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Author Topic: ...and Every Mother's Son Will Suffer (a Ngo story by Cannonshop, reposted by wolfcannon)  (Read 5593 times)

wolfcannon

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i have the "And Every Mothers Son" and posting what i have now

...and every Mother's son will suffer.
as posted on 01/28/03
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Kowloon, May 18, 3063, 0430 Hours, Nha Tran General Hospital, Obstetrics room 124...

"AAAAAA-HAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH!!!" Elizabeth screamed, as the contractions hit, and agony flared in her lower abdomen- the Labour had gone on now for three days. The child was large, being almost ten days late. "Push... I can see the head, come on, PUSH!!!" the Doctor said. Ohgod...this HURTS... the next contraction hit like a thunderbolt in her belly- and her back arched violently as she put everything she had into pushing this huge object out of her body. "That's it, Elizabeth, the baby's coming out...good...good...one more time." The doctor's voice was a level Contralto, mellow and slightly bored sounding. so.. tired... the next wave hit.


Somewhere in the Jade Falcon OZ...

Watch Star Captain Kyle was a freebirth. This did not bother him, nor did it bother him that, among Warriors, he was considered to be somewhere between Clan Military Police, and, Second-line Solahma in status. Some people were simply born to be in intelligence work. Right at this moment, the Star Captain was happily chasing an enigma.
The Data had been supplied by a carefully cultivated source in the Lyran Alliance. it was a "New Type" of Medium Battlemech that was being tested by a manufaturer above the Truce Line. He had seen this performance profile somewhere else, though- and he was a very thorough fellow with a "Photographic" memory.
where is it...? his instincts were rarely wrong- this "New" Battlemech had shown up somewhere else, and, it was not a Star League design. On his console, he sifted through meshes of cross-referenced materials, performance profiles, and, battlefield reports, he was not exactly certain of what he was looking for, only that he would know when he found it...
Eventually, he did.
"Juaziero, late 3059..." he muttered, "Gun camera footage from Star Captain Eli Perez' last battle..." On the screen, the same basic shape, the same loadout, the same movement recorded by instrumentation... a Humanoid 'Mech, with an ER PPC, a battery of Extended-Range Medium Lasers, and, an improbable performance curve for the Inner Sphere's technology, danced in a heat-plume as it tore a Stormcrow apart, administering too-powerful blows with fists and feet. In the last frames, the Clan Omnimech pilot managed one last weapons-fire, tearing the Head of the Inner Sphere 'mech apart, leaving the 'mechwarrior inside unprotected, as the Spheroid machine's fist crushes the Omnimech's cockpit.
After which, the Spheroid machine slumps to the ground, atop its slain foe. The angle was good, Kyle instructed the computer. "Freeze Image, enhance by Two thousand percent." The Spheroid pilot was totally exposed, and, their suit was burning- in the image, a blue arcing could be seen, where uncontrolled surges across nearly-severed Neurohelmet leads made blue shadows. "Identity of the pilot of that...'Mech?" he asked.
The system worked for a while, and, replied with "Identity unknown. Insufficient Data."
Kyle backed the sequence up to where the Spheroid pilot was clearly visible, just after the weapons-strike that opened their cockpit. "enhance sector 124 by 348, Value 4000 Percent." The image zoomed in, until he was looking through the faceplate of the 'mechwarrior. "Compare with known Ngo Industries personnel." he instructed the machine.
It processed for what seemed to be hours, before answering, "1 Match found, based on analysis of image evidence. Do you want a point by point comparison?"
Kyle allowed as that would be most satisfactory, something had his back twitching on this...
The Image separated out, and, point by point, it was resolved, and, then, the comparison software brought up another image.
"Subject: Elizabeth Ngo, Cheif Executive Officer of Ngo industries, Age 27 as of February 4, 3063. Subject is known to be a major supporter of anti-Clan insurgencies in both the Jade Falcon, and, Wolf, Liberation Zones. Ngo Industries Special Security Units have been identified at approximately twelve sites of Raiding by Inner Sphere forces along the Occupation Border since January of 3061. To Date, there have been no reports of This Subject's presence at any of the other Raid sites. See also: Political Dissidence in the Lyran Alliance, Economic Sabotage Reports from October, 3061, Medical Information supplied by Source 14 on Melissia, December 22, 3062, Political Strife on Kowloon Resolution, July of 3062 (Filed by Sympathizer Source 18), and, Chahar Supply reports from January 3059, to present..."
Kyle looked at the two faces on the screen-one, reconstructed from gun-camera footage, the other, photographed by a Journalist on Kowloon last year.
"According to her LAAF files, she doesn't know how to pilot a Battlemech... she is, in fact, disqualified from military service... interesting." Kyle assembled the data, along with reports from sources along the predicted route of the Incursion, and, began formulating his analysis, based on this new information.

Kowloon, Nha-Tran General Hospital, 18, May, 3062, 0445 Hours...
The last crunching wave of pain hit- and, was gone. Gone too was the full feeling in her abdomen. Elizabeth moaned, and, opened her eyes. The doctors were holding something- and she heard the baby's birth-cry. "It's a boy." she said, adding, "His name is Patrick Henry Ngo... after my Great Grandfather." the Pediatrician administered the baby's first shots, and, then, asked Elizabeth, "Do you want to hold him?" The drugs were finally having an effect- she didn't hurt anymore. "Gimme." she said, holding out her arms shakily.
The baby was big, Five Kilos, at least, and, even pointy-headed and bruise-coloured, the most beautiful thing she'd ever seen. He had a fine dusting of reddish hair on his head.
"Patrick." she said, and, drifted off into sleep, her baby nestled against her.
Doctor Emiline Doughlyas sighed, looking down at the scene.
"That was a hard one, Phil, I was almost afraid we'd have to cut him out." the Pediatrician nodded, "good thing we didn't- she was mighty resistant to the Anaesthetics, though, like she'd been under 'em before..." the two Doctors left their patients to be handled by the Nursing staff, and, headed down to the lounge. "Been a hell of a weekend, though- three day labours aren't really normal." Phil said, conversationally. Emiline shook her head, "The baby was almost ten days late, and Miss Ngo is a small woman... At least it wasn't twins."

Melissia, May 18, 3063, Military Courtroom 4...
"The President of the courts-martial is ready to hear the Panel's Verdict in this case." The Defendant, Kommandant Harwell of the Logistics command, sat confidently in his place- his Political contacts had already assured him of an easy acquittal.
"Your Honour, we have, we find the Defendent Guilty as Charged, of Conspiracy against the Lyran State, Black-Marketeering, and, Conspiracy to commit a variety of Civilian Crimes as outlined in the statement of Charges brought by the Prosecution. Furthermore, we, the duly Empanelled Officers, are universally disgusted with his active collaboration in concealing a Child-Molesting Pedophile from the Inspector General's office, an act which is inexcusable in an officer of the Lyran Forces, and, in our opinion, exclipses even the sale of Lyran Martial Supplies to Pirates in its gravity. We ask that the maximum punishment allowed under the Martial Code be applied to this defendent, and, to his co-conspirators."
Harwell's jaw dropped, his eyes widened.
The President of the Court-Martial, Colonel Woody Lounsbury of the Quanatir MTM, who'd been brought in as the officer most likely to be neutral in the matter, nodded gravely, "The President of the Courts-Martial will render Sentence in one hour's time, after a short recess. The Master at arms is instructed to have the prisoner secured in Manacles under heavy guard until that time, which will be...1900 hours local, court's dismissed."

1900 Hours...
"The Prisoner, Kommandant Lawson Harwell, you have been found guilty of four Serious crimes, twelve Minor Crimes, and, one Capitol Crime. It is the judgement of This Officer, that you are the worst kind of rotten scum ever to crawl out from under a paving stone in a sewer pit. Your kind are a tumour on the butt of every decent Officer in the Lyran Alliance, you are a lesion on the scrotum of the human race, and, you are not fit to be breathing my air. You are a lower-form of life, barely fit to be burned in a sewage pit. You, are a mangy, filthy, worthless excuse for a human being, an argument in favour of population control, and, worthy only for disposal. In short, sir, I am about to throw the book at you, and, at your accomplices, I don't care how that makes you feel- and the Crass attempt by your friends to bribe me makes me feel dirty and violated. You are to be locked up tonight, in solitary confinement with no outside contact, you will remain there until 0630 hours tomorrow, when you will be taken out, in front of the Garrison's morning formation, and, hanged, by the neck until you are Dead, Dead, Dead. Until that time, You are relieved of your rank and to be broken down to Recruit, your Death benefits are suspended, your properties are to be seized, If I could order them to torture you first, I would. Tapes of these proceedings are to be sent to the Chahar MTM, The Neerabup MTM, and, each and every Regimental command in the Melissia theatre, along with recordings of your punishment. May you rot in hell for the damage you have done with your corrupt ways, Harwell, and, may your soul be damned to the darkest levels of that pit." Some of the observers gasped at the Colonel's harsh wording, others, looked strangely satisfied- the Case had dragged on, through five defendants, each found guilty, each sentence delayed until the last member of the Black Marketing Ring was sentenced. Now, Colonel Lounsbury had heard all he needed to.
Lounsbury shuffled some papers, and, looked up, again, "Bring in Jewell, I am ready to pass sentence, and, get this piece of dung out of my chamber."

Hauptmann Thomas Jewell was next.
"Hauptmann Jewell, you have waited in holding for three months for me to pass sentence. well... your wait is over, you foul piece of night-filth. You are hereby stripped of any and all rank above that of Recruit. You are remanded for the night to solitary confinement with no outside contact. Tomorrow morning, you will join Former Kommandant on his last big adventure, you are to be hanged until dead at morning formation, after which, like your former commander, your body is to be disposed of without military Honours, you [naughty] Pervert. You will not be granted any last request, you will not recieve a last meal- I see no reason to have your bodily wastes fouling the gibbet, and, your stink as it is revolts me enough. May you also rot in the darkest corners of Hell, damnation on your black soul, I hope it hurts-a lot."
"As for the rest of this ring, Dishonourable discharges for the lot of 'em- effective immediately, get them off this base and find 'em some nice dumpsters to live in. Court's dismissed."


Owens Lake Community, 45 KM outside Kowloon, Nha Tran, October 11, 3063...

"He's a Darling, Elizabeth, are you certain you want to Part with him?" Analise Nagora asked. Elizabeth nodded, "I don't want to expose my son to Kearny-Fuchida effect, at least, not until he has grown some. This conference on Tharkad is going to be critical to his future, and that's something I can't ignore either." the two women were having tea under the shade of Elizabeth's new home-built in late March, overlooking the lake. Analise alternated between conversing with Elizabeth, and, cooing baby-talk to the boy in his bassinet. "The funds transfer is sufficient, then?" Elizabeth asked, eyeing her son nervously.
Analise nodded, "Yes, in fact, I've never been paid so well for Nanny work before- he will be as safe with me, as he would in his own home with you." The older woman said in an assured voice, adding, "You have Nothing to worry about, Madam Ngo."
Elizabeth sighed, "Good, I will be leaving the planet in ten days, you will accompany us for those ten days, so that Patrick Henry will get used to your presence. It is so nice to have a real professional, maybe you can give me some tips on how to get him to sleep at night?" she added with an exhasperated tone.
Analise, a Career child-Care expert, nodded, "Aye, I know just the very thing, I'll show you if he puts up a fuss tonight..."
Elizabeth smiled, "Thanks, Ann, I may call you An, correct?"
Analise nodded, "Yes, though, when this young gentleman gets to talkin', I'd appreciate 'Ms Nogara', it's important to teach young people to be polite, you know."
Elizabeth nodded agreement, and, sipped her tea, watching the waves of the Lake roll in.


Sudeten, September 3, 3063
Strategic Planning

Star Colonel Taman Malthus hung back in the shadows watching his some of his best Star Captains at work. As much as he wanted to be involved with the planning of this raid he knew that it was in capable hands and they had to grow up sometime quiaff? Still it was never an easy task.
“This is the plan for the raid hold all of your questions for the end. The Emerald Roc, will be our transport in system. The entire ground force will be transported to planet by the Jade Dagger and Jade Knife, I know that things will be slightly cramped in there but to keep the jump signature to a minimum we cant afford a bigger jumpship. Star Captains Nigel’s aerofighters will be transported on board the Black Beak. We are counting on surprise and the ability of Star Commodore Von Jankmon to be able to navigate us threw their sensor nets without them noticing. This is not a come in hot blast our way to the planet invasion. The Emerald Talon will be making a double jump, the first will put us in Kowloon where the dropships will detach and accelerate out at 3gs. 25 seconds after we arrive in system the Emerald Roc will make its second jump back out to the OZ. After that we are completely on our own.”
“Now as soon as we arrive in orbit over the Kowloon will we drop right on top of Groves Industrial Park. I will the first mech out the dropship starting at 500 meters. Beak star will be the last out as soon as dropship touches down. Star Captain Morgan will be leading the elementals out as soon as I jump. I expect everyone to be fully deployed and organized by the time the last of the reactor glow has faded from the dropships. Star Commander Nigel will remain in the Black Beak to oversee the deployment and to intercept any incoming dropships or to support us on the ground if needed.”
“As soon as he has reached the ground Star Captain Morgan will immediately lead his Star to the office of Elizabeth Ngo. We are supposed to capture her alive not dead. Peter you are not to go after her unless she runs right in front of you, you will not torch her!” Peters Malthus’s only response was a noncommittal shrug.
“Peter I need you and your Salamanders helping with controlling the mechs that we know will be coming in and they will be coming hard. Remember this is a munitions factory we will be fighting in and around. One stray round and this whole operation might just end up one huge waste. If the Spheroids decide to initiate a grand melee we will wipe them out. As long as they fight with honor we will treat them as such. We are not Wolves we are Jade Falcons and we do not treat our enemies as dezgra unless they earn it.”
“Lastly we have a report from the Watch that she has recently had a child. We will only take the child if Elizabeth refuses to come out of hiding and then only as a bargaining chip. We do not punish the offspring for what the parent has done. If she refuses to come out for the child then we merely leave the child cause some more havoc and pull back out. This is a raid not a planetary assault. Our basic objectives are to destroy as much of her forces as possible, and, to capture Elizabeth Ngo."

Several comments moved around the briefing room- until Star Commander Peter spoke up. "Why her? what is so important about one, measly little freebirth Merchant?" he asked.
The Star Captain glanced at the Elemental, and, said, tightly-
"I do not determine the Objectives, Star Commander, I am not a Star Colonel or a Khan, My place, as yours, is to ensure that those Objectives are achieved. I can Speculate that the reason for seizing this seemingly unimportant Merchant might have something to do with her influence within the Inner Sphere, that the mission may have Political Goals, or, it may depend on the fact that she is sole-owner and Chief Executive of one of the largest Corporations in the Inner Sphere, with resources rivalling those of many of their highest Nobles... and, if she is alive and in our hands, she still has those resources, which could then be turned to benefit the Clan...but, even if she was just a lowly factory worker, the fact that we have been ordered to bring her in, is the only fact that Matters, Quiaff?"
The Elemental paused, looking thoughtful, and, then, said, "There will be a substantial effort to recover this woman before we are able to return...a Target Rich environment... Yes, this is good." and, smiled, as if the dressing-down had not occurred.
"We have several weeks to prepare for this operation, we will use them to our advantage." the Star Captain said, and,dismissed his officers.

*thanks to Chronos Titan for handling the Falcon's briefing section, Thanks to Krieghund for his assistance as well.
-Daniel M. Ball,
"Cannonshop"


Nha Tran City, October 12, 3063, outside Groves Manufacturing No. 4 plant...

"Why are we doing this again?" Supervisor 2 Lucas Dobbs asked, peering over the blueprint-screen at the new construction. His senior NCO, Foreman Grade-8 Johnathan Tunstull shrugged, "So far, boss, She's been right about the Civil War, and, it's always a good idea to fortify against pirates... plus, I heard her snarling about how much this place cost to secure."
Dobbs nodded at every point, then, said, "Yes on all of that- but, don't you think it's kinda strange that we're also arming and training the hell out of the Provisional Militia? They're supposed to be a sep'rate formation."
The former-Mercenary NCO shrugged, and, with a careless tone, said, "Doesn't the Comp'ny really own this planet anyway? I mean, the new Governor doesn't put a foot to the left without askin' for the Pr'fessor's permission. You ain't been with the Teams long, Dobbs, MissLiz is a belt 'n suspenders kinda gal, an' tighter than granma's hoochie when it comes to money, an' she spent a couple billion here since July, hell, she just had that house put up- first time in the seven years I've been with the comp'ny that livin' in a Hotel or Office wasn't good 'nough for the boss... anyways, she's comin' up the road, You want maybe I should tell the lads t' clear the street for her, so's you don't look surprised?"
Dobbs Looked in the direction his Senior NCO was looking, and, said, "I think that would be a good idea." Tunstull keyed his Portable Radio unit, and informed the crew working nearest the road that the boss was on her way, and, that they would be wise to keep heavy equipment clear until the Company Cadillac had passed.

Over North Airfield, Nha Tran, October 12, 3063, 1000 hours.

"Keep it tight people!" Senior Consultant Larah Duncan commanded. Her modified Slayer leading an uneven formation in a tight series of manuevers. The Heavy fighter had been purchased used, to replace the Transit she'd lost some years prior, just after leaving Capellan Service. The unit was mixed- Ngo Industries Special Security team members acting as "Wing Leads", training the Local militia.
So far, the Locals weren't exactly Bad, they just weren't up to the Senior Consultant's personal standard-and, she was unwilling to attribute the lack of progress to the Militia's equipment-or, rather, their Lack of equipment.
"Alright, ladies and germs, split the formation into finger-Fours, and ready for Dogfighting engagement." Twenty fighters became five groups of four each, staggered across a spread of three thousand feet vertically, and, four thousand feet horizontally. The "breakup" had been far smoother than it was before- thanks, in large part, to Larah's organizational changes in the Militia's Aerospace Wing. Now, fighters of similar speed and weapon-profiles were working together, rather than the pell-mell arrangement under the old Command structure, which tried to cover all speeds and ranges at the Lance level. "Dog Two and Four, Ready for Ground attack, Three and six, cover them."
The excercise was going better than she'd hoped...


Empty blue-giant system, Lyran Alliance space, Aboard the JFS Emerald Roc, October 12, 3062, This system is one Jump away from Kowloon.

The final package from Source 123 on Kowloon had arrived, and, been dissected by the Falcon Watch. Now, only the final mission Briefing, and, a recharging of the ship's Lithium-Fusion battery remained to be completed.
Stel was a Technician. She was, in fact, a fairly low-ranking Technician-Caste. This, at least, was how she thought of herself, when she bothered thinking about it at all.
On the outside, however, she was a well-regarded (at least, inside the community) Operative of the Clan Watch, which made her a "Lower" sub-Caste Warrior- sandwiched somewhere between a Clan Police, and, a Solahma Infantryman in social status. She considered herself to be "Part of the Equipment", this worked well for her.
Stel was "special", though- as part of the mission, it was decided that there had to be someone capable of conducting Information Warfare. Stel, you see, was what 20th Century slang called "a Hacker", a code-breaking computer-using, virtual reality electronic systems infiltrating machine. Right now, though, she was just Cargo, along with half a ton of sensitive detection equipment mounted in a reinforced wheeled vehicle on a drop-pallet loaded on a Mark VII-C assault-landing shuttle. Until the landing, Stel would continue to be Cargo- her job was on the ground, where enemy databases waited to be open, their information sifted, to enhance the effectiveness of the raiding force.
Star Commander Peter, the commander of the force's complement of Salamander Battle armour, didn't like Stel- when he thought of her at all. She dressed like a technician and often forgot to groom herself properly. He especially didn't like the Falcon Watch insignia on her Freebirth-Dress uniform, or, the way she didn't seem to answer his questions with solid realities. But, what he hated more than her appearance, her origins, or, her behaviour, was the simulations she programmed for the Real warriors on-board, as a means of "Keeping Sharp.:"
At just a hair under 1.25 Meters, Stel could have almost passed for an Aerofighter Pilot.
Almost.
"Stravag, come here." Star Captain Peter said, from the open personnel door in the launch bay. Stel looked up from her console- whereon, she was writing a new Datarodent keyed to Inner Sphere computer architecture. Nobody else, even Star Commodore Von Jankmon, called her "Stravag" as if it were her name. "Sir." she said, closing the file, standing, and, obediently approaching.
The Star Commander did not look angry-for once, and Stel felt a chill run down her spine. Peter's grin became a feral smile. "Stravag, I've reviewed your training records- you have missed Physical Fitness training for three weeks straight. Further, I took the liberty of inspecting your Quarters, and, I have noted that you are missing certain issue items- why did you fail to draw a sidearm, which is required for Warriors, even Stravags like you, in a Combat Zone? I do not mind if you wish to behave like a Surat-Technician, but, Discipline must be maintained, Quiaff?" he then proceeded to strike her across the face. Stel rolled with the blow, which bloodied her nose. "Aff, Star Commander." she replied meekly. The huge man looked momentarily confused-her meekness in response was...disturbing.
"Explain yourself." he said, finally deciding on a direction.
Stel drew in a deep breath, let it out slowly, and, wiped the blood from her nose on the sleeve of her coveralls, before answering. "Star Commander, the failure to draw sufficient uniform and personal gear came from the weight-limitations imposed by this mission, as the on-site agent, I determined that bringing enough equipment in my specialty was of more importance, than having the uniform issue for a permanent duty station. I did not draw a sidearm for the same reason, since the equipment that I use is taking up the extra space, and, having a pistol is only useful against individual light infantry, while there simply is not enough room in the electronics van to carry a rifle, or, to use one, sir." She'd practiced the response very carefully over the last month in transit- the truth was, her 'Warrior' status was applied to her solely because of her status as a Watch operative in the field.
Stel barely qualified at all with her Weapon in basic training, and, her habits- like staying up for days working on a problem, left her body starved of nourishment and excercise.
She didn't Feel like a Warrior, and, her job, by both the Star Commander, and, her own, reckoning, was not the Job of a Warrior. Dammit, I am a Technician promoted beyond their abilities, and we both know it... why are you hassling me? she thought angrily.
Peter's smirk was back- he did not, apparently, have a problem with her answer thus far, but, he was also, visibly, waiting to spring a trap.
"That explains the lack of a proper issue- it is too late to correct that, Stravag, but, there is still the issue of your not conducting proper Physical Fitness Training, and, your borderline results in your last Test... I am going to do you a favour, because I do not like you, but, the Star Captain believes that we need you. You will report to the Gymnasium on the Grav Deck in one hour's time, where I will assist you in Physical Fitness Training and basic hand-to-hand maintenance training. Until then, you are dismissed."
Stel went back to her Console, and, sat down, staring at the quiet, blanked, screen. Crap... Pete the Psycho is going to beat the Frell out of me for a few hours, because he found a way to do it that his Star Captain can not punish him for... sometimes, I wish I had not cracked into that Comstar HPG buffer...
Stel reopened the Program file, and, began de-bugging.




Daniels Avenger                Clan Coyote
General Jennifer Daniels    Galaxy Commander Jim Skyes
                                        Omicron Galaxy
Clan Wolf in Exile
328th Assault Cluster(the Lion Hearted)
Star Captain James Sword

wolfcannon

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The Grav-Deck's Gym, 1400 Hours

Stel walked into the Gym, and, looked around- she had not been here since the ship jumped from Sudeten. Most of the room's occupants were 'Mechwarriors and Elementals, Ship's crew tended to come here when there weren't as many of the Ground-Pounders to deal with. Her coverall was back in her tiny locker aboard the dropshuttle, here, she wore what appeared to be the fashion- a pair of shorts, and, a tank-top. Stel felt vulnerable and embarassed, with her puny physique, bony knees, and scruffy, rumpled, PT uniform.
The Star Commander was waiting with several other Elemental Phenotypes, at a resistance-lifting machine.
Well, when one is falling, it does no harm to flap ones arms... she thought, and, headed over to the resistance-lift.
The Star Commander looked at his watch, and, at her.
"You are on time, for once." he said, a malicious glitter in his eye, Stel noticed that some of the other Elementals were looking at her with a mixture of pity, and, disgust.
The Elemental on the machine finished his Reps, and, got up.
"You will begin with this machine, I will determine what your Lifting capacity is, and, your endurance." The Star Captain said. Several of the other Elementals stifled nasty giggles at this. One of them, a female, commented, "The Spook's actually wearing a clean uniform." several others joined that one in laughing. Stel's ears burned, as she took her turn on the bench.
"This setting is the standard for Aerofighter pilots, you should have no difficulty here." the Star Commander said.
Stel found that the setting was, indeed, not difficult.
"Let us add a few Kilos..." He said, and, the resistance increased. Then, it increased again.
and again.
and, Again.
Stel's arms hurt, her back was starting to feel the burn, she closed her eyes, concentrating.
And the weight increased again.
"Keep going, Stravag, I want to see you pushing until I get tired." She heard the Star Commander say.
Focus... the body is just a tool... just cargo. Push it... pain is irrelevant... the phrases from her Falconer recurred in her mind in a continuous loop.
And the weight increased again.
Stel heard a voice-not the Star Commander's, say, "Look at that. I would not have believed that little Surat could do it..."
The Star Commander's voice broke into her concentration- "You may stop lifting now, Stravag. It is time for you to run."
Stel opened her eyes. The Mass setting was almost twice her body weight- her arms were numb, her shirt and shorts were soaked through, and the bench was covered in a layer of dampness that the environmental systems were labouring to compensate for.
"I said, get up." Star Commander Peter said, a hostile tone and glare in his voice and face.
Stel tried to sit up- and fell down in a jumble of limbs. A huge hand grasped her by the back of the neck, and, lifted her like a rag-doll, to her feet. "You are so out of shape, it is pathetic." He told her, half-carrying her over to a running machine. "You will either run, now, or, you will be injured by the treadmill, it is entirely your choice, Stravag." he said, shoving her onto the machine, and, switching it on.
Somehow, she kept her feet, as the treadmill started.
It began at a walk, but, increased in speed until she was gasping for breath. Derisive snickers and comments flew about the room- most of the Elementals thought it great sport to make book on how far, and, how fast, she would be able to go before her legs gave out. The Star Commander just stood there, cracking his knuckles and smirking, as the machine increased its pace in increments, forcing her to increase her own.
Eventually, she just could not keep up- her feet went backwards, her face hit the support bar, and, her knees landed on the moving, sand-paper like, surface of the treadmill, scraping skin and releasing blood on the uncaring machine.
Before she'd fallen, the snickering and side comments had died down- now, they returned, along with out-loud laughter and jeers.
The machine stopped, and, Stel managed to get off of it- this time without the Star Commander's "Help".
His face was split with a smile that she was rapidly learning to hate. "Well, now, that was good warmup, we can begin with sparring."
oh, crap, I am going to die... Stel thought, looking at the huge Elemental Infantryman. At that moment, something different happened, something she did not expect.
A head, towering over the other Elementals, attatched to the largest body she had ever seen, shoved its way through the press. "Stop this charade, Now." Star Captain Morgan Icaza strode through the press of spectators like the juggernaut he was. The Elemental Star Captain looked at the Salamander pilots, and, most of them found something else to occupy their attention. "I was just helping the Watcher to maintain her physical fitness, Star Captain." Peter said, with a smirk. The Star Captain was not amused.
"No, you were not. You were having a little 'fun', and I understand that, but this is taking things too far. That... Freebirth is a mission asset, you and I can not do what she does, nor would you wish to try..." his tone reflected a slight disgust- Electronic and Information Warfare had its place, but, no true warrior would wish to be relegated to such duties. "Besides," Morgan added with a glance at the exhausted Stel, "This one can barely stand on her own, much less provide a good sparring partner for a True warrior, and, I feel the need to spar with a live opponent."
The Star Commander caught the hint- Leave the intel-puke alone for now. Morgan looked down at Stel, directing his full, somewhat terrifying, attention at her. "You may leave, if you can walk, If I hear that you have skipped another excercise period, I will allow the Star Commander to...Indulge himself. You understand, Quiaff?"
Stel understood, all too well- The Star Captain had just taken responsibility for any injuries she'd sustained, from the Star Commander, at the same time, he had reaffirmed his Dominance over the other man, and, over her.
Thus, she owed a favour, and, (narrowly) missed becoming a statistic-for the time being. The Star Commander also owed a favour- on a Career level, but, had been deprived of his toy.
I must watch my back, now, that Salamander commander does not look happy with the new order of things, and, I can not rely on the Star Captain to get me out of a jam again.
"I can walk, I think." she replied.
The two Officers dismissed her with shrugs, and, headed for the closed-in Sparring cage.
Stel moved unsteadily back towards the door.
this is going to hurt in the morning... she thought, clumsily palming the pad to open the passage.


Groves Manufacturing number 4, Nha-Tran Kowloon, 12 October 3062, Administration offices...

"...handled the back-pay issue, what's next?" the new Plant Manager, Felix Marone, asked. Elizabeth checked her notes, and, asked, "What about the Open house on the fifteenth, I know your predecessor didn't put much stock in Employee focused events, will the Preparations be complete?"
Felix smiled- three months ago, he'd been one of the Superintendents on the AC-20 line, and his suggestion of an employee-management team-building activity had been rejected.
"I've got it all in hand, Ma'am, the Food for the Barbecue has been ordered, and the educational displays have already been completed- they just need to be put up. We also found a source for the picnic tables, and I booked The Asteroid Whalers to provide music." the Manager looked very proud of this-it was something, Liz knew, the man had wanted to do for a long time.
"Hmm. Isn't that Jan Hargrove's garage band?" Liz asked, referring to the new Superintendent of the AC/20 production line. Felix nodded, "They're good. real good, I've heard 'em at the Grange hall on Sunday nights."
Liz thought for a moment, and, said, "I will look forward to hearing them for myself then." with a smile.
Then, she checked her notes again, and, said, "How's the order from Chahar, will we be able to ship it by the sixteenth, if we have this Employees day?"
Felix nodded, "The last of that run will be rolling off the line tonight at Eight, provided something doesn't go seriously wrong. I've got a question for you, though- why is Chahar's order such a high priority? They're only a Theatre Militia, and we had to push back the orders from the Third Royal Guards to fill it." He was, she noted, genuinely confused.
Class time again... she thought, before answering. "Felix, the Third Royal Guards are in a quiet area right now, nobody's attacked them, the Chahar Militia, on the other hand, fights off Jade Falcon Raids about once a month, and, gets low priority when it comes to supplies by the Lyran Command. Chahar's Order takes priority because they're a customer who actually needs our products, and, they have been a good customer for years. The Royal Guards, on the other hand, are a show and tell unit, If we miss or delay a delivery, they won't be so dead they can't pay." She paused, letting that sink in, before adding, "Besides, the Chahar Militia is fighting Clanners, They are holding a wall against the Barbarian Hordes, If we let them fall without doing whatever we can to help them, then, that wall will collapse, and our problems become far worse as Lyrans, besides, if they are defeated because we didn't ship them what they needed when they ordered it, why... It's bad for our corporate image."
Understanding dawned in Felix's eyes, "Yes ma'am, I think I understand now. I'll put Templeton on getting those crates to the 'Port as soon as the lots are cleared by Quality Control."
The rest of the office-area buzzed and rumbled about them- one of Elizabeth's changes, was moving the Executive Offices down to the Manufacturing floor level, and, putting Classrooms and customer reception up where the old executive suites used to be- in order to speed up response time between problems on the floor, and, the decisions necessary to correct them. So far, it was working, she noted, as one of the Machinists hand-walked a set of approvals through the large, open, space of the main office.
"Felix, How do you feel about the changes we've instituted, really?" she asked him, watching the management interaction through the open door of the Manager's office.
Felix shrugged, "It's streamlined a hell of a lot of processes, and, it's kept us busier than we used to be-last week, I was over in Bay 3, because of a tooling problem that was holding up the remodel. Under Stoneface, that problem would've languished for months before it got to the Plant Manager's level. We handled it in about thirty minutes, and, it was cheaper than it would have been to fix, if construction had gone on schedule while they were waiting for someone in the executive suites to make a decision. Having a clear chain of command on the Production side is helping too- anything that the Foremen can't handle goes to the Supervisors, and, anything they can't handle goes the the Superintendents, and, if it reaches my desk, it's actually worth my time....I like it. I also like the way you ejected anyone of Management level who hasn't worked on the Line or in Facilities- there were a few too many Snot-nosed kids in middle management telling experienced people what to do, and, getting paid more than Engineers who've been here for ten years. Our costs are down significantly just off of that."
Elizabeth laughed, "Hey, I was one of those 'snot-nosed kids' when I took over Ngo industries, Felix." she said, mock-seriously.
Felix shrugged his thin shoulders, and, ran a hand over his bald head, as if there were still hair there, before replying, "Yes, I guess you were- but, you never hesitated to ask more experienced people for their advice-and, you made sure that advice was good before you took it, you understood that there were things you didn't know, you didn't assume you knew everything, like most of that deadwood you let me fire. I kept some of the Kid-Managers, but, I got rid of most of 'em as soon as you told me I could..."
Elizabeth digested this, and, let the subject drop.

WKLN Tranmitter tower, Mt. Bangor, Kowloon...

Daughton Hughes the Third used to make Thirty-three Thousand C-Bills per year, as an Administrative Manager for Groves Industries. His Father had been an Administrative Manager, and, he had Degrees in Administrative Management.
Now, he was a Tower Maintenance worker for Kowloon's only AM Radio Talk station.
Young Mr. Hughes, unlike some of his former compatriots, had been a bit...profligate in his spending. He'd had a beach-house, a Fancy car, always the latest in stereo equipment, and, a string of girlfriends. His suits, as an Administrative Manager, had been only the finest, most stylish, available, and, he'd been able to afford discreet pleasuress, the sort that come in phials and cost a thousand C-Bills per Kilogram.
Daughton Hughes knew exactly why creditors lingered around his one-room apartment in lower down-town, he knew why the leg-breakers from Vinnie the Mouse were looking for him, he knew exactly why his Cars were no longer his.
It was the fault of that Ngo woman.
When his situation was at its worst, a nice gentleman with an unfamiliar accent had sought him out. "Keep an eye on the Groves complex, and, watch the Ngo Industries people, send what you observe to these coordinates twice a week on this channel- do it during your maintenance cycles." The nice man paid Daughton in Cash, and, he paid well.
Daughton did one better- he gathered every scrap of information on Elizabeth Ngo, Ngo Industries, and, the private army that had come with her, and, he sent his reports on time.
While he was not able to reclaim his former position in life doing this, he was able to reduce his debts, and, pay Vinnie off before he found himself wedged into a drainage grate with his genitals severed and stuffed down his throat.
Daughton never considered who might have been paying him, nor, did he consider what might actually be at those coordinates, or, where it was sending the twice-weekly report he was making with the help of WKLN's 500,000 watts of pumping power.
He just input the packet as a piggyback on the carrier wave signal, where it rode up, and up, and, up, some small portion leaking through the planet's Ionosphere, creating a slight buzzing on Dr. Milhouse's Relationship Advice for young couples, out, into the void, travelling at the speed of light past dropships, moons, and, uninhabited planets, through the asteroid belt, to be recieved by an object not much bigger than a city bus, here, the piggybacked, digitally encoded, signal, was separated from the Radio-Station's advice program, the source tag was noted, the code deciphered, then, reincrypted for HPG transmission, which then waited in a data-buffer until that evening, when Kowloon's main continent was out-of LOS, when it would be sent, by the sattelite's on-board HPG transmitter, to a system containing a Blue Giant, and, no useable planets, where it would be picked up by another sattelite, and, forwarded to a Jumpship, waiting at the Nadir point of that system, for decryption and, analysis by the solitary Clan Watch Officer.
Today's report indicated that three of the Seven "Trouble Removal Teams" initially on-world, had departed by Jumpship for regions unknown, and, that Elizabeth Ngo was finally going back to work on a regular schedule from 0900, to 1700 hours, accompanied by a Nanny, and, her son.
The report would take about a day to make its way to the Clan vessel, but, the Sattelite also sent a small, commercial-channel message to the Bank of Kowloon, transferring funds from an account belonging to "Jane Turkina", to the account of one Daughton Hughes the Third.
a Confirmation signal was recieved, and, the correct confirmation code broadcast, two automated systems talking to one another.
The final piece of Battle data was on its way.
When recieved, read, and, analyzed, the last bit of planning would rapidly be completed, followed, immediately, by the Raid.

Of course, this was all beyond Daughton Hughes the Third's knowledge- all he knew, or, even cared about, was that C-Bills, not Kroner, were entering his account, in exchange for information that was virtually public knowledge, On Kowloon, at least...


Daniels Avenger                Clan Coyote
General Jennifer Daniels    Galaxy Commander Jim Skyes
                                        Omicron Galaxy
Clan Wolf in Exile
328th Assault Cluster(the Lion Hearted)
Star Captain James Sword

wolfcannon

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Kowloon, Nha-Tran Spaceport, 14 October, 3062

The Municipal Spaceport was a spartan affair- even for a near-periphery world, consisting of a thick Ferrocrete Pad with tie-downs, flanked by prefab buildings on three sides, and, a triple-row of warehouses, Fuel Docks, and, a handful of large hangars. The 'Port was nothing more than a fueling and cargo-transfer station where only the most primitive repairs could be attempted. This was all to a sort of plan, of course- during the last three centuries, it has been destroyed a total of fifteen times, mainly by Pirates, sometimes by accidents. Kowloon's major spaceport had no "Concourses", passengers and cargo unload on the Tarmac, and, make their way across the open ground to the "Terminal" building- a structure made of corrugated iron and packed earth, straddling the triple- laid razor wire fences and minefield that make up the perimeter of the spaceport.
Kowloon may have a working Industrial Base, but, it has always been a Poor world, the fruits of her labours either being funnelled to off-world concerns, or, stripped away when Bandits and Pirates came to call in floods during the various wars, conflicts, and, upheavals of the Lyran Alliance.
Battlemechs at the 'Port are a sight most locals have grown to associate with some attack or other.
Today, though, the Battlemechs are at the Port for a different reason. laid on shipping pallets, the 'Mechs are here to be loaded into a dropship- Ngo Industries is sending Gold team "Home", to Tovarich, for repair and refurbishment. This wlll leave Chrome Team to serve as Elizabeth Ngo's primary bodyguard contingent. Had Daughton Hughes the Third known this when he sent his message to his masters, The Falcons could have planned on facing a much smaller force.
This did not occur, and, soon, the money spent in rebuilding Nha Tran would be for nought.
It may be a shame, that no-one on world has any idea of what is, even now, readying to jump into their midst...

Emerald Roc, recharging at the Nadir point of a Blue Giant star one jump away from Kowloon, October 14, 3063...

Stel ran steadily on the treadmill, while its sensors obediently logged her heart-rate, respiration, and, muscular Stress levels.
An observer watching her, as Star Captain Icaza was, would, not knowing the small, Freebirth, Watcher, believe that she was in an exhausted daze.
She was not. "Three of the Seven combined-arms battalions that arrived last year, have been sent to some other world, in great secrecy, three nights ago. Progress on the fortification of the Groves complex has apparently stalled, for unknown reasons, the bunker-like excavations have been left open to the weather. The Corporate Thugs continue to alter the Militia, this morning, three officers appointed under the old administration, were relieved of their duties for "Malfeasance". I have enclosed a short video of a training excercise being carried out by the Air-Wing, under the Corporate Thugs' control... The report had gone on and on, detailing numbers of ground personnel, duty-shift rotations, even where the Corporate Soldiers went most often in their time off. Source 143 was proving to be valuable. Valuable, but, disposable. Stel thought to herself, as her feet pounded away on the machine's moving surface. Selling out his world for a petty sum of money... this man will have to die in the raid, his information is good, but, a man who turns traitor so easily is too unreliable to allow to live... Her cold reasoning hid, even from her, the surge of nausea and revulsion at the tool she'd been given.
"Quicktime, March." Star Captain Icaza said in a bored tone.
Stel's run became a walk automatically, as the machine began its cool-down cycle. She opened her eyes, and, forced her true work back, so that she could interact with the real world. "Three minutes off your last time, Stel, that is much better than your previous scores, I am not displeased." He tossed her a towel, and she asked, with a slight smile, "That means you will not have me shot by Peter the Psycho when the mission is over, Star Captain, Quiaff?"
The Giant elemental actually laughed, and, said, "That entirely depends on your performance on the ground at the Target. You will be pleased to know that a Rifle has been located aboard of the type you were trained on, and, that the Armourer-Techs have corrected all deficiencies with it- you will not be unarmed when you go in." He seemed quite pleased with this, but, Stel felt a chill in her gut- the Front-Line warriors still did not believe that Information could be used to kill. Not that I would argue the point with them- I did not join the Watch to have my arms spindled into new and fascinating shapes by Elementals who did not like my ideas...
"I appreciate that, Star Captain." Stel replied, settling on a half-truth, rather than an outright lie. She Appreciated the implications of the weapon more than he knew- rumours had circulated for years that the Warriors wanted their Watch to be more "warrior-like", even to conduct Covert Operations- a skillset that was not well understood by most of the Clans, but, which had proven effective in Inner Sphere hands.
Icaza expects me to turn into a Headhunter in Stealth...damn. They proceeded to the Hand-to hand Ring, where her opponent of the day, a 'Mechwarrior from the Command Star, was waiting patiently.
Time to get my butt kicked again... she thought sourly, as the Medical Attendant opened the Ring's perimeter to let her through.
This is going to hurt... a lot.

Icaza's voice boomed, "Begin."

And all Stel had left to think about, was avoiding the 'Mechwarrior's blows, which came like a whirlwind at her.

Nearby, watching from a nook tucked into the structure of the Gymnasium, Star Captain Roshak nodded his head, as the Watcher sidestepped one of 'Mechwarrior Carl's blows. Star Captain Icaza walked over. "You have improved her immensely, Star Captain. I did not think that bookworm-surat Freebirth could ever maintain even this much against a Trueborn Warrior. I congratulate your success."
Icaza shrugged, and, frowned. "Siccing Star Commander Peter on her like that helped, but, I see now why she washed out of her initial training, and started insisting she was a Freebirth... She has good reflexes and Phenomenal concentration, but..." he shook his head in frustration.
Roshak finished it for him- "She retreats, she has little aggression in Physical things. She is...Meek."
Icaza nodded, "Aff, Meek, as a sheep... You have read the Psych report, Quiaff?"
The Senior Star Captain nodded, "Aff, 'Extreme Passive-Aggressive Tendencies'... have you discovered how to tap those 'Aggressive' tendencies yet?" The question was one he considered serious- Stel was one of his 'Pet Projects', Having a Warrior who avoids fighting forced on him by Taman Malthus was something he could not stomach- not without finding a means to correct the defect, or, eliminate the 'Warrior' without creating repercussions.
"I think I may have, at that, Her Rifle trainer in the PGC Basic Course noted that, while she had the proper physique, excellent eyesight, and, sufficient strength, she had difficulty engaging targets closer than two hundered meters-with open sights. With a scope, she had difficulties out to a thousand. I think she has reservations about killing." His raised eyebrows pointed up how baffling the concept was for the Huge Elemental.
Roshak thought for a moment, and, asked, "Why does she have Warrior Status at all, then?"
The Elemental Star Captain shrugged- "Who can say- I know that her records show she wished to remain in the Technician Caste as a Programmer, but, being 'Meek', she did not refuse to test when ordered to do so by Star Captain Kyle of the Watch. He actually wrote it as an Order, funny, Quiaff?"
Roshak laughed, and, nodded, "Aff, funny- I take it this order is logged on her codex, and, her compliance was to the letter- and nearly perfect, Quiaff?"
Icaza nodded, "Aff, right down to making base minimums in her Trial of Position."
Roshak let out a low whistle- "That is as difficult as achieving a maximum score- even the most careful warrior has difficulty defeating a foe without injuring them."
Icaza nodded, and, glanced over at the ring.

The Mechwarrior backed her into a corner- nowhere to evade to, no room to duck or dodge. Stel saw red...

A needle broke through the blackness in her mind, and, Stel's eyes cleared. She was... wet.
There was blood on the mats, and, there were Medtechs all around her, most of them checking on the 'mechwarrior.
He did not look so confident, his left arm was being set, his nose was a bloody blob, and, he was looking rather... shocked, as a third Medtech began checking his scalp for concussion.

Roshak and Icaza, out of the Watch-Weenie's sight, looked at one-another. "Extreme, I did not expect her to try and kill him." Icaza said carefully. Roshak looked thoughtful, and, said, "she retreated, and, Retreated, and, Retreated, until he backed her into a corner that she could not get out of... Morgan, see if you can find a more suitable armament for that one-say, a Shotgun."
The Elemental Star Captain raised an eyebrow, "A smoothbore, short-ranged, shotgun?"
The Senior Star Captain nodded, "Aff, it is a weapon that is only useful when one is backed into a corner, and, unable to escape. I do not think I want to try and make this one into an Offensive weapon... but, given the proximity she will be in to the main battle, I do not want her completely defenseless...besides, I think Carl is suitably... Impressed with the need to think before he presses an attack, now."


Later, 1300 Hours, 14 October, 3063, in the Emerald Roc's secondary small-craft bay...

Shel felt ashamed. That was not supposed to happen. She'd washed the sweat away after the Medtechs finished checking her over- the bruises on her ribs would heal, as would the bruises on her hands. I lost control, and, we are short one 'Mechwarrior because of it... She knew, deep down, that such thoughts were anathema in the philosophies of the Clan, but, she thought them anyway. Especially after Carl had congratulated her- ("Excellently done, Warrior Shel, I did not expect such a strong fight from a Freebirth." He'd said it wryly, with a lopsided grin, as the Medtechs finished wrapping his broken arm. She was afraid, too, that if she admitted her weakness, the other warriors would mock her forever for her "Sudden Temper". So, she kept her peace, and, accepted the Trueborn's praise graciously.)
Shel dove into her work- and, an idea began to form...
"Of course." she said, not realizing she was speaking out loud, "She brought all seven formations in to take the world, not because one could not do it, but, to deal with the Consequences if the Theatre Commander did not approve... when the Lyran High Command did not move on her, she held her place, until she was certain that there would be no reprisals for what she did- then, when she was sure... she started sending those units back to where they came from." Shel began making notations, and the arrangement became clear: Their enemy was afraid of her own government's reactions to what she was doing... "first, there were seven formations, then, six, now, four... Where would I send them, if I were her..." Shel began looking at the units that were left.
"almost a Regiment right there-but, not quite..." she muttered.
Four Companies of Battlemechs, Eight of Tanks, and, Twelve of Infantry. A shock ran down her spine, as she looked over the gathered intelligence- this force would be a challenge, indeed, for even a pair of Trinaries like this one. The only trick to it, was that the Factory was relatively fragile, and, the Corporate troops would not be eager to destroy the Property.
Shel began analyzing the images- something that had been done imperfectly by the Watch before the mission was mounted. "Each group does have a different marking structure..." she muttered.

Star Captain Roshak listened to the Watcher's muttering- it was more interesting than trying to get past her bowing and scraping. Hmmm... by herself, she does not act... off... he thought, and, realized that the freebirth had, somehow, come across something that he actually needed to know.
He cleared his throat- and she jumped. "Relax, Shel, I am mostly here to observe you at your work- what do you mean, 'Differences'?" he asked.
Shel seemed to be... less of the meek-mouse that had gone berserk in a corner, and, more like a "Proper" warrior when she answered him.
"Star Captain, there are significant differences in the enemy's commands- differences that can be of significance, I believe, based on prior encounters." she replied, and, it was... snappy, confident.
"Explain." he commanded.
"This unit, their logo is trimmed in Gold-paint, you see? They only observe Zellbrigen when their tonnage matches or exceeds that of the units they are facing- not the Skill, or, the Technology, but, the raw Tonnage. It is the unit most often encountered raiding in Clan Space as a whole- last year, they were recorded striking deep in the Wolf Occupation Zone- After that series of Raids, which led from near the Centre, down towards the Truce Line, their deployments and fighting style changed, I believe this unit has had a change of commander, and, that it contains the most Elite 'Mechwarriors and Infantry, of the four remaining units."
The Star Captain raised an eyebrow- "Four? the Briefing originally stated Seven were present on Kowloon, Quiaff?"
She nodded, "Aff, the Briefing back on Sudeten stated that there were Seven such units, each a Battlemech Company of sixteen, supported by two Companies of Sixteen Tanks, and, Three Companies of 128 men- but, the report recieved this morning from Source 142 states that three of those units departed in the last week- and, I think I know why."
she brought up a large display- one she kept dark normally, since its main purpose is for briefing Officers who might otherwise find a simple report to be inconvenient to bother reading. "I believe that Seven Companies of 'mechs, Fourteen Companies of Tanks, and, Twenty-One companies of Infantry comprise the whole force of Ngo Industries, which has, according to sources, assets spread across the whole Inner Sphere, and, in some of the Periphery. concentratiing that much force in one place, must have taken a great deal of effort for Elizabeth Ngo, and, a great deal of risk-she used no Mercenaries from outside the Corporation in this operation, which means she had to have hired such to guard her other holdings... and, there can be only one reason she would take a short-regiment up against a local Militia Battalion on a world this far out of the path of Terra... She was afraid that the Lyran Government would object to her seizure of Kowloon..." Shel paused, and, then, added, "...and, she intended to fight them."
Roshak looked thoughtful, and, asked, "Could she not have predicted our actions? Her units have been raiding Clan territory for some time now..." He trailed it off, as Shel shook her head, "With Respect, Star Captain, I have read her Psych profile, she Hates all who are of the Clans- Any Clan, one of our best profiles came from a Diamond Shark Watcher, who related that 'Miss Ngo', threatened bodily harm to one of Their Merchants when she was approached with a Trade Deal, and, that Merchant's Dropship barely made it to their Jumpship ahead of the Fighters she sent after them. If she believed we were coming, she would have held on to those units, or, sent them to raid the Jade Falcon OZ, which would put their Jump Course directly through this system. neither has happened-unless there was a Jump Signature detected that did not cause alarms." Roshak mulled this over- the Analysis was solid, of that, at least, the Watcher seemed absolutely certain- and, it was the first time he had seen her absolutely certain of anything other than that some Elemental would use her face to mop the floor.
"So, What are we to face, then, when we arrive, of the remaining units?" he asked.
Shel pulled her lip for three tugs, and, reached over to a keypad. The display changed.
"This unit, the one I pointed out earlier, has shown up as early as 3058, in the Smoke Jaguar Corridor, it is likely their most experienced, and, Elite, unit, you will note that the average weight is Medium, and, that they employ a Masc-like system that relies on heating... the Comstar records the original Invasion were given calls this 'Triple Strength Myomer', older stocks of this material could be destabilized by the introduction of a gaseous chemical catalyst- which causes it to explode into flames, wiping out the 'mech so equipped. Our sources indicate that this flaw may have been corrected- one of the battlefield side-effects, is that a Spheroid 'Mech so equipped can mount more, and, more powerful, energy weapon arrays, and, fire them more often, than a 'mech that lacks it... oh, and, it makes their physical attacks absolutely Brutal. I incorporated it into the simulations for your Training programmes. This Myomer is fairly common in all of their 'mechs- it seems to be a favourite of theirs. This 'Elite' unit, trims their Company Logo in gold."
She keyed the next display. "That-that is a..." Roshak had to bite back the laughter- "That is a Mackie!!!" and, then, he let some slip out in a bark. Shel did not seem so amused.
"Star Captain, that 'Mackie', is upgraded to the hilt- it walks 40 Kilometers Per Hour, is equipped with that same cursed Heat-Myomer, and, is armed with Extended Range energy weapons. It also Jumps, and, according to Mass sensors, it weighs in some 15 Tons lighter than the original- with the same sensor suite, polarized windows, and, general outline. It is the primary 'Mech of the grouping whose Logo is trimmed in Silver, this grouping is their Heaviest force, mostly Heavy and Assault class machines, modifications of the Draconis Combine's Grand Dragon, are the second most common units in the Battlemech portion of this formation. The remainder seem to be a mix of Twenty-Five to Thirty-Five ton machines, including one Spider, Two modified Commandos, and a Jenner- the Jenner is reconfigured to use only energy weapons, and, it also has that Heat-activated Myomer. This force is less commonly seen raiding, it is more often encountered on worlds that WE are raiding- last year, this force heavily damaged two stars of Wolf 'mechs when they crossed a Property Boundary and attempted to enter a Ngo Industries complex, The odd thing is, this force does not use its light 'mechs for Reconaissance, it relies on VTOLs, and those VTOLs are fast, and, dangerous- two of them took down two Hell's Horses Donar Recon helos in action six months before the Ghost Bears ejected that Clan from the Inner Sphere. It was the only recorded incident of this... 'Silver' Team crossing into an Occupied Zone."
Roshak shrugged- Vehicles were worthless as combatants, except in groups. "You say that this Silver force is their heaviest, but, you also say they have the least experience, quiaff?"
she shook her head- "NEG, Star Captain- neg- this force shows exceptional (for Inner Sphere) piloting, tactical, and, Gunnery skill, they are as well coordinated as the Gold unit, and, they seem to use Terrain to their advantage. They are VERY skilled as Defenders, they are simply weaker on the attack."
Roshak digested this- and, asked, "What are the odds that this... SIlver unit is present at the Factory tomorrow?" a force that heavy might present problems... he thought, to himself, ...or, Opportunities- there is more Glory in defeating Heavy and Assault machines, than in crushing Mediums and Lights...
She shrugged- "That is hard to say- I would say with certainty that some of this unit will be on duty at the Factory, especially with their Leader there, but, some will also likely be on stand-down. The Assault Mackie is new production, by the way, we have not narrowed down the factory, but, records indicate that there was a Mackie factory in this region during the Star League, and, that it was mothballed some time in the late 2600's. That factory likely was not a target during the First Succession War, because of its obselete, fixed, tooling, and, difficult to supply location."
Roshak nodded, slowly, "That is why you programmed the obselete machines into the Simulator databases, then... What is the next unit?"
Shel keyed the next display. The 'Mechs looked the same as the proprietary design of the Gold teams- but, he could recognize several ligher designs as well. "Copper?" he asked, guessing based on the general "Metallic" theme.
She nodded, "aff, Star Captain, this unit seems to be... well...
unremarkable, like the others, they fitted the bulk of their machines with Heat-Active Myomers. This force seems to rely more on their Vehicle, Artillery, and, Infantry, assets.
They first appeared on the battlefield last Year, and, engaged in open-ground battle with a Ghost Bear unit, against whom, they employed the dirtiest tactics they could devise- mass artillery bombardments covering the advance of their 'mechs, It was noted that their 'Mechwarriors seemed unconcerned about taking shrapnel hits, in fact, they only shifted fire after taking a few hits from errant shelling. When they closed, they used TAGs to designate Ghost Bear 'Mechs, and, Thunder Munitions to force their opponents to either take damage, or, break formation, with Jump-capable units free to move, while the non-jumping units were channelled and pinned-down. It is unclear what the raid was about, and, resistance on the world in question vanished after this unit departed. Before they left, they apparently managed to install a catalytic in the Bears' showers- forty Ghost Bear warriors were burned to death in their barracks when the showers emitted flaming liquids instead of water..."
The Star Colonel spat, and, said, "Dezgra, Dezgra to the extreme...That is a Monstrous act."
Shel nodded, and, said, "The second time they have been sighted, was supporting a Mercenary unit in a raid on the Wolves- the use of Artillery Barrages, dirty-tricks, and, sabotage, were all present, this 'Copper' unit also employed older Inner Sphere battle armour against the Wolves- the four-legged "Sloth" design, as well as early, poorly done, copies of Elemental armour. After their departure, the Wolves knew to check their billeting and facilities over. sixty-one forms of deadly trap had been deposited, including several that can only be described as 'Practical Jokes', such as reverse-flows on the toilets that eject the water at fatal speeds...right up into whoever is sitting on the toilet at that time, a chemical catalyst in the base Wash-racks that softens Armour- this chemical is present, by the way, in your Tech's tool kit- it is used when Armour is being altered or replaced, to aid in removing damaged sections. Wash a 'mech or tank with it..."
Roshak nodded, "The armour becomes too brittle to serve as protection..." and whistled a low whistle.
Shel manipulated the display. "The 'Mechwarriors in this unit are below the first two in skill, unfortunately, their Artillery and Infantry are... exceptional. I believe they may have as many as two companies of Combat Engineers trained in infiltration techniques, this would account for the sabotage, and, the... ah... nature, of the sabotage."
Roshak nodded, and, said, (more to himself, than to her) "Practical Jokers... What is the last unit, then? Devil Worshippers or something?"
Shel changed the display. These 'Mechs were, like the others, clearly Company property, the weights were more evenly distributed, the types vastly more varied. "This one I can not get a real...'Handle' on. we have only images taken by our sources, and, a handful of sighting reports, to go on.
Their trim is different, see? actual Chrome plating around the Logo, and, no camouflaging what-so-ever. The infantry, and, Armour of this unit are...different, as well. The Tanks are unmarked, even without the Company Logo present on the rest of the force, and there seems to be a predominance of reconaissance types- the Helicopters are black, and, unmarked, the 'Infantry' is dressed in black, business-cut suits, and, is armed with light weapons only-submachineguns, sniper-rifles, and, pistols. You will note that this unit also has several Rotunda-style cars, though they are more primitive than the Star League model, and, appear to mount no weapons."
Roshak scratched his head, "How do you know this is a unit, at all, then?" he asked.
the Watcher brought up an image, "this- this image was provided to us by a man who lost his position due to the Ngo Takeover..." the Holoimage was animated- it had been taken by an automated Security Cam on the Groves Manufacturing grounds. Men in black business suits stepped out of the shadows, as if the shadows were doorways into a netherworld, and, destroyed armed guards with casual ease.
"I believe Chrome is her Headhunter unit, and, that she has not used them against us for reasons I can only speculate upon." Shel said quietly.
The Star Captain looked thoughtful, and, said, "They are good, see how the one in the lower corner uses his hands, instead of the submachinegun, to kill that guard? smooth, and, silent... for them to do this, that Security Control centre had to have already fallen to them."
Shel nodded, and, keyed another image. "This is the leader, we think, of this Chrome team- sources on Outreach have told us that he is rumoured to be on the run from the Capellan Confederation, possibly a spy, or, other Elite operative. He has been seen with Miss Ngo at every public appearance she has made since the Outreach Commercial Conference in 3062... I believe he is her chief bodyguard, and, the man Star Captain Icaza has to kill to achieve the portion of the mission involving her capture..." The face was of asian descent, but, the caption was from a public record- "Juan Davis Martinez".
The name could not have belonged to that face, Shel was certain- the gaze in the image was steady, calm, almost peaceful, the smile did not touch the eyes.
"How long have you been sitting on this data, Shel?" Roshak asked.
Shel shrugged, "I recieved most of it on the seventh, it has taken me this long to compile the dossiers of the known commanders and leaders, I recieved word that these were the remaining units last night, when the Automated sattelite a Watch Bug-Eye dropped a year ago kicked a report in to us...
I sat on the Report for two hours, while I analyzed a few anomalies in the data to ensure that it was neither faked, nor, corrupted... Here, for you and the other Senior officers, is the whole of my report, and, analysis..." she ejected a Datadisc, and, offered it to the Star Captain.
"Neg, you will give this report in person, in the main Briefing room, with all of your 'Notes' in two hours." Star Captain Roshak informed her coolly- adding, "properly attired in a clean uniform, and, do something about that hair..."
Then, he left.
Daniels Avenger                Clan Coyote
General Jennifer Daniels    Galaxy Commander Jim Skyes
                                        Omicron Galaxy
Clan Wolf in Exile
328th Assault Cluster(the Lion Hearted)
Star Captain James Sword

wolfcannon

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Nadir Jump-point, Kowloon system, October 15, 3062...

