"Emergence" - BattleTech Dark Ages/BattleTech AU Crossover

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

Post by LadyTevar »

Finally caught up.

The Wolves are going to find themselves between a rock and a hard place, with the Falcons about to nip at their heels while Arcadians and Lyrans come for their throats.
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Re: "Emergence" - BattleTech Dark Ages/BattleTech AU Crossover

Post by Steve »

LadyTevar wrote: 2022-06-28 03:39pm Finally caught up.

The Wolves are going to find themselves between a rock and a hard place, with the Falcons about to nip at their heels while Arcadians and Lyrans come for their throats.
Unfortunately, the Falcons are going after the "good" Wolves, the ones on Arc-Royal, not the Crusaders that are advancing on Tharkad (and about to run into some other crusaders too...)
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Re: "Emergence" - BattleTech Dark Ages/BattleTech AU Crossover

Post by Tribble »

Steve wrote: 2022-06-28 03:50pm
LadyTevar wrote: 2022-06-28 03:39pm Finally caught up.

The Wolves are going to find themselves between a rock and a hard place, with the Falcons about to nip at their heels while Arcadians and Lyrans come for their throats.
Unfortunately, the Falcons are going after the "good" Wolves, the ones on Arc-Royal, not the Crusaders that are advancing on Tharkad (and about to run into some other crusaders too...)
Riiiight… IIRC the Wolves were split between the Wardens and Crusaders, the bulk of the Crusaders perished during the Refusal War while the Wardens escaped to the Inner Sphere?
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Re: "Emergence" - BattleTech Dark Ages/BattleTech AU Crossover

Post by drakensis »

The Crusader Wolves survived, retained their occupation zone and homeworlds (after about a week of being Jade Falcons and then Jade Wolves) and remain a major and dangerous faction through to them finally taking Terra around 3150 (which I don't think has happened).

The Warden Wolves are essentially feudal vassals to the Archon (they call themselves allies, but let's be realistic - they generally struggle to field three galaxies and their territory is less than one planet).
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Re: "Emergence" - BattleTech Dark Ages/BattleTech AU Crossover

Post by Steve »

Hey drakensis, I sometimes forgot you had an SDN account. :)

Anyway, beat me to the explanation of how things developed. That and the stuff mentioned in-story cover most of the vital bases I think.
”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 »

Holy crap, I forgot to post the last two chapters!
”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 »

47 - The Purpose of Honors

Fort Carroll Military DropPort
Near Cirenholm, Aurum Continent
Timkovichi, Coventry Province
10 April 3143

The product of months of work, the new military DropPort at newly-redesignated Fort Carroll fitted the feeling of being a frontline facility, lacking the kind of dedicated terminals and such that the facilities on major worlds would have. Personnel and machines moved straight from ships to whatever hangers or barracks they were assigned to, and most of the pads were little more than collections of blast shields without even a supporting gantry. In the distance, the original field base formed by the Eighth Strikers and First Kell Hounds after their initial arrival was expanding via prefab construction to a more regularized military posting, worthy of its redesignation.

One of the few pads to have a readied gantry system, with all the vital elements it permitted without requiring colossal vehicle employment, now cradled the large artillery-topped orb of the AFS Hawk's Nest. An honor guard and military band were present, with Duchess-Regent Katarina and her young grandson Daniel, the Duke of Timkovichi, flanked by a smartly-dressed group of military commanders. As usual Evan Kell was present, joined by Jacob Tanhause, Deirdre Ward, and Ana Maria Laguna, with newly-arrived commanders from the other side joining them; Major General Fiona Cargill, the CO of the First Royal Lancers RCT wearing, in place of the standard cap, the black shako of the Lancers Corps, Major General Sir Patrick McKellan of the Second Donegal Cavalry, and Major General Keyshawn Bridger, CO of the Third Proctor Guards.

The band took up the chords of the Royal Federation anthem, "Pride of the Free", and as the stirring bars filled the air Nathaniel stepped down from Hawk's Nest, departing not from one of the bays but the lower port hatchway with lowered ramp. Gloved hands snapped salutes and the honor guards, pulled from the First Royal Lancers' Twenty-Sixth Royal Foot and the Third Proctor Guards' Seventh Royal Grenadiers, moved their ceremonial rifles smartly into place. Nathaniel initially planned simply to wear his uniform and let the Sword of Liberation and his rank insignia suffice for his rank, but pleading led to his grudging acceptance of wearing his platinum twin-banded tiara with the hawk sigil on the brow. Behind him came Archduke Ethan Kell, his immediate feudal subordinate, ruler of the Arc-Royal Federal March and Commanding Officer of the Kell Hounds Mercenary Brigade, the latter rank reflected by his choice of the traditional ceremonial dress of the Kell Hounds with half-cape and hound's head shape upon the jacket. He had the customary dark brown hair of the Kells and looked very much like a slightly-older cousin of Evan's.

Behind Archduke Kell, the newly-promoted General Sir DeMarcus Bridger descended, followed by Colonel Laughlin and the Chasseur-clad infantry of the Lifeguards. The latter moved into ceremonial defensive positions at Nathaniel's side as he approached the greeting party. Beyond, he noted, military jeeps were ready to carry them to their ultimate destination in the base.

Nathaniel replied to the salute of the welcoming party with one of his own, permitting them to lower their arms. He approached the elderly Duchess first and sketched a courtly bow. She was about the age of his own late grandmother Jacqueline, in mourning black that was more a widow's garment than a proper court dress, though the Lyran symbols on it were a clear concession to her political role. "Your Majesty, welcome to Timkovichi," she said, bowing more deeply in reply.

"Welcome, King Nathaniel," her grandson echoed, mimicking her bow after a moment of forgetfulness.

"Thank you for the greeting, Your Graces," he said. "My condolences for your losses in these terrible times."

"Thank you." Duchess Katarina's words were no mere courtly reply; there was genuine emotion in them, including a tinge of weariness that all of her courtly training failed to hold back. "In truth, we owe much to you and your people, Your Majesty. They have saved us twice from the fury of the Falcons, and are the only reason many of our people still live."

"I am proud of my soldiers for coming to your aid as they did, and for fighting for you. I wish we had done more to spare you the second invasion, and I will see to it your world is rebuilt to make good our failure." The reply to that was a wordless nod, at which point Nathaniel moved on to face the others. "Colonel Kell, Major Tanhause." He grinned sadly at them. "I have read much of the sacrifices of your men and women in defending this world, especially of your Timkovichi Armoured Guards Brigade, Major. I am honored to call you allies."

"Thank you, Majesty, mighty kind of you," Evan drawled, respectfully of course.

"On behalf of the Armored Guards, thank you, Your Majesty," Tanhause added.

