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Author Topic: By the Horns (An Alternate Universe Fan-Fiction)  (Read 92575 times)

VhenRa

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Re: By the Horns (An Alternate Universe Fan-Fiction)
« Reply #480 on: 15 February 2014, 08:12:29 »
  That’d kill Phil and Max just as dead as the DCs, and then nobody would get the Core.  Nerve gas doesn’t come with a friend-or-foe function.  #P

And the Guards might even HAVE NBC Gear on, given the current setup.


Don't think someone here realises how deadly VX Gas is. You're wearing a Gas Mask? Good for you, you aren't in full totally sealed suit are you? You're screwed. 10 Milligrams of the stuff on your skin = You're dead. Its persistent, its odorless, it's tasteless, it goes in via skin contact or inhalation. As the Movie and Trace said, its one of those things we wish we could disinvent.
« Last Edit: 15 February 2014, 08:16:41 by VhenRa »

Ajax_Wolf

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Re: By the Horns (An Alternate Universe Fan-Fiction)
« Reply #481 on: 15 February 2014, 09:09:59 »
  That’d kill Phil and Max just as dead as the DCs, and then nobody would get the Core.  Nerve gas doesn’t come with a friend-or-foe function.  #P

And let's not forget Victor and Koga, who are in the elevator shaft, and anyone on the lower levels, and maybe the upper levels as well. Kinda depends on how big the tanks are, the pressure of the contents and how fast someone can turn off the buildings HVAC, to stop the gas from spreading.
Why does everyone "Fire at Will"? Is he really that bad of a person? And what did he do to make everyone want to shoot him?

If a group of necrophiliacs met a group of zombies, who would do the chasing?

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Lone-Wolf

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Re: By the Horns (An Alternate Universe Fan-Fiction)
« Reply #482 on: 22 June 2014, 13:49:35 »
Bump.

Does anybody know why master arminas does no longer post?

Red Pins

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Re: By the Horns (An Alternate Universe Fan-Fiction)
« Reply #483 on: 22 June 2014, 21:25:47 »
He's a contract worker, and was recently hired after an extended period.  There haven't been any for quite a while.
...Visit the Legacy Cluster...
The New Clans:Volume One
Clan Devil Wasp * Clan Carnoraptor * Clan Frost Ape * Clan Surf Dragon * Clan Tundra Leopard
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drakensis

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Re: By the Horns (An Alternate Universe Fan-Fiction)
« Reply #484 on: 23 June 2014, 01:47:54 »
I can confirm he's alive and well though - won the first two rounds of the Quicksilver Program, an informal 'Mech-designing contest being run on OBT for one of Takiro's BT alternate universes.
"It's national writing month, not national writing week and a half you jerk" - Consequences, 9th November 2018

master arminas

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Re: By the Horns (An Alternate Universe Fan-Fiction)
« Reply #485 on: 19 October 2021, 19:03:12 »
Ivan Patrice Computer Sciences Center, University of Taurus
Samantha City, Taurus
Taurian Concordat
November 27, 3025

Julius Riese rechecked his weapons magazine as the elevator descended towards the underground research laboratory.  And the six other Death Commandos with him were doing the same.  He nodded; each with a veteran of many operations and knew well enough that sometimes an almost full magazine simply was not enough to get the job done.  And then he frowned.

Seven commandos—including himself—here, another seven topside to keep the Taurian reinforcements from interrupting their play to destroy the Core.  And two men—his most trusted men—sitting idle back at the safe house and waiting for their chance to try and destroy, or at the least, disable that damned Taurian WarShip!

Ideally, he would have conducted both operations simultaneously.  After all, chaos often led to the other side making mistakes that would not otherwise have.  But the WarShip had rather suddenly disengaged from the orbital station nine days ago and burned outsystem to Gateway . . . accelerating at a full 2.5-G’s to get there quicker.  That was no hanger queen, he though glumly to himself, but (or so it seemed to him, anyway) a rather pissed-off close-to-fully operational disaster that needed to get somewhere fast.  And if the rumors flying around the planet were true, that Michael Hasek-Davion had invaded the Concordat, well . . . Riese’s frown turned into a smile. 

Hasek-Davion had proven useful to House Liao, but it just well might be better for all concerned if he (and his not-so-secret ambitions) died in the fury of bombardment from a battleship in orbit.

And the smile faded.  Because that fool daughter of the Chancellor had pissed away a sizeable portion of the Confederation Armed Forces in her own misguided attempt at invading just weeks earlier.  It must have been Romano; Candace was not a fool; McCarron would not have committed his troops on his own without orders, and no officer in the CCAF would dared to have ordered such an ambitious plan without the Chancellor’s approval.  Which Maximillian Liao would not have given.  And with that open act of aggression, Riese feared that the Chancellor’s plans for getting Taurus in the Capellan camp would be for naught.

He shook his head.  Enough, he though to himself.  “Game faces, people,” he barked.  “Intel says one researcher and perhaps two assistants are working on the Core.  No guards, but these are Taurians and they might be armed.  Kill them all and then we set the device and try to extricate.  Got it?”

And six faces nodded their confirmation.

Good enough, Riese thought as the elevator slid to a halt and he chambered a round in his submachine gun as the doors began to open.

And Hell erupted around him.

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

Osami Koga and Victor Li slid down the elevator shaft trailing taut rope lines behind them.  As they approached the upper surface of the elevator, each of the two gripped their descenders hard and their descent slowed until they came to a halt just above the surface of the now motionless elevator.

Unbuckling his harness, Victor dropped silently the last two inches to the roof of the elevator car, the Combine operative beside him just as silent.  And both men pulled free their swords as Victor grabbed the handle of the elevator’s escape hatch.

He looked at Koga and the older man nodded in reply as the sound of gunfire echoed within the dark shaft. 

“On three,” Victor whispered, and Koga nodded as he pulled a flash-bang grenade from his own tactical harness, sliding up the safety cover over the arming ring with one thumb and sliding one finger into the ring with the hand that held his sword.

“One,” he continued and he drew a deep breath as Koga pulled the pin and armed the grenade, wincing as the arming spoon TINKED against the roof of the elevator, but the sound was lost among the cacophony of gunfire below, “two,”  and his muscles tensed and the samurai held the live grenade over the cover of the hatch.  The gunfire below suddenly stopped; Phil and Max must be changing magazines; though it immediately resumed with a different tone; the Commandoes were returning fire.  “Three!” and he yanked open the hatch, Osami dropping the grenade in the same instant as Victor dropped it closed once again.

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

Phil pulled back the trigger again and again as the elevator doors slid open, Maxwell Danforth beside him also serving targets suddenly exposed to their weapons.  Damn it, the Davion agent thought to himself, I’m supposed to be an observer, not an operator!  But he still felt satisfaction as two Death Commandoes exposed by the opening doors dropped to the floor, their chests shattered by the heavy bullets of the automatic short-barreled rifles the pair of spies had brought to bear.

And then he heard a CLICK as he pulled the trigger and nothing happened.  He had run through the entire magazine, he realized as he hit the release catch with one finger and reached for another magazine with his left hand . . . just as four more Death Commandoes flopped down on the floor of the elevator and began spraying sub-machine gun fire into the research lab!

“Shit!” he yelled as he ducked down behind the metal filing cabinet that gave protection—more psychological than actual, but better than nothing against the hailstorm of bullets.  And from the corner of his eye he could see Max crouching behind a desk, slamming home a full magazine of his own into the receiver well of his rifle.  Max nodded at Phil, and the Davion agent cursed silently again.

And then the world exploded.

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

Riese had been standing to the side of the elevator as the doors began to open, leaving him out of the direct line of fire as the bullets began to slam into the first two of his men stepping forward.  The five survivors leaned hard into the elevator walls trusting—hoping—that the concrete walls and steel elevator sides would stop any bullets that punched into the narrow, the oh-so-narrow cover it afforded.

Two guards, he thought.  Automatic rifles . . . firing two round bursts.  Ten—or fifteen at the most—bursts and then they would be empty.  And sure enough, the gunfire died away.

“NOW!” he shouted, and four of his men moved into the breach, two dropping to the floor, the others hugging the sides of the elevator car as their SMGs barked flame and fury into the room. 

He never saw the hatch above him open, nor the falling grenade . . . not until it detonated at chest height.

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

The hatch flew back open as the flash-bang erupted in the elevator car below and Koga jumped down inside, followed a scant instant later by Victor.  The smoke—both from the grenade and the gunfire—obscured what little emergency lighting had survived the blast, but both the samurai and Victor were wearing light-intensification goggles.

Seven Commandoes lay sprawled across the car, either leaning against the walls or lying on the floor; all were bleeding, staggering, stunned, or dead.  But that did not stop Koga or Victor as they plunged their sword blades into their opponents chests or used the razor-sharp edges to slice through exposed throats.

And then, with a suddenness that took even Victor by surprise, it was over.

All seven of the Commandoes lay dead at his feet; well, his feet and those of Osami Koga.  Victor nodded at the old man, and Koga began to search the corpses for the bomb that they must have been carrying, while Victor stepped into the research lab.

“HOLD YOUR FIRE!” he shouted as he advanced, sheathing his sword and holding both hands up.

“Damn it!” shouted Phil at he stood from behind a filing cabinet riddled with bullet holes.  “You just had to drop a flash-bang, didn’t you, Victor?  ******, that rang my bell!”

“Better having your bell rung than buying the farm, Phil,” Victor answered with a smile.

“I swear, when I get back to New Avalon, Quintus is going to owe me,” Phil continued, “I’m MI-4, for God’s sake!  I’m just supposed to watch and report, not this commando bullshit!”

“And yet, you did this commando bullshit rather well, Phil Sheridan,” Max said as he too stood.  “Maybe Allard will transfer you to the Rabid Foxes, eh?”

“****** that shit,” Phil whispered.  “I’ve had enough of this . . . can we just grab the Core and go before the Taurians zip-line down the shaft as well?”

“Sounds good to me,” Max answered and Victor nodded his agreement as well.

“Unfortunately, we have a problem,” Koga announced as he walked into the remnants of the lab cradling the Capellan bomb in his hands.  “This thing is on a timer and there are only three minutes left.”

“Oh, ****** me,” whispered Phil.

DOC_Agren

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Re: By the Horns (An Alternate Universe Fan-Fiction)
« Reply #486 on: 19 October 2021, 20:27:40 »
So Phil, you should have never left the "office" huh

"For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast, And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed:And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill, And their hearts but once heaved, and for ever grew still!"

Kyryst

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Re: By the Horns (An Alternate Universe Fan-Fiction)
« Reply #487 on: 19 October 2021, 20:48:32 »
Holy €4@?, this is alive? Wow. And some action, sweet. Good to see this updating.

mikecj

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Re: By the Horns (An Alternate Universe Fan-Fiction)
« Reply #488 on: 19 October 2021, 21:26:28 »
Nice post!  Thanks for the addition, looking forward to more! :thumbsup:
There are no fish in my pond.
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Romo Lampkin could have gotten Stefan Amaris off with a warning.

Iron Grenadier

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Re: By the Horns (An Alternate Universe Fan-Fiction)
« Reply #489 on: 19 October 2021, 23:13:15 »
Awesome update and welcome back!

master arminas

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Re: By the Horns (An Alternate Universe Fan-Fiction)
« Reply #490 on: 20 October 2021, 14:20:39 »
University of Taurus
Samantha City, Taurus
Taurian Concordat
November 27, 3025

Angelina Devereaux—known as Angel to her few friends—climbed into the back of the armored transport van and sat down beside Sandra.  Two Taurian soldiers, both wearing back-and-breast armor plating, along with combat helmets, sat opposite them, cradling assault rifles in their arms.  Between the soldiers and the two women the old Taurian data Core sat on the floor of the cargo bay.

A third soldier closed the bay door and slapped the vehicle on the side and it began to move off and away, bound for the Taurian Naval War Museum.  Angel smiled and she looked at Sandra, who nodded back at her.

“Twenty seconds,” the voice of Control whispered through the tiny ear-bud nestled inside her right ear and Angel drew a deep breath and waited.

She waited until both the soldiers sat up straight, one of them putting his own hand up near his ear and then she heard the BOOM of an explosion behind them, just as the transport left behind the campus for the busy streets of the Taurian capital.

