge in . . . and those Commandoes will seize their copy of the Core that they are making. And then the nuke will go off.”

She started. “How the hell did you . . .,” she began.

“We aren’t all Walter Krogh, my dear. My team and I have been watching you since you arrived on Taurus—and I have access to certain . . . equipment that can even the odds.”

There was silence for a moment and then Phil sighed again. “We team up and stop the Death Commandoes and get a copy of the Core—what’s going to keep one of us from back-stabbing the rest and running off with it?”

Maxwell laughed. “My dear Phil—the game will be afoot! That is all part of the fun.”

And one by one, each of the field agents slowly nodded—even Victor and Phil.

“Good. We don’t have a lot of time, so if you will join me at my safe house, we have MUCH to discuss and prepare for,” Maxwell finished as he stood and threw a hundred-bull note on the table.
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Re: By the Horns (A BattleTech Alternate Universe)

Post by Crayz9000 »

I don't suppose that dear Maxwell's lady friend at CONTROL happens to be Agent 99... :D
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Re: By the Horns (A BattleTech Alternate Universe)

Post by masterarminas »

At long last, the story of By the Horns continues. A few words before we begin. As I started examining this story again, I realized that I had written myself into a bind by bringing the Blood and Wolverines into the story with Vesar. It just didn't work . . . and so I have changed it. I will be reposting from Chapter Three with the re-written sections of that arc. I hope that it works better. New parts will resume starting tomorrow morning.

Enjoy.

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Re: By the Horns (A BattleTech Alternate Universe)

Post by masterarminas »

Chapter Three

ComStar Executive Medical Facility
Hilton Head Island, North America
Terra
November 24, 3025


Julian Tiepolo woke with a sudden gasp—he attempted to sit up, but a sudden weakness caused him to collapse back upon the bed. He tried to speak, but his throat was extremely dry and only a hacking cough emerged.

“The sleeper wakes,” a quiet voice said as the lights slowly increased the room’s illumination. “Here—sip this,” and the face of a dark-haired, rough-hewn physician came into Julian’s vision holding a cup with a straw sticking out of the lid.

Julian tried to sip, but his throat was too dry, too constricted, and the man sighed. He raised the cup at an angle and slowly water trickled down the straw and Julian gratefully swallowed.

“Enough, Primus?” the man asked as he took away the cup—and Julian nodded.

“Do not try to speak yet,” the doctor ordered as he checked his patients vital signs and returned the cup to a tray. “I called for those in charge of this mad-house when you began to emerge from your coma.”

“C-c-oma?” Julian asked in a weak voice, and he began to cough.

“It was necessary to allow your heart and brain to recover—you suffered a near-fatal combination of cardiac arrest and a mid-grade stroke.” The doctor snorted in amusement. “Perhaps it should have been fatal; but the equipment you people have here is astonishing.”

The Primus blinked. And then he realized he didn’t recognize this physician—and he knew personally all of ComStar’s senior medical personnel on Terra. He began to open his mouth, but the door swung open and a smiling man with hair the color of sand entered the room. He was tall, lean, and he wore the pure white robes only allowed to the holder of the title Primus.

“Ves-Ves-Vesar?” Julian stammered.

“Ah, you do remember after all,” Vesar Kristofur said with a bow. “How are you feeling?” he asked with a slightly sardonic smile on his face. “No chest pains? No numbness in the hands?”

“Where is Nicolas?” Julian whispered.

“Dead—my successor as Precentor ROM is dead, Julian,” Vesar said bluntly and Julian looked up in alarm. “So is Myndo Waterly—the two idiots nearly destroyed Hilton Head in the war they fought against each other; the rest of the First Circuit were simply . . . collateral damage.”

Julian blinked. “How long was . . .,”

“Were you sleeping? The doctors have kept you in a medically induced coma for the past month, Primus. To ensure your eventual recovery.”

“A MONTH?” Julian hissed in alarm.

“Yes—well, twenty-seven days to be exact since your heart attack and stroke.”

“Wh-who’s in charge?”

“Well, since you asked,” Vesar chuckled as he pointed a thumb at his own chest and the robes he wore.

“I exiled you, Vesar.”

“Yes. Yes you did, Julian,” he said as he shook his head. “But given the recent . . . events in the Concordat, certain members of the First Circuit . . . suggested that I return. I was already en route when you suffered your attack and ComStar nearly suffered a schism which we could ill afford.”

Julian blanched. “You do not have the support,” he whispered.

“I did not—not when you controlled the First Circuit so tightly, old friend,” Vesar smiled again. “But Nicholas and Myndo managed to eliminate them with quite the bang—and you weren’t here. No one was here to stop me from putting an end to the violence. For reminding our people of what ComStar has as its mission—to unite Mankind once more under our rule. Rule from Terra, Julian.”

“I’ll fight you—you know that.”

“I do. But it is a small matter, Julian. You have been complacent and failed—I shall not. This matter with the Taurians has gotten too far out of hand when it should have been handled far more directly far sooner,” and he grinned.

“You threaten all that ComStar stands for,” Julian pleaded.

“Old man, you are the threat. You have allowed these periphery barbarians under Thomas Calderon to seize control of the HPGs; you are an embarrassment. An asteroid? Playing puppet-master with Liao and Hasek? Sending the Fleet—what little there is—to Taurus? An outline of a plan to kidnap Edward Calderon and replace him with a dupe . . . or brainwash him into your puppet? You would take us from the shadows when we are not ready, Julian. I will not allow it to happen—the Taurians will pay; all who oppose ComStar WILL pay.”

“Enlighten me,” Julian said in a bitter voice.

“Have you forgotten your history? The Core means nothing without scientists and engineers to decipher it—the ship means nothing without a trained crew. Holy Shroud III will take care of those individuals . . . even if it requires years.”

Julian winced. “We haven’t enough agents in place,” he protested.

“Soon enough we shall. I have issued orders already—and ROM is moving. Soon enough the assets will be in place and we will strike at the heart of the matter. Burn the books, burn the teachers; and the Bulls will gain nothing but misery from their possession of this Core. As for Thomas,” Vesar shrugged. “He will pay as well. The ruler must bear the price of his people’s sins . . . Thomas and his heirs will die.”

“We have never acted so boldly, Vesar—you are risking it all.”

“I am saving humanity, Julian,” the new Primus of ComStar said simply. “If Thomas needs to die for that to happen, so be it.”

“He’s not the threat—this alliance between Hanse Davion and Katrina Steiner should be your concern.”

Vesar snorted. “An Alliance that requires just one additional thing, Julian. One little act where two people—a man and woman—exchange their vows. Stop that simple ceremony and the alliance will never be born.”

“You are mad,” Julian whispered from the bed. “We have never struck directly at the leaders of the Great Houses—they will destroy you. And ComStar.”

“Only if they know who is responsible; it matters not the least that you object . . . the orders to terminate Melissa Steiner are already dispatched. With her death, this Federated Commonwealth nonsense will be stillborn—and we can devote our attention to the true threat that is coming.”