"Your brigade is, I'm told, scarcely a battalion now from losses endured fighting the Falcons. While I am aware it will take you time to rebuild, I hope to hasten that. Among the ships that will come through the Glass in the coming weeks are cargo DropShips bearing 'Mechs, vehicles, and fighters for your brigade, and though you may not have the personnel to employ those units yet, I hope they will provide for your new recruits when they are ready."

"Thank you for your generosity."

"Your valor more than earned it." Nathaniel moved on to his commanders next, allowing for Evan to make the awkward first meeting with his "cousin from the other side".

"Majesty." Laguna made a slight courtly bow, while Ward nodded her head respectfully.

"Brigadier Laguna, Colonel Ward, you have done so much to defend the principles that House Proctor is sworn to uphold." He gave them each a firm handshake. "Your honors, Lady Ana, Colonel, are well-deserved, as are those of your troops."

"Thank you, Majesty," Laguna replied, Ward echoing her a moment later.

"I imagine your forces are ready to review back at the base?"

"They are. Representative companies, plus the survivors of the Timkovichi Armoured Guards."

"Well, let's not keep them waiting."

Nathaniel heard a burst of laughter beside him, as General Bridger clasped hand and arm with his younger brother Keyshawn. Aside from the elder DeMarcus having two more stars on his rank tab, the only difference between their AFRF dress uniforms was that Keyshawn's bore the unit patch of the Third Proctor Guards, depicting a sword with gold hawk wings on its hilt impaling a Kuritan black dragon.

"This way, Majesty," General Cargill said, taking charge of getting the proceedings going by leading him to an open-topped extended military jeep already carrying the royal hawk to show it was his personal vehicle. Without protest Nathaniel followed her lead. He took the middle seat, with the best view, wit Cargill, McKellan, and Major Tanhause piling in with him.

The convoy of open-topped vehicles took a few minutes to leave the DropPort and get to the main avenue, leading them to the expanded base parade grounds. Tall BattleMechs stood in columns, flanked by tanks, infantry carriers, and infanteers wearing their full armor suits, either the hulking forms of battle armor or the slimmer, streamlined power armor suits of under five hundred kilos. Some bore the proud orange sunhawk of the Eighth Strikers on their sky blue and white coloring. The brown and blue and silver of the First Royal Lancers showed proudly, as did the silver, gold, and red of the Third Proctor Guards' machines, the deep Steiner blue and verdant Donegal green of the Second Donegal Cavalry, and the red and black schemes of both variety of Kell Hounds. "Khan Patrik Fetladral could not stay?" Nathaniel inquired.

"No, Lady Trillian asked him to join her on her journey to Tharkad," General Cargill replied. "And most of his troops returned to Arc-Royal to ensure the planet is well-defended, should the Falcons abrogate the truce."

"Ah, I would have liked to meet him." With that question made Nathaniel turned his attention back to the review. He saluted the ranks of machines, many saluting at him first, and the soldiers arranged to show their units' readiness to follow him into the coming battles. I will be here two weeks before we start burning out to meet our JumpShips when they get to the jump points. I shall have a busy time it seems. I must visit the battle sites, the refugee camps, the cemeteries, and spend my nights with General Bridger and the others planning the movement of our armies to Tharkad and the Wolf front. It will be grueling, but I owe the people of Timkovichi my full attention to their suffering.

At the end of the parade ground, the members of the Timkovichi Armoured Guards stood in parade dress. Their infantry were like the militia Nathaniel saw in parades on Arcadia and Bolan, wearing unpowered battle kit instead of even a light power armor suit, carrying anti-personnel weapons that would have availed them little against the defenses of armored infantry, now brought to parade attention stance as his vehicle approached and their sergeants bellowed the appropriate order. Among their number were a handful of vehicles, the most significant in size being a large tracked tank armed with missiles and a binary laser cannon mounted to its turret, all painted in the Armoured Guards' parade colors of pale blue and gray, as were a restored AWS-8Q Awesome and another 'Mech Nathaniel didn't recognize; both wearing the scars where new metal had been welded to old. Their crews, few as they were, stood in parade column before their vehicles. As a brigade they would have numbered over a thousand before the Falcon invasion. Now I see just a few hundred, at best. The unit is all but extinguished between the two campaigns against the Falcons. I will see to it that their flame is reignited, and their valor remembered.

Seized by a sudden thought, he tapped the driver's shoulder and asked, quietly, "Stop for a moment." The driver did so with barely a glance, slowing to a stop and bringing the vehicles behind them to a stop as well. Nathaniel stepped from the jeep and stood at the roadside facing the survivors of Major Tanhause's forces. Wordlessly his arm snapped up into a salute, fingers straight and at his right temple, while he stood at attention.

As a unit, they responded with their own salutes.

His gesture done, Nathaniel returned to the jeep. As they pulled away, Tanhause spoke from his seat in the back. "Thank you, Your Majesty."

"Your people earned it, Major, in fire and in blood," Nathaniel said. "And on that matter, I need to speak with you about the ceremony. Brigadier Laguna as well."

From his seat, the elder Bridger brother grinned.

"Which ceremony?" asked Tanhause.

Nathaniel grinned softly in reply.

Officers Dormitory Bravo
Fort Carroll Barracks
14 April 3143

This was not supposed to happen.

Eva drew in a breath and glanced at her own image, reflected from the full mirror within her kit locker in the company's barracks dorm. For the first time since she graduated the Nagelring, she was wearing her full "dress reds"; the short term for her Ceremonial Dress Uniform, the most ornamental of the AFRF uniforms. The customary red tunic coat over a blue collarless dress shirt broadly resembled the "duty reds" and "formal reds" that she typically wore when not in her BDU cooling suit, though the material was richer in color and texture. The coat itself carried gold buttons in five rows of two down the middle, gold epaulets with tassels, double-looped silver aiguillettes on the shoulders for being an academy-graduated MechWarrior, and a high folded collar with her silver bar rank insignia as a Second Lieutenant present, as well as the stylized 'Mech outlined on silver on the right lapel that showed her current assignment as an active duty MechWarrior. The cuffs were blue bordered by gold with silver buttons, three on each cuff. In the place of the typical ceremonial dress cover she wore a broader version of her sky blue Striker beret with its attached unit patch of a sunhawk with raised wings. The trousers were red with blue trim, the belt holding them up a deep stygian black with golden hawk buckle.

An added touch was the blue Officer Sash, which went over the left shoulder down to the right side, marked with a gold-winged white hawk up near the left breast. Beneath this sigil, the sash bore the medals she'd won so far, the Military Cross of Valor and the Silver Wing.