“What was that?” yelled Sandra, right on cue, her face a reflection of pure fear.  She plays these roles well, Angel thought, as she bit her own lip and just tried to look worried.

One of the soldiers, the one with his hand near his ear, nodded and then spoke.  “Trouble back on the campus, but we have orders to get you and the empty core back to the museum.  Nothing for either of you to wor . . .,” his voice stopped mid-word as the second soldier pulled the trigger on a dart gun that he had drawn and pressed against the first soldier’s side.

Angel blinked.  Sandra froze.  Because that was not what was supposed to happen next.

The soldier who had just been shot collapsed and the second one trained the dart pistol on the two women.

“Really, ladies,” the ear-bug whispered.  “Trying to make off with the data from the first Core . . . and leaving that Core booby-trapped for Phil and Max?  Tsk, tsk, tsk.”

Angel cursed and the second soldier shook his head.  “Nein, fraulein, I would not try it,” Gerhardt Manstein with a chuckle.

“So, you are going to take our Core?” Angel snarled.  “After what we did to get it?”

The Lyran shook his head.  “We had a deal, fraulein.  Which Slut—and you two—agreed to.  And then broke.  Teams One and Two are in the building and we should have both Cores in a few . . .,” and Manstein’s voice trailed off.  “Control, are you hearing this?” he asked.

“Yes, damn it!”

Angel and Sandra exchanged a glance.  “Hear what?” Sandra asked, holding up her hands to placate the Lyran.

Manstein shook his head and reached up, toggling the van’s intercom and a voice emerged from the speakers in the cargo bay.

“. . ., to repeat.  Hostile forces are attacking the University of Taurus.  Suspects are fleeing the area in a TDF transport van, vehicle ID number KCL-4017.  Consider armed and extremely dangerous.  Use of lethal force is authorized for all Security and Defense Force personnel.”

“What the hell?” Angel sputtered.

“Control, what is going on?  This wasn’t the plan,” Manstein snarled.

“I don’t know, Templar,” the harried voice answered.  “Get off the main throughfare ASAP and ditch the vehicle until we figure out what is going on here.”  There was a pause.  “Teams One and Two have secured the prize . . . but the bad boys put their bomb on a timer; they are attempting to disarm the device now.”

“More bad news,” a third voice added, that of the driver up front in the cab.  “Seems like a couple of the Taurian ‘Mechs heading to campus have noticed us; they are coming this way!”

The van swerved as the driver hit the brakes and fishtailed into a tight turn, which was followed by an explosion that rocked the van . . . almost flipping it over.

“And now, they are shooting at us!” the driver shouted.

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

“Phil, what is the hold-up?” Victor asked.

“You want to disarm this nuclear demo charge, Victor?” a sweating Phil answered with a snarl.  He wiped his forearm with one sleeve and shook beads of sweat from his eyes as his fingers probed into the depths of the bomb.  “Standard nuclear demo pack . . . why did it register as fissile materials . . . ah, okay.  That’s why.  The Commandoes used their basic low-yield demo charge—laser-ignited, just like ours—but they put the plutonium around the hydrogen reservoir.”  He snorted.  “Smart.  The plutonium isn’t needed for the detonation, but it will be scattered to hell and back and give off the right radioactive signature . . . and I’d bet they got the plutonium from a Federated Suns facility somewhere in the Capellan March.  Just so the Bulls think that we Davions did it.”

“Discuss their brilliance later, Phil.  Just stop the timer,” Victor growled.

The Davion agent snorted as the digital display slowly counted down.  42.  41.  40.  “Ye of little faith, Victor,” he whispered.  “No conventional explosives, so . . .,” he paused and shook his head.  “If I’m right, and I hope I’m right, yanking the power supply will stop the laser ignition.”

“And if you are wrong?” Victor asked just as quietly.

“We will never know it,” Phil muttered.

“Great.  Just great.  What if they have two power supplies?”

36.  35.  34.

“Then yanking one will cause the other to discharge . . . but these demo charges don’t have a lot of room for an extra power source able to discharge enough energy to ignite the hydrogen reserve.  It shouldn’t.”

27.  26.  25.

“Shouldn’t.  Makes me feel oh-so-much better, Phil,” Victor scowled.

“You want to do this?”

And Max sighed.  “Later, gentlemen,” he said, Koga nodded his agreement.

21.  20.  19.

“Okay.  Here goes nothing,” Phil whispered and he pulled a heavy capacitor cell from the base of the demo charge through the access port he had already opened.  A single power cable connected the cell to the demolition pack and he nodded.  “Stand by.”

14.  13.  12.

He grabbed the capacitor in one hand and the cable in the other, and mouthing a silent prayer, he yanked the cable free.

And the display stopped, then the numbers faded as the demo charge powered down.

Phil looked down at the capacitor cell, then he dropped it on the floor, his hand shaking.  “Can we please go now?” he asked.  “Before something else goes wrong.”

But Max was holding one hand up to his ear.  “Say again, Control?  What do you mean the transport is under fire?”

And far above the four men, a faint BOOM sounded. 

“Tell me that is not the Taurian infantry swarming in to kill us all,” Phil said quietly.

Max shook his head.  “I really wish I could, Phil,” he answered.

“Time to go,” Victor snapped as he and Koga lifted the Core and headed for the escape tunnel. 

“Past time to go,” Phil added.

“What about him,” Max asked, pointing at the still paralyzed Taurian scientist.

“He’s one of their own . . . they shouldn’t kill him,” Victor declared.

“Shouldn’t.  Such a lovely word . . . but he still has those VXM cylinders stuffed down his trousers, and I really don’t want that stuff following us into the tunnel!” Phil snarled.

“Get the Core down into the tunnels,” Max said as he grabbed some paper and a marker.  “I’ve got this.”

A few moments later, the four men—and the Taurian Data Core—were down in the tunnels beneath the laboratory.  And when the Taurian infantry descended through the elevator shaft, and pounded into the shattered lab, they held their fire . . . because Dr. Mosley had three pages of paper taped to the back of his lab coat.

DO NOT SHOOT, said the first.  LIVE VXM GAS, said the second.  A THANK YOU WOULD BE NICE, said the third.

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

“A lance has peeled off from the column and they are chasing us!” the driver shouted over the intercom.  There was another explosion and the van took a sharp right.  “And shooting at us!”

“Schiesse,” muttered Manstein.  “Control, we are abandoning the vehicle.  Ladies,” he said as he stood and holstered the dart pistol.  “I hope you know how to drop and roll when jumping from a speeding vehicle.”  He put his hand on the handle for the rear hatch.

“What about the Core?” Sandra asked.

Another explosion rocked the van as a salvo of SRMs narrowly missed and the transport man another sharp turn.

“We have the other one!  Leave it!”

“Broke contact down an alley,” the driver snapped.  “Now or never, people!”

Manstein jerked the hatch open and he jumped out into the alley hitting the concrete hard; Angel and Sandra looked at each other, then they too jumped from the speeding van, almost hitting the driver as he dove out of the cab.

The van sped out of the alley—the driver must have wedged the gas pedal down, Angel thought . . . and then it exploded as four Taurian ‘Mechs on the next throughfare unleashed their full weapons load on it.

Angel shook her head and gingerly got to her feet, helping Sandra up as Manstein and the driver came running up to them.  “Time to go,” the Lyran said softly.  “This way; we’ll take the back streets until we are at the rendezvous.”

“Infantry coming to search the area,” Control spoke over the radio.  “Get clear, Templar.”

“Acknowledged, Control.”

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

Phil reached the sewers to find Koga and Max putting demo-charges—conventional demolition charges—against the sides of the tunnel, while Victor stood watch over the Core. 

“Thomas is going to blow a gasket over this,” he whispered.

“Rather have Taurian infantry and special forces coming at us from the rear?” the Capellan asked.

“With our luck they are going to come at us from all sides,” Phil answered quietly.  “How the hell did they identify the van that quickly?”

Max looked up as he armed the charges and he shook his head.  “Someone else is playing the game . . . perhaps that Adept West you encountered earlier.”

“ROM has no honor,” Koga snarled.

“And it is just the sort of thing that bastard would do,” agreed Phil.  “He likes it when other folks get blindsided, battered, and bruised.”

“Yeah, had no qualms about shooting down those Taurian security officers the other day,” Victor chimed in as he lifted the Core and began to trot through the tunnels.

“Probably the only way he can get it up without using a pharmacological,” Phil snapped in frustration.

Max snorted.  “But he isn’t dumb.  And if—IF—he ratted out the van and the duplicate Core, what does he have planned for us?”

“Lots of exits down here,” Victor mused.  “He can’t possibly cover them all.”

“With our luck, he’s sitting on the one we are going to use.  Probably with an auto-blazer or a flamer,” Phil muttered.

“Which is why we are not using any of the exits that exist at the moment,” Max interjected.

“Not use an exit?” Phil asked.  “You don’t mean . . .,” and he sighed.  “You do.  Thomas is gonna have a bloody cow with the damage we are doing to the Samantha City infrastructure, not to mention stealing the damn Core out from under his nose!”

“All part of the game, Phil.  All part of the game,” Max answered with a smile.  “Fire in the hole,” he added as he triggered the remote and the demo-packs left behind sealed the sewer tunnel behind them.
« Last Edit: 22 October 2021, 11:27:34 by master arminas »

wolfgar

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Re: By the Horns (An Alternate Universe Fan-Fiction)
« Reply #491 on: 20 October 2021, 21:08:58 »
ah it lives, good to see this still alive
Wolf wins every fight but one, and in that one he dies, his fangs locked on the throat of his opponent.

master arminas

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Re: By the Horns (An Alternate Universe Fan-Fiction)
« Reply #492 on: 21 October 2021, 16:58:00 »
Outskirts of Samantha City, Taurus
Taurian Concordat
February 7, 3026

Max had been true to his word, Phil thought as he stepped through the breach in the side of the sewer tunnels that Marik agents had created in advance—just in case, they said.  The breach dropped down yet another level into the storm drains that removed any and all runoff from heavy precipitation and prevented the city from flooding.  And those drains emptied at the junction of the beach and the low bluff on which Samantha City had been constructed so long ago.

He slogged through the last meters of the drain and then stepped out onto the dark beach, the ground consisting of a mixture of rocks and finely grained sand.  Other than the faint distant sound of sirens in the distance, the only thing Phil heard was the gentle crash of the waves as they climbed up the beach and then receded back into the sea.

“Almost done, eh, Phil?” Victor asked as he slapped the MI-4 agent on the shoulder and smiled at him.

“Don’t taunt Murphy, Victor,” Phil pleaded.  “Please.  Please, don’t taunt that evil demon-imp of misfortune.”

Both Max and Victor laughed at this, while Koga only shook his head stoically with a disapproving frown on his face.  At least until Victor translated the phrase into Japanese, and then the old samurai suddenly grinned as he got it.

“Truth,” Osami Koga said at last.  “It is not done until it is done.  We still much to do before this Core gets to one of our masters . . . and while I do like you all and would hate to have to kill you,” he shrugged, “in the end there can only be one.”

“My dear friend, you do not believe I planned for this?” asked Max.  “While it would possibly better suit our masters to kill each other and the survivor make off with the Core . . . I’m not so certain that I would survive.  Or that House Marik would get the data contained within.  Which is why my team has six data-storage nodes waiting at the rendezvous.  It will take five or ten minutes to download the data, we will all have a copy, and then we can part ways amicably.”  He paused.  “Which also means none of us really have to die tonight.”

“We hope,” whispered Phil.

“We hope and we plan and we live—or die—with the consequences of our actions,” Max answered with a grin.

“The dying part I can do without,” Phil replied.

“As can we all,” chimed in Victor who was grinning; even Koga gave out a short bark of laughter.

Max stopped and he held up one hand; the others came to a halt behind him.  He raised a flashlight and triggered it four times; two fast flashes; a pause; another two fast flashes.

And in the distance, another light flashed.  Three fast flashes; a pause; one long flash; a pause; a second long flash.

“there they are,” he whispered just loud enough to be heard over the breakers rolling onshore.