Alvin "Preacher" Peabody felt... guilty. Taking Gold team back to Tovarich, while MissLiz stayed behind on Kowloon did not sit well with him, though he understood why she had insisted.
The unit was well overdue for a rest and refit, and, the Plant where the Mediums were built needed a security force, now that the Mercenaries' contract was up. The Jump alarm sounded, and, he settled back, eyes closed, and, began praying that nothing would go wrong on Kowloon until Gold returned.
Disorientation


Groves Manufacturing Number 4, Nha Tran, Kowloon, October 15, 3062, 0900 Hours.

"...and here is where the Ammunition is packaged for shipment to various places. Hi Johann!" Phyllis Carter was leading a group of family members-mostly children and wives, through a tour of the Class-ten ammunition line. She was an Engineering Manager, and, had volunteered to act as a chaperone. The kids were, for the most part, well-behaved- they were seeing the place where their parents went for hours and hours each day. "Hey, Phyllis!" Johann Kruse, one of the Heavy Exo operators, waved from the cage of his machine, as it lifted a crate onto a truck.
"What time's the Barbecue?" Johann asked, over the noise of his propane-powered Heavy Exoskeleton.
"They start serving at around Ten! I hear the Boss's Boss is gonna be there!" She replied.
Johann waved to the kids, and, stumped his Exo over.
One of the Girls, with wide eyes, asked, "Izzat a Mech?"
Johann shut the Exo's ICE engine down, and, climbed out, before answering. "No, This is a Case/Interstellar Harvester Heavy Industrial Exoskeleton, It's used to lift heavy loads in tight spaces where a forklift can't fit. Usually, we have crates stacked to the ceiling in here, and, there isn't much room to move, but, we shipped a big order last night so that the Soldiers would have bullets to shoot Clanners with."
One of the boys- Trent Lorenson, whose Dad lived across the street from Johann, raised his hand. "Trent?" Johann replied.
"My Daddy fought Clanners!" the boy said. Johann laughed, and, smiled, "Yes, yes he did... Phyllis, I gotta get back to work, now, we still have that order from the Third Royal Guards to fill, an' Stebbins is a little jumpy about it..."
Johann climbed back into his Exo, powered it up, and, with a puff of eggy-water smell, turned it back to work.
"Follow me! through here, one at a time...Peter, don't tease Michael! Bryan, leave your brother's hair alone...put that gum back in your mouth, Loren!" Phyllis reminded herself that she'd volunteered for this...


Nha Tran Air-Traffic Control, 1000 hours, 15, October, 3063

Charles Kurtis had been ATC for Nha Tran for fifteen years, during that time, he'd seen the equipment get into poorer and poorer shape- until they were relying solely on Atmospheric Radar and a precious handful of aging LiDar emplacements, to handle the daily traffic in and out of the spaceport.
That all changed last month. "Bloody new systems..." he muttered. The new Sensor arrays were supposed to bring Nha Tran Municipal up to its paper-standards. The problem was...Damn buggy gear- that's the third Phantom it's detected this week... the new sensors kept detecting Jump-Signatures that weren't there, and, the Techs kept saying there was nothing wrong with the system.
Still, He was on a tear to prove the equipment was unreliable, so, he directed the Lidar on Mt. Burma, and, the Lidar on Mt. Phat, towards the "phantom" signal, and, turned the gain up on the Radar.
Used, as he was, to screens that had problems resolving point-sources, he studied the returns.
"Crap... on my shift, too..." He glanced at the Civil Defense Alarm, and, reached for the phone. Tell Margritte first, otherwise there won't be room in the Emergency shelters...
His delay cost the Civil Defense Authority twelve minutes, but, the Pirate Alarms went off all over the city at Ten-Thirty Hours local time.
Pirate Raids on worlds like Kowloon happen often enough that people don't ignore the sirens when the long wailing note echoes through the streets.
Civilians flooded out of some buildings, others, went down into reinforced Cellars, "raid shelters", built under their homes or businesses.
For those shopping downtown, and, for a good number of unfortunate folk who work in the newer businesses, it was time to rush the Emergency Shelters.
For Emergency Personnel, of course, a Raid means something different.
Ambulance Drivers, firemen, and, Rescue workers, whether on-duty, or, off, rushed back to their respective stations, and, prepared for the inevitable damage that would come, when the Pirates hit the City, damage caused both by the Pirates themselves, and, the efforts made to defend the people and property of this city.
At Groves Manufacturing Number four, the visiting families were led, by Security and management personnel, down, into deep shelters built back when the Factory had been part of a Star League staging area against the Rim-Worlds republic. In the Basement, the civilians would be safe, with ample stocks of food, and, fresh water from a buried Fusion plant.
The Bunker Walls were thick, and the roof was designed to take a Nuclear strike. The Families would be safe. Elizabeth sent Mrs Nagora with Patrick down the stairs, but, she remained above- not everyone could go in, and, someone had to remain to coordinate the Teams, since Alvin was gone with Gold...

North Airfield, Nha Tran, at the same time.
The Pirate alarms went off. Larah Dawson stopped taking her "Bag" off, and, zipped it back up. "Ngo Aviation Section One, Scramble, we have Bogies in-bound, an' the only thing of Value on this whole rock is Ngo Industries Property." she said, into her suit mike as she rushed out of the ready building, and, to her Fighter. Other Pilots were already on their way, they'd been drilling for this for almost a year, now- even the Militia pukes were on their marks, though some of them were probably still on their way to the Airfield from their homes down in the town.
"Is he Fueled up, Baker?" Larah asked her Ground-Support tech. Lije Baker nodded, "Check on that, Ma'am, she's fueled, Armed, and, ready to fly." Larah gave his forehead a kiss, "Thanks sweetie, get your crew, and, yourself, down into the Raid Shelter as soon as the Flightline is cleared, I don't want to lose one of you... Dig?"
The man nodded, "Understood." Larah hopped up the rollaway stairs, into the cockpit, and, started her checklist as she buckled in. The Canopy was sliding down into place as she rolled the SL-15R Slayer out of its cradle.
"..it's a slow-dive,
when you die slow,
Oh it's a low drive,
Do the slow-Dive..."
she was singing, as the fighter climbed off the runway.
The fighter's displays showed the rest of the squadron forming up on her, as they broke 120,000 feet, and, began their transition burn to orbit.
"switch to Lidar on my mark people..." She commanded.
The toggle marked "Beagle" blinked. "Mark."
There were Twenty contacts bearing in, at twenty minutes and closing- and, several larger contacts about an hour out.
"Okay, folks, this is why they pay us the big-bucks, we have Two.. no, three Heavy Lifters, and what looks like Twenty small contacts about twenty minutes out, Finger-Four it, people, these jokers aren't getting to land without a lot of pain. Arm Weapons, and watch your buddy's Six."
she silently enhanced the imager's display- "Who are you... who-hoo, ooh-ooh..." she sang, until the image resolved on her screen. "Militia Wing, pull back into Ground-support, these're FALCONS, just get 'hell out of the way." She transmitted. Half the militia birds broke off immediately, and, she decided not to reprimand the ones that stayed- soon, they would recieve all the punishment they would ever need.
"Squadron, Arm Arrows, and, prepare for a furball..." One of the enemy fighters seemed to be the Lead- he was...smoother, somehow, than the rest. She kicked up the magnification, and, he seemed to oblige her by banking... triple rows of kill-marks under the canopy were enough proof.
"The Lead's mine." she said, flipping the arming switch, and, releasing both Arrow-IV AAMs at the Clan Fighter.

And the Battle of Kowloon was joined.


165.9 miles over Kowloon, 15, October, 3063, 1145 Hours

Star Captain Nigel VonJankmon banked his Scytha, as the defending ships rose over the arc of the planet. Fifteen, no... twenty... twenty two... he counted them as they rose over the horizon, and, entered visual range- Thirty... not bad, thirty two-wait... Twelve of the fighters suddenly broke off from the main formation, dropping back down towards the planet. At the same time, his IFF pinged- his formation had been scanned. huh... dropping half their numbers? What is this guy thinking? Nigel was surprised, then, he remembered the briefing that Watch officer had given- the local militia Air-wing was in a heavy training cycle, and, possessed equipment considered obselete by Inner Spheroid standards. and, the Enemy Commander is a 'She'...she must have told the Militia to peel off because she saw our insignia...smart-maybe... His threat board was still green, they were well outside the range of standard Fighter weapons. it will be a few minutes- HELLO!!! the board went red, the enemy was launching... Missiles... Arrow-IV missiles!! They are firing... ARTILLERY MISSILES!!! "Formation Break!!! NOW!!!" he shouted over the common channel. Twenty-Four fighters had just launched two Arrow-IV missiles a piece at his screening force. a bold move- or, a desperate gamble... he thought, jinking left and down, as the first pair of Artillery missiles burst in his predicted path, their warheads throwing armour-piercing shrapnel cubes with a lethal density of ninety meters. Fighters on his status board began winking- two of his lighter fighters blinked out- Rex, in a Batu, and, Lain, in the second Batu of the formation, four of the missiles had released their improvised Flak right into the smaller fighters' path, the pilots had been shredded meat as their canopies crossed a field of osmium cubes.
He turned up the gain on his scanners, looking for the enemy flight leader- and, there, right where she ought to be, was his own, chosen, target. You fired on me, in particular, and, because of that, you missed with those clumsy weapons... but, I think you knew you would- I accept your challenge.
"Leave the Leader to me, take the rest down." He commanded. Acknowledgement flowed across the network between the fighters. Range brackets began to close...

Larah Dawson fired the Arrows, and, with the sluggishness gone, kicked the afterburn in. The enemy Leader avoided the clumsy missiles with smooth clarity. You're good, you're mine... she thought, and, keyed her mic- "Leave the Scytha marked 19 alone, he's mine, stay tight, and, stay alive, people..." He banked into a dive aimed to intercept her, she banked up, to meet him. The battle was nearing consummation- the Dance was about to begin in earnest.
Larah hit a key, and, her cockpit filled with music, as the range brackets narrowed between her, and, the Clan Scytha omnifighter. Larah kicked a thruster, sending her into a corkscrew motion that would nauseate most pilots, as her 'board speakers played "Lovedance Graveyard".
For Larah, Dog-Fighting was as personal as sex, and, it carried similar feelings.
"Come on, baby, don't leave me wanting... come dance with me." she murmurred over the open channel.

"Come on baby, don't leave me Wanting, come dance with me..." Nigel had heard the enemy's air-commander was... a bit odd, but, he had not really believed it- until now. The undertone of her message was clear- and it chilled him to the core. This one was no mere Lucrewarrior, no... this one wanted battle as though her desire to fight were a form of physical lust. the board turned from red, to green- he was in range.
And, he discovered, so was she.

The fighters opened fire as they passed one another, Nigel's Missiles and Lasers, her Autocannon and Lasers...
Each scored hits, but, neither achieved "First Kill", and, she was rolling the Slayer in ways that made him feel slightly ill to imagine. It is like she has no inner ear at all- no equilibrium to upset... the fighters turned, after their first pass, and, met again.
Nigel's Scytha bucked violently, as the modifications to Larah's fighter became evident- a cloud of Cluster ammunition spread out from the Autocannon, and, Nigel's right Flaps suddenly turned red- jammed by the debris.
He watched as sheets of her Armour flaked off, leaving structure on her dorsal side exposed. His number two output suddenly flared, as he banked left- the powerplant was fine, the left Nozzle was damaged. How? he realized the answer before the question was fully formed- the Slayer had a rear-mounted weapon. Getting into kill position would be more difficult than he'd surmised.

For Larah, the rest of the universe, outside the Dance, stopped existing- there was only her, and, her opposite, the one who Danced the Graveyard dance. She simultaneously wanted it to go on forever, and, to end with Flame, Vacuum, and, wreckage. Each blow, each pass, made her hotter, each strike aroused her to greater heights, she no longer cared if she won, This is the Dancer I have waited for... she thought in a mental fever, as her slugs impacted his machine, their movements were mirrors, hers faster, matching against his superior firepower.
It was the perfection she had wanted her entire life- she was certain that this man would know her, would understand her love of the Dance...
Would give her the Climax she'd sought her entire life.
This enemy pilot, this Clan Ace of Aces, was her dream-come-true, a perfect foe...
Larah held back, waiting, as he turned, more... lunky than before, and, fired at her.
She returned his gift with the press of the trigger-switch- her autocannon vomiting bomblets into his path.
Others, on both sides, were dying in coloured explosions, but, these two danced on for minutes...


Groves Number 4 Plant site, 1300 hours...

"...reports from the ADC say this might be the biggest bandit raid yet- I don't want you in the line of fire, Ma'am." Martinez was saying with a look of disapproval. Elizabeth shook her head, "Juan, Alvin is not here to coordinate the Teams, Jackson with Silver thinks you're too new, and, I wouldn't trust Copper's commander as far as I can throw him- and he weighs 200 Kilos without the gear. No, I have to stay..."
Elizabeth insisted, her hands on her hips, a stern look on her face.
"But... you haven't commanded troops in the field" Martinez said in frustration.
Liz nodded, "True on that point, but, If you tell me what to say, I can make Jackson and Phillips follow the instructions- just give me the bleeping radio, and let's get some troops deployed..." Martinez sent the radio-telephone operator away, and, Miss Ngo sat down, putting on the headset.
"Jackson, you know where your position, now, I, Your Boss, am ORDERING you to get into position, Do you understand?"

Aboard the Jade Dagger, the command dropship for the Falcon Task force...

Star Captain Roshak sighed. "There goes our element of surprise..." he said, as the fighter battle continued. Stel was present on the Bridge with the Star Captain- The Defenders scrambling their fighters had been a poor stroke of luck, it had forced back her own launch, and, brought her up here.
"Star Captain Roshak, I was afraid of this, if you recall from my third briefing, this world sits on the very edge of Lyran space, it is somewhat off the regular patterns of Jump routes, and, it has been raided very often by Pirates... With luck, our presence will be mistaken for nothing more than a standard Pirate raid... Though, given the circumstances, and, the units involved, it may be more useful to communicate who we are, the Ngo Industries people, with only the exception of the Copper unit, tend to honour Clan engagement rules unless they are overmatched in tonnage and numbers..." Shel said it as if she expected the Star Captain to reject the suggestion, and, he noted, she looked at him as if expecting him to strike her for speaking out-of-turn.
He did neither.
"That is a good suggestion, Shel, I think it might throw them off-balance, having the Falcon Jaegers in their system..."
Shel realized the Star Captain was not kidding, when he reached down, and, took the comm officer's headset in hand.
"Greetings Inner Sphere Surats, I am Star Captain Nathan Roshak of Clan Jade Falcon, What forces Defend this world, seeking to hold it from the Steel Talons of the Falcon Jaegers?" He handed the headset back to the Comms officer, and, smiled.
Half the remaining defending fighters were breaking formation, and, fleeing- routed by the transmission alone.
Shel spoke out of turn again, "Those would be the remaining Militia pilots, now, there are only Ngo Industries pilots engaging our forces." She said it with certainty. Nathan simply nodded, "Aff, I agree with that analysis, those were the rear ranks of fighters anyway. They will be dealt with in time... Go to your craft, and, prepare yourself, we will be making the drop in short order."
Shel left the bridge, her mind working furiously- The rear rank of fighters broke contact without engagement, the others continue to fight- there is better than a standard Inner Sphere Regiment down there, and, they have some time to prepare before the assault starts- and they know who they are facing, this is baaad...
Then, she remembered why the Van had half a ton of equipment, and, smiled- we still have a hole card... something they will not expect. her pace quickened by this thought, she raced to her appointed drop-vehicle.

Groves Number 4...
"Crap." Martinez said, and, Elizabeth nodded agreement.
"The Falcons are tricky, they must have known Gold team would be off-world... and, they must have known we would be spread out." Elizabeth said. Martinez nodded, and, said, "we can't predict where they're going to land, either. It could be the Spaceport, the Boonies, or, right in the middle of down-town... at least they sent a Batchall, we might be able to use that..." He was thinking, Liz could tell.
She cleared her throat, "The Falcon Jaegers are one of their elite units, Juan, I don't think this is a standard raid, they must be moving sooner than I thought they were going to."
Martinez sighed, and, shrugged, "It makes no sense, there's almost nothing here for them, and it's a long way from here to Terra, or, even somewhere important... what are they after???"
Elizabeth shrugged, and, said, "better work up a response, the Falcons don't show mercy to people who ignore their challenges- Bid Silver, and, some of Copper to the defense, hold back on your own team." Elizabeth knew the Clans, inside and out- this Clan force had done them the honour of announcing their presence, they could be insanely brutal to worlds that ignored that courtesy.
"Way ahead of you, there- get Jackson on the horn, tell him to forget the Spaceport and bring his units here- This place is the only thing on the bloody planet the Falcons could be after, and, Tell Phillips to bring his 'Mech section, I can't get Chrome's back over the Mountains right now, so, We'll use his..." Elizabeth started passing orders down the phone-lines to her commanders- overriding their objections, sometimes with threats of Firings or worse...

Jade Dagger, entering Orbit over Kowloon...
Nathan Roshak was back in his Turkina, and, had his command console active, when the response arrived. Two companies of Battlemechs, Four of Tanks, and, Six of infantry, all rated at Veteran status by their commander... interesting- it's the man called Martinez, the bodyguard... they also bid their air-wing, as if that was not already a foregone conclusion... He smiled, and, sent his response.
The message from the Surface forces had been in text-only format, so, the Star Captain responded in text-only format.
One Trinary Supernova, Clan rated Veteran status, with air assets.
(he neglected to tell them it was his full command- after all, why give them the satisfaction?)
He waited long minutes, and, the "Sent" indicator lit.
"All units, prepare for Drop... GO!!!"
the Dropship released its deadly cargo in the upper atmosphere- their trajectory would place the whole unit right on top of the Groves Manufacturing complex.
Nathan manuevered his Turkina with a smile- his response would arrive virtually simultaneously with his Command- right on top of their defenses, too close for them to be ready.
The Jade Falcons had regained the initiative.
Daniels Avenger                Clan Coyote
General Jennifer Daniels    Galaxy Commander Jim Skyes
                                        Omicron Galaxy
Clan Wolf in Exile
328th Assault Cluster(the Lion Hearted)
Star Captain James Sword

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Groves number 4...

The Falcon 'Mechs came down right on top of the complex-which is, to say, right onto the grounds, since the roof was steeply sloped in most areas, or, cluttered with equipment.
Star Commander Peter Malthus and his Salamander suited star came down in the North Loading zone, amid a group of heavy tractor-trailer rigs. Their landing here was not intended, (sometimes you go where the wind drags you), but, it was quite fortunate, considering their mission- there were several enemy 'Mechs gathered in the area, and, a handful of unarmoured infantrymen.
Peter liked Unarmoured infantry, their screams as they burned were always so... musical.
"Spread out in Points, I want this area cleared of resistance before the Hour." He ordered, and his men spread out. "First Point, follow me." Work before pleasure... There was one of those "SuperMackies" approaching from the east.
He, and, his point, bounded to meet it.

Point Commander Jeremy didn't like his Star Commander, but, he was not ready to challenge the man for his position- at least, not yet. He did not like this mission, either-somehow, it left a bad taste, going after these Spheroids, and, it did not help that he was a closet Warden.
Loyalty to ones men, however, comes before politics.
Someone in this Truck-Park just opened fire with a Support PPC, and, killed one of his point. The weapon, he knew, was crew-served, and, it was right... over... there.
a pile of sandbags under one of the slab-sided trailers, with a two-man crew-served weapon set up underneath...
He fired one of his missiles- an Inferno- at the sandbags.
It hit the side of the truck.

Hitting the side of a thirty-ton capacity cargo trailer loaded with autocannon ammunition with an incendiary round that burns hot enough to sublime steel in a few seconds, is maybe not the smartest thing in the world. This trailer had a body roughly 3 mm thick, stiffened over a frame. Inside the trailer, thin, static-resistant plastic containers of ammunition meant for the Defiance-produced 125mm automatic cannon, were stacked to the roof, and, across the whole width of the vehicle. These containers were never rated as "Fireproof" (In fact, they burn quite easily, and, somewhat hotter than the ammunition casing's heat-load of 2000 Calories) The powder inside the shells, a pentaglycerine based propellant known commercially as "Dodecahedron" for the grain-shape, ignited after only 3 seconds of exposure.
a few things happened, then.
The Trailer, while not quite dense enough to trigger the fusing of the shell's warheads, was, oddly enough, dense enough to build up significant amounts of pressure as the powder charges ignited.
This pressure, in turn, served to spread the reaction across the entire shipment. (Remember folks, this Thirty Tons of ammunition, base-fused, shaped-charge, Class 10 autocannon ammunition...)
in the first 1/10 of a second after the detonation sequence began, the pressure build-up inside the trailer finally overcame the welds holding the sides of the trailer together.
a 12-meter long, 5 meter wide, sheet of metal flipped upward, on both sides.
the roof of the trailer then separated from the remainder of the framework, carrying the whole sheet-steel body upward 120 meters, as the now unimpeded shells flew outward in an unguided, random swarm, their initial direction dictated only by which direction the shells had been facing when the trailer had been ignited.
The slugs passed through thinly armoured objects in every direction without appreciable slowing-thinly armoured, that is, and, badly anchored.
For the Salamander point around the trailer, this meant that several of them were suddenly airborne. (Not that they would notice, being killed by the initial impact of two-to-five shells a piece...)
Those shells whose travel was not interrupted by nearby obstacles (trucks, sheds, fuel pumps...) tumbled through the air. Unfortunately, there were six tractor-trailers here.
all of them loaded with an order from the 3rd Royal Guards.
Each, in turn, detonated, as base-fused shells found other base-fused shells, well anchored by the weight of the ammunition on top and to either side, in the way.
Five seconds after the first ignition, the Loading area was a hell of fire, flame, and, exploding ammunition.
There had been (but, was no longer,) two companies of infantry here, along with the bulk of Copper Team's 'Mech section- and, a Star of Salamanders.
Peter didn't realize anything was wrong, until the 'Mech he and his point were in the process of swarming, suddenly lurched. the Plate he was climbing came off, as the 'mech disintegrated from the impacts of several hundered rounds of autocannon ammunition hitting virtually simultaneously.
on the dockward-side of the 'Mech.
The resulting inferno made him into a very excited man.
Of course, in the space of a single, missed, shot, his Salamander Star was virtually obliterated, along with an (as yet unknown) number of defending 'Mechs.
"IT is... Beautiful " he sighed, watching, as one of the above ground fuel tanks split, and, gouted a plume of fire into the air.

The fireworks lasted for another 5 minutes, until the entire north Lot was a sea of flame and smoke, plugged with wreckage and shattered paving.
The Wall of the plant, which had been covered with a sheet of corrugated metal much like that used on prefabs, was now exposed- Ferrocrete sheathed in Starslab, with a familiar symbol revealed.
Peter's mind locked on it- and, he keyed his channel- "This was a Star League facility... I can see the markings revealed under the false-front of the main building now."
He sighed again, "We are liberating hallowed ground here."

inside...
"You have to get out, miss Ngo, they're here. Phillips isn't answering radio calls, and, the north lot's been blown to hell."
Martinez wasn't taking no for an answer this time- Elizabeth could see the seriousness in his eyes-and, the stunner he was fingering. "Very well, Juan, which direction do you suggest I go, then? The Falcons have surrounded the complex, and, we have one Company of Battlemechs left to hold them off."
Shooting erupted outside the door- based on radio calls for support, the Clanners were already inside the main Plant building, and, coming this way. "Maintenance tunnels, those suits can't fit down there, My men and I will hold them off until you're safely down there, and, on your way to the waste-water outflow. Chrome's 'mech forces are already crossing Dolan Pass, they should be able to distract the Falcons until you can be picked up and moved somewhere safe."
The sound of submachineguns and screaming got louder- along with the sound of grenades. they're inside this section of the plant... she realized. Elizabeth gave Martinez a kiss, and, said, "Remind me to up your pay after this is over." He grabbed her arm, and, they ran for the Facilities room...

The Defenders fought bravely, inside the building. Brave, but... futile. Star Captain Icaza noted. a few of the men resisting his assault used single-shot "Flashlight" Lasers- dangerous weapons, even against Battle Armoured troops, but, ultimately, futile- the weapons fired one time only, and had to be dropped, useless and burnt out.
The defender's uniforms changed as his lead point turned a corner- these wore the Business suits of the "Bodyguard" unit, and, they took advantage of the armoured understructure walls. The corridor was a storm of fire, bullets from rifles, and, slugs from man-portable gauss weapons. One of his Elementals screamed out- her faceplate and helmet torn off, along with most of her face.
Icaza swept the corridor with bullets from his secondary weapon, a Machinegun firing armour piercing bullets.
Men in front of him screamed and died. "Point, Advance in staggered column formation... arm stunners, and, take prisoners if possible."
This battle was turning into a disaster for the defending forces, and he felt no joy what-so-ever.
"Tell the Stravag she can come out, we have secured a path to the Plant's Control room." He said nonchalantly, as he pushed open the shattered door, he added, "Her first task will be to open those bunkers we scanned under the building- our target is likely down there, and, if she is not, there may be someone we can use as a hostage to lure her out."
I hate doing that- I REALLY hate doing that.



Twenty minutes later...
Shel came running up the hall, packing a piece of gear the size of a large typewriter, and, speaking into her headset very quickly. "Of Course it was a Star League Facility, Star Commander, this structure was a Maximum Security Prison, most of the planetary Residents are descended from the Staff and Inmates...it was in the Site Profile I gave you last month... it is not my fault you did not read them...I have to go, Star Commander, Star Captain Icaza has work for me to do." She keyed off the comset, and, skidded to a stop at the control room, where Star Captain Morgan Icaza stood, nonchalant, next to a damaged bank of control panels.
"A Prison, Quiaff? That would explain the deep shelters..."
He said, with a smirk. Shel nodded, and, said, "Star Captain, if you would be so kind as to remove yourself from that bank of datajacks, this will go much faster, Quiaff?" He stepped lightly aside (imagine, an Elemental Suit moving lightly and Gracefully...), and, the Freebirth Watcher opened her case.
she connected it to the wall-jack he had failed to notice before, opened a screen, and, started typing on a projected keyboard.
Icaza listened to the Watcher muttering and snarling as she came across various barriers and code-lines.
"Question for you, Watcher Shel, why do you not use the Star League codes??" he asked. She glanced up at the giant man, too busy to display the usual quailing image, and, said "Star Captain Morgan Icaza, these people are not like Von Strang's people-Industrial Espionage is quite common in the Inner Sphere, Groves changes its access codes both regularly, and, randomly, I tried the League era codes and got zip...Now, I am running datamoles and a penetrator worm..." she focused back on her task. "Whoever wrote this program is good..." she groused. One of the screens in the Control room suddenly lit, showing a wireframe model of the Plant site. On that map, were counters showing the Jade Falcon force, the remaining defending forces, casualties, and, their status. The Falcon Jaegers were both more numerous, and, in positions of advantage all over the complex.
Morgan's eyes widened as he saw the map- "Savashri! This is not the current situation, Quineg?"
without breaking her stride, Shel answered him- "Aff, Star Captain, This is what the plant's own security systems are seeing at this very moment... now, if I could just get into the surveillance in the old Cell Blocks underneath..." Several other banks of monitors lit up- each showing real-time views of the grounds. Shel suddenly spat in disgust, and, pushed the machine away.
"What is the problem?" The Giant asked. Shel glared at the terminal, and, said, "There is only one access point- this one was Physically disconnected, I must open the bloody blast doors manually, one at a time." she glared at her portacomp as if it had betrayed her, personally, as she added, "Guess where the highest concentrations of Defending troops are? Guess?" Four locations on the map highlighted, as Shel added, "If we come in too hot, on any one of those points, they will no doubt set off planted charges to seal the doors against access from the outside."
A livecam zoomed in on one of the Bunker doors, and, Morgan could see, clearly, the bundled pentaglycerine charge-it would not even dent the door, but, it would destroy the electronic access panel attatched to it.
"We need to clear those doors of their explosives, to do that, we need to attack the defenders, who will probably set off the charges to protect their families..." he said out loud, following the Watcher's logic.
She nodded as he came across each point.
"We need a plan that will inactivate that Demo, without alerting the men guarding it."
She nodded again.
"Luckily, that is one of the jobs that is your specialty." he finished, with a winning smile, he added, "I see that you have five chances to do this... five is a good number. A point of Elementals is five, a Star of 'Mechs is five... You had better come up with a Plan, Watcher, I can wait, but, I do not know if they will wait for you."

Shel muttered something foul, and, started looking over the building's maintenance specifications, from the inside out.


Meanwhile, back in orbit...

The Dance was winding down, The elated high gone now in a hangover of damage alerts and systems failures. Larah drifted between worlds, as her life-support alarm screamed.
The Slayer was damaged beyond its ability to fly- but, so was the Scytha she'd been fighting. The two fighters, each too damaged to manuever, drifted in an orbit shared only with debris. Ohhh that was good while it LASTED!! she thought, hitting the override to silence the offending noise. She took stock of her fighter's remaining capacities- and, sighed again. Powerplant's out, auxiliary thrusters are out, ammunition is out. Armour's abalated all over, the heat-shield is gone...and, it looks suspiciously like we're in an eccentric orbit... oh well, had a good run... at least he's just as bad off. The Clan Omnifighter outside her canopy was as badly damaged as her own- no drive flames licked from its shattered nozzles, no blue-green darts or deep-red lances erupted from its weapons, now. She fingered the "Eject" lever again. It had broken off after her thirty-fifth try. I should have checked that... she thought, looking again at her foe. One on one, we came out a draw... I wonder if he was cute? The O2-levels were getting low, and, the CO2 Levels were approaching lethal. Stuck out here, floating uncontrolled, fought to a draw against an enemy who danced so well... she did not want to cry, she wanted the darkness to finish...

Nigel Von Jankmon looked out his canopy at the ruined Inner Sphere fighter. It was so close even a pistol could hit-but, what would be the point? They were both out of the fight, and, if he did not get his transponder active, they would both be dead. She was a good pilot- a good Warrior, to die of suffocation out here would be a true shame, after the fight she put up... The Transponder's LED lit, and, began to pulse, as it broadcast a wide-band distress signal. I can hope, that this will be picked up by a Jade Falcon vessel, and, not one of the Spheroid's craft. He thought, and, leaned back in his couch.

Dropship Jade Dagger, some twenty minutes later...
"We have a signal from one of our fighter-craft, sir." the Comms officer said, and, Star Commander Elmore Malthus looked up. "You are certain it is one of ours, Quiaff?"
the Comms officer nodded. The temporary commander of the Jade Talon stood up, "Then, trace it, and, send out a recovery unit, you Fool! NOW!!"
They'd recovered a half-dozen pilots so far, since dropping the ground forces. Most of the signals had come from Falcon pilots- the Local craft, apparently, had deficient transmitters, or, had been destroyed outright. There were two Bondsmen taken so far, and, those had been by the barest of margins- their fighter's life support wearing out just as the recovery teams brought them aboard.
The huge vessel surged into a different orbit, and, the bridge crew gasped.

Two fighters, facing nose to nose, pinwheeled in a cloud of their own debris, one, a Scytha, the other, mangled, but, still distinctive, an SL-15 Slayer. "Life signs on both craft, sir, the Spheroid's life signs are fading, but, our man is undamaged." a Sensor Tech reported.
The temporary commander of the Dropship weighed for a moment, and, said, "bring them both, and hurry, I am sure that Star Captain Von Jankmon does not wish to be kept waiting."


Her eyes felt heavier, the barrier between worlds was fading, her twin waited, outside the canopy, for her to make the crossing. a light shone in her eyes, and, grew until it was too bright...

In the small-craft bay, a team of Techs were cutting the canopy of the Slayer off using torches- impacts and melting had sealed it closed. "Hurry..." Nigel von Jankmon said, under his breath, looking at the 'Techs as they worked to cut the fighter from around his prize. MY bondsman. I defeated her... It was too rare, for an Aerofighter pilot to take a live prisoner bondsman, he would not miss the chance to add to his own Honour.
the Ferroplastic from the canopy bounced off a wall, tossed aside, as the techs worked now to extract someone from inside.

Larah moaned, as her Twin vanished, replaced by the smell of...Oxygen!!!!!! she sucked the dank air of the dropship's bay in with the thirst of the dying. Then, she realized where she was, as the smallest man she had ever seen bounded in the microgravity of the chamber, landing next to her. "You are a bondsman to Clan Jade Falcon, Warrior." he said, adding, "That was quite a fight, Miss Dawson, It was an honour defeating you."
I'm still alive... wow. she marvelled, as the tiny man wrapped a bondcord around her wrist, and, ordered her taken "immediately to medbay."
I'm alive, and, I've been taken prisoner.
Daniels Avenger                Clan Coyote
General Jennifer Daniels    Galaxy Commander Jim Skyes
                                        Omicron Galaxy
Clan Wolf in Exile
328th Assault Cluster(the Lion Hearted)
Star Captain James Sword

wolfcannon

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Groves Manufacturing Number 4, 1300 Hours, 15, October, 3063...
Star Captain Nathan Roshak looked out at the mess, and shook his head. "This was too easy." he said. The upper Levels of the factory were, for the most part, in the hands of his force. Even the pockets of local infantry remaining here are quiet... His Turkina stood nearby, its hatch at a level that made it easy for him to stride out onto the parapet surrounding the main building.
"This was a good day's battle, Quiaff?" a voice came from behind the Star Captain. He turned. Morgan Icaza, a man few would suspect able to be stealthy, stood, his armour opened, with a barbecued sparerib in one hand.
"Good? Neg, this was more like a series of executions, than a Battle, these people were... unready." the Star Captain said.
Morgan shrugged his huge shoulders- "Aff, though the ground-pounders inside the building put up a decent enough fight- you should try some of these ribs, they are excellent."
a tattered party-banner flapped in the breeze below, Nathan gestured at it vaguely, "Employee's Day Open House, they were rewarding their Labourers for exceeding quotas, Morgan, I wonder if we could not have waited a day..." He shrugged the feeling off. The Elemental Star Captain looked...dubious. "Nathan, you think too much, I sometimes wonder if you are not trying to make Khan before you reach Thirty-five." Then, he laughed, and, said, "The Watcher is pulling her hair out trying to find a way to separate those last few guards from the bunker doors."
Nathan had a thought, and, a smile spread across his face.
"We do not have to, Morgan, we simply have to keep them from leaving those positions- this facility used to be a Prison, Quiaff?" The Elemental Infantryman looked thoughtful,
"Aff- oh... no... you would not!" he said, a grin spreading across his face.
"Aff, I would. Get Shel up here, I require her abilities."


"...sprinkler systems here, and, here, are fire-suppression systems, aff, we can drop Sleep agent through them right enough..." Shel said, showing the plumbing diagram on her porta-comp. Nathan grinned, "and the Heating system, it is still working, quiaff?"
She nodded, as understanding lit her eyes, "It might work..."

defensive position at bunker-entrance three...
Maultin was hot. In fact, he was boiling in his gear. The Falcons hadn't made a move on his position, they'd gone right by, they'd even ignored his fire-such as it could be, from a Federated Long Rifle. Now, he was getting too warm.
His platoon was here, guarding a door, all of them were new-hire recruits, most from the local area. Christ, it's hot...
Leo Maulton opened his helmet's gas-resistant visor.
minty? the air smelled... He was out before he hit the floor, along with everyone else bivouaced in front of Blast Door Three.
a Point of Elementals swept in over the sleeping men, and, bundled them up.

Control room, Groves Manufacturing number 4...

Shel watched as the infantry troopers guarding the bunkers went to sleep. "Bloodless victory." she said, out loud, drawing a glare from (former) Star Commander Peter, and, a look of praise from Star Captain Icaza. Shel preferred the larger Elemental's indifferent praise, to the good offices of the Salamander Leader-who had, after all, lost all but a point of his command in the first five minutes of the assault.
Shel keyed her Comset, and, said, "Star Captain Roshak, we now own the bunkers."
Nathan Roshak's voice came back, "Excellent, you need to come down to the Office level, we have captured several enemy Warriors who need to be interviewed and debriefed."
Shel stood, and, headed for the door, as she answered her commanding Officer- "Understood, Star Captain, I am on my way."
Peter, at least, noticed that the Watcher took no tools with her as she departed...

short hair, defiant look, that gear was new this morning... Shel felt a surge of pleasure as she looked at the 'mechwarrior through the one-way glass. Exactly as I expected them to look. She loved being right about something. Shel stepped into the room, and, sat down across from her subject. "Name, Rank, and, Service number?" she asked coolly. The man was taken aback by this- Clanners were not known for observing the forms of the Ares Conventions. Surprised you, did I not? she thought, as the man regained his composure.
"Supervisor Cho, David E, Employee number 55321/234f1, Assault lance commander, Silver Team, Ngo Industries Special Security Division." He clearly thought the information was unimportant enough to give without resistance. "Mister Cho, You have been taken bondsman by Clan Jade Falcon. Your Former Team is in ruins, you yourself were injured ejecting from your 'mech... Yet, you still hold to that identity. Explain Why."
The man looked at her, and, at the Elemental guarding the door. "You can't find her, can you?" he said, in reply.
" 'Her'- I assume you mean Elizabeth Ngo. You are correct in your assumption, though your language is, as yet, vulgar." Shel answered.
David Cho relaxed in his seat, and, said, "Then, my mission was a success- You will find your time here less than profitable, you may find that shooting me is a more efficient use of this time." Loyalty-why??? Outwardly, Shel merely chuckled, "We stand on your ground, virtually unopposed, we hold your Civilians, former comrades, and, the Space Port. We have Aerospace assets, you no longer have them. Eventually, we will hold your former employer as well." better to get this over with now... she thought.
David Cho shook his head, "Your logic is flawed, because you have the physical trappings and a victory that is yours by accident-how many of your new battlesuits were incinerated when they lit up those trucks? Twenty? You have a company and a half of battlemechs, scrambled here in an emergency situation, and, a few platoons of lightly armed infantry, and, more than half our Fighters were in movement to a training base over the mountains. In real terms, you have defeated half our force, and, failed to capture our commanders. You should be worried, now that you are pinned in place, with a location you have to Defend." something...about him... Shel could not put a finger on it- there was something... off. She studied his features, I never forget a face... She made notes, and, let the silence drag out, before looking at him again. "Is Miss Ngo aware that she has a Smoke Jaguar working for her?" Shel asked. David stiffened, "What ever would give you that idea? I am a Capellan citizen..." he said, but, it was weak.
"Moon. You have Paul Moon's features, right down to the birthmark, though I dare say you are much younger... she does not know, then, Quiaff?" the man across from her nodded slowly, "Aff, after... I went where I could, I was on Outreach, I had learned enough to change my name, to assume an identity others would believe in... then, they found me, Alvin Peabody found me in a gutter, dispossessed, penniless, without hope. He helped me finish the illusion, so that I could be a warrior again." It was a crushiing admission, but, it was the lever Shel was looking for. "Tell me about Elizabeth Ngo, will she come back for her son?"
He looked up, "She will, she will do so when she is ready- and, she will do it when you least expect-where you least expect it, now that Alvin is not here to hold her back with his scriptures and his conscience." The former Jaguar drew in a shaky breath, and, added, "She hates you-us, you know, I think it is what gives her that energy, she hates with a purity of venom that is magnitudes greater than the hatred between the Wolves and the Jade Falcons. It is a pure, studied, Vendetta... Each move she makes, is calculated to draw out the conflict, to totally destroy her enemies... she did that once already, you know- a Star Captain on Juaziero, she did not just merely defeat him, she defeated him where he thought he was stronger."
Shel looked at the man across from her thoughtfully, "What of you? How did you get... here?"


Later that evening, Shel tallied up her interviews, added together the common points, eliminating the divergences.
"They are loyal to their former mistress, even now." she told Nathan Roshak, who nodded agreement, "Aff, I expected something like this... what of 'David Cho'? You had a plan with that one."
Shel grinned brightly- "David Cho should be released, along with the other prisoners, when we leave. I can use his secret to... draw information from him. He is dezgra who ran away when his Clan was at its greatest need, and, he hid away who he was, denied it... yes, he will be a good mobile source, to tell us where her other facilities are located, and, how well defended they actually are."
Nathan snorted derisively. "He was willing enough to fight, when he fought me, and that 'Mech of his may be lighter, and, not so well armed, as my Turkina, but, he used it very effectively, my Tech tells me it will be a week or longer before all the damage is repaired, and, in the meantime, I walk at half speed in a sweaty bath of engine heat..." He shook his head, "I have indulged you enough, Watcher, David gets his second chance as a Bondsman. He is leaving with us."
The decision was final, even Shel knew that- of course, then again, it probably helped that I looked so eager to use the man in a nasty way- score one for Warrior Psychology... and David will never know the way I helped him.
"I have good news, also- Nigel VonJankmon took their flight commander bondsman- he says she is the best pilot he has yet fought against, which is high praise. We should be able to extract the locations of the remaining Aerospace units in a day or so- when she gets out of medical."


Forty-one kilometers south of Nha Tran, along the que' river, 1700 hours local time, October 15, 3063...

The waste-water outflow was-barely, two meters tall, and, one meter wide. It had been a long, dark, walk, and, Elizabeth was wet to her hips, but, she made it. There was a Helicopter waiting on the other end, a Ferret Scout VTOL modified as an executive transport. Two men from second company Chrome were waiting with it. "Finnegan, did Senior Consultant Martinez-?" she asked, as she emerged from the tunnel.
The aviator shook his head, "No ma'am, Mister Martinez went down-he took one a' the Clan Battlesuits wi' him, he used some kinda single-shot pistol doin' it, I seen somethin' like that before..."
Elizabeth nodded, "Juan was ex-Maskirovka, it's a sure bet he still had some of their gear... Get me to the Rally point, we have to figure out how to get my factory back from those green Buzzards." Finnegan climbed into the pilot's seat, as Davis, the crewchief, helped Elizabeth into the cabin at the helo's rear.
"It'll take about an hour, an' I'm going to have to fly NOE, boss, the upchuck bag's in the pouch in front of you." Finnegan said.
"No need, Finn, I don't get airsick when I'm not pregnant, just get me to that rally point."
the tiny chopper lifted off, and, at an altitude of fifty feet, skimmed the river, taking a turn where it entered into the canyon complex known as "Minsky's Folly" for the Pirate band that had become lost, and, died there, fifty years prior.
Plans began fulminating in her mind, as the small helo zipped along, sheltered by canyon walls.

North Field, Nha Tran, 1730 hours...
Second Talon climbed the hill just as the last of the Cargo-carriers lifted off. Other than the minefields, there had been no resistance to the Falcon advance. Now, they could see why.
The Airbase had been stripped clean of everything that wasn't nailed down. Star Commander Jim Malthus, in frustration, took a long-shot at one of the fleeing Karnovs.
The ruby lazer passed under the heavily laden machine's cargo nets, but, failed to score a hit.

"The Airfield, Militia Armory, and, both Police Stations are... empty." Nathan Roshak nodded slowly, he expected this- While the fight on landing had been brutal, it had also been short- Too short. So far, Elemental units had found much of the city's streets deserted, the civilians having fled into "Raid Shelters"- a reminder to the Invaders that these folk had a long history of facing Bandit and Pirate raids alone. "The whole City is like the Factory, the Civilians going to ground, leaving their possessions to be looted while their defenders reorganize..." He murmured to himself. The Raid shelters they'd opened had narrow tunnels going in, and, leaving- somewhere to the west. Sensors had, as yet, not found the openings, or, the campsites, but, he was certain there would be no one in the City's shelters at all.
The Shelters under the Factory, though, had yeilded up more than three hundered people. There was no exit from the ancient Cell-Blocks of a Star League prison. "And that is where they will stay." he said, aloud, which jerked Shel awake, in the office's confines.
"Sir?" she asked, sleepily, from the desk where she'd fallen asleep. "Oh, I recieved news- your predictions about the Kowloonese Civil Defense plans were right on target- they go to ground, then, evacuate the City, your Source did not tell you where they go, did he? the Warriors we sent down those tunnels reported that they were blocked by collapsing debris..." Shel shook her head, "Neg, Star Captain, only that that was the plan after the last visit by the Pirate band known as Morrison's Extractors."
Nathan nodded slowly, and, looked thoughtfully at a topographical map of the region. "I would say, and this is just a hunch, that the most likely egress point would be in this canyon complex to the southwest- there is ample fresh water, and the terrain could hide small encampments easily..."
Shel nodded, "Aff, it is named for a Pirate band that got lost and starved to death."
Nathan looked at 'His' Watch Officer, and, said, "That is where we will begin looking, then- carefully."

Shel looked worried for a moment- "Star Captain, this was to be a raid to cripple them- you speak as if you would conquer this world for the Clan..."
Nathan nodded, "Our orders have...changed, I believe it was due to our easy victory this morning- we are to hold the planet and await reinforcements- the Clan is moving against the Lyrans, very, very, soon."
Shel suppressed a shudder, as if a sudden chill had entered the room. "We have a damaged Trinary of 'Mechs, Ten fighters, and, a binary plus one star of Battlearmoured Infantry, against just shy of two Battalions of enemy combined arms forces, and, an unknown number of enemy aerospace, Star Captain. Holding here without a Warship is going to be... challenging, especially if their Gold Team returns with the units that departed earlier this week, that can raise enemy presence to almost a Regiment's strength..."
Nathan agreed with her assessment- to a point.
"The other four units were sent away to resume their postings on other worlds, with the exception of Gold team, which was sent to the world 'Tovarich' for a rest and refit cycle- we have the HPG, the only one on the planet, under our direct control, and, there is not expected to be any messages for the next few weeks... either direction, at least, according to your own interrogations."
Shel sighed heavily, "No Military communications- Elizabeth Ngo runs a massive network of corporations, manufactories, and, Jumpship transports- she is expected to make contacts frequently, as the head of a Massive Merchant Cartel. Someone is going to notice if she is out of contact."
Nathan Roshak sighed heavily- "Shel, we hold the only fortress on the planet, we hold Elizabeth Ngo's son, she can not communicate off-world, and, without that, she can not resupply her forces, arrange for clandestine landings, or, conduct many of the tasks she would need to in order to maintain a sustained resistance... We can hold out until Bravo Trinary arrives with the PGC."
Shel looked at her commander dubiously, and, said, "Of course we can, we are Jade Falcons..."
But her heart was not in the affirmation- we are Jade Falcons, and, we have been hung out to dry.

Down the hall, a Toilet exploded.
As the Medtechs ran past the offices, carrying a stretcher and looking worried, Shel looked at Nathan. "You were saying, Star Captain?"
Nathan suppressed the urge to backhand the Freebirth- one of his warriors had failed to check the toilets for sabotage devices... "We Will HOLD." he said, through gritted teeth.
 

Shelter four, Groves Manufacturing, 1900 hours...

Patrick was hungry. He was also letting everyone in the shelter know this fact. Loudly. "shhh...shhh..." Mrs Nagora cautioned, rocking the baby, and, presenting him with a bottle of formula. The outer door opened for a few minutes, and, bodies tumbled in, thrown by armoured claws. A few of the other wives rushed forward, and, began caring for the Security Soldiers. "They are using the shelters as a Jail..." One of the younger women said disgustedly. Mrs Nagora listened intently, as the captured men talked about what the Clanners had done to them- the questions that had been asked, everything. Judith White, a woman Mrs Nagora had worked with in the past as a Maidservant in the Condit Household, looked at the older woman. "They would not be here, except for your boss!" she snarled.
Mrs. Nagora just smiled at the hostility, "Judy, If your former employer had been doing his job, instead the cook, you would never have heard of Elizabeth Ngo, and, your Husband would still be getting paid Peasant's wages working twelve hour days for Mr. Stonecipher... so, they are here- they are no worse than the Extractors and, those bandits cost me a Son, and, a Husband... Be thankful we are not in a worse place than this."
Judith snorted, and, tended the bruises on a young Security Soldier, only occasionally shooting poisonous glances at Mrs Nagora.

Outside the bunker, Star Commander Peter Malthus, Point three Charles, and, Shel approached the doorway. "This is a bad idea, Star Commander- they are Contained where they are!" Peter waved her objections off, saying, "I will bring Ngo here, if you are wise, you will not try to stop me."
Shel backed off, as the Salamander-suited troops reached the blast doors. Please... check with Star Captain Morgan... PLEASE do not let him do this...
"Open the door." He told the guard- an Elemental from Strider 3. The Third Strider had fought well, but, they were not known for their skeptical natures. "Yes Star Commander." the Elemental said, and, activated the door mechanism.
Shel knew she'd lost the debate, and, with that, possibly, the conflict.

Inside:
The Door opened again, and, a Battlesuit loomed in it. "Nogara, bring the Baby. NOW." the Clan Armoured Warrior's voice boomed through the level.
Mrs. Nogara shrank back. the Armoured warrior noticed her, appeared to consider- and, then, it raised one arm- there was a new attatchment- a single bullet crossed the room,ending in Mrs. Nogara's skull, just below the left eyebrow, the pistol-caliber bullet blew the back of the old woman's head. Everyone else in the room heard the Armoured warrior's laughter. An unarmoured Clanner- a woman, dashed in (somehow making it- miraculously, around the bulk of the Armoured trooper.) Judith White screamed first, and, quailed away...