Beneath the medals and the gold-embroidered edge of the sash, the "fruit salad" of her military ribbons were affixed in rows of four. She was still young enough that she didn't have too many ribbons. Nevertheless they'd doubled in the past six months, beyond the handful of ribbons indicating her specialized training and status as a graduate of the Nagelring. The AFRF's newest operational ribbon, specifically the Transglass Operations ribbon of blue and silver, was a new addition, plus the "blooded" ribbon of black and red and blue that told all she'd seen combat. Her sky blue and white "air drop" ribbon now displayed wings to show she'd actually been in a drop under fire, as did the sky blue and red and black ribbon that confirmed she'd endured an orbital drop under fire. The ribbons depicting her commendations were present as well. As a final touch, she wore a necklet bearing the Order of the Liberator medal she'd been issued along with every other Sunhawk to participate at Great X and Morges.

Well, here we go, she thought. Time to face the music.

She departed the dorm and enjoyed a ride from a waiting car from the motor pool, which brought her to the base auditorium. Another prefab structure, the auditorium was a multi-purpose structure, for everything from mandatory officer seminars to amateur theatrical and musical productions to military ceremonies. Upon entering the front doors she was intercepted by Kevin, likewise in his dress reds, who with a grin escorted her to a side room, empty save for unused chairs and a long basic table. "Everything is almost ready, Eva," he said. "Are ye ready for this?"

"No," Eva answered honestly. "It's… it's not something I should be…"

"It is, an' it'll be fine," Kevin assured her. "Just remember the training an' what ye were told and this'll be done. You've earned it."

No I didn't. I'm a fraud. She struggled with that feeling again, trying to press it away. Fraud or no, everyone else thinks differently, I guess this is just how it's going to be.

The door opened again. Tanhause entered, leading in Allison. Today they were in the elaborate blue dress uniform of the LCAF. While having a different color and alternate placements and rank insignia, altogether the LCAF Ceremonial Dress was quite similar to their dress reds, in spirit anyway. "Eva, good to see I'm not stuck in this alone," Allison said, a bemused grin on her face. "And that there's someone as nervous as I am here."

"So we're suffering together." Eva drew in a breath. Allison's uniform likewise bore new medals, approved before the second campaign for Timkovichi.

"Well, it is better than being shot at," Allison offered. "Marginally."

Eva laughed, cutting it short only as the door opened. One of the Lifeguard officers nodded. "It's time."

"See you after the ceremony, Leutnants," Tanhause said, bowing out of the room.

They followed and joined in with an escort of uniformed Lifeguards until they were back at the auditorium foyer, facing the doors. The Lifeguard moved into position beside the door. After several seconds, he nodded to them. "Begin."

Drawing in a breath to steel her nerves, Eva took her first firm step to the door, Allison at her side. Through the door, the main hall of the auditorium had been set up appropriately. Rows of chairs on raised rows flanked either side, providing a visitor's gallery for attending personnel, survivors of the Armoured Guards and Eva's own fellow Sunhawks in most of the seats. Soldiers of the Lifeguards' Armored Infantry stood in their power armor suits, their powerful gauss rifles at parade stance. To either side of the red carpet that lined the center of the room, a row of AFRF officers stood in their dress reds, ceremonial swords drawn and lowered, the pommels gripped by gloved hands and the points in front of and directly between the wielders' feet. Eva recognized General Bridger among their number, staring straight ahead at the officer across from him, an officer with black and gold aiguillettes: a naval officer.

Beyond these two rows, the other end of the carpet continued on to a low set of stairs going up onto a raised dais, where High King Nathaniel was seated in a high-backed chair. He was likewise in military uniform, and if not for his rank insignia, platinum crown, or the plethora of Order medals he wore due to being the ceremonial head of all the various Orders of the Royal Federation, he looked far more like Eva and Allison than he did the more senior officers present. He's only a few years older than me, Eva recalled.

A drum roll started, courtesy of the Lifeguard Band situated off to the side. Eva and Allison walked with the cadence guiding their steps, not quite a parade march, but certainly a martial, disciplined walk. As they approached the two lines of officers, the swords came up from the ground and rose into the air, each held at a forty-five degree angle over the gap between the two rows, and over the two young MechWarriors' heads as they passed by.

The steps came next. At the very top of said steps, about three paces from Nathaniel, they stopped and went down to one knee before him. The drum roll stopped. The swords went back down.

After a moment's silence, Nathaniel began speaking. "Lieutenant Penton, Leutnant Palisser, you stand before me today so that we might commemorate the courage you have repeatedly shown on the battlefield, defending the peoples of the Lyran Commonwealth against the enemies of humanity. You have both placed your lives in harm's way repeatedly and without hesitation, and through your valor, the peoples of Timkovichi were preserved from conquest, and the leaders of the Jade Falcon Clan brought low. Through your actions, you have both proven yourselves worthy of the highest admiration and esteem."

Nathaniel rose from his seat and stepped up towards them. A faint metal-on-metal scrape reached Eva's ears when he pulled the Sword of Liberation free from the scabbard and brought it up. "For your service to the Federation, and your commitment to the values that bind our peoples together—" as he spoke, Nathaniel pressed the flat of the blade to Eva's left shoulder, then brought it over to the right "—I name you, Evangeline Rosa Penton-Vallejo, a Knight of the Federation." He turned towards Allison next, and repeated the gesture, the blade going to Allison's left shoulder and then her right. "And for your service to the common cause of the Federation and the Lyran Commonwealth you call home, and your commitment to the values that bind our peoples and alliance together, I name you, Allison Stephanie Palisser, a Knight of the Federation. Rise, Dame Evangeline, Dame Allison."

They did so. Eva felt a tingle throughout her body at the moment. This… was not anything she'd ever intended on seeing in her life. She never expected she'd stay in service long enough to be knighted automatically by rank, no, she'd never be a knight… except now she was. Dame Evangeline. Mom and Dad are going to be thrilled. The whole family… I can't believe I'm here, I can't believe this has happened!

Nathaniel returned the Sword to its scabbard on his hip. Two yeoman, a young tan-skinned man and light-skinned woman, approached, the man holding four cases. Nathaniel took the first and opened it, revealing to Eva the medal within. It was a white disc set in a silver starburst, the disc depicting the sword-wielding image of St. Michael, the archangel. Nathaniel took the silver-gold-white ribbon of the medal and brought it up as Eva bowed her head. She felt it settle on her neck and brought her head back up, by which time Nathaniel was already opening the second case while the empty one was now in the hands of the female yeoman. Another medal depicting St. Michael came out, which Nathaniel immediately placed over Allison's neck. "You are both hereby to be known as Knights in the Order of Saint Michael," Nathaniel said. Once he'd relinquished the second case to the pair of yeomen, he brought out the third. Eva forced her expression to not shift as she beheld the medal's design, a silver hawk, wings spread and sword in its talons, over blue Greek Cross. "And for your service to the ideals of the Federation and House Proctor, I present you with the Order of the Sword and Hawk." He pinned the medal onto Eva's uniform sash, in a place of precedence over the two she already had. Likewise the fourth and final case came open and the same award was pinned to Allison's uniform.

