"Emergence" - BattleTech Dark Ages/BattleTech AU Crossover

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Re: "Emergence" - BattleTech Dark Ages/BattleTech AU Crossover

Post by Steve »

33 - Casting Dice

Royal Palace
Roslyn, Eastern Islay
Arcadia, Royal Arcadian March
Royal Federation
26 January 3143

Below the main levels of the palace, Arnold Proctor-Steiner entered the officer wardroom quietly. He was met by Grand Admiral Stewart and General Montague. The sight of Military Intelligence's Chief of Staff spiked Arnold's interest in this quick meeting; Montague preferred to play it safe in being seen with them outside of regular scheduled meetings. "Gentlemen. I trust this has to do with Lady Trillian's latest push to pull us into her war?"

"Oh, more than that." Montague grinned. He held up a noteputer and handed it to Arnold. "Can't copy the file, unfortunately. Not until matters become official. But as you can see, we received some interesting new information through the Glass from those merchant Foxes or whatever they call themselves."

Arnold nodded while bringing the noteputer up. He pulled the stylus from its port along the side and used it to scroll over the report. As he read the contents a smile grew on his face. Yes. Oh. We can use this. Lady Trillian has been keeping quite the secret, hasn't she? The Privy Council will come over to our side easily now. "Any chance this intelligence can be challenged?"

"I mean, it is guesswork, but it rings true quite well when you consider Trillian's own testimony," Montague said. "And I doubt the Foxes would jeopardize our relations on something false."

"True. Alright. I think it is time we bring some cold hard reality to our young ruler." Arnold handed the noteputer back. "We may have need of that file."

"I will have it ready," Stewart promised.

"Then all is in place." Arnold clapped his hands together. And then all we need is to turn the screws in the Council and Parliament, and maybe, just maybe, we'll save the Federation from the Empire after all.

Thirty meters above their heads, the object of their ire was seated in the inner parlor of her guest suite. With another meeting with the Privy Council just an hour or so away, Trillian was already in her formal gown and wear, a full suit of greens and blues with the bottom a dress piece flowing to her ankles.

Her counterpart, Lord Friedrich von Kassel of Inarcs, had his own court uniform on, including the orange barnous around the shoulders and the three-arrowed insignia of the Kingdom of Ghastillia. Said nation's existence, including its peculiar name and makeup, was one of the more outlandish elements of this side of the Glass to Trillian. She'd initially imagined they were some form of Rim Worlds Republic successor state but found they were more of a melange of Lyran refugee and Rim Worlder communities that had developed in a way her side of the Glass would never imagine such a state could go, such as their particular affinity for German that went beyond even the most Teutonic Lyrans Trillian knew.

"I am aware of your concerns, Lady Trillian," von Kassel remarked in a conciliatory tone. "Konigin Gerda is adamant that we will not allow a Falcon threat through the Glass. Ships are en route."

"Ships that might come too late for Timkovichi, nor is it a guarantee you will go through the Glass."

"Such decisions will be left up to the commanders on the spot, and a final decision by Her Majesty." Seeing her frown, he quickly added, "A counterattack is all but guaranteed, but it takes time. For one matter, our naval forces must protect a large swath of worlds, and are scattered suppressing pirate threats on the rebuilding frontier. Even then, we must also ensure that there are no diplomatic complications from a buildup on the frontline. Atocongo is a jump away from the Communal League, as you are undoubtedly aware."

"Are you not at peace with them?"

"Can anyone be at peace with radical revolutionists?" he asked pointedly. "For now, yes. Thirty years of peace have held. But that is never guaranteed, and their fleet often moves into position as well if we make such maneuvers. We cannot risk that lingering animosities can spark more warfare, you understand."

I do. I understand you have reason to fear some of your own people may wish to strike a foe you were compelled to accept peace with by the exigencies of war. Trillian was too much a diplomat to say this aloud, of course. "Still, surely they understand the situation?"

"Diplomatic communications are open, and so far no problems exist. That is why the matter proceeds." Von Kassel folded his hands on his lap. "On other matters, the loan you contracted with the Rim Frontier Bank has been approved, and Konigin Gerda is personally guaranteeing your loan from the Royal Bank of Inarcs. Coventry Metal Works and Blackstone are also authorized to sell you some of their output of our finest OmniMechs."

"Hopefully we will soon put them to use," Trillian said, recognizing the subject was being changed. She allowed that as she had nothing more to say on the prior matter. "As for the military assistance?"

"That is still being debated, your alliance treaty with High King Nathaniel remains the key," he explained.

So it does. "Well, I hope to make progress on that today." She checked her watch. "Indeed, I am due to see the Privy Council again on the matter. I hope you have enjoyed the hospitality, Your Excellency."

"It has been most kind, Your Ladyship." He stood and kissed her hand much like a Lyran nobleman from her side of the Glass would. "I look forward to your success."

"Danke schon."

He nodded at that and departed. Trillian watched him go before drawing in a sigh. Progress continues, but not nearly fast enough for my liking. I wonder what new detour I'll see today in the Privy Council… no. I will not think like that. I can do this. I can convince them. Nathaniel is on my side, and I have won support elsewhere. Eventually that must win out, they must recognize the truth of my arguments.

It was a silly idea. They needn't recognize anything they didn't want to. But it gave her some hope as she freshened up for the meeting.

Prince Peter's gavel brought the Privy Council meeting to order. He nodded in Trillian's direction before saying, "I call this Privy Council meeting to order. His Majesty wishes the Council's advice on the matter of the suggested alliance treaty with the Lyran Commonwealth beyond the Glass, particularly in light of the Clan forces even now engaging our troops on Timkovichi. The proposed treaty terms, as they currently stand, have been laid out for your consideration. Now, I believe Lady Trillian had some remarks prepared?"

"I do, Your Lordship." Trillian glanced over her noteputer and stood. "If the Council would consider, I have new proposals for the financial articles based on new data."

"I have new information to bring before the Privy Council."

The words came before Peter could react, before anyone could speak. Grand Admiral Stewart stood, his countenance grim. He looked straight to Peter. "Your Highness, we recently received intelligence from trusted sources on the other side of the Glass pertaining to the political situation in our potential allies that are of great relevance to this matter."

Trillian's brow furrowed. What can he mean, what could… The realization dawned on her and it took every iota of control she had to stop the gasp that formed in her throat. No. No no no no…

Peter nodded. "Then by all means, let us deal with this first."

"Very well. I shall be succinct. We have learned that there has been a change in the Lyran Commonwealth, that the Archon Melissa Steiner that Lady Trillian represents is no longer in control of the Lyran government, and has been replaced by one Vedet Brewer."

Eyes, some incredulous, some suspicious, glanced around the room, to her, to Stewart, to all. She felt the intake of breath from her own staff. Control. Keep control. I can deal with this.

Nathaniel gave Stewart a surprised look before his eyes turned to Trillian, who met his with as much strength as she could. Peter drew in a small sigh before saying, "Continue."

"Particulars are uncertain as the Lyran government has only stated Melissa is in recovery for exhaustion and Vedet is fulfilling her duties," said Stewart. "But our sources confirm this is not so, that nearly two years ago, Melissa was forcefully removed as Archon by the LCAF High Command in favor of Vedet Brewer, possibly over her failure of policy regarding the Wolves. Moreso, Lady Trillian herself is known to have been back on Tharkad since the change, several months past. One can only conclude she knows full well that Melissa was deposed and yet is here acting as if she has not been."

Trillian wanted to melt away. How could… the Foxes. The verdammt Foxes! It has to be them. Ingratiating themselves, perhaps, or sent by Vedet or Maurer. She felt the blood rushing from her face while most of the room turned her way, in silent accusation or curiosity.

"So, the game is made clear." Zento stood. "All of this posturing, Lady Trillian, and what you really wanted was to use us as a political pawn. You don't want us to fight the Clans, you want us to fight Vedet Brewer. To restore your Archon to the throne she couldn't hold herself! Our soldiers sacrificed for your power politics and—"

"No!" Trillian bit her lip, but it was too late to recall the angry shout she'd sent at Zento and Stewart. "I came to save my Commonwealth. That has always been my goal. The Clans must be stopped."

"Then why do you negotiate in Melissa's name, not Vedet Brewer's?!" Zento challenged.

"Because he is an usurper!" she cried. "Because our generals turned on Archon Melissa and put him in charge, then lied to the Lyran people because they knew that their usurpation wouldn't go unchallenged! Then Vedet proved incapable of preventing the Falcon attack, so now they are trapped, while Vedet will never relinquish his stolen throne, even as he leads our people to defeat! So yes, I came to you and wrote the treaty in Melissa's name, because she is the rightful Archon, and so the High Command would finally be free to restore her without conflict! Because I have no intention of seeing a single Arcadian soldier fight to restore the Archon; it will not be necessary, nor would it secure her anyway."

"This doesn't change that you hid this from us," Zento retorted. "That you tried to manipulate us, hiding your political instability so we would think you a stronger ally."

"Oh, so I should have admitted my own realm is coming apart from the inside too?!" Trillian laughed harshly. "Tell me, Lord Senator, would you have done that? Would you admit to your monarch's usurpation by a military clique if you were negotiating for your realm's very life?" Her eyes swept the room. "Would any of you?! Step forward then, damn you! Tell me, and everyone, that you would do what I did not, and admit such a shameful thing!"

The tears weren't supposed to be in her eyes, but they were there regardless. The shame clawed at her, that her Commonwealth, her family's charge and trust, was reduced to this. That they'd been degraded so badly. She wanted nothing more but to incinerate Maurer and Vedet and Alaric Wolf and Seth Ward and Malvina Hazen and all of them for the pain they'd brought. Even Melissa… even you would deserve to be scorched by that. Your ambitions were too far, cousin.

There was a long, uncomfortable silence in the room, but none stepped forward. Not even Zento, though he seemed ready to. No, he held back as well.

Trillian grabbed the cup of water before her and swallowed it to wet her throat. "This changes nothing of my argument either. I never told you I needed your troops to secure my cousin. I never claimed such a thing. My argument is the same as before. The Clans will not sit idle upon the Commonwealth's corpse. It is not their way. They will come through the Glass at some point, to raid, or to conquer, because war is their lifeblood, and glory in battle their one means of advancement. The Falcon Mongols will be murderous if they are the ones, because they wish revenge on you for taking their leader. Only the Commonwealth, saved and able to bind her wounds, can protect our side of the Glass and ensure peace for your side." Trillian sat down. "Yes. I wish to restore my cousin to her rightful throne, and I would use your signature on the treaty to do it. But I will not have you place her there by force any more than I would expect to be asked the same if the positions were reversed."

There was silence in the Council once more. The men and women present were thoughtful in some cases, still angry in others, or simply uncertain. She didn't know if she'd reached any of them. She felt the deep fear, in the pit of her heart and soul, that she'd not reached enough, and figured that likely. So my mission will end in failure. But I gave it my all. That… that will have to be enough, won't it? That will have to be enough? She knew it would not, but she feared breaking down if she didn't cling to the hope.

Zento finally stood. "Your Highness." He looked Peter's way. "I move that we make a final resolution dismissing this treaty proposal, and provide a public statement as to why. We have been misled, grossly, and it is time we focus on our interests and more important matters."


The answer did not come from Peter. Trillian raised her eyes to see Nathaniel rising from his seat, his posture firm and his eyes intent on Zento.

"Majesty?" Zento stared at him. "This is most irregular."

"So is this entire arrangement. Sudden new surprising intelligence brought here, fresh from the HPG? Not provided in any reports from MI6 or other sources? Oh, there is something quite irregular here indeed!" Nathaniel's eyes turned to Trillian, who met them. Something blazed there, icy and yet furious. "Lady Trillian. It is not easy to be in your position. You have tried to be a loyal representative of your wronged Archon. I believe you when you say you did not seek our military forces for her restoration, because we both know it would have been utterly foolish, and I assure you, I will only consider Archon Melissa my ally, never this usurper or the cabal that empowered him."

She nodded quietly.

"For weeks we have discussed this," Nathaniel said. His eyes swept the room. "The argument is made, yet none of you have raised an objection addressing it, nothing but quibbles and distractions. Your reasons for not acting ring ever more hollow, especially now that our soldiers are fighting and dying to stop the murder of the people of Timkovichi."

"Majesty, we are giving you reasonable advice," protested Zento. "We are thinking of the interests of our people. It is not to get stuck in foreign wars, not when the Empire will have sixteen capital warships in two years!"

"I am well aware of those estimates, Lord Senator," Nathaniel snapped. "It reinforces the need for peace."

"You cannot trust the Empire! We have to—"

"—have to what, Lord Senator?! Attack? A pre-emptive strike, perhaps, as I have heard whispered since before I graduated Ayrshire?!" Nathaniel shook his head. "Did you not think I would hear of these things? I know full well there are those here, in the AFRF, in the Government, who wish a new war with House Halas-Liao, and I'm quite certain many work together to promote that end, even if it means undermining my policies." With that he shot a look towards Arnold. The angle meant Trillian could not see Nathaniels' face, but the intent frown that formed on Arnold's told her enough. "Well, let me be clear to you all here. I shall not start a Fifth Succession War. There will be no pre-emptive strikes on the Empire, no skirmishes, nothing, and if any one of you cannot accept this, I invite you to resign from your positions here and now!"

Trillian swallowed. The intensity of Arnold's stare was no worse than her own recent sentiment. He would have ignited Nathaniel with it, if he could.

"We will build to protect ourselves, yes," Nathaniel continued, "but we will also act to uphold our values and our true interests, which now means safeguarding the Glass that sits one jump from our frontier, in the territory of our closest ally. Lady Trillian's arguments ring true. We cannot leave the Commonwealth to wither and die under Clan assault, leaving them free to challenge us whenever they please. This conflict is necessary for our security and is a moral one besides. I am ready, here and now, to sign the alliance, and I hope you will agree and join me in recommending acceptance to Parliament. But I will not accept further prevarication."

None spoke. Trillian wondered if any would dare to.

When none did, not even Zento, Nathaniel turned to his grand-uncle. "Prince Peter, I request a recess, to allow the Privy Council to consider the matter. We will vote when they return."

Peter nodded and lightly rapped his gavel on the sound board of his desk. "The Privy Council is in recess for one hour."

One by one various members stood and went for the door, some more quickly than others. Some glared at the King, or at Zento, or at Arnold, or Trillian herself, and sometimes all of them, before departing. Trillian exchanged frowns with Arnold and Zento before they left, and her staff were the last to go.

She noted that Peter nor Nathaniel moved. They are not done, she imagined before departing the chambers. We are so close to disaster. Our fates are in Nathaniel's hands, but he is so young a ruler… and I fear he has just made enemies of his military, just as Melissa did of ours.

Nevertheless all she could do was walk and wait and hope.

The door to the Privy Council chamber closed resoundingly. Peter glanced out at the empty chairs, some of which weren't even properly returned to their places, and let out a sigh. "You are being impertinent," he said aloud.

"I am being impertinent?" Nathaniel walked over to him, rolling a spare chair up and sitting in it.

"Honestly, this is why the Crown does not usually attend deliberative Privy Council sessions," Peter said.

"Grandmother never bothered trying to actually run the government, Uncle. She was too busy running the 'Mech simulator or dueling or whatever else presented a challenge."

"My father didn't either," Peter snapped. "He knew better. The Privy Council deliberates and the Lord presents their results to the Crown, and the Crown decides what to do with them."

"He didn't have a cabal trying to undermine him," Nathaniel replied.

"Where are you getting this from?" asked Peter. "This 'cabal' talk is dangerous."

"They've all but made it clear they're cooperating," Nathaniel pointed out. "Today was the worst. Fresh intelligence and it comes out in a Privy Council meeting, not even in the morning briefing?"

"An oversight, perhaps." Peter sighed. Damn you, Arnold. This has your hand in it, whatever Stewart or Zento did. You thought you were being clever. Too clever by half, cousin! "Talk of cabals will destabilize everything, Nathaniel. It invites a witch hunt atmosphere, and a blow to the integrity of your Government. Do not do that again, I must insist!"

To his credit, Nathaniel did not try a retort. He shrugged and nodded. "Fine. I shall keep my suspicions to myself."

"And I shall make discreet enquiries," Peter promised. "But right now, this alliance business. You cannot mean to press them."

"The Second Royal Cuirassiers fight for their lives as we speak, Uncle. As soon as the Donegal arrives, more of our people will be in battle as well. We owe it to them to commit to a course."

"And is the course we should be committing to? Given the Empire's building plans? Our own are not so well off."

"The Federated Suns and the Flavian Principate remain allies, as does Ghastillia." Nathaniel's eyes briefly rose, as if counting in his head. "Together, we will have more capitals than the Empire."

"Only barely, and spread out. Nor is this the end of their program."

"Then we build what we must, for defensive purposes, and continue the work of solidifying the Peace of Dieron."

"And hope Emperor Robert does not make fools of us all." Peter rubbed at his forehead. "House Marik will not accept a further reduction of their current defenses, not after the troops you've already relocated before the Glass formed. And you can't pull troops from Skye or Bolan either or you will face a parliamentary revolt at the very least. By my count, you will only get twelve 'Mech regiments and supporting divisions at best without undermining our defenses. That isn't enough to help the Lyrans, not by the information we have. We can't do this alone, Nathaniel, and I'm not sure Ghastillia can send enough forces to help either."

"I have ideas on that, but I can't follow them until the alliance is secure."

"Parliament will be resistant."

"The Senate will not if I can say the Lord of the Privy Council has agreed to the alliance, and swayed the Council and the Government Offices in support." Nathaniel leaned toward him. "This is in your hands, Uncle Peter. Please, help me do this. Add your voice to mine, let us end this Clan threat, secure the Commonwealth, and keep the peace in our Inner Sphere. I can't do it without you, especially not when I lead our troops through the Glass. I'll need you and Lady Sara-Marie to keep things running here."

And there it is. Peter rubbed at the forehead this time, a headache coming on. My husband is wasting away and now I have to be in this vise. God can be unkind. "Nathaniel, have you considered if you are wrong? If the Imperial buildup is not for defensive purposes but for launching one overwhelming strike, capable of bowling our defenses over and crushing our Navy? The Empire's strategy has always been to concentrate naval force heavily on strategic offensives, and the fleet they're building, with interior lines, can allow them to beat us and our prospective allies in detail. Nor can we ignore the threat that they will ally with the Combine."

"The Combine is unreliable, and that would merely ensure the Concord left the Federated Suns alone," Nathaniel said. "The Empire is isolated. It's been that way since they attacked the Federated Suns near the end of the war. The fleet they're building is large, but not large enough to safely focus to the degree you're talking. We need to look past what came before. My father's dead, Uncle Peter. He's not coming back. And I know they killed him, but it doesn't do us, or his memory, any good to get trapped in that. Not like Grandmother Jackie did. I'm making progress with Robert, and even if I go, Lady Jessup and Sara-Marie can continue that work. He's interested in peace. And even if I'm wrong… how hard would it be to face the Empire if the Jade Falcons and Wolves are snapping at us through the Glass, forcing us to divert ships and troops to keep them out? The Commonwealth can be our guards there, allowing us to focus our efforts on the Empire or the Combine or both."

Nathaniel stood. "I will be back when the recess ends. Please, Uncle. I need you to support me here. With you at my back, we can make this work, and the Federation will be secure." His hand pressed down on Peter's shoulder supportively. "You've always been there for me, after all. I know I can count on you."

Oh my dear boy. Peter looked up at him, trying not to feel the hurt in him, the guilt, while Nathaniel gave him a final smile, one just like he'd had growing up, whenever they'd had a talk, whenever Peter gave him the ear he needed or the words necessary. He watched Nathaniel go out the door and felt his hear ache. James. Your boy would have made you proud, so proud. But I may have to disappoint him anyway. Damn him, it is a good argument. A very good argument, with sound political and military logic, but it may not be enough. If I can't persuade the others, if it causes a breach, or a scandal…

The sound of the door opening prompted Peter to look up. He sighed quietly at the arrival of not just Stewart, Zento, and Arnold but also Air Marshal-General Juliana Steiner, who was not a member of the Privy Council but like Arnold certainly one of the "cabal". And we have become one, with Nathaniel on the throne. During Jackie's reign we were just an informal cabinet of sorts, to determine advice, but now… He swallowed. If he ever finds out, poor Nathan will be devastated. I may as well stab him in the back and through the heart.

"So he's done it," Juliana said. "Just… issued a demarche to the Privy Council?"

"He's called upon the Council to accept the treaty, yes. He has not ordered anything. Not to them, anyway."

"Ranting about a cabal against him, it made him look unhinged," Arnold protested. "He has this… monomania of riding the triumphant hero to save the Lyrans. Cousin, you must do something. Stop him."

"He is the High King. I have tried to persuade him, but he is insistent. Nor does it help when you pull tricks like that! Using fresh intelligence before it's even been put in proper reports? The irregularity probably has half the Privy Council thinking the same thing!"

"It doesn't matter. He may be the High King, but he is not the Coordinator of the Combine or the Emperor of the Capellans, it is time he met the limits of his power," urged Arnold. "Encourage the Privy Council to resist him, to refuse him, and not allow Lady Trillian any more sessions. Take her off the agenda completely and publicly decline the alliance! It will leave her efforts in Parliament listless and pointless, and without Parliamentary support he cannot fund his war. With the press we'll generate against him he'll have to back down. If he doesn't, if he invokes Crown authority to rewrite the budget, it'll mean revolts."

"Revolts, Arnold?" Peter looked up at him before standing. "Are you seriously threatening that? Revolts?"

"The people of the Federation have a right to resist being drawn into a war that doesn't interest them."

"Somehow I think you would be saying differently if it were the Empire he was targeting," Peter scoffed.

Arnold shut his mouth, but his frown said volumes.

"The information was damaging to Trillian, her defense aside," Stewart said. "If you act against her, you would carry the Privy Council."

"If I act against her, I offend the King, and I lose my influence with him," Peter pointed out. "Nor are they wrong. As we speak, our soldiers die fighting the Clans."

"And that is on his head," Arnold growled. "You let him send them!"

"He is the High King, I let nothing." Peter stepped up to Arnold. "Cousin, you have lost your objectivity."

"I am merely keeping my head. This Glass affair is a sideshow. Let the Ghasties and the Commies worry about the Clans. Archduke Ethan's Kell Hounds can deal with any incursions into our territory." Arnold folded his arms. "You need to get him on board. Our window is closing shut. We must strike the Empire's yards in the next year."

"That is not happening, and you know it. You heard him"

"True, but that doesn't mean we need commit to this alliance," Stewart said. "Lady Trillian can be stopped, and the King's impulses curtailed. We can go back to building up, and the threat of these Clans may even help with that."

"The people of the Isle of Skye expect the Federation to protect them from the Empire," Zento added. "We are distressed by the King's distractions."

"The King refitted your militia and approved the reactivation of the 7th Skye Rangers."

"Are you defending him, Peter?" Juliana asked sharply.

"I am making the point that any would." Peter took in a breath. But I am defending him.

"You helped spoil that boy, and now we will all pay for it," she hissed.

"It's time to make your place clear, cousin," Arnold said. "Put an end to Nathaniel's foolishness. Stop this alliance nonsense in its tracks and end Lady Trillian's efforts to sway the Council. Let her Lyrans deal with the problems they've made for themselves, it is not our place."

Peter narrowed his eyes and took in the expressions of the others. Juliana's face was ice, but it was clear she agreed with Arnold. Zento was grinning, which always came off as smug. And Stewart was typically neutral, though undoubtedly in general agreement.

This is it then. The rock and the hard place. He pursed his lips. They are not wrong about the threat of the Empire. Robert Halas-Liao may want peace, but the Dowager hates us as much as Arnold hates them, the harpy may truly live longer for every Proctor she kills. And their extended naval program can't be ignored or wished away by peace. Peace only lasts if power is equal. And this war… it is so dangerous. It could set back our own rearmament by years. Cost us our best troops, equipment, leave our reserves insufficient. The risk we'd be taking…

He was already thinking of it. The words he'd use. "I cannot recommend His Majesty's desired policy to the Privy Council. The threat of the Empire's naval armaments is too grave, the risks to our defenses too heavy. While some aid might be furnished, troops and a formal alliance are too far, and I vote against—"

The words stopped there as the image came to his mind. The shocked betrayal on his grand-nephew's face at seeing Peter turn on him openly. The pain and humiliation. The image blended with his memories of his oldest sister, of poor Jackie, alone on her throne or in her chair, holding holos of Prince James, of their parents, of her husband, the loss and heartbreak. He thought of Nathaniel's face with that heartbreak. What would it do to him, to James' little boy, to have Peter stab him in the back like that? After all the trust put into him?

I can't do it. I… I can't.

"Cousin, my lords and ladies." Peter drew in a breath. "I will say this once, for you, and to be brought to those whom you stand for here."

"Peter?" Arnold's face darkened.

Peter met him in the eyes, though he spoke to all. "As Lord of His Majesty's Privy Council, I only have this to say about the matter. I expect you to put an end to this sniping and undercutting of the Crown's policies. I am going to endorse the alliance before the Privy Council as necessary for Federation security." The color left their faces, but before verbal retribution could begin, he continued on. "And furthermore, for the three of you in uniform, you will not do a damn thing to undermine the war effort. From this point forward I expect you to follow your sacred oaths and to shut up, sit down, and obey the orders of your High King, and if you can't in good conscience do that, you will resign as the honor of your uniform demands. Is that clear?"

With the exception of Stewart, all betrayed rage. Arnold's was so pale his skin turned marble, Juliana's took on the look of snow, and Zento's face went from red to purple. Stewart, meanwhile, only nodded. "Of course, Your Highness. We serve at the pleasure of House Proctor and the Crown."

"I am not a soldier to be ordered—!"

"No, you are not, Senator Zento," Peter replied. "Feel free to do as your conscience demands. On that matter, I know for a fact that you are privy to military intelligence that has not been widely disseminated to the Privy Council or the Senate or any Parliamentary Committee on which you are a member, so if I hear one iota of that information in a debate or on a news cast, I will personally see to a security investigation that will certainly reveal this breach. Am I clear?"

Zento's face went fully purple. "Clear," he hissed.

"You sentimental fool." Arnold's voice was a low rumble. "That boy will be the death of our realm."

"Your monomania about the Empire will kill us first, cousin. Now, do I have your obedience, or your resignation, Field Marshal Proctor-Steiner?" Peter met his cousin's hating eyes with a cold glare.

For a moment he wondered if Arnold might actually strike him, or spit upon him and declare resignation. The veins on his temple stood out for a moment before he turned. "I will obey my oath," he said, back now to Peter. "And when this blows up in the face of that little brat, I'll see to it that you get yours for this betrayal of our House, cousin." With those words, he stomped away, Juliana and Zento behind. Stewart took the moment to nod before departing as well.

Stewart is not breaking from them, but as always, he is looking out for his position. We will have to be careful with them all. Peter sank back into his chair, head pounding. And so I cross my Rubicon. Iacta alea est.

Trillian returned just before the recess ended. Reading the room, she knew she'd lost supporters here, but hoped it wasn't too many.

But what truly interested her was the departure of Lord Arnold. Stewart sat alone, quiet and having lost some color in his face, and Zento seemed to have just come down from an apoplectic fit.

Peter, who looked ten years older, called the meeting to order. "His Majesty has placed before us a vote to consider, in principle and in fact, Lady Trillian's proposed alliance treaty. Should the vote be in the affirmative, it shall be communicated to the Government Press Office for dissemination, and the announcement made to the Speaker of the Assembly and the President of the Senate."

Lady Howard stood. "Your Highness, may I ask how the advice of the Lord of the Privy Council as to the wisdom of the Crown's policy?"

"You may." Peter drew in a breath and before taking a drink of water. It added to Trillian's torment as she waited to hear if he was going to see her to probably victory or drive the knife into her mission, and her own heart. She kept her eyes on him, not daring to close them, hoping for a sign of his intentions.

"It is my advice that His Majesty's strategic and moral judgment is sound on the matter, not to mention our moral and ethical obligation to oppose the brutality of the Clan onslaught. I am in favor of the alliance treaty and urge its passage."

Gott im Himmel, danke schön. Trillian let out a breath she hadn't realized she was holding, cursing her failed control in the process.

Zento lowered his head and scowled, and a few others in the room were plainly unhappy. Many more were surprised. Stewart's face remained unmoving.

Nathaniel was smiling.

"I call the Privy Council to a vote," Peter said. "The clerk shall record the votes as they are registered. My own vote is, as stated, in favor. Lady Howard?"

"In favor."

"Lord Lee?"

"In favor."

"Lord Proctor-Grimke?"


"Lord Cassel?"

"In favor."

The vote continued on, moving on into the Cabinet, the former AFRF Chiefs of Staff, the judicial lords. Every "Opposed" was a barb thrust into Trillian's spirit, every "In favor" pricked one out, and the count was tight by her reckoning, though she thought the early lead was holding steady.

"Twenty-nine votes for, twenty-five votes against," declared the clerk. "The alliance treaty with the Lyran Commonwealth enjoys the endorsement of the Privy Council. The results will be communicated forthwith."

"Congratulations, my Lady," Marienberg murmured to her, clasping her shoulder. Trillian fought back the tears. This wasn't quite over. She still had to win in their Parliament, and that would be a fight too, especially given the way Zento glared at her. But this was the first hurtle cleared. She had Nathaniel's backing and now that of his government ministries and official advisors. I might just do this, she thought. I might save the Commonwealth, from the Clans and from Vedet.

With a hammer of his gavel Peter adjourned the session. Again everyone filed out. Trillian intercepted as many of her supporters as she could, thanking each, and finally met Nathaniel at the door. "It sounds like it is time we finalize the treaty," he said cheerily. "I have an open schedule today if you'd like to join me and Lady Jessup for a late lunch?"

This reminded her she'd skipped lunch on account of nervousness. "I would be grateful, Your Majesty," she said. "Let me go get the alliance treaty."

On the way back to their suites, she listened to her staff remind her of this point and that, and recorded them in her memory for later reference. Her heart hadn't quite slowed down yet. So close. I didn't think I'd get this far, especially after they found out about Vedet.

The staff peeled off from her once they reached the hall for their rooms, leaving her alone when she arrived at her suite door. She swiped the key to open it and entered. To her surprise, a uniformed presence was waiting, in LCAF blue at that. She checked the name habitually and recognized it. "Leutnant McCarter, right?"

The young officer nodded. "Yes, my Lady." Her Donegal brogue struck another familiar chord. "Kaptain Mullen sent me down with our monthly expense report for yer signature."

"Right. I lost track of the time of month." Trillian sighed and smiled. "I didn't expect to see you so soon."

"It's quite fine, my Lady." McCarter handed her the noteputer.

Trillian took it and set it down on the table beside the printing of the draft treaty, still marked down with her proofing work these past few days. "Numbers seem about right. I'm glad the crew has enjoyed leave."

"It's quite a world. An' how's it going for you?"

"Busy busy busy…"

There was a rush of air. Trillian's brain barely had time to register it before a band of thin, tight pressure pulled on her neck and throat, squeezing her windpipe nearly shut. She gasped in surprise, or rather, would have gasped if she could breathe.

What self-defense training she'd had over her life kicked in, and Trillian tried to shift her body weight, to get some leverage, but she couldn't. She was forced against the table by the weight of McCarter's body, her hips pinned down, hands desperately trying and failing to free her throat from the garotte. She tried to utter a protest, but it was no more successful than the air filling her burning lungs in passing the wire.

A harsh German voice, no longer that friendly brogue, hissed into her ear. "General Maurer and Archon Brewer send their regards, traitor."

Trillian struggled to move again, but there was no use, and the wire on her throat tightened so hard she thought it might slice through her neck. Everything started to go dark.
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: "Emergence" - BattleTech Dark Ages/BattleTech AU Crossover

Post by LadyTevar »

Politics suck balls.

And now we see if Trillian survives.
Nitram, slightly high on cough syrup: Do you know you're beautiful?
Me: Nope, that's why I have you around to tell me.
Nitram: You -are- beautiful. Anyone tries to tell you otherwise kill them.

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Re: "Emergence" - BattleTech Dark Ages/BattleTech AU Crossover

Post by Steve »

34 - Struggles

Royal Palace
Roslyn, Eastern Islay
Arcadia, Arcadia Royal March
Royal Federation
26 January 3143

Peter left the Privy Council meeting with the firm intention of returning to his rooms and checking on his ailing spouse. But with every step his mind gravitated back to the practical implications of what he'd just enabled. His endorsement, and the Privy Council's agreeing vote that included most of the Cabinet's votes in the affirmative, meant that the treaty was likely to pass in some fashion, and whether it did or not, could cause further disruption in Parliament if terms were particularly unwelcome or misunderstood. There were parts of the treaty he wanted to see firmed up, with better wording, if it was going to pass Parliament's scrutiny.

By the time he made it to the lift, he'd decided that, as much as he wanted to see how Kevin was recovering, he needed to speak with Trillian first, and some of the particulars he had in mind. He sent the lift to the eighth floor instead of the third. Upon its arrival on the landing he was waived through the security checkpoint and into the wing of suites where the Lyran delegation was housed. Trillian's rooms were the largest suite, set into the Palace's northeast corner, and he followed the appropriate hall until he came to the double doors. He noted the electronic lock was secure and knocked at the door.

No one answered.

Every second was agony. Crimson shades and blackness danced at Trillian's vision while she tried in vain to get free of MacCarter's deadly grip. So close, I'm so close, she despaired. It can't happen like this! She struggled to get her hand under the wire but couldn't, nor could she pull away with how MacCarter had her pinned against the table.

Desperately Trillian pitched forward, as if to fully lay over the table. It put even more strain on her choking throat to do so, but it ensured MacCarter came forward too. Their weight, together, pushed the entire table over, causing both to fall on top of it. It was a painful landing. Even worse, MacCarter rolled with it enough to keep the garrote on her throat. The assassin didn't flinch from keeping the pressure up, rolling to pin Trillian to the ground.

It was all for nothing. She was about to die.

Just as the despair set in, the door flew open. Through her bleary, diminishing vision Trillian faintly recognized the face of Prince Peter. A moment later heat and weight pressed down on her. There was a sharp blow, a crack, and an involuntary cry. The press of the wire lost its strength and Trillian was finally able to get a hand under it, pulling it from her throat enough to suck in a breath of air. Her aching lungs received it like a dying fire receiving fresh fuel.

There were more blows behind her before the particular buzzing noise of a needler gun going off. A male cry of pain echoed in Trillian's ear and some of the weight behind her moved. Trillian turned and looked up at the sight of MacCarter's right hand holding the needler towards Prince Peter, now laid against the fallen table with blood issuing from his shoulder. The gun started to swing back towards her. Self-defense training sprung into place and Trillian's legs shot out, one going up against MacCarter's shin while the other leg lashed out in a kick at the assassin's knee. The blow didn't break anything, but it threw MacCarter's balance off. She pitched forward. While her head still felt like it was spinning in place Trillian forced enough movement to roll on MacCarter, grasping at her right arm to get the gun away. One hand, then the other, managed to get onto MacCarter's wrist and twist. The assassin hissed in pain, then yowled. Just a little more, Trillian thought, urging her arm to keep the pressure up until the firearm was free.

The assassin's left arm moved. It didn't move properly at all, given the damage done to it by Peter in freeing her from the garrote, but it moved fast enough that Trillian was taken by surprise by the punch. Her head snapped to the side and her grip slackened. Agony flooded her belly at the sharp impact there by MacCarter's knee, costing Trillian the breath she was taking and leaving her too stunned to keep her grip on the right wrist. The assassin pulled the arm free just as Trillian, trying to recover her focus, turned her head back to face MacCarter. With cold, unfeeling eyes, the assassin's needler came up towards her head.

Behind MacCarter, a massive form loomed into view, moving at high speed from the hall. Clearing the open doors, they shifted from a sprint to what Trillian’s pain-addled mind still recognized as a diving rugby-style tackle, landing on MacCarter and crushing her, the large armored glove coming down on her hand and covering the needler completely.

"Clear the room!" a voice barked. Trillian lifted her eyes at the power armor-clad soldiers appearing at the door, two of which moved inward. Two more came up behind them, in the same colors and insignia of the Second Proctor Guards' Eighteenth Royal Rangers Regiment. "Summon the medics! We have wounded!"

Trillian fought her vertigo and pain to get back to a sitting position. The guard who made the dive on MacCarter was standing up. There was no movement from Trillian's would-be killer. Her hand was crumpled, the bones broken given the ferocity of the way the soldier grabbed it, and the needler held within looked like the barrel was slightly bent. A few visible wounds now showed, where she'd been crushed enough to break skin. Her cold eyes were now completely lifeless and her head hung unnaturally from her shoulders, the neck broken by the impact of the guard landing on her in his suit.

"Clear! Moving on!" The soldiers moved further in, the doors just large enough to permit clearance for their power armor.

"Are you all right?" Peter's voice was tight with pain, but it was strong. She turned towards her unexpected savior. The right arm of his suit was soaked crimson with his blood, now dripping onto the carpet. His shoulder was a mess of fabric and torn flesh from the needler shot.

"Alive," she managed, her voice unintentionally harsh given she was still trying to get her breath. "You're hurt."

"Flesh wound. Mostly."

By this point the better part of a platoon were in the room, with one squad clearing the rest of the suite and another holding the entrance door and the guest parlor. Trillian grabbed at the covering cloth of the fallen table and wadded it to press against Peter's shoulder. "Thank you," she said. "I… it happened so fast, I never expected…" Maurer, it has to be. He found a Loki operative disloyal to Melissa. Vedet wouldn't have a chance of finding one.

"You're welcome, Lady Trillian," Peter said. "I was coming to see you about the treaty. Heard a crash through the door, realized something was wrong, called for help and went in." He laughed bitterly. "I always thought my days of getting shot at were over. Even in politics."

"I envy your Inner Sphere that you can feel that way," Trillian said. She focused entirely on treating the wound, all the way until medics arrived and shooed her away. She went over and lowered herself into a chair, one not knocked over, and worked to regain her breath. A glance at her noteputer and the inactive screen showed her neck was already turning blue from the garrote wire, and her cheek and eye were puffing up from the last blow she'd taken. Her belly continued to ache as well.

The squad that went through the suite came back. "Everything clear of hostiles," one of the soldiers said, voice slightly crackly through the suit radio. "Ready for the security teams to do a full sweep."

"Good job." Another of the armored guardsman turned towards her. Given the bits of blood on his suit, she realized it was the guard who jumped on MacCarter. "Sergeant John Laszlo, Lady" he said, in a slight Germanic accent. "Do you need anything? Another medic is coming for your wounds."

"A glass of water, and a printer," she replied, somewhat hotly. Now that she was out of danger her fury at Maurer and Vedet was growing. They sent an assassin with me. And that assassin was so devoted as to try this over… over what? Melissa's name on the treaty? I should have known better. Some of her fury turned inward. I should have expected this from them, but I was so focused on everything else…

"Sergeant." A guardswoman in the same suit stepped up and saluted. "Colonel Francis, Colonel Laughlin, and Director Mwangi are on their way." Trillian recognized the second and third name mentioned, one being the commander of the Lifeguards Regiment and the other the Director of the Royal Security Service. "SIS wants us to keep the suite clear until further notice. EOD personnel en route."

"Put a team in each room and a squad here and outside the door. No entry until personnel are cleared."

"And my printer, Sergeant?" Trillian asked.

"My Lady, we can get you one while you're seen to in the palace infirmary."

"I do not req—" She stopped herself. She could hardly return to Nathaniel looking like this, nor could she just leave Prince Peter's side. And a suspicion gripped her. Was MacCarter the only one? Could another of my staff be an assassin in waiting too, or working with them? "Thank you, Sergeant. Let me collect my noteputer and we shall go."

"I can provide you with another. Everything here needs to remain for the security investigation, Director Mwangi's orders."

"Very well." She stood. She had some slight disorientation, but it was starting to fade. The pain, however, was not. "I'm ready, but I wish to go with Prince Peter."

"Understood, Lady Trillian."

The damaged doors swung wide, admitting a stretcher pushed by an orderly with nurses and a physician following. The orderly and nurses went to work on Prince Peter while Trillian watched, getting her feet back. They departed together.

In the AFRF's operational levels of the subbasement, the usual wardroom was set aside, and the meeting attendants gathered slowly as they made their way through the appropriate checkpoints. Arnold fumed with quiet frustration at the even smaller ranks of their ad hoc committee, with some of his peers no longer attending. Senator Stewart was likewise gone, though Zento and Deputy Director Rinaldi made due appearances, the latter coming in late. "Apologies," she said before taking her seat. "The fiasco upstairs had me dealing with Directors Mwangi and Frobisher."

"Lady Trillian survived, I hear?" Zento asked, in the tone of a man very much wishing to be wrong.

"She did. Prince Peter came to discuss treaty matters with her and stumbled upon the assassin strangling her. He was shot in the resulting altercation, but the Second Proctor Guards infantry who responded to his call stopped the assassin before she could kill either Peter or Trillian."

"A shame he was not a minute later."

A few sets of eyes glared toward Zento. He returned the glares. "She has poisoned the King's mind and turned him against our interests. Her death would bring an end to this mockery."

"Or would require us to retaliate against her killers as a matter of principle," Admiral Lumwe replied. "An attack on a royal guest, in the Palace? That would have been a supreme humiliation we could not tolerate."

"An excellent point, Admiral," Arnold said. "So let's be thankful for my cousin's sense of timing, and his survival."

"Even with the way he betrayed us today?"

To General Montague's question, Arnold nodded quietly. "Yes. I will have my reckoning with him for that, but he is still flesh and blood, he is a Proctor-Steiner. Had he died we would have all been honorbound to demand justice from the Lyran assassins."

"Our battle is not yet lost," Juliana Steiner insisted. "We can bring this fight to Parliament. If Senator Zento and others can block support, then there will be no funding for the war, Nathaniel will have to back down."

Baroness Newson, the AFRF's Quartermaster-General, spoke up next. "Yet you may promote a logjam on the spending we do need, since it will rile up the Peace bloc in the process. Maybe Admiral Stewart is correct, we should accept the conflict is coming and ensure the buildup is directed towards what we need to resist the Empire."

"Even if we prevail in this fight, it is a distraction that moves us past our window of opportunity!" Arnold shouted. "They will never defeat the Clans before 3145, not with how strong they are, Nathaniel's war will give the Empire the time it needs! We have to stop it."

"You are being unrealistic," General Rosinsky, Newson's chief of staff, barked. "The King's wishes are clear, he will refuse any proposal to strike the Empire. We may as well use the fight he does want as a chance to build up our forces and prepare them for the next war."

"That's a defeatist sentiment, General," Juliaia retorted. "We can still make this work."

"Not from where we're sitting," Newson said. "You lost Peter's support, without Peter we have no hope of persuading the King. It's time we accepted EAGLE CRY is never happening and begin preparations for alternative solutions."

"Then we will be at war with the Empire within ten years, and at a severe disadvantage," Arnold predicted. I cannot believe I am hearing this. I cannot believe everyone is giving up so easily, all because of my foolish cousin! "And I cannot, in good conscience, simply give up the chance to turn things our way."

"You have no remaining options to 'turn things our way', Lord Arnold," General Paul Steiner-Brewer observed. "Peter's words are clear. The King will not be swayed, and he will not try. We must follow policy or resign, and I will not resign for your ego."

Arnold's temper slipped loose. His fists slammed on the table. "Then go and be damned, coward!" he shouted. "If you haven't the strength of will to stay with this fight to the end, you're no better than the diplomats who signed that damned Dieron peace treaty when we nearly had the Empire broken! No better than the politicians of Parliament that forced Queen Jacqueline to give up on MORNING STAR right when we'd almost secured Sirius! Time and time again our soldiers win battles and victories that people like you throw away out of fear! Well, go off and join them, but as far as I'm concerned, you have no right to wear that uniform!"

Lord Paul's face paled with rage. "I lost my eldest son and daughter in that war," he hissed. "Unlike you. You lost none of your own children. So don't you damn well evoke my dead children against me again, or I'll have you for a duel, regulations be damned." His eyes swept over the room. "I do not trust the Empire, and will do all in my power to make ready for their eventual attack, but this council is quickly becoming the sort of cabal that could bring down our Federation. Come what may, we have a duty to stand with our ruler, wrong as he is, and ensure the war he is embarking on will be fought quickly and successfully, whatever our feelings. Then we can resume our work to prepare King Nathaniel and the realm for our next war with the Empire. It may not be under the circumstances EAGLE CRY would have allowed us, but we must face reality." He glared at Arnold once more. "No matter what is thought by some of our number."

"I am still going to endeavor to kill this alliance in the Senate, General, whatever you say," Zento insisted. "The Isle of Skye must be protected, not Lyrans a cosmos away!"

If Zento had been hoping for angry repudiation, he didn't get it. Paul Steiner-Brewer waved him off dismissively. "Then do so, Lord Senator, and if you succeed, then so be it. But if you do not, we must be ready to see our realm through to victory as quickly and painless as possible, and ensure we are ready for the battles to come."

"It is clear we have little more to discuss," said Admiral Stewart. "We'll meet again after we see the results of Senator Zento's efforts." He stood. "I respectfully suggest everyone be careful in departing. Security will be tighter than ordinary given this assassination business."

