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BattleTech Player Boards => Fan Fiction => Topic started by: drakensis on 11 November 2017, 06:05:19

Title: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: drakensis on 11 November 2017, 06:05:19
Book 1
Idealist


Like an unsung melody
The truth is waiting there for you to find it
It's not a blight, but a remedy
A clear reminder of how it began
Deep inside your memory
Turned away as you struggled to find it
You heard the call as you walked away
A voice of calm from within the silence
And for what seemed an eternity
You're waiting, hoping it would call out again
You heard the shadow reckoning
Then your fears seemed to keep you blinded
You held your guard as you walked away

When you think all is forsaken
Listen to me now (all is not forsaken)
You need never feel broken again
Sometimes darkness can show you the light
The Light, Disturbed


The prince walked between buildings familiar to him from his younger days, ghosts of his past academia greeting him. And yet there was something subtly wrong, glimpses of collegiate constructions that were not, had never been, part of the military academy he remembered.

Pausing at a fountain he found himself facing another man across the splashing water. Broad shoulders filled a dark-green uniform tunic well, the gleaming half-breastplate Sunburst vest marking it as that of the Armed Forces of the Federated Suns’ full dress uniform. The single epaulette held the silver sunbursts that marked the wearer as a Field Marshal. The same rank the prince wore.

But the prince knew all the Field Marshals of his army – not the most stringent of tests of memory – and this redheaded man, though he held himself with the presence of one who had earned such rank – was not one of them.

Who are you?

But he did not ask that. “Did you study here?”

“I did.” The redheaded man rose and walked around the fountain. “So did my brother. And you?”

“Yes. My father and his brother, my cousin and now my own son.”

A smile from the other man. “A family tradition.”

“It’s begun to be one.” And perhaps a symptom of problems – there was an alternative, after all.

“There are worse traditions.” A hand was offered to the prince. “Many happy memories of this place. Before… well.”

The prince accepted the hand. “Yes.” Before Joseph died and Uncle Richard declared me his heir. Innocent days without the weight of responsibility on my shoulders.

There were lines around the blue eyes of the field marshal and unfeigned sympathy. Some instinct for men told the prince that the uniform was no deceit.

“Walk with me?” he offered. “This isn’t quite as I remember it.”

“That must be disconcerting. By all means. To Mount Davion?”

“Yes.” My family’s home. Quite a walk but – the prince looked up at the sky. Blue and clear, a lovely summer day – one of the merits of Avalon City over some of the other great capitals of the Inner Sphere. Why the Steiners had chosen their frigid home or the Camerons the rain-soaked Pacific coast had never made sense to the prince. Mount Davion overlooked the vast and fertile plains that had been the foundation stone of the first colony here and enjoyed the fine weather that made the world a breadbasket.

As they walked, he saw new anomalies. Tall, elegantly sculpted buildings in a style he didn’t quite recognise. As if someone had expanded the academy greatly but the brief glimpses of students he saw weren’t wearing the uniforms of cadets. “That’s what I mean, where did that come from?”

The redhead followed his finger. “The College of Chemistry?” he asked.

A shake of his head as frustration rose. “If that’s what you call it.”

“Well that’s what it is.” A crease of a smile. “I should know.”

“Why would a military academy have a full college of chemistry?”

He saw understanding dawn – and recognition. “Ah. It’s a little after your time, your highness.”

“After my time? I may have graduated but I’m not that far away.” He pointed ahead to their destination. “I’ve looked at this view a thousand times and I think I’d notice additions like this.”

His companion paused and then sighed. “I’m not sure that I’m the one to explain this, but it’s a very long time since you’ve looked down on NAMA from Castle Davion.”

“Don’t talk to me in riddles, Marshal. I have enough of those to wrestle with.”

“I’m aware that you did, but that’s over now.” The redhead looked older for a moment – hair leached of colour by years of responsibility. “Your time has gone and now you haunt my dream for some reason.”

“What are you talking about?” And now he asked: “Who are you?”

“I am your descendant, sir. And I am First Prince of the Federated Suns.” They were clear of the buildings now, entering a park that stretched between the New Avalon Military Academy and the outskirts of Avalon City. “You’ve been dead for more than two hundred and fifty years.”

What was the prince to say to that? The words had conviction but they didn’t resonate with him. “I don’t believe that.”

He got a shrug. “I can understand that.” A laugh. “I wouldn’t, in your shoes.”

“This is just a dream.”

“Yes. And I’ll wake soon and have to deal with Liao’s ploy. It’s a good one. The boy’s more dangerous than I thought.” He brightened. “My son should arrive tomorrow though.”

“I mean it’s my dream.” The prince paused and examined a monument he didn’t recognise – a dog and a child; the former wounded but somehow still game, the child huddled behind the faithful hound. What could that signify? “I must have eaten something rotten to be dreaming this though.”

“Now you’re going to hurt my feelings.” The twinkle in the blue eyes suggested otherwise but he sobered and bowed his head slightly to the monument as they passed it.

“Something from these centuries you claim have passed? This -” He squinted at the inscription, which they weren’t quite close enough to read easily. “- Silver Eagle?”

“The ship carrying my wife – wife to be, back then. Patrick Kell saved her, along with many others.”

The prince paused, thinking of his own wife. “Worth a monument, then.” Was this some hint that she was in danger? No, that was ridiculous. Sometimes a dream was just a dream.

“I’d agree.” The smile that quirked at the corners of the other prince’s lips faded. “He was a good man. Like too many, he died before his time.”

“Don’t they all?” They walked together in companionable silence, the lush parklands a mix of familiar and unfamiliar to the prince. In over two centuries, he supposed that the trees would have aged and in some cases have died and been replaced. Monuments to the Star League still stood but there were others amid them.

History, to the prince, was something that stretched behind him like a heavy, constraining cloak. He’d considered once or twice that he might someday be part of the same weight upon his son’s shoulders.

I am not dead, but one day I will be. And if this is not my future then there will be a future, my legacy added to those who came before and those who follow me.

Have I done anything that will be remembered? Not so much, he admitted to himself. Perhaps that is best though. Alexander was the greatest of our line, but his reign spanned dark and terrible days. I can live without that legendary status if my people are spared such suffering.

Though the palace reared up from the heights of Mount Davion, a fairy-tale castle, its roots dug deep and there was an entrance at the edge of the park.

The arching gates seemed to ripple as he looked at them. “I think I’m about to wake up.”

“One of us is.” The redhead turned his head and looked back across the park.

“There’s no going back.”

“I know.” He extended his hand again to the prince and they shook hands again. “If it’s me that’s the dream, then give ‘em hell back in the 28th century.”

“And if it’s me, good luck with the Liao.” The prince hesitated, the warm hand in his and didn’t release it immediately. “Supposing you are the future, my future… any advice?”

Blue eyes narrowed. “Depends how old you are, I suppose.” The prince got a sense of wheels turning rapidly behind that thoughtful look. “Kill Amaris.”

“Amaris?”

His hand was empty, the gate rippling again.

Without thinking, the prince stepped forwards –

.o0O0o.

Avalon City, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Suns
5 May 2760

John Davion jerked awake, head pounding. Beside him, Edwina stirred and the First Prince forced himself to relax rather than wake her.

The dream… it seemed vivid in his mind, as few were. Arching his neck he could make out the clock on the far side of the bed – early in the morning. Earlier than he had wanted to rise, but too late for there to be chance of much more sleep.

Muffling a groan of resentment, he dropped a kiss on his wife’s brow and then wormed his way out of her arms, slipping a pillow into her arms as she reached out to reclaim him. Ah, the ruler of four hundred worlds is so easily replaced, he thought wryly as Edwina settled back into her slumber. So much for hubris.

Padding barefoot across the room he took a dressing gown from the back of the door and opened it carefully, closing it behind him with care. When he’d first taken office he’d found out that his uncle stationed a servant in the windowless antechamber while he slept, standing ready to provide for anything that might be needed through the night.

That had been a little more attendance than John thought necessary. He could use the phone here to call in one of the night staff if necessary, and the door should ensure he didn’t wake Edwina. It only took him a moment to order an early breakfast and despite the temptation to sink into the room’s armchair and worry about whatever duties awaited him today, he instead opened the door to the en suite bathroom.

A start on the morning’s ablutions completed and his dark hair dampened and combed back into order, John returned at a knock on the door. A small trolley laden with tantalizingly covered dishes had been brought up, and most tempting of all, a steaming carafe of fresh coffee.

He’d just turned back from closing the door when he saw he wasn’t alone in the room.

Red hair, fading to white at the temples. Bemused blue eyes. The uniform of a Field Marshal.

And sweeping one hand back and forth through the breakfast trolley, the material object posing no barrier at all to him.

The visitor to last night’s dream gave him a rueful look. “I suppose,” he said mildly, “That this shows which of us is real.”

John’s first impulse was to the door but he halted, hand still short of the knob. “What… is this a hologram? Some prank by Joshua? Or Mark?”

“I rather doubt it.” The redhead turned and pressed his hand to the door of the bathroom. “Huh.” The hand – and forearm – penetrated the door up to the elbow. “If that’s not material then how am I even standing on anything?”

“You can’t be here.”

His… guest looked up. “It doesn’t make sense to me either.” He tried to open the door and failed. “Ah, a little help?”

“What?”

“Well if I am a hologram, then the light wouldn’t penetrate the door. On the other hand, if we can see my arm on the other side.”

“Very scientific.” But John went to the bathroom door and pulled it open. They both looked, the redhead having to lean, and saw the hand and sleeve extending through it and moving freely. “Well that settles it.”

“Oh?”

“I’m still dreaming.” John went back to the trolley and poured himself some coffee. “At least I’m dreaming of good coffee.”

“Could I beg a cup?”

“Can you even drink it, o nameless figment of my imagination?”

“I have a name.” The man tried – and failed – to lift a second mug from the trolley. “Dammit. That’s cruel. I can smell that coffee.”

“What is it then?” John pulled the trolley over to his chair. Dream or not, he was hungry. The first plate had sausages and scrambled eggs, just the way he liked them.

“Hanse Davion. First Prince of the Federated Suns, Duke of New Avalon and so forth.”

“Ah!” John pointed at him with a fork. “That was a slip – the First Prince heads the Crucis March but Duke of New Avalon is a courtesy title of the First Star Lord’s heir.”

“So it was – in your day.”

“My delusion has an aggravated sense of grandeur.”

Hanse shrugged. “Are you sure you’re dreaming? Give yourself a pinch.”

John chewed on some sausage. “If I am dreaming, I’ll enjoy my breakfast first.” He refilled his mug, giving Hanse a sly look.

The other man gave him a patient look. “What, you expect me to pout like a child? Yes, I’d like to have some coffee. It seems I can’t. It’s not the fall of the Star League.”

“Yes…” The prince scratched at his chin, still wearing the night’s stubble. Then he pinched his lower lip between finger and thumb. The pain wasn’t great but it was real.

Not a dream. He swallowed. Madness?

“A madman would not question what he was seeing,” Hanse offered in reassurance.

“This may be just another day for you -”

“It’s really not,” the other man answered in a lowered voice.

“- but it’s a bit outside my experience. Do you know what happens to rulers who talk to people that aren’t there? And if you’re not a figment of my imagination why did you know what I was thinking there?”

“You weren’t exactly being subtle about pinching yourself and going wide-eyed in worry.” Hanse walked into the bathroom.

“What are you doing?”

“Call of supernature.”

“What?”

“No, I’m just looking out the window.”

“It’s frosted. You won’t see anything.”

“I can if I put my head through it. Not much of a view though.”

“Well since no one expected a ghost to be looking out, I suppose the architect wasn’t concerned about you looking out into…” John tailed off, thinking what would be visible from there. “The back of the administrative wing.”

“Fair point.” Hanse returned. “You could at least offer me a chair.”

John arched an eyebrow. “Feel free to pull one up.”

The older man – by appearances, at any rate – scowled and then laughed. “Well, I’d not take it any better I suppose. Do you mind if I at least ask the date?”

“Fifth of May,” John replied between two forkfuls of egg. He added more pepper to what remained on the plate and then thought to add. “2760. What was it for you?”

“3052, the sixteenth of June. Well, maybe seventeenth. I think I saw my son for a moment – I’d fallen asleep in my chair before.” Hanse shook his head. “It’s a bit confused…”

John watched him thinking. “So you’re dead?”

“I assume so.” Hanse rubbed his face. “Excuse me, I do need to sit down. I’ll be back.”

“Wait!” John called as Hanse stepped towards the bedroom door. “My wife’s asleep there,” he hissed. “Go down the hall. There’s a lounge two doors down.”

“Thanks.” Hanse turned and departed through the door to the corridor.

As soon as he was out of sight, John dropped his fork and buried his face in his hands. “Oh hell. What am I going to do now? I can’t be haunted. I have work to do!”

Setting his plate aside he poured himself another mug of coffee and added two sugars. He had a feeling he’d need the energy. Setting it aside he opened the door for the trolley to be collected. “Did someone go past here?” he asked the guard.

“No sir.” the man replied in surprise.

“I thought I heard something. I must not be fully awake yet,” John excused. He glanced at the carafe on the trolley. “If you want some of the coffee before it’s taken away, go right ahead.”

“Thank you sir, but I’m on duty.” Which meant needing both hands unobstructed in case assassins – or almost worse, the media – had somehow managed to penetrate all the other layers of security around the royal quarters.

“And even the First Prince can’t excuse you?”

“Respectfully, your highness, have you met my sergeant?”

John chuckled. “You make a fair point, Corporal. Sorry for putting temptation in your way.”

Leaving the door open, John picked up the phone and called for his valet. A shave and getting fully dressed might help him get past the literal and metaphorical headache of having a self-proclaimed future descendant turn up as a… ghost?

A ghost who apparently had issues with House Liao and House Amaris. Well, neither represented John’s closest friends by any stretch of the imagination.

.o0O0o.

Hanse was sitting in one of the lounge armchairs when John entered. Although he was facing the balcony door that looked out into the gardens around the Hall of State, his eyes seemed to be focused on something else – something far away.

Looking him over, John saw he wore the same uniform that he had in last night’s dream. A Field Marshal’s, which suggested that the man was upholding the informal custom of a First Prince not wearing the additional sword on his sunburst that marked him as the supreme commander of the AFFS. He also saw Mechwarrior’s spurs that he hadn’t noticed earlier. Still, he’d have been surprised by anything else.

“I don’t have long,” he advised quietly. “If you’re who you say you are, you know how much time my duties take up. And I can’t speak to you when anyone else is around.”

Hanse nodded. “I need some time anyway, to process.”

“I suppose you do.” Being dead, John thought, must be a shock to the system. “If you want to talk about it, sometime, I’ll make the time.”

“Thanks.”

“Family should look out for each other. Even if we’re generations removed.”

The other man nodded. “And you’ll have questions as well.”

“I don’t know. It’s not as if I have precedent for what to do in this situation. It’s never happened before.”

“Perhaps it happens all the time and people just never talk about it, not wanting to be locked up as a danger to themselves.”

John considered and then snorted. “I can understand the sentiment, but if more people had… advice from the future, the universe might make more sense.”

“It might at that.” Hanse sighed. “And yes, I understand you’re busy.” He grasped the arms of the chair and began to push himself upright only to freeze. “Wait!”

Turning back from the door, the First Prince looked back questioningly.

“May 2760… is Warex Liao dead?”

“Yes… First of the month. I just sent condolences to his daughter.” He grimaced at the thought – Warex was no friend to the Federated Suns but the new Chancellor, Barbara Liao, had lost her father on her birthday. At twenty-nine she was only a few years older than John had been when he took office.

Hanse looked grim. “And it’s the fifth, four days later. You need to send word to Demeter.”

“Demeter? Why, what are you expecting?” John called to mind what he knew of the world – at the head of a salient into Capellan space it was a valuable hub of trade and industry. Before the Star League the region had been hotly contested for years but that was long ago.

“On 5 May – today! – the ‘Mech factory there is nuked by terrorists,” Hanse told him urgently. “If you send an HPG message then perhaps it can be stopped.”

John paled. “Who? Why?”

“I don’t recall exactly – some pro-Capellan group. Chesterton… Liberation Brigade? Something like that.” He shook his head. “I don’t know if they have official sanction or not but it hardly matters with all the raiding going on.”

He wasn’t wrong, the younger man had to admit. Banditry had been on the rise for years despite the best efforts of the SLDF and although everyone involved covered their tracks it was an open secret that some pirate groups were backed – or even set up covertly – by the House Lords so they could deniably test the defences of their rivals. “You’re sure?”

“It was something of a high point – or low point perhaps – in the violence during Richard Cameron’s regency.” Hanse shook his head. “A sign of things to come.”

“I don’t have any evidence to back this up…” John said out loud. “I’ll order… an unscheduled alert drill. Bring all the forces in the region to standby and secure critical facilities. The Regent will give me hell, but if we find the bomb that should satisfy him.”

He opened the door and was surprised to see Edwina facing him, her hand raised to knock.

“Good morning.”

His wife leaned in to kiss his cheek. “I didn’t want to interrupt your meeting, but I’m leaving now.”

“It’s not a meeting, and you’re welcome to join me for anything,” John assured her.

“Oh, I thought I heard you talking to someone?” Edwina glanced in and John had to hide a twitch as she looked right at Hanse, but her eyes scanned past the redhead without seeming to notice him at all.

“Just to myself. Rehearsing a little before I speak to the High Command.”

“Is there trouble? I know you woke early…”

He shook his head. “No new messages, I just didn’t sleep well.”

“You could have woken me.”

He forced himself to laugh a little. “But you looked so peaceful.”

“If only we all were.” She smiled impishly and kissed him on the other cheek. “Anyway, I have the Equestrian Show to attend and you’ve the High Command so I suppose we’ve both got horses asses to attend to today. I’ll expect to see you at dinner?”

“No change to plans for that,” John reassured her. “Joshua and Mark still have leave to join us – unless they did something irresponsible since yesterday.”

“I wouldn’t put it past those two.”

.o0O0o.

John almost started as he saw Hanse entering the command centre. Buried deep beneath the mountains of which Mount Davion was only the easternmost, the AFFS command centre was as secure as it could possibly be. Seeing someone who shouldn’t be there – although in a Field Marshal’s uniform he fit in perfectly – wasn’t an everyday occurrence.

“Is something wrong?” asked Colonel Michael Stopec from his seat at John’s right hand.

Realising he’d broken off, John turned back to the question at hand. “The change of Chancellor is exactly why I’ve ordered a full alert of our forces around Chesterton, General Dixon. It’s the perfect excuse for anyone acting at the moment – even if we proved that orders for an attack had come from Sian, they can claim there was a ‘misunderstanding’ caused by turnover of personnel as Barbara Liao takes over from her father’s old guard. She could even scapegoat some courtier she wants rid of.”

Gabriel Dixon frowned and twisted on his moustache. “What a twisted motive. I don’t envy you and MilInt getting inside of their heads.”

“Hopefully nothing actually happens, but I don’t feel it’s a chance that can be taken. And Chesterton’s our most likely flashpoint.”

That got nods around the table. John saw Hanse looking at the displays on the wall, constantly updating data on the strength and dispositions of the AFFS. Since Simon Cameron’s untimely death nine years before, the Star League Council had taken the opportunity to repeal the arms limitations that kept their individual military strength in check. Since then, troop numbers in service had risen sharply. While still nothing approaching the vast size of the Star League Defense Forces, the Federated Suns had doubled the regiments in active service and brought more than a score of warships out of mothballs to match their understanding of what the Capellans and Draconians had stationed on their borders.

“Do you want to review contingencies for moving reinforcements to the region if needed?” asked Dixon.

“I’m confident you have that in hand.” John already had the data on hand though – Dixon would be taking the lead if that were the case, leading a regiment of BattleMechs from the Avalon Hussars as well as a dozen conventional regiments to reinforce threatened worlds, taking over the local regiments. It could place him in charge of the equivalent of almost a short corps of troops.

“We could always add the Fourth,” Stopec rumbled. “That would give the reinforcement teeth.”

On paper, the Colonel was outranked by everyone else in the room. Command of only a single regiment of the Davion Guards was far from the responsibilities that others wielded – but as the Prince’s Champion he was also John’s deputy for military affairs. He could have asked for the rank of Marshal or even Field Marshal and been given it without question – but Stopec loved his regiment and his only request when John offered him the job was that he be allowed to remain in command of the Dragon’s Bane.

John saw General Dixon clenching his fists at the prospect of being superseded. “No Michael. We shouldn’t commit all our reserves and I want you with the primary response if the Combine try anything. They’re still the larger threat.”

Stopec subsided and the discussion moved on to more mundane matters – training budgets, personnel choices for the many roles that needed to be filled in order to continue administering a military force spread across hundreds of light years. John allowed his attention to drift, watching Hanse who seemed to be examining every display in detail.

I wonder what he makes of it. Is the AFFS still so large or have things settled down? Then again, after two and a half centuries some of this may seem laughably antiquated to him.

Then an intake of air from beside John dragged his attention back and he saw Stopec’s eyes – golden cybernetics after he’d been blinded by environmental damage to his ‘Mech in the Martial Olympiad – had snapped the central holo-display, where the tabulated data had been replaced by a glowing sword and sunburst highlighted in amber. An urgent operational message.

At John’s nod – there was no one in the room not cleared for such (except Hanse, but John wasn’t exactly in a position to shoo him away even if he was so inclined) – Stopec opened the communique.

The First Prince’s guts clenched as he saw the message was from Demeter. Had his instructions even arrived there yet?

Sent in plain text, easier to encode, the message was stark. A nuclear device, somehow smuggled past all security checkpoints, had vaporised the core of Lycomb Technology’s MechWorks on Demeter. More than a hundred personnel were dead or missing, easily twice that many had been wounded. Production was halted, naturally, and responsibility had been claimed already with messages to the local media from the Chesterton Liberation Battalion, a known group claiming that Demeter and the worlds around it were rightful property of the Capellan Confederation.

“****** them!” Dixon’s fist hit the table, it would have shaken something less solidly built. “You were right, sire. But a nuke? A filthy nuke!”

John swallowed and looked down the table to Thomas Green-Davion – the senior officer present in terms of experience in the Capellan March – and behind him at Hanse. “I find it hard to believe that a ragtag group of terrorists could have a nuclear device,” he told them, forcing calm. “While I expect a full check by Military Intelligence, barring evidence to confirm otherwise we – I – must assume that it was provided by the Capellans.”

“We can’t let that stand, sir.” Green-Davion straightened his uniform. “There are SLDF division both sides of the border, if we call for them to investigate.”

“The way they did thirty years ago?” Opposite John’s distant cousin, Dixon pushed his chair back. “They did nothing for years when Kurita was trying to force his filthy half-breed cousin onto our Prince’s throne! We can’t look to them for justice.”

“I believe General Kerensky would like to, Gabriel.” John raised his hand. “But he isn’t First Lord – even as Regent, he can’t over-ride the Star League Council if they tell him to back off. And the chances of getting four – or even three – votes in favour of such an intervention are slim. We will try, but get your regiments loaded for transit to…” He looked at a map display. “To Goshen. Expedite that.”

“Not Demeter?” asked Stopec respectfully.

“Local forces can provide disaster relief at Goshen,” the First Prince replied. “I’m not sending General Dixon’s regiments for that.”

Dixon leant forwards eagerly. “Then what are my orders, sire?”

“For now, just to redeploy to Goshen. By the time you’re there, I’ll have heard from the rest of the Council. And if we can’t count on the SLDF for this, you’ll have new instructions.” John hadn’t expected to be saying this when he woke up this morning. Not even when Hanse warned him, had this occurred to him, but he could feel the anger in the room and knew that it would be shared by the rest of the Suns.

They’d been attacked and would want revenge. It wasn’t necessarily the right answer, he thought, but it was the only one his responsibilities allowed. The Federated Suns could not allow this to pass without response.

“In that case,” he said steadily, “The instructions will be for punitive operations in the Capellan Confederation.”



Sidebar: The Star League

"One species, one government."

By the late twenty-sixth century, all but a statistically insignificant percentage of humanity lived within one of ten great interstellar states. In the centre was House Cameron's Terran Hegemony, surrounded by the other five states of the Inner Sphere, in clockwise order: House Kurita's Draconis Combine, House Davion's Federated Suns, House Liao's Capellan Confederation, House Marik's Free Worlds League and House Steiner's Lyran Commonwealth. On the periphery of human space were four other realms: House Avellar's Outworlds Alliance, House Calderon's Taurian Concordat, House Centralla's Magistracy of Canopus and House Amaris' Rim Worlds Republic.

After more than a decade of diplomacy, Ian Cameron welded the six inner sphere states into the Star League, an alliance intended to put an end to the wars that had plagued the last two hundred years and to bring greater prosperity to all mankind. Three years later, with the four Periphery Realms showing no interest in joining the Star League (except Gregory Amaris, who was promptly confined on grounds of being both a power-mad dictator and a Terran shill) and a pronounced lack of the promised economic boom, the Star League informed the Periphery that they would join, or else.

The Reunification War lasted twenty years and was fought with unparalleled brutality, but it cemented the Star League as the united government of mankind and the four periphery states as conquered territories. Under the leadership of Ian Cameron and other foresightful leaders, a golden age of peace and prosperity dawned.

Almost two hundred years later, the future does not look so rosy...
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: drakensis on 11 November 2017, 13:59:56
Avalon City, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Suns
8 May 2760

“My lord, I appeal to you in the name of our common humanity. I share your pain at the destruction upon Demeter, but the responsibility does not lie with my revered Lady Liao.”

John raised his hand to cut off the words of the Capellan ambassador. While the Scots-Irish wasn’t the most noted demographic in worlds of the Capellan Hegemony, they were wide-spread enough that Warex Liao had found one – even found one with a mix of French ancestry – to represent him on New Avalon. Under other circumstances, John might even like the man but right now Javier McNeill’s maternal ancestry was inclining him towards volubility and one more filibuster might be too much for the First Prince’s patience.

“Your excellency, it has been the policy of Lady Liao – even before her father’s sad demise – to encourage what she has described as ‘the aspirations of the oppressed Chesterton people’ in public despite the fact that Chesterton remains under the rule of families descended from their original colonists and that they were incorporated into the Suns long before the Capellan Confederation ever came to be.”

“But Prince Da-”

John leant forwards. “Ambassador, I did not call you here to speak. Since you were appointed by the late Chancellor, I understand you have no mandate from his daughter. But you can hear me and you can relay my words to your new mistress.”

McNeill bowed his head. “My apologies, your highness.”

“Perhaps, now that she bears the weight of the Confederation, Lady Barbara will be more restrained. But unfortunately it is too late to avoid this going further. My military intelligence have an existing file on the Chesterton Liberation Battalion, you see.”

“I would never assume anything less.”

Activating a control, John brought up a head and shoulders display of a man in his twenties. “This is Edgar Borlenko. One of the ‘oppressed’ Chesterton people who decided to cross the border and from the Suns and take employment in the Confederation. Which is his right as a Star League citizen, although given his background is middle class and his family can be traced to Kestrel on one side and Terra itself on the other as recently as the middle of the last century, I’m not clear on how he’s oppressed or Chestertonian.”

He cleared the screen. “Mr Borlenko has been positively identified as a member of the CLB and as with all their known members, he’s now subject of a manhunt. But between his departure from the Suns for Capellan space and his return as part of CLB, would you care to know who employed him?”

“I really couldn’t say,” McNeill answered with a resigned dip of his head.

“The Maskirova,” John answered. “The Capellan state intelligence agency hired the man, trained him… and now he’s on one of my worlds claiming credit for the deaths of over a hundred people. That would be quite the coincidence if the Capellan government is entirely uninvolved.”

“Obviously I have no knowledge and could not offer any response.”

The First Prince nodded. “I fully understand.” He allowed his shoulders to relax. “I don’t believe for a minute you have any personal involvement in this, Ambassador McNeill. But this matter cannot be allowed to rest.”

“Perhaps independent adjudication could be arranged?”

“I placed that very proposal in front of the Star League Council yesterday.” John steepled his fingers. “General Kerensky indicated he was prepared to enforce martial law on Demeter and put the full resources of Star League Intelligence into investigating this. All he required was the support of both myself and the Chancellor – or failing that, a majority vote of the Star League Council to authorise those actions.”

“I’m sure that you understand that my lady’s position as a newly appointed Chancellor would be undermined if her first action was to place herself in a vulnerable position with regard to outside authorities.”

The ambassador’s response was met with a cold expression. “I am aware that a leader must sometimes bend to the demands of those they lead. And for that reason, please also advise the Chancellor that unless she changes her mind regarding this matter that I will yield to certain demands from my people. You’ll have seen those demands on placards in the streets outside your embassy earlier.”

From the way his eyes darkened, McNeill had. “Respectfully, Prince Davion, you are discussing war.”

“Yes.”

There was a long, ugly moment of silence before the ambassador stood. “As you said, I am here to listen and not to speak. I believe I have heard you out.”

John nodded.

“Pray remember, for the sake of your people, that the last time two Star League states went to war, it did not end well for the aggressors.”

“Wars don’t usually end well for anyone, ambassador. I wish you well on your journey to Sian.” John rose but didn’t offer his hand. “If you aren’t reappointed, I also wish you well in your future career.”

“I regret that under the current circumstances I can offer no similar well-wishes for your own endeavours.”

John waited until the doors had closed behind McNeill before tapping his intercom. “Owen, do I have any other appointments in the next hour or so?”

“No sire,” his secretary replied. “We cleared most of the afternoon for the ambassador and for the High Command meeting.”

“Right. Please advise Colonel Stopec that he’ll be chairing the High Command meeting in my absence. I need some time to think.”

“That leaves you clear until 17:30, sire.”

“Right – getting ready for General Dixon’s farewell dinner.” John shook his head. “I’ll take what I can get then, Owen. If you clear what’s on your desk before then you can take the rest of the day off – I won’t subject you to that and we might not get many breaks in the next few months.”

“I’ll see how that goes then, sire. Do have a good evening.”

John cut the intercom and then activated the security procedures that isolated his office electronically. “Fat chance of that.”

“Three days and he hasn’t even set off?” Hanse Davion had been sitting quietly in one of the chairs at the back of his office. Now he stood and moved to take the one that McNeill had been in. “I’ve got a few concerns about General Dixon.”

“Most of his force is on the way.” John realised he was being defensive and took a breath. “There aren’t enough jump-ship collars for everything to leave at once anyway, someone had to be last and it makes sense for him not to depart until everything’s in motion.”

“That’s a chief of staff’s job – the commander should be in the lead.”

The prince tilted his head side to side. “Arguable. Anyway, I’m sorry I haven’t had time for us to really talk until now.”

“There have been other priorities,” Hanse agreed calmly. “And I’ve had other things on my mind.”

“Your family,” offered John sympathetically.

After a deep breath, Hanse met his gaze evenly. “Victor has a good head on his shoulders. I’d have preferred it if we had longer to prepare him, but it is what it is. He’s got friends to stand by him, and Melissa’s a very able woman.”

“Does that help?”

“A little. Wondering if there are other things I should have said or done. Nothing I haven’t wondered before.”

“What’s the 31st century like? I assume from what you’ve mentioned so far that the Liao are still making trouble.”

“Oh yes, they’re very motivated about that.” Hanse bared his teeth. “Some of them, at least. Oddly enough, one of them is probably Victor’s best friends. Unfortunately his cousin’s the new Chancellor and that one’s an inventive little bastard. He’d just sent me notice that he was engaged to marry the Captain-General’s daughter.”

John winced. “Well, maybe it’ll go as well for them as it did for my great-aunt and my grandfather.”

“Not all marriages between Great Houses end poorly.”

“Name one.”

“Mine.” The redhead folded his arms. “My wife Melissa is Archon of the Lyran Commonwealth.”

“Oh.” John frowned at the idea. The Commonwealth and the Suns had rarely had much to do with each other – Lyran space was on the far side of the Terran Hegemony so communication had historically been indirect. Which wasn’t to say they hadn’t had some fruitful co-operation in the past. “How did the Star League Council take that?”

Hanse leant back in the chair. “The Star League is gone, John.”

“Gone?”

“Disbanded, destroyed…” He held his hands together and then moved them apart, spreading his fingers to simulate an explosion. “Dead. And we’ve spent generations fighting over its corpse. My wedding was the first time in two hundred and forty-seven years – almost to the day – that all five of the great lords were even in the same room at once.”

John swallowed. Almost two hundred and fifty years – and Hanse said that by his time I’d been dead around that long. “You don’t mean sometime between our lives, you mean… now. In my lifetime.”

He got a nod in reply. “Nineteenth August, 2781. It’s one of the dates every school child is taught. The day the Star League Council disbanded.”

“But why!” The question erupted from his throat. “I know we’re having our frictions but…”

“Most people in my time blame Stefan Amaris.” Hanse looked thoughtful. “It’s probably a little convenient – God knows, he deserves a lot of blame – but it’s easier than admitting that the fault lies with our predecessors. You and the other four members of the Council.”

“Why do you say four, five I mean? There are ten seats on the Council – six even if you just count the voting members.”

Hanse sighed. “Because there was no Cameron left to take his seat, to be First Star Lord. And none of you – none of you – could agree on a replacement. You all had a candidate in mind, you see, and there was no compromising. The Council disbanded… and the matter went to the final courtroom of kings, the battlefield.”

Who won? John realised the answer before he wasted time asking: no one. If they had then there would have been a League. “How long did that last?”

“It might be over in my time. Maybe. There’s no new Star League but I thought Theodore Kurita and Thomas Marik might be sensible enough to realise there probably wasn’t any point fighting over that. Then again, I didn’t think Marik would be open to a Liao marriage offer…”

“You… never stopped fighting? Another age of war, like before the Star League.”

“Oh no.” Hanse shook his head. “It was much, much worse than that.”

John stood, walked to a discreet cabinet and produced a bottle of bourbon. Filling a glass he returned to his seat. “Alright. Tell me.”

“Pour another glass first.”

“You can’t drink, Hanse.”

“I meant for you. Actually, just bring the whole bottle.”

.o0O0o.

The dinner for the departing Twelfth Avalon Hussars was fulsome. Drink flowed heavily among the Mechwarrior officers and John regretted the bourbon earlier, watering his drinks and even then restraining himself to sips.

“They’re a fine body of men,” Dixon assured him from the head table where they were sat. “We’ll show the Capellans what for.”

“Good.” He was trying to show quiet confidence in his men, but it was hard. Hanse was present, leaning against the wall and watching the room darkly. The tale that the man had spun in the afternoon was hard to take on but one thing that had come through clearly was a conviction that the AFFS wasn’t ready for war.

Unaware of these dark thoughts, the General raised his own glass. “A toast, to our noble prince and his gracious lady.”

Around the room, men and women found glasses – sometimes not even their own and drank to that.

Obligated to return, John looked at his own glass and searched for words that wouldn’t betray him. Fortunately, Edwina caught his mood and rested one hand on his in restraint. Taking her own glass she stood. “I thank you all. And may I in turn offer my own toast – to your swift, safe and victorious return.”

“Aye!” came a chorus of acclamation.

“Thank you,” John murmured.

She gave a direct look at the man on the other side of John and thankfully Dixon was sufficiently attuned to court that he gave them room, stepping aside with a winked excuse of visiting the smallest room.

“You’re thinking of your father, aren’t you?”

“Something like that,” he affirmed.

Edwina could have promised him it would be different now, that the Armed Forces of the Federated Suns had been improved vastly from the force that Joseph Davion had led to repel the Combine’s Mustered Soldiery. But it wouldn’t have mattered to the nine year old boy he’d been when he’d learned his father wouldn’t be returning so she didn’t waste her breath.

Instead she looked down the room and then back at him. “I’m glad it’s now and not later. Joshua has another year at the academy or he’d be sure to demand a place on the frontlines.”

A chill went through John at the thought. Many of the Mechwarriors were barely older than his heir. But she was right. And… “There’s no certainty this will be done before he’s old enough.”

“Don’t tell me that.”

“I -”

“I know… but I have a year to hope that this will be over quickly.”

John nodded. “I understand. I hope so too.”

“Make it happen, John. Please.”

“I will do all I can.” He hid the weakness of his smile behind his glass, barely tasting the contents. “If you want to make excuses, then you don’t have to stay.”

“And leave you here with no support?”

Dixon returned and Hanse left the wall, moving to stand behind John. “They’re good troops, John. Don’t doubt the men and women down there.” The redheaded man paused and then circled his hand to gesture around him – at the high table. “Worry about whether the officers up here will let them down.”

Restraining the urge to look back at Hanse, John turned to General Dixon. “I’ll be leaving shortly – I need a good night’s sleep before meeting with the High Command to plan our overall strategy.”

“Of course, sire. I understand.” From the respectful look Dixon was giving Edwina, John doubted it but he let that go.

“There’s no higher responsibility I can place in anyone’s hands than the leadership of our soldiers in battle. I’m placing a great weight on your shoulders.”

“You’ve nothing to worry about, Prince Davion. I’ll give the Capellans the beating they deserve. The Liao won’t dare trifle with us a second time.”

John hoped his face didn’t give away how little that reassured him. Hanse’s face was a mask and he doubted that it was hiding approval.

.o0O0o.

Balbadd Valley, Valexa
Sarna Commonality, Capellan Confederation
16 July 2760

Given any choice on the matter, Susan wouldn’t have chosen the rice paddies that dominated the valley floor as a battlefield. The wet ground sucked at the feet of their ‘Mechs any time they stepped off the relatively narrow roads raised above the well-irrigated paddies – and if they stayed on the roads then they would be leaving themselves essentially without cover.

“Where the hell’s our relief!”

That’s what I want to know. “It’s on the way,” she answered Smythe’s complaint with all the confidence she could muster.

The attack had looked fine on paper – impromptu battle groups combining tanks, infantry and ‘Mechs were supposed to be sweeping down each of the river valleys leading to Leim City, where the rivers converged into a single more significant waterway. Taking the city would cut off a major transport node and let General Dixon – ‘Wang’ Dixon, the troops called him when officers were out of sight – trap the Sixteenth Liao Lancers and force their surrender.

There was a chirp from her communications panel and she accepted a private transmission from Sergeant Greaney. “Ma’am,” the grizzled sergeant advised. “The relief’s been ‘on the way’ for longer than it took us to get down here the first time. If we’re going to get out of here before the Chink artillery arrives, it’s going to be our own doing.”

“You’re probably right, Gav. But I don’t have any clever ideas. Do you?”

“Well we could shoot Smythe ourselves, to keep him from yapping, but that would probably be frowned upon.”

Susan was surprised she still had a laugh in her. “That’s a negative on friendly fire. Right now, the best idea I have is someone providing a diversion for the rest of the company to get away.”

“Just don’t try to be a lone hero in that, Lieutenant. Remember, Smythe’s life rests on me not being left in charge.”

Company was perhaps too strong a word. Battle Group Shadow had been made up of eleven ‘Mechs from Echo Company of Second Arcadian Cuirassiers, ten Manticore heavy tanks from the Seventh Panpour Panzer Regiment and three platoons of the 86th Light Infantry in hover APCs.

Nine of the tanks were probably forty kilometres behind them at the far end of the valley, right where they’d broken off once it was clear that the road’s bridges couldn’t bear the weight of them and the paddy floors were too soft for their tracks to get any traction. One of the tanks had been the price of that lesson.

Captains Abney and Cooke had pressed on though with just infantry and ‘Mechs. They probably wouldn’t have been able to push onto Leim City alone, but if they’d secured the town of Balbadd (whether the valley or town had been named first, Susan didn’t know) then they likely could have hung on and linked up with one of the other attacks.

If.

Assuming that either captain had had a contingency plan, neither had confided it to Leftenant Susan Sandoval, who now enjoyed the privilege of command over six Dervish BattleMechs with near empty LRM magazines and five infantry squads. Not one of the personnel carriers had survived the fusillade of fire from Balbadd as they tried to rush in under covering fire from the ‘Mechs.

The same fire was engaging anyone who tried to retreat back to the next embankment so that left the little force trapped. It was only a matter of time before the Capellans brought in reinforcements.

Susan glanced back at the road behind them. The promised relief force would be coming down there… but there was a pronounced lack of movement or other signs of them. Just the first of the APCs to be destroyed.

Her eyes narrowed. The armoured hover tank was actually more or less intact – shots had damaged one of the side-skirts as well as taking out part of the road it had been following. The result had flipped the ten ton vehicle over on its roof, as well as half-burying it in the paddy.

“Smythe,” she instructed. “Crawl your ‘Mech back and see if you can drag the APC that up-ended over to us.”

“Why?”

If the Mechwarrior hadn’t also started to back her Dervish towards the hovercraft, Susan might have shot her. “Because it might be our way out of here.”

“You won’t get all the infantry aboard her.”

“I’m not trying to. But it might be the diversion we need.”

Keeping her own Dervish crouched so as not to draw fire, she waded over to Smythe’s position. Waves kicked up reached where infantry were crouched on the rear of the embankment. While she couldn’t hear them cursing, she didn’t think they were thanking her.

Switching to the infantry frequency she looked for the effective leader remaining from the company. “Sergeant Watsuki. We’re recovering one of the APCs. Have someone check to see if it’s working, please.”

The sergeant – who didn’t look at all oriental – gave her a terse acknowledgement and picked to men to help him take care of the task. There was another wave of water as Smythe tipped the personnel carrier over, and it sank into the water, the ruptured plenum chamber flooding immediately.

Despite this, Watsuki seemed surprisingly upbeat about the vehicle’s prospects. “It’ll be a devil to drive, but the plenum chambers are redundant – as long as four of the six are intact it should be able to move.”

“And can it be set up to drive a pre-set course without anyone in it?”

The sergeant frowned. “We can set it off, but with the damage it’s anyone’s guess how close it’ll stick to the desired course.”

Susan felt a flood of relief. “That’s all I wanted to know, Sergeant. Get any salvageable kit out of the troop compartment and get the men ready to move. We’ll be retreating shortly.”

Less than five minutes work prepared them for the retreat. Most of that was spent getting the six worst wounded of the infantry up and into the ‘Mech cockpits, where they had to squeeze in behind the Mechwarriors.

Watsuki handed Susan a remote while her canopy was open. “Working with what I have,” he explained. “It’s all wired up. Just click twice to set it off and for god’s sake, keep the ride as smooth as you can.”

“Smooth is one thing I can’t promise, Sergeant. But it’s the only chance I can see short of surrender and I’ve heard some nasty things about Capellan prisoner of war camps.”

“Probably the same stories I’ve heard. I’d rather not find out for real.” He saluted and closed the canopy for her to lock down.

“Sound off that you’re ready to go,” Susan ordered.

There were five ayes, which was good enough for her. “Smythe, put it up.”

With a heave, Smythe’s ‘Mech lifted the front of the recovered APC and dragged it up onto the embankment. “Good as I can get it, ma’am.”

“Then it’ll have to do.” Susan clicked the remote twice.

For a moment nothing seemed to happen but then, just as she was about to query Watsuki, the hovercraft’s fans kicked into gear and lifted the skirts up and off the ground. The little – at least compared to the 55 ton Dervish – vehicle seemed to hesitate and then it accelerated up the slope, cresting and tipping over with a thump.

The impact seemed to jam the personnel carrier for a moment and the staccato bellow of an autocannon warned that it had been seen. Susan swallowed. If it was stuck then it was too close and…

The fans revved harder and the hover APC tore free, rushing forwards towards Belbadd.

More weapons opened up and Susan prayed to the God of her ancestors that the damage to the skirt would make it sufficiently unpredictable as to not be hit immediately.

Five seconds, ten seconds, fifteen…

Then sound and fire hammered into the air as something penetrated the little craft’s armour and hit what they’d prepared – almost half a ton of SRMs unloaded from the Dervishes and crammed into the infantry compartment.

“Go! Go! Go!”

Susan straightened her Dervish and ran for the next embankment back followed by the rest of the ‘Mechs, each clutching four or five men against their chests.

Stray shots chased them and Susan almost missed the embankment, focused on looking at the corners of her compressed 360 degree display for shots that might hit her vulnerable rear armour. Her ‘Mech lurched awkwardly as she adjusted and scrambled up it and made for the next.

.o0O0o.

The tanks were gone by the time they reached the head of the valley. Fortunately they found a farm truck that with minimal hotwiring could be used for the infantry – Susan suspected that if any of them had ever been impressed with the glamour of BattleMechs they’d gotten over it after the rough ride up the valley.

There was also absolutely no sign of a relief force.

“It’s a good job you pulled back,” Major Barnes told Susan wearily when she made contact on the radio. “We were going to swing Delta Company or Foxtrot Company around to take Balbadd from behind once they broke through -”

“Let me guess, neither of them managed that.”

“No, Leftenant.” The major didn’t add any weight to her rank. “Not for lack of trying, but they didn’t. I asked General Dixon’s staff to pull some other regiments in to help you but I haven’t had a response yet. I guess I can tell them to cancel that request.”

Susan bit back any further complaints. “Is it like this all over, sir?”

“Well we’re not winning, yet.” There was a break in the conversation and for a moment Susan thought they’d lost contact before Barnes spoke again: “Escort the infantry back to their regiment, Leftenant, and then report back to our firebase.”

“Understood, sir. I’ll be there… probably around midnight.”

“I’ll tell the techs to be waiting. We’ll need your ‘Mechs ready to fight again.”

Sunset, in the mountains, came swiftly. Watsuki lit up the road with the truck’s one working headlight while the ‘Mechs tramped along flanking him, hoping that anyone spotting them would miss the hulking Dervishes in contrast to the cone of light that preceded the infantry.

Fortunately they didn’t encounter anyone on the road but the first sign they had of the infantry was a SRM that came corkscrewing out of the darkness towards Greaney’s ‘Mech.

“Ambush!” snapped Smythe and fired her jump jets, the Dervish vaulting upwards as Watsuki responded to the attack by driving the truck into the ditch, half-pitching it over in the process.

Susan was about to fire on the source of the missile but the orange light of the jump jets lit up a familiar helmet shape. “Hold fire!” she screamed. “They’re AFFS!”

For a moment she thought the lance would ignore her, but for a wonder even Smythe kept her finger off the triggers.

Switching to speakers, Susan spread her ‘Mech’s arms. “Cease fire, we’re with the Second Cuirassiers!”

The man she’d spotted dived into the shadows and infra-red sensors suggested there were more men – and more missile launchers out there. No one fired though and after what seemed like forever but was probably only a couple of minutes, a jeep arrived carrying someone in authority.

In fact, it was the Eighty-Sixth’s colonel. “We’ve seen more hostile ‘Mechs than friendlies,” he said unapologetically. “Earlier today we got lucky and the Seventh Panpour had some tanks near enough to support us. Otherwise we need to rely on ambushes like this.”

“I hadn’t heard Capellan raiders were pushing through the lines.”

He laughed bitterly. “Lines is too strong a word. Thanks for bring Watsuki and the wounded back. Did Captain Abney give you any idea when the rest of the company will be sent back to us?”

Susan’s face must have given him the answer because the Colonel’s expression congealed before she could say anything.

“I sent almost a hundred men with you this morning, Leftenant! What the hell use are you mechjocks if you can’t support my men?”

“Sir.” Watsuki didn’t salute – that would have been a major breach of regs in the field – but his stance was parade ground attention. “Captain Abney led us into the mess. The leftenant got us out.”

Energy seemed to drain out of the infantry officer. “Right. My apologies, leftenant.”

“You’re not really any madder than I was, sir.” Susan looked up at her ‘Mech, feeling a strong urge to get back to the security of the cockpit. “I don’t know if I can do anything about getting you better support against the Capellans but I’ll tell Major Barnes what you said.”

“That would be appreciated, Leftenant. Doubly appreciated if anything comes of it – but I’ll not hold my breath.”

.o0O0o.

Avalon City, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Suns
3 August 2760

The maps of three worlds lit up the central table of the planning centre, marked with gold for the positions of AFFS units and green for reported locations of Capellan forces.

“According to General Dixon, he’s outnumbered almost two to one by the Capellan Armed Forces.” Stopec pulled up a forces display. “Military Intelligence disagree – by their count the frontline regiments on the three worlds are near parity for him, and the local militia were depleted in the last few years to build up frontline units so there shouldn’t be much of anything they can add.”

“Which do you believe?”

The grizzled Mechwarrior looked at his liege lord for a moment and then shrugged. “Likely somewhere between the two. MilInt’s ‘Mech numbers are pretty good but they tend to focus there – it could be there’s more infantry or tanks than they want to admit.”

“Given the raiding we’re seeing, I’d agree about ‘Mechs. And that pins down most of our Capellan March units. Dixon already has twice the regiments I originally planned and it doesn’t look to me as if he’s doing anything with them. At least casualty rates have dropped off.”

“Green troops always take the worst hit in their first weeks,” the third man at the table explained. Of course, John was the only one who could hear him. “It’s a leadership problem.”

“I’m tempted to relieve Dixon,” the prince told Stopec as if thinking aloud. “But I don’t know that we have anyone much better and a change of command could cause more confusion.”

“You’re probably right, sire. With your permission, I’ll use the data we’re getting for some exercises. The March Militia don’t seem to mind playing OpFor and maybe I can war game out some solutions.”

“Go right ahead.”

John watched as Stopec went to arrange for the data to be routed to his staff. Not turning his head to look at Hanse felt rude, but he’d forced himself to develop the habit – he couldn’t afford to look unstable. “You obviously have ideas what’s going wrong.”

“Given that neither side has any real advantage in numbers, equipment or doctrine, we’re looking at a deadlock,” Hanse told him unflinchingly. “In theory attrition would eventually swing the balance to us, but the forces involved are too small as a fraction of the total forces in service to make that realistic.”

“I see,” John agreed under his breath. “I can’t change the numbers all that much – or the equipment.”

“Changing doctrine is even harder, but that’s what you’re up against.” The redhead looked up at the ceiling. “You can’t retrain troops in the field – and the ones that are there are picking up experience. Rather than increasing the forces committed, what I recommend is pulling regiments out one at a time and replacing them with fresh troops.”

John almost risked turning and glaring but Stopec was on his way back. “If we rotated regiments after, say six months, we could adjust our deployments and rebuild the units that have seen action on postings in the Crucis or Draconis March,” he observed. “But I’m concerned that we’d see casualties spike again as new regiments get used to battlefield conditions.”

“That’s likely true. But it might be necessary, feeding replacement soldiers to the regiments isn’t really any better – if you break the numbers down the losses we’re getting right now are disproportionately the inexperienced.”

Hanse nodded in agreement with the Champion. “And the veteran troops can act as cadres for the regiments you’re still forming up, giving them practical experience to learn from.”

“It feels like we’re using this war just to blood our troops – and the casualties aren’t worth that,” John protested.

“You’re wrong,” Hanse said flatly. “It’s absolutely worth it – because those hundreds dead mean thousands, possibly tens of thousands live. Just as long as the lessons are learned.”

“That’s not what the war is about, sire.” Stopec’s words cut across Hanse’s. “The soldiers swore to fight for the Federated Suns and that’s what they’re doing. Doing already – and it’s up to us to make sure that it is worth it.”

“Perhaps you’re right.” John sighed. “Alright. Plan on a troop rotation, starting in two months and switching out one regiment each month. That shouldn’t leave Dixon too short on experienced troops at any one time. And while that’s going on, I’ll need you to figure out what we’re doing wrong – and to do it faster than the Capellans are. Because right now I don’t think they’re fighting any smarter than we are. God help us if they wind up learning faster.”
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: drakensis on 11 November 2017, 14:00:11
Sidebar: History of the Federated Suns

"For better or for worse, the history of the Suns is the history of the Davions."

In 2316, Lucien Davion began touring the worlds of the Crucis Reach, a region bound together by trading networks centered upon New Avalon. Product of one of the powerful political dynasties of the bread-basket colony world, Lucien had recently inherited the post of Prime Minister from his uncle. Arguing that Terra, resurgent after more than seventy years of stagnation and internal conflicts, would pick off isolated planets as they sought to re-establish Terran dominance; Lucien proposed a mutual defense and trade union. Twenty worlds agreed, forming the Federated Suns under his leadership.

Upon Lucien’s death his brother Charles was elected President in his place, and used this to pressure his homeworld into accepting him as the next Prime Minister. Creating the Federated Peacekeeping Forces, the precursor to the later Armed Forces of the Federated Suns, Charles Davion brought Lucien’s loose association of worlds into a cohesive state ruled from New Avalon. When Charles passed away, Lucien’s son Reynard was placed to succeed him on New Avalon and at the head of the Suns, confirming the dynastic nature of the office.

The increasingly absolutist rule of House Davion climaxed in Reynard’s tyrannical twin grandsons, Edmund and Edward. Their cousin, Simon Davion, an accomplished diplomat and military leader in his own right, dramatically assassinated Edward in front of the High Council in 2417. Over the next three weeks a new, reformed and decentralised, Federated Suns was born. Five principalities were formed, with the five dynasties to provide a check upon each other. Simon Davion, judged guilty of justified homicide, was spared punishment and became the first among equals, the First Prince.

The system of principalities until 2512 when William Davion died, naming his five year old grandson Alexander as heir. During the boy’s minority power in the Crucis March would be vested in a regency council, including his aunts Laura and Cassandra, the latter wed to David Varnay, Prince of the Capellan March, and General Rostov of the AFFS. When Laura maneuvered herself into control of the Draconis March, replacing the childless Prince Vladimir, and Rostov was appointed Prince of the Terran March the scene was set for a three-sided civil war.

War broke out in 2525, but unexpectedly it would be a four-sided war. Only eighteen years old, Alexander Davion escaped effective captivity by the Varnays. He had no soldiers, and the rival regents announced his death, accusing each other of the murder. Fifteen years later, at horrendous cost to his family and the Suns, it was the Young Davion, who emerged as the Federated Suns’ First (and now only) Prince.
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: Sir Chaos on 11 November 2017, 14:44:35
Quote
“Pour another glass first.”

“You can’t drink, Hanse.”

“I meant for you. Actually, just bring the whole bottle.”

Oh boy, is he ever going to need it...
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: Dave Talley on 12 November 2017, 00:32:06
TAG!
This is a redo from a few years ago iirc
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: drakensis on 12 November 2017, 04:14:22
The original was a timeline, this version is a full story.
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: cpip on 12 November 2017, 13:26:24
Not only is the premise entertaining, but the dialogue is well-written, the descriptions are good -- this is just plain good writing, and I'm very much enjoying it.
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: DOC_Agren on 12 November 2017, 14:00:11
So my 1st thought is will Hanse end up changing the timeline enough that he won't rule??
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: drakensis on 12 November 2017, 16:17:31
Avalon City, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Suns
3 August 2760

Edwina was away that night, having flown to visit her family on their estates halfway around the planet, and John had dismissed his attendants. He and Hanse shared the privacy of a lounge, one wall screen displaying an Italian opera that dated back almost a thousand years. The ghost from the future had commended it to John, who continued not to see the appeal but the sound of it would mask their conversation if someone actually managed to overhear them.

“The rot is too deep, John – it has been for years. Perhaps Simon Cameron could have turned things around but he’s dead and his son is a spoiled brat utterly unequal to his responsibilities.” Hanse’s eyes blazed with determination. “All you can do is salvage as much as possible for the Federated Suns.”

“I know your… unique position gives you a perspective that I lack, Hanse, but this isn’t your time. You’ve never lived at peace with your neighbours – no, I’m not blaming you, but it’s colouring your thinking. It’s thinking the way you describe – putting the Suns ahead of everyone else – that led to the Star League’s fall. We could have made it work despite Amaris, but from what you tell me, none of us were willing to be selfless enough to put the League ahead of ourselves.”

Relaxing into his chair, John looked at his great-great-great-great-great grandson and met determination with conviction. “I don’t know what happened to turn me into someone willing to stand back and let that happen, but I don’t want to be that person. If Richard isn’t able to set the example that the Star League needs then I should stand up and shame the others into doing so.”

“You’re at war with one of them.”

“True, but that’s the situation we’re left with. Richard doesn’t have to be a brilliant first lord, or even an able one, if we can simply convince him to work with the rest of the Council. Robert Steiner is no fool and Kenyon Marik is hardly an ally of the Capellan Confederation. Their issues with Kerensky are personal – once he’s no longer regent, we’ll be rid of one of the major sources of tension on the Star League Council.”

“That’s optimistic. The problems didn’t begin with him,” Hanse reminded him. “Look at the Hidden Wars – or the way Kurita tried to usurp your throne. Would you work with him for that?”

John hesitated. “It would be difficult for Takiro, but you yourself told me his health is failing. Minoru might be an enemy in your… timeline?”

“As good a term as any.”

“Right, but he doesn’t have to be an enemy. He’s ambitious, but also pragmatic. As long as the Camerons aren’t eliminated the prospect of being a power behind the throne is far better for him than breaking the League asunder. If we can work together that’s the two largest and most powerful Member States.”

The other man shook his head. “I don’t think you’ve got a hope in hell of succeeding, John. I’ll help you – it’s not as if I have any other options – but I hope this doesn’t end up making things worse.”

“I’m not talking about neglecting the Suns. After all, if we’re going to prop up the Star League then I need us to look as strong as possible. That strength just has to show that we’re gaining it from working with the Star League, not against it.”

“Then you need to talk to Kerensky. I don’t know how he’s seen in this era but history casts him as practically the soul of the Star League.”

John nodded. “Albion Military Academy is a good example of how the SLDF and a House Military can work together. There are only two other academies outside the Hegemony that do that – both in the Lyran Commonwealth – General Kerensky attended one of them. I’m going to propose expanding Warrior’s Hall on New Syrtis into a fully-fledged SLDF academy, one that can help train soldiers side-by-side for the AFFS and SLDF and foster pro-Star League sentiment.”

“I see. And you’re expecting that the other Lords will see that as something to emulate.”

“Probably not until Richard reaches his majority, at least for the Free Worlds League. I can’t see Kenyon Marik asking Kerensky for that or accepting it if he offered. But Barbara Liao might – if she’s seeing me as a rival then – by God – let’s use that. And then Kenyon will see that all his neighbours have SLDF academies and might be persuaded that he could seek the same from the new First Lord.”

Hanse chuckled. “I notice you’re not including the Combine in that. And you’re probably right. But a lot of this hinges on Richard Cameron being reasonable and that isn’t likely with Amaris holding his confidence. I agree as far as it goes that the League’s chances of survival are better if House Cameron isn’t wiped out – such as those chances are – but Amaris is the main threat. To all practical purposes he already has the future First Lord as a puppet and that isn’t enough for him.”

“Agreed. It’s difficult that no one else really sees him as a threat. If you hadn’t told me about him I’d have trouble believing he was anything more than the bumpkin he acts like.”

“I’m glad we’re on the same page.” Hanse leant forwards. “So what do you have in mind?”

“If we can tie him to the Periphery’s unrest then the rest of the Council will have to act. I’ve already instructed MilInt to start looking for shipments of military hardware that aren’t accounted for by the SLDF or the house militaries.” John stabbed his finger down. “Hiding the quantity of equipment you described would be incredibly difficult already. Now that we know what to look for we can -”

“You need to kill him.”

The prince looked at Hanse in horror. “You mean assassination? Of one of the Star League Council? That’s not a door I want to open!”

“There’s nothing sacred about their lives and better one man dies than ten thousand. Or ten million. The one assured way of stopping Amaris is to kill him.”

John rose to his feet and stalked to the window. “Setting aside the practical problems with actually carrying that out – which are titanic – it’s a certainty that it would be identified as an assassination. Even if there was no evidence at all – just as there wasn’t any evidence of Simon’s death being anything but an accident – the assumption would be there. The Territorial States would assume that one of the Member States removed him because he was too influential – which would be the truth when you come down to it. He’d be a martyr.”

“House Amaris is notorious for its internal power struggles.”

“So what?” John thumped the window. “He’s from the periphery, we aren’t. It’s that polarized right now. And the House Lords would suspect largely the same thing, and watch for anyone trying to move into the same circle. Which is exactly what I’m going to be doing – and the same solution will present itself.”

“Oh and then there’s Richard himself. Who will blame… who? Assuming that whoever is sent isn’t traced back to me – and that’s a real possibility, I know you have this quasi-infallible MIIO in the future but that doesn’t exist yet -”

“Which you’d better do something about.”

 “Which, yes, is on my list of things to do. But Richard will most likely blame General Kerensky. So we’d end up isolating the First Lord even more, crippling any chance of getting his tolerance and potentially costing us one of the few other pillars of support the League has right now. Do you see why I think it’s a terrible idea?”

Hanse nodded. “You’re absolutely right. Killing Amaris would be a nightmare even without the moral issues which you carefully didn’t mention. But you’re the one who wants to save the Star League and as long as the centre of the Star League still exists, simple inertia has a good chance of keeping the Council from disbanding. Stefan Amaris is intent on destroying that centre and right now he has practically all the cards he needs to do that. He’s had a decade to get his claws into Richard Cameron and that’s not a bond you’ll break easily.”

“It’s too damaging to risk,” John told him firmly. “I’ll find another way. Besides… Amaris has family. We could kill him and be right back at square one if they take up the same idea. His wife could easily send Stefan’s heir Tadeo to Terra to fill his father’s place at Richard’s side. You know Richard would jump at the chance to mentor his friend’s son.”

That point seemed to sink in and Hanse nodded grudgingly. “I suppose I didn’t give his family very much consideration. Alright, I yield the point. So… going back to the earlier question, what else can you do to strengthen the Star League?”

The prince pursed his lips. “The treasury will howl but I think we’ll have to try to undo some of the damage done to the Periphery by the current taxes. I doubt I can get the Council to keep their hands off the funds generated unless Richard supports it, but nine-tenths of the problems in the Periphery stem from the taxes we imposed in ‘52.”

“It has potential,” Hanse admitted. “If less of the SLDF needs to go to the Periphery it would certainly complicate the Amaris’ coup. But without that income you can’t afford to support the AFFS and if you raise your own taxes then you’ll hurt the economy.”

“I know, but the core of the expansion is done so I can look at cutting back there a little and put it into measures to restrain some of the corporate gouging that goes on there.”

“Every little helps. Can I talk you into assassinating Jinjiro Kurita?”

“Absolutely not – do you think I want a war on two fronts?”

Hanse shrugged. “Worth a try. The last thing you need on the Star League Council is a psychotic.”

“Minoru has almost forty years ahead of him…”

.o0O0o.

Hellas Mountains, Valexa
Sarna Commonality, Capellan Confederation
23 September 2760

The road zigzagged up the steep slope in order to present a manageable gradient to ground vehicles. Ignoring the road in order to ascend as directly as possible, Susan scrambled her Dervish up the easier sections, sometimes using the paddle-like hands to stabilise the ‘Mech. Where the mountainside didn’t serve she used jump-jets to loft the fifty-five ton ‘Mech past obstacles.

“Major Barnes is trying to get your attention again,” Gav Greaney advised her.

“Yes, I noticed. Shocking lack of radio discipline, he really needs a couple of days leave.”

Delta Company, into which the remains of Echo Company had been folded, was made up of Wolverines rather than Dervishes. Conveniently, the two ‘Mech designs were of almost identical size and mobility so the company was able to operate together cohesively. Right now long range comms were supposed to be kept offline as the Confederation had managed to launch a replacement satellite network that could pick up on AFFS signals. It was only a matter of time before orbital sorties by the Navy’s fighters would take them out, but at the moment it gave the enemy an advantage.

“Major’s gonna chew you out, again.”

“Shut up Smythe.”

“Shutting up,” the woman affirmed – although how long that would last was as open to doubt as the timeframe for the Navy to clear the satellites.

“Thing is, she’s not wrong. Technically this is an unauthorised sortie. You could almost say we’re absent without leave.”

“Firebase commanders have authority to carry out short-term operations at their discretion and the 86th are inside our operational radius.”

“It’s kind of stretching a point to say you were the firebase commander, captain. The Major was only taking a nap.”

“He needs all the sleep he can get, Gav. And he left me in charge of the battalion until he woke up.”

“Just wanted to point out that he used the words ‘summary’ ‘court’ and ‘martial’ in his last transmission.”

Susan fired her jump-jets again. “Well he might get two of those together, but I really don’t think ‘Wang’ Dixon will be signing off on any summary judgements. If I’m court martialled he’d want every I dotted and every T crossed.”

“Benefit of being a Duke’s daughter?”

“I don’t like taking too much advantage of it, but if it means we can relieve the 86th then I don’t mind making an exception.”

As they reached the top of the ridge, Susan’s sensors started painting heat signatures. Fires were blazing in the barns of the sprawling cattle station that the 86th Light Infantry had been based out of, down in the broad valley beyond. Amid the smoke and fires she could see bipedal figures far too large to be infantrymen.

“I’ve a partial ID,” Smythe reported, breaking the silence as the other ten ‘Mechs of Delta Company caught up. “Bug ‘Mech, I’d say ninety-five percent chance it’s a Wasp.”

“And the other five percent?”

“Stinger with a Wasp cockpit assembly – there have been some patch-jobs sighted.”

“It doesn’t make a huge difference then.” Susan adjusted her radio to the frequency she’d picked up the infantry request for assistance on. Breaking radio silence could have been a judgement by the regiment’s command team that the Capellans must already know their location if they were under attack. Or it could have been a fake signal intended to draw out AFFS ‘Mechs to ambush them.

Having stayed in touch with Sergeant – now Lieutenant – Watsuki and his unit, Susan was fair sure she’d recognised the radio operator’s voice. That cut the odds of an ambush to around one in five by her best guess. Acceptable odds.

“86th Infantry, this is Delta of the Second Cuirassiers. We’re moving to your support,” she advised via a low strength signal that the satellites should hopefully miss. Of course, the Liao ‘Mechs in the area would also detect it, if not necessarily decode it. But knowing reinforcements had arrived should warn them off, which would be almost as good as destroying them.

“Roger that, Delta. We’ve got fire teams in the buildings and the drainage ditch.” The voice of the colonel was relieved. “We took down two ‘Mechs but there are at least ten more and a lance of missile carriers backing them up.”

“Understood, we’re on the way.”

Susan switched back to Delta’s internal comms. “Move in. We’re looking at a company of light ‘Mechs and a lance of missile carriers – Greaney, hold your lance back to deal with the carriers.” Missile carriers were little more than tracked turrets, but they could deliver an awesome amount of firepower from the missile launchers in those turrets. They were lightly armoured though and with four Dervishes, Greaney’s lance should be enough to take them out quickly.

As the company descended the slope, they dispersed and Greaney held his group back to form a second line behind Longknife’s four Wolverines and Susan’s command lance, which was one ‘Mech down.

“I think they’re pulling back to the buildings,” Smythe reported.

That made sense to Susan. “Keep moving, they’ll probably take us under fire with the missile carriers to draw us into the buildings and their range.”

Sure enough, as they came within half a kilometre of the cattle station the arching contrails of LRMs rose from behind one of the buildings – obvious due to their sheer number if nothing else.

The salvo had been concentrated on Longknife’s lance and the four ‘Mechs scattered, trying to avoid taking the concentrated barrage. Susan lost sight of them momentarily but all four of the magnetic signatures of the ‘Mechs kept moving so she didn’t think they’d been taken out.

Behind her, she saw Greaney’s lance briefly halt, the covers of their missile launchers opening. A return salvo burst up into the air and then the Dervishes resumed movement.

Then the first Wasps came into view, popping out to fire on Susan with their lasers as she crossed the quarter kilometre mark.