It's almost over, Eva reminded herself. "Thank you, Your Majesty," she said aloud.

"Thank you, Your Majesty," Allison echoed, speaking as she would to her own Archon, Eva figured, though with less obvious nervousness than Eva felt she was projecting.

Nathaniel nodded to them. Another yeoman in full ceremonial dress approached, a light-complexioned woman wearing a uniform-regulation headscarf of blue on her head, carrying in her arms two officers' swords, the scabbards marked with a Federation hawk insignia. They accepted the swords and carefully fitted the scabbards to their uniform belts, Allison with an extra second or two of effort. Once this was done they bowed deeply to Nathaniel again. He bowed his head in acknowledgement and, nearby, the drums began to beat once more.

Turning on their heels, Eva and Allison went back the way they came, again passing under the raised swords of the other officers. They're all knights too, Eva realized. I guess I may be doing this one day. If I survive long enough.

On they went and out the door. Behind them the drums fell silent. The ceremony concluded.

Half an hour later, the reception — or celebration, rather — was on in the officers' mess. Almost everyone present was in dress reds or Lyran dress uniform, and some truly choice food items and drinks were being served. Eva, never one to pass down a good drink, went for the Timbiqui Dark. "This is better on your side," she said, nodding to Allison. Tanhause and Kevin, as well as Captain Choudhury, were all in earshot as well.

"Now now, Eva, ye should be stickin' up for our side of the Glass more," Kevin teased. "Our Timbiqui Dark is quite fine."

"But not this good," Eva insisted.

"The Periphery Romans ruined it," Choudhury said. "It hasn't been the same since the legions conquered Timbiqui a hundred years ago."

"Sounds to me like you should take it back," Allison ventured.

"We Bolanese have been trying to talk the Arcadians into going for it for decades." Choudhury laughed like Eva had never heard her laugh before. "But nothing came of it."

Eva shook her head. "The Cappies kinda force us to work with the Flavians. And it might not even be that, you know. A lot is different, more than just who rules what."

"Well, at least we know there's something the Commonwealth can export through the Glass that'll earn some kroner." Tanhause took a swig. "Assuming the Mariks don't snatch the planet away while we're busy with the Wolves. You Sunhawks, I heard you might be going out that way?"

"Maybe, maybe not," confided Choudhury. "I'm operating on rumors myself. But me and the other company commanders, we're hearing all sorts of things. That we're going to Tharkad. That we're being sent down to help protect Hesperus, or to raid the Wolves' conquests among old League worlds. At this rate I wouldn't be surprised if we're told to go liberate Skye."

"Friend of mine says the Second Strikers are on their way to the Glass," Kevin added. "So any of that could be true."

"Except the bit about Skye." Tanhause shook his head. "Even if the truce with the Falcons don't hold, it'd be a complete pain in the ass sorting out if the Commonwealth reclaims them or the Republic gets them back, and honestly, we have enough enemies."

Allison finished her drink and laughed bitterly. "If the Republic wants Skye back, they can come out from behind their damned wall or whatever it is and take it. Stop leaving us to do all the fighting with the Falcons and the Wolves."

Eva took a quick drink while thinking about the subject. The Republic. I hear people talk about them, like they were some noble dream, or a bunch of fakes trying to control the Inner Sphere. Just like the Terrans did in our history. I wonder what's more true.

She didn't get a chance to ask as a sixth figure joined the quintet, filling an empty mug from the tap of the Timbiqui Dark barrel. All five sets of eyes widened at seeing High King Nathaniel carefully bring the mug up and take a respectably long swig. "Well, I guess the rumors are true," he murmured, though not so lowly they couldn't hear. He turned and nodded. "Your side's Timbiqui is the better one." Before any of them could speak he quickly added, "And please, no 'Your Majesty' or any other honorific. I'm just here casually enjoying a drink. 'King' or 'King Nathaniel' will do, if you must."

"King." Eva swallowed at saying the word. It wasn't like people didn't use the short form in their conversations of course, but it was generally not something you were supposed to do easily with the actual ruler in earshot. Not like he can tell us to completely drop titles though, that'd be patronizing, I guess? Forced? "King Nathaniel, it's an honor," she managed. "More than an honor, I… I can't believe you did this."

"Did what, Dame Evangeline? Or should it be 'Dame Eva'?"

"Eva works." She swallowed. "And that's what I mean. Medals, yeah, but you… I didn't do anything to deserve being a knight. I'm not some super MechWarrior ace protege. Khan Hazen's 'Mech was mostly a wreck when we finished her off, and I barely survived Chistu. If she hadn't been so close and I hadn't thought of using the jump jets, I'd be dead. Allison, sure, she deserves it, but I—"

"—you faced an enemy you had every right to assume was going to kill you, and you fought anyway," Nathaniel said, finishing her sentence. "That's pretty much what we want in Knights of the Federation, Dame Eva."

"'Eva', please, just 'Eva'," she pleaded. "And, what you're saying, it's what everyone tells me, but you're making me a legend, a hero, and I'm not worthy of it. I didn't win some epic, glorious duel. I fought, I lost mostly, then I won anyway because I tried something desperate."

"Which describes plenty of those 'epic, glorious duels', Eva, when you get down to it." A smile formed on the young ruler's face. "It's not what legends are made of, I agree. But that's not the purpose of honors. It's about inspiring others to reach for the same." Eva felt a warmth flowing from his words, his voice rich with encouragement. "And that's what you're becoming, Eva, Dame Allison. Inspiration. Whatever the truth of the victories of Lieutenant Evangeline Penton-Vallejo and Leutnant Allison Palisser, for billions of people on both sides of the Glass, you are and always will be the heroines who brought down the mad Falcon Khan Malvina Hazen and who saved Timkovichi from conquest by slaying Galaxy Commander Stephanie Chistu in a duel to the death. The honors you've been given add substance to these stories. Hearing what you've done, and what you've become, will warm the hearts of others against the chill of fear and encourage ever greater heroism from those facing the same trials."

"Well spoken, King Nathaniel," Tanhause said.

"Thank you Major." He looked beyond them towards the door. Eva noted an officer was there, looking about impatiently. "And I believe I have given this all the time I can. I still have much to do before I'm due to leave for Tharkad. A pleasure to have met you all." He took a final swig from his mug, a fairly long one, before placing the empty container on a nearby tray of the same and walking away.

When he was out of earshot, Allison chuckled. "Well, I've never seen an Archon chug a Timbiqui Dark like that, I always figured nobles had to settle for wine or something toshy. Still seems unfair to us that you've got so much going for you, even if our Timbiqui Dark is better."