...Shel checked the woman's body first, then, shot a look back over her shoulder, "THAT was totally Un-Necessary." she said, and, scooped the baby off the floor, where, (thankfully) he'd been in a basinet, sleeping, when his nurse was shot. The baby wasn't sleeping anymore- he was crying, loudly. Shel looked around the room for a moment, and, then, said, "You." she was pointing at Marissa White, Judith's daughter, the wife of a truck-driver, "You have children of your own, Quiaff?" the younger woman nodded with a shocked gaze. "You will do, You will care for this... baby." she said the last word as if it disgusted her, "You will also come with me- your children may remain here." Marissa complied numbly, as Shel handed the baby to her, and, leaned close, so that only she could hear- "If you try to run, if you fail to respond quickly to commands, someone will shoot you dead, and leave your children with no mother. Nod if you understand, but, do not speak until spoken to- do you understand?" Marissa nodded, blinking back tears. "good. Follow me, and, stay close unless you are ordered otherwise."
The woman followed Shel, holding the baby, and, the baby's diaper bag. The two women reached the door, and, Marissa saw something like a...Promise pass between the small Jade Falcon woman, and, the Battlesuited warrior who'd so callously killed Mrs Nogara. Even in her numb state, she realized that this woman was ready to do violence to the Armoured trooper. Marissa was a Psychological counselor, and, she read it immediately as what it had to be- there were factions and fractures in the Jade Falcon unit that had taken her home. Good, let them kill one another.

Shel glanced up at Peter Malthus when she reached him- and, glared. You will pay... that was totally un-necessary, it may even have been dishonourable... I will kill you. Her look transmitted all of that, and, more. Peter did not even seem to notice. "Got a Nursemaid for the brat, good, this will go more quickly." He said.

Peter loaded the woman, and, the child, onto a utility jeep driven by a Clan Technician who'd been dragooned into the job. "Take us to the Television station." Shel moved to get in-
and, Peter stopped her. "You will stay here, Stravag." He said.

The Jeep drove off, the remaining four Salamander Suits following. When they passed the gate, Shel went to find Morgan Icaza. That idiot has to be stopped...


Camp 1, Minsky's Folly Canyon, Nha-Tran, 2100 hours, October 16, 3063

The Camo covering the base was a two-part matting, the first part (the floor) was translucent to the ground underneath. The second part, {the roof} presented an image of the ground picked up by the first portion. Interwoven with the LCD camouflage, was a net of lines that acted to present a radar image of the ground. These Camo tents were also heavily insulated, concealing heat signatures. The system was, like a lot of Ngo Industries hardware, very expensive. Unlike some of the hardware, however, these were not Ngo Industries exclusives- at least nine firms make Camo setups like this, one for each of the Great Houses' Nationalized industrial concerns, and, four private outlets including Blackwell, Defiance, Irian, and, Ngo Industries. Right now, the camouflage mats were hiding just shy of three battalions of Infantry, plus their attendant support assets, Two battalions of Tanks, and, two 'Mech companies, the actual camp was scattered across the Canyon watershed, nearly all hiding in the narrow valley-like areas formed by millions of years of erosion, wind, and, the occasional earthquake.
None had been fool enough to set up in a Box-Canyon.
Had the bulk of this force been present at the Groves factory today, the Jade Falcons would have been repelled in the first few minutes. Unfortunately, they were over the Mountains when the Birdy-boys landed... Elizabeth thought, mildly annoyed at having been caught unprepared. The VTOL units were untouched, as were the Medium 'mechs of Chrome Team. On the North Fork branch canyon, the Tanks of Silver, Copper, and, Gold, laagered with their supporting vehicles.
The Falcons don't respect Tanks... she noted, striding to the temporary CP, past a company of the Kowloon Militia. Green... Maybe I should not have let the Provisional Government purge them so thoroughly... she knew she hadn't a choice in that- by bankrolling the Provisional Government, she had accepted their decisions- and, to be fair, the old Militia had done some fairly heinous things last year. She stepped up onto the back of the CP track- Ngo industries would not waste money on a command vehicle that was both unarmed, and, unarmoured- not when much of the electronics of a Command post could be crammed into the frame of a Heavy APC, at least, and done so without the restrictions of wheeled vehicles. "Status Report?" she asked.
The long faces inside told her a lot. "Silver Team's 'Mech section managed to maul them pretty good, before Supervisor Two Alvarez pulled the Fire and Support Lances out, but, we've confirmed-Copper team has no 'Mechs left, and, they're down a company of infantry." Consultant Davies, of the Silver Armour, said. Elizabeth shook her head, "Waste... How many of our men actually managed to get out?" she asked. Davies pulled up a rollcall-and, said, "Copper Infantry Two got out, one and three are gone, we recovered fourteen from One... Silver lost Eight 'mechs in there, but, we recovered two of those pilots, the others, plus Chrome Infantry First and Third... we think they're either dead or captured. The Falcons hurt us, BAD." He finished.
Elizabeth looked around the cramped vehicle- and, frowned.
"Everyone not on watch needs to get some sleep, for now, we can make plans tomorrow on getting back what they took, plus interest... The Falcons are here because they want to be here, we have to convince them that they do not want to be here... and, that is not going to happen if everyone is staying awake worrying about what we are to do next." She folded her arms, and, added, "I'm here, Worrying about what to do next is my job, I'm not paying you to make yourselves ill, remember, you've lost men, My SON is in there, somewhere. Now, Off to bed with everyone who isn't on watch!!" The Officers, both from Ngo Industries, and, from the Militia, slowly filed out of the Command Post, and, headed for their tents. Elizabeth watched them go, then, turned her attention to Crew and Personnel rosters, lists of equipment and, ammunition, and, the details of a military Campaign- as she had been taught, years ago, on Outreach.


Mandrake Street, Nha Tran, halfway to WNTK studiios, Nha Tran, 1935 Hours...
The Salamander Suits bounded down the streets, followed cautiously by the Jeep. Something passed overhead- a Helicopter, out of range for the suits, and, flying low.
"Blast..." Star Commander Peter Malthus snarled, as the VTOL banked right, and, vanished behind a building.
His suit helpfully identified the bird- a Lockheed H-7 Warrior.
The city streets were empty- the civilians had vanished down "Rabbit holes" before the first of the Jade Falcon raiding force had made their landfall.
The Point- one man short, halted, and, listened through amplified hearing. engine noise... and, rotors. Peter gestured- the choppers were flying low, hiding behind the buildings. HIs point leapt, as one, up and onto the top of a four-story apartment bloc. They did not have long to wait.

"Chrome Flight, this is Chrome lead, we have four Sallies advancing up Mandrake to Third, over." Gordon Lemans, the Foreman in charge of the Recon Flight, called over the radio.
"Roger that, Chrome Flight, I see 'em, they're on top of the Bixley building, Over." Chrome 6, a former DCMS VTOL pilot improbably named "McArthur", replied, as he flipped open his chopper's Trigger-bloc. "Chrome Lead, this is Chrome Six, I have them in sight, they are in range, Permission to lay steel, over."
Lemans checked his threat board, and, responded, "Affirmative, Chrome Six, Lay steel, over."
MacArthur's thumb tightened on the collective, inside the refurbished Helo, ammunition rolled into the breech of the tiny autocannon. "Chrome Lead, this is Chrome Six, I am laying Steel and making a pass, over."
"Roger that, Chrome six, Lay that steel good."
Chrome Six was carrying the original model's Armstrong autocannon- loaded with an ammunition type that was just going into production in the Federated Commonwealth. MacArthur swung his ride down Third avenue, and, jinked up, almost on top of the Clanners, as he fired.
The Armstrong Class-Two is a twenty-millimeter autocannon with an "Overcharged" shell casing, fired through a rotating barrel assembly. The ammunition the Helo was using was bulky- it had to be, it employed a special shaped-charge warhead that could, with a skillful shot, penetrate the thickest armour a Battlemech can mount.
Salamander Suits are...somewhat less well protected.
The shot was directed at a single battlesuit standing somewhat beyond his fellows-this way, no matter what, if the shot were true, it would, at the very least, injure one of them.
MacArthur was better than average, and, he'd had time to line up the shot.
The Salamander flew off the roof, shattered across its middle.

Star Commander Peter heard the Helicopter approaching, right before it popped up, so close he could count the rivets on its lightly-armoured surface. It fired a single burst from its chin-mounted autocannon, and, Point Two, Jennifer, whose genetic material was from the Icaza line, was hit.
The force of the impact knocked her off her feet, and, he saw, the Battlearmour was still mostly complete-other than a fist-sized hole in the section overlaying his Warrior's heart.
Her vitals, displayed on his HUD, went flat instantly.
"FIRE, FIRE DAMN YOU!!!" he shouted, unleashing both his suit's incendiary missiles, as the helo crested upward.
The other two fired as well- and, missed. Their Missiles delivering their warheads into the roof of a small grocery ninety meters away. Peter cursed, then, gazed at the fire, for a moment, realizing there was no Civilian Fire brigade to put the blaze out. He muttered a vicious oath, as the Helo zipped beyond his range, waggling its rear boom in a clear action of defiance.

"Chrome Lead, Splash one 'Suit, and, they kacked the Vorton's grocery, over." MacArthur said, over the radio.
Chrome 7, doing a fast-recon sweep down Street of Lanterns, chimed in- "Crap, they had the best Coffee in town, now I really wanna kill these creeps." Even after three years with the Teams, Kaitlyn Bradshaw still didn't use profanity very effectively. "This is Chrome Lead, everyone, we gotta diddee mao, those suits ain't gonna be alone for long- rendezvous at point charlie, over."
Four voices replied, "Roger that."

It took several minutes, while the grocery store burned, but, no more of the little Helos appeared. Peter and his warriors leapt down from the building, and, found the Jeep surrounded by Elementals in full kit.
"Peter Malthus, this was not authorized- you are to return to Base, and, place yourself and your remaining command under arrest." Morgan Icaza's voice was beyond stern, over the coms- it was furious.
"I was engaged by enemy vehicle units-" Peter began, Morgan cut him off by striking his suit with his manipulator claw, and, booming out, for all to hear, "And you would not have, if you had followed Instructions and left the Civilians ALONE." five Elementals levelled their lasers at the three Salamander Warriors, as the Star Captain continued, "You may have cost us a lot, with this stupid Stunt, and I am not going to allow you to go on making these kind of mistakes, you may either go back to the barracks, or, we can settle this here, and, you know who will win if we go that route."
Peter glared out through his visor, and, said, "Yes, Star Captain. I will comply with your instructions, Star Captain..."
Peter noticed that the Tech who'd been driving the jeep was gone, replaced by Shel. "Where is the Technician?" he asked.
Shel Glared at Peter, and, jerked a thumb at the burning building. "He was fetching formula for the baby, when you so kindly incinerated the building."
It suddenly dawned on Peter what Morgan was so upset about, why the Star Captain was so...angry??
Peter shrugged it off- Morgan Icaza was too kind to his Techs anyway...
Daniels Avenger                Clan Coyote
General Jennifer Daniels    Galaxy Commander Jim Skyes
                                        Omicron Galaxy
Clan Wolf in Exile
328th Assault Cluster(the Lion Hearted)
Star Captain James Sword

wolfcannon

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0700 Hours, 17 October, 3063, Minsky's Folly, Camp 1.

Elizabeth walked under the blankets of camouflage, to the Force Command post- Might as well call it Regimental CP, since Lt.Col. MacGruder moved his Militia in... she thought sourly. The guard at the door straightened and saluted, Lyran style, and, said, "Good Morning Colonel Ma'am." Elizabeth stopped for a second, Colonel??? since when-??? She realized he was holding the salute, waiting for it to be returned. She obliged him, and, headed into the tracked vehicle. Lt. Col. MacGruder, Consultant Davies, and, the Governor-Elect from the Provisional Government, were all present. "Davies, what in hell is this 'Colonel' business??" she demanded. Davies blushed, and, said, "The Governor has brevetted you to Colonel of the Planetary Militia, and, put Davies and his recruits under your command, ma'am." She glared around the room, "WHAT??? I was going to be told about this... WHEN, exactly?" she demanded. The Governor shrugged, "You've got the bulk of the forces, and, the Experienced people, I guess I figured you might want to have the fullest cooperation of the Militia, an' that meant givin' you the command-rights, seein' as you've been payin' t' train 'em anyway, an' they're used to your boys givin' the directions..."
Elizabeth sighed heavily, and, said, "I don't envy you your job,or, your position, Governor... for the duration of this emergency, I'll accept this rank- but, only for the Duration of this Emergency, I don't want to be in a position where Sharon Bryant or Nondi Steiner can give my boys a call-up when they've run through their best people."
The Governor was well aware of Elizabeth's negative views regarding both the head of the LAAF, and, the Marshal in control of the Melissia Theatre Command.
"Accepted." He said, with relief. By applying the condition she had, she made it amply clear that she was uninterested in running a Coup against the Civilian Government she'd helped to establish, now that she truly had both physical, and, Legal, control of the means of violence on-world.
"Okay, now, we get back to business, Davies, what's the status on our Helo-recon and harassment operations?"

Groves number 4, 0730 Hours, 17, October, 3063

Shel walked past the South truck park, the unaccustomed weight of a sidearm banging against her hip, and, the weight of her Clan Helmet tugging at her scalp. In the last two days, no fewer than four lightning raids had been carried out by helicopters- they would buzz the perimeter, fire a few light autocannon rounds from extreme range, and, fly away, drawing the inevitable pursuit star- which was too slow to track them.
The Aerospace wing was having its own problems- while certain that they destroyed the bulk of the Ngo industries fighters, Aerospace fighters would still sweep in, at unexpected times, striking the airfield with bombs or long-ranged missiles. Four fighters had been destroyed on the ground this way, and, lacking a civilian workforce, there was no other option than to keep the fighter wing aboard their Dropships. For all intents and purposes, the Falcons were Garrisoning a ghost town in a hostile land.
POPOPOPOPOPOPOP! Echoed suddenly, and, a nearby truck shook, as bomblets from an LBX light autocannon showered against it from the west. Good Morning Charlie... Shel thought, diving behind an emptied ammunition transport truck parked between her, and, the direction of the helos. A Night-Gyr stepped out of its concealment, and, sent a hail of answering fire-which, unfortunately, fell short of the speeding VTOL. We need something to bring those little machines down...we need a better air-cap. Shel mused, peering over the hood of the tractor-trailer rig. The morning pursuit star was already running out of their improvised 'Mech bays, hoping to catch a read on the direction this latest attack had come from- as the popping sound echoed from the north side of the site.
Shel knew this was nothing more than harassment, meant to rattle the Clan forces and confuse them.
Nathan Roshak knew this, too, and, he had not ordered it yet, but, there was to be a mission to find the bases these holdouts were using... Beak 1 was being sent south, along the river, to find where the enemy was hiding.
Shel, of course, was to go along, her sensor equipment aboard the "white Elephant" would be crucial, as would the communications gear that would enable the Star of 'mechs to communicate with their base without being overheard.
Shel stopped by the 'Mech bays. Beak 1's Omnimechs were all recieving the tightbeam communications equipment in place of certain weapons arrays. The work was slow going- while the design was not unknown, the presence of parts had proven to be something of a problem, and, the relay-sensor vehicle had to be altered as well. She saw a 'Tech working on one of the 'black Boxes" that would enable the 'Mech Star to communicate with their base. "Hey, Jorge, how is it coming along?" she asked, in a friendly tone. Jorge looked up, "It is progressing more slowly than the Star Captain would like, but, we should be able to make his deadline of the day after tomorrow- adapting this older technology was a bit of a challenge, but, it will work now."
Shel nodded approvingly, and, said, "Good, very good. I am looking for Star Captain Icaza, is he around?" Jorge nodded, "Aff, the Star Captain is in the office, over there-" he gestured with a screwdriver, "He is quite impatient for the repairs on his suit to be completed- he has mentioned something about guarding your white elephant." They both laughed, knowing that the Star Captain had little interest in such a duty-save for the potential to get some back for the minor injuries inflicted by the Helicopters on their morning visits. "Thank you, Technician Jorge." she said, very formally, and, headed for the former "Yard Office", where the Star Captain had set up shop.
She did not bother to knock, as she opened the door. Morgan Icaza was lounging in a chair, with a hot cup of coffee, reading a manual on Infantry tactics written before the first space-flight by a man named Von Clauswicz.
"Good Morning, Star Captain." she said, as she entered the small, heavily windowed, room. He looked up, "Ah, good... I was expecting you here. Did you have any more trouble with the... ah... Civilian Prisoners?" his question was a good one- one of the duties that was thrust on her, as the sole Watch Officer, was to sift through the personnel downstairs to see which, if any, could be safely put to work.
"Slow going, I found three that could do Technician work with supervision, more than a dozen people the Clan would consider too old to be of further use, and, a collection of Housewives and such that would sooner slice your throat, than lift a finger to do your laundry. Some of the Factory workers, with a bit of guidance, can be returned to work, the problem is, though, what this factory makes, and, the number of former LCAF, AFFC, and, LAAF personnel- give them access to explosives..." she raised her eyebrow. Icaza nodded wisely- "As long as there is active resistance out there, those people are only valuable as hostages." He stated it as a fact. Shel agreed wholeheartedly-Kowloon's biggest industry, besides food, was Ordnance Consumables- ammunition and explosives. Many of the Houses in the captured city had been wired for demolition-right into the foundations themselves. It was easy now, for Shel, and, Morgan, both, to see how a labour dispute on this world had already precipitated a violent civil war that took most of a Regiment to put down. "What news?" He asked, conversationally.
Shel shrugged, "Star Captain Roshak has returned Point Commander Peter to duty-outside of his Salamander suit. He is walking Perimeter guard with those two fools from his old Star...he did not care for the demotion, but, I think he cared for facing you in a bad mood even less." Nathan laughed, "I almost wish I was present for that-but, I had more important duties. How is the Child, and, his new caretaker?"
Shel sat down in a chair, "Funny thing, that- I let her have her own children, and, a private cell on the third level down, with full amenities, probably a cell that held someone important in the past, since it has an embedded holoimage of a green field on one wall. The older children are assisting her in caring for the baby, they are, if not content, at least, not trying to escape." The last was a reference to the first attempt to organize a work-party.
The bodies of the escapees who'd been caught had almost galvanized the locals into active resistance.
"I heard about that- Nathan told me you had to spend six hours talking them around to not attacking us with whatever they could pick up." Morgan observed dryly.
Shel nodded, "Aff, it was bad, It took every scrap of human psychology I knew to prevent a riot that would have reduced our potential workforce, and, turned the holdouts into fanatics. There is no glory in shooting women and children."
Morgan thought on that carefully, and, said, "Aff, you are correct, I would not have liked to do that, not with real enemies on-planet to find and fight... Nathan agreed with you, then, Quiaff?"
Shel nodded, "Aff, this world has faced many trials that most of the worlds in our Occupied Zone have not- these are a stubborn folk, and, blood only makes them more so, If we can bring them around to the Clan way, they will be a significant asset...if not, we will have to give Warriors like Peter Malthus free reign here, I do not, for one, wish to replay the horrors of Amaris for a new audience to be sickened by."
Morgan smiled, set the book aside, and, said, "You worry too much, and, Nathan thinks too much. What may happen, and, what will happen, are two different things... The Clan way is the right way, Freeing these people of the chains of customs long outdated and wrong is what being a Crusader is all about. They will come to understand this." His tone had the calm assurance of a true believer. Shel wished desperately that she could be so certain of that outcome...


Minsky's Folly Canyon, Camp 1, October 17, 3063, 0800 Hours...

The VTOL sections reported that the Clanners were still reacting to their probes by sending out 'mechs, meanwhile, much of the East Side of Nha Tran was burned out-but, the fires were dying. There would be rebuilding aplenty when this war ended. Supervisor 3 Harris, now "Major" Harris, of the Kowloon Air Cavalry, strode up to the "Regimental" command post. "Major." Elizabeth greeted him, returning his salute. The tall aviator was from Andurien, in the Free Worlds League, and, once upon a time, his father had fought for Anton Marik. "No losses, it looks like they haven't repaired the damage on the North lot yet, we lit up a Point of Elementals, they'll be feelin' it for a while. I think they're just setting up shop in the Plant itself, no activity in town besides a few small patrols..." He smiled, "We dropped off the Combat Engineers without being detected, pretty soon, they'll be even more uncomfortable..." Elizabeth accepted the news with the barest of nods.
"Excellent work, Major, Now, I want you to work up a patrol plan for the next stage-those Falcons are going to be looking to get some payback, I want them to get... something, and, it's your job to lead 'em into it."

She outlined her plan, slowly, by the time she finished, the newly-minted Major was fighting to control his laughter.
Eventually, when the "Major" from the First Armoured Battalion contributed his own bit, Laughter won out over sobriety.


Briefing conference room, Groves number 4, 17, October, 3063, 1200 hours local time...

"They are due Southwest, about a hundered forty-two Kilometers, looks like a company sized encampment." Nigel Von Jankmon said, standing in front of a briefing Holomap wiht a Mesa, rising out of the Canyons, highlighted.
"This looks like a trap." Shel stated flatly. VonJankmon nodded, "The area is saturated with air-defenses, I lost two pilots getting this image." on the Briefing holomap, an airstrip could be seen, angling down into hardened bunkers atop the mesa. Other images showed extensive minefields around the airbase, and, several dozen AAA batteries. "The Anti-Air batteries move, we think they do it at night, or, under cloud cover, the minefields are command-activated, no doubt, given the tracks over them."
Shel pulled at her lip, and, said, "Why did this appear now? and, why would they leave their main airbase open to observation on a clear day, when there are Aerospace fighters flying over head? does this look too good to be true to anyone else here, Quiaff?"
Von Jankmon rounded on her- "I am not decieved by any tricks, this is where they landed, this is, this has to be, the main airbase, and, with that many Tanks, this has to be near their Command Post, if not acting as their command post!!!" Shel cocked a skeptical eyebrow, but, fell silent. It can not be that easy- they let you see it, do you not understand this??? she kept her thoughts to herself- as the Intelligence Officer, the sole Watcher here, she was expected to see traps and deceptions under every stone-indeed, Nathan Roshak had stopped calling her "the Stravag Witch", and, started calling her "My Professional Paranoid", after the mess with the escapees.
Star Captain Nathan Roshak spoke up. "How many fighters do you have to strike this base?" he asked.
Von Jankmon sighed, "I have less than a Star operational, Four. I have four left, me, Fallon's Jagatai, and, Walter and Thomas, Three Scythas and one Jagatai total. I can not give an accurate estimate of enemy fighter strength- they keep slipping by, and, showing up again." He was clearly frustrated at the losses.
"What about your bondsman? Has she been of any use?" Nathan asked.
Nigel coloured, and, said, "No. She speaks in riddles and rhymes, she obeys well enough, but... I believe the woman is quite mad, actually. Nothing she says makes sense except that 'MissLiz is going to come after all of you', a direct quote from her ravings... I find her to be quite incoherent, most of the time." He paused, warily, before he continued, "Under interrogation, she speaks the most awful mixture of Russian and Chinese- as if she forgets english entirely, I was going to ask to borrow your Watcher, maybe she can make something of that madwoman's babbling." His tone was plaintive, frustrated. Nathan glanced over at Shel, "This new information we have, eliminates the need for you to accompany the reconaissance force, Shel, and, I think you need some time aboard the dropship... You will assist Star Captain Von Jankmon in sorting out his Bondsman, beginning tomorrow." Shel's mouth dropped open, and, she stood up.
"Sir, that is a very bad idea- as is dropping in with insufficient information, you do not know the numbers, or, dispositions of the Enemy, you will be dropping right on top of the ace-number-one artillery target in the area, based on a limited series of Holoimages that do not correspond to-" Nathan raised one hand, and, said, "Enough! I understand your eagerness to put forward with the Reconaissance plan, But, this information changes everything- we have to neutralize their Aerospace Assets. Your chance for Glory will come in time." He said it firmly,but, gently. You completely missed my point... Shel fumed, and, briefly, thought of challenging the Order in the Traditional way. "Star Captain, if you were to leave a guard force behind, to maintain the base..." she said, reasonably. "Ah... I will leave Star Captain Icaza, yes... and Third Beak- as well as a star of Elementals, when we break their Airbase, you can assist in hunting down their survivors at your leisure." Nathan said it, Morgan looked shocked, but, unlike Shel, said nothing.

Afterward, as they walked out of the Offices, Morgan stopped Shel. "You were right, but, If the men do not get some chance to fight an enemy soon, Nathan will have a hard time controlling them- even with my help." He told her, adding, "Von Jankmon is a fine Warrior, and, no fool, but, I smell the same trap you do. Tonight, I will... discuss our options with the Star Captain, privately. You are lucky he did not place Peter Malthus in charge of base defense, or, we might find you dead if and when we returned. Take care with that tongue of yours, being a Watcher means you get away with much, but, it can still trap you, Quiaff?"
Shel nodded sadly, "Aff, Star Captain, I will...remember that, thank you, sir."
Morgan patted her head with one, huge, hand, "Be Careful what you say, and, to whom, Favour is fickle, and you are small." He turned left, she turned right, and, they went to their designated posts without another word exchanged.
Peter was waiting ahead of her, his Field uniform spotless on his seven foot frame. "Made you eat your words, did he?" the former Salamander Commander sneered. Shel nodded, "Aff." He laughed at her. Shel held back, keeping her expression slightly 'Intimidated'. He spread his hands, and, said, "Look! I am off-duty! You know, you'd be cute, screaming..." he stepped towards her menacingly, as he added, "no Morgan Icaza to help you here, Stravag... Let's improve your looks." He swung at her-blindingly fast.
Shel saw stars, then, darkness. the last thing she heard, was the sound of cloth, ripping.

   
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Camp 1, Minsky's Folley, 1435 hours, 17 October 3063...

"You made sure they saw you land?" Elizabeth asked the shaking Militia pilot. "Aye, right on the Mesa, like ye tol' me to- they got a good look, mebbe too good- that Turk near had me, a'fore the AAA opened up an' had him"
Elizabeth smiled, and, nodded, then, she turned to the Armour officer who brought the pilot back. "They did not see you, though, right?" she asked. He nodded. She rewarded him with a winning smile, and, said, "good, the powercells on those Camo nets, they'll make it through tomorrow, right?" she asked. He nodded, again. She chuckled, and, said, "Your boys are ready for the attack, right? They know what the plan is?"
He nodded again.
Elizabeth was clearly pleased. "Excellent, the Falcons are about to suffer the worst simulation they have ever experienced. go on, then, get some sleep- Leutnant, you've done a fine job, same for you, Kurtz, when this is over, I owe you a bonus, and a case of Timbiqui." The Tanker grinned, and, said, "better make it a Truckload, the boys'll want some. I gotta get back up there now."
Elizabeth laughed, and, said, "you drive a hard bargain, Kurtz, a case it is, and, good Hunting."
The plan was falling right into place...

Farnsworth Mesa, Minsky's Folly Canyon, 18, October, 3063, 0630 hours...

The Jade Dagger swept low, dropping 'mechs and elementals on top of the base. Strings of tracers ripped the air, as figures ran to and fro, trying to get the fighters out of their revettments, and, into the air.
Or, so it seemed.
Nathan Roshak landed his Turkina, and, realized something was terribly wrong- a coolant truck had just passed through his torso. "HOLOGRAMS!!!" he stormed. The "Airbase" was, indeed, a trap. To his left, Mechwarrior Adam's summoner lurched- we have dropped onto a minefield... The entire "Airbase" was nothing more, he realized, firing an autocannon at what his sensors claimed was a hardened building, that the Minefield was the only "Real" part of the Airbase. The Plyplast understructure of the "Building" shattered, leaving a damaged Camouflage Mat, and, a shattered hologram generator. Immediately, a dozen infantrymen vanished- because they never existed. he turned his Turkina to the left, "Find those power sources, shut this thing down, Strider one, find out where those mines are, and, be quick about it, we will have to re-board the Jade Dagger... The enemy is probably moving on the base as we stand here fighting phantoms!" an Explosion- this one real, rent the air with sound, and, a light pressure wave he could barely feel. Artillery! He turned his sensors outward, looking for the large guns that had to be firing. what he found, increasing the gain, on the ridgeline to the south, were several fixed shapes, firing in sequence.
artillery simulators... Clan training on Ironhold had used such devices, to get the young fledgelings used to artillery bombardments. Here, they were mock-artillery, dangerous only if they were to strike too near... and, no doubt, programmed to fire a preset pattern... As the Elemental star moved through, deactivating the Camo nets and the hologenerators, the true shape of things was revealed.
There was a single, empty, fuel tank on one end of a rough, hastily laid, temporary landing strip- a strip that was, as his sensors cleared of noise, the only area on the Mesa-top that was not covered in mines. Another 'Mech, Mark's executioner rocked, as hiis armoured foot set off another small mine. None of these mines are large, and, they are not sown densely- the distance alone would take care of that, these are sown to make movement as difficult as possible... Nathan knew that even a lightly-laid minefield will strip the armour off a 'mech, and, these were too wide for his Turkina to jump across in safety. An elemental rose in the air, pinwheeling his arms, the victim of a careless step.
The airstrip was too narrow, even at the turnaround, for the Dropship to land, this is a trap, alright... Nathan realized.
suddenly, a large Holoimage appeared, and, Nathan took an instinctive step back. It was the face of a woman, their target. "Greetings, By the time you hear this, I will be on my way to the Groves Plant with the remainder of my forces.
To quote a classic Twentieth Century piece of artwork, 'How are you Gentlemen? All your base are belong to us, you are on the way to destruction, you have no chance for survive, make your time.'"
and, then, the Hologram laughed, turned, and, (to Nathan, proving that the woman was unused to making such statements,) said, before the image cut out, "Do you think they'll get the joke?" to someone outside the image's range.
"Clear a space for the Dropship to land, and, hurry." Nathan said, putting actions to words by firing his weapons at the ground around the airstrip.

Groves number four, sixteen minutes after 4 a.m., 18, October, 3063...

The attack started ten minutes after the Jade Dagger lifted off.
It began, with a blanket of ECM falling across the whole valley, covering Nha Tran city, the Spaceport, and, the Groves Manufacturing Number 4 site. This state of affairs was made possible by hooking a Guardian ECM suite into the transmitter towers of WNTK, WKLN, and, the 500000 watt rock and roll station, WREB. Clan communications from the ground base were... annihilated.
The Combat engineer company from Bronze had spent three days preparing the way for their comrades, much to the chagrin of the Clan Techs at the spaceport, who recieved the privelage of having every drain, faucet, tap, and, toilet, explode at precisely 4:20.
None of them, of course, got the joke.
Shel, and, Morgan, were up on the roof, and saw the dust-cloud of approaching tanks. The Tanks were in full "Hoot", running at better than fifty Kph, in a flying W formation.
There were a LOT of tanks.
"I count... sixteen Patton-class, no, that's just the first..wave?"
Shel said. Morgan nodded his large head, "Aff, I count the same in that front rank, the rank following has just as many... there are Armoured Personnel carriers behind them... but- where are the Battlemechs?"
There was still no sign of Battlemechs.
"They could be fighting the rest of Nova Trinary." she said, but, her tone said, no.
From their vantage point, they could see the Wall of armoured vehicles. They could also see something else- the river. Shel directed her attention there. "Choppers, somehow, I do not think they will be playing good-morning-charlie." Morgan looked, and, nodded. "Aff... they are escorting...something small, on the water itself, moving...faster??
The ultralight unit passed the Factory by, heading upstream, straight for the city. Morgan turned up his magnification- and, his suits HUD helpfully identified the tiny, point-like, vehicles.
"Savannahmasters... there must be... sixteen of them, it's a fast Hovercraft used by the Lyrans for scouting and reconaissance." The radio-based Coms were still struggling with heavy jamming and interference, but, the tightbeam and land-line commo was still working, Morgan looked at Shel, and, said, "Thirty-two tanks, plus helicopters... I think we might be slightly outnumbered, Quiaff?"
Shel nodded, "Aff, Star Captain. Slightly. "
at that moment, a pair of F-19 Tigersharks, inner sphere heavy fighters, streaked overhead, followed by several more.
"Just a bit."
Morgan stolidly braced himself, and, said to Shel, "Well the enemy is coming at us from two directions, with the possibility of a third, we are surrounded, they will not get away this time."
Shel caught the joke in his tone, and, laughed despite the way she felt.
Peter Malthus, I hope an assault 'Mech steps on you... she directed the thought out, across the miles, to where the last of the Salamanders were- accompanying the assault force on the airbase.

Defense is stronger, normally. However, an inadequate defense will collapse before overwhelming might.
Overwhelming might, of course, requires a couple of things- one of those being, that the defender be too small in numbers, with too few force multipliers, to hold back the assault.
Twenty-five Elementals versus Thirty tanks is a recipe for disaster for someone. When those twenty-five elementals are spread across a wide front, the disaster is on them.
The conventional forces had brought more than thirty tanks.
Much more than thirty tanks.
Maxim Hovertanks broke from the mass formation, and, swept past the Pattons, accompanied by a formation of J.Edgars, and, Hunter light tanks, while, far back, Heavy Missile carriers stopped, and, dug in, raising their Arrow-IV boxes in azimuths defined days before, their ammunition carriers rolled up behind them, and, prepared to feed the missile-tracks all the ammunition they would require.
Lumbering along at full "Honk", Ontos and Demolisher lances struggled to keep up with the pace set by Pattons and Sturmfuers, while the Hovertanks swept past the factory, peppering defensive positions with missile fire, or, just observing, dependent entirely on what they carried.
meanwhile the Air Cav escorted their small, "Mouelike" friends up the river, bound for the Spaceport, and, the dropship located there.
The mission was simple-draw out the Clan battlearmoured marine contingent, and, keep the ship from launching.
(some of this had been done already- the 'techs for the dropship were busily engaged, finding the sabotage devices a platoon of combat engineers had given the ship's landing gear, engines, and, doors.)
Elizabeth Ngo had only ridden to war once-in a modified Griffin with Triple-Strength Myomer. That one time had left her with permanent nerve damage that made wearing a Neurohelmet a potentially lethal situation. Today, she rode with the Tanks, in a modified Davion style Heavy APC, crowded with commo gear and mapping equipment, including a Command Console set up to control a Regimental unit.
"Initiate phase Delta." she said, and, leaned back. The plan would either work, or, it would not- her subordinate commanders had the ball, now, she could only sit back and watch. Elizabeth chewed at her fingernails, as the air-cap closed out the Clanners remaining fighters, and, struck at their grounded dropship.
"Penny for your thoughts, boss." Lt. Colonel (Brevet) Davies, her XO asked, from his seat opposite her.
"I was worrying about my son." she lied. I was worrying about those boys we are sending in...and, their mothers' faces when they die.
Davies answered, "We'll get him, and, the people that got left behind, back, don't you worry 'bout that."
Every Mother worries about her Son, when the steel is flying... every Mother's son suffers... Clanners don't have mothers. she thought it so fiercely that the last bit came out of her mouth, unbidden. "What's that?" Davies asked.
"Just musing... check Second section Armour, it looks like they're bogging down." she ordered. Davies got "On the Horn" and spoke to the unit's C.O.- apparently, the Clanners had used some of their time wisely- there was a minefield that the tracks would have to negotiate to bring their Deviance 'Shotgun' autocannons to bear.
"Artillery Copper, Fire order, Fire order as follows..." He rattled off coordinates, recieved a confirmation, and, switched channels. "Second Section, pull back ninety-meters, and, hold, we have arty on the way to clear that trap, over."

Kilometers behind them, Arrow-IV and Thumper pieces snuffled the air, then, fired. Twelve artillery pieces spoke as one, hefting a wall of shells into the air.
some Artillery always scatters.
Sometimes this is good, sometimes bad, but, most of the time scattered shells do not do much.
the Minefield was cleared, and, then some.
One scattered shell, from a Thumper, struck a fuel storage tank on the southern side of the factory.
flaming oil washed through unloaded trucks, but, there was no vast thunder-and-blast, the way there had been on the 15th, when six fully-loaded tractor trailers filled with ammunition had chain-detonated in the North lot, killing Copper Team's Battlemechs, taking one of the companies of Silver's infantry, and, ripping a hole for the Jade Falcons to enter the Factory itself.
Elizabeth saw the spreading fire through a composite image picked up by several tanks at once, and,she ordered, "Evasion Blue, I repeat, Evasion Blue, Acknowledge Over."
The commander of Gold Armour, which had not loaded with the 'Mechs, (they had to wait for their dropship to return from a repair yard in Marik Space...) answered her with, "Evasion Blue acknowledged, changing attack pattern, Over."


Farnsworth Mesa, 0800 Hours...
The Dropship could finally land, and, pick up the Jade Falcon task force. Peter Malthus was agitated- there was nothing here for him to fight- the Star Captain had fallen for a foolish trick. He relies on that Stravag Witch too much... well, I got what I wanted from her. The Jade Dagger, a Clan Union-class vessel, dropped its stately bulk down, through the clouds, unimpeded, to settle on the now-safe Mesa top.
Then, the Real artillery bombardment began.
The jaws of the trap were closing, Arrow-IV missiles were coming down, ripple-fired from somewhere to the southeast.
and, then, from the Northwest. Then, from the Southwest...
Then, from the Northeast, the direction that leads to Nha Tran city. The target of this shelling was obvious-as was the purpose. "They are trying to strand us!!!" Peter shouted, and, rushed the dropship, followed closely by his remaining Salamanders, and, his fear.
The Locals were no longer playing fair.

Nathan sighed, as the dropship started to take massive hits from artillery missiles. "We will walk out, Jade Dagger, boost out of here if you can, we will go the slow route, Acknowledge, over."
the voice of the Dropship's commander acknowledged the order with a resigned tone, and, added, "Honour thy Clan, Star Captain." as the ship lumbered upward, shuddering from the fire.

There were three men missing- the remains of a Salamander point. Peter Malthus... Nathan determined that the arrogant Elemental-breed would not be the only survivor of the hilltop ambush, and, that his cowardice under fire would not be permitted to go un-punished.


Daniels Avenger                Clan Coyote
General Jennifer Daniels    Galaxy Commander Jim Skyes
                                        Omicron Galaxy
Clan Wolf in Exile
328th Assault Cluster(the Lion Hearted)
Star Captain James Sword

wolfcannon

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Groves Number 4, 1245 Hours, 17, October, 3063...

Elizabeth had a look to fit a lightning storm. all that work, all that waiting... decieving their commanders, harassing their occupation forces, the damage to the Spaceport-"FOR NOTHING!!!" She strode across the main hall, flanked by Major Davies, and, a Facilities worker. "I go to great lengths to aggravate them, I decieve their commander, I ignore their communications, I show up without a Battlemech of my own in sight...and...The rotten little Perros surrender.". she stopped, in the middle of the production floor, and, turned to meet Davies' eye, "They didn't even bother shooting back. Do you have any idea how frustrating that is? I can't even... GRR!!! I have to present a good image, because I accepted that bloody commission." Davies endured her tirade, it was, after all, one of the things she paid him for.
"Why can' ye jes shoot 'em?" the foreman asked. Elizabeth looked over at the man, shook her self into a more diginified pose, and, said, "By accepting a commission in the Planetary Militia, I also placed myself under its operating regulations, to wit-'We don't shoot Prisoners who are not resisting.' Even when they're scumdog Clanners. Now, go be a dear, and, unlock the bloody shelters, I have to go inspect the ahh... Prisoners." The Foreman hurried away, and, Liz's face clouded over again. "Maybe their friends will try to bust 'em out, or, retake the Complex or something??" he offered.
Elizabeth looked at the man, and, said, "Remember where our 'Mechs are? If they make it out of Minsky's Folly, they won't be in much condition to do anything else..." Most of the paths out of that deep, narrow, canyon complex were heavily mined, and, cris-crossed with sensor networks linked to the Artillery's fire-controls, save one, which was guarded by twenty-four Battlemechs in prepared positions.
"They have Elementals..." Davies offered.
Elizabeth shrugged, "Thought of that- maybe they'll get through, but, we'll have their positions, and, the Choppers are loading Infernoes now, if they try to clear the mined exits, they'll have Helos dropping napalm on 'em within the hour, if they try to force the main gap... well, it ain't just Helos carrying that hot-stuff, is it?" She drew in a breath, and, let it out slowly, "Now, I have to be...nice. dammit, this surrender's going on public record, and, I don't wanna be charged with war-crimes by some Katie-worshipping eager-beaver in the Lyran High command..."

Shel and Morgan, with the others, waited. The Ngo security people guarded the entrances and exits, while a holo-team set up a camera and recorder in the room. Star Captain Morgan Icaza had made a decision based on one thing-the local forces would crush his garrison like a grape, to no real effect, other than killing his Warriors, and, possibly, endangering the Clan Tech crews that had taken up residence in the Factory workshops. With the damage to the Dropship, the Airfield, and, the remaining (now grounded due to damage) Aerospace fighters, he had no backup, no path to victory, and, no way to retreat. Rather than fight a glorious and hopeless battle, however, he chose to surrender, and, enforced that choice on the others.
Some of whom, Blamed Shel's influence.
Shel, for her part, had nothing to do with the Star Captain's decision.
He still stood between her, and the others.
The door opened, and, a small woman, wearing thick-framed glasses and a uniform that had been hastily assembled, stepped in, flanked by a man in a Major's uniform.
"Ten-Hut!" the Major barked. The troopers inside stiffened to attention, as did the Clan warriors.
"As you were... which one of you is Morgan Icaza?" The woman asked. Morgan stepped forward. "I am." He said.
Shel looked the small woman over- She does not want to do this... she wants to kill us. she is not enjoying this at all... Shel wondered how she could communicate this fact to the others, without starting the brawl the Star Captain had clearly determined was a bad idea-to the point of beating one of his closest men to a pulp.
"You want this Clan style, or, Inner Sphere style?" Elizabeth asked.
Morgan stiffened-Shel's ears perked up- this was unexpected, the Ngo woman clearly hated Clan Warriors deep down to her bones. Her offer was... unusual.
"Clan Style." Morgan said.
Elizabeth sighed- she is disappointed, and, relieved...? Shel could read this woman like a book.
"Fine, then, as the Senior Officer of the Kowloon Militia, I accept your surrender on behalf of your men, Major Davies will see to your further assignments..." She looked more uncomfortable with that as well. "Davies, get them some proper uniforms.. wait, these're elementals, get 'em some clothes that come close to fitting, an' all that...I have to go see my son."
Shel recognized something else- She is... reluctant to deal with her offspring. This is a duty she looks forward to less than she did to dealing with us... did she hope to somehow bring the building down on us, and, him? the thought was chilling, and, Shel dismissed it immediately. No, the Mothering instinct is strong in freebirths, she would have to be mentally defective-a sociopath, or, psychopath, for that to be true... Still, Shel was happier when Elizabeth Ngo left the room.


Minsky's Folly, Tributary Outlet 4, 38 KM north of Nha Tran, October 18, 3063...
the slope here was much gentler than the rest of the Canyon.
Nathan immediately suspected it. "Strider 3, check out the upslope." He said. An elemental dropped off his Turkina- it was Third Point's mission this time, and, headed up the hill, carefully searching for telltales of sensor nets and Minefields.
"Sensor net detected, looks like they set up the sensors themselves above the mouth of the canyon, and... yes, there are Mines here, as well..." The Elemental sounded as frustrated as Nathan felt- disarming the mines had been shown to be a supremely bad idea when First Point had tried it earlier- the mines were old, and, "Sweaty", but, not uniformly so. The last disarm attempt killed the Warriors who tried it, when the mine slipped out of a manipulator claw and bounced-once.
The blasted sensor nets either summoned artillery fire, or, (less often), responses from VTOL and Aerospace units.
"Come back, we will find a weakness yet." Nathan commanded. The Elemental returned without attempting the obstacle. Nathan brought up his map again. Hemmed in...wait. They expect us to come out of the canyons on the river side of the network, closer to Nha Tran... yes. I think so... "Mount up, we head due west, at walking speed."

1900 hours...
The canyons get darker sooner, the Clan force switched to Magnetic Resonance and Infrared. The canyon walls were now outlined in red and blue, a thermal view of the land.
Nathan's threat-systems pinged- there was a large concentration of... something, ahead of him. He switched to visible light for a moment, to ensure it was not another outcropping of iron.
There was an Orion sitting, half-buried in silt. beyond it, he could see a Champion, its side torn open, the engine shielding covered in corrosion. The elementals dismounted, and, approached the two 'mechs.
"Dead. Star Captain, dead and, unsalvaged..."
the canyon opened at this point, for a length of two kilometers, a steep-walled valley.
"advance, with caution." Nathan ordered. The line of 'Mechs moved forward carefully, and, as the valley opened up, a scene of ancient carnage was revealed.
An Alacorn sat, broken like a cleat-kicked can, rusting in the fading light of day, meters from a Warhammer's shattered cockpit. The sandstone was glazed in many places, where PPC and Lazer fire had scored it, scorched it...
Here and there, Nathan could see the fluttering of uniform synthetics wrapped around half-buried bones. Deeper in the valley, the Clan force could see more signs of smashed war machines. "There was a battle here, and the Spheroids did not strip it for salvage?" Star Commander Tim Malthus marvelled over the radio. "Strider unit, see if you can find who fought here, who died in this place un-mourned."
The elementals fanned out, looking over the wreckage of what had to be better than a Battalion on each side. One of the Machinegun Elementals let out a cry. "Rim Worlds troops!"
Another, from a Laser and missile equipped Point, called in, "Star league over here, it looks like maybe... the 17th Battlemech Regiment."
The 17th... that would put this battle early on in the Amaris war... which would, in effect, make this the oldest undisturbed battle site outside of Earth.
"Star Commander Malthus, who commanded the 17th at the start of the Civil war, do you recall?" nathan asked.
"That would have been Lt General George Canyon, why?"
Nathan chuckled, and the mike picked it up. "What is so funny, Star Captain, Sir?" Malthus inquired.
Nathan sighed, "Legends are usually derived from garbled truth, and, I would suspect, if we searched, that we would find a Command 'Mech, or, parts of one, with Rim-worlds markings, and the name of the Pilot would be Minsky."
The rest of the Jade Falcon unit grew silent.
"Local legend named this terrain feature 'Minsky's Folly, they claim a Pirate got lost and died in the Canyon... the Amaris war disrupted and destroyed lives, stories were probably passed down from it, as they were, the villains of those tales would change to fit the problems of the common people. Industry did not start here until this century, before that, there were only hardscrabble dirt-farms and frequent raids by pirates..." He laughed, "So, the ignorant forebears of the Planetary Population turned the destruction of a Rim-Worlds unit into a story about a Pirate that was too stupid..."
The others, finally, got the joke.
"Tread carefully, this is ground hallowed by the blood of Warriors." He said, and, lead them towards the far side of the ancient battlefield.

2045 Hours, 18 October, 3063...
This exit was not mined. There were no sensor grids covering it, no ambush waiting at its mouth.
Nathan led his force out of the canyon, onto flat, scrubland, dotted with Mesas and buttes. The Inertial Map showed their exit as being nearly 200 Kilometers from Nha Tran city, in a region labelled "The Drylands". His life support system recycled water from his body-as long as he remained in the 'mech. The Elemental suits did the same for their wearers.
There were no minefields, indeed, no signs of human activity here besides a long-crashed dropship, faded and rusted and dead longer than the Clans had existed.
"we take shelter in the Dropship tonight, tomorrow, if the Jade Dagger is able, we will present our opponents with a surprise." Nathan said over the comms.
The unit moved out, taking cover in the shade of the ruined vessel.

That night, as the 'Mechwarriors stretched their legs in the cool air of desert evening, Star Commander Malthus walked up to Nathan. "Star Captain Roshak... This equipment has been here a long time..." He said.
Nathan nodded, "Aff, It is interesting that it was not stripped out before now." he commented.
Malthus nodded agreement, and, pressed on- "We went forth to seek our enemies, and, found, instead, a graveyard. We came here to capture a woman, and, found they had turned a Prison into a Factory..."
Nathan nodded agreement, here, too.
"...we had a victory, I think, that came too easily,and, we are now paying for that early ease." Malthus finished.
Nathan nodded agreement with his analysis, and, said, "You and Star Commander Icaza know I did not want to do this, that I was suspicious of the data from VonJankmon's flight..."
Malthus nodded agreement, and, said, "The Warriors do not blame you for this- the Spheroids figured out another trick."
Nathan sighed heavily, and, his shoulders slumped, "It is not that simple, Star Commander, I should not have moved so hastily- by now, the accursed Spheroids are, no doubt, back in control of our base, the force I left there either dead, or, captured, by live enemies, while we fight ghosts and machines, and, chase our tails desperately trying to hold together enough force to make it back." He fixed the younger man with his gaze, and, said, "I have failed you, I have failed you all. I should not have even let Peter Live when I found out he disobeyed a direct order. I was too soft..."
The Star Commander looked at the Star Captain for a moment, and, said, "No, you did not. When this mission was announced, when we fought to be bid in, we knew it was probably a one-way trip, the Falcon lines will bypass this rock, we knew on the trip out that we were facing a tricky, often Dezgra, opponent. We accepted that risk, because the Clan demanded it. If we are defeated here, it is not because you were a weak commander, it is because the threat, the cunning of the enemy, was underestimated by those who sent us, and, by those others who took your initial reports to mean that the enemy was broken, rather than remembering the foul tricks of the past." The younger officer was adamant, as he added, "You have kept us alive where other Star Captains would have sent us to die for nothing! If we fail to achieve anything else, we have achieved what had to be the High Command's main goal: we have tied up a Regiment, and, interrupted a supply line to our enemies..."
Nathan inclined his head, "Go on, about the supply lines, I mean..." A new plan, a new thought, was occurring to him.
"That factory produces a huge portion of the Lyrans ammunition in the region, it is a major source of shells for their autocannons, tube artillery, and, Long ranged Missiles. The new Lyran Regime tends to under-supply their border units..."
Nathan nodded quickly, interjecting, "Like the Chahar Militia..."
Tim smiled, and, said, "You see, Star Captain, I read the Stravag Witch's reports too... and, I paid attention when she gave the site briefings, we have severely crippled the Lyrans in a spot they are still sensitive- for the three days we held that factory, there was nothing being made, it will take them weeks to clear the aluminum vats and re-heat them, and, it will take them weeks to rebuild the damaged areas of that north Loading zone- did you know that that explosion took out two of the Sorting buildings, without which, they can not control the grain-size of their propellant? Those machines are made off-world, it will take months to get them back on-line..." Tim yawned, and, cracked his back, "we have accomplished our mission's real objective, and, we did it in the first hour of combat. They have been hurt, and, with the greater time needed before the Lyrans find another source of shells and Missiles, our Trothkin will be able to press them-hard."
Nathan paused, and, thoughtfully, said, "So, live or die, we have accomplished the goals of the Clan overall, quiaff?"
Malthus nodded, "Aff, we have, indeed, and, live or die, we have done so with our Honour intact."
Nathan sighed, "The Clan promised reinforcements the day before yesterday..."
Tim grinned, "Then, all we have to concern ourselves with, is surviving, and, hurting the enemy, until they arrive."
Nathan thought on this, and, said, "Seyla!"
The rest of the night granted him peaceful sleep.
Daniels Avenger                Clan Coyote
General Jennifer Daniels    Galaxy Commander Jim Skyes
                                        Omicron Galaxy
Clan Wolf in Exile
328th Assault Cluster(the Lion Hearted)
Star Captain James Sword

wolfcannon

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Burned section, Nha-Tran, Kowloon, 20 October, 3063...

Being out of the "Emergency Bunkers" felt quite good, to Morgan Icaza. He'd been there, mainly, (according to Major Davies), because of a Clothing problem- (this rang a bit false to the Elemental-after all, he had perfectly good Field uniforms...) But, he, and, the rest of his star, he saw, were assembled here, in fatigues of a similar cut to what the Local Militia were wearing-minus headgear.
Davies trooped the line. Twenty-Five Elemental Infantry Warriors outside their Armoured suits, wearing Militia uniforms.
"Icaza! Front and center..." Davies said. Morgan stepped forward smartly. Davies reached into a box, producing a black hat with Hauptman's pips. "I found something for you and your men to do, until we decide to return you to full Warrior status, Hauptmann Icaza..." Morgan cocked an eyebrow at the smaller man- the Bondcord on his wrist was blue and gold- the colours of the Lyran Alliance.
"... Have you ever served as Cadre?" The smaller man asked.
Morgan looked surprised, and, said, "Cadre?" they want me to TRAIN someone?
The major nodded, "Cadre, I think the Jade Falcons call 'em Falconers, don't they?" Davies' statement emphasized that he was going to treat the Elementals as if they were, in fact, no longer Jade Falcons. "Yes, they do, no, I have not." Morgan said firmly.
Davies did not blink an eye, "Then, Hauptmann, I would like to introduce you, and, your fellow instructors, to your first class..." The Major raised a small Comset, and, said, "Bring in the recruits."
Five converted city buses rolled up the street, and, opened their doors.
The Major looked at Morgan, "According to what we've picked up from Jade Falcon history, the progenitor of your line instructed the early Clan Jade Falcon in Infantry tactics and techniques. If you, or, any of your fellows ever want to see the inside of a Battlesuit again, you will replicate this feat with these recruits, who were not finished in-processing before the Militia had to go to ground. You may wash out thirty-percent, as unfit, you may recycle twenty percent more, but, that's more you will have to train when the next cycle starts. This group, you have Fifteen weeks to turn from raw, untrained, underage, eager-beavers who don't know one end of a rifle from the other, into competent battlefield survivors whom can credibly threaten a Battlemech. In this task, Hauptmann, your Elemental Infantryman colleagues will be required to assist you, you are the command group for Training Company Alpha, First Kowloon Militia, Infantry Branch, you may assign Lower officer and NCO status to each of your former Elementals, their ranks will be confirmed. I know you and your men can fight, I want you to show that you can Lead."
Morgan listened to the man's speech, and, almost laughed. Then, he thought again. They are giving us minds to mold... and, free reign to do so. When the Jade Falcon returns, there should be worthy Bondsmen for them to take... or, a worthy foe for my former comrades to fight. Either way...
Morgan took the hat, and, the box, and, said, "We will show you that your trust is not mis-placed, Major."
He handed out the rank insignia, and, headgear, to the other Elemental Bondsmen. "These are not yet Warriors, we have been tasked, as our proof of worthiness, to make them Warriors. We have been made Falconers for the Planetary Militia. Point commanders, you are now 'Leutnants', the rest of you are 'Sargeants'. I have been appointed to supervise your work, as a 'Hauptmann'. Sargeants will take an even, random, portion of the new recruits, Leutnants, you are to lead each 'Platoon' as its officer- it is much like being a Point Commander, I think- only your responsibility is wider, as is my own. Take charge of your recruits."