Nods and murmurs of agreement came as the assembled filed out. Arnold stewed in his own unspent wrath and fury. Damn that boy, damn Peter for spoiling him, damn Lady Trillian for her honeyed words, and damn the Devil for making that Hell-spawned portal in the first place! Everything I've worked years to set up is unraveling!

"Marshal." The voice of Juliana Steiner prompted him to raise his head. She and Deputy Director Rinaldi were the only people left in the wardroom. "Our colleagues will only go so far. I suggest we pave the way for them by ensuring they have the information they will need once the time for action comes."

"It is about all we can do," he said, anger still festering. "But I fear that the Empire will get the last laugh here."

"Oh, there are always methods we can use to progress matters," Rinaldi said candidly. "But for the good of our realm, we must act within the confines of our system, as great as a struggle as it may prove."

"Exactly," Juliana agreed. "Preparations have been made and must be continued. We need you for that."

"Then I am yours," Arnold said. "Come what may, we will save our nation from our King, even if we can't save him from his own idealistic stupidity."

Part of the first subbasement level was given over to the Palace Infirmary. Staffed by civilian medical personnel hired by the Palace itself, it was primarily for the benefit of the residents and work force should medical emergencies arise, even containing a surgical theater, as well as a direct outlet to an outside helipad for evacuation to a full hospital if it was necessary.

Nathaniel entered the infirmary at a rapid pace, coming from his personal lift, flanked by a pair of Chasseur-clad Lifeguards of the Lifeguard Armored Infantry. An attending nurse directed him to the wound care ward. He approached the only occupied beds. Peter and Trillian were already in gowns being treated. "Thank God," Nathaniel said to them at approaching. Peter still looked a little pale to his eye, with his shoulder tightly bandaged. Trillian looked rather worse. A band of purple-blue crossed over her throat and another splotch of the color marred the left side of her face. "I was afraid of the worst. You have my most heartfelt apologies for this attack, I have already demanded Director Mwangi launch a full investigation into how this could have happened."

"Thank you, Majesty," Trillian said politely. As ever she gave the air of a natural diplomat, though Nathaniel thought she looked rather less poised than she'd been elsewhere. Her body posture was still tense, even here in the safety of his infirmary. Would I be any different had I been assaulted in my private rooms?

"Director Mwangi tells me your killer was working for the usurpers on your Tharkad?"

Trillian nodded. "She said as much. That was all she said, in fact. Many in the LIC are supposedly on the fence, with Loki loyal to Archon Melissa, but Maurer may have found an agent willing to work for him instead. Either way, it's clear I was being watched for 'disloyalty' to the new regime. She must have seen the draft treaty and Melissa's name in Vedet's place."

"I've asked for security to confirm how she got through our checkpoints with a firearm."

"They will find the needler is made of scanner-resistant composites, and may be a self-assembled weapon easily carrier in pieces that wouldn't identify as a weapon." Trillian shook her head. "LIC has their ways."

As does the SIS, I suspect. Nathaniel nodded and turned his head to Peter. "Uncle, thank you, is there anything I can do for you?"

Peter smiled thinly. "Nothing I can think of at the moment, Nathaniel, and you're welcome. Though actually… can you make sure Kevin is all right?"

"I visited him while waiting for clearance to see you, he's coming down as soon as he's cleared. He's worried, but with Director Mwangi's help we reassured him you were in reasonably good health, so he's doing fine himself."

A small sigh escaped Peter's throat. 'Good. I don't need him hurting himself out of fear for me."

"I made it clear to him, as his sovereign, that he had to care for himself to," Nathaniel said, grinning softly. "He took it to heart." All the same, he's right to be upset. We all are. This should not happen in the Palace! Just looking at Peter's bandaged wound filled him with anger and a small sense of violation. Someone must answer for this!

Nathaniel turned back to Trillian. "The sooner we get the alliance signed, the sooner you can return home and sort out these usurpers, yes?"

She nodded once, briefly obscuring the angry bruise on her neck. "Yes, Your Majesty."

"You may call me Nathaniel here, Lady Trillian, the infirmary isn't exactly a formal setting," he said.

"Very well, Nathaniel. The same goes to you."

He nodded. "When you are up to it, I should like to get the alliance terms finalized for Parliament's consideration. In the meantime, given the state of your rooms, I have a spare suite in the family's wing I can provide, under the direct observation of the Lifeguards."

Trillian nodded, a small smile forming on her face. "Thank you, Nathaniel, for that hospitality."

"You're welcome. We'll also investigate the rest of your staff and see if any of them were in collusion with this."

"Lord Marienberg is above reproach," Trillian said, "as are my other advisors and domestic aides. I can't speak for the entirety of the Archon's Fist's crew, obviously, but Kapitän Mullen would not be in league with the usurpers, nor can I imagine the same of his senior officers."

"I see. I'll leave it to you, then, and see to it you receive all relevant information in our investigation." It is better if her people do this, he reasoned. A terrible thing I cannot make my own displeasure known more greatly to the usurpers, but it would destabilize too much. And to think today looked to be a triumph. If Peter hadn't been there… "Well, I had hoped to continue talks this evening, but I don't wish to impose given your condition."

Trillian's smile grew. She reached under the pillow beside her and brought out a tablet noteputer. "I am more than willing to continue our work, Nathaniel. I consider it an appropriate response to the usurpers and their assassins."

"So it would be." He glanced about until he found a nearby chair, which he pulled over. "Uncle, I do not wish to impose?"

Peter chuckled softly. "Better this than getting bored waiting for release. Perhaps you should call Lady Jessup and have her participate? Remotely, if she doesn't wish to join us in person."

"An excellent suggestion." Nathaniel pulled out his comm. As he brought up Jessup's contact, a thought crossed his mind. This is the kind of negotiation that goes into the history books for oddness, isn't it?

Still, despite the setting, he could think of no better way to respond to the assassin's masters than to get the treaty approved immediately.
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: "Emergence" - BattleTech Dark Ages/BattleTech AU Crossover

Post by Steve »

Haven't been posting all my designs for this setting, but figured I'd do this one for the reference in the notable pilot part. I'm sure Tev will figure it out. 8)

Code: Select all

Silver Knight SL-8-KNT

Mass: 80 tons
Tech Base: Mixed
Chassis Config: Biped
Rules Level: Experimental Tech
Era: Later Second Age of War
Tech Rating/Era Availability: X/X-X-X-X
Production Year: 3078
Dry Cost: 23,447,940 C-Bills
Total Cost: 23,447,940 C-Bills
Battle Value: 2,796

Chassis: Ortiz Materials Improved Endo-Steel
Power Plant: Onassis FusionWorks 400 Fusion iXL Engine
Walking Speed: 54.0 km/h
Maximum Speed: 86.4 km/h
Jump Jets: None
    Jump Capacity: 0 meters
Armor: Arcadia Arsenal Royal Ferro-Fibrous
    2 Vickers-Armstrong Mk. 16 Lasers
    2 Vickers-Armstrong Mk. 15 Lasers
    2 Defiance P6Ms
    1 Defiance LightSweeper (CL) Micro Pulse Laser
    1 Arcadia Arsenal Knight's Blade
    1 Arcadia Arsenal Knight's Shield
Manufacturer: Kong Interstellar
    Primary Factory: Arcadia
Communications System: Arcadia Arsenal 3070-CommSuite
Targeting and Tracking System: Vickers-Armstrong Mk. 9 TTS

For much of the 30th and 31st Century, Kong Interstellar's operations were
aided by their factory in Arcadia's capital of Roslyn, where a restored Star
League-era automated factory churned out BL-6b-KNT Black Knight 'Mechs for the
use of Arcadia's military.  The facility was heavily damaged during the
Terrans' ejection from Arcadia in 3051 and Kong's production withered.  Making
matters worse, the growing use of Terran-quality weapons made the unit's value
decline.  While sales were still maintained, Kong was losing its edge in Lyran
space and elsewhere.

Using sales from their revived facilities on Loxley and Connaught to defray the
costs of lost sales, Kong took the step of shutting down all production after
the Concord-Compact War, allowing them to use recovered Terran knowhow to
re-tool the factory for a new design conceived of to fit a niche role; a
protective brawler for command lances and assault formations using the new
shields coming into vogue on Solaris.  Teaming with local production companies
for much of the systems and for sword and shield to be employed on the design,
Kong soon announced a complete rework of their famous Black Knight, the
SL-8-KNT Silver Knight, a fast assault 'Mech for the growing numbers of assault
formations around the Inner Sphere.

Hoping to ensure orders from their former customers on the planet, many of
Kong's chosen systems were produced locally.  The Vickers-Armstrong Mk. 9 TTS
was a production of Leuktra in Western Islay; the Arcadia Arsenal
3070-CommSuite made in three facilities across the planet.  By necessity the
endo-steel skeletal structure is imported from nearby Launum and the Ortiz
Materials endo-steel forges there, as are the Defiance P6Ms and LightSweeper
pulse lasers.  Vickers-Armstrong's Mk. 15 and Mk. 16 Royal Extended Range
Lasers are likewise drawn from the companies' expanded factories on Arcadia, in
Finfinne and Arcas, the Mk.16s particularly important as they not only provide
long-range hitting power, they provide much of the heat needed to active the
triple-strength myomer.  And in Roslyn proper, Arcadia Arsenal's forges made
patented new shields and swords, the Knight's Shield and Knight's Blade, to
outfit the requested melee weapons.  Onassis' completed retooling of its 400XL
engine into a Terran-grade iXL model would power the new Silver Knight.  Thanks
to the careful design work, the SL-8-KNT has a reputation for being a
MechTech's dream, which has done wonders for the machine's popularity on

Battle History:
The Silver Knights were at the front by the start of the Vanguard War and the
escalating fighting in along the Lyran Alliance-St. Ives Compact border
systems, and the need for assault-weight machines, especially for closed-range
combat environments like cities, ensured Kong plenty of orders (and plenty of
new customers as salvage spread the design to the Oriento-Capellan Empire and
beyond).  During the invasion of Arcadia by the Scipian Dominate the regiments
of the AFRF often took possession of new production right out of the factory to
rush to the front.  The Fourth Succession War took a toll on the numbers of the
machine, however, destroying most of the existing stock, and post-war the
restricted rebuilding budgets of many states has seen Kong forced to scale back
production, even almost suspending the line until a fresh order for six Silver
Knights from the Avery's Aces Stable ensured profitability.

The relative rarity of the Silver Knight has seen the design limited to a few
specialist units, primarily the Federation's Royal Assault Regiments, the
Wraiths, and Ghastillia's Grenadiers.  A number of those still in service are
either among the stables of Solaris, where the Silver Knight remains a fan
favorite in the assault weight class, trophies taken by warriors of Oriente's
Knight Orders, and inherited machines among some of the Arcadian nobility,
especially those serving in the Lifeguards and the Household Guards.

A variant, the SL-8-KNT-H, is built by Kong Interstellar on the planet
Calloway.  Using locally-produced parts in the Grand Duchy of Oriente, it is
only a variant in that it employs extended range versions of the pulse lasers,
forcing a redistribution of the machine's materials and having a higher heat
curve than the basic SL-8-KNT.  The design is sold exclusively to the Knight
Orders of Oriente.

Notable 'Mechs & MechWarriors:
A veteran MechWarrior and hereditary Freifrau from Clinton, Lady Diana Grayston
gained fame across the Inner Sphere by piloting her personal Silver Knight,
"Silver Fuller", for Avery's Aces Stable.  While scandalizing the other nobles
of Clinton for fighting in the Solaris arenas, she won the love of many
audiences with her flair as a 'Mech duelist and worked her way into the upper
ranks of assault pilot fighters, topping out at ranking #8 of all Solaris
combatants in 3107.  This ensured her invitation to the "Reforging of Ties"
exhibitions on Alphard where her Stable promoted mixed teams of Principate and
Royal Federation in 3109, where she impressed the jaded colisseum-goers of Nova
Roma with her finesse and swashbuckling style. 

Lady Diana returned from these matches in time to join the AFRF for the Fourth
Succession War, serving in the Arcadian Guards during the campaigns of the
early war and repelling a mercenary raid on Bondurant in 3114 during the
Guards' recuperation after their severe losses in the defense of Rasalas. 
Raised to a company command and recuperating from injuries, she caused some
damage to her social standing due to an extramarital affair with the married
Duke of Bondurant, which produced a son, and so scandalized her peers on
Clinton - who already disliked her for her gladiator days - that she was forced
to surrender her holdings to her younger sister Grace, and only narrowly
avoided a court of honor that would have seen her rank reduced.

After taking a maternity leave through 3116, Lady Diana returned to the front
and was part of the Arcadian Guards' battles for Lancaster and Oceana before
being mortally wounded defending her comrades' retreat from the Imperials'
wide-scale offensive of 3118-3119.  She was evacuated back to Bondurant where
she died of complications from her wounds on August 3rd, 3119.  In her will,
she left Silver Fuller and her remaining wealth to her son, Harold Grayston,
who was raised on Bonduant by a trusted retainer of Duke Fortemps and
ultimately graduated with honors from the Ayrshire Military Sciences Academy in
3138.  He now pilots his mother's BattleMech as a MechWarrior of the Lifeguards
Regiment, serving to protect High King Nathaniel.

Equipment           Type                         Rating                   Mass 
Internal Structure: Endo-Steel                   122 points                4.00
    Internal Locations: 4 LT, 3 RT
Engine:             XL Engine                    400                      26.50
    Walking MP: 5
    Running MP: 8
    Jumping MP: 0
Heat Sinks:         (CL) Double Heat Sink        15(30)                    5.00
Gyro:               Standard                                               4.00
Cockpit:            Standard                                               3.00
    Actuators:      L: SH+UA+LA+H    R: SH+UA+LA+H
    TSM Locations: 1 LT, 1 RT, 1 LA, 1 RA, 1 LL, 1 RL
Armor:              Ferro-Fibrous                AV - 247                 13.00
    Armor Locations: 3 LT, 4 RT

                                                      Internal       Armor     
                                                      Structure      Factor     
                                                Head     3            9         
                                        Center Torso     25           38       
                                 Center Torso (rear)                  12       
                                           L/R Torso     17           26       
                                    L/R Torso (rear)                  8         
                                             L/R Arm     13           26       
                                             L/R Leg     17           34       

Equipment                                 Location    Heat    Critical    Mass 
Sword                                        RA        -         6         4.00
Large Shield                                 LA        -         7         6.00
(CL) ER Large Laser                          RT        12        1         4.00
(CL) Medium Pulse Laser                      RT        4         1         2.00
(CL) ER Large Laser                          LT        12        1         4.00
(CL) Medium Pulse Laser                      LT        4         1         2.00
2 (CL) ER Medium Lasers                      CT        10        2         2.00
(CL) Micro Pulse Laser                       HD        1         1         0.50
                                            Free Critical Slots: 3

BattleForce Statistics
MV      S (+0)  M (+2)  L (+4)  E (+6)   Wt.   Ov   Armor:      8    Points: 28
4          4       4       2       0      4     1   Structure:  4
Special Abilities: TSM, MEL, SHLD, ENE, SRCH, ES, SEAL, SOA

”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: "Emergence" - BattleTech Dark Ages/BattleTech AU Crossover

Post by LadyTevar »

Nope, totally missed the reference.
Nitram, slightly high on cough syrup: Do you know you're beautiful?
Me: Nope, that's why I have you around to tell me.
Nitram: You -are- beautiful. Anyone tries to tell you otherwise kill them.

"A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP" -- Leonard Nimoy, last Tweet
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Re: "Emergence" - BattleTech Dark Ages/BattleTech AU Crossover

Post by Steve »

This was entirely written by Captain Orsai

35 - Visions, Radiant and Bright

Falcon’s Reach (Former Republic Of The Sphere)
17 January, 3143

The Jade Falcon military government of Alkalurops had chosen to make their home in the township of Kilkenny. They’d probably thought it was a good idea, Callandre Kell reflected, looking out through the - permanently opened by an SRM blast as the Fourth Avalon Armoured Infantry stormed the Falcon HQ - windows of what had been, before the Falcons converted it to a command centre, a typing pool or something like, at the open, rocky ground around the town, the ore sheds holding the product of the mines in the Vandika continent’s mountain ranges, and the Guards arrayed in a not-quite-standoff with the locals. And, maybe they might have been right, up against a bunch of rock- or petrol bomb-throwing rioters, or converted WorkMechs.

Against the massed strength of the First Davion Guards - plus the disturbingly well-equipped resistance that’d sprung out of hiding as the Guards burned in - all it’d done was get them killed.

Callandre shook her head. She had a - well-earned, honestly - reputation for stunts that were usually called insane, and often verged on suicidal, but regardless of all the crazy “Mongol doctrine” shit the Falcons were pumping out, even the densest Bottle-Baby could do maths. Enough, at least, to know that throwing a pair of understrength battalions against the better part of five regiments just counting the ones on the ground already, wasn’t going to do shit. Even the most combat-happy Wolves she’d associated with would’ve known better; and one of them had tried to headbutt his way through her Destroyer's windshield on a bet for God's sake!

And the Falcons hadn’t done damn-all, or most of them hadn’t at least; Jules’ plan had that down perfectly. Their ‘Mechs and armour had just been shredded by long-range energy and Gauss fire, the infantry peeled out of their strongpoints like lobsters by tank and battlesuit teams trained to a fever pitch at urban warfare. Hell, all she’d had to use her Destroyer’s autocannon for was finally blasting the Watch snowdrops - “redcaps” according to the Guards - out of their HQ.

Then again, she thought, considering what the locals’ve been doing to any Clanners they get hold of - and what the Falcons did to them first - maybe they had the right idea fighting against us. The handful of surviving Falcon infantry - sibbies, mainly; and a couple of ancient and greying Point Commanders who'd kept the sibbies from being too stupid to live - plus the few Watch operatives who'd lived to make it close enough to surrender to the Guards were out by the DropShips; protected by Markesan Pride's guns, a company of the biggest, meanest infanteers Jules could find - in massive sets of Grenadier and Fenrir armour - and the ferocious anti-infantry arsenal of a Scarecrow from the pissed off locals out to hang them from the nearest tree. As for what the Falcons had done to the locals, well - everyone in the Guards had seen the shattered, broken remains of towns and villages the stupid bastards had sacked.

And speaking of the locals, she thought, as the improv-conference room’s door opened, admitting the local rep. She wasn’t what Callandre had expected; far from the dashing image of a resistance leader, Grace O’Malley looked like - well, what she probably was, day-to-day, a wiry miner worn down by years of hard work, her contemplative features tanned dark by Alkalurops’ bright, pale sunlight, grey streaking her dull-red hair. The limp, and the supporting brace around one thigh were probably the Falcons’ work. She didn’t need telling who was in charge, stepping toward Jules with a hand extended; not that Jules’ love of no more state than he had to put up with - in this case, her, Sandra (as ever established in a comfy chair with noteputers to hand) and the infantry squad on guard - made that difficult.

“Grace O’Malley, Mayor of Falkirk.” Her greeting and the handshake with it were perfunctory as well, but at least not outright rude, and Jules didn’t seem bothered. If anything, he seemed more relaxed than Callandre knew he’d been since Terra, now they were finally acting.

“Julian Davion, general officer commanding the First Davion Guard,” Jules returned the greeting with court-trained grace, and making introductions in turn. "My armour brigade exec, Major Callandre Kell; and Countess Sandra Fenlon, of Chesterton." That got Sandy a polite nod of acknowledgement, and Callandre a long, considering look. The kind of look she knew well, hated, that she bit back her normal caustic response to; maybe Jules is finally rubbing off on me. The look that conveyed, without a word, I know your name, and You're not what I expected.

"You're an awfully long way from home, General," O'Malley responded after taking a seat, indicating the sword-and-sunburst banner hung on one wall. "You lost?"

"No," Jules managed a soft chuckle in response to that. "We're heading to Lyran space, as a matter of fact."

"I see." O'Malley didn't look convinced, but then, the firepower the Guards had deployed would worry anyone. She frowned, seeming to turn over facts in her mind for a moment. Then; “Not that I want to sound inhospitable, but if you’re heading there, then why are you here?”

"Intel raid," Callandre cut in. No need to let her work Jules solo. “Needed to find out what was going on, and here seemed as good a place as any.” Tossed that off casually, as though Alkalurops hadn’t been picked for very specific reasons; the distance along their route to the rendezvous at Gallery, giving time to analyse everything learned, and the fact that its pirate points were probably the safest in known space.

“And you’re planning on staying here for how long? We haven’t exactly got a whole lot to spare for another dozen thousand guests."

“No more than a week.” Julian, calm and level. “Just long enough to recharge our jump drives.”

“Fair enough,” O’Malley commented after a moment’s consideration. “It’s not like I could stop you, so I might as well be a good host.”

“Good,” Julian smiled, accepting a noteputer from Sandra. Their fingers brushed lightly, drawing deeper smiles from both; and one from Callandre, as well, she knew happiness when she saw it. “I’ve got a rough SOFA worked out here …”

Callandre took the opportunity to step out; the rest of this was going to be administrative stuff, that she didn’t like and wasn’t any good at.

Her aimless footsteps took Callandre outside, in amongst the Guards’ armour park - everything from lightweight Kruger armoured cars to the bulk of two of their superheavy Destriers. Things seemed to be calming down, the Guards and resistance fighters already making the first steps of friendship; talking in small groups within the no-man’s-land between both forces.

Nobody seemed to be paying much attention as she moved through the ranks of AFVs, and that was one reason Callandre had decided she liked being with the Guards. They didn’t care about her name, or who her father or uncle were, or what she’d done at the Nagelring - all that mattered to the Federated Suns tankers was that she could do the job she claimed, and do it right. Which, admittedly, was just as much pressure in its own way, but a whole lot easier to handle.

Making her way to her Destroyer - unambiguously hers, since she'd made sure to tag it with, alongside the sword-and-sunburst and the First Guards' Corinthian helmet, the emblems of the Kell Hounds, the Nagelring Cadet Corps and the Lyran Commonwealth - Callandre hefted one of the toolboxes secured to the rear deck kit racks and clambered up atop the cockpit, intent on fixing the persistent hitch in MG mount's traversing gear.

She'd gotten the maintenance covers free and was starting to realign the traversal motor’s parts - one of them looked like it’d worked loose, or been knocked loose by that SRM hit in the street fighting earlier - when an unfamiliar voice broke her focus, a strange, almost musically accented voice announcing, “Calamity Kell, I presume?”

That had her rounding on the speaker to deliver a stinging rebuke - the Guards knew she hated that nickname coming from anyone who hadn't earned the right to use it - that died in her throat when she got a look at them.

The man dressed like one of the locals, in the same hard-wearing, practical denim and leathers, but he wasn’t; hadn't been born on Alkalurops at least. Callandre had spent enough time around Trueborn warriors to recognise one - even in civvies - when she saw them, even if she'd never encountered one who, from the bleached-white hair and skin, and pink eyes, was a genuine albino; and that made the accent click, because she'd heard it before. From one of the Coordinator's party, on Terra.

"You're an awfully long way from Irece, Nova Cat," Callandre responded, finally. "And how'd you get that name?"

"Correct on the first, wrong on the second; I believe Danny now owes me a pint," the Clanner smiled. "As to your name, I learned of it through the fires, as with much else. I," he made a stiff, Kuritan court-style bow, the precise degree of one to an equal, "am Benjork Lone Cat, once of Clan Nova Cat, and now of Alkalurops."

Callandre frowned at that; not the idea - there were Nova Cat enclaves, or had been, in the Republic, and Stone’s policies had always encouraged movement and intermixing - but at the comment that said that she was dealing with a seer. Or just who thinks they are; she’d never been sure just how much of the Nova Cats’ mysticism was nonsense, how much was misdirection, and how much they actually believed. And how much might be real.

“You know my name. But I don’t know why you’re talking to me. Shouldn’t you be sharing your ‘mystical wisdom’ with Marshal Davion?”

Laughter wasn’t the response to her words that Callandre had expected, but it was the one the Lone Cat gave her; the familiar short, barking cadence of Clanner amusement.

He does not need it,” Benjork said, a smile on his face; as though at some private joke. “Julian Davion knows who he is, and who he must become. The only question for him is the route to it, and that is a path that every soul must walk alone. You, though; you, Callandre Kell, do not know yourself, which I find curious, as,” he nodded to the Destroyer’s clustered insignia, “there are clearly many of you to know.”

“Just speak your piece. I don’t like riddles and I do have work to do,” Callandre snapped, unsettled by the ex-Nova Cat’s unblinking case, and by his ability to home in on things that she’d been trying to avoid thinking about since Ronel.

And, at that, the news of her uncle’s narrow escape had just focused doubts Callandre had been feeling for a long time about her own life choices. Very few of which, looking back on them, she was particularly proud of; most notably, the disastrous drunken bender she’d embarked on after finally graduating the Nagelring - somehow scraping a sword of honour despite shattering every record for misbehaviour and demerits - in large part due to missing Jules, and it finally sinking in what she might have have done to him by dragging him into her rebellion against the weight of expectations. She couldn’t even remember very clearly marrying Langenhass, just a vague impression of making it exceptionally clear to a registrar on Solaris that he’d do it or something violent was going to happen; the extremely public divorce two weeks later, when she’d sobered up enough to think clearly, Callandre did remember, and regretted. Not doing it, but a lot of the things she’d said, implied and threatened to Keith, who for an idiot was a decent enough guy and hadn’t deserved the full force of her temper.

“Simply thus; no human being is an island. We are all linked, and do not exist for ourselves alone. And though I have little experience with family as such,” a different smile now, something softer and more self-deprecatory, “well, surely it is best to make peace with them, rather than maintaining an antagonism that profits none but your enemies?"

Goddammit, how the hell is he getting inside my head like this? Callandre had been subject to cold-reading before, and she was positive that was what Benjork was doing to her; but something about his eerie, piercing gaze and knowing expression was making her think about the tales she'd loved as a child - with a child's ghoulish fascination with terror - about Subhash Indrahar, the ISF Director back during the original Clan invasion, and his supposed ability to read a person's thoughts, their innermost soul, just by looking them in the eye.

Part of her wanted to scream several highly creative obscenities at the Cat, or maybe hit him with the wrench in her hand; to deny even the possibility of any kind of reconciliation. Another part, that she’d found herself listening to more and more lately, responded to that with, Quit being a child. So you said some nasty things to your father; you’re not the only one here with family issues. Sandra’s parents were both murdered when she was a toddler, Julian never knew his mother and barely knew his dad; hell, he’s getting ready to fight a war with his cousin if he’s got to. At least you get the chance to make things right with your father.

“You’ve made your point,” she settled on, finally, not liking the edge of petulance in her voice. “I’ll settle up with my dad, when I get the chance. Now, do you have any other insights to push on me, or are you going to leave and let me work?”

“Bargained well, and done,” Benjork replied, smiling that odd smile Callandre was really starting to take a dislike to as she turned back to the turret mechanism. “I wish you well; and it is to the good that Julian Davion has one such as you to guard his back. He will need it.”

“Now what in the hell do you mean by -” Callandre started, turning and rising the wrench - she was about ready to start beating some straightforwardness into this clown - only to find herself staring at nothing but the rear deck of the Ajax assault tank parked in front of her Destroyer.

“Goddamned vanishing act. Bloody Nova Cats,” she muttered. It wasn’t like Jules lacked for people to watch his back; even back home. Caleb was a paranoid nut, but there were plenty of people willing to argue Jules’ case with him; most surprisingly Erik Sandoval-Groell, who was a first-class arse most of the time and, pretty unsurprisingly, Caleb’s most trusted military adviser.

And I hope, Callandre added silently - and more than a little vindictively - as she went back to work, Erik’s finding out how little fun the job he stole from Jules actually is.

The Watchtower
Ten kilometres north of Avalon City, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Suns
21 January, 3143

The Prince's Champion of the Federated Suns had come to hate the Watchtower.

I shouldn't, Erik Sandoval-Groell thought as he made his way down the familiar corridors to the Operations Room at the Watchtower's heart, the spurs and heelplates of his boots tapping faintly against the floor. After all, this place represents everything I wanted - that I thought I wanted - power, prestige, authority. Respect. The ability to say that I'm my own man, not just cousin Aaron's creature. And yet, each time he was here, he found himself longing for a return to the frontlines and the cockpit of his Hatchetman. Maybe it was the pervasive air of unreality, as though the dire situation facing the Suns could be avoided just by massaging the right bits of data. Or maybe it was the swarms of staff officers in pristine, elaborate - or at least as elaborate as AFFS service dress got - uniforms, all too many of whom had never heard a shot fired since their basic training; something that Erik could have tolerated if most of them had gotten their posts for their abilities at administration, rather than the actual case of connections alone. Maybe that's why they go in for the gold braid; trying to convince themselves that they're real soldiers.

He was in plain mechwarrior field service dress, as unadorned as regs allowed; just the national and Avalon Hussars insignia, epaulet with his rank tabs, and the laurel-wreathed sword-and-sunburst collar badge that only the Prince's Champion could wear. A short row of combat action ribbons rested above the right breast pocket of his jacket, and one of his staff had provided a light dusting of cosmetics that brought out the scar seaming his left cheek; it never hurt to remind the palace warriors that he was a fighting man, not just a soldier.

Remember, Erik, image is a weapon like any other. Present yourself solely as a warrior, and very few will ever think to look beyond that. One of his cousin's lessons, and one of the ones that Aaron Sandoval had tried his hardest to get across.

Yeah, yeah, you were right, old man, Erik shot back at that memory, while the final checkpoint guards double-checked his ID. You're still an arrogant prick.

“Thank bloody God you’re here, sir,” one of the guards commented, handing his ID documents back in a bionic hand; another bit of Aaron’s teachings there, if one Erik had known already, that loyalty flowed down as well as up - he’d gotten Sergeant Angie Cole a posting to the Watchtower’s security regiment after she’d lost the original hand saving him from a Liao anti-’Mech squad on Tigress. Besides, you never knew when friends in low places might come in handy. “They’ve been at it for hours.”

“Shouting?” Erik asked quietly, a little surprised. He’d have expected the High Command to be more decorous than a pirate band, at least.

“No, worse,” Sergeant Cole looked really worried. “It’s all hard-edged politeness in there. Like one of those Kuritan weddings where the families hate each other.”

Erik winced at that. He knew exactly what she meant; like Vincent Kurita’s entourage on Terra, where the forced politeness had been so pregnant with throttled back rage it would have been a measurable relaxation of tensions if Toranaga and Kurita had simply drawn their katanas and gone at each other across the dance floor at the Exarch's ball.

“Thanks for the heads-up, Angie,” he replied. “How’s the family doing?”

"Good, thanks," Cole smiled. "Danny and the kids are settling in fine on Panpour; he's got a job lined up at the yards there, and Eve's applying to Firgrove academy next year. She's got her heart set on pilot school."

“Well, if she needs a letter of recommendation, you only have to ask,” Erik smiled as he stepped past the guardpost. “Now, I’d better get back to work.”

Contrary to its portrayal in innumerable works of popular fiction, and despite being deep enough underground that nothing short of a high-yield deep earth-penetrator fitted nuke could knock it out, the Operations Room was cool and brightly lit. Dominating the multi-tiered half-circle of workstations was the vast wall map, set to display the entirety of the Five Hundred Worlds of the Federated Suns and much of their immediate neighbours, and speckled with unit markers; gold for the AFFS - one, that of the First Avalon Hussars, shifting to a new deployment location, on Emporia - green for Capellan, red for Dracs and pale blue for the Raven Alliance. Liao and Kurita advances were shown as well, with a sickly green stain devouring too much of what had once been the Republic as it curled down towards Demeter, Chesterton and Tikonov, and beyond them Orbisonia and Kathil, worlds Daoshen Liao coveted with a rapacity that eclipsed even his father's; and the Draconis Reach, its gold almost entirely subsumed by a deep, arterial crimson. Even as Erik made his way down to the lowest tier- that of the High Command itself - three of the golden stars bordering the Reach, Glenmora, Hoff and Crossing, started blinking between crimson and gold as the dispatches he'd carried from Kestrel were encoded and fed into the system.

Erik's fingers clenched around the hilt of his - peacebound, and purely ceremonial - sword until he was sure the knuckles were white beneath his gloves. For a moment, the clack of fingers over keyboards tripped something in his head, and he was back on Hoff, the ozone and strong coffee smells of the Operations Room replaced by blood and hot metal, the keystrokes amplified to the howling roar of his Hatchetman’s eighty-millimetre autocannon at maximum cyclic rate as it flayed armour from a Kuritan Goliath crushing the life out of a crippled Bulldog of the Hoff planetary guard. Then the flicker of memory passed.

Someone, he knew, was inevitably going to argue that he shouldn’t have taken the First Avalon to Hoff in support of Duchess Stephenson’s evac mission - certainly that he shouldn’t have gone along in person - but to hell with them. If the AFFS couldn’t, or wouldn’t, defend the people of the Federated Suns, then what damn good were they? And what good was a champion who shrank from battle when it was needed.

The Field Marshal of the Crucis Lancers Brigade was talking when Erik reached the High Command tier, exchanging friendly nods with Admiral Min Seung-hyun; one of his few allies among the High Command, both because she agreed with him on most things, and he’d helped her get the job of Chief of Naval Ops. The current topic seemed to be -

“- simply don’t see why we need to pull the Second Crucis off Marlette to deal with a handful of raids,” Malcolm Davion-Ross was saying, aiming a contemptuous look at Corwin Sandoval’s representative, a Colonel in Robinson Strikers uniform. “After all, what do we fund the Robinson Brigade for?”

“If it was just raids, then I wouldn’t be here,” the Colonel - the nametag on his battledress, the mirror of Erik’s own in its understated martial austerity, read Robicheaux - snapped back, tanned features turning an interesting shade of puce. “We maintain two regiments and five Light Combat Teams of regular troops out of our own resources, along with the March and planetary militias, and the New Ivaarsen Chasseurs. That is enough to deal with opportunistic raiding or attempts to seize worlds by the Benjamin and New Samarkand Warlords out of their own resources; it isn’t enough to handle a full-scale offensive spearheaded by the Coordinator’s household troops - including Wolf’s Dragoons and three of the Swords of Light - you bloody popinjay!”

Davion-Ross flushed in turn, and Erik started to move, trying to place himself between the two before they came to blows.

Enough!” The voice that froze all three men where they stood wasn’t particularly loud, but there was a quiet intensity to it that did the job just as well as volume. “You are all conspiring to drive me mad,” First Prince Caleb Hasek-Sandoval-Davion - a trim figure in a Field Marshal’s uniform, favouring his mother’s slender build and dark colouring more than his father’s bulky, pale muscularity - snapped as he turned to face the group, backlit by the holotank before them. “We have been hearing these same arguments for weeks! Now, at least, with Our Champion’s return we may finally hear from someone with something useful to say.” He gave Erik a curt nod and gestured for him to speak.

“Highness,” Erik bowed, taking a moment to study the High Command. Most of them seemed cut from the same pattern; impeccably bred, finely uniformed, and all too many of them appointed by Harrison Davion, not very capable even then, grown old in their posts and still without truly comprehending how much the Blackout had changed things. And impossible to replace, because those who might replace them effectively were needed where they were. Aides clung around them, or moved back and forth through the room, carrying messages; then there were the ceremonial guards, and a group of suited civilians …

No, Erik decided after studying them; the dispersion, the bulges - carefully concealed by some excellent tailoring - under arms and at their hips, their eyes flickering ceaselessly over the room, watching, appraising. Waiting. The real guards. And by the look of them, some of the only people here who're doing their jobs properly.

“Colonel Robicheaux may have been somewhat indelicate in his phrasing, Highness,” Erik began, “but he is essentially correct. This is not the lowkey war of raid and ambush that has been going on the Reach for generations; the Combine may not be invading in full strength yet - they’re still fighting the Nova Cats, and Operation PELAYO’s thrown off a lot of their planning - but they're clearly preparing to do so, soon; they’ve already invaded Glenmora, Crossing and Hoff. Including, yes,” he shot Davion-Ross a nasty look, “at least the Fifth Sword of Light, and probably others.”

“Preposterous,” Davion-Ross muttered, and Erik gave him a nasty look.

“Then it must have been someone doing a very good impression of them that tried to kill me less than two months ago on Hoff. Amazing, really,” Erik layered contempt into his voice, “that I was fighting them face-to-face, and yet you know better than me who they were from two hundred lightyears away.”

Davion-Ross finally showed some association with good sense and didn’t rise to the bait, and Erik carried on.

“Draconis March Command needs reinforcements,” he stated flatly. “Exactly which units and where to send them is a matter for debate, but we need to be having that debate, not arguing about whether to send troops at all, before it’s too late.” He paused momentarily, letting those words sink in, before carrying on. “And I’m worried about how quiet Daoshen’s been. Not even probing raids towards Tikonov or Chesterton for the last eight months? He’s up to something, and I don’t want to be worrying about a dao in the back while we’re fighting the Kuritans.”

That drew general agreement; Daoshen Liao was insane, vain beyond belief and as vicious as a starving Caph neosaur to boot, and nobody - not even Harrison Davion (probably) - would expect him to do anything other than lash out for a perceived slight. Like other people existing without giving him what he wants.

“It’s possible, with - at least as far as we can determine - their being unaware of SUNSHOWER,” DMI Director Church - nobody knew if the quiet, exceptionally nondescript man had any other names - commented softly, “that the CCAF are reorienting towards facing the Free Worlds League. Certainly, MI4 have developed some intelligence that suggests that Andurien is where the bulk of McCarron's Armoured Cavalry are heading.”

“Why would he, though? Mask ops I could see, sure - the Mariks've never needed much of a push to start squabbling," Marshal Addison Donahue said, the Lancer - Federated Suns, not Crucis - GOC rubbing absent-mindedly at his cybernetic eye as he gathered his thoughts. "A large scale military action - that seems like exactly what Jessica Marik would want. A nice big external war to quiet all the doubting voices; hell, might even get the Regulans on-side. Lester Cameron-Jones hates her, but all our psych data says he hates the Liaos more.”

"Yes; although the evidence is promising, the motivation lacks," Church agreed. “An open move against the League would only add to the Capellans’ enemies while gaining them little; so, all that we know is a number of the Confederation’s most powerful, experienced and mobile units have left their normal deployment stations.”

“Is it possible they know about SUNSHOWER?” The words dropped into the conversation like lead ingots into a still pond, and Erik only realised that he’d been the one to say them when all eyes turned to him.

All except Caleb’s, that is; his were focussing on Church and on MIIO Deputy Director Harding.

“Well,” the First Prince asked, a brittle calm in his voice. “Is it possible the Liaos have figured out SUNSHOWER?”

“It’s … possible, yes,” Harding said after a brief exchange of glances. “Despite their sadism, the Maskirovka are neither stupid or incompetent; and moving as many ships and regiments as we are is impossible to actually hide. But there’s no sign that they know anything in detail.”

“I see.” Caleb’s darkly intense gaze fixed on Erik. “Exactly how serious do you believe this Kuritan invasion to be, Champion?”

“Very, Highness,” Erik replied. “And they want us to know that they mean it; the Swords of Light are a powerful statement. If hitting Hoff and Crossing was simply a reprisal strike for PELAYO, Toranaga would’ve sent the Benjamin Regulars in and claimed it was just overzealous local commanders, but the Fifth Sword,” Erik shook his head. “They’re not deniable at all.”

“Admiral Min,” Caleb’s head tracked across like a tank’s turret, fixing on the small, slight naval officer, “How quickly can Transport Command begin redeployments towards the Draconis March?”

“Most of our independent transport groups are tied up with preparations for SUNSHOWER,” Seung-hyun explained, moving to the holotank’s controls with the loose, rolling gait of one used to microgravity - Erik wasn’t sure if she’d spent a week straight on a planet any time in the last twenty years; certainly it was only a direct command from Caleb that’d gotten her off her Avalon-class flagship now - and highlighting JumpShip groups and routes. “However, the Fifth Ceti, Twenty-second and Twenty-seventh Avalon Hussars, as well as the Third Armoured Cavalry and the Second and Seventh Crucis do have their transport groups on station and charged up; they can be moving within a week of getting the order to redeploy. Anything more than that will take at least three weeks.”

“Right then.” Caleb turned inwards then, his expression freezing in thought for a moment. Erik let him, glaring the rest of the High Command into keeping their peace; if Caleb wasn’t like some of his ancestors - who’d been able to hold a whole campaign in their mind’s eye without effort - he wasn’t stupid, and thinking did him better than pressure into an impulsive choice. Then: “Orders,” Caleb began speaking quickly, “Second Crucis and Third Armoured Cavalry to Kentares, Seventh Crucis and Twenty-second Avalon to Kestrel in preparation to move up to Robinson. I want full evaluations of what forces we have to redeploy to the Draconis March beyond that. And I want it done, fast,” he added, fixing Davion-Ross in particular with a harsh look, “I don’t care how likely you think a major Kuritan offensive is.”

As ripples of activity spread outwards, Erik took the opportunity to catch the eyes of the Department of Merc Relations rep - Colonel Allison Benfleet, another ally - and Capellan March Command’s envoy - some Hasek cousin he didn’t recognise. They needed to plan out more intel raids; mercenaries and regular troops both, and I need to get in touch with South Wind. Always Erik’s best, most reliable asset for divining Capellan intent, and one that he’d managed to keep hidden from everyone - well, almost everyone. He still didn’t know how cousin Aaron had found out about them.

He looked at the situation map, taking a moment to try and divine something beyond the obvious from what it showed. Unfinished Book, he’d take the insights of some wandering bottle-born mystic at this point to get a look inside Daoshen’s planning.

Celestial Palace Situation Room
Zi-Jin (Forbidden) City, Sian
Capellan Confederation
21 January, 3143

Contradictions were, it seemed, a constant in sang-jiang-jun Isabelle Fisk’s life.

Take now, for instance. Here, in the Situation Room at the very heart of the Celestial Palace complex, she should feel safe while she and others developed the best way to bring about the Celestial Wisdom’s will. Above them, surface to orbit weaponry, squadrons of aerospace fighters and pocket WarShips, and the mighty cruiser Aleisha Kris - one of the largest remaining WarShips in the Inner Sphere - hung in readiness to die to defend Sian. Regiments of the finest troops in the CCAF guarded the palace complex itself; and within the innermost circle that contained the Liao family’s own quarters as well as the Situation Room, a full company of the elite Death Commandos was posted as sentinels. The Situation Room itself could - at least in theory - withstand a repeat of the bombardment that had levelled most of the original palace complex during the Jihad.

And yet, she’d felt safer engaging Republican BattleMechs in her younger years than she did in this ostensibly secure location.

Part of it was those silent watchers. If their commanding officer were to tell them that the woman in the sang-jiang-jun’s uniform was a threat to the Chancellor, Isabelle knew that the Death Commandos would cut her down without a second thought; would do the same to an unarmed Buddhist monk. Or their own mothers, probably.

On the overhead displays, two screens showed readiness reports; on the other two, the Confederation was outlined in jade - or, rather, the Confederation as envisioned by a particularly optimistic court historian. She carefully did not let even a fraction of her true feelings at the breathtaking arrogance of already shading Chesterton and Calloway VI, neither of which had ever been part of the Confederation and neither worlds that the Davions or Mariks would give up without a fight, in Liao green - if shot through with gold and purple respectively - show; that would not be wise,with both Daoshen and Ki-linn in attendance.

Isabelle shook herself out of her thoughts. Right now, she needed to focus on the practicalities, not lead herself into philosophical woolgathering.

“ … So, with the induction of the latest graduates,” Xavier McCarron - as ever, one of the dedicated spokesmen of the Strategios was saying, “our casualties from GREAT FLOOD have been made good. We still need time to get everything shaken down to full effectiveness, but as of now,” the balding, mustachioed veteran smiled, “the CCAF are at as close to full readiness as it’s possible to be, given time and communications lag.”

And for once, he’s not gilding the lily, Isabelle thought as she marshalled her own facts for the next stage of this briefing. Every unit was at better than ninety-five percent book strength; some, like the Second McCarron’s, were even over book strength, and that hadn’t happened since before the Jihad.

“For how those forces should be employed,” McCarron continued with a showman’s flourish, “I would turn to Strategy Director Fisk.”

Isabelle gave him a curt nod in reply - she didn’t like McCarron’s tendency to flamboyance whenever he thought he could get away with it, but it was useful - and gestured for the young sao-wei manning the display controls to bring up the prepared planning outlines.

“The Strategios have developed three operational concepts for our future campaigns, now that we have put the Republic’s theft of our worlds to rights.” Rhetoric like that annoyed her - mostly for its imprecision - but you spoke to your audience. “The first, Operation SCEPTRE, is a limited strike to take Pinard and New Vandenberg from the Taurians. The second, KALEIDSCOPE, is of a similarly limited scope, intended to secure Calloway VI while the Mariks are distracted. And the third, CELESTIAL REWARD, is the largest; aiming for the decisive defeat of the Capellan March and restoring Victoria, Chesterton and Tikonov to the Confederation.” Swatches of green spread across the map, each marked for the operation it represented.

She waited, allowing those present to absorb the planned operations and consider the implications, before carrying on.

“At this time, Celestial Wisdom, I would argue against SPECTRE or KALEIDSCOPE. Both would not be worth the effort we would have to expend in order to launch them. And,” she steeled herself for thunderbolts from Ki-linn, “if we are to launch CELESTIAL REWARD, then it must be soon, or it will fail.”