Eva nodded. Even though he'd stepped away, she felt his words stir within her. More than the honors he'd given her in the ceremony, those words, the kind way he'd addressed her and her feelings, that made her feel a newfound, burning loyalty for the man. Beyond the ceremonial role he had as Commanding Officer of the AFRF, even beyond his being the High King of the Federation, she felt a loyalty of admiration that she'd never felt before. "He really is something," she managed to say. "He's our ruler, but I don't think I've ever really imagined being willing to follow him anywhere. Not until now."

"Well, before you consider asking for a spot in the Lifeguards, I'm afraid we've already got orders for you," Choudhury said. When Eva directed her attention towards Choudhury, the captain continued speaking. "Whatever happens with the Eighth Striker, you're on detached duty, aide officer to a liaison command to Arc-Royal and our allied Wolves. You're shipping out in a couple weeks."

"Well, congratulations, Dame Eva," Kevin said, his voice teasing. "Not even a full noble yet and they're already packin' ye off to a cushy desk job."

"I'll be back, don't you worry," Eva said. "The war's far from over."

"Not until we've driven the enemy from the Commonwealth," Allison agreed.

AFS Hawk's Nest
Departing Orbit
25 April 3143

The steady thrust of the Hawk's Nest's powerful fusion engine provided the G of acceleration that allowed everyone to move aboard the ship as if they were under gravity. Nathaniel enjoyed the benefit of feeling like he was still planetside, knowing that once they were at the jump point he had five weeks, at least, of zero-G living ahead.

At the heart of the ship's upper decks, within a protected inner core, the command center permitted the combined data for both ground combat direction and overseeing spaceflight. The ship's CO, Lieutenant Colonel Paul Rutherford, saluted Nathaniel on his arrival. "His Majesty is on deck!" the bosun declared, prompting a host of officers and personnel to rise and salute.

"At ease," Nathaniel called out. "I'm just here to observe." He stepped up beside Rutherford, accompanied by General Bridger and Colonel Laughlin. "So, we're on our way," he said. "It's good to know Timkovichi's well-protected."

Bridger nodded. "The First Lancers and Second Donegal Cavalry make for a strong pair of units, and with our Kell Hounds on planet as well, the Falcons would find it a hard target indeed." He grinned with amusement. "God help them if they try something while the other Household Guards units are coming through."

"And with Fourth Battle Fleet on site should they bring their WarShips again, the planet will remain secure." Nathaniel noted that AFS Donegal and her powerful naval force were making another round of the system, monitoring the pirate points. One of the holo-displays, showing the whole system, indicated the armored cruiser Sara Proctor was still burning around on outer patrol, in position to protect the outgoing JumpShips that were slowly decelerating towards the zenith point, several groups in total that had passed through the Glass with their units. As their JumpShips approached the system jump point those units would likewise depart Timkovichi for the rendezvous. Another display represented the large formation of DropShips in company with Hawk's Nest, carrying the rest of the Lifeguards with the Second and Third Proctor Guards, and the Arcadian Rangers, as well as an escort fleet of fleet pickets, support pickets, and carriers, enough firepower to give all but the larger WarShips reason to stay out of engagement range. If they chose not to, and the Wolf WarShip fleet was larger than expected, they would call upon the firepower of the Sara Proctor, which would be accompanying him as well along with Cuchulainn and the corvettes Wolfhound and Dobermann.

So this final leg of the journey begins. I can only pray we reach Tharkad before the Wolves, and that our initial wave is strong enough to turn the tide. But by God, whatever happens, we will prevail in the end. The peoples of these worlds will be free of these Godforsaken Clans!

"Hopefully things will be arranged before we get there, I would hate to spook our own allies with an unexpected arrival," Laughlin remarked, humor in his soft Islay burr.

Nathaniel nodded. "I do as well, the sooner things are readied, the better we will be when the Wolves make their arrival." I hope your homecoming has gone well, Lady Trillian, and your rightful Archon has been restored. Otherwise things will become very messy I fear. God be with you…
”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 »

48 - Homecoming

The Triad
Tharkad City, Bremen Continent
Tharkad, Donegal Province
Lyran Commonwealth
14 April 3143

The familiar snowy environs and icy air greeted Trillian upon her disembarking from the Eisenberg. She drew in a breath of the cool air with relish, a momentary delight before the dangerous business that was about to unfold. Vedet and Maurer are waiting.

She had quite the assemblage behind her. Roderick Steiner, Jasek Kelswa-Steiner, Martin Kell and his daughter Callandre, Patrik Fetladral, Hiram Brewer, Julian Davion, and Sandra Fenlon. They had, between them, command of five regiments of BattleMechs already on or over Tharkad, many more that were elsewhere and vital to the Commonwealth's defense, and the connections to command the loyalties of at least half the other units already on Tharkad. I should not need raw military power at my back; and I certainly hope I don’t have to call in the Davion Guards. Not with what I have in my briefcase. But it will at least be a helpful reminder to Maurer and his people that they do not have a monopoly on military power, if they are resistant.

A transport VTOL from the First Royal Guards picked them up right beside the DropPad and headed towards the Palace. The view from the air struck a memory in Trillian, as she'd taken about this same route when leaving Tharkad nearly two years ago. Back then it all felt so hopeless. The Falcons were rampaging, the Wolves were preparing to leap again despite Anastasia Kerensky's counterattacks, and Vedet and the LCAF Command Staff were unassailable. If not for a miracle, where would the Commonwealth be? Where would we all be? Would we even now be facing Seth Ward and Alaric on one side and Malvina Hazen on the other, the Kell Hounds long dead, and Anastasia lost as well? Would we have even a shred of hope left? She felt a pang of deep pity for that other, hypothetical Trillian facing that terrible scenario.

"We've got the Royal Guards’ support, Lady Trillian, I can promise you that," Roderick assured her. "And my Strikers and the Stormhammers are ready for trouble."

"It shouldn't come to that." God help us, it won't.

They landed at the helipad and entered the Triad proper. Technically they had escorts, more First Royal Guard infantry, but Trillian had no need or desire for them. She knew the way by heart.

She found the Command Staff gathered in the Situation Room, seated at a round table with Vedet to one side and Maurer across. Around them lower-ranked analysts and technical officers maintained the holo-projector displaying the map of the Lyran Commonwealth. Their map reflected the one Roderick showed to her. Thuban and Smolnik were lost, the survivors from those worlds still burning in. Tetersen and Gibbs flashed red, indicating Wolf attacks reported, but no confirmation as to if they were raids or attempts at conquest. The Eleventh Lyran Regulars and Eighth Donegal Guards were on those worlds, or rather, their survivors were, and given their status they might already be destroyed or burning for Tharkad.