Vesar stood as a doctor entered the room, and he sighed. “I fear that it is past time for your reign to end, Julian. The good surgeon here—one of my people, mind you—has the final dose of your medications. I’d wish you a peaceful rest in Blake’s arms . . . but I don’t believe in that nonsense anymore than you do. Goodbye.” Vesar turned and he exited the room as the physician approached with a syringe in his hand.

Julian began to struggle—but he was weak and exhausted; he began to whimper as the doctor inserted the needle into the intravenous drip connected to his veins, and he began to cry as the cold liquid entered his blood-stream. All around him faded to black and his limbs felt as heavy as lead; within minutes Julian Tiepolo no longer saw or whimpered any longer as his eyes closed for the last time.


First Circuit of ComStar
Hilton Head Island, North America
Terra
November 25, 3025


Vesar Kristofur waited until the last of the sixteen members of First Circuit had entered the chamber and then he nodded at the guards. In response, they bowed low and sealed the doors—completing the enclosure of the Faraday cage built into the walls, isolating the First Circuit from all eavesdropping.

All sixteen were new to their posts; their predecessors having died during the October Coup . . . or the month that had passed since. Yet, new to their posts they may have been, some still had questions for their so-recently ascended Primus. Questions . . . and concerns about the orders which he had issued.

Vesar smiled and he nodded. So be it, he thought. I do not want sycophants advising me or serving me—that path leads to me like Julian Tiepolo and Myndo Waterly. And he nodded to himself. Give me men and women strong enough to question me—to make me consider my actions. A Council worthy of serving me—serving Terra.

“Precentors, the Chamber is sealed,” he began. “Ask of me your questions—and I shall answer them plainly.”

“This plan, this order, that you have sent out,” snarled Vincent Palmer, Precentor Oriente, “Holy Shroud II failed to accomplish its goals—yet you seek to start this Operation a third time?”

“Our goals are not as ambitious—Holy Shroud I and II both sought to destroy the research accomplished by scientists of the Inner Sphere, and the scientists as well, throughout the entirety of the Inner Sphere. Destroying information on two thousand separate worlds is an ambitious goal, one that we are not attempting to duplicate. Holy Shroud III will be concerned solely with the Taurian Concordat,” Vesar said with a grim smile. “I do believe that ROM and our special operations units augmenting them will be able to deal with scientists and researchers and educators on a mere thirty-eight worlds. We need not destroy the Taurian Core, ladies and gentlemen; if we kill those who can unlock its secrets than it poses to us no threat.”

“The Taurians have already shown that they are not willing to be pushed—look at the blow they dealt to McCarron’s Armored Cavalry!” interjected Tabitha Shaw, Precentor Sian.

“Ah, Tabitha,” Vesar laughed. “But here there is no invasion of the Concordat. No hated foe which to focus the Taurian people against . . . it is a war of knives in the shadows. A war that we excel at . . . and the Taurians will not realize we are coming until it is too late. Their domestic intelligence services are good, I will grant—but they are not in the same league as ROM. Do you disagree?”

“No, Primus,” Precentor Sian answered. “I would caution, however, that Thomas Calderon is not one to underestimate; others—in this very chamber—have already done so to their great regret.”

“You need fear nothing upon that score, Tabitha,” Vesar nodded his agreement. “He may be a barbarian from the Periphery—but he is a crafty and cunning barbarian. Rest assured that soon enough, Thomas will be of no concern to us; nor his family.” The Primus smiled. “In fact, with the demise of the Calderons, I would expect that internal turmoil will occupy the Concordat for years to come.”

“There are a great many Calderons, Primus,” warned Neil Kikwete, Precentor Altair. “Destroying them all is rather . . . ambitious.”

“Forgive me, Precentor Altair,” Vesar laughed. “I should have said the ruling line of the Calderons—once Thomas, his brother and sister—and all of their children—have been eliminated, strife between the remaining Calderons will need no prodding from us to commence. We will, of course, be targeting high-ranking Calderons in their government and military, as well as the ruling line . . . leaving only those distant relations who will squabble and,” Vesar smiled, “with no small amount of gentle prodding, instigate a Civil War in the Hyades.”

“True,” added Precentor New Avalon, Janice Kirk, “but as you have said, Primus; the Taurian domestic intelligence is rather good. Their security for the Protector—and his family—is substantial.”

“ROM has already considered that . . . haven’t you, Charles?” Vesar answered with a nod at the very young man whom he had appointed to run ComStar’s intelligence agency.

Charles Seneca nodded and he smiled. “We have indeed. It helps that the Calderons do not isolate themselves or their families behind fortifications; they are seen among the denizens of their capital quite frequently . . . which gives my people a shot at accomplishing this task.”

Dennis Rainer (Precentor Tharkad) snorted. “That’s all well and good—but I can tell you for a fact that Melissa Arthur Steiner is a far more difficult target.”

Vesar laughed. “She is indeed—but she has a wild heart, Dennis. I do believe that I read in the dossier that she loves to leave behind the Triad and wander in the wilds surrounding Tharkad City . . . with a very small detail trailing her.” He shivered theatrically. “Brings to mind several faerie tales of little princesses getting lost in the woods, all alone. But this faerie tale will not end well for little Melissa; no, not this time.”

“It won’t be as easy as that, Primus,” Dennis said as he shook his head.

“Nothing ever is, Precentor Tharkad,” Vesar answered with a bow. “Any further questions? Inquiries? Requests?”

For a moment there was silence, and then Jan Chow, Precentor Dieron looked up from his podium. “I would know of these . . . foreign mercenaries which you brought with you to Terra. They are not ComStar, but now? With your assumption of power? Now, they are here in great numbers, even more arriving with every DropShip—and their equipment!” Chow barked in trepidation. “These are no mere mercenaries, there are not enough mercenaries available for you to have hired them on such short notice!”

Vesar laughed. “I was exiled to the Periphery after the Marik Civil War, Precentor Dieron. Not to serve as an honored Precentor on Canopus or Taurus or Alphard—no,” he continued in a sour, bitter voice. “Julian Tiepolo sent me away to die in ignominy. But he never considered what I might discover out there in the long-lost stars of what was once the Rim Worlds Republic.” Vesar paused and then he nodded.

“I discovered—rediscovered,” he corrected himself with a smile, “a group of eight worlds reduced to barbarism almost eight years ago,” and his smile vanished. “Eight years. It is hard to believe that such time has passed, for I have been busy in the Periphery.” He paused again and nodded, then he continued. “Kerensky and his campaign was thorough in the Rim Worlds—and the Lyrans finished that realm after the Exodus. But the man wasn’t a god and the speed with which he had to finish the campaign and turn his attention to Stefan Amaris on Terra; well,” he grinned again. “Let us say that he missed some choice assets that Amaris had gone to a great deal of trouble to conceal.”

“Rim-worlders?” Precentor Kirk asked in an incredulous voice.