“You think time will somehow sap our soldiers’ will?” Ki-linn’s sharp tones, and her clearly aggressive stance would have shaken others, but Isabelle didn’t fear her - which, she suspected, put her in a distinct minority among those who knew Ki-linn. Still, it isn’t wise to underestimate her, either.

“I deal in facts, Celestial Wisdom, not rhetoric,” Isabelle directed her reply towards Daoshen, who was the only person she’d known able to restrain Ki-linn’s temper. “And the facts are that while currently - thanks to Harrison Davion’s neglect - the AFFS are at the weakest they have been for a century, Caleb Davion is a far more energetic and aware ruler than his father; and Aaron Sandoval -”

“A thief of worlds,” Ki-linn snarled, before a gesture from Daoshen silenced her.

“I am discussing his abilities, not his morals,” Isabelle continued calmly. “He’s a capable soldier and strategist, and a far more than merely capable administrator. Others have been appointed, and we’ve been seeing the results. Sang-shao McCarron can verify that.”

Sang-jiang-jun Fisk has the right of it,” Xavier agreed. “The Feddies haven’t ever lacked for guts, but since Caleb took over, shook up their command structure and took the gloves off, they’ve been fighting better - not just harder, but smarter, their morale’s picked up a hell of a lot. And they’ve been building up, too.”

“I would estimate that we have a viable window for CELESTIAL REWARD of at most twenty-four months, and more likely eighteen. After that, our odds of success decrease exponentially,” Isabelle concluded.

“Why?” Daoshen’s quiet, dangerous rasp seemed to fill the whole space, his eerie, almost pure black gaze seeming to draw her into a universe where he and she were the only inhabitants.

“Because we were already at maximum wartime production, Celestial Wisdom,” Isabelle replied. “The Federated Suns are only now fully mobilising their production potential; Harrison Davion was a blessing for us in that respect. But they have almost four times our worlds, and much greater industries to draw on now that they are mobilising. We may deplore the historical accidents that have made this so, but,” she shrugged, “the facts ae as they are.”

“I see.” Daoshen leaned back in his throne, fingers steepled as he turned inwards, contemplating. Then: “How long, sang-jiang-jun, would you require to prepare and launch CELESTIAL REWARD?”

“Three months.” Isabelle called up the estimates her staff had done without conscious thought. “I would prefer four to six, or longer if at all possible, to ensure that all of our forces are in place and suitable supplies built up, but three months is the minimum.” Daoshen appreciated hearing the truth, not just what you thought would make him happy. “I cannot guarantee victory. Celestial Wisdom. However, I do believe that within the window outlined is our best opportunity for victory.”

“Four months, then,” Daoshen pronounced. “Sang-jiang-jun, coordinate with Sang-shao McCarron, Gang-shiao-zhang Hui,” the Grand Master of the Warrior Houses looked up from a whispered conversation with his aide and gave her a considering nod, “and the Commonality jiang-juns. By late May, I want all to be in readiness.” Something dangerous glinted briefly in Daoshen’s eyes.

“Then, we settle matters with the Davions.”
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: "Emergence" - BattleTech Dark Ages/BattleTech AU Crossover

Post by LadyTevar »

This needed more editing, less run-on sentences -- including these stupid asides -- because this has made this chapter unreadable to me. Hell, Tolkien at his most excessive was easier to read.

Someone get me a TL:DR version because this is Word Salad.
Nitram, slightly high on cough syrup: Do you know you're beautiful?
Me: Nope, that's why I have you around to tell me.
Nitram: You -are- beautiful. Anyone tries to tell you otherwise kill them.

"A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP" -- Leonard Nimoy, last Tweet
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Re: "Emergence" - BattleTech Dark Ages/BattleTech AU Crossover

Post by Steve »

A note of thanks to CommanderRazor on SB for some input on character material. Orsai wrote Allison's dialogue and tweaked some of the lines from Khan Fetladral.

36 - Warriors' Rede

AFS Charles Sinclair, Inbound
Timkovichi System, Coventry Province
Lyran Commonwealth (disputed)
30 January 3143

The return of OpForce Siegfried to Timkovichi was a tense matter. They burned in at a 1.5G pace, not too difficult for the crews if fatiguing after a few days. On final approach Evan's Kell Hound and the Wolf DropShips broke away burning out to a safe distance rendezvous with the Epaminondas and her force. The remaining ships, bearing the Eighth Strikers and the Hounds from the other side, continued their deceleration burning for orbit over those last couple of hours.

Tensions rose among these ships, escorted in by the Sara Proctor, Epaminondas, and Cuchulainn plus their escorting DropShips, as they approached the orbital space. The Jade Falcon WarShips loomed ever-larger on the holotanks, including that in the command center of the Charles Sinclair. General Bridger, feeling his years with the extra gravities pushing him into the deck plates, stood quietly beside his commanders and Colonel Martinez. Khan Patrik and Evan Kell were present, riding on the Sinclair while their troops would remain in a holding pattern to see how things went. "I don't like being this close," Evan growled. "Any moment those bastards might just open up on us."

"If need be we'd cut our deceleration velocity, begin maneuvers, and run for the Glass," Martinez said. "But not all of us would make it, I think, unless Captain Winters and her force are very quick to intercept incoming fire."

"Chistu has honored safcon so far," Patrik rumbled. "But it makes me long for the WarShip fleet our Clan once fielded."

"Flash traffic from Colonel Ward and Colonel Patel," a comm officer said. "'We'll see to the delivery ASAP. Good luck and Godspeed'."

"Pull us from the course to the Glass, helm," said Martinez. "Make for the landing site at Field Base Carroll."

"Aye sir."

The Charles Sinclair's lateral thrusters fired, pushing her away from the other DropShips and WarShips. The large collection of aerodyne and spheroid DropShips bearing Colonels Ward and Patel and their comrades continued on their course to the persistent blue field that, even now, followed Timkovichi on its course around its star. "The damn thing is so odd," Martinez mumbled.

"What do you mean by that, Colonel?" Evan drawled.

Martinez indicated the image. "The Glass. It has no mass that we can discern, it shouldn't be influenced by gravity, but yet, it is. It's remained in orbit over Timkovichi from the day of the misjump. It doesn't follow the planet's rotation, but it does follow its orbital path around the star."

"A peculiar mystery indeed, but one best left to the scientists to decipher, as is their rede. We are warriors, and have our own redes to follow," Patrik said.

On the viewer, the WarShips started pulling away as well, burning away from Timkovichi and leaving the DropShips. One by one they went through the Glass, disappearing within the intense blue light of the field.

"We have a landing course from traffic control," the helmsman confirmed. "Deceleration burn has us down to proper orbital entry speed, preparing for landing."

"COB, sound landing alarm, all hands to landing stations." Martinez sat in his chair and pulled his harness on. The other harness-bearing guest-chairs magnetically set onto the bridge soon bore Bridger and the others.

"Aye sir." The ship's Chief of the Boat, Master Sergeant Phillips, brought over a microphone tying into the ship's intercom. "All hands, landing stations, I repeat, all hands, landing stations."

Silence settled over the bridge, allowing Martinez and his crew to do the job of bringing them in for a landing. Here's hoping these kids can pull this off, Bridger thought. Or we'll be leaving again soon enough.

Field Base Carroll HQ was a busy place even without its new arrivals, but now it was packed. Bridger, Patrik, and Evan led some of their respective command officers in and were met by the assembled officers of the defensive effort. Salutes were exchanged. Nadia followed up her salute with "Good to see you back, Colonel. I was wondering if we'd ever meet again."

"Well, wonder no longer."

"General Singh." Bridger accepted the salutes of Singh and his officers. "You've met Colonel Kell. This is Khan Patrik Fetladral of the Warden Wolves of Arc-Royal, they joined us for the Morges operation and followed us here."

"Khan, an honor." Singh nodded his turbaned head in respect. "Welcome to Timkovichi. These are the commanders of the mercenary units, Force Commander Harcourt of Metal Fire and Lieutenant Colonel Huyten of the Lucky Stars, and Major Tanhause of the Timkovichi Armored Guards. As well, my subordinates in the Second Royal…" He introduced the 'Mech regiment and brigade commanders one by one.

Patrik nodded back. After the introductions concluded, he said, "It is an honor to meet you all. Your warriors do you, and your people, credit. They have faced a superior foe, and acquitted themselves with courage and honour; I doubt even my own Alpha Galaxy could have done more."

"I regret that we could not prevail outright."

"Against Delta Galaxy and all those extra units Chistu picked up, you've held well enough," Evan offered. "Not many units could've done better." As sympathetic and genuine as his words were, they still didn't take the grim cast on Singh's face off.

Bridger understood perfectly. The Second Royal Cuirassiers were summoned to protect Timkovichi, and they'd ultimately failed in that task, even if they'd fought as well as could be expected. If only we'd had the First Lancers, or another outfit, brought through as well. If only they'd had a proper damn fleet ready to intervene and not half a dozen jumps away! The planners back in Roslyn let these people down.

"So where is this going down?" asked Laguna. "I'll be briefing my pilot once we're done, let her get some time with info on her opponents."

Nadia did the honors of operating the holotank, highlighting what looked to have been a small town center near Cirenholm. "Khan Chistu picked here, the abandoned town of Martenholm. The place got wrecked in Malvina's original invasion and local authorities didn't get it rebuilt before the Falcons returned, so it's an open area. We had a fight here just before this duel was arranged but all the salvage has been cleared out, though it has left some impressive rubble piles and a few more busted buildings." A second button press brought up a white dome around and over the city. "So the way this works is, nobody else goes within five kilometers, just a couple marked observation vehicles, one per side. Airspace is likewise restricted out to twenty kilometers. Leutnant Palisser and Lieutenant Penton will approach from the northwest, Chistu and her second, Star Colonel Roshak, from the southeast. They stop at one kilometer from each other until her appointed Oathmaster gives the go signal, then they fight until one side's down, leaves the circle, or accepts hegira."

"Not good odds of that last one?" asked Bridger.

Nadia shook her head. "Chistu can't be too lenient, I guess, the Mongols won't let her. And her second is one. Star Colonel Isaac Roshak of the Ninth Talon."

Evan snarled. "That bastard. Word is he massacred a whole battalion of surrenderin' soldiers on Graceland. And the Ninth are some of the worst of the Mongol bunch."

"We bloodied their noses outside Faubourg a few days into the invasion, so he's probably aching for payback too," Harcourt added.

"The fight's in two days. Chistu insisted," Singh said. "So it'll give our young pilots a day to train together and get Lieutenant Penton her land legs back."

"Galaxy Commander Chistu's haste makes sense. She would have hoped to overwhelm you with her forces in a week or two of fighting," said Patrik. "You denied her a swift victory, and it undoubtedly undermines her intent to win the Khanship."

Evan shook his head at that. "Unfortunately it probably makes the Mongols look sweeter to most of the undecided Falcons. Easy winning instead of hard fighting."

"Such as it is with dezgra like them, preferring unearned victories to honorable combat." Patrik smiled grimly. "This is her attempt to cement a clean victory by Clan tradition despite the setback, and it will let her return in triumph should she prevail. Her fate if she fails, I imagine, will be to face a challenge by the Mongols, and she would never become Khan. She will fight to the death."

"What I'd like to know is why you sent your troops back through the Glass, General," Huyten asked. "If push comes to shove, we could've used them."

"We've still got Khan Patrik's people and your side's First Kell Hounds out there," Bridger answered, "so we've got backup if it comes to it, and if we can get them planetside. But our ships are bearing the wounded we picked up from Morges, as well as wounded troops, so they're on their way to Atocongo on our side. Additionally, they're carrying our reports back to Arcadia as well as a few other important communications."

Huyten nodded his head in acceptance. "Fair enough. I suppose they'd just get bombed to death with us if the Falcons decided to start shooting."

"My thought exactly, yes." And now it's all down to those two young women, thought Bridger. One of whom I'm worried isn't up to the task. We're going to need a little divine providence it seems…

For Eva, the feel and view of Field Base Carroll was understandably different from when the Eighth left four months before. Anti-vehicle hedgehogs were already stacked and ready for deployment and a number of defensive positions were dug in various points along the access roads. They were joined by ferro-crete tank traps and firing positions and prepared gun emplacements. Most of the infantry were in an assortment of suits, mostly the Standard Infantry power armor with a few heavier sets around, carrying automatic gauss rifles that would be crew-served squad weapons for earlier unpowered infantry.

She shifted in the back seat of the GUSV — General Use Support Vehicle, often shortened to "Goose-V" or "Goose" — and noticed Kevin was giving her a worried glance. In front of them, a private from the Eighth's support services unit was at the wheel, diligently watching the road. "They're ready for a fight," she said, hoping it might divert Kevin's attention.

"Looks like it. Are ye ready for yours, Eva?"

Damn him. "About as much as I can be." It was the simple truth, which said nothing about the dread in her stomach, so strong that during the burn in it'd nearly caused her to puke while running reactivation tests on her restored 'Mech. A new 375XL engine was at the heart of her cored machine now, ready to power what she was assuming would be her last battle.

"Stop's up here, sirs," the driver said, indicating the central building.

"Thanks, Private, don't bother waiting. We might be a while."

They were let out in front of the side entrance of the Base HQ. Inside a waiting clerk with corporal stripes brought them to a small meeting room. The holo-projector was active but not loaded with anything. Eva went over and took a seat.

Kevin joined her. "Alright, we have time to talk before Leutnant Palisser arrives. Ye've been eaten up for two weeks now, Eva. Everyone can see it. Ye can't just keep it in."

She drew in a breath, not daring to meet his eyes for fear he'd see what was behind them. "Honestly, sir, I can, and I will. I have to."

"You're scared, aye. We're all scared, always are, when fights come. But ye act like ye're waiting for the gallows."

How fitting. She chuckled at that, a dark, despairing little laugh. "Aren't I?" she asked. "Lieutenant—"

"'Kevin' will do, we're not talking as a lance loo and his MechWarrior, we're comrades. Like we were at the start of this madness."

Yeah. Before Lieutenant von Krager and Tom MacDonald died, and then Lieutenant Norton. She glanced at his face before pulling her eyes away again. He's the only one left from before that day. The only one. I can't let him down. "Kevin. Let's… let's be honest here. I'm going to go out in a couple days, fight one of the Clanners' best, and she's going to kill me. I'm… I'm going to do what I can, I'm not going to run, but there's no way I can beat their best. I'm not good enough. I might've died in that first fight if Captain Kincaid hadn't come in and helped, and Hazen killed her with a single shot." She swallowed and took a breath. "And Great X, they hammered us, remember? We didn't have many losses but… they still did a lot of damage. And I should've died on Morges. They cored my machine, had me dead to rights." As she spoke her voice began to shake. She tried to get it under control but couldn't. Her fear of her impending death was too strong, too solid, to drive off. "I know death's part of a MechWarrior's life. My parents and uncles and aunts and cousins all warned me. My instructors at the Nagelring warned me. But it was just… there wasn't much of it anymore, right? I just never thought of it as something we'd face. But now it's here and it's killing everyone around me and… I'm having trouble handling it." She waited to see if he'd say something, but something in his eyes told her he wasn't going to. He'd seen the same death, after all, and was only a couple years her senior. This was all new to him too.

After a short pause she continued. "I don't want to die, Kevin, and I know I am. And what's worse is, everyone thinks I'm some hero because I helped get that last shot on Hazen, like that pub back on Arc-Royal, all those Wolf warriors and the Hounds, they act like I'm some badass ace hero when I'm just a stupid kid who wanted to be like my parents." She choked back her tears, which refused to cease. "I'm a fraud. No hero. And I'm scared I'm going to not just die but let everyone down. I'm scared she's going to just take a single shot, boom, I'm dead, she wins, the Clans win, and I'll have died for nothing. Just… letting everyone down, all these brave Roy-Cees who've been trying to hold the planet, having to leave because Eva Penton wanted to be a hero and couldn't hack it." She stopped there, in part because it was taking everything to not dissolve into despair, and because she had nothing left to say. It was out there, and now she had to wait for his judgment.

"Ah, Eva, lass… Ye've nothing to prove," Kevin said. "Ye're better than ye think, I'll say, but… in your place I'd be swallowing down fear pretty hard too." He took a chair and leaned in towards her. "Don't worry about the expectations. Remember yer training, keep yer head, and ye might just surprise folk."

"He's right."

Eva turned her head towards the door. Though it'd been a few months, she recognized Allison Palisser, now wearing an LCAF field uniform and not sporting an injury like the last time. She took in a breath before asking, "You've been listening?"

"Didn't catch it all," Allison admitted. She smiled thinly. "Just enough. And you’re not wrong to be scared, Eva; anybody sane would be. I know I am. We’re taking on the best the Falcons have left to throw at us, and this is for pretty much all the marbles. But, well," another thin smile, "I figure Ian Davion said it best; 'Courage isn't not being afraid, it's being afraid and doing what you've gotta do anyway'. So, I've got every battleROM recording of Chistu and this Roshak clown we could put together, if you'd like to view them with me. We can figure out how to survive after all."

"If ye don't mind, I'd like to stay and give advice, if I've any to give," Kevin asked.

"Oh, all for it, Lieutenant Kilroy."

Eva nodded. "Yeah, I'd like you to stay too. You might see something we don't."

"Pleased to be of service, then."

The planning session went well enough, even if it confirmed most of Eva's fears. Those occasions when Chistu took the field she was a force of nature, her shots on target and her maneuvers skillful and quick. Roshak was a sledgehammer by comparison; brutal, direct, and hard-hitting. He didn't care about getting hit himself so long as he was tearing a foe apart in the process. Kevin gave his suggestions while Eva and her new partner considered their strategy; the following day they'd do some maneuvers together to get in sync before the big fight.

With all of that past, and the end of the day fast approaching, Eva found herself at the table in her bunk space on the Charles Sinclair. A plain sheet of paper sat before her, an erasable pen laid on it. She stared at it for several minutes, collecting her thoughts before she'd put them to paper.

When she was ready, Eva reached her hand out, claimed the pen, and started to write.

Dear Mom and Dad,

When this gets to you, I'll be dead. You'll be told why, and I hope we pull it out in the end, but I'll be gone anyway. I'll do my best whatever happens, I promise, I don't want to let you down. After everything you went through in the war, the least I could do for you is to die with courage, even if I'm having trouble finding it. Because I'm really scared. The way these Clanners fight is something else. Like their 'Mechs are just part of their bodies, it feels like. I'm not sure I could ever be that good. And I know I'm not now. I can't win this fight. I know I can't. All I can do is try to make it last before my opponents kill me.

I'm scared. So scared.

The tears in her eyes forced her to stop briefly, to wipe them clear, before continuing.

I'm scared to die. And I'm scared I'll let everyone down. This fight is supposed to be for the planet. All these people will end up under the Falcons and it'll be my fault for not being good enough. I wanted to be like you, to be a hero fighting for the Federation and House Proctor, but now I feel like a fraud. Like picking this life is the greatest mistake I've ever made, and it's going to kill me and hurt a lot of people, because I'm not cut out for this. I'm not good enough.

Writing the words helped. She would have preferred saying them to her parents, of course, and getting to see them one last time, even if it meant seeing the disappointment on their faces. But at least she was talking to them, in a way. At least they would know how sorry she was for her failures, and how much she wanted to do the right thing.

But I can't undo my choices. I'm a MechWarrior of the Federation, I'm a Sunhawk, and I have a duty to perform, whatever it costs. I'm going to go and be brave now. Whatever happens, I love you, and I'm proud to have been your daughter.

A sense of closure settled over her spirit. She'd said her goodbyes, expressed her fears, and made everything as clear as she could. There was nothing left to do but focus on the fight, give it her all, and die well.


With that final note, she folded the paper up, set it into the envelope, sealed it, and wrote her parents' name and address across it. It wouldn't get to them for months, long after the official death notification from the AFRF would arrive, and probably after the service they'd hold. She could only hope it'd give them, if not peace, understanding.

With the letter prepared and placed into her effects, Eva settled onto the bunk to get some much needed sleep. Tomorrow would be training, and the day after, her doomsday. And though the fear of death would yet claw and choke her being, she would face it as her parents had, and their parents, and so many others. She'd obey her oath to the last. That was all there was to it.

All things considered, Eva slept surprisingly well.
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: "Emergence" - BattleTech Dark Ages/BattleTech AU Crossover

Post by Steve »

37 - The Truth Marches On

Senate Chambers, Laughlin Capital District
Roslyn, Eastern Islay
Arcadia, Arcadia Royal March
Royal Federation
31 January 3143

The Senate of the Federation kept its chamber in the east wing of the Palace of Parliament. Ordinarily this space would be vacant on a Sunday, but today it was not, nor had it been the prior day. At the behest of the monarch, the Senate was in session to debate a matter of "grave importance"; namely, the enactment of the terms of the treaty High King Nathaniel had just completed with Lady Trillian.

For this reason Trillian, and many of her staff, were seated in the Royal Box, the special observation seats off to the side that, unlike the Visitors' Gallery, had direct access to the Senate floor. In ascending tiers outward, organized by their corresponding marches, the six hundred Senators of the Federation were in attendance. It is half-representative, half-appointed, Trillian recalled. Half are democratically elected by the peoples of their planet and star system. The other half are directly appointed by the planetary ruler, whether they are elected or inherited, commoner or noble. She noted the Senate Chamber was not so much smaller than the Federation Assembly Chamber even if their number was over a third, overall, of the Assembly, giving the assembled senators greater room at their desks.

The treaty itself was not the point; treaties, after all, remained the sole purview of the High King. Rather it was the monies needed to enact the provisions, that is, to meet the expanded military budget for supplying the troops Nathaniel intended to lead through the Glass, to raise and reactivate units to meet the Federation's defensive needs during the conflict (or to hire mercenaries to supplement said defenses), and to provide the war material that Trillian's earlier loans and grants couldn't afford. Without this, the alliance was nothing more than proverbial ink on the page. And while Nathaniel could employ Crown authority to make budget changes "in an emergency", to do so in defiance of Parliament, or without at least consulting them, would be a massive break with tradition, virtually a constitutional crisis for the Federation, as the powers he held for that purpose had never once been used and were controversial to many.

And yet, Trillian wished he could do just that, given how the session was going.

"You have heard the truth, my friends, and nothing but," Zento said, his voice vibant for all he'd been talking for most of the prior two hours. "Our King, young and eager to prove himself, is not acting in our best interest. The war across the Glass is not a matter of our security. Especially not when Azami raiders yet plot to strike at the Isle of Skye, when the Dragon of Luthien's shadow looms over Arcturus, the revolutionaries grow restless on Sudeten, and when the rapacious Capellans remain to threaten our Atrean and Terran worlds. Indeed, even Tamarind and Bolan might have cause to wonder what the so-called King of Pilpala plots from his perfumed harem, and whether the legions at his disposal can be held back when they yearn for treasure and glory."

He does not accuse Imperatrix Julia of plotting aggression, then? Trillian wondered at that. I suppose he does not wish to insult her, but he is certainly not adverse to slandering the Federation's other neighbors.

"Time and time again, the King has heard our protests, and yet he persists upon this course. He even bullied the Privy Council into it with the connivance of his doting grand-uncle." Zento's eyes focused a moment too long on Prince Peter, showing the animosity there. He's taking Prince Peter backing my treaty a bit too personally? Did Peter betray some kind of prior connection? Trillian wondered. "Now we of the Senate are called into special session and harangued with lurid tales of butchery and atrocity, to goad us into spending our worlds' hard-earned wealth on the High King's flight of fantasy! If the King wishes to prove himself on the battlefield, perhaps he should not be pushing peace with our greatest enemy, or ignoring the Kuritan threat. Perhaps if he so worried about stopping atrocity, he should lead his armies to New Wessex and save the peoples of that world from their Combine oppressors! Yet he has talked peace for months, refusing any such measures, and only now supporting them for people not his own! We cannot stand for this! We, as a united people, must demand the Crown protect our lives, our worlds, our interests. Not those of a treacherous Lyran state and their deceitful envoy!"

There were some cheers from the assembled, but only a few. From what Trillian could tell, most wanted to get on with matters. But Zento had the floor and he was refusing to give it up.

While Zento took a quick drink, Senator Bujold from Bondurant stood. He directed his eyes towards the podium, where Dame Tessa Stuart was seated, Nathaniel and Peter behind her in chairs that were kept specifically for the monarch and the head of the Privy Council to observe the Senate proceedings from, though from what Trillian had seen and read, they had no formal power to address the Senate directly unless called upon. Bujold spoke in careful tones, his accent less refined than that of his ruler, the charming Duke de Fortemps Trillian met on New Year's. "Madame President, perhaps it is time that we actually voted on the King's proposal? We have been discussing the matter for two days without any new information, merely platitude and posturing."

Zento lowered the water bottle and barked, "I protest, I have not relinquished the floor!"

"Then I move that we invoke cloture, and end this obstructionism by the Lord Senator of Summer."

Stuart nodded and replied in her Caledonian burr, suitably softened for the purposes of protocol. "Motion to invoke cloture is registered. Do any wish to second the motion?"

The first voice to call out was a female senator Trillian didn't immediately recognize, her desk nameplate reading Serfass. Could she be House Serfass? Maybe even Alarion's Senator? The woman spoke in a pitch perfect Star League English accent. "I second."

"Very well. A vote to close debate is open."

The clerks quietly and dutifully recorded the incoming votes. Trillian waited patiently, hoping to hear it would end. She was certain she had the votes in the Assembly and quite certain here too, but it wasn't just enough to have a majority. To compel Zento to relinquish the floor and proceed to the vote on the emergency budget allocations Nathaniel submitted, it would need to be a three-fifths majority. Otherwise Zento would retain the floor.

After a couple minutes the Senate's Clerk, a tan-skinned woman with what Trillian thought of as a slight Leaguer accent, called out the results. "Three hundred thirty-four in favor, two hundred and sixty-six opposed." A listing of the votes was reflected on a holographic projection.

A satisfied grin crossed Zento's face. The majority was short by twenty-six votes. From what Trillian saw of the results, he'd maintained a strong block of support among his own Isle of Skye as well as the Principality of Atreus and the New Earth, New Dallas, and Stewart Marches, combined with a collection of votes from the other regions sympathetic to his arguments, including a sizable number of the "Concert" block of pro-peace senators. She felt a weight on her heart at it. Every day lost is another day the Wolves have to seize Tharkad. Zento, and whomever is backing him, are killing my people with these tactics.

"I call for adjournment." The gray-haired visage of Senator Ashenafi spoke; he was seated near the front and of particular prominence as one of Arcadia's senators. "Time spent to discuss matters may yield compromise so that the Senate might move on to a vote."

"I will second," said Zento, still grinning. "And will be ready to resume my statements upon the Senate reconvening in the morning."

Grumbling came from some of the assembled. Dame Stuart, with an expression that spoke volumes of what had to be frustration, said, "I acknowledge the Lord Senator will by rights have the floor upon reconvening, but I strongly urge him to consider making his remaining remarks short so the Senate's business may continue."

The grin slipped. Trillian wondered why Stuart had just said what she said, since it was clearly against Zento's intent to hold up the vote, and thus seemingly put her in support of Nathaniel. "And I will urge the President of the Senate to remember the rights of Federation Senators," he replied, his voice particularly forceful. "Especially when the matter concerns war and the overstretching of Crown authority against Parliament's rights."

I would almost think he is trying to goad Nathaniel into acting unilaterally, Trillian thought. It seems that no matter the history, Skye will always be defiant, selfish, and utterly delusional.

"Do any object to an adjournment for the day?" When none spoke, she hammered her gavel. "Then the Senate is adjourned, we will reconvene in regular session at eleven hundred tomorrow." Trillian recognized the near-lunchtime convening was to permit Senate committees to hold their own sessions, though she wondered if it was also time for wheeling and dealing to break the impasse.

A number of Senators jumped from their seats and went for the doors, presumably those with calls to make. Trillian buried her head in her hands for a moment, rubbing at her temples and trying to figure out how to help break the deadlock. Zento's support, while in the apparent minority, was strong enough to keep him talking when the next day came, unless something broke.

One of her aides, a young woman from Arc-Royal she'd picked up on Martin Kell's suggestion, leaned towards her. "Lady Trillian, the Assembly passed the amended budget earlier," she murmured.

"By how much?" she asked.

The aide — Samantha? No, Sarah — checked the noteputer again. "The vote was seven hundred and sixty-two for, six hundred and thirty against, my Lady."

"Thank you, Sarah," Trillian said, and was satisfied to see a small grin and nod. She'd remembered the name right. One of the advantages to being raised in the Royal Court, finding ways to keep names straight… if only I could be satisfied by the outcome. A substantial block opposed Nathaniel. His people are not united in this effort at all. How much is he risking the Federation's stability to aid the Commonwealth? Am I setting him up to be usurped as well? Politics here seemed too settled for that, but then again, it might simply be that such sentiments were not so easily found.

She noted Zento was at his desk still, conversing with some of the other senators. She pursed her lips and, in a moment of impulse, left the Royal Box by its front entrance and approached him. She didn't go unnoticed either, and his eyes were on her by the time she got to the desk. "My Lord Zento, what do you want?"

"Hrm, Lady Trillian?"

She tried to keep her voice level. "You have obstructed me from the first day we met. You've never met my arguments on why the alliance is in your interest, only continued to insult my character and my people, and I have little idea what you truly want. You say you are for the defense of Skye, but nothing I am asking for prejudices that defense."

"Your estimation of our needs does not match our own, Lady Trillian," he answered. "The King can give our militias better 'Mechs and equipment, he can reactivate a regiment of the Skye Rangers, but it doesn't change that his policies have been to reward those threatening us while pursuing a war that does not involve us. I don't know what hold you have over Nathaniel, but I am impervious to your charms, my Lady, and I consider you an enemy for diverting the King's attention from his people."

"You act like Nathaniel is a child wanting glory, but he's been perfectly understanding of the realities of this situation," Trillian replied. "He recognizes that the death of the Commonwealth will jeopardize your people too."

"What, with this talk of the Clans?" Zento laughed. "They will be busy gorging themselves on the Commonwealth's corpse, or pursuing the Terrans of your Inner Sphere. They are not so foolish as to pursue a war here, no matter what you may insist about their warmongering. And even if they did, the Ghastillians and the Communists can deal with them. My people have other threats to concern themselves with, threats that you only encourage the King to ignore or appease in his eagerness to fight for you." As his voice hardened towards the end, his eyes focused on her with a fury she found disturbing. "You ask what I want, Lady Trillian? I want you gone. I want you off Arcadia and back through that magic portal, dealing with the problems your people made for themselves without begging for our help. Then maybe we can get our King's mind back on his duty to our people."

Trillian opened her mouth to protest but stopped. She'd argued the Clans' behavior for months now and could, she now saw, do so until she was blue in the face. It would not move Zento. His eyes blazed with hate and obstinate purpose. No word of hers would reach him. He was set against her and against her people for whatever reason. "You would not be the first to underestimate the Clans' desire for battle," she said before giving a courtly bow and walking away.

At her return to the Palace, Trillian made for her suites. She'd returned to them only a day ago, after four days of intensive investigation ensured MacCarter left no bombs or other devices and that she was secure. A pair of Lifeguards now stood outside her door at all times, their power-armored figures ready to deal with any other assassin sent by the usurpers… or, she now wondered, Zento or someone like him. The resentment I saw there was real, and it frightens me. How many here share it?

Her staff, likewise cleared by both her security personnel and the Arcadian Royal Security Service, already had the day's papers ready for her, including the formal outcome from the House. The Senate is all that remains. If Zento could be bypassed… but I do not know how, nor is it my place. Nathaniel will have to.

While looking over some of the budget items related to her arms purchases, Trillian turned on the trivid and made a soft trawl through news channels. The Donegal Broadcasting Corporation's news channel, consisting of time-delayed recordings sent by HPG from Donegal, reflected polls showing that support for intervention was now sitting solid at seventy-percent. When she swapped to the Atrean News Network, however, she was treated to a poll showing a bare forty percent "willing to consider some action" and seventy percent opposed to "alliance and direct intervention". Skye News Service had even worse numbers, as well as a poll showing that the majority still considered the Azami and the Oriento-Capellans as the main threats to their well-being. She finally tracked over to the Federation Broadcasting Corporation's all-news channel, which had no report at the moment as it was referencing efforts to deal with flooded townships in the Upper Siur River range on the continent of Munster. Local news programming then, she thought. With hundreds of worlds across the Inner Sphere, the sad fact was that someone was suffering some kind of natural calamity or inclement weather somewhere, especially on less-hospitable worlds.

There was a tone at the door. Sarah looked up from the paperwork she was organizing for Trillian and went to the door. She opened it and quickly gave a courtly bow, stepping aside as she did. Trillian was on her feet by the time Sophia Marik stepped into the room. Her robes were white and purple in coloring and a Marik eagle was stitched on the breast. In my reality I would have reason to be wary of being around a Marik, Trillian thought. But not here. "Lady Sophia. To what do I owe the pleasure?" She asked the question politely but could already imagine the answer.

"I wanted to see how you are handling your return to your room," Sophia said. "And to convey King Nathaniel's assurances that today is not the end of the Senate deliberations. Zento's obstruction will not last much longer."

"Can't it?" Trillian asked. She couldn't quite keep the bitterness and frustration from her voice. "Every effort to force him to relinquish the floor and allow a vote failed. He still has enough votes to keep his mouth going for days. I imagine he intends to provoke Nathaniel into imposing the budget alteration by decree?"

"Possibly, though the Assembly's vote will undermine the problems that would raise," Sophia said. "It's also possible he hopes to provoke the Senate into an outright rejection as the price for resuming regular business. Next year is an election year and many have domestic agendas they seek to promote, of course. Zento is threatening that by costing them time on this."

"So they would refuse our alliance to resume normal business."

Sophia nodded. "But Zento may be overplaying his hand. The requirement for cloture was made to protect senators' right to address, but it was never meant to be used to obstruct, not like this. If he persists even his supporters may bleed away. After all, the same precedent might one day apply to their efforts."

Trillian nodded. "It is the committed who sometimes lose sight of such unofficial restrictions, they are so determined to win they will hold to their course when no others had before." She glanced at the trivid which was now openly reporting the results of various Federation-wide surveys on Trillian's alliance proposal. Donegal, Alarion, Arc-Royal, and Porrima Marches all showed hefty supportive polls, and the Arcadia and Dar-es-Salaam Marches polled very strongly for her as well, with Bolan and Hesperus fairly supportive. But even in those places, and in the Concord Free State, and Silver Eagle Republic, the support for the alliance treaty was below sixty percent. Elsewhere Alexandria March was barely at fifty percent in favor while in Arcturus, the Isle of Skye, and the Principality of Atreus, over half were opposed to the alliance. New Dallas March, at thirty-three percent in favor, was the most opposed to her.

"They're frightened of the Empire," Sophia said abruptly. "Many of our worlds have been invaded by the Oriento-Capellans. Atreus alone has been struck three times in the last half century. The last time Atreus City nearly fell."

"How old were you?" Trillian asked softly. She needn't ask anything else; it was plain to her that Sophia had personal experience on this count.

"Three." Sophia shook her head. "I remember pieces, really. Having my fourth birthday party in a bunker in Atreus City. My father couldn't be there, he was off with the Navy, so my uncle Jason visited. My mother was pregnant with my little brother, though I didn't understand at the time. I remember Jason giving me a gift of treats, dried Bondurant sweetberries, that I always loved. 'The last on the planet,' he told me."

"He was to you what Melissa's father Andrew was to me, I suppose," Trillian said. "And her grandfather Adam. He was always kind to me growing up." She swallowed. "What happened to him? Your uncle?"

"He went back to his company in the First Atrean Dragoons and died a week later, killed in his 'Mech while trying to protect the city center," Sophia replied. "And a week after that, the Navy launched a counter-offensive, broke the blockade, and landed reinforcements. It was a few months later that the Knight Orders of Oriente finally withdrew. Nearly half of Atreus' cities had some kind of damage. Atreus City… I remember the rubble. It took years to rebuild everything. They only just finished completing the restoration of all the lost species of the Interstellar Botanical Gardens during my last visit home, two years ago."

Trillian nodded. She's seen on Atreus, her Atreus, what I worry I'll see on my Tharkad. "Do you think Nathaniel should turn me down, then? It's clear many of your people think fighting as our allies will weaken your defenses here."

"No." Sophia shook her head. "My family still does. My father and grand-uncle, Archduke Kenneth, aren't in favor of the alliance, well, not officially, though Father is sympathetic. Nathaniel's had to make a lot of promises to them just to keep their opposition from becoming public, and it may not be enough. But I think he has the right of it. We can't concentrate against the Empire or the Combine if the Clans are at our back, we need your Commonwealth watching the Glass. I've done everything I can to convince my family of that position, and I'm hopeful Uncle Ken will bend in the end and not force Nathaniel to fight for the alliance."

"Thank you, then, for your support, and I'm sorry if it interferes with your nuptials." Trillian smiled sadly at her. "I get the feeling you and Nathaniel will make a committed pair."

"I'm not sure it's love, not like you find in courtly romances or holodramas," Sophia said, meeting the sad little smile with one of her own. "But I do believe in his vision of the future. Peace for our Inner Sphere. Never seeing my beautiful city in rubble again. I can't imagine anyone who wouldn't agree with it."

"I have a feeling there are those who do." Trillian cleared her throat. "Do you think you'll persuade Nathaniel to leave the war to an appointed general?"

"Well, he'll certainly bring an experienced commander with him. But he's still going in person, and the only way to stop him, Lady Trillian, would be for you to tear the treaty up." Sophia shook her head. "Stubborn Proctors, they always insist on leading from the front, unless they're too broken to do it. He'll not be persuaded to give that up. And it's not like the inheritance is in danger. If he dies before we marry, before we have an heir, his aunt Princess Melissa will inherit. She already has three children as well. No, House Proctor will go on, and he won't allow for his troops to fight a war he stays away from. It's not the family way."

Despite the energy in her words, Trillian could tell they were not the entirety of her views. When it came down to it, Sophia wanted Nathaniel here, not across the Glass fighting a war. After all, if he died, their dreams for the future likely died with him, as there was no guarantee his successor would embrace his vision in any way. Hopefully he will be satisfied by a few visits to the front and consider his duty done.

Trillian drew in a sigh. Our salvation will not be easy, we are going to bring pain to these people, and I don't think the Commonwealth can easily repay that debt. I only hope Melissa and the others appreciate it.

By her side, the vidphone began trilling. Trillian reached over and tapped the call key. Lord Marienberg, her Chief of Staff, appeared on it. He seemed pale, even accounting for the vidphone's display. "Lady Trillian, there's something on the DBC… it's terrible, but you may wish to see it."

Oh no. What has happened now? "Thank you, my Lord." She took up the trivid remote and set it back to the DBC news feed.

The holographic display created the crisp image of a field of snow and something consniderably darker. Uniformed personnel were milling about, digging through the snow and… ash? The lower corner of the screen read "AFRF Verigraphed Footage", "Morges", and "Clan-occupied System, Transglass". At the top of the screen a content advisory warning was written in brilliant red, repeated in both English, German, and Gaelic. Trillian recognized the array of uniforms quickly, a combination of Arcadian, Kell Hound, and Wolf Clan insignia and colors. One of the Kell Hound personnel, an infantryman, reached through the snow and pulled up a rigid object that was soon identifiable as a human arm.

Within seconds more was brought up from the snow and ash until it was clear that it was, indeed, human; a corpse, covered in bruises, emaciated and weak, frozen stiff in the cold.

"This disturbing footage, bearing a verigraphed AFRF digital signature, was received yesterday by press correspondents on Atocongo from a force of AFRF units that returned past the Clan blockade of the Looking Glass," a female voice in a Donegal brogue explained. "According to the attached report, it is the site of a mass grave found at a prisoner of war camp on Morges by the Eighth Strikers Brigade, who landed on the planet to liberate Lyran prisoners of war from Jade Falcon forces. Some of the footage has been deemed not fit for broadcast, though it is believed to already be making the rounds on local planetary net sites on Atocongo and will likely spread from there."

Indeed there were signs of editing cuts as more bodies were fished from the pit, as were the burnt remains of human bones. The bodies were in various states of mistreatment and malnutrition, some little more than skin and bones. Some had visible bullet holes or laser burns from being shot, though more traumatic injuries were not among those broadcast.

"According to sources in the Eighth Strikers and the First Kell Hounds, no count of the deceased was feasible in their time on Morges, and the estimates are wildly variant, though intact remains numbered at one hundred and twenty-two when the camp had to be abandoned for military necessity. An estimated two hundred more were killed during enemy shelling of the camp after its liberation, leaving over one thousand survivors. Regretfully another hundred and ten died during the high-G transit from Morges made necessary by a Falcon war fleet arriving in-system." The speaker remained off-screen, and given the growing strain in her voice, it was no surprise. Trillian could imagine the woman paling as these words came from her throat. While the loss of life was by scale not as great as other atrocities, the numbers alone could bring anyone to choke, and the appearance of the bodies made clear the sufferings of the deceased before their deaths.

There was a rustling beside her, joined by a wretching sound. Trillian turned in time to see Sophia cradling a trash receptacle hurriedly gathered from the table between them, one she was freely vomiting into. After a few seconds she stopped, though her face remained tremendously pale. It made Trillian conscious of the gurgling in her own gut at the sight of so many of her fellow Lyrans dead at the Falcons' hands. We failed them. Melissa, General Maurer, Vedet Brewer, myself, we all failed them. We should have been wiser. We shouldn't have worked with Seth Ward and Alaric Wolf. We shouldn't have been so greedy as to strike at the Mariks, not when the Falcons remained, not when Malvina was made Khan! We should have done something!

It frustrated her. Senator Zento, vicious as he was towards the plight of her people, wasn't wrong about that. They had made mistakes, and they had caused this. Now their greatest hope to recover from this war was the result of the miracle of the Glass. Otherwise… otherwise the Commonwealth would have died, in all likelihood. We would have only survived if the Clans let us. Will only survive if they permit, should this alliance fail after all.

And all the while, the footage continued on.

The DBC was likewise active in Nathaniel's office. He sat, quiet in his chair, while his uncle Prince Peter, Grand Admiral Stewart, and Lord Arnold watched quietly with him. The footage of the mass grave was replaced by what looked like a DropShip wardroom. A figure with pale dark skin, emaciated and worn, sat hunched on the chair with a mug of drink and the remnants of a ration pack before him. He was favoring one wrist as a man might if his watch were removed and he was testing the skin it once covered. "Hauptmann Peter Hoffman, Seventh Arcturan Guards, correct?" a voice asked from offscreen.

"Ja. Yes."

"If you want to take a little while, I know the food is still settling…"

"Nein. No. I… I would like more, but only once the others are fed," he said. "They did not feed us, usually. A piece of bread or a cup of rice pudding a day, or whatever scraps remained from their own rations."

"What can you tell us about conditions?"

The man laughed bitterly, the tears forming in his eyes weighing more than words. "What can't I? They abused and tormented us. We were only alive to be worked to death. The Falcons, or those that called themselves Mongols, don't believe in taking prisoners. We were not intended to survive, and we were never offered a chance to prove ourselves in such a way to join the Clan, not like they used to do with prisoners. No. We were to die slowly as punishment for resisting, to terrify others into surrendering."

"The Falcons told you this?"

Another harsh laugh. "They bragged. They even speculated which of us would die next. Sometimes they killed us just to do it, or because we said the wrong thing, or had too much spirit in the way our eyes met them. They… they hated us for fighting back. It was like nothing I'd seen before from Clansmen, usually they preferred fighters, they wanted glory. These Falcons, these Mongols, just wanted submission…"

Nathaniel's finger finally found the mute key, hushing the trivid player. He drew in a breath before glancing across the room. They are not taking it well either. Even Arnold seems to still have a soul… no, that is unfair of me. "We must put a stop to this," Nathaniel finally managed, even as the fire still burned within him. "This is wrong."

"It is." Stewart nodded. "But it will not sway Zento. The Kuritans behave like this too, after all, and you are not demanding war with them."

"War with House Kurita would start a new Succession War," Nathaniel reminded him bitterly. Though I would love to send the Proctor and Royal Guards Corps and have them drag Ballymont back to face trial for his atrocities, to reclaim New Wessex and Vega for the Federation, the Combine would retaliate, and it would spiral. The Peace of Dieron would be lost. But I can do something here! "Nor is the Combine the enemy I know many believe we should face first."

"It is not," Lord Arnold grumbled. He turned to Nathaniel with his usual glare, but this time the fire wasn't quite there, restrained by the horrors they'd just seen. "But what's done is done. I will do my duty and obey your orders while giving you my advice. And that advice is that your proposed intervention is not feasible under the current military budget. The Senate must pass the amended budget, and Zento will block it with everything he has."

"He is abusing Senate rules to do so, surely that will sway them."

"Not if they don't want to be. Not if they feel as deeply as he that this war is a mistake." Arnold's voice made clear he agreed that it was. "And others may decide to table the matter to get other business going again, which is certainly what he wants."

"If the Senate ignores this, then I will act." That prompted the three men to stare at him. "The Assembly approved the change."

"With a strong opposing minority," Peter reminded him.