It was sobering to see everything claimed in Wolf amber and Jade Falcon emerald, with a few burning light red spots to note the Horses' captured worlds. The latter two had at least not grown much, thanks to the confusion to their offensive brought by Malvina's fall and the failed second attack on Timkovichi, which still burned defiantly blue on the holo. The amber, however, was frustratingly large. Dar-es-Salaam Theater was gone, indeed, virtually everything between Hesperus and Bolan had fallen to the Wolves, and a few of the worlds on the exterior of this bulge into the Commonwealth flashed red; the Wolves' secondary strikes, no doubt, or at least reported ones. We should be lucky if those forces are there, as they're not coming here. Given how many worlds were lost or being attacked that were within a jump of Tharkad, there was no denying they were almost out of time. Any week now the Wolves might come.

"Lady Trillian." Maurer called out to her, drawing the attention of his peers and Vedet. Vedet, of course, was dressed in the Archon's military uniform, as befitting his ego. He appraised her and those with her with suspicion. Anastasia's loss has weakened his position. He's right to be afraid, she thought, while Maurer bowed his head slightly. "Welcome home, my Lady. You reported success?"


"Success in what, besides gathering what looks like an impressive following of your own?" Vedet asked. She saw his eyes tighten with fury, undoubtedly at seeing his healed cousin Hiram among her entourage. "We face imminent attack by the Wolves and you seem more interested in displaying your influence and reminding us of your disloyalty to the Commonwealth's government."

He thinks I may be here to remove him by force. He is not entirely wrong. "I am loyal to the Commonwealth, as always, and I come bearing the fruits of my journey through the Glass." She set the briefcase on the table. The click of the main lock filled the room. She opened it, drew out four portfolio folders in turn, and handed one to the nearest general. "I have here the alliance treaties signed with our neighbors on the other side, as well as the pledges of support and aid they have given to us to see the Clans driven from the Commonwealth. Indeed, as we speak, High King Nathaniel Proctor of the Arcadians is leading his army to the defense of Tharkad. He's bringing at least a dozen BattleMech regiments and supporting brigades, many near or equal to full-sized RCTs with significant amounts of Clan-equivalent weapons and technology."

That got everyone's attention.

While the portfolio folders moved on, providing copies to every member of the Staff and Vedet, Trillian continued. "If we can hold out but a little longer, our allies will help us push the enemy back across the border. Until then, I have gathered what forces I can from the Falcon front, where a truce negotiated by the late Galaxy Commander Chistu is now in place."

"We heard she was killed in the duel resulting from our agreement," Maurer said. "Analysts believe this will ensure that Malvina Hazen's followers seize further control of the Falcons. They may abrogate the truce. You risk us losing ground there."

"It is not a severe risk. The Arcadians have increased their garrison at Timkovichi and assigned a battle fleet there, with a two million ton WarShip leading the defense. Besides, the Falcons, as my documentation will show you, will have other concerns, as the other allies we have gained are not beholden to Chistu's truce."

"I do not know if I like being aligned to these social revolutionaries on the other side's Sudeten," one general growled. "By the reports they execute nobles by guillotine, very barbaric."

"Given my examination of the other Inner Sphere's history, that is most likely a myth. And even if true, I suspect that was over a hundred years ago. Nor do we have the luxury of being picky." Trillian put a slight emphasis on the last part of her reply.

The Arcadian treaty was now spread about to everyone, and the others were making their rounds, along with Trillian's data on their force strengths and the forces they were due to bring through the Glass. The expressions on every face grew lighter as every line was covered and the committed force projections read. These were drowning men and women, and Trillian had just pulled over life preservers to keep them above water.

"What is this treason?!"

Ah, he found it. Trillian turned her head and grinned at the livid expression on Vedet's face. Even with his dark skin tone he looked like he might yet turn purple with the blood rushing to his cheeks. "Lord Vedet?" she asked politely.

He cast an accusing finger at her. "These treaties are useless!" he screamed. "You signed them in Melissa's name, not mine!"

"Ah, yes." She nodded, her grin becoming a wide smile. "I did, I suppose." She glanced to Maurer, who was likewise very focused on her now, though he seemed frozen in place more than angry. The other generals were all scanning the bottom sheet of the treaties and confirming the signatures, after which they lifted their heads to face her. "Yes, I signed them in the name of Archon Melissa. I could say it was to keep the cover that the Command Staff here created, claiming you a temporary fill in, but why bother when the truth is plain? You are an usurper, Vedet, not the rightful Archon, which is why General Maurer and those present hid the truth from the Lyran people. So yes, I signed these treaties in Melissa's name, and only she, properly restored, can ratify them."

"So this is all a power play!" Vedet shouted. "This was all to unseat me!"

"No, this was to save the Commonwealth." With savage relish she immediately added, "Throwing your ass out of the throne you stole is an added benefit."

"Guards! Guards, seize the traitor!" Vedet cried, pointing a finger at her. "Trillian Steiner-Davion, you are under arrest for treason against the throne!"

"Son, don't," Roderick said, very calmly, to the one guard who'd started forward. "Just don't."

"The Royal Guards have had just about enough of your treason, Vedet," Jasek added, smiling a hard, feral smile. "You try to stop us restoring the rightful Archon, then they're going to come in shooting; so will my Stormhammers and Roderick’s Strikers."

"Gentlemen, please." Trillian held her arm up, as if to hold them back. The soldiers in the room, despite the bellowing, weren't moving a muscle.

"Hiram! Hiram, call forth the Hesperan Guards!" Vedet shouted, now facing his nephew. "Defend my throne!"

"I'm sorry, Uncle, but no," Hiram Brewer replied. "This has to end, here and now. And the fact of it is," his voice turned colder, "you've screwed this up even worse than Melissa did. I'm not killing more good men and women for the sake of your greed."

"Damn you! Damn you all!" Vedet turned his furious, crazed face on Maurer. "Dammit man, you're in charge of the LCAF, order these men to support the throne, to support me!"

Maurer drew in a breath. "Well played, Lady Trillian. Superbly played." He nodded towards her as a defeated chessmaster might towards his victorious opponent before turning his eyes to Vedet. "She has cornered us, Lord Vedet. These treaties are in Melissa's name. Only she, as Archon, can ratify them. Without her, they are null and void, and the Commonwealth—" he tilted his head towards the looming holomap and the amber mass grasping at Tharkad "—is doomed."

Vedet's fists pounded on the table. "Damn you, damn you Maurer, you put me here, put my neck on the line, and now you leave me to hang?!"

"He certainly put my neck on a line, or rather, a wire," Trillian remarked flippantly, crossing her arms. Noting she had the Leutnant-General's attention again, she glanced his way and added, "Leutnant McCarter sends her regards, General."