Vesar nodded his head. “Incredible, is it not? Eight worlds that lost the ability to travel between the stars—whose populations reverted to barbarism and a mythology concerning Stefan the ‘Great’ and his promise to one day return to them. The factories there were long-ruined, but for many, many years after they lost contact with the Inner Sphere and Stefan Amaris, they continued to produce and store military equipment. The same factories that provided the Territorial States with the hidden armies they used to good effect in the Uprising.”

A shocked gasp emerged from the ranks of the Precentors and Vesar’s grin grew larger. “They may be barbarians and unused to our amenities—quite mocking of the truth of Blake’s Word as well—but they retained their warrior culture. And they have agreed to serve me. Only me,” he said sternly as the smile vanished and the temperature in the First Circuit seemed to drop several degrees.

“How large a force are we speaking of?” asked Precentor Shaw.

“They have three thousand ‘Mechs in storage—ten times that number of tanks. And in a few years time, they will have enough trained soldiers to man all of that equipment.”

“Rim Worlds equipment from before the Coup—our own ComGuard and Militia uses advanced Star League combat vehicles and ‘Mechs. Will not this dilute our force strength?” Tabitha Shaw continued.

Vesar laughed a second time. “Quantity has a quality all its own, Tabitha. And twenty-seven plus regiments of ‘Mechs—ten times of armor—is a force that make even the Great Houses stand up and take notice.”

The Precentors began to exchange glances with each other, nervous and worried. “Can you trust these neo-barbarians from the Rim, Primus?” Palmer asked.

And now the laughter of Vesar Kristofur deepened and he slapped his own knee in amusement. “I do not trust you, Precentor Oriente—I trust no one. Not anymore,” he said after he finished his laughter. “The ComGuard will be expanding as well and when we recover all of their equipment, then we will dispose of the Periphery trash piloting those ‘Mechs. And replace them with good, loyal members of ComStar.” His grinned became infectious. “Firm believers in the Word of Blake and the Supremacy of Terra one and all.” He gestured at the First Circuit. “Unless, that is, one of you have a better plan to deal with all of the many threats arrayed against this organization at this time?”

For several moments there was only silence as one by one, the Precentors exchanged glances and then slowly nodded. Finally, Precentor Atreus spoke. “I move that the First Circuit approve the plans suggested by the Primus—by acclamation. I see no need to bring it to an official vote; is there a second?”

“Aye,” another Precentor whispered.

“All in favor?” Vesar said in an amiable voice—and he smiled wider as each and every member of the First Circuit spoke at the same time. “Good. Then let us begin.”
masterarminas
Jedi Master
Posts: 1039
Joined: 2012-04-09 11:06pm

Re: By the Horns (A BattleTech Alternate Universe)

Post by masterarminas »

Cháteau des Calderon
Samantha City, Taurus
Taurian Concordat
November 27, 3025


“Happy birthday to you; happy birthday to you; happy birthday, dear Thomas (Uncle, Dad); happy birthday to you!”

Thomas Calderon tried his best to look surprised at the song as the lights snapped on in the third-floor parlor with its balcony overlooking the lake. And through the double doors which led to the hall (and the elevators beyond), the staff were wheeling in a cart and with it, the frosted cake bearing forty-one lit candles.

“Happy birthday, Tom,” his brother Raoul laughed amid the chaos created by Thomas’s three youngest children (well, until the arrival of his next child, for Katherine was visibly expecting), Raoul’s twins, and their sister Nicole’s three! Of his immediate family, only Edward was absent today—and Thomas smiled at the thought of his eldest son.

He was proud of the boy—proud of the way he had conducted himself on New Vallis, and prouder still that he was proving himself a worthy heir to the seat of Samantha Calderon herself. The final battle on New Vallis had proven every bit as bloody as he had feared . . . and it would be months before the forces there managed to recover their full strength, if not a full year or more; Thomas frowned at that. But the salvage recovered—both Taurian and Davion—was sufficient to not only restore those battalions to their pre-fight strength, but might just prove enough to raise another regular force battalion of the TDF.

Thomas snorted as he stepped up the cake and nodded his head at his kin (and security), raising one hand to get (somewhat) silence.

“Thank you all for this wonderful surprise,” he began—although it hadn’t been a surprise, not really anyway. “I have presents of my own for the Concordat—from messages that I received just a short time ago. First, there is an inquiry by Colonel Jaime Wolf of Wolf’s Dragoons as to whether or not the Taurian Concordat would be interested in hiring his Regiments for a five-year contract to garrison our worlds and act as a training OpFor for the TDF to hone its edge.”

“Son of a bitch,” Brenda Calderon—newly returned to Taurus from her fight over MacLeod’s Land—whispered in a shocked voice. Shock that was mirrored on the faces of many of the other adults. Shock that quickly faded into glee as Thomas nodded his head, telling them, yes, this is the truth.

With the Wolves on the border watching the Federated Suns and Capellan Confederation, the fears and warmongering of many of his most Davion-phobic supporters would be—somewhat—relieved. Contracting Wolf would increase the overall strength of the TDF by at least a third . . . and no one in the Inner Sphere discounted the sheer élan and experience of Jaime Wolf and his command. The shot-in-the-arm for morale alone would be worth the expense; the possibility of having Wolf’s troopers teaching their hard-won knowledge to Thomas’s men and women was of inestimable value.

“And secondly,” Thomas’ face grew solemn. “I have received a message from ComStar. Julian Tiepolo has suffered a severe stroke following our actions here in the Concordat,” and a cheer went up from the guests as Thomas smiled, “and he is not expected to live out the month. Primus . . . Kristofur,” he paused to make certain that he got the name correct, “has inquired as to how we want Julian’s head delivered—and when we can begin talks to work out our current . . . differences.”

“Tell them they can stuff their talks up their freakin- . . .,” muttered Raoul, and Thomas laughed. And then he sighed.

“I wish we could, but Vandenberg Mechanized Industries and Taurus Territorial Industries, among others, are already complaining—vehemently!—about the loss of foreign revenue since we have been cut off from ComStar’s banking. And I did tell ComStar that we would talk about a resolution if they sent me Tiepolo’s head,” he snorted. “Wouldn’t want them to think we Taurians don’t keep to our word.”

“They’re gonna ship his head from Terra to Taurus? ICK!” commented Janice, the five-year old daughter of Thomas.

“They want to send a delegation to Taurus?” asked Henri Jouett—one of the few non-family members present today.

“They’ve offered just that—or a meeting on a neutral planet of our choice. And Primus Kristofur has informed me that due to the crimes committed against the Taurian people by Precentor Taurus, he will not be demanding the return of that individual—although he does expect to see a trial under Taurian law. Should we—somehow—find the good Precentor innocent of the charges levied against him, the Primus did indicate that ComStar will prosecute him for abuse of his power on station here. In fact, they already have in absentia and found him guilty—sentenced him to death, to be precise.”

“Holy shit,” whispered Henri—and now the shocked silence was deafening.

“If this offer is genuine,” Thomas continued, “we need to consider it,” and then he scowled. “Of course, they are going to want their HPGs back, so it might not come to much.”