He turned to see what kind of material he'd been given.
boys...good. Most of them are almost young enough to learn. the bulk of the recruits were in their early teens, if that-none of this group were old enough to shave more than once a week.
There was a truck, parked nearby, a supply vehicle, loaded by himself, and, his fellows at the Militia armoury- it contained tents, field kitchens, and other tools of a conventional Infantry force in the field.
Now, he understood what it was there for.
"Alpha Company, you look like gene-sweeping garbage!! I and my staff are here to make you drop out, to make you go home, because we do not think you are good enough to wear the Uniform of the Kowloon Militia, and, we are going to prove it. Welcome to Hell Week. Leutnants, inspect the gear our Trainees have brought..."

From a distance, Major Davies watched the ancient, time honoured, tradition unfold. The Elementals were the most intimidating Drill instructors he could imagine, and, they seemed to really take to the role- with a vim and vigour that filled his heart with a kind of nostalgia.
"Train 'em hard, men..." he murmured. Then, I'll have real arguments to give for not locking you away in the darkest hole on the planet...



the Drylands, 20 KM east of Minsky's Folly, 20 October, 3063

The Jade Dagger could not land safely- her landing gear was damaged during the Canyon ambush, and, there were no facilities to repair it in-system. That did not mean, however, that the dropship could not make a supply drop.
The Pallets drifted down, their cocoons shed quickly.
Nathan waited with his Warriors in the valley, as they tracked the progress. The Dropship's commander was spot-on, the ammunition, spares, and, sundry consumables did not miss the two-kilometer circle that had been designated as the reception point.
We are not abandoned yet... he thought, and winced- the Dropship, and, their Jumpship, were going to be gone for several weeks, deadheading back into Jade Falcon space, to obtain a replacement vessel, and, parts. we will be alone here... Briefly, Nathan wondered if there would even be a return. We are Jade Falcons, we will endure. he thought fiercely.

First Cathedral of Nha Tran, October 20, 3063, 1900 Hours...

The Provisional Government was like any elected body of men, Most were somewhat intelligent, but, there was a healthy supply of hucksters, con-artists, and, outright criminals in among the assembly. A Democratic Republic seemed like a good idea at the time... Elizabeth mused, as she watched the proceedings from the gallery. The Falcons did not take the predictable routes out of Minsky's folly, their Commander is no fool, they did not stay to try and drink that alkaline water, Therefore, they are still a threat to the Peace here... The Governor, for his own part, had, at least, the sense to remember the last man who crossed her.
Governor, If you cannot stall this motion... she thought, glaring fiercely at the body of men below her.
Representative Tomas Brook was speaking.
"...We thank Ngo Industries for beating back the Jade Falcons, " He drawled, "But, my constituents are homeless! we can not afford to expand a Militia that's big enough, when our Voters are sleepin' in Tents!" The bulk of the Representatives applauded, some whistling. Representative Brook continued, "I Second the motion to demobilize the new Regiment, and, I do so with full confidence!!"
Governor, if you can't block this... Elizabeth could read the crowd- and, her reading was not one that pleased her at all. I may have to find another way...
Her left hand held her son, who slept peacefully. Her right hand, drifted down to the holstered pistol on her leg. I may have to dissolve this... and it cost so much to get it recognized! She briefly wondered how many of the Militia would resist, and, if she could find a good pretext for a coup.
Wish Martinez were here, he was very skilled at this sort of thing...
The Assembly session lasted a few hours longer, but, there was no doubt about how it would end.
Elizabeth left early, when Patrick started crying.


HPG Station, Nha Tran, Kowloon, October 20, 3063

Shel couldn't believe how easy it was-but, then again, she did not have to. The Com Guard unit defending the HPG had been destroyed during the capture of the city, and, the Technicians were still in disarray. Morgan Icaza surrendered 'HIS' command, I'm not in his chain of command... Morgan had worded his surrender message very carefully, even, Artfully, and, it gave her a unique opportunity. I get to observe them at close range... She slid the code-chip into the system, and, sent the broadcast, carefully bypassing the data-buffers with a simple wire and alligator-clip setup. Her report sent, she removed the apparatus, and, turned to leave. "You know, you're good for a Clannah, but, you would have failed on a first-day excercise with ROM." The Adept standing in the doorway was casual, but, even under his hood, Shel could see deadly menace lurking, skill, as well. "Now, I'm willing to overlook this, but... you must do something for me." He held up a datadisc- "Make sure this ends up in the Ngo Woman's computers by, oh, tomorrow. It's a little present from the Word of the Blessed Blake..." He cocked an eyebrow, as she took the disc, "Be careful now, it's not something you want on your own systems, Clannah... Just... think of it as a hand-me-up for your friends out theah. and, shhhhh! be discreet."
The man did not so much walk away, as, he seemed to vanish in the service corridor.
Contacted by the Word of Blake, but... why would they want to sabotage Elizabeth Ngo?
Shel headed back to her new quarters after sending a few messages for her "bondholder" in the Kowloon Militia.
Things were getting complicated.


Orderly room, Alpha Company, 1st Kowloon Militia Infantry Regiment (training), 0635 23 October, 3063...

Morgan Icaza strode into the "Orderly room"- an affectation from eras past that suited the training unit well, and, swept his eyes over the bare concrete of the floor. It was pitted and cracked, the building had burned in the fire, but, its ferrocrete structure had remained intact enough- the GP Medium tent that now served as a roof and window-covering flapped in the morning breeze. He checked a stack of reports. "Any desertions yet?" he asked. The former Point Commander serving as "Officer of the Day" shook his head, "Neg, Sir, though there were three injuries during physical fitness training this morning." the Leutnant said.
Morgan nodded, "Excellent, will the injured trainees be fit within a day or two?" He asked.
The other Elemental shrugged, "I do not know about the one-he broke a rib on the confidence course, I think he will be ready to go again next cycle. The other two are just strained ankles and a hamstring." Morgan nodded his approval, "Light duty for a few days, have them polish the floors in here, when they have finished that, find something degrading for them to do, I want those two mad as hell and ready to prove they are above Menial duties, also, have their Sargeant-Falconers single them out to the others, there have been entirely too few fights-we need to improve their overall aggressiveness." The other Elemental raised his eyebrows, "Sir?"
Morgan chuckled, "The Assembly tried to override the Governor's last-minute veto last night, they failed by one vote, because the man was out drinking, and not in attendance. our status is endangered, and, Major Davies informed me, we may be called upon to seize the Assembly building, since we have not yet sworn the same Oath that most of the other soldiers have, to support and defend the Constitution of the planet. The next session of the Assembly is in three months time- that gives us time to prepare these young fools if the Military needs to seize control-or, to block such a move." The other man, who had once been merely Point Commander James, nodded his understanding. "You have that Stravag Witch monitoring the government, quiaff?"
Morgan grinned, "Aff, she took a certain Assemblyman out on the town and fed him drinks while the others sat in session last night... Right now, we are vulnerable, in three months time, I intend to be unassailable, we will have our Suits, we will be Front Line Warriors, and, we will win enough Honour that our Clan will take us back."
James looked at his Commanding officer, and, said, "Seyla, Star Captain."
The Two went on with the rest of their day.


Kowloon system, beyond the fifth planet...
The Sattelite recieved new orders, and, it complied.
a copy of the report it was sending, was retransmitted, by narrow-beam, to an uninhabited area of Kowloon.
Because of the precision of the systems in that sattelite, it was able to send while the City's defense grid was not looking...

Jade Falcon Encampment, 20KM west of Minsky's Folly, 0655 a.m.

Nathan read the communication, recieved just minutes ago.
He was smiling. Morgan, Morgan, Morgan... Cunning... you surrendered just enough to get us the kind of intelligence we need... Star Commander Timothy Malthus stepped into the area of the crashed Union that was serving as a base for their force. "Tim, good news- the Elementals we left behind, they are alive, and, they are..." he chuckled, "in charge of training recruits for the militia now." Tim looked less than pleased, "You mean, Morgan Icaza has betrayed the Clan??? Please say this is not so!" he exclaimed.
Nathan shook his head, "Neg, he did what he had to do, now, Shel, who did not surrender, and, could not be surrendered by Morgan without her stated consent, is doing a Watcher's job- she has infiltrated their command and control structure, and, sends word that there is a power-struggle between those that would maintain their present strength, and, those that would demobilize in our apparent absence- and the ones that would demobilize are in the majority. Meanwhile Icaza is training a whole crop of Freebirths who will be ready to lose gloriously when our Comrades return with reinforcements, He estimates that, of the ones that make it through training, more than sixty percent will not survive battle even with his best efforts, those that do, he states, will make fine bondsmen to Clan Jade Falcon."
Tim looked uncertain- "Sir... they surrendered without a fight-"
Nathan nodded, "Aff, and, in so doing, they have gained a position to accomplish our original, Primary objectives, as well as placing a Clan Intelligence Agent into the enemy's ranks without stirring a bubble of suspicion." Nathan stood up from the console, stretched, and, said, "There is only one fly in this ointment- If Icaza is not allowed to continue, he and his men will have their Bond revoked by the ignorant leaders of this planet, and, they will rot in prison, with no chance to redeem themselves."

Timothy Malthus was torn- he had liked and, to a small extent, admired Morgan Icaza- the man was both intelligent, and, a fierce warrior, one with that quality that made the men who served under him fiercer still. The Man has a plan, but, what can it possibly be? he did not know-but, he did know that the Enemy must have brought in vastly overwhelming forces, for the Elemental Commander to surrender in such a manner. {i]Aff, he never wasted a man if he could afford a differing path...Now, he has placed a weapon in our hands, at the cost of his personal Honour- He must be allowed to redeem himself in Battle, and, to return home, even as Bondsman... Tim realized he'd Learned something just now, something that he could use later. "Star Captain, did she include maps?"
Nathan's smile grew broader- "She did indeed, there is a small settlement about five hundered kilometers southwest of here, it contains supplies we will need, and- it is the district of one of the most 'Peace Oriented' Assemblymen. We will capture it, and, hold it until the Militia responds, then, retreat, just enough to remind them we are still here..."
He looked over the supply sheets, "And, to obtain certain necessary mineral supplements and food items."
Tim shrugged, and, said, "A supply raid?"
Nathan shook his head, "there is a platoon of foot garrisoning the local region- a Trial of Possession, announced, bid, and, everything."
Tim suddenly laughed- the Villagers would not, likely, put up a fight, and, the Provisional Government would be scared away from disbanding Icaza's little training command until the Falcon Jaegers still on-world were run to ground- an unlikely scenarario, given the mineral content and structure of the Drylands, and, the oncoming heat of summer.
they will also be too tied up, to concern themselves with offworld events, until the Falcon Battle-Line has cut this world off...


Ngo House, Owens Lake community, outside of Nha-Tran, October 23, 3063...

Marissa was a godsend- The new nanny had her own children, and, she really took a shine to Patrick, which was good, in Elizabeth's opinion. This house is too large, it is good to have more people here... she mused, as she sipped her tea on the covered porch. The Chrome Team squad that was guarding the house seemed to think so, too- particularly the new Team leader, Al Finnegan. "You need to be around normal people more often, boss..." He'd said, when she mentioned letting the newly-widowed Marissa White move into the house as a live-in Nanny for Patrick. (her husband had died in the battle to retake the HPG station, an Elemental Marine from the Dropship landed on him by accident... one of the hazards of being Militia Infantry on a world suddenly thrust into the ongoing Clan wars...) Sam, Marissa's oldest, was always underfoot, though. "Coilonel! Colonel! Patrick said his first word!!!" Sam shouted, running out onto the porch. Elizabeth set her cup down. "Really?"
Sam was pleased as punch, his ten-year old face beaming at her in a way that she could not be angry with him. "He said 'No', clear as day, mamma was tryin' ta feed him!" Elizabeth smiled indulgently, stood up, and, said, "show me."
The boy pelted off, and she followed.
The other children were in a commotion, gathered around the baby, who was in his crib, looking up at them with big eyes and a toothless grin. They were offering him things, and, he was, clearly, saying "no".
six months old, and, starting to speak... I guess that son of a whore gave me something worthwhile anyway... Elizabeth thought, with a creepy feeling, the same one that always stole over her when she thought of what Leutnant Martelli had done to her. Must...not... let the boy know, it is not his fault, or, his crime, that his father was a rapist... She cleared her throat, and, the other children, Amy, age eight, Sylvan (a girl) age six, and, the four year old, Anthony, looked up at her. "I think some of you have schoolwork, yes?" she asked. The younger children groaned and shuffled their feet. "Let your mother have some peace, she was up all night, and, there will be plenty of time for Patrick to learn how to say "No".
The younger children left, they are well disciplined... but, Sam stayed, and, said, "I finished my Homework last night, Ma'am..." his eyes were hopeful. Elizabeth looked over at Marissa- who nodded, "Sam's a good boy, he can watch Patrick for a little while, if it is all right with you." Elizabeth said. Marissa nodded agreement, "I think that would be best, I need some sleep..." Elizabeth dismissed her with a nod,
"get some, you look drained..."
then, she turned to Sam, "do a good job, you know his schedule, and, you'll get Five Kroner." Sam was already showing a good head for business, he understood the value of money. "Cool!" he said, and, promised he would do a good job watching the baby.
"I'll be back this evening, now, Sam, I don't want to hear that you've been in trouble..." she added with a warning note.
The boy shook his head vigourously, "No ma'am... can we use the Stereo while you're gone?" he asked. Elizabeth looked thoughtful, for a moment, before she said, "only after your brother and sisters have finished their lessons, and, don't play it too loud." she added a gesture her mother used a lot- waving her finger at him.
Sam nodded, "Understood Colonel Ngo!"
Elizabeth did not have to tell him to get to working.
a good boy... she thought, as she left the room, and, headed out. He reminds me of my Brothers... she thought, and pushed back a wave of sadness.

Al Finnegan was waiting out front, the Ferret Transport VTOL was ready to go. "Hi Al, what news?" she asked.
The man shrugged, "We think they might have come out of the canyon on the west side, if they did, they're hiding in the Drylands, that's territory that remotes have a hard time in, lots of Metals and rare earths in the dust out there, and, it's hot just 'bout year round, you could hide a small Regiment in there, if you wanted to." She accepted the headset, and, climbed into the small, comfortable, cabin behind the Pilot's station. "Crap, that means they could come out anywhere short of the Iron hills... What's in their likely range of attack out there?" she asked.
Al, sitting in the second-seat position, handed her a noteputer with a map displayed. "couple of mining villages, on our side, and a string of farming 'villes along the Little Yangtze. That country's mostly Peridotic soil, though, if they hop one of the passes, they'll show up on sensors..." She looked at the bands of irrigated green- the water might not be real safe to drink, but, it's safe enough to grow crops with... The Clanners, if they, indeed, were in the Drylands, were sitting between Nha-Tran City, and, much of the continent's agriculture. isn't that Karl Phat's district? she wondered...
yes, it is. Well... he feels the militia is getting too large...
She reached down, and, dialed in the frequency for the Militia Headquarters. "Patch me through to Major Davies... Davies, pull everything out of the far western district, except Headquarters Platoons, send 'em out to Mattheison Flats for Training excercises... yes, you heard me, Training excercises... no, I'm sure that Karl Phat's not going to raise a stink- he wants the Militia stepped down anyway- besides, we all know the Clanners will hit here, if they hit at all... yes, yes... no. Jack, listen-I'll explain it in detail when I get to the office, just have those Militia units moved out to the Flats for a short FTX, maybe a week or so, just to help get them up to speed... No, actually, it's because they need the training, and, because I think I know where Roshak's going to come out... Look, I'll explain it in detail when I get there, just get the initial move orders cut!"
She closed the connection.
Finnegan looked at her. "You're setting up those 'Villes to take a hit... aren't you?" he said. Elizabeth sighed, "Finnegan, I don't want Ngo Industries to be the sole, proprietary, military presence on Kowloon- last night, we almost ended up being just that. If the Clanners hit Karl Phat's district, his coalition will come apart at the seams, and, the bigger the bite, the faster it will. I feel sorry for the people out there, but, the Assembly has to see that their security is better served by being prepared for an attack, than by declaring victory after one, single, battle."
Finnegan nodded slowly, agreeing with her, and, said, "Are you sure you aren't Capellan? I remember tactics like that when I was in the CCAF..." She shook her head, and, to his surprise, laughed, "No, I was born on Wotan, which is about as far from Sian as you can get, besides, if I was a Capellan, I'd be able to cash checks in the Confederation, instead of having to deposit C-bills into an account with the Central bank, which charges exhorbitant rates to foreigners..."
The rueful way she said it, made Finnegan laugh out loud.

Kowloon Militia Arsenal, same day, same time reference...

Shel finished running the disc through a simulated environment- and, closed the machine down. nasty... good work, but, hoo-boy... that one is nasty... I think maybe I will hold on to it, and dive into the code on the disc itself-the self-erasing features when the program is running are... interesting. Among the Jade Falcon Watch, Shel was a master at Data-Warfare, but, compared to her, the maker of this was a god. it's simple, stealthy, and, entirely too effective-and, it will work against Jade Falcon systems as well... no, I will not be the vector for this one- at least, not until I can control it... She tagged the Terminal as being damaged, and, sent out a work-order to a repair shop now staffed by former Jade Falcon techs, including one she knew would understand the code to mean that the system's storage was infected by a virus.
Then, she turned back to the task she was assigned- logistics reports and filing. There was a wealth of data on the condition of the Militia, as well as the Ngo Industries troops on-planet. Shel processed each form meticulously, while she also copied the data from each form into a secret cache she could view, and, analyze, later- her reports would tell both the incoming Jade Falcon Cluster, and, Star Captain Roshak, the dispositions, numbers, condition, and, overall fitness, of the planet's defenders- as well as where their "Rabbit Holes" were. The next wave would not find it so difficult to establish real control, as the first had.
not enough for a cheap victory, but, enough for a REAL one... she mused.
Suddenly, Major Davies rushed in, with a handful of hand-written orders. "Flash these out to the Militia units in the Western district, put a priority heading on 'em..." he said, thrusting the papers at Shel.
"Yes Sir, Major Davies..." she said, and, changed screens.
Movement orders... why, they are stripping the defenses along the Little Yangtze! the implication was clear to Shel, now that she had observed the local political scene- Karl Phat's district will be undefended when Star Captain Roshak shows up...no, it will be LIGHTLY defended-just enough to get word out, just enough to make some of the other Assemblymen nervous, and, just enough to make his peace policies unpopular back home... She faithfully entered the orders, and, sent them, again, caching a copy of those orders for her own use.
Daniels Avenger                Clan Coyote
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Burned section, Nha-Tran, Kowloon, 20 October, 3063...

Being out of the "Emergency Bunkers" felt quite good, to Morgan Icaza. He'd been there, mainly, (according to Major Davies), because of a Clothing problem- (this rang a bit false to the Elemental-after all, he had perfectly good Field uniforms...) But, he, and, the rest of his star, he saw, were assembled here, in fatigues of a similar cut to what the Local Militia were wearing-minus headgear.
Davies trooped the line. Twenty-Five Elemental Infantry Warriors outside their Armoured suits, wearing Militia uniforms.
"Icaza! Front and center..." Davies said. Morgan stepped forward smartly. Davies reached into a box, producing a black hat with Hauptman's pips. "I found something for you and your men to do, until we decide to return you to full Warrior status, Hauptmann Icaza..." Morgan cocked an eyebrow at the smaller man- the Bondcord on his wrist was blue and gold- the colours of the Lyran Alliance.
"... Have you ever served as Cadre?" The smaller man asked.
Morgan looked surprised, and, said, "Cadre?" they want me to TRAIN someone?
The major nodded, "Cadre, I think the Jade Falcons call 'em Falconers, don't they?" Davies' statement emphasized that he was going to treat the Elementals as if they were, in fact, no longer Jade Falcons. "Yes, they do, no, I have not." Morgan said firmly.
Davies did not blink an eye, "Then, Hauptmann, I would like to introduce you, and, your fellow instructors, to your first class..." The Major raised a small Comset, and, said, "Bring in the recruits."
Five converted city buses rolled up the street, and, opened their doors.
The Major looked at Morgan, "According to what we've picked up from Jade Falcon history, the progenitor of your line instructed the early Clan Jade Falcon in Infantry tactics and techniques. If you, or, any of your fellows ever want to see the inside of a Battlesuit again, you will replicate this feat with these recruits, who were not finished in-processing before the Militia had to go to ground. You may wash out thirty-percent, as unfit, you may recycle twenty percent more, but, that's more you will have to train when the next cycle starts. This group, you have Fifteen weeks to turn from raw, untrained, underage, eager-beavers who don't know one end of a rifle from the other, into competent battlefield survivors whom can credibly threaten a Battlemech. In this task, Hauptmann, your Elemental Infantryman colleagues will be required to assist you, you are the command group for Training Company Alpha, First Kowloon Militia, Infantry Branch, you may assign Lower officer and NCO status to each of your former Elementals, their ranks will be confirmed. I know you and your men can fight, I want you to show that you can Lead."
Morgan listened to the man's speech, and, almost laughed. Then, he thought again. They are giving us minds to mold... and, free reign to do so. When the Jade Falcon returns, there should be worthy Bondsmen for them to take... or, a worthy foe for my former comrades to fight. Either way...
Morgan took the hat, and, the box, and, said, "We will show you that your trust is not mis-placed, Major."
He handed out the rank insignia, and, headgear, to the other Elemental Bondsmen. "These are not yet Warriors, we have been tasked, as our proof of worthiness, to make them Warriors. We have been made Falconers for the Planetary Militia. Point commanders, you are now 'Leutnants', the rest of you are 'Sargeants'. I have been appointed to supervise your work, as a 'Hauptmann'. Sargeants will take an even, random, portion of the new recruits, Leutnants, you are to lead each 'Platoon' as its officer- it is much like being a Point Commander, I think- only your responsibility is wider, as is my own. Take charge of your recruits."

He turned to see what kind of material he'd been given.
boys...good. Most of them are almost young enough to learn. the bulk of the recruits were in their early teens, if that-none of this group were old enough to shave more than once a week.
There was a truck, parked nearby, a supply vehicle, loaded by himself, and, his fellows at the Militia armoury- it contained tents, field kitchens, and other tools of a conventional Infantry force in the field.
Now, he understood what it was there for.
"Alpha Company, you look like gene-sweeping garbage!! I and my staff are here to make you drop out, to make you go home, because we do not think you are good enough to wear the Uniform of the Kowloon Militia, and, we are going to prove it. Welcome to Hell Week. Leutnants, inspect the gear our Trainees have brought..."

From a distance, Major Davies watched the ancient, time honoured, tradition unfold. The Elementals were the most intimidating Drill instructors he could imagine, and, they seemed to really take to the role- with a vim and vigour that filled his heart with a kind of nostalgia.
"Train 'em hard, men..." he murmured. Then, I'll have real arguments to give for not locking you away in the darkest hole on the planet...



the Drylands, 20 KM east of Minsky's Folly, 20 October, 3063

The Jade Dagger could not land safely- her landing gear was damaged during the Canyon ambush, and, there were no facilities to repair it in-system. That did not mean, however, that the dropship could not make a supply drop.
The Pallets drifted down, their cocoons shed quickly.
Nathan waited with his Warriors in the valley, as they tracked the progress. The Dropship's commander was spot-on, the ammunition, spares, and, sundry consumables did not miss the two-kilometer circle that had been designated as the reception point.
We are not abandoned yet... he thought, and winced- the Dropship, and, their Jumpship, were going to be gone for several weeks, deadheading back into Jade Falcon space, to obtain a replacement vessel, and, parts. we will be alone here... Briefly, Nathan wondered if there would even be a return. We are Jade Falcons, we will endure. he thought fiercely.

First Cathedral of Nha Tran, October 20, 3063, 1900 Hours...

The Provisional Government was like any elected body of men, Most were somewhat intelligent, but, there was a healthy supply of hucksters, con-artists, and, outright criminals in among the assembly. A Democratic Republic seemed like a good idea at the time... Elizabeth mused, as she watched the proceedings from the gallery. The Falcons did not take the predictable routes out of Minsky's folly, their Commander is no fool, they did not stay to try and drink that alkaline water, Therefore, they are still a threat to the Peace here... The Governor, for his own part, had, at least, the sense to remember the last man who crossed her.
Governor, If you cannot stall this motion... she thought, glaring fiercely at the body of men below her.
Representative Tomas Brook was speaking.
"...We thank Ngo Industries for beating back the Jade Falcons, " He drawled, "But, my constituents are homeless! we can not afford to expand a Militia that's big enough, when our Voters are sleepin' in Tents!" The bulk of the Representatives applauded, some whistling. Representative Brook continued, "I Second the motion to demobilize the new Regiment, and, I do so with full confidence!!"
Governor, if you can't block this... Elizabeth could read the crowd- and, her reading was not one that pleased her at all. I may have to find another way...
Her left hand held her son, who slept peacefully. Her right hand, drifted down to the holstered pistol on her leg. I may have to dissolve this... and it cost so much to get it recognized! She briefly wondered how many of the Militia would resist, and, if she could find a good pretext for a coup.
Wish Martinez were here, he was very skilled at this sort of thing...
The Assembly session lasted a few hours longer, but, there was no doubt about how it would end.
Elizabeth left early, when Patrick started crying.


HPG Station, Nha Tran, Kowloon, October 20, 3063

Shel couldn't believe how easy it was-but, then again, she did not have to. The Com Guard unit defending the HPG had been destroyed during the capture of the city, and, the Technicians were still in disarray. Morgan Icaza surrendered 'HIS' command, I'm not in his chain of command... Morgan had worded his surrender message very carefully, even, Artfully, and, it gave her a unique opportunity. I get to observe them at close range... She slid the code-chip into the system, and, sent the broadcast, carefully bypassing the data-buffers with a simple wire and alligator-clip setup. Her report sent, she removed the apparatus, and, turned to leave. "You know, you're good for a Clannah, but, you would have failed on a first-day excercise with ROM." The Adept standing in the doorway was casual, but, even under his hood, Shel could see deadly menace lurking, skill, as well. "Now, I'm willing to overlook this, but... you must do something for me." He held up a datadisc- "Make sure this ends up in the Ngo Woman's computers by, oh, tomorrow. It's a little present from the Word of the Blessed Blake..." He cocked an eyebrow, as she took the disc, "Be careful now, it's not something you want on your own systems, Clannah... Just... think of it as a hand-me-up for your friends out theah. and, shhhhh! be discreet."
The man did not so much walk away, as, he seemed to vanish in the service corridor.
Contacted by the Word of Blake, but... why would they want to sabotage Elizabeth Ngo?
Shel headed back to her new quarters after sending a few messages for her "bondholder" in the Kowloon Militia.
Things were getting complicated.


Orderly room, Alpha Company, 1st Kowloon Militia Infantry Regiment (training), 0635 23 October, 3063...

Morgan Icaza strode into the "Orderly room"- an affectation from eras past that suited the training unit well, and, swept his eyes over the bare concrete of the floor. It was pitted and cracked, the building had burned in the fire, but, its ferrocrete structure had remained intact enough- the GP Medium tent that now served as a roof and window-covering flapped in the morning breeze. He checked a stack of reports. "Any desertions yet?" he asked. The former Point Commander serving as "Officer of the Day" shook his head, "Neg, Sir, though there were three injuries during physical fitness training this morning." the Leutnant said.
Morgan nodded, "Excellent, will the injured trainees be fit within a day or two?" He asked.
The other Elemental shrugged, "I do not know about the one-he broke a rib on the confidence course, I think he will be ready to go again next cycle. The other two are just strained ankles and a hamstring." Morgan nodded his approval, "Light duty for a few days, have them polish the floors in here, when they have finished that, find something degrading for them to do, I want those two mad as hell and ready to prove they are above Menial duties, also, have their Sargeant-Falconers single them out to the others, there have been entirely too few fights-we need to improve their overall aggressiveness." The other Elemental raised his eyebrows, "Sir?"
Morgan chuckled, "The Assembly tried to override the Governor's last-minute veto last night, they failed by one vote, because the man was out drinking, and not in attendance. our status is endangered, and, Major Davies informed me, we may be called upon to seize the Assembly building, since we have not yet sworn the same Oath that most of the other soldiers have, to support and defend the Constitution of the planet. The next session of the Assembly is in three months time- that gives us time to prepare these young fools if the Military needs to seize control-or, to block such a move." The other man, who had once been merely Point Commander James, nodded his understanding. "You have that Stravag Witch monitoring the government, quiaff?"
Morgan grinned, "Aff, she took a certain Assemblyman out on the town and fed him drinks while the others sat in session last night... Right now, we are vulnerable, in three months time, I intend to be unassailable, we will have our Suits, we will be Front Line Warriors, and, we will win enough Honour that our Clan will take us back."
James looked at his Commanding officer, and, said, "Seyla, Star Captain."
The Two went on with the rest of their day.


Kowloon system, beyond the fifth planet...
The Sattelite recieved new orders, and, it complied.
a copy of the report it was sending, was retransmitted, by narrow-beam, to an uninhabited area of Kowloon.
Because of the precision of the systems in that sattelite, it was able to send while the City's defense grid was not looking...

Jade Falcon Encampment, 20KM west of Minsky's Folly, 0655 a.m.

Nathan read the communication, recieved just minutes ago.
He was smiling. Morgan, Morgan, Morgan... Cunning... you surrendered just enough to get us the kind of intelligence we need... Star Commander Timothy Malthus stepped into the area of the crashed Union that was serving as a base for their force. "Tim, good news- the Elementals we left behind, they are alive, and, they are..." he chuckled, "in charge of training recruits for the militia now." Tim looked less than pleased, "You mean, Morgan Icaza has betrayed the Clan??? Please say this is not so!" he exclaimed.
Nathan shook his head, "Neg, he did what he had to do, now, Shel, who did not surrender, and, could not be surrendered by Morgan without her stated consent, is doing a Watcher's job- she has infiltrated their command and control structure, and, sends word that there is a power-struggle between those that would maintain their present strength, and, those that would demobilize in our apparent absence- and the ones that would demobilize are in the majority. Meanwhile Icaza is training a whole crop of Freebirths who will be ready to lose gloriously when our Comrades return with reinforcements, He estimates that, of the ones that make it through training, more than sixty percent will not survive battle even with his best efforts, those that do, he states, will make fine bondsmen to Clan Jade Falcon."
Tim looked uncertain- "Sir... they surrendered without a fight-"
Nathan nodded, "Aff, and, in so doing, they have gained a position to accomplish our original, Primary objectives, as well as placing a Clan Intelligence Agent into the enemy's ranks without stirring a bubble of suspicion." Nathan stood up from the console, stretched, and, said, "There is only one fly in this ointment- If Icaza is not allowed to continue, he and his men will have their Bond revoked by the ignorant leaders of this planet, and, they will rot in prison, with no chance to redeem themselves."

Timothy Malthus was torn- he had liked and, to a small extent, admired Morgan Icaza- the man was both intelligent, and, a fierce warrior, one with that quality that made the men who served under him fiercer still. The Man has a plan, but, what can it possibly be? he did not know-but, he did know that the Enemy must have brought in vastly overwhelming forces, for the Elemental Commander to surrender in such a manner. {i]Aff, he never wasted a man if he could afford a differing path...Now, he has placed a weapon in our hands, at the cost of his personal Honour- He must be allowed to redeem himself in Battle, and, to return home, even as Bondsman... Tim realized he'd Learned something just now, something that he could use later. "Star Captain, did she include maps?"
Nathan's smile grew broader- "She did indeed, there is a small settlement about five hundered kilometers southwest of here, it contains supplies we will need, and- it is the district of one of the most 'Peace Oriented' Assemblymen. We will capture it, and, hold it until the Militia responds, then, retreat, just enough to remind them we are still here..."
He looked over the supply sheets, "And, to obtain certain necessary mineral supplements and food items."
Tim shrugged, and, said, "A supply raid?"
Nathan shook his head, "there is a platoon of foot garrisoning the local region- a Trial of Possession, announced, bid, and, everything."
Tim suddenly laughed- the Villagers would not, likely, put up a fight, and, the Provisional Government would be scared away from disbanding Icaza's little training command until the Falcon Jaegers still on-world were run to ground- an unlikely scenarario, given the mineral content and structure of the Drylands, and, the oncoming heat of summer.
they will also be too tied up, to concern themselves with offworld events, until the Falcon Battle-Line has cut this world off...


Ngo House, Owens Lake community, outside of Nha-Tran, October 23, 3063...

Marissa was a godsend- The new nanny had her own children, and, she really took a shine to Patrick, which was good, in Elizabeth's opinion. This house is too large, it is good to have more people here... she mused, as she sipped her tea on the covered porch. The Chrome Team squad that was guarding the house seemed to think so, too- particularly the new Team leader, Al Finnegan. "You need to be around normal people more often, boss..." He'd said, when she mentioned letting the newly-widowed Marissa White move into the house as a live-in Nanny for Patrick. (her husband had died in the battle to retake the HPG station, an Elemental Marine from the Dropship landed on him by accident... one of the hazards of being Militia Infantry on a world suddenly thrust into the ongoing Clan wars...) Sam, Marissa's oldest, was always underfoot, though. "Coilonel! Colonel! Patrick said his first word!!!" Sam shouted, running out onto the porch. Elizabeth set her cup down. "Really?"
Sam was pleased as punch, his ten-year old face beaming at her in a way that she could not be angry with him. "He said 'No', clear as day, mamma was tryin' ta feed him!" Elizabeth smiled indulgently, stood up, and, said, "show me."
The boy pelted off, and she followed.
The other children were in a commotion, gathered around the baby, who was in his crib, looking up at them with big eyes and a toothless grin. They were offering him things, and, he was, clearly, saying "no".
six months old, and, starting to speak... I guess that son of a whore gave me something worthwhile anyway... Elizabeth thought, with a creepy feeling, the same one that always stole over her when she thought of what Leutnant Martelli had done to her. Must...not... let the boy know, it is not his fault, or, his crime, that his father was a rapist... She cleared her throat, and, the other children, Amy, age eight, Sylvan (a girl) age six, and, the four year old, Anthony, looked up at her. "I think some of you have schoolwork, yes?" she asked. The younger children groaned and shuffled their feet. "Let your mother have some peace, she was up all night, and, there will be plenty of time for Patrick to learn how to say "No".
The younger children left, they are well disciplined... but, Sam stayed, and, said, "I finished my Homework last night, Ma'am..." his eyes were hopeful. Elizabeth looked over at Marissa- who nodded, "Sam's a good boy, he can watch Patrick for a little while, if it is all right with you." Elizabeth said. Marissa nodded agreement, "I think that would be best, I need some sleep..." Elizabeth dismissed her with a nod,
"get some, you look drained..."
then, she turned to Sam, "do a good job, you know his schedule, and, you'll get Five Kroner." Sam was already showing a good head for business, he understood the value of money. "Cool!" he said, and, promised he would do a good job watching the baby.
"I'll be back this evening, now, Sam, I don't want to hear that you've been in trouble..." she added with a warning note.
The boy shook his head vigourously, "No ma'am... can we use the Stereo while you're gone?" he asked. Elizabeth looked thoughtful, for a moment, before she said, "only after your brother and sisters have finished their lessons, and, don't play it too loud." she added a gesture her mother used a lot- waving her finger at him.
Sam nodded, "Understood Colonel Ngo!"
Elizabeth did not have to tell him to get to working.
a good boy... she thought, as she left the room, and, headed out. He reminds me of my Brothers... she thought, and pushed back a wave of sadness.

Al Finnegan was waiting out front, the Ferret Transport VTOL was ready to go. "Hi Al, what news?" she asked.
The man shrugged, "We think they might have come out of the canyon on the west side, if they did, they're hiding in the Drylands, that's territory that remotes have a hard time in, lots of Metals and rare earths in the dust out there, and, it's hot just 'bout year round, you could hide a small Regiment in there, if you wanted to." She accepted the headset, and, climbed into the small, comfortable, cabin behind the Pilot's station. "Crap, that means they could come out anywhere short of the Iron hills... What's in their likely range of attack out there?" she asked.
Al, sitting in the second-seat position, handed her a noteputer with a map displayed. "couple of mining villages, on our side, and a string of farming 'villes along the Little Yangtze. That country's mostly Peridotic soil, though, if they hop one of the passes, they'll show up on sensors..." She looked at the bands of irrigated green- the water might not be real safe to drink, but, it's safe enough to grow crops with... The Clanners, if they, indeed, were in the Drylands, were sitting between Nha-Tran City, and, much of the continent's agriculture. isn't that Karl Phat's district? she wondered...
yes, it is. Well... he feels the militia is getting too large...
She reached down, and, dialed in the frequency for the Militia Headquarters. "Patch me through to Major Davies... Davies, pull everything out of the far western district, except Headquarters Platoons, send 'em out to Mattheison Flats for Training excercises... yes, you heard me, Training excercises... no, I'm sure that Karl Phat's not going to raise a stink- he wants the Militia stepped down anyway- besides, we all know the Clanners will hit here, if they hit at all... yes, yes... no. Jack, listen-I'll explain it in detail when I get to the office, just have those Militia units moved out to the Flats for a short FTX, maybe a week or so, just to help get them up to speed... No, actually, it's because they need the training, and, because I think I know where Roshak's going to come out... Look, I'll explain it in detail when I get there, just get the initial move orders cut!"
She closed the connection.
Finnegan looked at her. "You're setting up those 'Villes to take a hit... aren't you?" he said. Elizabeth sighed, "Finnegan, I don't want Ngo Industries to be the sole, proprietary, military presence on Kowloon- last night, we almost ended up being just that. If the Clanners hit Karl Phat's district, his coalition will come apart at the seams, and, the bigger the bite, the faster it will. I feel sorry for the people out there, but, the Assembly has to see that their security is better served by being prepared for an attack, than by declaring victory after one, single, battle."
Finnegan nodded slowly, agreeing with her, and, said, "Are you sure you aren't Capellan? I remember tactics like that when I was in the CCAF..." She shook her head, and, to his surprise, laughed, "No, I was born on Wotan, which is about as far from Sian as you can get, besides, if I was a Capellan, I'd be able to cash checks in the Confederation, instead of having to deposit C-bills into an account with the Central bank, which charges exhorbitant rates to foreigners..."
The rueful way she said it, made Finnegan laugh out loud.

Kowloon Militia Arsenal, same day, same time reference...

Shel finished running the disc through a simulated environment- and, closed the machine down. nasty... good work, but, hoo-boy... that one is nasty... I think maybe I will hold on to it, and dive into the code on the disc itself-the self-erasing features when the program is running are... interesting. Among the Jade Falcon Watch, Shel was a master at Data-Warfare, but, compared to her, the maker of this was a god. it's simple, stealthy, and, entirely too effective-and, it will work against Jade Falcon systems as well... no, I will not be the vector for this one- at least, not until I can control it... She tagged the Terminal as being damaged, and, sent out a work-order to a repair shop now staffed by former Jade Falcon techs, including one she knew would understand the code to mean that the system's storage was infected by a virus.
Then, she turned back to the task she was assigned- logistics reports and filing. There was a wealth of data on the condition of the Militia, as well as the Ngo Industries troops on-planet. Shel processed each form meticulously, while she also copied the data from each form into a secret cache she could view, and, analyze, later- her reports would tell both the incoming Jade Falcon Cluster, and, Star Captain Roshak, the dispositions, numbers, condition, and, overall fitness, of the planet's defenders- as well as where their "Rabbit Holes" were. The next wave would not find it so difficult to establish real control, as the first had.
not enough for a cheap victory, but, enough for a REAL one... she mused.
Suddenly, Major Davies rushed in, with a handful of hand-written orders. "Flash these out to the Militia units in the Western district, put a priority heading on 'em..." he said, thrusting the papers at Shel.
"Yes Sir, Major Davies..." she said, and, changed screens.
Movement orders... why, they are stripping the defenses along the Little Yangtze! the implication was clear to Shel, now that she had observed the local political scene- Karl Phat's district will be undefended when Star Captain Roshak shows up...no, it will be LIGHTLY defended-just enough to get word out, just enough to make some of the other Assemblymen nervous, and, just enough to make his peace policies unpopular back home... She faithfully entered the orders, and, sent them, again, caching a copy of those orders for her own use.
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Than Lop village, shore of the Little Yangtze, 24 October, 3063, 0400 hours...

Nathan surveyed the village before him with a discerning eye.
He had expected a response from his challenge, or, at least, a ripple of movement at the appearance of his 'Mech. Neither happened. Thermal scans showed heat-signatures of thinly walled houses, a handfull of barns, and, the Police Station.
He cleared his throat, switched to the PA, and, announced his presence again, this time firing both ER Large Lazers over the Police building. "I am Nathan Roshak of Clan Jade Falcon, Who Defends this pitiful scrap of land from our Steel Talons?"
This time, the sleepy village awoke, and, a handful of Infantry boiled out of the Police building, their hands in the air, tossing weapons aside. Nathan switched to radio, "Strider, advance into the village with care..." The elemental units had once, not long ago, been two stars in strength-now, there was only enough for one, and, a spattering of a second, more of a detatched point. The Strider unit entered the village, bounding forward. There was no answering fire, there was no sign, even on Beagle Probe, of powered-down 'Mechs hiding inside the tiny strip of small houses and barns... Nothing.
After several minutes of searching, the Elemental Star-Commander reported in- "The Militia Garrison was pulled last night for Manuevers about Four hundered Kays North of here, they are not due back for several weeks." Nathan was confused- The militia was pulled out? with an enemy force certain to be running loose, they pulled the only possible chance of resisting attack?? ARE THEY INSANE???
"I see, Strider... Okay, new plan, then, have the locals load up as much food on a truck as it can carry, under supervision, and, detatch two points to escort it back to our base in the Drylands. The rest of you, there is another village like this one, eighteen Kilometers north of here, we do the same routine there, and, the next after that, until we get a response that is not an outright surrender." Curse it, they will notice us now...
the Nova moved north at 0600 Hours...

Nadir Jump Point, Kowloon system.
The Merchant-Class vessel Linda extended her jumpsail- she was here to pick up Copper Team, and, to deliver a small package of vital expense. Captain Jefferson looked out the front port, while he hung in null-gee, and, watched as the dropship left, carrying a special device. One of Elizabeth's goals was a secure communications arrangement between the many and varied large-scale production facilities owned by the company. With her quiet acquisition of a few small companies on New Avalon, he knew, Miss Liz had been able to obtain one of the secrets of the House Lords.
It was the size of a small mainframe computer, the principle was simple enough, and, it was not an HPG transmitter. it's better, the communication is untraceable... The electronics shops on Tovarich, as well as certain facilities in the New California system, produced the components with no idea what they were for, to be assembled at Factory Facility 3b, a Habitat that had been abandoned in the second Succession War, only to be repaired and repressurized by a Ngo Industries Salvage team in the early 3020's. The facility was kept out of HPG transmissions by sheer habit- Corporations never trust anyone, and, it was company policy since the 2900's to distrust Comstar. (Actual Written Policy, from a time when there was a fear that Comstar might hand confidential company information to a competitor, since Comstar was a third-party...) What mattered, was that the Black Box would increase the company's profits, speeding order processing and hiding trade secrets from the prying eyes of whatever competitor managed to bribe either Comstar, or, the Word of Blake, for proprietary information.
The dropship was away, the Sail, recharging the core. The captain felt good. Oy, it's a shame that the boss gets it last... he mused, smiling. MissLiz will be so pleased not to have to triple-encode her orders now... especially with the outright attacks going on at the border.
The ship drifted contentedly in the darkness.


First Cathedral, Nha Tran, October 25, 3063...

The Assembly was in a right panic. In the space of some 27 Hours, word had come of the outright conquest of most of the Little Yangtze valley.
And, now, for the finishing stroke... Elizabeth thought.
"Ladies and Gentlemen of the Assembly." She said, "I never asked for this Comission. I certainly never asked for this Position... you gave it to me anyway. Once the First battle of this war was done, you were willing to, in the face of all warnings, pass a resolution declaring a victory. Apparently, you are all willing to have My company shoulder the burden of paying for the defense of your assets. Let me put something into perspective for you, NOW." This wasn't the speech they'd wanted to hear, when they invited her, but, it was the speech she was bloody-well going to give.
"The Ngo Industries Jumpship Linda is even now in the system, she has brought military supplies, spares for the industrial equipment, and, some additional sundry items for the local trade. She will be leaving with the rest of Gold Infantry and armour, and, the survivors of Copper's forces."
they looked confused... this was acutely not the speech they had wanted..."That's right, Ngo industries personnel from two of my teams are going back to their stations off-world, there will be, point of fact, people, fifty-percent fewer of my Company's security forces on-world." the crowd rumbled with shock. Elizabeth pressed on, "YOU, as the Assembly, the Legislative Arm, of the planetary government, must make up the difference somehow. How you do that is of little importance to Ngo Industries, since the Company has sufficient forces on-world to hold off any further attacks on their holdings. As a Private Citizen, I would be totally unconcerned about your actions as regards to military matters, but... You, Mr. Governor, and, You, the Assembly, thrust upon me also, the command of the Militia, 'For the Duration of the Emergency', a direct quote from the Comissioning papers handed to me for signature on the 16th." She spread her hands, in an eloquent gesture, and, said, "I like this world, I loved it enough to make it my personal home, to raise my son here... but, I will not strip the legacy of my Ancestors to defend a single factory on a backwater-even one that serves as my personal home, and, which I hope to make the Base World for my company. I will hold this rank until you tell me that the Emergency has ended, but, I must have the Troops with which to fight, and, Those men, asked to die for Kowloon, must be of Kowloon, or there will not be the commitment necessary for Victory. You can not ask that someone else bear the burdens you do not wish, in this life. There is plentiful money in the Treasury now, to pay a proper Militia, I am willing to ARM a proper Militia, but, I am not willing to pay for the whole thing. That, ladies and gentlemen, is unreasonable, and, I simply will not do it. I will abandon you to your fate, first, as would anyone else. You must, and i do mean must, be willing to meet halfway on this. Before you vote on Assemblyman Brook's Motion to override the Veto, ask yourself this: do you want all of Kowloon either hiding in squalor, or, under the thumb of the Falcons, Or, do you want a proper defense, with sufficient forces to repel an invader, fight pirates and bandits, and do all those other things an army is to do?"
With that, and, without waiting for their reaction, she stepped down from the podium, and, headed for the door.

Outside, Major Davies was waiting. "They'll want to crucify you for this, you know." he said.
She shrugged, "I know that, but, someone had to lay out the facts for them now, rather than when the Jade Falcons finish Sharon Bryant's command and come looking for their lost men." she stated.
"You're really sending Copper and Gold away?" he asked her, as they got in the car.
"Davies, Business is business, those units need to rebuild, and, it's costing me a bloody fortune to keep Mercenaries on the Sites they aren't guarding. As the Chief Executive of one of the largest, most diversified, Corporations in the Inner Sphere, I can't afford to devote all my resources to this one planet, not when I have a responsibility to my employees, who number almost five times the population of this world." She closed the car's door, and, looked up. Davies had a new driver... Elizabeth realized, with shock, that it was one of the Clanners who'd been stationed inside her factory. "Davies, you have a Clanner doing the driving..." she said, with a look of distaste.
Davies shrugged, and, said, "Corporal Shel Falcon is the best administrative aide I've ever seen, she can type, make decent coffee, and, she drives a lot better than most of the ADC's I've ever seen. Besides, she's a Freeborn who was shot from her 'Mech in the first battle- they had her on light duty."
Elizabeth snorted disgustedly, "Fine, Davies, I don't want to know... just, keep her off my property, okay? I don't want my kids exposed to one of them."


Recruit training barracks, outside Nha Tran, October 24, 3063...

Word of the Little Yangtze reached the trainees, and, to Morgan's surprise, most of them showed sudden bursts of improvement. To explain this, he reviewed their files.
85% of the new recruits came from the Little Yangtze valley.
The Farmboys wanted to fight, now.
"...Knee actuator, notice how the plates slide together? that is because it has to bend here, and, here, for the Battlemech to walk. Now, this flex does not come without a price- the armour is thinner here than it is on the rest of the leg." The Company of volunteers crowded around the 'mech, to get a closer look. "Now, the Knees of a Battlemech, in fact, every joint on a battlemech, is called the Actuator Assembly. Actuators are vulnerable spots, but, they are not as vulnerable as another area, Can any of you tell me where that other, softer, harder to reach, target is?" he asked.
a hand from the back of the formation shot up- a Farmer's son from Vin-Drin-Lop, Morgan noted, the boy was somewhat smaller than the others. "Vanh! what part of a Battlemech is softer than its actuators?" Morgan boomed.
"Hauptmann Sir, the softest point on a Battlemech is the Pilot's Windscreen, Hauptmann Sir!" the boy almost shouted his answer. Morgan nodded, "That is correct, Recruit Vanh, advance to the front of the class, where I can see your shining face." He used the same Sarcastic tone his own Falconer, Joseph, had used. The boy did not protest, he snapped out of formation, ran around the rear of his line, and, stopped in the front rank, at the end. "Good, now, how do you want to get up there... Private Horstsen?"
The big lad was from Nha-Tran, and, had a criminal record for breaking and entering. Horstsen looked a little confused, and, said, uncertainly, "Hauptmann, Sir, I'd use a rope...Hauptmann, sir." Morgan smiled, and, the whole formation stiffened. "Lack of Clarity and indecisiveness on the part of any soldier can kill his Platoon, Horstsen, Your words were neither clear, nor, precise. Drop. In fact, all of you in the first three ranks, Drop, DROP DROOOOOP!!!!! DROP AND PUSH UNTIL I AM SURE WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT!!!" The young recruits rushed to get into the front-leaning rest position, "THAT IS NOT FAST ENOUGH, YOU WILL BE DEAD IF YOU MOVE THAT SLOWLY, YOU MOVE LIKE PONDWATER!!! GET UP!!!GET UP!!GET UP!!! TOOSLOWDROP!DROP!DROP!!! TOO SLOW, GET UP, GET DOWN, GET UP GET DOWN! PUSH!!! IN CADENCE...."
Morgan turned, "What are you all doing standing there? You, Jenden, you think this is funny?" he was smiling, still, "The rest of you, you are all part of this company, if one of you is in trouble, all of you are in trouble...Drop."
The Rear three ranks rushed to comply, while another Elemental counted the cadence. "Co-ordination of movement is vital on the battlefield, it is the only thing, often, that keeps warriors in the infantry from becoming corpses fit only for disposal..." Morgan continued to harangue the recruits for several minutes while they did push-ups on the ferrocrete of the street.

   
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Little Yangtze Valley, Dak-To Village, 25, October, 3063...

The Little Yangtze gets its name from a sulphurous clay that is washed down-river during the spring flooding season.
the Skies were cloudy, and, it was raining all up and down the river. For the population, this was a good thing- you can drink the rainwater, but, you can't necessarily live long on Ground or river-water. Nathan Roshak sat inside his 'mech, the scanners on Weather-mode. "Second point spotted the column heading down the road about twenty minutes ago, Star Captain." Star Commander Timothy Malthus reported.
Dak-To was the northernmost village in the valley, and, with the cloud-cover, which would last until April and the start of the Dry season, sattelite recon would be useless-in part because the Little Yangtze is fed by a series of hot-springs, creating an ambient temperature of 45 Degrees Celsius. irrigation with hot water... His Turkina crouched, mostly hidden, in a deep irrigation ditch.
"Enemy Forces in visual range, looks like one company of 'mechs supported by six armoured vehicles, types as follows: Commando, Wasp, Stinger, Commando, Blackjack BJ-1, Shadowhawk, old model, Griffin, Watchman, Watchman, Hatchet man, Marauder, Warhammer. Vehicles as follows: Ontos, Ontos, Patton, Maxim, Maxim, Maxim-both Maxims look like they're infantry variants... there is also a half-track with a flatbed, he appears to be... yes, there is a Ferret VTOL strapped down on his back-the weather must be worse than we thought."
The ambush was planned out carefully- the Militia in the area had been drawn off, now, they were returning. The Elementals would not be necessary for this work.
Three of his Omnis were mounting LBX-autocannon, weapons that would exploit the weaknesses of the vehicle support units. His own Turkina was configured in his preferred mode- slaying the lighter 'mechs would give him little satisfaction, but, it would draw heavy forces away from the other side of the Drylands-which, in the full measure, would enable the conquest of this world.
The first Commando, instead of checking his right or left, jogged right past, acting for all the world like the 'mech waiting in the ditch was invisible. then again, without a Beagle, in this rain, I might be... Nathan observed silently.
The Light Lance passed along the road, followed by the mediums. Nathan waited. The Heavy lance arrived. "Now." Nathan said, broadcasting on an open channel, so that the enemy heard it as well, as he stood up, and, fired on the Warhammer at close range. His Targeting computer locked his primary weapons- four Large Pulse Lasers, on the Warhammer's side torso, above the ammunition storage for the 'Mech's SRM ammunition. At this range, Nathan could not miss.
Armour scales shattered under the imacts of bluegreen darts from the Turkina's weapons. Then, the darts began burrowing into internal structures. The Warhammer pilot tried to turn his torso, as the ammunition within the 'Mechs bins erupted in yellow and red, shattering the 70-ton 'Mechs body, tearing across and through the fusion engine. The Warhammer Pilot managed to fire his PPC- but, he missed.
The Marauder stopped, and, tried to search out the enemy that had slain his comrade. Nathan jumped, landing on the other side of the Heavy 'Mech. better watch that heat... Nathan observed, as he toggled his Medium Pulse Lasers into the fray.
the Marauder turned left, then, right, searching the darkness.
Nathan stepped behind the old 'mech, as the pilot made a circle, stepping carefully to avoid slipping and, not fully aware of where his enemy had come from. The Marauder's back armour was fully exposed. The Targeting computer released it's "Locked" tone, as the Marauder pilot realized where his foe was, and, flipped his arms. The blue-green darts carved a trench through the center torso armour, and, Nathan was rewarded with a heat-plume, and, then, another, as the aging Fusion engine's sheilding came away.
The Marauder pilot fired his weapons, gouging a scar across Nathan's right arm, and, left leg, and, the other 'mech started to flee. Nathan switched back to the Large Pulse Lasers, and, moved to stay behind the other 'mech, which was forced to move slowly. He took a free shot- and, the Marauder went down, mostly intact. stay there, only an idiot would eject in this weather... By now, the rain and the mist were cut with more flashes, more explosions.
The ambush had been perfect- the Militia troops surprised, and, the Valley was now firmly in the hands of Clan Jade Falcon- at least, until a more prepared force challenged for it.
This was not a battle, though, it was an execution...
Nathan thought sourly. the Militia on this side of the Desert was in very poor condition to begin with...
He moved on, searching for targets in the rain.

by first light, about four hours later, the entire Militia Battalion was defeated. Again, the victory was easy-too easy. "The Corporate Security men at least put up a decent fight..." Tim Malthus said, looking over the battlefield. The rain had not stopped it had merely let up some, allowing visibility out to Two Hundered Meters without sensors. Nathan sighed,
"Star Commander Malthus, not every battle is glorious, sometimes it is just hard work and long. The survivors have been rounded up, quiaff?" he asked.
Tim replied, "Aff, Star Captain, and, the non-survivors have been accounted for. we have quite a bit of salvage on our hands besides- though all of it is oldtech junk, eight of the 'mechs require only trivial effort to repair, a few actuators and an engine or two."
Nathan laughed at the suggestion, "Repair? we lack nothing of parts to repair Battlemechs, we lack only Technicians and Pilots, both of which we are in shorter supply of than Battlemechs!" Timothy looked at him strangely, "Star Captain, we may well want to repair those 'mechs in case one of ours is damaged beyond repair later... or, at least, we can salvage them for parts we are short of-like actuators."
Nathan nodded, "Aff, Star Commander, I was not mocking you, I was realising how different things are, now-we have more 'mechs than pilots or techs to work on them..."
Tim nodded understanding. we are alone here, and, our Comrades are far, far, away...