She had lasers of her own though, as well as SRMs. Her first target ducked back behind the cover of tin-walled building but she fired anyway – the lasers punched right through the light metal and four SRMs converted it to scrap, exposing the Wasp. A Wolverine’s autocannon bit deep into the light ‘Mech’s chest and its pilot fired his jump jets to bound back behind more substantial cover.

Alone the Wasps could have outrun her relief force but in addition to giving them more firepower the missile carriers mired them, for they were far slower.

Rounding the first line of buildings Susan saw that one of the missile carriers had blown up, the turret upended several yards from the tracks. One of the others turned its own turrets towards her, no less than sixty missile tubes on the low-slung turret, as the other two vehicles backed away, tracks digging into the dirt and gravel of the roadway.

Keeping her missile tubes closed, she rushed the carrier, firing just before it did. Her lasers bit into the forward glacis of the hull but her missiles were lost in the smoke as the missile load was fired directly into her.

Fortunately, Susan was inside the arming distance of the long range missiles – while the impacts staggered her and one missile starred the armoured glass of her cockpit, the damage was far less than it would have been if the warheads had gone off. Lurching through the smoke of the missile fire, she braced the Dervish’s weight on one foot and then crashed the other into the damaged frontal armour. Plating buckled and the missile carrier’s hatches popped open, crewmen fleeing. Gunfire from the next row of buildings cut two of the men down, a third reaching cover behind a stack of crates and cowering behind the shelter, clearly disinclined to continue the fight.

Longknife’s lance appeared on the other flank of the missile carriers and the two remaining vehicles came apart in the crossfire of the seven ‘Mechs. Although their armour was scored and paintwork a wreck, Susan was pleased to see that the other lance hadn’t taken any losses.

Checking for any further sign of the Wasps she spotted the turret of the first missile carrier destroyed, the one likely destroyed in the initial salvo from Greaney. The launchers were a different style from those of the other three and despite the heat of her cockpit she shivered. That one had carried short-range missile launchers – if it had survived then her close assault would have exposed her to a swarm of larger warheads that would have smashed her Dervish flat.

I think that was all my luck for today, she decided. Better to be more cautious in the future. “Don’t get split up,” she ordered. “Greaney, the carriers here are out but there could be more. Move up and join us, we’ll clear the site systematically.”

“Won’t that mean the Capellans can get away?”

“If they run then that’s good enough for me. We’re just here to relieve the place, not to try to rack up kill markings like those morons in the Eighth Fusiliers.” She’d seen some of the Falcon light ‘Mechs in that regiment swaggering around with carefully painted rings around their arms to signify claimed defeats over Liao ‘Mechs and armoured vehicles. There was some complex system of claiming victories and what each ring meant but all she’d taken away from that was that if she were to have been fighting against the Fusiliers she’d have made the ‘Mechs with the most rings priority targets.

.o0O0o.

Avalon City, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Suns
16 October 2760

“I’m glad we’ve been able to come to an agreement.” John shook hands with Erskine Cobb, the moment immortalised on holo-camera.

Over the next week or so this would appear as a minor note in the news media of hundreds of worlds and probably as a headline on Kathil. As CEO of General Motors, Cobb was one of the major movers and shakers in the Capellan March and its main manufacturing plants were located on Kathil. The deal that John had just signed off on would direct hundreds of millions of Star League dollars from the military budget to Motors, almost doubling their share of the lucrative military market.

“It’s been a genuine pleasure,” Cobb replied with apparent sincerity. “The SLDF turning the Blackjack down could have cost us dearly. It’s a pleasure to have the support of House Davion.”

“I wouldn’t be surprised if they reconsider after they see it in action with our regiments on the border. Your corporation has always provided quality products and I don’t see any reason to expect anything less.”

There was as much show as substance to that comment, but John could at least honestly say he had personal experience of one General Motors’ product: his personal ‘Mech was a Marauder, one of the most respected heavy ‘Mechs around and had been built by GM on Kathil.

Cobb released his hand. “Their loss, your gain.”

“When the Star League loses, we all do. But I’m glad to be able to step in where they didn’t.”

An aide ushered the business magnate in and John submitted to a quick brush down of his jacket by another attendant before heading back to his desk for his next meeting. “I hope the Blackjack is everything you told me,” he said in the brief moment of privacy he had.

“It just had bad press,” Hanse told him. “I don’t know where the rumours about it began but it’s a good, reliable ‘Mech. Not a showboat, but exactly the sort of workhorse you want on the frontlines.”

Owen opened the door. “Sire, Perry Lycomb of Lycomb Technologies.”

“Of course.” John rose and greeted the man with warmth. “I’ve been looking forwards to meeting you.”

“I feel the same way, your highness.” Lycomb shook his hand firmly. “I hope we can resolve the recent… disagreements that have arisen since May.”

“It was a terrible blow, seeing you targeted by terrorism like that.” John returned to his seat. “I understand the AFFS has offered to split costs for reconstruction with you. Those were certainly my instructions.”

Perry accepted the seat in front of John and Owen retreated. The businessman took a deep breath. “The offer’s been made, your highness and in many respects its very generous… but there are certain conditions that make us hesitant to accept the proposal.”

“He’s not going for it,” Hanse concluded.

With more practise, John avoided looking at his invisible advisor. “Would this be to do with the security concerns?”

“We have a great deal of investment – time, money and tradition – on Demeter.” Lycomb spread his hands. “Our workers are a community, almost an extended family. To ask them all to uproot from their homes and re-establish themselves halfway across the Inner Sphere… it’s just too much to do.”

“I can see your point of view, but really wouldn’t this be an investment in their safety – and that of their families? The Federated Suns has quite literally gone to war over the injury to Lycomb and while there’s been no further incidents on Demeter itself there’s no guarantee that the fighting couldn’t spread.”

The magnate nodded. “It’s much on my mind and we’ve had to hire additional security already for our remaining production facilities but the other factor is that moving our factories deeper inside the Suns could cost us some very important contracts.”

John raised an eyebrow. “You mean with the SLDF?”

“Quite.” Lycomb spread his hands. “We’re not just close to the Capellan Confederation on Demeter. While we’re bound by confidentiality as to the details, it can’t be a secret that the bulk of our production goes to the SLDF. It’s quite a coup to work with some of their cutting edge equipment and very few firms outside the Hegemony get the chance. If SLDF procurement felt that we were potentially open to… well, I don’t want to imply that you would be involved…”

“They’d think that my government was using you as a conduit to get hold of classified SLDF equipment.”

“Exactly! Even the perception could cost us heavily and since we won’t be assembling new Awesomes for some time to come we’ll depending on selling components for them and our aerospace division to remain solvent. Losing SLDF contracts – or worse, facing litigation – could destroy Lycomb.”

The prince turned his chair slightly. “Damaging relations with the SLDF certainly isn’t something I’d approve of, I can assure you of that. On the other hand, our policy of ensuring our sources of military hardware are from secure sources is built to a great extent on the dangers exposed by the damage done to your factories. Making an exception for Lycomb would difficult to justify.”

“I’m very sorry to hear that,” Lycomb answered, face solemn. “In that case I suppose we’ll have to find the money for reconstruction without your offer. I regret that we’re both in positions that we can’t find a compromise.”

“It’s unfortunate, and I’ll see if we might be able to find something else that we can offer that wouldn’t offend the SLDF.” John pushed his chair back. “Lycomb’s been good to the AFFS over the years and House Davion will not forget that.”

“In that case, your highness, I can assure you that I’ll be very pleased to consider any other proposals from the AFFS. I’m glad that we’ve at least now got a better understanding of what we’re each hoping for.”

“Absolutely,” John agreed and the two men shook hands again before Lycomb left.

“We’re going to need those heavy fighters, John. In fact, you need more fighters in general. Besides the Stuka the only other design being built in the Suns is the Centurion, you’re importing everything else.”

John nodded. “We’ll have to see how amenable they are to setting up an alternate facility. In the meantime maybe we can work something out with Boeing Interstellar. They’re already constructing a shipyard at Galax, which is certainly secure enough.”

“I didn’t know they were in the fighter market,” Hanse said in surprise. “Federated-Boeing were a standby of our dropship and jumpship production but they were focused on that.”

“I’m glad to know there are some gaps in your knowledge,” John said frankly. “They build the Hammerhead – which is pretty much reserved for militia use in the Terran Hegemony given the age but it’s a heavy airframe and not so advanced that building it in the Suns would upset the SLDF.”

“I can’t say I know the name.” The ghost made a face. “Probably it was another of those things we lost in the Succession Wars. Is it any good?”

John spread his hands. “I’m not a pilot. The navy would rather have more Stukas or Thunderbirds, but if we can’t get them then the Hammerhead would be better than nothing.”
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: drakensis on 12 November 2017, 16:17:45
High Orbit, Valexa
Sarna Commonality, Capellan Confederation
2 November 2760

At least the crew seemed to know what they were doing, Susan thought as she watched her ‘Mech move without her. The dropship that had lifted her to orbit would have to return for the other half of the Second Cuirassiers. Fortunately FSS Markesan was a dedicated transport with a dedicated ‘Mech deck that could accommodate a battalion of BattleMechs.

Right now her battered Dervish was locked into a transport cradle that would be guided on rails out the hatch and across the ship.

“Major,” a clipped voice offered from behind her. “Welcome aboard.”

It took Susan a moment to realise she was the one being greeted. Turning she saw a short, trim officer with a Leftenant Colonel’s two narrow stripes on his uniform epaulettes. Light Commodore was the naval equivalent she recalled and saluted him. “Sir. And it’s just Captain. I’m only provisionally in charge of the battalion.”

The corner of the man’s lips twitched in amusement. “Courtesy promotion, major. It’s a naval tradition that there’s only one captain on a ship.”

Her face coloured. “Sorry, sir. Protocol’s… slipped a little down there.”

“That I can understand – and between you and me, it’s caused the Department of the Army and Navy no end of issues over the years.” The twitch disappeared. “Part of the problem being that they think they can get the tradition to change when those are usually less flexible than regulation. I’m Markesan’s captain, Ken Jones.”

“Susan Sandoval.”

He nodded. “So I heard. Any relation to the Duke?”

“He’s my father.” Susan shrugged slightly. “Don’t put too much weight on the relationship – he wanted me to take a post in the Draconis March so he could keep an eye out for me, I came to the Capellan March because I don’t want that attention.”

“That’s very laudable, major.” She got the impression that Jones wasn’t being entirely sincere but she’d more or less got used to those reactions. “I’m afraid I’m not just here to greet you though. If I can persuade you to leave your ‘Mechs to my crew – they’re very good, I promise – then we do actually have some business to take care of.”

“Of course, sir,” she agreed quizzically.

“Wonderful.” He held the hatch for her in a gentlemanly fashion, ushering her across the dividing line between the dropship and FSS Markesan. “I gather you had a field promotion down there?”

“Yes sir, I had a lance when we landed.” Susan raised her chin in challenge. Six months wasn’t long to go from leading four ‘Mechs to almost forty but she wasn’t going to be put off just because naval promotions tended to be slower.

“Then I’m afraid I’ll have to be the one to break it to you that paperwork increases geometrically in relation to the number of people under your command.” Jones led her to what she recognised as an axial lift, the pair of them moving from handgrip to handgrip in micro-gravity. “In this case, my medical officer is nigh hysterical as your troops weren’t up to date on their inoculations.”

The brief acceleration of the lift pressed Susan’s feet against the floor for a moment. “We’ve had to prioritise and battlefield injuries tend to be more urgent.”

“You’ve nothing to justify to me. Unfortunately, the paper-pushers will have their due. We have all the necessary vaccines and whatnot aboard, but those are naval medical supplies and you’re from the BattleMech corps so you’re supposed to be getting this from your own medical service.”

Susan blinked. “Pardon me, Commodore, but do I understand that my people aren’t to receive the inoculations until we reach Goshen?”

“Oh nothing of the kind. We’ve already started on it, but unless we get your signature on the paperwork authorising the naval service to bill the BattleMech corps for it, well…” Jones shrugged wryly, “I’m not saying that the paper-pushers would court martial the two of us and my medical officer because they hadn’t been able to move some electrons around in the budget, but no one needs ‘suspected financial peculation’ on their permanent file.”

She groaned and leant back against the lift wall. “And I thought we were just fighting the Capellans.”

“I’m sorry I have to disillusion you.” Exiting the lift, the naval officer directed her towards a cramped compartment she realised must be the warships administrative officers. “However, now that you’re verging on being a field-grade officer you’ll have to get used to the idea that the AFFS is invariably, if informally, at war with the civilian arms of the government and engaged in a civil war between all internal factions. I’m continually amazed we ever find time to fight the Capellans or Draconians.”

“May God help us if we ever have to fight both.”

“There is at least the hope that they may be just as confused as we are.”

At least electronic forms meant not having to mess around with pen and paper in microgravity. Jones called up the necessary documents on a workstation and answered Susan’s questions as she worked through them, signing in the required boxes with an electronic stylus.

“Are you sure I’m not keeping you from your duties?” she asked. Didn’t the Markesan’s commanding officer have anything else to do but shepherd a temporary battalion commander through admin duties? There were Capellan ships in the system after all.

He pointed at one bulkhead. “We’re only three metres from the Combat Information Centre. If a crisis arises I’m available. Meanwhile my deck officers get the useful, if nerve-wracking, experience of being responsible for the ship on the frontlines, or as close as the naval side of things goes. I’m not too worried about anything happening while we’re in orbit, honestly. As far as the Capellans are concerned, if they blow us up right now then in the best case there’ll be shrapnel in orbit of Valexa for decades – and at worst the wreck could land as a single mass… that would be messy. No, if they try for an interception it’ll probably be near the jump points.”

“How very reassuring.”

“The odds are about fifty-fifty that we’ll run into someone. Since we were missed coming here with the Hussars, maybe we’ll see more action on departure.”

The little man seemed quite matter of fact about it, Susan thought. Then again, was it really any different from the situation on the ground? This was his battlefield and she’d have to assume he knew what he was doing, just as she did with other AFFS units on the ground.

Then again, Balbadd had taught her to take assurances with a pinch of salt. At least Jones’ nonchalance was a change from the sometimes colourful displays of confidence she’d encountered from fellow Mechwarriors.

Sidebar: Kearney-Fuchida

"It was a little like buses. Nothing for ages and then two came along at once."

The fundamental basis of interstellar transportation and communication lies in hyperspace physics, a field first theorised in the early twentieth century by Doctors Kearny and Fuchida in a series of joint papers. Practical application of their work didn’t result for almost a century until two universities independently produced results strongly suggesting that a circumvention of the limits of the speed of light might be possible after all.

The Terran Alliance Ship Pathfinder was the first starship, built at extreme expense to take man to the starts and it succeeded spectacularly, leaping from one star system to another in a split second. While the energy demands required long waits between such jumps, Mankind was primed and ready to leave the crowded Terra, yet the terraforming of Mars and Venus had been long term projects that couldn’t release this tension. Within only a few years the colony of New Earth was founded and many more followed.

The range of jumps increased as the science was refined and by the twenty-eighth century, the standard for modern vessels was thirty light years. In addition, integrating both a jump-core and in-system drives fell out of practise in favour of larger but cheaper jump drives with minimal crew quarters, equipped to recharge via vast solar sails instead of fusion reactors. These jumpships or boomers would then carry external payloads of dropships from system to system, with the dropships carrying cargos from the surface to jumpships that never needed to approach the planets they served.

The second application of hyperphysics waited for the Star League to discover. While jumpships could only operate in areas of effectively no gravity, millions of kilometres from planets or stars, it was discovered that microscopic jump transits could be created, repeatedly, to permit microwave transmissions through the effect.

Within decades this Hyperpulse technology cut message times across the Inner Sphere by half – far more than that in emergencies when extraordinary resources were authorised for reasons such as the convenience of the Star Lords. The entire industry of courier jumpships that had once served the interstellar states was rendered obsolete, almost overnight.

Kearny and Fuchida, scientists decades before their time, received the usual rewards. Driven out of the scientific community by the derision of their peers, both men died in poverty.
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: idea weenie on 12 November 2017, 18:02:18
Very nice story coming along, maybe with Hanse's help it will butterfly the Clans?
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: mikecj on 12 November 2017, 19:51:18
I loved the outline/timeline you did & the expansion is certainly up to your normal standards.  The sidebars remind me of the ones in the original Hammer's Slammers.
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: Daryk on 12 November 2017, 20:14:25
So... Hanse didn't mention Kentares during that bottle of bourbon? ???
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: Smegish on 12 November 2017, 21:55:11
Kentares isn't a sure thing, as long as Minoru isnt assassinated
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: Daryk on 12 November 2017, 22:07:39
True, but it seems mentioning the possibility is the only way to make sure it doesn't happen...
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: mikecj on 12 November 2017, 22:35:01
Kentares isn't a problem yet, Hanse is still trying to prevent the Coup.

IRC, they're going to look at reforming the AFFS soon.
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: David CGB on 13 November 2017, 00:40:31
Kentares isn't a problem yet, Hanse is still trying to prevent the Coup.
IRC, they're going to look at reforming the AFFS soon.
God yes it was needed like white on rice, and them some.....
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: drakensis on 13 November 2017, 16:38:55
SLDF Headquarters, New Earth
Alliance Core, Terran Hegemony
31 January 2761

While Fort Cameron outside Unity City was the nerve centre of the SLDF’s high command, the vast number of administrative personnel necessary to run the military forces of the Star League couldn’t possibly have fit into the limited space alongside the defensive structures that comprised the key of the defences around the capital city.

Thus every SLDF department and major field command had a complex of buildings located on humanity’s first extra-solar colony, the entire sprawling assembly and support structures constituting a city in its own rights. White stone, gleaming metal and mirror-glass made up every building, designed by master architects to present a unified whole.

Crossing paths with the ever-busy Aleksandr Kerensky was a trial in and of itself – he spent the majority of his time travelling the Star League aboard his flagship, moving from problem to problem and handling day to day issues via hyper-pulse transmissions. He visited Terra, of course, but that would have been a little too obvious – as would the First Prince visiting personally which had been John Davion’s first intention.

Fortunately, Thomas Green-Davion thought, his distant cousin was open to reason. Whether or not Terra’s regent would be… now that was the question.

“I’m not sure what your lord thinks you can accomplish,” Kerensky greeted him brusquely. “I supported him when he wanted lawful investigation of the Demeter incident but invading another Member-State was too far.”

Green-Davion nodded politely and folded his arms behind his back as he stood on the Star League seal that was worked into the marbled floor of the formal office.

The Commanding General stared at him and then sighed, gesturing towards a window nook at the base of one of the tall windows that looked over the city. “Sit down and let’s talk.”

“Thank you, sir.” There were benches either side of the angled nook, cushioned in the same olive of SLDF uniforms and they sat opposite each other. Kerensky had aged visibly over the last decade, it was hard to tell that the AFFS Field Marshal was the elder of them by twelve years. “I think we both understand that the Prince would have vastly preferred it if the Chancellor and the other council members had been willing to accept investigation and intervention under your auspices. Unfortunately that’s not the situation we’re left with.”

“I accept that position, but we stand where we are. The SLDF pushed the Combine out of the Suns thirty years ago and we can push the Suns out of the Confederation as well.”

“If it reaches that point, sir, the AFFS will withdraw peacefully. Whatever the involvement of the Capellans on Demeter, Prince Davion assures me that he won’t tolerate so much as a single shot fired at SLDF forces. It’s not much more than a year now until the First Lord is of age and perhaps that will allow this matter – among many others – to move forwards at last.”

“It is to be hoped,” Kerensky conceded. He ran a hand back over his bare scalp. “If the AFFS withdraws peacefully I would have no issue with that, but that isn’t what you’re here for, Field Marshal.”

“You’re quite correct. The fact is that Demeter – and the entire current border clashes -”

“That’s a polite way of referring to an outright invasion.”

“I thought so too,” Green-Davion confirmed, smiling as if he thought the interruption had been a compliment. “They are symptoms, not the cause of the Star League’s current issues. There is a deep well of public support for the Star League, at least in the Member States. But the upper leadership of the Member-States – with possibly the exception of the Hegemony – don’t seem to share in this.”

He looked out the window at the buildings. “No one with any sense believes that the men and women of the SLDF aren’t devoted to the ideals of the League or that they would defend them to the bitter end should it – God forbid – come to that. But the political will to do so has been lacking at times.”

“I don’t entirely disagree. However, that political will must come from the Star League Council and it’s your Prince who has a permanent seat there. Next year I’ll yield my place to Richard and be glad of it.”

Kerensky’s position wasn’t unexpected. He was soldier first and statesman reluctantly, at best. “Until that day though, you’re the Director-General of the Terran Hegemony in all practical terms. And you’re also the Protector of the Star League.”

“I’m not sure where you’re going with this.”

Green-Davion turned back to Kerensky. “After a great deal of thought, the Prince has advised me he feels that the decision to repeal the edict of 2650 – allowing the Member States to expand their military forces – was an error, as were the taxes imposed on the Periphery that in practical terms have enabled that expansion. Whether or not the other Lords feel the same way is questionable, but having contributed to the problem, he feels obligated to at least try to address it.”

“And how does he propose to do that? Because withdrawing from the Confederation would be a good step.”

“I’m sure that you realise how impossible that would be without an excuse. Such as, for example, placing the matter before the First Lord for arbitration.”

Kerensky shook his head. “That means another year of fighting and of soldiers dying for Davion’s pride.”

“Respectfully, sir, they’re fighting because the SLDF wasn’t released to settle the matter. If we can find some good reason before then I assure you, we will pull out. But barring absolute disaster, you can expect orders to that effect will be issued next February.”

“Then what do you have in mind?”

Pulling out a data chip, Green-Davion placed it on the windowsill in reach of the younger man. “He suggests a package of reforms to put before the Star League Council. You’re not entirely wrong about the price paid by soldiers fighting on Valexa, Westphalia and Angelsey, but right now there are SLDF soldiers fighting – and dying, if in thankfully small numbers – in the Periphery. And ultimately they’re doing so as tax collectors for the Great Lords.”

Seeing Kerensky nod, he continued: “The major part of the Prince’s suggestion is that the burden be shifted to those who benefit from those taxes. Lord Richard ordered the Twentieth Army withdrawn from the Rim Worlds Republic six years ago, to honour Lord Amaris. While he didn’t formally have the authority, we all accepted that. What if the other three Periphery states also had their SLDF garrisons reduced or withdrawn – not so abruptly, of course. Force the Council Lords to provide their own soldiers to replace them – many of the regiments raised over the last few years were really pulled from hidden reserves and there’s a limit to what can be pulled out in that way. If they’re having to uses their soldiers to collect the taxes they imposed, the other four Lords may be far more amenable to accepting compromises in order to have the SLDF take back their responsibilities.”

Kerensky took a deep breath. “The risk there would be that the Territorial States could rebel outright. Putting house regiments there would be very inflammatory.”

“The SLDF is already inflammatory, general. I’m sorry, but you know it’s true. If there is going to be a rebellion then Prince John believes that it would be better for that blame to rest on individual member-states than on the League as a whole. Isn’t that where the blame belongs?”

He got a snort in reply.

“If we can arrange for the House Militaries to do the initial bleeding for the sake of the taxes and for the SLDF to then act as peacekeepers – and convince the Great Lords to abolish the taxes placed on the territorial states, which would be an inducement for them.”

“It’s an interesting thought.” Kerensky looked at Green-Davion for a long moment. “It would require the First Lord’s consent. Without that there’s no hope at all of this working.”

“I know. And none of us have the best relationship with him. That’s why Prince John is willing to sweeten the pot for him.”

“How do you mean?”

“Strictly speaking, House Amaris willingly entered the Star League. The Reunification War only encompassed the Rim Worlds Republic because worlds rebelled against Lord Amaris’ ancestor. The First Lord has already honoured his friend Lord Stefan by making him a knight of the Star League. Wouldn’t it be fitting to redress the ancient wrong by elevating his realm to full membership of the League and giving him a vote on the Star League Council?”

Kerensky hissed. “You think that highly of him?”

“The First Prince doesn’t trust him an inch – but better to have him on our side. It would require a majority vote of the council – or a deadlock with the First Lord breaking the tie, but House Davion pledges their vote alongside the Cameron’s, so only one other vote would be needed for the motion to pass.”

“What about the other Territorial States? Would you offer them same?”

Green-Davion shrugged. “Right now I don’t think they’d want it – but if it settled the ongoing conflicts that are happening, would that really be too high a price to pay? We can’t overtax the territories if they aren’t territories anymore?”

“A fair point.” Kerensky looked back towards the main office, eyes lingering on the seal. “What other inducements can you offer?”

“Well, it occurs to us that there are three SLDF academies outside the Hegemony. If seven more were added – bringing it to two within each of the other member-states – then it would give the House Lords access to better training for their officers but also divert some of that officer pool to serve in the SLDF. Something for everyone.”

“I’m not comfortable with putting more Star League resources into the hands of Council Members,” the general said flatly. “Not as things stand, anyway. If they agree to put their troops in the periphery doing something useful then maybe I’ll reconsider. But tell John Davion that until his regiments are back on the right side of the border I can’t do anything whatsoever to suggest I’ll support the Federated Suns. I am – and I will remain – entirely neutral in his quarrel with the Liao.”

.o0O0o.

New Avalon Military Academy, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Suns
11 May 2761

The prototype lurched across the training ground, the torso twisting as the Mechwarrior tracked the guns to another target. Dirt across the ground flew up as high explosive rounds – admittedly underpowered compared to live ammunition – struck it, marking a line of the guns fire.

The target, a cheap simulated tank represented by little more than fiberglass on a truck chassis, was shredded as no less than four autocannon fired into it.

“Impressive,” Stopec grunted.

Hanse, standing beside John, said nothing.

The prince rubbed his chin. “Do we really need another air defense design, Michael? Your Rifleman is very sound.”

“For one engagement, yes. Then it runs out of ammunition. Also it overheats.” Which wasn’t to say that the Colonel had ever requested an alternative ‘Mech even when most ‘Mech regiments – most battalions, in fact – could requisition a Marauder for their commander. For all his proven valour, Colonel Stopec wasn’t of the opinion that a commander’s job was to stand on the frontlines. No, an air defense ‘Mech that filled a defined role but could mostly simply park somewhere and wait to be needed was perfectly sufficient for him.

“And this would be better? With no large lasers, once it runs out of ammunition it’ll be helpless,” John pointed out. “Not as well armed as General Motors’ Blackjack, not even as well armoured.”

“This is just a prototype,” the colonel replied. “The lasers are fine for the role and they can work on the armour.”

John glanced sideways at Hanse.

“It’s been a bulwark of the AFFS for centuries,” the redhead agreed, before reluctantly adding: “But they never fix the armour enough. Tanks are better for air defense – I always preferred Partisans.”

What was a Partisan? The prince glanced over at Stopec. “It looks like the gyro needs work as well.”

“Prototypes are always iffy there – you need to finalise the rest of the structure before you can get the gyro dialled in correctly for the weight.”

“Fair enough. How do you rate your Rifleman against tanks in the same role?”

Stopec’s frown was just short of a glare. “Mixed in for combined arms the way we’ve been trying with the Fourth? Not so bad if they can handle the terrain. Mostly the concern is that they get left behind.”

Out on the field the JagerMech had finished engaging all the targets and the Mechwarrior brought it around in a slow, formal pass in front of the viewing box so that the observers could take it in.

“Two centimetre and five centimetre guns,” Hanse pointed out. “The Partisan has as many autocannon but they’re all five centimetre. Kallon build them… or they did. Would, perhaps.”

“Tank regiments will need air defense as well, and an economic air defense tank would be useful. Given their expertise, it would be interesting if Kallon Industries tried to build one,” John said out loud. “This has potential, but it’s a long way from being ready.”

The Prince’s Champion shrugged and then glanced past John towards the Kallon Industries representatives, one of whom was moving towards the pair.

“We’re honoured you’ve decided to attend our demonstration, sire.” Valentina Fraser would have been taller than either men, even without wearing heels. Her business jacket and pencil skirt emphasised her slender frame, which John didn’t think was a particularly attractive choice – it made her look like a scarecrow to him. Then again, she was the only representative in the box who was from the engineering division rather than marketing.

“One always wants to keep an eye on works in progress,” John told her diplomatically. “Colonel Stopec seems to feel you’re on the right track.”

“We set ourselves three goals: more ammunition than the Rifleman, better heat management than the Rifleman and better protection than the Rifleman. It’s always hard to compete with oneself, but…” She broke off and chuckled.

“Two out of three so far, isn’t it?”

Her laugh died off. “Yes, as you say it’s a work in progress.”

“Tell me, does Kallon have any other air defense platforms in development?” John pressed. “Our armoured regiments could do with something to fill the same role as the SLDF’s Pollux – but simpler and more economic. Given your company’s expertise in the field I’d be interested.”

Fraser sniffed. “I couldn’t tell you, sire,” she said. “I work on BattleMechs.”

Fortunately for the dignity of Kallon Industries, the woman was joined by one of her colleagues. “And a fine job you’ve done, Valentina,” he said smoothly. “Perhaps you could show our guests the JagerMech in more detail?”

John glanced at Stopec. “You go and look, Michael. You were admiring it earlier.” It took him on a moment to think back to the introductions. “Mr Wilson and I can talk money while you’re playing.”

“I’m sure Lady Edwina will be pleased to know you’re giving up ‘playing’ with ‘Mechs,” the Colonel replied before turning to Fraser. “I’d be glad of a closer look.”

Wilson shook his head slightly as the two departed, already discussing technical details. “I suppose we’re all fanatics for our own subjects of interest, sire.”

“And yours isn’t BattleMechs?”

“Only selling them.” He smiled at his own joke. “‘Tina though, she dotes on the prototypes almost as much as she does her own children.”

“With the same care and attention, I’m sure. Do you have an estimate on what a JagerMech is likely to set us back once you’ve finished design?”

“It’s a very preliminary figure but somewhere between five and six million dollars apiece.” Wilson pursed his lips. “You were asking about the Pollux? I happened to see a lance of them on parade a few years ago. An impressive design but I’m not sure the SLDF would license the necessary technology to us.”

“I’m almost certain the Hegemony would claim that the systems were restricted under the Technology Transfers Edict,” agreed John. “But something simpler, say an autocannon arrangement much like that on a JagerMech mounted on a turret with a tracked chassis…”

“I know we’ve been working on a fixed turret arrangement,” the executive mused. “Our factory on Talon’s been upgrading its security after recent events. I can’t honestly say if we have a platform that would fit that, but if there’s an opening I can certainly see what could be provided.”

“I’d be grateful if you would.” The prince gave him an approving look. “The military market has been very busy of late but thus far we haven’t found anything right for that niche. If Kallon were to offer something then it would be looked on very favourably.”

He could almost hear a ch-ching! from Wilson at the prospect. “I’ll be sure to bring it up to our engineers then,” the man promised. “Not Valentina’s field though – if it doesn’t have legs she’s just not interested.”

.o0O0o.

Fort Gordon, Goshen
Capellan March, Federated Suns
1 April 2761

“Is this a joke, sir?”

Major Barnes shook his head. “Despite the date, Major Sandoval, no it’s not a joke. Congratulations on your promotion.”

Susan looked at the new uniform epaulettes she’d received along with the paper orders, epaulettes sporting the single broad stripe of a Major rather than the narrow stripe she wore at the moment. “I wasn’t expecting this.”

“No? You did well on Valexa. Better than most.”

“Not well enough.”

“Don’t sulk.” Barnes opened a drawer of his desk and produced two glasses as well as a squat brandy. “It comes with a new assignment too.”

She looked up sharply. “I’m being reassigned?”

“Scuttlebutt is that the High Command is looking at pulling cadres out of units that have seen action,” Barnes told her. “If you were being formally assigned command of second battalion then I’d have expected to see instructions to that effect along with the promotion. Since they haven’t there’s a good chance you’re being looked at to form a new battalion.”

“Third battalion, maybe?” The Cuirassiers had effectively collapsed down to two battalions due to their losses on Valexa. Thus far nothing had been heard about providing equipment and Mechwarriors to bring them back to full strength.

Barnes filled both glasses and offered one to Susan. “Unfortunately no.” He raised his own glass. “To the our sister regiment, the First Arcadian Cuirassiers, four companies of which are being shipped home from Angelsey after they under-estimated the Capellans.”

Susan stared at him. “Shit,” she mumbled and then threw back the contents of the glass. “How did they manage that?”

“Details are sketchy but I’ve had advance notification to expect most of them to be transferred to us.”

“Are they retiring the regiment?”

“That’s right. Some of them will be pulled for a new cadre, which I suspect is where you’ll be going too, and the rest come to me. For my sins, I’ve told I’ve been recommended as the new Colonel, so my own promotion papers might be on the way.”

“They must have been really horrible sins.” Susan reached out to the bottle and refilled both glasses. “But seriously, they’re in good hands. I’d stay with the regiment, given the choice.”

“Soldiers like us don’t get the choice,” Barnes told her. He accepted the fresh glass. “But thank you, anyway. War isn’t what I was expecting. Not what any of us were expecting.”

They drank again.

“How do I lead a battalion, anyway?”

“About the same way you handled a company.” Barnes looked at the glasses again and then capped the bottle. “Obey orders, most of the time. Use your discretion when you think the orders are stupid and refrain from saying so to the face of your commanders.”

“That’s not exactly how you did it,” she pointed out.

“No, but this is likely my last promotion. I can follow orders just fine but there’s something… a sense for when orders aren’t enough. You have it and I don’t. That’s why one day I expect I’ll be saluting you, Sandoval.”

“That’s almost endearing.”

“Don’t give me empty compliments, Major.”

“At least until they promote you, you don’t even outrank me, Major,” she replied.

Barnes laughed. “Two glasses and you’re already snookered. I’m still in your chain of command.”

Susan looked at him over her empty glass and then placed it down. “You got the job done and you got us home. Don’t under-rate yourself.”

“Thanks for the pep talk, but I know my limits.” The man leant back. “I don’t know what your new unit will be but there’s talk of combined arms tactics being tried out by the Davion Guards. That could mean the Ceti Hussars will be getting another regiment. You worked pretty well with the infantry so that could work out for you.”

She thought about what little she knew of the other command. Something about a permanent mix of ‘Mechs, infantry and armour. “Aren’t they volunteer only?”

“You volunteered when you took your oath to the First Prince.”

“Ah, that sort of volunteer.”

“It’s just a thought, I could be wrong.”

Susan nodded. “I suppose we’ll find out when they get around to telling us.”

“Now you’re getting the picture.” Barnes gestured to the door. “One last piece of advice and keep this between the two of us?”

“Major?”

“Something tells me Valexa isn’t the end of this – we’re going to see more action, maybe worse action. Be ready for that, Sandoval.”

.o0O0o.

Avalon City, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Suns
20 June 2761

“Your next appointment, sire.”

“He’s looking rocky,” Hanse warned, slipping into the office between Owen and the guest. “Watch out.” The redhead could walk right through people but he didn’t like to, he claimed it made him feel queasy.

“Marshal Pond.” John returned the officer’s salute without standing. “You don’t often ask for appointments so abruptly, so I assume it’s important.”

“It’s important to me, sir.”

Given pause by the tension in Pond’s voice, John sat back and looked at him. Hanse’s right. Damn, he must be taking this harder than I expected. “Take a seat.” When the man hesitated, John gestured towards one of the two chairs facing his desk. “Eric, sit down. You look like death warmed over.”

Taking a long breath, the head of Military Intelligence obeyed.

“Alright, I could speculate about why you’re here but I don’t like guessing games. Why don’t you just lay it out for me and then we’ll see what we can work out.”

Pond gripped the arms of the chair as if for strength. “Sir, if you want my resignation I’m more than willing -”

“Stop.” John pushed his chair back and walked around his desk. “Just stop. If I wanted your resignation then I’d ask for it.”

“Sire, I can’t explain your decision as anything other than dissatisfaction with my department. And that’s my responsibility.”

John spared a glance for Hanse who shrugged. “You’re talking about my appointing Reznick as Minister of Intelligence.”

“Yes, sire.”

“Did it ever occur to you that maybe it’s not a failure on your part and more that the scope of our intelligence needs has changed?”

“I appreciate that we’re at war, sire, but...”

“No, that’s not it.” Going back to his desk John looked across it at the field marshal. “We’ve been very fortunate over the last century and a half – with the Star League mostly at peace we’ve not needed to watch our neighbours as closely as we did back in the Age of War. Giving one agency the lead for foreign operations was a matter of economy as much as anything else and I have no complaints about how it’s been handled… but the situation has changed.”

“Right now we need to look at everyone in the Star League and we need to look at them in more depth than ever. Just the military build-up alone is stretching the demands on your department beyond anyone’s expectations. I need you on that, Eric. I need your people focused on that. And that means we need to move those other areas outside of your bailiwick again.”

“I’ve brought in Reznick to bring the other intelligence agencies together and to bring them up to your level of performance, not to cut away at you. I need to have a political and economic picture for the other realms’ intentions and capabilities. That’s her job, your job is what it always has been at heart: understanding the military side of that. Are you with me?”

“I…” Pond licked his lips. “I suppose I over-reacted, sire.”

“Next time, Eric, come to me before you panic. If I think you’re not performing I can promise that I’m not going to keep it to myself.” He paused. “And given how things are going fighting the Capellans, there are some of your officers who really should be worrying.”

“Thank you, sire. It’s much appreciated.”

“I’ll try to be clearer in future. And please reassure your staff too – if you’ve been walking around like this then they’re probably under the same impression that you were. It’s not good for morale.”

Pond managed a weak laugh. “I’m sorry, sire. I’ll make it clear to them that this isn’t a show of dissatisfaction.”

“Don’t worry about it, Marshal. Once you’ve let them know then you can forget about it.”

John sat back and waited until the door had closed and he was sure that the head of military intelligence was clear before laughing. “When did Albion add amateur dramatics to their curriculum?”

“Your guess is as good as mine.” Hanse sat down where Eric Pond had been. “At least he accepted your explanation. Not everyone will take their little fiefs being broken up so well.”

“I’d feel better if I could see some actual progress.”

“Then I’d suggest a field trip out to Gambier,” the 31st century First Prince suggested. “Colonel Stopec’s been out there almost a month with the Fourth Guards and the Ceti Hussars. Between the two of them the new regiments should be coming together now.”

“A month seems an awfully short time to see results, Hanse.”

“I’m not saying they’re a finished product, just that there’ll be signs of progress. Either that or they’re making a killing selling consumables on the black market, because your IIa staff are going spare about the way they’re going through ammunition and spare parts.”

John sighed. “Really?” Following the example of the SLDF, the IIa staff were those responsible for supplies and logistics. “Should I expect another irate Field Marshal in my office?”

“I’d suggest a medical evaluation for some of them. Nothing in the universe goes through supplies like combat operations, but the numbers suggest Stopec is putting them through a pretty near semblance of it.”

The First Prince looked at his desk. “It’s tempting, but no. My duties are here. And I’ll be getting another viewpoint on them soon anyway.”

Hanse smirked. “Joshua’s made the cut then?”

“Comfortably inside the top ten percent of his class,” John agreed proudly. “He’s requested the Fourth Davion Guards and don’t see any grounds to refuse him.”

“They’re a good regiment.” Hanse paused. “My brother’s regiment.”

“You mentioned that, but you never said which of the Davion Guards regiments you’d served with.”

“Oh? I’ve taken the field with several of them but my first posting was the same as yours, the Third.”

John nodded. “I wish I could send Joshua to serve with them, but the Fourth are what he wants.”

Hanse nodded. “Edwina will be furious though.”

“I know. But I can’t ask less of my son than I would of any other soldier. That’s not how House Davion rules.”

“We have our failings – my wife called it a Messiah complex.” Hanse’s appearance shifted and aged, as it often did when he spoke of his family. John found it fascinating but had never presumed to ask why the lines of age and the white hair seemed to associate with Hanse’s wife and children. “And it’s pulled too many of us onto the frontlines when our duty was here on New Avalon.”

“Many failings… but never cowardice.”

“No. Never that.”



Sidebar: The Outer Reaches Rebellion

"Strategies used to control twelve billion people on one planet are less effective against forty million on forty."

In 2116, eight years after the first hyperspace jump, the Terran Alliance founded humanity’s first extra-solar colony on New Earth (Tau Ceti IV). This, however, was only the beginning and the prioritisation of the establishment of new colonies to take advantage of the presumably limitless wealth of the universe as opposed to dealing with continuing issues of poverty and hunger on Earth became the key political question within the Alliance Parliament for the next two hundred years. (Colonists tended to take a relaxed view of this, seeing strike actions over the hardship of a 30-hour working week as somewhat removed from the work of making new homes.)

By 2219 there were over three hundred colonies known to exist and only a generation later, a more thorough survey located six hundred – demonstrating the strength of the Expansionist party. Without question the Terran Alliance assumed that these worlds were under their rule and domination, appointing powerful colonial governors to see to their interests. As colonies grew and more and more of their population had never even seen Terra, the interests of the motherworld began to be looked on less favourably and perhaps inevitably the interests of the colonies were not always respected by the governors.

In 2235 the aptly named colony of Freedom politely declared their independence from Terra and expressed their hope that the Alliance would respect this decision. In fact it was eight months before the news even reached Terra, but the reaction wasn’t quite as hoped – three squadrons of armed starships were despatched to blockade Freedom and its nearest neighbours – it was correctly guessed that other worlds had followed Freedom’s example – impose martial law and demonstrate the overwhelming military might of the expensive Terran Alliance armed forces.

As detachments of Alliance Marines armed with the latest weapons sought to disarm increasingly hostile populations on the colonies, they found themselves the targets of guerrilla warfare. Local populations demonstrated that knowing the terrain mattered more than having a supersonic air transportation and that death was no less fatal from a Molotov cocktail than a laser rifle.

After scattering their forces over more than fifty worlds without tangible benefit, the wars was abruptly lost on Terra when the Expansionist Party government lost a vote of confidence. The new Liberal government detested the war, not out of sympathy for the colonists but due to their focus on their Terra-centric agenda. Abruptly, the Terran Alliance granted independence to all worlds more than 30 light years from Terra, want it or not. In many cases they even failed to recover their troops. By the time the Liberals were ousted from power, five years ago, they’d followed this by selling off the massive Terran fleet of jumpships off at pennies on the dollar to fund social programmes.

Terran domination of the stars had ended, but it would not be forgotten.
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: Daryk on 13 November 2017, 20:31:54
*snip*
“Ah, that sort of volunteer.”
*snip*
Ain't that the truth!  ::)
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: Sir Chaos on 14 November 2017, 05:10:47
Quote
“I don’t know what your new unit will be but there’s talk of combined arms tactics being tried out by the Davion Guards. That could mean the Ceti Hussars will be getting another regiment. You worked pretty well with the infantry so that could work out for you.”

Sounds like the Regimental Combat Team will be introduced early.
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: drakensis on 14 November 2017, 14:25:21
New Aquitaine, Gambier
Crucis March, Federated Suns
29 July 2761

The rolling hills of the military reservation were marked by the tracks and footprints of generations of combat exercises. More than a few of them had been laid down over the last three months with almost forty regiments assembled to test themselves for war.

Tanks, artillery, infantry and helicopters were all playing their role but it was ‘Mechs that were decisive – at least, that was what Joshua Davion had been taught at the academy. Six regiments were assembled here – the storied Davion Guards, the experimental and thus far unduplicated Ceti Hussars and four regiments so new that they hadn’t even been formally recognised on the rolls of the AFFS.

Provisionally, the new regiments had been designated as the Crucis Dragoons and quite a lot of their personnel were fresh from academies – New Avalon Military Academy like Joshua and their traditional rivals Albion, Goshen, Sakhara, Warrior’s Hall – but their leaders had seen action against the Capellans and been handpicked to pass on their experience.

Right now, the First Crucis Dragoons were the hunted, brigaded with infantry and armour, along with a battalion each of VTOLs and artillery. It was a well-balanced force but their mission wasn’t destruction as much as escape, for in this exercise they were up against Colonel Stopec’s own regiment and two of their sister regiments as well as three tank regiments and one of infantry.

Joshua’s Marauder left a new trail of markings from its hoof-like feet as he followed the regiment in their advance after the enemy.

“The Red Force’s skirmish elements are engaging the right flank near Bridge Three,” Captain Hodges informed them. “Their hover tanks and helicopters can get across the river but the rest of their force needs the bridge and Fourth Dragoons confirm they and the Fourteenth Panzer have their side of the bridge locked up. If anyone tries to get a column across they’re confident they can hold until we take them in the rear.”

“Colonel Stopec’s orders are to turn the formation to close in and encircle Red Force. If they’re testing Bridge Three then we can rush through Bridgetown while the left flank extends to reach the river upstream of Bridge Three.”

Joshua thought about that. “Captain, I realise I’m the FNG but isn’t running a fast column through an urban area generally not recommended?”

Thankfully Hodges didn’t rip his head off for the question. “You’re right that there’s a risk of ambushes, Sergeant. The Colonel’s decided it’s a risk we’re going to take so keep your eyes peeled.”

Bridgetown wasn’t a real town – instead it was a facsimile made up of pre-fabrication buildings, more than a hundred of them set up on one side of the river that cut through the training ground, overlooking Bridge Two.

Joshua noted as they approached that several of the buildings would need replacing soon – it was obvious that several mock battles had taken place here already and taken their toll on the structures. Rebuilding it would be a painstaking and probably painfully repetitive job for the AFFS engineers stationed on Gambier, or in other words good training for them.

“I’m highlighting routes on your tactical display,” Hodges instructed. “Caret’s one through nine – we’ll intersperse with the tank companies and follow the marked route through – those are the clearest streets available. If we’re blocked then don’t try to clear it or climb it, take a left and move over to the next route.”

That could leave the shoreline uncovered, Joshua noted – although to be fair, if the rightmost column went right there was nowhere to go but the water.

“As soon as we’re clear of Bridgetown we’ll reform before pressing on. And remember, we have a lot riding on this. If Red Force get out of the exercise area then we’ll be buying beer for the thirsty bastards next weekend and none of us want that.”

Moving at a steady forty kilometres an hour the tank line reorganised itself from a broad line behind the ‘Mechs into nine orderly columns, a tribute to their experience working together although Joshua would have been happier if they were driving something newer than Tiger mediums. Tanks like these had fought in the Davion Civil War of the twenty-sixth century and while they were certainly still deadly, they were no match tank for tank to the heavy Von Luckners operating with Red Force.

Hodges’ Marauder and the two Riflemen that filled out the command lance formed compact diamond with Joshua holding the rear position only a little raggedly. “Second Lance, you have the lead with two tank platoons behind you, then First Lance, the last tank platoon and finally Third Lance. And keep your eyes peeled – especially you, Sergeant Davion.”

“Yes, sir.”

He watched four of the company’s eight Wolverines move ahead while the others fell back. The first buildings were lower and widely spaced but up ahead he could see that the road narrowed and was flanked by four and five store apartment blocks, with even a pair of true tower rearing up near the bridge.

Flicking the Marauder’s sensors, Joshua grimaced as he confirmed his suspicion that the reinforced concrete made a nonsense of mag-scans. Infra-red might not be any better than normal light under these conditions and he switched back and forth between the two as the chin sensors tried to pick out any signs of infantry lying in wait.

So intent was he on his search that he misjudged the narrowing of the road and brushed the corner of one building with one of his arm-mounted weapon pods. The armour plated PPC and medium laser didn’t take any damage but glass and concrete broke under the impact and much of it rained down on the ground.

He paused his ‘Mech, appalled at the mistake and the tank behind him barely stopped in time.

“What are you playing at, Davion.”

“Sorry, hit a building.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Hodges responded. “Just get a move on.”

Good job there weren’t any Red infantry waiting in there, Joshua thought. I could have killed someone by mistake.

“Blockage ahead, sir. We could jump it.”

“Negative, turn left at the next junction – we’re sticking with the tanks,” instructed the captain.

Joshua reached the junction and followed Hodges, careful of the corner this time. The blockage looked as if half a building had slumped sideways across the road. It wouldn’t be too much of a problem for ‘Mechs but it wasn’t so definite for the tanks.

“Two blocks ahead we go right and we’re back on the next route,” Hodges reminded them. “Just keep going and we’re -”

“Tanks behind us!” came a scream, a sound followed by the popping of paint loaded missiles and autocannon.

Joshua spun his ‘Mech back towards the rear of the column and this time the tank behind really did drive into him, more than fifty tons of metal scything the bird-leg of his Marauder out from under him. He barely twisted to the side and avoided landing on the tank.

Oh god, what next!

What was next was a volley of fire that slashed through the air above his fallen ‘Mech. If he was still standing, his Marauder would have caught the bulk of it but as it was the two Riflemen caught the missiles on their rear armour. Red paint highlighted the hits and both ‘Mechs halted, arms falling slack by their sides as the battle computers judged them crippled or destroyed.

Rolling over, Joshua propped his Marauder up and opened fire with the weapons he could bring to bear. His autocannon missed, spraying blue paint-rounds up and above the two Dervishes that had moved into the junction. The PPC and laser in his left arm were more accurate – tuned down to training levels they still scorched the paint across the shoulder of the nearer of the two ‘Mechs, erasing the grinning wolf’s head that marked them as part of the First Crucis Dragoons.

“Contact!” he called in confirmation, hitting the regiment push since no one else seemed to have done so. “Hodges’ company, engaged by Red Force ‘Mechs in Bridgetown.”

Then there was a roar – as if heavy munitions were going off, live munitions. Dust or smoke seemed to billow up to engulf the Dervishes and when Second Lance’s Wolverines arrived, bounding over Joshua’s still prone Marauder, they too disappeared into the cloud.

“Dragon’s Bane!” Stopec’s roar cut through the radio waves. “All units hold your positions and regroup. Multiple buildings are down and Red Force is behind us. Report casualties and report if you still have a clear route back the way we came.”

Pushing off from the road, Joshua brought his Marauder upright. Some of the armour had been battered in the fall but otherwise everything seemed operational.

Hodges’ Mech moved up to his. “You okay, Sergeant?”

“Nothing worth mentioning, sir.”

“Check around the corner – just a peek though.”

Sticking the chin of the Marauder obediently out into the junction, Joshua cycled through his sensors and then – on impulse, pinged the road back with his radar and sonar. “Dust’s not settled, sir, but I think the rest of the company are intact, just blinded. I can’t tell about the tanks but there’s something at ground level behind them.”

.o0O0o.

They had in fact been blocked in when Von Luckner heavy tanks hidden in the ground floors of apartment blocks had driven away, yanking out key structural pillars to bring down walls onto the roads behind the advancing columns. While not unnavigable, the confusion caused by the dust and the ambush by Red Force Mechs had allowed the Von Luckners to build up a safe lead as they made for the edge of the exercise area.

The most Stopec could do was send his lighter elements back to chase them. Joshua and Hodges moved down to the shore and had some satisfaction in spraying fire at the helicopters and hovercraft that zipped past them, using the river as a road to safety.

At the end of the day though, the referees from the Ceti Hussars had no doubt who had achieved their goals. The First Crucis Dragoons, the ‘Wolf Dragoons’, had taken more damage over all in the brief skirmishing between light forces but the vast majority of their strength had withdrawn to fight another day.

“We’ve spent the last few months teaching the Dragoons, it shouldn’t be a surprise that they’ve gotten good,” Stopec informed the Mechwarriors at a combined debriefing and mess call that evening. “And if it’s taught us some painful lessons then better to learn them now than when we’ve got live ammunition coming at us.”

He picked up his bowl. “Anyone want to tell the class what they learned today?”

“That Wolves can run away real fast?” called a voice near the back.

“Well volunteered, Paget, I needed someone to help set up the field latrines.” Stopec didn’t even look up from the stew that had been prepared at the kitchen. “Anyone else.”

“Surprise as a combat multiplier,” offered Joshua.

“Yep, damn right. That was you, Davion? Good call in earlier, concise and to the point.” The colonel spooned up another mouthful and chewed. “Next?”

“Never underestimate what Major Sandoval will do for a beer?”

“You sure it was her?” asked Stopec.

“Respectfully, sir. Colonel Hammond is a tough fighter, but it’s Major Sandoval who comes up with the dirty tricks.”

“That’s right – good application of know your foe, it was indeed Sandoval’s idea. So… given we knew that she was in the Red Force, why do you think I took a chance and ran through the city instead of watching for an ambush.”

Joshua blinked. Was he admitting to a mistake? In front of the entire regiment?

Captain Hodges put his own bowl down. “Sir, sometimes you just have to take the chance.”

“Arguably, yes. What I should have done is scouted, sent a couple of companies ahead to check Bridgetown. They’d probably have gotten chewed up if they found the Red Force but we’d have sprung the trap before we were inside it.” Stopec lifted his bowl and poured the last of the stew into his mouth. After swallowing he wiped his mouth and beard. “Information wins wars. They knew what we were doing and we had no idea. Take that lesson and write it somewhere you won't forget it.”

.o0O0o.

Avalon City, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Suns
30 September 2761

The Great Hall of the Castle Davion glittered with light as the lamplight reflected off thousands of jewels as well as the silver and gold inlays of the floor. One of the balconies was occupied by an orchestra who’d been practising all year for the great events of the annual Royal Court.

John’s throne sat empty, for between dancing with Edwina and politicking with the High Council he’d not had a moment to rest since the start of the ball.

Empty but not alone for Hanse Davion stood upon the dais, watching the whirl of the Federated Suns’ elite with a rueful smile on his face.

“I appreciate your support for our new project.” Countess Peregrine Johnston was, among her many talents, an excellent dancer. John, who’d learned to dance simply because it was expected of him, always enjoyed dancing with her. It annoyed Edwina, since Peregrine’s husband was notably heavy-footed and protocol demanded that when one husband danced with the other’s wife, the reverse should always at least be offered.

With a slight bow, John released Peregrine’s hand. “I’m almost always favourably inclined towards patriotic endeavours, particularly one that offers to improve employment.”

The Johnstons owned a lucrative share of the New Syrtis mines, making them one of the wealthiest families in not only the Capellan March but the entire Federated Suns. John hadn’t been aware that with the military market on the rise that they were looking to invest. In the future that would have been, they’d have not found an opportunity until the collapse of the Terran Hegemony opened the damaged and bankrupt factories there to foreign ownership.

With the foreknowledge provided by Hanse, John had been able to bring that investment capital together with a heavy engineering firm on Barstow who had seen their exports to the Outworlds Alliance collapse in recent years. They’d already begun work on developing a new product – something of more interest to the SLDF and AFFS than it would be to civil engineers on Alpheratz.

The countess offered him a curtsey. “I won’t bore you with asking about the war, as so many have before.”

“Thank you for asking by not asking,” he replied gravely. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I fear I must rescue my wife’s toes from your husband.”

“Oh dear, now who will I find to dance with him,” Peregrine said brightly and flourished an ornate fan – this year’s great fashion statement – before giggling behind it.

“I do beg your pardon, Elias, but I believe the next dance is mine.”

“Of course, sire.” The count swept a gallant bow towards the happy couple. “I’ll just fetch my wife something from the bar while she’s finding another excuse not to dance with me.”

Edwina shook her head and used her own fan to hide a frown. “He’s a lovely man, but I do wish the three of you wouldn’t let their disparate aptitudes for dance overflow onto me.”

“But if you didn’t dance with him, everyone would think Peregrine was my mistress,” he protested innocently. “I don’t make these little rules of courtly conduct up, you know.”

“You’re impossible when you think you’re being funny,” she said. “The next dance had better be something slow.”

“It is,” John promised, hoping he’d remembered the musical order correctly. Fortunately he had and the two of them were able to slowly waltz.

“John,” she whispered. “Please don’t take the Fourth Guards to the front.”

“I can’t change it now. They were scheduled for it before Joshua chose them.”

”You could take the First – Stopec should stay here on New Avalon since you insist on going to the war yourself.”

“Joshua would never forgive me, and I’d be betraying every other soldier in uniform.”

“You promised me.”

“And if General Dixon had given me one victory, just one, I’d have been able to declare that we’d won and pull out. Instead he’s deadlocked us completely.”

Edwina let go of his hand. “If anything happens to my son, I will never forgive you.”

“That would make two of us.”

She smiled weakly. “I believe you. But for tonight… please make my excuses.”

“Of course.” John bowed over his wife’s hand and kissed it before she took her leave.

Edwina’s absence opened him up to no less than six queries as to her wellbeing as he made his way across the hall to where his mother was making conversation with other ladies of middle years. “Is Edwina well?” she asked directly on seeing him.

“I think she might be in need of someone to talk to that isn’t me,” John told her. “If you don’t mind the imposition.

“You’ve been a brute again,” she sighed melodramatically. “Your father was the same – never saw when I’d changed my hair. It’s a fortunate thing he looked so adorable when cluelessly asking ‘what did I do wrong’ or you’d never have been born.”

“That would have been just a touch inconvenient.” He was long used to his mother’s offbeat sense of humour and refused to rise to it.

“I’ll take care of it, dear. Please do me a favour though and rescue your uncle Thomas from Vasily – or is it the other way around? One or the other, but the Duchess is feeling neglected.”

Looking around, John spotted the Duke of Robinson standing near Thomas Green-Davion. “I’ll get right on with that, mother. Ladies.” He bowed to them and left as they rattled their fans in acknowledgement.

Crossing the floor again, he took a glass from one of the servants and sipped the wine. “Gentlemen.”

“Sire.” His cousin saluted, followed by the Duke. They made an odd pairing, the tall and austere Green-Davion next to the fleshy Sandoval who stared at the world through wire-rimmed spectacles.

“I’m sorry to interrupt your conversation, but I believe your wife is feeling unattended, Vasily.”

“Probably fretting about Susan again,” the duke observed. “I’d hoped we were through this after this last time. She wasn’t even scratched.”

“Go dance with her, Vasily,” Green-Davion advised. “There’s nothing worse for a marriage than letting your wife think you don’t have time for her.”

“Advice from the old married man.” Sarcasm dripped from the other man’s tone, for Green-Davion had never married.

“I’ve observed many as a disinterested outsider.”

Shaking his head, the lord of the Draconis March drained his glass and then headed determinedly across the hall in search of his bride.

Green-Davion rolled the stem of his own glass between his fingers, the wine rippling as he did so. “You and Joshua shouldn’t both take the field, you know.”

“I don’t expect to see a single Capellan soldier personally.”

“The best laid plans of mice and men…”

John shrugged. “I sent the men out and put the wrong officer in charge. If I don’t go there personally to fix it, how can they trust me again?”

“And if you get your head shot off, they’ll never have to trust you again. Stopec is more than able.”

For a moment, John was tempted to share the truth – that he needed to be there in order for Hanse to be useful there. There was nothing – as far as they knew – to prevent the other Davion from joining the expeditionary force on his own but since he wouldn’t be able to communicate with anyone, there would be no benefit. But John could go there and have the most experienced general in existence there as his advisor.

It was odd to think that, but it was also true. The SLDF had fought insurgencies for the most part. Even their suppression of the DCMS thirty years ago had been of limited scope compared to the battles Hanse had fought as a general and later as First Prince. No campaign since the Reunification War could compare to Operation Rat, which had smashed the Capellan Confederation and no other would until – unless, he promised himself – the Periphery uprisings and Amaris’ coup took place.

It was a sound argument but it wasn’t something he could tell, he decided. No, Thomas Green-Davion was just too sensible – likely John would be quietly restrained, Joshua transferred to the First Davion Guards as no longer in any way expendable and a regency established.

Edwina would probably be pleased but otherwise disaster.

“It’s something I have to do. I hope it’s never needed again.”

Green-Davion eyed him sceptically. “Now you sound like your grandfather. I had to bring him back from Royal to his wife. Don’t put your son or Stopec in that place.”

.o0O0o.

Leim City, Valexa
Sarna Commonality, Capellan Confederation
22 October 2761

It was inconceivable that the Maskirova hadn’t picked up on the face that John was bringing heavy reinforcements to the front. In order to maintain some degree of surprise, the Federated Suns Navy had scheduled only enough transports to move Stopec’s task force one jump at a time and Dixon himself had been advised to expect them in mid-November.

Instead chartered civilian vessels had had their ostensible schedules changed suddenly to provide a command circuit as far as Goshen where three warships and a military convoy were ready to bring the force in by an in-system jump point.

“Sire.” Dixon dropped to one knee before John as the prince entered the command post. “Welcome to Valexa. May I congratulate you on your deception as to when the reinforcements were to arrive?”

John stared at him and then around the command centre. It looked like what it was – a repurposed hotel lounge. Map flimsies covered tables and the bar was clearly still there and had been in use. “General Dixon, you are relieved.”

“Of course, sire. Naturally you have command.”

“You misunderstand.” John jerked his chin towards the door. “Pack your personal effects, there is a shuttle waiting to take you up to the ships.”

Dixon’s head jerked up.

“Sire?”

John looked around the room and then at Dixon’s staff. “Pack this up for transport. I will establish my headquarters in a more secure location.”

Without looking again at the humiliated general, he left the room and walked back into the hotel lobby. “Settle any accounts for the use of the facilities,” he instructed the first of his aides before turning back to the Colonels who had assembled from their regiment’s various positions. “Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming to greet me. I don’t feel this is a suitable location for an in-depth staff meeting but you may rest assured that I will be availing myself of your experience as we move to conclude our campaign here.”

“Colonel Simons.” He turned to the commander of the Thirty-Eighth Avalon Hussars, one of the two BattleMech regiments already on planet. “I’m pleased to inform you of your promotion to the rank of Major General. I understand your regiment is positioned outside the planetary capital.”

“Yes sir, although quite a distance outside, tell the truth.”

“The Capellan fire base you’ve taken over will serve as my operational headquarters. Please see that General Dixon’s former staff are relocated there – you may assume they are now your staff and that you will be taking charge of operations on the western continent.”

“Some of you may recall Colonel Paxson of the 86th Light Infantry who served here previously? No? Unfortunate. The Colonel has also been promoted to Major General and will be taking charge of the eastern continent operations henceforth.”

“Sire, you can’t really mean to put an infantry officer in command of my ‘Mechs!” exclaimed a broad-shouldered man. John took a moment to identify him as Colonel Toland of the Twelfth Syrtis Fusiliers, rotated in recently to replace the Eighth regiment of the same formation.

“You may generally assume that I mean what I say, Colonel.”

“But sir, an infantryman can’t be expected to understand how to properly employ BattleMechs in the field. I’m sure he’s an excellent commander of infantry, don’t get me wrong, but there’s -”

“You are of course free to resign your commission if you feel unable to subordinate yourself to the proper chain of command.” John gave him a cool look. “Or, if you feel he requires advice then you may provide it in a respectful fashion and accept his decisions as your appointed commander. I would personally recommend the latter but if your conscience dictates…”

Toland stared at the Prince and then at the other colonels. The only one of them who met that look was Simons, who simply shook his head. “I look forward to being proven wrong, sire.”

“Excellent.” John drew himself up and saluted the Federated Suns colours in the corner as one of Dixon’s staff picked up the flagpole to move it outside. “Then I will be meeting those of you now under General Simons command this evening. General Paxton will advise those of you on the eastern continent of when a similar staff meeting will take place for his officers.”

.o0O0o.

Camp Stone, Valexa
Sarna Commonality, Capellan Confederation
22 October 2761

The Capellan fortification hadn’t been a permanent facility, or rather it had been intended for only small scale occupation – perhaps a local battalion of the planetary militia. Pre-fab cabins and a bulldozed berm had converted it to house tanks and a full regiment of infantry before Simons advance a month before had pushed the troops in question back to the planetary capital, Parthevia.

The command facilities were crude – an unimpressive bunker that could only claim to be weatherproof because the mud had been tracked there rather than seeping through cracks. John elected to brief outside instead, rain beating on the open-sided tent that now housed Dixon’s collection of optimistically annotated maps. Some still bore grease-pencil markings suggesting Parthevia would fall the previous October.

Examining the folder in front of him one last time to make sure he was familiar with the details of what he and Hanse had worked out as a plan, John finished the last of his coffee and then looked up at the seated officers waiting for him to begin.

He closed the folder with a snap. “Colonels. General Simons. It is imperative that we conclude our mission here on Valexa within the next three months. In order to do this we need to secure only one objective. Reaching out with a pointer he indicated Parthevia, specifically the spaceport on the outskirts of the city. “The Capellans, being the enemy, are an obstacle to this. They are not an objective in and of themselves. General Paxton’s command, being quite some distance away, are concerned only with supporting us in our objective, which they will do by diverting as much attention and resources as possible to the eastern continent.”

“Please remove from your minds any other geographic location on Valexa, or any idea of destroying the enemy army. Our goal is this military spaceport with its facilities, valuable to the Capellan Confederation Navy for the repair and maintenance of its military dropships. We will destroy those facilities and we will then withdraw from Valexa, having achieved our mission.”

There was a murmur from the officers and General Simons cleared his throat. “For the purposes of clarification, sire, what you’re saying is that we’re giving up on the goal of occupying Valexa for the Federated Suns.”

John restrained the urge to snap at the man. “Occupation has never been the objective here. The previous commander appears to have been the victim of mission creep. We are here as a punitive measure, to redress the Capellan-sponsored terrorism on Demeter.”

“Thank you for confirming that, sir.”

“Of course, General.” John turned back to the map. “In order to seize the spaceport we’ll first be launching a decoy attack west of the river, to suggest that we’re trying to encircle the city. The goal here is to draw mobile forces across the river. Once this is done, air-strikes will be used to destroy the bridges…”

As John continued to lay out his plan, he saw the officers begin to take notes. At least, he hoped that was what they were doing. If they were simply doodling then he’d lost them and he needed their confidence if this was going to work. There was a delicate balancing act between pushing hard enough to have a victory that could be claimed at New Avalon, without going too far to back down once the Star League Council convened next year.

“So that’s the basic plan,” he concluded. “Are there any questions or recommendations?”

Major Sandoval – who looked barely older than Joshua! – raised her hand. “Sire, the plan appears to depend on Capellan forces crossing the river to engage the decoy force. If they choose not to – or if they managed to ford the river without the bridges, then we’ll have a significant portion of our forces isolated across the river while the Capellans can concentrate on the units moving in on the spaceport.”

“That is a concern, Major. How do you recommend we respond if those cases develop?”

“To lay the ground work for the second situation, I’d recommend that the airstrike on the northernmost bridge be a feint with the pilots under orders to only damage the bridge without dropping it – missing entirely with bombs, for example. If the Liao regiments see a clear route back then they’ll likely take it even if it’s less than optimal and that bridge is far enough north that using it would delay them for hours. Optimistically, forces could even move out of the city to secure it against further airstrikes.”

A second officer pointed at the map. “And to make it look tempting to come across the river, we could set up an infantry position at this village where it would seem exposed to a counter-attack…”

Hanse was nodding enthusiastically as the meeting began to liven up, points being raised and argued over. John set his pointer down and let Simons take over directing the discussion and refining the plan.



Sidebar: BattleMechs

"Infantry remains queen of the battlefield, but the ‘Mech is the king and we all know what the king does to the queen."

As wars between the vast interstellar states of the twenty-fourth century expanded in scope, solutions were sought to the immense logistical challenges that had been faced during the Outer Reaches Rebellion a century before. The development of the aerospace fighter, capable of combat in both atmosphere and outer space revolutionised aerial combat during this era, reviving the idealistic notion of a single warrior contending with rival peers.

This ideal reached surface combat in 2439 when the Terran Hegemony developed a new generation of artificial muscles (myomers) that had already been used for prosthetics and for humanoid industrial robots. Under the auspices of Director-General Jacob Cameron, the Mackie – a hundred ton behemoth loaded with advanced technology quite literally crushed no less than four remotely operated tanks under-foot in a matter of minutes.