The four men advanced along the beach and waiting for them was Barbara Hilton (otherwise known to the four as Control), Gerhadt Manstein, Nicky Kirkland, Sandra Ingram, and Angelina Devereaux—the later two wearing restraints on their wrists.

“You tried to blow us up!” Phil snarled as he approached Nicky.  “Left us down there with a bomb and two canisters of VXM—that was NOT the plan!  If that thing had gone off, you would have contaminated the bunker and half the city when that nuke had gone off!”

Nicky shrugged.  “It was a small nuke.  Might have contaminated a tenth of the city, at most.”  She smiled.  “Besides, you disarmed my bomb and the nuke, so why the bitching, Phil?”

“Why the . . .,” Phil sputtered and he balled up one fist as he shook.

“Phil,” whispered Victor.

“What?”

“Let it go, man.  Let it go.”

Phil just glared at him, then Max, and Koga, and Gerhadt,  and Barbara, then he nodded.  “All right, it was a smart play on her part, I’ll admit it.  Except for leaving the VXM in the freaking bunker!” he snarled.

“Mosley was an idiot,” Sandra spoke up.  “I tried to get him to secure the nerve gas, but he insisted it would be fine where it was; besides,” she said with a sudden grin, “our bomb was a fake just to make you waste time.  No explosives inside, just a pair of detonator caps.”

Phil’s eyes grew wide and his face turned red as Victor began to chuckle.

She shrugged.  “So did he live or did he die?”

“Don’t know; don’t really care,” answered Phil with a snarl as he realized how he had been played.

“Enough, people,” Max interjected.  “Ninety-nine, you’ve got the data-storage modules?”

“Don’t call me that, Danforth!  And yes, we’ve got the modules.”

Ninety-nine?  Mouthed Phil silently and Max grinned.

“A nickname she hates.  You see, back in the Academy, we were class-mates and she made a wager that she could hit the bull’s-eye on the gunnery range 100 times out of 100 shots.  Almost made it; she missed that last shot by this much,” he finished as he held up his thumb and forefinger barely separated.

“I missed that shot because you jostled my elbow at the last second!”

“Can’t expect perfect conditions in the field, can you?” Max answered with a grin.  “But enough of our past, Victor if you will open up the case, we can download the data from the Core and get out of here.”

“Yeah,” added Phil.  “It is past time to go our separate ways.”

Victor grunted and he sat down the case containing the Core and opened it as Barbara opened a case of her own and extracted six data storage modules and several fiber-optic cables.  Beside her Gerhadt turned on a small generator to power the Core and the modules as the data was transferred.

“Okay, we are good to go,” Victor said as there was a sudden sharp CRACK of a rifle shot!

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

Robert West lay prone as he looked through the scope of his anti-material rifle atop the bluff.  Adjusting the optics, he zoomed in to see the tiny figures far below and away from him gathered in the beachside cabana.  “Range?” he asked.

“Eight hundred forty-two meters,” his spotter answered.

“Wind?”

“Thirteen point seven kph at eight-four degrees.”

“Humidity?”

“Sixty-four percent.”

Robert made a few adjustments and he zoomed the optics in one more magnification setting.  And settled the crosshairs on the face of Phil Sheridan.  “There you are, old friend,” he whispered.  Then he shifted slightly and took aim on his target.

The crash of the rifle as it fired came as he squeezed the trigger gently.  And Robert West, Adept of ROM, smiled.

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

“SHIT!” shouted Phil as he dove down behind a flimsy chair; a chair that would not even slow a bullet.  But the beach house had little substantial cover and he was not the only one to find what shelter he could, as ineffective as it was.

But the first shot was also the last.  And slowly Phil raised his head.  “Anyone hit?” he asked softly.

“I’m good,” answered Victor.

“No damage,” said Max.

And one by one, each of the field agents answered.  None of them had been struck by the heavy projectile.

“Well, if we weren’t the target . . . oh, ******,” Phil softly cursed as Victor lifted the Data Core from where it had fallen and he could see the hole in the Core left by the passage of the armor piercing bullet that had struck it.

“Right through the memory bank,” Max said as he shook his head.

“Can we recover . . .,” Phil began, but he stopped as Barbara Hilton and Gerhadt Manstein shook their own heads in a NO.

“All of this?  All of this?  For nothing?” Phil asked.

“Well, you still have me,” Victor said.

“And me,” added Nicky.

“Wonderful.  I’ve got you two, but not the Core, and Taurian Security has to be on their way to the beach—that rifle shot has to have been heard.”

Max stood up straight, and he ran one hand through his hair.  “Yes.  We need to leave and go our separate ways.”  And he shook his head in frustration as looked down on the still smoking Data Core.

Cháteau des Calderon
Samantha City, Taurus
Taurian Concordat
February 7, 3025

“HENRI!” Thomas bellowed as he entered his private office, the Taurian spy-master waiting for him.

“Yes, my Protector,” Henri Jouett answered simply.

“We had a fire fight on the campus of the University of Taurus, four of our ‘Mechs engaged one of our own transport vans blowing it to pieces—along with a good number of buildings around it!—the Core is missing, and I’ve got a research scientist traumatized by having canisters of live nerve gas stuffed down the front of his trousers as he lay paralyzed on the floor while at least two separate teams exchanged gunfire over WHO exactly would get to steal the damn Core!”

He stopped and he shook his head.  “The sewers are a mess, we’ve got damage all over the place, and . . .,” and he stopped in mid-tirade as Henri held up his hand.

“And not one civilian was physically injured.  Yes, we lost several security guards and there was infrastructure damage.  But the Core they stole was the decoy, my Protector.  And according to information that I received just tonight, we owe whoever stole the Core a sizeable debt for stopping that commando raid on the facility.  My people say that those were Liao Death Commandos . . . and that they had a nuclear demolition charge with them that their opponents defused in the field.”

Thomas began to sputter again and then he collected himself and took a deep breath.

“How certain are you it was the Death Commandos?”

“Not completely, but a high likelihood.  My source says they decided that getting the Core out would be a problem, so they—in typically Liao fashion—decided if they could not have it, then no one would.”

“Where is the that nuclear demolition charge?”

“One of my tech teams has recovered it.  Standard Inner Sphere design, no markings on the case, but,” and Henri shook his head.  “They tried to be clever.  The hydrogen core was surrounded with plutonium to make it look like a fission device.  If it had detonated.”

“Why would they want to make it look a fission weapon?” Thomas asked as he sat down.

“It would appear that one of our own people had decided—for some insane reason—to detonate a nuclear weapon on the campus of the University of Taurus, Tom.  Except we don’t use plutonium in our fission devices; I’d wager the plutonium came from a Davion facility somewhere.  Our analysts will confirm that in a matter of hours now that we have the device to examine.”

“Davions,” Thomas growled.

And Henri held up his hand again.  “Throws the scent off the Capellans rather nicely, doesn’t it, Tom?”

Thomas glowered for a moment longer and then he nodded.  “It does.  Damn it.”

He stood and began to pace.  “I want this whole thing shut down, Henri.  We can’t play games with my people—MY PEOPLE—like this!”

And Henri grinned.  “They stole the decoy Core, and the duplicate Core that Mosley’s two lab assistants made.  I’ll bet they are trying to smuggle those Cores off-world right now; and by the time they learn that the data within is utterly useless—pie-in-the-sky projects not possible either now or during the Star League—it will be too late.”

Thomas started to answer him, and then there was a knock on the door.  One of the guards outside opened it and a courier walked into the executive office and handed Henri a data-pad before he left again, the guard closing the door behind him.

Henri read the information quickly and frowned.  “Someone shot up the decoy Core on the beach below the city,” he finally said. 

“Why in the world would they do that?” asked Thomas.  “Did they transfer the data first?”

“Not according to this.  Seems there is another player that did not want the Core’s data getting out—he didn’t kill anyone, there wasn’t any blood, but there is god-awful huge hole in the decoy Core where he shot it with an anti-material rifle.”

Thomas sat down and he sighed.  “Tonight, Henri.  This ends tonight.”

“Yes, my Protector.”

Central Transit Station
Samantha City, Taurus
Taurian Concordat
February 8, 3026

Phil stood on the platform and looked at his ticket one last time.  The DropShip Emma Dale, departing Victor Taurens Spaceport at 0415 local time; bound for a rendezvous with the JumpShip White Rose, with destinations of New Vallis, Flintoff, New Syrtis, and points beyond.  He’d contact Quintus Allard once he got back in Davion space and let know exactly the cluster-****** that had occurred out here on the Taurian capital. 

And maybe, just maybe, he could arrange for a transfer back somewhere in the center of the Federated Suns where he wouldn’t have to dodge bullets, disarm bombs, and have to deal with live nerve gas!

The train was running late, Phil thought as he looked at the clock again.  But he had plenty of time.  Plenty of time and there was not a great many people here on the platform at two in the morning.

There was whine of brakes and Phil looked down the tunnel to see the approaching lights.  Not too late, he thought as he picked up his suitcase and put the ticket in his jacket pocket.

“Mister Sheridan?  Phil Sheridan?” a voice behind him asked, and Phil forced his face to remain perfectly still as he turned around.

“Yes?  May I help you?”

Two men stood on the platform behind him, and one of them smiled.  “I hope so.  We are with the Office of Special Intelligence and Operations; Monsieur Jouett would like a word.  If you please, Mister Sheridan,” he finished, gesturing towards the platform exit with one hand.

Phil considered—briefly—running, but he noted another four men stationed to cover all of the exits.  He sighed.  Murphy strikes again, he thought to himself as he nodded to the OSIO operative and began to walk towards the exit with a confidence that he did not feel.

TCOSIO Headquarters
Samantha City, Taurus
Taurian Concordat
February 8, 3026

A middle-aged woman took Phil’s hat and coat—his suitcase had already been taken away by other OSIO personnel—and hung them on a coat rack outside the door to an office.  The building to which he had been escorted was rather nondescript, blending well into the seemingly endless vista of near identical apartment rows and office complexes to either side and across the boulevard. 

That façade had faded once Phil entered the building.  As he had expected.  The Headquarters of the OSIO was one of the best defended facilities in the entire Concordat . . . and no one here was taking any chances with him.  Which meant, Phil thought with a silent sigh, that they knew about him and the odds were not good that he would be walking back out those doors.

Rolled out on a gurney, bound for the morgue; that was far more likely.

“Monsieur Jouett will see you now,” the lady said with a faint smile and opened the outer door.  Past it was a small passage—no more than three meters long—that ended in a second door.  Phil recognized the high quality of the sound proofing on those doors and the walls; and if he had been a betting man would have put money on it being encased in a Faraday Cage as well to defeat any electronic listening devices.

He reached the inner door and he opened it, and was not surprised at the weight.  Armored, he thought.  Probably well enough to resist a missile strike; well, one missile strike anyway.

He stepped into the lair of the Taurian spymaster.

And came to a halt as he recognized the men and women sitting there in front of a rather normal—and full—desk.  Victor Li, Nicky Kirkland, Maxwell Danforth, Osami Koga, and Gerhadt Manstein.  Behind the desk there sat a man that simply had to be Henri Jouett, his fingers steepled together and he nodded at Phil with the faintest hint of a smile.

Oh, hell, he thought.  They’ve known about us the entire time.

“Mister Sheridan,” a smooth voice spoke up from behind the desk.  “Our last player in the game that will be joining us tonight.  Would you care to take a seat?”

Phil walked over and he sat down.

“Excellent.  My name is Henri Jouett and I am the Minister of the Office of Special Intelligence and Operations.  And each one of you are an agent of a foreign power, working in the Taurian Concordat under a non-official cover.  Spies.  I could have you all taken out and shot and no one in this building—or your own agencies—would blink an eye.  Or, I could throw you each in an isolated cell and interrogate you at my leisure.  I am certain that your own agencies would deny any knowledge of your existence; you would be mine to do with as I please.”

And he smiled again.  “But I would rather not do either.  Nor would Protector Thomas.”

Phil frowned.

“It appears, ladies and gentlemen, that the Taurian Concordat owes you a debt for your role in stopping the detonation of a nuclear device beneath the University of Taurus earlier this evening.  So, in repayment of that debt, I am prepared to release each of you—provided that you leave Taurus immediately and do not return.”