Nha Tran, Kowloon, October 26, 3063, "Big Mary's Cafe", West side of town, 1200 hours...

Tom Burke was eating lunch indoors, because, outside, the rainy season was "on", and, it was too nasty to sit on the patio. The Assemblyman was really packin' it down, too- at just shy of 1.5 meters, he weighed in at almost 200 kilos, and, it was not because of his bones.
Assemblyman Josef Farrer, in whose district "Big Mary's Cafe-good eats" was located, sat across from his corpulent colleague, sipping at his own traditional lunch- he was on his fourth martini. "Tom, there is a reason I asked you to have lunch with me, and, it wasn't so you could put away more red meat than most of your 'Voters' see in a month." Farrer said, finally, setting his glass down. Burke looked up, "Yeah, what is it?"
Farrer sighed, and, said, "The Party has made a decision about next election, Tom. We're dropping you from the ticket."
Burke froze, his sausage-fingers gripping his fork. "Why?" he asked.
Farrer sighed, "It's got to do with... complications, Tom, you made the Party Leadership look like a bunch of fools with that disarmament bill, and, well... I got tagged to be the man to tell you so. Oh, and, you're off the Appropriations Subcomittee, too." Farrer stood up, handed a 20 note to the waitress, and, said, "Now, if you will excuse me, I have business to attend to- go 'head an' finish those ribs, they're covered, an' I know well how good they are." and, with that, Assemblyman Farrer left.
Tom Burke stopped overeating that day.

Burnt-out section, Nha Tran, same time.

The troops were going through a confidence course. Of course, 'Confidence' might not be an applicable word, when the Drill-instructor is keeping pace, while looking at one, and, shouting through a bullhorn. Recruit-Private Vanh didn't seem to mind, though, as he jumped upward, caught the lip of the obstacle wall, and, hauled himself up and over. For him, it was actually fun, it reminded him of his father's ranch, down on the southern end of the Little Yangtze valley, where the river meets the forests at the edge of Golden Lake.
"WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU HORSTEN? CAN YOU NOT DO BETTER THAN THE RUNT?!!! MOVE, MOVEMOVE!!!" Sgt. Elaine Falcon, one of the Elementals, was harangueing Horsten at the Mud-pit obstacle. Vanh plunged into the trench behind Horsten, and, found that the thin muck was almost up to his nose. The larger recruit was blocking his way, grimly struggling forward and getting nowhere. Vanh lifted his dummy-rifle (they were not yet in a position to be issued real ones.) over his head, and, plowed into Horsten. "dude, check it out- it's like swimming, you gotta let the mud flow." he whispered in the larger recruit's ear. Horsten grated back, "I can't swim."
Vanh sighed, "stick with me, ox, I'll teach ya sometime, you gonna let me through?" he asked.
Horsten turned sideways in the trench, and, Vanh slid past him, "Thanks, Ox, y'r a sport, man." He told Horsten.
"sure"
Horsten noticed that Vanh didn't turn square-on to the mud after passing by- he moved through it sideways.
Then, Horsten tried it. the resistance dropped to almost nothing compared to what it had been, when he was trying to plow his way through face-on.

Sgt Elaine Falcon watched the two interact. Good, teamwork... Horsten was one of the largest, almost Elemental sized for his age, and, remarkably slow at times.
Vanh was small, wiry, and, fast, both mentally, and, physically. Both had become favourite targets for the other 'Faloners', Horsten for his seeming dullness and hesitation, Vanh for being 'the runt of the litter'. The two of them together would weigh almost as much as... I do. she noted with amusement. Then, she turned, and, spotted someone else who needed 'Encouraging'.

"Hey, Ox, I can't reach the top of that next wall." Vanh said. actually, I could, but... Dad used to say that teamwork is everything when you're in a fight...
Horsten nodded, reached down, and, lifted Vanh to the top-with one hand, before jumping up to catch the wall himself.
"Thanks man." Vanh said, dropping to the ground below like a cat. Horsten landed heavily next to him.
"No prob, you really wanna teach me to swim?" Horsten asked.
Vanh nodded, "sure man,when this war's over, I'll show ya my folk's place, there's a lake an' everything." Vanh said casually.
"Great. you know that place the DI's have their orderly room in? that used ta be the best club in town- heck, it even pulled the Richies down..." Horsten said nostalgically.
"Cool." Vanh replied.

By the end of the course, half an hour later, the two were still working together.

They finished somewhat earlier than most of the others, and, were permitted a short break.


Daniels Avenger                Clan Coyote
General Jennifer Daniels    Galaxy Commander Jim Skyes
                                        Omicron Galaxy
Clan Wolf in Exile
328th Assault Cluster(the Lion Hearted)
Star Captain James Sword

wolfcannon

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26 October 3063, Kowloon Militia Headquarters...

Elizabeth was in the Colonel's office. That was how she thought of it, not mine...not yet. Command at this level, she found, was a lot like running a subsidiary to the Corporation. The Key of success, is selecting the right kind of people to handle responsibility... Today, she was making a "Firing List". The previous Militia Commander may have been pushing daisies sunward from below, but, he'd left behind a tangle of units, commanders, and, officers, that ran from 'Marginal' to 'Incompetent', and, the reorganization had, up to now, left things in even worse condition. before I send one man over the mountains and into the desert, I will bloody well be sure they don't tickle the [naughty] Clanners... or, fold like Quon-Edwards did at Dak-To. She glanced up, through the open door, as Davies' new Aide walked into the room. Elizabeth had already memorized Corporal Shel Falcon's footstep pattern. I should have had you shot... One of the other things about her position, though, was that personal feelings could not be allowed to have a pull at her judgement. Sometimes you have to work with people you despise. Elizabeth thought, forcing the bile back down.
"Corporal Falcon, Get Major Davies in here, and, a copy of the Progress reports on that infantry unit he's got training in the burned section of town." Elizabeth said, loudly. Shel gave a small jump-she'd just begun doing some task at her terminal. "Yes ma'am , Colonel Ngo." Shel answered, and, hurried to comply. For a Falcon 'Mechwarrior, she's awfully tame... Elizabeth noted with some hostility.
Davies poked his head in after a short pause, then, entered. It was almost becoming tradition here.
"Davies, I want you to push them, We're going to need those troops ready in five weeks." Elizabeth said it flatly.
Davies shook his head, "they won't be ready for at least fifteen, I tried to cut the time every way I could..."
She gave him a sphinx-stare, "Five weeks, If we don't move by then, the Falcons'll have every settlement from the Bridesburg glacier to Mt. Thap." Her tone was flat, unemotional.
Davies shook his head again, "There probably aren't more than ten 'Mechs and forty Elementals out there, they ain't got 'techs..."
Liz glanced over at Shel, "We don't know what they have, or, when they're getting reinforcements, Clanners don't like to leave their men behind when they haven't surrendered, do they?" The question was pointed, and, Shel answered, "Neg. there will be additional units sooner or later."
Elizabeth turned her sphinx gaze on Davies, "Even your pet Clanner says it's so, Major. That makes it so, this bunch hit the planet and settled down- that tells me this was a reconaissance-in-force, a prelude to a full invasion, and, if the bloody Militia hadn't been run so incompetently... but, it was. I need those troopers because I need troops that aren't Party Toughs that'll break in the first fight."
Davies shook his head, "I need time, most of those kids are...kids. Hell, Liz, I've got an infantry Training Company full of kids who-" she cut him off with a gesture, and, said, "You have a Training Cadre that can lead them, Yes?"
He sighed heavily, "yes... but, there won't be many of them coming back..."
Elizabeth nodded, "Fine, get numbers from that... from Hauptmann Icaza, find out who's furthest along, have him and the Elementals concentrate on training those... Oh, here are some administration matters, too, Here's a list, if I don't see resignations from the men on this list by Monday...I don't want these men in my army, got it?" Davies nodded, accepting the noteputer. Elizabeth leaned back in her chair, "How is the new Armour unit working out? can they handle themselves yet?" Davies nodded, "Yes, the new Tank unit's handling their end well enough, they were under Gold's training before we got hit, we're still short of 'mech jockeys though, I can't say we'd be able to field a Demi-Company without they fall over." She nodded again, "You're the Branch Training Officer, Davies, get 'em trained, our Air-wing's finally competent, I need ground forces for them to support, you dig?" she asked.
Davies nodded, "Affirmative, I 'dig', I'm afraid that by moving that schedule up again, you're digging graves for a good bunch of kids, though."
Elizabeth sighed, "I know, but, our back's against the wall, we need seasoned fighters here on Kowloon, not barroom Cowboys in fancy uniforms. Get me Fighters. You're dismissed."
Davies tapped Shel on the shoulder as they left, "Bring the car around, You're driving."

Highway 2, Eastbound from Nha-Tran, 12 Kilometers into farm country.

"Pull in here, and, get out." Davies said. The farm was dilapidated, white paint peeling from grain silos, mold tearing the shingles of the small house apart in the manner of any abandoned home. Shel got out.
Davies motioned for her to follow him, into the barn through one yawning door.
"Shel, the boss thinks your old Clan is going to be dropping on us any second, did you know that?" he asked mildly, his back to her. Shel remained silent, trying to interpret his tone.
"No answer, huh? That's fine..." he turned around, and, faced her. "Do you know why she is sending the Teams away, with a Jade Falcon force on-planet?" He asked her suddenly.
Shel shook her head, "It does not make sense."
Davies nodded, "Right-unless you know Elizabeth, it wouldn't. She's responsible for the smooth function of the lives of over thirty million people, spread out over five successor states and two periphery realms." He let that sink in, before he added, "She's responsible, in other words, for a population the size of your whole Clan, minus the natives of the Occupation Zone." Her face showed no hint of surprise.
"I was somewhat aware of that." she stated.
He nodded, "As a Watcher, you would be." That was a bucket of icewater in the face. Shel shifted her stance, expecting an attack. "You don't deny it? good, at least you aren't dumb. Chrome Team has thirty some-odd people in it that are either former, or, current, agents of a Successor State, Marty Jones was one, you might've heard of him referred to as 'Juan Martinez', Him an' me, we were both Maskirovka, we both got Burned and left in the Cold because of a Station Chief who figured working for Candace Liao would be more profitable than working for Romano. Do you know why I'm telling you this?" he asked.
Shel shook her head, noting that the Major had his hand in his pocket, the whole time. "No. Why?" she asked, directly.
"Because, you've got about the worst fieldcraft in the Galaxy, and, someone is going to blow your silly brains out if you don't wise up, and, quit playing for the other team. You've got a line to your old boss, for the last three days, you've been sending him the information I want him to have, because that's what I have been feeding you.
I like you, Shel, you've got potential in the business, but, you're a poor liar, and, you leave tracks anyone with a day's training in the field can follow with their eyes put out. I'm putting you on notice right now-someone will be watching you, every move, every hour, some of those are people who worked for me and Martinez, others... well, the others will be watching for their own reasons."
His little speech sent a shiver down Shel's spine- He knew? he has been feeding disinformation through me? she felt a small ball of horror at that- she had been manipulated into deceiving the Star Captain, and, the Clan...
"As of today, Shel, you work for me, you understand? You're an Asset, now, Clan Jade Falcon wanted to play in the Big Game, fine, we love new players, but, you aren't anywhere near the skill level, yet, to play big-league ball. We're going to continue to the Armour Training range, you're not going to act any differently, you're going to make your contact at the right time tonight or tomorrow, you're going to report whatever you were going to report, then, you're going to tell me Everything you reported. You understand, quiaff?"
Shel was stunned, shocked, horrified, but, she answered, "Aff..." The Major smiled, "Excellent, after that, I will teach you something about how real Spies do things."
They returned to the car, and, Shel drove them to the Tank Range.


[Out of story]


Yes. The little Yangtze valley was settled mostly by Vietnamese, Thai, and, Cambodean colonists, with a dash of Germans and French, sometime in the 24th Century.
The river itself was named by a Chinese member of the original Survey team.
For most of its history, Kowloon was a "marginal" colony- the water was polluted enough that it required basic treatment before it was safe for human consumption (it's fine for certain strains of livestock, though-ain't genetic engineering NEAT??) and, it remained quiet until the post-reunification war era, when the Star League saw fit to put a maximum security prison there.

History Alert!!!

(It's remote, most of the planet is geologically active enough that one would find it difficult to live far from a settlement...)
This facility was the Star League's own version of Pelican Island, and, during its history as a Prison, there was never an escape successfully made.
Until, that is, the Amaris War.
For three years, "The Dark Hole" was used as a base by the 17th Royal Battlemech Regiment. It was attacked five times, the last time being when the 124th Rimworlds Guards attempted an assault from the desert region known as "The Drylands". This assault was repulsed, at the cost of elements of the 2nd, and, 3rd Battalions of the 17th.
When the 17th lifted from the planet, it took with it some 230 persons who'd been convicted of various Political crimes immediately prior to the Amaris Coup, including Sedition, Electronic Sabotage, and, in one case, an attempted assassination of a House Lord-the intended victim being Stephan Amaris. This group of prisoners were enlisted to replace the depleted ranks of Infantry, in exchange for Pardons. Approximately 95% of the "Convict Soldiers" died in the battle of Terra. The remaining 11 went with Aleksandr Kerensky's Exodus.

I thought I would share that with you...

[/out of story]


Little Yangtze Valley, Southern end village "Vin Drin Lap", 26, October, 3063...

The Grange hall was chaos. "Quiet..Quiet...QUIET!!! There, that's better... Okay, we know, eventually, we're gonna see these new attackers comin' south, and, like usual, the drugstore cowboys in the Militia couldn't wait to put their hands in the air for 'em." Charles "Chuck" Vanh said, standing at the podium. Several of the other ranchers laughed, or, nodded their heads sagely- this has, you see, happened before, in the western districts. "The Valley is a dumping ground, we've all known that for many years, we send our sons off to serve their hitch, an' the best ones get kept in Nha Tran until their hitch is over." More nods.
"Okay, that's out of the way, then, we can't spend time yakkin' over what the Government's gonna do about the problem." More laughter, nervous, but, there.
"As the President of the Cattle and Farm association, Therefore, I move that we don't give 'em anything to take-that is, we start the Spring drive a little early this year, an' we stay out in the high country agian, where they ain't likely to look."
The hall went silent- this was not Chuck Vanh's usual "go Get 'em " speech, he was talking about hiding, now.
The silence dragged on for another minute before Chuck spoke again. "I lost an arm, and, an eye, and, a whole bunch of friends on Tamar, when the Clans came, boys, our hunting rifles won't even scratch the armour on those suits, an' they ain't got not soft spots, hell, they don't even have bad habits."
HIs voice was steady, and, everyone looked at the hook on the end of his right arm, and, the patched eyesocket set into the mass of scar-tissue that was, for the most part, the left side of his face.
Mai VanHegel stood up, Chuck "Recognized" her as having the floor.
"Chuck Vanh! I'm surprised at you!! When Morrison's Extractors showed up, you said 'let's fight', when those awful Mercenaries showed up, running away from their contract, it was 'fight 'em'... There were a lot more Battlemechs with them than there are here in the District!"
Chuck shook his head, as if he could deny both his record of successes, and, her tone. Mai continued, "NOW, you're sayin' we gotta run?" she sat back down before he could call her comments out of order (not that he would, he'd be condemned to hell before he acted like a Unity Party Burocrat...) Evelynn Mosovich, one of the two other survivors from his Tank Platoon on Tamar, stood up. "Chair recognizes Evelyn Mosovich." Chuck said. Like him, she was now in her late 30's, and, like him, she was scarred horribly from the Clan war. "Chuck is right, between the whole membership, we might be able to arm one Company-Inadequately. I was there, I used to be pretty, once, when I had a face, and, all my fingers. We don't have the WEAPONS to fight these Clan Troops, we don't have the numbers to fight them, either, on our own. Maybe if the bleedin' Militia hadn't gotten their gear smashed to pieces up north, maybe... a handful of recoilless rifles and what y'all have for hunting isn't even going to make a dent in 'em. They chewed through the best Lyran troops you could imagine, in less time than this meetin' is taking- only the ones that got Medevaced before they got all the way through got off world, an' if there's ten of their 'Mechs, an' fifty of their soldiers down here, there's more comin' on the way, bet on it." she paused, but, did not sit down, "Now, there's maybe an option..." several of the oldsters in the back of the room crossed themselves, as she said, "We might find what we need in the Graveyard." Arguments broke out- finally, someone shouted, "That place's Cursed! Besides being five days ride in the direction the Clanners came from!"
She stroked her bony jaw, where the doctors had decided that just stretching the skin to cover was enough. "That's right, five days ride in the direction they came out of, but, that's five days ride by someone who knows how to get there, an' what they're getting there for. It's a modification, you still need to get your families and stock up into the mountain camps, an' we need to send a messenger back east anyway, to find out what the New Government's gonna do about these invaders, but, we ain' got a lot of time."
The arguments went on...


City Hall, Vin-Drin-Lap, 26, October, 3063...

The Mayor's office was a flurry of document shredding fun.
The Clans were coming, and, Leo Phat was not about to be put against a wall- Clanners don't like corrupt officials, or so his best source said. The United Party had held sway out in the Western District for generations, the only effective resistance to their rule being the Rancher's Association.
In Nha Tranh, of course, we would not have to tolerate this... he thought, as a messenger came in, breathless.
"What is it, Todd?" he asked. The messenger drew in a ragged breath, and, said, "The Ranchers are meeting in the Grange, it doesn't look too good..." Leo cursed, and, grabbing his coat, told the Sheriff, "Get our boys ready, I sure as hell don't want them out raisin' hell when our new masters show up." He headed for his car.
gotta head this off 'fore there's a bloodbath... he thought desperately- the Ranchers' trouble-making ways had gotten the town levelled more than once by occupying forces.

The drive to the Grange hall was short- only two kilometers.
Outside the hall, people were already heading for vehicles, or, on horseback, to their homes. Leo jumped out of the car, and, ran for the doors, seeing Charlie Vanh and Elly Mosovich standing near the door. Charlie noticed him first, and, checked the watch bolted to his "Hook". "You're late, Leo, it's already been decided-no resistance in the Lake district." Chuck said. Leo let out a sigh of relief, like the other two, he was also a veteran of the Clan war-at least, on paper- being forward area supply is not the same as being in a Tank unit, but, he'd seen enough of the Clans to know how to fear them. Chuck's never lied to me... he thought, as he replied, "Good, then we might just make it through this."
Evelyn Mosovich let out a witch-like cackle, and, fixed him with her prosthetic eyes, "Don't think y'all gettin' off easy, Leo, everyone's headin' up-country, an' takin their families and stock. By tomorrow, Ain' gonna be anyone from the association down here in the low country for them to shoot, 'cept your Townie bully-boys an' your Party Stalwarts."
She laughed again, a half-crazy sound, coming from an artificial voice-box that was badly in need of routine maintenance. Leo's shoulders slumped, defeated, "You are abandoning us to them..." he said sadly. Chuck spoke up, "Leo, you have people who voted you in, an' they voted for capitulation, if I remember rightly-I was at that meeting. You gotta do what you gotta do, we're doin' what we were goin' to do anyway. It's just the way things are."
Leo sighed. "I know... I..." he turned, and, headed back into town. Whatever the Clanners take, they'll be taking from us, not from the Ranches...damn them.


Nha Tran Superspeedway, off Highway 2, 15km from the city...

There were bleachers set up for more peaceful times, and, as Shel stopped the heavy car, she could see the ticket office had been converted into a secondary guard point.
"grab the case, Shel, first rule about not blowing your cover is to act like nothing is amiss." Davies stressed to her.
Shel did as she was told, and, even managed to put on a smile for the MP as they approached. "Major Caldwell's in?" Davies asked. The guard nodded, "Sure is, an' he's on a tear, too, some bonehead threw a tread because his roadwheels weren't torqued right." The guard, Shel realized, wasn't a 'Real' Military Policeman- he was a Tanker, on guard duty. Davies chuckled, "So, I'll find 'im in the grease-pits, then?" The guard nodded, "check. I gotta see what's in the case, there, Corporal." Shel looked over at Davies, who nodded, "Let him look, Corporal." she handed the case over, the guard went through it, found no bombs, vials of chemicals, or whatever he was looking for, and, handed it back to her. "Someone's been smugglin' pogie bait in, an' the Major's on a crusade about that one too." the soldier said, helpfully.
Davies laughed, and, passed through the turnstile, Shel on his heels. When they were out of earshot, Davies said, "Tankers without pogie bait is about like a cat without its fur... I think my counterpart's just using this as an excuse to tighten up site security..." On the track, shel could see that an obstacle course had been constructed- ditches, mudpits, ramps, and, obstructions of all kinds, shapes, and, sizes. The small size of the half-mile track actually accentuated the skills the drivers would have to master. down at the centre of the oval, a maintenance area had been set up. "Ever watched Auto racing, Shel?" Davies asked, as they walked up to the track. "No, there is nothing like that where I am from." she replied. Davies laughed, "Well, that's about what I'd expect- this track wasn't built for training armour crews, it was built so that adrenaline-juiced fans could watch adrenaline juiced young men drive civilian cars much faster than their original designers intended them to." Four Tanks roared by, in a v-wedge formation, weaving around posts driven into the ground at intervals barely longer than the tanks themselves. They are good... she realized. Davies watched the quartet of Pattons weave through the slalom-straightaway, and, accellerate towards the first ramp, hitting it at 61Kph, and, jumping a narrow ditch, to come down hard on the other side. He noticed her expression, and, said, "Basic competency, that's probably the latest training group out there. Try not to look so impressed, their marksmanship is terrible..." The two crossed after the last tank went by. The noisy howl of Fusion-heat powered steam turbines did not drown out the shouting of a man's voice from near the centre of the "Pits".

"...Stupid son of a syphillitic sheep, That shortcut of yours can get men killed, now, do it again, do it right, or, by the disease infested slut that bore you, I'll have your intestines for fanbelts you piece of semen-soaked dung!!!" at first, Shel could not see the foul-mouthed man that was doing all the shouting- until a woman with her helmet off, stepped away from the crowd, revealing a man that might, had he not been built wide, been an Aerospace pilot, chewing a cigar and cursing a rather embarassed looking younger man in greasy coveralls. "Now, you filthstain, do the job right, and, then, I want you to run around the inside track, fifteen laps, shouting 'I got my buddies killed.' If you get it done right, then, you can bloody well, after your little jog, do it right again, on the Lot Queen, butthole." The short man turned, and, stalked their way. with his back to the crew of the tank, he wasn't snarling and glaring anymore, he was grinning, and, trying to keep from laughing as he reached them. "Hey, Davies, I expect this is about those Readiness reports, right?"
Davies nodded, and, said, "The CO wants us to hurry up, she's cut the infantry down to five weeks."
The short man spat out his cigar, and, said, "Filth! is she umby? I just got these sheepbreeders where they only run into something when they're drunk! How'm I supposed to teach these overheight Syphilis Monkeys to shoot? they can barely DRIVE!!!"
Davies just shrugged, "I don't know, but, you'd better start thinking about it. You got the progress reports on Alpha Troop ready?"
The Foulmouthed Major reached into his pocket, and, handed over a noteputer. "Here, take these, I just finished 'em this mornin."

The two Majors exchanged pleasantries, and, bid one another good-bye, and, they left.

Outside the Motor-Speedway, Davies looked at her, "Those Crews have been ready for weeks, Caldwell doesn't like turning his students loose, if he doesn't think they'll be used properly."
Shel started the vehicle, and, asked, "where to next, sir?"
Davies stretched out in his seat, and, said, "Lunch. There's this place on Lanterns, excellent Kimche there..."


5 November, 3063, Nha Tran, 15th Street, south of the Militia Headquarters...

The motorcycles moved in formation, their electric engines hissing with a suppressed whine. People got out of the way.
Part of this was the sheer presence of the six vehicles- they were of a technical level not often seen on Kowloon- Whisper Motorcycles, capable of all-terrain travel, and, of carrying almost ridiculous loads, most cost more than a family car, and, are rarely seen outside of Military units.
These six bikes were ridden by Civilians, the lead rider in a full-face helmet, could have passed for a model selling motorcycling gear, at least, until you saw her face. Evelyn Mosovich rarely came to Nha Tran without a mask, today, her helmet provided that mask, as the five men who came with her angled off, heading to find lodging for the night.

Militia Headquarters.
Shel looked up, as the door opened. There was a stranger there, carrying a cased rifle, and, hiding their face in a helmet.
Shel did what a Corporal ought to do-she drew her sidearm, and, said, "Identify yourself and take the helmet off-slowly."
The tall woman reached up, with gloved hands, and, removed her headgear. One of the Clerks in the room gasped in horror at what was revealed.
The face looked like a skull wearing goggles. Tufts of hair started at the top of a burn-scarred scalp, thickening at the rear into a cascade of black hair, uncomfortably healthy looking when matched up against the Frankenstein stitiching of badly-done skin grafts that lead onto a face with no lips and ceramic teeth, This person had no fleshy, soft, nose-shaped nose. Instead, there was the cavern of bone where the nose normally enters, fitted, on the inside,with semi-permanent filters of the sort installed by battlefield surgeons.
two "Straps" of myomer extended down to actuate the jaw, which, in spite of the obvious presence of some skin, still resembled more the jaw of a skull than of a living being. The apparition spoke, in a voice that could only come from a poorly-maintained artificial voice box. "I'm here with dispatches and news from over the mountain, Gold Lake district of the Little Yantze Valley, who's the Duty officer?"
The undead-looking thing took off its gloves- showing hands that were more myomer implant than hand. "Major Davies, You still have not told me who you are." Shel answered, holding the pistol steady. "Hah.. you're new here, right sweety? I'm Retired Hauptmann Evelyn Mosovich, Armed Forces of the Federated Commonwealth, now, corporal, go find me someone with some authority, before I make you eat that sidearm, You copy?"
Shel lowered the pistol, and, pushed the button to alert Major Davies.
"What is it?" Davies asked, coming out of his office.
"Messenger from the occupied territories, you're Davies?" Evelyn asked.
He didn't even blink, "Yeah, You're Mosovich, right?"
He was expecting her-or, at least, he was hoping to expect her... something else I was not made privy to...savashri...
"One and the same, You're new too-what happen, the Party do another purge or..." She noticed the name on the door of the Commander's office. "Colonel Ngo?" she was clearly surprised at the name. Davies said, "The Colonel's not expected in until 0730, she's out inspecting one of the training companies."
the skull-face nodded, and, Shel could see that the myomer implants went down the neck. One of the hands reached into the motorcycle jacket, and, tossed four discs onto the counter. "Here's the dispatches, I'm still working on our report from the ride up." Evelyn said, managing a distracted tone in spite of the monotone buzz of her voice. Davies stepped forward, and, took the discs. "How many men did you bring with you, Ma'am?" he asked. Evelyn tilted her head, "I brought five into town with me, we have another sixteen up in the hills, cold camping on Placer Ridge, and eight more watchin' the Clanners' main camp in the desert."
Davies accepted this new information without showing any emotion. "Mosovich, are you aware of the Reserve Activation Clause?" he asked her, suddenly. She laughed, a dry, hollow, electronic buzzing sound that sent chills down Shel's spine. "Yeah, I Know about it, I'm out on a Medical, 'Immune', besides, the Party Pricks don't want me comin' back an' ruinin' their precious Militia."
Davies' face split into a grin, as wide, almost, as her skull-grin.
"Wrong, you're not immune to call-up under section 21/a, 'Emergency Reactivation'. Besides, when this is over, you'll be getting Kommandant's pay. Now, I've got a few forms here for you to sign..."

Daniels Avenger                Clan Coyote
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328th Assault Cluster(the Lion Hearted)
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wolfcannon

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1035 hours...
Evelyn looked at the battle plan, and, shook her head. "No-Go, there, Major, there's no way in hell this's going to work-look here, that canyon's narrow, when I say it's narrow, I mean, you ain't gonna fit a company of Pattons through there, an' see here? That's mined, it's been mined since the Star League was fightin' Amaris, every once in a while, a vibrabomb gets exposed during a landslide. You want to use Yellowjacket pass for that, adds another week of drive-time, but, you ain't runnin' into other people's battlefield leftovers, either." She looked at the map again, unblinking eyes made by Zeiss taking it in. "You want to maybe send a LRRP through first, nothin' big, maybe six teams, one platoon each, if those Grunts are as greenie as the papers say, they're gonna need mucho seasoning before you feed 'em to those Clanners- they're good, their site security's hella better than the Wolves have, we couldn't get closer'n 750 Meters without 'em bein' in a spot to see us, an' that's usin' terrain screening."
Elizabeth Ngo was present, she cleared her throat, "So, Kommandant, what you're saying, in effect, is that this plan is a total bust?" Evelyn looked up at her, with that...non-face, and, said, "Yes. you need to scrap it- most of those paths through Minsky's Folly are choked with spring runoff and rainwater, there's no way in hell anything with tracks is going to get through there, an' it's gonna be hell for your hovers too.
The roads up to most of the passes are mud, we took a rock-path on the bikes, but, if they didn't have power to both wheels... I'd actually suggest waiting until the end of the first rainy season, sometime in February, before you try moving conventionals in there, at least, stuff that ain't airmobile, or, infantry, otherwise you risk gettin your force bogged down 'till false-spring anyway."
Elizabeth nodded, "Thanks, I was wondering if there wasn't a reason the Clanners aren't hitting the mining communities... Hauptmann, I want to put you in charge of this 'LRRP' project.
I can give you a company-they are not finished training, but, the majority of them are from your district..."
Evelyn would have smiled, if she'd had lips, "Chuck Vanh's kid in this unit?" she asked-directly. Elizabeth nodded. "Good, you got competent Officers and NCO's too, then, right?" she asked, her artificial voice somehow conveying a note of demand, and, skepticism. Davies spoke up, "Hell,we have a Star of Clan Elementals training them!"
Evelyn actually straightened up, and, swivelled to point that soulless metal gaze at him, "Really... well, that's a start, I guess... they still Bondsmen, or you set 'em free yet?" she asked.
"Still Bonded." Davies answered.
"Cut 'em loose, I ain't takin' slaves on a mission, they either volunteer, or, they stay home. There's no place on a job like this for less than 100% commitment... hell, let me meet 'em, I don't want some crap erupting the first time my volunteers get a look at the Death-Vis here."
Elizabeth nodded, "Done. You got that on Tamar, right?" she asked.
Evelyn nodded, "Check on that, Colonel, got a Laser through the vision blocks five minutes into it, the light diffused, which is why it didn't do me right away. Crew got me to the Medics in time, I got most of this work done because I was on some VIP's Dropship, an' he didn't want any dead troopers on the way back. I spent two weeks in Rehab, and they sent me back on the line just about in time for Tukkayid, after that, when Kathy took over, I took a Medical, and, a ticket home."
Elizabeth nodded slowly, "I see... it was bad, wasn't it?"
Evelyn nodded, "the worst- a lot of guys got left behind, a few made it out, but, they weren't lucky enough to be on the right ship out- Chuck Vanh's got a metal claw an' a glass eye that never fit right, a lot got worse...Hey, you related to Phillip Ngo?" she asked suddenly.
Elizabeth nodded mutely, holding back her tears, "He was my older brother..."
Evelyn tilted her head, "He was a good 'un, for a Mechjock, he stuck his neck out to cover us when the Clanners hit, you need to ask Chuck Vanh about him, I was pretty out of it when he went down, now, where's this bunch of Volunteers I'm supposed to meet..?"


Infantry training area, Nha Tran, November 5, 3063...
The Company was doing "Mud drills"- there being no grass in the ruins of the park yet. The Staff vehicle pulled in without escorts. The car is flying Colonel's penants, though- Elizabeth Ngo is in that car... Morgan Icaza noted. "Call the company to attention, we have... visitors." he said to his acting First-Sargeant, Point One William, and, then, he strode over to the vehicle. It was... not the usual "Staff Car" sedan, this was a converted delivery van. The side door opened, and, a group of people climbed out. Morgan recognized Major Davies, of course, but, along with the Major, was an athletic woman (athletic by inner-sphere standards) wearing a Motorcycle helmet and undyed leathers, followed by Elizabeth Ngo, and, one of her omnipresent bodyguards.
"Major, Colonel..." Morgan said, as he saluted. Colonel Ngo returned his salute. Her uniform is too large for her- that is almost funny. Morgan noted. Elizabeth was in Field-Dress, rather than "Walking Dress" that the Major favoured. "Hauptmann Icaza, would you extend your left arm, please?" Major Davies said. Morgan did so. The Major took his huge hand, holding it steady, and, cut the bondcord with a bayonet. "Hauptmann Icaza, you have proven your worthiness to return to Warrior Status, your rank as Hauptmann is confirmed by the highest military authority on-planet." It was not the ritual wording, but, it would suffice-Morgan was no longer merely a Hauptmann in name only-he was now an officer of the Planetary Militia in whole. He noted out of the corner of his eye, that the helmeted person nodded. Who is this? he briefly wondered, and, he noticed the Colonel's expression during this, She looks like she has had to eat something remarkably unpleasant...Aff, she did not want to do this. Morgan smiled, and, gave a textbook Lyran salute, which Elizabeth returned, with obvious distaste. "Hauptmann, this is Kommandant Mosovich, Veteran and survivor of the first battle of Tamar, She is now the Kommandant in charge of Task Force One, we are seeking volunteers." Colonel Ngo enunciated each word as if she were eating lemons. You are hating this, quiaff? I think so... yes. Making you uncomfortable could be fun... "Why is she hiding behind that smoked plastic?" he asked. The woman reached up, and, lifted the helmet off.
Morgan had seen much worse. "You're actually pretty big, even for a Toad-Driver, Hauptmann Icaza. You can call me Ev, it makes things easier... How're the boys doin', Eddie Vanh ain't makin' trouble now, is he?" Her manner somehow came across as half-folksy, Maybe to compensate for the face- that is the worst work of reconstruction I have ever seen... But, in contrast to Colonel Ngo's obvious distaste, the tall, ugly, woman was both friendly, and, respectful.
"They are progressing, the reduced schedule for the training is putting a strain on them, but, some are adapting more quickly than others. Vanh has been quite able to keep up with the others, and, no problem at all." Morgan said quietly, to prevent any of the recruits from over-hearing his comments.
"Good, Hey, You have them in formation... Mind if I take a look?" the Kommandant asked. She treats it as if this were my Command, proper respect... Morgan was a little surprised, but, not entirely-clearly, this Mosovich woman was a Professional, where so many of the Militia were little more than Political suck-ups who liked to wear a uniform.
"Certainly, Kommandant. give me a moment, please." He stepped over, and, had William give the calls for open-ranks.
Then, he announced, "Today, Fledgelings, you will be inspected by Kommandant Mosovich, in the element you are, for the moment, most suited for- the MUD!!! This is Kommandant Mosovich, you will answer her questions as she gives them to you, with full Military Courtesy, and, I catch one of you staring..." he let his voice trail off.
"Kommandant?" he said, by way of invitation.
Evelyn trooped the line. "Gig this one, his pouches are unlatched... no earplugs either." she said casually, and, continued down the line. "Gig, boots untied." She stopped at a recruit next to Horstsen. "Gig, too clean, the man on either side of him's got mud behind the ears, this boy's almost untouched other than his arms and his knees. Get Squeamish, you get dead... tags hanging out, and, unsilenced." She looked Horstsen over, and, the young man looked a little uncomfortable under that unblinking, eyeless, gaze. "Huh... good." she stepped down, and, looked at Vanh, standing almost a head and a half shorter. "Eddie... You know, Morgan, he used to steal apples from my trees, when he was younger-he moved up to Cattle off my west ranges last year. When I heard his old man signed the papers so he could join a year early, I was sure he'd get into some kind of trouble, the boy's too smart for his own good. You've been good, right Eddie?" she asked. Vanh swallowed hard, and, said, Loudly and Clearly, "Yes Ma'am!" Evelyn nodded her scarred head, and, said, "Good, I'd hate to see the switching an Elemental could give your hide. Your Father says Hello."
She inspected the rest of the recruits-here and there commenting on one or two of them that she knew personally.
Usually Embarassing comments.
Then, she returned to the head of the formation, with Morgan.
"Your staff people been cut loose yet?" she asked, dryly.
He shook his head. She turned, and, addressed the whole company. "Officers and NCO's FRONT AND CENTER!!!"
Twenty-five Elementals moved up to the front of the formation. Evelyn glanced over at Davies, "Major, If you would be so kind...?"
Major Davies went down the line, cutting cords, saying the improvised ritual, and, finally, returned to his original position.
"I did not just come down here to hassle the Recruits." Evelyn announced, "I am looking for volunteers, you might call it a training excercise. I told the Major I wasn't gonna take anyone that was wearin' a Bondcord, he has obliged me. This is going to be a multi-week reconaissance mission, deep recon for some of you, others it'll be just like goin' home, now, before I offer this chance, I want you to understand something- the Opfor shoots back with live rounds. This isn't like the training cycle, you screw up or around out there, you get dead, not yelled at an' slapped around a bit. The Mission is open to everyone in this formation, including Falconers. You'll finish your training in the field with the rest of us, if you come, if you do not, you'll have to re-cycle into one of the regular training battalions, and, start all over again."
This last part had taken her most of the ride up from the Headquarters to get.
"Hauptmann Icaza, you can get me a list of names, I need at least sixty, disqualify anyone you think can't hack it, and, have it ready by tomorrow. Elementals that come, get their suits back, since we're goin' into a combat zone. them what stays... get 'em back when the Colonel says they do."
The weight of this comment was not lost on the gathered Elementals- and, created the impression Evelyn could steamroll Colonel Ngo's prejudices. This also hints at danger- the Warriors will not want to pass it up, and, neither will many of the recruits from the Western districts... Morgan started making a list of names- recruits that belonged behind, to go through the standard training, in his head, as the Colonel, the Kommandant, and, the Major, took their leave.
Remarkably, he found, the 'Gig' list matched the names of the recruits he found unacceptable.


Ngo Industries Offices, Rock Island, Tovarich, Lyran Alliance border of the ARDC, 5 November, 3063...
The message came into the Comcenter around midnight. Alvin scanned the printed sheet, and, looked out his window again. So much for rest and refit...Chahar is on its way to falling, if it hasn't already, and Sharon Bryant's still running with her head up her fourth point of contact. He looked down at the message again, and, scowled- Liz is going to be going bats over this, better get Gold team ready to transship. The line isn't being held anymore. He set the paper on the desk, and, tented his fingers thoughtfully, going over the message from the company's Chahar offices.

Militia defeated, preparations to move out under way.
Comstar HPG Station already in Jade Falcon hands.
Capitol City Has fallen.
Clan Forces seen coming up highway.
Will dispose of Company Property to prevent capture.
Technical Staff already headed off-world.
God help those of us left.
-Junior Vice President Stephen MacDonald,
Ngo Industries Distribution and Marketing,
Chahar.

Company Property meant he was going to blow the box in place, along with the distribution warehouses and repair facility. The loss of the Chahar office, of course, was a blow-but, not much of one, since the bulk of the manufacturing had been moved off that world in '55.

Alvin sighed, and, began to compose a memo to Miss Ngo, hopefully, it would reach her before she made a bad decision that put everything at further risk...

Don't come unarmed in a Battle of Wit.


November 6, 3063, 1900 Local time, Ngo Household, Owens Lake community, Nha-Tran Township, Kowloon...

Elizabeth got up from her desk. my other desk... gawd, I'd just as soon let Davies take the reins now... Hell, I think I will. The Militia business was cutting into her time with both the Company, and, Patrick. Another message... she looked at the perfectly-ordinary Printer, as a message scrolled out of its hopper. She read the message. "CRAP!!!" she crumpled the paper, and, composed two messages, one for the Assembly, the other for immediate dispatch to Tovarich I hope I am not too late... the scanner finished reading her handwritten note, and, the "Sent" light came on.
The message to the Assembly, she would have to have delivered. Elizabeth picked up a telephone. "Major Davies, please...thanks, I'll wait, Shel.... Davies, I'm leaving you in charge, something has come up on Tovarich, and I have to get there right quick- no, Patrick can stay with Miss White and her family while I'm gone...No, NO. Listen, I have to go, you've got the Militia in hand, I'm resigning- shut up and listen, dammit, I'm resigning the Comission, it should have been yours anyway-I know, look, if they give you any flak about it, just remind 'em that the Falcons have their buddies on the way... LOOK Davies, we just lost the Chahar Offices- no, they were overrun... what do you mean 'how do I know'? you don't need to know that, just call it a trade secret. I should be home before December. Uh-huh, uh-huh... keep a tally, you're still getting a bonus this year... good bye."
Next step, getting off Kowloon...


Pirate Point, Kowloon orbit, 6 November, 3063...

The vessel was relatively new, its middle swelled with the bulge of a Lithium-Fusion battery. Docked to it, like tumourous grapes, were three dropships. The dropships were developed from older models, each holding a cargo of violence. The Dropships detatched, as the planet rotated, bringing the southern continental landmass into view. They observed radio silence on the way down, There was, after all, no reason to alert the planetary defenses, at least, not yet.
Not that the new arrivals were shy about identifying themselves, the huge, green bird stenciled on the hulls of the three Union-C dropships announced that well enough indeed.
Clan Jade Falcon had come to aid her Wayward Children.


Drylands...
Aimee Pheltzer watched the dropships plunge down- it was a tight, fast, drop-meant to avoid the meagre early-warning assets planetside, but, focused, as well- the plunging contrails could only be bound for one place- the Clanner's base-camp. she pulled her body up onto the sheltering rock, and, watched through her field glasses.
The huge billow of dust between Rust Butte and The Graveyard slowly cleared, as the overpressure wave and sonic boom echoed in the valley. she waited, and, was rewarded. Green bird, holding a sword, looks like union class...The Falcons have their reinforcements, and the City doesn't even know they're here... She slid back down the loose shale hillside, pulled the coloured tarp off her Cycle, and, headed back to camp. gotta signal their arrival- THREE Unions, must be forty-five 'Mechs down there, and a whole frippin' Crowd of infantry besides... Something else boomed overhead, and, twin flashes of light framed her, as an Aerospace fighter suddenly strafed the narrow trail, igniting Boombrush and Oilbushes. The Cycle's front wheel kicked up, and, came down, powering her around a corner-right into a Clan Battlesuit.
"going somewhere?" the voice in the suit said, as that horrible claw reached out, and, plucked her from the bike.
I'm gonna die... she thought, and, blacked out.


Nha Tran Interstellar Spaceport, Kowloon, 2000 hours...

The Port was closed to outbound flights. "WHAT??" Elizabeth was a touch angry-until the Gate-guards told her why. "About three hours ago, a Jade Falcon ship showed up, they've got a fighter screen out, and, they're shooting anything that tries to leave the planet, really, Colonel, you should know this already-" But, Liz was already heading back to the car. Well, I can't stop you now, Alvin... the thought was actually somewhat comforting- the Falcons brought in their reinforcements, but, seemed content, for the moment, to blockade the capital. as long as there isn't a warship coming, we should be able to hold them off until OUR reinforcements arrive... The car-phone was ringing. "Yes?" she answered, as her driver wove through traffic back into town. It was Davies on the line.
"There's a blockade on, looks like we're under seige now."
He said, over the line, "You can't get off world."
She sighed, "Tell me something I don't know, Major."
He paused, and, said, "I didn't tell them you wanted to resign, nobody knows yet." Elizabeth nodded slowly, "Fine, Davies, work up a plan to get them off our backs, I'll handle the politicians, and ram through anything you want to do, got it?"


0630 Hours, west of Nha-Tran, in the foothills...

The volunteers were taking a rest-stop in Shoveler's Grove Pass, one of the few passes that remains firm enough for driving during the rainy season. The main reason for the break, was that the supply vehicles would not be following them beyond this point- from here on in, whatever they were carrying would be what they had, except when aircraft could drop supplies. Morgan went down the line, counting noses. everyone has made it thus far... he noted, with some surpise. Less than sixty-percent of the original training company had stayed behind. The Elementals still made up the Officer and NCO corps of this company, but, instead of being a 5 to 50 ratio, it was down to five elementals, and, twenty Light Infantry, or, roughly one-fifth of the infantry that made the march from Nha-Tran were in Battlesuits. That ratio is likely to change, soon... he noted.
The other reason for the stop-over was slowly arriving, bringing Pack animals, and, fuel-cell powered motorcycles.
The Ranchers... In the last two days, Morgan started thinking of the western-district resistance forces with the capital "R", a distinction brought on by the differences in behaviour from their City-borne counterparts.
While the Infantrymen were now equipped with a variety of military-grade weapons such as Zeuss and Federated Long-Rifles (one third equipped with grenade-launchers from the supply ships that had already arrived...), the Ranchers were universally armed with Civilian weapons, mostly scoped hunting rifles of various makes, though there was healthy supply of big-bore double-rifles of a type known as "Elephant Guns" as well.
Morgan finished inpsecting his "Men", and, wandered back over to where Kommandant Mosovich was briefing the other Leaders. "...First stop, is Tham-Hellesburg's Northeast ranges, He'll be expecting us, from there, we start rotating operations to keep an eye on the New Clanners." her Voicebox was tinny, again, less than a day after a medtech adjusted the mechanism. "Hauptmann Icaza, this is Chuck Vanh, Chuck, this here's Kommandant Icaza, he's the man leading that bunch of fine recruits over there." Evelyn said, introducing Morgan to a small, scarred, man with only a single hand, and, only a single eye. "Hauptmann." the man said, extending his hook as if it were a hand. Morgan noticed that the hook had a "Functional" cable system, it could close and open, and, crudely grasp objects.
This man was also carrying, (and, Morgan would have been blind to not see it) one of the "Elephant Guns", this one modified to be operated both one-handed, and, one-eyed.
"What rank are you, Mr. Vanh?" Morgan asked- referring to the man as "Mr" all the time would be wearing.
"I used to be a Sargeant Major, Hauptmann, but, I was medicaled out in '53. I would guess that's the role I'm fillin' now, so, it'll work, or, you could just shorten it to 'Smaj', like the other officers do. Your boys ready for a long walk, Sir?"
Morgan nodded, "Aff, they are ready."
Chuck's face was pulled into a perpetual smirk by the surgeons who rebuilt his face, Morgan got the feeling that smirk was not always due to shoddy medical treatment.
"Great, We're moving as soon as the gear's loaded up and ready to go, about three hours, give or take, might wanna make sure your grunts change their socks, an' eat something now, 'cause there ain't gonna be no stops until around 1800 hours, when we hit the site where the first base-camp's gonna be. A big load o' Green Turkeys landed about Forty-five KM west of here, an' snagged one of my scouts, so, we're movin' the base camp somewhere else."
Sensible... "One of your scouts, then, you had more than one to see this, quiaff?" Morgan inquired.
Chuck nodded, "Yeah, um... 'Aff', had four, lost one, two gave me rundowns on the enemy LZ before they pulled back, one even got a Holoroid of 'em setting up. Recognize this unit marking?" The image was difficult, at first, to make out, but, it seemed to resolve itself rather nicely. "That is the insignia of the Seventy-Fourth Battle Cluster, Lambda Galaxy. It is a Solahma unit, with some talented warriors who espouse views in opposition to the Clan's expressed alignment." He looked closer- "There are only three of their Trinaries shown here- the full unit has five. You should see this as good news, it means that the Clan is hard-pressed on other fronts, if they send you that unit to fight, then again, you may also see it as being bad news- the Seventy-Fourth is not a force to be ignored, and, their presence here may signal that the Jade Falcon high command is taking this situation seriously, but, not so seriously that they will send another elite unit from the Falcon Jaegers. It is likely that there will be a... determination, over which Star Captain should lead the forces here- I expect that Star Captain Nathan Roshak will be able to assert his dominance over the others quickly."
The two native officers glanced at one another, and, Evelyn nodded, "The same smart S.O.B. who wiped out the Militia battalion at Dak-To with an ambush..." Morgan nodded.
"Okay, here's the map-grid coordinates, distribute them as you see fit, Hauptmann..."


0745 Hours, 16 November, 3063, Jade Falcon Base Camp...

Star Captain Captain Paul Pershaw of the 74th Battle Cluster climbed down out of his 'Mech, and, looked out across the wasteland. "Some mess you have gotten into, Nathan." He said, with a cocked eyebrow. Star Captain Nathan Roshak laughed- the joke was old, between them. "It got you released from Garrison Duties, though, Quiaff?" He replied.
Pershaw shook his head, and, pulled his neurohelmet off. "Aff...Nice place you have here, not as nice as the City, or, so I am told. You Do have a plan to retake it, now that we have travelled all this way, quiaff?" The dig was far from subtle, Pershaw was a veteran of Operation: Revival, while Nathan was still in his Sibko, training and dreaming of Glory.
The Younger Star Captain chose to let the comment slide, for the moment... I need every Warrior we have... "I do, have the Medtechs been successful in drawing information from that scout your Elementals caught?" By turning the subject to the immediate business at hand, Nathan effectively quelled the other man's posturing.
"Aff, we face a handful of crippled ex-warriors, and, a Company of recruits led by your former Elemental commander, Morgan Icaza." Pershaw announced wryly.
Funny... the Watch Operative said there would be a full Battalion, with armour support...and, 'Mechs...
Nathan commented, dryly, "Morgan Icaza is a resourceful Warrior, Star Captain, and, these Sphereoids are trickier than you might othewise, believe, Quiaff?"
Pershaw laughed, actually a Jovial sound, coming from a thin man, and, grinned, "Star Captain Roshak, I think you may have some potential, after all- I think I may even not challenge you for the Honour of leading this Mission, you are not...what I was expecting."
Nathan did not know exactly how to take this, but, he understood what it meant-he would only have to face a challenge from Pershaw if he made a serious error of judgement, now, rather than his previous errors.
"Come, let us get out of the sun, there should be coffee on the mess deck." Nathan said, and, Pershaw accepted.
As they walked up the broken ramp of the crashed dropship, a Warrior in Elemental armour walked out, helmet open, on his way to join his comrades for a patrol.
The Elemental suddenly stopped, as the back of his head, and, his helmet, flew into the air on a streamer of bright red.
Then, the shot rang out. "Sniper!!!Sniper!!!" someone shouted the warning, and, the 'mechwarriors dove back down the ramp, to board their machines...

"Good shot, Vanh, where did you learn to shoot like that?" 'Sargeant' Elaine Falcon asked in a whisper.
Eddie Vanh was silent, his movements slow, as he slid down into the ravine, and, activated his stealthing systems. "Poaching Lord Condit's game." he whispered.
Elaine raised her eyebrows, slid down under the camouflage mat, and, activated it. "we time how long it takes for them to triangulate the shot, remember, we're just testing reflexes..." she whispered. Eddie nodded, and, said, "They should have heard the shot about five tenths of a second after their man went down... I will bet you they are looking for a vehicle or a 'Mech, how's two candy packs from my rations versus four of yours sound?" he asked, as he began the low slithering crawl. "You are on-Nathan Roshak is no fool, he will know that no vehicle could get that close."
Eddie flashed her that grin again, "Yeah, but I doubt he believes any human with just a rifle can shoot that long-and, that accurately. I mean, come on, would you believe in a Thousand Meter Golden BB?"
Elaine snorted, "Not until you showed it to me."
Eddie froze. "Hold still."
dirt tumbled down, hiding the camouflaged figures even more than their mats did, as the bulky form of a Pinion stepped over the ravine, searching along the trajectory path.
Elementals bounded after it a few minutes later, one landing within touching distance of both NCO, and, shooter.
And, the Elementals passed by.
"Stirred up a right Grat's nest, din't I, Sargeant?" Eddie whispered.
The pair made their way painfully along the rocky bottom of the ravine. The sun began to blaze hot...
Daniels Avenger                Clan Coyote
General Jennifer Daniels    Galaxy Commander Jim Skyes
                                        Omicron Galaxy
Clan Wolf in Exile
328th Assault Cluster(the Lion Hearted)
Star Captain James Sword

wolfcannon

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Later...