Over the following decades, Terran military successes drove their neighbours to acquire this technology at any price. Realising their lead was temporary, the Hegemony responded with a succession of more advanced and specialised designs over the decades – some of them copied by the other states who were also developing new models of their own.

The Ares Conventions, signed in 2412, had enshrined the idea of limited wars. Now those wars could be fought with the firepower of a platoon or company concentrated in the hands of a single highly-trained warrior. Mobile campaigns could be fought by comparatively tiny and easily transported forces free to operate away from population centres due to their small logistical footprint. Within a generation, the Mechwarrior had become the military elite, romanticised by some as a modern knighthood and despised by others as glory hounds and prima donnas.

Ranging from twenty to a hundred tons, powered by a fusion reactor, even an unarmed ‘Mech can destroy a city by walking through it carelessly. (Admittedly, it might take a while). Wrapped in layers of heavy armour, they’re armed with potent lasers and particle beams, batteries of missile launchers and rapid-firing autocannon. In the head, a pilot can deploy of this with unmatched mobility, constrained only by on-board ammunition stores and keeping the heat of the fusion reactor under control.
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: drakensis on 15 November 2017, 17:07:19
Parthevia Space Port, Valexa
Sarna Commonality, Capellan Confederation
1 January 2762

The four Blackjacks in Susan’s command company elevated their guns and began to fire up into the sky, tracer streaking up towards a squadron of helicopters that were moving in on their flanks.

The Rippers were primarily infantry transports, armed with a pair of lasers that couldn’t match the range of the light autocannon mounted on the Blackjacks. Their side-doors opened as they reached the port’s control buildings and infantry started firing back out of the sides with man-portable lasers.

It was an unequal contest given the VTOLs’ light armour and only one of the Rippers survived long enough for the men aboard to jump down onto the roofs of the control buildings. Even as it rose up to retreat, the two Blackjacks continued to fire and its rotor came apart, dropping it back onto the tower, breaking through the lightweight roof and burying itself in the observation deck.

“Heavy ‘Mechs coming at us from the west,” reported Gav Greaney. Susan had been able to bring him along from the Cuirassiers and he’d been promoted to Leftenant. His fire support lance started laying down a barrage of LRMs in direction of the incoming attack.

“Van Dorne, talk to me.”

“Just Koschei – we can handle it.”

Susan nodded in agreement. The Sixteenth Liao Lancers relied heavily on the aging heavy ‘Mechs for their cavalry operations – but the speed and protection of the sixty-five ton machines came at the expense of firepower. Baker Company’s Warhammers should be more than equal to holding them back. “Alright, but keep me advised.”

She looked ahead at the control complex. With the rest of the First Dragoons fighting around the repair facilities, Colonel Hammond had broken off the Fourth New Valencia Rangers to take the towering buildings that handled flight operations and assigned Susan’s battalion and heavy tanks from the Eighteenth Heavy Tank regiment to support them.

“Rangers-Six, this is Wolf-Sixteen. Liao Mechs are pushing our left flank but it’s contained.”

“Understood, Major.” The infantry commander’s voice crackled on the radio – the Liao-controlled transmitters of their objective were causing interference for radio communication. “The right flank is reported as clear, we’re beginning our assault.”

APCs began to rake the front of the control buildings with their machineguns as infantry exited the vehicles and rushed the doors – or in some cases windows as Susan saw one squad lob a grenade through the glass and scramble over the hole left when the grenade went off.

Flashes of PPC fire from Baker Company and the tanks backing them up lit the night as the Warhammers replied to fire from the Koschei’s heavy autocannon.

“Save your ammunition,” Susan ordered Greaney after a second volley of LRMs arched up to shatter armour across a Liao ‘Mech, baring internals for Van Dorne’s men to deal the finishing shots.

“Understood.” The four ‘Mechs closed their launchers and shifted positions.

An SRM rocketed from an upper story window and splashed against one’s rear armour. Oily flames rose from the Dervish’s back. “Shit! It’s an inferno!” wailed Smythe.

Susan pointed her ‘Mech’s arms at the window and let fly with both lasers and four missiles. While she couldn’t see the men inside, four high explosive warheads should shred anyone in that room. “Don’t panic, Smythe. One missile isn’t going to kill you – stay cool and it’ll burn itself out.”

“Gah!” The woman turned her ‘Mech and backed it against the nearest building, trying to scrape the napalm off it. “I hate fighting infantry.”

“Major, we have a problem!”

Susan recognised the voice of Captain Bradford, commanding Charlie Company on the eastern side of the complex and turned her ‘Mech in that direction. “Talk to me.”

“Heavy ‘Mechs – very heavy, maybe assaults. We’re down four Manticores already and I don’t think we’re even scratching them.”

“Greaney, move your lance and back up Charlie Company.” Susan glanced west to make sure that flank was still holding – fortunately everything seemed to be in hand. “Help is on the way, Bradford.”

For a moment she thought the crackling radio was all the reply she’d get and then: “Roger, Major. They’re quads. I’m swinging north, might get you a shot at their backs.”

Susan pushed down on the pedals, pushing her Dervish into a run. Quads – ‘Mechs that were quadrupedal rather than the usual bipedal layout of ‘Mechs weren’t all that common. Scorpions were too small to match what Bradford was describing but the only other design she could think of was the Goliath – eighty-ton ‘Mechs with a good long-range arsenal. “Command lance, with me. Air Defense, stay with the infantry.”

As she rounded the complex, the ferrocrete was lit by silvery flames as a runaway fusion reactor consumed itself and the Manticore tank that it had powered.

Rather than the towering, long-limbed Goliaths she’d guessed, the Liao ‘Mechs were low slung with multi-jointed legs. There were more than twenty of them and as she took them in, one opened up with a heavy autocannon. The shells shredded the tracks and flank of another Manticore, the tank halting abruptly. For a moment that seemed the worst of it but then the ammunition bins went up, breaking the tank in two behind the turret.

They had PPCs too, Susan noticed. At least one of Bradford’s Warhammers was down and one of the ‘Mechs stomped over, casually crushing the broken ‘Mech’s arm underfoot.

While the rears weren’t exposed, Bradford’s shift of position had at least given her flank shots. “Concentrate your fire on my target!” she ordered and fired everything into the left side of the nearest enemy.

The temperature inside her cockpit rose sharply as her missile volley erupted from her launchers. Greaney’s lance had picked out their own target but the Wolverines of her command lance raked the same ‘Mech she did with their autocannon and lasers, adding SRMs to her own volley.

Fire sparked from the side of the target’s PPC but otherwise the ‘Mech seemed unfazed. Greaney’s target staggered and one leg dragged, a joint damaged by dozens of missiles. Nonetheless it gamely turned towards these new aggressors.

The warbook pinged, having finally pinpointed an identity for the ‘Mechs. Apparently the design was called the Xanthos, which meant nothing to Susan, and the markings corresponded to the Capellan Cuirassiers… which did.

“Pull back and engage at close range!” she ordered, her ‘Mech sluggish as she tried to follow her own advice. The Capellan Cuirassiers were a crack unit and Intel didn’t put them anywhere near Valexa. It looks as if we’re not the only reinforcements on world. She switched back to the Dragoons’ channel. “Wolf-Six, we’re engaging two companies of the Capellan Cuirassiers outside the control buildings. They’ve got assault ‘Mechs… something called a Xanthos.”

The Colonel’s voice was unruffled. “Understood, Major. I’m cutting you priority for artillery and air support is on the way but fall back if you have to. I’ll inform the Rangers of the situation.”

Susan’s ‘Mech staggered as PPC beams struck it in the chest. On her damage display she saw one of the LRM launchers go red and the other amber – one out of action entirely and the second hit had fused the cover in place – she couldn’t fire it unless she pried it open somehow. “Dammit.” Hitting her jump jets, she gasped in the baking cockpit.

“Van Dorne, we’re going to need support on the east flank. Can the tanks finish up the Koschei?”

“I’ll bring two lances now,” the Captain replied promptly. “The Lancers have fallen back but I’m not sure they’ve quite given up.”

The Xanthos had broken into two lines, one continuing to push Bradford north while the other half of their force was focusing on the eight out-numbered ‘Mechs of her Alpha Company.

“Oh shiiiiiiit!” Smythe went rocketing into the sky an instant before her Dervish disintegrated in a thunderclap.

Make that seven ‘Mechs. Susan switched to the artillery, hoping they’d received Hammond’s directions. “This is Wolf-Sixteen, I have a fire support mission.”

“Roger that, Wolf-Sixteen. We have two batteries ready to fire.”

Susan squinted at her nav display and read off what she hoped was the right grid reference. “I need everything you can give me – there are twenty-four, that’s two-four, assault quads east of the control buildings.”

“Shots out, Major,” the artillery woman replied calmly. “Just give us directions so we can correct our fire.”

The first salvo came crashing down behind the Xanthos, knocking down the ‘Mech that Greaney’s lance had damaged earlier. The massive ‘Mech tried to stand and then, with both rear legs out of action it braced the forelegs and started dragging itself doggedly after the Dragoons.

Not even trying to fire back as she dodged her Dervish back and wished for more cover, Susan guessed at the enemy’s speed. “A hundred metres south and thirty east,” she directed.

Six of the eight shells were on target and caught one of the Xanthos between them. Armour plates shattered but the ‘Mech lurched out of the smoke, apparently undaunted.

What does it take to stop them! She thought, but then another massed volley of missiles caught the Xanthos and secondary explosions ripped through the blocky torso, gutting the ‘Mech.

PPC fire traced into the flank as Van Dorne’s ‘Mechs joined the fight and a second Xanthos fell as more than a dozen beams ripped into it, one catching the cockpit squarely.

There was a roar of fusion turbines overhead and through the smoke that rose from damaged units, Susan saw lasers slicing along the length of the Liao line. Centurion fighters slashed east to west through the air and Susan thought she could see them breaking into a turn to repeat the strafing run.

The distraction cost her though as a PPC smashed through the knee of her Dervish. Throwing the ‘Mechs hands forward to absorb the impact of the fall, Susan felt her head snap forwards and then back as she hit the ground. She tasted blood in her mouth and realised she’d bitten her tongue.

Working the controls she managed to roll the Dervish over, but the gyro whined as she tried to balance her ‘Mech to get the legs under her.

“Major, get out of there!”

Looking up, Susan saw one of the Xanthos stepping closer, lowering the gaping muzzle of its autocannon towards her crippled ‘Mech. With shout, she slapped the canopy controls with one hand and yanked on the harness lock with the other. Tumbling head-first out of her seat, she whacked her neurohelmet against the canopy as it opened, fortunately with the opening beneath her.

For a change she didn’t strike her head as she fell from the cockpit down to the ground two metres below. Her left arm took the brunt and she gasped in pain.

Then she huddled into a ball and hoped her cooling vest’s ballistic layer would withstand any shrapnel as the autocannon bellowed, shells ripping through her Dervish. The thundering sound was almost as harsh as the fragments of metal raining down on her.

Then smaller autocannon roared and Susan uncurled, scurrying for cover beneath what was left of her ‘Mech – unexploded munitions be damned, she was at more risk of being stepped on. From behind one arm’s weapon pod she saw the Xanthos staggering under dozens of small explosions as the Wolverines of her command lance formed up around her fallen ‘Mechs.

The assault Mech, already scarred by earlier weapon hits gave ground… and then they all were, the Liaos suddenly backing their ‘Mechs away.

For a moment she wondered if she was hearing things, cheering? But then she looked over at the control building and saw that the banner of the Confederation was being lowered on the flagpole that reared up from the upper-most tower, and the Sword and Sunburst of the Federated Suns was being raised in its place.

.o0O0o.

Court of the Star League, Unity City
Terra, Terran Hegemony
15 February 2762

“Prince Davion.”

John turned as he was about to enter the Council Chambers. “General Kerensky.”

The Commanding General gestured towards an alcove. “A word, before the Council convenes.”

“Of course.” He moved in the indicated direction and noticed out of the corner of his eyes that Hanse was frozen, eyeing the General with a curious eyes. Is he… an admirer? I know Kerensky’s got almost mythical status in the 31st century, but I didn’t think he’d be star struck. “If it’s about the Capellans…?”

Kerensky shook his head. “No, I’ve heard about your… victory on Valexa.”

“The soldiers did all the heavy lifting, I wasn’t much more than an audience.”

“It’s always the way. We set matters in motion but younger men carry them out.”

“We’re beginning a withdrawal from Angelsey and Valexa now we’ve met our objectives. The First Lord can still arbitrate a withdrawal from Westphalia, to close things out. A nice note to start his reign with.”

The response was a shake of his head. “I thought I should let you know that he’s amended the schedule for the meeting a little. There’s a new Executive Order taking first place on the agenda.”

“Oh.”

“It wouldn’t be appropriate for me to discuss it in detail. I don’t know if it’s your proposal last year or Amaris, but he’s got the bit firmly between his teeth.”

“That… sounds ominous.” It would be Order 156 of course, but that was simple sequential number. Was the content going to be what Hanse had warned of? Richard’s reported teenage outbursts had seemed to taper off over the last year, which Minister Reznick’s analysts ascribed to his infatuation with one of his classmates. Hanse hadn’t been able to recall if that had happened in his own history or note.

“I haven’t had any real chance to speak to the First Lord in more than platitudes with the birthday celebrations, and then his trip yesterday,” John continued. Away from Unity City on private business. Given it had been Valentine’s Day, it hadn’t taken a genius to imagine what the eighteen year old Richard Cameron had been doing. Hopefully the young woman in question would be a good influence. She’d reportedly stood up to him at their school, which was a good sign. “Hopefully it’s something positive.”

Kerensky’s gaze suggested otherwise. “You’ve always been level headed. We’ll need as much of that as possible.”

“I’ll do my best.”

Inside the Council Chambers most of the lords had already taken their seats. Three of the territorial states were represented, Nicoletta Calderon and Beatrice Avellar in conversation at one end of the horseshoe-shaped table. The pair had been the voice of Periphery resistance to Star League policies from that corner of the room for as long as John could remember, a distinct contrast to the more compliant Rim Worlds and Magistracy lords who usually sat opposite.

Looking at Janina Centralla, who’d succeeded her mother shortly after the Demeter crisis, John suspected that the Outworlds wouldn’t be as easy to deal with as her mother had been. She hadn’t sat down yet, instead standing between Calderon and Avellar in quiet conversation. Nothing sensitive, surely, but it marked a shift in position by the Canopians. Oh well, the Canopians were a long way from the Suns and they didn’t have a voting seat.

Robert Steiner was another relatively new member. His father had been one of Kerensky’s advocates as both commanding general and regent – a real loss. John moved to take his own seat next to Robert and across from the Council’s perennial trouble maker, Ewan Marik. Where other lords had brought data pads or other working documents with them, the Captain-General had brought a hip-flask.

“Want a nip?” the Marik offered loudly. “This is going to be deadly boring.”

“I think I’ll manage, thank you.”

“Take that stick out of your ass, Johnny. Then again, maybe you did and it’s up Baby-Barb’s now.”

The new Chancellor’s glare in response seemed equally split between the two of them now. At least Ewan’s antics mean that John wasn’t the sole target. Across the table Takiro Kurita murmured something that might be intended as restraining but in practise was barely audible.

“So what’re we waiting for – the fat man and our glorious leader? Oh wait, Kerensky’s not in charge any more, is he?”

“If you cannot remember the festivities where you drank at least your own bodyweight, Captain-General, then perhaps you’ve reached the point where you need to cut back,” suggested Centralla as she returned to her place at the table, leaving a space between her and John for Stefan Amaris.

“Never happen,” Ewan promised. “But the kid might have an outbreak of sense and dump all this crap on Kerensky again. It’s what the man’s there for, after all.”

The door to the chamber and Richard Cameron entered, wearing a high-collared jacket and breeches bloused at the knee, in the latest court fashion. Stefan Amaris, following in the First Lord’s footsteps, wore a similar outfit which looked ridiculous on the portly President of the Rim Worlds Republic.

Amaris paused at his seat while Richard continued past John, Robert Steiner and Barbara Liao to the First Lords seat between the Captain-General and the Chancellor. He only then seemed to notice that the Rim Worlder wasn’t with him and frowned. “Stefan, please come and sit here – at my right hand. I’m sure Lord Marik won’t mind trading places with you.”

“Lord Cameron,” Robert objected. “The seating arrangements are traditional, and have remained unchanged since we first convened.”

“****** it, I don’t mind. Nearer to the pisser, anyway.” Ewan shook his flask disconsolately and then slid it over in front of Richard before standing. “Have a drink on me, kid. It makes the meetings go smoother.”

“Not for the rest of us,” Beatrice Avellar observed drily.

“I don’t care about the rest of you,” the Captain General explained as he walked past her and crossed to the other arm of the table.

“We’ve all noticed.” Janina Centralla gave the Free Worlds Lord a disdainful look. “May I trade places with Lady Avellar then.”

With some effort, Kurita raised his voice. “This is the Star League Council, not a game of musical chairs. Let us proceed to business. I believe the first item is arbitrating the aggression of the Federated Suns against the Capellan Confederation over the last two years.”

“Actually,” Richard said smugly, “There’s an executive order which I’ve drafted which should settle the matter completely, Lord Kurita. Executive Order 156, which becomes effective from the end of the month.” He touched a control and holographic displays in the centre of the chamber brought the text of the order in front of each of the Council.

John read it carefully. It was just as Hanse had warned him and he saw the other man leaning over the table next to Richard to read the document. It was obvious that neither Richard nor Stefan Amaris was bothering to read it – they couldn’t have telegraphed more obviously who had ‘helped’ the First Lord with this idea if they had tried.

Stripped of the admittedly thin veneer of legalities, Executive Order 156 called for the complete disarmament of all nine of the House Militaries, bringing them in line with the Terran Hegemony whose entire armed forces had been transferred to the SLDF upon its foundation. Every warship, aerospace fighter, BattleMech and any armoured combat vehicle above ten tons in weight was to be transferred to the custody of the SLDF and the personnel would be given the option between retirement with full pensions – payable by the state governments – or transferring to the SLDF to serve there.

“Are you out of your tiny little mind, boy?” asked Ewan. The proposed measure seemed to have sunk in past the man’s veil of alcoholism and indifference. “I’ve heard some stupid shit in my time but this takes the cake.”

“As little as I like to agree with Lord Marik, in this case I have to wonder if this is intended as a joke.” Robert closed the display with a swipe of his finger. “Disband the Lyran Armed Forces? And who’ll protect my realm without them?”

“That’s the job of the SLDF, Archon.”

“And a fine job they’ve done so far,” Barbara complained. “Davion regiments are burning three of my worlds to the ground and the SLDF does nothing.”

John folded his arms. “While I see the theory behind the proposal, the Chancellor has rather hit the nail on the head, Lord Cameron. As difficult as it might be for our realms to engage in armed conflict without regular military forces in our service, the SLDF was asked to intervene after the Demeter attack and – as much as they might have wished otherwise, they were prevented from doing so. By this Council.”

“My government had no hand in that attack,”

“That’s beside the point, Chancellor. Our armed forces fill the role of responding when the SLDF cannot. I can see some benefits but as it stands I don’t believe this is practical. Perhaps we could discuss alternatives.”

“This isn’t being placed before the Council for a vote,” Richard exclaimed. “It’s an executive order by the First Lord. This – is – law!”

“Who told you that you could make a law like that?” Beatrice Avellar sounded tired already. “Even my people, who mostly despise the use of arms, would not accept such a law.”

John was sure he wasn’t the only one who looked at Amaris.

“Come now, my friends,” the man offered warmly. “Would we not all be better off without spending such vast portions of our taxes on guns and armaments?”

“You presume much in calling me your friend,” Kurita told him coldly. He looked past Amaris to Richard. “We are free to govern our realms as we wish. No council lord, not even the First Lord, may command us to do this. You have been misled.”

“I will not be spoken to like that in my own palace,” the teenager bellowed.

“Well where do you usually go for it?” jibed Ewan. “This is Amaris’ idea, I can smell it. Send all our troops home and then you’re the only one with any soldiers. We’d have to do anything you say – sorry, anything your ‘good friend’ has to say.” He reared up. “Well it’s not happening!”

“Let’s all calm down.” John spread his hands. “I’m sure the First Lord has the best of intentions and putting some check on the recent military build-up isn’t a terrible idea, even if this isn’t quite the way to do it.”

“I need my regiments to guard me against you, Davion.” The Chancellor slammed the heels of her hands against the table. “Never, not ever, will I agree to this.” She stabbed one finger across the table towards Amaris. “You are a viper at the Cameron’s breast! We should have sent you away long ago.”

“A good idea!” shouted Ewan. He stood. “Let’s throw him out of a window and see if the Rim Worlds has a real leader somewhere.”

John pushed his chair back, to block the Captain General’s passage. “That’s not a good -”

“Guards!” Amaris howled, throwing his chair back. “Guards, protect us! Protect the First Lord!” He clutched at Richard’s chair, staring wildly at John and Ewan, then – absurdly, turning his head to gaze aghast at the elderly Coordinator – the man was a hundred and fifteen years old! – as he reached for his cane.

Doors opened and a squad of the Black Watch burst in, although at least they had the good sense to keep their weapons pointed safely at the floor. The Marik tried to push past John, who forced his chair back again to keep blocking him.

Fortunately, a fresh voice entered the chamber. “Stand down!”

The commanding tones brought the soldiers to an abrupt halt and even Ewan halted to look at the main doors where Aleksandr Kerensky stood silhouetted in the light of the outside passageway.

Slowly the general walked past Avellar, Calderon and Kurita to the upturned seat Amaris had leapt out of. “Put the seat back please,” he instructed the nearest solder. Two of them picked up the high backed chair. “There will be no violence here,” Kerensky declared. “Nor threats of it against any member of the Council. Return to your posts.”

The Black Watch saluted and the Star League Council watched as they filed back out of the room.

“Lord Marik, Lord Amaris. Please, take your seats.” Kerensky gestured gracefully to the chair next to Richard and Amaris sank gratefully back into it. Ewan waited, then kicked spitefully at John’s chair before returning to his own place.

John pushed his chair back in place. “Thank you, General.”

Kerensky nodded drily and glanced at the holographic display of Executive Order 156, still hovering in front of Richard. “A daring solution, my lord,” he said gravely. “But without the support of the Council, my understanding is that the courts would find it to be unconstitutional.”

“Very well.” Richard struck a control. “The order stands as withdrawn. Keep your soldiers, squabble as you wish.” He rose to his feet. “You’re all dismissed.”

“We have many other matters to debate, Lord Cameron.”

“I said, dismissed!”

John watched as the youth stormed out of the door. Amaris rose to his feet nervously and bowed slightly. “I’ll endeavour to…” He hesitated. “Ah, excuse me.” He followed the First Lord and many eyes followed him.

“What a worm,” Ewan sneered, long before Amaris could have left earshot.

“Perhaps we should adjourn for the day,” John suggested diplomatically. “Let some tempers cool.”

“Very well.” Liao stood. “Though there is nothing hot about my temper, Prince Davion. Rest assured that it is very cold indeed.”

Perhaps they had another definition of cold on Sian, John thought, recalling her earlier venomous behaviour. Or perhaps that had been an act.

“You should have given Ewan the chance,” Hanse told him. “It would have solved a lot of problems.”
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: drakensis on 15 November 2017, 17:07:33
Court of the Star League, Unity City
Terra, Terran Hegemony
18 February 2762

No one had seen Richard Cameron outside his apartments since the disastrous council meeting. For two days, the other Council Lords had gathered in twos and threes, trying to come to a consensus on the various agenda items.

At least on minor matters, they’d managed to get at least four of their peers to come to agreements so some business was being cleared, but where only three had a consensus the First Lord’s vote could overturn them and thus they were stuck waiting for Richard to emerge.

“In my history he never called the Council together again,” Hanse had warned John. “So much for making a good start.”

That was what brought him to the elegantly laid out residence of the First Lord. Perhaps ironically, Richard was the first Cameron to make Unity City his primary residence. The previous First Lords had primarily resided in the traditional capital of the Hegemony, Geneva, and visited Unity City only in pursuit of their official duties. Yet since he’d been orphaned, eleven years before, Richard had barely ever left the Star League’s capital. John wasn’t sure he’d ever been to Geneva.

If his father had lived, Richard would have been gradually brought into the responsibilities of government through taking on some of the responsibilities of Director General. Simon Cameron had exercised the full range of those duties, governing the Hegemony and learning many valuable lessons before his father’s demise.

Would Joshua do much better if he were taking on the role right now, John thought as he walked through the gardens towards the front entrance. It wouldn’t be the same, thankfully – our laws of succession protect us from anyone taking office without military service first. Joshua served as a Mechwarrior first, now he leads a lance and perhaps a company before he’s put in his mandatory years. But we expect an untested eighteen year old to sit amongst men and women decades his senior and lead us.

In the olden days, the guards at the door might have dropped halberds or some other pole-arms to block his way. In these modern days, they had rifles which wouldn’t be quite as effective – of course, the locks were better too. “The First Lord isn’t expecting visitors,” the taller of the two advised blandly. Behind her helmet it was impossible to tell if she had identified John or not.

“I’m aware. But please pass on that I’m here anyway and I’d like a little of his time.”

The guard shrugged almost imperceptibly. “Central, please advise the First Lord that the First Prince of the Federated Suns is at the front door and wants to speak with him.”

John turned and looked back at the garden, then scanned the windows, wondering of anyone was looking out at him from behind them. Hanse winked and then walked right through the door, completely ignoring the guards.

It was several minutes before he received a response. “The First Lord isn’t receiving visitors, sir.”

“That’s unfortunate.”

“He’s in the library, watching you on a security camera,” Hanse advised, sticking his head out one of the windows. “You’ve got his attention.”

Well, he could work with that. “In that case, hmm. Well, when his grandfather was unable to tend to his duties I believe it was his sister Jocasta who handled them. Please ask if Lady Elizabeth would have time for me.”

The guards paused. “Sir, that’s… You’re aware that Lady Elizabeth is only sixteen?”

I’m also aware that Richard viewed her first and foremost as a rival for their parents’ affections. “I’m a happily married man. Now pass on my request, if you please.”

Hanse pulled his head back through the window and a few moments later the door flew open, revealing the First Lord wearing riding breeches and an embroidered vest. “What do you want!?” Richard demanded sharply.

“To be heard out. Preferably not on the doorstep, like a bailiff chasing unpaid bills.”

“I don’t owe you anything.”

“Not even basic courtesy?” John asked delicately.

Richard flushed and then stepped back. “Fine then, come in.” Inside he directed John to the library, taking a seat at a throne-like armchair while offering no other seat. “I’m not sure how much courtesy you displayed back in the council though.”

“I kept Ewan from doing something regrettable to Lord Amaris.”

“It looked more as if you were about to join him.”

“If I was to do that, Lord Cameron, I would have stood up.” John let a smile cross his face. “I’d have looked rather ridiculous pushing my chair backwards around the table to menace poor Stefan.”

The possibility didn’t seem to have crossed Richard’s mind and he considered it for a second before nodding. “Perhaps you’re right, but you made it clear where you stand before that. I thought from your earlier correspondence that you supported disarmament.”

“With your Executive Order – yes, I won’t pretend otherwise. You made a mistake there, I’m afraid. Presenting it as a motion for consideration could have had some real debate going and made a difference. But what’s done is done. All we can do is learn from the experience and move forwards.”

“Why should there be debate? With no armies between you there would be no border wars.” The First Lord’s eyes narrowed slyly. “Your family wouldn’t have suffered so much thirty years ago, if the Coordinator hadn’t been able to send ‘Mechs to fight for Vincent Kurita’s claim.”

Hanse was shaking his head, not even looking away from the bookshelves where he was examining their contents with the air of an avid book collector unleashed on someone else’s private treasures.

“I’m not disputing the goal.” John considered how to put it. “I’ve nothing whatsoever against Lord Amaris, but his realm has a very centralised government. It clearly works for him, but no other states in the Star League places so much responsibility on one man. All of us, even House Kurita, divide power up for various reasons. You must have had classes on civics, so you must be aware that the First Lord is first among… well, not equals, since you do have a few extra powers compared to the rest of the Council, but near-equals.”

“I don’t need a lecture,” Richard told him petulantly.

“Alright, alright. But please, most political matters aren’t settled by grand sweeping motions. Instead it’s incremental – your ancestor Ian Cameron didn’t bring us together all at once. He won the Member States over one at a time and then spent years fighting to bring the Territorial States into the League. The challenges you’re facing may not be quite so great, but study his methods and there’s no reason you can’t stand as tall in the histories of your house as he, or of other great Camerons. I believe that. But you can’t give up at the first hurdle.”

“So you want to be my advisor?” Richard rose. “To push your agenda in the Council? You’re not doing this for my sake.”

“Good advisors don’t tell you what you must do. They suggest options, they listen to your plans and point out problems they foresee. And any ruler needs a range of counsellors – you have Lord Amaris and if what I hear about you planning on marriage is right, you’ll have a wife soon.”

Richard flushed. “Yes, that’s true.”

“It’s a good start, but you can find others. Spread your net wide, and by all means include people you don’t necessarily agree with. Even if you don’t ultimately take their advice, the fact that the Cameron himself heard them out before making a decision will sometimes sooth people who’d otherwise be upset.”

“They should be listening to me.” The First Lord paced around. “You said you wouldn’t lecture me, but that’s exactly what you’re doing.”

“Then what would you like to say? To me, to the other lords. Where do you want to lead the Star League?” John spread his hands. “We’ve so many matters that are waiting for the Star League Council to decide – that are waiting for you to have your say. To tell us where you stand. We’re listening… we’re ready for you to speak.”

Richard eyed him, waiting. When John said nothing, he returned to his chair and looked up at him. “Are you… begging me?” he asked, in an intrigued voice.

“No.” John shook his head sharply. “If I did that I’d be condescending to you. Treating you like a child. You’re an adult – you’re one of the Great Lords. So I’m addressing you as such.”

“Don’t think I’ll favour you.” Richard looked away and then repeated: “Don’t think I’ll favour you. I’ll reconvene the council – tomorrow.”



Sidebar: The War of Davion Succession

"Davion and Kurita is a bad combination. One family believes they should conquer the universe, the other family won’t ever back down from a fight."

After Mary Davion married the younger brother of Coordinator Takiro Kurita in 2698 she agreed to relinquish her claim upon the throne of the First Prince in favour of her brother Joseph, who inherited in 2703. Mary herself passed away in 2715, leaving behind her three sons who had been raised in the traditions of their father’s family.

House Kurita had always been vigorous and expansionist. Unable to pursue these policies under the Star League, they had instead focused their remarkable energy on reshaping the Combine, firstly by building a new and more central capital and secondly by creating a unitary culture across their realm, one that would provide a powerful national identity. In line with their founder, Shiro Kurita, who claimed descent from an admiral of the Imperial Japanese Navy and had been raised as a latter-day samurai, House Kurita chose to model their ideal society upon Japan in the seventeenth and early nineteenth centuries – or at least how they saw those eras after a remove of some centuries.

In 2715, Takiro Kurita took up the claim of his nephew, asserting at first that Vincent Kurita was Joseph Davion’s rightful heir, and then that Mary Davion had not relinquished her claim at all, instead appointing Joseph as a mere regent until her sons were of age. Unwilling to commit to either side, the Star League Council appointed an investigatory committee and stalled, hoping for a diplomatic solution between two of the most powerful members.

After ten years of wrangling, the Coordinator took the natural next step – the Draconis Combine Mustered Soldiery were despatched to cross the border and seat Vincent Kurita upon his ‘rightful throne’. The first attack was upon the important industrial world of Marduk, which fell rapidly. Fighting spread, with an AFFS counter-attack seizing Combine worlds in an effort to divert resources from the invasion. Meanwhile the Star League Council proved unable or unwilling to move forward and First Lord Jonathan Cameron, who could have ordered the SLDF to restore the peace, had withdrawn into paranoid delusions.

In 2729, having narrowly avoided an SLDF coup, Jonathan Cameron appointed his sister – a cloistered nun – as his advisor and co-ruler in all but name. At last the resources of the Star League were unleashed and within three months the original border was re-established, Vincent Kurita’s claim quashed. This was too late for the First Prince, however. Joseph Davion was captured and decapitated by DCMS soldiers on 20 October 2729, his body recovered by a daring young Thomas Green-Davion.
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: ckosacranoid on 16 November 2017, 16:07:26
i must say i like this story and the way you are changing history with a dead hanse tossing his two cents worth in to change things for the better and to help his relm come out better then it was when the star leage fell.
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: drakensis on 16 November 2017, 17:00:41
Court of the Star League, Unity City
Terra, Terran Hegemony
19 February 2762

The First Lord had arrived before anyone for this session – anyone but Amaris who once again sat at his side. On seeing them, Takiro Kurita paused and eyed them with inscrutable old eyes before moving to where Janina Centralla had sat herself. “Be as good as to exchange seats with me, Magestrix,” he half-requested and half-directed. “It hurts my neck to have to turn to see the First Lord.”

Centralla eyed him and then shrugged. “Fine.” She moved to sit between Amaris and Calderon, completing a new division of the Council. Now the six voting Lords formed an arc along one wing of the table – Cameron, Liao, Steiner, Davion, Marik and finally Kurita – while the four Periphery lords occupied the other, facing them.

Richard signalled for the doors to be closed. “Our first item of business is the matter of Federated Suns troops on three Capellan worlds. Lord Davion has requested arbitration and Lady Liao has requested SLDF support in removing those forces. Does anyone else wish to have a say?”

“If Liao can’t look after her own worlds I don’t see that it’s my problem.” Unsurprisingly, that came from Ewan Marik.

Takiro shook his head. “Being on the Council makes it your problem. However,” he added smoothly, “I note that the Chancellor declined arbitration and only asked for the SLDF support after Prince Davion and his famous Colonel Stopec had begun to make real progress in taking control of two of the contested worlds.”

“Noted,” Richard said tersely. He looked at Robert Steiner who simply shook his head. “Very well. I call for a vote on whether the Star League should mobilise for war against the Federated Suns, as the aggressor in this matter.”

John blinked and Hanse, who had been shamelessly spying over Barbara Liao’s shoulder, straightened sharply.

“Aye,” the chancellor declared quickly. Silence fell and she looked around for support, finding none.

“Nay,” John said and turned to look at Richard.

“I will assume silence as abstention,” the teenager said haughtily. “With two votes cast and a tie, the motion fails. Are there any motions for war against the Capellan Confederation?”

John shook his head.

“Aye!” called Ewan. “Good plan!” He even broken into vigorous applause that echoed around the room even though everyone else was looking at him in disgust.

“You can’t possibly be serious,” Liao protested. “We are the victims.”

“You didn’t object when I raised the possibility of declaring war on the Suns,” Richard said cheerfully. “Do you wish to cast a vote?”

“Nay!”

“Also nay,” added John.

“Very forbearing of the First Prince,” murmured Amaris. Perhaps it was John’s imagination but the rotund Rim Worlder seemed to be eyeing him suspiciously.

“Two nays, one aye. Motion fails.” Richard shrugged. “Now do correct me if I’m wrong, but as First Lord I can authorise defensive actions by the SLDF without a declaration of war.”

“That is correct.” Nicoletta Calderon gave the other side of the table a snide look. “Will you be separating them like naughty children?”

“More or less.” Richard stabbed his finger down on his controls. The holographic display popped up, revealing General Kerensky’s head, magnified to fill the space. “General, I hope you have contingencies for sending peacekeepers to Valexa and the other contested worlds?”

“I do, sir. LV Corps has three infantry divisions and supporting elements ready to move in and separate the combatants, should the command be given.”

“Do it then. And since they are Capellan worlds, do encourage the AFFS to return to their proper place.” Richard cut the channel. “So, that settles that. Next on the agenda?”

.o0O0o.

Avalon City, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Suns
3 April 2762

John’s return from Terra coincided with the arrival of some of the forces from the war. More than seventy individual regiments had participated in some way and many had instead been rotated to new garrison positions. The Crucis Dragoons in particular were replacing well-entrenched regiments that hadn’t moved postings in years – but all four had detached twelve Mechwarriors chosen from those being decorated or promoted to join ten carefully chosen battalions and one of the Ceti Hussars’ combat commands for the triumphant return to New Avalon.

The day had been declared a public holiday and as the units solemnly marched from the space port to Mount Davion the streets were lined with cheering visitors from all over New Avalon and from many other worlds besides.

“You’d not think that there were so many people out there who missed that we didn’t accomplish a thing,” Stopec grumbled from one of the open-topped cars carrying John and his senior officers.

“We accomplished more than you might think,” John told him. “And keep smiling – we’re on display.”

“It was a political victory,” Hanse said from the only free seat, next to the driver. “Worthwhile but a lot less than you were hoping for.”

“We hadn’t seen war since the ‘30s,” the dark-haired prince reminded his Champion. “This was our first test of the reforms Uncle Richard and I have been pushing. And at least we know now that we’ve not made as much progress as we’d hoped. And what you managed with the Dragoons shows us the right direction to go.”

“And where we stand with Cameron.”

“We were never going to be able to keep those worlds. The only person who ever put that out as a goal was Dixon. Now the Capellans know that we can be pushed to the point of crossing the border they’ll have to tread more carefully and so will the Combine.”

“It’d had better be worth it.”

John nodded and waved to a little cluster of school children, who’d apparently been organised as a visit for the occasion. “You saw how much damage was done on Angelsey, just as collateral to the fighting. Imagine that all along the borders – and not just for a year and change, but for decades or a century. That’s what a full scale war would mean. You tell me, is avoiding it worth what our men paid for it?”

Stopec turned his head and forced a smile out of the window to where flags included not only the sword and sunburst but also wolves, bears, jaguars and falcons – the badges of the four Crucis Dragoon regiments. “The League would have to fall first.”

“The League could fall. There have been fractures growing for years and no one seems to be trying to mend them. I don’t mind Richard claiming to be the peacemaker if that gives the League a little more stability.”

The parade reached the edge of the Royal Court, no less crowded but more by government workers or noble families. John spotted a dozen members of the High Council he’d thought would be on their home worlds as the limousine reached one of the formal entrances.

The parade divided with the heavy combat vehicles following a side-road towards the hangers and infantry – riding floats rather than expected to march – instead taking a path towards the barracks. The limousine pulled up before the high neo-classical front of the Chancellery of the Exchequer building. The high pillared Chancellery had become iconic for some reason and thus John made a habit of returning the Castle Davion through it even when he had no particular grounds to call upon this branch of Ways and Means.

Stepping down from the car, John and Stopec waited for the generals in the next car to join them. Paxson and Simons would be available for reassignment now that the campaign was over and Hanse had made excellent recommendations for how they could be employed.

“Are you going to make a speech?” asked Stopec, jerking his jaw to indicate a small group of holovid reporters waiting eagerly near the foot of the stairs.

“Not today. Better to give the soldiers the spotlight today,” John decided. “We’ll touch base with the High Command and then call it a day. Sufficient unto the day is -”

“Down!” Stopec shouted and shoved John violently to the side.

Landing heavily, John rolled down the steps they’d just begun to climb. Almost instantly two of the security men from the next car had dived across him, covering him with their bodies but also pressing him against granite stairs.

“Sniper!” Hanse hissed from somewhere outside his – currently restricted field of vision. “Top of one of the tower blocks – shouldn’t there be police counter-snipers up there.”

“What’s going on?” he demanded from under his guards.

“Michael’s down, doesn’t look serious,” the redhead told him. “Simons and Paxson dragged him down behind the car. Just stay down, a helicopter’s going after that rooftop – should be clear to get inside shortly.”

.o0O0o.

Avalon City, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Suns
4 April 2762

Footage of the incident was playing on one of the background monitors in AFFS command centre, one of the media channels that was kept live at all times so John couldn’t get away from it.

“For those concerned,” he announced, “Colonel Stopec only took a glancing hit to the side. Avalon City police and Military Intelligence are continuing their investigation but considering the sniper decided to jump rather than be captured, chances of getting a definite answer to who was behind the incident are slim. Anything else you get from the media is pure speculation.

“Which still leaves the Maskirova as the most likely culprits,” Erik Pond pointed out.

“Most likely, but not confirmed.” John shook his head. “Further inflaming the matter isn’t in the Suns’ best interests so we’re not going to indulge in accusations we can’t back up.”

He took his seat and saw Hanse slip into Stopec’s place on his right. “Alright, what’s first on our agenda today?”

“Jerricho Industries have sent an update on their progress with the Swordsman project.” Heather Green-Davion, Thomas’ niece and head of Supply’s Procurement Department brought up a diagram. “The SWD-3 has completed prototype testing and they estimate that they can have it back in production by the end of the year if funding is approved.”

“Good. What do the test pilots say?”

She checked her diagram. “They’re not effusive, sire. It works, but really it’s not much more than a cut-rate Shadow Hawk – or maybe Andoran’s Clint would be a better comparison.”

“Given that that’s what the goal is, I don’t have a problem with that. And are the technical teams happy that it’ll be reliable in the field?”

“That’s more favourable.” Heather shifted the display to show maintenance reports following each test cycle. “Of course, other than the switch to use modern parts where the originals are no longer available, the Swordsman is a proven design.”

“Rostov’s design.”

John shrugged. “It may have served with General Rostov’s Terran March troops during the Civil War but I’m prepared to give the design a second chance. We’ve stripped our planetary and March militia units of a lot of personnel and equipment in order to build up more line regiments. Something cheap and reasonably capable is exactly what we need to rebuild secondline forces. Unless anyone has strong objections…?”

No further objections were raised and John signed off on payment for the first production run of the Swordsman. “If the first run meets standards then we’ll look at activating the clause to license a second manufacturer,” he instructed Heather. “We don’t want all our eggs in one basket.”

“I’ll make a note of that.” She cleared the display. “Next is Personnel, I believe.”

Eis Moscoe stood. “Training numbers are ramping up on schedule, more or less,” he advised. “The fighting has set back expansion plans but with wounded personnel returning from hospital, we should be able to man two additional BattleMech regiments and three armoured regiments next year, rather than four of each as previously expected. Infantry losses were heavier and had a higher percentage of killed in action, so it’ll be eighteen months before I expect to have brought existing regiments and reserves up to the point we can raise new regiments.”

“You mentioned an interesting point there – concerning might be another word,” John noted. “But we’ll come back to that in a moment. Given their excellent performance in the training exercises on Gambier and then in action on Valexa, the new regiments are to be raised under the colours of the Ceti Hussars. More specifically, General Paxson - who will be taking charge of the Hussars overall – has been instructed to their existing personnel as cadre to expand up to three times their current numbers. New academy and training school graduates are more likely to be replacing volunteers for the Hussars than to be directly transferred – although top ten percenters may request the assignment, as usual.”

“I hadn’t understood them to be heavily engaged on Valexa.” The question came from Vasily Sandoval who wasn’t a regular attendee.

“They weren’t, but they still kept the Capellans hopping – not an easy balance to strike.”

“Ah, interesting.” The duke brightened at that – he’d risen through his excellent grasp of terrain and tactics rather than direct combat experience. “I’d be glad to have them on the Draconian border then, once Paxson’s worked the rough edges off their new regiments.”

“It’s a little early to commit to anything for that,” John told him. “But I’m sure the vote of confidence will be well received. Now, the point I was referring to earlier was the casualty rates among infantry. I realise that they’re not protected by several tons of armour, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing that we can do to keep losses down. I’ll be ordering a full review of where we could have done better, pulling a panel together from the major academies but two things have stood out even from the overviews and my limited time on Valexa.”

“Firstly, there was a lot of unnecessary administration tied up in handling the wounded. I’m not saying that any medical personnel were less than diligent, but they were also spending too much time handling paperwork because casualties came from outside their particular arm.”

“Secondly, some regiments saw disproportionately heavy head wounds among their wounded and killed. Unsurprisingly, those regiments are the ones who customarily issue caps rather than helmets in the field. Now I’m not a great believer in trampling on traditions unless there’s good reason, but I believe that the lives of our soldiers are damn good reasons to look at traditions and see if they’re becoming a liability.”

There were nods around the table. “The solution about headgear is obvious, sire. Withdraw caps for combat duty and make helmets mandatory for all units. I can have a new uniform regulation drafted and ready for review by next week,” Moscoe offered.

“Make it very clear, Eis. I don’t want any wriggle room. If any regimental commanders feel they can’t live with the changes, there’s plenty of room for them as battalion commanders – or as riflemen.”

“That, I can do.”

“Good man. The second step is to reform our medical arms. What I’m looking at is pulling all medical services out from under the administration of the combat corps and navy, organising a specific medical corps that’ll handle all medical needs across the entire AFFS.” John paused and then cupped his hands. “Is that outraged screaming I hear from your department, Van?”

“Not so funny, sire.” The head of Military Administration, Vanessa Manabe raked her greying hair back. “Given the amount of paperwork we already trade for those services, I can probably free up a lot of desks, so there will be screaming.”

“Just give me the names and I can ship them out to the far corners of the realm,” offered Moscoe with a grin. “I can always use more field grade officers and sergeants for staff slots.”

John chuckled. “It’ll only get worse, Eis. But I’m not married to the idea yet – if anyone has alternative solutions then I’m open to recommendations. I’d like to have a decision by September, in time for the next budgetary discussions so we’ve got time to put proposals together.”

“Speaking of staff positions…”

“Something you forgot for the agenda?” asked Pond. “Or sneaking it in?”

“Nothing hugely important.” Moscoe fiddled with a stylus. “We’ve been considering inserting a new rank between the current Major General and Colonel ranks with the number of multi-regiment commands that we’re having to deploy with the expanded force numbers.”

“Yes, Leftenant General isn’t it?” asked John.

“Well NAMA threw a fit – apparently we used to have the rank but it sat between Major General and General, not where we want the new rank.”

“I see…” John said slowly, broadly hinting that he didn’t.

“How is a leftenant more important than a major,” asked Manabe in confusion. “Besides, don’t the SLDF have Leftenant Generals with the basic position you’re talking about?”

Moscoe chuckled. “Yes, but apparently they’re wrong. You really don’t need the headache - or at least I don’t. Ask Professor Quinn if you’re really interested. Anyway, to keep them happy we’ve changed the name and picked something historically appropriate and easy to remember. Since the new rank is for brigade command, it’ll be Brigadier General.”

Hanse shook his head. “Leftenant General worked perfectly well in my AFFS,” he complained.

“Whatever keeps the historians happy,” John decided. “That’ll be fine, Eis. You can start shortlisting promising Colonels for me, just make sure we’re not restricting our selection to Mechwarriors. There’s a lot of talent in the other arms and we can’t afford to waste good soldiers with any kind of glass ceiling.”

.o0O0o.

Summer Palace, Sian
Sian Commonality, Capellan Confederation
9 August 2762

Among the Chancellor’s many interests was art. Long before she took office, she’d begun the process of redecorating the Summer Palace and acquiring objects d’ art to fill its rooms. Several recent acquisitions stood in her office, giving her time to consider where they might be placed for maximum effect.

Since his mistress repositioned her acquisitions on whim – or as she put it, to compare the light – and moved items in and out, Tai Yang Gwak found there was always a certain challenge in threading your way past them to the desk. Younger and healthier    men might have found it easier, but his next birthday would be his ninetieth.

“You summoned me, your Excellency.”

Barbara Liao looked up from the document she was studying. “I have been known to do that, Director.”

“It’s always my pleasure to attend to your desires.”

“I’m glad you enjoy your work, Tai Yang.” She pointed to one of the stands. “Look at that picture, then the one next to it.”

Obediently, the old man compared the two.

“What’s your first thought,” asked the Chancellor.

He considered. “Should there be a third one, between the two perhaps?”

“Exactly!” She closed down her computer. “They’re part of a series of landscapes by the 22nd century artist Frankie Lam and I’m missing one. Well, two, but the other one was inferior and these two would be perfect for the green suite if I had the one that belongs between them as well.”

“I shall see what I can do for you, your Excellency. I assume that the owner is not one of your patriotic subjects.”

Barbara Liao gave him a sour look. “The Duke of Bolan. I made him a very decent offer.”

Tsk. That always complicated matters. “Something may be feasible, your Excellency.”

“And while you’re here,” she folded her hands in her lap. “I’m concerned by some of the recent recommendations I’ve received from the Strategic Military Director.”

Ah, the real issue, Tai Yang thought. “The analysis of the recent unpleasantness on Valexa and Angelsey.”

“Precisely. It appears that the Command Council are not in favour of the theory that the sudden inability of the deployed forces to resist the AFFS during the last months of the campaign was not due to any great excess of tactical or strategic skill on the part of Prince Davion or of his Champion.”

“While it is pleasing to believe that the enemies of the realm are paragons of ineptitude, this may breed a degree of overconfidence.”

“To clarify, they concede that the Prince is marginally more able than General Dixon, who they were able to constrain adequately. However, they believe that the defensive positions held by our forces were sufficient that neither inspired leadership nor the increase in troop numbers by the AFFS were decisive factors.”

“These being factors that the officers in command of Sarna Commonality lack, it is pleasing to think that they are held in low regard.”

“Would it surprise you to learn that they feel the key advantage posed by the AFFS was that Prince John organised his forces into a series of hierarchical brigades and divisions with a chain of command that permitted officers to operate with improved coordination and discretion rather than directing all operations through a single planetary headquarters?”

“That is a very interesting position for them to suggestion, your excellency. One might almost think that a similar degree of organisation is being advocated as an innovation by the Strategic Military Director.”

“Quite. I take it I don’t have to remind the director of why my ancestor abolished all military ranks above that of Colonel in 2455?”

“While I’m not quite so old as to have first-hand knowledge of the event, the sad death of Chancellor Stephan Liao and the quite reasonable measures taken by his successor are familiar to me in general.”

The Chancellor nodded. “Tai Yang, please ensure that the Strategic Military Director is acquainted with the reasons that his position is unacceptable.”

“The virtuous actions of one’s ancestors are always to emulated, Excellency.” Tai Yang bowed deeply. “One must enquire if there is any other way in which I may serve you?”

“Perhaps. Is there more news regarding Prince Davion’s near encounter with mortality in April?”

“Nothing convincing, alas. Certain evidence pointed towards the Terran Hegemony but my understanding is that the evidence was felt to be a fabrication. Without any further leads, it seems likely that the official response will be that it was a lone madman.”

“I would be exceptionally displeased if it were to be associated with us, Tai Yang.”

“There are two unquestionable points of evidence that prove that the Maskirova were uninvolved, Excellency,” the Director of that agency replied calmly. “Firstly, that you have never ordered such an operation and we would never presume to make a move of such strategic weight without your express approval.”

“And second?”

“He missed, your excellency.”

The chancellor was laughing merrily as Tai Yang made his way back towards the door, already considering who he might assign to the assassination and the acquisition that he’d been charged to arrange.

.o0O0o.

Avalon City, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Suns
21 September 2762

“That’s it!” Hanse exclaimed loudly, right as John was taking his shot. While it didn’t entirely ruin his shot, the laser hit the target on the 8 ring rather than dead centre, which he felt he could reasonably have expected given his last four shots had been perfect.

“Aha,” General Manabe said cheerfully as the prince valiantly fought not to shoot a death glare in the direction of the abashed ghost. Given the head of Military Administration had only been one point behind her commander-in-chief. “A little distracted, were you, sire?”

“I don’t make excuses.”

She lined up her shot carefully… and penetrated the nine-rang. “Ah, deuce it!”

“A draw’s a draw.” John picked up the two ten dollar bills between their shooting positions and handed one back to Manabe. “Better luck next time we’re requalifying.”

“There’s no way it’s a draw. The computer’s going to percentage score us on how close we were in each ring.” Manabe waved the money in front of John. “Just wait for it to keep processing.”

John sighed and stripped the power pack out of his rifle, safing it as they went back to the range master. “Sign us off for the re-qual?” he asked.

“Pair of forty-eights is well in the zone, sire.” The sergeant accepted the rifles to return to storage in the arms locker.

“Full scoring please,” Manabe requested. “There’s money riding on it.”

“Oh?” Poking at the computer, the range master printed off two result cards. “Here you go, forty-eight point six-two and point six-one.”

Manabe stared at the second printout and made a pained noise. The prince held out his hand and she grudgingly handed over the ten dollars. “I was so close!”

“Yes, but you need to learn when to quit,” he advised and dropped the notes into the Widows and Orphans collection box on the desk. It wasn’t as if the AFFS didn’t have pensions and other insurance for the families of their dead, but sometimes the fund managed a more personal touch.

The two parted ways and John opened the door to the emergency stairwell to go back upstairs rather than the lift. The exercise was a good excuse and no one else really used them. “So what was that about?” he asked once they were a flight of stairs up from the range.

“We’ve been looking for somewhere to hide orbital factories,” Hanse reminded him.

“Ah, and you have an answer?” Several of the more advanced military technologies required manufacture in micro-gravity, which certainly wasn’t unaffordable but as Hanse’s hindsight pointed out, left the factories vulnerable to warship raids or even fighter strikes, unlike more conventional facilities that could be dug into the ground beneath mountains or any number of other planetary locations. In the Succession War he’d told John about, virtually all factories producing vital materials as endo-steel – very useful in ‘Mech chassis and heatsinks – had been destroyed by strategic raids.

“Tortuga!”

John frowned. “Where?”

Hanse groaned. “It’s a pirate stronghold between the Outworlds Alliance and the Taurian Concordat,” he lectured. “Tortuga’s a fairly nice world, actually, but the pirates just stripped what they could easily get at. We tracked it down in 3042 and finally wiped the pirates out. Even if the Tortuga Pirates are known, no one knows it’s there – it isn’t even on Star League maps.”

John paused on a landing. “So you’re suggesting we move orbital factories out to somewhere in the periphery? That doesn’t exactly sound secure.”

“The star has quite a deep gravity well and some massive asteroid belts that are well above the orbital plane of Tortuga itself. Short of a star cluster like the Hyades, it’s as secure as it could be – low emissions factories could work there with no one the wiser even if they did happen to jump in.”

“That does sound promising,” he agreed thoughtfully. “But we’d need to get some troops out there to secure the place first – the pirates would be an immediate threat – and then ship a lot of tooling at a minimum.” Starting up the stairs he stretched out his hands.

“We have the perfect cover just waiting to be used,” Hanse explained teasingly. “Think about it.”
 
“I’m not really in a mood for games, Hanse.”

“The solution is the military exercises scheduled for next year. Almost two hundred regiments drilling in the Crucis March – with all those ships moving, it would be simple to detach a few regiments without mentioning it and send them out with sealed orders. Since all troops movements are intended to move under wartime security, no one will be surprised if they can’t identify all the units – in fact, changing markings for some units so the assigned regiments can be sighted a couple of times should cover for it even within the AFFS.”

“Until they get back at least,” John conceded. “But I suppose that most of the soldiers wouldn’t need to know where they are or that they were doing more than eliminating a pirate stronghold. The sensitive data would be in the hands of the ship crews.”

“If you can’t find two or three reliable jumpship crews, then you have bigger problems than I realised.”

John shook his head and began climbing the stairs again. “So, out of interest, how precise is your information about Tortuga – from what you’re saying it’s not a good system to jump into and I don’t recall your myriad skills including being a jumpship navigator.”

“That’s true,” Hanse admitted thoughtfully. “I can probably narrow it down to within about… a thirty light year sphere, say?”

“That’s the better part of twenty seven thousand square light years,” he calculated. “I can see why it took you hundreds of years to find them.”

“Turn the Ministry of Information loose on the problem. Discreet investigation and analysis is what they exist for. Some of the pirate raids over the last few hundred years might have clues.”

John shook his head. “What can you tell me about them?”

“Well the original settlers were a tank regiment from the Reunification War. They went rogue after a mission went wrong and settled on Tortuga to nurse a grudge.”

“Are you telling me they’re a rogue Taurian colony? Because that’s not the sort of people I want near a secure factory.”

“Rogue AFFS, actually. The 237th Light Cavalry regiment I think – it’s not something I kept close tabs on.”

“I see.” He reached the landing for the residence wing and paused at the door. “Are there any other little surprises lurking out in the Periphery I should know about.”

“Last time I told you about someone, you decided to give the Crucis Dragoons badges for the Invading Clans. I’m thinking a lot more carefully about what I tell you.”



Sidebar: History of the Capellan Confederation

"I swear I will run my husband through should he ever dare to threaten your freedoms."

The last of the six major states of the Inner Sphere to coalesce, the Confederation was the result of political instability on the part of the Capellan Commonality, one of several smaller states occupying the densely colonised region between the expanding Free Worlds League and Federated Suns. The Hegemony’s constitution gave their neighbours a problematic degree of access to their elections, to the point that candidates were less known for their domestic positions than which foreign sovereignty backed them.

In 2365, Prime Minister Tucas of the Commonality was assassinated and the election of his successor deadlocked between three candidates before descending into a fiasco that paralyzed the Commonality for more than a year. President Reynard Davion of the Federated Suns announcement that he would be sending peacekeepers to occupy Capella was the final straw. A convention of all the states in the region gathered to seek a solution to their problems, among them Tucas’ son-in-law, Duke Franco Liao who represented independent worlds such as his own vest-pocket duchy who espoused a message of Pan-Capellan Unity.

After a dramatic promise from Franco’s wife that she would personally ensure their liberties would be protected, the Duke was granted emergency powers for 400 days by the governments of Tikonov, Sarna, Sian and St Ives. The outvoted Capellan Commonality representative was arrested after he declined an offered place as Franco’s deputy and House Liao’s ascendancy was complete. Less than a year later, Davion regiments entered the Capellan’s capital city only to be isolated by newly combined Confederation Navy and given the chance to surrender. Believing the Capellans would never bombard their own city cost Reynard Davion three crack regiments.

While House Liao’s position as Chancellor is not guaranteed, they have provided almost every Chancellor of the Confederation since Franco, as well as maintaining strong positions in the Prefectorate Council and House of Scions that make up the legislative body of the Confederation. Commanding the weakest military of the Inner Sphere, House Liao has produced several key figures in diplomacy. In 2412 Chancellor Aleisha Liao was able to persuade seven other major states to join her in formalising the Ares Conventions, a code of war that drastically reduced the civilian casualties and collateral damage of the pre-Star League conflicts. A century and a half later, Terrence Liao was among the first rulers to throw his support behind Ian Cameron’s Star League.

Four hundred years after Franco Liao was granted as many days to save the Confederation that salvation remains very much in doubt. The loss of many the liberties that his wife had promised to guard is not.
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: mikecj on 16 November 2017, 22:29:18
Love the sidebars!
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: cpip on 17 November 2017, 07:57:53
"Van Dorne" and "Bradford"? I see what you did there.  O0

I will admit to some surprise that Hanse even remembered the name of the unit that founded the Tortuga Dominions, but I suppose we've all got odd bits of trivia floating around.
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: drakensis on 17 November 2017, 14:49:58
Avalon City, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Suns
27 January 2763

John rapped his knuckles lightly against Gabriel Dixon’s face.

Alas, it was only a picture.

Even more regrettably, it was the cover of a book.

“Memoirs of the Border War,” he read. “Well, I suppose I can’t fault the publishers for thinking this would sell well.”

Owen gave him an apologetic look. “It seemed to be, sire. The bookshop I was in had it on prominent display.”

“Have you read it?”

“I skimmed it,” the secretary admitted. “He seems to have perceived himself as being as much at war with the High Command as the Capellans.”

“Thank you for the heads’ up, Owen. Do you mind if I hold onto it? It’ll save legal getting another copy so they can see if there’s anything that needs to be dealt with or if we’re better off ignoring him.”

“You’re welcome, sire.”

“Take the cost out of the petty cash,” John reminded him.

“I’ll do that, sire.” Owen went back out into his office to prepare for the day as John flipped through the first few pages. “Oh, Colonel Stopec? Yes, his highness is in…”

Michael Stopec barged in without waiting. “Sire, have you seen this tripe?” he demanded, holding out what John guessed was another copy of Dixon’s Memoir. It was hard to tell with the Mechwarrior’s large hands clenched so tightly around it the cover was bent.

“It’s most likely what Owen just brought to my attention.”

“Have you read it?”

He took a deep breath. “Michael, sit down. No, I’ve just barely taken a look. I don’t count Dixon among my admirers though, so I doubt he’s complimentary.”

“Sire, he is outright accusing you of manufacturing the stalemate so that you could sweep in and take credit for the victory.”

“Well we do have a free press,” John said ruefully. “I suppose we could have legal ask the publisher to list as fiction for any future sales.”

“It’s an insult to everyone who served on Valexa! To everyone who died fighting!” Stopec drew himself up. “I request a leave of absence, sir.”

John eyed his champion. In the years he’d known him, the Colonel had never seemed to be so close to erupting with unbridled emotion. “What, exactly, are you planning on doing?”

“It is a matter of honour, sire. I will challenge him.”

Resting one elbow on the desk, John buried his face in his hand. “No, Michael. Just, no. That is the last thing we need. Neither Dixon or his trash deserve that sort of attention.” He raised his other hand. “I appreciate – I am deeply moved, that you and – I am sure – other officers of the AFFS feel so strongly but Dixon does not deserve or merit the attention that you would bring to him in killing him, much less if he somehow won.”

He straightened. “No. I will have legal check it and if he’s done something legally objectionable then a court case will be considered, but for the most part this is best left to be ignored and forgotten. Just like Dixon is. Don’t dignify it with a response.”

“And if I’m asked.”

John considered that point and then shrugged. “Then laugh.”

“Laugh.”

“Indeed. Laugh at him – that will hurt him in a far more lasting way than any injury you inflict with your Rifleman.”

In the end it took twenty minutes to convince Stopec not only to refrain from grievously harming the retired General, but also to insist on the same restraint from the rest of the Guards. With all that said, if John had been on Dixon’s shoes he’d have stayed clear of any dark alleys for the foreseeable future.

Hanse arrived just as the Colonel was leaving, saluting the man even though he knew it wouldn’t be returned. “What had him here this morning?”

John pointed at the book.

“Oh?” The redhead looked closer. “Oh,” he said again in understanding. “Going to do anything about it?”

“No.”

“Tempting though.”

“Immensely,” John agreed under his breath and then tapped his intercom. “Owen, I’m ready for the mail now.”

.o0O0o.

Court of the Star League, Unity City
Terra, Terran Hegemony
15 April 2763

Given some of Richard’s self-aggrandizing ideas over the first year of his reign, John wouldn’t have been surprised if his wedding celebrations had attempted to surpass the scale and splendour of his coming of age. However, the event was surprisingly restrained – certainly, the cathedral wedding had been grand but there had been also a stately simplicity to the Presbyterian ceremony.

The guest list had been sizeable but it was mostly to those who could not sensibly be snubbed and if Unity City was still cluttered with cronies whose main qualification to be present was a skill for flattery and inveigling favours out of the young First Lord, at least they were being carefully kept clear of public view.

The bride herself was no great beauty, but there was a stubborn look to her jaw that John liked the look of. Edwina took to Elise Graham – who became Elise Cameron upon the ceremony - as well, which raised some hope of some back-door restraint on the First Lord.

If there was one blot on the event it was that three Lords had declined to attend, instead sending representatives who delivered the bare minimum participation.

“We have squeezed all the blood from the stone that can be had,” Takiro Kurita counselled in the Council Meeting before the wedding. Richard had proposed additional taxes upon the Territorial states, to make up deficits in the League budget which he claimed went back to the beginning of Kerensky’s regency.

Hanse had simply shaken his head. “Amaris took it, no doubt, but try telling Richard that.”

“I have no influence at the court,” Kerensky told John at the reception. They’d stepped aside and were occupying a balcony looking out over Puget Sound. “If Richard had someone to replace me then he would, but we all know trouble is building in the Periphery and none of the other Generals have been receptive to his overtures.”

“I don’t need to tell you how dangerous it is for the SLDF to hold the First Lord in contempt,” John warned.

“No, you don’t.” Kerensky looked up at the sky. “But he is what he is. Perhaps young Elise will change him for the better. I’ve certainly failed him.”

“Is there anything I can do? In the Periphery, if not here?”

“You and Lord Kurita urging caution is a good start,” the general assured him. “But it’ll take more than two of you to bring the Council around. As for the Periphery, it’s mostly data we need – the balance of military power is overwhelmingly in our favour but finding the insurgents is difficult.”

“I’ll have Eric Pond provide your Intelligence Command with anything we’ve dug up. Maybe if we compare notes there’ll be something useful about the Outworlds and Taurian movements.”

“That would be appreciated.” Kerensky sighed. “Can I leave the Council to you, your highness? If things get worse in the Periphery I may need to go out there personally.”

“Are you sure that’s wise? You’ve many fine commanders and there are four territorial states – even you can only be in one place at a time.”

“Three would be enough. But if I can put even one of these brushfires out then that could set enough of an example to bring the rest under control. It took twenty years to bring the Taurians to heel, I’d rather not see this consume the rest of Richard’s reign.”

“Or longer. I’ll do everything I can, general. I don’t want to see the Star League crumble.”

He got a thin smile in return. “Just don’t turn into Jonathon Cameron, seeing doom in every corner.”

“What’s the old saying – ‘even paranoids have enemies’? Well, the prevalence of pessimists is no guarantee that things can’t go wrong.”

“What a happy conversation we’re having when we’re at a wedding.”

“The business of the League goes on,” John said philosophically. “We’d probably better get back inside before we’re accused of plotting in dark corners.”

“Isn’t that what we’re doing?” Kerensky looked at the glass in his hand as if he’d only just realised he was holding it. Glancing over the balcony he tipped the contents out into a plant pot three metres below. “I’m made my necessary appearance, I can make my excuses. That may please the First Lord more than most of the wedding gifts.”

They parted ways and John crossed the hall into the main hall where toasts to the health of the newly married couple were being offered. To no great surprise, he saw that Ewan Marik was in the thick of matters.

“Johnny, thought you’d snuck off with one of the Missy Steiners,” he jeered. The Captain-General’s face looked more yellow than red as he grabbed another glass from one of the servants. “You’re not so disloyal as to refuse to toast our boy-lord as he gets ready to become a man, are you?”

Raising his half-empty glass, John smiled urbanely. “I wish the First Lord all the happiness in his marriage that I’ve found in mine.”

“Weaselly Davion toasts,” Ewan grunted and put his glass to his face. The brandy spilled out of his lips and down his chin, dripping onto the Marik’s uniform and the floor.

“Hurk.” What colour was left on Ewan’s face fled and a pair of aides caught hold of his elbows, bracing him before he could stumble.

John stepped forwards to help and Ewan’s piggy eyes locked onto him. It seemed for a moment that he was about to say something but when his lips opened, all that emerged was a titanic belch, spraying droplets of brandy across the First Prince. The Captain-General closed his eyes and slumped in the arms of the two aides.

“Well, I think we’ve heard everything from the Free Worlds League tonight,” Richard said with a laugh. “I’ll leave the party with you, Lord Davion. Elise and I have other things to do.”

John nodded ruefully. “Quite a wedding.”

Watching them leave he shook his head and turned back to Ewan, now laid out on the floor. The Marik’s still face was stained with brandy and he looked more like a corpse than a living man. On impulse he lifted Ewan’s wrist and checked his pulse.

Nothing. “My god.”

“Sir?”

John pressed his two fingers against the drunkard’s throat, trying to find the carotid. “Call a medical team,” he ordered sharply.

.o0O0o.