He paused and waited until each of the six nodded to show their understanding.

“Good.  Protector Thomas hates having debts, and he—as do I—believe that simply letting you leave with your lives is not enough to repay what he owes each of you.  Now, we will let you leave, but it is your choice if you do so with empty hands.  But, in return, I need questions answered—truthfully, ladies and gentlemen.”

He waited a moment before he resumed.  “Who destroyed the Data Core you stole from the research lab?  And where is the copy that you associates made that aboard the transport van you stole?”

Max and Phil exchanged a glance and then Phil nodded.  Max looked at Henri direct in the eyes and held his gaze for a second.

“Adept Robert West, agent of ROM.  We think that is who destroyed the Data Core,” Max said softly.

“The same bastard who shot your security officers at the Quick Pick that night,” Phil added.

Gerhadt Manstein chimed in.  “The duplicate Data Core was destroyed in the van; we did not have time to get it out once your ‘Mechs began shooting at us,” he thought for a moment.  “I suppose we have Adept West to thank for that as well.  Unless you identified us in some other manner.”

“That would be telling,” Henri said with a smile.  “But we owe you a debt, Herr Manstein.  No.  That was not any of our people that made that broadcast.  I suspect you are correct that it was this ComStar operative.  Which begs the question, why are they so determined to see the Data Core destroyed?”

“If they can’t have it, no one can?” Phil asked.

“Makes sense for any one of you; well, your governments, anyway.  But ComStar?  What does ComStar stand to gain from a Taurian Data Core from the last years of the 26th Century?”

No one answered the question, but Henri could see the wheels turning in their minds and one-by-one the agents nodded.

“They don’t want any of us to have that information,” Phil muttered in an angry voice.  “And those bastards got what they wanted.  None of us have the data in that Core now.  Not even you.”

“Ah,” Henri said with another smile.  “There is where you are wrong, Mister Sheridan.  The Data Core you were after was nothing but a decoy—the real Core is safe and sound at an extremely secure location; one not in Samantha City, by the way.  We have already made almost a dozen copies of the data—we had the correct decryption key from the start, after all.  And those copies have been dispersed to different locations.  The information on the Core is quite safe and secure, ladies and gentlemen.”

He paused and smiled again.

“And Thomas is more than willing to share it.”

Henri waited while the six agents suddenly sat up, their faces showing pure, unadulterated shock.

“Well.  Sell it, at the very least.  Tell you masters that Thomas is willing to negotiate for the price of a copy of this Data Core.  But do so via courier, not by HPG.  Since, after all, it does appear that ComStar is not beyond arranging the loss of this data if they know about it.”

And with that, Henri turned his head to look directly at Victor Li.  “This offer is extended by Protector Calderon to each of you—except for House Liao and the Capellan Confederation.  Not only did Romano Liao and Archibald McCarron invade the Concordat, but your Death Commandos planned to detonate a weapon of mass destruction on the soil of Taurus itself.”

“Michael-Hasek Davion also invaded,” Victor said softly.

“So he did.  And he was defeated, but before that defeat happened, before he and his Fusiliers set foot on New Vallis, First Price Hanse Davion declared him a rogue agent, a pirate, and his men guilty of mutiny and desertion.  I do not believe that Maximillian Liao has done anything similar; although it seems that ComStar—once again—has resolved to make it look as if McCarron’s Armored Cavalry was there at their invitation to secure their HPG stations from us periphery barbarians.”

“Maximillian Liao will not get a copy of the Data Core.  Indeed, he will be lucky if the Taurian Concordat does not decide to return the favor,” and Henri leaned back in his chair and raised his steepled hands to his lips.  “As you have no doubt already heard, our new Battleship took part in the engagement at New Vallis.  Make certain Lord Liao understands that if he ever tries such an action again, it will engage him at Sian.  And it will be loaded down with enough nuclear ordnance to ensure the obliteration of the Celestial City and all within it.”

Henri’s voice was cold and flat and not one of the agents in the room doubted either his sincerity or his resolve.

And Victor Li nodded.  “You wish me to convey this information to the Chancellor?”

“No.  He would kill you, if I may be blunt.  The message is being sent via other channels.  But you need to decide if you really want to return to the Capellan Confederation, Victor Li.  As I said, we owe you a debt.  And if you come to work for us, well, we can repay it in other ways than giving you a copy of the Core for the Chancellor.”

“It is a gracious offer, Monsieur,” Victor finally whispered.  “But one I must refuse.  I shall return home and you may consider your debt paid in full.”

“As you wish.  As you wish.”

Henri stood.  “The rest of you are free to go.  Take my message back to your masters and we shall begin to haggle for the price.”

He pressed a button on the desk and the inner door opened, two men entering to escort the agents away.

Each nodded at Henri in turn and then they left.

Henri sat down behind the desk again and pressed a blinking button on the phone.  “You heard, my Protector?” he asked.

“All of it,” the sound of Thomas Calderon’s voice came over the intercom. 

“Are you satisfied, my Lord?”

There was a pause and then he heard Thomas sigh.  “No.  I want to hang them all, debt or no.  But I can’t.  And getting their governments to funnel that much cash to us?  Edward is right, we can’t let the opportunity pass.  Will they do it?”

“Every last one of them, my Protector.  There is still the problem of ComStar; they are playing games despite what is coming from the leadership on Terra.”

“And now that we know they are, we can start doing something about that.  Good work tonight, Henri.  I—and the realm—owe you as well.”

And the line went dead as Thomas hung up.

Henri only smiled and he picked up a folder, opened it, and began to read yet another report.
« Last Edit: 22 October 2021, 11:28:16 by master arminas »

EAGLE 7

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Re: By the Horns (An Alternate Universe Fan-Fiction)
« Reply #493 on: 21 October 2021, 20:02:15 »
     Twists, Turns, car crashes, mechs and then it becomes interesting. Very good.
“ My Clan honor is bigger than your Dragon honor, and comes in 18 clan flavors.”

drakensis

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Re: By the Horns (An Alternate Universe Fan-Fiction)
« Reply #494 on: 22 October 2021, 02:17:09 »
“Everyone last one of them, my Protector.
"It's national writing month, not national writing week and a half you jerk" - Consequences, 9th November 2018

master arminas

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Re: By the Horns (An Alternate Universe Fan-Fiction)
« Reply #495 on: 22 October 2021, 11:28:58 »
Chapter Four

Taurian Defense Force Military Reservation (I Corps HQ)
Port Sheridan, New Vallis
Taurian Concordat
February 8, 3026

Ardan sighed.  “You don’t have to do this, Edward,” he spoke softly to the young man walking beside him.  “Marshal Calderon can do this just as well as you.”

“You are wrong, Ardan,” Edward replied in a voice just as soft—but one with a bitter edge. 

No, Ardan thought, he doesn’t like having to do this either.  But he is determined to see it through and once again, he shook his head at the similarity between this young man and the two brothers Davion he had served with over the years.

“I have to be the one who passes the sentence,” Edward continued after a moment.  “Not because of my rank, but because I am my father’s son.  And because I am the Heir Designate to Thomas Calderon.  If I don’t,” and he swallowed hard, “then my own people will see it as dereliction of duty.  A man cannot lead if he cannot stand by his given word.”

“I understand that all too well, Edward.  But there are two hundred and seventeen survivors of the final Fusilier assault.  You are going to have to sit on that dais, hear each and every one of them plead and beg for their lives, pass the sentence on them, and then watch them hang one by one until they are dead.”

Edward’s face pinched slightly at that, but he nodded.  “Damned if I do and damned if I don’t, Arden.  Still, we are lucky that it is only two hundred and seventeen that are being put on trial today.  We saved the lives of over six thousand by convincing the ones that defected,” the largest concentration of those being the former Sixth Fusiliers logistical and support elements that had deserted Michael en masse, “we weren’t going to hang them.  Michael’s dead, his command staff and headquarters are dead, and these two hundred and seventeen sons-of-bitches still attacked into the teeth of our defenses and could not find their death on the field of battle.  Well, today, they are going to find that death they sought.”  Edward paused, and in even a softer voice, he continued.  “And may God have mercy on their souls.  As well as my own.”

More than three thousand officers and men of the former Regimental Combat Team had already been killed on New Vallis.  Almost none of the MechWarriors who had followed the Duke had tried to make their way to the surrender point—just a bare dozen, only a single company.  Those twelve had been joined by a mere seven lances of tanks and combat vehicles and less than two battalions of infantry.  The rest of the Fusiliers combat forces had followed their leaders into the defensive lines and fought like madmen—died like madmen.

Outside of the support elements, no officer survived that ranked higher than a Captain.

Ardan winced at the thought.  The Fusiliers had fought bravely and fought well, though the cause—and the man—they fought for had not been worth the price they paid in the end.  And the Fusiliers had extracted a toll from the Taurian defenders—and their associated mercenaries, including Ardan’s own mercenaries-in-name-only—that was all too painful as well.  Tanis Verbet’s 1st Hyades Light Infantry had suffered the worse with over three-quarters of her ‘Mechs destroyed or disabled, although over seventy percent of those “destroyed” units were in good enough condition to be salvaged and returned to service.  Eventually returned to service; it would take months to make good all the repairs the battle had created the need for.

All of the defenders had taken some casualties, though it was relatively light compared to those of the 1st Hyades and the Sixth Fusiliers.  Especially once the Foxhounds and Calderon Red Hand had slammed into the advancing Fusiliers just as Wylie’s Coyotes, Colonel Fiona Jamesen, and Erwin Tyrell’s Nobles Regiment had smashed into their flanks.

Ardan had feared that not even that would be enough to break the Sixth, but in the end, they did break as ‘Mech after ‘Mech was shattered and the Fusiliers fighting power continued to shrink and shrink.  Well after it had been obvious that the battle was lost, the Fusilier MechWarriors had begun to surrender . . . and Edward had ordered that those surrenders be accepted.

Little had the Fusiliers known it was only to await this tribunal and a noose.

Oh, they had heard the broadcast, the MechWarriors who Michael had trusted as much as he trusted any man.  They knew that the Taurians—that Edward—had already told them if they fought and killed Taurians on their own soil, their lives were forfeit.  But either they hadn’t believed the message or they thought that this young man could be convinced to spare their lives.

Either way, they had been wrong.  And the time had come for the survivors to pay the price that the Taurian need for justice demanded.  And Ardan shook his head at that thought.  Not justice—vengeance.  And then he regretted that thought as he glanced at Edward still walking silent beside him.  No.  Not all of them see this as revenge.  Not all of them by far, though he will still go through with it because he has to.  If he wants the treaty with the Federated Suns, he has to, and Ardan winced at the thought of the price that had already been paid in blood and lives to give this treaty even the barest chance of success.

Paid for by both sides.  By Edward and by Hanse and by Ardan himself with some small part of his soul.

The two men approached the doors leading outside to the parade grounds where the Tribunal would sit and hear the appeals of those appearing before them.  Where they sat before the gallows that had been erected over the past week and would stand silent behind the survivors as those few pleaded and begged for mercy that could not be shown to them.

The guards on the doors opened them and Edward drew in a deep breath.  And then he took one step forward and Ardan advanced at his side.

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

Subaltern Jon Kincaide stood and the discussion around the dinner table came to a halt as the officers of the Taurian Defense Force, nobles of the Concordat, and their guests rose as well.

“Ladies, gentlemen,” the young man said firmly as the junior officer present at the table today.  “The Taurian Concordat!”

He raised his glass in salute and those gathered answered him, “The Taurian Concordat!”  And they drank a sip—some a swallow!

“The Protector!”

“The Protector!”

Another sip; another swallow.

“The Defense Force!”

“The Defense Force!”

And again, they drank.

Some began to sit, but Edward remained standing; Ardan looked at him in surprise.  Those three toasts were the only ones required by ritual.

“To our absent friends,” the young man said softly and raised his own glass again.

“To absent friends,” repeated Corey Calderon and Helena Vickers, followed quickly by every other person in the room.  They drank a fourth time and all watched Edward as they waited to see if he had any more surprises in store.

Now, Edward sat at the head of the table, followed by Marshal Calderon at the opposite end and then all of the others, and he leaned back in his seat as he appeared to be listening to the conversations around him, but the look in his eyes was haunted and he absently swirled the dark red wine in his glass without taking another sip.