The search went on for what seemed to be hours- but, somehow, the sniper evaded his or her pursuiers.
Nathan found this to be wholly unacceptable. For some strange reason, though, Star Captain Pershaw seemed to accept this- "I have seen this before- Morges, Trellwon, a dozen other worlds, Nathan Roshak. Resistance forces use these tactics because they lack the strength and resources to wage direct battle. Our Prisoner actually had some information on this, as well." Nathan looked up from the reports, and raised an eyebrow.
"She is still alive, then, quiaff?" he asked. Pershaw nodded, "Aff, alive, healthy, and, even, somewhat talkative-when you get past the bluster and braggadocio- Aimee?" He said the last with a beckoning gesture. Her coveralls were from the technician's stock, and fit badly, the sleeves rolled up. Her face was scrubbed clean, at least, it was the face of a girl-maybe fifteen or sixteen. "Sir." she said it sullenly, her eyes cast down. "Tell the Star Captain what you told me, omit nothing." Pershaw commanded.
"The bullet extracted from the Elemental was originally 7.92 milimeters in diameter, with a weight in the sixty-grain category. It took five tenths of a second, from impact, to when the shot was audible. Your man was 'Varminted', probably by someone in the Vanh family." she stopped, and, peeked up, "since Brad Vanh died in the ambush at Dak-To, and, Tommy Vanh's been off-world since he joined the LAAF, that leaves either Chuck, or, Eddie, and, Chuck only got one eye, an' one hand." she paused, waiting for the inevitable question. It came.
"Why someone in the Vanh family? You had a rifle when you were captured..." Nathan asked.
"Only th' Vanhs have 'em in the right combo- a high-velocity magnum round in eight Milimeter, an' Eddie's won the District cup ev'ry year since he turned 12 in th' Highpower event."
Nathan nodded, "That makes sense, but, why... why did Vanh make that shot, when there were two Star Captains more exposed? either Pershaw, or, myself, would have been a more...valuable target, quiaff?"
Aimee did not smile, she simply said, "It was the more challengin' shot, sir, an' they was prob'ly testin' your reactions- Brad did it last time when th' Extractors hit us- back then, it cost half 'a town in reprisals, which is why th' Ranchers cut for th' hills...an' why ain' nobody shot at yer men in the Valley."
The two Star Captains exchanged glances, and, Pershaw asked, "Have you been mistreated since your capture, Bondsman?" he asked. Aimee shook her head, "No Sir, I was given Medical treatment, and, I have been questioned."
Pershaw nodded, "good, return to your tasks."
The girl left them. "You see now, how I am unsurprised that our sniper has gone unpunished, quiaff?" Pershaw said casually. "Aff, I see it, had there been no other shot, the boy would have taken one of us..." Nathan said. Pershaw shook his head, "I think not- they are clearly hoping for friction between us-there can be no challenges to your command without other candidates, can there? Neg, this was a strike at our Command Integrity, and there will be other...tests, I think, I suspected this kind of tactics, because I have seen them used before by other Resistance forces, they will attempt to create dissaffection within our ranks, and, they will attempt to set us upon one another, to weaken us for the blow."
Nathan saw the wisdom of his colleagues remarks, and, nodded agreement, "Aff, I understand- what do you suppose they will try next?" he asked.
"I think they will either attempt another sniping attack, or, they will try to ambush one of our patrols, unless they percieved a weakness that would enable them to slip in and strike with sabotage." Pershaw said it casually, and, added, "I have taken the liberty of assigning full-time patrols from my own Trinary at our key sites, and, I have communicated with Star Captain Emory Thastus, his Protomech Star is ready, you must only give the word, and, they will deliver a...surprise on our foes here."
Nathan's eyes glittered. "The word is given, Pershaw, the word is 'go'."


Grid 135467South by 120041 North, Taskforce Camp 1

"...have to damage their ability to work in concert, excite jealousies inside their ranks... what do we know about their leadership, besides Star Captain Roshak?" Evelyn Mosovich asked.
Morgan Icaza laughed, "You will not set them on one another easily- the Second Trinary of the 74th is led by Star Captain Paul Pershaw-he got shipped to the 74th because he holds certain Warden beliefs, this does not, however, make him either a weakling, or, a fool. He will work to keep the Command Staff from fighting among themselves. Star Captain Thastus, from the Fifth Trinary, tends to defer to other Warriors when it comes to strategies, though his tactics are his own, He is remarkably non-competitive, and, did not even object, when he was sent to the 74th from the first Falcon Jaegers. I have less knowledge of the Fourth Trinary's commander, except that he is not Bloodnamed. All three Trinaries have been used, with good success, in suppressing Rebellions on Liberated worlds in the last four years. The campaign of random strikes and ambushes you propose, will not catch any of them by surprise."
Evelyn leaned her skeletal face in a posture that looked thoughtful. "So, what you are saying, in effect, is that we need to find a tactic that will surprise them, correct?"
Morgan nodded, "Aff, that is Precisely what I am telling you, Kommandant Mosovich."
Evelyn's voicebox buzzed- it was her best equivalent of a sigh, and, she said, "Fine, then, we need some way to throw them off their game- to actually surprise them, then... I'm open to suggestions, here."
Morgan looked thoughtful, as the others began throwing out ideas...


Militia Headquarters, Nha-Tran, 1900 hours, 16, November, 3063...

"...took the detection grid by surprise, it does not mean we are defenseless. Start rotating Sorties against their Aerospace assets, I want someone hitting them day and night." Major Davies, now standing as a Lt. Colonel in the Militia, was briefing the subordinate unit commanders. Elizabeth stood behind him, her ill-fitting Colonel's uniform now tightened and tailored-she would not be abandoning the post now, for quite a while yet. While the plan, and, indeed, the words, belonged to Davies, the force that gave him authority was Elizabeth Ngo, and, everyone present knew it.
"Now, the main roads west will be submerged in spring runoff for the next few weeks. That means that the only forces we can send to help Taskforce One are either Aviation, or, Battlemech based. The enemy has three full Trinaries on the ground, that puts them at one-to-one, and, they out-range, armour, and, Tonnage us in 'Mechs, and, the Tanks can't make the crossing, at least, not yet. These are not Typical Jade Falcons, either- these are cautious and clever-they are reinforcing what they already hold, and, consolidating their position, while they wait for us- I do not expect we will win very many of the early battles."
Somber expressions passed around the room, Most of the aid so far had come in refit-kits, Infantry gear, and, new vehicles- and those would not be worth much until the passes cleared. "What can we do, then, besides the Fighter wings, I mean?" Kommandant Hartford had been, prior to Elizabeth's purge (what the local media was calling "black Monday"), a Hauptmann with a large number of disciplinary notes in his file- the result of too many run-ins with 'Political' officers. "Good question, Louis, the answer is simple- we have a fairly large aviation contingent, Upgraded Warrior helicopters and Ferret Scout VTOLs. It gives us a mobility advantage in the highlands, if we can use them effectively. If we can establish communications with Task Force one, we can harass their backfield until spring is over, and, we are able to send combined heavy units across the passes."
Several heads nodded in agreement, but, Kommandant Li raised her hand, "Leutnant Colonel, I have a suggestion."
Davies responded, "Yes, Kommandant, what is it?"
She looked around the room, "Both the Little Yangtze, and, the River running through Kowloon, drain into the Gulf of Giap, why not send some heavy wet-navy forces- the Monitors, for instance, with a few barges of armour, 'Mechs, and, Infantry. The operation could not take more than a month or two to mount, and, our, ahh, 'Friends' on the other side of the Drylands won't be expecting it, especially if the Aviation units concentrate their activity on the eastern side of the Drylands, near Minsky's Folly. I am not suggesting a large force, maybe Third Battalion Armour, and, one of the Battlemech companies..." she trailed off. Like Hartford, Li had been an "outsider" in the Militia, her branch- the Wet Navy branch, drilled endlessly, but, tended to be more often involved in search and rescue operations where Cargo ships had foundered in the gulf, and, the crews needed saving.
Davies looked thoughtful, "Barges might be noticed from orbit." he said, looking at Li. she smiled, "Yes, Sir, but, a Tanker would not be, and, a Barge can be decorated like a petrol tanker, and, the DenolCo oil Refinery is in the Little Yangtze delta..." Li glanced at Elizabeth, and, then, back at Davies. Davies looked more thoughtful, and, then, said, "If you can supply the transport, I am sure we can find the men to ride it, have a complete Operations Plan on my desk by morning, along with the appropriate maps and terrain analyses."


Spaceport Unloading Docks, Nha Tran, 16 November, 3063...

Each crate weighed 30 tons, and, there were twenty of them from four shipments recieved in August, and, promptly buried at the back of the warehouses by conscientous workers making space for more hardware. Now, finally, the Crates were being loaded for their recipient. The lading bills showed the contents to have originated on a world in the Capellan Confederation, but, as the Crates were opened, more surprises were in store. The Upgrade program had already provided a large number of reconditioned Patton tanks for the Militia, and, here, were more tanks. But, these were different- they were smaller, and, they had arrived unassembled, the Turrets packed on one end of the crate, the chassis on another.
"These... these're Scorpions!" Freight Master Chan said, and, looked closer. They were the infamous 'budget tanks', but, then again, they were not- there were subtle differences in the chassis and turrets, and, a significantly different weapon poking out where the old light autocannon used to be.
Each tank was pre-packaged with instructions for final assembly, and, a fairly thick 'Owner's Manual' written in English.
"Put 'em together, I guess." The Freight master told his crew, "Follow the instructions- even lightweights like these might be useful..."
The scorpion Tank is a light tank, infamous for being the cheapest vehicle possible-even Hetzers pack more punch, as well as going somewhat faster than the tracked light's 60KPH top speed. "There's no Gas-Cap, sir!" someone said.
"Bloody hell, there's got to be one, look again!"
"Uhh..guys, do the words 'Radiation hazard, do not open' mean what I think they do?" Chan hurried over to the uncrated chassis. "Bloody Hell, that's a Fusion engine in there!" The crew brought over a crane, and, assembled the turret to the chassis. "No breech on this gun, just cables an' conduits." One of the other Stevedores noted. "Lemme take a look, you rotter- well, sod me slowly with a chainsaw, that's a PPC... boys, we got tanks t' build for the Militia, an' they might even be worth the effort, get to it."

By morning, on the Militia's recieving tarmac, two dozen tanks were waiting for crews. a Limited factory model made on a Liao border-world, and, according to the manuals, named the "super Scorpion". Second Battalion's cheif of Maintenance began looking the machines over. the main guns of these tanks were old-style Particle Projection Cannons. The machineguns had been stripped, replaced by a very expensive anti-missile system- probably worth as much as the running gear and main gun, all told. the instruction manuals included specification sheets-these were factory jobs, their armour was advanced composite, and, the systems were identical between them. Kommandant Hartford looked at his report later that morning, and, said, "I'll take the lot of 'em, at that weight, with the wider treads, they'll serve better in Operation Sturgeon."
besides, they have the same profile as the originals- the Clanners will likely mistake them for the originals... Every advantage, he knew, would count in spades.

 

[out of story]

I stole liberally from Cray's posts, both old, and, new for this part. The Super Scorpion is his- part of an Alternate Universe setup he's been showing us for months.
The specifics on these particular tanks, are as follows:
100 rated Fusion engine- yeah, I know they still only move 4/6, but, what can you do, right? They're armed with a PPC, now, that's a Standard PPC, not the ER model.
Instead of the original's MG, I gave 'em an AMS and a bit more protection by switching to Ferro Fibrous armour.
Cray's originals had power-plugs to recharge infantry laser rifles, these have 'em too- it's just that the Militia doesn't have very many Laser rifles- they're mainly armed with slugthrowers- but, the plugs can power other things- like Camouflage mats, for instance, or, to recharge the batteries of infantry radios and sensor units. They're basically "Cheap Myrmidons".
The Patton Upgrades are somewhat different- Elizabeth invested heavily in several vehicle manufacturers both inside, and, outside, the Lyran State. The result is a Tank that has no energy weapons whatsoever, the small Lasers being exchanged for other systems, and, the machineguns going away in favour of... you guessed it-an Antimissile system.
the Helos have had their original ICE engines exchanged for fusion units as well, but, the weapons packages remain almost identical, with some sporting new-production LBX-2's in place of their original Autocannons, while others carry a different ammunition load out- Davion Specialty ammo, obtained through Ngo Industries.
Now, at this point in the story, the Clanners have more than enough force, if they could find a way to channel it, to overwhelm the Militia- however, the Militia has something rather unusual on its side- the air wing. Kowloon's aerospace wing has been both upgraded, and, heavily trained, their fighters outnumber the Clan fighters, and, they have more supplies of consumables, along with more airbases to work from, than the Clan Aerospace units do.
Now that the 'Suprise' is over, this means that the Clan forces will be taking unacceptable risks, if they try to airmobilize their Battlemech forces using their dropships.
In the air, it's a stalemate, the real action that decides this conflict will be on the ground.
[/out of story.]


"Over the month of November, both sides were waiting for the weather, Kowloon's southern equatorial landmass has a twice-yearly monsoon season that leaves most of the ground so soft that a 'mech will sink in the mud to the knee actuators.
Luckily for us, the Drylands are in the rain-shadow of two mountain ranges, and, instead of muddy ground that is almost too soft to walk on, we recieved rivers of water that had not yet been contaminated by the layers of arsenic in the aquifers. The tactical problems of movement during the wet season held both sides in place during those months- neither side could get a dropship up without the other bringing in enough fighters to force a landing. Air superiority was in doubt in part because the Kowloonese had us in sheer numbers, and, in part, because their fighter-pilots were every bit as good as our own, and, were operating out of bases that enabled them to make "Ferry-strikes", never returning to the same base from which they launched. As the climate continued to warm, we were greeted by two things- the first, was the blooming of the desert- which, while beautiful, provided more cover for snipers and sabotuers to approach our bases. The second, was the appearance, in mid-november, of VTOL units from the eastern highlands. Pershaw and I agreed that we needed, but, did not have, tactically mobile units that could ignore the raging rivers in Minsky's Folly and along the roadbed of Highway 3-which road had been constructed across the continent using convenient ravines, leaving half the continent cut-off from the other half for more than half the year. According to the Civilians in our sector, this had been done by an off-world contractor on purpose, as the cash-crops from the Western district had to be harvested in early winter, and, would not be ready for shipment before then. According to the local leadership in the southern district, there had been a railway some years ago, but, that was torn up by 'Improvements' financed from the Lyran government on Tharkad. Yet more proof of the corruption in the inner sphere- the Western district was left not only badly defended, but, economically cut off for long periods of time, maintaining an enforced poverty of materials and a constant drain on manpower.
Three villages had outbreaks of smallpox, 74th's Medtechs went in and expunged the disease before the bodycount reached more than a handful of labourers. SMALLPOX... can you believe it? Not even a particularly exotic illness, conquered everywhere else, and, these people had suffered cyclic outbreaks since the late 2700's... Guerilla action was pretty minimal through November, other than the sniper incident, the insurgents did not do much of anything, other than repeatedly evading our patrols..."
-From "Insurgency inside-out, The Kowloon Campaign, 3063-64", Turkina Press, August, 3071

November 25, 3063, Base Camp 4, Southern Highlands...

The Kommandant was walking the camp again. Eddie watched that skull-face he'd grown up to scanning the area.
"So, you figure the CO's got a plan for what we need to do?"
Horstsen asked him. Eddie shrugged, "Don't rightly know, Ox, those new battlefield units the green chickens hit base-one with sure did a number on us- I heard a couple of guys planning to desert last night." Eddie was cleaning his rifle again. Horstsen cocked an eyebrow, "Who?" he asked.
"Barnes and Walters, they figure maybe the Birdmen might lighten up on 'em if they surrender." Eddie's voice was flat, emotionless.
"Did you report 'em?" Horstsen asked. Eddie shook his head,
"Nah, I shot 'em, when they were about four kliks outside the perimeter. I figure, if they don't turn up, that they're runnin' around in a pack of feral dogs by now." His voice held that flat quality as he described the murder of the two deserters.
Horstsen felt a chill- Mike Barnes had been one of their 'group' in basic- one of the guys Eddie'd liked enough to help over the rough spots.
"Water?" Horstsen offered. Eddie nodded, and, accepted a sip from the larger man's canteen. "What's that make, for desertions since they smashed the first base-camp, Eddie?"
Horstsen asked. Eddie shrugged, "Thirty, I guess, plus the MIA's from Second Squad..." He turned his attention back to oiling his bolt, the 'wall' was back around him, Horstsen knew that Eddie didn't want to talk anymore, leaving him to his thoughts. Second squad... one of the NCO's in armour, four guys, gone, somewhere around Dumont pass... just...creepy. Horstsen stripped and function-checked his SRM launcher, having decided that maybe Talking wasn't so good right now.
The mood in the camp, was verging on 'defeat', and, both of them knew it. Their squad, First, was still ready to fight-matching up exactly with the Elementals straining at the leash.
maybe forty of us recruits are still ready to fight, an' maybe a dozen ranchers... Eddie kept a count in his head, and it wasn't a cheery set of numbers, Horstsen knew. we gotta figure a way to hit 'em back, an' soon...



"The Jade Falcons had the dry, central desert by the balls, an' we couldn't shake 'em, not that a company and a half of volunteers and trainees could, but, even the Vets and the Cadre were pullin' their hair out all the way through November, they sat there, smilin' fat an' happy, usin' their damn protomechs to make hash out of any large encampments we set up. Man, It was Rough, that first month. The only bright side, was this guy from my Basic unit-Eddie Vanh- he counted coup on 'em a lot- someone'd soften one of 'em up, maybe a Recoilless crew an' a couple a missile boys, an' he'd take that shot-Dead-Bang right through the windows. Eddie Vanh was a nice guy, too, he tried to help out slow guys, like me..." Former PFC David "Ox" Horstsen (deceased) (Feb. 3045-Dec. 3064)

Nha Tran Soldier's Club, November 25, 3063...

Shel found herself eating dinner with Lt. Colonel Davies, again. "You know what's funny, Shel?" He asked. Shel shook her head, and, slurped her pasta down.
"What's funny, is that MissLiz thinks the only reason anyone follows her, is because she's payin' them to.... got any ideas why that's funny?" He asked. Here we go again, Davies is playing Speculation Game... "No, Sir, I do not, it seems to be a logical conclusion..." she replied.
Davies set his glass down, and, started cutting up his meat. "Shel, you are a whiz with Datasystems, but, you don't know squat about people, do you? I'm gonna tell you a secret, now, but it ain't really a secret." he said, and, took a bite of his steak, chewed it thoroughly, then, after swallowing, continued, "It isn't the money. Even on Galatea, there's enough gigs that pay what she pays her Teams in salaries, and, a lot of those gigs are softer duty. It ain't the money... no, what it is, is, she's smart enough to keep her hands off of things she isn't trained to handle. Miss Ngo determines the objective, and, lets the Professionals figure out how to get there. Most of the National Armies, like the AFFC, don't give their company and battalion level commanders much leeway, an' hell, the LAAF provides so much 'Expert Supervision' it's sometimes amazin' that a recruit can cross a parade field without runnin' into a Flag-ranked officer. Know what I'm sayin'?" He asked, and, took another bite. Shel inclined her head, "Um...your tone and expression say this has to do with my presence here." she said it confidently, Davies smiled, "Right in one. The main reason you and that bunch of Elementals playin' boy-scout in the mountains are still breathing, is because I said to her that we needed you-all of you, and, that she shouldn't have you all shot, which is exactly what she wanted to do. It didn't even take much of an argument- see, our boss, yours because you're technically Militia, me, because she signs both my paychecks, hates, I think she hates Clanners more than fedrats hate cappies, She lost one brother each to the two Clans that invaded the Lyran state, and, her father to a Smoke Jaguar reprisal. I sometimes wonder what would happen if she decided she needed nukes..." He paused, took a sip, and, set the glass down, then, continued, "...But, she also thinks, and, she listens. She had to fight down some powerful urges when we took the Factory back, and, she ate a lot of crow, an' took quite a bit of abuse, when she refused to turn you over to the Assembly for a Kangaroo trial that would've had all y'alls swinging from the gallows as pirates." Shel nodded slowly, I knew some of this already, but...the way he is putting it tonight-something must be going wrong. "What is going wrong?" she asked, interrupting his train. Davies sighed, "We are losing the war- Certain Coalitions in the Assembly wants to override her command authority, and, appoint one of the men she cashiered in October to overall command, if they succeed, then, the Militia will be pissed away in a boneheaded attempt to cross the Mountains at Vakken's pass, an area those Falcon Friends of yours have pretty decent concentration of fire on. Tanks are fine machines, but, forced into a single-file line, they turn into blazing obstacles, and, most of that pass is too narrow for an armour crew to turn around in. What's more, is that the only 'Mechjocks we have that can even hope to compete with the Clanners work for Miss Ngo directly- and, she won't commit 'em unless she can cover them logistically."
Shel sighed, "What do you need?" she asked.
Davies looked at her, "I need you to lie to Nathan, give him false info that'll lead him over the passes, and, right into an ambush. If there's an attack from that side of the mountains, maybe it'll give enough credibility to our folks, that the damned politicians will be afraid to change commanders now."
Shel looked at her plate- It's finally come, I have to choose, whether to betray one, or, the other. Bring Falcon Warriors to a battle they might win, or, do nothing, and, bring the whole Militia under the thumb of an incompetent, who will waste lives on a foolish tactic, and, shatter these people... Less than a month ago, it would have been an easy choice, she knew- but, now... First Flipped, now, Turned... traitors have no friends, because they have shown that they will betray their friends. Do I have any 'Friends' on the other side of those mountains, though? Nathan...let Peter Malthus go unpunished for what he did to me. Without a strong Battle, Morgan Icaza won't be re-adopted into the Clan... and, Morgan is a friend... She made up her mind. "I think there may be another way." she said, and, Davies looked surprised.
"Really? why?" he asked.
Shel smiled, "The quote is 'Traitors have no Friends, because they have shown they will turn on them.' I think I know a way to give you the sharp, short, fright, you need, without betraying anyone, without doing anything truly Dezgra."
Davies leaned back in his chair, "Tall order, what are you going to do?" he asked.
Shel smiled, and, pushed aside her empty plate, "I am going to tell them the truth about the situation over here, about the Pass, and, about the Political threats being made to replace the Militia commander with someone who will destroy his own command. Your side of this, is to ensure that Milliken has a command, appropriate, that he can take through the pass, this will necessitate his reinstatement, along with, I suspect, many of the men who were driven out with him. It will satisfy both our needs, and, the Assemblymen who have lobbied for his reinstatement. All you need to do, is ensure that they are credible. He tries his plan, is annihilated, and, backup forces are pressed hard."
Davies smiled, "That was what I was hoping you would say. You might want to go back to the office, and make up the Recall notices, I will arrange appropriate units, and, unit assignments."
Shel excused herself, and, headed back to the Militia Offices, I have free reign, and, it betrays no-one, save those who would betray their own...



Daniels Avenger                Clan Coyote
General Jennifer Daniels    Galaxy Commander Jim Skyes
                                        Omicron Galaxy
Clan Wolf in Exile
328th Assault Cluster(the Lion Hearted)
Star Captain James Sword

wolfcannon

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"The Business of war, and, it is a business, sometimes requires that you sacrifice minor assets to protect your dominant position. Like Executives, Military Leaders have to balance a cost-benefit ratio, the main difference being in the coin of the realm- Military Mistakes are paid in blood, and, the battlefield equivalent of bankruptcy is total destruction. Sometimes, as an Executive, you have to sacrifice an office, or, subsidiary for the good of the company overall, sometimes, as a Military Leader, you must sacrifice a Command for the good of the whole force. At tmes like this, a Military Commander feels guilt-and well he should, even if the subordinate officer being sacrificed is incompetent, a danger to the whole of a military, the men under him, are still men. I cry when I have to shut down a factory and lay people off. When I sacrifice good men to be rid of bad, the feelings are indescribable..."
-From "Business Leadership in this new Era" By Elizabeth Ngo, Pandora Press, 3071

Dolan Ridge, 46KM SW of Minsky's Folly, 30, November, 3063...

"Steady on lads... here they come." Kommandant Mosovich said, as the brush at the bottom of the hill parted, and, half-sized 'mechs streaked out, rushing the ridge at better than 45KPH. David Horstsen hunkered down, as the motorcycles from the scout element passed his camouflaged firing position, racing uphill in a frantic effort to outrange the pursuing Protomechs. Owens and Phan, with their recoilless, hidden nearby, fired first- the recoilless rifle being somewhat better ranged than an SRM. The shot did not go wide, as the first demonic-looking mini-mech's shoulder rocked back, disturbing its aim just enough that its lazers melted a furrow in the limestone karst where Second Platoon was dug in. While those two frantically reloaded their one-shot weapon, David 'Ox' Horstsen took more careful aim, waiting for the Protomech to select its target, and, firing, as the small machine steadied itself to shoot the recoilless gunners. The Heavy Infantry SRM boomed out with a sound like a gunshot, leaving a white streak behind as it struck the mechanical mutant in its head assembly. Immediately, the Protomech was covered in flames, as inferno gel spread across its flailing body. David put the launcher down, and, picked up a second, while Vanh, the Company's sharpshooter, reloaded the first- Protomechs, having armoured their tiny cockpits, are far too tough a prey for a rifleman to take.
A second Proto burst into flames nearby- hit by one of the other 'Inferno' gunners-like Tanks, Protomechs are not immune to fire. a third one made it halfway up the hill, spraying fire from its two torso-mounted ER Medium Lasers, before David could get a good lock on it, and, fire. Like the first two, it was coated in flames, it thrashed, and, kept moving, as its myomers and life support cooked away.
The last two, also bull-headed and dual-Lasered, held back, and, began selectively pounding the dugouts, trying to bury fighting positions under debris. Crap, out of my range... David thought frantically, as Eddie handed him a freshly-loaded launcher, and, peeked over the rim of the trench.
"They're outa range." Eddie said calmly, adding, "like they did to First platoon four days ago... I wonder..."
David saw Eddie crawl over to the Recoilless crew, who were covering down to avoid splinters of spalling rock as the Lasers washed across their parapet.
"This thing zeroed?" David heard his friend ask.
"Yeah, why?" came the reply- it sounded like Owens.
"I got an idea..." he heard Eddie say, but, the sound of shattering limestone blotted out the rest, as the Clanners placed a shot into the stone behind him, kicking up a pall of white, smoke-like dust that rose on a thermal plume as the impact point transitioned into gas, driving shards upward and outward.
David found himself flat, face-down on the floor of the trench. He raised his head, and, saw Eddie was dismantling one of the recoilless rounds, and, one of the missiles.
"WHAT ARE YOU DOING???" He shouted.
Eddie looked up, and, smiled, "I'm testing a theory..."
He poured the high explosive out of the recoilless shell, into a satchel, then, he carefully transferred the inferno gel, and, its igniter, into the recoilless' projectile in place of the quarter-kilo of C12 it had originally been manufactured to use. Eddie reinserted the impact-fuse, screwed it into place, and, picked up the recoilless. "Now, either this is going to work, or, this is going to blow me up..." He said.
One of the two Bull-head Protomechs was in easy range.
David crawled over, and, slid the shell into place, while Owens and Phan shifted down the trench-line, scuttling like crabs, and, warning others- if it failed, it would fill that end of the trench with blazing flames.
David watched, as Eddie dropped into "the zone", aiming through the Recoilless' optical sights.
BOOM!!!
they were still alive.
David peeked up, and, saw the nearest Protomech was burning- not as large a flame as the Infernoes made, but, Eddie's little plan had worked, a wash of flaming gel was working its way down across the hinged front of the Protomech, enveloping its air-intakes, and spreading fire inside.
The last one backed off, turned, and, ran the other way.
Right into the Elementals, whose ambush this was, anyway.
He didn't last long.
Eddie looked up and down the trenches, and, asked David, "What's our breakage?" David shrugged, "I thought I saw McRae's position go up, an' Colson's..." He shrugged, "don't know."
Eddie clapped his large friend on the arm, "Good shootin' Ox, real good, Hey, let's go see if we can score some of Kinney's bug-juice, we gon' Celebrate."
Horstsen looked confused, "Celebrate- what?"
Eddie laughed, "Bein' alive! this is the first time anyone's been able to hurt these freaks!"


"...the fact that many industrial Concerns have little or no actual loyalty to the Great House in which they are nominally based, is often ignored by the General Public, as well as the Nobles holding the worlds upon which their facilities are located. It is, perhaps, the dirtiest secret in the Inner Sphere- many of the manufacturers upon whose products the Great Houses rely, care nothing for who runs the realm in which they do business. Many of the Largest Corporations maintain their own Fleets of Jumpships, their own Military (Sometimes better equipped and trained than the House they happen to residing in), and, their own Intelligence services. The net result of this, is "mini-nations" without borders, allegiances outside the Company, and, without concern for any cause beyond what builds or shortens their bottom lines.
As a matter of National Policy, then, it is necessary to adopt Devlin Stone's suggestion- disarm these private entities, Nationalize control of their facilities, and, dismantle their concentrations to be disbursed into a mixed population that can be controlled...In particular, corporations that have unde influence on Alliance Worlds, such as Ngo Industries, must be brought to heel..."
-From a speech by Archon Peter Davion to the Estates General, July 21st, 3079.

Jade Falcon headquarters, Drylands region, Kowloon, 30 November, 3063...

The duty officer on Coms played the recording for the three commanders. "They defeated a protomech point." Star Captain Thastus said, as the last voice started shrieking-buring alive inside his machine. "Indeed, that leaves you with what- Three Stars left, if you consolidate from your alpha and Bravo stars, plus two points surviving from Delta Star?"
Thastus nodded, his aerospace Phenotype head and owl-like eyes round. "aff"...
"You need a better hunter unit, Star Captain, and, I need those guerillas suppressed. I will loan you one Battlemech, and, one point of Elementals, to form a hunter-killer unit- find their leadership, and, destroy them." Nathan said it slowly, flexing his hands. "Has there been any progress in intercepting their communcations?" He asked, turning to the duty officer. "Neg, Star Captain, it is like they are silent-but, this can not be, because they coordinate across long distances, and, they seem to know when we send out a patrol far more swiftly than they could if they were doing it by messenger..."
Nathan nodded, "Keep looking, they must be using some kind of long-ranged communications to keep tabs on us, find it, Jam it!"
Daniels Avenger                Clan Coyote
General Jennifer Daniels    Galaxy Commander Jim Skyes
                                        Omicron Galaxy
Clan Wolf in Exile
328th Assault Cluster(the Lion Hearted)
Star Captain James Sword

wolfcannon

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Later....

something glinted off of one of the nearby buttes, nearly 200 meters up. The sun was just right, and, Nathan happened to be ranging his sensors in a generally northern direction, when he caught the reflection. So, he activated his Active Probe, and, dialed up the magnification. He then proceeded to curse loudly. "Sir?" one his Star asked. Nathan Roshak smiled, "I know how the Guerillas are communicating, it is so simple..." a tripod, with a mirror... and shutters... "Strider One, there is an enemy observer near the top of a butte at these coordinates, they are using optical equipment,and, a Heliograph. I want prisoners if at all possible."
the reason we were not picking up radio transmissions, is because they were not using radios...clever...


"...Market Driven Capitalism is not the rapacious force you have been led to believe, and the Archon's statements aside, how long could the Lyran State have survived, if, when the Clans struck us, we had been trapped in a State-Run command economy? Well... The Archon, Peter Steiner-Davion wants to do just that-the Jihad has smashed so much, and, this recovery would not be happening if it were not for the very people in this room. You, the Business leaders, scientists, and, Financiers, have done the work of restoring some kind of quality to the lives of our people. The recent state of Detente with the Jade Falcons will not last, and, when they come again, do you really want to make the same mistakes that were once made, trusting your factories, businesses, and, homes, to the uncertain security of a House Military? Has anyone forgotten the lesson of Alejandro's 'Concentrated Weakness' policy? With ten times the troop strength, and, a strong Navy, the Lyran Commonwealth was unable to prevent the destruction of factories, of the very fibre of a productive economy, through the Succession Wars. We, as Business LEADERS, must resist this attempt to shackle our interests to the whims and fancies of a Hereditary Nobility with a history of making bad decisions. If the Estates General passes the Archon's plan, there will be a Black Monday that we may never recover from..." -Excerpt from Elizabeth Ngo's speech to the Interstellar Trade Association meeting of August 26, 3074.

Vakken's Pass Road, 11 Km from the Pass itself, 5 December, 3063...

Kommandant Arthur Milliken walked his Battlemaster forward- the 'Mech was his family's property, and, he was comfortable in it. It took so much, but, now the fools have seen the value of my plan... he thought, surveying his force. The rest of his Command Lance had, likewise, been re-admitted to their proper place in the Militia Ground forces- and, he had both companies of the New Tanks, along with additional 'Mech assets. They gave me a BATTALION!!! he smiled, The Assembly cowed that... woman, and, I am rewarded. "First rank, advance." He ordered. The little tanks- a design with many advanced features brought to Kowloon by "That Woman", (he refused to refer to her as "Colonel Ngo", even privately...) had been fairly difficult- he could tell that they had to be superior to the Pattons, due to the reluctance of that fool Davies to release them to him.
A phone Call to the Assembly's chairman of Appropriations fixed that, however. He cleared his throat, and, activated his communcations suite as the column reached the point where the Pass began to narrow. "Battlemechs to the front, Armour follows, we will sweep them away, if they dare to resist!
Milliken had a Battlemaster, it was upgraded, as were the pair of Marauders, the one Thunderbolt, and, the Medium lance. older designs, but, we have the firepower...
The full Battalion was run by Party Stalwarts, he was quite assured that the air-support he requested, would arrive before his force was too heavily engaged...
after all, they can't know we are coming...

His lead elements, the Light lance, comprised of two Commandos, one Wasp, and, a Jenner, cleared the exit half an hour later, reporting that there was no enemy presence on the other side of the pass. Milliken nodded, I told those fools, the enemy could not possibly know of this route, or, they would have used it... The Medium Lance came after, comprised of two Wolverines, a Griffin, and, a Shadowhawk 5M.
These took up stations, guarding the entrance, as he walked his Heavy/Assault lance through.
suddenly, the spring growth erupted as spiderholes opened up among the 'mechs- Elementals swarmed the lighter lances where they stood, as the hills deformed violently-sending dirt showering out- The Clan Omnimechs were in close proximity, and, they were firing.

Milliken twisted his Battlemaster to the left, and, found himself facing a Clan Assault omni- a Turkina.
The Turkina opened fire with its Large Pulse lasers, vapourizing armour across his left Torso, then, raking him with its small pulses- half a second ago, it had not been there.
Kommandant Milliken aimed his ER-PPC,and, missed, as a Gauss Rifle slug, fired from some distance away, smashed the cockpit of Hauptmann Schroeder's Marauder. "Contact!!! TANKS ADVANCE!!!" Milliken broadcast. The Turkina somehow avoided his SRMs, and, fired another burst from its energy-based arsenal. Milliken felt his 'mech twist, as more armour was carved off from his left side, and, damage monitors began howling.
The channels were filled with shouts and warnings, suddenly, they were also filled with screams- Milliken glanced out his canopy- the pass itself was filled with flames, his Support Armour was being roasted in a trap.
"YOU SCHVEINHUND!!!" He screamed, and, rushed at the Turkina, firing everything his 'mech possessed at the 95 ton Clan assault machine. It jumped.
Behind him.
It fired.
His reactor's temperature skyrocketed, then, a burst of plasma erupted, along with a broad spray of coolant, and, Kommandant Milliken's auto-ejection system fired.

Dizzy, and, stunned, he was able to think enough to realize that four of the little tanks had come through the blaze, and, were now fighting the Clanners, firing their PPC's, trying to manuever enough to avoid being hit. His parasail opened, and, he saw that the four had become three.
then, two.
Then, one.
and, that One was doing damage, destroying a Night-Gyr in a close-range firefight, even as the clan machine's SRM's overloaded the light tank's anti-missile point defenses.
Of his 'Mech company- the pride of the Ruling Party, he could see only wreckage and death.
He could also see that the Clanners were taking prisoners, now. The Tank crew from that last one, were being rounded up by Battlesuited elementals.
We are defeated... Milliken thought, and, reached for his pistol, I will not bear the humiliation of being a prisoner...

Nathan Roshak looked at the body still in its ejection chair. "Waste..." he said, shaking his head. Like the Ambush of the Western militia at Dak-To, this battle had been more of an execution, than a conflict. The details the Watcher in Nha-Tran had provided were exact right down to crews and personnel. Most of the small tanks had actually managed to avoid the Inferno strike- the lead four had been too far ahead, while only eight had been within the radius of the Arrow-IV fire mission. The rest had been too far back, and, had dug in by now, waiting for his countermove. "Pershaw, you know, if we only probe this exit lightly, it will force them to reinforce it at the expense of other locations." He said to the other Star Captain. "Your source sent more than just the mere data on this, quiaff?" Pershaw asked. Nathan nodded, "Aff, there are four more narrow passes like this in the high country, most are garrisoned with light forces- some have as little as a single platoon of Tanks and infantry guarding them..." He cocked an eyebrow at the other Officer. Pershaw's face split in a grin, "force them to over-extend, then, defeat them in detail...Aff, it is a good plan."



"What do I remember the most about my mother, hmm... I remember the way she looked when the Archons men came to arrest her allegedly for her role in the Black Monday market crash. You have to understand, I was a lot closer to my Nanny and her kids, than I was to my own mother-she was, I believe, incapable of love. Between her secret war with the Jade Falcons, and, running the Company, she simply did not have the emotional capital left. The day after her arrest, I was told that she was killed trying to escape from custody, my shares and position were held in trust, and, Adam White took over until I reached my age of majority...You know, they never proved she was involved in that..."
-From "Interview with a CEO: Ngo Industries and the New Economy" Morges Press, Lyran Commonwealth, 3115

Nha Tran, 5 November, 3063

Word of Milliken's disasterous attack spread like a fume through the streets, and, a mood of resignation settled down across the Assembly- it would be the Ngo woman's New Model Army, not the Party's chosen sons, that would have to bear the burden of driving the Jade Falcons away.
To Shel, this seemed to be a self-evident situation: the Clan force had, after all, come to fight Elizabeth Ngo's Security forces, only because their initial group was stranded and trapped planetside, were they even still here. The rough parity of forces in the Aerospace battle was what kept both sides jostling for a position that would allow them to strike.
I did my part of it- Davies can go to hell, I chose my side before I ever even heard of Elizabeth Ngo... Shel entered the days Logistics reports into the databank. I gave Star Captain Roshak the mapping data, if he uses it intelligently, I have done all I must, for the time being... she had to be careful- her cover had been penetrated by Davies months ago, she continued in her place, she knew, to act as the former Mask officer's conduit of disinformation, yes, but, I can still pass enough useful information to my Clansmen...
The door into the Militia HQ opened with a hiss, and, Shel watched Colonel Ngo walk in. The Colonel was un-escorted, and, had a ragged, haggard, look. Shel moved to call the room to attention, and, Colonel Ngo beat her to it with "As you were- Shel, we just lost a whole bundle of men and equipment in the pass, If you don't mind, I need a list of who didn't come back from that op, and, the address of their families... and, a drink, yes, a lot of something strongly alcoholic, and, keep the damned visitors out- I've got to write condolence letters tonight."


"Hmmm... Colonel Ngo... I haven't thought about her in better than twenty years. What I remember best about working for her, was the way she let us have our head when it came to planning operations. You hear all the time about some officers being strong 'hands on' types- I've served under those, an' they inevitably micromanage you into a hole. Not her- She'd tell us what had to happen, an' we told her what we needed to make it happen, an' she got it for us, then, she got out of the way... We coulda used a lot more like her during the 3050's, I'll tell ya that...She was smart enough to know how to let the professionals do their jobs, an' she kept the damned Assembly off our necks...shame about that scandal, though... she also bought me this face..."
- Kommandant(Ret.) Evelyn Mosovich, "Kowloon Thiirty Years Later- What happened?" Arc-Royal Daily Mail, 19 October, 3093

December 10, 3063, Washburne Hill, 1300 Hours...



It was a full-court press, the Clanners were really hot to find them, now- and they were showing it. "I got five more Dwarves coming up from the east ridge, Ox, these're faster than that last bunch, an' they ain't takin' the bait." Eddie Vanh's voice was tinny on the sound-powered landline. "What's their range on you, Eddie?" he asked.
"Oh, 'bout five hundered Meters, they're outside of your range, an' all I got is this hunting rifle." Eddies voice was a laconic drawl, now, that bored tone he got whenever things were about to get really, very, very, bad.
"Hang in there, man, I gotcher back." Horstsen said, grabbing the handle of his drag-bag, and, low-crawling down the gully.
suddenly, bad got a lot worse. the sides of the ditch vibrated once, then, again. Oh...no...Battlemech. Horstsen thought, as a shadow passed over him, headed up-hill. Then, he heard a shot, and, the sound of metal on-metal.
The 'Mech stopped, almost on top of him, and, rotated its upper body. Torso, fraggit, it's called a torso... Ox actually heard the 'mechs macineguns cocking, as it prepared to blast the hillock Eddie's O.P. was on. Ox reached into his drag-bag, and, pulled out the scaling rod. go for the head, don't think about anything else, just go for the head...
He stood up, pressed the activator stud, the ball of adhesive shot out, trailing a carbon-monofilament line, to stick just above the Clan 'mech's cockpit. Ox released the stud, and helld on, as his arms felt like they were being jerked from their sockets. OHTHISSUCKS!!! In one smooth motion, he was above the machineguns, and, looking in on a 'Mechwarrior. Horstsen slipped his arm into the loop, and, brought up his inferno launcher, one-handed, as he gave the Clanner the finger with his other hand.
As an SRM gunner, Ox carried reloads. These weren't all incendiary rounds- he had some H.E. as well, and, none of them were fireproof.
Neither was he.
David 'Ox' Horstsen died at 1305 hours, 10 December, 3063.
He was two days from his eighteenth birthday.


"What do I remember about Ox Horstsen? You serious? He was big, an' kinda slow, with a big, friendly grin all the time, Him an' Vanh were like, joined at the hip, man, they hung out all'a time together, they even chased the same broads together. I got a funny story for ya- we were camped just off a big runoff stream about thirty Klicks south of that valley the Clanners were occupyin', I see Eddie Vanh an' Ox standin' like, right next to it-now, this here stream, it was deep- a good two meters deep, Eddie reaches up, behind Ox, an' pushes him in, then, when Ox is strugglin' an' screamin', he jumps in, an' starts helpin' him. Crazy stuff, man, before that, nobody knew Ox couldn't swim, 'cept Eddie.
When Ox bought it... well... I named the Twins for those two."
-PFC Quan Owens, "Kowloon, What Really Happened", Arc-Royal Daily Mail, 19, October, 3039

Washburne Hill, 10 December, 3063, 13:05:08...

Cam Flinched, as the round struck his windscreen, the Kit Foxes cockpit filled with the light of blazing phosphorous, as a drumming thundered the whole cockpit. That man committed suicide!!! He slowly opened his eyes, the ferroplast windscreen was covered in cracks, and, he could smell the byproducts of combustion- but, it had not penetrated. Cam felt relief- that was close- whoever you were, friend, you went out Gloriously... he thought, and, took a step forward. the pyre in front of him swung, then, it fell. Windscreen's integrity is probably shot... Cam realized, and, checked his sensors. "Runner One, this Sweep, Beagle has another one of their positions just ahead, about sixty meters, I'm about to clear it."
The top of the spider hole popped off, and, a single man stood up, and, brought his rifle to his shoulder with a perfect snap right out of a training manual. "Oooh... scary little man..." Cam said, and, grinned, as he tightened on his triggers
The windscreen shattered, and, Cam's world went dark.

The 'Mech fired a single burst- perfectly aimed, but, Eddie got his shot off first. It was a miracle shot- the infamous "Golden BB", the slug passed through a broken portion of the windscreen, up, and, through the open faceplate of the 'Mechwarrior inside.

Private First Class Edward Vanh died, December 10, 3063,
at the age of Sixteen, of multiple gunshot wounds sustained while killing the pilot of a Jade Falcon Light 'mech. Gun camera footage indicates that PFC Vanh fired one shot, virtually simultaneously with the shot of the 'Mechwarrior.
The gun-camera footage also showed that, as he was standing, Edward Vanh was shouting something, repeated analysis has failed to discern what, exactly, he was saying.
The loss of the 'Mech, with its Beagle probe and heavy weapons, enabled Second Platoon's survivors to escape further into the southern Range.


"We found out who the Sniper was after Hill 123 was ours- I have looked at the gun-camera footage dozens of times since then, and, I have today the same odd feeling of respect.
Two men, with inferior equipment, faced, and, defeated a Clan Warrior-now, this was not a Warrior with a bloodname, mind, but, it was an act of incredible valour that allowed their comrades to escape. I regret mainly that neither one could be captured alive, as bondsmen they would have been magnificent."
-Star Colonel Nathan Roshak, "The Kowloon Campaign, 3063-64" Turkina Press, 3071

Washburn Hill, 11 December, 3063...

Star Captain Nathan Roshak climbed down from his 'mech. "It happened here?" he asked one of the Protomech pilots, who was, like his remaining fellows, taking a break outside of his machine. "Aff, see-? The first one attacked the 'Mech by firing an incendiary missile right into the cockpit's windscreen, an act which burned him alive, which detonated the remaining ammunition he was carrying. After Cam cleared the debris, the second one stood up, in the broad of daylight, here..." The protomech pilot led the Star Captain over to a second location- there was still a sound-powered phone, hooked to a thin wire, in the hole, which was only waist deep, a pair of grenades, and, a handful of rifle bullets, lay on the floor of the hole like forgotten litter. "He challenged the 'mech, quiaff?" Nathan asked. The Protomech pilot nodded somberly, "I believe that is exactly what he did, their duel destroyed them both, but, it was a glorious thing to see."
David and Goliath... You would see it that way, quiaff? Yes, you would... "The bodies?" Nathan asked, the small, tatooed man pointed down the hill, where a flatbed truck sat, its cargo area covered in plastic-sheeted corpses. "How many of them did you get?" He asked.
The Proto pilot thought for a moment, "Ten, we were able to confirm Ten enemy KIA, including those two."
Ten enemy dead, at the cost of one 'Mechwarrior, and, three Protomechs... this does not add up in our favour.
He walked down the hillside, and, looked over the bodies.
Huh... Morgan Icaza was not among the slain here, at least...
You trained them well, Morgan... too well. The worst was the charred cinders of the man who drew first blood on the 'mech. The charred remains had a pair of ceramic I.D. tags, which had not melted in the intense heat. "David Horstsen...huh..." The analogy is almost complete... He looked at the other corpse, separated from the rest.
The body was mostly whole- the 'Mech had been armed with Light machineguns, which have superior range, and, ammunition efficiency when used against this kind of unarmoured infantry. Unlike the others, this one still had his rifle, even after being moved down here. Icaza looked at the tags- Edward Vanh, birth date December 9, 3047, Blood type O Pos.... "Our sniper." Nathan said out loud, and, looked at the other warriors, "Our Sniper is too young to have graduated from a Sibko. He was a mere boy- how ironic."
He laid the tags down on the riddled body, and, said, "You are all grown men, and, you have been outdone this day by a mere Freebirth boy, who is not even old enough to shave more than once per week. THIS," he said, gesturing from the body, to the 'mech, which was being recovered for repair by the Technicians back at base, " This, Warriors, is dedication, it is what each one of you should be, in the service of our Clan. This boy stood in the face of certain death, and, brought that certainty back into the face of his slayer. Today, here, your force was greater in number than theirs, it moves more swiftly, and, has more powerful weapons- and yet, the enemy's forces managed to escape you, because of these two... this is their challenge to us, as Jade Falcons, as Clansmen, as WARRIORS." He stopped, and, looked around. "Star Commander Fran, ensure that these two bodies are buried with full honours- and then, you will find the comrades of these two, and, you will show them the Courage and Honour that makes us JADE FALCONS!"
The gathered Warriors-particularly the Protomech Warriors, shouted "SeyLA!" and, headed for their machines.

Star Captain Pershaw arrived shortly after, and, watched Nathan's speech on the recording loop. "Nice pep talk, Star Captain, I think they might just be ready to chew iron pegs now, just to prove how tough and brave they are." He said it dryly, but, flashed Nathan a grin.
"I had to do something- they were in awe over this one incident- none of the other raids had produced this kind of reaction, and, I did not want them to become overcautious because there might be a suicide commando lurking behind every bush."
Pershaw sighed, then, laughed, before saying, "That was a good speech, especially since their own Star Captain died here today."
Nathan shrugged, This just gets worse and worse, even our victories are tainted here...

Don't come unarmed in a Battle of Wit.

Daniels Avenger                Clan Coyote
General Jennifer Daniels    Galaxy Commander Jim Skyes
                                        Omicron Galaxy
Clan Wolf in Exile
328th Assault Cluster(the Lion Hearted)
Star Captain James Sword

wolfcannon

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"...In our top story tonight, Financial Markets are reeling in a mad bout of selling-off amid rumours that certain House currencies are, in fact, backed by nothing, with more on that story, here is Richardo Whitman on Tharkad..."
"...Thanks Lori, I'm standing here on the floor of the Lyran Stock exchange, only one hour ago, this room was packed. You can see where the ticker stopped... It took Riot Troops to clear the exchange, and, rumours of a Bank panic are spreading through the Capital tonight, there is some fear that, if the banks open tomorrow, they will be insolvent by noon. Now, there are a lot of rumours and accusations, but, apparently, this was sparked by an attempt to redeem some 1,300,000 War bonds issued in the period between 2782, and, 3025, bonds that have matured, for the face values...as you know, the earlier bonds were backed by Germanium, but, that was not what caused the problem- The Lyran Kroner is backed by water supplies, the agency attempting to redeem the bonds demanded payment in the backing material, and, when the Central Bank tried to repudiate the bonds, their action was announced on the trading floor..."
-Lyrcom News Special Report dated Monday, January 12, 3081
"...Federated Commonwealth's money markets are reeling after the revelation that much of the reinvestment capital being used for reconstruction loans is based on nothing at all, Riot Troops have had to shut down the exchanges after rumours erupted that ... was backed by exactly nothing, bank panics have already...cost the lives...of thousands...no word from the Regent Princess as to..veracity of accusations."
-FedNews, Monday, 12 January, 3081
"...Market panic has spread, the Coordinator has closed the stock exchange pending an ISF investigation into financial sabotage...inflation may result if banks are not restrained..."
-Luthien Shimbun News 12 January, 3081
"...For this reason, Ngo industries will do no business with, or, in, Devlin Stone's Republic...The recent attempts in the other states to duplicate Stones unlawful and oppressive actions, has led to massive financial dislocations. As of this morning, Ngo Industries will only do business in currencies that are, in fact, stable, backed by sufficient resources to keep their face value... To the Houses that are going through this market adjustment, I say only this: You brought it on yourselves..."
-Elizabeth Ngo, in a press release dated 13 January, 3081

December 10, 3063, 120 Km south-west of Golden lake, on the outflow side of the Little Yangtze...

The Petrol refinery here had been shut down by damage years ago, and, never reopened. The docks, however, were built back in the Star League's time-such things do not erode easily, even after three centuries. Kommandant Li smiled, as the Kowloon 1st Marine Contingent unloaded their 'Mechs, Tanks, and, Armour. I have delivered the largest army in Kowloon's history... she tugged at the sleeves of her blue Walking Dress uniform, and, headed to the bridge-exit of her Cayman patrol Hydrofoil. Kommandant Hartford was standing at the rail, looking out across the docks, as the barges unloaded. "We made it... alive." he said. She laughed, "I did tell you we would din't I? and the Clanners haven't bothered this far southwest because there's nothing here they use." She was still grinning, as he turned, and, looked at her. "Kommandant, that ride around the gulf scared the bejeezus out of me, and I think I puked my own body weight plus some... how in the bloody blue blazes do you do it week after week, day after day?" he asked.
Li shrugged, "Mainly I don't get seasick, and, I know the sea... you realize you weren't the only one who was lime-green and vomiting this trip, some of those Tank crews practically were hawsered to the rails, an' we didn't even get a spot of weather..." On the rear deck, a VTOL began its run-up sequence, "anyway, now, we've got the Clanners between two fires, and, you have the one road that can't be cut..."
He looked at her with a puzzled expression, "Excuse me?" he asked. Kommandant Li gestured northeast, "The River- they can't cut it without they build one hell of a dam, we can send hovertanks, Choppers, and, ships up and down it almost to Dak-To, with the refinery-and, the technical crew from Ngo industries, we've got fuel and a base they can't approach without us seein' em."
Hartford cocked an eyebrow, "Raiding along the river?" he asked.
Li smiled, "Military History, the first forces on the beach at D-Day were the American's Coast guard, the first forces into Vietnam was the American Coast Guard, the first troops in the assault on Von Karmuth's Argentina in 2104-Coast Guard... I have two Lances of Monitors, four of Hovertanks, and, four more of hydrofoil-Cutters, plus a company of VTOLs, an' that's before we count my share of the Infantry. Then, there's Gator."
Hartford looked briefly confused, "Gator?" he asked.
Li grinned at him, "When the Star League Army left, they left behind a bunch of stuff- one of my predecessors during the Blackout year fitted out a wide-draft Fuel tanker with some...equipment... The Colonel got the Assembly to cough up the cash back in July to finish him."
Hartford asked, "Where is...this...'Gator', then?"
Li pointed southward. Hartford could just about barely make out the approaching bulk. "That...is huge. How far up can it get?" he asked.
Li shrugged, "If the sandbars haven't moved, I'd say around... oh, it can get into Golden lake, maybe five K's further up-river, but, that puts almost the whole valley in his range."
she replied.
"What???" Hartford asked, his eyes wide.
Li shrugged again, and, smiled, "Gator has a Long-tom, on a turret, and five Arrow-IV launchers, plus a chopper pad and bunkerage to refuel ICE equipment, like the Ferrets and the older Maxims. He's slow, though, and he has a fairly big crew- I recruited from the offshore rigs, he should be here in a few hours... with the tugs."
Hartford watched the approaching ship for a few more moments, and, then, headed for the gangplank, "I have to go get my men organized and billeted in the refinery." he said.
Li watched him go, and, looked back out at her 'Gator'. Boy, is someone gonna be surprised by you!

[Out of Story]

"Gator" is built using Cray's "Big ships" rules (You can find them in the 'Boardgame' thread), I didn't give it Capital ship scale weapons, but, it's got artillery, and, it has 'mech and vehicle scale defensive weapons. It's a ten thousand ton craft with a cruise of 2, flank of 3, and, it takes up three BT hexes (it's just under 100 meters long). Gator is totally Level 4- level 3 rules only cover up to 500 tons, which doesn't even come close to a ship that started life as an LNG tanker.
Kowloon may be a relatively poor world, but, even a poor country can convert a ship to naval use, if it can get the weapons. Gator took three generations to build.
[/Out of story]

"The river became a problem for us in December, with the spring runoff, and, the monsoon rains filling it to over flood stage, the Kowloon Coast Guard was able to use it almost with impunity- it was too deep for Battlemechs, averaging nearly a hundered fifty meters deep in the main channel, deep enough, in fact, for them to send up a dedicated wet-naval task force, including a ship built for operation in the open ocean. By December 15, we found the Golden Lake sector, and, all points south of it, under the control of the Militia... what is more, the Irregular forces that had been operating in our theatre were able to link up with the Local Regulars, I knew then, that the real battle would be fought, not on the Coastal Plains, but, in the interior, where we, the Jade Falcons, would be playing the Defense..."
-Star Colonel Nathan Roshak,"The Kowloon Campaign, 3063-64", Turkina Press, 3071

Gold Lake district, Vin-Drin-Lap Township, December 14, 3063...