Court of the Star League, Unity City
Terra, Terran Hegemony
18 April 2763

With the majority of his peers already assembled on Terra, as well as many of the Free Worlds League’s parliament and other notables, it had been decided that Ewan Marik’s funeral would be carried out on the mother world rather than Atreus. From there he would be ferried back to his family’s estates on Marik and interred in a private ceremony, never again returning to the seat of power he had ruled from.

As the First Prince’s heir, Joshua had been given a place on one of the balconies as speakers tried to eulogise a man whose only virtue had been that he added colour to the Star League Council – which wasn’t much of a virtue when set against the drunken bigotry and threats of violence that he’d brought with him.

“Truly Terra has a vast expertise in the more effete arts and sciences,” a scornful voice advised from two chairs over. “One can hardly tell that he was pig.”

Looking up, Joshua saw that the comment had come from a lanky youth wearing a suit that mimicked the lines of the uniform worn by DCMS officers. “There’s no need to be disrespectful to the dead.”

The young man laughed scornfully. “No one respected the Marik. His heir could not even be bothered to attend.”

“As I understand it, Lord Kenyon is simply too far away to arrive in time for a funeral.” Although a command circuit could have been arranged to bring him within a couple of weeks, Joshua thought.

“Hah. My grandfather tells me the offer was made, and declined.”

“I understood that the culture of the Draconis Combine stressed decorum and revering one’s elders,” Joshua enquired politely. Clearly the young man was from a highly placed family, if he was here.

“One reveres one’s own elders, but need not be blind to the faults of others.” Despite the lofty tone, the youngster’s keen eyes were assessing Joshua. “But in deference to your… refined sensibilities, we may change the subject. You are with one of the Davion Guard regiments, Leftenant?”

“Yes, somewhat the equivalent of your own Sword of Light regiments. Are you considering a military career?”

“I have been enrolled in Sun Zhang academy’s next class,” the boy said proudly. “And you would be a graduate of… hmm, the SLDF’s academy Albion?”

“No, I attended NAMA.”

“NAMA? Oh yes, the other school your capital boasts.”

“It’s something of a family tradition,” Joshua said tightly, stung by the dismissive tone.

“Oh yes, Davion military traditions. I have heard much of them. Did you have the opportunity to see action in your recent… how did Prince Davion phrase it? The ‘punitive expedition’? Before the SLDF sent you home, I mean?”

“Yes, actually. I was on Angelsey with Colonel Stopec.”

The youth blinked. “The Prince’s cyborg champion – a formidable officer, or so I’m told.” The brief moment of respect passed. “A shame that House Davion has so few like him.”

“The only true test of an officer is war,” Joshua replied. “A number of officers showed their mettle fighting the Confederation. Of course, the Combine hasn’t done more than hunt bandits for longer than either of us has been alive. Who knows how sound your junior officers are?”

“We had been longer without war in ’25,” shot back the young Combine noble. “And we saw which of our warriors had stayed strong then. Or those of your soldiers that survived learned that. A shame that so many did not, but the fault must lie with the leaders, must it not?”

“Yes, the rightful leaders of the Federated Suns, not the half breed usurpers raised on Luthien.”

“How dare you!”

“Given that Vincent Kurita is my third cousin, twice removed and specifically barred from the throne, I’d say that I have a pretty good right to speak about him.”

“As his second cousin, Davion, I dispute this. Had I a ‘Mech available… but no, we must be polite, must we not?” The boy bared his teeth. “I am Jinjiro Kurita, second in line to the Combine’s throne. Perhaps one day we shall test what I learn at Sun Zhang against what you have learned from your NAMA. And then we will see if the Suns can truly aspire to challenge the Dragon.”

“Long may your grandfather and father enjoy good health,” Joshua told him. “But if it comes to that, don’t expect to see the same successes your grandfather found thirty-six years ago. This time we will be ready.”

.o0O0o.

Tilley, Bonneau
Crucis March, Federated Suns
7 June 2763

The replacement for her Dervish still felt sluggish to Susan. While she’d been allowed to bring the medium ‘Mech from the Cuirassiers originally, the Crucis Dragoons were intended to field heavy/assault machines and she’d received a suitable BattleMech directly from the factory.

Suitable, in this case, meant something even heavier than the Warhammers of her line companies and she constantly felt as if she was on the brink of being left behind by the rest of the battalion.

“Enemy elements moving through the woods up ahead.” Van Dorne had at least picked up on the importance of letting her know what he was dealing with. “We’re seeing ‘Mechs but no supporting elements yet.”

“Are you under fire?”

“No, I think they’re more a recon force than a skirmishing screen. Nothing heavier than a Dervish.”

Susan considered her options. First battalion was paired with infantry again, a regiment of line infantry and a battalion of engineers, with a mission of securing the terminus of the tunnel dug beneath the Tilley channel. If the enemy ‘Mechs were in significant strength then the task force would be out-gunned.

“Colonel,” she reported. “We’re looking at an enemy BattleMech force between us and the objective. We might be able to push them back but if they have significant forces, then screening your transports could become an issue.”

DeWitt’s voice was steady. “The trees should provide plenty of cover, and we need to deny the enemy the use of the tunnel. We’re pressing on.”

“Roger, we’ll open a path for you.” Susan switched back to the battalion. “Van Dorne, move up into the tree-line and engage the enemy if they don’t fall back. First Company, we’re backing up second. Bradford, keep your company with the infantry and provide supporting fire as you can.”

Confirmations came back from her officers and she pushed her massive ‘Mech up to its maximum speed – a comparatively meagre fifty-four kilometres per hour. Ahead, she saw Van Dorne’s Warhammers firing PPCs into the woods as they closed in, alternating the shots from their Donal PPCs to keep temperatures under control.

“Positive lock, it’s the Eighth Chevaliers.”

Bloody hell – of all the units to run into. She’d known they were on Bonneau, but not that they were anywhere near Tilley. “Understood, Van Dorne. Bradford, watch out for the flanks, they might try to work around us.”

She saw an enemy Phoenix Hawk ahead and hovered her targeting crosshairs over it before realising the Chevalier ‘Mech was still out of range – without LRMs she’d have to get even closer than the Warhammers were. The medium ‘Mech turned and retreated deeper into the woods before she got a lock worth shooting on.

“They’re retreating!”

“Get us a perimeter first,” she ordered. “Don’t pursue and get strung out so you can be picked off.”

“Understood.” The Warhammers slowed and fanned out, forming an arc that moved steadily forwards as Susan’s company reached the woods. Greaney’s fire support lance had been re-equipped too, but the Longbows could keep up with the Warhammers easily – the temperature gauge creeping up on Susan reminded her that she couldn’t.

Behind her, heavy tracked APCs crawled into the cover of the trees. Each carried a full platoon of the soldiers that would be needed to secure the maintenance passageways around the terminus. Open roof-hatches were manned by missile teams but they’d be relatively little help against ‘Mechs.

Looking around, she saw Bradford’s company were only a short distance behind. “Alright, press on.”

The forest was patchy, with more than enough undergrowth to slow them down and long-range sensors were picking up distant hints of metal and temperatures from all directions.

“We’re surrounded, aren’t we?” asked Smythe.

“Yeah, it’s great,” Greaney shot back immediately. “They can’t get away from us now – whichever we go we’ll run into them.”

That got chuckles and Susan felt her own lips curl. “There’s basically two ways this can turn out,” she observed. “Either they let us get to the tunnel, in which case we’ve accomplished our mission, or they try to stop us – in which case a lot of their nice shiny ‘Mechs are going to get dinged up.” And from what she recalled of the Eighth Chevalier’s tech situation, it might take a while for them to be fixed.

Ten kilometres later they reached the highway leading to the tunnel, three lanes each way and more than wide enough for the ‘Mechs and the personnel carriers. Unfortunately they’d also be open to fire from ‘Mechs hidden amid the trees. “Stay within the treeline, just follow the path of the road,” she advised.

“Movement on the right,” Bradford reported. “Wasps and Falcons moving up.”

Light ‘Mechs, but their medium lasers were perfectly sufficient at the close ranges of the woods. Susan nodded in understanding. “They’re trying to push us onto the open ground where we can make more use of our longer range. Probably got their fire support waiting to hammer us. Bradford, pull back to my position, Van Dorne, you still have the lead. Drive through the woods and clear anything waiting. Colonel DeWitt, if you’d be so good…”

“I’m dismounting fire teams to support you,” the infantryman responded. “Anyone pushing in close will find themselves facing a company of my best.”

“Understood, if I don’t catch up then Van Dorne should be able to get you to the objective.”

“There’s no need for melodrama, Major.”

“I mean that literally, sir. I’ve the largest ‘Mech in the task force but it’s the slowest as well.”

He snorted. “Well, you know your business.”

“Greaney, join Van Dorne. Your LRM boats will be needed if they decide to cross the highway to get at the infantry.”

“Roger.” The Longbows picked up the pace, as best they could in the forest, leaving Susan with eight ‘Mechs and eighty-odd infantry to support Bradford’s company.”

“They’re still coming hard,” he advised. “Should we hold on your position?”

“No, we’ll do a bounding withdrawal after the main force. Fall back a hundred metres behind us and we’ll alternate.”

“Got it.”

The twelve Warhammers, one of them now limping, moved past her little force and the Chevalier ‘Mechs – intent on their retreating prey, surged forwards without properly registering that there was another force waiting for them.

SRMs slashed up from ground level as the light ‘Mechs rushed in, enlightening them that they weren’t just fighting the outnumbered Bradford. Susan stepped forwards between two trees and lowered her crosshairs onto the chest of one Falcon, this time seeing them flash gold in confirmation she could expect to hit.

The other Mechwarrior froze a second to process that he was being targeted by an assault ‘Mech. It was a fatal mistake: Susan triggered the arm-mounted lasers and autocannon, all four digging into the Falcon’s chest with savage abandon. Never intended to cope with such a barrage, the Falcon reeled backwards and shut down, her tactical display indicating that the right chest had been gutted and the centre completely bare of protection.

The Chevaliers fired jump-jets to try to break tactical locks and avoid the infantry missiles. However, even the Blackjacks of her air defense had them outgunned with four medium lasers each while the smaller ‘Mechs had only singletons backed up by secondary weapons.

“Pull back to the next line,” Susan ordered, satisfied.

The infantry slung their weapons and ran while the ‘Mechs backed more slowly away until they were behind the line of Warhammers. “Bradford, we’re in position, fall back behind us,” Susan ordered. “We don’t want too much of a gap between us and the rest of the force.”

They leapfrogged twice more, the Falcons and Wasps of the enemy trailing them carefully, before Susan’s sensors picked up magnetic mass behind them, moving in from across the highway.

“They’ve got between us,” she advised calmly. “Bradford, we’ll hold here, on your next move, keep going and engage the Chevaliers pushing between us. Force them back on Van Dorne if you can but don’t let up the pressure.”

“Confirmed.” The Warhammers backed towards Susan’s line and then half-turned as they reached her, breaking into a run towards the new contacts. Susan waved the muzzle of one arm to catch the attention of the infantry captain and then pointed after the Warhammers. “Go with them.”

The man nodded and his troops lifted their remaining missile reloads and dashed back into the woods.

Susan eyed the light elements that were carefully closing in, probably expecting an ambush. “On my signal, we’ll jump forwards and surprise the pursuit element,” she ordered. “Knock them back on their heels and then we’ll re-join Second Company.”

“Permission for close combat?” asked Sergeant Harrison, his Wolverine crouching eagerly next to her.

“I know accidents happen,” she told him, “but try to avoid that. We don’t want to get tangled up. On mark, three – two – one – mark!”

Driving her heels forwards, she activated the massive thrusters built into the legs and back of the Emperor. The jets spun up for a moment and then vented superheated air from her reactor, blasting her up on a short parabola and into the Chevaliers.

With the shortest jump distance of any of her force, she’d expected to land short of the enemy but one of the Wasps had moved closer than Susan had realised. She crashed back through the trees and landed almost face to face with the far lighter ‘Mech. Focused on regaining her balance she couldn’t stop the ninety-tons of the Emperor from crashing into the Wasp, body-checking it back into a tree. Reeling as if stunned, the light ‘Mech spun on one heel and crashed to the ground face first.

“That was an accident!” Susan snapped defensively as she looked around for another target and spotted a second Wasp trying to work around behind Harrison’s Wolverine. The three lasers mounted in her chest were easiest to bring to bear and two of them scored on the Chevalier’s rear armour. From the way the ‘Mechs infrared signature spiked she thought it had likely damaged the reactor shielding.

Harrison just laughed and fired his SRMs into a Falcon that was back-pedalling away. Susan fired her autocannon but only hit the tree that the ‘Mech ducked behind. The bar signalling her jump-jets readiness for use reached the safe level and she checked for branches above her. “That’s it, Dragoons. Pull back to re-join the rest of the battalion.”

One of the Mechwarriors gave a howl that was probably supposed to be wolf-like as they jumped back towards their existing position, turning in the air as best they could. Breaking into the best run they could, the eight ‘Mechs headed after their comrades. The Wolverines moderated their pace to stay with her but the four Blackjacks of the air defense lance only waited for their jump jets to recharge before they bounded forwards again.

It took three long minutes to reach the fight – long enough for the Emperor’s heatsinks to vent the heat that had built up in the brief skirmishing. On arriving, Susan wondered at first why the broad clearing hadn’t been marked on the maps, only to realise that it hadn’t existed before almost forty ‘Mechs had begun brawling at point blank range in the woods. Trees were being shredded by stray shots and any of the ‘Mechs that fell or stumbled tore through them.

Half of Bradford’s ‘Mechs were down already – they were fighting Wolverines, Shadow Hawks and Dervishes that didn’t give up as much weight to them as the light ‘Mechs from earlier. The remaining Warhammers were using their PPCs only rarely, relying more on their torso laser clusters and SRM launchers in the close confines of the melee.

The arrival of the four Blackjacks must have swung the balance because almost half the Chevalier ‘Mechs were down. Picking their targets, the mediums were savaging exposed rear armour or damaged ‘Mechs. As Susan reached the edge of what was now the tree line she saw a Dervish bound over one of the Warhammers to fire its lasers and SRMs into the ‘Mechs rear. In doing so it exposed itself to the Blackjacks and two of them added their autocannon to the exchange. When the ‘Mech landed it came down badly, one leg limp and not supporting its weight.

Bringing the Emperor to a halt, Susan picked out one of the more intact Chevalier ‘Mechs and opened fire on the Shadow Hawk, blazing away with the twin autocannon. The Mechwarrior raised the arms of his ‘Mech to shield his cockpit from the barrage and one of the Warhammers took the opportunity to discharge one of the long lance-like PPCs into the weakened armour. With startling abruptness, the Shadow Hawk shut down.

Missiles from the remaining Dervish exploded against her ‘Mech’s thick armour and Susan turned her guns on it, adding the large lasers to the mix. The concentrated damage crippled both the ‘Mechs arms and it began to retreat. Soon the remaining Chevaliers were breaking across the highway into the cover of the woods on the other side.

Susan turned and took stock. She still had twelve ‘Mechs out of the twenty her rear-guard had started with, but several were sporting the marks of damage with weapons out of action and breached armour. “Regroup,” she instructed. “We’ll wait for the infantry to catch up and take prisoners, then re-join the main force.”

Now that the fighting was over, Mechwarriors were climbing out of the downed ‘Mechs and looking around. One of the Dervish pilots took off his neurohelmet and waved it for her attention.

She waggled her autocannon in acknowledgement and switched on her speakers. “You are to be captured, Davionist dog-pig,” Susan declared in the manner of the hokey faux-Combine action flicks that had been a fad when she was a kid.

“Susan!” her older brother shouted. “What are you playing at? I’ve a Leftenant who swears you body-blocked his ‘Mech to the ground and trampled it. The refs are going to court martial you.”

“This is a field exercise, Reuben,” she called back down. “If we were really at war then I would have trampled on him. As it is, the BattleROMs should clear things up.”

Major Reuben Sandoval threw his neurohelmet down and sat down to wait for the infantry to take him custody. For his battalion of the Robinson Chevaliers, the war – Operation GALAHAD – was over.



Sidebar: Alacorn-series Tanks

"It’s hard to go wrong with three whopping great guns."

Developed between 2561 and 2587, the Alacorn Mk VI is one of the most respected heavy tanks in the SLDF, for its dependability in the fire support role. Weighing in at 95 metric tons, the tracked Alacorn can manage a top speed of fifty-four kilometres per hour, which is certainly not its strongest point but is adequate for a direct fire support vehicle.

The original developers, Corben Motors, developed two variants of the Alacorn in parallel, the Mk I with three Class 10 autocannon and the Mk II with three Class 20 autocannon. While the more limited ammunition and armour of the Mk II didn’t impress the Hegemony Armed Forces, the Mk I was considered a promising design. Unfortunately Corben’s attempt at modern armour layers was less than successful and the design wasn’t approved for purchase.

Ten years later, when the Star League first began to organise the SLDF, Corben doubled-down on their original proposal. Unable to resolve the quality problems with their armour they did incorporate a much lighter fusion reactor, solving the ammunition storage issues and layering thicker armour across the chassis. Several hundred of the new Mk III and Mk IV were ordered by the SLDF, but not in sufficient numbers to save Corben from bankruptcy due to the development costs.

New Earth Trading Company picked up Corben’s assets and delivered the ordered Alacorns. Impressed by the design they went to work to resolve the quality control issues with the armour, offering the SLDF an improved Mk V with perfected defences and three Class 10 Autocannons. While this wasn’t accepted, NETC continued to tinker with the design and as the Reunification War began, they submitted the Mk VI, replacing the Mk V’s autocannon with three Gauss Rifles for unrivalled long-range firepower.

This provided to be the vehicle the SLDF had been waiting for and the Alacorn Mk VI has been in production ever since, renowned within SLDF heavy-assault tank regiments as a ‘Mech-killer.
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: mikecj on 17 November 2017, 19:02:26
Love the Alacorn, nice little wargame.
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: snakespinner on 17 November 2017, 19:07:15
An Emperor body checking a Wasp. Ouch! O0
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: Siden Pryde on 18 November 2017, 01:58:56
Lovin this.  The orginal timeline was great, but this expanded fic is amazing.  O0
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: drakensis on 18 November 2017, 14:44:51
LXII Corps HQ, Kaiyuh
Crucis March, Federated Suns
12 July 2763

“It’s not a bad exercise,” McGuiness told her commander. “We’ve got observers in both operational HQs and down to their division and some brigade HQs, so there’s a lot of data for SLIC to look at when it comes to AFFS capabilities.”

Tatjana Baptiste nodded. The commander of the SLDF’s Fourth Army didn’t get excited about much – even things that McGuinness felt that she should. “Give me a thumbnail.”

Gesturing to the local strategic display – her operational area was one of the largest in the Federated Suns Army Group, stretching from the Taurian border almost as far as New Avalon – Roseleen McGuiness highlighted a border. “The scenario called for Field Marshal Waynewright in Chirikof to stage an invasion of the neighbouring Minette region – under Field Marshal MacDonald.”

“Forces?”

“MacDonald has – had – four March Militia formations, along with nine ‘Mech regiments, twenty armoured regiments and thirty-four infantry regiments from the Draconis March. That’s seriously pulled down their numbers on the Draconian border.”

“Four infantry divisions and support, more or less,” Baptiste said, converting the numbers into SLDF formation equivalents.

“Except think of it as made up of independent regiments, most of which haven’t worked together before.” The Corps Commander shrugged. “Organisation above the regimental level tends to be poor for the House militaries, honestly. “He spread two-thirds his force along the border, then held the remaining third in reserve. On the other side, Waynewright had nine Capellan March ‘Mech regiments and twenty-seven tank regiments, along with thirty-one infantry regiments that are split evenly between those from the Crucis March and Capellan March. Add that to three March Militia combat teams. Unlike MacDonald, he took the time to form them into some degree of organisation – ten roughly division-sized outfits, three of them built around his militia.”

Baptiste closed her eyes a moment in thought. “You mentioned brigade headquarters.”

“It’s a little experimental on their part but they seem to have settled on two full regiments to a brigade, along with battalions to support them. It’s not really the equivalent of a SLDF brigade task force, but it’s manageable for their logistics.”

“The other weak spot.”

McGuinness nodded toothily. “And Waynewright made a pretty good job of manipulating it. He’s punched a focused advance as far as Baxley – halfway to MacDonald’s headquarters on Minette – with his main force and turned the three units built around Militia loose to harass the Minette region’s logistics. Something like a third of the jumpships available to MacDonald have been logged as destroyed, completely stranding two ‘Mech regiments near Maram and crippling the ability of the regiments in Broken Wheel to go to the support of Point Barrow where the main push is going.”

“That could be concerning. If the AFFS learn from that then we could be seeing a sharp rise in their effectiveness.”

“Talk about Inner Sphere problems,” McGuinness snorted. “At least while they’re rushing around the bandit problems in this sector have dropped off. No one knows where they might run into one of the regiments from the exercise, so most of the troublemakers have probably looked for safer areas to operate in.”

“Nothing lasts forever, General. How long do you see them as continuing?”

“Maybe two months. After that they’ll really have to push everything back to the borders. Anne Borden told me that trouble there is on the upswing. While the cat’s away…”

Baptiste grunted and looked at the display. “How do you rate them, effectiveness wise?”

“About seventy-five, maybe eighty-percent effectiveness against my line regiments,” her subordinate replied without hesitation. “For Waynewright’s troops, low end of that once you get past regimental-sized engagements. MacDonald’s force organisation is a joke – I could roll them up with the 225th and a couple of combat teams.”

She got a shake of the head for that but Baptiste dismissed the map and walked back to sit in the lounge area. “You wanted to discuss supplies.”

McGuiness joined her superior. “I won’t recount the issues, but we might have found a handle on that.”

She got an arched eyebrow.

“It seems John Davion is serious about patching up relations with General Kerensky. He’s authorised AFFS supply lines to ferry sealed dropships from the Hegemony – no questions asked, first priority even over his own unit’s non-essential supplies.”

“It’s still a security risk.”

The Major General sighed at the kneejerk reaction. “We can’t get those parts in the Suns, they’re proprietary, and so they have to come from the Hegemony. He’s even offered to let us put guards on the dropships. Can you see Liao offering that – hell, would any of the other Council Lords do it? You know how stretched our own jumpships are. This could let us bring our maintenance levels up to where they’ll need to be.”

Baptiste considered that. “I see the benefits. I’ll consider it, but you know how tight security has to be around our hardware.”

“Okay, I understand. But if they turn it down I do have another option.” McGuiness opened a folder. “We have fourteen heavy tank regiments in my operational area that use classified technology. If we redeployed them to LIV Corps’ area that would cut almost two hundred light years off the supply lines for them. In their place we could pull forward heavy tanks equipped with older Merkava and Alacorn models.”

“And where would you get parts for those? They may be older but they’re still Hegemony designs.”

“Johnston Industries have made an offer for a license to build replacement components – and even fresh chassis – on Kirklin,” McGuinness grinned toothily. “That’s in Third Army’s area, but again – it’s a lot closer and no one cares about secure parts for designs that haven’t been used since the Reunification War.”

The Army Commander’s eyes narrowed. “You want me to endorse the license request?”

“If you and General Stangher of the Third sign off on it, General Kerensky is almost certain to approve it.”

“It means giving the AFFS access to design data for heavy combat vehicles – they’re not exactly the First Lord’s favourites after the Border War.”

“Yeah, but you know John Davion wouldn’t have gone in if he’d been able to get the SLDF to do the investigation. He’s a straight-shooter, I think we can do business with him.”

Baptiste held her hand up. “That’s political. I’ll see what my staff think about this. But don’t try to move ahead with authorisation.”

“Who do you think I am?”

Her superior sighed. “That’s why I said it, Roseleen.”

.o0O0o.

The Forbidden City, Sian
Sian Commonality, Capellan Confederation
11 August 2763

There was a certain stiffness in the Chancellor’s posture today. Tai Yang Gwak had learned to recognise it as a sign that she was making a decision of whose merits she remained unconvinced.

“After careful consideration of recent activity by the Capellan Confederation Armed Force,” Barbara Liao announced carefully, “It has been decided that the needs of the state increase the demand upon our military leaders. To ensure that officers in command over the most critical battlefields may be focused upon these tasks, eight officers of the utmost character have volunteered to surrender their existing titles and regimental associations to better serve the Confederation.”

The six men and two women lined up before the throne bowed deeply and dropped to one knee, keeping their faces directed at the polished floor. They had been chosen for reliability, rather than ability although Tai Yang hoped he had managed to identify any truly incompetent candidates for this test. At least they all had useful faults that could be employed to bring them down if the need arose.

As they knelt, servants moved soundlessly down the line, stripping away the various insignia that marked the wearers by their ranks, regiments and positions in the nobility. Four of them originated from the noble Sheng dynasties that dominated the Capellan court, while the other three had possessed life titles among the Barduc warrior nobles. Only one had no title to relinquish. It had taken remarkably little prodding to persuade them to surrender those distinctions, perhaps a sign that the Chancellor’s unease was well founded.

“Today,” the Chancellor declared, “These seven officers are nothing except soldiers. All else has been sacrificed except service to the state.” She lifted her hand and a servant brought out a tray carrying sashes of crimson silk. “And for this service they are granted a new distinction among our soldiers.”

“Aral Ridzik. Step forwards.”

The man who rose stepped forwards was the very image of a professional soldier. Tall, broad-shouldered, a keen eye and crisp movements. Of all of them, Tai Yang felt Ridzik was the least dangerous – he lacked the intellect and connections to undermine the authority of the Chancellor. He could only be a problem if they lost control of his strings and let other people make him their puppet.

Barbara secured the sash across Ridzik’s chest. “As the new Strategic Military Director of the Capellan Confederation, I name you a Marshal of the Confederation.”

Applause greeted the announcement and Tai Yang backed discreetly away while the other officers were appointed as the Directors of Operations for each of the seven Commonalities, and given their own sashes. One of the few pleasant things about growing older – other than not dying – was that as long as you made some appearance at formal events, almost everyone accepted medical excuses for leaving early or arriving late.

Stepping through the entrance to one of the washrooms he opened a locked door that was marked as cleaning stores with a sweep of one ring on his hand against the lock. The interior did have cleaning supplies neatly shelved, but the wall at the end slid to one side with another tap of the ring and a spiral staircase that made his hips ache led down to the working levels of the palace.

The analysts he’d called for were waiting in one of the smaller conference rooms. “Gentlemen, ladies.” Tai Yang seated himself with a sigh. “Let us all take a moment to mourn Ewan Marik. Such a useless Captain-General was a gift.”

His juniors lowered their heads for a moment.

“No need to go overboard though. So, the son? What are his weak spots?”

“He’s driven – highly ambitious. If his father hadn’t died, there was a non-trivial chance he would have mobilised Parliament to remove him.”

Tai Yang nodded. “And now that he has his father’s place, what’s left for him? A young man, not even thirty yet.”

“The most likely outcome seems to be that he’ll find someone to focus his energy against,” a second analyst proposed. “While the backlash against his father leaves him in a generally solid position, the Regulans have yet to commit so they could be a centre for internal opposition.”

“Elsa Cameron-Jones. Cautious but similarly ambitious.” The Director considered. “Given that Duke Allison of Oriente is within the new Marik’s circle of supporters we must assume that the Confederation may be targeted. Rivalry between Oriente and Regulus should be encouraged. Who else?”

“Externally, Marik served with the SLDF until 2757 when he was cashiered by General Kerensky. That suggests he might seek to intrigue against the Commanding General, given the chance.” The woman who raised this lowered her head. “Whether or not it would be advantageous to the Confederation for him to pursue this vendetta is outside my expertise.”

“Highly advantageous,” Tai Yang informed her. “John Davion is aligned with Kerensky and conflict between Marik and Davion is a key priority. To facilitate this… hmm. Did not Davion propose that the SLDF take over additional military academies within the Member-States?”

“There were some suggestions that he was pursuing this prior to the First Lord’s majority.”

“Good. Kenyon Marik graduated from the Allison Mechwarrior Institute. We will arrange to leak Davion’s interest in this, adding that AMI was in consideration. This should reduce the possibility of collusion between our neighbours against us. Remember, the Confederation may be able to withstand a conflict against the Federated Suns or the Free Worlds League, since each has a hostile neighbour we may ally with on their other flanks. We cannot afford to fight both at once.”

.o0O0o.

Nadir Jump Point, Tortuga Prime
Tortuga Dominions, Periphery
21 September 2763

The jump point was defended by a pair of pirate warships.

Well, warships was perhaps too strong a word. They were about the size of 24th century corvettes – significantly smaller than FSS Markesan – but they had in-system drives and what looked like weapon batteries.

They were definitely pirates though and in firing range of the jump-point as the Markesan jumped in.

“Launch fighters.” Light Commodore Kenneth Jones gripped the shock frame of his seat. “Get those dropships loose and get us under power.”

The bridge was close enough to the fighter catapults that the thump-thump-thump-thump-thump of the first five aerospace fighters almost drowned out the distant rumble of the three mighty fusion thrusters half a kilometre behind him igniting.

“Tactical, are they firing?”

“Negative sir.” The leftenant paused and then amended. “No weapons, sir, but fighters are being launched and their drives are lit.”

One good thing, Jones thought and then a groan went through the hull. “What was…?” He caught sight of the ship status monitor and swallowed a curse. “I said cut those dropships loose.”

The dropship collars were technically rated to support the mass of small dropships while under thrust, but it wasn’t recommended – if only because without very careful docking the parent vessel’s angle of thrust wouldn’t align with the bracing of the attached dropship, not to mention what it did to the weight distribution of the combined vessels. And the Overlord-class ‘Mech transport Chieftain currently docked to the Markesan’s D-collar wasn’t a small dropship.

“Colonel Perez has ordered the dropships to remain attached, sir. He’s… he’s preparing to put his ‘Mechs on our hull to support our guns.”

Jones’ lips went pale at the corners. “Trigger the emergency ejection of all dropships,” he ordered flatly. “Helm, give me twelve degrees roll to port and forty percent power on the main drives.”

The Markesan surged forwards and the groaning of the hull was cut off as the first of four detonations cracked the drop-collars. It would take weeks of work to repair them without access to a shipyard, but the Overlord and three Union dropships were unceremoniously detached from Jones’ ship by shaped charges, the roll scattering them like drops of blood from a piercing wound.

“You’re clear to engage,” he added for the tactical officer’s benefit.

The tactical holo-display lit up as the main computers finished rebooting from the jump and collating the sensor data. The two pirates had the Markesan flanked but one of them had been pointed the other way and it was having to flip end on end before they could match trajectory. The second had been on a more comparable vector and the two ships were roughly broadside on, converging.

“At least we must have caught somewhat off-guard,” mused Jones. “Otherwise they could be firing by now.”

“Colonel Perez is on channel two for you, sir.”

“He’ll have to wait.”

The tactical officer confirmed the targeting calculations and the port broadside’s particle beams and lasers fired. Vastly out scaled versions of the PPCs and lasers mounted on ‘Mechs two of the three heavy turrets smashed brutally into the hull of the pirate, only the mid-ships particle beams missing. A moment later and the aft turrets fired on the second vessel as it was still in mid-rotation.

The nearer ship finally returned fire, but it did so with a cloud of smaller munitions rather than with capital weapons of its own.

The small warheads sounded like firecrackers against the hull of the Markesan but sections of the hull flagged as amber, indicating armour had been partially compromised.

“No penetrations, sir, but we’re picking up incidental damage to sensors and to other external fittings.”

“Return fire with our own secondaries, tactical.” Jones checked the location of the four dropships and saw that they were doing the sensible thing and scattering. I told them they needed a cruiser for this, the Markesan’s a transport, she isn’t rigged for contesting a jump-point.

Unfortunately, the second corvette seemed to have given up on chasing after the Markesan and was instead turning towards the Overlord-class, Centurion fighters from the army squadrons sparring with the pirate aerospace craft of the same type.

His own fighters – aged Tomahawks from naval squadrons – were having more success – there were more of them and they were larger than Centurions, with heavier armament. Still, there was no time to waste on this ship if the ‘Mech transports were to be saved. “All hands brace for a 180 degree rotation. Helm, once we’re reoriented I want maximum military power.” Twenty five meters per second squared of acceleration should leave the first pirate overshooting them and with a bit of luck the damage they’d taken would deter them from trying to close again.

The guns fired again and Jones locked his chair into place. “Rotate!”

Navigational thrusters roared and for a nasty moment, gravity pressed everything aboard in the direction of the ends of the ship. The tactical display blinked out and then lit up again.

Then gravity was towards the deck again, weight pressing Jones down into his chair as he seemed to weigh more than twice as much as normal.

“Forward guns tracking,” snapped the tactical officer.

“Fire.”

The two heavy cannon in Markesan’s nose shook the bridge as they hurled explosive shells across the hundreds of kilometres between the warship and her target. There was a drawn out pause as the small icon representing the shells traced a line towards the pirate.

When they connected there were sighs from several officers.

“It may take more than that,” Jones reminded them. “Reload and hit them again.”

A second salvo rushed out this time only one shell connected, but it was apparently a sufficiently solid ship for the corvette’s electronic output cut sharply and the LIDAR ceased to display volleys of missiles flung at the dropships.

“Major heat flare,” the sensor chief reported. “Best estimation is that we hit their hydrogen tanks.”

Jones restrained a flinch. While properly stored hydrogen was safe enough, have it leaking into the halo of oxygen as air escaped from holes in a ship’s pressurized decks and the results could very damaging indeed. “Very good. Helm, bring us around to engage with broadside weapons. We only have a limited store of shells for the main guns.”

“Should we demand a surrender, sir?”

“No, Major,” he told his exec, listening in on the conversation from the Combat Information Centre. “Our orders are: ‘no quarter’.”

Turning his chair he looked at the communications officer. “Is Colonel Perez still hailing us?”

“Yes sir.”

Jones glanced at the tactical display. The second corvette was wallowing under fire and the first had apparently decided to make for Tortuga Prime rather than resume the engagement. The Markesan’s fighters had broken off to re-join their mothership… yes, everything was in hand. “I’ll speak to him then.”

The Mechwarrior’s face popped into view on the secondary screen in front of Jones’, pale with fear, anger or a mix – the naval officer was genuinely unsure. The command deck of the Chieftain was visible behind him. “Your murderous coward,” Perez spat. “You just killed half my men.”

If he wasn’t wearing a pressure suit, including helmet, Jones would have reached up and tugged on his moustache. “I’m reasonably sure none of our fire has struck you, Colonel. Perhaps you could expand on your meaning.”

“When you cut and ran, that ship came after us and its missiles breached the ‘Mech bays.” Perez’ lips curled in contempt. “Clever use of a decoy, but the Judge Advocate will have something to say about using a full battalion as one.”

“How extremely unfortunate.”

“Hand over command to your executive officer and restrict yourself to your cabin. I’ll have the embarked battalion secure you until can be brought before a general court martial.”

Jones raised an eyebrow and then opened a second channel. “Major Picard, I stand relieved of duty by the mission commander. You have the conn.”

“Understood sir. I have the conn.”

“Is there anything else, Colonel?”

Perez seemed on the brink of saying more but refrained, instead cutting the channel.

“Sir, how much trouble are you in?”

Jones shrugged. There was no point heading for his quarters until the Markesan stopped manoeuvring. “I’m on record as protesting the assignment of a transport to a jump point assault and as further objecting to bringing ground troops with us when I was overruled. And while Perez may be mission commander, he doesn’t have tactical authority in a space combat situation. Finally, while a general court martial would be open to public review and he might manage to convict me by media, this is a classified operation so it’ll be a summary court martial, records sealed for the next fifty years except for the verdict. I’d say, given the usual predominance of army officers in the Judge Advocate’s office, I’ve a forty percent chance of acquittal.”

He smiled tightly. “Anyway, you’re in command of a warship in action, Major. That’ll look good on your record when it’s time for promotions.”

Brookes stared at the screen and then saluted before cutting it off.

Sitting back, Kenneth Jones watched his ship finish of the pirate, the crew working together like a well-tuned musical instrument. Somewhere in the back of his mind he started mentally composing a letter to his wife to inform her of what he could without breaking censorship regulations.
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: drakensis on 18 November 2017, 14:45:11
Imperial City, Luthien
Pesht District, Draconis Combine
8 October 2763

“The Federated Suns military exercises have concluded with a victory for the aggressor.”

Minoru’s father gave no immediate reaction to the report. Seated on teak stool carved with dragons, he was watching the first snow settle upon the gardens of his favourite palace.

He lacks none of his insight, the Heir-Designate thought sadly, but it takes him longer now to reach decisions. These last few years… my children still safe from the demands of adulthood, my hands and voice acting as his will in the affairs of state, guided by his wisdom. Was their beauty the reason they must be so brief.

“Lord Davion is our most advantageous ally,” the Coordinator said at last. “He will be your most dangerous foe.”

So. “His armies remain weak and unfocused.” Minoru allowed a sliver of amusement to enter his tone. “His vaunted First Avalon Hussars were lost on the far reaches of the Suns for almost a month, nearly a full battalion slain by chance. Even then, the naval officer responsible was judged blameless. The prince himself is a threat, but without discipline…”

“A sword will cut clay, yet shape the clay around crude iron, place it in the fire… and it will yield the finest steel.”

“Or without steel, a pot. Or a plate.”

Takiro Kurita smiled slightly. “A samurai can use both of these things. Swords defend civilisation but they do not define it.”

“Of course, father.” Setting aside the report, he moved to the next. “Also within the Suns, the Boeing Interstellar Orbital Megaplex has accelerated its pace of construction despite the First Lord’s decision not to subsidize operations. We believe SLDF discretionary funds have been allocated for this.”

“Mmm. Davion’s openness is a weakness but by sitting athwart the best routes between Terra and the battlefields of the Periphery, he has made a weapon of it.” The old man sighed. “There is something you have not mentioned yet of this matter.”

Minoru bowed his head. “As always, you read me like an open book. One of the orbital docks that was to be used in construction has been diverted away from Galax and the ISF has yet to determine the destination.”

“Unusual. This speaks of especial precautions by the Suns.” Takiro folded his hands together. “Call my grandson to me, Minoru.”

With a bow, Minoru backed out of proximity and retrieved a small radio from his sleeve. With Jinjiro now enrolled in Sun Zhang Academy on New Samarkand, this could only mean his younger son, Zabu.

Summoned from his studies, the child nonetheless arrived with decorum. Bowing first to the Coordinator and then to his father, he knelt politely before them and let silence fall. Minoru studied him and thought again what might come had he not legitimised Jinjiro. Zabu, after all, was the son of his wife and the older boy only of a concubine. And yet… there was an edge to his first born. Zabu would be a fine lord, wise in the mould of his grandfather – but Jinjiro had the seeds of greatness. To stamp the Dragon across the stars as their ancestor Shiro had, or to purge it of weakness like Martin McAllister.

Truly it is a blessing that they are devoted to each other. Is there nothing that my sons could do together?

“Zabu, do you tend your lessons well?”

“Hai, grandfather.”

“Good.” Takiro raised his hand and beckoned for the boy to come closer. “Now I have another lesson for you.”

Seated at the old man’s feet, Zabu nodded and looked up with bright eyes. “I am ready, grandfather.”

“The Davion lord is of value to us now, but one day our swords will clash against his. This you have been taught. But now I would have you unravel one of his plots, as you will one day need to without us to guide you. Do you understand?”

Even at a mere six years old, the child took the meaning of the words. He prostrated himself. “I thank you for this lesson.”

Takiro’s lips parted in a smile. “Up, up. Your father will provide you the first thread of information.”

Dropping to his knees next to the Coordinator, Minoru nodded to his son. “The Davion have inveigled with the Star League to build a vast new shipyard near the centre of his realm. It is a matter of great prestige for him, as well as a tool that will profit him greatly.  The First Lord is wary, as well he should be but Davion has gone to great lengths, perhaps even great risk, to have the yards built sooner – years sooner – than was originally planned for.”

“And yet, despite the high priority that has been placed upon this, one of the orbital docks that was to be used in the construction has been hidden from sight. Sent, we do not yet know where, nor for what purpose. These questions we must seek answers for, yet where should we have our servants begin their search?”

Zabu screwed his eyes closed intent on thought. It was a familiar expression and the two older men exchanged fond looks as the boy turned the question over in his mind. “Father, may I call upon your greater knowledge?”

“You may,” Takiro allowed.

“May these docks serve other purposes besides the construction of shipyards?”

“They may build all manner of facilities in space. Some may even build ships, though this one does not seem to be suited to the purpose.”

The boy nodded confidently. “You have described Lord Davion as valuable so I believe he is not foolish. He would have chosen a dock for the purpose. Clearly he must intend that something be built in space, which is vast. Do we often lose track of his shipments?”

Minoru gave him a proud look. “We do not. These matters are typically transparent to our eyes and ears.”

“Then what means has he used to cloud his tracks, father?”

“Much of Davion’s shipping was engaged in transporting elements of his armies to stage a great campaign for the purpose of training his armies. These same vessels now ferry the regiments back to his borders and there is great disorder within the freight lanes of the Suns.”

Zabu bowed his head again. “Grandfather, I believe that just as Lord Davion used the transport of his regiments to hide the movement of this orbital dock, he has used the creation of the new shipyard to mask the creation of a second, hidden yard. It will likely be found among the worlds where this training campaign took place for this is where the movement of ships outside of normal schedules would arouse little suspicion.”

“Perhaps so, but why would the Davion desire to hide a shipyard so deep within his realm, hundreds of light years away from ourselves or from House Liao of Capella?”

The boy hesitated. “I regret I know too little of such subjects,” he confessed, shamefacedly.

“Hmm. Well, you are very young.” Takiro waved his hands. “Still, you have deduced well. Go to the kitchens and tell the cooks that I have directed you should receive a treat.”

“Layers within layers,” Minoru murmured. “The location is far from us and from Liao, but it is closer to the Taurians.”

“Davion does not send his forces against the periphery, but Kerensky does. Perhaps we are dealing with his stratagem here,” Takiro mused. “If Davion is but the glove he wears for this then they have become closer than we suspected.”

“Marik, Steiner and Cameron are all suspicions of Kerensky – what did the young Marik call him? A jumped up Russian peasant.” Minoru shook his head. “He is a warrior – one of the Star League’s gunslingers who are trained to duel against our own samurai. And he was regent for Cameron. If, faced by the suspicion of the lords and supported by the adoration of his soldiers he sought to take a throne for himself…”

Takiro closed his eyes. “Cameron has flatterers on his side, and little more. Many of the people of the other states would urge their leaders to support Kerensky. Davion would likely do so. Liao… perhaps. The periphery are like whipped dogs, he could offer them tokens and they would fall over themselves to worship him… And yet I do not think he is driven to that form of power. No, Kerensky is that rarest of men – he lacks all ambition for further advancement.”

“So he is no threat.”

“Oh, my son, such men are the most perilous of all.”



Sidebar: History of the Draconis Combine

"House Kurita’s leaders are of two breeds: wise old snakes who live long, poisonous lives and those whose overweening pride makes them the prey of the first breed."

Founded through a mix of diplomacy, military force and reckless duplicity by two brothers, Shiro and Urizen Kurita, the Draconis Combine superseded the slightly earlier Alliance of Galedon, which had been their tool to break the power of the Ozawa Mercantile Association. In 2311 Shiro called a council of his so-called allies, many of them outraged by his scheming. When a vote was called upon his leadership, the majority of the leaders of worlds in the spinward-coreward regions rejected Shiro Kurita. Those wiser were spared when Urizen’s soldiers executed the dissenting majority, setting the tone for House Kurita’s totalitarian rule.

More than a century later, House Kurita’s fortunes seemed to have fallen irreversibly, for both Shiro’s successors on New Samarkand and his brother’s heirs in the long attempts to subdue the neighbouring Principality of Rasalhague had been overthrown by bastard kinsmen. Nihongi von Rohrs, born to a Kurita princess by way of a stablehand, slaughtered his cousins and established a paranoid new dynasty that rarely left their guarded palace, even as they schemed eternally against each other. Meanwhile Urizen’s grand-daughter, having fallen into the hands of the Rasalhague resistance, bore Daniel Sorenson. Growing up in his uncle’s court on occupied Rasalhague, the young Daniel repaid every slight inflicted on him when he seized power during the uneasy months after Nihongi’s coup and re-established an independent Rasalhague.

As the twenty-sixth century dawned, a third branch of the apparently ousted Kurita Clan rose to power. Descended from Shiro’s second son, Martin McAllister served as one of the Von Rohr’s diplomats to their rivals on Rasalhague. Falling madly in love with Prince Sorenson’s daughter, the two united the two lineages of House Kurita in their daughter Siriwan. Their efforts to conceal this succeeded and, due to his carefully plotted successes ‘against’ Rasalhague, McAllister rose in his overlords’ regard and trust, receiving command of their Household Guards. In 2510, McAllister took the obvious next step and eliminated the Von Rohrs, finally uniting Rasalhague with the Draconis Combine through his daughter’s inheritance.

Siriwan McAllister-Kurita laid the foundations for the modern Combine, wedding an undistinguished descendant of the last Kurita Coordinator in order to reclaim the symbolic family name. Siriwan, her son Hehiro, great-grandson Urizen and great-great-grandson Takiro for two hundred and eleven years out of the next two hundred and fifty-two, long-stable reigns that allowed them to mould the Draconis Combine into a strong but isolationist realm even after joining the Star League.
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: idea weenie on 19 November 2017, 15:00:26
Younglings parse the hidden truth, when only mysteries are provided.  Good training for the kid too.
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: drakensis on 19 November 2017, 15:51:36
Avalon City, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Suns
19 December 2763

“I don’t fault you for the decision, sire.” Thomas Green-Davion shook his head as he and John watched the sun setting over the mountains from one of the castle balconies. “Colonel Perez was clearly in the wrong, but the Avalon Hussars are rallying around him and they’re the backbone of our Battlemech corps.”

“I agree. Moving Jones to a staff position should hopefully keep him out of line of sight until tempers cool.” John sighed. “Losing a battalion of the First was a blow, I admit. And the damned thing is, other than pissing off the Navy, Perez did a good job on Tortuga. He’s an excellent ground commander and I could use him in a brigade slot, but right now he’s unpromotable.”

“I take it we couldn’t put him in a diplomatic post, let him pick up some polish?”

“He didn’t exactly show a sign of being diplomatic to begin with.” John picked an apple out of the dish between them and took a bite. “Besides, he knows more about Tortuga than I like – I’d rather he wasn’t outside the Suns.”

“Good point.” Green-Davion tapped his fingers on the side of his chair. “With Heather taking over MacDonald’s op-area, perhaps he could be shuffled into her staff. It’d keep him out of view for a little while and I could ask her to take him in hand.”

The prince nodded in approval. “Thank you, Thomas. That’s one problem out of the way. And speaking of Green-Davions taking people in hand…”

The older man gave him a quizzical look. “Who do you want me to keep an eye on?”

“As you said earlier, the Avalon Hussars are the backbone of our Mechwarriors. We need to get them on-board with the new combined arms tactics if they’re to get widespread acceptance, not to mention cooling off this budding feud with the navy.”

“I don’t disagree but they’re scattered across the Suns and under the command of every Combat Region Marshal we have. Reaching them all at once with anything but official memorandums isn’t all that straightforward.”

“I’m thinking a two-pronged approach. Firstly, I’m going to blanket attach a battalion of artillery to each regiment of the Hussars. The added firepower should be popular and it moves them half-way towards the new demi-brigade model the Crucis Dragoons and Ceti Hussars have developed. Johnston Industries are confident they can adapt their gun carrier chassis into a self-propelled gun for the artillery, so breaking loose light artillery battalions for that shouldn’t affect our general deployments too much.”

“Ah, the Carronade proposal. I heard about it from the Count. I understood he was looking at the SLDF as a market though?”

“They’re being very non-committal and Elias knows a confirmed contract from us is better for him than a maybe from Kerensky’s staff.”

“Hmm. Having first call on artillery should appeal to the Hussars, I agree. But where do I come into this?”

“That’s the other thing. It’s been largely honorific, but there’s the tradition of having Colonels-in-Chief for the major troop formations. Alexander Davion stripped away most of the practical power from the position when he reunited the Principalities, but he didn’t abolish them outright.”

Green-Davion nodded. “I recall Rita Hasek carrying out some visits to the Fusiliers as their Colonel-in-Chief while I was her regent on New Syrtis. I’m not sure if Vasily does the same for the Chevaliers.”

John chuckled. “He’s actually Colonel-in-Chief for the Tancredi Loyalists, not the Robinson Chevaliers. Not quite so demanding a position given there are only four regiments.”

“I take it you want to appoint me as the Colonel-in-Chief for the Avalon Hussars then?”

“Yes, it’s been in abeyance since my cousin Joseph died – Uncle Richard never appointed a replacement.”

“That should say everything about how influential it is.”

“It’s one of those things that’s what you make of it. It gives you unquestioned access to all their social events, for example, so whenever you’re on world with one of their regiments you can touch base with them and see how the mood is without it ruffling any feathers.”

“And how often is that going to happen?” Thomas gave him a sceptical look. “I had the impression I’d be spending more time on New Avalon now that the Galahad exercises were over.”

“Think of a working vacation, Baron Green-Davion.” John took one last bite of the apple and dropped the core in a waste bin. “The High Council approved of it and you have a nice little estate on Damerang, conveniently garrisoned by a regiment of the Hussars within three others within a one jump radius. It would be terribly insensitive of you not to visit them, since you’re their new Colonel-in-Chief.”

He received a suspicious look. “How many excuses do you have to send me running around the Federated Suns?”

“I’ve got two more lined up to send you to the Capellan March next year,” John told him. “Starting with an inspection of the Demeter salient now they’ve had a time to settle down from the fighting and then Rita has some sort of honour she wants to hang on you, which means visiting New Syrtis.”

“It had better be a very nice estate,” Thomas told him. “Alright, you’ve a willing horse, sire. What’s one more mile?”

.o0O0o.

Avalon City, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Suns
22 December 2763

“I’ve found a place for Commodore Jones,” John told Hanse as he watched another Italian opera. Talking to his descendant was cutting into his personal time more than he liked but there wasn’t much alternative if he didn’t want some suspicions raised about his sanity.

Edwina wasn’t at all fond of the operas, which was a mark of her good taste in John’s view. It meant she left him to watch them alone, more or less once a week. He’d rather have spent the time with her, but at least she didn’t think he was sneaking off to see another woman, which some of the other cover ideas would have allowed for.

“Good, you want the man safe. He turns into our best admiral twenty years from now,” Hanse replied absently as he watched the screen.

“Well he won’t come to harm on the Navy’s procurement board. In a year or so I should be able to bump him up to Commodore and give him one of the heavier ships. From the way he handled the fighting over Tortuga, he’s more than ready for the responsibility.”

“What’s he going to be handling? The new transport dropships or the capital ship board?”

“The latter. I’m not an idiot, Hanse. We don’t have many warship commanders who’ve engaged hostile warships – for a given value of warships, at least. Besides, if he was looking at the new battalion-transports then he’d have to work with the Army on the design requirements – too much chance he’d run into someone who bought into Perez’ version of events.”

“At least you’re not starting with almost two hundred years of not even having warships. The RX-78 was enough headaches.”

John nodded and flipped through the documents he’d brought with him. “Even if we wind up pushing a new arms limit through the Council, taking the chance to replace and refit some of our older hulls should be worth it. The ex-Hegemony ships are taking up more of the maintenance budget than I’d realised. Mothballing them would save us millions.”

“The time may come when you need expendable ships,” Hanse warned. “And you’d be surprised what can be put back into service. The Lyrans considered their last Tharkad as a wreck too broken to be worth fixing by 2821, but they managed to drag it back into action for the fighting around Hesperus thirty years later.”

“Yes, you’ve made a point of how much hardware survived the centuries with only patchwork repairs. With how durable ‘Mechs and ships are, I’m surprised things fell apart as far as you described.”

“The factories weren’t as durable,” Hanse told him. “And someone kept assassinating the people with the skills to repair them.”

“Now, you see, this is why I don’t want to start assassinating people. You never know where when we might need them – you said yourself that this Blake character was vital in rebuilding the HPG networks after the coup. If we can’t manage to avoid that then he’s going to be needed. Killing him would be disruptive.”

“And I yield the point, but his successor didn’t do anything like that.”

“I’m not having someone arrange a traffic accident for a ten year old, Hanse.”

“He’d be eleven now. Alright, not the point, I know. But ComStar’s scheming killed tens of thousands directly and probably millions indirectly. I spent years rooting their spies out. Trust me, you don’t want to get them entrenched again.”

“It won’t be a factor unless the League fails,” John said heavily. “If it comes to that, I promise I’ll take steps to make sure they can’t do what you describe.”

“I’ll hold you to that.”

John relaxed. There were some points that he wished Hanse would stop pressing him on, but just as the other man couldn’t make him do anything, there was nothing John could do to shut him up. “There’s been at least a little progress – Richard hasn’t stopped the Star League Council from meeting the way you described, and Francesca tells me we’re compiling a good case to show that the Periphery are receiving shipments of military hardware from sources deep inside the Hegemony. Nothing’s pointing at Amaris yet but at least we can show that as many are going to the Rim Worlds Republic as they are to the other territorial states.”

“That could useful,” the redhead agreed. “It might be enough to persuade Richard that the SLDF should send troops back to the Republic. Even if Amaris claims to be a loyal, the Reunification War is evidence that the Rim can be a nest of anti-League sentiment whatever House Amaris has to say.”

“I’m not sure the Commanding General would thank us for adding another battle-front to his operations, but better to be aware of the threat. If MIIO can add it all together than I’ll see if I can make the case then.”

Hanse rubbed his hands across his face. “You’re right that things are changing. Barbara Liao never appointed Marshals in my history, so maybe things might not go the way they did in my history. I’m not confident that we can avert the fall of the Star League, but at least there might be a chance.”

.o0O0o.

Avalon City, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Suns
5 January 2764

“Where did this information come from?” Green-Davion asked, looking at the data on the command centre’s main display. It was the last meeting before the Chief of Operations departed for the extended vacation on his new estate in the Draconis March and while this wasn’t exactly a crisis, it was probably another headache he didn’t need.

“The Ministry of Intelligence put it together based on information from several sources,” Pond explained. “Without going into detail about where some of our people have managed to penetrate DCMS security I can’t say more, but I’m confident that the data is genuine.”

“It’s good to know that we’re not the only ones finding it hard to fill officer command slots,” said Eis Moscoe. “This seems a little radical though.”

John snuck a look at Hanse who shook his head. “They didn’t do this in my history.”

“It could also be a response to our decision to improve the coordination of our forces above the regimental level,” he pointed out.

“Or just taking their obsession with the number five to new heights.” Moscoe rubbed his chin. “This will play hell with their transport arrangements.”

Whatever the reason behind it, the DCMS had decided to reorganise their forces across the board. Where they’d previously operated more or less along the same general pattern as the SLDF, with lances, companies and battalions the ‘new model’ that Minoru Kurita had apparently approved on behalf of his father cut the number of command slots, and thus the number of officers needed for a regiment.

Previously a regiment would require three battalion commanders, nine company commanders and eighteen additional lance commanders. In the future, the regiments would be divided into five companies of twenty-five ‘Mechs, vehicles or infantry platoons. That cut the demand for officers by sixteen percent, particularly in the field-grade ranks. Academies could increase the number of lance commanders comparatively rapidly, even if AFFS policy was to give graduates at least a few months experience in the field before actually promoting them to officers. Company and battalion commanders were harder to come by though.

“It’s going to cut into the rate of advancement for their junior officers though,” observed Manabe. “In the long run that could cause some dissatisfaction.”

“House Kurita have never been afraid to pit their officers against each other.” Pond folded his arms. “Rather than blaming their leaders for removing the middling command slots, the junior officers will turn on each other to compete for promotion. And they’ll be highly motivated to make names for themselves in order to receive promotions.”

Green-Davion swiped through the data. “I’m more concerned about the fact they’re forming permanent Divisions. The changes we’ve been making to improve our coordination was to prepare us to face conflicts with the other house armies. Particularly the DCMS. We have to face the facts that they’re working to retain the edge they had over us thirty years ago.”

“It’ll still be a lot smaller than an SLDF division or our equivalents. Really it’s more of a reinforced brigade.”

John leant on the desk table. “It’ll depend to some extent on how the commanders handle them. If they’re planning to make heavier use of their infantry, with three of the five regiments in a division as foot soldiers that won’t necessarily make a huge difference if they’re focusing on manoeuvre warfare the way most conflicts were handled after the Ares Conventions were imposed. But if they’re instead looking at controlling territory, the way the SLDF has to operate in the Periphery then a heavy infantry presence could be very useful for them.”

The high command exchanged looked at each other.

“You think they could be gearing up for a long term offensive?” enquired Green-Davion.

The prince tilted his hand back and forth. “It’s one possibility. We’ll have to see how they develop the units in practise. They might simply feel that it takes a brigade of infantry to equal the effectiveness of the ‘Mech regiment and the tank regiment.”

“Another factor is that the Combine hasn’t previously brought their armoured units together operationally. It’s more common for them to use tanks as battalions rather than complete regiments. The new organisation won’t really allow for that, so the DCMS armoured forces will have to develop new approaches.” Eis ran his fingers back though his hair. “It’s a very large step for them to take and it’s going to draw a lot of attention.”

“It’s certainly going to be interesting to see if this means that the Lyrans and Free World will also be looking at reviewing their own command arrangements above regimental level,” Pond agreed. “We haven’t see that so far and the Capellans are being very cautious about exploring the idea but this raises the game considerably.”

“Should we move faster with integrating our forces into divisions?” asked John. “Opinions?”

There was an uneasy silence. “As much as I think it’s the right direction, we’re doing well already by building up from the bottom,” Green-Davion said at last. “Bringing troops together is only the first step and we need to train up the commanders and staffs to handle brigades and divisions. By the time the Combine has worked out the basic issues for this reorganisation – a year or two from now – we’ll have a solid core of combined arms brigades and demi-brigades that we can begin forming divisions from with much less friction.”

John nodded. “Does anyone disagree?”

“With all respect, sire, the Field Marshal is right that we’re already moving ahead fairly fast. Slow and steady wins the race.”

“I’m not going to bite your head off, Eis. Actually, I agree. As important as our reforms are, having the DCMS push the pace would be a mistake. Pass on a request to the Ministry of Intelligence to watch for any further information on this and any similar actions by other member-states, so we can learn from any problems that they encounter. But there’s no need to change our plans at this time.”

.o0O0o.

Avalon City, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Suns
25 April 2764

Holographic warships hung in the air in front of John’s desk. “This looks like something of a budget challenge,” he said thoughtfully. “You’ve got a very well developed plan for the cruisers, scaling up from the Congress-class frigates, but these Protector-class battleships would be larger than anything our yards have built before.”

“We probably would need to rely on the new yard at Galax for this, given their experience building larger ships for the SLDF.” Admiral Richardson looked apologetic. “Smaller hulls were considered, but given the Soyal and Du Shi Wang classes in service in the CCN, we simply couldn’t meet the goals for a battleship that can contend within the battlecruiser weight ranges.”

“I take it the drafts for battlecruisers are in the alternative proposals?”

Rike Moore, the Rear Admiral from the Navy’s Design Bureau nodded. “The preliminary studies are in the appendices, sire, however…”

“However?

“However,” Richardson picked up with barely a pause, “The plan we’ve presented is the consensus of the full board. Eight new cruisers and four battleships are what we need to keep the Navy competitive through until the end of the century.”

“I see.” The prince rested his fingers on the very edge of his desk. After a brief moment of thought, he shook his head. “I realise that I don’t have first-hand naval experience, but I asked the board to outline options for moving forwards. If this proposal – as detailed as it may be, as solidly as you all seem to favour it – is the only one presented then the board hasn’t completed the work asked of it.”

He closed down the display. “What other plans were rejected in favour of this one?”

Vice Admiral Yusuke Goto stepped forwards. “If I may?” Although he’d not served aboard a ship in years, the grey-haired officer’s last command had been a dropship on the frontlines of the War of Davion Succession. Thirty-one years at naval headquarters had honed his skill in the tactics and strategy of the halls of power rather than the blackness of space, but at least he’d seen action – something that many of his compatriots had not.

“Go ahead.”

“Besides the proposal we have here, there was a consideration of upgrading the Congress-class ships and expanding them to provide a backbone of frigates to support our Robinson-class transports. However, we don’t have the number of slips available to build them in the numbers to deal with heavy Capellan ships or to match the existing numbers of destroyers and light carriers fielded by the Combine. Once we began looking at improving the Congress-class, scaling it up to a cruiser was initially explored as the single design – for the same costs as the current proposal we calculate that fifteen cruisers could be built. However, this still wouldn’t be enough for the Capellans. Finally we reviewed building a large number of corvettes on the hull of the Robinson, using civilian yards for the basic hulls so that military yards could save time only installing the armour and weapons. Commodore Jones made the excellent point that his ship took serious damage against converted merchantmen in recent operations, though, which suggests such a force would be of questionable value.”

“There was…” Moore hesitated. “I don’t wish to expose the Commodore to criticism.”

“Well now that you’ve started, Admiral?”

Richardson cleared his throat. “I believe that Rike is hesitant in light of the army’s suggestions that Commodore Jones is lacking in moral fibre. His recommendation was that we focus on delivering dropships and aerospace fighters to the battlespace. His view as that we should build destroyers for those warship clashes that can’t be avoided and otherwise use carriers to avoid direct action.”

“That… could work.” Hanse moved up and perched on the desk, arms folded and eyes narrowed in thought. “Given the use of nuclear warheads for fighters… how many fighters could be carried aboard a warship?”

“Interesting.” John rose. “I will defer judgement until the high command can review your position, Admirals. You’ve two weeks to put together presentations for all of those options, including Commodore Jones’. Since the options will be issued under the names of the entire board there’s no need to worry about any blame falling upon him specifically.”

“Two weeks isn’t a great deal of time.”

“Admiral this has been under discussion for three months. I appreciate your preference in this matter and the prospect of being able to match the Capellan battleships is very appealing but this is my decision, not yours. Since I have to justify it to the High Council, I want to be able to show them alternatives and why they’ve been rejected.”

Goto saluted. “I understand, sire. We’ll have the information for you.” The old veteran knew when it was best to retreat and regroup.

“What’s the bet that they canvas the High Council for support before the next meeting?” Hanse chuckled, “Appealing to their patronage and ‘we have insufficient manhood’ without big ships as substitutes for shiny sports cars.”

John didn’t think that that even deserved a response. Whatever he chose, he’d need to make sure his allies within the Council were primed. The decision made was going to cost billions of dollars either way, which made the attempt to railroad him all the more irritating.

Moore and Richardson followed Goto’s example. As they left, Moore paused. “I’m sorry we misunderstood your instructions, sire. I just wanted to say… I appreciate what you’re doing, fighting to get us the budget to turn the navy into a real fighting force and standing up for Jones against Perez.”

“I’m glad to hear that, Rike. But give some thought to why I’m doing that. It’s not for the navy, it’s for what the Navy can do for the Federated Suns.”

The admiral paused and then nodded. “I’ll do that.”

John stretched as the door closed. “What happened at Tortuga showed we need to do some things differently. We didn’t expect to be facing warships, but even converted merchantmen armed with conventional weapons hurt the Markesan badly.”

“It’s not an area I can give a lot of advice on, other than historical records and naval history wasn’t a huge priority when I was in the academy. The Clans used their warships mostly as mobile supply bases and command centres, but they didn’t have any real opposition. The closest we came was one suicidal ramming by a fighter – which didn’t even mission-kill the ship.”

Hanse jumped off the desk. “The SLDF does about the same, right now, but they’re not fighting a comparable fleet. No one’s attempted unrestricted fleet actions since before the Ares Conventions were drafted early in the Age of War and the technology back then simply wasn’t comparable.”

“So we’re going to have to write our own book,” John decided. “At least we have some idea that we could have to fight, that’s more than the other fleets do.”

“Which way are you leaning?”

“The first plan is the best prepared,” the prince told him. “And since the navy likes it, I could take advantage of their appealing to the High Council and get it approved more easily than the alternatives.” He hesitated and then added: “But from what you said about the attrition warships suffered in the Succession Wars, something that relies more on fighter wings for damage might survive longer if it comes to war.”
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: drakensis on 19 November 2017, 15:51:51
Avalon City, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Suns
11 May 2764

“I appreciate your position, Admiral Richardson, but while the majority of the naval board may favour building battleships, you’re the only member of the High Command who feels that way.”

“Respectfully, sire, I’m also the only naval officer on the High Command.”

“That’s true, but you’ve also failed to persuade the finance committee. You provided a very detailed proposal for paying for the twelve warships in your plan, but Commodore Jones managed to compete with a proposal to not only build six fleet carriers and six new destroyers in the next ten years, but also to refit twenty-six of our existing warships to the same standard… and still came in at only ninety percent of the cost.”

“Your highness, do I have permission to speak freely.”

John looked at him and then nodded. “I don’t record private meetings, Admiral. Whatever you say is off the record and between the two of us.”

“Sir, the Jones plan will leave the navy with a capital force whose only solution to a battle will be to run away and hope that their aerospace wings can save the day. The Soyal-class can smash a New Syrtis-class carrier with two square hits of its spinal gun. Maybe three, allowing for the improved protection Jones has called for.”

“And how many shots could your battleship have taken? Five, six?” John leant back in his chair. “What decided me, Admiral – and the argument that I’ll take to the High Council – is that while we’d need to replace a defeated ship in either case, a victorious battleship would need dockyard work because it would still have taken damage. A carrier that’s avoided taking direct fire would simply need a replacement aerospace wing and it could be back in action without time for repairs, or even to return to a shipyard.”

“If it wins, sire. If it wins.” Richardson gathered himself. “I recommend against this in the strongest possible terms. If you go with Jones’ plan… I don’t feel I can be responsible for naval operations in that case.”

“That’s a very strong statement to make, Admiral. You would be difficult to replace.”

“I know sir, but if we’re to be a fighting navy then I firmly believe this isn’t the path we should be taking.”

“I see.” The prince rose and walked to the window. “I appreciate your forthrightness. I’m not a naval officer myself but I have looked at the history of our service. You’ll recall that of the two classes of capital ship the FSN has fielded in the past, the Defender-class of battlecruiser wasn’t particularly successful while the New Syrtis-class have performed superbly.”

Richardson set his jaw. “The New Syrtis fills its role, sir. As an escort for transports. I thought you wanted a fighting navy.”

“Alright. If that’s your final word, Admiral then I’ve no choice to accept it.”

The admiral paused. “Sire?”

“I’ll advise Field Marshal Green-Davion to expect your resignation when he returns from New Syrtis. I hope you’ll remain until then so we can find a replacement.”

In the window’s reflection, John could see Richardson’s face pale.

“You’ve given many years of service, Admiral. If, as you say, you don’t feel that you can continue to operate in naval operations while we follow this course of action, then all I can do is to offer my sincere thanks for everything you’ve done to bring us this far.”

“I…”

“I don’t think there’s anything more to say.” Not to say, at least but John let his face show for a moment his anger at the Admiral’s attempt to bully him into changing his decision. “Goodbye, Admiral Richardson.”

He walked the man to the door and closed it firmly behind his guest. “Dammit, Hanse. Did you ever have to deal with someone trying that sort of trick on you?”

“Once or twice when I was younger. You did a pretty good job of shutting him down. Once word gets around, they’ll be more cautious.”

“It’s a new experience for me. The closest was Eric Bond, when I set up the Ministry of Intelligence, but he genuinely thought he was in the wrong and being punished.”