And Helena Vickers, sitting at Edward’s right hand—just as Arden sat on his left—frowned.  She leaned forward.

“Never an easy thing, my boy, to send men to the gallows—or a firing squad.  Lord knows, I’ve done both and it has never been easy and never failed to turn my stomach as I watched.  Even if it was men that deserved it, it is not an easy thing to do.  Or at the least, it is not an easy thing for any officer—or Protector—that I want to serve under and or have serve under me,” she said in a soft voice.

“You’ve sent men—men you condemned with your own voice—to their deaths, Fleet Marshal?” Edward asked quietly.

“I have,” she answered and she took a sip of wine and gestured towards Edward’s own glass.  He gave a half-hearted smile and raised it, then took a sip as well.  “Better, young man.  I’ve sent enemies of the Concordat to the gallows and the firing squad and I’ve sent my people before them as well; men and women who betrayed the Concordat or deserted the Defense Force in a time of war.  It’s never been easy for me.  I pray it never becomes easy for you.”

She sighed.  “And there are many, many more that never committed any crime that I sent to their deaths—with my own voice—because I needed them to fight and die to buy time to save more than I sacrificed.  Those deaths weigh more heavy on me than the ones I’ve had to hang or shoot.  And I think that is true of you as well.  Absent friends, indeed.”

She took another sip, and Edward followed suit.

“I’m glad that I decided to come planet-side today for this . . .,” and she grimaced, “occasion.  Wasn’t sure I wanted to, but I got to meet you, boy.  I got to meet you here, in the field, and use the occasion to gauge the quality of your character.”

Edward sat down his glass and he looked the old woman directly in her eyes.  “And what did you decide about my character, Fleet Marshal?”

“That you are a Calderon, Lord Edward.  A true Calderon and one I am willing to follow when the day eventually comes.  If I don’t die before Thomas passes on, that is,” and she laughed.  “Of course, I’ve been called stubborn, so I’ll probably live to be two hundred, least a’ways as long as Thomas and you both keep me in my command chair up there.”  And she pointed up at the ceiling.  But Edward knew what she meant.

“So, you are the woman that Thomas appointed to command that battleship in orbit, then?” Arden asked.

Helena Vickers turned to stare deep in Ardan Sortek’s eyes and then she nodded.  “It is my distinct honor to be the commanding officer of the Taurian Concordat Ship Samantha Calderon.  And you are Ardan Sortek—you know when Thomas heard you were here with your . . . mercenaries,” and she chuckled, “he nearly had a stroke.  Almost sent you into exile, Lord Edward, so I wouldn’t make a habit of doing what you did.”

“Not planning on it, Fleet Marshal,” Edward answered.

“Doubt you planned on doing it at all,” Helena replied sharply.  “But there is a secret that we higher-ranking officers don’t really like spreading around—and the Protector is just about the highest-ranking officer we’ve got.”

Ardan smiled.  The woman was certainly charismatic, but there was something about her name that nagged at the back of his mind.  “And what exactly is that secret, Fleet Marshal?”

Helena snorted another bark of laughter.  “You know the secret I mean, Marshal Sortek—ah, excuse, Colonel Sortek.  The secret, Edward, is that the rules of what we are and aren’t supposed to do . . . well, sometimes you have to break them to get things done right.  You take your command where you know they would never let you, but you do it because it is the right thing to do.  You tell your boss NO when everyone else around you is scared shitless because it is the right thing to do.  You stand up to your father and your commanders and your people and you say, I will not be moved, because damn it what you want me to do is wrong.  Wrong for our people, wrong for the Concordat, wrong for the times.”

She paused and she took another sip of wine.  “You know exactly what I’m talking about, don’t you, Ardan Sortek?”

“I do,” he answered softly.  “As a soldier you obey orders—until those orders are the wrong orders.  And you make a call.”

“And you pay the price,” Helena added.  She looked at Edward.  “This time, Lord Edward, Thomas was willing to forgo the price.  Next time, he might not.  But you knew what might happen to you and you took a stand anyway,” she raised her glass and clinked it against Edward’s own.  “Welcome to the Club.  It is a rather exclusive club for there are not many men or women out there who are willing to take action against orders when they should.  Too worried about losing their exalted ranks and their damned privileges.  Now, we could have won the day without Sortek’s Foxhounds or Enzo Wiley’s Coyotes, but it would have been bloodier on our side.  You knew what you had to do to shore up the defenses of this world and you did it.  Knowing full well the consequences that could have fallen upon you.”

She paused and raised her glass again.  “That is leadership, Lord Edward.  That is a man that I, or Raphael Montoya, or Corey Calderon, or . . .,” and she smiled over at Ardan, “or even Ardan Sortek would be willing to follow.”

And Arden raised his own glass.

“At least until you dismiss him from service and he goes back to New Avalon as a Marshal of the AFFS,” and she laughed again.

“Touché, ma’am,” Ardan replied with a chuckle of his own.

Edward nodded as he took another sip of his own wine.  “Thank you, Fleet Marshal.  I needed to hear that.”

“I know.  I have been there, I have done that.  So has Ardan Sortek.  And tonight, I am going to break another order and put my own fate in the hands of the Protector,” she said with a smile.

“What order are breaking, Fleet Marshal?” asked Ardan Sortek.  “You are not going to blast away my Foxfounds from orbit, are you?”

“Nothing like that,” she answered.  “No.  I have a message for your Prince Hanse Davion.  You see, when viewed one way, I’m already way past two hundred years in age.  I was born in 2529, you see.  I’m that Helena Vickers, Marshal Sortek, and in three short years I will celebrate my 600th birthday.  Must be some sort of record for humanity, right there, eh?”

She laughed and Ardan began to chuckle . . . and then he saw Edward’s expression and he stopped.  He looked at her eyes and she nodded.

“Thomas didn’t find and salvage that ship, did he?” Ardan asked very quietly.

“No.  We had a misjump that sent us flying more than five centuries into the future.  My crew and I, Raphael Montoya and his Calderon Red Hand as well, we are combat veterans of the almost twenty years of Hell that you people today call the Reunification Wars.”

She paused, and then she nodded at Ardan.  “Go ahead.  Take a drink, you probably need one.”

Ardan raised his glass and took a deep swallow.  “Why?  Why tell me, for God’s sake?” he asked when he had recovered.

“You are a man of honor.  I can see that.  Edward trusts you, and even though you are a Davion, I think I do as well.  So.  I want you to tell Hanse Davion himself, that if he decides to try and take Lord Edward here as a hostage or invade the Concordat or seize Saucy Sam, I’ll be waiting for him.  I’ll be coming for him.  With a crew that knows that ship inside and out.  Not a bunch of spacers impressed into service from any available DropShip and JumpShip and trying to operate systems they don’t understand or know how to fix.  Not saying he can’t kill me and get the job done, but that job just got a Hell of a lot harder.  And I want him to know that.”

“He’s not planning on doing any of that!” Ardan snapped.

“I don’t know him.  I know you.  Now, if he keeps a man like you around him, well, maybe Edward is right and we can trust him.  To some degree.  Maybe Edward is wrong.  I don’t know.  And you don’t know—not deep down when you know that any ruler has to be willing to consider anything to preserve their own realm.  Their own people.”

Helena took a sip of her wine and she shook her head.  “You might think because we limped into orbit that Saucy Sam is on the verge of falling apart.  We found the fault yesterday; a fuel pump failed and two of our three main drives couldn’t get enough to provide any thrust.  A minor problem, already fixed.  Just took us a little bit of time to get done.  My ship, my crew, they are not a target, Ardan Sortek.  If the Protector wanted, I’d load up Edward and the Red Hand and personally escort him all the way to New Avalon.”

She sighed.  “But that would be seen as provocative . . . which is why I am having this conversation with you right now.”  She shook her head.  “I believe everyone, including your Hanse Davion, should get one warning—just one.”

“Don’t forget, Fleet Marshal, we learned a long time ago how to kill battleships and cruisers and carriers with just our own aerospace fighters,” Ardan said softly.

“Don’t I know it, boy.  I think this is what they used to call detente?  Right?  You can kill me and I can kill you, but all either one of us has to do to live is just back away from the edge.  If the other one also pulls back from brink, that is.”  She took the last sip of wine from her glass.  “I don’t want to go to New Avalon.  I don’t want to fight Hanse Davion.  Frankly, I’m sick and tired of war and could use a vacation—don’t think I’m going to get one any time soon, but I’d like to spend about a year on the beach drinking fruity drinks with little paper umbrellas and ****** the brains out of some twenty-year old massage therapist.”

Despite himself, Ardan let out a short bark of laughter and Helena nodded.

“And your Hanse Davion doesn’t want a war on the Taurian border either, or you wouldn’t be out here and we wouldn’t be talking.  So just tell the damn man my message,” she said as she stood.  “Lore Edward, you have a good evening.  Colonel Sortek.”

Edward stood.  “Fleet Marshal,” he said with a slight bow, and Helena smiled at him.

“You’ll do, boy.  You’ll do fine,” she whispered as she patted him on the shoulder and walked from the dining hall.

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

“Edward?”

Edward stopped and turned around.  He had been about to call it an evening and retire for the night, but the sound of Corey’s voice had stopped him.

“Uncle Corey,” he said with a slight bow.

“Leaving us so early?” the old man asked softly.

“Today was not the best of days, Uncle Corey,” Edward answered just as softly.

“No, it wasn’t.  But you did your duty, son, and I am proud of you.  Now, I know you want to retire for the night and torture yourself with how you might have been able to do something else instead of what you did,” and Corey chuckled sadly, “but before you go, I wanted you to meet some people.”

“Of course, Marshal Calderon.”

“I understand you are going out to the Detention Facility tomorrow.  Inspection tour?”

“I want to see how we are treating the others,” Edward finally said.

“Like human beings, son.  Like human beings,” Corey paused and he waved over at Erwin Tyrell.  The New Vallis nobleman began to make his way through the crowd, a young woman following him.

“Seriously,” Corey continued, “right now we are still processing them, treating any wounded, debriefing them,” and he smiled.  “You know, there was one cavalry recon company—the remains of one—that came in and had a horror story to tell us.  They ran into a nest of Demon Spiders out there in the Waste and damn near lost half their men to them.  Just for trying to stop and refill their water canteens.  Turns out Michael never briefed them about the dangers of the Wastes—guess he thought they wouldn’t be in it for more than a day and it would be easy to push us aside to get to Port Sheridan.”

“Guess he was wrong, Uncle Corey.”

“Damn straight, my lad.  Ah, Erwin!  Subaltern Edward Calderon, you know Colonel the Baron Erwin Tyrell.  But have you met his daughter?”

The young woman—Edward guessed she was about his own age—came forward and curtseyed.  Edward bowed in reply, and then he took a good look at her.

She was tall—almost taller than him—slender, with lovely honey-brown hair and expressive hazel eyes.

“Subaltern Calderon, it is a pleasure to make your acquaintance,” she said in a soft soprano voice.

“Lord Edward,” Erwin Tyrell spoke up, “may I make known to you my daughter, Moira Tyrell.”

“My lady,” Edward said simply.  “The honor is mine.”

“Lady Moira is also Doctor Tyrell,” added Corey.  “She graduated from Santiago Medical on Samantha at damn near the top of her class.”

“I am impressed,” Edward said as he smiled.  “That is one of our most prestigious institutions.”

She nodded her head slightly, acknowledging the compliment.  “It is my understanding that you are coming to inspect the Detention Facility tomorrow?”

“I am,” Edward answered.  “But I was not aware that was common knowledge.”

“Oh, it’s not,” she replied with a smile—and Edward froze at the sight of her beaming face.  “I am running the medical side of the Facility until we get everyone treated and processed,” and her smile faded and she shook her head.  “Where they are going after that no one will tell me.”

Corey Calderon smiled and he took the young ladies arm.  “Perhaps, my dear, you might offer to show the Subaltern here around the Facility tomorrow?  You know it better than any other, right?”

“I do.  Lord Edward, it would be my pleasure to escort you around the compound, unless you are otherwise engaged?”