For the Infantry Star controlling the Township, the arrival of the Militia was a genuine shock- Four Maxim Hovercraft supported by eight Helicopters, and, four Monitors, hit the village at 0400.
By 0500, the first point of Elementals were down, and, the first barges up the river were offloading troops and armour.
The Clan Warriors had made a serious mistake, there were no fixed emplacements or even obstacles set up to defend against a riverine assault.
Leo Washburne, recently minted as a "Merchant Caste Administrator", found his home and office surrounded by Militia troops of a quality he'd never seen before.
"Mister Mayor, if you will just please return to your home, everything will be explained, otherwise, I'm 'agonna have ta stun ya." Leo's eyes went wide, as he saw the broad snout of the soldier's stunner. "Okay, I'm going..." He turned, and, went back inside. "What's going on out there, Leo??" Leo's new wife, Phyllis, asked. Leo sat down in his chair, and, said, "They sent an army from Nha Tran... I was just told to come back inside and...stay." He said it dully, with a shocked expression. After all that... they are going to turn this into a bloodbath after all... Leo thought, with the growing, horrified certainty, and, if they win, they are going to blame me... He did not know what he was going to do.

At 0930 hours, a knock at the door, Leo opened it. "If you'll follow me, mister mayor?" the soldier was young, but, his eyes were old. The nametape on the uniform jacket said "Owens" and the ranks were those of a Private First Class. "Of course..." Leo said. Private Owens led him to the Village Common, where a white and red Naval Coast Militia helicopter was landing. The side door of the chopper opened, and, someone got out. It took off again a minute later, loaded with two injured soldiers. As the Chopper lifted away, Leo found his eyes tracing the figure that had climbed down from the Passenger compartment.
There was no mistaking that deathly face, Evelyn Mosovich had come home. "HI LEO!!!" her voice said it, but, it wasn't the badly tuned hissing, static, that he'd gotten used to over the years- she'd had it serviced. She ran over. "Evelyn...? how...?" he was almost speechless. "Hey, Leo, your wife still makes good coffee, right? Great, You'n me, we gotta talk about how things're gonna be different here..." Her mandible was moving, but, he knew the main work of talking was being done by the speaker at her throat, as she caught his arm, and, half-walked/half-dragged him back to his home, they were flanked by the same hard-eyed soldiers, and, a handfull of Clan Elementals in Militia uniforms. "Did they send the whole militia here?" Leo managed to croak out.
One of the boy-soldiers heard him, and, laughed, "Neg, there, ol' man, just the first Two battalions of the new Regiment, the Coast Guard, an' the Grim Reaper herself, come for to talk to you!" One of the Elementals in NCO stripes cuffed the wit, and, said, "Do not refer to a Superior Officer by such a nickname, Private, we are in Garrison now, you will behave."
Evelyn, for her part, laughed, which didn't come out as anything more than a dry wheezing, (the maintenance clearly did not include adding that subroutine to the system's dataprocessor.) Leo was astonished, a feeling that increased as Battlemechs began walking out of the water, up the riverbank, and, through town to the other side.
"How did you defeat the Jade Falcon Garrison so easily?" he asked. Evelyn shrugged, "everybody's gotta sleep sometime, an' even better hardware doesn't help that much when you're serously outnumbered. The wounded are bein' flown out to Griggs Oil #16 platform, where we set up a field hospital." They reached the door to his home, and, the crowd of soldiers dispersed, setting up a perimeter as the Mayor, and, Kommandant Mosovich, went inside.
"I have some things for you to read, and, sign, Mister Mayor." she said, reaching into a battered briefcase, and then, handing across the table a stack of documents.
"What are these?" he asked. she inclined her head, "These're affidavits stating that the Ranch Families were not involved in the surrender of the town, These, are documents asserting your loyalty to the Legal Planetary Government, they include a statement that you and your officials were coerced, and, that you did not voluntarily collaborate at any point during the occupation, I suggest you sign 'em, an' practice waving the Kowloon Flag a lot, there's gonna be accusations an' trials enough... this last batch cedes control of the Griswold Refinery structure and surrounding lands to the Kowloon Coast Guard Militia in perpetuity, and, this one is your resignation from the post of Mayor." He looked at the last one, read it, and, moaned, as his fingers opened, letting the paper gently land on the table's surface. "I tried to save lives..." he said, miserably.
Evelyn nodded, "That's why I'm saving yours, Leo, you know bloody well that the Party's been keeping this area poor on purpose, an' that document asserts it as a fact, which'll get you, I hope, just enough good will that your house don't get burned down by some of these dirt-farmers. When this war is over, there's gonna be changes, you don't wanna be the speedbump that gets squashed... thanks, Mrs. Washburne."
The cup was fine china, filled with coffee grown on a plantation west of Dak-To. Evelyn had to tilt her head back almost vertical to keep it from spilling out of her ruined mouth.
"MMMmm... I actually tasted that. yum..." Evelyn said, and, wiped her face with a handkerchief. "Now, Leo, I assume, as the Merchant Caste Administrator, they left you with a means to contact their command staff?" she asked.
Leo nodded, "It's in the office...what do you want me to say?"
He asked.
Evelyn shook her head, "It ain't what you are to tell 'em, it's what I'm gonna tell them- oh, Chuck's dead, so's Eddie Vahn, Eddie died takin out one of their Big boys."
Leo looked downcast, "I am sorry, Evelyn, I know you were fond of the boy..." he said. she pointed at him, "So were you, Leo, We couldn't retrieve his body, but, the Clanners might still have it."
He looked up at her, "What are you going to do??" he asked.
"Icaza suggested it, an' I think it's a good idea..." She stood up, "In there?" she asked, pointing at the office.
"Yes." He replied.
"I'll be just a bit, then..." she walked out of the sitting room, leaving Leo with his wife, looking over the papers. There were several Deed and Claim confirmations in the stack-many of those would change the Voting Block radically, and, Leo knew, would be confirmed by someone else if he did not sign them anyway. He began his last duty as a Representative of the People of Vin Drin Lap.

In the office, Evelyn looked at the Radio- it was a very simple transciever, set to a single channel, with an input, and, output.
She noted with amusement that there was a setting for "video", and, that it was locked in the "On" Position-with power applied, the sender had no choice but to be seen.
She opened a window- "Private Owens, Get me a blanket, wouldja? and a Scythe, I absolutely must have a Blanket and a Scythe, an' try to find one that's fairly dark..."
This is going to be funny... she had found, at last, a situation where her appearance was an advantage.
Too bad it ain't October 31 though... Owens raced off, and, came back with the requested items. "Thanks, Tell Hauptmann Icaza I need him in here, I'm about to send them our Batchall."
Owens peeled off again, in search of the Hauptmann.
Evelyn wrapped the dark blue blanket around her shoulders, pulling a corner of it up, fashioning it into a kind of hood.
Morgan Icaza came in the office a minute later, and, stopped, "Planning a joke, Kommandont?" he asked, with a raised eyebrow. "Yeah, I think they might get it..." she replied.
Then, she activated the Transciever, carefully standing so that the optical system saw her from the waist up, shrouded in dark colours, in a badly lighted room. the screen came to life, showing a Clan officer of Star Commander's rank "Hello?" he said, and, saw her image on his screen.
"Hi, God sent me, let me talk to Nathan Roshak, please." She said, adding, "Oh, and, ahh... this is to challenge for possession of the remains and Genetic Legacy of Edward Vahn, I'm his commanding officer."
The Star commander on the other end looked stunned for a moment, and, then, said, "I will fetch the Star Captain, please wait." Evelyn put the scythe down, and, took off the blanket.
"Gee, I thought his reaction would be funnier." she said.
Morgan laughed, "I think his reaction was quite extreme, he was actually Shocked."
A few moments later, another face appeared on the display, this one was older than the Star Commander, but, not by much. "Yes? I am Nathan Roshak, who am I addressing, exactly?"
Evelyn replied, "I am Kommandant Evelyn Mosovich of the 1st Kowloon Light Infantry, Recon branch, we, along with our comrades in the first and second Militia Battalions, have taken the township of Vin-Drin-Lap, You have something that belongs to us, I want it back, I wish to hear whether you will return it voluntarily, or, what forces you intend to defend your possession of it- the Remains of two of my soldiers, Privates First Class Edward Vanh, and, David Horstsen, killed this month in action on Washburn hill. I want the Remains, and, any and all genetic samples taken from them."
The man on the screen looked thoughtful for a moment, and, looked to his left, speaking with someone.
Evelyn swiveled her head slightly, and, asked Morgan, "I did it right, didn't I?" He nodded, "He will ask you what you offer should you lose, What would you offer?" Evelyn shrugged, "One or two of the Elementals, if they'd go..." Morgan gave her a grim look, "Let me handle the Bargaining, you would lose every advantage that face might give you."
Evelyn waited until Nathan turned to look at her again, and, he asked, "What does your side offer in exchange, should you lose the challenge?"
Evelyn replied, "I will let my Executive officer, Hauptmann Morgan Icaza, answer that, Morgan, if you would?"
Morgan sat down, and, he saw Nathan's expression lighten visibly, "Letting you do the bargaining, I get the feeling I may end up lucky to keep my Trunks. I am pleased to see you yet live, Morgan."
Morgan returned his courtesy, and, said, "Let us begin the bargaining, then."
Daniels Avenger                Clan Coyote
General Jennifer Daniels    Galaxy Commander Jim Skyes
                                        Omicron Galaxy
Clan Wolf in Exile
328th Assault Cluster(the Lion Hearted)
Star Captain James Sword

wolfcannon

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"...actions when Chahar fell should have been the big signal to everyone what would happen if anyone tried to seize or nationalize a Ngo Industries location. The plant was filled from subbasement to ceiling with natural gas tapped off from their power-generating plant, charges were emplaced to both detonate the fumes, and, to create "in-rush" channels to fuel the detonation-essentially, the Ngo Industries facility on Chahar became a giant fuel-air bomb that,when a star from the Eyrie Clusters that had defeated the Militia, approached, detonated, creating a blast that was, at first, mistaken for a tactical nuclear weapon. Sensors quickly denied that it was, in fact, a Nuclear detonation,but, it was clear enough to the Jade Falcons what the message was, and, it should have been clear to Stone's Republic: Ngo Industries will use scorched-earth tactics. The events within the Republic during that first handful of years show, however, that the lesson was long in coming. During the Reform Years, fifteen Ngo Industries sites were self-destructed to prevent the Republic from benefitting from their seizure. This does not seem to be a very significant number, until one takes into account that it is the exact number of factories Ngo Industries owned within the borders established by Stone and the House Lords after the Jihad. On the day that Plant 11 was destroyed, a message was sent from the Jumpship Linda, one of Ngo Industries' largest vessels. "From this day forward, Ngo Industries will have no dealings with your Pirate State, nor with any of your corporate interests, Nobles, or, Officials. We will neither sell products within your borders, nor, will we purchase products in your borders, our ships will not make stops in your territory, neither will they cross Republic Space, lest they be stolen by your forces. Stone and his Friends have proven themselves unworthy of trust, and, criminally inclined in intent and action." This statement has spurred debate in later years among many historians and theorists. Recently released documentation from the Republic indicates that, prior to the actual formation of the RoTS, Elizabeth Ngo personally sent Stone arms, men, and, support. What spurred the falling out, however, is well known: Stone's reforms, including land seizure and redistribution, hit many of the corporate interests remaining after the Jihad very hard, The resistance put up by Ngo Industries' security units on worlds they had interests in cost many lives, and, he was going to take what they had lost men defending from the Word of Blake. Certain theorists today cite this as her motivation in the Black Monday Scandal, since the Realms hardest hit by the Bank Panic were those who most enthusiastically supported the Republic's formation, and, had the closest ties to its government- the Capellan Confederation hardly felt it at all, while the Federated Suns, and, the Lyran Commonwealth, took nearly a decade to recover..."
-From "Business As War: A Compiled study on the formation of the New Economy" Kittery Press, 3120

Falcon Base, Drylands, December 14, 3063...

Nathan was smiling when he came down from the "Bridge".
"You look like your Opponent ejected without firing a shot, Star Captain Roshak, what did he do?" Star Captain Pershaw asked. Nathan favoured him with that smile, and, said, "Morgan asked for SafCon to the battle site, he is bringing forty infantrymen, we will finish the bidding there."
Pershaw whistled low- "I take it he already bid away heavier assets, quiaff?"
Nathan chuckled, "Worse, he bid his own Battle Armour away, said he would not need it."
Pershaw looked warily at the other Star Captain, "I thought you wanted to take him alive, quiaff?"
Nathan sighed, "I do, which is why I am going to bid him down to unaugmented combat, with the losers as Isorla, in addition to the thing they have demanded possession of."
Pershaw's eyes lit up- "He has only what, fifteen Elemental Breed Warriors remaining?"
Nathan nodded, "That is correct- the more men he brings to battle, the greater our advantage, even if they outnumber our elementals two to one." He was happy, for a change, and, Pershaw could see it. "You miss Morgan Icaza, quiaff?" he asked. Nathan nodded, "Aff, and, He will be returned to us... I have been reviewing our battles with this 'Light Infantry' of his- they are already halfway ours. Washburn hill just proved that, and, the bulk of his young Fledgling warriors will make a fine addition to a Garrison Cluster, once the final polishing has been applied." Pershaw gave Nathan a quizzical look, "What will you do with them once you have them?" he asked.
Nathan laughed again, "I will make Morgan and the others finish training them, as their Falconers, He seems to do the job well."
Pershaw thought on this- and, slowly, his face split into a broad smile, "Clever... clever of him, cleverer of you... You set into this for the long haul, quiaff?"
Nathan nodded, "Aff, I planned this out with Morgan before the Deception in Minsky's Folly, as a 'go to hell' plan in case they actually managed to somehow defeat us-though I was going to work it from the inside, it never even occurred to me that they would let us get established and reinforced before making their move."
Pershaw looked thoughtful, and, said, "Will that skull-faced Kommandant of theirs be coming along for the ride?"
Nathan nodded, "Aff, I had our database on the locals checked- the one we took in Nha Tran, not the ones that were erased locally. She was a fine soldier once, and, she lost her face to the Wolves on Tamar- I will grant her Hegira, when we win, she is too old and broken down to be Bonded."
Pershaw nodded again, "Excellent, you have thought of everything, then...It will be most interesting to see what our forces bid to face forty-one unarmed infantrymen."


Washburn Hill, 0630, December 15, 3063...

The Light Infantry arrived in groups via helicopter, the choppers headed back to their base in safety. Nathan waited, as the infantrymen on the far side of the hill stacked arms, and, were checked by their own officers for weapons.
Morgan and Kommandant Mosovich were the last to arrive.
"Greetings, Morgan Icaza and Evelyn Mosovich." Nathan said, as the two, dressed in clean battle-utility uniforms, reached the top of the hill, where he and Star Captain Pershaw waited.
"Greetings, Star Captain Nathan Roshak, and, Star Captain Julius Pershaw." Morgan announced.
Closer up, and, in good light, Evelyn did not look so sickly, though her badly-rebuilt face still gave her the image of a zombified corpse. Her staring optical implants did not detract from the appearance. To be fair, though, she is not so ugly as I am told the Hell's Horses Khan Fletcher is... Nathan noted silently. "Shall we start the bidding, then?" Nathan asked. Morgan nodded, "aff, what is your bid to defend?" he asked. Nathan grinned, "I bid away all my heavy assets, Battlemechs, Protomechs, and, Battle suits, in observation that you have already bid away your own battlesuit. We will defend with the Elementals of Strider One, reinforced with fifteen 'Mechwarriors from the reconstituted Alpha trinary, plus myself, and, Star Captain Pershaw here."
Nathan grinned, as he added, "We choose to conduct the battle un-augmented, if you agree to this."
Morgan smiled, "Aff, it shall be un-augmented, any warrior captured by either side becomes Isorla."
Nathan was ready for this condition, "Agreed, with one condition, I wish to extend, pre-emptorially, Hegira to your Commanding Officer, out of respect for her time as a prisoner of Clan Wolf." at this, Evelyn laughed, "Star Captain, when you stated unaugmented as a condition, you automatically dis-qualified me from participation, along with five others, including PFC Owens..." she took her gloves off, and Nathan saw her hands- they were more made of titanium and Myomers, than flesh and blood. "Out of respect for the tradition, therefore, I must bid myself out of the running, along with those five who are wearing prosthetic limbs due to injuries in combat."
Pershaw and Nathan exchanged glances, Nathan shrugged, "Acceptable, Kommandant, you, and, those of your warriors you have bid away, will be matched by the five Warriors from our Sweep Star. You may remain to observe the combat, and, you will retain the right to return to your own base after the battle is settled, win or lose." Evelyn nodded, "Thank you, Star Captain, I am Honoured by your decision, and, I accept your offer."
They haggled over the remaining details, finally deciding on a method that would ensure that things would not break out into a general melee. The battle would be fought one at a time, within a twelve-meter circle, and, would be best two falls out of three.
after the final words, "Bargained Well and done" were spoken, Morgan and Evelyn returned to their own lines.
Before they were in hearing of their own men, Evelyn said, "You are going to watch over my boys if y'all lose, like we agreed, quiaff?"
Nathan nodded, "Aff, I expect to win, but, if I lose, I will still watch out for those who have been bonded with me."
Evelyn nodded, "Good, You are a good man, Morgan, I'll hate t'see you go, an' I hope I don' have t' kill you later."
Morgan laughed, "I do not look forward to seeing you through a targeting reticle either! come, we must brief the men..."

The sky was clear, for once, it was going to be an absolutely Gorgeous day.
Daniels Avenger                Clan Coyote
General Jennifer Daniels    Galaxy Commander Jim Skyes
                                        Omicron Galaxy
Clan Wolf in Exile
328th Assault Cluster(the Lion Hearted)
Star Captain James Sword

wolfcannon

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"...Principle known as the 'Business is war" model is best shown by the conduct of such entities as Ngo Industries, Bannson Inc. and, General Electric of Andurien. The best example, indeed, the oldest example of a company run on this principle, is Ngo Industries, a corporation that, even today, jealously guards both its Trade Secrets, and, its Market share, the former with a combination of Policies and firepower, the latter with an aggressive marketing and support-base. Ngo Industries builds internal loyalties within its ranks, and, has many Loyal customers still, because they neither compromise in their negotiations, nor, in their quality of Product and Services. While Ngo industries is no longer as large, or, as diverse, as it was at its peak size in 3065, it remains, in spite of, (Or, perhaps, because of) the company's refusal to conduct trade in, or, with, the Republic of The Sphere..."
-Professor Lodwin Nazareth, "From the Battlefield to the Boardroom, an overview of Peace, Politics, and, Business",
Nagelring University, Lyran Commonwealth, 3115

Little Yangtze Valley, December 16, 3063...

The Hydrofoils raced up the river, their VTOLs sweeping ahead. From the shore, Clan Warriors watched- the river was wide, and, the shots would be both difficult, and, ultimately, unrewarding- the fast boats were well-armoured, and, their projectile weapons, while puny and underpowered, seemed to hit every time they fired, while the wave-bounce made them difficult targets, even with Large Lasers. The VTOLs were, for the most part, unarmed craft with the word "Rescue" painted in large, easily seen, letters.
"We need to get closer." Star Commander Vincent Icaza said, as the last of the four hydrofoil cutters cleared a bend in the river, headed south again. He flexed his Battlesuit's Manipulator claw in irritation as he stood on the bank, watching the boats' wake wash against the point. "Aff, we do, but... how? this is the narrowest the River gets at Flood Stage, and, there are no Barges or boats large enough for us to use..." His nearest subordinate, Point Leader Michael, was also irritated- the 'mechs were ninety Kilometers away, preparing for the offensive against Nha Tran. "We need 'Mechs." Vincent said firmly. It was a painful admission- the Hydrofoils could sit, in the centre of the channel, and, rain fire on his Elementals with impunity, safe from retribution by the width of the river's floodstage, and, safe from waterborne battlemechs by the steepness of the river's channel... wait- there is another option... The Elemental suddenly smiled. "I think, I have an answer... You recall, Michael, that there were hovertanks that we captured in Dak-To in October, quiaff?"
The other Elemental nodded, "Aff, four surrendered undamaged. You are not seriously considering using those... things, Quineg?"
Vincent's grin grew broader, "AFF, I am, as a means to bring us within range to strike at those little boats, all we really require of them is their lift-capacity and engines- to take a point across the river, close enough for us to leap upon them and tear them apart. Those crews can not be armed to face Elementals on their own boats."
Michael was clearly thinking about this, he was silent, then, he asked, "Who will we trust to pilot those transports? we have no Freebirths or Solahma..."
Vincent shrugged, "First, Michael, we must convince our Commander to allow us to use them- then, we may be able to get a technician to drive it, or, perhaps, we could put one or two of the Bondsmen through a gauntlet, and, make him just warrior enough to drive for us."
Michael snorted, "That is a risky plan, Star Commander...but, if it stops those...things, I will support it."
The valley echoed again with the sound of twin Diesel engines, and, four more Cutters zipped past, outside the Elemental's range, firing twin 20mm guns as they rounded the point, spalling armour from several members of the Star.
"We have to do something, those little shots are becoming irritating." Vincent said.

Panty Raids...we're doing nothing but panty raids... Leutnant Mai Huyn thought, as her squad raced past the Point bar where an Elemental Star had set up to try and harass the river-patrols. The original purpose of all these passes, was to let the Villagers upriver know that the KCG had not forgotten them, and, that there were forces coming- it was a "Show the Flag" action. So far, the Cutters had mostly gained, as far as she could tell, dings in their armour and a chance to practice gunnery skills against shore targets.
Oh well, if they REALLY want to be pop-ups for us... "Guns, Slew left, take aim on that group of Battlesuits, an' say hello." She ordered. The twin 20mms slewed left, and, fired with the sound of ripping cloth. She was rewarded by one of the suits staggering back for a few steps, but, the anemic rounds failed to do significant damage. Well...next time, we load up with some of those AP's, see if they can take that! She gave the point-bank, with its large group of elementals, the one-finger salute, as the flotilla passed around the bend in the river at 40 Kilometers per hour.
They won't be bleedin' arrogant when the Monitors show up... she thought, as a few SRMs splashed and exploded in her wake, fired by Clanners aggravated by the passes.
Yeah, Eat me, Toad, you can't swim...
The choppers called in, reporting that the Clanners further up-river had a pair of their 'Mechs walking into the channel.
not without backup, at least... She changed stations, as an afterthought, "Gator, this is Salmon Two, Fire order as follows: I need a ground-burst on point Bank 134 North of Firebase, Repeat Three, Over." Three rounds from the Long Tom on a known location, we'll be well clear of it by the time the shot arrives... "Roger Salmon Two, Point Bank 134, Ground Burst, Repeat Three, shots away." The radio crackled. There, that oughta get 'em worried, at least.
She listened in on the artillery channel, as one of the Helos called in a fire-order further north, where the Battlemechs were standing hip-deep, waiting to ambush the boats.
She switched back to the squad frequency, and, said,
"all Salmon, swim to the turnaround, and, prep fishies."
it was going to be a busy day.

"I recall, at the time, thinking that Morgan had played a horribly devious trick on me. Certainly Pershaw thought so, though now that I have had some time to think on it on my own, it made a certain kind of sense. The majority religion east of the Drylands was Christian, not much was recorded in the databases about what the Western settlements practiced, but, with a global population split that left more than 80% of the people being at least partially of Asian decent. I found out later, from one of the ones we did take as bondsman, that part of the reason their training was so short, was that many of the skills that take the longest to transfer were already present. I really should have anticipated it, I mean, the villagers certainly did have quite a few folk dances, and they insisted in using ancient, manual tools in cultivation, like Scythes, flails, and, sais..."
-"The Kowloon Campaign, 3063-64" Turkina Press, 3071

Washburn Hill, December 16, 3063...

The first match up was between a PFC Huyn, (His file noted that his mother was part of the River Squadron of the KCGM),and, 'Mechwarrior Susan. Susan was partly Elemental Stock, and, placed highly in her trial of position, but, not so highly that she achieved a rank above 'Mechwarrior.
PFC Huyn was... less impressive, physique wise. At just over 1.6 meters tall. The two Warriors stepped into the circle.
PFC Huyn came to attention, and, gave a shallow bow, Susan tried to use the motion as a distraction, swinging for his head with a straight-arm punch, the Militia Private's bow was just low enough, and, he rolled up under her punch, to deliver an elbow to her solar plexus, as his foot swept under and behind hers- The big 'Mechwarrior went down hard, landing on her right shoulderblade with a grunt. The boy delivered an open-handed blow to her as she tried to lever herself up, catching her with knees bent, overbalancing the 'Mechwarrior again, this time half-risen from the ground, her feet shot out from under her as her head struck the ground of the circle. "Palm strike, I didn't know Mai had time to teach him that..." Evelyn commented, Nathan turned to look at the Militia commander. "Excuse me?" he asked. The skull-like face turned to look at him, "I said, I am surprised his mother had time to teach him that move-what with her duties in the Brownwater Squadron. That makes two falls in... five seconds. Per the terms...Besides, she looks like she's out." Nathan nodded stiffly, "aff, Noted, first victory to the Militia."
Two of the militiamen entered the circle and brought 'Mechwarrior Susan out on a stretcher.

The Next fight was between two Elementals, and, it went to the Jade Falcons after almost ten minutes of furious pounding.
"Our win." Nathan commented, Evelyn agreed, and, said, "Elaine was a good NCO, I will be sad to lose her."

The next pairing, was another 'mechwarrior, against another of the Militia infantry. 'Mechwarrior Stanley was more cautious than Susan, he did not attempt to strike at the bow.
Thomas Han was another short Private First Class, his movements were fluid, the two seemed a good match up, and then, Evelyn commented, "Tommy's always been so slow as a learner..." Stanley did a side-spin kick that has dropped Elementals before. It landed on PFC Han's chest, and, stopped with what looked like bone-jarring force. Thomas didn't even shift. Evelyn continued, more for Nathan's benefit, "...He never could dodge very well, I had to teach him to take hits, because he isn't quite fast enough to avoid it..." Stanley was now limping, as he circled the smaller man, and, there was look of frustration on his face. PFC Han's face was serene, and, his hands were still in a relaxed position at his sides. "Is he not going to do anything?" Pershaw demanded. Evelyn shrugged, "Tommy will, when he thinks it is time, he takes a while to decide."
Stanley rushed the PFC from the side, a grappling attack. He let out a yelp, as he found himself landing, face-first, inches from the edge of the circle. PFC Han resumed his relaxed, standing, position. Nathan watched this incredulously- as Evelyn said, "That's one." 'Mechwarrior Stanley got up, shaking his hand as if to clear them, and, rushed the smaller man again. This time, Thomas moved, his left leg coming up, passing close beside the 'mechwarriors ribs, coming down, and, the right coming up. "Scissors kick, I guess Tommy's tired of being hit." Evelyn said, as the 'mechwarrior gave a yelp, and, hit the dirt face-first. "And, that's two. Like I said, Tommy was always such slow learner." Evelyn commented.
Nathan sighed, and, asked her, "Why do you keep saying that?"
There was a slight twitch in one myomer bundle fastened to the jaw, the equivalent of a smirk, Nathan guessed, as she replied, "Oh, I was his Sensei from the time he was five. Him, Eddie Vahn, a few others in our village... Morgan said you would want to face our best, and Vin-Drin-Lap has the best open hands techniques in the Western district." Her electronic voice was steady, emotionless, but, there was a pride of place there. The next match was between Elementals again, this time, the action was short, Morgan Icaza tossed the Elemental Star Commander out of the circle in one move. It was not a manuever he learned from the Jade Falcons. "I- he-?" Nathan turned to the expressionless skull-faced Kommandant. "He learns quickly." she said, "It took only three weeks for him to pick up the basics, usually an adult has to un-learn things first."
This...is going to be, a disaster... Nathan thought. "Who else have you been teaching, among the Elementals?" he asked.
Evelyn shrugged, "Elaine did not want to, a few others did, you will see, some, who wish to return to you, will go, others, who do not, will not. That was one, if you wish, your man may try again?"
The other Elemental was already re-entering the ring, looking somewhat embarassed.
Morgan had him laid out in under two seconds.
"Hauptmann Icaza wins."
The rest of the day ran much the same- against the 'Mechwarriors, the infantrymen cleaned up, losing only four of their number,while gaining nearly ten.
among the Elementals, the Jade Falcons came out, generally, ahead, losing only five, and, gaining ten.
"Even split, Star Captain, Your match is the final one."
Nathan nodded, and, glanced at Pershaw, who was busy acquainting his new Bondsman to her duties.
"Great..." He stepped into the ring, and, looked at his opponent. "Private First Class Andrea Wong."
She was calm, confident, and, about half his age.
It was like fighting a blender.
All the way up until he landed his first punch.
"Glass Jaw, She never learned to roll with that kind of punch." Evelyn commented dryly.
Nathan wiped his nose, and, saw that it was bleeding, "She will." He told the Kommandant, adding, "You should gather your command, and, your Isorla- the remains are in those containers there-" He pointed at a pair of stainless-steel burial cannisters, adding, "We took the liberty of cremating them before you called upon us with your challenge. The Genetic samples are in the cold-binder next to the cannisters, You may have until Sun-set tomorrow to return to your lines."
Evelyn gave a smooth, deep bow, and, said, "You fought excellently, Star Captain, I am honoured to have made your acquaintance."
Daniels Avenger                Clan Coyote
General Jennifer Daniels    Galaxy Commander Jim Skyes
                                        Omicron Galaxy
Clan Wolf in Exile
328th Assault Cluster(the Lion Hearted)
Star Captain James Sword

wolfcannon

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"...really, it was, in its own way, viciously unethical, if not criminal- the opposition to the Archon's reform Program was centred primarily in the big industrial firms, not among the common people, though many in the Periphery border regions, and, along the Jade Falcon and Wolf borders, were hostile to it as well. It was different than the Skye revolts, because of two things: First, the worlds raising the biggest hue and cry were not of a common ethnic or cultural background, and, secondly, because, unlike the Skye revolts, there was no open terrorism or other violence to crack down on-other than open refusals to turn in weapons.
The Archon's first answer was to crack down on suppliers of parts and ammunition- the response was, of course, Black Monday, in twenty-seven hours, nineteen arms manufacturers went out of business, and the LCAF's predecessor, the LAAF, suddenly found it extremely difficult to obtain spares- Groves Manufacturing reneged on their contracts, with the statement that the Archon refused to meet their prices or deal with them fairly, Defiance found it difficult to obtain certain parts as well-though their exports out of the Commonwealth continued unabated until Trade Restrictions were imposed. In other realms, this might not have happened the way it did, but, in Lyran space, commerce ground to a near halt, with the main victim being the Lyran Government and it's military..."
-Saltov "Post Jihad: the Internal Trade War", Tharkad Press interstellar, 3116

Groves Number Four, Nha Tran, December 15, 3063...

"We got the Powder sifters repaired, we're back in business." Theopolis Maltev, one of Elizabeth's Ngo industries Engineering team, was quite proud of himself.
"Excellent, how are the installations for the Third Line going?" she asked. He made a slight nod, and, said, "The tooling is in, we've cleared the bugs out of the power systems, and, we're 65% on loading up the software, in another few days, that line will be ready, with the exception of a couple of things." Elizabeth frowned, "what...'Things' are we missing?" she asked.
"You need workers." He said.
Elizabeth sighed, "and that means talking to the Union reps...right. I take it they want something?" she asked.
Maltev nodded, "Yes, they want a special 'Letter of Understanding', something about Seniority protections and, um... 'Job Security'."
Elizabeth nodded slowly- Union negotiations... "Fine, Theo, have the Union's Business Rep come by my house tonight." The Engineer looked relieved- Line Three had become his pet project almost as soon as he saw the Groves Facility. It was largely automated, and, laid out in a manner that guaranteed it would be more efficient, from raw-materials to finished goods, than any facility currently operating. The Union was being sticky, however, because the new production line would require a smaller number of workers-and, that meant that there would be fewer Steward's jobs available, and, the representation would be of a more 'Technical' class of workers. And, Techs get paid higher wages than mere Machinists and Assistants do... Elizabeth sighed, Hartman's probably worried I'll have the rest of the plant done the same way-then, lay everyone off... I don't need wildcat strikes, not now. She picked up the phone, and, dialed her Corporate offices. "Joe, check my 'Dex, see if you can find a local construction contractor with a good rep, and, see who we're going to have to bribe to waive the Enviros on a Plant Expansion...hold it, forget that, get a Real Estate Agent, with a Geologist, I think I want to put some development money into the Western District, sooner or later, this damn planet's going make us some money, I'm betting later... yeah, about six thousand Hectares worth... uh-huh, yeah... this war is gonna end, I intend to win it, an' I want this place profitable after I do... Ciao hon."
put another factory on the planet, an' the Nha-Tran local can't whine about it... after that, let 'em strike.
Elizabeth stepped out of the Plant, into the gray overcast. "Huh, looks like it might rain..." she commented out loud, as the first sprinkles came down.
I've GOT to teach these people the Germanium Rule: She who has the Germanium, Makes the Rules...

"During the Star League, the Money was backed by Germanium, which was, and, to an extent, still is, the most valuable metal to modern Interstellar Trade. After the fall of the Star League, currencies proliferated, and, as the Succession Wars dragged on, that proliferation of notes drove up the value of the metal, while, at the same time, driving their own value down. Currency exchanges between Houses became somewhat less possible, as well, creating a fluctuating negative-value market in House bills.
Comstar Stepped forward with their "Certificate of Service" early on. It was backed by a tangible product of definite utility, and, availability-through Comstar itself. The C-Bill became the most stable of the Post-Cameron Dynasty currencies, eventually becoming both more valuable than notes issued by Houses, and, more universally accepted. After the Word of Blake split, and, the subsequent conquest of Terra, there was a slight devaluation, as two entities printed the same notes, in greater quantities. However, even so, the C-Bill, whether issued by the Blakist, or, "old", Comstar Regime, was still worth more than House Bills issued, even by the wealthy Free Worlds League, and, the Lyran Alliance/Federated Commonwealth. After the Blakist Jihad, the C-Bill went into a short period of decline, as did a number of House Currencies, a period which ended only six months before the Bank Panic known as "Black Monday". In the period immediately after Black Monday, several entities issued their own notes of credit, many of which were worth more, again, than the House Currencies, due to the confidence the public held in their stability and value. Most of these "Pseudo Currencies" were backed by... Germanium.
The issuers of these "G-Bonds" actually had the stocks of Germanium on-hand, and, the means to defend those stocks, which, in turn, meant that those issuers had a lever on the financial markets- Bannson and Associates (later Bannson Industries), was one of the major banking houses issuing G-Bonds, which they exchanged for devalued currencies at a rate well in excess of today's prices, which stabilized after only a handful of years. Ngo Industries also participated in the G-Bond market, and, it was this participation, that provoked Archon Peter Steiner Davion's Government into the belief that, somehow, Ngo Industries was behind the Black Monday Market Crash, and, the economic Recession that followed. One of the noted quotes made by Prosecutor General William Steiger, is that "She coined the term 'Germanium Rule', in which those who have Germanium, make the rules..." in his indictment papers, filed some 24 hours before the escape attempt that cost Ms Ngo her life..."
-From josef Lundt's introduction to "A Survey of Currency Values", Wall Street Publications, Terra, 3107

Kowloon Militia Headquarters, Nha Tran, 16, October, 3063, 1400 hours...

"Alright Davies, what've you got for me?" Elizabeth asked.
Davies smiled, "Colonel, Vin-Drin-Lap is now Coast Guard Base Vin-Drin-Lap, and, shelling of Clan positions along the Little Yangtze has already begun. Oh, and, Task Force One just traded ten Elementals for nine 'Mechwarriors. apparently, the match was a win for our guys- they beat Roshak's agreed upon spread by thirty percent." Davies was happy, Elizabeth just frowned, "How many of OUR people are in their hands now?" she asked.
His cheerful mood dropped like a rock- "Five."
She sighed, looked at him with irritation, and, said, "well, if the damn Falcons don't kill 'em, we can get 'em back, at least. I want to see this new Coast Guard base tomorrow, what's our status on the Ground offensive, can we count on the Aerospace Guys to finally clear their fighter cover enough to make a go of it?"
Davies shook his head, "No, We're ahead by sheer numbers right now, but, I'm losing three for every two we knock out, we need more fighters, and, we ain't got 'em."
Elizabeth nodded, "I see, how many more would shift that balance?" she asked. Davies thought for a moment, "Two more Companies of something heavier, say, Shilones or Transits, might do it."
she frowned, "I'll see what I can get in by January, can our Air units hold out until then?"
Davies shrugged, "If the Clanners don't get reinforcements, yes, if they do, No."
She sighed, "Good enough. What's our breakage on the river raids?"
Davies grinned, "so far, we have lost not a single Naval unit."
She kept her neutral expression, and, said, "Excellent, send Kommandant Li my compliments, and, inform her I will be arriving at her location tomorrow at...." she did a brief mental calculation, "...Thirteen Hundered Hours, by Chopper."
Davies froze, "Isn't that a bit risky?"
Now, She smiled, "Leutnant Colonel, Business is all about risk."
He sighed, "Yes ma'am..."
She gestured over at Shel, "Don't have her send it, I'm takin' your Corporal with me, I need a secretary and a bagman, an' Humphfries has other duties."
I want you where I can see you.

"Kowloon, on the very edge of the Periphery... Would you believe it, Kowloon. Kowloon has the biggest, nastiest, planetary Militia short of Tharkad...And mean? These guys must've taken lessons on nasty from...I don't know who.
Lemme tellya something, don't raid there, don't even look like you're there to raid. Here's how it broke down for some associates of mine: they hit the place using a pirate-point, an' before their systems had recovered fully, they were bein' Jumped by Aerospace fighters- an' not the junk the Lyrans issue to their Theatre Militia, either, these were top-line units, they cut the Jumpship's core out, and, chopped hell out of the dropship, then, their damn ground-pounders showed up, right after they shelled the dropzone for ten minutes. By the time the Tanks and Ground pounders showed up, there wasn't two Battlemechs still working,an' the dropships needed serious repair before they'd be able to lift at all. After a short firefight, the Locals dragged us- I mean, my associates, off to be questioned. They didn't even bother to find out who we were before they attacked... There ain't nothing on that rock that's worth ever goin' back, even if they do have the stuff..."
-Overheard in a bar on Antallos, March, 3119

Little Yangtze River, Kowloon...

The Power Squadron was coming up-river. Leutnant Mai Huyn heard it in the briefings this morning, but, she was still surprised to see the polished hulls coming up-river to continue the Harassment raids her own Patrol had already been carrying out. The Clanners had not appreciated the fireworks, and, according to her own Airmobile pilots, were bringing up proof of that disapproval in the form of a number of Omnimechs that would reach the riverbank at Hue, about the time that she rounded point Bank 134.
"Ahoy, Blue Water Sailors, come to get your feet dirty!!!" she said into the P.A., simultaneously pulling the chain for the fog-horn. Answering honks from the Power Squadron's boats, and various comments about "the enemy's that way!!!" There was laughter both directions. There was laughter. she checked the guages- there was still an hour's fuel remaining.
"Sorry Boys, we've got a date with the fuelers..."
The hydros passed within decimeters of each other, close enough for crews to pass Hi-Fives.
Point Bank 134 was still smouldering as the small ships passed it, and, a mobile Field Hospital was already prepping to move out of the area. "They look like they had a busy day..." Gun-Sargeant Claypool commented, Mai turned. "Yeah, I'm surprised they found any of those mummers alive after that pounding." she replied. He chuckled, and flourished his cybernetic replacement hand, "Elementals take a lot of killin' before they go down, I expect that Mash's Escort boys had some work to do before the docs could check on the casualties..."
Suddenly, the river got a lot narrower. "BATTLEMECHS!!! EVASIVE ACTION, NOW!!!" Mai Shouted into the comsystem.

The small craft broke their formation, rising up on their foils, and, began a squirming formation. They are fast, but, limited to the water course... Nathan thought, as he brought his targeting reticle into line on the closest of the boats. Something popped out of the small boat's bow, and, five streamers of cavitation raced at him. Good, you fired first... Nathan waited for the range to close, the small boat was still out of his range, then, it swung in close, and fired again.
Long range, but... his finger tightened on the firing stud- and, he was rewarded, as his right-hand Large Pulse lazer scored armour from the hull. Then, his damage monitors lit up. Penetration? in my Center Torso? from THAT??.
Nathan linked weapons, and, fired- missing his target by several meters, as the small ships moved, and, artillery began falling. On the other side of the river, the Night Gyr's Extended Range PPC slashed across the trailing cutter, detonating its magazines in a series of flashes.
Daniels Avenger                Clan Coyote
General Jennifer Daniels    Galaxy Commander Jim Skyes
                                        Omicron Galaxy
Clan Wolf in Exile
328th Assault Cluster(the Lion Hearted)
Star Captain James Sword

wolfcannon

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As the small boats vanished, Nathan's audio pickups detected a whistling, "ARTILLERY!!!" he warned the Star, as the river itself erupted , along with the banks on either side. This was no mere cluster of Thumpers, as the earlier barrages had been-no, this was Arrow-IV and Long-Tom work, some of the detonations were in the water, the 'mechs that had not yet climbed up from the bottom of the channel started reporting damage from the overpressure wave, as his legs began registering hits to the armour. They set the detonators on the shells to go off under high pressure! He realized this as one of the artillery rounds hit the shore, buried itself, and, kicked out a gout of soil that rained softly on his Turkina's undamaged upper body. "Fall back, Fall Back, we will regroup farther up the river!" he shouted, and, heard 'Mechwarrior Rex Pryde scream- "I'm Breached, I can't get ou-" followed by the crackle of electrical systems shorting. More rounds fell, joined now by the lighter shells of thumper-guns, set to burst where, in most cases, artillery is supposed to- above the level of the ground.
Great Father, how many guns do they HAVE??? He backed his Turkina up the bank, and, saw the damage on the monitors-now that the view was not obscured by opaque, muddy, water. His left leg was almost totally nude, the Myomers and internal structure exposed in a line that almost exactly followed the level of the water's surface. One other 'Mech from the Star made it to the shore, 'Mechwarrior Natalie's Summoner- it looked as if it had been used-and, abused, by some huge, 'Mech-crushing predator, very little of her armour was undamaged, and, water drained from her left arm's weapon pod, the ER PPC had been, not only breached, but, crushed, until it dangled on connector cables. Her 'Mech limped, as well, water dripping from breaches along the left leg. another airburst from a thumper, and, the shattered arm-pod was gone, along with both SRM packs, in small explosions. "Rex?" he asked.
She replied, over a crackling com-channel, "Crushed, I was able to see it, the burst overpressure wave cleared the silt from the water for a moment, his cockpit was crushed, his 'mech is insalvageable. Damien will also not be joining us- his Mad Dog was too close to one of the warheads when it went off... this is madness, Star Captain, we must get to a repair site, I have almost no weapons left, and, the one weapon I have, I can not aim properly- my right arm's elbow actuator is frozen."
He thought for a moment, "You Can jump, quiaff?"
he was leading her Northward, along the road, to the Trinary's position overlooking Hue.
"Neg, look at my back-" she said, and, he did- the pods and armour had been smashed. Okay, they realized WE would use the river, as well... I wonder who came up with the idea of desensitizing the artillery rounds... "You will live, we must make time, if the enemy realizes our damaged condition, they will seek to exploit it. Carl made it out of the river on the opposite bank. I think this can be, officially, a Bad Day, Quiaff?"
Natalie's voice laughed in his headset, and, Nathan relaxed a bit. "Aff, Star Captain. We have to deal with that cursed Artillery platform soon, I think."
Aff... indeed. I think Von Jankmon had better be ready to strike that platform... those Boats grow too numerous... too numerous by far.

"...on worlds where the bulk of the valuable minerals are off-shore, Planetary Governments have found it necessary for units of their Militia to be water-specialists. In most of these cases, Battlemechs, and, hovercraft, are used to fill this role. This leaves something of a "wild west" situation on worlds with open seas, however. Most Hovercraft, Hovertanks, and, the like, can only venture a short distance out to sea before wave-action swamps them. Similarly, Battlemechs, like every other machine, have a Crush Depth that keeps them from venturing out into the deep waters far off of a coast. while much patrolling can be done by aircraft, and, observation can be done by Dropships, both these options are very expensive in the long term, and, can rapidly consume the operating budgets of even well-to-do worlds.
Watercraft are not, therefore, extinct. House Davion builds submarines to service their underwater command posts, the Isle of Skye once built sleek, fast, hydrofoil patrol-boats to defend their bays and deep lakes.
Kowloon, a world much poorer than either of these, nevertheless has one of the largest Militia Fleets in the Inner Sphere- paid for, in part, by Resource Extraction concerns working the Gulf of Giap and the North Coast Equatorial waterway. One of the main reasons for this, is that the Kowloon Coast Guard Militia has, in its charter, one additional function most Planetary Militias do not take responsibility for;
The KCGM conducts Emergency Services/Search and Rescue operations. This additional function means that it draws funding not only from the Defense budget, but, also from Emergency Services, Department of Transportation, and, voluntary fees paid by off-world mining and extraction operations. With a tight, streamlined, small, and, inexpensive (salary wise) chain of command, this organisation has a well-developed reputation for public service and quick response, and, (because most raiding occurs inland) almost no reputation whatsoever for combat operations.
But, they have, generally, a lot of time to train..."
-Phillip Ryder, "Survey of Militia Strength", Nagelring Academy Press, 3057

Hue, December 21, 3063, 0430 Hours...

Hue village was situated on a highland during the dry season, as one of the oldest 'Villes in the Little Yangtze valley, Hue possessed, during the Monsoons, one of the best harbours on the river. Oilfish, Fen-Lung, and, bronzescale fisheries flourished when the water rose, while the upland rice paddies grew at a prodigious rate. What made Hue important to Star Captain Roshak, though, was something else entirely- Hue had Hardened structures and a Fusion Plant for power, making it the natural choice for a Military Headquarters in the Western district. The bulk of the population were docile, as well- the Omniss Creed was widely practiced in Hue, coupled with a pacific form of Buddhism that meant his warriors were, for the most part, safe to walk the streets in their uniforms-they would not be molested or attacked by Terrorist Resistance. Right now, Nathan was looking out over a parapet, watching the fishing boats glide by- the KCGM's patrol boats ran past the peaceful city without firing on its Clan occupiers. Nathan knew why.
"Peaceful, quiaff?" Pershaw asked from behind him. Nathan nodded without turning around, "Aff, you know, it is very Ironic, the Surat Coasties will not fire on this place,where they know we are, merely because the Civilians asked them not to. These people make my head ache."
Pershaw laughed, but, like Nathan, his eyes trailed a flotilla of slower Monitors, sluggish, flat-bottomed boats armed with large-bore autocannon, as they trailed their faster "Cutter" brethren, which were carrying out fast strikes against the reinforced Stars holding Bin-Lat. "I wonder if I made the right choice, agreeing to Hue as a cease-fire zone."
Nathan said, conversationally. Pershaw leaned against the low wall, and, said, "The town is well-turned out, the people practically fall over themselves with the proper respect, and, the enemy offered not to fire on it. They almost ceded it to us... One of my Merchants was going over the local trade and tax rolls, we could pull everything in, here, and, be self-sufficient for decades, only needing to import ammunition and weapons... there is agricultural and fisheries enough to feed ten times this population." Nathan turned to Pershaw, "Establish a formal Enclave, Here? Neg, the Planetary Assembly will soon do away with that agreement, they have no choice in that, allowing us an enclave here now, means that later, when more of our Clansmen are free to arrive... they would be going against their own Archon."
Pershaw laughed, "Indeed? The rest of the Lyran Alliance is fighting a Civil war, intercepted and captured information says it is both bloody, and, vicious, enough so that their Melissia Theatre command is unable to field sufficient forces to stop our incursions, indeed, Chahar fell to our Clansmen before I arrived."
Nathan sighed, and, watched the water traffic.
a group of six "Cutters", no longer polished, gleaming, white and red, limped southward. He noticed that the two in the middle had extensive damage to their superstructures and turrets, and, they wallowed along, not the high-riding sprint of perfectly tuned machines, now, but, the damaged waddle of crippled engines and leaking hulls.
a small halo of helicopters flew escort to the damaged vessels, still untouched, the red-and-white Ferret VTOLs were, according to reports, not merely spotting for artillery and scouting ahead, but, also, medevacing wounded from both sides to field hospitals, and, had drawn one of Pershaw's 'mechwarriors from the river itself, after a crosswind threw his ejection parafoil into the water.
'Mechwarrior Kevin was back with Pershaw, the VTOL had brought him here, after the medics treated his injuries, on its way back to Kowloonese held territory. According to the 'mechwarrior, the other passenger on board was a badly burnt infantryman, a survivor of a Cutter's destruction.
The Helo was marked "Search and Rescue", and, the light craft was utterly unarmed.
"We hold the Interior, we control more than half the River valley, and our enemies bring our injured comrades back to us, and, allow us a safe haven that we could strike from at any time...Nathan, has it occurred to you that the enemy might be dragging this out on purpose?" Pershaw asked.
Nathan nodded, "Aff, Paul, it has, indeed, occurred to me. What I can not quite wrap my hand around, is...why? Why do they wish to draw this conflict out? They outnumber us, they have units we do not, tactics we do not, what appears an unlimited supply of ammunition, and, they do not lack the will to do battle, yet, they hold back." He shook his head in frustration, adding, "It is like Coventry, in a way- they strike at us, and, at the edge, before they destroy us, they back off, and, give us a safe haven..." Pershaw nodded, and, his expression seemed to change, his lips drawing upward, "I think you have it, Nathan Roshak, Coventry- what did you do on Coventry? What was the purpose of the whole Coventry invasion?"
Understanding slammed into Nathan like a thunderbolt.
"They are Testing their Warriors and tactics!! They are using us as a Proving ground!" He slammed his fist into the low wall, as pieces of the puzzle fell into place, "The Infantry Morgan was training- they were not finished with their Basic Infantry course when they were sent to fight us, and, the officers of that task force acted as trainers. They are using the battles against us as training..." somehow, the idea of being kept as a means of testing was abhorrent, but, it made so much sense...
Pershaw nodded along, and, when Nathan paused, he said, "...and, Nathan Roshak, that is why there has been no decisive engagements since October. I have had opportunity to discuss this Kowloon Coast Guard Militia with several people locally- they are not known for their combatant skills, they are best known out here for their emergency services, search and rescue efforts, and, for delivering packages during the flood season. There was, before we came, a small detatchment here in Hue, working as the Department of Public Safety's representatives. They were called out to the River Delta, looking for the survivors of a capsized Oil Tanker, the day before your men captured the valley. They were warned to stay away by the Mayor, shortly before your Elementals took the town."
Nathan sighed, and, turned to re-enter the former Militia Headquarters building. "So, I guess that we have all become Falconers to these people, quiaff?" He asked with a bitter, ironic, tone.
Pershaw sighed, "Aff, Has your Tech finished repairing your Turkina?" he asked, changing the subject away from morbid speculations.
"Neg, the river's sediments apparently contained corrosives, the Tech crew has had to strip both legs down to the Structurals to remove corrosion damaged components."
Nathan replied, as they walked through the personnel door.

"There is a relationship between how frequently a world has to fight off Bandits, and, how effective that world's Planetary Militia is. Periphery Border Militias tend to be under-equipped, but, they also tend to be extremely well-seasoned, even when not well trained. When equipment becomes available in large amounts, such units go from being something of a joke, compared to their House Regular counterparts, to something of a nightmare for potential invaders..."
-Professor Sturm Karlburgh, NAIS Military History Department, Lecture of October 14, 3055

Yellowjacket Pass, December 21, 3063...

The VTOL companies came through first, sweeping out in a spread pattern, searching the ground visually. Then, the Tanks came through, four Companies of Pattons, preceeded by one Company of Super-Scorps, occasionally servicing random lumps of suspicious rock. Only after the first wave of the Armour was through, did the Battlemechs come- Heavyweights first, followed by lights. Every SRM tube in the Light Company was loaded with Inferno rounds. The other side of the pass was empty of opposition, however.
Hauptmann Sun-Li Monoghan was quite happy with that arrangement, it meant he would not have to write letters of condolence home, because of an enemy ambush. The Second Regiment, so far, had not 'found' the Clan enemy waiting for them, at least, not the way that those two companies from First Regiment had...

"The hours stretch long into days,
Madness comes,
and brawl most foul,
The Blood of Commoners lost to our plays."

-From Waltz of Nobles, WKLN Recordings, Kowloon, 3069

South Range, 140 Km from Nha Tran, 21 October, 3063...

The Railway had been, in Star League days, used to transport food and goods from the western settlements, to the Star Leaugue Prison. It had also, once, been part of the defensive armament. Then, the Rails had been pulled up, and, the roadbed left to erode. Now, First Regiment was in the mountains, supporting the engineering crews in rebuilding it. In this process, the Ngo Industries Silver team was present as well-guarding the advancing trains, which carried materials forward to the working site. High above, Nigel VonJankmon, in his Scytha omnifighter, orbited, his engines shut down, watching the progress. Why are they building a railway west now, I wonder, this seems an awful waste of men and materiel... five days had come, and, gone, without sight of local Aerospace fighters. The skies were quiet, and, it was this that disturbed him most.
They make good time, almost Forty Kilometers per day... what use is this going to be to them? He noted that a spur was being joined to the main line, running straight into a mountain. He adjusted his position to bring the survellance package to bear- and, saw the entrance of a mine.
Mining, that explains the Corporate troops... well, I have more vital matters to attend to, it is almost time. He fired thrusters, and, began a lazy re-entry spiral, centred on Golden Lake, and, the artificial harbour built of barges there.
Unopposed, this is no fun at all... he thought, arming his missiles after breaking through the first layers of the atmosphere. Once into the lower atmosphere, his threat alarm went off. Ah, there you are! The enemy fighters were on an intercept course, having launched from some hidden island base in the chain of islands framing the mouth of the gulf.

"I see you,
I'm coming for you.
You Can not escape."
-Kell Reid, "Skyhunter", WKLN Records (c) 3075.

61 miles above the Gulf of Giap, northbound.

The Clanners were going to plaster the Coast Guard units with an airstrike. About time they did something, we gave 'em enough rope... Larah Dawson thought to herself, as her Slayer crested on the edge of the Troposphere. The Slayer's profile aiding it in riding shockwaves.
"Guard Wing, take the escorts, I've got that Scytha." she said over the com-channels.
"Roger That, Wing lead." was the reply.
Round Two, Star Captain Von Jankmon- after the humiliations you put me through... she centered her firing reticle on the distant Omnifighter, and, her lips skinned back from her teeth in a predatory grimace, I'm going to dance you into the ground. The Range bands closed down, and, she toggled the release- sending an Arrow-IV airburst warhead, and, at the same time, clearing her hardpoints.