“There’s always pushback when major changes are being made.” Hanse reached into the fruit bowl and scowled as he failed to pick one up.

“Do you even get hungry?”

“That’s not the point. He might not have been so reckless if he knew that the delegates from Delavan and Layover had agreed to support the Jones plan rather than voting for the battleships, but it’s better to move him out now and set an example.”

“Well that was simple logic. Building warships is a great profit per unit, but aerospace fighters are a more sustainable source of income. It’s fortunate that we optioned licenses from Wangker Aerospsace back during the Reunification War even if we never utilised them at the time. I doubt Barbara Liao would have agreed to them now.”

“She’ll likely challenge the arrangement now,” warned Hanse. “If she takes it to the courts, Richard Cameron could take her side.”

“You’re the one who said we needed those fighter designs. With Dynamico, Sacrado and Salvatore all adding aerospace manufacture to their dropship lines we’ll be in a much stronger position.”

The redheaded man looked at John and then smiled. “You have something in mind, don’t you?”

“We might not be able to pin the arms purchases to Amaris but Reznick has been able to identify some of his cut-outs. Each of the three firms has approached one of those agents as possibly customers for the fighters. If Amaris wants to use those factories’ output for his plan, he’ll keep Richard from interfering.”

Hanse’s laughter filled the room.



Sidebar: The Age of War

"Let he who desires peace, prepare for war."

Although military conflicts on some levels had been ongoing since the Outer Reaches Rebellion of 2236, the First Andurien War of 2398-2404 is generally held to be the start of a new era of interstellar conflicts. Eight of the ten states that would later make up the Star League had come into being by the mid-twenty-fourth century, with the six great Houses of the Inner Sphere gobbling up smaller rivals until their borders were now pressed against each other.

Smaller states continued to exist along the periphery but their conquest was no longer the focus of attention. Starting from 2398 all six Great Houses shifted to a new mode of strategic thinking. It was no longer possible to consider conquering their rivals outright – all six were of sufficient size and power that this was logistically untenable given the economics of the time. Since each state bordered at least three rivals, it was unfeasible to divert enough resources to one front to attain ultimate victory without exposing yourself on two more.

Instead wars were fought cautiously and for limited goals felt to be attainable. Only through a succession of such campaigns could great progress be made, but the breaks between campaigns to consolidate would inevitably allow the defender to regroup. Exacerbating this were the Ares Conventions, which succeeded brilliantly in preserving the infrastructure of still fledgling economies and populations but legitimised war as a method of addressing conflicts of interest. Borders fluctuated rapidly but even internal turmoil such as the Dark Years of the Commonwealth (2467-2504) and Davion Civil War (2525-2540) didn’t inflict long-term harm upon the states, any more than military advances such as the BattleMech provided long-term domination.

The Age of War was therefore an age of deadlock, a ‘golden age of chivalry’ that Ian Cameron decried as pointless and futile bloodshed as he worked to establish the Star League as a viable alternative. He was right that warfare had accomplished very little during the previous century and a half – all three Andurien Wars had ended with more or less identical disposition of the worlds in question, and the only realms to vanish from the maps during this era were the result of diplomacy, with Rasalhague formally throwing its support behind the revived Kurita dynasty in 2510 and the United Hindu Collective allying with the triumphant Alexander Davion in 2540.

While the border worlds were shaken and dissidents from these regions were directly responsible for the creation of the last two major states within the Periphery (the Magistracy of Canopus founded by a renegade Andurien Mechwarrior and the Outworlds Alliance by a retired Federated Suns admiral respectively), the core worlds of each major state had settled into recognisable and cohesive national identities.

As the Star League was formed, economies struggled to adapt and discharged soldiers looked for places to turn. It was as much a nostalgia for the old certainties of conflict as Periphery recalcitrance that led to Cameron’s new Age of Peace sparking war on a scale never before seen in human history.
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: drakensis on 20 November 2017, 16:46:06
Avalon City, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Suns
19 July 2764

“Sir. The Minister of Intelligence is on line three for you,” Owen reported.

John closed down the report on education levels along the outer edge of the Suns – for all the concerns about wars, civil or otherwise, there was still the mundane business of government to deal with – and turned to the video phone. “Francesca,” he greeted her as the screen lit up. “Has something gone wrong?”

“I couldn’t say, but you did ask to be kept up to date about any developments affecting President Amaris.”

John straightened. “I did indeed. What have you learned?”

“It seems that he’s intending to depart Terra for Apollo,” the Minister of Intelligence reported. “And not for a brief visit – all indications are that this will be his first extended absence from the capital in more than ten years. His departure is expected before the end of the week.”

John took a deep breath. This sounded unfortunately similar to what Hanse could recall of the events from his history. “Do we have any idea why he’s decided to leave – some argument with the First Lord?”

“That’s possible, sire. We know he has had sequential meetings, first with General Kerensky and then with the First Lord. Lord Cameron is reportedly quite upset about the decision.”

“And Kerensky?”

“It’s hard to say. His staff are extremely loyal and he went to Fort Cameron almost immediately.” The minister paused. “Sire, if you have any additional information from your other sources then my analysts might be able to assemble a better picture of what’s going on.”

“Other sources, minister?”

“Respectfully, sire, there are a couple of times where you’ve been just a little too accurate in pointing us towards data for it to be guesswork – I’m assuming that House Davion have their own private informants outside of normal channels.” She hesitated again. “By the writ you set up for my office, the Ministry ought to be receiving all intelligence data, whatever the source.”

John laughed. “Even if the source is the First Prince, eh? I’m sorry to disappoint you, Minister, but there’s no secret. Just my own personal analysis of events.”

Reznick’s lips twisted. “Sire, Military Intelligence have been looking for the source of some of the raids on the outer reaches of the Suns for decades, but the data that let us narrow down an approximate location of the so-called ‘Dominion’ was you and I can’t trace it back any further.” She met his gaze. “I understand protecting sources, sire, but the entire premise behind my Ministry is that we needed a wider view of events than that which MI2 was providing. If information is being withheld, I can’t offer you assurance that we’re giving you the best possible data.”

The trouble with sharp subordinates was that sometimes you cut yourself on them, John thought ruefully. “If there were such a source, Minister, hypothetically, then let us suppose that it was something that had no material records whatsoever. And that it concerned a handful of data points so sensitive that they were only discussed in person and never with an absolute and definite need to know.”

“That’s no way to run an intelligence operation, sire. Hypothetically.”

“Think of it as a classification that matches the old saying, Francesca. The one along the lines of two can keep a secret, if one of them is dead.”

Her eyebrow arched. “I know the word is abused, but do you mean that literally?”

“I’m sure you don’t expect me to answer that. You can speculate, of course, but privately.”

“I… see. Or rather I don’t but this will likely keep me up at nights wondering.”

“Your curiosity is one of your key qualities, Francesca.” John paused and coughed. “Anyway, we were discussing Stefan Amaris and reactions to his departure. Based on your Ministry’s analysis it seems very likely that anti-Star League sentiment in the Rim Worlds Republic is just as strong as it is in the other territorial states, correct.”

“While MilInt has limited infiltration of the Republic, our available sources confirm that.”

“The insurgency movements in all three of the other Territorial States all have appear to have at least tacit support from the governments – again, nothing’s proven, but it’s very likely that information and even material is being provided. What’s the end goal?”

Reznick considered that for a moment. “There’s no hope of a military solution against the SLDF. It’s just too strong. My assumption has always been that they were hoping the expense and effort of keeping the peace would force the Star League to change the policies that have been put in place. The, if you’ll excuse me, the very short-sighted policies.”

“You’re not wrong on that last point – and I supported some of them so I can’t look elsewhere for blame. Of course, the weakness with that is that the SLDF is disproportionately supported from the Terran Hegemony, so the costs don’t impact the other five member-states to a great effect. A super-majority of the Council, in other words, have no driving reason to do as the Periphery lords hope. And having attended Council meetings with them, they’re fully aware of that.”

“So what do they hope to gain?”

“Let’s look again at the Rim Worlds Republic. Why are they different from the others?”

“That’s their traditional position – House Amaris were founded by a Terran ambassador to the Republic, they’ve always considered themselves to be at least half Terran. I believe Lord Amaris actually has citizenship in the Hegemony.”

“Yes, but what’s that ever got them. Their personal loyalty to the League didn’t sway the rest of the Republic and even when the SLDF forced the Rim Worlders to bow to House Amaris’ wishes, they didn’t get treated as equals. In short, they’ve been treated the same as the Calderons, Centrallas and Avellars – rulers of conquered provinces, retained simply to retain a layer of legitimacy. A pretty weak layer of legitimacy.”

“So you don’t think that Lord Amaris is actually loyal to the Star League, sire?”

“I am speculating, I admit that. But if we accept that the arms shipments you’ve been trying to trace are actually going to the Periphery to support insurgencies, then someone very well connected is covering for them. And who’s the most prominent representative of any Periphery state in the Hegemony?”

“Stefan Amaris.” Reznick’s mind was ticking over rapidly. “He’s not just the First Lord’s confidante, he’s met practically everyone who is anyone in the upper levels of the Hegemony and the Star League’s government and business circles. And even if someone wouldn’t do a favour for him, all he’d have to do is drop a hint that he’s acting on Lord Cameron’s behalf and he’d have a lot of credibility. If he really is the Periphery’s inside man then he’s in position to do an immense amount of damage.”

“There’s no proof, of course. Suspicion is far from enough to do anything directly, and even if I had some evidence, it would need to be incredibly damning in order to convince the First Lord. We’d be accusing his closest friend, someone who’s almost a second father to him. Anything short of a personal confession by Amaris would likely be rejected.” John took a deep breath, “This could all be wrong, of course, but if it isn’t… then why would he leave Terra?”

Francesca Reznick grimaced. “The only plausible reason in that scenario would be that they’ve reached a stage of operations where an inside man is no longer useful. Respectfully, sir, that’s a worrying proposition.”

“Oh, I can think of worse.”

“I’m quite terrified to ask.”

John met her worried gaze with her own. “We agree that there’s no way the Periphery can defeat the SLDF as it stands, but the SLDF is highly dependent upon the Terran Hegemony. So is everything in the Star League – it was deliberately set up that way. So, how could the Periphery states eliminate the Terran Hegemony as a factor?”

.o0O0o.

LXII Corps HQ, Kaiyuh
Crucis March, Federated Suns
18 October 2764

“So that’s the latest development in the house militaries,” McGuinness’ staff intelligence officer reported. “It’s unlikely to impact on us directly, but if a Lyran formation does turn up here, remember that from the regimental level up they’ll be significantly larger than unit designations suggest.”

“Also unwieldy as all hell,” the Corps Commander noted. “God in heaven, can you imagine trying to ship a sixty-four ‘Mech battalion anywhere?”

“To be fair, at other levels it wouldn’t be out of line,” General Delacroix noted. “Just treat one of their regiments as an understrength brigade or a brigade as a division in all but name.”

“That’s just going to be even more confusing,” complained McGuinness. “Probably the idea, actually, the Archon might be trying to confuse force listings when sanity breaks out and the Star League Council put some arms limitations back in place. Sooner or later this arms’ race has got to hit the limits of what they can afford. Is there anything else on the docket?”

“Nothing from my office, ma’am,” the intelligence officer confirmed.

“Right. Well that brings us to the immediate future.” Standing, McGuinness moved over to the wall display and zoomed out until not only her own operational area but also the entire Taurian Concordat was visible. “We’ve had an advisory for Headquarters to draw up plans for a possible redeployment.”

Delacroix smiled slightly. “My 225th, the Corps or the entire Army?”

“The army.”

“Merde.”

“Quite.” McGuinness’ face was set. “We all hoped that the SAS busting the headquarters of the TFA on Camadeierre would give the insurgents across the border second thoughts, unfortunately every other band of terrorists in the Concordat seems determined to make up for the lack of that particular group.” She shrugged. “So while nothing’s been confirmed, the Commanding General has given advance warning that if things continue to deteriorate he’s going to reinforce Nineteenth Army and declare martial law across the Concordat?”

“Can he do that?” asked the staff legal officer. “It would need -”

“I think we can assume that General Kerensky wouldn’t put it in a briefing if he wasn’t sure he could,” McGuinness cut the junior officer off. “General Baptiste has given us and outline and we need to be ready to move fast if the order is given.”

She took a laser pointer and ran it along the Taurian border with the Federated Suns and the Capellan Confederation. “Once the order is given, the first step will be to relocate the armies in question to cantonments along the Taurian borders – secure bases for future operations. House Liao is likely to squeal, so be grateful that we’re not having to deal with them. The First Prince is much less likely to object given how co-operative he is in general. My understanding is that if SLDF bases don’t have enough capacity, AFFS bases may be loaned to us for the purposes.”

“So we move to reinforce the 101st Jump Infantry on the border?” asked Delacroix, pointing to where the nearest of the LXII Corps divisions to the Concordat was stationed on Armington.

“Not quite. We’ll use those bases as transit points, but we’re just preparing them for units further away. “Third Army will be staging into those bases and as soon as they arrive we’re to continue our movement and join forces with the other three Corps of Fourth Army at the spinward end of LXX Corps’ usual operational area.” She circled the region in question.

“Two entire armies would seem sufficient,” her Chief of Staff said thoughtfully, “but that would leave half the border so I assume there’s more.”

“Spot on, Douglas. Our neighbours in Sixth Army will be consolidating into XXXVII Corps hunting grounds to cover the far end of the border and Seventh army will leap frog them to join us in LXX Corps sector. Added to the Nineteenth Army inside the Concordat and that’s near enough a quarter of the SLDF’s strength. Back in the Reunification War it took twelve divisions to bring the Taurians to heel – well now we’re going to have just over a hundred.”

“Now maybe they’ll do the smart thing when they see what’s lined up. I wouldn’t expect it, personally, but it could happen. Professionally, I hope it happens. But if it doesn’t… then we’ll be crossing the border. We don’t have any plans for that yet, although we will need them ready so that’s going to be an order of business in the next few months, but the movement plan comes first.”

Delacroix cleared his throat. “If we do, as you say, cross the border then will you be remaining with us?”

“I damn well, better had.” McGuinness jutted her jaw out. “I know my great-grandfather served here. I know the Taurians take issue with him and by extension, with me. That’s not my problem and I don’t care one way or the other about the Taurians. If HQ choose to recall me, I will protest it.”

“If they’re trying to persuade the Taurians to stand down then you could be a bit… inflammatory.” Douglas Pardoe shrugged when she glared at him.

“Maybe. I’ll grant you that maybe it might have an effect. But we’ve tried sweet reason for a long time and I don’t think the Taurians are likely to listen. But force – or the threat of force – should. And just maybe, when that happens, the lords on the Star League Council will look at it and remember that we’re not just here to keep the Periphery in line. That thought could get it through to them, with a bit of luck, that they need to start thinking very hard about the decisions they’ve been making.”

“Because if they start mobilising then we’re the ones who will shut them down. And none of them, not one of them, wants to be the next one that this happens to.”

McGuinness’ grimly determined face reminded her staff all too well of another face, one from the historical holovids. Their corps commander’s great-grandfather, General Amos Forlough, had been one of the most noted officers in the SLDF’s first generation, the generation that had fought the long and bloody Reunification War. History recorded that he’d commanded both the war effort against the Outworlds Alliance and later that against the Taurian Concordat with great success… but also with unparalleled brutality compared to his peers on either side of the conflict.

.o0O0o.

New Avalon Military Academy, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Suns
1 November 2764

The BattleMech on display this time wasn’t a cutting edge prototype, or at least, not exactly. It moved with certainty and the blocky profile made it clear that this wasn’t intended as a specialist unit but more for tough, frontline operations.

“It looks like a Warhammer knock-off,” Joshua muttered from beside his father.

“Actually, the Warhammer was a Terran copy of it,” John corrected him.

“I know, dad. But that’s what everyone’s going to think. And the Warhammer replaced this, so it’s a knock-off.”

“For those facing it, young sir, we don’t mind that impression,” advised the representative from Achernar. James Barrowcliffe had served twenty years with the SLDF and then another ten years with the AFFS as an instructor before the Federated Suns’ premier BattleMech manufacturer had made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. Or at least, he would have been mad to decline – his salary was comparable to that of a Marshal and most of all, he had a chance to play with all the newest ‘Mechs in development while the AFFS had been about to retire him from active piloting due to his age and a suspicious heart flutter on his annual physical.

“But those piloting it should know better. The basic design is three hundred years old but there are still Battleaxes in secondline service in some units. And the reason the design was copied is because it’s sound – you drive a Marauder, right?”

Joshua nodded. “Sure.”

“So what are you complaining about PPCs in each arm for?” Barrowcliffe turned back to John. “The original had LRMs launchers in the chest, so they could alternate fire with the PPCs – the heatsinks weren’t enough to handle sustained PPC fire. Well now we have modern cooling technology, the same ones used in the Emperor assault ‘Mechs Star Corps sells to the AFFS, so that’s not an issue. We replaced them with short range missile launchers like the one mounted up above the right shoulder to provide a cohesive short-range punch – twelve tubes in total. That’s as much as a Javelin or a Whitworth.”

John nodded. “I noticed that and I recall that a lack of short-range firepower was one of the reasons the Battleaxe was originally retired, but another was the armour protection.”

“Sire, we are way ahead of you. This using Norse-34 plating instead of the original StarGuard X and we allocated more weight to protection as well. The chest plate section is between twenty-two and forty-five percent thicker, depending on angle, than the original. That’s comparable to your son’s Marauder.”

“Well if it’s sufficient for the First Prince and his heir, that’s quite respectable,” John agreed, amused at how Joshua had turned away and was counting under his breath.

“And then there’s the cap de’ resistance,” the ex-SLDF sergeant revealed. “Don’t ask me where they got this, but the electronics… I’d swear they’re on par with SLDF line hardware.”

“That’s rather impressive.” John knew exactly how Achernar had come by the electronics, but he wasn’t about to discuss that in public.

Barrowcliffe beamed. “So would you like to give it a try?”

“Ah, I stay current but I’m hardly test pilot material,” the prince demurred.

“You shouldn’t need to be – it’s fully specced for production standards. This is exactly what we’ll be supplying when it’s accepted for service.” The older Mechwarrior grinned. “I suppose I should say if, but a little bird tells me that this demonstration is mostly for form’s sake.”

He was right about that. Forming the four Crucis Dragoon regiments had tapped out a lot of the available heavy and assault weight BattleMechs in stores and if the plans to double the strength of the formation went through, with the idea of maintaining them as the equivalent of their SLDF counterparts, then demand for heavy ‘Mechs would spike again.

John was about to decline the offer when he saw Hanse grinning and nodding. “Well, maybe just once around the testing track,” he conceded. “I do have other commitments today.” I should really give it a try before asking our soldiers to use them, he justified the decision to himself.

With the academy facilities on hand it didn’t take long to outfit the Prince with a cooling vest and a neurohelmet. As a jeep carried him out to the feet of the Battleaxe, he found Hanse – perched beside him – was similarly dressed.

“Eager for a ride?” he murmured, counting on the sound of the jeep’s engine to prevent the driver from overhearing him.

“Yes, I am,” the 31st century Mechwarrior admitted. “I can’t eat or drink, my wife isn’t here and you’re literally the only other person I have to talk to – which is nothing against you, but riding a ‘Mech, even as a passenger, is one of the few experiences left for me.”

Rather than a ladder – although it was embarrassing to be treated as if he were old and decrepit, the First Prince was too valuable to risk him losing his grip and falling several metres – John was lifted up to the cockpit and clambered into the cockpit. Hanse darted past Barrowcliffe and clung to the back of John’s seat, where there probably wasn’t actually room for him. The Battleaxe’s cockpit hadn’t been designed with all the modern amenities and displays that were standardised now, and fitting them had left it a little cramped.

Still, there were worse. Family legend had it that the reason the Suns didn’t build the Stinger, alongside the Wasp one of the most common light ‘Mechs in use, simply because Nikolai Rostov – father of the traitorous general who had been Alexander Davion’s last rival in the Davion Civil War – had been unable to fit inside the cockpit when the Hegemony manufacturers sent an example of what they hoped to export to the Suns. Perhaps that was just a myth – John had never been in a Stinger himself, but the head was certainly slim enough to make it plausible.

Barrowcliffe leaned in and went through slight variations from standard controls that the Battleaxe sported. The primary triggers on each joystick were for the respective PPCs, the secondaries for the missile launchers in the chest, while the right thumb controlled the shoulder mount – very similar to the layout of his Marauder. Assured that John was confident about what he would be doing, the test pilot pulled back and the cockpit sealed, air pressure building slightly as the environmental systems kicked in and over-pressurized in case of any external smoke or worse, any chemical agents. Not very likely on a test track, but you trained the way you expected to fight.

John pressed the activation bar on the fusion reactor and felt it rumble to life beneath him. They must have expected someone to accept the offer to try it out because instead of the usual voice print checks, the security was restricted to a pair of keys that had been the hands of Barrowcliffe and the pilot who had carried out the earlier demonstration.

“Let’s go,” Hanse urged eagerly.

“Hold your horses.” John ran the basic diagnostic checks first, checking that all systems were good to go. It occurred to him that someone would be monitoring him on the radio and chuckled. Fortunately he’d not said anything suspicious. Who wouldn’t be eager, under these circumstances?

Finally assured that he was fully prepared, he pushed down with his feet and seventy tons of metal moved at his command, striding forwards across the training ground.

Hanse cheered loudly. “I missed this, have them set up targets for you to shoot.”

John shook his head but after they’d completed a half-circle of the track, a target indicator popped up anyway, simulating a hostile ‘Mech – amusingly enough given his earlier musing, a Stinger. “Track control, am I cleared to fire on the target.”

“Roger that, sire. Show it what for!”

“I’m surrounded by children,” John said with fake disapproval and moved the joysticks to centre the crosshairs over the simulated Stinger. On impulse he closed his fingers on all the triggers, unleashing a complete alpha strike. The interior of the cockpit grew close and unpleasantly warm in response, the limbs of the Battleaxe moving sluggishly as the heat of the weapons fire sapped the effectiveness of the myomers – but the target had vanished in a very satisfying flash, just as a real Stinger would have if struck by such a tight salvo.

“Nice shooting,” Hanse encouraged him. “Are you going to try to try the jump jets?”

It was an immobile target, John reminded himself. Nothing to be too excited about. “I’ve not jumped a ‘Mech since I graduated from NAMA,” he said, half to track control and half to Hanse. “I think I’ll refrain from putting these to test.”
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: drakensis on 20 November 2017, 16:46:25
Court of the Star League, Unity City
Terra, Terran Hegemony
12 February 2765

“The problems of the Periphery are problems of our making,” John warned. “Some of them date back to before I was part of this Council, but I’ve seen some of them come to pass.” He looked around the table – Minoru Kurita was deputising for his father, Kenyon Marik sat between the Combine’s heir and the First Lord (who was resting one elbow on the table). Closer sat Barbara Liao and Robert Steiner.

When did I become the old man at this table – by God, it’s been twenty years since I first sat here?

“Not one of you was here for the vote to remove the Edict of 2650 or to approve the Tax Bill of 2753. I can tell you now that they are among my most serious regrets.” He looked across at Kenyon, partly hoping that his appeal would find some traction with the young Captain-General and partly to avoid looking at Hanse, as the redhead had wrapped ghostly fingers around Minoru’s neck and was attempting to strangle the oblivious samurai. “We have a chance to rectify the mistakes that I and your forefathers made. I therefore ask for your support in removing the taxes imposed in 2753 and placing a new cap upon the military forces permitted to the Star League’s member-states.”

There was a pause as he sat down. He hadn’t expected applause, but would someone at least respond?

Richard Cameron moved his arm suddenly. “Ah. Uh, thank you for your proposal. Who wishes to speak next?”

Had he even listened? John thought bleakly.

Beside the First Prince, Robert Steiner harrumphed. “I’m not convinced it would be fiscally responsible to overturn 2753. The League’s budget has already required fresh taxes, as the First Lord put forwards eighteen months ago. Without that revenue, the various expenses of running the Star League… well, something has to give.”

“Subtracting the costs – the vast costs – of the SLDF fighting a constant guerrilla war in the Periphery would more than counter-balance that. We’ve spent more supporting those efforts in the last ten years than we did paying for the entire Reunification War!”

“Well, if you don’t adjust for inflation perhaps,” the Archon shot back.

“You have an idealist’s view of the Territories.” Kenyon Marik spoke at last. “They don’t respond to softness, only to violence. Perhaps you should turn your eloquence to the well-being of the SLDF’s soldiers, Prince Davion. It’s wasted on proles.”

Not one of the four Territorial States was represented today. Amaris, of course, remained in self-imposed exile on Apollo, which had allowed seating arrangements to return to the traditional. The other three had cited the unsettled status of their states as reason to remain at their capitals to ‘co-ordinate’ with Kerensky’s armies.

No one had called them on the fact that Kerensky was sufficiently convinced of their collusion with the insurgents that he had placed an embargo on any efforts to coordinate SLDF activity with local military forces or through the offices of the national governments.

“I am thinking of the soldiers – because if it does come to open warfare, they’ll be paying the price for our high-handedness,” John advised. “You’re all aware by now that General Kerensky is planning to redeploy more than half of the SLDF out into the Periphery, barring any drastic improvement in the situation there. But you may not be aware of the opposition they’ll be facing.”

“The territories don’t have fifty ‘Mech regiments between them,” the Marik reported scornfully, “And more than half of them are in the Republic where -” he nodded to the First Lord “- they needn’t be considered hostile. Kerensky is taking more than thirteen hundred BattleMech regiments to the other three states, even before you consider the supporting arms. Calderon, Avellar and Centralla would be outnumbered something like seventy to one if they tried anything.”

“It’s closer to four or five to one,” John told him. “And Kerensky will be fighting them on their home ground, which evens things out even more. He’ll probably win but the butchers’ bill will be a heavy one.”

“You must be exaggerating,” Barbara Liao said sharply. “Where would they find hundreds of regiments’ worth of equipment from?”

“General Apfelbucher has had a few findings on that matter.” He gestured to the door. “She’s in the palace now – would you rather hear it from her than from me?”

“By all means, I’m rather sick of your voice,” the Chancellor told him frankly.

It only took a few minutes for the head of the SLDF’s Intelligence Command to arrive, standing in the middle of the horseshoe table where they could all see her.

Minoru spoke first. “General Apfelbucher, the First Prince has suggested that the Periphery has assembled some kind of ‘Secret Army’ that represents a sizeable fraction of the SLDF’s strength – comparable to any of our individual House militaries in fact. Can you support this?”

“I can confirm that someone is, Lord Kurita,” the white-haired woman replied politely. “And if it isn’t someone at this table then that doesn’t leave a long list of suspects.”

“Start at the beginning,” Richard told her testily.

“Of course, sir. My own command and Member-State Liaison began an investigation a few years ago. Military manufacture has been a booming industry since the days of your grandfather, Jonathon Cameron. Much of that has gone to the SLDF of course, and over the last ten years to the House militaries, but the numbers didn’t seem to add up.”

“What we found is a pattern of shipments that we couldn’t pinpoint a recipient for. Small quantities individually, the sort of orders that might be made by corporate security forces or a mercenary outfit, but the buyers seem to be shell companies, existing only on paper. To give an example, a shipment of twelve Firestarter light ‘Mechs was ordered from Coventry Metal Works in 2759, in the name of a company registered in the Hegemony. We’ve followed the ‘Mechs as far as Alarion but as far as the paperwork shows, they should still be in a warehouse there. They aren’t, of course.”

Barbara Liao sneered. “A few ‘Mechs here or there don’t add up to Davion’s alarmist predictions.”

“Individually, small shipments. In total the numbers are much higher, Chancellor. Saroyan Special Production, on your own homeworld, has sold over four hundred atmospheric fighters in the last ten years to companies we’ve been investigating – never more than thirty at a time, but it adds up. And heavy military equipment like this is just the tip of the iceberg. The quantities of first rate infantry gear that we can’t account for is even larger.”

“What sort of numbers are we looking at?” asked Minoru thoughtfully.

“You’re correct to compare this to the size your own forces, sir.” Apfelbucher twitched a control wand and a set of charts popped up on the holo-display. “There’s enough equipment here for six hundred or so regiments, perhaps a quarter of them BattleMechs. If that’s split across all three of the current battle zones it would represent near parity of strength with the individual SLDF armies that make up normal garrisons. If all of them are located in only one of them, then it could be as high as sixty or seventy percent of the forces on hand if General Kerensky’s proposed redeployments go through.”

“Let’s not fool ourselves,” John warned. “If this comes to a fight then the SLDF won’t have an easy fight on their hands. Casualties will be in the tens of thousands, at least. That’s young men and women from our worlds, bleeding and dying because we’ve gouged the Periphery like pigs at a trough. There’s very little opportunity left to avoid that.”

“I have to disagree,” Minoru said slowly. “Thank you, General,” he added to Apfelbucher. “I have no further questions, but I hope you’ll share your findings with the ISF?”

“We’ve been sharing data with all national agencies,” she confirmed. “My report is available in today’s classified data archive.”

“You’re dismissed, general.” Richard waved his hand at her. In a wonder of patience he waited for the doors to close before standing. “How dare they!?”

“They -”

“And how dare you,” he continued, pointing at John. “How dare you suggest appeasement? The Captain-General is right, completely. These traitors have been plotting rebellion, and you think that sweet words and tax cuts are in order?”

“I’ve seen war, Lord Cameron. I’ve begun a war once. No soldier in their right mind considers war anything but a last resort.”

“And I have seen the SLDF in action,” the First Lord replied. “I spent three months with General Kerensky observing the PERSUASIVE FORCE exercises eight years ago, right on the frontlines. More forces were amassed for that training exercises than everything you and Chancellor Liao committed to your so-called war. It’s time for the Periphery to see that might first-hand. My lords, I call the vote on Prince Davion’s proposals and I vote nay.”

“Nay,” agreed Kenyon Marik and a moment later Barbara Liao repeated the same word. Half of the council against, which made the decision even before Robert joined them in opposing the abolition of the taxes and of re-instatement of arms limitations.

“Lord Kurita?” asked Cameron.

“On balance, I abstain.” Minoru shrugged. “I am personally as shocked as you to hear that the Periphery has built up such forces, but my father has spoken alongside Lord Davion in the feeling that perhaps some of the measures that they voted for during Kerensky’s regency were less than well thought out. It would be unfaithful of me to vote against wishes of my father but nor can I sanction treason by the territorial states.”

Unseen by anyone but John, Hanse Davion jumped up onto to the table and kicked Minoru full in the face. It had no effect, of course.

“Very well. The council has voted and I accept your decision.” He closed the folder with his proposed legislation and set it inside. “I take it then that General Kerensky has approval to move his forces out to reinforce the garrisons in the Concordat, the Alliance and the Magistracy?”

Minoru nodded. “I suggest we approve by acclamation. Do I hear opposition?”

No one spoke. Marik nodded, as did Robert Steiner, albeit grudgingly. The Coordinator’s son rose to his feet and turned to face Richard squarely. “First Lord Cameron, it is the unanimous opinion of the Council that the SLDF should carry out the recommended troop movements and be placed on a war footing.”

Richard Cameron nodded sharply. “I will have my aides prepare the order for us all to sign before we conclude today’s session.”

I wonder, John thought, how long it will take for anyone else to realise the size of the precipice we just stepped off.

.o0O0o.

Sidebar: History of the Lyran Commonwealth

"The original banner of the Commonwealth was the Lyre, to show they’re a bunch of fiddlers."

The Terran Alliance’s three generations of stagnation produced a new wave of migrants as the victims and losers of 23rd century politics made an exit. However, the commercial availability of starships also provided a lure of profit. The scattered colonies desperately needed trade to survive and this offered wealth and power to those who could deliver it.

In the Coreward-Anti-Spinward sector of human space, the Tamar family had an early advantage, having an established trading network they quickly transitioned to providing anti-piracy defences after the fall of the Alliance. Before the end of the century, Ian McQuistion had transformed Skye Traders into the Federation of Skye and shortly afterwards his one-time protégé Seth founded the Protectorate of Donegal. The reformation of the Terran Alliance into James McKenna’s Terran Hegemony in 2314 marked an upswing in trade, leading to increasing industrialisation by Skye (which was surrounded on all sides) and expansion of Donegal and Tamar with dozens of new colonies.

In 2339 Kevin Tamar brought the established links between the three states to a new level, proposing that they form a combined state that could compete with the much larger Draconis Combine on his border and the Free Worlds League that flanked the other two. While the basic agreement to form the Lyran Commonwealth was concluded in 2341, it took until 2346 to come to an agreement on the government structure and the merger of three distinct economies provide wildly problematic.

The original council of nine Archons also proved drastically corrupt and utterly unable to agree upon which of them should be first among equals (Archon Basilieus). In 2375, with the Tamar Pact on the brink of exiting the Commonwealth they themselves had formed, Seth Marsden’s grandson Robert had had enough. Gathering evidence of his fellow Archons corruption he embarked on a tour of the Commonwealth to assess the results of efforts to stabilise the economy and secure support of planetary leaders. With this support, Marsden formally ousted his peers and became the sole Archon and absolute leader. A new constitution established the Estates General, dominated by his allies, and established a loose set of rights and responsibilities for member rules. Worlds that didn’t comply were brought to heel with blockades or in eight cases by invasion. Both Tamar and Skye were among the eight.

Robert’s brother and heir Alistair Marsden led the Commonwealth into the Age of War, dying victorious after the first great victories in holding back the Combine. His widow, Katherine Steiner, secured the support from the Estates-General and (to the gratitude of history students everywhere) resumed her maiden name, making the son Marsden had never known Alistair Steiner. House Steiner had arrived and while Margaret Olsen, wife of Alistair’s younger son, almost repeated Katherine’s feat in 2501, Robert Steiner successfully secured domination for his House after three years of civil war.

Like any dynasty, the Steiners have produced strong leaders and weak ones. Ironically the Star League has thus far posed the greatest threat to their rule. Archon Viola Steiner’s absence to command the Rim Worlds front of the Reunification War exposed her family to an attempted coup and her berserk response severely damaged relations with the powerful rulers of Skye and Tamar. A generation later, the wealth and prosperity of the Star League persuaded many of the Estates-General that the Commonwealth should be disbanded with the Star League as the only government needed. Only a passionate appeal by Archon Kevin Steiner saved the Commonwealth as a unitary government.
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: mikecj on 20 November 2017, 18:54:25
Hanse cracks me up  ;D :))

nice look at the SLDF's preparations for the war.
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: drakensis on 21 November 2017, 14:18:16
Fort Cameron, Unity City
Terra, Terran Hegemony
12 February 2765

“And that’s it,” John explained. “I’m sorry, general. I didn’t want this to happen but I haven’t been able to persuade anyone that the problem starts here, not out in the Periphery.”

Kerensky nodded and exhaled. “I thought that it was a long shot, your highness. But I appreciate the support.” He looked down at the sealed envelope on his desk. “This is it?”

“I thought the least I could do was to deliver it personally.”

The general took a letter opener from his desk and levered the archaic wax seal away from the paper envelope. Electronic copies would be on file but there was a degree of additional security and formality in having a paper copy of the orders.

Inside was one sheet of headed paper. Framed between a formal citation that this was a directive of the Star League Council and five signatures were only two paragraphs of instructions.

“I’ll send the orders then,” Kerensky confirmed. “And I’ll join the forces in the Concordat myself – it’s the most likely flashpoint and if one of the other states needs my attention, I’ll be in-between the Alliance and the Magistracy.”

John nodded. “I asked the Council members to send some of their house regiments to support you, but they weren’t interested. Even Minoru refused.”

“That doesn’t particularly surprise me. They’re probably all considering the possibility that you’re wrong about the missing equipment going to the Periphery.”

“Well it has to have gone somewhere.”

The Terran ran one hand back over his shaved scalp. “It’s an interesting blind spot for you to have – didn’t you consider that one or more of the Council could be behind the purchases? The equipment could be sitting in Combine military stores, or somewhere in the Free Worlds League with no one the wiser.”

First Reznick and now Kerensky, I need to be more careful, John thought. “It’s possible, but since Takiro Kurita revealed the depth of the reserves that the DCMS had been building up, the member-states have been watching each other like hawks and we’re all under broadly the same constraints when it comes to personnel and of financing that sort of build-up. The Periphery might have been hit harder by taxes, but they don’t get the same scrutiny.” He smiled sadly. “It’s ironic really, despite everything we’ve done to disadvantage them, the Member States still trust each other less than we do the Territorial States.”

“You may be right. I’m not quite as convinced, but even the possibility of running into that equipment in the Periphery is concerning.” Kerensky shook his head. “Don’t worry too much about not getting support from the House Militaries, it would really only have symbolic value.”

“Sometimes symbolism is important. Even if they’ve decided to sit back and let you do the lifting, the AFFS isn’t going to make that mistake. I’ve given advance orders to concentrate the equivalent of one of your infantry divisions in the Draconis Combine to support your operations in the Outworlds Alliance and I’ll scrape together another unit that size for the Concordat.”

Kerensky’s eyes widened. “That’s quite generous of you, Lord Davion. Are you sure that your High Council will approve of such a deployment.”

“The High Council will listen to the people’s voices and the Star League has a lot of grassroots support, General. You saw it when Simon visited the Lyran Commonwealth in 2750 – it didn’t matter that the Archon and his nobility snubbed him, crowds gathered to see the First Lord and to support the Star League. We – the great lords – have spent too long selfishly thinking that we could prioritise our own realms and leave the League to sort itself out. I don’t have to keep making the same mistakes I did before, that the others are still making.”

Wordlessly, the general extended his hand to John and the two men shook hands.

“Your troops will be welcome,” Kerensky promised, voice full of emotion. “I’ve got a great deal of work to do now, but I hope to speak to you again before we both leave Terra – and perhaps I could visit New Avalon when I’m on the way to the Concordat?”

“Of course, General. It would be my honour to host you and your staff. And please don’t hesitate to call on the AFFS’ shipping and facilities to help with the redeployment. We’re at your service.”

“I’ll hold you to that. General Venel has been tearing his hair out over moving so many units across the Inner Sphere. A few hundred more jumpships and warehouses might stop him from ending up as bald as I am.” Kerensky’s lips curved as he made one of his rare jokes.

.o0O0o.

Avalon City, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Suns
20 April 2765

“Sire, your son is here to see you?”

John looked up from the financial reports he’d been examining. Supporting the SLDF’s movements was costing the AFFS a small fortune, although it would eventually be offset by Kerensky’s Quartermaster Command ordering billions of dollars of supplies from worlds along the Outworlds Alliance and Taurian Concordat borders. It would be a bumper years for farmers there, as well as the manufacturers of thousands of mundane items that were consumed by military formations. A proportion of that investment would make its way back to the treasury as taxes were collected.

“Send him in.” He rubbed his eyes and closed down the terminal. While he trusted Joshua, there was no point making him look at fiscal reports – he’d have to suffer that soon enough as it was. In another fourteen months or so his son would have completed his five years of military service, qualifying him for formal recognition as Heir Apparent.”

The door opened and Joshua closed it behind him. “Thanks for making time for me, father.”

“You’re a welcome relief from some of this paperwork. I’d have thought you’d be enjoying your last couple of days of freedom before the ‘Bane redeploy to Galax.” Shuffling units to cover for regiments being attached to the SLDF had left the increasingly important industrial worlds in need of a new garrison and Colonel Stopec had agreed that the Fourth Davion Guards could be spared from New Avalon to fill the need, since there would still be the New Avalon Crucis March Militia and a battalion of the First Guards to ensure the capital’s security, along with elements of the SLDF’s Sixty-Fourth Royal Brigade.

Joshua moved to one of the armchairs in the office and leant against the back. “That’s what I was hoping to ask you about.”

“Oh?” John walked around the desk.

“I’ve requested a transfer to the Twenty-Second Robinson Chevaliers.”

“The ‘Zombie Knights’?” he asked, using the regiment’s nickname – reference to how often they’d been destroyed in action, survivors used as a cadre for raising a new regiment of the Chevaliers. “I didn’t think you were unhappy with the Fourth. They’re who you asked for when you graduated.”

“I’m very happy with the Fourth, dad, it’s just…” The younger Davion looked down at the chair, fingers plucking at the cushioned back.

“It’s just that the Twenty-Second are one of the regiments we’re sending into the Outworlds Alliance, while the Fourth are on garrison assignment.”

He got a nod in reply.

“You’re eager for glory?” John was surprised at the harshness of his tone.

“What?” Joshua looked up. “No, not at all! It’s just… I’ve got experience, well some. The Knights don’t have anyone in a company grade slot that’s done that and there’s an opening for a lance commander. I figured…”

“Most of the regiments in the AFFS haven’t seen much real action. Probably less than twenty percent of our junior officers have been shot at for real.”

“Yes, I know. It’s why I thought, it could save lives if they’ve someone who’s already been through that. That’s all.”

“One of the reasons I chose the Twenty-Second for this deployment was so they could get that experience. It might also tame some of their… wilder qualities.” John turned to the window. “You know how nasty it’s getting there.”

“I heard that there was a nuclear attack, like the one on Demeter.”

“Something very like it. But it wasn’t a factory, it was one of the SLDF’s fortified bases, and half a regiment was vaporised, most of the survivors hospitalised. Say what you will about the war with the Liao but we had some restraint on the battlefield. The Taurians and the Outworlders know they don’t have that luxury, they’re so badly outnumbered.”

Joshua straightened up. “Sir, I know I’m your heir but regulations ban any special favour for Davions served in the AFFS.”

“That’s true, so why are you asking for one.”

“I mean you can’t keep me out of danger.”

“I wish I could,” John told him. “Your mother wishes that too. But Davions don’t shirk our duty and one of those is service to the AFFS. I won’t block it if General Moscoe’s department decides you should join the Twenty-Second, or any of the other regiments we’re seconding to the SLDF for operations. But I won’t pull any strings to get you selected either. If they say no, you’ll suck it up and get on the job you have been given.”

He felt like a hypocrite for saying that. He and Eis Moscoe had already agreed that vacancies in the units operating with the SLDF would be filled first out of sister-regiments, as would transfers of experienced personnel out. The Robinson Chevaliers in the Draconis March and the Syrtis Fusiliers in the Capellan March badly needed combat veterans and so they’d be the first choice for blooding on this campaign. No regiments of the Davion Guards were being sent, so Joshua’s transfer request wouldn’t be approved.

At least, I’d decided that before Joshua brought this up, John comforted himself.

His son nodded obediently. “I promise. I won’t bring it up again, whatever happens. Mark’s putting his name forward too.”

“I’ll be hands off on that as well, although I doubt that Personnel will be moving anyone out of the First Avalon Hussars when they’re still rebuilding from the battalion they lost during GALAHAD.”

“I kind of thought not.” Joshua finally sat down and John took the chair across from him. “I get the feeling he’s going to stay in though. It’s not like me – I know I need to do my time in Administrative Services after one tour of duty. Mark likes having some structure and the military gives him that.”

“He’s a smart boy. He could go far.”

“Yeah, if things had been different then he might have made a good First Prince.”

John shook his head. “I have trouble seeing my cousin Joseph as settling down with anyone, perhaps especially Susan Rand. There was a lot of passion there, but underneath that… maybe not much. A good woman, no doubt, but Joseph had a double-dose of our family’s wild streak.”

Joshua shrugged. “If something were to happen to me, I’m just saying that the Suns could do worse.”

“Mark’s grandfather could have legitimised him if he’d wanted to. I told him when he declared me his heir that I wouldn’t protest. Since he didn’t I’ll respect his decision. If the worst comes to the worst, the next in line is your cousin Alexandra.”

“She’s going to the Concordat, isn’t she?”

“Her regiment’s one of the jump infantry units we’re tapping for that, yes. They almost got called up for the Border war when we considered pushing on St Ives instead of the Sarna worlds.”

Joshua shuddered. “And mom was upset about me going to war. At least I was riding something with armour, you’d never get me up on a jump-pack.”

.o0O0o.

Avalon City, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Suns
23 April 2765

“I was impressed with Johnston’s demonstration,” Kerensky agreed. “I’m not going to commit to them at this point of course, but for a company new to the military market, they seem to have their act together.”

“I’m sure the Count will be glad of the endorsement, even if you don’t contract them for any units.”

“I suspect he’d find a customer anyway.” The general declined a glass of water and looked down over Avalon City from the windows of John’s office. “You certainly snapped up General Motors’ new medium when our procurement decided it didn’t suit.”

“One man’s mistake is another man’s opportunity,” John told him. “We had Blackjacks in the field three years ago and they didn’t have any of the problems that the press reported. Good workhorses.”

His guest made a non-committal noise. “Anyway, I’ll cut orders to see if Johnston can rework the Culverin to suit our needs. If we do need more tanks, it’d be quicker to ship them from Barstow than from Terra, even if Johnston can’t build them as fast.”

“Every little helps.”

“I’d hoped five hundred light years of distance might loosen Amaris’ grip on the First Lord, but apparently not.” Kerensky pressed one hand against the window. “I expect he’ll be back on Terra within the year. Richard claims that I threatened the man somehow, that he didn’t feel safe being on the same world as me.”

“I know he met with you before he left for Apollo, but wouldn’t have thought you’d have been so blatant.”

“I was tempted to,” the older man admitted. “That fat fool. Richard needed more attention than I could give him but he wasn’t spoiled until Amaris turned up. The court on Apollo is a snake pit and he brought its poisonous ways to the heart of the Star League.”

“It’s easy to underestimate Lord Amaris. He plays the bluff provincial very well.”

Kerensky turned. “You think it’s a front?”

“You said it yourself, the Rim Worlds Republic’s court is a political nightmare. House Amaris has had to struggle against their cousins in the other major Houses to retain power – look at the Siever Coup. Two brothers work together to kill the new President and then turn on each other with knives only moments later. Do you really think someone as simple as Amaris claims to be would have survived so long?”

“I thought he spent so much time on Terra because his rivals wouldn’t dare to try to remove him while he was surrounded by the First Lord’s security.”

John shook his head. “It probably doesn’t hurt, but I believe he’s been several steps ahead of his enemies all along – both those on Apollo and the others across the Inner Sphere. And I’ve no doubt he considers us amongst them.”

“Would someone who’s pushed Richard into so many damaging decisions really be the sort of… mastermind that you’re suggesting?” asked Kerensky hesitantly.

“I wondered the same. If his goal’s to be the power behind the throne then he’s more or less managed that. But perhaps we shouldn’t confuse a skill at manipulating people with administrative skill. The Rim Worlds is ruled with a heavy hand, I suspect that much of the First Lord’s mistakes stem from thinking that emulating Amaris will work when in fact the political traditions of most of the Inner Sphere are far more liberal. I warned him two years ago about that.” John shrugged. “I doubt much of it sunk in.”

Kerensky shook his head. “Tyrannies rarely end without pain. I’m Russian, we know this.”

“I don’t see a Simon Davion waiting in the wings, perhaps fortunately. Just because it worked for my revered ancestor, a palace coup on Terra would be a disaster.”

“Ah yes. Your own tyrants. But they ruled only for a few years. Not like the Czars of old.”

“I’m glad I didn’t offer you more than water, you must be an incredibly morose drunk if you’re this bad sober.”

Kerensky shrugged. “I’ve no idea. I don’t drink to excess.”

“Are you sure you’re really Russian?” John teased.

“Quite.” He turned around and walked over to the desk. “I have limited time and you said something about shipping.”

“I did, yes. Calderon and the others have to know that even if they do have the sort of reserves General Apfelbucher uncovered, they can’t realistically hope to fight the SLDF on equal terms. That means we have to expect asymmetrical warfare, and logistics are the Achilles heel of any operation – particularly on the sort of scale we’re faced with now.”

“You expect that they’ll try to target supply bases in the Member States?”

“Possibly, but your deployments allow for that. The Taurians have a long naval tradition though, and they might target the supply convoys instead. Nuclear missiles aren’t easy to come by but they’re far easier to come by than warships and even a single hit could wreck a jumpship or put one of your frigates in the dock for a year of repairs.”

“Delivering such a missile is not as easy as one might think, but they only have to get lucky with one missile to hurt us, yes.” Kerensky rubbed his chin. “So we will need more ships for escort duty.”

“Yes, and honestly, the Federated Suns isn’t big enough to make up the difference.”

“I didn’t want to be the one to say it, but no. That would leave the ships we have in the mothballed reserve fleets.”

John moved behind his desk. “Takiro Kurita is as sympathetic as any of the other Council Lords and Barbara Liao hates me, not you. And they’ve probably been looking at the military contracts being picked up by the Federated Suns and feeling a little hard done by.”

“If they were to be as unobstructive as your realm, I would be happy to buy from their corporations,” the General protested.

“It’s always easier to blame someone else though. What I had in mind is the old Carson and Naga-class destroyers the SLDF mothballed years ago. They’re well behind the cutting edge but they’re suitable for convoy defense.”

“The Carsons were retired for engine difficulties, were they not?”

“According to my naval staff, it was due to faults with extended use of their engines above routine thrust. Given they were supposed to patrol, that was a problem but convoy work means sticking at jump points with the freighters and transports, so that shouldn’t be a problem.”

“You want me to authorise yards in the Combine and the Confederation to recondition those ships for service?”

“It could soothe some feathers – some of them could be repaired in the Suns but we don’t have the capacity for a hundred destroyers and the Hegemony’s yards are mostly committed to new construction or your existing maintenance schedule.”

“All of this will cost millions of dollars, of course.”

John spread his hands. “One successful raid on the supply routes could cost that much easily. You and I have both warned the Star League Council of how expensive this war may become. Perhaps when they see the impact on the budget it’ll persuade them that we’re not just blowing smoke in their face.”
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: drakensis on 21 November 2017, 14:18:35
Newhope, Mavegh
Perdition Union, Taurian Concordat
28 May 2765

Alexandra Davion liked to think she was basically a good person. She spared at least a split second to hope that the family who lived in the apartment had evacuated the building before the fighting began. With that done she threw a concussion grenade through the window.

The explosion cut off the machine gun fire that was coming from the balcony and two of her squad dashed forward in the opening. As soon as they were far enough away not to catch someone in the backwash, they ignited the jump-packs they were wearing and bounded up and off the street. Someone down the street turned a second machine gun in their direction but it was too late, the men plunged into the apartment, one going through what was left of the window and the other crashing through the French window of the balcony.

From the cover she’d ducked back into, Alexandra unslung her carbine and lined up a shot on the second machinegun using the optical sight on the upper rail. When she fired the laser she saw the machine barrel jerk fiercely. With luck the shot had damaged it rather than just brush it aside. While barrel replacement wasn’t a matter of Kearney-Fuchida physics, it wasn’t something you wanted to be doing in the middle of a fire fight either. That made just about everything harder.

“Clear!” the two advance members of the squad called and the next two joined them rushing across the street. This time one of them, Brubaker, took a hit and blood sprayed from his leg as he went down.

Without thinking about it, Alexandra dived out from behind cover and caught hold of him by the jump-pack, yanking him towards the opposite side of the street. Her pack couldn’t have carried them both, even if she could have supported the weight of someone who had a good ten kilograms over her, but he had sense to kick off with his feet and they somehow reached the shelter of the entrance to the apartment building’s lobby.

“You going to be okay, Brubaker?”

The energy behind the obscenities he was muttering convinced her that the answer was yes.

“Did anyone see who shot Brubaker?” she demanded on the squad push.

“Sniper, leftenant. APC’s moving forwards to suppress him so we can re-join you.”

“Right.” Shaking her head she looked up at the stairs as heavy boots stamped down it.

“L-T?”

“Yeah, give me some cover.” Bending she checked Brubaker’s leg now that she wasn’t having to keep an eye out for more Taurians. It looked like a through and through – must have been a small calibre round. “What are you whining about?” she asked him, pulling an injector out of her vest. Stabbing it into the man’s calf she injected him with a painkiller and then uncapped the other end so she could spray the outside of the wound with a combined anti-septic and sealing agent. “I’ve hurt myself worse playing hockey.”

“I heard about girls’ hockey,” he grunted. “Worse than rugby.”

“Sit down and sleep it off,” Alexandra directed as the remaining three members of her squad joined her. “You guys keep an eye on the stairs, the front door and -” She looked across the lobby, seeing that a second door opened on a children’s playground, surrounded on three sides by the U-shaped block. “- the back too.”

“Sniper’s dealt with,” Weber advised, his broad face discomfited. “Kid with a hunting rifle, he fell out of his roost after Second squad threw a grenade up into it.”

“Alive?”

“Three floors down, broke his neck,” the trooper said sadly. “What the ******, L-T? I mean, why?”

“Good question. Keep an eye on Brubaker while I scare up a medevac.” Adjusting the settings on her comm-gauntlet, she raised it to her lips. “Third squad, can you bring the APC forward two streets. Brubaker’s taken a leg hit and we need him inside of something mobile.”

“Got a problem, Leftenant. A bendy tank’s between us and you, can’t get past it.”

“Never rains but it pours,” she said. “Taurian or a SLDFer who got stuck?”

“Number one. We don’t have the firepower to handle that.”

“Great.” The Turhan – nicknamed the bendy tank for the articulated joint linking the armoured cab and one infantry compartment with the turret and a second infantry bay in the aft section – was a middling sized tank designed to get around the tight confines of an urban combat. The dual lasers would be lethal against the wheeled APCs that provided her three squads with most of their mobility. “Where’s our heavy support?”

“Last word from Golf Seventeenth was that they were ‘jousting’ with enemy ‘Mechs about five klicks away.”

‘Jousting’? ****** mechjocks. G Company of the Seventeenth New Syrtis Fusiliers were supposed to be backing up this infantry sweep, not chasing bait around the corn-fields. “Anyone else available?”

“Next nearest is the SLDF task group thirty klicks south.”

“Yeah, not figuring they’d get here in time to be useful.” Besides, they had their own infantry to support, she thought. “Okay, I’ll figure something out. Let me know if it starts moving.”

Right, Alexandra. Tactical exercise time. One tank, armed with two machineguns, one in a cupola, and a pair of large lasers. You have nineteen jump infantry counting yourself, and three APCs. Terrain is urban, four storey blocks… Right. Use the rooftops.

Against ‘Mechs that would be stupid – you wanted to be down in the dirt where the lordly ‘Mechwarriors would miss you scurrying around their ankles. But tanks were different, they were more likely to be watching ground level and miss something above them – unless the tank commander was smart. But how likely was that?

This one is smart enough to divide your force, she reminded herself. And the Turhan might have supporting infantry. “Who has grenades left?”

Three hands went up. “Great, well volunteered. You’re with me.”

“Save the grenades, Jack, you might need them later,” the oldest of the three jump troopers grumbled as he followed her up the stairs. “Great thinking, Danny. Especially if we get dragged into playing hero.”

Alexandra chuckled. “Right, we need the Turhan out of the way so we can get Brubaker to the APCs. In theory there could be anything up to a platoon with it so we need to play this cagey.”

The roof door was locked. Alexandra shook it once, then pointed the carbine’s muzzle at the hinge pins where they were visible. Two long pulses pulverised the pins and when she smacked the door it bounced out of the frame.

“Why not shoot the lock?” the youngest member of the squad asked, adjusting the shooting goggles he wore under his helmet.

“It’s usually a safe bet that the bar of a lock is sturdier than the hinge pins,” Jack told him before Alexandra could reply. “If you don’t mind, L-T, I’ll take point.”

Easing out through the door he swept the roof with the muzzle of his own carbine. “Clear, but we’ll be awfully exposed. Better crawl.”

The four soldiers wormed their way along the roof and the spectacled soldier produced a field periscope – not part of the usual kit – from his pocket so Alexandra could look over the edge of the roof without exposing herself.

Sure enough, she saw a Turhan occupying the next junction broadside on, turret pointed in the direction of her APCs and Third Squad. There were dismounted infantry facing the same way, except for a couple of sentries covering the rear – perhaps two squads in total. The tank itself had SLDF colours except for a hastily stencilled white set of bull-horns painted on the side to mark its Taurian allegiance.

“Could be worse.” She turned around and lifted her comm gauntlet to her lips. “Second squad, what’s your position?”

“Moving back to support Third.”

“Right. We’re going to want suppressing fire on the enemy infantry in a couple of minutes, can you provide that?”

“We’re more or less in front of the Turhan. Once its machinegun opens up we’ll have to back off.”

“That’s fine, just get their attention.”

“Can do, L-T.”

“You’re thinking vertical envelopment,” said Jack, now looking through the periscope. “That means taking out the men covering this side.”

“Yep. Who are the best shots?”

The man raised his hand and then pointed at the thus far silent woman with them. “Me and Sammy. That just leaves you and Danny to handle the grenades.”

“Hand over your spares,” Alexandra demanded and raised an eyebrow at the selection. “Four frags, two concussion, a smoke grenade and… is that an incendiary?”

Sammy flushed. “They’re handy sometimes,” she said defensively.

“That wasn’t a complaint,” Alexandra assured her, taking the incendiary and a concussion grenade. “You take the smoke and a frag,” she instructed the other trooper. “If they’ve dismounted the infantry then the hatches won’t be dogged down from inside. Or it’s not likely – they’d want the men to be able to get back inside quickly and the commander would want to be able to stick his head out of the turret to talk to them. So I’ll jump for the top of the turret and you take the side-hatch on the forward section. Crack it open, drop the grenades in and then get away.”

“This isn’t exactly the approved way of dealing with tanks, Leftenant.”

Alexandra grimaced. “I know, but the Mechwarriors otherwise involved.”

Jack looked up at the sky. “Somewhere out in the open with no cover?”

She followed his gaze and saw the contrails of jet engines marking the sky. “I’d assume so. I suppose they’ll be getting a lesson in close air support. Nothing much we can do about it.”

Her comm-gauntlet crackled. “L-T, we’re ready when you are.”

Alexandra turned, gripping the two grenades in her free hand. “Ready?”

Jack and Sammy crouched, ready to lean up over the roof edge, while Danny nervously adjusted the fit of his jump-pack. They all nodded.

“Go!” she snapped and took two running steps before triggering her pack.

As she arced up over the street she saw laser fire impacting the front of the Turhan. Both sentries turned in that direction and then fell without any other warning.

As the machine gun on the prow of the tank opened fire, Alexandra saw the hatch on the turret open and the helmeted head of the tank’s commander rise into view.

He couldn’t possibly miss seeing her, she saw wide eyes and the machine gun in the cupola slewed towards her but she was too close, above its arc.

Her boots crashed down onto the roof of the tank with knee jarring force and Alexandra let her legs collapse beneath her, driving the heavily reinforced comm-gauntlet into the side of the tank commander’s head, right below the edge of the helmet. She felt bone break and he slumped sideways.

Not stopping for a second hit, the young woman primed both grenades and dropped them past the stunned man.

She flung herself off the Turhan and sprinted for cover inside the nearest building, a corner store. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Danny heading for cover behind a heavy planter on the pavement.

Thick ochre smoke billowed from the forwards hatch of the Turhan, followed by the thump of her concussion grenade and the sharper bang of the frag.

For a moment nothing seemed to happen and then the tank commander started screaming. He dragged himself out of his hatch and rolled himself off the edge of the turret, legs on fire. More smoke, this black and greasy, rose from the cupola.

“Tank’s out of action,” she snapped. “APCs, move in and clear the infantry.”

With a roar of engines the three personnel carriers accelerated down the street towards the Taurian infantry, twin mini-guns spitting fire at them. Without the lasers of the tank to deter them, they were more than able to push the Taurians back and four of the infantry tried to fall back behind the burning Turhan’s bulk. Renewing their fusillade, Second squad cut them down.

Five minutes later Brubaker was sitting in one of the APCs while three prisoners were being manacled inside another as Alexandra conscientiously reported in the sight of jet aircraft, knowing that none were in use here by the AFFS or SLDF. It probably wouldn’t help the Fusiliers, but at least she’d tried.

.o0O0o.

Sidebar: Autocracy vs. Democracy

"To lead, first find out where your followers are going. Then get out in front."

The political chaos of the Terran Alliance Parliament was the herald of the end for the liberal western democracy as a model for leadership over the centuries to follow. Out on the colonies, the turmoil led to a demand for strong executive authority to deal with the crisis situation, rejecting the ‘tyranny of a distant majority’ that the Terran Alliance had represented. Almost immediately, attempts were made to rein such authority in with checks and balances.

Naturally the growing pains of new systems of government were drawn out and bloody. In general though, the era was one of worlds rallying around capable and charismatic leaders. The wisest of these leaders listened to popular opinion but delegated power only to trusted friends and family who they knew shared their interests. Typically these rulers amassed power in part through ownership of the industries growing up to fill gaps left by the Terrans. It’s no accident that even before House Davion rose to dominate New Avalon they owned the shipyard responsible for the first Avalon-built starships.

With communications still limited to courier vessels, diplomacy took time and military forces could be out of touch for months or even years. Both diplomacy and military leadership became invested in personal relationships. Shiro Kurita’s ability to dominate a vast swathe of worlds in a very short span of time was very much invested in the trust he could place in his brother Urizen and their respective broods of children. Terms of office were no longer customary given the preference for long-term stability and rulers groomed their successors within their inner circles, raising their children to inherit not only their property but the political power that their wealth would grant them.

The establishment of the Free Worlds League in 2271 brought together three dynasties that had each established multi-world realms. In order to tie House Selaj, House Allison and House Marik’s interests to the new state, each family was granted hereditary control over one of the government ministries. While the League’s power would primarily be invested in a Parliament, it was understood that the Houses would be dominant within it. Similarly, the Lyran Commonwealth was founded upon the alliance of worlds dominated by the Tamar, McQuiston and Marsden families.

Once again, these realms learned however that sharing power left their alliances uncertain in leadership. While the Free Worlds League addressed this by appointing Captain-Generals to serve two year terms in the event of war or other crisis (a post that House Marik would almost exclusively control), the Lyran Commonwealth endured a generation of strife before Robert Marsden ousted his fellow Archons and assumed sole power. And yet… even here a balance was needed for among the first steps the new ruler of the Commonwealth took was to create the Estates General, an advisory board representing the interests of more than half the worlds in the Commonwealth.

While the dynasties adopted the titles and styles of a millennium before, very few would be so foolish as to assume their power rested anywhere but upon the, sometimes grudging, consent of those they led.
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: nerd on 21 November 2017, 19:30:52
Nice. Are you sure you aren't drawing on official sources for those sidebars?
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: David CGB on 21 November 2017, 22:30:14
Nice. Are you sure you aren't drawing on official sources for those sidebars?
seconded
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: alkemita on 22 November 2017, 01:16:55
Just returned to the board after a long hiatus, and look what I find!

Your writing just keeps getting better, Drakensis.
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: drakensis on 22 November 2017, 04:29:19
I'm not inventing any of the information in the sidebars, although it's my own summary of the events and information.

The fic is posted on several sites so I'm including the sidebars for the benefit of readers who may not be familiar with the Battletech universe.
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: drakensis on 22 November 2017, 16:44:17
Court of the Star League, Unity City
Terra, Terran Hegemony
24 July 2765

“The fighting in the Periphery is expected to take at least another year, potentially two,” Kerensky warned them. His presence was virtual – an expensive double-chain of HPG connections linked every capital world, even those of the Periphery, to Terra. Worlds anywhere long those chains could use them, so while the Hyades themselves weren’t secure, Kerensky was able to use the HPG stations on New Vallis to address the Star League Council from his flagship in orbit and receive their responses with only a few seconds lag.

“It’s unfortunate, but at least we now know where the missing equipment went,” Kenyon Marik noted drily. “I trust that measures have been taken to confirm that our own manufacturers aren’t sending replacement weapons to the Periphery to replace those that the SLDF is destroying?”

“Yes, yes.” Richard nodded dismissively. “The BSLA has taken care of it. And fines are being levied for support of the rebels.”

“Very sagacious.” Barbara Liao’s voice was sarcastic. “A hundred million or two against the billions being poured into the Federated Suns and Free Worlds League economies in support of the war efforts.”

“Along with the payments going to your shipyards and Kuritas.” Robert Steiner gave the Chancellor a peevish look. “It seems that only the Lyran Commonwealth isn’t worth the SLDF’s time.”

“You have the luxury of not bordering one of the uprisings,” General Kerensky noted after a few seconds delay. “However, if you wish to contribute and since I understand you’ve decided against volunteering soldiers to fight in the Periphery, there would be a case for hiring your forces as mercenaries.”

Richard’s head snapped up. “What do you mean?” he demanded shrilly. “Why is this the first I’ve heard of it?”

“While the bulk of the rebel activity is located in the Periphery, attacks by the PLM have continued to affect the Hegemony and other major worlds,” Kerensky reminded them. “There have been a number of arrests, however the SLDF’s forces are now stretched to the point it’s proving difficult to provide the support which security services have previously been able to call upon.”

“If you think I will allow Lyran troops into the League, you’re delusional,” snapped the Captain-General.

“I do not. However, if they were to be deployed into the Hegemony – given the traditionally warm relations between House Steiner and House Cameron, it would raise no eyebrows and free several divisions from First Army to reinforce operations in the other member states. I trust,” Kerensky added heavily, “that the Star League’s most elite soldiers would not be similarly unwelcome.”

If Kenyon’s face was any indicator then the Commanding General’s trust might be misplaced, but he said nothing in direct response.

“Something might be arranged,” Robert said in a considering tone. “We do have our own security to consider with the reduced SLDF presence, but something could perhaps be -”

“No.”

All eyes went to the seat of the First Lord. John felt a quiver of anticipation. For the first time in the years since he’d taken his seat – perhaps for the first time in his life - Richard Cameron actually sounded like his father.

“You will not bring the armies of another House into my realm without my consent, General Kerensky. Much less without so much as consulting me.”

John leant back. Just for a moment he could imagine that it was Simon Cameron, that mad idealist who believed in the Star League with every fibre of his body and who might, just possibly, have had the spark of charisma and unflinching determination to make them all believe in it again.

“I’ve made other arrangements, General Kerensky.”

The transmission delay wasn’t enough to explain the pause. Clearly this had taken the Commanding General as much by surprise as anyone else. “And what arrangements might these be, my lord?”

Richard’s face split in a smug grim. “Per a treaty I arranged last year, regiments of the Rim Worlds Republic will supplement the defensive needs of the Hegemony.”

John closed his eyes and swallowed curses. He should have known, Hanse had warned him. But he’d allowed hope to over-ride good sense.

“Are you sure that that’s wise?” Takiro Kurita’s voice was level and measured. “While I have no grounds to doubt President Amaris’ own fidelity, history has shown that the Rim Worlds regiments are more likely to side with the other periphery states than they are with the Star League. Placing them at the heart of the Star League seems… unwise.”

“Have your regiments faced the rebels in battle?” Cameron asked rhetorically. “Or yours, Chancellor? Archon Steiner’s have not, nor the Captain-General’s forces. It is hardly fair for you to question the loyalties of Stefan’s forces when you have chosen to stand aside from this conflict. And his soldiers will not be present as mere mercenaries, which is what you propose, General Kerensky. They will serve here as loyal regular soldiers of the Republic and of the Star League. What more could be asked?”

“I trust you will not dispute that the AFFS has participated in fighting the Uprising,” asked John. “Perhaps that will give some credibility when I say that I share Lord Kurita’s concerns.”

“Very well, Lord Davion.” Richard turned towards him. “I do accept your commitment as greater than that of your peers. However, I ask that you extend the same courtesy towards Lord Amaris. You may be unaware but the Rim Worlds Republic has not been entirely spared from the fires of this conflict.”

“Please enlighten me.”