Edward started to speak, but suddenly had to swallow and he nodded.  “T-that would be fine, my lady,” he finally said.

“Eddie, why don’t you and Lady Moira—Doctor Tyrell,” he quickly corrected and she smiled at him, “go get a fresh drink and leave us old men here to talk.  Boring stuff you young folks don’t want to hear, you know.”

“My lady?” Edward asked, holding out his arm. 

Moira smiled and slid her own into his and the two of the them began to walk towards the bar, smiling and talking the entire way.

“My Lord Marshal,” Erwin said in an acrid tone, “just what the ****** are you playing at?”

“Well, he’s a single boy.  She’s a single girl.  They are both attractive, both young, both smart.  Who knows what might happen?”

“I know what could happen, and I really don’t want to have to kill Thomas’ heir in an Honor Duel.  That’s my daughter!” he snapped.

“Calm down, Erwin,” Corey replied with a laugh.  “I’ve known Eddie his entire life; he won’t do anything improper.  But I did want him to meet her before he left for New Avalon.”

“He might not—but she just might!” Erwin answered and then he sighed.  “Why?  Why did you want them to meet?”

“What?  Is a Calderon not good enough for your daughter, Lord Tyrell?”

“It’s not that . . . why tonight?  Why before he leaves?”

“He’s going to be on New Avalon—a Davion world—for weeks, perhaps months.  He might meet some pretty Davion girl.  Do you want him bringing home a Davion wife, Erwin?”  And Corey smiled as Erwin Tyrell began to sputter.  “Or do you want him thinking about that little vixen you raised that probably has him wound around her little finger by now,” and Corey looked over towards the bar where the two young people were smiling and chatting and completely ignoring everyone else in the room.

“God,” whispered Erwin.  “I need a drink.”

And Corey Calderon laughed.

Shadow_Wraith

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Re: By the Horns (An Alternate Universe Fan-Fiction)
« Reply #496 on: 22 October 2021, 15:26:06 »
Nice story update!  I especially like how the chapter ended!

DOC_Agren

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Re: By the Horns (An Alternate Universe Fan-Fiction)
« Reply #497 on: 23 October 2021, 17:38:08 »
plan and plots inside of plans and plots    :thumbsup:
"For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast, And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed:And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill, And their hearts but once heaved, and for ever grew still!"

master arminas

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Re: By the Horns (An Alternate Universe Fan-Fiction)
« Reply #498 on: 25 October 2021, 12:37:31 »
Prisoner Detention and Processing Facility
Tabernas Wastelands, New Vallis
Taurian Concordat
February 9, 3026

“We built this in two weeks?” asked Edward as he walked through the rows of hastily erected barracks, storage rooms, guard quarters, and mess-halls that had sprung up here on the northern edge of the Tabernas Wastes.  One side of the facility bordered the Glitterstream, and pipes drew up the water from that rushing river to be purified for the prisoners—and guards—to drink.

Jon Kincaide nodded, even as Corey, Erwin, and Ardan trailed along behind them.  “Most of these structures are pre-fabricated buildings that the Constabulary had in storage.  To the west we have the DropShip landing zone and the vehicle park where we interned their gear.  As the men and women came here to surrender, we took their weapons, got their names, ranks, and serials numbers, assigned them living quarters, and provided medical care to those in need.”

“And that area?” Edward pointed toward a collection of larger buildings and several tents.

“The Medical Facility, sir,” Jon answered.  “I believe that Doctor Tyrell is supposed to meet us there and finished the tour.”

“Good,” said Edward brightly.  “Uncle Corey, I want to meet those cavalry troopers you told me about last night—see how things are going from their perspective.”

“Of course, Edward.”

Edward turned back towards the medical facility where he spotted Moira Tyrell exiting one of the buildings and heading in his direction.  He smiled and began to wave . . . but then he saw the look on her face and his smile faded.

“Is this how the Calderons keep their word?” she snapped as she walked right up to Edward and pointed her finger at his chest.

“What are you . . . Moi—Dr. Tyell, what is wrong?” Edward asked.

“This morning, we were told by the new commander of the facility—a Constabulary officer appointed by Governor Dupont that the prisoners no longer required any further medical care.  We have been ordered to pack our things and leave camp.”

She stared at Edward with accusing eyes and he shook his head.  “I didn’t know,” he whispered.  “Corey?” he asked in a louder voice.

“Not my doing, Edward,” the old man answered.  “Dupont insisted that the Constabulary take over running this facility . . . and my infantry have more than enough to do cleaning up after that battle.”  He paused.  “First I’ve heard about the medical staff being dismissed, though.”

“Jon,” Edward spoke to his aide and bodyguard.  “Tell the commander of the facility that I want to meet with him—at once.  Take a squad of the Guards with you in case he doesn’t want to come.”

“Sir,” Jon Kincaide replied with a nod and he began to trot away, speaking into handheld radio as he went.

“Lord Edward,” Erwin began, and then he stopped.  “Look, I know Fredrik Dupont; the man is an ass, but he is also a loyal Taurian.  I’m sure he had his reasons for this.”

“I gave these folks my word, Erwin,” Edward snapped.  “They would be taken care of—that includes medical care for those who need it.  And I have no doubt that Governor Dupont is a loyal Taurian and is trying to do what he thinks is best, but he is undermining my given word.  As not only an officer, but as a Calderon!”

Erwin shook his head.  “Let’s not jump to conclusions.  We are going to be moving these men and women to one of our colony worlds pretty soon—maybe everyone that needed medical care has received it.”

Corey sighed.  “Fredrik Dupont is a rabid Davion-phobe; he was very much in league with Shraplen and his ilk.  I’ve got a feeling he is trying to find a ‘better’ solution than sending then prisoners to work on building up a colony on the frontier.”

Edward frowned and then he set his jaw.  “Marshal Calderon, if you would please inform Brigadier Montoya and the remainder of my Guard detachement, I would like their presence—and that of the Red Hand—here as soon as possible.”

“I can have the Foxhounds here in fifteen minutes,” Ardan spoke up, a worried look on his face.

Edward shook his head.  “No.  Having your troops—what with their former allegiance—thrown into the mix might just ignite a spark, Colonel Sortek.  We’ll deal with this with Taurian forces.”

He paused and looked a Moira.  “I will fix this, my lady,” he said softly and she smiled.

“I do think I believe you . . . my Lord,” she answered.

Behind the two, Corey smiled again and Erwin put one hand on his face.  “Edward and I are going to have a LONG talk after this, Corey.  You are a bastard, you know that?” he whispered.

“Yep,” the old man whispered back.

A jeep turned down the gap between the buildings and drew up close to the visitors.  From the passenger side, Jon Kincaide exited, while a thick, short balding man pulled his way out of the back.  An armored personnel carrier followed, disgorging a maniple of troopers from the Taurian Guards.

“Subaltern Calderon,” Jon announced, “may I present Brigadier Liam Cochrane, commander of the 17th New Vallis Infantry Battalion, Concordat Constabulary.”

“Brigadier,” Edward greeted the man.  “What the devil are you playing at here?”

“Excuse me?” Cochrane sputtered.  “What do you think gives you—a Subaltern—the right to question me—a Brigadier?”

“In that case, what the devil are playing at here?” snapped Corey Calderon.  “As the Commanding Marshal of I Corps, I do believe I outrank you.”

“Sir,” Cochrane answered and came to a position of attention—a very loose position of attention.  “I am doing my duty to the Concordat, sir.”

“And how exactly are you doing that, Brigadier?”

Cochrane paused and then he looked down.  And then he raised his head defiantly and stared Corey Calderon square in the eyes.  “By not letting these Fed Sons-of-Bitches get it easy, Marshal.  They don’t deserve to be treated any better than pirates and bandits—you hanged some yourself!”

“I—and Lord Edward, heir to the Protector—hung those who refused to surrender without a fight.  And we—the two of us—promised those who did they would be well treated.  Are you breaking our word, Brigadier?”

“I’m doing my duty, Marshal.  This facility is a civilian facility, manned by Constabulary assigned by the Governor—you have no say here.  Not since we took over.”

“Really?” asked Corey in a mild voice.  “Okay then.  Subaltern Kincaide, may I borrow that radio?”

The Subaltern handed him the hand-held device and Corey clicked it one.  “All units of I Corps, Taurian Defense Force.  This is Marshal Corey Calderon.  Assemble at the Prisoner Detention and Processing Facility as soon as possible to quell by force an armed insurrection by the Concordat Constabulary against the Taurian Concordat.  All those who refuse to lay down arms will be shot.”

Cochrane blanched and he shook his head.  “You can’t do that!”

Corey looked down at the radio in his hand and then back up at Cochrane.  “But I can—and I did.  So.  If you want to keep on breathing, Brigadier—soon to be Private—Cochrane, you will have your men stand down.  NOW.  The Taurian Defense Force is resuming the operation of his facility—your Constabulary will stand down,” and Corey smiled, “or they will be gunned down.  Your choice.”

“The Governor won’t stand for this, we aren’t under your command!  We’re under his!”

“Brigadier, Governors come and governors go.  But the long silent sleep of death is with you for eternity.  So which is it going to be?” Corey answered.


Outskirts of Prisoner Detention and Processing Facility
Tabernas Wastelands, New Vallis
Taurian Concordat
February 9, 3026

“Put your backs into it!” the Taurian soldier snarled at the gaggle of former Federated Suns troopers struggling to dig the long narrow trench under the heat of a noon-day sun.  The ground was baked, virtually desiccated, and the rocky soil resisted the dull and pitted blades of the shovels that the prisoners had been issued. 

Henry Barksdale, often-upon-a-time Leftenant in the Armored Forces of the Federated Suns, stood upright and he rested for a moment to wipe away what little sweat his body could still produce from his forehead.  For a moment, he considered keeping silent, but as he looked over the surviving men and women of his platoon—his platoon, his people—he shook his head.

“We need water, Corporal,” he said in a parched voice through lips cracked in the blazing heat.  “we’ve been digging this latrine for three hours straight, and you haven’t let us have a sip of water the entire time.”

The Taurian hustled over to him and he stopped three feet away, a sub-machine gripped in his hands pointed at Henry’s chest.

“You want water, you Fed-Rat scum?  Dig, or I’ll water the ground with your blood,” the trooper snarled.  “The rest of them are thirty enough, they can lick it up from the ground, afterwards.”

“LT,” Joshua Franks whispered, “it ain’t worth it, sir.”

Henry looked at the SMG and then he looked at his men and women—his men and women—and he threw the shovel to the ground.  “Okay, fine.  Three-Echo,” he shouted in a hoarse voice, “we are done.  Put the shovels down.”

All of the digging came to a halt at the other nineteen soldiers that had formerly belonged to 3rd Platoon, Echo Company, Cavalry Scout-Recon Battalion, 6th Syrtis Fusiliers RCT stopped their digging and stared as their platoon leader.

“Tell them to keep digging, Fed-Rat,” the Taurian guard snarled.

“Or what?  You will shoot me?” Henry asked in a soft voice.  “Go ahead.  Shoot me.  We were told we would be treated fairly—and you want us out here working ourselves to death with no water in this heat?  We are done.”

The guard pulled back the bolt on his SMG and chambered a round.

“Tell them to dig, Fed-Rat, or your body won’t be the only one at the bottom of this trench.”

Henry shook his head.  “This isn’t a latrine, is it?” he asked.  “You brought us more than a kilometer outside of the camp, why do you want us digging a latrine this far from the camp?  You don’t plan on any of us going back do you?”

The guard smiled.  “They hanged over two hundred of you yesterday; what’s twenty-one more?”  He looked around.  “Okay, boys.  Time for some target practice!”

And he sneered at Henry at he raised the SMG.  “Never did like officers, ours or theirs.  And a Fed-Rat officer?  Why that is just a bonus.”

“Corp?” A voice called out from among the remaining Taurian Guards.  “We’ve got company—armored transports.  Looks like a platoon.”

The leader of the guard frowned and looked in the direction the other soldier pointed—and sure enough, there were six armored vehicle driving their way.  Fast.

“Cover the prisoners,” he ordered.  “I’ll see what all this is about.”