“Enough politics, Tom,” Katherine ordered as she stepped forward and handed the Protector a knife. “You’ve got candles to blow out, the ice cream is starting to melt, and the children—even the grown-up children—want a slice of cake.”

“Yes, dear,” Thomas laughed as he took the knife and leaned over the cake.

“MAKE A WISH!” the children yelled and Thomas closed his eyes and smiled. Then he BLEW. And applause erupted as the forty-one candles were extinguished.

“What did you wish for, Uncle Thomas?” Isabella asked.

“No, dummy,” chimed in Amelia, “you can’t tell anyone your wish or you don’t get it to come true!”

“Not true!”

“Is too!”

“CHILDREN!” boomed Thomas, and the twins stopped their argument. “If you are going to argue, you aren’t getting any of my cake!” he threatened with a wide smile, and the noise level immediately dropped.

“And when everyone has their cake and ice cream,” Raoul said as he walked over and put his arm around Thomas’ shoulders. “Then we will retire to the theatre where Tom will get his present.”

“The theatre?”

“Yes. You have NO IDEA how difficult it was to find an original copy of your favorite movie—or what it took for Taurus Light & Magic to restore it.”

“My fav-. . .,” Thomas sputtered, his eye growing wide. “You got me an original copy of The Magnificent Seven? Not that bull-shit remake from the 2400s?”

“Language, Thomas! There are children here,” Katherine growled, and Thomas waved one hand, acknowledging the point.

“Remastered and the score performed by the Samantha City Symphony Orchestra—complete with performances by that bald-headed fellow you like so much.” He nodded to Nicole, who smiled and she turned on the intercom and the theme from that ancient film began to play throughout the room.

“Oh my god,” whispered Thomas, and then he smiled. “This is the best birthday, EVER.”
masterarminas
Jedi Master
Posts: 1039
Joined: 2012-04-09 11:06pm

Re: By the Horns (A BattleTech Alternate Universe)

Post by masterarminas »

University of Taurus Campus Quad
Samantha City, Taurus
Taurian Concordat
November 27, 3025


“Max, don’t get too close,” the whispered voice emerged from the wireless receiver hooked over Maxwell Danforth’s right ear.

“Right, CONTROL,” the SAFE agent answered as he sat down on a bench and unfolded his copy of the Samantha City Tribune—one of eight daily newspapers that the Taurian capital boasted of. And probably the best for hard news reporting, Max thought as he opened the old-fashioned hard-copy to a random page and pretended to read . . . while he was actually watching a group of surprisingly fit ‘students’ moving crates into the Performing Arts Center. A structure that was located less than a hundred meters across the tree-lined boulevard from the heavily guarded Computer Sciences Center.

Max sighed and he turned the page, peering over the edge of the news sheets and he shook his head slightly. While today was a national holiday in the Taurian Concordat—the Protector’s Birthday—the campus wasn’t as deserted as he would have thought. No, like the rest of the population of the city, the Taurians had turned out for a PARTY. And Max smiled. Live bands were set up, and the students—and people of similar age and mindset!—were dancing in the streets, sampling food from a hundred different grills and chests, drinking beer and alcohol and coffee alike . . . all waiting for the sun to go down and the fireworks to begin.

The SAFE agent snorted to himself. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise that the Taurians—of all of the major and minor Houses throughout the Inner Sphere and Periphery—were in love with fireworks of all kinds. The official program listed no fewer than eighty-two different displays in the hours leading up to midnight . . . capped off by the multi-million bull display paid for the Calderon family themselves. Never mind the fireworks purchased by individuals who were already letting off screamers and sparklers and poppers.

Max turned the page again as a woman sat down beside him and he glanced across at her and returned her smile.

“You aren’t having any fun, sweetheart,” she said with a bat of her eyes. “Buy a girl a drink?”

“Oh, but I am having fun, my dear,” Max answered as he folded his newspaper and stood, tipping his hat to the young lady. “Watching you and the rest is quite the experience.”

“New to Samantha City?”

“Not really—but this is the first major holiday I’ve spent here,” the field agent answered. “Are they all so . . . raucous?”

She laughed. “Christmas is quiet . . . usually cold and snowing too. The Protector’s Birthday is one of the big ones, though . . . only the Fall and Exodus Celebrations are bigger and louder. Founding Day,” January 23, Max thought, “comes close.”

Max nodded. Only the Taurians had a national holiday celebrating the Fall of the Star League; August 12 of each year. Then, on July 8, they had yet another holiday commemorating the Exodus of the Star League Defense Forces into the unknown. He reached into his pocket and handed the young woman a five-note. “While I don’t have time to buy you a drink, I’ll let you buy one for yourself,” he said with a smile.

The girl beamed at him and she stood and kissed Max on the cheek. “You get some free time tonight, come back and dance with me!” Then she sashayed away, and Max sighed.

“Focus, Maxwell,” said a different voice—a woman’s voice—in his earbug.

“On it, CONTROL,” he answered as folded the newspaper and looked at the very well-defined rear-end of the young lady walking away. “I do have to stay in character though—are you getting the picture okay?”

“We’re getting the picture,” the woman snarled. “The whole picture.”

“Okay—making my pass. Record their faces; we can hope that we have their IDs loaded in the facial recognition program,” he ordered as he placed the newspaper under his arm, adjusted his hat and tie, and then walked down the street and right next to the van that the ‘students’ were unloading.

One of them looked up at Max as he approached, and the agent suddenly took a tumble, holding his ankle and cursing—the man shook his head and ignored Max as he picked up another box and headed inside.

“That wasn’t smart, Maxwell,” the woman hissed.

“You okay?” another student—this one actually looking like a student!—asked Max as he knelt down next to him. “We’ve got an aid station set up right down the street if you need help.”

“Only my pride is bruised, thank you sir,” Max answered. “If you could give me a hand?” he asked as he held out one hand—and the athletic student helped him up as Max looked at his hand-held phone . . . and the blood drained from his cheeks as the device translated the data from the sensor concealed in his right shoe heel.

“Sure you’re okay? You look a little pale,” the good Samaritan asked in a worried tone.

“I’ll be fine, thanks—if you could help me to my car right there?”

“Sure,” the young man answered and he assisted Max to the cheap sedan commonly used by junior instructors at the University, and after reassuring the man that he was indeed fine to drive, Max shut the door and started the engine.

“Uploading the sensor runs now, CONTROL,” he announced. “I picked up traces of Plutonium-239; they’ve either got, or have been close, to a fissile package.”

There was silence for a moment and then the earbug crackled. “We confirm, Max. How many?”

“At least a dozen, CONTROL—too many for us to deal with.”

“Alert Taurian security?” the woman asked as Max started the car and began to back out, then put it in drive and rolled slowly down the street—being careful to keep his eyes away from the van and those unloading it.

“We do that, we lose any chance at nabbing the Core ourselves,” he answered after a moment. “The Bulls will move it and triple security across the board.”

“And we lose it if that bomb goes off, too.”