“As it happens, a division-sized force of rebels entered the Rim Worlds Republic earlier in the year, attempting to rally support against Stefan and to incite his realm to join them in seceding from the Star League. In light of the immense scale of operations that have been necessary already, I think we can agree that this would have been disastrous had they succeeded.” Richard paused for effect. “However, they failed utterly. A force of the Rim Worlds Army under a General Eukai converged upon the rebels and cornered them at Gotterdammerung, less than seventy light years from Apollo. And they destroyed the rebels utterly.”

The First Lord placed his hands on the table. “News has only just arrived here of the battle, I understand of course that General Kerensky and Prince Davion could not possibly have learned of it before now. But surely now your doubts can be dismissed!”

John’s heart sank. What the hell could he do now?

“An impressive feat, Lord Cameron.” Takiro Kurita remained rigid in his chair. “However, given the limited forces available to him, even in victory the forces of the Rim Worlds Republic must have been depleted and they are of course many times smaller than the armed forces of the Member-States. He cannot possibly replace a large portion of First Army’s garrisons while still protecting his own realm.”

“At least he is prepared to try, which is more than I see you doing!” Richard rose to his feet. “This is my decision, and my word is final. I will not be lectured by a relic of the last century.”

Takiro’s face whitened and he braced to stand. Before he could retaliate, however, Robert Steiner spoke: “Lord Cameron, I must apologise.”

All eyes swung to the Archon, who had been called many things over the five years since he replaced his father in the Council, but never apologetic.”

“You are right to say that the majority of us have not contributed to your efforts to subdue the rebels. May I therefore suggest that as a compromise, while Lord Amaris’ forces may supplement your own as you see fit, that the five of us, less Lord Davion if he feels his existing commitments in the Periphery too draining, should also provide regiments to assist. There are after all, a number of worlds garrisoned by the First Army which are jointly owned by the Terran Hegemony and our own realms.”

Kenyon Marik nodded. “Agreed. The League – the Free Worlds League – will protect the shared worlds.” He looked over to Barbara Liao, on the far side of Richard. “And you Chancellor?”

She sniffed. “If the First Lord finds it acceptable.”

“I do,” he said, taking his seat.

As he descended though, the Coordinator rose. Taking his cane he walked away from the table. Only when he reached the door did he turn to address them. “The Mustered Soldiery will play their part,” he said shortly, before stumping away.

Richard shook his head. “Stubborn old man. What about you, Lord Davion? You’ve already sent two divisions to help Kerensky.”

Looking into the centre of the room, John saw a defeated look on the general’s face that reflected his own feelings. “I’ll see what I can do. Robert, the Illician Lancer’s contract is up for renewal before the end of the year isn’t it? Let me hire them away from you and I should be able to stretch the AFFS a little further.”

The Archon gave him a sour look. “And I should do this because…?”

“It’s your idea.” And I’m going to need every regiment I can get if things go as badly as Hanse told me. I’m sorry, Robert, but push comes to shove I care more about my people than I do the Lyrans.

.o0O0o.

Court of the Star League, Unity City
Terra, Terran Hegemony
3 August 2765

For a member of the Star League Council and presumably one of the most important people alive, it had been dismayingly difficult to persuade the Ministry of Communications to set up these calls for him. John got the feeling that frantic conversations had taken place between the Minister and General Apfelbucher before the connection had been approved.

The screen lit up and John found himself looking at a moderately pretty young woman wearing a simple light blue dress, scores of hand-made necklaces around her neck.

“Oh, Prince Davion!” she exclaimed. “I was so surprised to hear from you.”

“I wanted to express my condolences upon the death of your grandmother, Lady Avellar.”

“Oh that is so kind of you.” She looked down for a moment. “She’d been so terribly ill, and she must have been in terrible pain, but you know: when she died she was smiling so she must be in a better place now.” A thought struck her. “Oh, and you don’t have to call me Lady Avellar. Allyce is fine, after all we’re neighbours.”

“Uh, then please call me John.”

“Thank you, John. I hope you’re well – and your family?”

“They’re doing very well, thank you. I hope to return home to them soon.”

“Oh that’s right!” Allyce struck one fist against her open hand as if in realisation. “You’re on Terra, aren’t you? With that nice Richard Cameron and Uncle Stefan.”

Feeling distinctly out of his depth, John nodded. “Uh, well Richard, yes. Lord Amaris returned to Apollo last year.”

She shook her head. “Poor Richard, that must be so hard for him. They’re devoted to each other, you know. He’s a very lonely boy and Uncle Stefan’s such a sweet, jolly man.”

“Richard’s married now,” John pointed out. “That often makes changes to one’s life.”

“Oh yes, and there’s a baby on the way. I hope to visit next year when the child’s due.”

John made a mental not to ensure he had excuses ready around the start of the year so that he didn’t have to deal with Allyce Avellar in person. Hanse had been entirely too evasive in describing her and he was beginning to suspect why. “I was hoping we could discuss the current war.”

Allyce’s face fell. “It’s all anyone wants to discuss, but no one seems to see how pointless it is,” she said. “I’ve listened and listened, but everyone claims that they don’t have a choice and that the other people have forced them into it. Wouldn’t it be so much easier for them to simply not shoot at each other?”

“Sometimes it’s the simplest things that are the hardest to accomplish,” he offered sympathetically. “I’m doing everything I can think of to bring it to an end quickly.”

“Thank you, John. That means so much to me, that you’d be willing to take the first step and have your soldiers lay down their arms.”

“Well, one step at a time,” he said, thinking quickly. The Chevaliers had taken a pounding and two regiments of infantry had been rotated off the lines while the others had received quite a lot of replacements. “They’re under firm orders to act as peacekeepers, but things get very difficult when they’re being shot at.”

The young woman actually had tears forming at the corners of her eyes. “But that’s what everyone else says, and nothing ever gets done to stop this,” she said, just a little accusingly.

“Well, has anyone discussed relief efforts?”

Allyce frowned. “Yes…” she allowed, hesitantly.

“I’ve had some very worrying reports about infrastructure damage,” he explained. “Things like water treatment plants being damaged, or the fusion reactors that power the cities. For every person who’s been wounded, I’m told there are fifteen or maybe even twenty who are struggling to receive clean drinking water or electricity for their household.”

“Oh yes, I know. But everything’s so expensive and when I asked Richard for help he said that I’d have to stop the fighting first, which is just a little unfair when I’ve been trying so hard and he wouldn’t agree to tell Mr Kerensky that his soldiers could go home.”

“Well, he’s under a lot of pressure. As I understand it, a lot of the reactors and so forth were made in the Hegemony originally? I know a lot of the reconstruction and the new colonies set up after the wars two hundred years ago used them because the Hegemony equipment was cheaper than building locally, even with the shipping costs?”

She frowned. “That sounds a great deal like what Simpson told me a few weeks ago. My brother Simpson, I mean,”

“Well I don’t have access to Hegemony parts either, so repairing your equipment will take longer but we do build emergency generators. They won’t last as long, but we’ve got a good reserve of them as well as emergency water filters, medical supplies and so forth. I was hoping I could send a few ships into the Alliance so that we can start making things better for your people.” He smiled warmly at her. “Maybe the soldiers can spend their time setting that up instead of fighting.”

“Oh John!” Allyce pressed her hands together. “That would be wonderful. Would Mr Kerensky let you do that?”

“Well, I asked him and he seemed to think it was a good idea.” Admittedly, he’d presented the idea in terms of stick and carrot, but there was no need to tell Allyce that.

“You’re being incredibly generous, John. Thank you so much.”

“And you are very welcome,” he said, trying to work out how he could politely extricate himself from the conversation.

.o0O0o.

“Hanse, what the hell?” he asked, almost an hour of platitudes later.

“I think you’ve made a friend,” the man said with a grin.

“No, seriously. Why didn’t you tell me what she was like?”

He got a shrug. “I thought about it, but honestly, would you have believed me?”

“How in the world did she end up President of the Outworlds Alliance?”

“She’s the oldest Avellar alive, that’s more or less the only requirement. Most of the power rests with the Executive Parliament anyway, so there’s no great pressure to ensure the President can do more than stand in front of a podium and read a speech. Allyce is a bit of a character, isn’t she?”

“Does she even live in the same universe as the rest of us?”

“There’s a part of me that would like to visit that universe,” Hanse said under his breath. “I’d probably be running it in a fortnight. If Melissa was with me, four days at most.”

John shook his head. “She’s going to be a disaster.”

“Oddly enough no. Oh, she’s replaced eventually, but according to the history books even if she made the decisions she does for all the wrong reasons it’s very likely they were the best decisions that could have been made under the circumstances.”

“I have trouble believing that.”

“She’s immensely popular, you have to remember that in the core systems of the Alliance as much as forty percent of the population are hard-core pacifists. And since the last thing Allyce Avellar would ever do was start a war or join in with an existing one, her approval rate was immense.”

“And that’s the right thing to do?” asked John.

“The Alliance Military Corps is tiny, and the vast majority of the population willing and able to fight are with the forces the SLDF is very effectively smashing. There’s really no way that joining the war against Amaris would ever have benefitted the Alliance. All they want is to be left alone and since they don’t really have anything that anyone needs, a leader who refused point blank to have anything to do with Kerensky or Amaris exposed them to as little damage as possible.”

John shook his head. “I suppose I could see that. I’d still rather deal with someone with their head screwed on tighter. What were her reasons, anyway?”

Hanse blinked. “Oh, for not getting involved?”

“Yes, you said they were the wrong reasons.”

The redhead shrugged. “She didn’t believe in it.”

“In what?”

“Any of it. That Amaris had killed Richard or that Kerensky would really have to fight world by world across the Hegemony. It simply made no sense to her so she assumed that everyone who told her it was so was mistaken. By the time Kerensky actually returned to the Hegemony she’d been removed, but at that point everyone had more or less accepted that the Alliance wasn’t going to get involved.”

John exhaled slowly. “Poor girl. She didn’t come to a bad end did she?”

“I believe she spent the rest of her life as an artist. There was a picture by her in the palace gallery – not my preference but it was more or less priceless by the 31st century.” He looked down at her watch. “Oh, you mentioned wanting to speak to someone with their head screwed on better… isn’t it nearly time to talk to Nicoletta Calderon.”

Glaring at him, the Prince refilled his water glass. “I take it back. Talking to the Protector is like digesting broken glass.”

.o0O0o.

Avalon City, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Suns
1 December 2765

Heather Green-Davion’s replacement wasn’t turning out to be one of John’s favourite people. Hans Zibler was from a veritable military dynasty, whose members had served in the AFFS for generations. More recent generations had sent some of their scions into the SLDF, creating a web of connections that the Prince had hoped would help with the challenges of coordinating the supply of equipment to the AFFS while still allowing the Federated Suns’ manufacturers to fulfil SLDF contracts.

“So what seems to be the problem?” he asked. “We’re going to need the additional personnel carriers for our infantry, and reports from the field have made it clear that they need something that can provide better fire support.”

Despite the lessons learned over the last few years, there had been too many instances of ‘Mechwarriors being drawn away from the infantry they should have been. Tighter discipline should help, and there had been court-martials to make the point, but that wouldn’t bring back the infantry who’d been lost as a result.

Combined with the SLDF making blanket purchases to replace their own APC losses, the need had been there to explore new sources and several corporations had submitted candidates.

“The development board has approved the Cazador, from Jerricho Industries,” Zibler responded defensively. “We’ve issued the first contracts and we’re very close to finalising our approval of the Kynigos urban infantry transport. We’re just waiting on a few more tests of their missile launcher systems but I don’t expect there to be any problems so Corean can expect orders from my department by the end of the year, it’s just a question of whether we need to ask for some very minor changes or not.”

“Aye, well and good,” Stopec grumbled. “But the tracked bids are the most important, more than forty percent of our infantry use tracked transports and you’re saying you’re not ready to make a decision and won’t be until the next quarter.”

“That’s very much the issue, Colonel.” Zibler tugged on his uniform tunic. “We’re going to be needing the new tracked infantry carrier in large numbers and there are serious questions about whether or not the leading contender can be built in the quantities required.”

John twirled an electronic stylus in the fingers of one hand. “But there is a unit that stands out – as with the other categories you’ve settled on a design and it’s the details of the contract holding things back.”

“Precisely, sire. We’ve a team on the way to New Syrtis now to check the production facilities. If they’re adequate, then we can go ahead, but otherwise we’ll need to look at arranging licensing to other firms. You know how delicate such negotiations can be.”

“I’m also aware that we need the vehicles sooner rather than later. Couldn’t you have sent a request to New Syrtis for someone to carry out those checks immediately? It’s only the command centre for the entire Capellan March so they wouldn’t have much difficulty finding some officers for inspections.”

Zibler shook his head. “I’m sorry, sire, but the owners of Johnston Industries are very well connected on New Syrtis. I’m not saying that they would attempt to influence any survey team arranged locally, but even the possibility could cause allegations and possibly tie up procurement in lawsuits for years. I have to make sure this is above board in all respects.”

Stopec shook his head. “And we need those vehicles as soon as possible.”

John put down the stylus and gestured for the commander of the Fourth Davion Guards to let him handle this. “General Zibler, as soon as this meeting is over I want you to contact Corean and Johnston directly and informally let them know that their designs have been accepted for production and that contracts will be forthcoming by the end of this month for Corean and the end of next month for Johnston.”

“Sire,” the general responded, not in protest as much as grudging acknowledgement.

“Then send word ahead to New Syrtis for them to begin the survey work. Your team can cross-check their results if anything seems out of order once they arrive. In the meantime, I’ll speak to Count Johnston and let him know how important this is to the AFFS and that we’ll be putting a clause in the contracts such that if they can’t meet the rate of production we’re looking for after twenty-four months that we’ll require licensing to be sold to a manufacturer of our choice at a nominal fee, say one dollar per unit built.”

“Will Johnston Industries agree to such a contract, sire? Those are quite stringent terms.”

“The owners are extremely wealthy, general. And as you said, they’re well connected on New Syrtis. I’m fairly sure that rather than see such a lucrative contract potentially be assigned to someone outside her bailiwick, Duchess Hasek will do whatever is necessary to make sure production goals are met.”

The prince sat back, confident that he’d made his point. “And before you go, what’s the status of Project H?”

“The latest reports from Achernar are promising, sir. The test chassis from the original plans showed no unexpected issues and they’re now working on bringing it up to current technical specifications. Of course, it does depend on whether or not Kallon are successful in reverse-engineering the SLDF’s Code Red autocannon.”

“If they don’t there are other avenues we can follow,” Stopec growled. “The SLDF’s taken heavy losses on the few occasions the Taurians have drawn them into urban fights. We need something suited to that situation, so even aside from the morale implications of resurrecting the design, this project needs to happen.”

Zibler nodded patiently. “I’m sure they’re working as hard as they can. But it’ll still be anything up to two years before we can look at the first production, and that’s pushing the very limits of the development cycle. It usually takes decades to develop a new ‘Mech.”

“Thus the decision to start with previous designs and adapt them,” said John. “Very good, general. That’s everything for your team. Now, Eis, how does your department stand?”

The head of personnel leant forwards. “We projected that troop losses in the periphery would be about fifty percent higher than those suffered facing the Capellans,” he said sombrely. “I’m sorry to report that we’ve underestimated considerably, it’s closer to a hundred and fifty percent higher.”

If his pause was to allow for shocked remarks then he’d judged his audience well. Over Stopec’s subdued obscenity, John could hear the ripple of shock around the room.

“Despite all the replacements sent in, we’ve already had to pull some regiments out of the line and shuffle in replacements, which has caused headaches for Vanessa’s department, Gregg’s -” He nodded to Marshal Sharpe of Transport and Resupply. “- and, of course, for Marshal Green-Davion’s operational planning.”

“Duchess Hasek had some strong words for the SLDF’s Member-State Liaison,” added Vanessa Manabe. “I’m not entirely sure she was justified, but the Seventeenth Fusiliers were in a sorry state when they were pulled out. We’re giving serious thought to disbanding the regiment rather than rebuilding them.”

“If you feel that it’s the right course of action, then do it.” John picked up his stylus again. “I’ll deal with Rita Hasek. The Seventeenth have not covered themselves with glory and given the Judge Advocate’s been investigating a story about them refusing to support a SLDF brigade because the commander was a Capellan, we may have to cashier those of the senior staff who survived the debacle.”

“It’s not doing wonders for morale, sire.” Vanessa stabbed at her console. “I’d strongly recommend we consider sending in regiments of the Avalon Hussars with the next rotation, just to defuse the gossip about the brigades from the border marches being sent in because they’re expendable.”

“They’re not wrong,” Hanse counselled. “I know you planned on getting as many units blooded as possible, but if it’s undermining their solidarity then something has to be done.”

“Alright.” John shook his head. “The Fourteenth Fusiliers have already been pushed forward, haven’t they? Who can we send from the Avalon Hussars in the next few months?”

“Given they’ve just come back up to strength and they’re already in the general area, I’d almost have to recommend the First,” Green-Davion advised regretfully. “Colonel Perez has been… highly motivated to redeem himself after their losses two years ago.”

John hesitated and then nodded. “Alright, do it. And we’ll look at doing the same in the Outworlds postings a little afterwards. Adjusting both deployments at once would give away the political factors, but if we do the Concordat first it might spur the Fusiliers to a better performance.”
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: drakensis on 22 November 2017, 16:44:37
Khalsu Mountains, Logan’s Land
Perdition Union, Taurian Concordat
31 January 2766

There was nothing of any strategic value this deep in the mountain range, which was how the Taurians rebels had managed to hide their headquarters for so long.

Roseleen McGuinness would grudgingly allow that it might have taken longer to find source of the raiding parties without the analysis provided by the Feddie’s Military Intelligence. Whatever their other failings, the AFFS had clearly put serious resources into building the capacity, even at regimental level, to pull data together from dozens of different sources and build a good picture of the enemy’s actions.

That was about as far as she was prepared to give credit to the SLDF’s allies though. “Did Colonel Dixon happen to give any details of where he was engaging the so-called armour column before he went radio silent?” she asked, rhetorically.

Douglas Pardoe, located in the command van parked near the feet of her Cyclops, shook his head. “Negative, ma’am. We have a fix on where he was signalling from but it’s a good distance east of us and we don’t know which direction he moved in after that.”

“I swear, that man’s worth a brigade on his own – to the rebels!” She rolled her neck and then settled the neurohelmet back down over her head. “Are his infantry still in touch?”

“We’ve confirmed that they’re guarding the supply base at Giza,” her chief of staff confirmed. “I touched base with them and they don’t know where he is either. Given that we have to assume the First Fusiliers aren’t going to respond if Giza comes under attack, I’ve broken off one of our armoured regiments to support them.”

“Yeah, not their fault Dixon can’t find his ass with both hands. Do you think Feddie intelligence could find him? They’re pretty good at finding hostiles.”

Pardoe snorted. “It’s worth a try.”

“See if you can find out why he’s so damn aggressive, too. I swear it, it’s like the Fusiliers put something in their water.”

Rather than switch channels, McGuinness raised her ‘Mech’s arms and waved it in the air, signalling the command company to join her as they moved up behind the advancing combat teams of the 168th Jump Infantry Division.

So far they’d found three of the hidden entrances used by the rebels to enter and exit the base they’d dug into the range. Thus far, as soon as a foothold was made the Taurians had brought the tunnel down, forcing the SLDF to start again from square one – even less well off than that, in fact, since an observation team had to be left to make sure the rebels didn’t simply excavate the tunnels out again.

Still, McGuinness was satisfied that progress was being made. There was a practical limit to how far the tunnels could have been dug through the mountains, so they had an approximate radius to search and the direction of the tunnels gave at least some hints to narrow things down. Specialist geo-sonar teams were on the way so all the 168th had to do was finish winnowing out the entrances and sooner or later they’d either manage a serious penetration or the Taurians would have to choose between burying themselves alive or evacuating.

Colonel Dixon’s report of an armoured column was the only on fly in the ointment. If the column was inbound then the rebels might be about to make a fight of it and the 168th was the most under-strength of her Divisions. Alternatively, they could be sending out whatever was left of their mobile forces to another base, which would reduce the impact of reducing the Khalsu redoubt.

“If the stupid ****** would report in then I’d know what I was dealing with.”

“Sorry, ma’am, I didn’t catch that,” Pardoe said over the command channel. It was hard to tell if he’d genuinely missed it or was just being polite.

“Just talking to myself,” she said as the command company reached the rear of one of the mobile field hospitals and slowed down. They were a tempting target individually so the two groups travelling together might draw someone out. McGuinness wouldn’t have tried it if there were any injured with them but right now the last casualties had been airlifted to Giza and the medical staff were technically from a combatant arm – for some damn reason that made no sense to her, but was presumably tradition.

“I’ve heard from the intel section of the 91st Federal Mobile Infantry,” he continued. “They offered to break out some VTOL drones and try to track the First Fusiliers down, but it’s even odds the Taurians will have man-portable anti-aircraft missiles scattered around.”

“Worth a try, if nothing else it’s more data on where the rebels are trying to keep screening. Did they have any idea about the burr up Dixon’s ass?”

“The First are apparently traditionally a very aggressive regiment, General. However, Colonel Dixon’s uncle was the AFFS field commander for most of the Border War with the Capellans.”

“Um.” McGuinness hadn’t been following every detail there, that stretch of the Capellan-Suns border was the responsibility of Second Army and Fifth Army. “Didn’t they court martial the guy?”

“Not exactly, but he was relieved with cause and apparently retired following very strong suggestion that he’d spend the rest of his career counting mess kits somewhere obscure. The First Prince apparently wasn’t impressed with his vigour in prosecuting the campaign.”

“Ah, so little Dixon has something to prove. You know, just once it would be nice if the House Lords would clean up their own messes and not hand them off to the SLDF.”

“Yes sir, but then units like the First Syrtis Fusiliers would get lost forever in these mountains with no one to recover them.”

“And nothing of any value would be lost.”

.o0O0o.

Sidebar: History of the Free Worlds League

"House Marik’s expertise in warfare is unrivalled, for they are always at war with Parliament over something."

The first great alliance of the Inner Sphere, the Free Worlds League was formed in 2271 by the alliance of three expanding empires: the Marik Commonwealth, the Federation of Oriente and the Principality of Regulus. Sir George Humphreys, a Terran émigré and special envoy of President Tomas Allison of Oriente, brought the three rulers together over the course of five years and established a parliament based on relative economic might to balance their interests. Sir George’s descendants would later be appointed to rule the important province of Andurien.

The League expanded through diplomacy where possible but they also established their might in the conquest of the six-world Stewart Confederacy before Terran resurgence sent shockwaves through human space. One of these diplomatic approaches was a marriage between the Mariks and the Sian family, who then ruled an independent realm from what is now the capital of the Capellan Confederation. This union provided disastrous for the Sian-Mariks were excluded from succession to House Marik’s honours and the resentment exploded into a campaign of assassination and counter-insurgency that killed Captain-General Geraldine Marik and left her son Allan under effective house-arrest as Mikhail Marik launched brutal campaigns of reprisal. The Sian-Marik’s power was broken by the time of Mikhail’s suicide but members of the family plagued the Free Worlds League for decades, arguably preventing them from crushing the nascent Capellan Confederation.

House Marik’s prestige didn’t recover until the 2422s when they were called on to turn the tide against the Lyran Commonwealth, the League having chosen Captain-Generals from other families without success. Thereafter the Mariks retained a close grip on the office. Even the erratic Carlos Marik was unable to shake this, power usurped by his brother Brion with Parliament’s full support. Carlos fled into the Periphery and was never seen again.

Brion’s son Albert the Great, was a startling figure. A dwarf, particularly in comparison to his tall and charismatic father, Albert nonetheless proved to be a superb diplomat and businessman in his own right before succeeding Brion to the Captain-Generalcy. Victor of both the Second and Third Andurien War, Albert was remembered more for what followed: together with Ian Cameron he persuaded Terrence Liao to form an alliance of their three realms and lay the groundwork for the Star League.

Albert didn’t live to see the Reunification War, something he had opposed in favour of diplomacy. His daughter Marion led the invasion of Canopus and worked together with House Humphreys to not only conquer the periphery realm but also to conciliate it with the Star League. Regrettably later leaders were faced with new challenges – from 2667 to 2679 House Marik and House Selaj waged a private war for control of the Free Worlds League and the reign of the paranoid Elise Marik sparked a new civil war between 2729 and 2734 between the Captain-General and Parliamentary representatives spearheaded by her brother Oliver. On both occasions the Star League chose to treat these as internal disputes, with misgivings in the 27th century and distracted by the Davion’s War of Succession sixty years later.
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: mikecj on 22 November 2017, 18:27:56
Nicely fleshing out the AFFS and why the 1st War went so badly for them.
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: Zureal on 22 November 2017, 18:52:08
This is SOOOOOO good, i am loving it.
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: drakensis on 23 November 2017, 16:26:52
Khalsu Mountains, Logan’s Land
Perdition Union, Taurian Concordat
31 January 2766

As it turned out, the drones did last long enough to pick up a trail from Colonel Dixon’s last known position but when they tried following it southwards they ran into heavy jamming that endangered their control signals.

Disgruntled that she apparently couldn’t entirely blame Dixon for dropping out of radio contact, McGuinness pulled back one of her combat teams and reinforced it with one of the armoured regiments that Fourth Army had cut loose to support her Corps. If nearly eighty ‘Mechs, seven hundred jump infantry, over a hundred tanks and a full battalion of artillery wasn’t enough to at least report in on Dixon’s alleged armoured column then the rest of the 168th would be better hunkering down and waiting for reinforcements.

Terraforming had never really taken hold up in the Khalsus and thus there only green to be found was a native moss and the olive drab of SLDF vehicles. No trees, no grass.

As they reached trail left by Dixon’s ‘Mechs McGuinness noted that the footprints of her ‘Mechs merged almost seamlessly with those left already. Only the tracks of the Marksman self-propelled guns, Magi tanks and the infantry’s APCs added something new.

As the sun dipped towards the horizon on the left, one of the ‘Mechs in the scout companies halted and lifted something from the ground in its clawed hand. “Armour shard,” the Mongoose pilot reported coolly. “Traces of dark green paint, which would match the Fusiliers’ ‘Mechs.

There were more shards along the path and McGuinness called a ten minute wait while the scouts – both ‘Mechs and dismounted jump infantry – fanned out to look for the source of whatever fire had been hitting the Fusiliers. No one mistook the pause for a chance to relax, the tanks laagered in a tight knot around her command group and the artillery, the rest of the force forming a looser perimeter beyond them.

“There were definitely hover vehicles up here,” came the report from one of the teams that had worked their way further up the slope. “And looking down from above, I can see artillery impacts – hard to tell on the ground with the bedrock. “I’d guess the tanks up here were spotting for a field battery.”

“Got a direction on where those tanks went?” asked McGuinness.

“South, ma’am.”

“Right. We’ll press on.”

The trail extended on. One ‘Mech in four used searchlights to illuminate the mountainside for the rest of the force. The debris increased in quantity – myomer strands, the arm of a Wasp. Twelve kilometres after the first shards, a Wolverine lay where it had fallen. The Fusilier markings had been almost obliterated but one shoulder still sported a nearly pristine sword and sunburst.

The cockpit, and presumably the Mechwarrior within, had been pried away. That hadn’t been the kill shot though. Peering into the ruptured torso, the distorted gauss slug was still visible in the floodlight.

“Where did the Rebels get a gauss rifle?” asked one of Mechwarriors who moved their ‘Mech up to look at the wreck. “No one outside the SLDF should have them.”

“The manufacturers might have sold some off the books,” McGuinness told him. “Or, more likely, there was an armoured regiment on Logan’s Land as part of the garrison. Their fort was over-run by the rebels in the first wave of attacks, last May. Some of their tanks could have been captured still working.”

They found evidence of that less than a kilometre later, a pair of Fury tanks smashed open by missile, autocannon and quite possibly by the armoured feet of BattleMechs crashing against their flanks. A one-armed Wasp, head reduced to wreck lay on the ground nearby.

McGuinness looked around. “A running fight,” she deduced. “First the Taurians lured them in and softened them up with artillery. Then they must have closed in with their tanks once the Feddies looked like easy prey.”

“They could still be fighting, ma’am.”

“Still as it is, I think we’d hear them. But we’ll pick up the pace.”

‘Mech after ‘Mech, tank after tank they followed the battle up the valley, jamming increasing in intensity until all communication had to be by laser tight-beam.

Then there was a roar of an explosion and the jamming cut out sharply.

“What was that?” McGuinness demanded.

“Sorry, sir.” The sideband data indicated the response was from the commander of one of the line ‘Mech companies. “We found the source of the jamming and took it out, but we misjudged how much protection was left on the tank’s fusion bottle.”

“Did you take any prisoners?”

“Negative, crew compartment was gone. It was a converted Fury chassis.”

That came to twenty heavy tanks, McGuinness thought. Add the spotting hover tanks and a battery and that was roughly a battalion. There were at least thirty wrecked ‘Mechs in the valley. Adjusting her radio she tried the Fusiliers’ frequency. “Colonel Dixon, this is Major General McGuinness. Respond with your location and condition.”

She was about to repeat the signal when Dixon’s voice came back clearly. “Good to hear from you, General. We’re at the head of a valley.” He read off a list of coordinates that McGuinness identified as perhaps a kilometre and a half ahead of her own position. “We’ve defeated an enemy heavy tank regiment and located an entrance to their base. Unfortunately they dropped the tunnel before we could make any progress down it.”

“A regiment, huh.” She checked her surroundings again. “Looks like you’re not far ahead of us, Colonel. We’ll link up shortly.”

And with a bit of luck, she thought, what’s left of your toy soldier regiment can be sent back for extended repairs outside my Corps’ area.

.o0O0o.

FSS Tancredi, Delavan Orbit
Crucis March, Federated Suns
3 April 2766

The shuttle carrying Kenneth Jones to his new command went past the occupied slips and he looked out the window to see what the Universal Air yards were working on. Among the oldest warship-capable yards of the Federated Suns, he’d visited them several times before and found that knowing what they and the newer McKenna shipyards over Kathil had in dock was good guide to what the Navy was up to.

Locked against the open framework were six Naga-class light destroyers, not ships that he’d known were in FSN use. So far as he knew, the SLDF had retired them from service decades ago, replacing them with the more modern Essex-class.

“I didn’t hear anything on New Avalon about buying in SLDF destroyers,” he noted to Admiral Moore, who sat across from him.

She looked up at him and then out of the window. “Ah. Well, it’s not above your clearance level, but they’re not ours. The SLDF needed additional escorts for their convoy work and the refit work on our own ships doesn’t really require full docking so UA are stretching themselves to handle both jobs.”

Only a few moments later, the shuttle crew advised them to strap in for the final approach. Obediently, the Commodore and the Vice Admiral made sure all their possessions were contained and fastened the five point-harnesses that held them in their seats as the shuttle went through the process of matching velocities and easing into the bay of their destination.

“Welcome aboard your new command,” Moore said as there was the sound of clamps securing them to the ship.

“Thank you, sir. It’s good to get out from behind a desk.”

She let a tight smile cross her face. “You thought you’d dropped off the command track and would be stuck pushing papers for the rest of your career?”

“Even if the court martial cleared me, that’s not the sort of black mark that usually gets forgotten, Admiral.”

“Yeah, well unofficially, you weren’t going to get another job that rubs you right up against the Army for a while longer. But you have a powerful patron.”

Jones reached up and tweaked the corner of his moustache, then saw the landing light go out and reached down to his harness. “I don’t know who that might be, honestly.”

“Don’t you?”

“No, sir. I’ve no family connections or mentors within the naval hierarchy.”

“A little higher than that. I’m told that Marshal Moscoe personally added you to the short-list to command one of the capital ships being brought out of mothballs.”

“I’ve never even met the Marshal,” Jones protested. They stood and he automatically waited for the Admiral to precede him out of the shuttle.

“It was a royal command,” she told him as she walked past.

I’m not sure how I should take that, he thought as the shuttle hatch opened.

A bosun’s whistle greeted them. “Division arriving, Tancredi arriving,” an NCO bellowed and a file of spacers crammed into the small bay snapped to attention.

“Permission to come aboard?” asked Moore as she reached the bottom of the steps down from the shuttle hatch and returned the salute.

“Permission granted.” The officer of the deck didn’t relax from his own salute until Jones had returned it as well. “Welcome aboard your flagship, Admiral Moore.”

“Thank you,” she said smoothly. “If someone can direct me to my quarters, I’ll let you get your feet under you, Kenneth.”

Jones refrained from responding to the deliberate informality. The first consequence of patronage, he thought sardonically. Everyone wants to take advantage of the connection, for good or ill. And the greater the patronage, the closer they want to be. “Of course, Admiral.”

There was a brief pause as Moore exited and Jones turned back to the officer. “I take it that my kit and that of the Admiral will be taken care of, Leftenant?”

“Yes, Commodore.” The captain gestured to the hatch. “Major Kaga is waiting for you on the bridge.”

Unlike traditional layouts, the navigational bridge of New Syrtis-class ships was amidships, aft of the flight decks. Familiar with the design from study over the last year even if he’d not served aboard one before, Jones found few surprises. Laid down two hundred years ago, the Tancredi had been mothballed on the formation of the Star League, re-commissioned for the Reunification Wars after the debacle at Tentativa and then laid up for a second time in 2651. In all that time no one had ever fired her guns in anger.

Jones thought that that made her a lucky ship. If he was fortunate then she’d keep that status for his tour of command. If he wasn’t… well, her sister-ships had performed well historically.

With the ship at rest the navigational bridge only had a skeleton crew on watch but two officers hung near the centre, gripping rails around the captain’s console as they waited for him. Both snapped crisp salutes as Jones entered.

“As you were.” Pushing off from the door he coasted across the compartment and caught himself deftly on the open shock-frame. “Commodore Plains, Major Kaga.”

“Welcome aboard, Commodore.” Weiss Plains looked entirely too young to be air boss of all six wings of fighters aboard a carrier, her snub nose and short blonde curls making her look more like one of the young pilots rather than their master under the Naval God, otherwise known as the captain of the Tancredi.

“Sir.” Major Mary Kaga, a lean brunette, nodded towards Jones’ attaché case. “Your orders, please.” The chain of command was convoluted due to carrier operations. Plains, as air boss, was on paper simply executive officer to the carrier’s commander who had joint responsibility both for the ship and for the over-sized aero-regiment she carried. Meanwhile Major Kaga was second-in-command and should anything happen to him, she would be required to take over and give orders to the air boss despite being outranked. In theory, a Light Commodore should have been assigned but the navy was as strapped for field officers as the army was.

“Naturally.” Opening the case he took the envelope, seal still visible although he’d opened it earlier, and handed it over.

Extracting the document inside, the Major unfolded it and looked it over. “All in order, sir. I relinquish command.”

“Major, I accept command.”

“Thank you, Captain.” The metaphorical cape of responsibility settled onto Jones with those words. Putting the orders away again he fastened the attaché case to the clips of his chair and gestured around the room. “Be so good as to acquaint me with our ship, starting with flight operations.”

.o0O0o.

Avalon City, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Suns
21 May 2766

The Director of Naval Command was the administrative head of the Star League Navy but Joan Brandt preferred to omit ‘administrative’ from that – she’d been a hard-charging fighter jock before she made the mistake of getting promoted too far up the ladder to stay in the cockpit. Closing in on her fifty-fourth birthday she probably wouldn’t pass a flight physical these days… but you never knew for sure.

John had the distinct impression that the expression on her face was the same one she’d worn for all of her more than fifty kills. “Your highness, you told the General twelve months ago that we’d see the first destroyers back from your yards in a year. Why are they still docked?”

“I told him that it would take a year to refit them. The ships didn’t even arrive until the end of June last year, so there’s just shy of six weeks for McKenna to finish closing them up. The current projection is that they’ll be done in four.”

“I have crews arriving for them in two weeks, we need those escorts now. I can’t afford to have your shipyards dragging their heels!” she barked. “The yards at Keid could have had them done two months ago.”

“If screaming at me make you feel better, Admiral, then I’m happy to help the SLDF. But keep a civil tongue in your head about my workers. I’m sure that Keid’s docks could have done the work faster, but we both know they’re tied up through to the end of next year with bigger ships anyway. By the time you cleared the docks you’d have saved maybe a month at best, and then had to do without the cruisers being built.” John rose to his feet. “I heard about the Newport News as well.”

One of the SLDF’s massive yardships, capable of docking even a battleship for vital repairs, the SLS Newport News had been rammed the previous week, immobile as it worked to repair a destroyer’s jump-drive. Although the dropship had been hit repeatedly by shots from the escort, it had still been nearly ten thousand tons of metal, moving too fast to be stopped. Neither the yardship nor the destroyer had survived, and almost none of their crews had reached lifeboats.

“We’re having to pull corvettes forward from the supply lines to give the support squadrons extra cover,” Brandt told him, calming down a little.  “That’s going to leave the convoys exposed, which is exactly what those destroyers are supposed to doing.”

“Then there’s going to be a gap. It’s very unfortunate but shouting at me won’t change that.” John shook his head. “We’ll have all ten of the Naga you sent to us ready before the end of next month, which is still going to be faster than the Confederation or the Combine is managing. I don’t necessarily recommend screaming them, either.”

Brandt glared at him. “Crap rolls downhill, your highness. In my experience a little well directed anger can usually motivate people to work faster.”

“That isn’t how I run my realm or my military.”

“From what I hear, it shows in some of their performances.” The admiral pulled the soft purple cap of her dress uniform out of the pocket she’d jammed into. “But whatever method you do use, I’d appreciate it if you could see if the Carson’s are handled faster.”

“There are work crews aboard them now, getting started on anything that doesn’t require a full dock for,” John assured her. “I can’t promise an exact date yet, but they shouldn’t take longer at least. It’ll depend how much of what they did on the Nagas can be applied.”

“Maybe we should have just focused on the Nagas, then.” Brandt donned the cap. “You might beat the other yards on the first run of reconditionings only to come in third with the next one.”

“Now you see, that’s one of the motivations that I do use.” John rose and walked her to the door. “We have some of our own ships working up not far from Kathil, I’ll see if we can have them adjust their schedules to cover convoys.”

“And what do you want for that?”

“Normally I’d say nothing, since I usually feel that what’s good for the SLDF benefits me down the line. But since you’ve been such a delight to work with, ask General Kerensky to appoint someone of a suitable stature to act as a permanent liaison between my staff and his.” John gestured towards the door. “Bon voyage, Admiral Brandt.”

He closed the door behind her and leant against it for a moment before going to his desk again. “Owen, can you clear me the next fifteen minutes?”

“Of course, sire. I’ll let your wife know you’ll be a couple of minutes late to meet with the Scout troop from Arcadia.”

“I don’t pay you enough, Owen.”

“Well I wouldn’t refuse a wage hike, sire, but could it come from the black budget? I do have to work with the rest of the secretarial staff and it wouldn’t do to rub it in.”

John snorted and made a note to make sure to ask Edwina for suggestions on what Owen might appreciate as a gift. Then he made sure the intercom was off and looked over at Hanse. “I don’t know how Kerensky works with that woman.”

“She’s probably like most of the SLDF and thinks that the only reason he uses dropships is that it would make them feel inadequate if he just jumped up and down between McKenna’s Pride and planetary surfaces.”

 That got a forced chuckle from the First Prince. “I’ll send him a message to make it clear that asking for a liaison isn’t really a quid pro and more to ease frictions. I can live without more meetings.”

“Sure, but you didn’t need fifteen minutes to tell me that. What do you want to get off your chest?”

He sat down heavily. “You were right.”

Hanse moved to the desk and perched on one corner. “I manage that often enough that I need to ask what you’re referring to.”

“Amaris.” John hunched forward over the desk. “We’ve tried for years but we still don’t have any evidence to pin anything on him. Now I can’t see anything we can do except kill him if we’re to save the Star League.”

“When we discussed this six years ago, you pointed out that his son might simply take over. Tadeo’s of age now, which makes him even more dangerous.”

“At this point I don’t think we’re going to be worse off.” John raised his hand and started ticking off options on his fingers. “There are basically five scenarios here. First I do nothing, in which case it seems highly probable that Amaris will take Terra and the Hegemony just as he did in your history. Second, we try and fail but it’s not traced back to me. Really we’re no worse off at that point.”

“Third, it fails and Stefan can pin it on you. Richard would believe him.”

John nodded. “Joshua completes his military service this year, he’d be ready to take over and I’d be able to show that he had no hand in it. In that case, I take the fall and abdicate. The chances of the Star League Council supporting any drastic measures against me are slim, they’d not want to set a precedent. My story would be that I blamed him for the sniper in ’62.”

“Which might even be true.”

That got a shrug from the First Prince. “If so, then fitting I use it now as an excuse.” He examined his hand, with three fingers extended and then straightened his little finger. “We succeed but it’s traced to me. Same scenario, really, except that House Amaris might try to take up Stefan’s plan. Given the snake-pit of Apollo’s court, there’s at least a reasonable chance that someone would betray the coup attempt.”

“And finally he’s dead and no one identifies you. Which has the same chance.” Hanse shook his head. “Of course, if the attempt is linked to you then it’ll be damaging to the plans we’ve been working on. I know there are contingency documents prepared so Joshua wouldn’t be coming at it cold, but we’d almost certainly be unable to influence events any further.”

“I think it’s worth the risk.” To you, Hanse, the deaths that a collapsing Star League would cause are a statistic, something from a long time ago. But these are my people. I have the responsibility to do everything in my power to protect them from that.

The 31st century man spread his hands. “It’s your decision, John. Do you have the capability?”

“We have someone on Apollo. If it’s to be done, it has to be done there. He’s a local, as far as he knows the people supporting him are a cell of the Rift Republican Army…”
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: drakensis on 23 November 2017, 16:27:08
Avalon City, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Suns
21 July 2766

Joshua’s new office was luxurious, but it felt like a cell to him.

He’d had an office for the last six months when he commanded a company of the Fourth Davion Guards, but that was just somewhere to keep the unavoidable paperwork and for privacy when someone needed some career guidance, also known as an ass-chewing. It wasn’t where he did his real job, in other words.

After four hours of reading reports he hadn’t requested and covered matters whose relative importance he didn’t feel he could judge, he’d made his escape and started visiting subordinate offices more or less at random.

Apart from giving his bodyguards a headache – and that was something else he’d have to get used to again, the detail at NAMA had been fairly unobtrusive and with the Guards his security had rested more on being surrounded by the regiment’s personnel and being on military reservations most of the time – he at least had some more context for what his Ministry did, and more importantly how. The Ministry of Administrative Services was a catch-all for any department that didn’t fall neatly into the purview of other Ministries. As such, the various department heads had little need to actually coordinate with each other.

Joshua’s task, as he understood it, was to have an overview of any problems that arose and to sort out any conflicts his department heads ran into with their counter-parts in other ministries. That felt a little daunting, since most of them were of his father’s generation or older, but at least in general he knew who they were and was their legal equal within the bureaucracy.

That didn’t mean he was ready to go back to his office though. An overview was all very well, but he’d spoken to the officer equivalents so far. The career managers who proposed policy, presented reports and spent their time in meetings with each other. Important, certainly, but what he needed if he really wanted a feel for the nitty-gritty then he wanted the sergeant equivalents, the long-service staff who carried out the work itself.

Thus, on his second day – and giving both the staff and his bodyguard details more warning this time – Joshua Davion adopted the threadbare disguise of combing his hair the other way, wearing a cheaper suit and a security badge that claimed he was ‘JD Winters’. Rather than visiting private offices, he sat on cheap government issue chairs in open plan offices and listened discreetly as the Federation Parcel and Post Agency dealt with complaints, the Federal Prison Service updated the dossiers of both current confines and on discharged prisoners who would still be on watch-lists, and finally the Department of Transportation as they struggled to co-ordinate the immense flow of shipping across the border of the Terran Hegemony and the Federated Suns.

Grabbing a quick dinner in one of the staff canteen, which he rated as somewhere between field rations and what he could have expected in a military barracks, Joshua went back through the notes he’d taken. He frowned. No, he wasn’t imagining it. Every time the Hegemony came in in discussion, regardless of the department, the same general perspectives came out.

“Time to head back home,” he decided aloud and put his tray away, the meal only half-eaten.

That was second on the list of things he was going to change, he decided. If the AFFS could deliver better food to soldiers on their bases, why couldn’t canteens in the middle of Avalon City?

It was only a short drive up Mount Davion to reach the family residence. At least home hadn’t changed, the sprawling fantasy castle that had been claimed centuries ago as the seat of power for House Davion. It was a national icon and two dollar bank notes printed in the Suns still bore its image on the rear, a holdover from the pre-Star League currency.

“Is my father home?” he asked at the security desk, only the most obvious of the multiply redundant layers of protection around the castle.

The conservatively-suited woman behind the desk – actually a Corporal from one of the infantry regiments assigned to the Royal Court - checked her console. “He should be in the family apartments,” she advised. “Welcome home, Prince Joshua.”

“Thanks.” He was about to go further when he caught her tapping the lapel of her jacket. Why was she…? Oh! With an embarrassed grin, he removed the security badge he’d been wearing. Probably some of the people he’d been sitting in with had guessed who he was, but no one had challenged him on it. Most had probably just taken him for another incoming manager getting some orientation – it would have been disruptive for a Minister to openly visit without more warning, particularly one of the royal family. Perhaps he should keep the badge in case he needed ‘JD Winters’ again, it could come in handy.

A lift took him up to the apartments and he ditched both the jacket and waistcoat of his suit before going looking for his father. One of the lounges was locked and he knocked. No one outside his parents should be here and behind a locked door.

A moment later the door opened and he saw John Davion, similarly dressed down for a private evening. “Home is the warrior?” his father greeted him. “I hope those aren’t the trousers you wore to the office, your valet will be crushed.”

“I don’t have a valet, and I was more or less incognito today.”

“You should. Like it or not, we’ve got to maintain a proper image.” The older Davion opened the door wider and gestured for him to come in. On one of the wall screens some sort of stage performance recording had been paused. “So how was your day?”

“Well I have a better idea what I should be doing compared to two days ago.”

“Good.” John sat down and lifted the remote for the wall screen.

Joshua winced. “Is that one of those Italian operas that mother despises.”

His father grinned and shut the display down. “I don’t expect you to listen to it, just keep whatever music your age bracket like lately inside your own rooms, fair?”

“Deal. I’m not spoiling your evening, am I?”

“We haven’t exactly spent a lot of time together since you graduated, Joshua. It makes a nice change to see more of you.”

“Thanks.”

“Of course, if I’m cutting into you going out and finding some nice young woman who can provide your mother and I with grandchildren, then go forth, young man, and multiply.” John raised his hand in mocking benediction.

“Father!”

“What, you’re not thinking about it?”

“I don’t want to be another cousin, Joseph.”

“Ah.” John’s smile dropped. “Alright. I won’t press you too hard on that then. It’s harder for us, in some ways, than other people. Our lives are more public. Don’t let chances slip through your fingers.”

“I wanted to talk to you about work, actually,” Joshua told him, pushing the other topic aside. “There seemed to be something… wrong with our relations with the Terran Hegemony.”

“Oh?”

“It came up a few times today, that when our people contact their counter-parts in the Hegemony they’re not getting the same co-operation they used to take for granted. Requests are lost, or slide back and data only arrives at the last minute. Sometimes later. I don’t have any overview, but it’s costing us time and money. Hurting people’s livelihoods.”

“Yes, it is,” his father agreed.

“You know about this?” Why aren’t you doing something about it? He didn’t ask that though.

For a moment John looked much more than his forty-six years of age. “When the First Lord farts, a thousand bureaucrats crap bricks,” he answered, bluntly. “Richard Cameron may not be much of a First Lord, or much of a Director-General, but the Hegemony still takes its general policies from him and good relations with the Federated Suns are a long way down his priorities.”

“But why? Of all the states, we’re supporting him more than anyone!”

“We’re supporting the SLDF, and by extension, supporting General Kerensky. In Richard’s eyes that isn’t the same thing.”

Joshua slumped into his chair. “So for that he’s putting the entire administrative structure of the League at risk? We’re one of the Hegemony’s biggest trading partners, or at least we were. Just today I saw at least three major contracts that could collapse because of this.”

“You’re not wrong, son. But how Richard chooses to run the Hegemony is up to him, not me. I can’t make him fix these problems, all I can do – and all you can do, now – is try to cushion our corporations against the damage it’s causing.”

“There has to be a way.” He clenched his fists. “Have you talked to Bennett Green? Isn’t this exactly what the Bureau of Star League Affairs should be digging into?”

His father shook his head. “I have, yes. But if you want to do the same then by all means. Maybe you’ll find a solution I haven’t. That would certainly be a relief.”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence.”

“Chin up, it’s only your second day on the job.” John stretched his arms out above his head. “It’s a big adjustment from being in the military. There you need to be decisive, try to solve everything with one clean sweep. That’s not how bureaucracy seems to function. I found it the same twenty years ago when I was in your shoes.”

“Was it that bad then?”

“No. No, it wasn’t.” John slumped into his chair. “And that, more than anything, is how far I’ve failed as the First Prince.”

.o0O0o.

Sidebar: The Star League Defense Force

"The PERSUASIVE FORCE exercises suggested that the combined forces of three SLDF armies could potentially overcome the Hegemony’s defenses. Of course, no member of the Star League could field a force of that size, so the Hegemony was deemed entirely secure."

Founded in 2571 shortly after the Star League itself, the SLDF had a rocky beginning. All the member-states had contributed portions of their armed forces to the new service. With the exception of the Terran Hegemony, which transferred its entire regular military, these were often regiments and ships that the Lords preferred to do without. Alexander Davion, for example, selected the thirty-seven regiments he sent from the Terran March and Capellan March forces that had opposed him in the Davion Civil War, and twenty-two of the twenty-three warships he handed over were block-I Davion-class destroyers of questionable utility (the SLN refits to make use of them ultimately yielded the Whirlwind-class in 2606).

Ian Cameron originally vested leadership of the SLDF in his wife, Lady Shandra Noruff-Cameron, who was a respected military leader in her own right. Disbanding existing regiments, she merged troops together from various realms, ensuring they were posted away from their home states to avoid conflicting loyalties. In addition, a core of elite regiments drawn solely from the Terran Hegemony were established as the Royal Command, who received preferential equipment. The SLDF’s initial actions weren’t promising – seeking to support a Capellan regiment against brigands made up of ex-soldiers from the Confederation, the Twenty-Second Royal BattleMech Regiment found itself under fire from the Capellan Regulars. A year later, poor coordination hobbled SLDF divisions during large-scale exercises against House units.

It was almost fortunate that in 2573, incidents on Malagrotta and Santiago drew the SLDF out into the Periphery and into the sprawling conflict later named the Reunification War. Given outside opponents to focus upon and a war-time budget, the SLDF matured into a powerful and flexible military force. As the House militaries were cut back further in 2650, greater responsibilities were delegated to the SLDF which grew to meet them.

By the 2760s, the SLDF numbered seventy-two regular corps, fielding between four and nine divisions of forces. These were grouped into twenty armies, along with an almost equal number of independent regiments and brigades. Supporting these were twenty fleets that totalled 1500 warships with a further 750 warships operating independently or in detached squadrons or divisions. Originally each fleet was attached directly to one army but reforms had separated them, with the fleets operating in their own areas of responsibility, overlapping the military districts occupied by the armies.

Until the Edict of 2650 was overturned, the SLDF possessed more than twice the military might of all ten states combined. As a result the commanders were vetted extremely carefully. Only one Commanding General would ever break faith with their First Lord, and even General Fredasa was motivated by the good of the Star League – First Lord Jonathan Cameron was a functional paranoid, obsessed with threats he perceived in dreams – rather than any personal ambition.
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: drakensis on 24 November 2017, 12:27:22
Avalon City, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Suns
14 August 2766

“Your highness.” The man saluting John was wearing the uniform of the Star League Navy, but he showed no sign of Brandt’s unrelenting aggression.

“Commodore Grec. It’s good to meet you at last. General Kerensky sent me a glowing recommendation when he told me you were on the way, but your record speaks for itself.”

“You’re too kind,” the Star League officer demurred. “There’s no shortage of fine officers who could have been sent. I suspect my old friend picked me because I’d carry the most literal weight.” He slapped his uniform waist-sash, which was straining just a little more than was ideal. “I hope I’ll be some use to you, though.”

John gestured towards the couch. “You’ve a reputation for fairness, and you managed to keep a cool head when you were posted to the border between the Lyrans and the League. Given some of the conversations I’ve had with Admiral Brandt, I hope we can get a good working relationship going.”

Janos Grec took the indicated seat. “Admiral Brandt has a great deal of pressure on her at the moment,” he said diplomatically. “I can see how there might be some… unintentional friction as a result.”

“Let’s move forward then.” John sat opposite him. “Our supply and transportation department have been looking at the situation and they’ve come up with an idea to stretch convoy escorts further. It’s a little more pressure on the transports themselves, but increasing their number is easier.”

“What do they have in mind?”

“Right now there are two primary supply lines going through the Federated Suns – one through the Draconis March to the Alliance and the other through the Capellan March to get to the Taurians. Instead of that, the idea is to establish several depots in the central Crucis March, roughly equidistant between the two war zones – the existing SLDF Forts on Andalusia, Minette and Bonneau would be ideal as starting points, possibly expanding their underground facilities for additional warehousing. While shipping items from the Hegemony out to those depots would extend the total distances required, convoy escorts would only be essential for shipments from there to the frontlines.”

Grec raised an eyebrow. “You don’t think that the rebels would strike at the first leg of the supply lines?”

“It would be very hard for them to identify critical cargos being shipped due to the sheer amount of shipping that already moves between the Hegemony and the Crucis March,” John pointed out. “And contracting civilian shipping would let you move stocks of fuel, ammunition and the most commonly needed spare parts – armour plating and myomers – out of the Hegemony and still be able to adjust the flow of supplies between the two battle fronts as needed.”

“That would help but there would be some short-term disruption and with the progress we’re making, it’s not clear the fighting will last for another year. What if we end up moving millions of tons of supplies only to then just ship them back to the Hegemony?”

The First Prince shook his head sadly. “There’ll need to be a long occupation,” he predicted gloomily. “Remember, Aleksandr Sergeyevich and I had discussed moving the SLDF out to the periphery before we learned about the hidden forces being built up. If anything the insurgency will have more to fight for and just policing the battlefields to ensure they aren’t obtaining munitions and weapons from wrecked combat gear will take years.”

He saw the Commodore pick up on the use of Kerensky’s first name and patronymic, a reminder that John and the Commanding General were on close terms. “As far as I can tell, right now it’s cheaper for the SLDF to buy supplies from my factories than to ship your existing stocks from Terra, but of course the Federated Suns can’t come close to supplying your needs alone.”

Grec nodded slowly. “If you have a detailed proposal then I’d be happy to discuss it with the General and his staff. You’re probably not wrong about the logistical demands now that the existing depots in and around the warzones have been emptied.”

“I’ll have the data sent to your office today for you to look over,” John promised him. “The next thing I wanted to suggest was the SLDF’s wounded.”

The commodore’s shoulders tensed. “Is there a problem?” Something like four hundred thousand wounded soldiers were being treated at SLDF facilities in the Suns.

“They aren’t a problem at all, actually I’m hoping that they’ll help me to solve a problem. There have been some rumbles from the High Council – nothing too surprising and I don’t think it’s a widespread issue as far as my citizens are concerned but some of the nobility and the media outlets they control have been shifting the focus of their coverage a little lately.”

“How do you mean?”

“To give an example, one of the major magazines in the Capellan March put out a survey earlier in the year, something they do annually for hot-button political questions to get a feel for what their readers care about. Last year they asked if the Federated Suns should do more to support the Star League in the periphery – the result was solidly yes, by the way.”

“Good to know,” Grec interjected. “And it’s hard to deny that you’ve been doing that.”

“Thank you. But this year the same magazine asked ‘Is it fair that the Federated Suns provides ten times the support to the Star League that the Capellan Confederation does?’”

“Ten times?”

John shrugged. “I’m not sure how they reached the number, probably through some fairly creative accounting of what constitutes support. The point is though, that’s a very inflammatory question to ask. It’s hard to give any answer but no – and it impacts the way millions of readers feel about the war effort.”

“I see. How do our wounded come into it then?”

“The best way to counter this sort of thing is through good publicity. Some of the wounded are fit for light duty even if they still need regular medical care. Could you see if some of them would be willing to volunteer to make public appearances?”

“I can ask, of course. Volunteers only?”

John snorted. “With the amount of public appearances I make, I wouldn’t considered ordering someone to go through that. But if we don’t do something then the support I can give you might turn out to be contingent on horse-trading with the High Council. I may have day to day authority to run the realm as I see fit, but I’m also answerable to them.”

“And a milligram of prevention is worth a kilogram of cure,” agreed Grec. “If I could raise a matter from our end, Lycomb Technologies have raised concerns about some of their recent interactions with the AFFS and how it might impact on the upgrade programme for our Stuka heavy fighters…”

.o0O0o.

Res Publica Star Port, Apollo
Apollo Province, Rim Worlds Republic
5 November 2766

In theory the Blackshark hangers were under constant guard by some of the President’s most reliable regiments. In practise, with so many regiments despatched to the Terran Hegemony, the most that could be said of the infantry regiment stationed at the star port was that they were sincerely committed to the perquisites provided by House Amaris.

Since one of those perquisites was access to the luxury goods warehouses, Phillip Drummond was fairly sure that the squad stationed at the rear access point were keeping an eye out for their own officers more than for any serious infiltration. After all, the officers had instructions to keep pilfering within reasonable grounds – a debateable term at the best of terms – while infiltrators would have had to get past the outer perimeter.

He was careful to make enough noise that the soldiers had time to tuck bottles and injectors out of plain sight before he reached the guard post and didn’t raise an eyebrow at the cards still on the table, imperfectly covered by several patriotic or sporting magazines.

“Keeping warm?” he asked, blowing on his gloved hands. “These damn gloves aren’t thick enough for weather like this.”

“Lowest bidder, sir,” the sergeant said wisely. He looked down at his hands and then apparently thought better of what he was about to say about his own gloves. “I understand Lieutenant Cole in Baker Company has a source for some better ones, though I couldn’t say where from. Regulation cut but better insulation.” He shrugged. “Out of my salary’s reach, but for an officer.”

The lieutenant refrained from letting a cynical grin cross his face. Out of salary indeed. More likely they were from a crate somewhere on the port, one advantage of civilian fashions being to ape militaristic styles. “Thank you for the advice, sergeant. Mind if I tap your coffee supply before the next leg?”

“Ah…” Objecting was clearly out of the question but the man was evidently reluctant to hand over the flask.

Drummond reached into one pocket and showed him the top of a hip flask. “This stuff makes me feel warm but it’s not actually helping.”

The man relaxed and poured out a cup for the lieutenant. Sniffing, the younger man was amused at the scent. Good beans had gone into this, but so had some pretty expensive whiskey unless he missed his guess. Maybe even some of the Terran bottles. If this kept up there might be a pretty fierce crackdown by the Household.

Of course, they might have other concerns shortly.

“Good stuff, sergeant. Glad to see you’re looking out for your men.” He finished the cup and handed it back before leaving the little pocket of warmth and heading back outside. From the sounds behind him, the squad was busy getting back to their cards and other entertainments before he’d even closed the door – too busy to notice that he dropped out of sight at the door of the hanger not the corner.

The security lock was first class and the first time he swiped the card through it, nothing happened. That was good – an improper card should have set off alarms. Twirling it in his fingers he tried the other edge, the one with the factory default codes. There was a click and then he was into the hanger, closing the door behind him.

It was dark but not pitch-black, a few low intensity lights in the ceiling giving him rough outlines for the maintenance gear around the edges of the hanger and the elegant delta-wing of the President’s personal dropship. Tonight was the one chance he had – Stefan Amaris would be leaving in the morning on the two month journey to Terra. The ground crew had done a system by system check over the last three days which would have turned up any sabotage, but it was likely that a standard pre-flight would miss something subtle.

Making his way towards the rear of the ship, Drummond looked for something he could move. A wheeled tool cart caught his eye and he unlocked the brakes. The auxiliary engine would be too obvious so he had to rely on brute force to wheel it over to beneath the maintenance hatch that he wanted.

Scrambling up on top he slipped the hydro spanner out of his sleeve and set it against the first securing bolt. It slipped. A second attempt did the same and the young man swore under his breath. He froze at the carelessness, stood obviously atop the cart. If anyone was in earshot…

Fortunately, there was no sound to indication investigation. Relaxing at last he placed the spanner over the bolt again and wiggled it gently. Dammit. Dammit. It wasn’t fitting, it was the wrong size. Now where was he going to get another…?

Looking down at what he was standing on, Drummond snickered privately and climbed down. A moment’s comparison and he found a smaller hydro spanner in the racked tools. This one fitted and he quickly removed seven of the eight bolts. The last he only loosened, letting the panel loose without disconnecting entirely from the hull. Rotating it carefully he held it up with one hand while the other reached into the cavity behind it.

The inside of the hatch was in shadow so he had to work by touch. One, two, three… his gloved fingers found the fourth circuit board and he pulled it free. With barely more light to work with than there was inside the ship Drummond squinted at it and was relieved to see that it matched what he’d been told to expect. Dropping it on the trolley, he almost lost his grip on the cover.

Carefully, carefully, he reminded himself. The replacement circuit-board was inside his jacket. Plugging it in was the work of a moment and then he rotated the panel back into place. Only then did he realise he’d dropping the bolts on the trolley and couldn’t recover them while holding the panel.

Dammit, this is a two man job. But I’m the only one who could get in to do it.

Resecuring the bolt as tightly as he could, Drummond crouched and groped around and found two more bolts. When he straightened up he found the panel already working loose. Pressing it back in place he used the bolts to secure two more corners, then climbed down to find the other bolts.

Only four were in evidence and he’d somehow knocked the circuit board off the top of the trolley. He cursed his carelessness, for a missing bolt was the sort of thing a pre-flight walk around would definitely spot. I should have got a technician’s vest or something.

He knelt down to recover the board and registered something about the wheels of the trolley. One of them was… With a relieved sigh Drummond identified the cause of the distorted shape – the missing bolt had rolled under one of the rubber tyres. He scooped it up. Right, that should be the worst of it…

Forcing himself to work steadily and not to make a mistake by rushing, Drummond resecured the panel and then pushed the trolley back to where he’d found it. He patted his pocket, making sure he still had the circuit board he’d returned and the hydro spanner he’d brought with him. All secure!

The door would be the big risk, he thought as he opened it a crack to listen for any sounds outside. If anyone tried to use it before Blackshark One took off then they’d know the codes had reset. It wasn’t unheard of for electronic locks of this type, but it could still arouse suspicions given that Amaris paid only for the best.

There was nothing he could do about it, he decided. For his personal safety it only had to last until he got off base. He had a bag waiting for him and enough cash to get him to the next supply cache he’d set up. At the end of a convoluted escape route was a hidden shelter with six months’ rations and a stack of book-tapes. Let the initial heat pass, get plenty of healthy exercise and he’d be able to risk getting back to his RRA contact – looking like more of a body builder and maybe with a beard. Learning Greek had been on his bucket list anyway…

Thoughts of the future vanished as he heard a muffled putt-putt sound from the guard post. Was it another officer?

Forwards and he might be able to explain himself, back and he’d be properly ******. Drummond let the door close behind him and unsnapped his pistol holster.

Shadows were moving around the guard-post and he saw a small electric freight-cart parked outside. The sort of thing a technical crew might use, not powerful enough for proper military use.

Creeping closer, he saw a stack of tool kits in the rear. Nothing out of the ordinary. And on the front a security pass for the area. Two mug-shots to reflect the authorised operators and a magnetic strip that you could run a sensor across.

Oh good, a distraction. He pulled his flashlight from his belt and flashed it over the security pass, knowing the squad inside the light would take it as a warning he or another officer was in the area. Satisfied, he pushed the door open with casual confidence.

The sergeant before was still at the table, one pocket bulging as if a wad of bank-notes – for example – had been crammed hastily into it. Two men in technician’s coveralls were opposite him, clutching mugs of coffee and Drummond’s eyes narrowed sharply in suspicion – those faces weren’t the ones on the security pass.

“Evening, Lieuten -” was as far as the Sergeant got, before the nearest of the technicians burst into action.

In the split second as the table up-ended and both the technicians pulled derringers from their vests, Drummond blamed the accumulated nerves of the evening for having let them realise he’d made them. The nerves, or more likely the fact that he’d allowed himself to relax after getting out of the hanger. What, in the end, did he care what two intruders were up to? Dereliction of duty would be small change once the Republic’s security apparatus realised that Lieutenant Phillip Drummond had attempted – hopefully succeeded – the assassination of the President and his family.

All of that went through his mind but none of it affected the trained reflex that threw him backwards out of the door, tearing his automatic pistol from his holster.

A shot went past his face, close enough that Drummond was left blinking and half-stunned at the hammer-blast of air and cordite particles. His fingers tightened reflexively and his own gun barked.

He rolled then, cursing himself for being slow, too slow…

“Clear!” the sergeant shouted shrilly. “All clear! Hold him, Graves! I said, oh for god’s sake…”

There was a meaty thump.

“Useless sack,” the sergeant’s voice continued. “You okay, sir?”

Drummond blinked, lowered his pistol. “I… think so.” Then he recalled himself and raised the gun again. “What’s going on?”

“Not sure,” the older man admitted. “Don’t know why they went for you like that, but we grabbed the one you didn’t get.” He paused and then added, respectfully, “You’ve got reflexes like a cat, sir. And a steady hand to drill him square between the eyes. I never seen the like.”

Hell, I couldn’t even see him.

.o0O0o.

Six hours later, Phillip Drummond was standing with his eyes watering in front of the man he’d tried to kill. He wasn’t sure if the eye-drops were at fault for his eyes or the lights. Or possibly the simmering rage.

“I’d wait for a more formal occasion,” Stefan Amaris told him warmly, “But who knows when I’ll be back from Terra and some things should be done personally.”

“It’s an honour,” he lied.

“It’s I who’s honoured.” The fat man gripped him by the shoulders, hands shaking with emotion. “You saved my wife and our children, Captain – no, Major - Drummond! And less importantly, my own. Those RRA scum had sabotaged the dropship and if you hadn’t caught them on their way out, the first we’d have known of it was when we fell out of the sky.”

“I was in the right place at the right time. Really, the other soldiers did as much as me.”

Amaris shook his head, long moustaches flying back and forth. “No false modesty!” he insisted. “Selim will take care of seeing to your promotion, and you’re to be transferred to the Amaris Dragoons at the next opportunity. We’re in dark times and it’s men like you that give me hope for the future.”

“Stefan, let the poor Major breathe.” The First Lady of the Republic was still a striking beauty after twenty years married to her husband. “His eyes must still be paining him.”

“Oh, of course.” The President released Drummond and squinted at his eyes. “What was I thinking?”

“Please don’t concern yourself, sir.”

“Nonsense, nonsense.” Seeing an aide gesturing, Amaris looked over and seemed to pick up on some signal. “Ah, the replacement shuttle is ready to leave. I’m sorry I can’t give you more time to express my gratitude, Drummond, but apparently even a member of the Council must bow to the dictates of jump-ship scheduling.”

Taborri Amaris sniffed slightly at that idea and then stepped in to kiss Drummond drily on one cheek. It felt more to him like some shark bumping its snout against something to see if it was edible than any affection. “Thank you, Major, with all my heart,” she told him stiffly.