The six armored vehicles came to a halt just meters away, and disembarkation ramps on the rear opened, letting a full platoon of Taurian infantry—infantry bearing the shoulder flash of the elite 1st Battalion, Taurian Guards.  And trailing behind them was Edward Calderon and Colonel the Baron Tyrell, along with two other men and a woman.

“Sirs!” the guard corporal snapped as he came to attention.

Edward stepped forward and he looked at the long line of men and women, their sweat-stained clothes, the long, narrow trench they had been digging, and the shovels laying on the ground.  And the squad of guards that held sub-machine-guns pointed at the prisoners.

“What are your orders, Corporal?” Edward asked.

“Sir?”

“Your orders?  You do have orders to have these prisoners out here and away from the detention facility, don’t you?”

“Ah, sir, well, we were told to come out here and dig a new latrine?”

Edward frowned.  “A new latrine?  For the detention facility?  All the way out here?  Must be a kilometer and a half back to the camp—and aren’t the existing latrines dug just a week ago?”

“They were finished six days ago, my Lord Edward,” interjected Jon Kincaide.

“Ah.  Six days old.  Yet we needed a new latrine so far away from camp—far enough that the gunshots wouldn’t be heard, right Corporal?” he asked in a voice that was absolutely devoid of any feeling.

“Well, sir, I-I,” the corporal stuttered.  “We were just doing what we were told, Sir.”

“Just following orders, right?” Edward sighed.  “Corporal, you and your men are relieved.  My guards will escort these men back to the facility.”

“Sir, we have out orders,” the guard began, but then he stopped as Edward just glared at him and thirty soldiers of the Taurian Guards clicked off the safety on their rifles.  “And you just gave us another one, Sir.  I stand relieved.”

The five Constabulary guards quickly left and Edward sighed again.  Beside him, Erwin shook his head.  “This is going to get worse, Edward,” the New Vallis noble whispered.

“I know, Erwin.  But we have to stop this right now, right here.”

“Won’t be any better on the penal colony, my Lord,” the Baron added.  “And you won’t be there to save them the next time.”

Edward nodded.  Then he turned around.  “Doctor Tyrell, can you make sure these men and women are not injured.  Jon, get them some water and put them in the shade of the vehicles.”

The two began to carry out his orders and Ardan walked over to join him and Erwin.  Corey had remained behind to try and defuse the situation in the detention center itself.

“I hadn’t even given any thought to this,” Ardan said quietly.  “The Constabulary is your volunteer militia?”

“Sort of,” answered Edward.  “They are volunteers and they have had training, but their primary role is to assist in natural disasters, search-and-rescue, and providing the police with assistance as needed.  In an emergency, they are usually called out to support the regular TDF armor and infantry battalions assigned to a world, but they seldom see actual combat.  They didn’t here on New Vallis; we left them to garrison Port Sheridan and the other cities.”

“And they are under civilian command,” added Erwin.  “Whereas the Nobles Regiments are under the command of a former TDF officer ennobled by the Protector and mostly consist of former TDF and mercenary personnel who want to have a home life without worrying about packing up and changing planets on a moment’s notice.  My retainers would never have done this—but the Constabulary is much less disciplined.”

“If I had assigned your retainers to this guard detail, they might have strung me up yesterday, Erwin,” Edward said softly as he watched the Constabulary guards march off into the distance in the direction of the detention facility.

Erwin snorted.  “Not a chance.  Oh, they would have burned you in effigy and cursed you whether or not you were in the same room, but they would have followed my lead, no matter how much they disliked doing it.”  He paused and sighed.  “Best bet is to assign the Marshal’s regular TDF garrison.  Shouldn’t take more than a company or two of infantry to guard these folks.”

“Bit of a short-term solution, though,” interjected Ardan.  “Once they get loaded up and moved, how likely is it that it will be the local Constabulary guarding them again?  That time without you to put a stop to it?” he asked Edward.

“I think I may know a more permanent way,” whispered Edward.  “Did that engineer from the Samantha Calderon manage to get the New Vallis HPG back on-line?”

“I think he did,” Erwin answered.

“Then it is past time for me to call home and talk to my father.”

Taurian Concordat Class B HPG Station
Port Sheridan, New Vallis
Taurian Concordat
February 9, 3026

The two-way real-time transmission was somewhat garbled and static laced, but Edward and his father could see each other—and, perhaps more importantly, understand each other.

“Are you certain about this, Eddie?” his father asked.  “I know we agreed to let their families ransom them out from their sentence early, but . . .,” his voice trailed off.

“Pop, we have to face facts.  Odds are, no matter where we send them, we are going to get the same thing happen.  There won’t be any of them left to ransom within a year.  And that is an affront to both our honor if that happens.  We gave our word.”

Thomas scowled and he shook his head.  “I can’t.  I cannot do this, Edward,” and then he paused.  “I won’t you tell you that you can’t however,” he finished in a quieter voice.

Edward nodded and he swallowed.  “How much have you decided to set their ransom at, Pop?”

The old man sighed and he ran one hand through his thinning hair.  “Hadn’t really thought about it—hadn’t actually set a price on the damn thing.”  He thought for a moment and he sighed again.  “I can’t go under 10,000 Bulls apiece.  Not and keep this looking like I mean it, Eddie.”

The young man winced and then he nodded again.  “I can work with that, Pop.”

Thomas snorted.  “I know your finances, son.  You can do this, but you will have almost nothing left except your pay as a Subaltern.”

“So be it,” answered Edward as he raised his head and looked his father squarely in his one remaining real eye.  “You can’t put a price tag on the honor of House Calderon, after all.”

For a moment, there was silence and then Thomas nodded, one tear flowing ragged along his cheek.  “In case I have not told you, son, I’m proud of you.  I’m proud of the man that you have become—in spite of me.”

“Because of you, Pop.  It’s because of you I am who I am.”

Thomas inhaled sharply and he nodded.  “Best you be going then.  You’ve got some more calls to make—and then an announcement, so you best be after it.”  He paused one last time.  “You come home, Eddie.  After you get Hanse Davion to sign that paper, you come home.”

“High water or Hell’s Heart, Pop.  I will.”

Taurian Defense Force Military Reservation (I Corps HQ)
Port Sheridan, New Vallis
Taurian Concordat
February 11, 3026

The ranking officers of the TDF on New Vallis—and their mercenary associates, plus a handful of guests—all sat around a number of tables in the dining hall of the Officer’s Club.  This would be their final meal together, for tomorrow, Fleet Marshal Vickers would be returning to Taurus . . . and Edward, along with Ardan Sortek, his Foxhounds, and Wylie’s Coyotes would be heading into Federated Suns space.

As the stewards finished taking away the last of the plates, Edward Calderon stood and he faced the assembled crowd.  A hush fell over them as conversations came to a halt.

“As this is our last night on New Vallis, I wanted to thank Marshal Corey Calderon for allowing me to assist in the defense of this world,” Edward said as he smiled down at his distant cousin—an uncle in all but name.  “Even though he kept me in the command bunker instead of letting me go out to fight.”

And there was laughter throughout the room at that.

“Hell, boy,” Corey bellowed, “I’m more afraid of your father than I ever was of the Sixth Syrtis Fusiliers!  Those Sassy Fools!”

And more laughter, as Edward smiled.

“He had reason to keep me safe, though, and I am grateful for the opportunity to learn from him.  And from each of you as well, I have learned much.  Colonel the Baron Erwin Tyrell taught me many things . . . some of which were actually worth learning,” Edward added with a broad smile and there was still more laughter and Erwin nodded at the slight dig made against him.

“Colonel Jamesen and Brigadiers Verbet and Montoya have taught me the meaning of patience and the value of resilience.  Of knowing when a fight has to be fought and to witness the courage it takes to fight even against the odds, knowing you are doing the right thing.”

No laughter this time, only applause and the three surviving Taurian regimental and battalion commanders nodded their appreciation.

“I’ve learned some hard lessons here,” Edward continued.  “I’ve learned that it is sometimes necessary to send men and women I know and care about into harm’s way—sometimes to their death,” and he saw Fleet Marshal Vickers nodding.  “I’ve learned that it is sometimes necessary to order the deaths of others for their crimes—and that if such a thing becomes necessary to bear witness to the execution.  If I give the order, I must be watch it carried out, I have found.  If I am to honor the man that I want to be,” Edward said.

There was no applause this time, no laughter, only a few faint cries of “Hear, hear!”

Edward paused.  “But we aren’t only killers, are we, my comrades-in-arms?  We are human beings, men and women, each and every one of us and we are able to be more.  And in being more, we often find we gain more.”

Edward stepped forward and he gestured at Ardan Sortek.  “Colonel Sortek, could you join me up here at the podium?” he asked.

Ardan looked at Edward, looked at the crowd, and Edward could see lips moving—a curse perhaps as he slowly stood and came up to stand beside Edward.

“Ardan Sortek didn’t have to come here to New Vallis with me.  He didn’t have to bring his men and women—some of whom died to defend this world—with me.  But he did.  And I promised him that I would pay his contract and that of Enzo Wylie.  Colonel Wylie has already received the transfer of funds he was promised; this however, belongs to the Foxhounds,” Edward said as he handed Ardan a Secure Financial Transfer Module.

Ardan looked pained as he took it, and Edward shook his head.  “Your men and women deserve this—20,000 Bulls for each and every one of them, including your fallen.  I would have given you more, but I unfortunately no longer have a fortune to spend,” he continued.

And there was silence in the crowd.  Ardan, Corey, Erwin, Helena, Tanis, Raphael . . . all of them just stared.

“I no longer have a fortune because my father decided to set the ransom on those former members of the 6th Syrtis Fusiliers who surrendered at 10,000 Bulls each.  That is a ransom that I have personally paid in full as of today, with the full knowledge and approval of my father.  It is your fortune, he told me, you may spend it how you wish.”

Edward paused and there wa silence in the room; many of the officers were just staring, slack-jawed and open-mouthed.  And even Ardan, up alongside the podium was shaking his head.

“Edward, that is over sixty-four million!” he sputtered.

The Protector’s heir nodded.  “They are free to leave New Vallis as free men.  They will travel alongside Colonel Wylie until they reach the Federated Suns and be repatriated,” Edward paused.  “I did not do this because I refused to see Davions suffer.  I did not do this because I wanted to forgive them and grant them release from their five years of service.  I did this because it became clear that too many of our own people would have done all they could to kill or main or cripple them—and we did not sentence them to that fate.”

“I did not.  My father did not.  Marshal Calderon did not.  Honor demands that if I cannot keep them safe—as prisoners who surrendered to me—it is my duty to send them where they can be safe.  And so I have, despite what many of you and many of my countrymen might think of that decision.”

Edward shook his head and he smiled.  “I would do it again, if I had to.  I would give up my fortune once more to retain the honor of my House and my own self.  Ladies, gentlemen, it has been my distinct honor to have served here with you all.  Good fortune.”

Helena Vickers and Corey Calderon rose and began to clap and then one-by-one, each of the others in the room did so as well.

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

Edward was shaking hands and saying farewells as he tried to make his way through the crowd to the exit—to escape.  When he saw two familiar faces blocking his path, the last two to block his way to the door.

“You know,” Erwin said as he shook his head, “when I first met you I thought you a fool.  I learned better, but then you did this.  Gave up the fortune your mother left you—for your honor.”  He shook his head again and then he smiled.  “Seldom have I been so wrong about another man, my Lord Edward.”

Erwin put out his hand and Edward took and the two shook, and then Edward looked at Moira and she smiled back at him.

“I’m not rich anymore,” Edward said.  “I’m not broke, but I’m not rich.  Hope you weren’t interested in me for my money.”

“I’ve got money,” she replied.  “But you are wealthy in ways that no bank can ever tabulate, Lord Edward.”  She leaned forward and kissed him lightly on the lips and beside her, Edward heard her father groan.  “Write me and let me know you are safe.”

“I will if you will,” Edward answered with a grin and then he kissed her back.

“Oh, for the love of God!” Erwin sputtered beside them, and both Edward and Moira began to laugh.

Shadow_Wraith

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Re: By the Horns (An Alternate Universe Fan-Fiction)
« Reply #499 on: 25 October 2021, 14:05:50 »
Nice story update!   The speech that Edward gave was awesome and hopefully it was recorded so it can be shown to the common TC citizen that they are better than their neighbors! 