“You know, CONTROL, my grand-father always said that half-a-loaf is better than no loaf at all.”

“No. No. No, Maxwell Danforth, we are NOT going to invite MI-4 and the others to get in on our play.”

“Option 1, we do nothing and we lose the Core when the big firecracker goes off. Option 2, we call the Taurians and lose the Core because they move it—and the big firecracker might STILL go off. Option 3, we already know they are here—the other agencies. We can’t take these guys alone—I’ll bet you a thousand C-Bills they are Death Commandoes or DEST, probably here on a suicide run. But if we team up, we might still get a copy of the Core and save tens—if not hundreds—of thousands of innocent lives. Depending on how big the firecracker really is.”

The woman groaned. “Central Command on Atreus will go freaking ballistic—we will never get a promotion or a good field assignment again!”

“If you have another idea, I’m open to suggestions,” Max said and then he began to count. Before he reached five, the woman sighed.

“I don’t. And I guess that you know where they are? The Davions and Centrellas and the Steiners and probably even the O’Reilly’s!”

“As a matter of fact, I do know a local café, CONTROL,” Max said with a smile. “Just do me a favor.”

“What?”

“Keep that ass Krogh behind a desk in the Embassy—he’s screwed up this op more than enough already.”

“Done. I left the Ambassador my own handcuffs.”

“The padded ones?” Max asked with a raised eyebrow.

“No, darling, I keep those for you.”

And Maxwell Danforth laughed as he cautiously drove through the celebrating streets of the Taurian capital.


Café la Fleur
Samantha City, Taurus
Taurian Concordat
November 27, 3025


Not again, Phil thought as a shadow fell across the table he was sitting at in the bustling café and he looked up at the man who was joining him. It had been a pleasant day, warm for the late autumn, but with a nice gentle breeze blowing through the trees that lined the streets. Streets that were filled with celebrating people and music.

“You have to acknowledge that the Taurians do know how to throw a party,” Victor Li mused as he sat down at the table and sipped at his cup of espresso.

“What do you want?” the MI-4 agent asked sourly, setting down his own cup of sweet—too sweet—iced tea.

“Some of those bar-b-que oysters on the half-shell would be nice—say, is that the famous la Fleur stuffed artichoke you have there?”

Phil frowned, and then he sighed and slid the plates across the table; Victor smiled and he lifted a piece of the artichoke stuffed with peppers and crab meat and placed it within his mouth—he smiled as he chewed with his eyes closed.

“Oh, that is good,” he said after swallowing.

“What do you want?” Phil asked again, and then he frowned as he saw the Samantha City Metro ticket that the Capellan had set on the table. “Going somewhere? Not staying around for the fireworks tonight?”

Victor smiled and he shrugged. “I hear the fishing is good along the coast—they are biting tonight.”

Phil’s eyes narrowed and he shook his head. “Your boys are making a play for the Core tonight—we both know that they are. Why are you leaving before the job is done?”

“Not my boys—they don’t work for me,” the Capellan answered as he placed the ticket back in his jacket pocket. “And they don’t play by the normal rules, Phil,” he warned.

The Davion agent nodded slowly. “Didn’t think they looked like normal field agents from the Mask—Death Commandoes?”

Victor smiled, but he said nothing, and Phil nodded again.

“The Chancellors bully-boys themselves; they planning on shooting their way in and extracting the Core?”

“Phil,” Victor chuckled. “I do like you—you are one of the better agents that Quintus has out here in the real world. You know I cannot answer that.”

“I know that you wouldn’t be leaving on the eve of the mission getting underway . . . unless,” Phil suddenly cursed and he sucked in a deep breath of air.

“The fireworks will be rather . . . spectacular tonight, so I understand,” the Capellan said with a nod. And then his face grew rather serious. “If things go according to plan, I would imagine that you could see them from orbit!”

Phil looked around, but the two men were—relatively—isolated in the bustling open-air patio. He leaned forward and whispered. “Are they out of their fucking minds?”

Victor shrugged again. “To those men, the mission comes first—and if the Chancellor cannot have the Core, then no one will.”

“The Bulls will go berserk, Victor,” Phil hissed quietly, and then he blanched. “Michael. You got Davion warheads from Michael, didn’t you?”

Victor smiled—but he didn’t answer. He didn’t need to.

“Shit, shit, shit,” whispered Phil. “Why tell me?”

“I respect you—you are a worthy opponent, Phil Sheridan. You can do as I am doing—and leave Samantha City before the . . . display erupts. Or, you can try to stop them from lighting the fuse. Either way, I owe you for the time you saved my life on Kittery. Consider that debt paid, whichever choice you make.”

Phil sat back and he exhaled slowly . . . and he nodded. Field intelligence work sometimes made for strange bed-fellows, he thought. And if Victor Li was anything, it was honorable. Or as honorable as the job allowed for.

“You won’t be lending a hand, I presume?”

“Against loyal Capellans operating at—what has to be—the direct authority of the Chancellor? Would you go against an operation that you knew Hanse Davion had started—even if you objected?”

“I’d like to think so,” muttered Phil, “but it would all depend on the circumstances.”

Victor bowed his head, lifting one hand to acknowledge the point.

“What the hell am I supposed to do?” Phil asked in a bitter voice. “I’ve got two other field agents—both MI-4—tasked with observing this cluster-fuck, not getting in the way. There are at least a dozen of those Commandoes—how the hell can I stop them by myself?”

“Well, you can ask for help,” chuckled a woman’s soprano voice, and Phil groaned as Victor smiled.

“Nicky Kirkland,” the Capellan said as he rose to his feet. “It is good to see you again,” he told the MIM agent. “And your companion?”

“Victor Li, Phil Sheridan,” she said with a smile, “may I introduce Hauptmann-Kommandant Gerhadt Manstein.”

“Retired Hauptmann-Kommandant, my dear,” the Lyran added. “Now, I am just a Lyran businessman who seeks to return a profit to my home.”

Phil cursed again, and Victor chuckled. “And business is good, ja?” the Capellan asked.

“Business . . . could be better,” Gerhadt answered. “It has been difficult to break into the Taurian markets. At least through conventional practices.”

“This just gets better and better,” muttered Phil. “A Norn and Nicky. This is my backup? To stop your guys?”

“They are not my guys,” Victor repeated. And then his smile got even larger. “And it looks as if we have two more guests arriving.”

“Does everyone on this freaking planet know we are foreign agents?” Phil muttered.

“Only those of us who take the time and effort to observe, Mister Sheridan,” Maxwell Danforth answered as he took off his hat and bowed to the Canopian agent, “Madame, it is a pleasure,” he said as he kissed the back of her hand.

“Phil, you could learn a thing or two from this gentlemen . . . who is?” Nicky cooed as she batted her eyelids.

“Maxwell Danforth—agent of SAFE,” the Marik spy answered.

“SAFE?” four surprised voices sputtered in unison.

“SAFE,” Maxwell said with a grin, “you don’t think we are ALL as incompetent as Walter Krogh, do you?”