He bowed, hoping it hid any ambivalence on his part. “It’s my privilege to serve you, my lord and lady.”

“Ah, if I could only take you with me, but you need to see a doctor about those eyes.” Stefan jostled him again. “You know, that lout Kerensky’s family have some sort of hereditary honour for defending a Cameron, I should… Yes, yes, I’m coming.”

He bustled away and Drummond was left to stand, fists clenched as he watched the Amaris family board the shuttle that would take them to orbit and the ship pressed into service at the last minute to replace Blackshark One.

What the hell? he thought in frustration. If those men were RRA, then who is it that I’ve been working with? Are there separate cells that didn’t talk to each other? Or was one of us set up by someone else?

Something told the young officer that he’d be a long time finding out, but for now he had to turn his attention to the more pressing matter of surviving the attention he’d just drawn to himself.

.o0O0o.

Avalon City, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Suns
9 December 2766

“Sire, with the greatest possible respect, I wish you’d discussed this with me first.”

It would have been harsh to say that Joel Parks, Minister of Ways and Means, was the stereotypical accountant. Harsh, but with his thinning hair, horn-rimmed glasses (a fashion statement rather than a medical requirement) and plain grey suit, not entirely unfair. His expression of restrained disappointment was the most emotion John had ever seen of him.

It also made him a devastatingly effective poker player. An entire team of internal affairs was constantly scrutinising senior members of the Exchequer and given the potential impact of gambling debts, they paid particularly close attention to Parks. (It cost a depressing, if mundane on governmental scales, amount to insert agents into high level poker tournaments on a regular basis). All reports indicated that neither winning nor losing amounts coming to three or four times his annual salary had shaken his demeanour.

“I won’t say that the money you’re providing won’t be valuable, with the programmes you’ve ordered us to instate helping firms to find alternative markets and sources to the Hegemony, but I’m concerned about how you’ve obtained it.”

John nodded. “It was in the nature of a unique opportunity, Joel.” He leant back and spread his hands. “But we’re in private, please feel free to have your say now. I want your unvarnished opinion.”

“In aggregate, I think this is the largest loan the Federated Suns has taken out since Prince Alexander’s Reconstruction Bill of 2545, and that was from internal sources and understood to be a long term repayment backed by the confiscated Rostov estates.” Joel pushed his glasses up his nose. “Slightly more than half a trillion dollars, from Terran banks is an extraordinary degree of exposure that I’d find hard to justify even if it wasn’t for the nature of the securities involved.”

“I understood it to be quite ordinary to secure loans with personal property,” John said, hiding his amusement. Hanse, the lucky fellow, was snickering loudly from the couch. “Mortgages and the like.” He made a dismissive gesture. “I’ve never had one myself, but it’s a major part of the credit industry, isn’t it?”

“I’d hesitate to commit myself without seeking legal advice,” Parks responded peevishly, “But I’m not entirely convinced that what you’ve offered as collateral counts as personal property – or even your property. I don’t have access to your personal finances, of course, but I’m frankly shocked that such reputable firms would have accepted some of these terms.”

“I gather…” John leaned forwards and lowered his voice, “In confidence, you understand, that they may have over-extended themselves in other commitments and need to maximise the return on their remaining liquidity.”

Parks’ humph was severely understated. “I’m beginning to understand how someone might feel that desperate, sire. The comprehension may not be sinking in fully yet as I haven’t examined yet how the Exchequer can be expected to find the instalments on this. You understand that over the next five years we’ll need to add a total of over seven hundred and fifty billion dollars to our outgoings?”

“That’s what I’d thought, yes. Although it’s good to have confirmation, of course.”

“With tax revenue out of the Territorial States at below thirty percent of previous levels, and unlikely to recover whatever Kerensky’s able to accomplish.” Parks shook his head slightly. “There’s been an unavoidable cut in revenues received from the League and I understand the BSLA is already having to look very carefully at what it can afford to cut, which will have con-current effects on our own economy -”

John raised his hand. “Good point, please look at setting aside funds we can loan to the local office if need be. It’ll be far easier to get the money back from them in the long term than to recover from losing some of those programmes.”

Parks gave him a cool look. “I’m not given to dramatic gestures,” he said quietly. “I find myself hoping that you have something in mind to address these issues, which are only the first and most obvious to spring to mind.”

“I do,” John said confidently. “It’s not quite ready yet and I’d prefer to present it as a package to the rest of the Privy Council a little down the line… Six weeks or so from now, maybe the start of February depending on what happens over the Christmas period.”

Parks arched one eyebrow but John shook his head slightly. “I see… or rather, I look forward to seeing your plans. Are you entirely sure that this is wise?”

“With the situation we’re in at the moment, yes.” The First Prince met the Minister’s eyes steadily. “I admit it’s out of the ordinary, but right now anything else would be madness.”

“I’m told that House Davion has produced many people of remarkable talent. History supports this theorem.” Parks rose from his seat. “One hopes that you are such a talent in financial affairs. I regret to say I have found too many of my social contacts to have been similarly confident… until the time that they found themselves financially bankrupt and socially disgraced.”
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: drakensis on 24 November 2017, 12:27:42
Unity City, North America
Terra, Terran Hegemony
27 December 2766

The Boxing Day Soiree had kept Helena Cameron up late, far too late for her to be enthused about a morning event scheduled the day after. The only reason she’d refrained from cancelling it at all had been the deferred arrival of her brother’s friend this morning.

Richard had always been cruel, but for some reason he was worse around Lord Amaris. She didn’t know why it was – and on some level, she’d ceased to wonder – for the man himself didn’t seem especially given to the pettiness of her brother, but it was one of the few observations she’d shared with her sister when they could still rely upon each other.

That had changed last year, when Elizabeth came of age and could do so. Since then, Helena hadn’t heard from her sister – whether intentionally on her part or because of some action by Richard. She’d seen her yesterday, of course, but from long habit they’d avoided each other and resorted to whatever they could in order to get through the night.

The car’s mini-bar didn’t have anything Helena thought could be counted for ‘hair of the dog that bit you’ without being detected on her breath, so she’d settled for bottled water and several painkillers.

At least the cloud cover meant she didn’t have to deal with morning sun as she walked from her car up the steps of the Federated Suns embassy. Much to her surprise though, the grand hall behind the double doors wasn’t the usual bustle of bureaucrats and minor nobility wishing for an introduction or a chance to have their photo taken with her. Instead there were only a sprinkling of men and women in civilian attire but with distinctly military hair-cuts, moving purposely from room to room under dimmed lights.

“Lady Cameron, this way please.” She had to bite back a gasp at the way the man seemed to appear out the darkness.

“What’s going on?” the head of her security detail asked suspiciously, one hand inside his jacket. Only two of them had followed her inside and she was suddenly and uncomfortably aware that the door had closed behind them.

“Essentially -” And then there was a thump and the security man was on the floor, a red stain forming around his chest despite the body-armour she knew he wore. “We’re going to borrow Lady Cameron.”

Helena looked for her other guard and saw her reeling, gun out but pointed firmly at the floor due to the two rather large men pinning her between them.

“Don’t worry, Miss Helena.” The Feddie gave her a crooked smile. “She’ll be fine in ninety minutes, just a little sedative spray. Well,” he cocked his head to one side. “Let’s say that she’ll have as much chance of being fine as we have.” He took her arm and pulled her firmly forwards and deeper into the embassy.

“What’s going on?” she asked, realising that she was asking the same question that Mr Rowe had. “Why did you kill Mr Rowe?”

“In reverse order, he was one of Amaris’ men. A Krypteia member, no less. We don’t know the same about his colleague so we’ll leave her somewhere she can escape from easily. And what’s going on is a coup.”

“A coup. But… are you Feddies?”

“Yes, that’s right. You can call me Rafael.”

It was a nice name and he had a nice smile, she thought. “But why would the Feddies… The Federated Suns launch a coup? There are thousands of Rim Worlds troops loyal to my brother and millions of SLDF soldiers in the Suns…” She gasped at a thought. “Is it Kerensky?”

Rafael shook his head. “I didn’t say that we were behind the coup, and none of the Rim Worlders are loyal to your brother.” He opened a door and led her inside, releasing her to close the door. “I’m sorry I can’t give you privacy, but please change your clothes.”

The room had been an office of some kind but now it was a mess with every computer opened and parts yanked open. Cabinets had been left open and the chair upended on top of the desk. A poorly pressed set of pants and a military-style tunic hung from a hanger suspended from a chair-leg. Beneath was a rugged hiking backpack and some boots with thick socks stuffed into them.

Helena looked at Rafael, judging her chances of getting out of the room. Slim, she judged. Although he didn’t seem to be looking at her with any of unpleasant looks she’d had sometimes from her brother’s ‘friends’. He might just be hiding it, but there didn’t seem to be any better options than compliance.

As normal then.

Matter-of-factly she unbuttoned her top and made to drop it on the desk. Rafael moved, wraithlike, and took it from her hands without a word, dropping it in the metal waste bin.

When she removed her skirt she heard a slight change in his breathing. Oh. So it was like that.

But he took the skirt without comment, putting it with the top. He’d added her shoes to the little heap before he said anything. “Has a doctor seen those bruises?”

“They’re nothing serious,” Helena said reflexively as she pulled on the pants.

“I see.” There was definite weight to his words now. The man picked up a small bottle she’d not noticed before and emptied the contents into the bin, over her clothes. “Would you like to do the honours?”

“What?”

He handed her a small device, little more than a hand-grip with a button and a tube sticking out of one end. “Click the button.”

When she obeyed, sparks flew from the end of the tube.

“Light the fire and we can go,” Rafael told her.

Ah. She thrust the tip of the tube into the bin and clicked. Her clothes lit immediately. Something to do with the bottle’s contents? She recalled vaguely that clothes weren’t supposed to be easily inflammable. “What now?”

“If we’re lucky, a few years of a new life being someone other than Helena Cameron.”

That sounded terribly appealing to Helena.

“But we’ll start by talking to one of our medics. There’s a bit of walking and I don’t like the look of those bruises. What happened?”

“I fell,” she said reflexively.

“I’ll bet.”

.o0O0o.

Avalon City, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Suns
4 January 2767

The sound of a phone interrupted John at one of the worst possible moments.

“John!” Edwina protested as he reached for the phone.

“I’m sorry,” he said, lifting the handset. “This had better be good,” he half-snarled down the phone.

“The Minister for Intelligence, sire. She says it’s Priority Absolute.”

“God.” It was happening. It was really happening. John realised he’d more than half not-believed it. Even despite everything that had happened, despite years of thinking about it.

“Sire?”

“Put her through.”

Edwina moved up behind him on the bed. “What is it?”

He flipped the switch for speakerphone. “Minister.”

“Your highness, I apologise for the hour.”

“I assume it can’t wait for the morning then.”

“No sir. Regular daily HPG transmissions from the Terran Hegemony to stations in the Clovis Combat Region weren’t received starting from the twenty-seventh of last month. It’s taken until now for word to get to us because apparently,” and her voice grew disgusted, “No one on those stations had the authority to up the priority.”

John swung upright. “Then the Hegemony’s gone silent.”

“I’ve spoken to the New Avalon representative of the Ministry of Communications and he’s authorised top priority querying of the rest of the network, we should have confirmation from stations in the Combine and Confederation by tomorrow. Per your standing instructions for any crisis affecting the Hegemony I’ve had a preliminary report forwarded to General Kerensky’s headquarters.”

“Good.” He sighed, mind racing. Was he ready for this? Was anyone ready for this? “Francesca, in your honest opinion, what are we looking at?”

“Doctor Bancroft is our top expert on K-F physics, over at MI2. She says there’s no way this a system failure or some natural disruption. We’re definitely looking at human action – and if it was just one or two stations falling out of connection then word should have been sent indirectly. That would mean that either the Hegemony’s dropped out of the HPG network, or the Federated Suns has been cut off.”

John drummed his fingers on the bedside table. “Is that including shared worlds?”

“They’re not responding.”

“Then our soldiers are cut off.” He wasn’t exactly dressed for this but history caught you on its own schedule. “Francesca send what you have on this to all members of the Privy Council. I’ll speak to the High Command myself.”

“Sire.” The line went dead.

“John?” Edwina rested one hand on his shoulder. “What’s going on, who would cut off the HPGs?”

“It’s hard to say for sure, but the most likely explanation is that someone’s up to something in the Hegemony and they don’t want the rest of the Star League to interfere. Most probably a coup.”

“Against Richard Cameron? I know he isn’t popular, but… really?”

“It’s been tried. Ian Cameron only inherited because his brother was killed, remember?” John picked up the phone and thumbed the controls. “Get me Michael Stopec.”

“What are you going to do?”

Before he could answer, Stopec’s voice came over the phone. “John? What can I do for you?”

“Michael, I’m declaring Case Attila. The High Command is to assemble at 0900 tomorrow but I want orders out for preliminary action, right away. Can you take care of that for me?”

“Ordering the meeting or sending the orders?”

“Both.”

The Colonel grunted. “Attila. You’re sure?”

“As sure as I can be.”

“Damn. Just… damn.” It was easy to imagine the Champion shaking his head, as if trying to shake off the impact of a physical blow. “Alright. I’ll get on it.”

“Thanks, Michael.”

“God bless,” the grizzled soldier replied, even more grimly than usual. “God bless us all if you’re right.”

John ended the call and looked back at his wife. Her eyes were worried. “Attila, as in the Hun? The Scourge of God, the man who sacked Rome?”

“I think that last bit was someone else, but otherwise yes. I speculated when the Periphery Uprisings began that the only way they could ever hope to win was to neutralise the Hegemony. Attila is the contingency file for that happening.”

“That’s impossible, surely.”

He looked at her sadly and then shrugged. “It’ll take a few days to find out.”

“And if it’s true? What happens then?”

John closed his eyes. “Then Kerensky will be taking the SLDF home, and all the horrors of war we’ve seen in the Periphery will be re-enacted on the richest and most populous worlds of the Star League. The Periphery realms will be left in virtual freedom unless the other Member States decided to take a hand – which would be foolish, really. And worst of all, we might have to answer a question no one ever thought to ask when they laid out the Star League Accords.”

Edwina pulled him down to lay against her, wrapping her arms about him. “What question?”

“Can the Camerons’ still lead the League if the Hegemony’s no longer the most powerful of all the Member-States?”

.o0O0o.

Sidebar: History of the Rim Worlds Republic

"Keep your friends close and House Amaris where you can see them."

The collapse of the Terran Alliance’s interstellar domain left chaos in its wake. Many colonies were not yet self-sufficient and it would take time for trade networks to develop to support then. Some sought alliances with their more established neighbours, others put armed men on the available starships and tried to take the needed resources by force. Others did the same for different reasons. Before the rebellion, Hector Rowe had been a professor of classics at the small university on Alexandria. Changed by his experiences fighting against the Alliance, in 2244 he recruited a band of followers and commandeered a ship at gunpoint to travel to the nearby Luciana where an isolated Terran garrison was still waiting for transport home. After a surprise attack, Rowe captured the garrison, condemning them to death by torture as ‘war criminals’.

Recognising that he had rendered himself an outlaw, Rowe turned to piracy in order to amass supplies before establishing a new colony on the distant world of Apollo. Modelled on his beloved classical Greece, Rowe’s new republic didn’t shrink from slavery or brutal law enforcement. Over the next century, as the great interstellar nations rose, refugees from worlds forcibly incorporated into them fled outwards and established nearby colonies. While both Hector Rowe and his son Maxwell were in turn overthrown by their offspring, the Rim Worlds Republic was the first world in the area and cautious diplomacy persuaded their new neighbours of benefits of close working relationships and eventually of joining the Republic, particularly after Arabella Rowe moderated the more extreme of her grandfather’s legacies.

Arabella’s children Michael and Heather Durant brought the Republic back into the mainstream of the dawning Age of War. While Michael relied on bluff and trade ties to expand the Republic’s power, Heather laid the foundation of another tradition by establishing a powerful intelligence service knowing that information could be sold both for profit and to keep the nearby Lyran Commonwealth and Draconis Combine focused on each other and not the Republic. In 2459, the childless Heather Durant named a successor: her close friend and rumoured lover, Lady Terens Amaris – the Terran ambassador to the Republic.

The status of House Amaris as outsiders led to resistance and harsh measures to suppress that resistance did little to endear them to their opponents. Nonetheless the new dynasty provided strong leadership and a connection to Terra that made their neighbours hesitant to make enemies of the Republic. In 2573 the Rift Republican Army – a veteran’s association whose name predated the current Rim Worlds Army - began to openly resist House Amaris. Gregory Amaris responded by seeking closer ties with Terra and the new Star League, either unaware or careless of the strong anti-Star League sentiment upon his worlds. In 2575 workers in a ‘Mech factory went on strike and overpowered the army regiment sent to break their occupation of the factory. When regular forces defected to the strikers, Gregory Amaris retreated to his estates and asked for Star League support.

Heavily engaged in fighting the other periphery states, it took six years for the Star League to deploy a relief force and fifteen more for them to liberate the embittered Gregory Amaris and restore him to power. The Rim Worlds had learned that the Star League would support House Amaris’ tyranny over their citizens and House Amaris had learned their low position in the League’s priorities. Neither lesson would be forgotten… or forgiven.
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: drakensis on 25 November 2017, 16:28:38
Zenith Jump Point, Ozawa
Lockdale Province, Terran Hegemony
15 January 2767

They hadn’t brought dropships with them, the mission was strictly reconnaissance, so at least Jones didn’t have to deal with the problems that had arisen at Tortuga. On the other hand, Moore had decided to detach three of the onboard fighter wings to reinforce the worried garrison on Mallory’s World, which Jones wasn’t happy about.

FSS Tancredi also wasn’t the first ship to jump into the destination system – that was what her escorts were for and the two destroyers had jumped ten minutes earlier. If all was well, they would have cleared the immediate battlespace around the jump point of all threats.

Actually, he thought as the universe lurched and Commodore Plains covered her mouth with a drawstring bag, if all went well there wouldn’t be any threats.

Then the transit was over and systems that had been locked down against the side-effects began to spin up again. Plains was bent over next to her console but long routine had her petty officers working around her for the thirty seconds it took her to get her dry heaves under control. The confirmation that nothing obstructed the launch axis of the ship came in before the little blonde had finished wiping her mouth with an absorbent cloth but she nodded to the questioning look from the man next to her and the first eight fighters streaked out into space.

The jump point was cluttered with traffic, mostly civilian boomers and the dropships they were carrying. The familiar icons of FSS Arthur Davion and her sister ship FSS Katherine Davion were amidst them, under one gravity of thrust and escorted by their own fighters.

“- aware armed jumpships among the civilian vessels.” Pyotr Antonov was senior of the two destroyer commanders. “One vessel engaged and destroyed, two others using civilians as cover.”

“Understood,” Moore answered crisply. “Form on our flanks and send us as much ID material as you have, we don’t want to cause casualties among the civilian shipping. Captain, proceed with caution.”

“Aye sir.” Jones spun his chair back to Plains’ station. “Air boss we need a search pattern for two hostiles. Possible converted pre-League merchantmen, possibly heavily armed. More detailed information to follow.”

“Search pattern, aye. Red and Blue wings on dorsal and ventral patterns. Holding Silver and Copper for response.”

Jones didn’t bother with confirmation – it was her decision and it was the right one. The first two wings she referred to by their colour-coded wing-tips were in Centurion interceptors – fast and agile which made them the best for finding the targets. The next two wings, not yet launched although they’d be out soon were in heavier Lightnings loaded with heavy autocannon. Not ideal for taking on enemy shipping but this was no situation to break out the nuclear warheads in the Tancredi’s arsenal.

Checking the data from the Arthur Davion he confirmed his guess: the ships were both built on the hulls of small pre-League starships that had been designed around compact jump-cores that had since been reserved to military function. About the size of a Merchantman-class boomer, but more slender and sporting a fusion thruster that pure jumpships – most of which never went in-system from jump points – didn’t need.

“If it wasn’t so packed, they’d stand out a wolf among sheep,” he noted. “Ships like that aren’t exactly common this near to Terra.”

“Periphery raider, perhaps,” Moore speculated. “It’s armed, though. The first sighted gave the Katy a real nudge before she could fire back.”

“Yes...” Jones looked at the data and then frowned. “They only fired with capital turrets, not with secondaries. They might have been holding them back until fighters were launched, of course.” He glanced at the tactical display. “Admiral, I recommend we make headway x-20, y-75 and get clear of the civilians.”

“That could leave them clear arcs to fire on us from among the civvies,” she observed. “On the other hand, with forty fighters combing through the area they’ll have to fight or run – Barry, have you got anything from the civvies yet? A lot of contradictory talk from them,” she added to Jones “I think our targets may be transmitting bad data when we try to get facts. Make headway, let’s see if it gets a response.”

“And likely the civilians are worried that if they’re near one of them they might be targeted for talking. Or just caught in the crossfire.” Jones turned to the helm and gave the necessary instructions.

Something was said on the flag-deck and Moore spoke up again. “They’ve been here two weeks, long enough to charge their drives.”

“Then they have an alternative to standing and fighting.”

“Target one sighted,” snapped Plains. “Position data being plotted, Silver – ah, hell – Silver Wing is going after it. We lost the fighter that spotted them but the rest of the squadron is closing in to reacquire.”

“Good work, Weiss.”

Silver-white icons threaded their way through the tactical plot, racing towards the orange-haloed blue marker of the lost Centurion. Hopefully the pilot had made it out but there was little chance of that if the thirty ton fighter had taken a hit from a weapon intended for use against ship massing hundreds of thousands of tons. The blue markers were also coalescing towards the same point, hunting the killer.

“Launching Gold Wing,” the air boss announced absently. “Green Wing is on hold for rearmament.”

Jones frowned. Green Wing were interceptors, they could only carry around sixty percent the external load of the Lightning wings and had no internal ammunition bins. Then again, they might need all the punch they could muster to take out the enemy ships without using the Davion-class destroyer’s capital autocannon. “Conventional warheads?” he asked her.

Weiss shook her head, short blonde curls surrounding her face like a halo. “Rocket pods.”

Jones arched an eyebrow. Weren’t those usually used for surface strafing? “Proceed then.” Second-guessing his Air boss could wait until after the fight – by which point her decision might have been vindicated.

The enemy ship popped back up onto the display as Blue wing reacquired it, skulking behind a flotilla of egg-shaped bulk-carriers almost as large as the shark-like starship.

Copper Wing  arced away from the Tancredi, moving to intercept the enemy’s course as it realised it had been sighted again and lit up its main drive, no longer coasting. Before they arrived and before the ship could build any serious speed, Plains vectored Silver Wing around the Behemoth-class dropships and the twenty fighters slashed down on their prey, racing along its length from prow to stern.

Plains straightened. “Blue Wing reports the enemy navigational bridge is out, bow armour compromised.” A blue-white flash on her display. “Confirming three capital energy turrets in the enemy stern,” she added sourly as orange flashed around one of the silver fighters and it fell out of formation, tumbling. “Two lasers, one PPC, dual mounts. Amend attack patterns to avoid the aft arc.”

Silver Wing broke away behind cover, circling towards the nose of the enemy ship. Copper had reached position though and they drove in laterally, savaging one side of the bow. In response the ship rolled over and its much heavier massive autocannon sent trails of shells chasing after the Lightnings. None of them showed damage markers, but one of the trails of fire intersected with a Star Lord-class jumpship and blew it in half without the slightest effort. Escape pods burst away from the prow section.

“New contact, same class as before,” Plains reported and Red Wing began to converge before she scattered them sharply. “Keep looking, we don’t know there are only three. Green launching, Gold move to engage.”

“Hold that,” Jones ordered quietly.

Plains amended her instruction and then looked at him. “Captain?”

“As long as Red are still sweeping the area, they may not realise they’ve been spotted. They’re headed for our rear but we’re opening the range right now. Get Green out there and both wings can engage as a concentrated strike. In the meantime, it buys us time.”

She nodded in understanding.

Silver Wing was re-engaging the other ship, abandoning the earlier high speed pass and instead matching approximate vector and velocity, relying on their higher thrust-to-weight ratio to dance evasively around the enemy prow, weapons firing each time they spun their noses past it. Like a bull stung in the nose by a picador’s blade, the enemy returned fire with autocannon and at least one particle beam. At least, since it was pulling out of the civilian ships, there was less chance of them hitting another boomer.

That didn’t mean that Silver weren’t paying a price and they were short by two more fighters before Copper bled off their own previous speed and re-joined the fight.

“Moving Green and Gold in,” Plains reported. She careted way points on the tactical display. “No over thrusting, they’ll pick it up for sure.”

Compared to the rush to engage the first target, the two squadrons seemed to crawl across the battlespace. Jones took the time to launch recovery craft, both for the wreckage of their own fighters and for the civilian escape pods.

“Captain,” Moore called out. “I think I’ve got it through the civvies heads that the enemy are too focused on us to stop them jumping. We should see…”

“Multiple K-F fields building,” one of the sensor operators reported.

“Shoot it to the Air boss,” Jones snapped. If his fighters was in the wrong place when they ships jumped they could be torn apart by the jump-field.

Green and Gold accelerated sharply, over thrusting to get away from one of the building K-F jump drives.

“Target Two is accelerating.”

“A foolish decision,” Mary Kaga noted from the Combat Information Centre. “He should have held his position and jumped out. Our fighters couldn’t risk approaching him if he was about to jump.”

There were flashes of light and the battlespace began to clear. Hopefully the civilian ships would go somewhere safe.

“Engaging Target Two,” reported Plains. On the display, all forty aerospace fighters went across the bow of the ship, spreading out as they slowed and twisted away to avoid its return fire. The little woman gripped her console. “Their forward particle beam is out – the rockets did significant damage to sensor externals. That should hurt their accuracy.”

“Sir, target one is signalling.” The comms officer tapped his ear piece.

“On speakers.”

“They’ve ceased fire,” Plains noted, shifting attention back and forth between what were effectively separate engagements.

“-sel, this is the RWS Theban Legion. I request, terms of -”

The message, but not the transmission, was cut off with the retort of a gun and a second voice spoke up. “No surrender.”

Jones spun his seat to look at Moore’s face on the feed from the flag bridge. She was looking back at him with the same forced blandness he thought he was showing.

“The signal cut off, sir.”

“It seems as if they’re not of one mind over there,” Jones said out loud.

“Yes, and a Rim Worlds ship? Some of their fleet would be stationed in the Hegemony but I don’t recall anything like these in their listed forces.”

“A secret fleet to join the Periphery’s secret army?”

It seemed possible. Jones looked at Light Commodore Plains. “Continue the engagement. There are still civilians in the region, we’ll take escape pods if they launch them but I want those ships gone.”

“Aye sir. Pulling Red, Blue and Green back for a perimeter, with the pods expended they’re not adding anything to the other wings.”

Jones nodded. The modest lasers of the Centurions’ integral armament wasn’t intended for anti-shipping strikes.

A moment later, the first of the two enemy ships lit up with explosions, compartment after compartment gutting itself as fire spread along its hull. Jones winced – something must have ruptured the hydrogen fuel storage from inside the shop and it was venting into the personnel spaces.

“We’ll need a reload for Silver and Copper before they re-engage,” Plains reported.

Jones nodded. It’s an issue with carrier doctrines, he noted to himself. Death of a thousand cuts works for extended fights but we’ll need heavier fighters or better ammunition loads if we want to take out ships with a single fighter sortie. At least without the civilians we could use nukes now.

The Katherine Davion pulled away slightly from the Tancredi and began to rotate end to end.

“Captain Riley has a firing solution now that the civilians are clear,” Moore advised. “Pull your fighters back.”

He gave Plains the nod and saw the twenty fighters open the distance from the last enemy. All twenty? Yes, they hadn’t lost a single Gold Wing Lightning so far.

The destroyer opened fire with its forward guns, raking the Rim Worlds ship with heavy autocannon fire. Video feed from the fighters showed the hull being torn open by the heavy shells and Plains all but pouted.

.o0O0o.

Avalon City, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Suns
23 January 2767

Francesca Reznick stood in front of the Privy Council. The first shock had passed, for the most part. Now they could confront the grim reality.

“The FSN has made contact with the garrisons we loaned to the Terran Hegemony on jointly administered worlds and seven other Hegemony worlds,” she reported. “All four worlds lost their HPG stations to sabotage and in the cases of Ozawa, New Florence and Rio, the primary jump-points were interdicted by warships of the Rim Worlds Navy. All seven Hegemony world had some degree of Rim Worlds presence either on the ground or in space.”

“Carrier divisions Tancredi and Pleiades were able to break the interdictions at Ozawa and Rio and several hundred civilian jumpships were able to escape, but we don’t have a great deal of information about what’s happening deeper inside the Hegemony and the New Florence picket managed to destroy FSS Buccaneer, with her escorts hot-loading their drives to escape.”

“Weren’t there any captured personnel?” asked Benton Hasek, representing his cousin Rita for the Ministry of the Capellan March.

“A few enlisted personnel. The most Military Intelligence has established so far is confirmation that as far as they’re aware, their ships were acting under the orders of President Stefan Amaris as part of a general operation to isolate the Terran Hegemony – and that operations commenced on the morning of the twenty-seventh of December.” Reznick folded her arms. “We know from the last information to reach us from Terra that President Amaris was scheduled to arrive the day before but bad weather kept him from landing until the evening. Whether that had an effect on his plans is hard to say.”

“What about our people on Terra?” asked Joshua quietly.

“With relations at such a low ebb quite a number of Council Aides and senior bureaucrats elected to return to the Suns for Christmas,” his father advised him. “It was intended as a low key message to Richard, but there were still hundreds of staff members and tens of thousands of tourists on Terra. Across the entire Hegemony, counting tourists, business travellers and whatnot it’s likely hundreds of thousands.”

“This is going to be a disaster.”

“Yes.” Joel Parks looked over at Bennett Green of the Bureau of Star League Affairs, invited by John to sit in on the meeting. “On many levels. Administrator Green, did the January credit transfer arrive from Terra?”

The man – Thomas Green-Davion’s maternal cousin – shook his head. “Our first sign of problems was when we didn’t get confirmation of the end of quarter tax transfers.”

Parks looked up the table to John. “That will cripple BSLA operations,” he said quietly.

“But you said that tax transfers hadn’t been sent? Can’t those be used instead of the usual funding?” asked Joshua.

“It’s a different account,” Green explained. “Until the Department of Revenue disburses the funds we can’t touch it. In fact, the banks aren’t sure if it should still be credited against the local Star League accounts or the accounts on Terra. We’re stuck in limbo.”

“Banking regulations aren’t a suicide pact,” John told them. “Joel, issue an instruction to the banks that until and unless transfers to the Hegemony have been verified they’re to assume that they transfers have failed and advise their customers as such. There must be millions of private and corporate accounts with the same problem.”

“Secondly, as of tomorrow we’ll have been out of touch with Terra for four weeks. While there’s no specific provision for this under the Accords, in an emergency even a non-quorum of the Star League Council can issue temporary directives subject to later ratification. While one member is a fairly long way from a quorum, I think this qualifies as an emergency.”

Green considered and then nodded cautiously. “Within reason, your highness, and only for temporary measures.”

“That’s acceptable. In that case I’m temporarily appointing a committee to direct Star League civil activities within the Federated Suns, handling any decisions that would normally be dealt with on Terra until contact is re-established.”

“You said the magic word,” Hanse noted. “He relaxed the minute you said committee. All bureaucrats love those.”

“I hereby appoint you as chairman, Administrator Green, and the senior representatives within the Suns of each department are also summoned to New Avalon as members.” That wouldn’t be hard, since all of them had offices here and all but one was on-world already. “Minister Davion of Administration Services will also sit on the committee as a liaison to the Federated Suns government.”

Joshua opened his mouth, possibly to protest, but John glared at him. You wanted to improve relations with the Hegemony, son. Now put your money where your mouth is.

“Your first priority is to maintain normal operations in the short term, disbursing Star League revenue as necessary to your departments. Your second priority is to have the Ministry of Communications re-establish links to the rest of the Star League Council. I realise we can’t coordinate real-time meetings without the connections through Terra, but we can vote by letter if need be.”

“Of course, your highness.” Green pushed his chair back.

John held up his hand. “Finally, you’re to draft a plan for the orderly scaling back of non-essential Star League programmes and the prioritisation of funding to the SLDF. We’re still on a wartime footing and General Kerensky has a lot of expenses that need to be paid for.”

Thomas Green-Davion leant forwards, drawing attention from his cousin. “A fight in the Hegemony would get ugly in a hurry,” he warned. “No one’s ever seriously tested the defences Lord Jonathon ordered except in simulated combat but based on exercises ten years they’d be a formidable force multiplier and we don’t even know how strong Amaris’ forces are.”

Eyes went to Reznick who nodded. “His expected deployments were around seventy-five percent of the RWA’s reported strength which would have put them on par with the one Corps of First Army still in the Hegemony. We have to assume that those numbers are under-reported though, because they’d have had to neutralised the SLDF forces and the Hegemony’s militia forces to have got this far.”

“Surprise and ruthlessness could have cut those odds,” John told her. “It’s entirely probable that many of I Corps’ and the militia’s bases were targeted with nuclear or chemical attacks in the opening stages and stragglers could be mopped up in isolated groups. If there are holdouts, as I very much hope, they’re likely to be the exceptions which managed to get an organised resistance together. Still, we have to assume that Amaris’ forces are much larger than reported. It would be consistent with the other Periphery states’ forces.”

“And they’re still in the field,” Stopec noted. “So Kerensky can’t simply withdraw from the Periphery without leaving a hostile force to his rear.”

The First Prince shook his head. “That’s also not a given. If Amaris was moving in concert with the rest of the Periphery then he should have moved much sooner. A year ago you’d have been right, but since then the other three states are probably down to only a couple divisions worth of troops each – and not as formed divisions, most of them are scattered in regiment or battalion pockets, sometimes even companies and lances fighting guerrilla-style wars.”

“This is probably more of a matter for the High Command,” Green-Davion pointed out. “Will you be making a public address?”

“At this point, yes.” John looked around the room. “I know this is going to affect all of our ministries on some level. For now, my son’s office will act as our point of contact for any matters that would usually involve the Star League. Joshua, don’t actually try to resolve all them directly, set up lines of communication between departments and the relevant members of Administrator Green’s committee.”

He rose to his feet. “The Star League was built on the premise that we could work together, which was the basis for the Federated Suns, on a slightly more local scale. What we’re facing isn’t a crisis, it’s a challenge. A challenge that we’re going to rise to.”

With forced humour, he added: “The crisis is going to be Stefan Amaris’ cleaning bill when General Kerensky has the SLDF back on Terran soil. Because that’s going to be a lot of brown pants to get stains out of.”

.o0O0o.

Avalon City, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Suns
6 February 2767

The holographic image of Aleksandr Kerensky stood facing John across his desk, courtesy of the HPG channels between New Avalon and New Vallis. Damage to HPGs in the Concordat had forced the Commanding General to return to his previous command post for this conversation.

“Have you received any further communication from the usurper?” he enquired coldly.

John inclined his head. Stefan Amaris had broken the silence of the Terran Hegemony on 31 January, although it had taken time for word to spread. The President of the Rim Worlds Republic had announced his removal of the ‘Cameron tyrant’ and election as the Director-General of the Terran Hegemony. By the logic that the Director-General was the First Lord of the Star League, he also proclaimed himself the leader of the League – although he apparently preferred to style himself Emperor rather than merely ‘First Lord’.

“Not since he asked me to pass on his best wishes as Emperor to all his minions. His own words, in fact.” The First Prince shrugged. “I’m not inclined to do so. I can’t see any of the Council supporting him as Director-General, much less as Emperor. Bennett Green tells me that Duke Ueno ordered him to resume normal BSLA operations, including sending tax revenue to Terra. That isn’t happening and at least in the Combine and Confederation his colleagues are taking the same position.”

Kerensky lowered his head in a fractional nod. “I’m relieved to hear that. I will need time before the SLDF can respond. All of our communications will need to be re-arranged, thousands of functions that were handled on Terra or New Earth now have to be taken care of without their facilities or records. And… the men are shocked. Angry and fearful for their families.”

“I know.” John shook his head. “HPG communications are almost choked by families trying to contact relatives in the Hegemony. Have you heard from the other Council Lords?”

“Only Liao so far. She was reserved, assured me she would not support Amaris.” The general drew himself up. “However, she said that as Amaris is a Hegemony citizen, to act against him would be to interfere in internal Hegemony affairs.”

John winced.

“Yes.” The general nodded in agreement. “Kurita has had time to reply but has not.”

“I’ve had some unconfirmed reports from my people in the Combine,” John told him. Which was even true, albeit supplemented by Hanse’s information. “The Coordinator’s health is poor, and out of all of us he’s the only one of us with close family on Terra.”

“Us?”

John shook his head. “The Council, my apologies. You’re from Moscow, so…”

“We all have our hostages to fortune,” Kerensky replied coldly. “I will do my duty, Prince Davion. And part of this is that I must ask what will you do?”

“The AFFS is on a war-footing and I’m moving troops and ships to reinforce the seven worlds we’re garrisoning already – it’s a foothold for operations in the Hegemony once you’re ready. The High Council will be voting on war against the Rim Worlds Republic and, what did you call him, the Usurper? And with Stefan Ukris Amaris in whatever capacity, as soon as I can get them assembled. In the meantime, Administrator Green is handling Star League civil affairs within the Suns and Commodore Grec has been liaising him where those touch on the SLDF.”

“Janos is a good man, but his family are on Keid.”

“Fortunately not. I invited them to New Avalon for Christmas – it didn’t seem fair for them to be separated at that time of the year. Most of your senior staff’s families though… It’s a nightmare.”

Amaris will know who they are. And I could only get a handful of MI6 teams into the Hegemony, working against the League’s own security apparatus.

Kerensky made a helpless gesture. “You understand why I need time. You’re with us then.”

“To the end of the line, Aleksandr.”

“That, at least, is good news. I will need your support almost more than your soldier. You understand that I cannot continue operations in current warzones.”

“I agree completely. It would be bad enough if it was just adding the Republic to the problem but with the Hegemony…” John shrugged. “If the other Lords wish to make an issue of it they are welcome to send their own regiments to fight the rebels.”

“No.” Kerensky’s voice was like iron. “They would not be there to restore the League’s rule but to conquer worlds for their own realms. Soon they would begin to wage war with each other over the control of prized worlds -” He broke off and snorted. “Of such wealth as remains after two years of fighting. That must not be allowed. I will negotiate a ceasefire but it will be binding on the entire Star League.”

“The irony if you wind up having to send regiments back to, for example, the Alliance to defend them from the Inner Sphere would be painful.”

“I was not fighting against the territorial states, only the secessionists,” the general insisted.

John pinched the bridge of his nose. “Alright, General. I’ll coordinate with Second Army to see what supply shortages you’ll be facing with the Hegemony unavailable. Most of it’ll probably be hardware we can’t build for you but Commodore Grec may have some idea what we can substitute. In the meanwhile, I’ll freeze all Rim Worlds assets in the Suns for confiscation and on a case-by-case apply the same principle to Hegemony assets associated with Amaris’ supporters.”

Kerensky frowned but nodded reluctantly. “We can’t let him pull resources from the rest of the League,” he agreed. “I can’t withdraw from the area until I have the ceasefire, but as soon as possible as I’ll relocate my headquarters to New Syrtis to coordinate withdrawing from the Periphery.”

“Respectfully, I suggest you depart immediately,” John counselled. “Without headquarters, much of the SLDF’s cohesion relies on you and General DeChevilier. Amaris can’t have consolidated his position yet and it may still be possible to relieve pockets of loyal troops.”

“How would we even find them?”

“Based on the reports of refugees who escaped the Rim Worlds blockade on civilian ships, some SLDF vessels are still operating in the Hegemony, presumably operating from concealed fuel and repair stations.” He grinned at Kerensky’s chagrined expression. “I may not know where they are but the fact the SLDF has such stations isn’t a very well-kept secret I’m afraid. The 568th transport flotilla has volunteered to try to establish contact – actually, I gather it’s everything Janos has been able to do to persuade them not to try to hook up with whatever ground troops they could find and try to liberate the Hegemony immediately.”

“That’s insane. Nine warships and a few transports can’t possibly contest against the forces Amaris must be able to bring to bear.”

“And that’s assuming they don’t rush headlong into one of the Space Defense Systems. Those systems could effectively have full fleets guarding them if Amaris has control of the drones – or be wide open if he doesn’t. We just can’t tell.” John spread his hands. “To come up with a strategy against Amaris, you’re going to need information – and if there are loyal troops holding out on some worlds, then we owe it to them either to evacuate them or to reinforce them.”

“Reckless, very reckless.”

“Let’s see what we can find out. I can meet you on New Syrtis in a month and by then we’ll know better what we’re dealing with.”

Kerensky considered and then nodded. “I’ll have the location data for some of the stations sent to Commodore Grec, for relay to the flotilla’s commander. In the meanwhile, we both have much to do.”

“Then let’s be about it.” John stood and bowed respectfully as the holographic image winked out.

With a sigh he looked at Hanse. “You’re sure?”

The other man nodded. “Amaris’ control of the SDS networks won’t be complete for two years and at the end of that time he’d raised something along the lines of thirty divisions of admittedly under-equipped and trained troops from the Hegemony. Press him hard, now and in places where he hasn’t focused the bulk of his attention – like the worlds scouted so far – and cracks should start to show.”

John sighed. “Should. If Brasco’s flotilla shows the same then I’ll press on but if not then I’m not risking thousands of troops by moving in without the SLDF.”

“I can’t fault you for that.”

The First Prince picked up his phone. “At least I can relieve someone’s concerns.” He tapped the control, “Owen, get me Joel Parks please.”

A moment later and the Minister of Ways and Means responded. “How can I help you, sire.”

“It occurred to me that I’m very nearly late in getting back to you about those loans I took out last year.”

“You have been very busy,” the other man conceded, “All things considered.”

“Well, conveniently all of the banks involved have made very sizeable loans to Stefan Amaris,” John advised. “Before and after his declaration last week. That’s treason, and General Kerensky has concurred with me that the assets of Amaris supporters should be frozen and confiscated. So that’s one less headache.”

Parks narrowed his eyes very slightly. “Sire, did you by any chance expect this?”

“Joel, really! If I had evidence that Stefan Amaris was plotting treason I would have shared it with General Kerensky immediately.”

“Evidence. Indeed.” The corners of Parks mouth seemed to shift slightly upwards. It might have almost been considered a smile. “Sire, do you play poker at all?”

“No, or at least not since my military days. Not really my passion.”

“Good,” the Minister said with audible relief and ended the call.
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: drakensis on 25 November 2017, 16:28:55
Saso, New Syrtis
Capellan March, Federated Suns
14 March 2767

“Amaris will expect us to return directly to the Hegemony,” Aaron DeChevilier explained from the large holo display of the Cave, the Capellan March’s command centre. John had co-opted it for this discussion. “Lord Marik remains uncooperative and the new Coordinator has so far declined to respond to messages, so the easiest route would be for all three of the current Army Groups to withdraw into the Capellan Confederation and Federated Suns, then move into Terra Firma and Lockdale provinces.”

He gestured with the control wands, arrows arcing across the Inner Sphere to show three blocky blue arrows extending across the Inner Sphere only to be halted by solid blocks of red. “For this reason we assume he’ll be prepared for such operations. At the same time, moving the SLDF directly into the attack would further play into his hands by sending depleted units into action before they’ve fully integrated replacement personnel and equipment. On the morale level, many soldiers may not be thinking clearly, as we’ve seen with the measures necessary to prevent the Thirty-Fourth Royal BattleMech Division from launching an immediate counter-attack on Epsilon Indi. The reports received make it clear the Caspar Drones in that system, they’re fortunate no transport was available for their attempt.”

“I take it that you feel returning to the Hegemony would be premature,” John asked politely.

DeChevilier cleared the map of troop movements. “I feel, Lord Davion, that returning to Terra immediately is the most important thing in the universe. But I cannot allow myself to be ruled by my heart. If we are to prosecute this war then it must be done correctly.”

He brought up new icons. “Currently we have five armies within the Inner Sphere, one in each Member State, reinforced by elements of First Army’s two remaining Corps. This should be sufficient to contain Amaris’ forces and prevent them from striking at the Member States. In addition they can support information gathering and provide logistical support to such resistance as may be operating within the Hegemony.”

“Meanwhile -” Leaving five blue blocks around the Hegemony, DeChevilier sketched two arrows that almost encircled the Inner Sphere, terminating at either edge of the Rim Worlds Republic. “- we’ll reorganise the fourteen armies operating in the Periphery into two army groups, each made up of three armies tasked for assault operations and four of the more badly depleted armies to act as a reserve and occupation force. Striking from two directions we’ll secure the Rim Worlds Republic, cutting Amaris off from his sources of equipment and personnel in the Periphery. Indeed, where possible we’ll try to take the infrastructure of the Republic intact so we can use it to help reconstitute the SLDF for operations in the Hegemony.”

“I see.” John folded his arms. “You’re looking at four to six months to position your forces and then campaigning upwards of three hundred light years with each of these army groups. For comparison, the Outworlds Alliance, which was arguably the worst battle zone of the Uprising, is smaller and more sparsely settled than the Republic and it was expected to take another full year to finish pacifying it. So assuming serious opposition, which I personally feel is unlikely but has to be the operating assumption, the SLDF could require three years, or perhaps even four, to complete operations in the Republic. That would set any serious return to the Hegemony as falling in 2772 at best.”

“That would be in line with our estimates.” DeChevilier gave John an impressed look, unaware that John had the advantage of Hanse’s hindsight and of spending several weeks working this out with his staff rather than coming in cold as most of the SLDF staff had – after all, they’d been fully engaged with wrapping up their existing campaigns.

“I hate to think how deeply Amaris will be entrenched in the Hegemony four years from now,” John said quietly. “Especially as any factories lost to him in the Republic will be far off-set by the immense military-industrial complexes of Terra and the other old Alliance Worlds. Just on a naval level, he could control quite literally half the Inner Sphere’s major shipyards.”

“Do you have an alternative proposal for how we should proceed, Lord Davion?” asked Admiral Brandt. “Or are you simply playing devil’s advocate?”

John pulled a data disc from his attaché case. “If I may take the floor, General DeChevilier?”

For the first time since his arrival, he saw something approaching a smile upon the Deputy Commanding General’s face. “I blame you for this, Admiral,” he said as he handed his control wands over.

The disc was compatible with the holo-display of course, since it was AFFS equipment. There were some slight differences in the map projected. “I don’t have detailed breakdowns of your current strengths, for obvious reasons,” John observed. “And I apologise if the change in colour confuses anyone.” His projection marked SLDF troops in olive rather than blue, while the Rim Worlds Republic and Terran Hegemony both glowed a more malefic crimson than that in DeChevilier’s briefing. There were also a smaller number of golden icons: the AFFS.

“My staff and I basically came to the same conclusions that you appear to have drawn about time taken to reconstitute and redeploy,” he advised, indicating a timestamp. “As of late summer this year, this plan would have the existing Army Group Twelve move from the Magistracy across or around the Free Worlds League to bases around Rajkot in the Bolan Pocket. General Surban’s Thirteenth Army is familiar with the area, of course.” An olive arrow marked the progress.

There were a couple of snorts. Rajkot was one of the hotspots in the Thirteenth Army’s traditional operational area, a pocket of Lyran space surrounded by the Free Worlds League and the Rim Worlds Republic.

“From there the Twelfth Army would detach and move up to Twycross where it would join Army Group Thirteen.” A smaller arrow extended from Rajkot to connect to the much larger one that circled the Draconis Combine. “While I can’t comment on Kenyon Marik’s state of mind I strongly recommend against trying to redeploy through the Combine at this time. Our understanding is that the Combine Ambassador was on Terra during the Coup, and he’s the new Coordinator’s first cousin. There’s no way to know at this point how much leverage that gives Amaris.”

“Why deplete Army Group Twelve for Thirteen?” asked Brandt. “I agree, as it happens, but I’m curious as to your reasoning.”

“Primarily it’s to make sure the Twelfth and Thirteenth Armies are in place within their old operational areas,” John told her. “Generally they’ve had good relations with the LCAF and since this plan would involve operating out of the Commonwealth, that seems important. To offset the transfer, some elements of the Twentieth Army – primarily LXVII Corps – would detach and be transferred to Army Group Twelve. Twentieth Army itself would essentially disperse to give each element of the two Army Groups a force familiar with the Rim Worlds Republic. In addition, Army Group Twelve would be responsible for securing the older core worlds of the Republic so they could face stronger opposition.”

The admiral nodded thoughtfully but said nothing. DeChevilier gave her a suspicious look.

John looked around for more questions and when there were none he advanced the display again. Now the olive arrows moved into Rim Worlds space, which slowly began to fill with olive in place of the previous crimson. “There’s a more detailed operations plan, but I think we all know that when it comes to the ground, these maps have a fairly limited relationship with actual battlefields,” he said wryly.

There were audible chuckles now, not just snorts.

“Obviously I haven’t mentioned Army Group Eleven, yet.” John indicated the mass of troops hovering on the Taurian border. “They will move towards the Terran Hegemony, with a schedule to be in position to attack into Lockdale Province at around the same time as the attacks on the Rim Worlds Republic.”

The last arrow appeared, charting this movement and John reached into the display to highlight it. “A large and obvious offensive,” he explained and then zoomed the map in. “Something to draw Amaris’ attention.”

.o0O0o.

Saso, New Syrtis
Capellan March, Federated Suns
14 March 2767

Later that day, Kerensky had withdrawn to a more select group of advisors. “We’ve all discussed your plan’s merits, Aaron,” he told his deputy. “I think we’re familiar with its strengths and weaknesses. What do you make of the Prince’s?”

“I’d like to hear from Jack first,” DeChevilier replied. “If things go wrong then he’ll be the one who has to pull IX Corps and the AFFS out of the fire.”

Two years before, Jack Lucas had been one of Tatjana Baptiste’s many, many regimental commanders, part of the 202nd BattleMech Division. When the division paid the price for poor leadership from a commander more skilled in handling a single BattleMech than almost seven hundred of them, Lucas had shone out in contrast. Roseleen McGuinness had given him command of first the brigade-sized remains of the 202nd and then the prestigious 225th Royal Mechanized Infantry Division – a position he wouldn’t normally have qualified, having been born outside of the Hegemony – to replace the dead General Delacroix.

The rapid rise had caught DeChevilier’s eye as the pressures of war forced the flaws in officer after officer to the surface. Headhunting Lucas for a vacant Corps command in Third Army, he’d personally championed the aggressive Mechwarrior to Kerensky when General Strangher’s health had finally made it impossible for the aged officer to keep up with his duties.

“I agree with Davion’s point that we still have a window of opportunity before Amaris has a solid grip on the Hegemony,” he responded bluntly. “Feddie intelligence in the Periphery was good, better than ours sometimes. If they’re telling him that the spinward fringes of Lockdale Province are still a soft target then I’ll take a chance on it.”

“But there’s something that bothers you?” asked Baptiste.

“The rest of the AFFS isn’t as good. If IX Corps runs into trouble, I don’t want them relying on Feddie regiments to back them up.”

“I see.” Kerensky nodded and then looked over at Baptiste. “You’ve had a broader view of the AFFS than Jack over the last few years. What do you think?”

“They’re inconsistent,” she said after a moment’s thought. “Some of their regiments are good and there’s some idea of operations above that level but the first regiments sent to us were probably picked for being close to the Taurians over ability.”

“We don’t have that luxury for that with this plan,” DeChevilier warned. “Could you tell by looking at his force listing if he’s assigning sandbags or competent soldiers?”

“LXII Corps should have records of AFFS exercises in ’63,” she told him. “McGuinness thought the winning side was good.”

“The others weren’t,” Jack observed. “I was there and they got rolled, hard. But yeah, some of them can fight,” he admitted grudgingly.

Kerensky nodded. “Aaron?”

“The logistics are there. In some ways it’s easier than my plan, less need to shift shipping out of the Suns. We’d need a hard stop line, thus far and no further. And to have some oversight of the forces the First Prince sends.”

“General Verschaffelt is an old friend,” Kerensky said slowly. “I consider her very able, but we have found many officers react less well to warfare of this scale than to our operations in the past. And she does not have the seniority to lead a joint operation of this nature.”

“I rather expected to stay in charge of the Army Group,” protested Aaron.

Kerensky shook his head. “I will need you in the Republic. And I must go there myself, so that means that you and Joan must trade places.”

DeChevilier and Brandt traded glances. “Can you work with the First Prince, Admiral? You seemed to have some friction previously.”

“Leave Grec as liaison,” she told him. “I don’t particularly like Davion but he’s got backbone and I’ll put up with him over most of the other lords.”

“Faint praise.”

“You said earlier, Aaron, that you felt that we should strike for Terra now, but that you refrained because your heart could not rule you.” Kerensky ran his hand back over the crown of his head. “I feel the same way. But perhaps, just perhaps, we have therefore pushed ourselves too hard to reject the idea. There would be… political advantage,” he added, disdainfully.

“You don’t mean Davion’s support?” Lucas asked.

“No. No, that I do not doubt. But the others, if they see him fighting alongside us. If they see that Amaris cannot fully guard himself…” The general straightened. “I will require assurance that the attack will be within sane limits and that the AFFS participation is not of a nature that we risk losing IX Corps. But if these are met, then I will accept his plan.”

.o0O0o.

Saso, New Syrtis
Capellan March, Federated Suns
15 March 2767

John opened the balcony door of his guest suite and stepped out to watch the sunset.

The day had been filled with settling not only Kerensky’s conditions for the tentatively designated Operation MATADOR but dozens of other matters that would be necessary for the SLDF and the Federated Suns over the next few years.

“Count Johnston looked pleased,” Hanse observed as he walked out to join John.

“He just had a more or less open-ended contract from the SLDF to buy as many Culverin gun carriers as he can build. He’s going to be richer than ever.”

“It’s not a closed system.” The redhead moved around, hair ruffling in the cold wind. Why it did that, John wasn’t sure. Possibly just because Hanse believed it should. “It doesn’t really matter how much money’s in the economy as long as it keeps moving.”

“I don’t need a lecture in basic macro-economics, Hanse.”

“Sorry.” He leant on the rail next to John. “So what do you want to talk about? Getting crews for the SLDF destroyers in the dockyards, now they can’t pull crews together from the Hegemony? That’s going to be fun.”

“I don’t want to talk about anything!” John shook his head as he realised he’d raised his voice. “Sorry.”

Hanse cocked his head and then grinned. “Sorry, force of habit. When you go somewhere private, I just tend to assume you want to talk to me without people looking at you funny. I forgot you might want some time alone.” He pushed himself back from the rail and turned around. “I’ll go follow Jack Lucas around. Interesting guy, I wonder what happened to him in… you know. Exodus fleet, I suppose.”

John glanced back and saw Hanse enter the rooms. “Wait,” he said on impulse.

The other prince turned and smiled warmly. “Sure.”

“There is something, I’m just not sure how to say it.”

“Take your time.” He leant against the door-frame, entirely at ease.

John turned back to the landscape, letting the cold New Syrtis air press his uniform tunic against his chest. “I’m not giving up,” he said at last.

“I never said you were.”

“Maybe I was wrong about Amaris. We’ll never know, but I’ll give you that.” He looked up at the sky, knowing that behind him, behind the ducal palace, the dusk was beginning to set in. When he lowered his gaze the sun’s rays stabbed out, forming something like the un-even Cameron Star in his eyes. “But the Star League’s worth saving. And if I couldn’t save Richard, maybe I can at least change the outcome of this war. Win it sooner, at less of a price. Before the last hope of pulling the Council back together has gone. It starts with the worlds we’ll target for MATADOR, but that’s just the first step.”

“A long road,” Hanse told him drily. “But I believe you. I heard you speaking to Kerensky after all. All the way to the end of the line?”

“Whatever it takes.” He hesitated. “But I’m sorry.”

“Why are you apologising to me?”

“Well, it means you’ll never exist. You or your family. There’ll be other Davions, but it won’t be the same.”

“Yeah, I kind of figured that. They existed for me, that’s good enough. And the universe is a funny old place, so it’s just as likely that they do exist somehow, somewhere. It’s no stranger than me being here in the first place. Hell, I could wake up suddenly and be back on New Avalon getting politely told off for dozing off at my desk.”

“You think that could happen?”

“Could? Sure. Will? Eh, I’m beginning to doubt.” Hanse didn’t sound too disturbed. “Almost, lord, almost twenty years ago now, I figured I’d had my days of glory and that it was time to settle down on raising my family and making sure things were ready for Melissa and I to hand them down to our children. Whatever my neighbours thought, I really had no plans to go to war again. Well, contingencies, but I wasn’t going to start one.”

“And then you woke up here.”

“And then I had to deal with an invasion out of nowhere, but after that I ended up here.” The redhead shrugged. “It’s not bad, really, being able to step back and let someone else carry the responsibility. Kind of like it might have been if Ian hadn’t died.”

John shivered. “I see.” He walked back inside and closed the balcony door.

“Had enough privacy?”

“No, it’s just freezing out there. Go indulge your man-crush on Jack Lucas.”

Hanse Davion threw his head back and laughed. “Right, right.”

John waited until Hanse was almost through the door and then confessed. “I always wanted a brother.”

The ghost paused in mid-step for just a fraction of a second, partly immersed in the door. And then he stepped forwards and out of sight.

The First Prince slumped on a couch, opened up a note computer and started refining his plans for the eight division attack – a quarter of them from the AFFS – to push the Rim Worlders back the first twenty light years on the long road to Terra.

.o0O0o.

Sidebar: Warships of the Federated Suns Navy

"I hereby christen this vessel the FSS Charles Davion. May god bless the spacers inside him – her!"

In theory, warships of the FSN were named for planets of the federation, this being deemed a politically neutral statement, or at least less divisive within the High Council than naming ships for politicians. It’s all relative, one supposes. Typically planets chosen to contribute their names are politically or historically significant, although a sufficiently charismatic or well-funded member of the High Council might sway support in the favour of their homeworld.

FSS Markesan, a Robinson-class transport, is named for the capital of the Markesan Operational Area, one of the Crucis March’s major sub-divisions and the most exposed of them to raids from the Capellan Confederation or Draconis Combine. FSS Tancredi, a New Syrtis-class carrier, is named for Tancredi IV, the capital of the Draconis March until the Davion Civil War in the early 26th century. Having seceded to the neighbouring Outworlds Alliance after the defeat of Laura Davion’s Draconis March-centred faction in 2533, Tancredi IV was ceded back to the Federated Suns in a secret ‘arms for worlds’ treaty in 2581.

Davion-class destroyers are one exception to the usual traditions of ship-naming, each ship honouring prominent members of House Davion. This list is not limited to the leaders of the family: FSS Katherine Davion is named for Doctor Katherine Anne Davion (2208-2242), one of the four members of the Davion family who first settled on New Avalon in 2232; and FSS Arthur Davion is named for Major Arthur Davion (2410-2447), a minor military hero and the son of Edward Davion, the last President of the Federated Suns.

The Defender-class battlecruisers predate the system of naming ships for planets and a considerable number of the current FSN’s warships were transferred from SLDF mothballs at the time of the Reunification War. Attempts to rename these ships in line with common practises were fiercely rejected by the FSN, who abide by ancient tradition that once a ship has been named it is unlucky to rename her.
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: Daryk on 25 November 2017, 17:28:44
*snip*
He rose to his feet. “The Star League was built on the premise that we could work together, which was the basis for the Federated Suns, on a slightly more local scale. What we’re facing isn’t a crisis, it’s a challenge. A challenge that we’re going to rise to.”
*snip*
Now THAT is how you motivate bureaucrats!  8)
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: 2ndAcr on 25 November 2017, 17:58:29
 Excellent writing. Keep it up, I have always wondered how an alternate universe might be like if one of the Houses had actually thrown their full weight in with the SLDF. Maybe if the Star League falls apart, Kerensky might throw in with the House that actually helped him fully or even if he does the Exodus more troops side with that house over the others.

 Plus it helps to have some hindsight thru good old Hanse Davion to guide John Davion.
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: Zureal on 25 November 2017, 18:21:11
things are getting even more excited, there were after all plenty of systems with no drones in space or even a full SDS. these they should be able to take without to much dificulty. the others with risistance, such as the  SLDF HQ on New Earth held out for months i belive as well as severall other facilities and planets. I think the Davion special forces are what will get the cordinators family safe to get them into the war and if anything the AFFS will get tons of experience and be seasoned troops second only to the SLDF. They will be fighting with them for a long time after all and SLDF stuff will rub off on them in a good way I think. The butchers bill will still be high as hell but in the end will be worth it. Hell the SLDF will probably push huge ammounts of cash and tech into feddie factories to help support them. Davion is so far the only house that is going 100% support to the SLDF after all. Hope the prephery nations get a official seat at the high councel and become full memburs with all the assocciated benifits. that will stop the rebellion and all that and will make them much happyier to boot. ..... yea... please do not hate my bad spelling XD [blank]
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: snakespinner on 25 November 2017, 18:38:23
Great to see you writing again, Drakensis.
This reminds me of your old stories well thought out and an excellent job of writing.
Hope you keep it up. O0
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: DOC_Agren on 26 November 2017, 00:32:09
I want to say Bravo and well done
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: cpip on 26 November 2017, 10:04:14
Definitely enjoying it -- and I admit, had someone just told me the premise of the whole thing I would've told them they're mad to think I'd like it, but I'm really enjoying this.

I will say this last posting seemed to be a bit rushed; there's a few more formatting/editing issues than there were previously, and given how well-done everything has been so far, it sort of jumped out at me, like gristly bits in an otherwise tasty hamburger. Still, that's nothing that couldn't be solved with a proofreading sweep.

Well done and I'm looking forward to seeing what's next.
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: mikecj on 26 November 2017, 15:21:32
 Nicely done, as usual.  Thanks!

Was Theban Legion a Nightwing?
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: PsihoKekec on 04 December 2017, 02:36:39
Noticed this fic in SB and today it dawned me that it's most likely posted here as well. Really a joy to read.
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: drakensis on 04 December 2017, 05:46:32
Nicely done, as usual.  Thanks!

Was Theban Legion a Nightwing?
Yes, it was.
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: mikecj on 04 December 2017, 20:40:08
Thank you!
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: drakensis on 14 December 2017, 18:25:53
The Star League Council, 2767

The Star League Council - sometimes the High Council - is the supreme ruling body of the Star League. While the First Lord wields some executive authority, he cannot overule a majority decision of the Council. He is only first amongst equals, able to break ties but otherwise his vote counts for more than that of the other Lords. The right to the role was invested in House Cameron by the original membership during the negotiation of the Star League Accords.

The lords of the six member-states hold voting seats upon the Council and always have. After the Reunification War, the Bureau of Star League Administration appointed four Periphery Administrators, one for each of the four conquered territorial states. These Administrators were seated upon the Council but never granted the right to vote. This was the only representation permitted to the periphery for more than a century. In 2722 the administrators were removed and the lords of the four states replaced them, though with no more power - they may speak but not vote in the decisions of the Council.


Stefan Amaris
President of the Rim Worlds Republic
Born 2717, Reigned 2738-

Stefan is the only child of the middle-aged Cynthia Amaris, who was terrified that her heir might prove unfit to lead the Republic. She therefore began training her son effectively from birth in the skills she felt Stefan would need - he was said to be a liar and a manipulator before he left the nursery. Certainly he was intelligence and curiously, relentlessly studying any question he felt he lacked a satisfactory answer for. Even before his mother's death, the young Stefan became a power player within her court, making backroom deals to begin assembling the arsenal that the Edict of 2650 denied to the Republic.

One assumes that Cynthia was proud for as soon as he succeeded her, Amaris broadened his plans and staged deniable raids into both the Draconis Combine and Lyran Commonwealth, using each other's colours. This fanned the flames of the conflict between the pair  - furthering the schisms forming in the Star League Council. Within the Inner Sphere he played the buffoon in public and secretly began to establish ties within the Terran Hegemony.

Following the death of Simon Cameron, these ties included the young Richard Cameron. Stefan studied the young First Lord and unleashed his prodigous charm to win over and mould the child. It would have been entirely within Stefan's ability to rule by proxy through Richard but this did not interest him. Indoctrinated from his youth with a history of slights by the Camerons against House Amaris, the lord of the Rim Worlds Republic gambled everything to supplant Richard.


Allyce Avellar
President of the Outworlds Alliance
Born 2732, Reigned 2765-

The daughter of Beatrice Avellar's son Lukas who died in 2745. Allyce and her brother Simpson had grown up in the household of the strong-willed grandmother. Allyce was heavily invested in the cultural and social agencies Beatrice had established, activities that suited her artistic temprement. She entirely missed their use as cover for guerilla operations as Beatrice deeply resented the exploitation of her people by Inner Sphere corporations and proved receptive to Amaris' approach.

When Beatrice died in 2765, Allyce felt it was her duty to her beloved grandmother to take over her duties to the Outworlds Alliance - despite having little to no grasp on the actual policies being followed. Simpson Avellar might have been better suited by temprement to lead the Alliance and he'd very much been in Beatrice's confidence as to the Secret Army. However, he was too much a leader in the warrior aristocracy mold of the Inner Sphere and the peace-loving Allyce, much less forceful in her moralism than her grandmother, received widespread public support.

As such, as the Periphery exploded in revolt, the distinction between the secessionists - effectively under the command of Simpson - and the official government under Allyce was genuine, unlike the Magistracy and the Concordat where the difference was a thin legal fiction. This may have contributed to the savagery of the campaigns in the Alliance, something that horrified the President and throughout her short reign so far, Allyce Avellar has campaigned vigorously but without success for an end to the violence.


Nicoletta Calderon
Protector of the Taurian Concordat
Born 2707, Reigned 2725-

Nicoletta Calderon took office at an early age with her grandfather retiring as soon as she met the minimum age requirements. The previous heir, Nicoletta's uncle, had been murdered and despite occasional mutterings there was no evidence linking her to the conspiracy responsible. Gregarious and popular, Nicoletta spoke up for the Periphery during the chaotic period as the BSLA representatives yielded their places on the Council to the lords of the four territorial states. Politically she was very close to Beatrice Avellar, who had similarly assumed office at a young age two decades before.

This political ties didn't benefit the Concordat as much as might be hoped as the Outworlds Alliance wasn't sufficiently industrialised to help counter the economic exploitation. Nicoletta therefore looked for other allies but found both Vanura Centralla and Stefan Amaris to be supine in the face of the Star League's member-states. In the 2750s, Nicoletta found a potential ally in Vanura's heir Janina and cultivated the future Magestrix assidiously. Her real surpise though was tentative offers from Stefan Amaris that concluded in a secret pact in 2754. Nicoletta was without question behind the Taurian Freedom Army that stirred up trouble to draw the Star League into the periphery and proclaimed the seccession of several Taurian worlds from the Star League to be an 'internal matter' despite the fact that they remained part of the Concordat.

As core Taurian worlds were secured by the SLDF it seemed only a matter of time before evidence was uncovered that Kerensky would use to indict Nicoletta as a traitor to the Star League. Only the sudden revelation of the Amaris Coup prevented this but what could have been Nicoletta's victory turned to ashes for her as Amaris made it clear that he would readily make peace with Kerensky and support the crushing of the other territorial states in order to keep his power on Terra. Having believed herself Amaris' partner, Calderon had in truth been just another pawn.