"They still did. I will honor my pledges to the defense of the Federation, but I will sign a Royal Decree altering the budget if the Senate does not stop Zento's petulant obstruction," Nathaniel swore. "This is not simply honoring our word, not anymore. This is a moral imperative. Hazen's followers represent a force that our House was built to fight, that every oath House Proctor has ever sworn requires us to face with whatever might we can muster, and I will follow that oath."

"Zento may provoke revolt in Skye," Arnold said, drawing a ferocious glare from Peter after he did. "The people there are restless. They considered your grandmother one of theirs, but you are clearly not. If you run off to fight in another Inner Sphere while they clamor for more defense…"

"I have given them new defenses, new 'Mechs, and a restored Skye Ranger unit. If they wish to be ungrateful, then it will be dealt with as needed." Damn Zento and damn Skye! He didn't dare say that, not even in private, it was not something he could ever risk getting leaked. But the feeling was there regardless. "Princess Melissa's presence should show how much we're concerned with them. Zento's protests aside, I think even the people of Skye would recognize their defenses are being seen to. I will not humor his stubborn obstructionism any longer."

"At this point, I advise against anything hasty," said Peter. "Do not mention a Royal Decree as possible, not until tomorrow. Let's see how the session goes."

Nathaniel almost asked what he thought would be different. But the words died before they could reach his throat. It was evident things were different now, with the atrocities of the Clans being played on trivids for all to see. Will it sway enough votes? We will see. And I will act accordingly.

Dr. Nancy Corey Memorial Hospital

Among the many trivids and flatscreens showing the new footage coming from beyond the Glass was the one in the secured hospital room of the Nancy Corey Hospital, where their most infamous current patient remained on her hospital bed, a helpless quadriplegic. Beside the prone form of Malvina Hazen, John Albright was likewise looking at the display. He was reminded of the footage a few years ago, when prisoners from the Third Proctor Guards were returned in a swap after their failed campaign on New Wessex. The Kuritans had left them half-starved and abused as well.

The sight was such that he was left transfixed. His last question to Malvina faded from his mind. Dear God, look what they did to those poor people. He glanced towards Malvina, curious as to her reaction.

No, I'm not just curious. I want to see contrition.

But there was none. Just a sort of hollow, uncaring look in her eyes, as if the suffering was nothing special, nothing to feel any emotion about. After several moments she turned her head back towards him. A bemused glimmer showed in her eyes. "You are upset with me, Doctor John?"

"How can you look at that and not feel moved by the suffering?"

"It is easy. Suffering has been my companion since the sibko, as you are well aware," she replied evenly. "I was as hungry as they were quite often. They fed us very little too, and if we stole food from the larder or the mess, we were ferociously punished. I had one sibkin, Sichelgaita I believe… yes. The Falconers beat her so badly she died from an infection a week later, all for stealing a tomato from their stores. So, we dealt with it, as a warrior must."

John swallowed. "And you don't care, do you? You don't appreciate what that suffering is?"

"It is suffering. You are broken by it, killed by it, or you endure it and survive. I chose to survive, as did Aleks. So no, Doctor John, I do not care. Their suffering means as little to me as any other." Her eyes tightened and, damn her, a grin formed. 'Why, Doctor, I seem to have angered you. Never have I seen such passion on your face."

He couldn't help it. Her mental condition aside, her callousness towards the horror they were seeing, it stoked a fury in him. In a moment of clarity he understood Lord Cassel and that committee of men and women he'd argued with so intently a month ago. Malvina was the source of this horror and she was not, in the slightest, repentant of it. She… she deserves to die. And her victims deserve justice.

A low, throaty cackle came from Malvina. "I think you wish to kill me. Is that true, hunter of mental illness? Please say it is so. No, not just that. Please, do kill me." Her voice betrayed emotion, not just pleasure but an earnestness for destruction. "I invoked bondsref, but I cannot carry it out. Kill me, Doctor John. Fulfill the rede burning in your breast and end my life."

Could I do it? Just… just kill her? No! No, I am a doctor, not a killer. He kept his eyes from the screen and focused on his thinking. It is not my place. It's not what I am.

"You suffered as well, so why do you care so little?" he asked her. "Why hurt others like you were hurt?"

"Because that is the way of things. Suffering is everywhere, and everyone will both endure and inflict it. Those who are weak will die from it, the strong endure. Such is the rede of life, Doctor John, and there is nothing you or your Arcadian morality can change about that."

Albright nodded stiffly. "And you will never repent? For the worlds you ruined, the lives you destroyed, the suffering you've wrought?"

"I do not know what 'repentance' even is," was her calm reply. "But if you are asking if I have regrets, my regrets do not include the actions I took to glorify my Clan and crush my enemies."

"Very well." He jotted that note down and stood. "I am calling it a day."

"And I will linger here, suffering more," she said bitterly.

He couldn't bring himself to answer her. She is a monster. Remember that, John. No matter how intriguing her mental illness, even if it makes her incapable of being anything but what she is… she is a monster, and you will not change that. Do you still think she deserves to be spared the trial that her victims cry out for?

It was not a question he could answer at the moment, not with the anger burning inside him.

Royal Palace
1 February 3143

After an unrestful sleep Trillian rose to begin the day with the usual morning routine. Washing, dressing, breakfast, and then to get fully dressed for the day's Senate meeting.

She'd barely set down to breakfast when Lord Marienberg appeared. He seemed partly rested and happier than she expected. "My Lady, have you heard?"

"Heard of what?" She tried to keep the worry from her voice.

"That awful footage from Morges has made it through the HPG network to sites on Arcadia, and on other worlds. More news sources are picking it up." He drew in a breath. "It pains me to see so many of our people suffer like that, but maybe it will sway hearts and minds here."

"I hope it does, but I dare not rely on that hope. Breakfast, Lord Marienberg?"

He nodded in acceptance and joined her. They ate quietly, perhaps afraid of discussing any more the day's events, not wanting to hope things were changing and tempt fate. When Trillian was done she reached for her noteputer and used it to load up a number of capital news services, particularly the Roslyn Times. Newspapers, they were once called, I think. She recalled some worlds on her side still had local news items and offworld news printed on paper and stacked for delivery or for purchase at local stores, especially on worlds with more limited net access and enough resources for paper production. But most such services tended to still be digital delivery affairs.

The main article that came on the Roslyn Times' net site screamed "HORROR FROM BEYOND THE GLASS". The image was a still of a pile of burnt bones from Morges being collected by parka-clad AFRF personnel. The very sight threatened to make Trillian's breakfast come back, so she quickly slid the image away.

"The Chamberlain forwarded a request from High King Nathaniel this morning," Marienberg began. "He wishes for you to bring copies of the alliance treaty you finalized to the Senate today."

To show, I assume, though maybe we will get lucky and be able to sign.

"My Lady?" One of her aides, Gerda, was at the balcony window, along with the younger Sarah. "Outside, in the courtyard…"

Seeing the uncertainty and surprise on their faces, Trillian went to the balcony window and pushed the door open, allowing the cool morning air to flow into her suite.

It wasn't uncommon to see crowds in the courtyard, small ones particularly, given the Palace was a functioning government building as much as it was the King's residence. But this crowd, while not large yet, was already a mass of people ten stories below, and it was still growing.

A cheer rose up from the ground when she made it to the railing. She could make out the handful of flags among the crowd, both the red-and-white flag of the Federation bearing the white-and-gold-winged crowned hawk and a few Lyran Commonwealth flags among them as well. One hastily-made placard depicted a crude green bird impaled by a sword, and another, the same caught fast in an armored fist. The cheering soon became a babble of different chants, including "Long live the Commonwealth!" and "Alliance now!"

The sight kindled the hope within her heart. She'd occasionally had letters or messages of support, even marches and political demonstrations, but this was a spontaneous action. The crowd's shouts and cheers continued. "God save the Commonwealth!" "We will fight!"

Still, it may just be those most affected by the images. I can't be hopeful for a change in the Senate. Still, she couldn't just remain passive at this display. How do the likes of Daoshen do these public rallies? she wondered, settling ultimately for raising her hand and crying out, "Long live the Commonwealth!" as loud as she could manage.

She doubted many heard her, but they saw her hand, which she clenched into a fist, and the cheers renewed.

I think I am ready to face the Senate, and Zento, again, she decided, stepping away from the balcony and letting the distant roar follow her back into the suites.

Trillian arrived a half hour early, in time with High King Nathaniel, to find the Parliament much changed. There was a new mood in the air, and the staffers and other workers saluted or bowed their heads as Trillian passed. The vids spread yet further.

Once in the Senate she barely had time to get to the Royal Box before a number of the members approached her, offering condolences, their personal pledges of support for the war, a few even apologizing for prior opposition. She accepted their words with thanks, noting that some came from those who voted for Zento's tirade the prior day. Dare I hope he can be made to stand down? After her months of politicking and arguing and debating, it seemed too much to dare, even if the vids from Morges left her even more determined to see this through and spare her people that horror.

As the time approached, she noted Zento was not yet at his desk, nor among the crowd of Senators in the chamber. Is he running late? Or will he make a last minute appearance to delay matters further? She glanced towards Nathaniel, who was having something whispered in his ear by Prince Peter while his eyes were intent on the chamber. He has seen some of the reports too, I imagine. I should be fortunate that the ruler of this state is the most sympathetic.

At the stroke of eleven, the doors opened one last time, admitting Zento and an aide who shuffled off to the aide gallery while Zento went to his seat, holding a noteputer. He checked something on it intently. He intends to keep speaking. Trillian frowned. Even with all this, he will not relent.

Stuart's gavel sounded through the chamber. "Order. I call the Senate to order!" she called out. "The clerk will now hold the roll call."

The roll call was, thankfully, all digital, and with the clerk's supporting staff only took a few minutes, though they were very long minutes. "All Senators are in attendance, we have a quorum," Stuart announced. "The Senate is now in session."

Zento rose. "Then I shall, as is my right, hold the floor," he announced, his voice boosted by the chamber's acoustics and speaker systems.

A roar answered him, surprising him and Trillian in its fury. "Sit down, damn you!" "Enough! Enough!" "You have spoken enough, Zento!" "Devil take you, sit down!" A number of voices called out demanding he sit. Zento's jaw locked and he defied his loudest detractors with a glare while Speaker Stuart's gavel slammed repeatedly on the sound board at her desk. "Order!" she shouted repeatedly, until the furor died down. "The Lord Senator held the floor at the adjournment yesterday, the floor is his until he relinquishes it or cloture is invoked."

"I will not relinquish until the Senate hears the pleas of my constituents on Summer, and across the Isle of Skye!" Zento proclaimed. "This alliance must be stopped!"

The furor was shorter this time. More than that, Trillian thought even Zento looked a little subdued compared to yesterday. Have the recordings from Morges perhaps stirred his soul to life a little? Made him reconsider?

Senator Ashenafi rose from his seat. "My Lord Senator's opinion aside, this obstruction of Senate business cannot continue. I move for the invocation of cloture."

The fact he got the words out without an interruption from Zento made Trillian furhter wonder if the Summer firebrand was uncertain. "I protest, I have not even started," Zento said. "And I have new figures related to Oriento-Capellan naval constructions to provide as justification for my opposition."

"I second the motion!" Senator Bujold cried. "Vote for cloture!"

Stuart nodded. "The motion is carried. The Senate will now vote to close debate on the Royal request for budgetary amendment."

The following minute was agony for Trillian. What would be the result? Would Zento lose any of his grip? She needed three hundred and sixty votes to get the Senate to vote for the actual budget, and she couldn't be sure of that yet either, as some cloture votes might yet also vote against her.

The Senators quickly voted, however, and the Clerk of the Senate swiftly tabulated the results her clerks confirmed. The holographic projection said everything.


A cheer came from some sections of the Senate until silenced by Stuart's gavel. "Four hundred and fifteen for, one hundred and eighty-five against. Debate is now closed. Lord Senator Zento, please, be seated."

A huff of disappointment came from Zento, but not the fury Trillian had anticipated at being thwarted. He slumped into his chair. That more than anything gave her real hope; if he'd shown more energy she would fear he'd already assured himself of defeating the budget change.

"The Senate will now vote on the proposed budget alteration…"

Trillian held her hands together and prayed. This would be the clincher. Nathaniel's readiness to push his authority notwithstanding, the Senate supporting him would eliminate all doubt. It would give her what she needed, desperately, to save her cousin and to save the Commonwealth.

The vote took a little longer this time, but soon, another set of results showed.


"Danke Gott," escaped her lips. Sixteen extra opposing votes aside, this was almost a two-thirds majority, far higher than she'd hoped. She glanced at the projected results being relayed to her noteputer, including who made which vote. As cheers came from the Senate, and Nathaniel flashed a smile of triumph, she confirmed the way the outcome fell. While the vote solidified further her way in Lyran space, she'd also made key gains in the Principality of Atreus and the Arcturus and Alexandria Marches, even a few swayed votes in Skye, New Earth, and New Dallas Marches. In some points her supporters were minorities of those sections, but they were not small minorities. No March was still overwhelmingly against the alliance she'd forged, the hope for the Commonwealth.

"The Clerk shall report to the Treasury that the Senate has approved the Royal request, and the appropriate adjustments might be made," Stuart said. "As President and Speaker of the Senate, I now propose a vote of endorsement for the alliance treaty with the Lyran Commonwealth, to reflect this body's opinion and ensure the prompt implementation of the agreement once the treaty is signed."

Trillian was already fighting back the tears of joy. This time the vote was even more her way, with another thirty Senators endorsing, presumably to show solidarity now that they'd lost the vote against the budget.

She noted Nathaniel lean forward in his chair and speak to Stuart. Stuart looked back and up at him and nodded. Her gavel struck the sound board again. "His Majesty has a request for the attention of the Senate."

Conversation quieted. No opposition was made, not even by Zento, though he frowned at the High King from his desk.

Nathaniel rose and, after a signal from elsewhere — presumably the sound engineer for the Senate's address system — he began speaking. "In light of this occasion, I ask the Senate to witness the treaty signing your wisdom has made possible. Lady Trillian, the treaty copies?"

For a brief moment Trillian, relieved as she was, forgot she had them. She checked her things and was about to panic at their not being there when Marienberg, smiling, produced the folder from his papers. She stood and held them up. "Here, Your Majesty."

"Please, let us finish this now. Your people have suffered enough at the hands of your foes. No more time will be wasted in bringing them succor." Nathaniel descended from the platform towards the Senate floor and the table before Stuart's place. Seeing his intent, the Clerk and her subordinates quickly started clearing space.

A lump formed in Trillian's throat, and she felt the tears come before she could stop them. Her soul bursting with pride at her success, she left the Royal Box with her staff and approached the table herself. The Clerk accepted the treaty copies and laid them out, side by side. Speaker Stuart stepped forward to join them, providing a ceremonial quilled pen to Nathaniel. As the Senate watched, he sat in one of the open chairs and signed each copy with a steady hand. Only now did Trillian notice Sophia was with them, wondering if perhaps the King's secretary and bride-to-be arrived late and noting Sophia brought with her a large object in a box. Nathaniel opened it, reached within for several moments, and brought out a large brass and silver object with one side wet with dark ink. The Royal Seal, Trillian realized, watching him press it to the side of his signatures, one after the other, leaving the crowned hawk seal of the Royal Federation on both. "Lady Trillian?" he asked, offering her the quilled pen.

She almost dropped it. That was the most embarrassing part, but having this moment come had her so affected she almost dropped the pen. Demanding her hand remain steady, Trillian sat at the table beside Nathaniel and signed her name and Melissa's. Once the second copy was signed, she handed the pen back to Stuart.

Nathaniel stood, prompting her to do the same, and bowed his head to her, prompting her to bow ever more deeply back. "It is done," he announced. "Joined by the hand of God Himself, the Lyran Commonwealth and the Royal Federation are now allies against the monstrous depravity of our enemies."

A cheer came from the alliance supporters in the Senate, and applause soon filled the chamber. Trillian failed to hold back her tears. I've done it. We have the alliance. I can save Melissa from Vedet, and then we can save the Commonwealth together! After being denied so long it felt like a dam had released in her heart, filling her soul with relief and glee. The small part of her mind reminding her the deed wasn't done, that a lot of fighting was still ahead, and time was off the essence, it couldn't hold that back. Everything had hinged on the mission that she had just seen to a triumphant conclusion.

"I have to go back now," she murmured. Nathaniel seemed to be the only one who heard her over the roar of applause. "I have to bring the treaty to Tharkad, free Melissa, and get the Commonwealth to rally while your troops are brought in."

"There will be other arrangements we must make first," he said to her, grinning, his voice just low enough to carry over the applause. "And there is the matter of my coronation in a week. It would be best that our alliance start with a formal Lyran delegation, yes?"

"I…" She considered it. She did indeed have final matters to wrap up before departing, and it'd ensure the Glass was secured (she hoped, which was very easy to do at the moment) when the Archon's Fist arrived there. "A week, yes, but no later. Things must be brought to order on Tharkad. The LCAF must be made to repudiate Vedet."

"I understand."

By now the applause were only starting to end. "Madame Speaker!" Ashenafi's voice rang out. "In light of the occasion, may I suggest we adjourn?"

Before she could reply, another voice seconded, and Stuart, without her gavel, merely nodded. "Yes, the Senate is adjourned!"

Zento and a few others left, but many, even those who'd opposed the alliance, remained. Trillian didn't see who, but a voice rose from among the Senate, quickly joined by others recognizing the words of a song she now recognized from the historical records she'd reviewed, of the old hymn Sara Proctor introduced to her Liberation Army and known, to these people, as "The Liberator's Hymn."

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible, swift sword
His truth is marching on!

Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!
Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!
Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!
His truth is marching on!

By the end of the chorus Nathaniel was joining in, as were Sophia and Stuart, and Trillian, to her own surprise, found her voice joining the next verse.

I have seen Him in the watchfires of a hundred circling camps
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps
His day is marching on!

Glory, Glory, Hallelujah…!
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: "Emergence" - BattleTech Dark Ages/BattleTech AU Crossover

Post by LadyTevar »

Nothing like visual images of a horror to move people's opinions.
Nitram, slightly high on cough syrup: Do you know you're beautiful?
Me: Nope, that's why I have you around to tell me.
Nitram: You -are- beautiful. Anyone tries to tell you otherwise kill them.

"A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP" -- Leonard Nimoy, last Tweet
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Re: "Emergence" - BattleTech Dark Ages/BattleTech AU Crossover

Post by Steve »

Co-written with Captain Orsai . You might say his parts were awesome, in more ways than one. `:p`;)

38 - Circle of Death

Timkovichi, Coventry Province
Lyran Commonwealth (Disputed)
1 February 3143

The ravaged, empty city of Martenholm loomed ahead through the canopy of Eva's Paladin as it tromped across the border laid out by the Clans, displayed for her benefit as a red wall on her holotank. She moved at a leisurely pace, allowing the slower family-owned Awesome Allison insisted on piloting. It reminded her of her older cousins Mirabel and Isabella and their insistence on still piloting the century old Paladin PLD-2S 'Mechs, Killjoy and Huntress, that their family founders Sir Alexander and Lady Rachel piloted during their careers. Even when they'd served in the Eighth Strikers alongside her parents they'd continued to pilot the older 'Mechs. Though they did at least accept upgrades to Royal weaponry, Say Your Prayers — what a name for a 'Mech — still uses the old Kreuss PPCs with the minimal range issue!

Granted, the AWS-8Q was arguably one of the best designs around, at least among the older generation of 'Mechs that the broken Successor States could still manufacture and maintain post-collapse. It had the heat sinks to deal with the heat output of its three PPCs, and they still packed a wallop. A pilot good enough to deal with the short range targeting issues could maintain a steady output of damage and the head-mounted small laser gave it an extra sting if someone got close. But given the caliber of their opposition, even accounting for Allison's experience piloting her family machine, Eva worried that having a newer 'Mech would've been better for them.

Still, at least we've got some synergy going. Given the PPCs' slight range deficiencies, Eva's 'Mech was outfitted for a combination of long-range fire and short-range punching. Each arm was fully fitted with actuators, the right adding an extended range large laser — a Vickers-Armstrong Mk. 16 — while the left had a Defiance P6M pulse laser, a second of the same on the middle of her 'Mech's chest. The right side of the chest had one of the newest pieces of kit in the AFRF, Defiance's V1200 PPC, a Variable Focus Snub-Nose that auto-adjusted the focusing hardware for bolt formation to allow for the same extended range as the powerful Terran-designed ER PPCs, but at the cost of doing less damage than even a normal PPC unless the enemy came closer while putting out the same heat. When they did, she could also rely on the weapons mounted opposite of the Variable Focus PPC; two six-salvo SRM launchers with Streak pre-lock technology, economizing her ammo load. Ammunition. Now I have to be careful with the heat levels, and how much I use my jump jets.

A projected blue marker on her display told Eva she was approaching their starting point. She made the final distance and drew in a breath. So this is it. I don't think I can live through this, but if I give Allison the chance to win, it'll be worth it. I'm not a hero, but I can do that much.

Hey,” the private laser-link from Allison’s Awesome blinked live. “Look, don’t know how much this is gonna help you, but it sure helped me before my first fight. Something one of my instructors said.” Allison paused for a moment, probably marshalling her thoughts. “Remember that the other guy’s as fragile, and as scared, as you are, and don’t think about winning the whole fight. Just concentrate on winning each minute of it.

It was good advice. Eva nodded, though Allison wouldn't have seen the gesture, and triggered the link in reverse. "Yeah, that's good advice. One step at a time. Win each minute until we've won the whole thing." With that said Eva glanced at the clock. They were minutes from the appointed hour, and while she could see both observation vehicles on the scanners, the Falcon 'Mechs had yet to arrive. It's too much to ask that they're deciding to just give it all up… no, they're on their way. C'mon, push away the fear. Winning matters. Winning. For the people who used to live and work in this town. For the people you saw homeless in Cirenholm, or those prisoners we liberated on Morges. For the Second RCs that fought to save this world. For Allison, for Mom and Dad and everyone… for yourself. I want to go home. I don't want to die here.

She drew in a breath to steady herself. As she released it, her scanners lit up with new contacts in the distance. Two BattleMechs of heavy or assault tonnage, approaching at a sixty kph clip. There they are, she thought. Remember the battleROM footage, remember the training. We fight as a team.

Stephanie kept her Jade Hawk at an even fifty kph stride as the jade-and-gold colored machine entered the opposite side of the circle around Martenholm. Beside her, Isaac Roshak piloted a Shrike from the 9th Talon, painted in a black-dominated color scheme to declare his adherence to the Mongol Doctrine. If I am fortunate, perhaps my opponents will end his life before I defeat them, Stephanie thought, though she chided herself un the unworthiness of it after a moment's consideration. No. He is still a warrior under my command. I have a responsibility, as unappetizing as it is.

Their machines gave them the stop points. A light scout vehicle, a salvaged Swiftwind, drove past them, bearing Star Colonel Raquel Hazen, the Delta Galaxy reserve commander Stephanie picked to be the Oathmaster for this duel. While waiting for Raquel's vehicle to reach its central point, Stephanie took the time to examine her foes' machines. One, which her updated systems identified as a Paladin OmniMech, reminded her of a Royal Black Knight, though it mounted missiles on the chest and bore something of a crown or tiara-like formation on top of the head. It matched her in speed and weight, at the very least; this battle would come down to skill. Hopefully the Arcadian ristar piloting that machine will prove a worthy foe for my codex, beyond her role in Malvina's defeat.

Standing beside the Paladin was the familiar shape of an Awesome-type BattleMech, not just any type but the initial AWS-8Q. That color scheme, I believe I recognize. That warrior has been fighting through the invasion, and even now, they bring that machine to this fight instead of a newer one. I like this warrior; they are wise enough to trust their skill and a machine they know, rather than an unproven one. They will prove a worthy foe, I believe.

"I feel insulted that they meet us with less weight, as if we are brats fresh from the sibko
." Isaac's voice had its usual harshness. "I look forward to killing them."

"Do not get overconfident, Star Colonel," Stephanie warned. "Their machines are as deadly as any other. And do not expect our enemies to engage us under the limits of zellbrigen."

"I have no such expectations, nor do I wish it either. We should concentrate fire on the slower target then."

"Or perhaps the foe who is clearly geared to provide close-range fire support for the enemy?" Stephanie proposed, keeping the edge in her voice out of both frustration and reminding Isaac he did not frighten her. I would be perturbed about not honoring the Clan Way, but I know our enemies will not, so it is a moot point. "We can deal with the heavier 'Mech at our leisure once we are assured SRMs are not blasting our armor apart."

"Do what you wish, Galaxy Commander. I know how to fight foes."

Star Colonel Raquel's voice crackled in. Her Swiftwind was now at its assigned point. "Are all in their places? Challengers, are you ready to face your foes?"

"We are," replied a new voice for Stephanie. Undoubtedly the young Arcadian pilot who'd landed a couple days before.

"To the challenged, are you prepared?"

"We are," Stephanie replied.

"Then all is ready. In this solemn combat, let none interfere. Fight with honor, warriors."

"Seyla," Stephanie murmured, drawing in a breath and letting the familiar rush fill her. She put the Jade Hawk into a run. Beside her, Isaac's Shrike went into motion. With this battle, we win the planet. I will be Khan, and the reform of the Jade Falcons shall begin.

The moment the Falcon "Oathmaster" cleared the fight to start, Eva leveled her crosshairs on the larger assault 'Mech. She felt a chill at seeing it was the same model as Malvina's machine, giving her mental images of that fateful day half a year ago when the world stopped working right, when that assault machine moved like a light 'Mech and took the lives of Captain Kincaid and Lieutenant von Krager. Keep it together, Eva. She sent her 'Mech into motion to avoid the autocannon fire the Shrike was capable of while her fingers stroked the triggers for her long range weapons. A thick sapphire beam shot out from her right arm and slashed armor from the wing and shoulder of the enemy machine. Beside it, the variable focus PPC whirred to life, concentrating the resulting bolt enough to reach the distance. The hit was glancing and caused insignificant armor damage, particularly as the bolt lost much of its power at that long range.

Allison's 'Mech was already in motion, lumbering ahead and looking to gain the range. Her PPCs fired in sequence, causing superficial damage only given the range and the loss of intensity in the bolts. Her target, likewise, was the enemy Shrike, who doggedly continued on. The Shrike's arm came up and autocannon fire responded, the shells tearing into the Awesome's armor but causing no further damage. Laser fire streaked through the air and missed from a last second rightward shift by Allison.

Eva fired off her long range weapons again, to no effect as this time the Shrike turned enough to evade completely. These pilots are good.

"Jade Hawk getting close, Eva," Allison warned.

"I see it." She turned her attention to the other winged humanoid BattleMech, its shoulders and sides mounting six-shot missile launchers and a number of visible laser ports built into it. At its speed it was drawing into weapons range quickly and needed attention. Eva focused her crosshairs on it, confirmed no solid SRM lock was possible, and fired her long range guns again, in the company of two of Allison's PPCs.

All four shots missed. The pilot spun around, evading them. A third bolt from Allison's arm-mounted PPC found the leg, but only did surface armor damage.

WIth her mouth dry and her heart pounding, Eva's checked the range and added her P6Ms into the next barrage, just for all but the large laser to miss again. The blue beam did do something, slicing over the right hip missile launcher and melting the weapon enough to knock it out.

This didn't deter Stephanie Chistu. With that practiced skill Eva recognized from the battleROM footage they'd viewed the last two days, Galaxy Commander Chistu's 'Mech maneuvered deftly around the incoming fire until it was at maximal range for SRM shots. Eighteen SRMs raced from the launchers, all locking on to Eva's 'Mech. Out of habit she twisted and presented the 'Mech's left side, using the left arm to take much as the barrage as she could. Ten missiles out of the salvo struck there, blasting away much of the armor on the limb and, going by her warning light, damaging the elbow actuator. The pulse laser mounted in that limb would be harder to keep on-target now.

Of course, now her launchers were in range too. She twisted her torso towards the Jade Hawk and triggered them.

Nothing. No lock was confirmed and the missiles didn't fire. Now that they were in the thick of Martenholm's ruins, the Jade Hawk was moving through the wreckage of one of the commercial buildings, throwing off the targeting systems on Eva's 'Mech and avoiding the lock.

Her machine rocked hard, a barrage of autocannon shells tearing into her Paladin's right arm and chest. This brought her focus back on the distant . She brought her 'Mech's right arm up and, after a moment to make sure she had a good shot, triggered her long range weapons. This time she caught the Shrike pilot mid-jink, lasing armor from his torso while the particle bolt blasted a little more from the autocannon arm.

The Jade Hawk soared into view on plumes of fusion plasma, bound for Allison's 'Mech. Particle bolts fired at it, two hitting, but the maneuver was carrying Chistu into the minimum effective range of Allison's PPCs. She'd be at a severe disadvantage. Eva turned away from the Shrike and, to throw off the enemy's aim, triggered her own jump jets. She rose into the air, plowing through the ruins of a streetside billboard, trying to hold her crosshairs gold over the Jade Hawk as it came to a landing. She triggered her missiles.

This time both of her missile launchers had solid enough locks to fire. Eight of the missiles hit home on vulnerable rear armor and the 'Mech's readied arms, stopping the pilot from an attack with the sharp claw appendages designed for ripping 'Mech armor to pieces. Eva's fingers squeezed trigger after trigger. The PPC blast went wide, unfortunately, especially as she was at a range where the full power of the shot would have hit, and her right arm's damage made the pulse laser only manage an armor-scorching glancing hit. The large laser did its work, though, melting a gash of armor from the Jade Hawk's hip and side while the chest pulse laser's emerald darts drilled a fresh wound into the left arm at the elbow.

Her cockpit turned into a sauna. The combined heat of her jumping and all of her weapons firing in sequence so rapidly left her heat dangerously high. The myomer muscles were slowing, which would reduce her speed and throw her aim off. Got to watch the heat, don't need my SRMs exploding on me.

She'd done the damage she needed to, at least. The Jade Hawk's attention was entirely on her now. Three ruby beams played over her 'Mech's chest and side, melting away sky blue armor, and SRMs raced across the short distance to hammer home, even as Eva forced her 'Mech low and twisted, this time taking the damage to her right arm and side from the missiles that successfully hit. The Jade Hawk rushed forward and brought its right arm down towards her, the claw raking through the armor on the right shoulder and arm of her Paladin, exposing some of myomer muscle with how deep the wound was. Both arms damaged.

Regardless of her heat, her fingers stroked her triggers again, leaving out her arm-mounted weapons. The PPC struck home this time, its full power at this range scourging a score of armor from Chistu's Jade Hawk, while the SRMs battered away above the waist of the winged killing machine. The pulse laser on her chest burned away the Jade Falcon insignia on the breast of Chistu's machine.

The cost of this barrage was to keep her heat high, however, high enough that her machine didn't move fast enough to avoid getting pummeled yet again by the SRMs of the Jade Hawk. She took the whole hit on her left side this time. The weight balance of the Paladin altered as the sheer number of explosive impacts literally tore the left arm completely away. Four more missiles blasted apart much of the armor remaining on her left side. One of the small lasers raked over her head module, melting armor along the crown piece and the face plate.

I'm losing. I'm losing this fight. Her hands tightened on her joysticks as she forced her overheated machine, now denied two of the heat sinks it sorely needed, to keep moving and plow into an empty office structure, giving her a brief respite from any more incoming fire. No. No fear. I knew I was going to die today. But this isn't over!

The Jade Hawk lunged forth, its armored claw coming back up to rake her again. Eva moved the 'Mech's right arm forward. The tactile sensors on her joystick commanded the hand to clasp just as it reached the elbow of the Jade Hawk. Myomer muscle strained against myomer muscle, her one-armed machine trying to hold back the enemy limb. The other limb came up while ruby light played over her 'Mech, erasing the sunhawk patch on the chest. Eva let go and stumbled her machine backward, hitting her jump jets and carrying herself just out of range of the claw swipe that might have otherwise ripped into her weakened left side. In mid-air the shrill tone of a solid lock prompted her to squeeze the missile triggers yet again. Both weapons confirmed their locks and fired. A half dozen missiles scored damaging hits, taking more armor from the Jade Hawk, while her pulse laser found another of the missile launchers and disabled it.

She landed her Paladin and jinked to the left, covering her weakened side and taking another SRM barrage on the right instead, clearing the remaining armor from that limb. "Allison, you okay?" she asked, aware she'd lost contact with her comrade in her wild maneuverings.

"Busy, but alive," came the strained reply.

Eva tried to get a lock but had no time, not with the Jade Hawk charging forward yet again, wicked claws looking to slice her to ribbons. Faced with her relentless foe, she dodged and continued her struggle to live out the day.

But maybe not alive for long, Allison added to herself

The Shrike, black as death, seemed to drink the energy fire she and Eva were hurling at it, lit only by the sullen glow of the radiator panels for its solid-state heat sinks. Beam fire lanced from its shoulder mounts, cutting glowing scars across armour and heads-up display. Allison cursed, shifting up to full speed as she moved down a ruined side road

Explosive shellfire shattered the wreckage of buildings, Roshak’s Shrike pacing her — no, pulling ahead. Fighting back another curse, Allison twisted Say Your Prayers’ torso as far right as it could go, blazing out lightning bolts.

More buildings flew apart in bubbles of dust and shrapnel — tiles, bricks, mortar — from the lacerating crossfire as the two war-engines strode forward, their paths converging. Less than two blocks apart, they crossed onto the main road. Now.

Allison locked the right leg’s brakes on full, letting momentum swing her machine around. Sparks flew from its slab-like boots, gyroscopic stabilisers screaming as they fought to keep the eighty-ton titan from toppling onto its face; Allison leaning back as far as she dared to keep it steady.

Something gave, a knee actuator flashing yellow as metal and myomer cried out in protest, but it worked. She was at a dead stop, facing Roshak’s Shrike barely a hundred metres away, still trying to steady itself from its sudden halt. Her thumb flicked the switch tying everything to her primary triggers, and her trigger fingers clenched.

Beam fire — the lurid sapphire arcs of her particle cannon and the thinner, pale laser beam — hammered at the Shrike, blowing semi-molten craters in its armoured shell. Driving it back one step; two.

In answer, Roshak fired back with everything. A blitzing hail of neon-bright laser beams, tracers that flickered like comets and shrieking missiles tore across the intervening space; too close to miss. Shattered and molten armour panels tumbled to the tarmac, stabilisers groaning and stuttering briefly put of sync as they fought to compensate for the loss of tons of armour. Allison bit her lip as she held Say Your Prayers upright by what felt like willpower alone, tasting copper and salt as yellow and orange swathed her armour readouts. But nothing punched through, and the charge readouts for her particle cannon flashed green.

Like two pre-space — hell, pre-fission, even — battlewagons on Terra’s oceans, the two BattleMechs stood and hammered at each other. Armour splintered and flowed in molten runnels; a laser beam punched clean through her torso, shattering a titanium rib and bursting a heat sink in a gush of blue-grey coolant. Her own weapons lashed coruscating fire along the clawed right arm, reducing the targeting computer nestled in the shoulder joint to so much burnt out deadweight.

Fall!” Roshak snarled over the general address channel. “Fall!

“You … first,” Allison panted, blinking sweat from the rising heat curve out of her eyes.

Then one of her cannon — the one mounted low on the left — fell out of the circuit. It didn’t vanish, but the power linkage icon burned red. And the loss of that was all it took to unbalance things.

Fire pounded her backwards, with no time to stabilise a firing solution. An autocannon shell burst low against her cockpit.

The next thing Allison was aware of was coming to, slumped in her command couch. Say Your Prayers had fallen — against what had been an apartment building, at a guess — reactor stuttering as it struggled to rebuild enough power for drive start. And Roshak’s Shrike was stalking forward, aiming for an up-close kill.

“Eva,” Allison called, her voice a dry rasp. “Any backup you can give.”

The running fight had brought Eva’s Paladin and Chistu’s Jade Hawk into view, glowing on thermals as they battled it out without care for heat curves. Eva didn’t respond — not in words, anyway. Her machine’s torso snap-twisted into line so fast it was like it was on magnetic bearings, and unloaded everything. Snaking missile contrails blasted chunks out of Roshak’s rear armour, and beam fire sheared away one of the high pseudo-wings jutting from the Shrike’s back. A second round of beam fire — a dangerously fast followup — shredded the chain-feed mechanisms for Roshak’s autocannon before ripping the arm itself away at the elbow. At the same time, the Paladin seemed to jerk, blowout panels flaring as ammunition detonated.

Christ, she must’ve pushed her heat so high her SRMs blew, Allison realised, trying to force her probably concussion-addled mind to work through the restart sequence faster, and curse Say Your Prayers into moving. Come on goddammit you old bitch, you’ve never failed when I needed you before, don’t do it now!

With her heart pounding from the thrill of imminent victory, Stephanie pounced on her wounded foe, letting out a determined shriek in the heat of the moment. Her enemy turned, chemical smoke still rising from the damaged engine and the hollowed out left partition of the Paladin's body. The Paladin's right arm rose to fire her remaining laser, joined by the PPC and pulse laser still intact on the torso, but Stephanie was ready for the attack and already had her Jade Hawk airborne, evading the sapphire beam that cleaved a broken department store in two while the two other weapons only took armor from her legs without effect. Her small lasers and remaining SRMs fired as she swooped down. A couple low-flying SRMs hit the Paladin's left leg, removing the remaining armor and blasting away half of the knee actuator. The remaining weapons fire all found the battered chest of the knight-like 'Mech, savaging its remaining armor. Sparks flew as one of the ruby laser beams found the barrel of the Paladin's snub-nose PPC, destroying key electronics within to leave the weapon inoperable.

The combination of leg damage, armor loss, and overheated myomer brought her foe down. The Paladin started to tip to the side, but Stephanie's foe had enough skill to roll and lay on her back instead. Stephanie righted her own machine, getting her momentum back after landing, before advancing to finish the fight.

It was going to be a kill. In ordinary circumstances, I would take this warrior, this Lieutenant Evangeline, as isorla for my victory. She has potential and would serve well as bondswoman and warrior of the Falcons. But that can never be. Isaac Roshak and the dezgra Mongols would ensure her death with as much cruelty and malice as they could muster, and I would be unable to protect her from all the ways they might act.

All I can give this warrior for her bravery is what all warriors deserve: a death with honor and the memory of their valor being passed on. A place of respect in the Remembrance, for falling the bloodfoul Khan and her courage this day as my foe, so all Falcon warriors will remember the importance of our traditions.

Indeed, her enemy, despite her predicament, didn't give up. Her right arm rose and the large laser there flashed to life, joined by the emerald light of the surviving torso weapon. At this range Stephanie couldn't hope to avoid in time. The laser cut cleanly through her armor, a sapphire lance that found her 'Mech's engine with precision. Her systems lit up with damage warnings as extra heat filled her machine from the damaged shielding on the fusion engine.

Stephanie reacted by reaching down and running her claw through the weakened armor of the Paladin's right elbow, the blow so fierce that it severed the limb at that joint completely. She brought the other hand up and slashed the Paladin's chest, cutting the pulse laser port deeply enough to break the focusing lens within the assembly. With her foe disarmed, Stephanie brought the crosshairs up towards the damaged head. The indicators turned gold as they solidified upon the visor-shaped cockpit and the small form within, seated in the command couch.


Eva's final shot, her final hope, was done, and she'd missed. The slight arm damage kept the large laser from firing into her foe's head module. That she still landed a pair of direct hits, one of which an engine hit, meant little, not as the Jade Hawk methodically cut her remaining weapons away, leaving her helpless on the ground.

I knew I was going to die. This is it. She watched the enemy 'Mech loom, just shy of her Paladin's feet. Even the remaining small lasers on the other machine could pierce her cockpit, and in her state, she was a sitting duck.

It was enough, wasn't it? She'd fought as long and hard as she could, she'd left a mark, she'd honored her oath. She was simply against a superior foe. There was no shame in that.

I want to live!

That instinctive desire, and with it sheer desperation, drove her mind to consider her position. Her torso was savaged, her arms gone, one leg hobbled at the knee, and her weapons destroyed. All she had left were her leg-mounted jump jets.

The idea formed with lighting rapidity, so fast that she'd not even consciously considered the results before her body was already reacting, her feet shifting on the pedals to manipulate the legs of her stricken 'Mech.

Myomer contracted, expanded, and both legs rose up, as if to kick her enemy. From four nozzles, installed in the calves and shins of the Paladin's legs, jets of fusion plasma erupted, spewing white-hot flame and energy over the Jade Hawk's form…

…and right into its head.

Force sufficient to lift a seventy-five ton war machine over a hundred meters into the air shattered the cockpit of the Jade Hawk in an instant, allowing the fusion plasma to flood the cavity and the occupant within. Only later would Eva have time to wonder how horrified, or surprised, Galaxy Commander Chistu had been before she was flash-fried to death.

The Jade Hawk, bereft of its brain, teetered and fell over, smoke flowing from the shattered cockpit.

Laid back in her command couch, Eva drew in several breaths. I… I won I'm still alive… I'll get to go home and

Her thoughts were interrupted by the warning tone of a hard target lock from an active enemy sensor. Habitually she tried to stand her 'Mech up, rolling to try and use the stump of the right arm to prop herself into position. The maneuver brought her face to face with the burnt, damaged visage of the Shrike, its blackened wounds and armor, visible only against the off-hues of the otherwise black-painted machine, reminding her of Malvina's Black Rose in its final moments.

Ha. Haha. Her mental laughter became real laughter at realizing the other Falcon pilot was triumphant over Allison, and he was about to kill her. I guess I'm going to die after all.

Say Your Prayers
staggered to its feet, reeling like a punch-drunk prizefighter. But she was active, and mobile, and I still have my guns.

The Shrike’s back armour was still intact enough that standard fire wasn’t going to do anything — not in time. Allison punched in one very specific command sequence, one she’d learned from an old instructor at Buena who’d survived the Jihad because he’d learned how to do this — from an instructor at MSMA who’d survived the Clans from figuring it out — as goddamned stupid as it was; cutting the inhibitor feeds out of the circuit.

Glowing brighter and hotter than Timkovichi’s sun, both particle cannon fired. The arm mount’s beam cut off after a second, the weapon blowing apart in a cloud of whizzing shrapnel as feedback shredded its safety systems. The other held, long enough to rip through Roshak’s rear armour right on the centreline, gutting engine and gyro in an eruption of molten metal before cutting out. The Shrike froze, helpless, looking like it would tip over if the slightest breeze brushed against it.

"Huh." Eva's voice crackled over the laser link. "We did it. We won. We're both alive."

"Yeah, Eva." Allison winced, the euphoria of victory only slightly taking the edge off her aching head. "We won. Now, I’m just gonna wait for the medtechs, okay?"
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: "Emergence" - BattleTech Dark Ages/BattleTech AU Crossover

Post by LadyTevar »


I was on the edge of my seat the whole fight!

Now, since the Mongol is still alive, what's he going to do now?
Nitram, slightly high on cough syrup: Do you know you're beautiful?
Me: Nope, that's why I have you around to tell me.
Nitram: You -are- beautiful. Anyone tries to tell you otherwise kill them.

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Re: "Emergence" - BattleTech Dark Ages/BattleTech AU Crossover

Post by Steve »

LadyTevar wrote: 2022-05-26 10:18pm BRAVO!!

I was on the edge of my seat the whole fight!
*takes a bow* Thanks, and the same on behalf of Orsai (he wrote the two bits from Allison's POV).
Now, since the Mongol is still alive, what's he going to do now?
Knowing his kind? Nothing good.... :twisted:
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: "Emergence" - BattleTech Dark Ages/BattleTech AU Crossover

Post by Steve »

39 - Honor and Shame

Field Base Carroll
Near Cirenholm
Timkovichi, Coventry Province
Lyran Commonwealth
1 February 3143

The Hummingbird III OmniVTOL painted in Eighth Striker sky blue came to a stop at the helipad in front of the Field Base HQ. A crowd, mostly in AFRF red but a few in the uniforms of the merc companies or the local militia, milled about the pad. The side door opened, allowing Eva and Allison to dismount from the swift chopper's transport pod that had ferried them back to Field Base Carroll from Martenholm.

Even as their feet hit ferrocrete, the crowd of uniformed men and women started cheering and applauding. Allison grimaced, undoubtedly from the concussion the medtechs confirmed when they were examined. While Eva had no such injury the roar in her ears amplified the strange feeling of unreality she had over everything she was seeing and doing. The battle was over and, contrary to all her expectations, she was alive. She'd lived. More importantly, she and Allison won. They'd beaten the Falcon leaders, and by the terms agreed upon, the Falcons would leave Timkovichi.

Generals Bridger and Singh led the command officers of the various units up to meet them. Training kicked in and Eva brought her hand up in a salute, Allison's snapping into place a second after hers did given she was still smarting from the head injury. The cheering and roars died down and more arms came up in salutes.

Before saying anything, Bridger brought his hand up in a salute as fine and solid as any Eva ever saw, the kind the Nagelring held up as the standard for parade reviews. Singh and the others mirrored it. "Leutnant Palisser, Lieutenant Penton, congratulations on a battle well fought and a victory well earned," Bridger said, his voice booming with pride. "You've saved this planet from the Falcons."

"We did our duty, that was all," Eva said, her words more by rote than feeling.