The distant Clan fighter did not have the time, this time, to avoid the shot- a cloud of armour skinned away from his port side, and, the Omnifighter rocked in the sudden turbulence.
"EAT ME!!!" She screamed on an open channel, as the fighter's systems chimed- the Scytha was making a turn to pass, but, it was also now within range. She gently squeezed her triggers, and, a cloud of bomblet-flak from her LBX-10 burst outward, setting flashes on the Clan fighter. Larah snapped into 270 degree vertical nose-over combined with a bit of left rudder. The manuever was dangerous in the upper atmosphere, but, it broke the Clanner's weapons lock, preventing him from firing the multiple racks of Streak SRM's in his primary load. She finished the manuever by bringing her nose up, coming under him at full honk.
She dialed for "Slugs" as her nose crossed into line with the rear of the Clan omnifighter-he'd overcompensated, and, she was behind him. "Take this you pervert..." she snarled into the open channel, as her autocannon barked rounds, and, her lasers slashed his rear stabilizers. Her reward was a plume of black smoke from his engines, as the 75mm flechette had its way with his engine.
the Clanner tried to fire his afterburners. Larah held to him, her own fighter ignoring the impacts of his rear-firing pulse lasers. "How do you like me now, you motherless runt?" she snarled, pumping another batch of clusters into his rear arc. one of the Flaps tore off the Scytha, and, an aileron detatched, bouncing off Larah's nose armour. The Scytha was smoking more, as she pumped more ammunition into the clanner's rear arc. "How do you like me now..." she muttered, "You didn't know you were messing with a Janshi, you should have killed me when you had the chance..." The Scytha's cocpit popped, and, the enemy pilot ejected, as the enemy fighter plunged downward, burning. Larah did a wingover, and, passed below the enemy pilot at Mach 2- slamming him with the sonic boom and shockwave behind her steep dive. as she pulled up, she was rewarded with the sight of a wildly oscillating parafoil, almost tumbling in the aftermath of that pass. Eat me... She pushed the throttles to wide-open, and, on a pillar of afterburn, headed back up to where the rest of the Aerostar was fighting a lance of Militia fighters. Kill 'em, Screw 'em and eat 'em boys... as her fighter reached orbital velocity again, she throttled back, searching for targets. Now, we know who's best... time to take the trash out. A Visigoth in the colours of the 74th streaked by her, hot on the heels of an F-20 Cheetah. Larah pushed her throttles forward again, and, lazily gave chase...

"Infrastructure is often neglected on Colony worlds near the Periphery border. When it isn't, those worlds are given a choice by the fates- grow, or, die. Thousands of Bandit attacks occur every year along the Periphery border, and, the further a world is from its neighbours, the worse the impact of those raids becomes. The only option in that situation, is either to be too poor to be of value, or, too strong to be safe to attack..."
-Baron Patrick-Henry Ngo, addressing the first class of the Kowloon Infantry Academy, June, 3130.

South Range Railway project, South continent...

Senior Consultant John Fitzgerald gazed down at the glacier-cut mountain valley. "This is a nice little place." he said, and, stepped off of the train. Kommandant Perkins, still wearing his cooling vest, nodded, "Yeah, it is, there's a hundered of these places up here... lookit those trees, those're Pines, an' one of the lads picked up some other Earth wildlife in this area, birds an' stuff, released when the place was colonized back in 2581. Earth trees and animals means there's clean water nearby."
Fitzgerald nodded, "Yeah, it does-what's the Geological plot say about the under-pinnings?" he asked.
Perkins gestured down into the steep-walled valley, "Bedrock, mostly granite and basalt, the whole area's been Volcanically dormant for about a million years. I can't figure why ain't nobody settled here in all that time..."
Fitzgerald shrugged, "Winds, probably- too much updraft for a dropship port, an' the walls're too steep, I figure the Railway was supposed to bring settlers in, but the Prison went in instead- and that put the kibosh on new settlements."
Perkins nodded, "That sounds about right, the Star League was pretty tight about that stuff... hey, what's that?" he asked, pointing at Fitzgerald's feet. A nugget of yellowish metal glittered balefully. Fitz knelt down, and, worked the small stone loose. "Glacial deposit, looks like..." he felt the weight, light... He scraped the nugget with the blade of his knife, and, dropped the sample into a jar. "We'll find out for sure when the train gets here, but, I think that Glacier scraped a Germanium deposit." he said, "find that deposit, an' someone's gonna be rich."

"During the Jihad, as in prior conflicts, there were waves of Refugees moving away from the forward edge of the fighting. In this case, many of those Refugees included skilled workers, teachers, and, engineers. Ngo Industries' shipping department made it a part of their business to aid these specialists in their departure, and, to resettle them somewhere far away- Kowloon, in the 3070's, became the destination of thousands of the Inner Sphere's best-educated middle-class workers. The "Brain Drain" this represented, can be seen today in a Lyran Peripheral world that is one of, if not the, most industrialized worlds in that part of the Lyran Commonwealth..."
-Cecil Adams, "The Inner Sphere, A Guidebook", McMahon Press, Terra, 3128

Apogee Jump Point, Kowloon system, December 30, 3063...

The Warship arrived in relative silence. The docking collars were empty, save for a single Overlord-C class dropship.
As the ships systems recovered from the jump, it sent a signal down into the system...

Jade Falcon command post, Hue, Kowloon, December 31, 3063...

"...Cease operations on Kowloon at your earliest possible convenience, and, return to Sudeten for reassignment..."
Star Captain Nathan Roshak was stunned. The orders were clear as glass. "We are being relieved, then, quiaff?" he asked the holoimage. After the ten light-second delay, the Star Colonel's image replied. "Neg, you are to pack up, and, abandon Kowloon. There has been a change of plans."
Nathan sighed, and, closed his eyes, "So, we have been here for all this time for nothing. I see. Very well, we will inform you when our forces are prepped for departure. Roshak Out."
The holoimage collapsed. Nathan looked over at Pershaw, "Change of plans... we are being withdrawn because of a change of plans." Then, he began to laugh hollowly.
Star Captain Pershaw shook his head, and, said, "The orders were for our Earliest Convenience... one last battle, to let the surat locals know they have been kissed is in order, quiaff?"
Nathan looked at the other officer, "Aff. One last battle is in order."
The two Star Captains began planning their raid...

Nha Tran, 31 December, 3063...

"Radio call just came in sir." The new orderly looked nervous.
Davies looked up at him, "Well, What's it about?"
The young Sargeant swallowed hard, "Sir, it's the Clanners, they called in to inform us that they know Colonel Ngo is in Vin-Drin-Lap, and, they are challenging her, personally, to a Formal Trial of Grievance over the Landing Field ambush in October, it seems we shot up their dropship and stranded them here on, Quote, "This Misbegotten ball of mud" Unquote."
Davies sat up hard, "WHAT??"
The young Sargeant repeated what he said, and, added, "Apparently, they were just here originally on a raid, and things got out of hand, They've also asked for safe conduct when they leave, apparently, someone sent a bleedin' Warship to pick 'em up... Should I forward this to Colonel Ngo?"
Davies nodded, numbly, "Yeah... I think you'd better."

"...Mother... you really should ask Patrick about her, I was five when they took her away. I remember that she was busy all the time, and, she had high standards. I think it broke her heart that Pat wanted to join the Archon's forces, instead of staying here where he belonged. He went off to show his independence, you know... Oh, I'm sorry, did that contradict what he told you? I guess he might've felt that way, he was, after all a [naughty], his father raped our mother. I at least had a proper Father, even if it was only on the weekends before they took mum away. Do I resent him taking over the company? Not really, I get a nice stipend and, I've got Voting shares on the board, and there's not much he can do about that... we run Kowloon as the only kind of democracy that can't be corrupted, one share is one vote, I've got some 12 million Shares in the company..."
-Senior Vice-President Amanda Ngo-Fitzgerald (Security Division), in an interview with INN, December 12, 3124

KCGMS Gator, Golden Lake, Western District, Kowloon, 1 January, 3063, 1100 hours...

Had the weathersats been functioning, there would have been warning of the funnel-storm coming up the river... There wasn't. "General Quarters, General Quarters, Secure the Weatherdeck, we've got a class IV-B Storm coming up the river." Kommandant Alicia Li wasn't surprised, the bones in her left leg were bothering her again, and, Chopper Recon had just given her the reason why. This is going to suck, yes it is... she looked over at Colonel Ngo, who was gripping one of the railings and looking ill. "Colonel, the first swells haven't hit yet, you could make for shore, that fast little 'copter might make it." Elizabeth shook her head, "nope... Shel, give the nice Kommandant the freqs you use to communicate with Star Captain Roshak, I want him fully aware of where I am."
Kommandant Li's eyes went wide open, "You've got a radio freq to contact the bloody Clanners??" she asked, aghast.
"Not exactly, Kommandant, Shel here's been Jade Falcon Watch, Davies flipped her, I'm just as soon exposing her now- If I'm right, Roshak's beef is with me, he may come get me if he dares, in this weather." Elizabeth looked both ill, and, determined as she said it.
Li looked at the woman, and, then, at the now-revealed clanner, "you're going to put the whole ship in danger?" she asked.
Elizabeth shook her head, "Not exactly, Roshak wants a fight, I don't want that 'Ville smashed up, if he wants to fight me, He's going to have to come out here, that means he's going to have to either ditch the 'Mechs, or, risk 'em falling into the lake- we're over the deepest part right now, that's crush-depth for him. about the only boys he can field effectively on this hulk are his Elementals, so..." she gestured- "...Those Grand maulers and one-shots I loaded you with, they'll come in handy. He Chose the timing, I'm choosing the terrain."
Li cursed, and, glared at Elizabeth, "It never occurred to you that he might just use a dropship, and, sink us, did it?"
Elizabeth nodded, "That's why I paid for the Triple-A guns, Kommandant, I expected, sooner or later, someone would use a Dropship to get at you. We pull this off, it'll save a whole lotta lives up an down the river, and, it might just convince our friends not to play here again for a while."
Li thought about it, and, it made a bit of sense- to a point.
"Fine, you wanna put your battle of wills on one of my hulls, well, the KCGM needs more than just your say-so, Colonel, this is my ship, what do we get out of being your bad terrain?"
Elizabeth sighed, "If this works, Kommandant, I'll dump money and equipment in enough to upgrade your whole fleet, and, expand it, fusion engines for the cutters, Active Probes on every unit 25 Tons and above, and helicopter upgrades... how's that for an exchange?"
Li cocked an eyebrow, "Personnel costs?" she asked.
Elizabeth matched her gaze, "How's Rank parity with the Ground forces, no more...whatchacallem, 'Landsman Admirals'?" Li appeared to think it over for a few minutes before saying, "Acceptable, Parity with Ground forces, and, autonomy of command, we support half the Airbases with supplies, I want the Island airbases under my jurisdiction."
Elizabeth nodded, "Done, and, done, Kommandant."
Li glared over at Shel, "Alright, Spy, call in your friends."

"...Fighting Elizabeth Ngo was no real challenge, if you could separate her from her resources. At least, that was what we all assumed at the time. Fighting Kommandant Li, on the other hand, was an intrigueing experience. during the weeks of action in the River Valley, I was impressed, time and again, by the cleverness with which that little wet-navy fought us. With the River at Flood peak, being fed by runoff from the high mountains, the glaciers, and, the Monsoon, They could effectively reach any point inside the Valley, though they could not move off of the water with the bulk of their forces, they had this strange...attractiveness as targets, and, they were constantly bluffing us into coming too close. We lost nearly a Binary to submerged cliffs before our patrols learned to avoid the fast-moving side of the river. We also learned about how artillery can smash a submerged force-the hard way. While their terrain was limiting, it was broad enough that it was, in fact, their terrain, and, their Air-Cover was good, good enough that we could not reliably use airstrikes to drive them inland. The Key, I knew, was that Seagoing hull they were using as an artillery base. That firebase gone would be a severe blow. For this kind of job, a Battlemech simply is not suitable- the ship itself is close terrain, and, moving. It would take a boarding action, or, a very bold strike. Our dropships had rested for over a month at that point, and, the second Jaegers are experts at low-altitude drop tactics. There were two points, that we knew we could focus on to really hurt them- the first, was the ship, the second, was the artificial Harbour they put up in the Village. That harbour contained their support equipment for their Naval units, and, it was solid terrain-at least, solid enough to land 'Mechs on. After we recieved Von-Jankmon's transmission, we knew that the ship was big, big enough to support what Pershaw and I elected to deploy...
-From "The Kowloon Campaign, 3063-64" Turkina Press, 3071


Hue Docks, 0430 Hours, January 1, 3063...

"Are you familiar with the phrase 'Sauce for the goose', Pershaw?" Nathan asked, surveying the river.
"Not entirely, Star Captain Roshak... would this have to do with assembling Battlemech forces and Barges, Quiaff?" Pershaw answered.
"Aff, indeed it does. The enemy uses the river because they have the boats. If we wish to close with them, we need to have boats as well, only, instead of paper-hulled ICE powered patrol boats, we are going to use these barges to close in on their ship. They will not be expecting this, because they believe we would not dare it."
Pershaw snorted, "I have heard that said before, Nathan Roshak... What makes this time different?" he asked.
Nathan smiled, and, said, "Because, my skeptical Trothkin, this time, they will be expecting the main assault from the dropships, and, that force will not leave until a good hour after we have entered the Lake, and, because your Trinary Alpha will be hitting the Village from the land."
Pershaw pursed his lips in thought, and, then, he laughed, "The Diversion is the main attack- I like it."
Nathan nodded, and, said, "Good hunting, my friend, when we leave this world, they will know we were here!"
Daniels Avenger                Clan Coyote
General Jennifer Daniels    Galaxy Commander Jim Skyes
                                        Omicron Galaxy
Clan Wolf in Exile
328th Assault Cluster(the Lion Hearted)
Star Captain James Sword

wolfcannon

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1400 Hours, 31 Km north of Point Bank 134...
Leutnant Mai Huyn saw a string of ore barges moving southbound. "Give 'em a wave, guys, those're civvies." she said, and, cranked the air-horns, as her patrol passed the loaded barges. The teletype printed someting out- Weather alert... She flipped the exterior comms on, and, swung in alongside the Lead tug pushing the barges. "Hey!! WEATHER ALERT!!! FUNNEL STORM INBOUND!!!" She shouted, not sure if the Tug crew heard her or not. Frak, I can't tell if they heard me over the Tug's engines... She cranked the siren. someone came out of the Tug's wheel house, and, waved.
Okay, they heard me say something... She picked up the mic again, "Weather ALERT, THERE'S A FOUR-BEE CLASS FUNNEL: STORM COMING UP THE CHANNEL, IT'S DUE TO HIT IN NINE HOURS! IF YOU'RE ON A SCHEDULE YOU BETTER BUMP UP THE HONK IF YOU CAN, AND MAKE PORT, IF YOU CAN'T, YOU NEED TO PULL INTO AN INLET AND TIE UP!" The man on the Tug's deck nodded his understanding, Mai watched him go into the wheelhouse, and, the tone of his engines increased. Okay, he heard me that time... good.
She returned to her patrol, but, there was a nagging something at the edge of her consciousness...

Tug 1...
Nathan stepped back in, and, dropped the long raincoat. "Nice of them to warn us about the bad weather, quiaff?" he said, at the wheel, Star Commander Jim Malthus nodded agreement, "Aff, as my bondsman says, 'Peachy'. These accursed river maps are almost indecipherable, I wish we could have brought one of the local river pilots..."
Nathan shook his head, "A Local might have warned the patrol we were coming through, with our 'mechs powered down, that would have been a rather poor situation. The good news about that warning, is that they likely will have few of their patrol craft between us and our objective, and none of those flat-bottomed River Monitors will be out toward the middle of the lake, they are less stable than an overloaded barge on rough water. anyway, increase our speed, I don't want that cutter thinking we did not heed the warning."
Jim nodded, "Aff, sir." The engines took on a heavier throb as they were given more fuel.

Vin-Drin-Lap, 1600 hours...

The defenders were not caught unprepared, when the Trinary hit them, but, even so, the battle turned into a bloodbath within seconds. Star Captain Pershaw walked his Highlander IIC through burning structures, occasionally firing one or two shots to brush away the light armoured vehicles that engaged him, looking for tougher meat. Tougher meat could be had- he saw a Battlemech come out of the water, striding like some ancient ocean monster. His systems identified it, and, he frowned in disappointment. Hardly a challenge, that one...where did they dig that antique up, anyway? The 'mech was a Mackie. It stopped, and, fired its PPC- which revealed that said PPC was, at least, an Extended range model, Pershaw smiled- the weapon missed him, but, the challenge was there. Well, friend, it is your funeral... he thought, and, returned the rambling wreck's fire with interest- Gauss and LRMs. the Mackie shuddered, and, armour ablated. Then, it did something he was not expecting- it jumped 120 meters to his left, and, came at him, firing ER medium lasers. OH... one of those upgrades, huh? that is fine, you all die the same anyway... Most of the weapons-fire missed him, but, the Autocannon on the Mackie's arm belched fire, and, bomblets, and, those hit, scoring small pocks and grooves in the Clan second-line machine's armour. at least you're going to give me a decent fight, slaughtering tankers was getting dull... Pershaw returned the machines shots with calm equanimity- his SRM packs had a lock, and, fired, smashing the upgraded machine's limbs and torso, scaling off more armour, the Gauss rifle struck the weakened right arm of the machine, tearing away the weapons mounted there.
The Mackie pilot seemed to pick up a burst of speed from all of his firing, and, charged.
Pershaw slammed the pedals down, and, jumped his machine over the Mackie, and, down- flattening the cockpit with a sickening crunch that radiated up through his own machine, carried as a sound conducted through his 'Mech's skeleton.
Something hit him from his left, as he landed, spinning him around to face a medium-weight 'Mech armed with energy weapons. One of the infamous Athena class, apparently corporate security is beefing up the Militia here... he noted. This pilot was fighting a mobility game, and, would be far more challenging....

Golden Lake, 1400 hours, 1 January, 3063...

Nathan saw it looming in the drizzle like a wall, and, was impressed. Gun barrels jutted from it like the quills of a porcupine, with a large turret visible on the long forward decking. As the barges approached, now unguided because the 'mechwarriors could not pilot the tug, and, their 'mechs at the same time, the huge mass of armour unleashed a wave of flames into the darkening sky, a salvo of artillery fire rarely seen anywhere. "Beautiful... it is actually beautiful, in its own sick way..." he said over the unit channel. Jim Malthus' voice piped up, "Star Captain, that thing you are calling beautiful just launched a salvo at our fellows hitting the town. I would humbly suggest that your aesthetic tastes are somewhat warped. Sir."
Nathan chuckled, "I know, Jim, but, think about the effort that went into that engine of destruction, I think I want to smash it just because they put so much into not only building it, but, building it to be both powerful, and, beautiful."
Overhead, the Dropships crossed the Lake at high speed, slowing just enough to release the Elemental Marines. The ship's guns opened up against them, but, to no avail.
"Strider one, we are close enough, deploy." Nathan ordered, as the airborne elementals guided their plunge down onto the ship. Some missed, sinking out of sight in the dark yellow waters, but, the first Star landed mostly intact on the ship's long foredeck, and, began disabling the ship's point-defenses with SRM and Laser fire, occasionally toasting the unluckly crewman caught above decks when they landed.
Nathan's radio Cleared, and, Strider One reported, "Foredeck and Helo Decks are cleared, Star Captain, you may begin your assault."
Nathan stood his Turkina up- this time, he chose a variant of the Prime, replacing the Ultra autocannons with LBX models more suited for close-in work. With a stab downward, his jump-jets crossed the final 90 meters between the lead barge, and, the ship, landing squarely atop the circled "H" on the VTOL deck. Small-arms fire lit the deck, as crewmen and marines attempted to engage the Elementals. Nathan turned, and, advanced on the stern of the ship- where the Bridge and superstructure were- where he would find his primary foe. As he did so, he noticed that Strider two was beginning their assault from the waterline- the elementals had been hiding under the barges, bouyed by improvised floatatioin units, their mission was to enter the ship through the sides, just above the waterline. Peter Malthus, who'd escaped the Artillery Ambush in October aboard the Jade Dagger, was in that group, Peter... your redemption is this mission, do not screw it up. Nathan thought acidly, as he carefully walked along the armoured deck, carefully avoiding the massive turret, which was even now slewing, elementals tearing at it like some kind of predatory beetle. Nathan fired a couple of shots, which pitted the long gunbarrels jutting from the turret, and, continued onward, the sky was wine-dark now, and, the filthy water was roiling down below- the storm was coming up, wind rocked his 'Mech, as he picked his way along the decking, which was now rocking under his footsteps, making piloting a challenging proposition, as the Lake heaved the ship up and down. His objective was before him- armour-shuttered windows that enclosed the ship's pilot-house. "Knock, Knock, Knock." he said, over an open channel, and, unleashed a double-salvo of missiles, followed by thundering fire of slug rounds from his autocannons, and, scoring, scorching, heat blasts from his Lasers. The Lasers scored first, rippling and shattering the armour sheets, the autocannons smashed pathways through, into the very interior of the structure, and, finally, the missiles added their warheads to bounce the debris. The roof of the superstructure sagged, and, the deck shivered, as another Omnimech landed on it. PPC's added the the storm of fire, as the turret's weapons tried to depress low enough to engage the point-blank assault, only to be silenced as Strider Two made their way into the interior of the ship.
Fire belched from hatches near his feet, blowing the cover away on a pillar of superheated air. The deck shuddered again. From the superstructure, a pair of small AAA turrets belched fire, clearly at the very margins of their traverse. Nathan's status screen showed hits from the turrets across his 'Mechs chest, they were small guns, fifty-one millimeters, barely big enough to even make a scratch. Nathan "serviced" both simultaneously, Lasers for the left, autcannons to the right. He stepped closer, and, the small turrets could not engage him any more- they were blocked by the structure of the ship. A hatch opened below his feet, and, suddenly, he was very glad he chose A-Pods, as infantry tried to swarm his 'mech. The leg pods went off, and, the Coast Guard infantrymen were wiped from the deck in a fine, pink mist. Natural lightning arced down, creating light effects as it interacted with the metallic salts in the water. From one of the left-side batteries, Missile fire arced out, the crews following a fire-mission even with enemies tearing through the guts of their vessel.
Nathan turned his torso, and, lit the launchers up before their doors could close again. Fire ripped upward from the bow of the ship, sending men and machines tumbling through the air into the raging lake. Smoke gouted out of the wounds, as the deck began to tilt. The right side of the ship began rising, Nathan stepped over to that side, and, fired again and again, and, again. The cooling tower on the rear of the vessel sagged, twisted, and, fell away, as the storm's leading edge hit-filling all visible-light spectra into confusion. The wind buffeted his 'mech, as the ship began to settle aft. Another gout of flames, visible on infrared, erupted. and, the whole surface shuddered violently, as the storm tossed the vessel, and, he was now fighting just to keep from being thrown into the filthy waters of the lake itself...

Inside KCGMS Gator...

The inside of the ship was close-quarters, this was a surprise for Peter Malthus, and, for once, he was satisfied not to be carrying a load of missiles with him. tight confines, one centimeter taller, and, my suit would have to stay outside... he advanced forward, as the floor and walls tilted violently to the right. His objective, right now, was the hatch ahead, and, he flexed the claws on his battlesuit.
"one two I am a-comin for you..." He muttered, reaching the metal doorway. there was no sight-glass, but, according to the schematics sent by the spy, there should be a vertical passageway here, leading down into the engine rooms. He placed his claw on the wheel, and, forced it to turn. The door opened inward, he found. A ladder ran vertically on the hull-side of the passageway, which intersected laterally in two directions. He played his flamers down both corridors before stepping through. nothing, nobody here...why is that, I wonder? he carefully stepped over the sealed hatch leading downward, and, turned to lift it.
Another Battlesuit joined him a moment later, and, they peered together down the hole. "Heat signatures are pretty high down there, nobody seems to have noticed us yet." the other Warrior noted. Peter sighed, "aff, it is quiet... I am going in."
He jumped down through the hatch, and, found out why the corridor above had been so empty.
The passage was an ambush. a storm of fire from a heavy machinegun ripped across the compartment, as he dropped in, scoring bits from his chestplate and helmet-piece.
"Oh, You smudged my armour..." He said, and, played fire from his twin flamers through the compartment, igniting paint, men, hydraulic fluid, and, the ammunition of the machinegunners.
The blast from that last bit, kicked him into the bulkhead with stunning force. He stood up, and, looked around the compartment. Trays and tables were scattered from the improvised machinegun nest, which was set up behind the galley counter. "Clear." he said, adding, "looks like we overshot our mark, this is one of the Mess Decks..."
Two more Clan Warriors dropped down from the deck above, landing in alert postures. "If this is the Mess Deck I think it is, we should be about one level above, and, forward, of the Engineering room. we take that, we have the ship by the short hairs." he told the others. Two more members of Strider Two dropped through, the last one closing the hatch behind him. "Move out."

Engine room...

Engineering Petty Officer Arkady Mihailovich heard the staccato from the engineers mess, and, the whoosh and screams of the response. "Mother of god..." he muttered, and, dogged the hatch behind him. "Fire in the Galleys, and enemy 'Suits coming through, I think they want to come here."
One of the younger sailors asked, "We gonna die then?" with wide eyes. Arkady grinned, pointed at an acetylene torch, and, said, "Weld the hatches shut, Vinh, Walson, there is a fire in the galley, started by our guests, no doubt, flood the area with the fire sprinklers. I need to come up with a plan."
"Aye Chief."
They are tearing up my beautiful ship, well, I have a few tricks yet...
"Any word from the Captain, sir?" Second-Class Simosin asked. Arkady shook his head, "no, the damage monitors on the superstructure show the bridge as being smashed and on fire, Kommandant Li was going to move the CnC to auxiliary on deck four, if she did so, then, we will find out when she has an order for us, in the mean time, we keep those ruffians out of my engine-room, and we keep our ship from foundering in this storm."


Daniels Avenger                Clan Coyote
General Jennifer Daniels    Galaxy Commander Jim Skyes
                                        Omicron Galaxy
Clan Wolf in Exile
328th Assault Cluster(the Lion Hearted)
Star Captain James Sword

wolfcannon

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Vin-Drin-Lap, 1625 Hours...

The Medium 'mech was challenging, but, in the end, the battle was a matter of tonnage, and, endurance. Pershaw watched, as the lighter 'mech crumpled to the ground. good thing it did, I am just about out of ammo... He thought, turning his 'mech away from the fallen foe. suddenly, his damage monitors spiked, and, he looked down. Infantry...
He was being swarmed. He pushed both pedals to the floor, and, jumped for the water. The clinging grunts dropped off when he landed, as he went downward, he saw one of them briefly, giving him the finger, and, laughing. what could be so funny? he wondered, then, he realized what was so funny. He was still sinking- fast. deep water, there is a deep water area near the Ville... his windscreen began to bow inward. Oh well, it was a good life, while it lasted...

Under Water, just off the improvised harbour...

Paul Pershaw was not falling anymore. seams creaked, and, his left leg was flooded, but...Must have hit bottom... funny, I thought it would be farther down. He switched on the 'mechs floodlights. outside the windscreen, black nothing became yellow, cloudy, nothing. He checked his instruments.
The Magnetic Imager was reflecting back absolutely nothing of any tactical help- the lake seemed filled with metallic sediments, occasionally, as lightning struck the surface, the imager went wild. he switched it off, and, shifted to infrared.
now, I know why the lake is so warm... a huge heat signature showed directly ahead of him, the readings were high- several hundered degrees high. superheated water, an underwater geyser... it explains the blinding sediments. I wonder why this was not charted... He turned, and, walked away from the heat image, until he could make out the wall of the deepwater canyon. Magnetic compass is spinning, too, there must be a lot of interference... he brushed at it with his 'mechs hand actuator. an energy discharge, like ball-lightning, arced out. huh...charged... He tried his coms. Static across all bands, with occasional howls of static when lightning struck the lake. A Scientist-Caste would have a field day down here... how deep am I?
He overrode the facilitator programming, and, looked at the raw data from his external pressure monitors, then, did some calculations. Three hundered sixty meters below the water's surface, I must have been swept off the floodplain by a current... No wonder the joints are creaking. He began walking forward. having to drag one leg slowed his progress down significantly, but, he was making headway, when something loomed in the darkness. he stopped for a moment, then, stepped forward. fifteen, ten...five... he stopped five meters from the object, and, looked at it.
It stood, knee-deep in the lake floor, arms poised. Guillotine, the cockpit looks intact... he reached out, and, bumped it with his 'mechs hand. a cloud of particles erupted, then, cleared away in the current.
SLDF markings, no damage other than being sunken in the mud... He played the floods on the Star League 'Mechs cockpit, and, he turned up the imager, to find himself looking at the dessicated husk of the pilot, still strapped in his command couch. Dead, what got you first, was it asphyxiation? Dehydration? or, did you starve down here, looking for a way out? He carefully skirted the dead 'mech, and, found himself looking at something else. big, round...cracked open like an eggshell... it was a dropship crash. The waters here were clearer. He could see a Black-Knight lounging next to the crashed ship, one knee and the torso sticking out of the mud. the broken body of a Warhammer sat like a discarded toy, also half-buried in the lakebottom mud. Some fish swam by, lit by the flash of another lightning strike on the surface. There has to be a lot of very conductive ions in this water, to pass lightning like that...lots of metals in the suspended sediments... He paused, and, walked a little farther, until he reached the point where the heat was rising in a red wall. He was standing on a cliff. Savashri! the lake goes down, down, down... that must be more than fifty meters worth of drop! Something niggled at the back of his mind, he paused, and, forced it to come to the surface. This river... it runs down a faultline, a Divergent faultline! This lake sits on top of a dormant volcano! He backed away from the ledge. the warm, filthy water, the weird topography.... something else was bugging him- he looked very carefully at an orbital map from his 'mech's memory. The lakeshore is a figure-eight when the river is not at flood stage... hmm... he turned what he believed was southward, hugging the wall as he went. I am under the surface-level of the lake during the dry season, about fifty meters below... He did not know what, exactly, he was looking for, but, he knew he would find it south of the Village. As he went, He found he had to divert around the broken remains of water-vessels. after half an hour, he found himself looking at the wreck of a cargo vessel of enormous size, it was bigger than a dropship, and, it jutted out over the chasm. he checked his jump-jets. Two of them were still operational, not enough to lift him from the grip of the water, but, enough to land him on the ruined deck of the ship. He jumped onto the sunken ship's foredeck. It held the ninety-ton Battlemech easily. In the murk, he could make out what had drowned this ship. twenty meters to the left, and, I would have to cut my way out... the Cargo holds were opened by some violent cataclysm. He tried his Magnetic imaging scanner again. It worked-out to thirty meters, with static. There were other Battlemechs on the ship with him. Like the unfortunate dropship, these too were dead- but, not of starvation, no- these were dead of violence.
One of them was a design he knew came about after the Exodus- a Jenner, lying one-legged and broken, held silent watch against the superstructure of the ship. He jumped off the ship, and, continued southward, until his path was blocked again, but, the blockage was the sort he was looking for- a smooth hill of mud, where one of the smaller rivers dropped its sediment load upon entering the lake during the dry season. It was steep, but, he could climb it.
violence carved this landscape, the violence of nature, and, the violence of man...
It seemed to take hours to reach the former lake-shore.
He was now only 120 meters below the water.
Something fell nearby, he looked.
A Monitor, lights still blazing on battery power, drifted to a halt nearby. The turret was holed, as was the hull. drowning men were struggling to free themselves from the twisted metal structure, as black oil boiled out. The Lake flashed again, and, again, a Barge drifted by, dragged by the current past him, bound for deeper places. Paul dialed up the magnification, and, was relieved- none of his Clansmen were on it, it was empty.
The battle topside must be getting fierce indeed... He noted, and, returned to his original course.

Engine Room, KCGMS Gator, 1500 hours....

"We've got leaks in Hold three, Chief, looks like they holed us there to get in." Engineer's Mate 2nd Class David Port said.
Arkady looked at the monitors, "Crap...we're takin' on water, did those bozos leave any of the watertights intact?"
He did a systems check. The answer brightened his day. "Okay, set the autos between Hold Four, and, Hold Two to emergency sealing, and all the verticals between us, and, Deck three, we can contain this, I won't let those Motherless Freaks kill my ship." The Second Class looked up, "Sir, that means we're trapped down here with them..."
Arkady nodded grimly, "So it does, son, so it does... Bennington, what's the status on the reactors, do we have enough coolant?" He demanded. Bennington, the reactor Tech, shook his head, "Not for both of 'em, sir, I think I can scavenge enough to bring number two back on-line, but the pipes for One were scragged when the cooling tower went."
Arkady nodded grimly, "Do it, we're gonna need engine power if we wanna ride this storm out... Han, any word from Auxiliary?" Technician First Class Han shook his head, "No, Chief, it looks like the lines between us, and, Auxiliary were cut in an explosion, we got no coms out of here." Arkady said some very bad words, looked around, "Fine, Han, you and Che-Li grab up a crew, and, go string a line up to Auxiliary, cut your way through if you have to- we need to be able to steer, and, there's no rudder control in here."
The Two junior NCOs rushed off. Arkady turned his attention to the screen again, I will not let you kill my ship...
On the maintenance monitors, the Clanners were trying to force the welded-shut main doors into the engineering level.
"Those claws are metal, right?" He asked.
Bennington nodded, "Looks that way to me, sir."
Arkady grinned. "Those suits are run with electronics... Bennington, rig up some coils in the corridor, when they get through, they're going to have a... unique surprise."
The Second-Class stood up, grabbed a couple of Able Seamen, and, headed out into the passageway with tools and spare parts. I wonder how good their insulation is in those things...
Daniels Avenger                Clan Coyote
General Jennifer Daniels    Galaxy Commander Jim Skyes
                                        Omicron Galaxy
Clan Wolf in Exile
328th Assault Cluster(the Lion Hearted)
Star Captain James Sword

wolfcannon

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Topside, KCGMS Gator...

The 'mech had electromagnets embedded in the foot actuators- meant for boarding actions, these were rarely, if ever, used on a planet. Nathan Roshak was using them now.
Lightning, falling like the rain, lit the lake, and, the surfaces of the ship, with eye-searing intensity. Even the Elementals were holding on for dear life, now- the battle between men on the ship was paused, while Nature tried to slay them all.
People do this voluntarily? he wondered, and, then, in the flickering light, he saw them- Crewmen were fighting to close the holes in the ship, as it rose and fell violently, men were out here, among his troops, with welding torches and plates and cables. bad in here, worse out there... a cable, supporting something on the superstructure, snapped, cutting half a dozen men in half as it arced outward. Their fellows kept working, as the storm intensified. dedicated... more dedicated technicians I have never seen... He chose not to fire, as the wind intensified, and, the nose of the ship The Bow...it is called a Bow... Plunged into a wave, his 'mech actually slid towards the damaged structure from the force, and, he lost contact with one of his clamps. The other held.
Men, and, Elementals, were sucked away by the water, to float, or, drown, as the case may be. Nathan also realized that the ship was riding much lower. Taking on water...will it sink? he wondered. The barges were too far away, now...

1745 hours...

Everything was suddenly calm, the wind was gone, the rain, halted. This must be the eye of the storm... Nathan thought. Crewmen were still busy, cutting away twisted, smashed, structure, and, welding patches. The Coast guard men were pointedly ignoring the Clan war machines, there was a frantic kind of hurry in their actions, and, Nathan could see why. The other side of the storm is coming...
He took a few moments to check the status of his own force.
No 'Mechs lost, only three Elementals swept over the side...
He keyed communications to Strider Two. "Strider Two, status report?"
Peter Malthus' voice crackled over the airwaves, "our progress to the engine room has been delayed, Point Two is held up by narrow structure on deck four, their suits are too large to clear the bulkheads, and enemy infantry are holding them off about twenty meters forward of the Auxiliary Control room. We have not taken any casualties beyond some damaged armour, and, one of my men was stunned when an avalanche of water came in through a hole in the hull. We will not be able to use the penetrations in hold Three anymore, the ship is flooded on the Third Deck. Over."
Nathan nodded, "Understood, Strider Two, we are permitting the crew to patch holes topside, the Barges are too far away, and, scattered, but, we have lost only four people, and, that is because they fell off. Get that Auxiliary Control room, divert from engineering if you have to, we need control of this ship, Over."
He went back to the common channel, "Striders, get inside the ship, your objective is on the fourth deck, auxiliary control... and, try to leave the doors intact, that storm is going to hit us again, at least once, and I for one do not intend to go down with this hulk."

Deck 4...

Elizabeth Ngo rechecked the Tsaumi Infantry Gauss rifle's power-connections. good... There were Clan Warriors less than twenty meters away, but, for all their strength and power, they might as well have been on the planet's moon.
being an assistant machinegunner is no place for a Colonel... she thought, ...but, those Coasties have more important duties for all of our survival than guarding the door. The weapon was long, and, heavy-but, it was powerful enough to kill Elementals, and, the narrow confines of the corridor meant that they would have to come single-file.
come to mama... she glared through a portable periscope.
They came- from an unexpected direction, five Elementals, from the Port-side of the intersection. She grabbed the handles for the gun, and, swung it. One dropped, then, another, and she had to reload.
The third did not give her time, he reached her, reached out, grabbed the gun and her left hand with his manipulator claw, tearing both away with a twisting motion.
Elizabeth sat down, and, looked at the stump, below her left elbow, where her arm now ended in gushing red.
"You are Colonel Ngo." the Elemental said, and, with his laser, cauterized the stump with a single, precise, blast.
She sat, and, watched, as they forced their way into the control room, where Kommandant Li, and, the bridge crew, did the only thing they could do.
Nobody wins all the time... Elizabeth thought, as her vision darkened, ...bad idea...
she passed out.

1800 Hours, KCGMS Gator...

The sky was darkening and the wind, picking up. For Nathan, this was no longer the threatening situation it had been before. We are inside, the ship is (Mostly) closed up, and, our 'mechs are secured on the deck with cables... The crew were under Falcon control now, their commanders his 'guests'. the ship looked bad on the outside, inside... he looked at the damage-control plot. fifty percent damage!
Power was up in one of the reactors, and he had helm controls. Peter Malthus redeemed himself... Things were looking up- he even had Elizabeth Ngo in his hands. good thing Elaine cauterized that arm, the woman is absolutely no good to us dead. Kommodore Li turned the ship bow-into the wave-front, and, applied power, a means of escaping the storm. on the screen, some of the patched sections broke loose, the ship wallowed, then, rose, until he could see nothing but clouds. "Brace for impact." the ship rang like a giant gong, and, he saw the camera's view, the bow of the ship, and, a wall of water. Then, clear again. Everyone, every thing, that was not strapped down securely, flew through the room, as the ship rang again, and, again. On a portside monitor, he caught a glimpse of a cutter, riding alongside, Fifty meters above them, coming down a sheet of water. they rose, and, it was gone.
"This storm is very violent, quiaff?" he asked his bondsman.
Kommandant Li shook her head, "Naw, this is just a little hurricane, they actually get bad out past the gulf, in the really Open ocean..." she reached down, and, pulled a paper bag from under the navigator's console, "Barf Bag, Star Captain?" He accepted the offered device, and, saw, priinted in several languages, "Seasickness containment kit" with a simple drawing of how to utilize, and, close, the container. The woman continued, "If your suits hadn't holed us so close to the waterline, this ship'd be able to just shrug it off...crap, Arkady, what's going on with the pumps in Hold Four? we're taking on water..."
The engineer's voice, answered, in a strained tone that had nothing to do with an Elemental holding a gun on him, "Damn Watertights between three and four were damaged, Kommondant, an' that last bang finished breakin' the seals, we're tryin' to contain it now..."
Nathan looked over her shoulder. the affected area was blinking yellow, and, a guage was showing the water level increasing. "Got it... okay, try the pumps now." The voice from the intercom said. Kommandant Li tried "it" again, and, the water level gauge began decreasing. The ship rolled to the left, then, to the right, then, it rose again, and, dropped.
"How long will this last?" he demanded.
Li shrugged, "Maybe an hour, maybe two. not much more than that, the area's too confined for a storm to really keep a-rollin'... You know, I think some bacon, and, some coffee, would be nice..."
Nathan imagined the flavours, and, his stomach rebelled.
Jade Falcon Warriors are Exceptional at following written directions-not one drop missed the inside of the bag.

1930 Hours...

The worst of the storm had passed, and, Nathan went topside, to survey the damage with Alicia Li. She rocked back and forth on the balls of her feet, and, said, cheerfully, "Not too bad at all, maybe three months to put it back together." Most of the wreckage was gone from the ship's long, broad, deck. He looked at the Spheroid woman, "What makes you think that you will be present here for three months?" he asked.
She shrugged, "Ten thousand tons is a lot of metal to haul around on a dropship, You got your pound of flesh off'a Elizabeth Ngo, and, it takes a lot of shipboard resources to support a crew that ain't good for nothin' but what you do on a wet-Ocean. My bet is you're gonna hafta trade us in on some of your boys what's been captured, or, you're gonna let us go, or, you're just gonna shoot the survivors-an' I don't see that much Pirate or animal in you." She reached into her pocket, pulled out a single Cigarette, and, a match, which she lit by striking on a patch of non-skid, adding, "Atrocities an' War Crimes don' seem like your style, Star Captain, you fought a battle nobody thought you could fight, you won it, you survived winning it, you captured a massive bit of machinery-which is hella tougher'n just bombing it or blowing it up. unless your Clan is plannin' ta stay, you done won your vict'ry."
Nathan stopped, looked at the woman, and, laughed. "You figured this out when, exactly?" he asked her sarcastically.
Li shrugged, " 'Bout the time you landed that ninety-ton monster on my chopper pad, 'stead of just sitting back on the barge an' blowin' the crap outa this ship, that would also be the moment I sent everyone down to Auxiliary Control, I was the last man on the bridge when you gave it some new windows." She gestured at the shattered bridge section, "almost didn't make it outa there, too-had to crawl over collapsed beams to get to the hatch... you trashed my F-C consoles with those autocannons of yours."
Nathan just shook his head, "there was only yourself up there?" he asked.
"Yeah, your raid revealed a coupla defects in the design, too- no guns to shoot at something standing on the deck itself- I was pushing the turrets to their max forward swivel, an' ya walked right past 'em." she said ruefully.
Nathan suppressed another chuckle at her expression, and, instead, said, "Your artillery ship gave us fits, you know, before... I felt we needed to remove it just to show that it could be done."
Li nodded, "I figured as much, tell me, did the depth-charge shells work? I know we engaged on a bunch of your boys out by Point-Bar 134, but, we ain't got submersibles to go do BDA's."
Nathan nodded, "Aff, they worked, I lost three 'Mechwarriors down there- their 'mechs were crushed by overpressure on the river bottom when those shells detonated." His tone was solemn.
"Sorry to hear that, You might take some comfort in knowin' we lost about a hundered men today, all told, an' I think there's three or four cutters that won't make it to port, neither." Her tone was blank, and, Nathan looked at her, "over a hundered men?" he asked.
She nodded, and, pointed down the deck, "Portside ammunition bins went , remember the explosion? There were ten small guns, an' five Arrow-IV batteries along that chain, I lost fifty just there, we lost Thirty because of the flooding from Hold Three, and, ten more tryin' to close it off, an' then there's the Turret crew-one of your Elementals fired a shot that penetrated the powder magazine, Lasers and propellant are not friends, the whole bloody turret was washed in fire after the shockwave, from down below, all the way out. killed a bunch of boys and girls right there. It was a good thing we were wait'n on a resupply barge, or the blast likely'd split us open an' broke the keel. as it was, we got fifty-percent structural damage, lost a cooling tower for number one reactor, and, two driveshafts which puts us having one screw on each side, drops us to ten knots, an' no power for long-range radar...not that that matters anyway, since the Radar Array was melted by a pair of large lasers."
She was walking with him along the deck, as she was saying this. "So, what you are saying, is that the ship is blind, and, crippled?" he asked. She nodded. "Do you have sufficient lifeboats to evacuate the crew?" he asked. she shook her head, "Nope, portside and starboard were both stripped off in the storm, thanks to their structures bein' softened up by fire. We got maybe six, we need at least twenty." Her tone was final-there are not enough for everyone...
"Can you steer, at least, if I show you a map, can you direct this thing to a specific location?" he asked.
She nodded, "anywhere there's enough water, we have about twenty meters below the waterline now..."
The Clan Officer nodded, and, said, "fine, I will show you where you are to go."

Daniels Avenger                Clan Coyote
General Jennifer Daniels    Galaxy Commander Jim Skyes
                                        Omicron Galaxy
Clan Wolf in Exile
328th Assault Cluster(the Lion Hearted)
Star Captain James Sword

wolfcannon

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1530 Hours, 3 January, 3063, delta of Tributary river 14 West...
The Dropships sat on a bluff, overlooking the mouth of an un-named river feeding into the southern end of Golden Lake.
Below them, at anchor, the KCGMS Gator sat, as close to shore as the deep-draft hull could get. Star Captain Nathan Roshak stood, looking down at the battered vessel, on the edge of the bluff, with Star Captain Paul Pershaw. "Beautiful country, really, Paul, you picked a nice place for a rendezvous point." Nathan commented. Paul shrugged, "This is where I finally surfaced, it took me almost a day to make it to shore. when I finally got radio contact, my victorious Trinary had the dropships come to pick me up, and, we decided this was as good a place as any to wait for you."
He gestured down at the crowd of people on the beach. "What do we do with them?" he asked.
Nathan sighed, "We can not take them with us, I have no desire to just shoot them... we will exchange them for those of our captured warriors who wish to go back with us, and, I will use them to extract a promise from Elizabeth Ngo."
Pershaw raised an eyebrow, "A promise?" he asked.
Nathan nodded, "I have learned, if we kill her, or, just take her with us, the raiding will not cease, but, If she can be forced to an agreement, she will hold to it."
Pershaw nodded, "I see- so, when will you do this, I assume you were working on it during your cruise back..."
Nathan shook his head, "Neg, the trip back was full of too many details, with too few hands to deal with them. I think, when the Medtechs finish with her, I will make my offer, and, it will be an offer she can not refuse."
Pershaw looked at Nathan, "This, from one of the staunchest Crusaders I have ever known? a Deal??" he looked astonished.
Nathan chuckled, and, shook his head, "As a Warden, Paul, you have often mistaken a Moral Stance for a sign of intelligence- I still believe the Inner Sphere would be better as a whole under Clan admnistration, but, as a Commander, I have to deal with what is Achievable. We have been recalled to the Occupation Zone, we lack the manpower and support to tame this world in full, and, even if we do, then, we have to give it back anyway. We have won the battles, and, gained knowledge and glory, With a signed agreement, we gain the core of the original mission's objective, which was to bring to a halt the raids by Ngo Industries, and, their support of Terrorist Cells in our Clan's territory... I think I will also push her to permit trade with our Merchants, at a Favourable to our Clan ratio, force her to accept an arrangement that she will loathe for the rest of her days, as a punishment." Nathan said this last bit with a grin, and, Paul laughed, percieving the joke.
"You can be quiet cruel, Nathan..." he said.
Nathan shrugged, "So, I can be. Elizabeth Ngo's main weapon is Trade, by compromising her ability to use that weapon against us, we become safe from her vendetta. She will need someone else to hate-like the Wolves, perhaps..." He looked at his Chronometer, "Time to see how she is doing." He said, and, headed up-slope. Pershaw remained behind, thinking about what he saw in the lake-bottom. This world has seen wars aplenty... will we even be remembered when we have gone?

Dropship Jade Dagger, 1545 Hours, Medical bay...

Elizabeth was sitting up, the stitches in her scalp itching, the phantom pains in her left arm going crazy. Why am I still alive? are they waiting to do worse? she wondered. An officer wearing Star-Captain's rank walked into the room, the orderly and the Nurses snapped to attention, he gestured, and, said, "As you were... ah, you are awake, good."
He pulled a chair around, and sat down. "You have no idea, I think, how much trouble it has been to arrange this meeting, Elizabeth Ngo." His tone was almost humourous.
"Who are you?" she asked.
He replied, "I am Star Captain Nathan Roshak of the Second Falcon Jaegers, Did you know, that your capture was one of my primary objectives coming to this world?"
She was taken aback, "Me??" she was, quite frankly, astonished. Roshak nodded, "Aff, you. The raids you have sponsored, the Terrorist Cells you have supplied behind our lines, these have caused enough trouble that the Clan sent my Trinary to stop them. That is why we are here, that is why you are here, and, that is why I gave specific orders to take you alive." Elizabeth cocked an eyebrow, and, looked intrigued. "Do tell, Star Captain..."
Nathan looked her in the eyes, "It was originally believed that taking you bondsman, or, killing you, would end the raids, I have since made the discovery, after some research of my own, that this would not achieve our objectives- Only you, Miss Ngo, can give the order that will stop it. I intend that you will do so, and, sign a binding agreement to that effect, before I leave. The Clan believes you to be nothing but an angry Merchant, I know better..." He pulled a remote control from his pocket, and, the screen in the corner of the room lit.
"This is Nha-Tran, in the lower corner, there is the Owens Lake district, where your home is. This image is courtesy of a Warship, in orbit. There are 50,000 people in Nha-Tran proper, with an additional 200,000 in the outlying areas. Ever seen an Orbital Bombardment before, Elizabeth Ngo?" She paled, and, shook her head. Nathan continued, "I have. It is not Pretty, nor, I hope, necessary. I have told the commander of that Warship that it will not be necessary. Do not prove me to be in error." He left the image 'on', and, handed her a sheaf of papers. "Read them, and, we will discuss the terms." he said, and, stood up, "You may have an hour."
He left the room, and, headed down to the exit.

Paul Pershaw was waiting for him. "Nathan, How is your plan proceeding?" he asked. Roshak grinned, and, said, "It is actually rather refreshing to play to someone's worst prejudices, she will believe, I think, in the threat, more than she would in the promises it is backing." Pershaw chuckled, and, said, "Where did you get the idea to try that?"
Nathan shrugged, "while we were mucking about in the desert, I had time to go over some of the information Shel downloaded from the Municipal Library-including certain essays on political structures by one Elizabeth Ayn Ngo, who never finished her first year at Sanglamore... Her essays on Political Sciences were most enlightening. They were a Convoluted way of saying what we have always known-'Might makes Right', in this case, our ability to convert several thousand hectares into smoking ruins gives me the leverage to negotiate with her, since her son is located somewhere in that area...even though, you and I know, we are not going to do such a thing, she believes it to be possible, and, because of her prejudices, she assumes we would do so eagerly-but, that we are restrained by what she will assume is greed, since she believes only the worst of all Clan Humanity is possible, she will negotiate, we will sign, she will pat herself on the back for 'Not giving away the store', and, we will return home with more than the Merchant-Caste offered, our mission successful." He sat down on a rock, adding, "Everyone happy, none gaining more than is their due."
Pershaw laughed, again, and, shook his head, "Nathan, I think you will make the Clan Council very happy with this... maybe even happy enough to justify what they did to you over the HPG while you were sulking dramatically on the rocks out there." He handed Nathan a print-out.
"You have been promoted." Pershaw added.
Nathan took the off-print, and, read it...
"...effective 1 January, 3064...take command of..." he looked up at Pershaw, "They are giving me a Galaxy command. A first line Galaxy command... I am to assemble my forces, and, be ready to take up station on the Wolf-border."
Pershaw nodded, "I saw, May I be the first to congratulate the Star Colonel on his promotion?"

"...The agreement she finally signed looked a lot like what I handed her- in fact, there were a few elements that were more generous than I thought she would be willing to concede, She only insisted on one thing: No Bondsman that wished to remain behind would be forced to come with us.
When I agreed to that term, I had no idea that Morgan would decide to stay, or, that the Watcher would elect to stay, either. Before we left for Wotan, I found out why, and, it made a certain sort of sense. Shel was intent on setting up a 'Clan Affairs Office', to facilitate things for Jade Falcon Visitors, and, to pass along useful data. In short, she wanted to be an 'Agent in place'- what she had taken to calling a 'Station Chief', I think, perhaps, her relationship with Colonel Davies had something to do with it as well... Morgan's decision was more puzzling, but, we had a solid victory, had obtained concessions and a safe port, with active intelligence gathering ability, and, had gained a lever on a dangerous random-element in the Lyran State. So... I let him stay. With the state of Detente, I knew that sooner or later, he would come home on his own. After all, the Icaza Bloodhouse has one of the fastest cycles of any in the Jade Falcon Touman..."
-Nathan Roshak, "The Kowloon Campaign, 3063-64" Turkina Press, 3071

Shel watched the dropships lift from the safety of the Cutter Mudfish, and, sighed. She was revealed as a Clan agent to the Coast Guard, at least, and, her new position would be a difficult one- but, not so difficult as it might have been. Paul Davies took care of that! she thought. "When your cover is blown, and, you have to stay, it's easier to have an official position that everyone expects you to be a spy in.." He was still teaching her how to do what she was under-trained in doing. Leutnant Huyn walked over to her, "Ma'am, you need to get secured, it's a long ride back to Nha-Tran." she said.
Shel nodded, "Yes ma'am..." and, went back inside.
So much more to do, now...


[Out of Story]
This concludes this installment, please join our sequel, "Path of Damnation", already in progress...
[/out of story]


Don't come unarmed in a Battle of Wit.
Daniels Avenger                Clan Coyote
General Jennifer Daniels    Galaxy Commander Jim Skyes
                                        Omicron Galaxy
Clan Wolf in Exile
328th Assault Cluster(the Lion Hearted)
Star Captain James Sword

Ghost0402

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Oh cool, i was just thinking about these the other day.
"Kiss my hairy ass Falcon,"  Star Colonel Onyx,  17th Wolf Regulars Cluster, Clan Wolf  Wars of Reaving.

Sharpnel

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Too much to read in one session. I will have to finish at a later time.
« Last Edit: 12 September 2015, 20:40:55 by Sharpnel »
Consigliere Trygg Bender, ZEU-6BL Zeus, The Blazer Mafia
Takehiro 'Taco' Uchimiya, VND-1R Vindicator 'Taco', Crimson Oasis Trading Company
Tai-i Shizuko Lofgren, Third Infantry Company, Oniwaka

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"Of what use is a dream, if not a blueprint for courageous action" -Adam West
It's an Omni, so I can build it into whatever I please - JHB
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Trace Coburn

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  • За родину и свободу!
  Split into its own thread for convenience of reading and indexing.  ;)