No one answered and Max laughed. “And may I introduce to you Osami Koga, of the Draconis Combine Internal Security Force.”

“Who’s next—the Outworlders?”

“They are busy trying to find the Core on the Gamma continent,” Maxwell answered with a grin. “But we—we six—have something that we must discuss. A certain Death Commando operation that will kill many, many innocent Taurians this very night unless we manage to stop it.”

“I am here because you asked, Danforth,” replied the Kurita, “but why should I care about the lives of Taurians, innocent or otherwise?”

“Because the Commandoes will be destroying the Core that your master sent you to recover, Osami,” Max answered simply. “The Core that we are ALL tasked with recovering. I doubt that any of you have orders NOT to cooperate with other agents—I know I don’t.”

“That’s because it is so insane that none of our superiors would WRITE such an order!” sputtered Phil, and there were nods of agreement.

“A dozen Death Commandoes and at least one nuclear device, ladies and gentlemen,” Maxwell continued. “Alone, we cannot stop them from reaching the Core and destroying it—along with a good part of Samantha City. Together? Ah, together,” he said with a smile. “Together, we can stop them AND recover a copy of the Core for our superiors.”

“You say that as if we do not have our own plans for the Core,” replied Nicky.

“You mean those two nubile young women you have snuck into the chief researcher’s bed, Miss Kirkland? Yes, they will DIE tonight when the Death Commandoes barge in . . . and those Commandoes will seize their copy of the Core that they are making. And then the nuke will go off.”

She started. “How the hell did you . . .,” she began.

“We aren’t all Walter Krogh, my dear. My team and I have been watching you since you arrived on Taurus—and I have access to certain . . . equipment that can even the odds.”

There was silence for a moment and then Phil sighed again. “We team up and stop the Death Commandoes and get a copy of the Core—what’s going to keep one of us from back-stabbing the rest and running off with it?”

Maxwell laughed. “My dear Phil—the game will be afoot! That is all part of the fun.”

And one by one, each of the field agents slowly nodded—even Victor and Phil.

“Good. We don’t have a lot of time, so if you will join me at my safe house, we have MUCH to discuss and prepare for,” Maxwell finished as he stood and threw a hundred-bull note on the table.
Last edited by masterarminas on 2014-02-05 12:53am, edited 1 time in total.
masterarminas
Jedi Master
Posts: 1039
Joined: 2012-04-09 11:06pm

Re: By the Horns (A BattleTech Alternate Universe)

Post by masterarminas »

Ivan Patrice Computer Sciences Center, University of Taurus
Samantha City, Taurus
Taurian Concordat
November 27, 3025


“Sandra, my dear, you are a genius—genius, I say!” exclaimed Karl Mosley as he finished running the last diagnostic on the Vickers Core where it stood upright in the center of the room . . . right beside an identical (albeit empty) core. “Suggesting that we borrow the empty core from the Navy War Museum saved us weeks—weeks!—of work on bypassing the lock-outs and safe-guards on the prize.”

“But we couldn’t have done it without your work, Doctor Mosley,” Sandra Ingram whispered in his ear as she stroked the Taurian scientist’s back (and ego) with one firm hand. “I just thought that since we had this old, empty core sitting in the museum, you could compare the two and see what modifications the Navy made—and what extra traps they installed.”

Karl chuckled and he turned around to give his assistant a quick peck on the cheek. “Of course, darling,” he drawled with a chuckle. “I am the foremost authority on Taurus on these cores,” and then he frowned. “I still wonder, though, how the Science Museum managed to misplace their core example. We had two—one in the Naval Museum and the second here on Taurus, but the second one is missing. Pity. It was in better shape than this one.” He sighed. “But ah well. We will make bricks without straw—as usual.” He paused and then leered at Sandra. “What say you, me, and Angelina celebrate tonight? My apartment?”

“Whatever you want, Doctor Mosley—whatever you want,” Sandra answered in a husky voice as she nibbled on his ear lobe playfully.

There was a click from the Vickers Core as the diagnostic finished running—and Karl began to grin. “All safe-guards are bypassed—starting decryption protocols . . . now.”

“You are certain that this is the correct decryption key?” Sandra asked, and Karl frowned.

“My dear, I am the expert here. Yes, the key is working and in . . . fifteen minutes . . . the core will be accessible.”

“Good, Karl,” Sandra whispered as she nibbled again. And began to work his way down his body; as her head passed his waist, the scientists trousers hit the floor—and he flinched as he felt a sharp fingernail poke him in his now bare buttocks. But the pleasure he was receiving from his assistant put the momentary discomfort from his mind. Especially when Angelina entered the room and passionately kissed him, even as Sandra kept working on him. So caught up in the moment was Karl that he never noticed when he could no longer feel his muscles—not until he collapsed onto the floor with a thud.

“Nice technique,” Angelina said as the Core beeped and she began to transfer the unlocked information to the scarred example borrowed from the museum.

Curare takes ten-to-fifteen minutes to work—had to keep him occupied,” Sandra said as she wiped her mouth on a paper towel. “Got the plastique?”

“In the bag—according to Nicky we’ve got fifteen—maybe twenty—minutes before those Death Commandoes come barging in. Will the down-load be complete? And did you get his signature on the order transferring this Core back to the museum?”

“Yes and yes—and you don’t want to know how,” Sandra said with a grimace as she pulled the explosives from the bag and attached them to the outside of the Vickers Core. “Pig,” she muttered as she kicked Karl in the head. “The bigger question is can we get this thing out of here and away from the blast radius in time?”

“She says she and some ‘friends’ are working on that,” and the two Cores beeped in unison.

“That’s it,” said Sandra as she armed the explosives, setting the timer for five minutes. “Time to leave.”

“The guards are just going to let us walk this out of here?” Angelina asked as she loaded the museum core into its transport case.

Sandra waved a sheaf of papers. “Signed authorization to move the museum core back to storage,” she said with a laugh. “And the serial numbers match. They’ll send two guards with us . . . but if you can’t handle two Taurians at once, I think we need to send you back for a refresher course, Angel.”

The second MIM agent stuck out her tongue, and then lifted the case. “You're right, past time to go,” she said. “What about him?” she asked, pointing at Mosley.

“What about him?” Sandra answered and she kicked him again. “Either the explosion will kill him, or the Death Commandoes will kill him, or Protector Thomas will kill him for giving us access.”

“Yeah . . . but he’s still awake and aware. Are you really going to torture him with not knowing his fate?”