And glad to see Edward already has a prospective  girlfriend to keep him away from FedSuns single women!

EAGLE 7

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Re: By the Horns (An Alternate Universe Fan-Fiction)
« Reply #500 on: 25 October 2021, 19:25:16 »
Bravo, loved the update. Fathers with daughters oh how they suffer.
“ My Clan honor is bigger than your Dragon honor, and comes in 18 clan flavors.”

master arminas

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Re: By the Horns (An Alternate Universe Fan-Fiction)
« Reply #501 on: 25 October 2021, 19:38:41 »
Henderson Space Port
Port Sheridan, New Vallis
Taurian Concordat
February 12, 3026

“What is this?” Edward asked as he stepped into the concourse to await the bus that would deliver him, Jon Kincaide, and a half-dozen bodyguards to the DropShip Black Bull.

Corey Calderon stood there, a broad smile on his face, along with Helena Vickers and Raphael Montoya, Tanis Verbet and Fionna Jamesen, Ardan Sortek and Erwin Tyrell. 

“There is one final matter that we must take care of, young Edward,” said Corey as he grinned—almost dementedly, Edward thought to himself.

“Thomas could not—as Protector—give you any aid or assistance when you choose to pay those ransoms.  And because of his inaction, he fears that there are some within the Concordat will take as the beginnings of an estrangement between the two of you.”

Edward frowned, and Corey shook his head.  “They would be idiots to think that, but idiots we have in plenty!”  He paused and smiled again.  “But there is one—well, two—ways that Thomas can show them all just how wrong they are.”

“Subaltern Edward Calderon, stand at attention!” Helena Vickers barked . . . and almost before he thought about it, Edward stood ramrod straight.

Corey nodded his approval and he motioned to one side; an aide by a door let in a small crew of camera-men and photographers who began recording the scene and taking photographs.

“Subaltern Edward Calderon,” he said gravely, “it is my solemn duty to inform you that you are in violation of Article 37, Section Four of the Concordat Code of Military Justice in that you are out of uniform.”

He paused and Edward thought to himself, what the hell?

“Due to your exemplary service before, during, and following the Battle of New Vallis in this year, let it posted throughout the Concordat the following:  by order of Marshal of the Armies Brenda Calderon,” Corey continued, “acting on the direction and with the approval of the Protector of the Taurian Concordat—Thomas Calderon— you are hereby appointed and commissioned at the rank of Brigadier in the Taurian Defense Force.  All rights, privileges, duties, and responsibilities of that rank are now your solemn duty to uphold and honor in service to the Concordat and the people thereof.”

Erwin Tyrell stepped forward and removed the Subaltern tabs from Edward’s collar and then Helena took his place and pin the insignia of a Brigadier in their place.

The two stepped back and both saluted sharply, which Edward returned crisply.

“Congratulations, Brigadier Calderon!” Corey said, his smile nearly stretching from ear-to-ear.  “Stand at ease, son,” he ordered, and Edward relaxed.

“Unfortunately, we Taurians are a stubborn people and there might be some idiots out there who still think Thomas doesn’t approve of you and your actions.  Which is why he is taking this second step—Brigadier Edward Calderon, son of Thomas Calderon, please kneel.”

Corey stepped to one side and Colonel the Baron Erwin Tyrell stepped forward, an aide pressing into his hand a sheathed sword . . . and Edward drew in a sharp intake of air in shock at the sight as he lowered himself down on his right knee.

“I, Erwin Tyrell, acting as a Nobleman of the Taurian Concordat, do hereby proclaim before God and Witnesses that Thomas Calderon—Protector of the Taurian Concordat, Defender of the Realm, Champion of the Faith—has directly and expressly commanded that I carry out my duties today as Baron Tyrell, Lord Erwin.”

He paused and drew the sword from its sheath with a resounding ring. 

“Edward of the House of Calderon, son of Thomas,” he began.  “Do you have Faith in God?”

“I do, Lord Erwin,” Edward answered softly.

“Then I charge you to be brave in the face of your enemies,” Erwin said solemnly as he tapped Edward on the right shoulder with the blade, “for as long as you have Faith in God Above, you shall never stand alone.”

“Do you Serve the People of the Taurian Concordat?”

“I do, Lord Erwin.”

“Then I charge you to Protect the Innocent, Defend the Weak, and Champion the Helpless,” the Baron continued as he laid the edge of the blade against Edward’s left shoulder, “for a True Servant puts his People above himself.”

“Will you obey the Just, True, and Right commands of your sworn Lord, the Protector of the Taurian Concordat?”

“I will, Lord Erwin.”

“then I charge you to keep your Oath, to speak the Truth, and to stand in the presence of the Protector and to challenge him when he is not Just or True or Right,” and he laid the blade on the crown of Edward’s head, “trusting in God Above that he can be shown the Truth.”

Erwin lifted the sword and he sheathed it.  “Rise, Sir Edward Calderon, Knight of Taurus, the Hyades, and the Taurian Concordat.  Rise a Noble, so named in honor of your service by Thomas Calderon, Protector of the Taurian Concordat.”

And Edward did as the video recorders and cameras captured it all.

Grognard

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Re: By the Horns (An Alternate Universe Fan-Fiction)
« Reply #502 on: 25 October 2021, 20:28:17 »
whew.
... when a pat on the back and an "attaboy" just isn't enough...

GROGNARD:  An old, grumpy soldier, a long term campaigner (Fr); Someone who enjoys playing tactics and strategy based board wargames;  a game fan who will buy every game released in a certain genre of computer game (RTS, or computer role-playing game, etc.)

Lone-Wolf

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Re: By the Horns (An Alternate Universe Fan-Fiction)
« Reply #503 on: 26 October 2021, 06:50:55 »
I hope that Hanse Davion has some common sense and behaves accordingly - after Ardan told him what the Taurians nearly did to the ones that surrendered and followed his (implied) orders.

Decency would demand that Edward will return to the TC in a better financial situation then he left.

cawest

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Re: By the Horns (An Alternate Universe Fan-Fiction)
« Reply #504 on: 26 October 2021, 18:34:17 »
if your like me... you already have this written out.  But HSD had a monolith.  that might be to big for the Bulls to use effectively.  they could trade it back to the FedSuns.  They could start with asking for 3 Invaders.  Davion could counter with 1 merchant and 5 smaller ones (mix of Explorer, Scouts and Quetazlcoatl).  the Bulls have many planets without HPG and they will not be able to build them.  The Bull need smaller jumpships to keep in touch with them.  or something along those lines.     

Hairbear541

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Re: By the Horns (An Alternate Universe Fan-Fiction)
« Reply #505 on: 27 October 2021, 10:20:59 »
master arminus , are you going to include this in to your Project 3000 story line , since it seems to fit in rather well here . or is that a completely different taurian AU you are writing about ?

master arminas

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Re: By the Horns (An Alternate Universe Fan-Fiction)
« Reply #506 on: 29 October 2021, 13:40:16 »
DropShip Black Bull
Nadir Jump Point, Lindsay
Federated Suns
February 17, 3026

“And according to the message I received,” Ardan Sorek continued, “the First Prince has decided to come in person to New Syrtis to calm things down in the Capellan March.  Which means, Sir Edward, that after we jump to Electra, you only have one more to make to meet with him on New Syrtis.”

Edward nodded.  It seemed that the reaction of the Capellan March to Hanse Davion’s broadcast labeling Michael Hasek-Davion as a traitor and renegade—and the declaration of the Sixth Syrtis Fusiliers as pirate and mutineers—had set off a firestorm among the former Duke’s more die-hard supporters in the March.  Tensions, always high in this area in recent years—since Michael Hasek-Davion had assumed his role as Duke, in fact—had ratcheted up several more notches.

To the point that the First Prince himself, along with the remainder of the Davion Heavy Guards RCT and the entire 1st Davion Guards RCT had come all the way to New Syrtis from New Avalon to put his own house in order.

And Edward sighed.  That had been before word had reached—carried out of the Concordat aboard merchant vessels—of the defeat of the Sixth on New Vallis . . . and the death of Michael Hasek-Davion.

“Understood, Ardan,” he said finally.  “Is he certain that New Syrtis is the place to have this meeting?  My presence there will be like,” and Edward finally gave a hint of a smile, “waving a red cape in front of an enraged bull.”

Ardan snorted.  “Oh, I doubt anyone will try anything while the 1st Guards and Heavy Guards and the First Prince himself—along with Michael’s wife and son—are there to keep everyone in line.”

Marie Hasek-Davion, Hanse Davion’s half-sister, and his nephew Morgan Hasek-Davion both stood staunchly behind the First Prince, according to the intelligence briefs that Edward had received.  Although that might well change when word reached New Syrtis that Michael was dead—killed in the fires of a Taurian nuclear strike.

“My own people are not very happy with this sudden change in our plans,” Edward continued.

“I don’t doubt it,” Ardan answered in agreement.  “Still, this will save you months of travel time . . . and let you get back home all the quicker once you and Hanse sit down and hammer out this agreement.”  He paused, as he considered something and then he nodded.  “Besides, by the time we land on New Syrtis, news should have arrived that the survivors of the Sixth have been ransomed and returned to the Federated Suns—and that you, personally, are responsible for that.”

“I didn’t do it for a political or public relations advantage!”

Ardan held up one hand.  “I know that, and as much as I hate playing politics and spinning events to the advantage of your reputation and standing in media, I do believe that in this case I would be remiss to advise you not to take advantage, Edward.”

And even as he said that, Ardan had to swallow a bit of bile that rose in his throat.  He hated the political games in which he himself had been embroiled, and yet, here he was advising this Taurian Prince to use those same political games for his benefit—and that of Hanse Davion.  Despite knowing that Edward probably despised them as much as he did.

“Marshal Sortek is correct, Sir,” added Jon Kincaide; the Subaltern served not only as Edward’s personal body-guard and aide, but was his close personal friend.  “Once the media starts talking with the returning Fusiliers and getting their stories out—how Michael betrayed them, not once but multiple times, tried to use nuclear weapons to punish those who abandoned him at the direct order of the First Prince, and how you, personally, intervened to keep them safe from malicious harm by our own hard-liners, it can only paint you—and the Concordat,” and Jon paused for a moment, “the sane part of our Concordat, at least—in a better light.”

Edward sighed again and he nodded.  “And my father and Henri Jouett and Helena Vickers would all agree,” he said quietly.  “Okay,” and he looked Ardan in the eye.  “So what is our timetable for the meetings after we arrive at New Syrtis?”

“Still tentative, but it appears that the First Prince has blocked out an entire week to spend with you and the team of negotiators that your father sent along.  Once we arrive in the New Syrtis system, Black Bull, your escort, and my Heavy Guards will continue to the surface, probably to an official state reception—including at least two state dinners, so I hope you brought along your formal wear.”

“Lovely.”

“Afterwards, there will be a series of meetings between lower level members of each delegation, followed by a series of private meetings between you and the First Prince, and then a signing ceremony, if you two can hammer out an agreement.”

“I have not come all this way to go home empty handed, Ardan,” Edward said, but his voice was worried.

“And you can rest assured that neither has the First Prince.”

Edward nodded his understanding.  “Okay.  We have one week to prepare,  Jon, so we had best be getting started.”

EAGLE 7

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Re: By the Horns (An Alternate Universe Fan-Fiction)
« Reply #507 on: 29 October 2021, 15:53:36 »
   This is when C* tries to crash a dropship and into the talks between Ed and Hanse.
“ My Clan honor is bigger than your Dragon honor, and comes in 18 clan flavors.”

Blackhorse 6

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Re: By the Horns (An Alternate Universe Fan-Fiction)
« Reply #508 on: 30 October 2021, 15:16:37 »
   This is when C* tries to crash a dropship and into the talks between Ed and Hanse.

Tempting I agree but they have always been seen as neutrals. They would gain much from the situation by being seen as peace makers… and taking away lots of intelligence from both sides.

P

glitterboy2098

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Re: By the Horns (An Alternate Universe Fan-Fiction)
« Reply #509 on: 30 October 2021, 15:22:22 »
or perhaps they'll offer their services as a third party in the talks.. and use that position to drag out the talks and undermine things.