"You fought like a team, and you kept your heads against some of the finest piloting I've ever seen," Bridger said. "I couldn't be more proud."

"Aff, it was a fine battle," Patrik Fetladral declared. "You fought with unity where your foes did not, and as our Rememberance rightly says, the strength of the Wolf is the Pack. Your victory is well worthy of memory, and I shall see to it personally."

“Yes,” Tanhause agreed quietly. “Leutnants — both of you — that was one of the best things I’ve ever seen; and I saw Kai Allard-Liao fight when I was a boy. You’re a credit to your services and yourselves, and I’m writing you both up for a medal.” He smiled softly. “More importantly, I understand that there’s to be a party in the mess later, and you’re both to be the guests of honour. The Duchess herself has contributed some fine brandy.”

"So is it over, sir?" Allison asked. "Are the Falcons honoring their word?"

"So far, looks like it," Huyten offered. "We've got recon resources monitoring them, but they're pulling everything back to their initial field camps now, save their units observing the prisoner exchange. They started that the moment the fight was over."

Laguna's eyes met Eva's. "You okay, Lieutenant?"

"I'm… just surprised, sir," Eva said. "I honestly thought I was going to die today."

"Hell, I always figure the next day is the day I'll buy it," Evan Kell offered, grinning. "Good to see you're still with us, though. Khan Malvina Hazen, now Galaxy Commander Stephanie Chistu. The Falcons just might start urgin' us to keep you benched in the next fight."

Allison laughed. "I'd hope not, sir. Not until we've chased them out of the Commonwealth."

Eva's eyes went back to the crowd, who weren't cheering again but were standing at attention. Not for the generals, either. For us. How… how did I end up here? How am I the heroine? In the crowd she spotted Kevin, standing with a straight spine. When he noticed her attention was on him he smiled thinly and said, "Eva, good of ye to come back. I'm sure Captain Kincaid and Lieutenant von Krager are proud of ye. Lieutenant Norton too."

She nodded at him in reply. I hope so. I hope my parents are too. I guess I'd better write a new letter…

"Alright everyone, we still have duties to see to!" Singh called out, since most of the assembled were wearing the patch of the Second Royal Cuirassiers along with their individual regimental patches. "The Falcons are still here, remember? Until they're gone, we remain ready for action!"

"Yes sir!" a number of voices called out, at which the crowd began dispersing.

"I heard the medtechs checked you out, so how about you come in for a nice meal and we'll get your formal after-action debriefing going?" Bridger offered, his voice kind.

"Yes sir. I'm famished," Allison admitted. Eva nodded, though she had only a calming tea in mind. She wasn't sure she could handle food just yet.

Delta Galaxy Headquarters
Mannelbourg Township

Fury burned in the heart and soul of Star Colonel Isaac Roshak as he stomped into the central hall of Mannelbourg's baronial estate. Every set of warrior eyes, even those of the technicians, seemed to be judging him, searching for signs of weakness, for his abject failure. Everything for nothing! If Chistu were alive I would kill her, shoot her dead, challenges be damned!

Still, I survived, and I inflicted significant blows on my foes. Chistu is dead, and let her rot. If I am to survive, and keep the traditionalists from leaving our Clan weak, I must show strength now.

The Star Colonels of the entirety of Delta Galaxy were present, those from Chistu's original forces and the units picked up on Sudeten and Morges. A couple still sported injuries much like Isaac's own, though more progressed in healing. Star Colonel Kimberly Mattlov, Chistu's new personal aide, spoke first. "The prisoner exchange is being seen to as we speak, as are our withdrawals from forward exposed points. We will be ready to depart in forty hours."

"Then we are retreating?" The challenge was clear in Star Colonel Uther Mattlov's voice, and his eyes glistened with anger, as did every pair of eyes from the dark-clad Mongols in the room. "We are denied victory because of weaklings who failed to follow the ways of the Chinghis Khan?"

Without another word Isaac stormed up and laid Uther out with a punch. "I fought as hard and great as any warrior would!" he shouted while Uther stared up at him in shock, the same visible on the others. "And I will challenge any of you who think otherwise! And yes, we have lost the Trial, and so under the terms the late Galaxy Commander laid, we have been granted hegira to withdraw from Timkovichi with honor."

"There is no honor but victory!" hissed Star Colonel Wanda Helmer, another of his fellow Mongols. "We should renew the attack, or better yet, call down the fury of our WarShips!"

"You will do no such thing," barked one of the Delta Galaxy commanders, Star Colonel Lisa Hazen. "Galaxy Commander Chistu agreed to accept hegira if defeated. We will honor that and withdraw, and if you try to break faith and disgrace our Clan, we will help the victors put you down for your treachery."

Helmer turned in rage on Hazen, but the other Delta Galaxy loyalists of Chistu stood together. As tempting as it would be to shoot them all, we do need to preserve our troops, thought Isaac. If only for use elsewhere. "While I did not approve of her decisions, as Galaxy Commander Chistu's second in the duel, I am honor bound to obey her orders on this regard. Hegira has been granted. We withdraw, to get our Clan in order, and enjoy the truce the Galaxy Commander secured as a condition for the duel."

"Then we are humiliated yet again." Uther lifted himself from the ground, the blood from his lip and nose dripping over the black leather of his suit. He snarled at Isaac. "We should kill you for your defeat."

"You are welcome to try." Isaac stared down the other black-clad Mongol commanders before turning his focus on Star Colonels Kimberly and Lisa. "Since hegira is granted, and I was chosen by the Galaxy Commander as her second in the duel, might we dispense with a Trial of Position for the moment and I assume temporary command of Delta Galaxy?"

"You?!" Lisa laughed harshly. "You have no right to it. The Galaxy Commander picked you to quiet your shrieking, nothing more. Delta Galaxy will be commanded by one of our own."

"Then I will insist on a Trial of Position, as is tradition." Isaac spoke the word with particular relish. If you wish to do this, I will oblige, and kill my way through your ranks until I am in command!

"What is important is returning to Sudeten to inform the Khans of the truce, and the outcome here," Kimberly said. "As well as the examples of Arcadian technology our technicians recovered from the sites of our victories. Many of their weapons match our own, but they seem to have refinements we lack."

Recalling the long-ranged snub-nosed PPC that the Arcadian fledgling warrior employed on her machine, Isaac recognized the truth of the remark. "Such weapons will improve the Clan once we can employ them as well," he agreed.

"That said, Star Colonel, my willingness to let you act in Galaxy Commander Chistu's stead extends only as far as honoring our pledges. The truce, and our accepting hegira, will not be violated." She said those words in a strict tone. "You will withdraw as required, and I will not hear a word of trying to convince or compel our WarShips to attack. Quiaff?"

Isaac nodded. Star Admiral Crichell is another of the 'traditionalists' we should have killed in the Rending. She would never accept my order anyway. "Aff, Star Colonel. Aff."

"Then I will continue seeing to the withdrawal."

"The same for all of us," Isaac said. "Tell your warriors to prepare for departure, as soon as possible. This battle is over, but more remain for us to seize glory for our Clan."

The black-clad and green-clad officers all dispersed. Isaac, content to let Star Colonel Mattlov handle the drudgery of arranging their withdrawal, departed towards the offices of the baronial estate, where the Watch's contingent among the invasion force were headquartered for the moment. The Watch's overseer on Timkovichi, Star Captain Forrest, saluted at him, his black leathers worn proudly even if he was barely a warrior. "Star Colonel, what might I do for you?"

"Act quickly, Star Captain. Arrange to have Galaxy Commander Chistu's quarters searched. All data files and materials she had must be examined and cataloged, then brought to me."

"It will be done, Star Colonel."

The saKhan clearly favored you, Galaxy Commander Chistu. I wish to know why. Isaac nodded and departed, to see to the Ninth Talon's withdrawal preparations.

Field Base Caroll
Near Cirenholm

The mess hall of Field Base Caroll was decked in printed buntings and banners proclaiming the victory in the second fight for Timkovichi. Personnel from most of the assembled units were around, coming and going as their duties allowed. It seemed everyone, from fresh privates to grizzled sergeants and the regimental commanders, were coming by to give Eva and Allison salutes and handshakes, usually to impromptu cheers from those enjoying the drinks provided by Duchess Schmitt-Levensky. Mugs of Timbiqui Dark, which was somehow even better on this side of the Glass, lifted repeatedly with those cheers, and the same left the usual warm taste in Eva's throat as she took another drink.

They're making me a hero. Me. I just… I did my duty, and I thought I was going to die. I didn't do anything heroic. I didn't throw myself in front of a blast or… She stopped the thought. She had, hadn't she? Driving her 'Mech so hot her SRMs cooked off because she was busy helping Allison, that was risking herself, the kind of "team effort" that earned you promotion and honors.

But they act like I proved I was the better MechWarrior. I wasn't. I just won because I got desperate, and she didn't see it coming.

"Aye, there ye are, Eva."

Hearing Kevin's voice prompted her attention to return to her surroundings. Allison wasn't looking her way, seemingly in conversation with some of her present comrades. She focused her eyes in the direction of the voice and found Kevin approaching with Colonel Perez and Captain Choudhury. They faced her with grins and smiles. She saluted and they replied with their own. "At ease, Lieutenant," Perez said. "Don't worry about the formalities, this is your victory celebration after all."

"I…" Eva swallowed. 'Thank you. It's still a bit much, but thank you all. For everything. You've fought at my side all through this madness, and helped me become strong enough to survive what I faced today."

"Ah, ye're a natural too, don't forget that," Kevin insisted.

"I got lucky, I think," she answered. "I'm not as good as that Falcon warrior I beat."

"Sometimes it isn't about being a better pilot, it's keeping a cool head." Captain Choudhury offered her hand. Eva accepted it and the resulting handshake. "To be honest, I'm a little miffed, you might end up getting poached from me."

"Poached?" Eva looked at her with some confusion. "You mean assigned to another unit?"

"Not just another unit. The General might assign you to his staff, or the AFRF might recall you for media relations," Perez said. "It wouldn't be the first time they pulled a good pilot for PR work when they're set to become a media darling. It's happened a lot in the Sunhawks' long history. Dani Verdes, for instance, got yanked from the Arcadian Guards after the press made her a war hero, and ended up a Sunhawk afterward." He grinned. "That was when she got knighted too. Makes me wonder if you'll end up getting the shoulder taps from the High King."

Eva blushed at the idea. Becoming a Knight of the Federation was hardly something I ever planned on!

"They'll decide later," Kevin declared, ending the conversation for her sake, she imagine. "For now, let's celebrate our young lass returnin' hale and hearty!" His words prompted the attending — including some of the other First Battalion Sunhawks — to again let out a cheer before returning to their discussions.

She blushed again at the cheers. I don't deserve this, she thought. Allison, sure, but not me. But it's what they want, I guess. I fought and almost died for them. The least I can do is let them have a party with me, can't I

I wonder how Allison is taking it?
She glanced toward her fellow victor, but found she was still in quiet discussion with her own comrades. Best to leave them to it then.

“Hauptman Devika Xiang.”

The name — the last in a long, long list — carried on in soft repetitions among the assembled Armoured Guards; all of them, less the handful, chosen by lot, to man their remaining Quaestor mobile HQ and watch the Falcons’ withdrawal, and those too badly hurt to be out of the hospital. Glasses lifted; the amount of brandy in each was purely ceremonial — duty tomorrow, for all of them fit to work — but the proprieties had to be observed.

“Here’s to the dead,” Jacob Tanhause raised his voice, speaking clearly enough to carry.

And hurrah for the next one to die,” they all shouted in response. Allison didn’t know where this tradition had come from — she’d heard stories; from the SLDF, from the Davions in the FedCom days; even one claim that it’d been acquired from the Canopians somehow — but it helped.

So many. In half a year, they'd gone from a proud brigade to the tattered few. Barely a lance of MechWarriors left, with less than one functioning 'Mech between them — maybe one and a half, if Warrant Burnes’ old Warlord could be fixed — some bone-tired vehicle crews, and a smattering of infanteers. Not one survivor from their aviation company, or the aerospace defence boys; their short squadron of FedCom-era Sparrowhawks had been wiped from the skies before the Kell Hounds arrived. So many faces gone.

"We kept the faith," she said aloud. "Timkovichi breathes free. The Falcons are leaving, and this time…" Her voice caught. I want to say they won't be back any time soon. But that's the problem with the Mongols; they’re like a ghost bear with a toothache. They’ll go after anything, and sure as hell don’t care about their word. They might be back next month for all we know, Arcadian reinforcements be damned.

Well, to hell with them. We'll fight them again, dammit, and send more of them to join the rest…
no, that's the brandy talking. If they come back, and it's a real fight, I doubt any of us will be left to celebrate if our side still wins.

"You're right." Tanhause's voice carried over the silence. "We kept the faith, and that's what matters." He considered the glass, as if preparing a new toast. Allison readied hers.

Before either could speak, the base PA system crackled. "Attention, everyone." The voice of Evan Kell spoke loud and clear. "A spot of great news to share. Our message shuttle just made it back through the Glass, and they've got news fresh off the HPGs on the other side. Earlier today, Lady Trillian signed a treaty of alliance in Archon Melissa's name with High King Nathaniel of the Arcadians. Everything we've done here on this side of the Glass, it was just the start, folks. We're allies now, all official, and together we're drivin' the Crusader Wolves and the Jade Falcons right out of the Commonwealth!"

"Well, forget what I was thinking before." Tanhause stood and lifted his voice, gaining the attention of the Eighth Striker and Second Royal Cuirassier personnel present, the mercenaries' people too. "To the health of High King Nathaniel and our Arcadian allies!"

Allison joined the chorus of voices that echoed his words.

"To the health of Lady Trillian, Archon Melissa, and our Lyran allies!" Colonel Perez called out, lifting his own shotglass of brandy. The Arcadian personnel echoed his words with their own toast.

After an exchange of grins, the two commanders added the final touch to the toast. "And to victory!"

Everyone joined in, and in one gulp, a great deal of brandy sealed their words.

CJFS Timurlane
Departing Timkovichi Orbital Space
3 February 3143

The Falcon DropShips rising from the surface of Timkovichi formed a constellation through the viewing port on the Timurlane. The Overlord-class ship carrying the bulk of the Ninth Talon was one of the last vessels to launch. Aboard the Mongol-named vessel, seated in the command center, Isaac's fury remained unspent since the stinging defeat of two days before. Had Chistu not been a coward, this world would be ours, and the Arcadians would not have humiliated us once more! He hated so intently he wished he could burn every one of them to death for their refusal to submit to the Falcons. I would have made a funeral pyre of this world, in the name of the Chinghis Khan, and taught the outsiders to fear the wrath of the Mongols.

In the distance, the White Aerie and the rest of Crichell's WarShips were in position, preparing to escort Delta Galaxy away. Even now he could imagine the result of turning the ship's impressive guns on the planet. Enemy 'Mechs and tanks melting to slag, the cities burning around their battle- and power-armored infantry, their fighters blasted to pieces on their aerodrome fields. That was how resistance should be dealt with, not this wasteful 'Trial' business that Chistu insisted upon. But it is too late to change that. Let this place be a lesson to us all of the death we face if we continue to adhere to the old ways. The path of the Golden Ordun is our destiny. That way lies greatness and conquest.

Still, the truce would be useful. The Falcons would keep their conquests. As they did ninety years ago, they would break down the Lyran resistance on those worlds, implement the caste system, and destroy any who resisted it. Give it a generation and, like their initial conquests, those worlds would be Falcon worlds with the lower castes fully-productive members of the Clan. And they could turn their troops elsewhere. Towards the Reach, and beyond, the Republic. Their Fortress walls would not last forever, and until then there were more worlds to secure, other enemies to destroy. When the wall fell, he and his Clan would be waiting. And when the truce ends, we will be back, and this planet will burn.

One of the ship technicians spoke. "There's a buildup of energy in the anomaly. Something is coming through."

Isaac looked towards the screen showing the glittering blue field that had illuminated the sky on several of their nights fighting on Timkovichi. The blasted portal, whatever it was, intensified in brightness for a second before, in a flash, a vessel appeared. It was a WarShip, only slightly smaller than the White Aerie or Jade Aerie, carrying what he imagined were ballistic weapons of some sort along with other weapon types Other ships came through in the following minute. Two more were WarShips, smaller but one also bearing large-bore weapons, with a multitude of DropShips of varying shapes and sizes. This force cleared the anomaly rapidly, burning into a position between the Falcons and the planet.

A snarl formed on Isaac's face as the anomaly's flashing built in intensity until a much larger vessel emerged. The techs focused the external cameras on the arriving vessel. The behemoth was the size of a legendary McKenna battleship of the Star League, a colossal ship with multiple heavy ballistic weapons, missile batteries, and naval PPC and laser emplacements on every side and corner. The bluntly-tapered bow stood out below the ship's navigation bridge, flanked by the bow-mounted cannon turrets, with a great golden metal hawk fitted onto it that gleamed in the light of Timkovichi's star.

Isaac's mouth went dry. From his mind Chistu's angry remarks came back to him. "...we do not have the strength to invade this other Inner Sphere as well…" He murmured the words and felt his mouth grow bitter at them, true as they were given the monster of a WarShip burning through, flanked by more DropShips, a few at or at least approaching the size of the Republic's feared Castrum-class Pocket WarShips. It was a sobering sight, made worse as another four WarShips emerged, with ever more DropShips. "How many ships came through through?" he asked aloud.

"Going by our scanner returns, Star Colonel, there are eight WarShips and over forty DropShips, about forty-four, ranging in size from attack type vessels of not ten thousand tonnes to fourteen Pocket WarShips of up to a hundred thousand tonnes of mass."

Such a fleet. It is easily the sum of our Touman's entire naval force. Could they truly have yet more? How could Spheroids manage it, as backwards as they are?! Isaac felt his fury chill. This was a foe that was a threat to his Clan unlike any other. But they do bleed. I have killed their warriors myself, and they were not our equal. No. We can beat them. We will beat them, with the teachings of the Chinghis Khan to guide us to victory. Even their colossus will fall to atomics! He imagined it, entire Binaries worth of brave Falcon aerospace warriors driving home attacks with atomic-tipped weapons until even the giant ship was a molten ruin. That is our future.

Minutes passed as the Falcons continued to burn away, left alone by the enemy forces in-system. Yet more ships were coming through the portal now that their fleet was present, combat transport DropShips and a number of JumpShips. They mean to continue operations then. Will they betray the truce? We must get back to Sudeten and make ready, whether they hold the truce or not!

I have seen enough.
Under the one point five gravities the fleet was maintaining to get back to their JumpShips, Isaac still moved well enough the depart the command center. He returned to his office where a visitor awaited. Star Captain Forrest handed him a noteputer. "Galaxy Commander Chistu's prepared dispatches to Sudeten, Galaxy Commander," the Watch officer explained. "Flagged by my people for your likely interest."

He accepted the noteputer and glanced at the first page. Reading the words there made him wish he could throttle Chistu to death, given her insults and slander towards the Chinghis Khan and the Mongol Doctrine. He scrolled enough to see replies not just from her commanders, but a recent dispatch from Sudeten. When he saw what was written, and who had written it, his fury burned yet again, joined by a longing for satisfaction. "Keep this quiet," he instructed Forrest, "and ensure our people are ready to deal with Delta Galaxy's remaining command staff, should it prove necessary."

"I will, Galaxy Commander," Forrest pledged. "And I will ensure the Watch on Sudeten is informed of what you need once we are burning in."

"Good." Isaac placed the noteputer on his desk. A vicious grin formed on his lips. "All there is to do now is wait until our return." And once we do, I will finish the work the Chinghis Khan began in the Rending.
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: "Emergence" - BattleTech Dark Ages/BattleTech AU Crossover

Post by LadyTevar »

I hope the Mongols rip the Jade Falcons apart so badly the other Clans eat them alive.
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Re: "Emergence" - BattleTech Dark Ages/BattleTech AU Crossover

Post by Steve »

40 - Preparations

Royal Palace
Roslyn, Eastern Islay
Arcadia, Arcadia Royal March
Royal Federation
7 February 3143

The end of the customary weekend was not as quiet as it had previously been, by Trillian's reckoning. The energy in Roslyn was at a fever pitch as the alliance had the Arcadians pushing forward with restoring deactivated units and preparing for the military effort of a campaign through the Glass. Over a dozen BattleMech regiments, with attendant forces, were in motion towards the Glass, or preparing for such deployment, and units were being scheduled for re-activation with releases from the Arcadian strategic reserve stockpiles and increased orders from Defiance, Selassie, TharDef, and the other armament firms of the Federation. Recruitment to the AFRF was spiking by reports, with a number of applicants seeking assignment beyond the Glass. Local and interstellar efforts at bond drives would contribute to financing the war and the alliance provisions. It was all so much.

But that wasn't the only source of energy. February 8th had come, and with it, Nathaniel's formal coronation. He'd inherited the throne the prior May with his grandmother's accidental death and by tradition waited until the new year. Now rulers from across the Federation were on world to pay homage to their new High King, attending with diplomats and special envoys from half of the Successor States and ComStar. She hadn't seen Nathaniel himself since they left the Senate triumphant, given the need for rehearsals and meetings to see to his coronation.

So she was both surprised and a little relieved to get the summons to visit his office on the eve of the ceremony. She arrived and was shown in by Sophia Marik, who remained at the door once it closed.

Nathaniel was with Peter, but they were not alone. Three other individuals were seated around the room. She quickly recognized Lord von Kassel of Ghastillia, but it took her a few moments to recognize the others.

Ambassador Serafina Wotjak of the Communal League of Sudeten was seated nearest to the door, a tall woman — formerly an armored infantrywoman of the 1st Autonomous Assault Regiment — with a wide face and broad hips and shoulders, one side of her face still bearing burn scars from fighting in the Fourth Succession War. Trillian had only met her briefly, really in passing, during the New Year's celebration, with most of her feelers to the Communal League being dealt with by Wotjak's subordinates. Her clothing was austere and business formal, without some of the ornamentation of court uniform or dress that von Kassel and Trillian herself now wore. Only a pin on her collar marked her official position, bearing the insignia of the Communal League and its flag: a white disc trisected by a three-pointed red star laid over a five-pointed green star.

The same was true for the man seated beside Wotjak, her colleague Hans Christian Heg, Ambassador of the Free Communal Republic of Rasalhague. He was older than Wotjak, his face worn and his hair a silver-gray, thin as a rail. His suit was respectful and had a more elaborate cut than Wotjak's, though it was still austere, devoid of any ornamentation save the stylized, wolf's head and dragon-serpent's head of silver filigree joined on a Nordic-style sun cross lined with runes. Given distance, and the Rasalhague Republic's pressing need to see to the defense of their border with the Draconis Combine, Trillian had left them as a lower priority to her diplomatic efforts, though she'd heard from Lord Marienberg that Heg was sympathetic to the Lyran cause.

"Lady Trillian, thank you for joining us," Nathaniel said from his desk. He indicated one of the open chairs around the table at the side of the office, under the century-old portrait of High King Thomas Proctor and High Queen Johanna Steiner. Trillian settled into it, putting her across from the two COMINTERSTEL ambassadors. "Tomorrow is going to be a long day, but I wished to get this matter settled given you will soon be departing for the Glass."

"Of course, Your Majesty," Trillian said respectfully. "Is there a matter you seek to discuss?"

"It concerns the aid to the Commonwealth, and the necessary scope to put a definitive end to the Clan threat."

"I see." And you alone can't send enough troops to completely defeat them. Having that confirmed by the materials released to her by the AFRF Command Staff upon the alliance's signing was a bit of a damper, even if it didn't change the bare fact that the alliance made the Commonwealth's survival possible. It just meant it would take longer and be bloodier. And we have already lost so much blood… but maybe… dare I hope he's found a way to provide more aid?

"I will speak plainly to you, Lady Trillian." Wotjak's voice was blunt and accented strangely. Her people use the constructed language Esperanto as their official language, Trillian recalled. I wonder if that is the influence on her accent? "The Communal League believes it is the proper destiny of Mankind to end aristocracy, capitalism, and all forms of class and hierarchy that have for millennia kept workers' dreams and aspirations suppressed. We do not approve of your Commonwealth any more than we accept the social system of the Federation or the Ghastillian Kingdom. But we are practical people and can recognize when one system is better for workers than another. Your Commonwealth, though unacceptably flawed to us, is of greater kindness to the common people than the eugenicist madness of these Clans, as shown by the bloody butchery revealed to us. So we are willing to make common cause with the Lyran Commonwealth to liberate the worlds held by the Clans and end their oppression once and for all."

"I appreciate the candor, Excellency," Trillian replied politely. "I admit I was uncertain about our possible relations and did not pursue connections out of doubt, it's good to know where you stand."

Wotjak nodded once. "I have had an alliance treaty drawn up as well, and I can assure you it would be ratified by the Communal Assembly." She presented a noteputer to Trillian, who accepted it and started reading the text.

Much of the treaty was standard, virtually the same as Trillian wrote with Nathaniel. She noted that the treaty was with the COMINTERSTEL alliance, not just the League. "Rasalhague is a party then as well?"

"We and our allies do not always move in lockstep, but in this matter, the Communal Republic is in full agreement." Heg's expression remained stoic, but his eyes flashed with muted anger. "These Clans must be destroyed for their crimes, and the FolksArme is ready to join the war."

"It would be a separate treaty, I see, to those I've already signed." She nodded to Kassel, who nodded back. "Though there are to be consultations?"

"Strategic consultations on who will fight where, to ease logistics and prevent misunderstandings," Kassel said.

"Right." They were enemies. Are still enemies, if amicable ones. "And to work around the truce the Arcadian commanders agreed to?" Trillian cast her eyes towards Nathaniel. "I was informed your General Bridger and General Singh agreed to a five year truce between your forces, and our forces, with the Falcons."

"They were not authorized to pursue such terms, though I will uphold them." Nathaniel motioned to the others present. "Of course, I do not speak for our prospective allies, who were not party to said agreement, nor did the Falcons request their participation."

In other words, Rasalhague and Sudeten are not covered by the truce agreement Chistu required before she agreed to put the fight for Timkovichi down to a single duel, so no point in repudiating the agreement. Trillian went through the final terms. And there we are. "Article 16… I see. That is your price?"

"It is," Wotjak said, her tone firm.

She quietly read over the text again. "The Lyran Commonwealth agrees to free emigration in perpetuity of all residents to the COMINTERSTEL worlds, and will not impede by any means of regulation, fee, or other duty or obstruction the right of peoples of their worlds to emigrate to the COMINTERSTEL worlds. The Lyran Commonwealth recognizes the rights of COMINTERSTEL to publish the terms by which life among the COMINTERSTEL worlds is maintained and advise potential emigrants on…" They require us to let our people leave for their worlds. She thought on the term and how it'd be seen back home. There is little scandalous about it, but they will undoubtedly be seeking to recruit widely, especially among our educated.

She continued on to the bottom. "I have no objections to these terms." Trillian handed the noteputer back. "I do have reservations on Article 16. The Lyran Commonwealth desires to ensure that any emigrants who decide they wish to return may do so, and on the same grounds. We also will need assurance that this treaty will not interfere with proceedings in family custody courts and that children taken unlawfully by emigrating parents will be returned if such a case comes up."

"We would be willing to submit any such cases to a neutral arbiter, with the best interest of the child or children factored in," Wotjak replied.

"As for lawful fugitives, we do not consider Article 16 to give away any right to search a ship for suspected fugitives from the Commonwealth's courts and justice system, or to detain them and return them to custody, notwithstanding protected classes such as diplomatic missions."

"We accept that statement, and so long as it is exercised responsibly and properly, it will not be challenged." Wotjak grinned thinly. "Though we will regard abuse to be an abrogation of the treaty and demand compliance and compensation."

"Understood." Trillian nodded. "I will sign the treaty, then, and provide it alongside my existing treaties with the Royal Federation and Kingdom of Ghastillia for the Archon's ratification."


"Then it is settled," said Nathaniel. "Our four states will work together to clear the Clans from the Commonwealth's worlds and end their abuses."

"Yes, we share a common cause once more," Heg said happily. "Our troops will begin moving at once. The Glass has been cleared completely, correct?"

Nathaniel nodded. "Yes. Fourth Battle Fleet is securing the Timkovichi system and the Falcons are burning for their JumpShips as we speak. Additionally, we invite you to join us in protecting the Glass, until such a time as the Clan threat recedes and the Lyran Commonwealth can assume defensive duties over Timkovichi."
"It will be passed on, King Nathaniel." Wotjak stood. "And as you have your ceremony tomorrow, we will not take up any more of your time. Good day." She nodded once and went for the door, where Sophia opened it without a word.

Heg lingered a moment longer, bowing respectfully to Trillian. "I have observed your actions since coming to Arcadia, Lady Trillian. You have been a spirited advocate for your bleeding nation, and have earned Rasalhague's respect and admiration. We will have the formal treaty ready to sign within two days, with all your reservations accounted for."

"Thank you, Your Excellency," Trillian replied, bowing her head as well. "From my studies of your history, I am filled with admiration for the spirit of Rasalhague's people on this side of the Glass. It is a tragedy my side's Rasalhague did not long get to enjoy independence before the Clans ended it."

"Yes, it is." Heg grinned wolfishly. "We may yet do something about that, if the circumstances permit. But the Falcons must be dealt with first. Good day, Lady Trillian, King Nathaniel." With a final slight bow of his head, Heg departed.

Kassel bowed as well. "I shall see you all tomorrow. Good evening." He walked out.

"It is done," Trillian said. "Your four states, together, should be able to turn the tide decisively, so long as you arrive before Tharkad falls."

"Yes. It is why I already have troops in motion, and JumpShips being prepared for transit through the Glass."

"And you will be with them?" The moment she said the words Trillian noted Sophia's eyes lower thoughtfully.

"I will, yes," Nathaniel said. "I cannot ask my soldiers to fight this war if I do not go to the front myself. It would not be appropriate. My Lifeguards, the Second Proctor Guards, and the Arcadian Rangers already have their orders to embark."

"I understand. You will be welcomed on Tharkad, I will see to it." Seeing the look in his eyes she quickly added, "I am certain you have matters to attend to before tomorrow, so I will leave you to them. Thank you again for the invitation to the coronation, my staff is honored."

"And we are honored to host you."

With a final smile and agreeing nod, Trillian left the room.

Typically Sundays were Prince Peter's day away from his office, but with the coronation ceremony to come he stepped in to get through the week's opening paperwork early. As he was effectively leader of the government in terms of ensuring the domestic policies of Parliament's leaders were being enacted and the day-to-day business of government followed, the civil service always had papers for him to review. The benefit to it being an off day was getting to have Kevin with him.

His husband, born Lord Kevin McGonagal of Cameron, was once a vital, broad-shouldered man, a MechWarrior of the Proctor Heavy Guards' First Battalion. But old war wounds, a family history of cancer, and an onset of Webster Syndrome all combined to take their toll. Cancers in his brain and stomach sapped his vitality and were, ever so slowly, robbing him of his motor functions, which were impeded anyway due to the Webster Syndrome, an after-effect of gyro feedback suffered when he was nearly killed by the Oriento-Capellan Empire's forces in the Fourth Succession War. He was mostly bald now, with wisps of graying brown hair remaining on the crown of his head, and confined to a wheelchair given his difficulty walking. Peter felt guilty just looking at him sometimes, as if his remaining strength was an insult to his dying lover.

For the moment, Kevin had a noteputer up. "So far so good in the daily running of the Federation," he said, his voice about the only part of him still sounding like it had when he was barking commands over las-comm links to his company of assault 'Mech pilots. "I'd say you managed to balance the budgets right."

"It took some work, but we found the pounds for it all." And angered a few special interests, several government watchdog groups committed to reducing tax burdens, and the Royal Revenue Service that has to deal with the complaints.

"You think he's being a young fool, don't you?" Kevin asked. "Our dear boy king."

Peter leveled his husband a sardonic look. "He probably deserves better than to be called that."

"Ah. Sorry, I forgot that's how your mad cousin refers to him." Kevin chuckled dryly. "I was more thinking of the little boy who once proudly and defiantly declared he'd never fight a war, even when it made everyone in the palace furious."

Peter drew in a sigh and allowed himself a wistful smile. "It took me time to set him straight. Maybe I did the job too well. Talking to him about his duty to his people, that the King must fight if his people need him too. Now he has found a fight he thinks we need, and he will go join it."

"If we were to have ever had a son ourselves… well, listen to me." Kevin shook his head. "He was about it, I think. The reason we never did. Now we might lose him too. I'm worried about that, for your sake. You lost James, Jackie, now James' son will be out there, and here, I've not got long left."

"You'll make it through, you're strong," Peter snapped. "Don't talk like that."

"Just being realistic, Peter. And my worry is how it's going to hurt you. You've lost too much."

Peter brushed the fear welling inside him away. The cancer wasn't responding well to the therapy, he would likely lose Kevin before long. And his sister was gone, the nephew he'd been responsible for, and the grand-nephew he'd helped to raise… if he lost all of them, he'd have so little left. It wasn't like he was close to Thomas, or to Renard, and Johanna hadn't spoken to anyone in the family since both her children were killed at Sirius and Procyon in '23 as part of the MORNING STAR disaster.

Please God, bring him home, Peter prayed. Bring Nathan home safe and sound. Don't let him die out there…

The approaching coronation made the Palace busier than usual, much to Arnold's annoyance. Nobles who'd not stepped foot here since Jacqueline became High Queen were present. Dozens of dukes and planetary rulers in the Arcadia, Donegal, and Skye Marches were coming and going, making personal appeals of one kind or another before their day in the coronation to pay personal homage. Access to Nathaniel was non-existent, and here he was, arranging plans and shuffling troops for a war he knew to be against the wrong enemy. But Prince Peter's words were clear; any effort by Arnold to impede the war would see him removed and probably disgraced. His only choices were to obey to the best of his ability or to resign.

Now he looked with pain and longing at his parents' portrait, wondering if he should just accept the latter. Resign, go back to Stronburg, and actively move into the Opposition. I am no politician, though, I am a soldier. Here I can be of use, I can pick up the pieces when this effort inevitably fails, and lead our people into the war we should be fighting.

The door opened. "I'd heard you were moping, cousin," a voice called out. "But certainly you might have spared a moment to meet my ship?"

Arnold's first instinct at the door opening was to berate his yeoman, but the thought died at hearing the soprano voice and soft Islay burr of his cousin and the brat boy king's aunt and presumed heir. Princess Melissa Proctor-Steiner stepped into the room, wearing a formal court gown of Steiner blue mixed with Proctor red, a gold hawk crest on the left breast of the suit. Her skin, a light brown from the influence of her Brewer bloodline, still looked young, though she was almost to her mid-40s now.

A quarter century separated them in age, but it was Lord Arnold, as commanding officer of the Fourteenth Donegal Guards, who brought the young Sanglamore-educated officer-candidate into his unit during the fierce fighting of the latter Fourth Succession War. It was he who'd later sponsored her promotions all the way to Colonel in the peacetime AFRF, and in all respects supported her once she decided to change over to civil administration and support her heartbroken mother. They didn't always agree, but he was certain she would prove a better ruler than the foolish boy king they were about to crown instead. If only the monarchy were elective within House Proctor. I would have thrown my votes to her over Nathaniel without a doubt.

"I hear you and Uncle Peter had quite the row," Melissa said.

"He betrayed his duty," Arnold grumbled. "He's let his sentiment towards Nathaniel overcome all prudent judgment of our situation."

"He's also a grieving spouse waiting for the day he'll be a widower," she pointed out. "Though I'll admit Nathaniel is being obstinate. A family trait, unfortunately. We Proctors are utterly pigheaded when we think we're upholding a moral cause, you know that. Even though you are more Steiner than Proctor."

"House Steiner's history is long and proud, House Proctor's distinguished but lacking in comparison," Arnold insisted. "So yes, I favor my Steiner heritage, and our destiny to restore the Lyran Commonwealth Katherine Steiner built seven hundred years ago."

"I needn't tell you the mood on Skye is one of not caring on that distinction, only that Skye is protected and kept strong," she replied, easing into an available chair. "Though I do worry about you, cousin. Your temper towards my silly nephew can cause us more trouble, and do nothing to deal with the problem. I hope you're not planning some foolish resistance to the war now that we're committed to it? The people seem unified behind it, after all, I can feel their anger in the air, all thanks to those ghastly images from the other side of the Glass."

Arnold sighed and shook his head. "Ghastly images, yes, but that doesn't mean we can afford to spend our strength when we face a threat ourselves. And while I considered the idea of trying to stall the war… no. My oath must be obeyed. Peter, damn his soft heart, reminded me of that. I swore to protect the Federation, and I will do so, until my dying day. I can only pray I am wrong about how this war will undermine our defenses."

Melissa nodded. "Exactly what I expected to hear, cousin. Perhaps this conflict will do Nathaniel good. It may shake loose whatever pacifist inclinations he retains and ready him for whatever conflicts lie in our future."

"Perhaps." I do not hold out the hope, Nathaniel is too certain of himself. But miracles do happen. He dare not voice the treacherous, dark hope he sometimes felt, and which a part of him thought best though the rest of him was horrified by it. The hope that Nathaniel would meet his end across the Glass, killed by his foolish crusade, and Melissa would be High Queen. Then we would have a ruler with the mettle to face the Dowager Empress of Oriente and her puppet great-grandson.

"In the meantime, I believe I will continue my own efforts," she said. "I have had numerous enlightening conversations with House Davion's consul on Skye these past years. Lord Gregory Morgan of Kittery, you may have heard of him? His grandfather was one of old Long Tom's Brethren pirates, you know. A lot of those men and women still rankle at the Empire's treachery."

Arnold grinned at that. "Yes, I think they would. Still, the Davions have other concerns, and we can't be sure Tikonov and the Azami will be so willing to work with us as well."

"Not right now, but in time…"

Given what was to come on the morrow, Sophia finished her day with a quick visit to the Royal Chambers. The guards checked with Nathaniel and immediately let her in. She found him reading a noteputer, a quiet, grim sort of expression on his face. He was in evening wear, a basic vest and shirt with leggings, all whites and blues, and no mark of his rank showing. He looked up at her and, while he didn't smile, he did seem to relax. 'Sophia. Don't tell me I forgot something?"

"Nothing important," she said, easing into the chair beside him. "I just wanted to see how you were doing, given what a day we'll have tomorrow."

"Yes. The coronation." He sighed, setting the noteputer down. "The rehearsals went well enough. Everything will be in place. Bishop Stanford will perform the service well."

"I would hope so, though I imagine Cardinal Greevey is disappointed," Sophia remarked. Presiding Bishop Stanford was the head of the Episcopalian Church of Arcadia. They were the largest church on Arcadia, though concentrated primarily on the continent of Islay. Nathaniel's church membership had only been decided recently, and unsurprisingly, was in line with Prince Peter's as opposed to his mother, who practiced the Umayr family's Hinduism, and his grandmother and father, who were Roman Catholics due to Jacqueline's decision to convert from the Steiner Lutheranism of Thomas and Ethan..

"I admit many of the doctrinal questions between the churches strike me as mere quibbles," Nathaniel said. "The essence matters more. But I think it will reassure many, and restore some sense of balance due to Grandmother's religious affiliations."

"That, it might very well do," Sophia said. She shifted in the chair. "It occurs to me that your work across the Glass won't just be military. Archon Melissa will have concerns, and more, the Commonwealth will probably have a number of political problems. And you'll need to keep aware of matters here. Perhaps I should come to continue serving at your side."

Her look was pleading, but she saw no sign she would get her wish. "I won't be performing day-to-day governance. That'll be Sara-Marie's job, and she'll need your help."

Sophia knew well of whom he spoke. Lady Sara-Marie Proctor was a distant cousin of Nathaniel's, the daughter of the controversial Princess Abigail, younger daughter of High Queen Sara-Marie. "The Veterinarian Princess' daughter, then?"

"She served my grandmother well enough, on those few times Grandmother Jackie went offworld," Nathaniel said. "And she is a common sense woman, I think you and Uncle Peter will work well with her in keeping matters at home going well."

"Right." Sophia tried to hide her disappointment, but knew she wasn't. Damn. How does Uncle Kenneth do it? All of those nobles with their poker faces!

"You really wanted to come with me?"

"More like I fear you will not come home," she admitted. "These Clans sound ferocious, and the stories told by Lady Trillian, the Wolves may be more lethal than the Falcons when in combat." She felt a tear in her eye and angrily wiped it away. "Why must you go? You've got commanders to lead in the field, and here, a people who need you. You are risking everything you stand for by doing this. If you were to die, where will that leave the peace you are creating with Emperor Robert?! Your aunt is one of Arnold's creatures, for the Lord's sake! She would make war with the Empire rather than peace."

"Don't underestimate Aunt Melissa," said Nathaniel. "Though we don't see eye to eye, she is not Arnold's puppet. She has her own mind, whatever their past, and if the worst should come of it, I have faith she would do right by our people." After a moment's pause he reached forward and took her hand with his. His voice spoke with a gentleness that warmed her spirit. "And after months of telling my people I stood for peace, I have suddenly declared war. I must show them why I ask them to fight, why I'm risking so many lives, so much blood and treasure, on a cause many still are unsure of. People like your father and your granduncle aren't wrong to be worried I'm doing the wrong thing. At the very least, I must prove to them I am willing to back up my conviction with my own life and blood. I have to show our people I am worthy to lead them, in peace and in war, by fighting, though even now I feel a dread in my heart at the prospect." He swallowed. "I know I may end up like my father, or like my great-grandfather, or his father in turn. God will decide that, in the end."

There was a quiet moment between them at that admission. Sophia felt the tears forming in her eyes ease away. In some ways I am falling in love with this sweet, intelligent, kind man, she admitted to herself. How fortunate I am, unless he does not return. She leaned forward and pressed her lips to his cheek. "Then I will say no more, so I spare you any pain from my fears," she said, after which she stood. "Sleep well, my King, my husband-to-be. Tomorrow is a big day."

"It is," he agreed. "I shall ensure it."
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: "Emergence" - BattleTech Dark Ages/BattleTech AU Crossover

Post by Steve »

This is admittedly one of my more self-indulgent chapters, but I do feel the ceremony is vital towards what comes after, in terms of reflecting how the Arcadian monarchy is perceived, where its legitimacy comes from, its moral weight, and its intended role in the world.

41 - The Unsheathed Sword

St. John Episcopal Church of Roslyn
Roslyn, Eastern Islay
Arcadia, Arcadia Royal March
Royal Federation
8 February 3143

After her morning meal, Trillian had her finest court gown brought out of the closet and fitted into it with the help of her domestic staff. She and her Chief of Staff, Lord Marienburg, took a vehicle in the procession of Royal guests and dignitaries to their destination, in the heart of Roslyn itself. The city was quieter than usual, even for the start of a week. For the people of Roslyn it was a holiday, not a working day, and Trillian imagined soon enough the empty streets would be filling up with spectators for the parade and ceremonies to come.

Just east of the city center and the Financial District, settled close to where the Rha River briefly bent northward on its way to the sea two kilometers away, St. John Episcopal stood as the beating heart of the Anglican Communion of Arcadia, the traditional place of investiture for rulers of Arcadia stretching back to House Duncan's foundation on the planet in the twenty-fourth century. It was a suitably grand church of white with brass furnished trim, including a towering cross-tipped steeple and belfry, stained glass windows, and large interior and attached park space, including a second floor balcony looking out over the church courtyard.

One by one the vehicles came to a stop and allowed their personages to disembark with the aid of church ushers in their plain church uniforms. One such usher, a red-headed woman with freckles, helped Trillian out of her vehicle along with Marienburg. She moved them along to the entrance, where they were guided through the main door and to their assigned seats among the Royal guests in the front pews.

Trillian took in the scenery of the church. It'd been badly damaged in the Terran invasion of Arcadia in 3050 and rebuilt to exacting specifications. The second floor had expanded seating on ascending rows back to the far end of the nave, at the vestibule. The acoustics were improved for both services and ceremonies through alterations to the vaulted, chandelier-lit ceiling, while the interior expanded to increase the size of the transept and chancel to allow a superior layout for the ceremonial role of the church, and all sorts of minor improvements implemented.

To either side of the transept were long benches, spare pews possibly, that were vacant, while squads of Lifeguard infantry clad in Grenzer battle armor, their modular arm mounts fitted with lasers instead of the usual Gauss weaponry. The altar, normally in the chancel but now moved to the north-middle part of the transept while allowing for sufficient space to walk about it, was covered in a fine velvet cloth, with a plain looking but solid table of wood surfacing and metal placed beside it.

The valuable ceremonial items were already resting upon it. They were certainly made to leave an impression, she thought. A hawk-shaped ampulla sat in the middle, containing the consecrated oil for the ceremony. The Scepter, the representation of temporal, secular power in the hands of the ruler, was made of alloyed gold, with a swept wing silver-plated hawk at the tip. Beside it was the symbol of spiritual authority and responsibility, the Orb, a solid pearl from the oceans of Zwenkau. Two bands of gold crossed over it marked with iconography, a golden cross set into the "top" with a hawk perched upon it. The Crown itself was a band of gold topped with a royal purple cap, marked with cruciforms set over pairs of rubies and sapphires, with one large pearl set into the golden hawk crest at the brow.