“Damn straight, Angel. Let’s go,” Sandra answered as she held open the door to the lab . . . leaving Dr. Karl Mosley lying helpless on the ground unable to make a single sound or lift a finger.
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Re: By the Horns (A BattleTech Alternate Universe)

Post by MondoMage »

Lots of twists and turns, so many that I'm having trouble keeping track of who's who (not that this is a bad thing!). Should be interesting to see how this all comes together and what fallout (pun intended!) there is from the fact that someone brought a nuke to the party. One has to wonder if Taurian security is unaware, or just sitting back enjoying the show (I'd bet the latter).
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Re: By the Horns (A BattleTech Alternate Universe)

Post by Eternal_Freedom »

MondoMage wrote:Lots of twists and turns, so many that I'm having trouble keeping track of who's who (not that this is a bad thing!). Should be interesting to see how this all comes together and what fallout (pun intended!) there is from the fact that someone brought a nuke to the party. One has to wonder if Taurian security is unaware, or just sitting back enjoying the show (I'd bet the latter).
Well we already know that what the varios agents think they're nicking isn't the real core...I did like the scientist wondering where the other museum piece core went :D

I wonder what the dummy core is filled with....knowing the Taurians, probably lengthy instructions on how to go fuck yourself :D
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Re: By the Horns (A BattleTech Alternate Universe)

Post by MondoMage »

Eternal_Freedom wrote:I wonder what the dummy core is filled with....knowing the Taurians, probably lengthy instructions on how to go fuck yourself :D
I'd vote for Star League-era Brony porn, or whatever the equivalent would be. Imagine the spymasters getting an eyeful of that.
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Re: By the Horns (A BattleTech Alternate Universe)

Post by Eternal_Freedom »

MondoMage wrote:
Eternal_Freedom wrote:I wonder what the dummy core is filled with....knowing the Taurians, probably lengthy instructions on how to go fuck yourself :D
I'd vote for Star League-era Brony porn, or whatever the equivalent would be. Imagine the spymasters getting an eyeful of that.
That was my initial thought, but it was too terrible to type. Given that Thomas intended to set up a new institute with the acronym TITS I suspect it will certainly be amusing and obscene. Of course, the FedSuns team are working to a pointless end since Thomas and Edward are planning to sell them the data anyway.
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Re: By the Horns (A BattleTech Alternate Universe)

Post by masterarminas »

Stormwater Drainage Tunnels
Samantha City, Taurus
Taurian Concordat
November 27, 3025


“You are positive of this, Danforth?” Phil asked in a sour voice as he walked through the ankle-high runoff seeping down into the deeply buried pipes and conduits that ran beneath Samantha City. The pale blue illumination of a cold-light glowstick gave little relief from the oppressive darkness—or the squealing of the rats and chittering of insects. “I’ve examined the building plans—these pipes don’t connect to the research facility.”

“Officially?” Max answered without pausing as he slogged onward. “You’re right—there is no connection and it isn’t on the building plans. Unofficially?” The SAFE agent shrugged. “You think people as paranoid as the Taurians wouldn’t have an emergency means of evacuating their main computer research lab? A route that doesn’t appear on any blue-print or schematic available to the public?”

Phil cursed as he stepped on another rat—the offended creature squeaked and scurried away. “Please tell me that you have more than a hunch.”

Max stopped and he turned around; his grin was wide as he tapped a ladder leading up towards the surface. “Check your map, Mister Sheridan.”

The MI-4 agent pulled a small electronic tablet from inside the water-proof lining of his coveralls and he shook his head. “That isn’t on the plans—how did you know?”

“SAFE isn’t always incompetent; indeed, we have very good analysts and information gatherers working for us—it just doesn’t always get translated into effective action, mind you. Thirty years ago, a contractor was brought in to perform maintenance work on these drains—and he bored a new tunnel at the direct request of the Taurian government. Went out of business ten years ago—gambling debts are such anchors dragging at a man’s life, after all—and sold off the schematics that he kept,” Max smiled again, “schematics that he shouldn’t have kept in the first place, to one of our folks for a tidy little sum that managed to keep his knees from being broken by a local loanshark.”

He paused and looked up at the ladder. “This should lead up to a floor hatch in a supply room just outside of the main research lab,” he tested the ladder for weakness and then satisfied that it would support his weight, he pressed a button on the radio clipped to his belt. “Control, we are in position.”

“Roger that,” a woman answered. “Be advised that Team Two is preparing to enter the building—and the honey-bees have just exited bearing gifts and are awaiting transport.”

“Damn it Nicky,” Phil swore.

Max just chuckled. “Transport has been arranged, Ninety-Nine?”

There was a pause and then a frosty voice answered. “Maintain communications protocol. And yes—their transport is waiting . . . just not the one they are expecting. Team three has managed to bypass the remote alarms on the lab sub-lev- . . . wait one,” the voice paused. “The honey-bees are away and none too soon. Our opposition has taken the field and local security at the front doors are down. Game time. Team Two is . . . in.”

“Acknowledged, Control,” Max answered as he turned to face Phil. “Ready with the cutting torch?”

“Ready. How the hell did I get stuck down in these tunnels with you?”

“Would you rather be upstairs with the swordsmen slowing down the visiting team?” Max asked as Phil began to climb the ten meter ladder to the metal hatch above.

“I’d rather be in the van—my job is to observe and report, not crawl through rodent-infested tunnels, get into a fire-fight with Death Commandoes, and incidentally to defuse a nuclear weapon.”

“Maybe you could submit a voucher for a bonus based on performance above and beyond the call of duty?” Max suggested.

“Yeah, right. You don’t know what a freaking tight-wad Quintus Allard is. Commendations? Sure. Medals? Plenty of ‘em. Money? Not on your life.”

“Well, maybe he will give you a vacation at least,” the SAFE agent replied as he began to ascend the ladder behind Phil.

At the top, Phil pulled on a pair of goggles and lit the tip of the cutting torch. “Last time Quintus suggested I take a vacation I landed up here, on Taurus. 'You'll love it, Phil', he said. 'Nice, quiet duty station where you can enjoy the beach and the girls because nothing ever happens on that front'. Not again; never again,” and the Davion agent gritted his teeth as the flame began to cut through the metal sending drops of molten slag to hiss in the dirty water below. Max continued to climb and from his bag he extracted two hand-holds that he applied to the hatch, their adhesives bonding almost instantly.

“Got it,” he said as Phil continued to cut.

And then he grunted as the hatch fell towards him, but he pushed it up and to one side. Phil dropped the torch and rapidly climbed up the ladder, drawing his needler pistol in one smooth motion. Then he reached down and help Max up and out.

“Ready?” Max asked as he laid one hand lightly on the control of the door. Phil nodded and Max pressed the control; the door hissed open and he bounced into the lab, swiveling left and right to confirm that there were no hostiles here waiting to open fire. Max was right on his heels.

“Clear,” Phil snapped.

“Clear,” answered Max.

And then the two of them saw the paralyzed Doctor Mosley and the bomb attached to the casing of the Memory Core . . . a bomb whose timer passed 1:00 and continued on to :59, :58, :57.

“Nicky, I swear when we get out of here, I’m going to give you the spanking of your life,” Phil muttered. "And you are not going to enjoy it."
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Re: By the Horns (A BattleTech Alternate Universe)

Post by Crayz9000 »

Agent 99. Called it. Then again, you were none too subtle in your Get Smart references...
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Re: By the Horns (A BattleTech Alternate Universe)

Post by masterarminas »

Ivan Patrice Computer Sciences Center, University of Taurus
Samantha City, Taurus
Taurian Concordat
November 27, 3025


Victor Li grunted quietly as he slapped the disconnect on the straps securing him to the glider; bending his legs, he dropped the four meters to the roof of the computer sciences building, landing in a roll that hid him behind the facilities main air intake shaft. A second soft thud—almost lost amongst the cracking and thundering of fireworks in the sky—signaled the arrival of Osami Koga.