His lips thinned. "Ah. Well. I suppose she interpreted my orders rather stringently, I would have honestly preferred her not make such a try given how matters developed. It would appear your fortune in surviving is our fortune."

Vedet kept his head moving, looking from general to general, but finding no support amongst them. "No," he sputtered. "No, I will not stand for this! I am Archon damn you!"

"Not anymore," Maurer said. "For the future of the Commonwealth, we must accept what has occurred." He turned his head. "General Matthias, please, have Archon Melissa brought to us. Guards, do not allow Lord Vedet to leave this room, we can't afford him doing something unfortunate."

Now fear formed on Vedet's face, fear and shock and fury all mingled together in his features. As if he were not already losing the war, but only now does he look defeated, Trillian thought. "I suppose we should see about refreshments, then, as I imagine it will take some time to recover the Archon from wherever your placed her?"

"Not as long as you think, Lady Trillian." Maurer returned to reading the finer points on the various treaties.

"Well, now what could that mean?" Jasek asked. "You don't suppose they kept her here, don't you?"

Trillian didn't answer. The answer came not ten minutes later, when the far doors opened and General Matthias entered, Melissa at his side. She was in the Triad this whole time. Vedet never knew. She saw the surprise briefly break through on his face, followed by yet more fury tinged with fear. They didn't invest in you as strongly as you'd thought, did they, Vedet?

She returned her eyes to her cousin, taking in her appearance. Many years had passed since Trillian last saw Melissa. Those years had not been kind to her. Crow's feet were starting to form on the corners of Melissa's eyes. She'd lost some weight in confinement, and her court dress was both new and plainer than it might've been; clearly she'd dressed in the space of a minute or two. The old arrogant haughtiness was gone.

Not that she was broken. A certain cold fire burned in Melissa's eyes. Nor had she been denied the symbols of her rank. Over the heart she wore the Steiner fist on a gilded badge, and one of the Archon's tiaras rested on her brow, holding her locks of blond hair in place. Her eyes passed over the assembled before glancing at the holomap. The sight made her pale a little, but she quickly recovered and finished walking the distance to the table.

Trillian stepped around the table and knelt down onto one knee, as did most of those who came; Patrik, as usual, was the exception. The generals at the table, and all the occupants of the room, did likewise, until Vedet was the only non-Clansman not on a knee. Fear and fury mingled on his face as he kept his eyes on Melissa, as if he might stab her with his glare.

"Rise," Melissa ordered. They all obeyed. She smiled at Trillian. "A moment, please, while I attend to this." The smile disappeared from her face, and her eyes fixed on Maurer. "General Maurer, I see you have repented of your treason?"

"I offer my resignation, and submission to your judgment, Your Highness," Maurer said, with the air of a man ready to face the firing squad. "I removed you for the sake of the Commonwealth, and for that same reason, I restore you to your place."

"No." Melissa shook her head. "No, you aren't going to get off that lightly, Maurer." She gestured towards the holomap. "The war goes badly. And if I'm stuck trying to fix the mess we've made of the Commonwealth, so are you."

Now her eyes turned to Vedet. There’s an old saying, Trillian thought as she followed that look, that you should never do an enemy a small injury. In this case, the definition of small is leave alive, Vedet. "As for you, Lord Vedet, what am I to do with you? I am inclined towards putting a noose on your throat."

"You wouldn't dare," he snarled, though his voice shook. "Defiance would shut down all of our plants in protest. The LCAF would starve for the war machines my family provides. Nor can you admit weakness like that. To tell the people the truth would admit your overthrow, and I am not the only one who thought you unfit to rule. Others will challenge you."

"Perhaps, perhaps not." She grinned coldly at him. "Your nephew seems a loyal man. Lord Hiram?"

"I will follow the legitimate Archon, as will my forces, and the First Hesperan Guards."

"You are not their commander!" Vedet spat. "They are my troops."

"They are House Brewer's troops, Uncle, and they've seen how inept a leader you are," Hiram retorted.

"Nor am I very weak, given the allies my cousin has secured for the Commonwealth," Melissa said, noting the paperwork, and presumably briefed by General Matthias on her way to the Situation Room. "But for what it's worth, I do wish to preserve the illusion of a united front amongst us, for the sake of the Commonwealth's morale."

"The Arcadians are aware of what happened," Trillian said. "Though they have kept the secret."

"I will thank them for that, then, and plead they keep it a while longer." Melissa looked thoughtful for a moment. "Where to begin? Ah, yes. Lord Vedet, as of now, you are done when it comes to Defiance Industries. Lord Hiram, I trust your family can put someone more loyal in charge?"

"We can, Archon."

Vedet flashed an outraged glare towards Hiram, but he was answered only with a defiant glare in reply. Melissa, for her part, continued. "Defiance is vital to our war effort, and you will not be interfering in it. And while exiling you appeals, it may be a bit too merciful. And too premature, given the dangers to our morale you pose. No. I think I shall have you as my guest, Lord Vedet, until such a time as I decide whether or not to fit your neck for a noose after all." She nodded to the guardsmen present. "Guards, General Matthias, see my new guest to his rooms. I believe my former quarters will suffice. Have palace staff move my things out and bring his in."

"Yes, Your Highness," Matthias said, gesturing to the armored soldiers. They moved forward and flanked Vedet.

"I will make you regret this, Melissa."

"I have many things to regret, Vedet, but my sole one in respect of you is that I did not see what you were sooner. Now," she gestured to the guards, "take him away."

One of the soldiers put a hand on Vedet's arm. He turned, moving under his own power if just to avoid the indignity of being dragged away.

Melissa, for her part, lowered herself into the chair Vedet vacated. Her eyes glanced over the four treaties laid before her. "Ah. Lady Trillian. We will have to talk privately later. I heard of this strange portal, this 'Looking Glass', and I'm curious as to what it was like on the other side. But first, I need a pen, and you need a chair. While we are not in a position to decline these agreements, only a fool signs a contract before at least checking the terms."

"It will be my pleasure to advise you, Your Highness," Trillian replied. Another of the generals, taking the hint given Melissa's eyes turning on her, removed themselves, allowing Trillian to sit beside her. Other chairs were drawn up for those Trillian came with.

And a very short time later, Melissa Steiner's signature was in place. The Lyran Commonwealth was formally allied to the powers beyond the Glass.

Trillian found her old set of suites prepared for her, as if she'd left them just the other day. Taking up a corner of the Steiner family's traditional residences in the Triad, it was a home she had good reason to doubt returning to. Everything is as I left it, she thought, journeying past the desk where, a lifetime ago, she'd poured over course materials while earning her degrees from Tharkad University. From there to here. I return with what may be the most important treaties the Lyran Commonwealth ever negotiated. They cost much, but they are our salvation.