Across the transept, right inside the chancel, was the ceremonial throne. It was a frame of metal and gold filigree lined with cushioning of royal purple for the seat and sides, with the arms topped with golden-varnished hardwood. A compartment below the seat bore a single slab of stone, of some weight and heft, purportedly the Stone of Scone itself, spirited off Terra during the Amaris Coup and winding up in the personal collection of the warlord Carl Tabot, "High Lord of Arcadia", until his death at the hands of Sara Proctor. There were strong doubts about the authenticity, but as it was a trophy of the Liberator's victory and the purported Stone of Destiny for the crowning of the High Kings of Scotland and English and British rulers alike, it was implemented into the coronation ceremonies when Sara-Marie became the first High Queen a century later, and the claim to its authenticity formally made.

In the far corner of the chancel, a finely-built organ was being manned and tested by the organist, and a pianist likewise doing the same for their instrument on the opposite side of the dais. The choir was still filling up with white-robed men and women, chatting amiably or testing their voices.

Time passed to the beginning of the procession. This was signaled by the activation of one of the church's modern features, a large holovid projector built into the classical-looking chandeliers hanging from the arching roof above. It gave the attendees an idea of how long they had to prepare for the coming ceremony, whether it be quick calls of nature — as she noted several notables making discreetly — or checking their messages or finishing conversations. The screen itself was a feed from the Federation Broadcasting Corporation, showing the beginning of the Royal Procession in a parade from the gates of Fort Defiance to the church. It was an impressive display, certainly. BattleMechs, vehicles, and armor-suited infantry of the Second Proctor Guards, the Arcadian Guards, the Arcadian Rangers, the Fourth Royal BattleMech Regiment and Brigade, and the First Arcadian Royal Federal Militia Brigade all marched along the reinforced surfaces of Roslyn's boulevards and avenues. They must have been training for months for this, she thought at seeing how well they handled the maneuvers through the streets, the MechWarriors and tank drivers turning smartly in column where necessary. The number of 'Mechs alone numbered over a hundred, the representatives of five regiments of 'Mechs and many more of armor and infantry, undoubtedly brought in from every garrison point on the planet for the ceremony. How many of them will be coming with Nathaniel? How many of these men and women are going to die because of the alliance I've just signed?

The lead formation was the important one. The Lifeguards' 'Mech and armor formations — their infantry was undoubtedly already at the church and surrounding grounds, working with the Royal Security Service to safeguard the ceremony, and the Lifeguards' aviation forces were protecting the proceedings from above — were on all sides of a single BattleMech. Growing up around MechWarriors Trillian knew just enough to see the design had some aesthetic similarities to Black Knight machines, but the telltale crown assembly on the head marked it a Paladin, specifically a PLD-3 OmniMech since it mounted missile launchers and carried a sword compartment built into the right arm. Given the white and gold paint job, and the prominent crowned hawk on the chest, plus the focus being given to the machine, it had to be Liberator, Nathaniel's 'Mech.

By now the streets, lined with protective barricades, were filled with people. Banners were held, as were flags, bearing patriotic slogans, supportive words, or statements for this or that cause. She noted a number of Lyran flags were prominently displayed as well, usually twinned to Arcadian ones. Are they Lyrantreu or supporting the new alliance? Possibly both. Given it had been over a quarter century since the last coronation, this was being treated as the event of a lifetime. If Nathaniel lives a full life, it may very well be for many older than we are, Trillian thought. He could reign into the thirty-third century. The treacherous addition of If he doesn't get killed saving the Commonwealth slipped in, an unwelcome thought.

The main parade flowed to the approach to St. Johns. There they began to peel off. The 'Mechs and vehicles of the Lifeguards took up protective positions around the church while the other units moved on, following the final leg of the parade procession back to their base by its northeastern entrance. One lance from the Lifeguards continued on, arranged around Nathaniel's machine, until all five were in the courtyard before the church's main doors. There they stopped. She noted a couple more were similarly Paladins, though only one was in Lifeguard colors. The two other BattleMechs, which she didn't immediately recognize, were marked as 'Mechs of the Bolan Heavy Guards. The regiment Nathaniel served in before his grandmother died and he inherited the throne. The other Paladin bore the emblem of the Proctor Heavy Guards. They must have come here for the ceremony, realized Trillian, since those units were stationed on Bolan and Stewart at the moment, though were slated to join Nathaniel's expedition to Tharkad and the battle with Clan Wolf.

Around her, people were getting back to their seats. Noteputers started to get put away. She heard one mumbled voice fuss and turned her head to a group a few spaces down, past Lord Marienburg and Prince Peter's husband Lord McGonagal, to where a more plainly clad middle-aged woman was shushing a child of about ten, quietly aided by an adolescent girl three years older despite her looking very bored as well. They were not badly-dressed, but clearly not in court uniform or wear either. Trillian leaned over and asked, "Hello, I am Lady Trillian Steiner, may I have the honor of your name?"

The woman smiled and nodded. "Mrs. Prudence Corey, ma'am."

Corey. I do recognize that name. "As in, William Corey?"

"Yes, ma'am," the woman replied. Her accent was one Trillian hadn't heard nearly so much of, lacking even the soft burr of most Roslyn residents, nor the tones of old England. It was one usually associated with the Plymouth Peninsula, and the Anglo-Americans there descended from New England settlers. "My husband John was a Corey, as are his children. This is my grandson, also named John, and granddaughter Sarah, they're here with me to represent the family. Their parents are offworld and couldn't make it."

She almost asked for the woman's title, to ensure she addressed her properly, but stopped. She'd already identified herself merely as "Mrs. Corey", and even with how Arcadian court culture seemed a little more relaxed than Lyran, she couldn't imagine even a Freiherr not wearing proper court dress or displaying the family arms or insignia in some way. No, this woman and her grandchild, they're commoners. Commoners, in the front pew during a state ceremony! I can't imagine any Archon having that at a coronation, if they were deserving they'd be ennobled immediately before. It was a reminder that whatever the pomp and ceremony, the Arcadians did not have the same mentality of her Lyrans.

She almost asked the reason the Coreys were represented here, but stopped herself. William Corey was, by all accounts, the love of Sara Proctor's life. Biographers believe she never got over his death. Inviting his family to her coronations was the next best thing to having him there, I suppose, and her son carried the tradition on for whatever reason, despite his own difficult relationship with her. Maybe because he was named for her dead lover? So now, two centuries later, they get to sit among the great and mighty. It was, in its own way, somewhat inspiring, as tragic as it was.

Her attention returned to the holovid display. The cameras outside showed the 'Mechs were dismounted. She couldn't immediately recognize two of the pilots following Nathaniel to the entrance, all still in their cooling suits, but realized the one walking from the 'Mech with the Proctor Heavy Guards insignia was Prince Peter. Of course. His old unit. The other men must be Colonel Laughlin and officers Nathaniel served with, maybe his company and battalion commanders? The four figures entered the church entrance together. A moment later, the holovid display blipped away, leaving only empty air above the chancel. A dark-skinned man stood from where the choir was now seated, clad in pontifical vestments of white and gold, with a bishop's miter of the same colors on his head. Every step was measured and deliberate as he walked around the throne and to the north side of the altar, where he stopped and stood quietly. Bishop Stanford, I would assume.

By the time the bishop was in place, the church was silent. All the noteputers had disappeared. The ceremony was set to begin. Trillian waited patiently for the start.

"Our ruler is ready," a voice proclaimed from behind her, his voice amplified by the acoustics of the church and the cleverly-installed speakers hidden above. She recognized the speaker as Prince Roman Brewer-Steiner's.

Remain seated until the King is passing by. The instruction, provided by Lord Murray in his notes to her, stayed in Trillian's mind until she saw the figures of Prince Roman and Grand Princess Amita. She rose in line with the others on the pew, just in time for Nathaniel to enter her vision. He was in a white robe of shimmering, splendid material, with a red vest and stole fastened over the robe. And the cooling suit is still underneath, I bet. Behind Nathaniel came a procession of the remaining March-ruling Archdukes of the Federation, led by Amir Karim Abdullah Rayhan of Dar-es-Salaam and Archduke Kenneth Marik of Atreus, and due to the constitutionalism of the system, the Duchesses of Gienah and Hyde and the Duke of Launum, representing the original co-founding worlds of the Free March, and the planetary Archdukes of the old Kingdom of Donegal, who retained the title though they were only planetary rulers.

The procession moved partway into the transept and many of the lower ranking members moved away, to the empty pews set into the sides of the transept, leaving plenty of room for the ceremony. Only Grand Princess Amita of Bolan, Prince Roman, Archduke Kenneth, and Archduke Birendra Shah of Tamarind remained beside Nathaniel. The significance wasn't lost on Trillian. They are all rulers of what were once independently-sovereign parts of the Federation.

Nathaniel stepped out from among them and towards the altar, where Bishop Stanford moved forward and held his handout, gesturing for Nathaniel to lower himself. When Nathaniel did not obey, Prince Roman stepped forward and, in a tone more ceremonial than forceful, demanded, "Who are you to make the sovereign kneel?"

Stanford's reply filled the church. "It is the place of all sovereigns to kneel before the Creator of the Universe."

Roman, ceremonially chastened — though I doubt not a whit in fact, Trillian thought with bemusement — stepped back to join his peers, leaving Nathaniel to obey and drop to one knee. He bowed his head in supplication and, with quiet energy, announced, "I am humbled before the Lord my God, Creator of All, font of Justice and Mercy."

"Why have you come?"

Nathaniel lifted his eyes, though his knee remained on the floor of the church. "To assume the throne of Arcadia," he replied, his tome firm but not in any way authoritative. "I am Nathaniel Ethan Proctor. The blood of the Liberator flows in my veins. It is my duty to take the burden of protecting the peoples and worlds of our realm, so help me God."

"And you solemnly swear, before the Almighty Creator of the Universe, to uphold the work of the Liberator and protect the sacred dignities of all souls within your realm, owned by none by the Will of their Divine Creator?"


"To uphold the rights that Nature and Nature's God bestow upon all souls, with all your power?"

"I do."

"To rule with justice and mercy as the Lord rules over all?"

"I do."

Stanford nodded. "Then, in the eyes of the Creator and your people, take up the sword of your foremother."

A young woman of tan skin approached from the chancel, wearing the uniform of a court page. Something about the way she carried herself reminded Trillian of her cousin Melissa when she'd been a teenager, or myself if I am being honest. A daughter of the nobility, I assume. In her hands she held a long object. When she rounded the altar from the south, the opposite side from Stanford, Trillian noticed the handle and realized it was a sheathed sword, with a scabbard of fine leather but, notably, not one piece of jewelry or precious metal present on its surface. Only a metal disc prominent on the visible surface provided ornamentation, bearing a gold and white hawk sigil. Quietly the young noblewoman strapped the scabbard to the left of Nathaniel's waist. When she was done, she retreated back to the side of the altar to retrieve the table. It scraped audibly along the floor, filling the church with the noise, before coming to a rest between Nathaniel and the altar. From the south arm of the transept, two more young people in page uniforms came, carrying between them a meter and a half of solid metal chains, each end terminating in a manacle.

A faint sound came from the transept, metal scraping against metal, and the glint of the church's light flashed upon the blade of solid steel. I've heard swords unsheathed before, LCAF officers give scoldings if their subordinates make a noise. It is deliberate, then. The sword was nothing special. The hilt, crossguard, the pommel, it looked like a plain sword, the kind of European longsword you might find in collections or made as props for fantasy or historical holodramas, not quite a meter in length. The only ornamentation was a silver-colored disc set into the crossguard depicting the Proctor family seal of a sword shattering a set of manacles.

It does not look at all like it belongs in the Regalia, not compared to the gold and jewels of the Crown, Scepter, and Orb. But everything I've read says it's considered the most important piece, the heart of it all, argued as the ultimate expression of House Proctor's authority on Arcadia and across the realm. Trillian focused her eyes on the blade as Nathaniel held it up, examining it for the moment. The Sword of Liberation, they call it, a blade forged from the metal of shattered slave chains. It was presented to Sara Proctor as a gift by a married couple, metalworkers freed from Carl Tabot's slave pens after his death at Parnon and the liberation of his estate in Sannazaro. She worked the blade into the investiture ceremony when she was made Duchess of Arcadia, and later did the same at her coronation as the first March-Princess of the Free March.

Nathaniel's eyes moved from the blade to the chain on the table before him, where the two pages laid the chain down, the manacles placed along the opposite edges of the table. They stepped away, one, two, three steps, and waited.

In a practiced movement, Nathaniel brought the blade down on the middle link. The church rang with the sound of steel on steel. Sparks briefly leapt from the impact point. The pages stepped forward again and picked up the chain by the manacles, revealing to all that they had been split at the central link. The symbolism is not subtle. This is a pledge.

Nathaniel turned to Bishop Stanford. ""Let this be an example of my conviction."

"It is witnessed. Let all chains fall before your sword."

While the two younger pages returned to the chancel with the broken chains and the sword-bearing page brought the table back to its original position, Stanford went to the altar and took up the ampulla. Nathaniel knelt once more, lowering his head, and the four retainers brought forth a golden shroud — Where did it come from? Was it handed to one of them by an usher while we were all watching Nathaniel take up the sword? — and held it over him. Bishop Stanford stepped up to the kneeling ruler and with care tipped the ampulla, just enough to allow a dabble of oil to land on Nathaniel's shrouded head. Stanford spoke in a reverential, firm tone. "By this holy anointing, in the name of the Father and Creator, of his Son the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, you assume dominion with His Grace."

Music sounded from the chancel. By the time Stanford placed the ampulla back on the altar, the choir's voice filled the church with a slow, joyous melody that she slowly recognized from old memories. We have this. It's from the… Age of War era? Maybe earlier. I can recall this from services when I was young. "The Work of Samuel". The call for a king to defend Israel, and the Hebrew prophet Samuel journeying to find a suitable candidate.

The retainers took the oil-stained shroud from Nathaniel's head. Together they removed the red tunic and stole. Grand Princess Amita and Archduke Kenneth replaced it with a vest of strong, bright blue, then a fine jacket of crimson. Did Roman ask not to do this, or is this because he is not as close in terms of family? Amita's grandson and Kenneth's betrothed grandnephew-in-law? Archduke Birendra provided the final piece, a flowing cape of royal purple lined with ermine. Even though Nathaniel was by no means short, the cape still flowed to the ground and then some, so Archduke Birendra and Prince Roman each took a corner and followed Nathaniel to the throne. Amita helped him unstrap the Sword of Liberation and place it on his left beside the throne, after which he sat with the aid of the others in arranging the too-long cape. No throne is a recliner, but he looks uncomfortable in it. It forces his back to remain flat, I suppose?

The choir continued to sing, the organ alone playing to accompany them, while Stanford turned back to the altar. First he brought the Scepter, which Nathaniel accepted with his right hand. Second, in a separate trip, he handed the Orb, which settled into Nathaniel's left hand. The final trip brought forth the Crown. Nathaniel bowed his head as Stanford lifted the Crown high, in full view of the church and all present, before he settled it on Nathaniel's head, bearing it down to his brow. Nathaniel's head rose until he was sitting upright, showing that the golden hawk with its luminous pearl was directly above the center of his forehead. And through it all he holds still, unmoving, not relaxing. This is a trial more than it is a celebration. Which is the point, as it would be for us. As it should be.

Yet Trillian felt like there was something different than what she'd known in the coronations she'd witnessed on Tharkad. Our Houses are different. The Commonwealth and the Federation share many values, we are related peoples even with the change in history, but we are not the same. This is how the people here view their ruler, or at least, how their ruler should be. Humble, burdened, and carrying a sword to cleave chains of captivity. Not a sign of wealth as a bringer of economic prosperity.

Stanford turned to the assembled and spoke, his voice thundering as the music and choir lowered in volume. "In the name of the Lord, I present to you His Royal Majesty King Nathaniel, by God's Grace High King of the Federation! May he reign long and well!"

"Long life and health to His Majesty!" Archduke Birendra called out. How deeply does he mean that, given Tamarind's festering dislike of Arcadia's refusal to press the return of the old Duchy from the Principate? Trillian suspected this was not going to be the Archduke of Tamarind's favorite part of the ceremony, nor his next role.

The prior piece ended and the choir struck up Te Deum Laudum, along with the organist and pianist. The ancient hymn, predating Human spaceflight and updated in the twentieth century, filled the room, a praise to the Divine in thanks for blessings.

The four retainers lined up, while the benches to either side of the transept emptied. One by one, these personages lined up, joined by more from the pews behind Trillian. Altogether, including those who were in the original procession, Trillian counted twelve March-governing archdukes, the Archduke of Tamarind as a former sovereign, the half dozen archdukes from the Donegal side of the Federation, the presidents of the two Free States, and almost ninety dukes, margraves, landgraves, presidents, secretary-generals, and committee chairmen and chairwomen who served as planetary rulers in the three Royal Marches that the Crown governed directly, as well as Nathaniel's Governor-Generals on Skye and Donegal, the Royal Governor of Tharkad, and the head of the planetary government of Arcadia itself. Each and every one of them has to pay homage. Then the foreign dignitaries will be recognized, including me. He must be getting tired.

Even with each homage taking only about fifteen seconds, it took half an hour before Trillian herself was bowing in respect before him, Lord Marienburg beside her repeating her bow. She could see the fatigue on his face at enduring the long, drawn out process. "On behalf of Her Royal Highness Archon Melissa Steiner, the Lyran Commonwealth's deepest regards for your reign, Your Majesty," she said formally.

"My thanks to Her Royal Highness and the Lyran people," he replied. Despite his tiredness, a flash of a grin formed on his face. "Their plight is on my thoughts, and will be spoken of before the day is out."

Trillian nodded and stepped away. Just what does that mean? she thought. What is he planning?

She returned to her pew with Lord Marienburg, but she barely had time to sit down before Lord Murray came up. "Lady Trillian, His Majesty would be pleased if you and Lord Marienburg would join him on the balcony when he is presented to the people," Murray said.

A gesture, then, that is his plan. "I, we, would be honored," she replied, standing. Murray led them towards the northern end of the transept. She glanced towards Nathaniel and noted he was smiling again, this time addressing young John and Sarah Corey with their grandmother. The children bowed to him again before their grandmother brought them away.

Doors brought them into the north foyer of St. John's Church. Murray guided them toward the east and a set of stairs to the second floor. They were cleared through a door by a pair of dark-suited figures — Royal Security Service agents, most likely — and to the balcony foyer, built beyond the apse within the church's sanctuary given the curving of the walls. More works of art were present, along with security, chairs for waiting, and facing the east, a set of heavy red curtains. Prince Peter was waiting, as was Sophia Marik, her father, and her granduncle, while Bishop Stanford remained quiet near the curtain. Trillian bowed respectfully to them, particularly to Kenneth. "Your Grace, I have not had the honor," she said.

"Nor have I." Kenneth's hoarse voice made her think he might have a throat ailment of sorts. He was an octogenarian by her reckoning, not weakened by age, but showing it rather more than she'd imagined. Sir David MacKinnon is older and yet more spry than this man… ah. He has had to endure how many invasions of his capital world in his life? How much lost blood? Dead family? "I did not approve of your mission, but His Majesty's arguments were well-reasoned, my nephew Lord Paul has concurred, and his daughter remains an advocate as well."

"I understand, Your Grace, your concerns for the security of your people," Trillian said delicately. "I can only hope that by our victory, the security of both realms is strengthened."

"Yes, that much we can agree upon. Though I wonder how our cousins on your side of the Glass will respond to all this?" There was an edge in that voice. "I trust you will not expect our forces to replace these Wolves as your allies in conquest, hrm?"

"The treaty was written to prevent such a thought, I saw to that myself." Melissa may not be pleased either, but I could hardly expect even Nathaniel to have agreed to backstop the LCAF marching toward Atreus again. No, she will have to settle for saving the Commonwealth. I hope. "Believe me when I say I understand we made a terrible decision, and we have paid for our hubris and greed."

Something about Kenneth's eyes told her that he wasn't believing her, or at least, that she was speaking for her Archon. Which was sadly true, all Trillian could hope was that her experiences would make Melissa willing to yield on her ambitions now. But I must press on.

The south door of the foyer opened, admitting Nathaniel, his mother, and his grandmother. Nathaniel was shed of his cumbersome coronation gear, the red jacket and purple cape replaced by a much lighter jacket of royal purple lined with ermine, and his head bearing the usual tiara of intertwined platinum bands with a hawk sigil on the brow. The Regalia were no longer on his person, presumably returned to the altar to be taken back to secure storage.

No, he's still got one piece, Trillian realized, eyes lowering to his left hip, where the Sword of Liberation was once again strapped to his robe's belt.

Finally meeting Princess Sita Umayr, the widow of the late Prince James, made clear where Nathaniel's cheekbones came from, as well as his shapely chin. They were in Bolanese court dress, with blue saris over colorful blouses and garments, each bearing a bindi mark on the forehead. Nathaniel spoke first. "Mother, Grandmother, Lady Trillian. And I see Archduke Kenneth has had the pleasure?"

"He has," Sophia said, in the voice of someone hoping the prior conversation would not continue.

"Your Highnesses." Trillian bowed once again. Kenneth and his entourage did likewise, and the temperature of the foyer warmed. "An honor."

"The honor is ours, Lady Trillian," said Grand Princess Amita. "I have seen your interviews and arguments on the news holovids, you are a worthy representative of Archon Melissa."

"Thank you, Highness."

"Majesty." Murray went towards the curtain and looked back. "It is time." Across from him, Bishop Stanford stepped up.

"Then let us proceed."

The curtain was opened fully by church ushers. The light of Arcadia's sun flooded the foyer, as did the rustling noise of a great crowd outside. Nathaniel took Sophia's arm, after which they went out onto the balcony and walked to its very end. Trillian joined the others in walking up behind him, giving her a view of the cheering crowds waving flags in the wide spaces of the Church's steeple courtyard below.

Bishop Stanford stepped out onto the balcony, came to Nathaniel's side, and lifted his arms as if to bless the crowd. "Peoples of the Federation, I present to you our High King, Nathaniel Proctor!"

The cheering became a roar.

So it's done. By her search Trillian knew this was the end. Nathaniel would remain for a few minutes, enjoying the adulation of his people, before returning to the church. The ceremony would be over and he would be on his way back to the Palace to see to business and prepare for the night's coronation reception dinner with all the attendant elements of high society.

She noted Nathaniel tapping on his collar for a moment. What's he doing? she wondered.

His hand went up, at first seeming to wave, but instead soon obvious as a call for attention, even quiet. "Peoples of the Federation!" he called out.

Silence came to the crowd. Stanford blinked at him, and Murray frowned. Peter let out a sigh. What is he doing? Trillian wondered, repeating herself. His grandmother, her predecessors, they never spoke before. This isn't supposed to be for speeches. Not even during the Fourth Succession War!

"It is not usual for the Crown to make an address after this solemn occasion," he began, "but these are not usual times. An event of extraordinary implications has changed our world, our times, in ways we have yet to understand." His voice boomed over the crowd, courtesy of the same speakers Stanford had employed. "I do not break with tradition easily, but given what I am asking of you, asking of the peoples of the Federation, I feel I must."

"In the Inner Sphere beyond the Glass, a dark age has descended. The wonders of interstellar communication, of the hyperspace pulse generators that even now carry my words to every corner of the Inner Sphere, have fallen silent. The pillars of peace have been shaken to rubble, and a new era of war is fueled by the fear and uncertainty wrought by this cataclysmic event. This suffering alone would cause one to weep, but it is worsened by the brutality that we have come face to face with since our arrival through the Glass. The reports come, each worse than the last. Courageous soldiers tortured and murdered simply for fighting back! Civilians slaughtered for the slightest resistance! People led away in chains, compelled to serve as slaves to warlords determined to subjugate the entire Inner Sphere under their dark, twisted ideology of genetic superiority! Whole worlds poisoned for refusing to yield!"

As he spoke the crowd's shouting grew, cries of horror and anger.

As if fed by their energy, Nathaniel continued, his hands gripping the balcony railing around the wrapped pieces holding the red and blue bunting in place. "We saw those images from Morges, we all did, and it is only part of what has been inflicted on innocent worlds from Sudeten to Atreus by these Clans, these perverted scions of Aleksandr Kerensky's Star League Defense Force. Indeed, we have learned that only a scant few of them have a sense of honor, of duty to righteousness, worthy of their forefathers. We have already fought at the side of these noble Wolves. They resist their cruel brethren to protect the innocents of the Inner Sphere, but they are small in number, and while they struggle valiantly, they cannot win alone."

"These Clans, these Jade Falcons and Hell's Horses, this so-called Wolf Empire, have fallen upon the Lyran people on the other side in order to devour them." Another crescendo of angry cries answered him. "The Commonwealth, weakened by all that has happened, betrayed from without and from within, cannot hold. The reborn Free Worlds League is struggling to regain its life. Across the Inner Sphere, the insidious and inhuman ideology of the old Capellan Confederation has found its ultimate degenerate end with the blasphemy of Daoshen Liao, who proclaims himself a living god and seeks to conquer and enslave the peoples of the Republic and the Federated Suns." The crowd roared their disapproval yet again. "The Draconis Combine, no better than the one we have seen reborn in brutality and treachery, is reported to even now be killing off one of the few Clans to show human values and decency. The peoples of Rasalhague have spent a century under Clan domination and have yet to show whether they stand on the side of decency and humanity or have become just as vile as the others."

He has read the reports we brought, but clearly hasn't absorbed everything. I can't say he'd approve of Caleb Davion any more than I do, if the worst of Caleb is true. Trillian pushed the thoughts away. Where is he leading with this?

"But the people of this Inner Sphere need no longer face these horrors alone," Nathaniel declared. "By a miracle, one I cannot help but credit to the hand of God the Creator, the Glass was formed, linking our Inner Spheres together. They no longer need struggle without succor, without hope, against the dark age that threatens to smother them. We are here, and we can, we must, answer their pleas for help." He drew in a breath while the crowd started to shout in support. Cries of "Yes!" "Long live the Federation!" and "In God's name!" echoed from below. "When I came to the throne, I pledged peace. And I still wish for it, I wish to never have to order your loved ones into battle. But there can be no peace with cruelty and barbarity at the scale we are witnessing. Such peace only means sacrificing innocents, and for nothing, as these forces will inevitably come for us when they wish it. So I, who wished for peace, must instead take up the sword." Word after word came and the crowd's shouts and cheers grew in furor. Trillian felt frozen in place. She had the sense that, tradition-breaking as this was, it was also going to be a historical moment that none present would ever forget.

Nathaniel's hand went to his hip. Metal shrieked briefly against metal until the light of the sun gleamed on the blade of the Sword of Liberation. The shouting in the crowd died down, as if the people were breathless in wondering what the young man standing before them was going to do next.

Nathaniel held the sword at his side, pointing downward. "A bleeding people call out to us. A savage, unflinching foe stands poised to enslave them, another to torture and murder them. I have signed an alliance against these brutes, and I will personally lead the Federation's armies through the Glass to meet them and drive them back. And I will not be going alone. Our oldest allies, the redoubtable peoples of the old Rim Worlds, will march under the Ghastillian banners. The stalwart communes of Sudeten and the fierce warriors of Rasalhague, whose strength and courage have proven them as deadly enemies and steadfast allies in the past, rally their armies to join us in this cause. Because we are not fighting to claim worlds, nor just for the honor of our noble houses and our given word. This, my people…" — and as he let his words hang in the tense silence, his right arm shot up, lifting the Sword of Liberation high to shine in the Arcadian sun — "is a holy war for our most cherished principles!"

He barely had time to finish the line before the loudest roar yet came from the crowd. Trillian, from her point on the balcony, saw fists rise everywhere. Not just fists, as military officers who came for the occasion in ceremonial dress started reaching for their own officer swords and drawing them, sending their tips skyward as well.

"The Clans must be stopped!" Nathaniel shouted. "We must drive them back, run them down, and end their reign of terror! In the name of God and Liberty, we must free the worlds they have seized and the innocent peoples they have kidnapped!"

"Death to slavery!" For Liberty!" "For Freedom and Federation!" "For God and Liberty!" "In the name of God!" "God wills it!" Voices cried those words over and over again, and for all this was for the benefit of the Commonwealth, Trillian felt the hairs on her neck stand up on their ends.

Whether he was caught up in the energy he'd provoked, or had more remarks to say, Nathaniel continued. "This will be a long struggle, but we must see it through to its end! So long as a single bondcord remains upon the wrist of a Clan slave, so long as a single world flies the Godforsaken banner of the Wolf Empire or the murderous standards of the Jade Falcons and their Horse allies, our work is not done, and our swords will not be sheathed!"

The crowd roared approval at that. The air was rushing with energy, and Trillian's satisfaction, though not gone, was now tinged with fear. What have I done? What have I unleashed? she wondered. They are truly different from us. Religious fervor happens in our Inner Sphere too, but when is the last time… no. No, that is unfair.

But the comparison couldn't slip free from her mind. There were conflicts that saw the belligerents as energized as this. The Capellan Crusades, and before them, the Blakist Jihad. I can't compare what the Liaos and the Blakists did to this. These people aren't out for domination, they don't want to murder, they want to stop it!

Lyran and Leaguer, Skye and Tamarind, so many identities, but the Arcadians are the beating heart at the center. They bind all of this together. Their ideals provide the form. And they were shaped by struggling against slavery, against oppression. The Clans, their taking of bondsmen, and the way they acted on the conquered worlds from a hundred years ago… that is anathema to these people.
Trillian glanced towards the crowd and back to Nathaniel, plus his entourage, who seemed alternatively surprised, uncertain, or supportive while he continued on. And after twenty years of struggling to come to terms with the feeling of being cheated of worlds rightfully theirs, twenty years of bitterness about the war, fear about how far they can push, or whether to push at all… now they have a cause. Something to unite behind. An enemy beyond the pale, to fight without having to risk bringing a new Succession War down on everyone's heads. A clean battle to uphold their idea of right in the world. No wonder they seem ready to march to the DropShips now.

She breathed a gentle sigh, relief and uncertainty mixing in her heart, even as the cheering continued. I came to win an ally. I'm going home with a crusade gathering behind me, and who knows where this one will go…
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: "Emergence" - BattleTech Dark Ages/BattleTech AU Crossover

Post by LadyTevar »

Crusades are never easy or safe.

"Be careful what you wish for...."
Nitram, slightly high on cough syrup: Do you know you're beautiful?
Me: Nope, that's why I have you around to tell me.
Nitram: You -are- beautiful. Anyone tries to tell you otherwise kill them.

"A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP" -- Leonard Nimoy, last Tweet
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Re: "Emergence" - BattleTech Dark Ages/BattleTech AU Crossover

Post by Steve »

42 - Peer Review

Celestial Palace
Imperial City, Wuhan Continent
Sian, Sian Commonality
Oriento-Capellan Empire
11 February 3143

Moving across interstellar space at a steady clip via the HPG network, the holo image depicting Nathaniel's speech now played on an active holovid projector in the Advisory Chamber of the Imperial Palace. Seated in a high-backed chair displaying the standard of the Empire — the Halas raven in flight over the rearing Allison horse, a Liao dao positioned between the two overset by the three pearls of Oriente — Emperor Robert considered his younger peer's words and behavior. Interesting. So far he has struck me as more the intellectual type, and his course work with the Royal University of Roslyn confirms his potential. Now he rallies the crowds as the crusading king. I would be worried if his target was not so obvious.

Arrayed at the table around him were some of his most trusted advisors, including his wife, Empress-Consort Dana Rivoli, who served as his Minister of Production and owned Ceres Metals, one of the top arms producers in the Empire. The Imperial Strategos, Marshal Yevgeny Danilov, sat close as well, as did Lady Salma Chen, head of the Maskirovka. His great-grandmother was likewise represented in the person of Ser Jonathan Hawkwood, a former member of the Knights of the Red Sword, one of Oriente's Knightly Orders that formed the basis for their forces from before the formation of the Empire. Finally, sitting between the Empress-Consort and Lady Chen, Princess Xiaoli Halas-Liao was the least useful person at the table by far, but she was here to learn, and grudgingly accepted it.

"I have full faith in Lady Sophia, my wife-to-be, and my regent Lady Sara-Marie, that with the cooperation of Prince Peter and the Privy Council the Federation's day-to-day affairs will be seen to, and the defenses maintained," Nathaniel was saying to the crowd, his sword now lowered but still unsheathed. "For my duty lies beyond the Glass…"

Robert tapped the control and muted the playback. "Well." He folded his hands on the table. "Our young adversary rides to war, but not with us. It would seem matters in the Federation progress in ways beneficial to the Empire. They will not be easily embarking on any strikes with that many troops beyond the Glass." He said the first line in a very dull tone, inviting objection.

"I concur, Celestial Wisdom," Lady Chen said. "In conjunction with our intelligence of the recent months, it would seem the uncertain indicators of a potential strike are no longer present, or at least, no longer detectable. I would not rule out the more hostile elements of the AFRF attempting a provocation, however."

"They would have to be fools," Danilov snorted dismissively. "With their forces diminished, and months to a year before this new expansion can show fruit, they would be hard pressed to face even a modest counterattack."

"You forget the prospect of the Legions joining them." Lady Chen leveled a disapproving glare. "The Imperatrix is more ambitious than her father by far, and claiming worlds from the Empire would please the Rim Commonality section of the Principate, easing their integration."

"He is being a fool, going to the front," Robert murmured. I misjudged the young man, I thought him too intelligent. Or immune to that irritating Proctor sentimentalism and moralism.

"Especially with a doddering old woman as his regent," his wife added. "The Lady Sara-Marie is not a stateswoman, she is a seatwarmer, and was raised a commoner besides. She lacks the presence to command."

"Undoubtedly she will have the young Lady Sophia Marik and Prince Peter to provide her with direction." Robert shook his head. "Yet even with them, I do not trust that the likes of Lord Arnold will not attempt matters regardless, especially with our naval buildup incomplete, and the indications that their naval forces will not be as necessary on the other side in terms of maintaining a campaign. His subordinates may yet try something while he is out of easy communication."

"Then perhaps, Celestial Wisdom, we should act first?"

Robert turned his head to Ser Jonathan, as did all of the other attendees. The old knight didn't flinch under the attention, rather he manipulated a control on his noteputer, casting a holomap into the table's projector. The display showed the length of the border of the two realms, from the resettled world of Köln and the fortress world New Olympia on one end to Sirius and Procyon on the other, the end of the bulge of Imperial-held Terran worlds separating the Royal Federation from the Grand Union of Tikonov. Icons flashed, showing the present positions of the Empire's frontline forces, including those in transit since Robert agreed to the initial mutual border drawdowns. "We know that the Proctor Household Guards will be going through the Glass, as well as a number of other formations," Ser Jonathan pointed out. "This has weakened the defensive assignments along the borders of the Sirian and Harsefeld Commonalities and the Duchy's New Olympia Province."

"Their defenses in the area remain quite formidable in assignment," Danilov pointed out icily. "The Atrean Dragoons and Marik Regulars remain concentrated in the Principality of Atreus, and numerous major formations remain on or near the border, including four of the Royal Assault regiments. Not to mention they maintain reserves in the Hesperus and Arcadia regions that can be quickly deployed."

"Not if we throw our naval power at them. We will have an opening towards the end of the year when the Ser Arthur Klaes and the King Alexander join the fleet. We can commit the vast bulk of the Navy to positions on their Royal Road network, which we can seize with Marines, and intercept any incoming reinforcements, while the Orders and Fusiliers claim Atreus and Campbelton for the Empire, and the bulk of the Liao Guards, Harsefeld Lancers, and Sian Dragoons fall upon their garrisons at Irian, Marik, New Dallas, and New Earth." A button press reflected these movements on the map. "The Second, Third, and Fifth Allison Heavy Guards, and the Free Worlds Guards brigades, will remain in reserve, or to embark on a second wave assault on whichever targets we please, from Summer to Stewart." Ser Jonathan grinned. "The Cadies will think it's 3041 all over again by the time we're done. They'll wish it was just 3041."

The reference to the Empire's successful offensive a hundred years ago, in their intervention into the War of Donegalian Succession that carried their armies to McAffe, a mere two jumps from Arcadia, was clearly meant to inspire. A snort was the answer instead. "Yes, Ser Jonathan," Xiaoli said, giggling very snidely. "If at first you don't succeed, try try try and try again, yes? The fourth time will be the charm on your Orders' continued failures to conquer Atreus? Or would this be the fifth try, I've honestly lost count."

Robert and Empress Dana shot stern looks at their daughter, speaking out of turn as she was, but there was a tittering of laughter from some of the others, especially Lady Chen and Marshal Danilov. The look of pale, expressionless rage that formed on the knight said it all. He and his comrades came close in '19. Very close to securing Grandmother Eris' dream of seizing Atreus as punishment for the humiliation the Arcadians delivered her a century ago. Now my daughter, with her wild mouth, throws that failure in his face. All those lost comrades, his lost arm, and she insults him. I will have words with her later.

"This plan is wildly dangerous," Danilov said. "The Legions will counterattack into the Grand Duchy, and it leaves our border with the Fedrats wide open! Those pirate spawn of Grace Silver-Davion's will be wide open to attempt a reconquest of Grand Base and Bellatrix, maybe even Sarna!"

"And the Concord will grab for Filtvelt while the Dragon invades the Azami and Tikonov," Ser Jonathan predicted. "Though perhaps the Dragon will seize opportunity and focus instead on Arcturus, leaving the Azami free to strike at Sabik and raid the Isle of Skye. As for the Legions, they have wasted away since the war, and are needed to keep the Rim Commonality separatists down, as I know Lady Chen has been hard at work with them."

"A restored Rim Commonality that is friend to the Empire would be an opportune outcome," Chen agreed.

"You speak of igniting a new Succession War," Robert said. "Would you have me repeat my father's mistakes? All so your mistress can finally avenge a century old insult, regardless of what it would risk for the Empire?"

"We would win this time, Celestial Wisdom," Ser Jonathan insisted. "The boy king of our enemy has provided us the perfect opportunity to reclaim what we lost at Dieron, and break the power of the Proctors for two generations!"

"Only if absolutely everything goes your way," Danilov shouted. "This is not an offensive of strategy, it is a lashing out, by an old woman who lives on her hatred!"

"I challenge you, Marshal!" Ser Jonathan screamed. "You, who dare to insult the founding Empress!"

"Silence!" Robert's voice filled the room and quieted matters. "There will be no duels! Strategos, you forget yourself, the Dowager Empress is of my blood and you will refer to her appropriately!"

"My apologies, Celestial Wisdom, I let my passions go too far," Danilov said, bowing his head for effect.

"As for you, Ser Jonathan, I will not be coaxed into repeating history!" Robert waved dismissively at the map. "My father listened to similar advice thirty years ago, and it brought us the Fourth Succession War, where we avoided disaster by the slimmest of margins. Now we do not even have the fig leaf of the old Compact to safeguard our rear, just another enemy looking for revenge. The Navy will be the shield that protects the Empire from future threats, not your cudgel for wild plans of glory and conquest! The answer is no."

Ser Jonathan's face gradually regained color, but it was clear he still felt aggrieved. "Understood, Celestial Wisdom."

"We will let this play out," Robert said to the others. "Though on the matter of the Glass, I would make inquiries as to our progress in that field."

His Minister of the Sciences, Mandarin Eric Cheng, answered. "I am pleased to report, Celestial Wisdom, that the research teams have made theoretical progress, and some test jumps by multiple ships have shown interesting readings that were not present in recorded scans from the years prior to 3132."

"So, then it is possible. We might make our own Glass."

"It appears so, Celestial Wisdom."

And then we will meet our counterparts on the other side, this reformed Free Worlds League, and an intact Capellan Confederation. I wonder if this Daoshen Liao is some sort of madman and megalomaniac, or simply living to a standard established for him? We will have to be cautious… "Then bid them to continue their work, but do not attempt a Glass-making until I have approved it."

"As you wish, Celestial Wisdom."

Imperial Palace
Nova Roma, Gaul Continent
Alphard, Capitol Province
Flavian Principate
13 February 3143

The Imperial Palace. The name itself won the attention of all of Nova Roma's four millions, given the prominent place the Palace enjoyed on the skyline. The sprawling city was a ring of modern skyrises and structures, fit for the capital of a major Successor State of the post-Star League Inner Sphere.

Of course, this was not in the Inner Sphere, as it was generally known. While the majority of the two hundred and forty worlds and star systems that made up the Principate were in the Inner Sphere, Alphard was out on the Periphery, the furthest reaches of Human space, where colonizable worlds grew rare due to accidents of solar formations or one of a hundred other theories why so many of the habitable garden worlds lay within four hundred light years of Earth before their numbers dwindled by average.

This fact was part of the character of the world. Settled partly in Star League days, then re-settled in the thirtieth century, the people of Alphard had a special pride in themselves and the Principate. They, who were once derided as backwoods periphery barbarians, now governed the fates of peoples on worlds like Timbiqui, Cajamarca, Regulus, and Tematagi. They'd become one of the major states of the Inner Sphere by sword and by pen. It was the leaders and delegates of those worlds that came here, out to the Periphery, to interact with their ruler and the institutions that ruled them, a complete reverse of the history of the rest of the Periphery.

Of course, not all of Nova Roma was a glittering jewel of modernity. In the heart of the city, within that ring, the old sandstone structures of the early Marian Hegemony still contained the principle institutions of the capital. The Imperial Palace itself was no exception, rising in the center, flanked by the Senate, Ministerium, and Magisterium — the legislative, administrative, and judicial leadership of the Principate's government — as well as the Collegium Bellorum Imperial and attached Administratium Bellorum Imperial, where the PAF's officers were trained, PAF's military command administration was located, adjoined by the barracks for I Legio, part of the capital's defensive force. The Praetorian Guards likewise kept their barracks in the Palace itself, a combined arms regiment of MechWarriors, aerospace pilots, vehicle crews, and battle armor troopers that protected the figure at the top of the Principate.

Imperatrix Julia O'Reilly was perhaps not the most imposing figure, at least not heightwise, at barely a hundred and fifty centimeters. But her patrician nose, her thin face, and intelligent eyes had a way of making her subordinates uncomfortable, even if the day was long gone when even the Imperatrix could summarily execute a citizen, or consign them to lethal gladiatorial sport for their own amusement. The kind of atrocities and abuses that the likes of Sean O'Reilly and other earlier Imperators filled the Palace halls with were no longer an acceptable part of the government. Even Scipio, aggressive conquerer that he was, had mostly limited himself to just clean execution or exile of domestic rivals, before he met his end on Tamarind following his fateful defeat on Arcadia.

A palace servant brought her a fresh glass of wine. To one side, her husband Sanjeet Vulcan-Maximus enjoyed his own glass, while on the other, Chief Minister Marcus Anthony Zielinski was quietly observing the recorded footage from Arcadia. Once the speech was over, he was the one who terminated the playback. "An… interesting speech, Your Highness, don't you think?"

A smirk curled her lips. "I was informed by our analysts, and my cousin, that he was an intelligent man, but the new High King sounds disappointing. Those were not the words of intellect, they were the impassioned bleatings of a flighty mystic." The smirk turned to a frown. "And thanks to his whims of 'moral war', a prime opportunity to crush our common foe slips away."

"If Claudius' reports are anything to go by, he was never going to approve EAGLE CRY," Sanjeet said. "If we curse anything it should be that High Queen Jacqueline failed to take care of herself."

"She was a foolish woman in her own way, but one we could use," Julia said. "Her hatred of the Empire, in particular. With it clear the Arcadians are going to waste the next two years, or more, on this vainglorious 'crusade' of Nathaniel's, we can no longer count on their participation against the Empire. What, then, shall we do?"

"We needed their war fleet in conjunction with ours to make the pre-emptive strikes feasible," Zielinski noted. "Perhaps Lord Arnold will find a way to see it through, but I would not be certain if Nathaniel's loyalists maintain a grip on government power."

"So it would seem our alternative is to build further. The Senate will have to be pressed."

"We could expand our constructive capacity at Tematagi and Karachi." Sanjit took a moment to take a sip of wine. "Promote it as an economic investment measure, to restore the old Rim Commonality's industries to full."

"Your collective committees may not concur with establishing greater internal competition, Sanjit." Julia considered the matter. "Still, it will help, though we are surrendering the initiative to the Empire. Nor do I like the recent reports among the legions along the borders. The old fires that claimed my grandfather and enabled Scipio are igniting once more."

Zielinski knew immediately whom she meant. "The King of Pilpala can be dealt with by the Vigilus."

"And turn the other auxiliaries against me? No. The 'King' may not be respected, but his position is too similar to their own." Julia shook her head. "Perhaps I should let my displeasure towards the Arcadians be more obvious. Let him make a descent or two on the Bolanese… no, you needn't frown, Sanjit, I am merely voicing frustration. Scipio's folly destroyed decades of careful work turning those moralizing busybodies into our allies, and we are decades still from undoing that stroke of ambitious stupidity."

"Perhaps the legions may be appeased with the Empire as a target?" Zielinski suggested. "Nothing direct, of course, but some out of control forces making things hard for the Dowager and letting the hotheads vent. We needn't turn our border into another Kilbourne-Combine zone, of course. And who knows, perhaps they will start focusing towards the Davions."

"That would be too beneficial, I dare not assume it would be." Julia set the wineglass down. "For the time being, we watch, and we keep our legions prepared. And maybe, if we are fortunate, the boy king gets himself killed and High Queen Melissa commits to a timetable."