One of the security guards stationed on the roof turned at the faint sound and Victor held his breath as the beam of the flashlight played over the rooftop structures. There was a faint crunching sound as the guard took a step closer—but at that moment, there was a loud BANG against the side of the building.

“He’s distracted,” Control’s voice emerged from Victor’s ear-piece. “Alarms are remotely bypassed on the shaft, Two—you are go for descent.”

Victor didn’t bother to answer; instead he stood and lifted the access hatch as Koga crawled inside the narrow shaft and began to lower himself down. Taking care not to make a sound, Victor followed, lowering the hatch shut behind him.

“Guards weren’t expecting a fireworks misfire,” whispered Control in his ear. “But you are behind schedule, gentlemen. Move.”

With their hips against one wall of the shaft, feet on the opposite, and gloved hands braced against the two side walls, the agents quickly climbed down bypassing ventilation tunnels that opened intermittently.

“This junction,” Control ordered. “North fifteen meters and you hit the elevator shaft. Be advised—your opponents have just entered the building.”

“Not very subtle are they,” whispered Koga as faint alarms began to sound.

“They are Death Commandoes on a suicide run—subtle isn’t as important as completing the mission.”

“You are certain that Riese will be the one carrying the nuke?”

“Mostly,” answered Victor with a chuckle as he pulled himself into the horizontal tunnel and began to crawl after Koga towards the elevator shaft.

“What if he has a dead-man’s trigger?”

“Then we are dead—but I doubt that he does. If he gets killed in the initial assault, then the device goes off. And the lab with the core is five levels underground and heavily reinforced—damn thing is a bloody bunker, and their nuke isn't that big. He’ll die at the Chancellor’s order, but not for nothing. No,” Victor mused as he reached the elevator shaft and pulled himself into it’s cavernous interior. “It’s on a timer with a manual trigger so that if he goes down another member of his team can get the device down there and then set it off.”

Koga grunted his agreement as he hooked Victor’s cable-grab onto the proper elevator cables; his own was already hooked up. “Control is certain that the elevator is only way down?”

“If I weren’t don’t you think I would have already told you?” she answered dryly. “This shaft is the only passage from the main building to sub-level five—no stairs, no alternate route. It requires a key-card pass . . . which the opposition has probably pulled from one of the dead guards. Slut reports they are approaching the elevator; engaging in a fire-fight with the internal guards.”

Victor snorted. Nicky was furious with the Marik agent for the code-name she had been assigned; not that Control had seemed in the least affected by her displeasure.

“Mandarin,” she continued and Victor nodded as he recognized the code-name for one of Phil’s juniors, “reports that armor and infantry from Fort Snowden have hit the streets en route. ETA . . . five minutes in the current traffic congestion. Songbird,” a Marik observer drafted from the embassy, “says ‘Mechs are scrambling from Fort Gaines.”

“Game time,” muttered Victor. “You ready for this, old man?”

Koga snorted as he loosened the katana that he wore in a sheath on his back. “I was one of Takashi’s chosen samurai long before I joined the ISF, Capellan. This does bring back memories, I must say, of comrades long dead and fell deeds long past.”

“All right, then. Three,” he looked down and grimaced at the dark shaft, “two,” he took a deep breath, and then he bent his knees and prepared to jump from the girder he was standing on, “GO!” he snapped and the two men plunged down into the darkness.
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Re: By the Horns (A BattleTech Alternate Universe)

Post by Vehrec »

It's amazing how this is still relevant in the 3025 w.r.t. certain 'matriarchal' states.


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Though really, all these spies are just kinda horrible. Really.
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Re: By the Horns (A BattleTech Alternate Universe)

Post by masterarminas »

Ivan Patrice Computer Sciences Center, University of Taurus
Samantha City, Taurus
Taurian Concordat
November 27, 3025


“Elevator is on its way down, Phil—hurry up,” Max said as he finished assembling a compact assault rifle and chambered a live round, before beginning work on a second.

“Disarming a bomb isn’t that easy,” Phil snarled as beads of sweat popped out on his forehead. “I cut the wrong wire here and we are toast,” he finished softly as the digital counter continued to slowly click down towards zero. “Got it,” he said in a relieved voice as the display blinked twice and then froze at :17.

“Get the Core in its travel case—without the bomb, Phil. Company is coming.”

“Yeah, yeah,” muttered the Davion agent as he removed the explosive from the side of the ancient Taurian memory storage unit and set it on the floor. He opened the case and lifted the Core before setting it gently in the padded interior—and then he froze.

“Tell me those aren’t what I think they are,” he asked with a sigh, jerking his chin towards a pair of pressurized cylinders resting on a shelf against the far wall, and bearing hazardous material warnings—along with three black, blocky letter: VXM.

Max looked over and he cursed. “If you are thinking Taurian VXM nerve gas dating back to the Reunification War, then I could tell you they aren’t—but I’d be lying.”

Setting the Core inside, Phil closed and secured the case, sliding it across the floor to Max, who slid it into the anteroom to rest beside the hole cut in the floor. He then stood and walked over the deadly gas cylinders and gingerly touched one.

“I’d leave those alone—four hundred years has a tendency to fatigue metal, after all,” the SAFE agent warned. “But the gas inside should still be lethal . . . unless,” he mused, “they drained the cylinders.”

“That’s a negative,” Phil answered as he checked the gauges. “Full pressure on both—god, I really hate Taurian paranoia.”

“All the more reason to leave them the hell alone,” Max said. “Ten seconds,” he cautioned as the elevator display showed the car was still descending.

“Except . . .,” Phil muttered in a sour voice, “in a few moments there are going to be bullets flying—what happens to that four-hundred year old metal if one of them gets grazed?”

Max stopped and he turned his head to stare at Phil and then he nodded. “You see anything solid to put the gas cylinders behind?” he asked.

“Nothing I’d trust to stop a bullet cold,” the agent from MI-4 muttered as he lifted two of the cylinders gently and quickly looked around the room . . . and he began to grin as he saw the paralyzed researcher sprawled on the floor. “But bodies are pretty good at absorbing bullets,” he continued as he knelt down and pulled Karl Mosley up and onto his side before sliding the cylinders down the front of the Taurian scienists pants. “There we go,” Phil muttered as sweat began to pour off of the good doctor’s face and the Davion agent turned his body so that his back was facing the elevator.

And with that, Phil rushed over to lift the second assault rifle, taking shelter behind the edge of the door to the lab—just as the elevator DINGED and the doors began to slide open.

"For what we are about to receive," Phil spoke sarcastically.

"Amen," whispered Max.

And the two squeezed their triggers in unison.
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