She walked over to the liquor cabinet and pulled a bottle of brandy and a glass out. The dark red fluid within sloshed into the glass, and the first drink burned its merry path down her throat. Outside she heard a faint roar and glanced out to see a DropShip taking off. Troops being re-deployed on-planet, she realized. For when the Wolves come.

A knock filled the room. "Come in," she called out, taking a second glass to fill.. She didn't need to turn to know who'd come.

The door opened. After several soft footsteps against the hardwood floor of the entranceway to the suite, her cousin spoke. "Trillian."

"Melissa." Trillian refilled her glass and set the bottle down, pressing the stopper back on. She took the glasses and walked to where her cousin was waiting, handing her the one she'd freshly poured. As soon as Melissa held the glass Trillian brought her own up to her chin. "To your restoration."

"To your return."

They each took a drink before journeying to the plush chairs in the middle of the parlor, where they set their glasses on the coffee table between them. "What you've done, Trillian, is one of the greatest services anyone has done an Archon," Melissa said. "Thank you for keeping faith in me, though I recognize I didn't deserve it."

"You're the rightful ruler," Trillian said. "Whatever your choices, that hadn't changed, and Vedet was certainly not the man to take your job."

"I've no doubt Maurer only picked him because you were too loyal, as was Roderick, and Jasek showed no signs of interest." Melissa sipped at the brandy. She hadn't changed clothes since their initial reunion early that day. Now she looked even more fatigued, undoubtedly from handling a fresh load of state duties after the treaties were signed and she'd returned to her rightful office. Given Trillian spent the time seeing to Julian Davion's arrangements and handling where the First Davion Guards would be billetted, she sympathized. "I am pleasantly surprised I am not dead yet. I expected Maurer to have me killed at some point."

"Vedet may have wanted you dead, but Maurer needed you alive as a way to keep Vedet under control."

"He should have known better, Vedet is a snake, and I haven't had him shot only because it really would disrupt too much. Nor can I afford to alienate Defiance Industries, even if Hiram's loyalty is true." Melissa took another drink, a deeper one. "I've had a long time to think, Trillian, so let me get this out of the way. I owe you an apology. You warned me, repeatedly, of the dangers of my plans, and instead of heeding you I belittled you, even threatened you."

"You did," Trillian said simply, recalling those tense conversations and the accusation of disloyalty. Even now, it still stung, though years old. "But apology accepted, cousin."

"I also owe you thanks," Melissa continued. "Your initiative once you learned of the Glass was beyond commendable. I will reward you, Trillian, and no, you are not wriggling out of it. You're getting a title. Maybe a world too, we still have some to give out. It's the least you deserve for bringing us these needed allies, and securing their support."

"I can't easily refuse an award, but I feel I should insist you hold off until we actually survive this. The Wolves might still beat our allies here, despite Jasek and Julian's success on Gallery. And with so much loss of confidence in our government, in our House, I'm afraid the fall of Tharkad will mean the end of the Commonwealth."

To her surprise, that triggered an outburst. "I'm such a damned fool!" Melissa set the brandy down and clasped her hands into fists. "Maurer was right that I chose poorly, and I've brought the Commonwealth to the brink of ruin. I should have never trusted the damned Clanners, or gotten mixed up trying to buy out ComStar. As things are, the only reason it is not worse is because of the Glass. If not for the other Inner Sphere and their intervention, we would likely be facing invasion from both Clans, and the Commonwealth's position would be hopeless."

"It is enough to make me wonder if we do, truly, have some divine aid on our side," Trillian admitted. "But that only holds if we stop the Wolves here."

"We have to. Whatever happens to us, to me, the Commonwealth must endure." Melissa's eyes focused on Trillian, and the intensity in them sent a chill down Trillian's back. "Promise me, cousin. Promise me that you'll do what you have to, to save the Commonwealth, whatever happens to me."

The chill worsened. Trillian felt her mouth go dry as she realized just what Melissa was saying. "Melissa, what did you do?"

"What I had to, what you've earned," Melissa replied. "You are my Heir-Designate now, Trillian. When the Wolves come here, they will come for my head. Whatever happens, the Commonwealth must survive my mistakes, and I'm counting on you to see to it."

"Melissa, it…" She wanted to say "it won't come to that", but she knew better. The Wolves wanted revenge for Melissa's treatment of their civilians. They would come for her. Her mind searched for a way to reply beyond the promise asked, one she had no desire to have to fulfill. I don't want the throne. Especially not like that. But denying Melissa would be cruel, and given their history, utterly wrong. "I promise."

Melissa let out a sigh of relief. "Thank you." She retrieved her glass. "I read your reports, some of them, on the other side. But I'd like to hear more. What are these people like? It sounds like they are part Lyran and part Leaguer, but neither at the same time."

"They're… both and neither, yes." Trillian flashed back to all she'd seen in her journey to Arcadia and her months there. Everything from her first meeting with General Singh and Captain Hanson at Timkovichi to her departure from Arcadia. "The Arcadian Federation has both, but what unites them is something new to us." The coronation flashed through her mind again, the imagery, the words.

"With all that talk of a Sword of Liberation, and that they have these Proctor Guard units, I imagine they may be a bit Davion, too?"

"Their Proctor Guards were certainly inspired by their timeline's version of the Davion Brigade of Guards, that much they admit, but even there, I can't say that. House Proctor and their Federation have an identity unlike anything we know. The same with some of the other Houses on that side, and some of the Successor States there aren't even governed by a single House."

"Still, they will fight well, at least, that much Timkovichi showed."

"Indeed. More than that." She remembered Nathaniel's speech at his coronation. The sheer frenzy and energy of the crowd of his people who heard his words, and the reported response across the rest of the Federation. "To be honest, it makes me a little nervous, the way they feel about this. They're our allies, and they mean to help us, but the way they view the Clans and what the Clans are… this is a crusade, Melissa. That's how they view it. A holy war to save all those taken as bondsmen and return them to their homes and to liberate every world conquered by the Clans. And from what I've heard, the Communalists and the Rasalhaguans don't see it much differently."

"I see." Melissa nodded quietly. Trillian watched her eyes tighten; undoubtedly, she too was thinking of their Inner Sphere's history of such conflicts.

A fresh series of growing roars drew their attention to the window. The night sky over the Triad, normally blank of stars given the lights of Tharkad City, was lit with burning white light. DropShips landing at Mount Wotan, Trillian realized. More survivors from the losses at Thuban and Smolnik.

Melissa watched the ships land with somber quiet. When the roar faded, she spoke again. "Whatever their motivations, they've given us a chance. If it is the price of survival, then I say let the Clans reap the whirlwind of the coming crusade. They have more than earned it."

The story of the Inner Spheres of the Dark Age and the Concert will continue in Book 2, "Crusade"
”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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