"If we are fortunate," Zielinski murmured.

Davion Palace
Avalon City, New Avalon
Crucis March
Federated Suns (Farside)
14 February 3143

For most people of Avalon City, Valentine's Day was a time for romance and the commemoration of love. The homily of the Saint Valentine Mass given by Pope Gallant IX of the New Avalon Catholic Church still hung in First Prince Grace's mind as she began business in the State Chambers.

One of a number of rebuilt rooms in the Palace after the damages suffered in 3050 and 3071-72 against invaders, the State Room was dominated by the great jeweled mosaic on the inner wall, opposite the large windows looking out at Avalon City. The mosaic represented the original Federated Suns as it had been when the Star League fell apart following the defeat of Amaris and Kerensky's death, with glittering gems for all three hundred plus stars that once made up House Davion's Federation, New Avalon a glittering large fire diamond of the richest red.

Her realm today had a rather different shape. Robinson, represented as one of the historic March Capitals with a fine sun ruby from the gem mines of Markesan, was still in Concord hands, as was most of the former Draconis March and parts of the old Outer March. Yet her Federated Suns was of even greater economic and territorial scope, as it included the entirety of the old Taurian Concordat and parts of what were once worlds of the Capellan Confederation, including the old Star League factory world of Victoria and the founding Capellan world St. Ives, where her distant relatives from House Silver still governed over a population still heavily East Asian in culture.

Grace's table had the usual retinue. Her husband Eric Sandoval, the exiled ruler of Robinson and House Sandoval; her nephew Colonel Victor Silver-Davion, Prince's Champion and youngest child of her middle brother Jonathan; First Minister Bao Chen Luo, the head of the House Council and responsible to the Assembly of Worlds; the heads of the AFFS, Marshal of the Armies Fernando Gutierrez and Fleet Admiral Gloria Morgan; finally, Lord Alastair Danton, the Minister of Information, Intelligence, and Operations. All watched quietly while Lord Cunningham's transmitted report, or rather the coronation speech attached to said report, played on the holovid built into the State Room's table.

"Well, he's full of fire," Victor said, grinning thinly. He was a tall man with a head of fiery red hair cut to military perfection, much like his father's, given both the Silvers and Davions had a genetic tendency towards red hair. Also like his father, he was one of the best MechWarriors the family had ever produced, an officer of the First Davion Guards from his early commissioning at the very end of the Fourth Succession War. "So much for that talk about him being a coward afraid of war."

"I never imagined he was a coward, simply not interested in more war," Grace said. "But given those images that came through the Glass, I'm not surprised that it'd put fire into any belly."

"There is the matter of what this means for the balance of power." Bao spoke with a quiet, firm tone, as was his wont. "The Lyrans and COMINTERSTEL working together means both may be reduced in their capability to confront the Dracs. The Dragon may decide to strike them, or alternatively, that it can widen its unofficial war with the Concord beyond the Outworlds region. That may have ramifications of its own."

""And there's no telling what the damn Liaos are plotting," Admiral Morgan added. "They've got breathing room now to finish that fleet expansion."

"Going by his rhetoric Nathaniel wouldn't have stopped them," Grace said. "So I see little having changed there." She turned her head toward Bao. "Unless matters have changed in the Assembly?"

"No, all of the major parties and blocs concur on the need to expand the Navy, Your Highness," Bao said. "We're set to continue our own building as scheduled."

"The Concord and Combine will as well, of course," Victor opined. "And we continue on our merry way towards a naval arms race."

"Better than the alternatives," Grace said. "Anything from Doctor Sato and that team from the Sakharov Institute?"

Gutierrez was the one to reply. "According to the last report from NAIS, they're ready to begin proper testing. The number of JumpShips and WarShips they're asking for is going to be noticable, though."

"See what you can do about it, Lord Alastair," Grace said to Danton, who nodded quietly. It irritated her that Danton seemed devoted to playing the quiet spymaster stereotype to the hilt. "And I suppose that brings us on to other business…"

Unity Palace
Imperial City
Luthien, Pesht Military District
Draconis Combine (Farside)
15 February 3143

After dismissing his wife from one of their rare visits — House Kurita needed more heirs after all — Coordinator Yorinaga Kurita eased himself onto one of the sitting mats in his receiving room, wearing the kimono of black and red for his private suites. Outside the Order of the Black Dragon's bodyguards stood ready to challenge any who approached his chambers; inside, their leader, Grand Master Ichiro Tetsuhara, sat likewise in a casual kimono of alternating red and black colors, the twin black dragons of his order's current seal visible on the chest.

The news from Arcadia was a week old, but Yorinaga had only just returned from a trip to Pesht to consult on matters with his uncle Tai-shu Hadeo. Now that he was home and had seen to the urgent business of his return, Master Tetsuhara was free to bring his attention to the recordings and full report he'd only heard of in passing.

He listened to the new ruler of Arcadia with quiet contemplation. The usual wheedling about 'liberty' or 'freedom' or whatever other lies the gaijin tell themselves to justify defying the Dragon's might. At least with Emperor Robert I only need deal with practical matters, not such tripe. "Well. I see patience continues to bring benefit," he murmured. "This will certainly prevent any foolish repeat of Vega or New Wessex."

"There is the matter of Tai-shu Rhee's proposal, noble Dragon," Tetsuharu remarked. "If we gave him command of the Otomo and the available Swords of Light, and some reinforcement from Pesht, Arcturus might very well be gained for the Dragon's glory, or the systems that border Vega at the very least. And we would sow terror and discord in the Royal Federation."

"We would harden their resolve too," Yorinaga noted.

"The Order and the ISF know how to deal with such 'resolve', great Dragon," Tetsuhara assured him. "Tai-sho Ballymont would likewise be greatly indebted for a chance to atone for his failure on Vega."

"I'm sure he would. And perhaps, in time, he will get that chance. Has the ISF found my traitorous cousin yet?"

Tetsuhara shook his head. "No. Contact was lost last year and he has not been found at the usual locations. A few analysts have proposed the Arcadians may have quietly disposed of him for pushing matters against us while they eye the Capellans' naval buildup."

"No. They would not gift us such," Yorinaga said dismissively.

"Indeed, and I have had ISF flag those analysts for observation, in the event they are loyal to the would-be usurper. Meanwhile we do have DEST teams in deep cover in the Arcadians' Arcturus Theater, ready to move should Musashi be located."

"Very well. I require no further information until the deed is done." Yorinaga turned his attention back to the frozen holoimage of his new enemy, sword raised and rallying his people to war. "Perhaps fortune will be with the Dragon in another way. Nathaniel has the potential to become one of our most intractable foes. Should these 'Clans' cut him down, the Dragon will benefit."

"I concur, great Dragon." Tetsuhara smiled. "If it is your wish, the ISF can ensure he does not return."

"Ha! Hahaha!" Yorinaga's laugh startled his loyal retainer. "They might try, but I would have such devoted servants of the Dragon spend their lives on more fruitful plots. Nathaniel is making enemies even among his own people, and they may very well settle the matter for us."

"The Dragon's wisdom again shines through my foolishness."

Yorinaga waved dismissively. "This is not court, Master Tetsuhara, I need no flattery. It was a worthy suggestion, and perhaps one day may be necessary, but for now, we will wait patiently. Our scientists continue to investigate how this Glass was formed, so that we might create our own or destroy the existing one as we require. Our enemies continue to be blind to the Dragon's true strength. We gain everything through patience. We will see how events play out, and when the time comes, the Dragon will claim its due."
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: "Emergence" - BattleTech Dark Ages/BattleTech AU Crossover

Post by LadyTevar »

And the stages are set, and all seem content to watch and wait for the next mistake.

So, will it be Arnold's faction, or this Musashi that moves first?
Nitram, slightly high on cough syrup: Do you know you're beautiful?
Me: Nope, that's why I have you around to tell me.
Nitram: You -are- beautiful. Anyone tries to tell you otherwise kill them.

"A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP" -- Leonard Nimoy, last Tweet
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Re: "Emergence" - BattleTech Dark Ages/BattleTech AU Crossover

Post by Steve »

We'll see... ha ha ha ha
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: "Emergence" - BattleTech Dark Ages/BattleTech AU Crossover

Post by Steve »

43 - Fury in the Storm

Wolf Empire Staging Ground Epsilon
Gallery, Donegal Province
Lyran Commonwealth (Disputed)
15 February 3143

The Wolf veteran commanding SG Epsilon’s defences did their best. Outnumbered and outgunned, they were clearly determined to do as much damage as possible before going down.

Jasek Kelswa-Steiner swore, ducking his Templar under a stream of light-calibre autocannon shells. Snarling more oaths that would have horrified his long-ago etiquette tutors — and ignoring obscene commentary from Sergeant Dunleavy as the sudden motion knocked her squad of Gnome troopers loose — he sent twin particle bolts and a volley of SRMs lashing down the alley; blasting the auto-turret into a burnt out shell. Ammunition began to cook off in a series of sharp cracks.

“Storm Six to Ranger Six,” Jasek ground out, forcing calm into his voice as he resumed the advance, his guard lance close behind. “Petrucci, I thought your people had swept CR Twelve-Twenty-four.”

We did,” Antonio Petrucci’s voice came back, underlined by the hammering roar of his Schmitt’s autocannon at maximum rate. A glance at the tactical feed showed he was blasting the Clanners out of their fortified barracks blocks. “But the Wolves randomised the activation timers for those damn auto-turrets, and they’re battery-powered. Until their targeting systems go live, there’s no way short of walking every alley to know if we’ve gotten them all; and we don't have the time, General.

“Understood,” Jasek acknowledged, before cutting the link. Saying anything more would have just left him swearing at Petrucci, and that wouldn’t be fair to the Colonel or his troops. The Lyran Rangers had done everything they'd been ordered to and done it well, but right now the Stormhammers were supposed to be looting SG Epsilon of everything the support units could carry, not still trying to clear the Wolves out. And it felt like every second of time the dangerously close pirate point emergence had bought them was slipping away, faster and faster.

If he found them, if they survived, he was either going to strangle the solahma officer leading this dance, or shake their hand and offer them a job. They’d mauled the leading companies of the Lyran Rangers badly, then — rather than stand and die as the rest of the Stormhammers came up — scattered their Trinary, and those damn turrets, through the staging ground, fighting a running battle Jasek wouldn’t risk sending his support teams into. If more Lyran officers had that kind of guts — especially the sort needed for a Clanner to play for time, rather than a heroic death — and skill, they might not have lost Gallery in the first place.

Still, we're winning. They'd sectioned the camp, accounted for most of the Supernova Trinary stationed here, and —

"Contact left," Leutnant Shawcross called out. Her Battlemaster’s particle batteries lit off in the same moment, banishing Gallery’s twilight for an instant in blue-white strobes. The flat thunderclap of a Gauss shot riposted, shattering away armour low on the assault ‘Mech’s torso.

- and I figured hanging myself out as bait was going to get results, Jasek noted, swinging his Templar around. Four BattleMechs, a squad of battle armour; and led by a Clan-mod Victor. Everything the Wolves here had left, and aiming for the throat as their last throw of the dice. Just as planned.

“Blue Company, White Company, close the box,” Jasek ordered, smashing a Wraith suit out of the air with a particle bolt. Icons moved on his tactical display, collapsing inward around the Wolves, while Dunleavy and her squad traded laser beams and SRMs with the remaining Wraiths’ machine-gun fire.

"Keep your IFF transponders live, and watch your fire," he added, targeting computer painting potential weaknesses up and down the Victor. The last thing they needed right now was friendly fire, and that was all too possible in this kind of close-quarters brawl. “Shawcross, step out left!”

Beamfire and projectiles interlaced, tearing back and forth through tents, repair silos and buildings. A close range slugging match; the Clan machines had heavy firepower, but aside from the Victor, none of them were heavier than an old-style Black Hawk, and all visibly damaged already. His guard lance's lightest machine was an Eight-Delta Rifleman, fifteen tons heavier, and they were all but untouched.

Shawcross’ Battlemaster stepped aside, rounding on the Black Hawk, and for a moment Templar and Victor stood facing one another, an island of calm in the storm.

“I offer you hegira, Star Captain in recognition of an honourable foe,” Jasek sent over general address, keeping his machine loose and ready to move. It was worth a shot, even if he didn’t expect it to work; and the formalities had to be observed.

"I am Eltar, of the Vickers Bloodheritage," the Victor executed a neat, almost courtly bow; fitting to the quiet dignity of the Wolf warrior's voice. "And I regret I cannot accept your honourable offer, General Jasek. But, my duty compels me to fight to the finish."

“Understood,” Jasek replied, thumbing his targeting system to full-active, and drawing the aim-point to the Wolf machine’s hip. Disable if I can - a warrior this good deserved better than to be wasted for Alaric’s pride. “Battle it is, then.” With that, he fired.

Eltar was already moving, jumpjets flaring as they shoved the Victor sideways, fast enough that even the targeting computer couldn’t compensate fully. One of Jasek’s particle beams went wide, the lightning bolt grounding itself in a prefab hut; the other flaying away thigh armour in semi-molten composite.

The Victor staggered for a moment; nearly fell. Then it set itself, and returned fire.

Twin laser beams cut gem-bright lines across his Templar’s broad shoulders, one close enough to the low-slung cockpit to leave a black burn scar along the ferroglass panels. Streak-guided warheads burst up and down one leg, knee actuator flashing yellow and forcing Jasek to compensate for the sudden loss of stability; and the blur of a Gauss rifle slug snapped away the left arm medium laser like a twig in an Elemental’s battleclaw.

Taking a step back, Jasek locked everything that could range into his primary trigger, sliding the crosshairs over the Victor’s left hip. A wave of heat accompanied collimated lances of azure fire and a stabbing pale blue laser beam savaging the already-wounded armour there, punching deep wounds in the titanium bones beneath. Twin short-range missiles struck high on the torso, splintering armour just below the Victor’s missile launcher; a third went wide.

And the fourth hit home, shattering the hip joint. The Victor’s own weight finished the job, metal shearing, the unholy shriek lost in the deep thud of the ‘Mech’s collapse onto its back.

“Star Captain Eltar,” Jasek limped his Templar over to the downed Victor. The rest of the Wolves were down; the Black Hawk falling under a combined barrage of particle bolts and autocannon shells even as he watched. “I hereby claim you as my bondsman, and this staging ground as my isorla. Yield.” Don’t make me kill you, old man.

I yield,” the Star Captain responded, voice slurred by pain. “I am transmitting the stand-down code for the turret defences now.”

“Thank you,” Jasek said the words with feeling as he summoned a casevac team; under strict terms, Eltar hadn’t had to do that, but it certainly made things a lot easier. “Dunleavy, keep an eye on the Star Captain until the medics get here. And don’t hurt him,” he added; Dunleavy was a good soldier, but the campaigns against the Jade Falcons had etched hate for the Clans deep in her, “he’s a Stormhammer now.”

Acknowledgement came back, and Jasek put it from his mind as he studied the tactical feeds. It didn’t seem like there was anything wrong, on the surface, but the lack of any Wolf regulars had him worried. They’d definitely been here, recently, and Alaric didn’t think in straight lines. He thought in curves; Jasek had found himself on the receiving end of that on Uhuru.

“Shield Six, this is Storm Six,” he brought up the link to Joss Vandel’s mobile HQ. “Start moving the support teams in now. Cautious - some of the auto-turrets might not’ve gotten the shutdown signal - but fast as you can. I want recon elements out at least two klicks, and everyone not loading in defensive posture. Something feels wrong here, Joss, and I’m not getting caught with my shorts down again.”

I’ll move the DropShips in too; give us a base of fire to work with, and cut down time for loading whatever we steal,” Vandel responded. “Recon screen’s going out now, but we need to keep our air assets close to landing sites; Met Section has what looks like another storm system building up fast, moving in from the south.

“Send me the data.” Jasek brought up the maps on one of his secondary screens; south meant the storm would hit SG Beta - which the Wolf Hunters were in the middle of looting - first. And - damn, it really was a true Gallerian storm, enough to force VTOLs and lighter aerospace fighters to ground, and broad enough to cover the advance of half the Royal Guards -

He stopped, feeling a sudden chill. Yes, the storm front would hide a major force, and something like that was exactly how Alaric liked to play things.

“Joss, get me a link to Alpha Kerensky, now,” Jasek ordered. If I’m wrong, she’ll never let me hear the end of it. But he could live with mockery, given the alternative.

“You sure about this, Kelswa?” Anastasia asked, running through the power-up sequence for her Savage Wolf’s combat systems at speed.

Sure, no,” Jasek replied. The Steiner officer’s frown deepened. “But we haven’t run into any Wolf regulars, I’m assuming you haven’t either -”

“We haven’t,” Anastasia agreed, inwardly cursing and kicking herself for not seeing that sooner.

And this is exactly the kind of thing Alaric would use,” Jasek finished. “Maybe he’s just not going to fight it out, but I’m done underestimating him.

Anastasia nodded at that, studying topographical maps and her own memories. She’d paid close attention to Jasek’s work at SG Epsilon; pretty standard Lyran tactics, but competently executed for all that they weren’t subtle. That might lead Alaric to underestimate him - too much in love with his own cleverness, that one; even after she’d humbled him - the fact that Jasek was freeborn was certainly going to lower the Stormhammers in Alaric’s priorities. Which meant her Wolf Hunters were going to be hit first, and hit hardest.

Oh well. That was what they were paid for.

“Listen up, Hunters,” she called over general address. “It looks like Alaric Wolf’s coming out to spar with us - after we’ve made free with his stores.” She waited four long heartbeats. “Just like a Crusader to do everything backwards.” There were chuckles at that. “He’ll be swinging a mighty big hammer our way, and we’re not going to be there when it lands. Support teams and battlesuit squads, back on the DropShips and get ready to lift. Artillery, and -” she designated three of her Hunters; all piloting slower assault machines, a Warhammer IIc, Mangonel and Stalker, “hold position here. Everyone else, form lances, and we hunt.”

Swinging her Savage Wolf south, a Destroyer, Ocelot and Bellona forming with her, Anastasia found herself smiling. Win, lose or draw, this was going to be interesting. And, speaking of that …

“Hunter Alpha to Skyfire Central, requesting designation for fire mission." Always best to plan for if things went wrong.

"Skyfire Central receiving you, Hunter Alpha," the Stormhammer FDC replied. "My board is clear; call the ball."

“Prep for fire on these coordinates,” Anastasia rattled off four map references, barely glancing at her map screen; these references she’d made sure to memorise. The locations of the four largest munitions and spare parts stockpiles her people hadn’t had the time to strip. “Cruise missiles if you have them; if not, then Long Toms - high-ex, cluster and incendiary, in that order. Firing command is misericorde.” Not a word likely to be used in casual comms chatter, and so perfect for what she had in mind.

Fire mission locked and registered. Ready to go at your command, Alpha.

“Thank you much, Skyfire,” Anastasia replied, as lightning crackled under the clouds to the south, followed a few moments later by the hollow boom of thunder. She laughed briefly; dramatic lighting, on top of everything else. It seemed the universe had a sense of humour after all.

Gallery was, Alaric Wolf had concluded after spending some time there, a world genuinely resentful of human occupation. And it baffled him as to why the Steiners maintained estates here. Unless it is out of stubbornness.

Though, he had to admit that there was a certain primal beauty to the storm-wracked perpetual twilight. From his Savage Wolf, now paused on a low rise, he could see clearly the flash of lightning casting blue-white shadows across the black underbelly of the clouds; rain, sleeting in at what seemed almost horizontal angles, glinted in the beams of vehicle headlights and ‘Mech searchlights. Thousands of tons of armoured fighting machines - tanks, hovercraft, and BattleMechs, the last with battlesuited infantry clinging to them like infant simians - grinding across ground rapidly transitioning to mud. At the edge of the forests, a Gallerian night boar - a huge, shaggy male, with tusks that looked like they could carve through Elemental armour - bellowed a challenge, but displayed enough association with good sense not to try charging the Mars assault tank rumbling past it.

Alaric smiled. He liked the beast's spirit, and while he hadn't found the time yet, it would be interesting to hunt one in the traditional manner; on foot, with spears. Dangerous, to be sure, but the danger was the point. Victory without some measure of personal risk to achieve it was hollow; that was why he'd used himself as bait for the trap that slew Thaddeus Marik.

His mother wouldn't approve, of course, but that just meant not telling her what he planned. The thought of Katherine Steiner-Davion soured Alaric’s good mood; it was past time for a reckoning between them, a reminder that he was not her pawn to be shoved around a board as she wished. And that his patience with her attempts to rule his life was rapidly coming to an end. That, above all else.

A tan-painted Jupiter with Zeta Galaxy markings joined him on the rise, the soft glow of a laser-link request at the centre of Alaric’s comms board.

Thinking deep thoughts, or just admiring the view?” Verena Wolf’s sharp-edged Arc-Royal accent didn’t hide the amusement in her voice, and it lifted some of the bleakness from Alaric’s thoughts.

“Something of both, actually,” Alaric replied, feeling a wistful cast to his emotions. He’d missed Verena; missed her far more than he’d realised. Having her around - for the first time in a long time, and he could see his mother’s hand in the series of orders that had kept Verena far from Gallery - made Alaric feel … not complete, not precisely, but as though he’d been without something so fundamental he’d only realised it was missing when it was restored. “I was thinking on the settling of accounts.”

A fine thing, before battle,” Verena smiled, gesturing with one of the Jupiter’s fists. “But perhaps it is time to think less on it, and settle some of those accounts directly, quiaff?”

"Aff, that is so," Alaric agreed, instinctively falling into step with Verena's machine as,they rejoined the column. Just one of five such columns advancing under the storm’s cover; all of Beta Galaxy, and the half of Zeta that had landed less than a week ago. And neither Anastasia Kerensky or the Lyrans knew they were there. They might suspect - Kerensky was nobody’s fool; and for all his bullheadedness, Kelswa-Steiner could learn - but they didn’t know, and their need for haste was their enemy in finding out.

Falling into the familiar rhythm of marching gave Alaric more space to think, which wasn’t altogether a good thing. There were so many questions he’d found himself with of late; ones that he couldn’t answer, and Alaric was starting to understand some of the odder philosophical texts he’d heard of speaking about how being alone with yourself was a punishment. His feelings for Verena, for a start; “love” wasn’t something he truly understood, but the definitions he’d found from Spheroids - other than his mother, whose definition was far more self-serving - seemed to fit, and that unsettled him. Everything he’d been taught was that a trueborn Clan warrior wasn’t supposed to feel that kind of intense, personal closeness, and that left him with no-one to talk about it with; no-one who’d understand, at least.

Then there was his father. Not for the first time, Alaric regretted that he’d never been able to meet Victor Davion, that all he knew of him was from the writings and recollections of others. Some, he could put aside as mere hagiography; others, as character assassination by jealous, lesser souls - the Capellan histories had been particularly amusing there. His mother’s venomous remarks were rather less so; and the more Alaric learned about Victor, it seemed the less he understood him. How could a warrior who had commanded such power as Victor had, who could have ruled much of the Inner Sphere if he’d ever just reached out and taken it, be content - even happy - with a life little different from that of a mid-ranked labourer, as Victor apparently had been for the final decade of his life?

Alaric sighed, putting those thoughts to one side as he began sliding units into place. Maybe the purity of combat would help dispel some of his doubts.

Artillery fire screamed out of the sky, walking pillars of flame and earth and shattered trees across the leading edge of the Stormhammers’ advance. Submunitions lacerated armour plating; one - a freak hit on the ammo bays - disintegrated a Shandra in an orange-white globe of flame.

“Storm Six to all Stormhammer elements, push forward, now,” Jasek called, shoving his Templar’s throttle to full; shouldering aside a tree, sensors already painting hostile contacts. “Get in under the guns before they can retask. Sierra Lance, make for the ridgeline and take out their spotters,” he added, slamming twinned particle bolts into the chest of a Griffin IIc clearing the treeline ahead.

Stormhammer tanks and BattleMechs pounded forward, hammering into Wolf machines with beam fire, projectiles and missiles at close range. This was warfare at its most direct, two roughly even forces battering at each other with few or no options for manoeuvre - exactly the kind of battle that his instructors at the War College of Mars and the Nagelring had always taught Jasek to avoid, but sometimes you just didn't have a choice.

Hauptman Klein’s Barghest raced up the slope, mud splattering away from its steel paws as Klein strafed light-calibre particle bolts and laser pulses across the Clan spotters’ positions. Bounding forward on bursts of ion flame, the remainder of Sierra Lance - a Griffin and Rawhide - scattered inferno warheads from their multi-launchers along the ridgeline, burning cover away from the Wolf positions. Like demons rising from Hell, the angular forms of Black Wolf battlesuits swarmed up out of their positions and returned fire; one vanished in a snapping chain-detonation as a full-on PPC hit ignited their suit's reactive armour. The rest scattered, laserfire flashing out at the ‘Mechs.

The Clan Griffin's tactical missiles struck at Jasek’s Templar, fracturing armour layers across its chest, but the assault ‘Mech had been built to take that kind of punishment. He laid down another full salvo, particle cannon and lasers, and Michaela Freeman’s Atlas muscled in by his side. Lasers and autocannon shells joined the lightning bolts, stripping the last of the Griffin’s torso protection; heat sinks burst in gushes of coolant, ammunition and the heavy laser in the shoulder mount blew apart, and white flared on thermals as fractures shredded the engine shielding. Explosive bolts triggered, blowing the cockpit shield free ahead of the ejection seat climbing on thruster flare; the Clanner pilot evidently willing to chance the storm on their parafoil rather than stick it out.

“Keep moving,” Jasek suited actions to words, shouldering more trees aside. This was reckless, and he knew the Stormhammers were getting more and more strung out, and harder to command - especially with the jamming the Wolves were throwing out playing hell with long-range comms however many emitters his people found and destroyed - but there just wasn’t time to play things carefully. “Kerensky, situation report.”

Static filled the channel for a moment, before Anastasia’s response came back.

Getting pretty sporty here, Steiner,” she replied, the scream of particle cannon underlying her words. "My people’s ships are getting ready to lift, then the rest of the Hunters’ll break out your way. I’ve got something personal to handle.

"Acknowledged. My people are at CR -" Jasek paused to check, “Thirteen-Twenty. We’ll link up with your people soon as, and then-”

He didn't get a chance to finish before, bounding up again, Sierra Lance’s Griffin seemed to trip in midair. As it folded backwards, crashing to the ground - the shattered cockpit module telling of a lethal Gauss hit - contact reports exploded across the short-range net.

- Juliets Five and Nine are down, me and Seven are damaged! Where the hell did they -

Carstens, van Dijk, lay down fire left. We got two more incoming, out of the tunnels; they’re dropping Toads -

Hell and damnation. How many troops does he bloody have? "Cancel that, Kerensky. We’ve got our own problems. Be back in touch as and when."

"Don't take too long if you want a shot at Alaric, Steiner."

Confident as always. Wish I could say the same. His Templar took the slope ahead at full speed, stepping into line with Klein’s Barghest, and giving Jasek a painfully clear view of just how bad the situation was.

And it was very bad indeed. Hidden by the storm and the jamming, what looked like the better part of two Clusters were pounding into his Stormhammers’ flanks, preceded by a rain of artillery missiles - launch flashes of more, almost certainly from Huitzilopotchis, visible under the clouds - as dozens of BattleMechs and tanks drove forward. The variety was almost as shocking as the numbers, the very presence of them - Jasek’s warbook flagged up modern and ancient Marik designs, the latest productions of the Wolves’ own armouries and machines that hadn’t been seen since the original Clan invasion - and they didn’t show any sign of hesitation. Alaric must’ve cleared out their caches and stuffed everyone with both eyes who can fog a mirror into a cockpit, ran through Jasek’s mind as he levelled particle beams at a Warwolf Charlie wearing Star Captain’s insignia.

The Warwolf and its Starmates were game for a fight, it seemed, arrowing in for his command lance. Tactical missiles ripple-fired from its shoulder mounts, light range-enhanced warheads splintering armour all across the Templar while the heavy pulse laser clawed molten wounds low across its chest. He rode the loss of armour with practised skill, concentrating particle bolts on its already weakened torso.

Fast-cycling his particle cannon, Jasek found his breathing strained by the sudden wave of heat as more protection melted away over the Warwolf’s heart. Just a few more shots, he thought, willing the straining fusion core to build power faster.

Return fire tore deeper into his ‘Mech, high-yield warheads cracking open the armoured shell over his targeting computer and reducing the sophisticated machinery to a burnt-out wreck. Antoher burst within the Templar’s chest cavity, shrapnel clawing at the gyro housing; Jasek stumbled for a moment, struggling to regain balance as the stabilisers went out of synch.

Heat-induced sluggishness and the loss of the t-comp’s support made aiming a struggle, but Jasek forced the crosshairs into line, tying everything into his primary triggers. Laser beams, particle bolts and short-range missiles lashed out; missiles crumpling one of the Warwolf’s shoulder-launchers, one lightning bolt arcing low and chewing a bite out of the leg armour. The rest hit dead-on the centre-line, dumping enough energy into it to burn through what was left of the Wolf machine’s defences and turn the gyro to a river of semi-molten metal. The Clan machine took two steps before collapsing onto its front.

Slapping the emergency override button - cutting off the automatics’ attempts to shut the ‘Mech down - Jasek let the Templar cool. His lancemates were driving the lighter Clan machines back; a Mad Cat III crumpling under the autocannons of Leutnant Renfrew’s Rifleman while the rest fell back. That gave him time to read sight and tactical displays, and assess the situation facing the Stormhammers.

That was better than he'd feared, but not by much. The Wolves had pushed deep into the Stormhammers’ lines, and might be able to cut off and destroy the Archon’s Shield if they didn’t fall back and consolidate. Which in turn cut off any ability to get to the Wolf Hunters in time to do any damn good. We're going to lose too many people, even if we get away. Alaric has the devil's own damn luck! I

Crackling static broke over his comms. "New contacts, repeat, new contacts bearing from southeast, through the storm! ‘Mechs and fast armour; looks like at least another Cluster"

The course would put them on the flank of the second Wolf force, which was not good news at all for the Stormhammers. Yet there was nothing Jasek could do but continue his fighting withdrawal and save what he might. Save my command. That's what this has come down too. Save my command and hope the weeks we've bought from what supplies we have torched is enough to save Tharkad. On his tactical display he watched the Wolves' reinforcements come up on their flanks…

…and tear right into them.

"Visual contact with new force! They're not Wolves!" another voice called out. "I can just make out the colors… Davion Guards! It's the First Davion Guards!"

They came through after all. "Alright Stormhammers, about face! The Davions are hitting them in the ribs, let's kick their jaws in!" With that order he set his troops back into the fight, taking pressure of his endangered battalion and the newly-arriving Davion 'Mechs and tanks.

The storm's fury seemed determined to match that shown by Alaric's warriors and their foes, filling a sky choked by gray and black clouds with crackling lightning bolts every bit as luminescent as those generated by the PPCs employed on both sides. He left his warriors to their battles; he had one foe in mind, one enemy whom he was ready, finally, to face, and to defeat.

He found Anastasia Kerensky in a distorted mirror of his own Savage Wolf, armed with the typical configuration of Clan PPCs on the arms and SRM launchers with Streak capability in the pods above the shoulders, in contrast to his lasers and ATM launchers, and without his small pulse lasers for close-range bite. "Alaric Wolf." Her voice crackled over his comm speaker. "You went to a lot of trouble bringing me to this storm-covered rock. That eager for another lesson in defeat?"

"We have accounts to settle between us, you and I," he answered. "And,” he added harshly, “levity in matters of honour is unseemly for a warrior."

"Not a one for humour in combat, then?" Anastasia replied, tone infuriatingly light. “That’s the difference between us, Wolf; when I make my kills, I’m always laughing. Still, bargained well and done. Let’s see what you’ve got.” The Savage Wolf seemed almost to strut forward, arrogance in every motion.

"Dezgra bitch," Verena hissed. "She dishonors that name."

"See to the others. This one is mine." He said the words in full confidence she would accept, albeit grudgingly. He watched her machine step away and set his into motion towards Anastasia.

Just as she fired her main weapons, he shifted his gait to the left. One of the PPC bolts crashed against his upper arm, nearly destroying the armor protecting the limb in a bright flash of particles and light. The other missed. Judging the range, he opened up with his arm mounted lasers and missile pods, the latter loaded with salvos of the extended range ATMs. The lasers flashed sapphire light through the stormy air between them, punctuated by the lightning crossing the sky above. Her maneuvers threw off both of his shots, much to his frustration, causing only minor armor scorching on one foot in the brief moment of laser contact. The missiles streaked past and around her, half the salvo striking home to blast armor from her torso and left arm.

A second exchange quickly followed, then a third. Sweat beaded on Alaric's forehead after a PPC bolt crashed against his armor, just a couple meters to the right of his cockpit. His systems warned his armor was becoming compromised on that side, but it was not yet showing failure. He could endure a few more strikes. He had to endure.

I will not let her beat me again! Despite the range not being quite optimal for them, Alaric keyed his missile launchers to draw upon the ton of HE warhead tactical missiles his 'Mech carried. Sacrificing range for a greater payload that hit harder than a standard SRM, they would be quite effective assuming he could land enough on Anastasia's 'Mech.

It was quite the assumption to make given her skill, with the first missile volley flying wide of her Savage Wolf after a last moment maneuver and turn threw off the missiles' targeting lock. Growling, Alaric triggered his lasers yet again, ignoring the growing heat buildup of his machine for the satisfaction of finally landing a solid blow, both lasers cutting through the upper right arm of Anastasia's machine until the limb, and its weapon, dangled uselessly at her side.

She twisted her machine and raised the other arm. The PPC blast lit up his cockpit and, for the barest moment, he thought she might just have killed him. His machine rocked from the impact of the bolt and a warning light showed a partial armor breach over the fusion engine. Her shot had come low.

He knew he would never get another. He set his crosshairs on her machine and squeezed a trigger. A sapphire beam lanced through the air and hit nothing, the other machine twisting and ducking to avoid him.

Just as I wanted! He re-aligned the crosshairs and his fingers hit every other trigger at his disposal.

At this extreme range, the pulse lasers still hit well enough to bore away some of the armor, but it was the large laser that did the bulk of the work, shearing off the remaining armor on the 'Mech's left leg. Twelve powerful tactical missiles billowed from his missile pods, their rockets driving them through the pounding rain and the lighting above towards their appointed target, on-board avionics controls responding to the targeting system and adjusting their course mid-flight. Two of them yet flew wide, hitting the ground beyond, but ten struck Anastasia's machine straight on, blasting away chunks of armor across her body.

Save the three missiles that hit the Savage Wolf's damaged leg. The armor there was too thin to resist them. Explosions sent burning myomer and electronic cabling into the air instead. The leg crumpled, and down the 'Mech went.

Alaric struck quickly, closing and firing his lasers into her remaining arm as Anastasia struggled to right her 'Mech. Sapphire scalpels sliced away armor and myomer and the steel bones beneath, at which point the limb snapped just above the elbow. The mangled Savage Wolf collapsed, and could provide no resistance as Alaric finished disarming the machine. He stomped up in his 'Mech and leveled his arms on the cockpit. "You are beaten, Anastasia Kerensky. Now yield."

Within her toppled, helpless machine, Anastasia frowned at herself. So here I am. He's gotten better than I expected. Well, better see to it. "Skyfire Central, misericorde. I repeat, misericorde. Fire and get the hell out of here."

"Confirmed, Hunter Alpha."

She switched to the general address frequency. As her finger wrapped on the switch she considered refusing. After all she'd done to Alaric before, when he was under her power, she could expect no better. Perhaps even worse.

But so long as I am alive, I may have a chance to fight again. He'll have need of strong warriors.

She triggered the switch. "I yield, Alaric Wolf." She triggered her machine's shutdown sequence, watching through the rain-spattered canopy of her cockpit at the looming shape of Alaric's Savage Wolf. "The tables have truly turned. You have come far."

Alaric slipped his fingers away from the firing triggers on his control joysticks. She will seek to be one of my warriors, and she may even attain that soon enough. We have need of them. "I have farther still to go."

"Galaxy Commander, Staging Grounds Delta, Zeta, Eta, and Theta have all been hit by heavy artillery fire. I am afraid we've lost over ninety percent of the supplies in each."

Alaric smiled grimly at the news. "See to whatever wounded are on site, and recover what you can. All forces, continue engagement, drive the enemy before you." He swapped back to the general channel. "Even in defeat, you seek to vex me. You had my remaining supply posts in this region under artillery targeting the entire time."

"I came to do a job, Alaric. And when I give my word, I see it through to the end. That is my honour. Will you accept it for what it is, or is yours cheap enough that you’re going to kill me after all?"

"I will gladly do the honors!" Verena offered hotly.

"No. You are my bondswoman, and you will not escape your service to the true Clan Wolf that easily, Anastasia Kerensky," Alaric answered. "You will be of use for the campaign to capture Tharkad."

"You figure you can afford the Foxes' rates? Or that they'll have a fire sale of sorts? You lost enough munitions to keep two Galaxies fighting for a month!"

"We may buy some replenishment from them, but we will not require much. By this summer, Tharkad will be the latest prize of the Wolf Clan. And you will be there to see it."

Jasek met Julian Davion in the twin shadows of Himmelstor and Markesan Pride. Eventually, he knew - assuming the Commonwealth survived - some jackass was going to paint this meeting, and they were inevitably going to pretty it up; putting him and Julian in full regimentals rather than the shared uniform of shorts and battledress jackets over cooling vests. Probably cleaning up the damage and battle scars on their twinned Templars - one in blue and silver, the other Davion’s personal crimson and gold - as well. Julian had the look of someone still adjusting to being under gravity again after a long voyage by JumpShip. Given he's come across half the Inner Sphere, I can't be surprised. "Well, Julian. It’s been a while, and I’m damn glad to see you. Gladder that you managed to get here in time."

"Eight years since Terra, and we’re neither of us who we were then." Julian nodded, his blond hair still matted down from the neurohelmet he'd just so recently removed. "Responsibility looks like it’s done you good, Jasek. As for getting here in time, well,” he offered a soft, self-deprecatory smile, “Admiral Moon has a very skilled staff engineer. And one day, if I’m lucky, she may be willing to speak to me again. Most of the Guards are still on their way to Tharkad, but I’ve got enough of our naval escorts here to keep the Wolves from getting any ideas."

"It's about time something broke our way," Jasek half-snarled. "We'd heard Zeta Galaxy was held up by sabotage to their JumpShips, but we've identified at least half of their clusters among Alaric's troops here. We already knew this whole damn thing was a trap, but even that caught us by surprise. And now…" He shook his head. "...now we've lost Anastasia Kerensky on top of everything else. She was the one thing keeping the Wolves on their toes. They've got nothing to worry about before hitting Tharkad."

"It's a loss, but it could have been worse - it could've been a lot worse, and we both know that,” Julian replied, in an unshakeably reasonable tone, “and we've bought some time with all the supplies we hit."

"Not anywhere near enough damage, going by our people we pulled out of the tunnels,” Jasek forced himself to stay calm, and not shout, however frustrating Davion’s calm facade was right now. “They've been watching the Wolves since we had to leave them behind, and going by their counts, we've only inconvenienced them. Maybe cost them a month or two at most. And we don't have time to go after Alaric's other caches, not if he's got Zeta Galaxy on hand too." Getting his frustrations out helped, but ultimately it left him facing them regardless. "Well, we do what we have to, and right now that's getting the hell out of here and back to Tharkad." Jasek extended a hand. "Thanks again for showing up. And, on behalf of the Lyran Commonwealth, welcome to our war, Marshal Davion."

Julian accepted the hand without hesitation. "Proud to be here."
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: "Emergence" - BattleTech Dark Ages/BattleTech AU Crossover

Post by Steve »

44 - Farewells

Royal Palace
Roslyn, Eastern Islay
Arcadia, Arcadia Royal March
Royal Federation
17 February 3143

The final preparations were over, and after nearly three months, Trillian Steiner-Davion was on her way home.

Her final day began with a normal morning routine of a particularly rich breakfast and an extra-long shower, given she would be going without either for months. Once she was dressed and ready she saw to a final check to ensure her personal belongings, as well as any remaining gifts, were accounted for and on their way to the Archon's Fist. The rest of her staff saw to the same process in their suites, though some of their belongings were not being sent to the cargo spaces on the DropShuttles from Archon's Fist, but rather to the moving trucks carrying them to the new Lyran Embassy, down near the Capital District.

After a habitual final check to make absolutely certain she forgot nothing, Trillian gave her suite a final look at the door. While she was long familiar with having temporary living spaces, this suite would stick in her memories for the rest of her life. I almost died here. And despite everything I don't think I've ever worked so hard and so persistently from a single set of rooms. I spent so many long nights here, dictating letters, going over treaty terms, checking finances, reading and compiling histories into the early morning hours, and all those days getting dressed up and readied for interviews and meetings… and now it's done. I succeeded and I can return to Tharkad, treaty in hand. I wonder if I will ever see these rooms again? With that in mind she closed the door a final time and handed her keycard over to a waiting palace staffer, who thanked her and disappeared down the corridor.

Before going to the lift she walked past the open door to Lord Marienberg's suite. He was overseeing the final stages of his move to the new embassy. "Lord Ambassador," she said to him, smiling as she did.

"Lady Emissary." The older man returned the gesture. "It has been an honor to work with you, and to have such trust placed in me."

"You more than earned it, my Lord," she replied. "You'll represent the Commonwealth proudly."

"So is my hope. Safe voyages to you, my Lady, and may you remain safe." He gave her a final gentlemanly bow, which she returned before stepping away.

The lift ride, she noted, was playing the same symphony she'd heard the day she arrived. Then again, they do loop the same pieces every day, so not much symbolism there. Along the way she noted a few signs of changes. More RSS personnel, fewer Lifeguards, and the occasional enlisted personnel moving batches of crates down the access halls on the way to the pad where her DropShuttle awaited.

For all this activity, there were no grand state occasions today, at least, and she could casually take her leave of Arcadia, as much as she might have enjoyed a chance to see more of the world without the pressures of her mission. Still so much work to do when I get back.

Despite expectations, she did have a small contingent waiting for her near the shuttle. Nathaniel, Sophia, and Peter stood together, wearing the flowing gowns of regular court dress. She bowed in respect to each of them, in turn. "Your Majesty, Highness, Ladyship."

"Lady Trillian. It was a pleasure, despite the difficulties, to work with you," Nathaniel said, giving his own slighter return bow of his head, the platinum hawk tiara settled on his brow as always.

"You have been a most gracious host, and it has been my own pleasure to deal with all of you," she replied. "I look forward to introducing you to my cousin and the others on Tharkad."

"I look forward to meeting them," he assured her. "And you'll have quite the head start on me." Nathaniel grinned at his grand-uncle. "Uncle Peter has seen to that."

"A command circuit has been prepared, you should be at the Atocongo side of the Glass in a few days." Peter gave Nathaniel a knowing look. "It should give you time to arrange your internal matters now that you have the treaty, and ensure the Commonwealth is ready to receive Nathaniel and the troops he'll be leading."

There was no mistaking the slight flash of uncertainty that came over Lady Sophia, but only Trillian caught it for how quickly it disappeared. Sophia hides her concern well. Trillian felt the familiar quiet come over her own expression. No use feeling guilty. It is what it is. Hopefully now the Commonwealth will survive and so will King Nathaniel. "We will be ready regardless of how long it may take you." Even if I have to instruct Roderick and Jasek to drag Vedet out of the Archon's office! "Not alone either, I imagine?"

"No, which is why I'm still days from my own departure. Unfortunately it takes time to get thousands of troops ready for such deployments. I will be coming along shortly enough, though, with my Lifeguards, the Second Proctor Guards, and the Arcadian Rangers in my company. The other units will follow from their own starting points and join as quickly as they can. I will likely have a short stopover at Timkovichi to give the JumpShips time to transit out to the jump points, but it will be straight to Tharkad from there."

"They will all be welcome." And necessary, if the Wolves keep advancing.

"A safe voyage to you, Lady Trillian," Sophia said. "Hopefully we will see you again, perhaps for the wedding?"

Trillian smiled at the invitation. "I would be honored to be there, just as I would enjoy seeing you hosted at the Royal Court on Tharkad should you come to visit afterward." That would be a sight, I suppose. An allied Marik queen being officially welcomed at the Court.

After a final exchange of pleasantries and farewells, Trillian embarked on the shuttle. She found her seat and waited the remaining few minutes as the takeoff clearances were given, flight paths confirmed, and their escorts lined up. The kick of the shuttle's main engines pressed her into her seat, signaling their liftoff, and she watched the Royal Palace recede from the viewing ports, then the skyline of Roslyn itself. Soon the atmosphere itself was fading away, the blue gradually replaced by empty black void.

It's done. Now to return to Tharkad, and see to Vedet.

Field Base Carroll
Near Cirenholm, Aurum Continent
Timkovichi, Coventry Province
Lyran Commonwealth
18 February 3143

The change was complete for Field Base Carroll. Mostly gone were the emblems of the cuirass-clad hawk that the Second Royal Cuirassiers and their support formations employed; many insignia now depicted a rearing horse under a pair of crossed lances, a death's head insignia between the lance handles and a crown above; the insignia of the First Royal Lancers, with their motto "Death or Glory" along the insignia's edge. The sunhawk of the Eighth Strikers and the hound's head of the Kell Hounds were fairly prominent as well, though most of those units were posted to other bases going up across the planet.

The distant roar of a DropShip fusion engine brought attention skyward, to the lifting off of what proved to be an Overlord II-class DropShip, one of the Second Royal Cuirassiers' 'Mech transports. Watching the launch from the door of the Field Base Carroll Headquarters, General Singh ruminated at how empty the bays were compared to their arrival. None of his battalions came below a thirty percent total loss rate, in machines and personnel. Second Battalion was down to just a company and a lance worth of effectives. The armor and infantry regiments suffered similarly, and Air Commodore Weiss had only forty percent of her aerospace fighters and a quarter of her hard-hit conventional wings left, including the loss of Group Colonel Sharpe.

He drew in a breath at the feeling of pain it brought him. So many good people, brave soldiers true to the Federation, and they were gone. Lost under his command.

"I guess this is goodbye, then." He turned at hearing the words, noting Colonel Kell, Lt. Colonel Allard, and General Bridger were coming out the door. Bridger's duffel bag matched Singh's own, the personal belongings from their offices. He saluted his superior even before Bridger noticed him, prompting Bridger to respond. Evan and Nadia joined him. "General Singh, makin' it out too?" Evan asked in his slight drawl.

"Yes. The Sir Johannes is waiting for me, with the last of my command staff and Brigadier Shawcross' command company aboard," he replied. "I make it a point to be the last man offworld. Just in case."

"Just in case." Bridger nodded in agreement. "They give you the final confirmation on where you're rebuilding?"

"I imagined Arc-Royal, but General von Luckner has recalled us to Fort Marsden," Singh replied.

"Donegal, then. Well, a good spot, especially to get graduates from the RSMA, and all those TharDef manufacturing lines. Not as close to the action though."

"The Second Royal Cuirassiers are, regrettably, out of the war." Singh shook his head quietly. "Command estimates we won't be front line service-ready again until late '44, maybe '45."

"Well, even if the truce doesn't hold that long, we'll make sure to save some Falcons for you and yours, General," Evan joked.

"Assuming they survive what's coming." Bridger grinned. "Word is the Commies and Rasalhague won't be following the truce, not like they signed it after all."

"No, they didn't." Singh grinned. Perhaps it makes a liar out of me… but I cannot speak for allies my people did not yet have, can I? God will decide, I suppose. "But I cannot imagine it will be an easy fight for them." He inclined his head to Bridger. "What of you, General? You are joining me, I hear?"

"Heading out on a DropShuttle, actually, and I'm only going as far as Arc-Royal. Meetings with Archduke Ethan." Bridger's grin turned sardonic. "It's implied I may get my fourth star, and that His Majesty is picking me to be his OpGroup commander."

"Well now, congratulations, General," Evan offered.

"Thank you, Colonel. If it's true, expect me back around the time the King comes through the Glass. Until then…"

"Yes." Singh noticed the transport jeeps pulling up. "We have a timetable to keep with the JumpShips arranged for our transport."

"After you, General."

"One last thing," Evan said, bringing their attention back to him. He snapped a firm salute at Singh. "You and yours did your Federation proud, General Singh, fightin' the Falcons so hard, and your people deserve the break they're gettin'. Don't you worry, whatever happens, the folks you've left behind here… we'll see it through for them."

Singh drew in another sharp breath before nodding and returning the salute. "I trust our honored dead to you and to the people of Timkovichi. Thank you for your words, Colonel."

Evan nodded and lowered his hand, extending it forward. Singh took it for a wordless handshake before stepping away. Whatever was to come of this conflict, he and his troops had done their duty, they'd done it well, and it would be for others to finish the job. God bless them all.

Fort Defiance Military DropPort
Roslyn, Eastern Islay
Arcadia, Arcadia Royal March
Royal Federation
18 February 3143

The day that Sophia Marik had been dreading for the past few months had finally arrived, and despite her misgivings, she came to see it through.

The DropShips arrayed about Fort Defiance's DropPort were in various stages of loading, some already hurtling skyward with their loads of soldiers and machines, bound for the reflection of their reality that lay beyond the Glass, and the savage Wolves that were to be their foes. Sophia could see them through the glass windows of Terminal A and the private command-officer entryway that would take Nathaniel and his RSS protection detail to the military tram waiting to carry him to his ship, where the RSS would formally relinquish their protection over to the Lifeguards. From her place she could look down into the terminal proper and the crowds of families and friends here to see loved ones off for what might be years apart.

The DropShip occupying the nearest pad, emblazoned with the insignia of the Lifeguards, was another of the spheroid types, a massive orb with engines and guns and giant bay doors that even now admitted multiple hulking BattleMechs and large, advanced battle tanks into its spacious interior. The AFS Hawk's Nest was the designated combat transport for Nathaniel and roughly a third of the Lifeguards. Sophia craned her neck at the hulking vessel, one she was told was a brand-new "Bastion-class Command DropShip", to look towards the shapes of two of the four colossal artillery guns stored in the ship's uppermost decks, almost two hundred meters in the air. Within the bottom decks, situated around the vital engineering spaces, seven bays provided for plentiful cargo as well as a company each of BattleMechs, vehicles, VTOLs, and armored infantry, plus bays for an embarked squadron of aerospace fighters and four DropShuttles. A number of weapons mounts showed on every facing, though she had little knowledge of what each weapon was. Beyond two more ships of the same design, the Hawk's Pride and Hawk's Glory, were on adjacent pads, embarking the last vehicles and personnel of the Lifeguards.

Unlike his well-wishers attending in civilian court dress, Nathaniel was in uniform today, wearing a regular AFRF duty uniform. It suits the moment, Sophia thought with a tinge of bitterness. More befitting the warrior-king leading his armies on a holy crusade, not the peaceful ruler he'd intended to be when he first landed here ten months ago. Indeed, he'd only belatedly acquiesced to an insistence from Lord Murray that he bring a couple sets of civilian court dress in the event of an official function on Tharkad, now stowed away in his quarters on the Hawk's Nest and likely to go untouched. Even the usual lightweight tiara was gone. Only his specialized rank insignia, the crowned hawk over a rank tab square, indicated he wasn't just another junior field officer waiting for deployment.

That… and the Sword of Liberation, resting in the scabbard strapped at his waist against his left hip, set so that he could lay the sword across his lap if needed. Bringing the weapon was a symbolic gesture, and not entirely popular among the Protocol Office or the Exchequer (responsible as they were for House Proctor's treasures, including the Regalia), but given what it represented, it would hopefully be inspiring for those fighting a cosmos away.

This is duty, she reminded herself. After all he's said, he can't back out now. He has to go through. He has to face the Clans in battle and see them forced back. A small shiver went through her. I care for him, perhaps more than I should. He will be a good husband, better than I'd hoped! But only if he comes back. God, please let him come back, he has so much to do to make the rest of this century the peaceful era we all long to see!

Peter was here, of course, in court dress like Sophia. His expression was somber but reserved. Beside them the Dowager Queen Sita stood, her court dress the traditional conservative Bolanese combination of sari, choli, and parkar, colored in red, green, and blue with gold-threaded trim. To Sophia it seemed she was about to break down in tears at seeing her son's departure. A realization came to her. If I did not know better, I would think they were both his parents, coming to see their beloved son off to war… though, I suppose, Nathaniel is the closest thing Peter ever had to a son. I wonder if they have ever thought of their relationship that way.

The last member of the entourage was the Regent herself. Lady Sara-Marie Proctor was by law a minor noble, her title a courtesy one for being the daughter of a prince or princess of the realm. Right now the nonagenarian looked more like a doting grandmother of Nathaniel's than a distant cousin, and her simple court dress struck Sophia as being very inspired by the inhabitants of the Plymouth Peninsula here on Arcadia, the traditional homeland of House Proctor. The dark blue gown was only visibly court wear by the House Proctor sigil over the heart and the Regent's Seal, the golden and crowned hawk insignia of the monarch's chosen stand-in, hanging from the silver necklace it was attached to. "You be careful, young man," she said, her voice hoarse with age, though the tone was gentle. "Your people expect much of you. They need you back."

"I have every intention of returning with my duty done, my Lady," he replied, bowing his head. "Just as I trust you three to see to the realm while I'm away."

"We'll keep Parliament on task, certainly, as well as the Command Staff." Peter nodded. "We had a couple lower-level resignations, but even our cousin Arnold is picking duty over pride. In time, perhaps we can reconcile you two."

"I would love to be, but I fear he will not be happy unless I give him what he wants, and that I cannot do" Nathaniel lamented. He turned to Princess Sita and his face fell into a frown, as if he were a child who'd just disappointed his parents. "Mother, I… I am sorry. It is a duty, dharma, and it must be done."

"I know, Nat. I know." She spoke the words with pain in her dark, reddened eyes. "I pray that your father's spirit will guide you, and that by the fulfillment of dharma you will be rewarded with a safe return."

He turned his eyes towards Sophia. "When I return, I hope the wedding will not wait long."

"As soon as you're back through the Glass, I'll order the invitations sent," she promised. She smiled wistfully, though it was difficult. "I'm smiling for both our sakes, I admit, because I don't feel it within. I fear for you, Nathaniel, just as much as your mother does. I know it is your duty to follow your pledge, but I can't help these feelings. These Wolves are said to be lethal warriors, moreso than the Falcons in some cases, and according to Trillian they've already killed the military leader of the Free Worlds. If you go into battle they're going to focus on you just the same."

"They will try, I agree. The Lifeguards will not make it easy for them, nor will I. I promise you that."

"It will have to be enough," she said, knowing for her it wouldn't be. If only the Glass hadn't formed. Things would be so much easier… but now I am giving myself to a flight of fancy. This is the reality we face.

To her surprise she drew close and placed a chaste kiss on his cheek. It was an act of impulse, not quite inappropriate nor particularly appropriate either. "A promise, then, of what will come, when we are married, and our people prosper under the renewed peace we will bring them when the Clans are dealt with."

He recovered from his surprise well enough. "A promise, yes, and I look forward to our keeping it."

The PA system came alive with a loud shrilling tone, made to draw attention. A man's voice barked in an Islay burr, "Loading of Hawk's Nest complete. All personnel report to transport trams, we are T minus thirty minutes to launch."

Sophia turned her head back towards the crowds, already thinning out. She recognized a few of the Lifeguards themselves, mostly infantry personnel who took up watches in the Palace, but she noted with surprise the presence of the Duke of Bondurant, Edmond de Fortemps, and his sons, separating from a fourth man of silvery platinum hair dressed in military uniform instead of their casual court wear. They behave as brothers and father, but I thought he only had two sons? Or, two legitimate ones, I suppose.

One could indeed tell the commoners from the nobles; the former had more open weeping and tears among the families, the latter practiced the "stiff upper lip" demanded of their station, though their hugs looked just as heartfelt. It reminds me of Mother whenever Father went away on tour. No matter the social station, all families face the same fear; our loved ones aren't going to come back this time.

"I suppose I could order them to wait," Nathaniel said. "But that wouldn't be appropriate."

"No. This is part of the life," said Peter solemnly. He put a hand on Nathaniel's shoulder and for all the world looked like he was about to embrace him, only to hold back for a moment until Nathaniel started one, a warm embrace. She thought that if a voice could genuinely melt, it was Peter's at that moment as he said, "Go, make your father proud, make your family proud, but by God, come home. We'll watch over matters here while you defeat the enemies of humanity."

Sita embraced him next and Sophia could hear a few low sobs escape her otherwise-controlled demeanor. God, the poor woman is living a nightmare, isn't she? Everyone says she truly loved Prince James, that their political marriage was one of those rare ones where the participants fall in genuine love with one another. And she lost him after only a few short years. Now she might lose her only son… no, no, for Nathaniel's sake, don't follow that thought. Smile, and let him go with a glad heart, not thinking how we're suffering.

After finally gently pulling free from his mother, Nathaniel gave them all one last look and a short, personal bow of the head. "I'll see you all when I come back," he said, his voice full of confidence, as if he weren't frightened at all it would be otherwise. With that said he walked down the accordion tube, disappearing around a corner.

Sara-Marie, gentle soul that she was, took Sita by the arm and led her away to a window, giving her a good view of where Nathaniel would likely pass on his way to the ship. Peter watched them go and sighed. "God, even now I couldn't bring myself to give him the hug he's earned. He had to start it. I scold him for it, but sometimes I wonder if he's right that commoners do it the right way."

"We get privileges they don't, so we must make amends for it by denying ourselves where they don't have to," Sophia answered. "Or so my mother once told me."

"Makes me think sometimes, maybe Ambassador Wotjak and her people have a point about aristocracy." Peter gave her a knowing look. "Though speaking of aristocracy, you didn't tell him about that last minute coronation 'gift' that's coming from Oriente, did you?"

Sophia sighed. "I didn't see the point, especially not when I looked up just who this 'Boniface of Montferrat' was." Not like it was going to make it here in time, it's only just been commissioned according to Lady Lucero. Consul-General Lady Gracia Lucero, the diplomatic representation of the Federation on Oriente, had dutifully submitted her report that a statue had been commissioned as a personal gift from Dowager Empress Eris to Nathaniel "in commemoration of his stirring coronation speech", depicting an ancient medieval Terran ruler from the 12th and 13th centuries "that his words much reminded me of". One quick check of the planetary infonet's historical sites provided the reasoning for the Dowager's taunting gift. "It's not like he doesn't know the Dowager would love to see him and the rest of the family dead. How is that woman still alive with so much hate poisoning her soul?"

"Spite is a powerful thing," Peter observed. "And it's an old tradition for the evil old hag to taunt the family. Usually sympathy cards whenever one of us is killed, especially if we die fighting the Empire. The messages were especially mocking when my father died." He clenched a fist.

"Really?" Sophia gaped in astonishment. "I know her grudge is legendary, but that's… I guess you don't report it very widely, I've never heard of this."

"It stays within the family. It's a personal grudge, after all, one we played a part in starting, wouldn't do to get the populace fired up about a stubborn old woman's taunts. Speaking of stubbornness, Senator Zento's already trying to hold up certain budget items vital to the war effort. We'd better start working to see that he doesn't succeed."

Of course he is. "I am at your service," she promised.
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: "Emergence" - BattleTech Dark Ages/BattleTech AU Crossover

Post by Steve »

45 - Those Whom the Gods Destroy

Fort Defiance Medical Administration Building
Roslyn, Eastern Islay
Arcadia, Arcadia Royal March
Royal Federation
2 March 3143

Like most of the AFRF's departments, the Medical Department used its headquarters at Fort Defiance as main offices for its lead personnel. With his clearances and in light of the summons he'd received, Doctor John Albright easily strode through the existing security and into the offices of the Military Psychiatry Division. A yeoman brought him into the presence of Vice Admiral Sirtis, where he promptly saluted his superior, seated in her chair wearing a standard red duty uniform with black naval trim. She returned the salute. "Doctor, you sent a note about discussing the Hazen situation?"

"I did, Doctor, ma'am." He drew in a breath. "Firstly, has there been any progress in my proposal to fit her for prosthetics? She's trapped in bed and utterly crippled, and the lack of activity is a cause of significant psychological stress and discomfort." He said the words as he'd said them two dozen times these past four months.

"I'm sure it is, and I will repeat the request." Sirtis shook her head. "I suspect it will be 'considered' and quietly ignored. Your own reports of her past, and Miss Hazen's behavior, have convinced the rest of the Medical Department, particularly those responsible for hospital security, that she would be a danger to herself and others if provided any means of independent locomotion."

"So they would torture her instead." Albright shook his head. "It's wrong, Admiral. This is a violation of her rights."

"The Department feels it provides sufficient stimulation through her holovid access and the orderlies giving her tours of the Corey Hospital's garden and grounds. I will take the matter up again regardless, but don't expect much change," she warned. "For that matter, how have your sessions gone? You provide vital interaction for what remains of her mental health."

Albright chuckled bitterly at the words before shaking his head. "It's been quite a challenge for me," he admitted. "Especially since the material from Morges came through, and Malvina's unrepentant reaction."

"I would take that as further indication of her sociopathy, the lack of remorse is marked."

"It is." He swallowed. "I simply… do not know if we can ever understand what drives such a person. What creates this bizarre assemblage of traits. A sociopath shouldn't have the fondness and regret she feels for her dead sibko mate Aleks. Nor would she have treated the girl Cynthy as she did, where genuine affection seems to have crept in despite the otherwise abusive nature of her behavior. There's just so many contradictions."

"You find them in our line of work, Doctor." Sirtis patiently settled her hands on the desk. "My question, the salient question is, are you going to testify against her competency to stand trial?"

"I cannot, in good conscience, testify for it," Albright said. "I honestly do not think a trial will give anything but the most base sense of closure, especially with the likelihood she will be condemned. Her mental condition, her upbringing, all these factors tell me she was put on the path to becoming what she is, and I don't feel comfortable with declaring her competent. I'm still not convinced it is the just end."

Sirtis shook her head. "Doctor, I would like you to consider that you are mistaking a professional judgement for a personal one. You are deciding a trial would not be just, so you are refusing to acknowledge her competency."

Albright quietly pondered Sirtis' words. I can't deny it's possible, but all the same, it doesn't mean it is. "If you feel so, Admiral, then remove me from Hazen's care," he finally said. "That would be the appropriate choice."

"Don't think I haven't considered it," Sirtis warned. "It's clear to me that you've become overly fascinated with studying Malvina Hazen. Remember that at the end of the day, she is a monster, as you've admitted in your own words."

"She is, yes," he conceded, "but she is a crippled monster, without fangs or claws to harm any living being ever again. Executing her will not protect a single soul, it will only be vengeance."

"I can't agree with that," Sirtis said. "Not wholly. No, she can't cause harm herself, but she has caused so much harm already, killed so many, that to let her live untried is to diminish her crimes. At some point, people like her have to answer for their misdeeds."

"Even if she, as an individual, has diminished capacity from her upbringing? If anyone should be tried, it is the entire Jade Falcon Clan, for the horrors they subjected her to as a child. Malvina Hazen the Chinghis Khan, Butcher of Skye and Apostica and whatever else the Lyrans call her, isn't the product of a diseased mind. She's the product of the traumas visited on a scared little girl by an entire culture. She was never given a chance to be better, she was broken before she even joined their warrior caste."

"So noted."

He sighed. "But yet, you don't agree with me, and you're still on board for this trial."

"Correct." Sirtis leaned back in her chair. Her voice turned conciliatory. "For what it's worth, Doctor Albright, I do believe you have justifications for the way you see this matter, even if I don't agree with them, which is why I haven't actually removed you. And as it turns out, the JAG attorneys assigned to the case have their own views on your participation." She produced a printed paper and handed it to him. "Consider this a sign of their interest in your continued involvement."

Albright accepted the paper. He read it quietly. Really? I never expected to… He looked back up at her. "So the process is beginning. And I am being assigned indefinitely to serve as Malvina's psychiatric counselor?"

"I do not envy you your job, Doctor, but yes," Sirtis said. "Lord Cassel was impressed, and he's made clear he wants you, the most vocal critic, to have a role here. This is going to be a fair trial."

"With all due respect, Doctor, it can't be. Malvina… does not understand the concepts for which she will be charged and put on trial. She can't support her own defense."

"Opinions like that are why you'll be here, as Malvina's court-ordered psychiatrist," Sirtis said. "God help you too, you'll need it. You are dismissed, Doctor."

With the orders in hand, he departed the office. So the trial goes on, despite my reports. Though I can understand why…. yes, seeing those images from Morges, I can see it. People need justice for it. Closure. Telling them Malvina can't stand trial would rob them of that.

But it's not true justice. Her Clan destroyed her as a child and now she is being punished for it, though they were the ones who turned her into the monster that committed those terrible crimes. God have mercy on all of us.

And with that in mind… time to say goodbye to my other patient.

He returned to the parking area, got into the Ford-Chrysler 3110 model Splenda he'd been assigned by the Fort Defiance motor pool, and drove his way out of the Fort Defiance grounds and to the nearby environs of Roslyn Aerospace Port. The complex for runways and blast-protected landing pads was a combination airport and DropPort, servicing aircraft and spacecraft alike in connecting Roslyn to the rest of the planet, the space stations in orbit, and beyond. After parking — thankfully AFRF personnel and their vehicles enjoyed free complimentary parking by law — he walked through the assemblage of shops, eateries, and interactive terminals to the DropPort terminals. Near a store of consumer electronics, for those travelers desperately looking to replace a broken noteputer or backup data drive or the like, he found what he was looking for.

Cynthy looked… normal, for lack of a better term. Her hair was in a loose ponytail and well-kept. She'd gained a little weight, too, and filled out the blue blouse and dark slacks she was clad in, enough that one might almost think she was just a normal adolescent girl. It was when you looked at her face, the uncertainty there, the glimmer in her eyes, that you could see she wasn't quite what she looked to be.

Indeed, the two women flanking her also made somewhat clear she wasn't just coming through with family. One was a tall, broad-shouldered woman of middle-age, half of her dark face just slightly off-color from the rest to show it was the result of skin grafting and reconstructive surgery, the kind you saw on survivors from the business end of a flamer. The metal cast of her right hand lent further credence to that. It was a prosthetic for a limb that was once incinerated. Given her age, just young enough for it to be from the Fourth Succession War, he guessed. Beside her, a woman of slight tan complexion with short dark hair wearing a light green headscarf was helping Cynthy pick out a case for a noteputer.

He caught the eye of the broad-shouldered woman first. His interest was clear enough that she brought a hand up. "Excuse me, sir?"

"Doctor John Albright, Military Psychiatrist," he said to identify himself, bringing up his military ID from his wallet. "Cynthy here was my patient, I came to say farewell."

The woman nodded. "Borna Nyaoke, Marsabit Regional Family Protection Service on Uhuru," she said, speaking with a slight Kenyan-Uhuran accent. "My associate, Zainab Salbi, Royal Family Court. We're Ms. Freeman's escort for her transfer to the custody of Doctor Admassu."

Cynthy's eyes flashed with brief fury at the use of the name "Freeman", but she said nothing.

Albright nodded in acknowledgement. "A pleasure, and please, my regards to Doctor Admassu, and my thanks once more for his agreeing to take Cynthy in as his patient." He felt recalled gratitude at first hearing the news just a month before. Doctor Sir Haile Admassu, Dean of the College of Pediatric Psychiatry, Royal University of Kenyatta on Uhuru, was one of the most distinguished child psychiatrists in the Inner Sphere, with experience in handling children traumatized by violence and abuse. I can only imagine how emotionally trying it is to work with children like that, and I hope he helps Cynthy. He will do her far better than I did. He glanced her way again. She recognized him, and she wasn't entirely pleased to see him, but at least she didn't have that energy about her, like any moment she would leap into violence, as she'd been like months before after being recovered from the Falcons. Maybe she can have a normal life. A good family.

"Doctor Albright." She spoke the words with a quiet tone, not reverential, more like she was testing her ability to speak them. "You still see the Khan… Malvina?"

Nyaoke and Salbi exchanged concerned looks. Albright swallowed and nodded quietly. "I am treating her, yes."

"Then, please, do right by her."

"I am trying."

"No, that's…" Cynthy stopped speaking for a moment and shook her head.

"We should get to the DropShip gate," Salbi said, giving him a look that made it clear she wanted the conversation over.

It was Cynthy who spoke again, resisting the effort to pull her away. "Doctor Albright, do the right thing for Malvina. Promise me."

He drew in a breath. How could he explain the issues with her? What did he dare risk saying, when it might cause further harm to a child who'd already suffered so much? He made his choice and, gently, replied, "I promise I will do right, as much as I can for her, that's all I can fairly promise, Cynthy. I will try to heal her as much as I can, as much as I'm allowed."

The girl shook her head. She clenched her fists. "No. No. That is not what I mean!"

"Cynthy, we must go," Nyaoke insisted.

"That's not what I mean, Doctor Albright. Do right by Malvina. Do right by her! Let her die."

Now the two women escorting the girl looked particularly aggrieved, and Albright felt a twisting in his gut. "That's not my place, Cynthy."

"Let her die, Doctor. Your people are torturing her. Let her die, it's all she wants, it's… it's all she's wanted." Cynthy swallowed. "Nobody understands. Why do they not understand? They used her and never understood… let her die. Doctor, let her die."

"We're done. Come along, Cynthy, our ship is waiting." Nyaoke gave him a displeased look before taking Cynthy's arm.

"Let her die, let it end, please," Cynthy called back before turning her head, and letting the two women pull her away.

Albright watched her go and swallowed. His mind went back to the Arcadia infirmary, to the sight of Cynthy tearing the respirator from Malvina's face. At the time he thought it was rage, a lashing out at her now powerless tormentor, but his mind likewise recalled Malvina's cries to Cynthy, the order to kill her in her bed, while the orderlies and guards subdued the girl. After Aleks, Cynthy was the only being Malvina had any affection for, even with the abuse. That girl may be the only being in the Inner Sphere, either Inner Sphere, who can understand Malvina. And now she's heading two jumps away. The insight she could offer for Malvina's defense… no, what am I thinking? She's a traumatized child and Malvina was her captor, her abuser! She needs to be as far away as possible to recover!

He stood alone for the moment in the DropPort-side shopping area. Malvina is a monster. A broken, tragic monster, but it doesn't change that she's hurt people, and Cynthy is one of her victims. It's better this way.

But try as he might, he couldn't quite stop thinking about Cynthy's words, and his own wondering if the most merciful thing for his patient might very well be the judicial execution he saw looming on the horizon, and which he still felt morally obliged to resist.

Dr. Nancy Corey Memorial Hospital

It was late in the day. That was all Malvina Hazen knew, given the angle of the sunlight shining through her barred windows. Her stomach rumbled slightly from a minor hunger. Dinner was still an hour away. But it would come, unlike those she remembered from the sibko, when it might not come at all, or would come in a far reduced portion. Then they will put me in the wheelchair and walk me through their garden. Doctor John's orders. As if I am sated by a ride.

She turned on the tri-vee player. The holographic display showed one of those accursed Spheroid news services, talking yet more about the war on her Clan, on all the Clans. She paid enough attention to hear a man called Zento saying it was a waste, that it was weakening the defenses of Skye. That planet. She snarled. Aleks. Lost for that world. I should have burnt it down, but for the resources it provided my Clan. She smiled at seeing Zento shouted down by an audience and the other speakers, accusing him of myriad things like cowardice, arrogance, and "regionalism". No, if he were true to the "values of the Federation", he would be supporting "the War against the Clans".

They will war with my Falcons and the Horses. They will likewise war with the Wolves. And may Seth Ward and that upstart pup Alaric enjoy it. Perhaps even the Bears will face their armies, and nothing of value will be lost there either.

She changed the channel, once, twice, three times. The other news networks spoke of similar things. Others had the usual vapid Spheroid pap in them. All of the entertainment, whether it was degraded combat on Solaris between mercenary gladiators or fictional productions that were a waste of resources from Malvina's perspective, did nothing to fill the quiet. Trapped in this bed, without a foot to stand on, a hand to grasp with, all she had were her memories, and the pain they represented.

The door opened. Doctor John entered. "Malvina."

"Our conversations have long exhausted the stories of my past," Malvina replied, her lip curled in a disgusted, frustrated snarl. "Perhaps you are not the hunter of mental illness you thought to be, if you have not caught your prey among my words yet."

"Memories are just the start of such hunts," he replied, moving to a chair. "Before we begin the session, I have news to share."

"You will give me prosthetics? Let me move on my own? Perhaps just legs, so that I might walk." Then I can smash my brains out against the wall, if I choose.

"Not approved yet," he replied. "I've been given your first court hearing, it's in about seven weeks. To determine your fitness to stand trial for war crimes."

"Ah, my trial you promised. My, how slow you Spheroids are. I look forward to it."

"You'll be assigned a defense team. And I will remain as your psychiatric counselor."

"To continue your hunt, up until the day I am shot. Well, we shall see how well that goes." She noted his frown. As if I will face any other fate. They will kill me. I look forward to it.

"You still feel no remorse for the people you hurt?"

"Had they surrendered, had they accepted their new roles in the Jade Falcon Clan, they would not have been hurt. They chose to resist."

"You're going to lose the trial if you say things like that."

"I doubt I have any chance to win either way, so I shall be honest." She glanced at him again. He was tapping the noteputer again. I will not let it bother me. Let him tap. She grinned. "So let the trial come. I look forward to it."

Provisional Jade Falcon Council Building
New Hamarr, Sudeten
Jade Falcon Occupation Zone
25 March 3143

Everything was ready long before the Timurlane made its landing and disgorged the warriors of the Ninth Talon. Isaac Roshak led the other Bloodnamed Mongol warriors of Delta Galaxy and its attached units to the Council Building, flanked by vehicles commandeered by the Watch for their transport. The other commanders like Lisa Hazen would not be far behind, but they would find their efforts to depart their ships hindered by a lack of transport. The Watch had to get their convoy from somewhere, after all.

Upon arrival Isaac led his comrades right to the Council chamber. They eschewed the helmets that were normal, indeed, each was in their black combat BDUs, as if all they needed was a few moments to get into cooling vests, flight suits, or infantry armor and face battle, separating them from the Falcon warriors wearing formal council uniform. Seeing them made Isaac smirk in contempt. Tradition, as always. The binding chain that has held our people back, until the Chinghis Khan showed us the way forward. Without a word he and his comrades took their seats and waited for the meeting to begin.

The Loremaster, Andwar Icaza, was already in his place, Isaac noted. The senior Khan, the doddering old fossil and former Clan Oathmaster Wenceslas Buhallin, was seated beside the main target of Isaac's ire, Beckett Malthus, though their faces were obscured by their Falcon masks. Isaac thought he saw anger in Beckett's eyes, but he couldn't be sure. I hope it is fear too. Fear for what he has reaped.

Still, as much as he ached to be done with this, he had to play along for now. They would do this in open session. If anything, it would buy the Watch the time needed to finish other preparations.

The mere appearance of Isaac Roshak and his black-clad warriors prompted a snarl to form on Beckett's face. A part of him pondered calling the disrespect out, but somehow he couldn't find the energy. The very fact Roshak was here, wearing the insignia of a Galaxy Commander, spoke of how wrong things had gone. He'd sent Stephanie Chistu to secure the future of the Clan, but instead she'd followed Malvina into death. Noritomo Helmer would be my only hope, but I have no expectation of his return, not in time. He glanced towards Wenceslas, who remained quiet. He was only supposed to serve as a temporary fill-in, but now, I need him longer. Assuming I can block the Mongols.

He listed patiently to Loremaster Andwar open the meeting before speaking, firmly, "Star Colonel Roshak, you insult this chamber with your lack of appropriate dress."

"And you insult our entire Clan with your machinations and treachery, Malthus," Isaac spat back. He pulled the noteputer from his uniform and held it aloft. "I have read all your correspondence with Galaxy Commander Chistu. Your treasonous plans to destroy the followers of the Chinghis Khan were found by the Watch, and you will answer!"

"Treasonous plans? I spoke only of what would have to be done if the most hardline Mongols reacted poorly to her election," Beckett answered. "But if is satisfaction you want, I will face you in a Circle of Equals."

"Vermin like you don't deserve honorable combat. You are fit only to be exterminated. You in particular, traitor, for your disservice to the Chinghis Khan you claimed to loyally serve."

By now a number of the other warriors, Mongols or Mongol-leaning Bloodnamed, were casting furious eyes his way as well. Beckett's jaw set under his mask. We lost too many in the Rending. I have no other options left.

Movement at the doors caught his attention. Elemental infantry in the colors of the Ninth Talon, mixed with black-clad warriors armed with rifles… and bearing the insignia of the Watch.

"You conspired to destroy us, the followers of the Chinghis Khan," Isaac charged openly. "To put our Clan back on the road to slow death and decay, not glorious victory and our destiny as the future ilClan. For this, Beckett Malthus, Wenceslas Buhallin, you are now condemned. The Watch has already begun purging those loyal to you, freeing our Clan of their cowardly taint. The Mongol Way is the way of the future."

"Everything I have done, I have done to preserve our Clan, to remain true to our redes as the Great Father and Elizabeth Hazen set them down," Beckett responded curtly, though inwardly he felt fatal resignation fill him. I have lost. I have failed. My Clan will not survive this; yet still I must try to make them understand. "Even Malvina, bloodfoul as she was, understood this better than you; she had enough wisdom to know when not to kill."

He only managed to finish the sentence because his insult to Malvina had rendered Isaac and the other Mongols stupefied briefly. But now retribution came. With a furious shriek Isaac pulled a sidearm from his waist and leveled it towards Beckett. He met the mad Mongol leader eye to eye before the gunshots rang through the Council Chamber.

He imagined the pain would be intense, but it was still more than he expected from the bullets piercing his uniform, smashing their way through his ribs and into his lungs, heart, and stomach. The whole clip was spent in the time it took Beckett to fall back into his chair. Blood flooded into his lungs, but only briefly, as his savaged heart could no longer beat on account of the damage it had taken.

So dies the Jade Falcon Clan, he thought bitterly before the chasm of death swallowed him whole.

Isaac listened to the repeated hammers of gunfire. The Watch were methodical, targeting all that their own investigations determined were insufficiently Mongol, or those that strayed after the loss of the Chinghis Khan. It took half a minute for the purging to be complete, but when it was done, over a third of the Council members present were dead at their benches, leaving only those true to the Way of the Chinghis Khan.

He cast his eyes to the standing, quiet form of Andwar Icaza. "We have vacancies," he said. "Who shall step forward to assume the Khanship."

"I will," said Isaac, chambering a new clip into his weapon as he did, the audible clicking of the pistol mechanism filling the blood-smeared chamber.

"You?!" Uther Mattlov's voice echoed through the chamber. "You failed at Timkovichi, you are—"

Isaac turned, his gun leveled. His tormenter had no time to speak further before a bullet went through Uther's neck, blasting through his larynx and silencing him before exiting out the side of his throat. Uther stared in shock before slumping down, trying to stop the bleeding from his throat.

"I fought and slew many of our foes at Timkovichi, just to be betrayed by the dezgra Galaxy Commander Chistu during our combat trial, who allowed the enemy to focus on my 'Mech," Isaac proclaimed. "I survived her treachery and assumed command to pull our forces out of the trap her timidity placed them in. Had she honored the ways of the Chinghis Khan, Timkovichi would have burned, a warning to all who would defy the Jade Falcon Clan. Now our foes are emboldened. They believe us cowed and weak. Under my leadership, we will prove ourselves anything but. We will strengthen the Clan, punish our foes, and prepare to resume the desant, to become ilClan as is our rightful place."

"Until the Republic's so-called 'walls' go down, what shall we do?" The question was from one of the new Bloodnamed Mongols, Jacinda Icaza. "Expand our invasion of the Lyrans? Strike at the Bears? Punish the Horses?"

"We will have suitable enemies to blood new warriors, that I assure you." Isaac grinned. "The truce that the coward Chistu extracted from our new Arcadian foes is of some use, but I would reinforce it with blood. We must remind them what renewed hostilities mean, especially under the Chinghis Khan's way and not the coward Stephanie Chistu's. Once we are assured they are cowed, we will turn our attention towards the Republic and any others that stand in our way. For now, my fellow warriors, we prepare for revenge. After all…" He sneered. "Chistu's truce was for the Arcadians and the Lyrans. It says nothing about the traitor Wolves."

The laughter that came from his peers told Isaac the election was as good as his.
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: "Emergence" - BattleTech Dark Ages/BattleTech AU Crossover

Post by Steve »

46 - For Ambition's Sake

Beta Galaxy Headquarters
Gallery, Donegal Province (Disputed)
Lyran Commonwealth/Wolf Empire
28 March 3143

Seth Ward entered Alaric's headquarters in the company of a point of battle armor Elementals, looking every bit as stormy as the Galleryian weather outside. Alaric stood at respectful attention, flanked by Verena on one side and a bondcorded Anastasia on the other, assorted Star Colonels and Star Captains of his command standing about as well while his mother, undoubtedly, watched from the office. Seth's eyes widened briefly at seeing Anastasia before his countenance turned hostile again. "I left you to safeguard our supplies for the advance. Now I am told we have lost weeks worth of necessary munitions. Are you so incapable, Alaric Wolf, that you could not even protect supplies?"

"I saved the majority of them, my Khan, and took as isorla the Alpha of the Wolf Hunters with a number of her warriors and lost machines," Alaric replied, responding to Seth's insult with a sort of bored patience. "My own staff concludes we have lost nothing but a few weeks. The Lyrans have bought themselves that time dearly, losing their most effective commander to our forces, and they would have lost more had I not also had to contend with the First Davion Guards."

"The Davions are here?" Seth's voice betrayed suspicion. "They have their own problems."

"They still have an alliance with the Commonwealth, and First Prince Caleb has evidently decided to honor that alliance." Alaric swept a hand towards a bank of holodisplays. "BattleROM footage is available, if you wish, as well as the records of their pirate point arrival. I feel confident in saying that if not for Julian Davion's forces, Jasek Kelswa-Steiner might also be here bearing a bondcord."

Seth remained quiet as he watched the footage. All of it. Alaric's victory over Anastasia, the skillful hiding away of most of their vital supplies. Suspicion showed in his eyes. "You knew they were coming? You knew and did nothing?"

"I knew nothing, I only suspected what Anastasia might do, so I made preparations."

Tense silence filled the following seconds. Seth glanced about to gauge the responses of the other warriors in attendance. "So just a guess. Nothing to encourage the matter, to undermine our Clan's victory for the sake of your personal glory?"

"My Khan, what other world would suffice?" Alaric asked pointedly. "They were going to come here because Gallery is the only suitable world to quickly gather and prepare the supplies we need. I anticipated this and acted accordingly. Regrettably I could not anticipate the arrival of the First Davion Guards to bolster my foes' ranks, but either way, I ensured the majority of our supplies were safe." He smiled a wolf's smile at his superior and foe. "This was why you left me to safeguard our stores, after all. Would you have trusted such a vital task to a lesser warrior?"

The look on Seth's face said the reply was "I should have". But he could hardly admit the real reason he insisted Alaric remain behind, to deny a political foe a chance for victories for his codex, and keep the glory of taking Tharkad for himself. Seth was politician enough to hide the sentiment and nod. "And you have done well enough, Galaxy Commander. A brief respite for our warriors, and a chance to see to the Trials of Position to fill out gaps in our touman, will be of use given the enemy's focus upon Tharkad."

"Might I suggest Gamma Galaxy maintain pressure on the Lyrans' holdings around Tharkad?" Alaric suggested. "The Lyrans will feel compelled to maintain forces on Gibbs, at the very least, to protect their last remaining source of JumpShips. When the assault begins, Gamma can join us for the descent on Tharkad while Epsilon Galaxy protects our rear."

Their eyes met. Seth's lips thinned. "You seek Beta's participation in the invasion of Tharkad."

"The First Davion Guards are likely to be there, among other Lyran formations, and the Sea Foxes report the Arcadians will be sending some force to protect Tharkad as well due to the new alliance." Alaric pointed out. "But Alpha and Beta together will form the core of a solid invasion force to smash the Commonwealth's last defense. Zeta Galaxy has likewise proven its readiness to fight, and we will have need of them should the Arcadians arrive before Tharkad falls."

"Yes. The short delay will make the enemy more formidable, and your assessment is sound." Seth said the words almost as an accusation. "Bargained well and done, Alaric Wolf. Bargained well and done indeed."

In the end Seth Ward stalked out of Beta Galaxy HQ in a quiet fury. As the door closed behind him, Anastasia considered what she'd just witnessed. Alaric walks a fine line. I always had an idea Khan Ward wasn't his biggest supporter, but the way they look, he's itching for an excuse to destroy Alaric without turning half the Wolf Council against him.

Of course, if Alaric were to fall, she would fall too. She was, after all, chalcas to many Wolves. Former Exile, former mercenary. If she wanted back in a 'Mech cockpit, Alaric was her ticket to it.

Or so he would think. And she would let him think that, so long as it was useful to her. If something did happen to him, she'd get back her own way, the Wolves be damned. Defeat is only ever momentary; and there’s always options to turn it around.

"Tassa." Alaric spoke the name with his usual bemusement at using her old alias from her days as a vagabond in the collapsing Republic. As if that should bother me; true, Tassa Kay was an identity she’d left far behind, but it was one that Anastasia had worn well while it still fitted her. "I need a count on the supply stores at the new Staging Ground Beta. They should be finished reclaiming and sorting the last salvage from the attack. See to it." He glanced her way. "Visual confirmation, in particular."

"Of course, Galaxy Commander." She nodded and turned away.

"Verena, go with her. I want to make sure there are no accidents."

A brief, wolfish snarl crossed Verena's face before it returned to her usual confident expression. "Of course, Galaxy Commander. Bondswoman, come."

Anastasia grinned at her. Who do you fear would be behind such an accident, Alaric? Your other warriors and technicians, or by Verena?

They departed the room and ventured to the motor pool. Verena checked out a personal vehicle, a confiscated civilian car of Lyran make, and after the technicians confirmed the storm tires were fresh they departed. Another thunderstorm was already forming on the horizon, but they would arrive at SG Beta with more than half an hour to spare before it hit.

Verena snatched the keys and barked, "Get in, bondswoman." She opened the driver side door and lowered into the vehicle without another word. Anastasia slid into the passenger side. "Seat belt." The snapped order was joined by a frown. "Should there be an accident on the roads, Alaric would hold me responsible if you were to be injured, or worse."

"And we wouldn’t want that, would we?" After several seconds of quiet defiance, Anastasia dutifully buckled herself in.

Verena turned her eyes forward and started the engine. Given the way they drove out of the car pool Anastasia imagined this was either to intimidate her personally or that Verena was as lousy behind the wheel as she was in the cockpit of a 'Mech. "You risk much, siding with Alaric so strongly when the Khan clearly wants to be rid of him."

"Alaric is a far greater warrior than Seth Ward, naturally that brings jealousy."

"I can believe it. He beat me, after all." Anastasia crossed her arms. "You should be happy. Now you’re the warrior and I’m not, at least, not officially."

"I would have rather you died. By my hand, preferably."

"It’s good to have goals, even unattainable ones."

Verena slammed the brakes so hard the tires squealed. Once all movement was stopped, her head whipped about to glare at Anastasia. "I will say this one. You are alive because Alaric wishes it so. Cross him in any way, fail him, and I will kill you." She paused, then added in a sharp, waspish tone, “And moderate your language.”

Anastasia stared at the enraged woman for a moment before grinning. "Point taken. Now, may I suggest we get going? There's a reason nobody drives in Gallerian weather."

Verena turned away and hit the gas. The tires made another short squeal before they began rocketing down the road once more.

Alaric returned to his personal office and his waiting mother. The wizened old woman, wearing the gray leathers of the Wolf Clan, met his eyes as he journeyed to his seat. "He knows you set this entire thing up."

"Of course he did. But he cannot do anything about it. I protected the majority of the supplies and defeated our most relentless foe. He cannot dispute my victory, nor can he ignore the need he will have for Beta Galaxy when the time comes to land on Tharkad."

"He will come after you at some point," Katrina warned. "You are a clear threat to his authority. He will do everything in his power to deny you a Bloodname, otherwise you will be unstoppable."

"After we take Tharkad, yes. He will seek to destroy me, before I destroy him. I will deal with the problem when the time comes. And you need not worry I will underestimate him. I know full well what my Khan is capable of, and what it will take to defeat him."

"Good. Because it is only the first step." Katrina's lips shifted into a smile, undoubtedly the kind she'd once used to charm the gullible. "You will be Khan. And then you will take Terra. The Republic, that festering eyesore my brother helped create upon the face of the Inner Sphere, will be wiped away, and with it, all that remains of his legacy. And you will rule supreme as ilKhan and First Lord."

And you, undoubtedly, wish to rule through me, once you have achieved your vengeance. Alaric's thought on his mother's motives didn't show on his face. He never let her see such thoughts. "Do you look forward to it, Mother?" He asked the question without warning, and noted her puzzlement. "Returning to Tharkad, in triumph, to crush the children of those who opposed you?"

"It will be satisfying, yes," she admitted. "Perhaps I will redecorate the Triad, if permitted. I imagine the portraits of my siblings will make excellent kindling for my fireplace." Her eyes flashed with vindictive glee at the thought. After several moments she shook her head. "Ah, but I get ahead of myself. I once thought myself on the cusp of victory before, just to lose it in the end. The Lyrans seem beaten, and I doubt even Julian Davion's forces can save them, but these Arcadians may be a different matter."

"The Arcadians are sending troops, and their ruler will be at the head of his army. But the Sea Foxes report little to worry about in terms of their readiness. Their Inner Sphere is a peaceful place, with few battles to blood warriors, and their High King Nathaniel is not my father or any of the sort. He has never seen battle. Our experience will speak for itself when the battle is joined."

"A fair point, son," Katrina conceded. But he could still tell she was worried.

She is right to be. It would be one thing if the Falcons were descending on Tharkad as well, the Lyrans would fight both of us at least. But in number these forces might deny us a victory. But that is the risk we must take. "Ultimately we have no other recourse, Mother. If our ambitions are to be fulfilled, and my place secured, the Wolf Empire must survive and grow strong. That means Tharkad must fall." He leaned forward against his desk. "So fall it will."
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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