Janina Centralla
Magestrix of the Magistracy of Canopus
Born 2723, Reigned 2760-

The Star League Council experienced rapid turnover in the 2760s with three members passing away in 2760 alone. Vanura Centralla's death opened the way to her daughter Janina and brought a rapid change to the political stance of the Magistracy. Long the most favourably inclined towards the Star League of the Territorial States, whatever House Amaris claimed, the Magistracy had been left open to economic exploitation by a succession of changes since 2722.

Unlike her mother, Janina took a strong stance against this and formly aligned herself with the seccessionist movements and accepted military aid from the Rim Worlds Republic. Under her governance, co-operation between Magistracy Armed Forces and the SLDF was terminated and she actively bolstered her forces with mercenaries. Having been considerably more discreet than some of her peers, she avoided being identified as one of the principal ringleaders of the Periphery Uprising until events were well underway, although her involvement on some levels was never really in doubt.


John Davion
First Price of the Federated Suns
Born 2719, Reigned 2745-

John Davion rose in his lifetime from fourth in succession to the throne of the First Prince without any ambition on his part - his father and grandfather died in battle, his cousin in an accident the younger Davion had no way of arranging. Richard Davion appointed John his heir only a few years before his own death and the young prince threw himself into preparing to serve the Federated Suns, completing his military service and studying the administration of the realm.

Once he became First Prince, John prioritised the Suns over the Star League, doubting the organisation that had failed to save his father and grandfather. Where political dealings couldn't convince him otherwise - although he made his name as a honest and evenhanded leader - Simon Cameron won his support when he appealed directly the people of the Star League... alas, Cameron died almost immediately after this in a tragic accident.

Balancing the interest of the Federated Suns and the Star League has proven a narrow path to follow. Davion has consistently supported Aleksandr Kerensky, nominating him as regent and placing the AFFS in harm's way to support him. However, he also launched an invasion of the Capellan Confederation, further destablising the regency period. This middle road has left John as a key vote in the High Council, but also left him without allies... a dangerous position for the Federated Suns.


Takiro Kurita
Coordinator of the Draconis Combine
Born 2646, Reigned 2691-2767, Died 2767

The firstborn child of Coordinator Urizen Kurita, Takiro was designated as heir to the Combine despite the concerns of some courtiers that he lacked the fire to lead. Raised in the samurai traditions that had been re-instated by his immediate predecessors, Takiro rose to the role, impressing the Combine with his sense of honour and balance of the spiritual and martial aspects of their culture. When Urizen stepped down in favour of his son, the First Hidden War had been ongoing for years. With the DCMS downsized by the Edict of 2650, newly independent mechwarriors had begun challenging SLDF mechwarriors to deadly duels.

At first the Combine's success had shocked the SLDF but Takiro saw the increasing success of the Gunslingers of the SLDF and ensured that revisions and improvements were made to the training of the DCMS in anticipation of continued struggles.This preparation served the Combine well between 2725 and 2730 when they were freed to champion the children of Takiro's brother Soto in their claim upon the Federated Suns. While the fighting wasn't entirely in their favour, Takiro saw his loyal samurai drive deep into the territory of their traditional foe, only halted when the SLDF finally unleashed overwhelming power.

While relations between the two states remained poor, Takiro Kurita was impressed by the rise of John Davion, finding his new peer similarly practical and concientious - a worthy rival and sometimes ally as both men had concerns about the rising tensions in the Periphery and recognised that previous decisions of the Star League Council had led to the problem.


Minoru Kurita
Coordinator of the Draconis Combine
Born 2705, Reigned 2767-

Takiro Kurita had raised his only son to succeed him but passed on at an unfavourable time. His great-nephew Drago and his family, the senior branch of Soto Kurita's descendants, were on Terra during the coup and Amaris seized them as leverage. The elderly Takiro collapsed upon learning this and died a week later. His last instructions were that Minoru should seek a diplomatic solution, a request his son swore to obey.

Unlike his father, Minoru had grown up with the Star League in visible decline and he'd seen action in the War of Davion Succession. As a result he had first hand experience of the AFFS' failings at the time and lost friends and comrades as the SLDF smothered the offensive. Possessed of a more belligent temprement than Takiro, the new Coordinator presents a civil face to the universe over strong convictions of Combine superiority. When he wasn't deputising for his father on Terra or Luthien, Minoru was active in expanding the DCMS strength - a process which began well before the Edict of 2650 removed the formal barriers that had chafed for more than a century. The sudden coup may have surprised Minoru but it validated many of his beliefs. Only his oath to Takiro restrains him from action... and when he does act it will be to the benefit of the Combine, not the Star League.


Barbara Liao
Chancellor of the Capellan Confederation
Born 2731, Reigned 2760-

Warex Liao had built up the Capellan Confderation Armed Forces rapidly since 2753 but when he died seven years later they remained weaker than their rivals in the Free Worlds League and Federated Suns. The last thing that the new Chancellor needed on her ascession was a military crisis but the nuclear attack on Demeter forced her hand for she could not afford to begin her reign by backing down. Less militant than her father, she nonetheless blocked Star League interference.

For almost two years the Capellans held their own on the relatively limited front that the Federated Suns had invaded on. Neither side was willing to risk widening the conflict - the Capellans fearing greater AFFS numbers could swarm their borders. Instead both sides focused their forces on only three worlds - a deadlock that lasted until John Davion took direct command. Only the ascession of Richard Cameron avoided disaster and the new First Lord judged the invasion illegal, forcing Davion to withdraw.

Barbara has struggled to balance strengthening the military further against potentially creating an internal threat to her rule. John Davion's decision to commit forces to assist the SLDF keeps him active as a threat in Capellan eyes, while the change in Captain-General in 2763 raised the possibility of improved relations with the Free Worlds League.


Kenyon Marik
Captain-General of the Free Worlds League
Born 2734, Reigned 2763-

Ewan Marik conceived his only child during a drunken flung while on leave. While he married Kenyon's mother to legitimise the child, he immediately exiled the woman after the birth. The young Kenyon proved to be an intellectual prodigy, much unlike his brutish father. Enrolled into mechwarrior training at the age of thirteen, Kenyon was at first out of his depth and after a blunder in 2749, his father brutally brutally beat him. Hospitalised, Kenyon began quietly courting his father's political enemies.

Rather than serve in the FWLM, Kenyon entered the SLDF and enjoyed a brief but meteoric career, serving on Kerensky's staff in 2756. Responding to a civilian protest on Pollux with lethal force, the young Marik showed himself to be his father's heir. The unrepentant Kenyon declared that an 'upstart Russian peasant' wouldn't dare to punish the heir to a Council seat and was proved wrong when Kerensky cashiered him without hesitation.

Despite his discharge from the SLDF, Kenyon has excellent credentials as a military mind and has proven similarly adept at politics. Ewan's death in 2763 conveniently avoided any need for a damaging confrontation and the young Captain took the reigns of power smoothly and without incident. While the change in Captain-General has smoothed over some tensions on the Star League Council, Kenyon's continued hatred for General Kerensky has created new fault-lines.


Robert Steiner
Archon of the Lyran Commonwealth
Born 2701, Reigned 2760-

Robert's father Michael had never expected to become Archon, content to live the life of a junior officer in the Lyran Commonwealth on detached duty to the Nagelring and the University of Tharkad where he'd received a research fellowship. In contrast, Robert's mother Joan was a Lestrade - duchess of Summer and holding joint citizenship in the Hegemony. A dynamic businesswoman and diplomat, Duchess Joan was the dominant figure of Robert's childhood and the alienation from his father grew as Michael poured his paternal interest into a young Terran student a year older than Robert, and Robert's twin siblings born almost a quarter century after him.

In 2729 all of this changed with the sudden and accidental death of Archon Jonathon Steiner. Michael Steiner became the Commonwealth's leader as the Star League struggled with the First Lord's mental illness and  the after-effects of the Davion Civil War where Michael's protege Aleksandr Kerensky won glory. Despite becoming heir, Robert remained sidelined - the new Archon was heavily focused on military affairs and left it to his wife to prepare Robert for office.

A further three decades of estrangement followed with Robert focused on building alliances to the aristocratic families of the Commonwealth as his father squabbled with Ewan Marik. Joan's death in 2752 effectively cut the last tie between Archon and heir. Never seeking a military career of his own, Robert left this to his younger brother Paul, just as he neglected relations with the Lyran populace themselves, except through the Estates General who he cultivated heavily during the last few years before Michael's death.
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: drakensis on 16 December 2017, 01:23:51
Book 2
Loyalist


An unforgivable tragedy
The answer isn't' where you think you'd find it
Prepare yourself for the reckoning
For when your world seems to crumble again
Don't be afraid, don't turn away
You’re the one who can redefine it
Don't let hope become a memory
Let the shadow permeate your mind and
Reveal the thoughts that were tucked away
So that the door can be opened again
Within your darkest memories
Lies the answer if you dare to find it
Don't let hope become a memory

When you think all is forsaken
Listen to me now (all is not forsaken)
You need never feel broken again
Sometimes darkness can show you the light
The Light, Disturbed


Nagumo, Ozawa
Lockdale Province, Terran Hegemony
11 August 2767

The drop port was a smaller field rather than one of main facilities that handled freight and public transportation for the planet. Those facilities would be very useful for unloading the military equipment and supplies currently in orbit. For that reason the Rim Worlds garrison had defended the ports by shelling them with a mix of high explosive and artillery-deployable anti-tank mines. Engineers would have to finish securing the latter before the damage to the former could be made good.

As a result, the Fury dropship set down on a single relatively small runway and pulled up a little harder than the pilot seemed to have expected. The escorts wouldn’t be setting down here to rotate, a second landing field had had to be set aside and guarded for that purpose.

The massive security presence made it no great secret who was arriving, but at least they didn’t have a brass band, John thought. A small convoy of olive-painted APCs rushed out to the Fury and were joined by two identical units that exited the dropship’s vehicle ramp.

After a complicated little dance on the ferrocrete, the personnel carriers broken into groups and departed in several directions, one of which was the bunker complex that supplemented the original hangers and control tower. Elements of one of IX Corps’ engineering battalions had assembled it in the last seventy-two hours. John had pulled a platoon from one of his own battalions and had them watch, issuing a single one word order: “Learn.”

For all their newness, the conference facilities were perfectly functional. The First Prince rose from the table and greeted Joan Brandt with a gentlemanly bow. “Welcome to Ozawa.”

“Yes, wasn’t your plan to have the planet secured by now?” she said without ceremony.

“The plan was to push as far as this or until we ran into opposition we couldn’t confidently defeat without the main force under your command.” He offered her a chair and then re-joined Janos Grec, who now sported a Vice Admiral’s rank badges, and General Verschaffelt, whose arm was in a sling. “We’ve reached that point, so we stopped and waited. That’s as near as you can reasonably get to being on plan once you consider that Amaris’ forces have a plan too.”

Brandt shook her head. “And who took a shot at you, General?” she asked.

“No one,” the commander of IX Corps replied. “The jeep I was in yesterday hit a pot-hole and over-turned.”

“Could have been worse then.”

“Most of my men would agree,” Verschaffelt told her. “I think they have a new appreciation for how bad the fighting was in the Periphery.”

Brandt shrugged. “You’ve liberated seven planets from Amaris, well four and three halves. Given you managed that with eight divisions, it’s not all that bad.”

Grec cleared his throat. “It was going rather well until the attempt to take Rio’s Castle Brian. The entire division involved has had to be pulled back due to casualties. That’s why we haven’t pushed at the fortifications.”

Castles Brian were from the previous round of grandiose defensive works built for the Hegemony. The massive underground fortifications were intended to allow an outnumbered garrison to hold out and harass the invaders until a relief force arrived. Updated regularly over the centuries since Brian Cameron had commissioned them and given them his name, the six that had been encountered so far were performing the task superbly.

The problem was, due to Richard Cameron’s blind trust of Stefan Amaris, the men defending the Castles Brian were the invaders.

“There are fortresses like this in the Periphery,” John added. “As far as I know, not one of them was taken during the Uprisings.”

“Not the Uprisings, no. There are four in the Rim Worlds Republic though and they’ve been in their hands for ten years now. Damn Dick Cameron,” Verschaffelt said angrily. “The General will have this to deal with out there as well.”

“We can’t change what’s happened already,” John reminded her. “What we need to focus on now is arranging a smooth handover between your troops and Admiral Brandt’s Army Group.” It sounded odd to him to have an Admiral in command of ground troops, but there was little permanent structure in the SLDF for field command above the level of an Army – the five regional ‘Army Groups’ had been administrative in nature.

To be fair, until the entire Periphery had gone up in flames, there hadn’t been any situations that had called for more than one Army. Any one of the twenty field Armies would have been enough, combined with the attached fleet elements, to seriously threaten one of the House Militaries. On the few occasions when such was attempted, like the PERSUASIVE FORCE exercises of 2757, the Commanding General had taken charge directly.

Faced with three such challenges at once, Commanding General Aleksandr Kerensky had taken direct command of the Armies fighting in the Taurian Concordat, deferred operations in the Outworlds Alliance to his Deputy, Aaron DeChevilier, and finally selected the Director of the Star League Navy to take operational command of the army group fighting in the Magistracy of Canopus.

Responding to the shift of focus away from the three breakaway territorial states had been complicated enough without making major changes so at least for now the Army Groups would retain the same basic composition, only the commanders and their personal staffs switched between them to allow for their specific capabilities to be best used.

“We’ll need her if the Rim Worlds fleet come out to hit our support,” Hanse noted. “But it feels strange to have an admiral telling the army what to do.”

It should feel strange for you to be here and talking without them noticing, John thought. But I guess you can get used to anything.

“In the absence of major space ports, General Lucas will probably need to use combat landing procedures to get his troops down,” Brandt decided. “Not all of his transports are rated for that so we’ll be sending troops in based more on what they’re loaded aboard than any sort of sensible troop deployments. At least some of the space ports survived the fighting on other worlds.”

“The important thing is to get his forces in to secure our grip,” John told the Admiral. “From what you sent ahead, there’s going to be quite a lot of reorganisation going on anyway before we press further.”

“Do your spies expect a counter-attack?” she asked him.

“With the way Amaris has clamped down on HPG traffic since May, most of our agents are cut off,” John answered. He’d been surprised to learn that the SLDF held his intelligence personnel in high regard. From what Hanse had told him about their failures in the other timeline, they had not performed well in this era but it seemed that the reforms he’d made on the ghost’s recommendations had changed perceptions. To be fair, it was probably also a factor that with a good idea of what challenges they’d face had allowed him to focus resources in the key areas, as well as point investigations in the right direction.

“The hidden fleet reported a force of thirty warships being massed at Al Na’ir, so I think he was considering such an attack but between our stopping our advance and your arrival they haven’t seemed to leave the system. It’s possible it was a demonstration of strength for the Combine -” Al Na’ir was a significant naval stronghold on the Hegemony’s border with House Kurita and it boasted a Space Defense System of ground bases and drone warships that made it an extremely secure base of operations. “- or more probably the information of your arrival preceded you and Amaris decided not to risk having his fleet run into a superior fleet.”

While IX Corps and the AFFS elements of the advance force had more than thirty warships between them, they were necessarily scattered across not only the seven liberated systems but also the supply lines back into the Federated Suns. A concerted strike could have wreaked havoc. In order to ensure Third Army’s security though, Brandt had amassed almost a hundred warships with lithium fusion batteries that gave them double the usual strategic mobility and raced them across the Federated Suns to reinforce convoy escorts and patrol squadrons from various missions around the Hegemony’s border.

If Amaris had sent only thirty warships in to attack then he could easily have lost them all to a rapid response from Third Army’s escorts. While the full story of the coup that had secured the Hegemony for him remained obscure in many ways, it was clear that the occasions where Rim Worlds warships faced the Star League Navy on anything approaching even terms had cost Amaris heavily in both ships and crews.

The first he was replacing from the Hegemony’s own stockpiles and shipyards. The second was less certain but given time he would no doubt manage.

After last December, it would be a long long time before anyone underestimated Stefan Amaris again.

.o0O0o.

Fourth Army Headquarters, New Rhodes III
Lockdale Province, Terran Hegemony
20 September 2767

Liberating the worlds was one thing, restoring everything to full functionality was another. Thus far only New Rhodes of the seven systems had a functional HPG and that had apparently strained the resources of capabilities in the nearby regions of the Federated Suns. The Army Group’s headquarters had been set up there as a matter of necessity and since General Baptiste of Fourth Army was acting as Brandt’s field commander for ground operation, Fourth Army had landed there to begin with.

“Good to see you again, General.” Jack Lucas returned McGuinness’ salute quickly and then offered his hand.

She accepted. “It’ll be good to be see action with you again, General Lucas. A little strange to be under your command rather than the other way around, but good.”

“I’m glad you feel that way.” Lucas gave his old Corps commander a searching look. “I considered asking for one of the other Corps to be seconded to Third Army for the sieges on Ozawa but LXII Corps is the one I have most confidence in.”

“I should hope so.” She gestured towards her office. “If I’d been picked to take over – and I don’t know if I was even being considered, then I would have tapped you to take over the Corps. I’ve no grounds to complain if DeChevilier saw the same potential in you.”

Inside she closed the door and checked the anti-surveillance gear set up at one end of her desk. The building had been a police station once. “The command structure’s a little strange anyway, what with Davion being shoe-horned in as Deputy Army Group Commander.”

“That’s just political though, Baptiste’s the real exec, isn’t she?” Lucas asked. “Not that the First Prince seems like he’d be a disaster but he isn’t SLDF.”

“In practical terms I’d guess it’s more like Baptiste is Ia and Davion is IIa,” the Major General clarified, referring to Operations and Logistics respectively.

“That much I can live with.”

“Yeah. Gonna be getting a lot of gear from the Feddies, hopefully it’s on par with their intelligence.”

“It’s not going to be as good as the Royal grade hardware built here in the Hegemony,” said Lucas. “But at least he got as far as Ozawa. My headquarters is right next to the Veridian Dynamics factory and the damage is pretty superficial. That should help bring my regiments’ organic artillery up to strength even the Diplan factories won’t be giving us new ‘Mechs any time soon.”

“Oh yes, they make the Vali on Ozawa don’t they?” The 8x4 light artillery vehicles was built on the same chassis as the ubiquitous RR-4 Recovery vehicle, but it carried a payload of twenty-five Arrow IV fire support missiles.
 
“Recovery vehicles too. There was an AFFS purchasing officer there when I visited.” Lucas smiled tightly. “Thought I was going to have to set him straight on priorities for the artillery but he just wanted six regimental sets of RR-4s.”

“It’s almost as if he knows his idiot Mechwarriors are going to get their rears hauled off the battlefield more often than not. You’re not going to be using them to storm the Castles Brian, are you?” she asked as a sudden thought crossed her mind.

“No, they need a rest and refit anyway. I think they’ll be attached to Sixth Army once that’s done but the reorganisation isn’t done. They seem to have carried their weight here though. General Kerensky must have followed through with what he said at the staff conference.”

McGuinness thought a moment and shook her head. “I must be blanking. What was that?”

“He was going to make sure the regiments sent here were more like the ones Waynewright used on that training exercise the AFFS ran before the year, not the regiments that got sent to the Concordat. I’d say Davion got the message.”

“No Syrtis Fusiliers, or whatever he was sending into the Alliance… Robinson Cavaliers?”

“Chevaliers,” Lucas corrected her. “And yes, one regiment each from those formations. Two from the Avalon Hussars, then one each Tancredi Loyalists and…” He frowned for a moment. “Dragon Lords, that was it. And they’re going to stay tied into their own brigades and divisions this time so it should be less of a complication for the rest of us. I’ve only met one of them so far, a Major General Simons, but he seems to know what he’s doing.”

“As long as they stay out of my hair, that’s fine. Maybe he’s a footslogger. They can at least accept basic instructions like ‘stay where you are and scream for support if someone shoots at you’,” McGuiness joked.

“We’re going to be demanding a bit more from our infantry clearing the Castles Brian,” Lucas said gruffly. “Digging them out isn’t going to be fun.”
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: drakensis on 16 December 2017, 01:24:08
Uedo Castle Brian, Ozawa
Lockdale Province, Terran Hegemony
17 October 2767

“Go, go, go!” Marge Pritchard shouted as their Demon pulled onto the rough road leading into the Castle Brian.

If Huber Koopman had any qualms about the order, he kept quiet about it. Instead he floored the accelerator and focused on getting sixty-five tons of tank through or around the obstacles in their path.

Unlike prospecting for rebel bases in the Periphery, here LXII Corps had the advantage of personnel who knew the Castles Brian well and could pinpoint the entrances for the assault as well as outline the defences. Less fortunately was the scale of those defences.

Pritchard had taken it with a pinch of salt when told that artillery would suppress the guns covering the door but the amount of fire from not only the regimental groups but all three battalions of the 255th Royal Mechanised Infantry division’s artillery reserve had been impressive.

Nonetheless, as the armoured spearhead pushed closer at breakneck speeds, it was clear that the fight was far from over. Wreckage of the 247th Dragoons’ tanks used to cover for the engineers rushing the entry were adding to the complications of the approach and as the hole blasted into the armoured doors came into view, a dual autocannon mount opened up.

Reflexively, Pritchard dropped into her hatch and sealed it above her. The guns were firing flack and although the tank next to them was the first target, she’d be just as dead if she was hit by a ricochet with her head and shoulders out of the cupola. “Target, turret, one o’clock.”

Next to her in the Demon’s turret, Johann Steuben brought the gun around to bear but then elevated it. “It’s out,” he told her flatly and triggered the gauss rifle. The Demon bounced over something Koopman apparently didn’t see the need to avoid as the gun breech opened and a second slug was fed into it by the autoloader.

“What are you shooting at then?” she asked, strapping herself down before she wound up doing herself an injury on the inside of the turret.

Steuben kept his eyes focused on his screens. “The turret behind it.”

An APC had over-turned in the middle of the road, the cause unclear. Pritchard saw the tank head of them skid around it to the left and Koopman automatically turned their Demon to the right. Engineers pressed themselves against the sides of the narrow canyon, making room for the armoured column. It was vital to penetrate deep inside the defences before anyone tried to seal the breach by cutting off sections of the Castle Brian.

The doors reared up above them and the first tank gunned its engines, roaring up the low, improvised ramp up over the lip of the door. Something hit it low and to the side as it entered and the sixty-five ton vehicle began to roll to the left as it vanished into the shadows.

“Night vision,” Pritchard ordered, switching the display. “Target left quarter, low as we enter…”

“Got it.” Deeper inside the tank, Alois Ranson took control of the laser mounted on the left side of the Demon.

There was a thump as the front wheels hit the ramp and somewhere Koopman found an extra bit of horsepower because as they reached the top, Pritchard would have sworn that all six of the large wheels left the ground.

A trail of crackling explosions followed them as they crashed down again on the roadway inside the Castle Brian, vanishing into the squeal as the thick rubberised wheels fought for traction.

“Field gun, I hit the ready rounds.” Ranson’s voice was steady as he scanned the surroundings. His job was to watch for attacks on their vulnerable flanks and to neutralise them with secondary weapons.

Pritchard’s responsibility was to the mission though. “Get us moving, we’re on point.” The tank ahead of them had lost its fight with stability and now lay on one side, the crew crawling out. A short-barrelled autocannon dropped out of the ceiling and began to chew at the exposed underside of the Demon.

They went past the tank without stopping to help, perhaps someone behind them would take the autocannon out but they had to press on. The space inside was a broad ramp, leading down and away from the entrance through three dog-legs, each with their own security doors.

Sapper ‘Mechs from the 247th should be ahead of them, but how many had made it was hard to guess. The first door was open and they raced through it, Koopman pushing them up past seventy on the highway-broad and level surface of the ramp.

Pritchard felt the turret twist. “Door’s not cleared,” Steuben said without any particular emphasis. He fired the gauss rifle, sending a round howling down the passageway ahead of them.

“Shit!” Peering ahead she could barely make out the heavy doors at the bottom of this section. One was gone, in fact, but the other half was simply buckled. There was room for a tank moving slowly and carefully… but this wasn’t a time for being slow and careful. “Koopman, can you thread the needle.”

“Maybe.”

Another crash from the gun. “Ram the door,” the gunner proposed as the portal loomed closer. The gauss rifle cycled another hundred and twenty-five kilo slug. “We need it wider.”

The sergeant looked at him and saw, in the red internal light, the laconic expression on Steuben’s face. As if they were back in the laager, setting up to camp in or beside their tank. Koopman was one of the best three or four drivers in the 111th. If he couldn’t reliably make the gap… “How square?”

“Two metres, approximately.” He fired once more.

“Koopman! Put our right wing two metres from the edge of the door!” Pritchard screamed and braced her feet up in front of her.

There was the start of what might have been a prayer from Ranson and then they hit.

The crash was only the first impact. She felt the rear of the tank spin left into the open space left by the door that had been removed. Then the edge of the door, weakened by Steuben’s shots, gave way and they lurched fully into the next section of the ramp, tank up on only three wheels and threatening to tip past the point of return.

There were ‘Mechs in front of them, Pritchard saw. Two of them, a Banshee with some of the giant bangalores used for breaching doors still strapped to it and a Guillotine. For a moment she thought they were still friendly and then remembered the 247th didn’t have any Guillotines – and her own regiments would still be well behind in the next wave of the attack. “Target, Guillotine!”

“Firing.” Steuben said simply and the gauss rifle spat again.

The recoil brought them back onto all six wheels, slewing them again as the front right wheel was jammed. Pritchard wasn’t bothered about that. The gauss slug had hit the wall, the first time she’d ever seen Steuben miss a shot – not that she could blame him.

Then it glanced off the wall and caught the heavy ‘Mech right in the knee. Not missing the opportunity, the 247th Banshee launched a kick at the same limb, tipping the Guillotine to the floor.

“You jammy bugger,” she exclaimed, feeling the tank straighten.

“Pardon?” he asked.

“What’d you do, Koopman?” she asked and then looked back. “That shot…”

“Banshee was in the way,” he said clinically. “I had to use the wall.”

“Cut the damaged wheel out of transmission, Sarge. We’re down to sixty, tops.”

A second tank made it through the now wider gap, followed by a third. Then stabbing light rose from the final door, ahead of them, cutting Pritchard off from worrying about Steuben’s absurd claim. The Republicans were opening the final door themselves and towering silhouettes, like ancient war gods, stalked out.

The warbook pinged a warning. Rampage. RWR assault ‘Mech, primary armament heavy autocannon, LRMs, large laser… And there were eight of them.

The Banshee, last of four she could now tell in the light, was caught exposed as the RWR assaults began to lumber up the ramp, weapons tearing into the lightly armed ‘Mech. Though larger and just as heavily armoured – the reason it was used for this work rather than smaller Work ‘Mech – the Banshee couldn’t possibly withstand that fire for more than a few seconds.

“Get us down there!” Pritchard heard a shrill demand and was surprised to recognise her own voice. The Demon lurched forwards, rapidly picking up speed again as the other two tanks followed. She’d given them no signal – in fact with all the jamming she probably couldn’t – but they must have seen the same logic that she did.

Without engineers, the door at the bottom could be closed again even if they somehow managed to defeat the Rampages. But block it from closing and SLDF reinforcements would have access to the marshalling yard that should be beyond, and at least a fighting chance of penetrating deeper.

The Banshee fell and the Rim Mechwarriors turned their attention to the tanks. Already damaged from the collision, the Demon’s frontal glacis couldn’t take much more punishment, only Koopman’s driving and the enemy splitting fire among the three tanks sparing the Pritchard’s crew the brunt of the lasers and autocannon fire directed up the ramp.

Steuben and Ranson were firing, to what effect she couldn’t guess. The first Rampage was before them, side-stepping and drawing one massive metal foot back with obvious intent.

“Koop - !”

The crashing collision tore away the already damaged wheel and spun them through one hundred and eighty degrees. The lights dimmed to a handful of emergency LEDs as the tank’s abused fusion reactor shut down abruptly.

“Urgh.” Pritchard shook her head. They’d ended up against the wall of the ramp, somehow intact but not functional. “Crew check?”

“Alive,” Ranson replied. “Missile launcher jammed, no power for the lasers.”

“Likewise.” Steuben tested his controls clinically. “Turret locked. Capacitors charged and a slug loaded so I have one shot.” He reached up towards the hatch. “I’ll need to shoot visually, the screen’s out.”

Silence.

“Ranson, check on Koopman,” she ordered. “Steuben don’t fire that shot unless I tell you to.” Pritchard unstrapped and started working on her own hatch. When she poked her head out cautiously she saw they were now behind the Rampages, but someone was still fighting. It wasn’t the two Demons that had been behind them though. Both tanks had been smashed open by the brutal fire directed at them. It was small consolation that one of the enemy ‘Mechs had joined them in death.

Looking back she saw the door and beyond it the floor of the marshalling yard. Still open, still lit. and at least right at this instant, with no back-up for the Rampages in her admittedly limited field of vision.

“One of them’s almost lined up,” Steuben noted. “Just needs to move forward a little more.”

“Don’t shoot,” she ordered.

“Sergeant?” he asked, turning baby-blue eyes on her with an air of slight suspicion.

“Hold it.” She ducked back down into the tank. “Ranson?”

“Koopman’s out, but he’s breathing. Without power we’re not going anywhere even if he wakes.”

“That might not actually be the case,” Pritchard told him. “Are we in neutral?”

“Yes…?”

“Release the brakes,” she ordered with a sly smile. Maybe it wouldn’t do anything. Lord only knew what was left of their wheels but…

“Brakes released,” Ranson told her.

But she could tell already, because their Demon was beginning to roll backwards towards the bottom of the ramp. She smiled. “When I tell you – not now, but when, I want you to brake but just for the left wheels. Can do?”

“It’s been a while,” the gunner told her drily. “But I think I remember the right controls.” Fortunately the release for the brakes worked on the emergency battery even without main power.

“Right. Take your hands off the trigger, Steuben. Right now we’re doing something more important than back-shooting one ‘Mech.”

Looking back she saw the doors were beginning, very slowly, to close as the remaining security recognised what they were doing. Four soldiers even rushed out into the doorway to fire up at them with assault rifles

Even in this state, they might as well have been firing spitballs for all their weapons would do to a tank, but Pritchard huddled down, her helmeted head just far enough out of the cupola to judge when to give Ranson the breaking order.

For his part, Steuben pulled out his sidearm and fired four shots back down towards the door, as coolly as if he was still firing a gauss rifle rather than a laser pistol that would have fit easily into his hip-pocket.

“Get your pretty head back inside the tank before it’s shot off,” Pritchard snarled.

“Setting aside the chain of command, you’re still not my type, sergeant. Besides, who’s to shoot at me?”

With a frown, Pritchard looked at him and then glanced ahead. The four soldiers from before all lay sprawled on the ferrocrete of the marshalling yard, at least thirty yards away. “From behind,” she said weakly, and then swore. “Ranson!”

Fortunately, the man took her curse as an instruction and the Demon turned sharply as it approached the door, finally crashing rear-first into one of the closing panels as it slid towards them. Such was the sheer mass of the door that it actually started pushing them to start pivoting on the left wheels until Ranson locked them too. While they continued to skid at least they were more or less straightened out on the threshold.

There was a crash and then a grinding noise as the bow of the Demon encountered the other panel and began to buckle.

“Right, everyone out,” Pritchard decided. There was no use getting crushed if the tank couldn’t handle the doors. “Steuben, help Ranson with Koopman.”

“Which way?” the gunner asked.

The sergeant looked in the two possible directions. “Into the base,” she decided. There was a better chance of finding somewhere to hide than on the open ramp, particularly as Rampages had machineguns and flamers if she recalled correctly.

.o0O0o.

Fourth Army Headquarters, New Rhodes
Lockdale Province, Terran Hegemony
3 December 2767

“Some of those soldiers deserve Medals of Valor,” Brandt noted as she turned away from a display still running news footage of the earlier awards ceremonies. “That tank crew from Uedo, for example. But politically we need to reward them now rather than wait what could be years so the Commanding General can present them.”

The highest grades of the SLDF’s awards for merit could only be awarded by the highest uniformed member of their service, which was a slight logistical problem at the moment. While they could have waited, working with the media to keep the SLDF’s public support high was pushing commanders to make decisions more expedient than they’d normally have done.

“I didn’t notice any complaints about the number of Army Crosses and Cameron Stars you were handing out,” John told her drily.

“The Liberation Ribbon was a stroke of genius,” she added with more than grudging respect. “It underlines Amaris as the greatest threat we’ve ever faced.”

While most medals came with their own distinct ribbons, John had suggested a new one to be added for any soldier who received an award while fighting to liberate the Hegemony. Stark black and pristine white, Kerensky had approved the additional ribbon as an alternative to devaluing the rewards offered alongside some medals such as knighthoods or land grants. Some of those were out of reach. In fact, so far as it was known the only Star League Medals of Honor, the single highest award that the Star League awarded, off Terra were those already awarded. Unissued examples would presumably still be in a vaults under the Court of the Star League on Earth and SLDF Headquarters on New Earth.

Tatjana Baptiste shook her head. “So long as no one gets reckless chasing the extra braid on their uniform,” she said. “Moving on?”

“Go ahead, General. Ground forces strength is next on the agenda, I believe?”

The general gestured to the display. “Across the five armies we have assembled, we’ve mostly been able to bring intact divisions up to strength by absorbing independent regiments although this leaves us significantly short of independent BattleMech regiments at the Army level. In future we’ll need to either look at cutting brigades from the TO&E, cutting the Corps Regimental Combat Teams or bringing in reserves from units in the Member-States.”

“General Kerensky has authorised the latter,” John advised. “Second Army is working with my Department of Military Education to build cadres from their existing RCTs that new recruits can be fed into. It won’t provide Mechwarriors, pilots or a lot of other specialised personnel quickly, but in the short term replacements for infantry and a few of the more basic combat vehicle crew positions should begin to arrive in another six months.”

“Six months?” Janos Grec shook his head. “Basic and trade training is four times that by SLDF standards. Those soldiers will be raw.”

“We’re cutting a lot of corners,” the prince admitted uncompromisingly. “There are two streams, the second stream will have four months basic and eight trade, but until we have enough people coming through that we’re pulling the top twenty percent of applicants and rushing them into Second Army units where they can hopefully learn on the job, freeing up the existing men and women to be transferred into the vacancies here.”

Baptiste adjusted the controls. “We have fifty-five SLDF divisions and two AFFS divisions as matters stand. The Third and Fourth Armies remain the largest, due to the losses taken by the Nineteenth and the lower force strength of the two Armies that were previously stationed in Capellan space. Rather than trying to balance the load, we’re regularising it into two heavy armies to carry the weight of the offensive and three lighter armies to act as a reserve and cover garrison work.”

“By disbanding LXIX Corps and LXX Corps, as well as transferring in LVI Corps from the Nineteenth, both the Third and the Fourth have consolidated to three Corps of five Divisions each, around sixty-three percent of our field strength before we went to the Periphery.” She moved the slides showing these armies so that those of the Sixth, Seventh and Nineteenth appeared. “Similarly, by disbanding out of the XXXVIII and LVIII Corps we’ve been able to bring the Seventh and Nineteenth to nine divisions split between two Corps, roughly sixty and forty-three percent of their previous strength.”

“Jesus,” Brandt blasphemed. “No one put it like that before for me.”

“Sixth Army only has seven divisions still combat effective,” Baptiste continued, unphased. “Consideration was given to breaking it up to reinforce one of the other Armies. Instead, Prince Davion’s three divisions have been attached as a short Corps to bring them up to near parity with the other light armies. My apologies, your highness, but AFFS divisional structure is a little… different from ours.”

“I’m not offended, general. The facts are the facts.”

“Walk me through that last point,” asked the Army Group commander.

Grec glanced over at Baptiste who yielded the floor. “Essentially, one of our divisions has three line brigades of three regiments each. Depending on the build that could be two infantry brigades to one ‘Mech brigade or the reverse. Then supporting elements in company, battalion or even regimental strength are attached for supporting purposes, anything up to two further brigade equivalents.”

“And the Federated Suns?”

“An AFFS division, at least the way their contribution has been structured, integrates the specialised units into the line forces, with around one company per battalion being configured to contain their anti-aircraft, artillery, aviation units and so forth. The divisions also include a fourth brigade built around armoured combat vehicles.” The Rear-Admiral spread his hands. “It’s out of my field to say if it’s better or worse than SLDF arrangements.”

“It’s a little experimental, units still in the Suns are still working out what suits us for higher level organisation.” It was also a compromise between what Hanse described from his own era and the rather different force and transportation balances that John had to work with. If anything, the Ceti Hussars, Crucis Dragoons and the units they were working with seemed to be working towards something smaller and more flexible.
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: snakespinner on 16 December 2017, 01:54:19
Great to see you continuing the story.
Any chance of a map if not I don't mind. O0
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: 2ndAcr on 16 December 2017, 06:48:24
 One nit pick, Condor was not around in 2767...............IIRC it comes around in like 2801 or so.

 But, otherwise, excellent writing.
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: drakensis on 17 December 2017, 05:18:53
Thanks, I'll fix it.

For a force with such a massive infantry force, the SLDF seems to have had remarkably few infantry transports.
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: Alexander Knight on 17 December 2017, 06:18:34
That's what the bulk cargo space was for!  ^-^
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: 2ndAcr on 17 December 2017, 10:37:43
 Yeah, I asked a while back about that same issue in the General Forum. Of course there is the Czar, carries 36 infantry platoons.
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: drakensis on 21 December 2017, 17:09:38
Fourth Army Headquarters, New Rhodes
Lockdale Province, Terran Hegemony
4 December 2767

Too tired to look further at paperwork, too keyed up to sleep, John was helping Hanse play solitaire when Brandt entered the office he’d been using. “Marshal,” she said and then added “At ease,” as he started to rise.

“A gentleman always rises for a lady,” he said solemnly and would have offered her a chair if she hadn’t taken one without waiting.

“The only person who calls me a lady is my husband. I’m a fighter pilot, for crying out loud.”

“The two aren’t mutually exclusive,” he told her, but sat down again.

“Ten of Sharks to Mech of Orbs,” Hanse told him.

It was tempting to give him a sidelong look. Sometimes he wondered about the other man’s manners.

“Don’t let me spoil your game,” the admiral told him. “I didn’t know you played cards.”

John moved the selected cards. “I don’t as such. I picked up solitaire on Valexa as something to kill time when I wasn’t going to be able to get any constructive work done but I couldn’t sleep.”

She looked down at the cards as Hanse tapped the deck and John dealt three more cards over the hand he’d been working from. “Periphery deck?”

“I didn’t have any with me. Someone on my staff picked them up out of the Rim Worlds quarters when they were being cleared of personal effects and had them handy when I asked.”

“Four of Avellar to Five of Centralla.”

He moved the card off the hand as directed. Each suite referenced one of the great houses. Playing cards for Hanse felt like a microcosm of the last several years – closer to eight than seven now, wasn’t it? Although at least if he disagreed there was nothing stopping him playing the cards as he wished rather than as directed.

“Odd not to at least see a Hegemony Star in a deck,” Brandt noted. Most decks used four Inner Sphere houses, usually the manufacturer’s nationality, the Hegemony and whichever two realms lay on the far side of the manufacturer. There had been a fad when John was younger for decks of six suites, representing all the Member-States but it made games trickier so most people would shuffle two suites out and the fad died away. It occurred to him to wonder which suites were commonly used here in the Hegemony.”

“It’s all a matter of perspective. Can I help you?”

“I just want to shuffle a couple of things for the conference tomorrow.”

“She’s made a decision,” Hanse told him. “Mech of Avellar to Duke of Calderon.”

“Is it about the plans?” John asked Brandt, looking up as he moved the cards. He almost dropped the Three of Centralla and had to slip it back into place.

She nodded. “Firstly, I want to move the mention you’re heading back to New Avalon to earlier in the meeting. If it comes later it might feel like a reaction.”

“A bit awkward to have the departure brought up mid-way through the meeting. Might have them wondering why I’m around for the rest of it.” He turned over three new cards for Hanse. “I assume that means you’ve decided on Jack Lucas’ plan?”

“I have. Is that a problem?”

John took a deep breath and cudgelled his brain for something that could perhaps change her mind. Both plans were aggressive, that wasn’t the concern. But while John’s focused on liberating as many worlds as possible, focusing on the lightly defended in order to deprive Amaris of resources and hopefully give the Hegemony a core of up a dozen more worlds with hopefully minimal damage to their industry and infrastructure, General Lucas had proposed going directly for two of the well-fortified worlds in reach of the current liberated zone.

Not systems with SDS networks, fortunately there were only three such star systems in the entire province, but Addicks and Tigress both had multiple Castles Brian and might have significant numbers of defenders. Knocking them out would prevent the worlds from being used as bases for a counter-attack but it was just as possible that very modest garrisons might tie up half of the Army Group for between six months and a year.

“This is a test,” Hanse warned and John realised he’d been quiet too long.

“I have no other arguments than those I’ve voiced already, Admiral,” he said quietly. “I disagree, but you’re in command. If you’ve made up your mind then both you and General Lucas will have my complete support.”

“That must come hard to you, taking orders.” Brandt sounded amused. “If you’d rather we can switch the deployments and hold Sixth Army with your troops in reserve, Nineteenth Army can take over the supporting attack on Ankaa.”

“As I understand it, the decision to keep the Nineteenth Army in reserve was based on their greater need to shake down their new command personnel. Since that logic hasn’t changed, I don’t see that as being in the operation’s best interests. Unless the situation has changed?”

She smirked. “No, it hasn’t. Alright, we’ll brief out as discussed then. You might want to get some sleep first though. It’s not good for morale for a commander to look that worn out.”

“Well now I know what the decision is, perhaps I’ll be able to.”

She nodded. “Just for the record, John, I liked your plan. It had panache. But you were practically baiting Amaris to come out and try to force us out. Fighting on seven worlds at once, with only twelve divisions in reserve to reinforce us or to cover the worlds we’ve liberated so far…”

“I wish to God that he would. As best we’ve been able to determine he brought twenty-four or twenty-five divisions with him from the Rim Worlds Republic and for all his talk about thirty divisions, it’ll be at least a another year before they’re ready. Right now he can’t strike at us with anything like numerical parity so he needs to stay behind the fortifications he’s captured.”

John swept the cards together with both hands, covering the rough pile with both hands. “I’m not going to lie and claim it would be quick or easy but right now anything he sent out in counter-attack would be far more vulnerable than we are. He’s holding down over a hundred worlds with a smaller force than we have – he’s much less of a reserve than we have.”

“We can’t afford heavy losses, Marshal. Much less to give him a victory. The fighting in the Republic isn’t going badly but the other Army Groups are too far away. If we take serious casualties I’d either have to hold off on further operations or pull fresh divisions out of the garrisons in one or more of the Member States. That would cause… problems.”

“We’re going over old ground.” He started tidying up the deck. “Is there anything you want me to set in motion on New Avalon to help with the plan we’re actually using?”

Brandt shrugged. “There’s a list Lucas has put together. I don’t claim to understand why he wants Alacorn Mark IV tanks instead of Mark VI models, I’d have thought the newer ones were better. Things an Admiral wouldn’t know I suppose.”

“Mark VI Alacorns carry three gauss rifles,” John told her. “Fine weapons for open range fighting but the Mark IV we licensed a few years ago carry three heavy autocannon. Given how brutal the in-fighting was inside the Castles Brian on Ozawa, New Florence and Rio were, I’m guessing he wants to be better prepared for the future operations like that.”

“There you go, you understand it better than I do. Makes you the right man back on New Avalon and me the right person out here to keep the army from getting lost,” Brandt said with forced cheeriness.

.o0O0o.

Avalon City, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Suns
4 April 2768

“I’m not convinced that this is the time for such changes.” Vasily Sandoval frowned at the map display of the Federated Suns. “Right now we have regiments that are very familiar with their areas of their responsibility and the officers they’ll be working with. If we were to come under attack before they’re settled into the new arrangements then our defences will be at a disadvantage.”

“And then there’s the espirit de corps of the March Militias.” Duchess Rita Hasek frowned at the idea. “They’re become very popular as champions of their respective regions in the biannual training exercises. You know how sports fans get about their teams.”

John and Vasily exchanged looks and came to a silent agreement that this wasn’t the time to correct the duchess’ use of ‘espirit de corps’. With one tour of duty in the AFFS she met the basic requirements to lay claim to the traditional right of a March Lord to serve as military commander of their March, but while Vasily’s service had been on the frontlines of the War of Davion Succession, while Rita’s tour of duty had been served entirely on the march capital of New Syrtis, with the Sixth Syrtis Fusiliers.

“The situation isn’t going to get any better,” John explained to the Draconis March lord. “Not until the Star League Council agrees on a new First Lord and right now the vote is four to one in favour of deferring that until Richard’s fate is confirmed.”

“That’s ridiculous,” snapped Rita. “Amaris would hardly undermine his claim to the position by leaving Richard alive. He might have spared the children, but the Camerons would have been given a choice between forswearing the throne or execution. That’s just plain sense and given how stiff-necked they are, nine-tenths of them probably wound up in front of firing squads. The Usurper can’t allow a rival claimant to live.”

“She’s not dumb, John. No soldier, but no fool either,” Hanse noted.

John turned to the duchess. “I think that’s the real issue, Rita. Without any idea of what the line of succession is and the Camerons no longer in practical control of the Hegemony, any regent or new First Lord would be painting a target on themselves.”

“Does Amaris have the forces to invade another Member-State?” asked Vasily in surprise. “I would have thought he had enough to deal with given the fighting on Tigress and Addicks.”

The Hasek shook her head. “Don’t be foolish, Vasily. Not soldiers: assassins and terrorist attacks. After Amaris suborned so much of the Hegemony government, there’s no knowing who else he might have agents close to in other realms.”

“Why not you then, sire? Or, what’s her name… Richard’s aunt… uh, dammit, Vincent Davion’s wife.”

“I have enough on my plate,” John told the Duke drily. “Between my own duties and supporting the SLDF’s activities, I’m already pushing work off onto Edwina and Joshua. Besides, the other Lords wouldn’t accept me, or Guerever for that matter. Just because they don’t want to risk getting pulled forwards doesn’t mean they’d accept me as even provisionally wielding the First Lord’s authority.”

“Dogs in a manger.”

“Yes. But we’re getting away from the point of this conversation.” The First Prince tuned back to the map. “You’re right that at the moment regiments within the Combat Regions are largely familiar with each other and their commanders, but even with the way we’ve shuffled regiments for GALAHAD and the various expeditionary forces over the last eight years, most of them aren’t very familiar with troops outside those regions. My concern is that if several regions were under attack and one was on the brink of collapse, neighbouring regions wouldn’t recognise this or offer support until news reached a higher level command.”

“There are facilities for that,” Vasily protested. “Operational Area command -”

John raised his hand. “Let me give you an example. Suppose the DCMS were to launch a surprise attack, with raids all along the border covering for a deep strike at Fairfax. If they neutralise the headquarters there, then not only would the Fairfax Combat Region be leaderless, but they’d also leave Dahar without a direct chain of command to you on New Syrtis because Fairfax is also headquarters for the Operation Area. It could take weeks to re-establish control of regiments in the area, those that weren’t overwhelmed without anyone to direct them on whether reinforcements were on the way or if they should withdraw to regroup.”

“Hmm.” Vasily studied the map. “And Fairfax is halfway between the border and the edge of the Crucis March.”

“Yes. Troop densities simply aren’t at the same level within the interior as they are along the border since we can’t be strong everywhere. With a base of operations deep in the Draconis March, Draconian raiding parties could wreak havoc.”

“And you think that this would reduce the risks of that?” asked Rita thoughtfully. “Wouldn’t these new…” she squinted at the screen, “Polymorphous Defense Zones have the same problems?”

“Right now, a single headquarters controls a sector of the border as well as all the territory back to the rear-edge of the border march,” John explained. “To use my example from earlier, if one PDZ is taken out then there are multiple PDZs either behind or in front of it due to the way their areas of responsibility interlock. It gives us layered defences that would be harder to neutralise before reinforcements can be assembled.”

“It won’t do much good for Chesterton,” she said. The smallest of the border combat regions only contained five worlds, including the Demeter salient.”

“I didn’t claim it was perfect, just that it was better than our current arrangement.”

Vasily drummed his fingers on his desk. “The idea has some merits, but given the disruption it’ll cause, I’d like some precautions in place to minimise our exposure.”

“What do you have in mind?”

“The backbone of our defences against the Combine are the Robinson Chevaliers.” Duke Sandoval eyed John a little suspiciously under his thick eyebrows. “I know you respect their abilities, given their deployments of late but I want a commitment that they won’t be pulled around like that until the new organisation has had a little while to get established – five years or so.”

“What do you mean, pulled around?”

“Expeditionary forces, or getting their homeworlds settled. It’s been bad for morale – lots of service families having to uproot to follow soldiers around.” The large man shrugged. “I don’t begrudge that they should do their part, but between the Outworlds and now the Thirty-Second being sent into the Hegemony I think the Chevaliers have earned enough glory to let other regiments have a chance at it.”

John leant back in his chair. “You want the Chevaliers to retain their current postings for the next five years.”

“There’s no real impact in this of which worlds need garrisoning, just which headquarters they look to. So while the one is in flux, let them stay on worlds they’re familiar with. If you must move troops around, there are plenty of Avalon Hussars to do that with.”

“And no more sending the Chevaliers into the Hegemony for the next five years.”

“There are other regiments,” Vasily pointed out, not mentioning that the Chevaliers were the second largest brigade in the AFFS BattleMech corps, almost twenty percent of the whole.

“And the same with the Syrtis Fusiliers.” Rita didn’t hesitate to take the same position.

A third of the AFFS’ BattleMech regiments locked into place and unavailable for service in the Hegemony. Setting down roots on their postings and settling into routines.

But I don’t have the leverage to fight the March Lords on this. “That’s fair,” John told them. “As long as the current situation extends, that is. If the Federated Suns comes under direct attack, I can’t promise to leave them in place.”

“Oh naturally. And since there will be more PDZs than the current Combat Regions, we’ll need to federalize additional militia regiments to provide them with March Militia brigades.”

John sighed. The various planetary lords had been very enthusiastic about building up their militia forces to compete for status in regular exercises, right up until he’d federalised the best prepared brigades in each combat region in 2754. Somehow he didn’t think they’d fall for that again. On the other hand… “I’ll leave the selection up to the two of you,” he declared. “Let me know your decisions by the end of this year’s exercises and you can announce the five new March Militias in time for the presentation.”

Rita blinked and opened her mouth only for Vasily to shake his head. “You walked into that, my dear,” he warned her. “Can we at least look at a finals round between all three Marchs?” the Duke asked John. “There’s still some enthusiasm after the way the Crucis Militias have been bragging about their part in Operation GALAHAD.”

“Not this year, but I’ll see if we can schedule it for the 2770 exercises,” the prince agreed.
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: drakensis on 21 December 2017, 17:09:59
Avalon City, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Suns
7 April 2768

“This may be seen as presumptuous on your part,” Bennett Green warned. The Bureau of Star League Affairs’ Administrator for the Federated Suns was meeting John in Joshua’s offices rather than the First Prince’s own in part to keep the meeting low key and partly so John had the excuse to leave his office. With so many public appearances being delegated he’d begun to feel a degree of cabin-fever when it came to the admittedly luxurious office suite.

“I don’t plan to do anything drastic with the position,” John assured him with a flicker of guilt at the dishonesty. “But there are some administrative duties associated with it and Kerensky barely had time for them under Richard’s regency, much less now.”

“However innocent your intentions, the fact is that you’re discussing one of the First Lord’s secondary titles.”

“The High Council would raise something of a protest if some of the ducal powers were abused.” Joshua pushed a cup of coffee across the table to Bennett. “And with thirty worlds involved, I’m surprised we’ve gone this far without friction.”

The administrator made a face at the point but didn’t verbally acknowledge it, accepting the coffee instead.

John studied the man and concluded that he was only really holding out for form’s sake. Conferring the title of Duke of New Avalon on the First Lord’s heir had originally been entirely honorary but in the first century of the Star League the position had been granted certain powers by the High Council for reasons of convenience.

Some of those powers would be best left untouched, at least for now. Joshua was absolutely right that the High Council would be infuriated if John, acting as regent pending a new First Star Lord to take up the title, used the traditional perquisite of calling and dismissing the High Council at his own convenience. That was only intended to make allowances for visits by someone who could only briefly visit New Avalon and not necessarily fit the annual assemblies into his busy calendar, not for use by a First Prince who lived there.

Similarly, granting – and revoking - noble titles was a power carefully kept out of the First Prince’s hands over the years. The nobility of the Federated Suns had arisen first out of the titles of world rulers when the federation was founded and formalised under Simon Davion when a formal roll of honours was established to somewhat standardise the relative power of the great, middling and sometimes quite astoundingly petty nobility of the Suns. The power to meddle in that was something the High Council took very seriously and for the most part the Camerons had used it judiciously to reward citizens of the Federated Suns for their services to the Star League as a whole.

Perhaps Richard Cameron had forgotten about it. John shuddered to think how it might have been abused if Richard had been so dissolute when he received his title.

“I’d be happy to leave the position untenanted if it weren’t for the colonies,” he said in a conciliatory fashion. “If the worlds under the Duke’s administration had been released to receive Federation membership as used to be the custom this wouldn’t be an issue. Unfortunately, the last Cameron to do so was Jonathan Cameron, almost eighty years ago and now we have thirty well-developed colonies that are still technically property of the First Lord’s office.”

“Quite. Can you imagine the repercussions of any drastic action once a new First Lord is elected,” Green asked nervously. “I imagine the new Cameron would have something to say about any disposition he disagreed with.”

“And yet there are issues that need to be tended to in their administration.” John turned to his son. “I’m sure you’ve realised that in practical terms, those will fall to you rather than me.”

“I didn’t think you were here for the coffee,” Joshua replied.

“That’s just a benefit,” his father admitted. “What have you been doing to the catering here?”

“I hired retired AFFS catering personnel to replace the previous contractors. When military food is a step up, you know you have a problem.”

Under the Star League terraforming science had advanced in leaps and bounds, allowing settlement on scores of worlds within the boundaries of the member-states that had previously been bypassed. In tribute to the close relationship between the Federated Suns and the Star League – and perhaps to solidify his position as a very young successor to his nigh-legendary great-grandfather, Prince Zane Davion had placed these new colonies of the Federated Suns under the protection of the First Star Lord in 2615.

Protection had become administration and effectively ownership. Which meant money in the form of rents and other fees paid by those who settled or made use of lands not covered by the founding colonists. And as the colonies grew and developed, so did that income. Perhaps greed hadn’t been the primary motivator in deferring the transfer of those rights to planetary governments… but it might have been as much a factor as neglect.

John looked back to Green. “I don’t require you to actively approve of my taking responsibility for administering the Duchy. And I won’t be selling off its assets, although if the Commanding General does want to start giving the usual land grants associated with military medals, the duchy would at least give him some land to grant.”

“That’s true, I suppose.” The administrator sighed. “We’re going to lose assets as it is.”

“What?” Joshua blinked. “I thought matters were going well – it hasn’t come up with the committee at least.”

“Not in the Suns,” Green explained. “The other Lords haven’t been as accommodating and my counterparts have had to cancel a number of projects we were involved in for various reasons – lack of Hegemony-built equipment, personnel resigning to join Kerensky’s training camps – we hire a lot of veterans and we were already stretched with reservists called up to cover for units in the Periphery. And then there’s money.”

“Always it’s money,” Joshua grumbled.

“It makes the Sphere go round,” John confirmed. “I’ve had some reports that some of the FWL provinces have been holding back Star League taxes.”

“If by some you mean Regulus, then yes.” The Principality of Regulus was one of, perhaps the, largest provinces of the Free Worlds League. They’d been one of the three states that leagued together in 2271 to found the Free Worlds League and while the ruling dynasty had changed over the centuries, their pride hadn’t. “The Duchess is withholding the funds in lieu of funding for social programmes that Administrator Hughes simply can’t provide. The same’s happening on a smaller scale with planetary governments in the other three states.”

“Can’t Kenyon Marik put a stop to it?”

The two older men exchanged looks. “He probably could, son. But why would he? Right now he’s hitting General Kerensky right in the pocket-books just by not lifting a finger to stop it.”

Green nodded sourly. “If revenue keeps dropping like this then we’ll need to look at other ways to raise money for the SLDF. If that comes at the expense of other activities then we could wind up alienating more local rulers.”

“And then there’s the lawsuits,” warned John. “Even if you haven’t actually breached contract, getting embroiled in litigation over it – and with the Supreme Court on Terra I don’t think they’d be a good place to appeal to – could wind up being another drain on the coffers.”

A morose silence fell over the office.

“Take the duchy,” Green said quietly. “Just swear to me that we can at least rely on that not happening here.”

“We’re at war, Bennett,” John said coldly. “That gives me legal options I wouldn’t have otherwise. I can’t promise no one will make trouble – that’s human nature.” And then his voice was like iron. “They won’t do it twice.”

.o0O0o.

Avalon City, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Suns
12 May 2768

“News from the Republic?” John guessed as Janos Grec settled into the chair opposite him.

“Damn your spies are getting good,” the SLDF officer replied good naturedly. “Are you sure you don’t have one on my staff.”

“Just logic. I conferenced with Brandt yesterday about the Ankaa situation, so if you need a meeting it’s probably about something else.”

Grec’s eyes hardened. “Yes, that… disaster is quite enough from that front.”

“It could have been worse. Kenyon Marik could have had troops there,” John replied lightly.

Ankaa wasn’t a major industrial world or particularly heavily fortified so they’d seen relatively little of Amaris’ hand so far. While the had been some economic rumbling, they’d not seen the factory quotas demanded of less fortunate worlds and so the idea of a new leader replacing the unpopular Richard hadn’t tarnished there as it might have.

The first sign of trouble when Sixth Army had landed was the planetary militia mustering under the banner of the Amaris Empire Armed Forces. Vastly outnumbered, it had still taken three months for the SLDF divisions to pin down and crush the Terran soldiers. The irritated commander of the Sixth, Janeth Apostolaki, had convened court martials for the survivors on grounds of treason. Massive public demonstrations and direct orders from Joan Brandt had just barely dissuaded him from hanging them.

And then First Division, Federated Suns Auxiliary Corps, had landed to take on some of the garrison work as LXIII Corps prepared to move on.

Local opposition went berserk, mass rallies accusing Apostolaki of selling out to the Federated Suns and insurgents striking at SLDF and AFFS patrols. A formal petition had been presented to General Gerik Chudzik of LVII Corps, asking for the direct personal intervention of General Kerensky to remove the ‘tyrannical Apostolaki’ and ‘invading Feddies’.

“I can just imagine how that blowhard would have handled it. What was it his precious Napoleon was known for? A whiff of grapeshot?”

“Fortunately Chudzik has more sense.” Experienced in difficult civilian relationships with the SLDF after serving years in the Confederation, the cool-headed Major General had rotated the 309th Royal BattleMech Division into the garrison posts the AFFS was still settling into. The almost entirely Hegemony-born troops had soothed the situation and Major General Simons’ First Division had, through a hasty raid of the captured Militia stores for uniforms and lots of olive paint been re-branded as ‘SLDF Volunteers’ patrolling away from the major cities. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he replaces Apostolaki shortly.”

“There’s a lot of that going around,” Grec agreed. “But yes, I’ve heard from General DeChevilier in the Republic. They’re making good progress, but the factories there aren’t as extensive as had been hoped.”

“I suppose if Amaris had a larger industrial base, he might have left more troops to defend the worlds,” John noted. “If not from the SLDF than from his own insurgents.”

A surprising number of worlds had welcomed Kerensky as a liberator – Amaris’ smooth public relations machine had focused on the Hegemony rather than his own domain it seemed. Outlying Rim Worlds Army detachments hadn’t just forted up because it was their only hope against the massive SLDF forces – some of them had been in genuine fear of being over-run by local rebellions. Not all, not even most… but enough to add more positive news to last year’s victories.

“It does leave us with some problems, particularly in the area of mid-weight BattleMechs. Are you familiar with Cosara Weaponry?”

John paused and saw Hanse perk up. “Northwind,” the ghost advised him.

“Based on Northwind?”

“Yes, they won a contract back in 2719 to supply the SLDF with their medium design, the Crab.”

Memory flooded back. “Oh lord, yes I remember now. What did they managed to build? Thirty or forty a year? The lawsuit came up back around the time Simon Cameron died.”

“Yes, well that set things back badly.” Grec shook his head. “Anyway, under the emergency budget authorised when we deployed to the Periphery, the General granted a new contract to Blueshot Weapons in the Lyran Commonwealth to build another ‘Mech in the same weight bracket for us – the Starslayer.”

“More trouble?”

“It’s like your psychic,” the admiral said sarcastically. “They can’t get their production lines together and naturally Steiner is stirring the pot merrily.”

“Oh bloody hell, Robert.” John started to massage his forehead. “Alright, what can I do to help?”

“I understand that Achernar BattleMechs are looking to build a new factory?”

“Yes, on Point Barrow. Between us, they’re having trouble meeting demand and it was going to be convenient to the supply bases on Andalusia and Bonneau.”

Grec nodded. “We’ve activated penalty clauses in the contracts with Blueshot and Cosara that let us grant licenses and provide the schematics for another firm to begin building their ‘Mechs. Steiner will kick off, but he’s already annoyed the General quite enough that one more piece of wood on the fire won’t make matters any worse. I’m authorised to offer both licenses to Achernar, along with technical support from Second Army to get production up and running as fast as possible.”

“Do it!” Hanse exclaimed. “Those are our bread and butter, John. Heavies are just the backbone, the one thing the AFFS can’t do without is a steady supply of workhorse mediums.”

“I can’t speak for Achernar’s board, I’m only one shareholder,” John told his guest and his ghost. “But you certainly have my support and I’d be glad to arrange a meeting. Will you handle it personally or shall we drop it on Joshua and Bennett?”

“On this one I’ll have to take point since it’s the SLDF granting the license. Fortunately I can let Bennett handle some more conventional contracting. Corean and Johnston will be getting more of our funding for their vehicle programmes.”

“You’re going to the League, then?” asked John in surprise. “DeChevilier’s closer to Stewart than you are right now.”

Grec smirked. “It’s nice to get one over on you every now and then,” he informed the Prince. “They do have some tertiary facilities right here on New Avalon and since Captain-General Marik isn’t supportive of expanding SLDF contracts to suppliers within his realm, they’ve offered to retool and expand their presence here to build armoured vehicles for us.”

“Point for you,” John conceded.

“They built the Valkyrie and the Centurion for us here,” Hanse noted and then frowned. “Probably not started the Valkyrie yet, the Centurion assembly was relocated here late in Ian’s reign.”

“While we’re on the subject of tertiary plants,” the First Prince continued, “I’ve had a message from Erskine Cobb about some shortfalls affecting their production for the SLDF. Heatsink components, specifically, now that they can’t import from the Hegemony. It’s going to be another four months before we have enough endo-steel coming from our new orbital factories to fill the demand. Longer if Amaris decides to send out raiders after them.”

The admiral grunted. Orbital factories were unavoidable given the need for micro-gravity to manufacture so many key materials these days, but they were far more vulnerable to naval raids than factories buried securely in a planet’s crust, where only invasion or an extended bombardment could get at them. “What are you angling for?”

“We’re still struggling with our heavy fighter numbers, the types we’ll need for anti-shipping strikes,” John explained. “And it’s not as if you can afford to pull them back from the frontlines, for the same reasons. If Amaris does push anywhere, you need them too. But someone on my staff pointed out that the Vulcans the rebels were flying in the Periphery must have come from factories in the Rim Worlds Republic.”

“That would follow. They’re not great fighters, but they’re certainly a threat to dropships. What do you want, the tooling?”

“Enough that we can copy it here. We’ll share output, of course.”

“You can probably have the lot,” Grec told him. “It’s bad enough identifying targets with Amaris using SLDF hardware against us in the Hegemony. The last thing we want is to add to the confusion by having Rim Worlds designs fighting alongside us.”
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: 2ndAcr on 21 December 2017, 17:49:00
 The Suns are going to come out of this extremely powerful it looks like. Hanse was already a huge bonus but now they get 2 medium mechs and a fighter design.

 Great read.
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: Daryk on 21 December 2017, 17:52:41
I just love this line:
Quote
"...the relative power of the great, middling and sometimes quite astoundingly petty nobility of the Suns."
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: nerd on 21 December 2017, 19:37:56
Starslayers and Crabs!
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: mikecj on 22 December 2017, 01:48:04
nicely written.  The 6th Army's commander's reaction is understandable.
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: DoctorMonkey on 22 December 2017, 07:30:14
Still absolutely loving this
How much have you micro-manage or detail fixed things like the composition of the Armies or what exactly makes up a Davion Division versus an SLDF one and how much are you just going for "plot"?
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: mikecj on 22 December 2017, 11:17:11
He posted the outline a while back, the file I saved it in is dated 12 AUG 2012.  Its an interesting TO&E, but I'm not sure if its changed.

Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: drakensis on 23 December 2017, 04:19:00
I've got a (lengthy) list of what Corps are which army and how many divisions each Corps has at a given time. Unless it's particularly  plot relevant I don't worry too much about which division is which or about the independent regiments.

The AFFS division organisation is somewhat in flux through Idealist and Loyalist as they work out what they want. In general they've settled on a principle at battalion and brigade level of "2 line units, 1 composite unit of specialists". Susan Sandoval's battalion was an example of this earlier in the story with 2 line companies of Warhammers and the third company made up of her command lance, an air defense lance and a fire support lance.

What evolves through Loyalist (albeit mostly in the background), is what the AFFS call a Demi-Brigade - one line regiment of 3 battalions, supported by 2 additional battalions to provide combined arms capacity - for example, an infantry regiment with attached battalions of artillery and tanks, or a 'Mech regiment with a wing of aerospace fighters and a helicopter battalion. There are a lot of variations of this but generally a brigade has 2 demi-brigades, then a division has 3 brigades (10 regiments, with 4 broken up to provide the battalion attachments for the other 6).

The SLDF, per canon, works out fairly similarly in the field by attaching elements of the division-level specialists to line regiments. However, because each of their brigades is 3 line regiments, an SLDF Division works out as 4/3rds the size of an AFFS division. SLDF independent regiments tend to have additional battalions permanently attached, making them roughly equivalent to a demi-brigade so the AFFS TO&E is something of a compromise between having a division structure and independent regiments.
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: nerd on 24 December 2017, 12:16:49
Here's the original[/i] thread and ideas for this. (http://bg.battletech.com/forums/index.php?topic=21243.0)
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: Daryk on 25 December 2017, 17:33:26
Hmmm, just reread this bit:
Quote
Heatsink components, specifically, now that they can’t import from the Hegemony. It’s going to be another four months before we have enough endo-steel coming from our new orbital factories to fill the demand.

I thought Cray was clear that DHS don't require endo-steel components?
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: drakensis on 26 December 2017, 13:02:29
Quote
The ease with which the double heat sink can be built ensured that even the poorest Periphery world had the ability to produce it for its armed forces so long as the endo-steel frame for the heat sink was available.
Era Report 2750 indicates at least some quantity and variation of endosteel is required for DHS although it may not be same variety as that used for 'Mech structure and it may not be a huge proportion.

It could have been retconned but I'm going what my copies say.
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: Daryk on 26 December 2017, 13:50:24
Here's the thread (http://bg.battletech.com/forums/index.php?topic=59498.msg1367397#msg1367397) where it came up, and ER2750 was cited by the other side of the argument.  Not trying to change your mind here, just let you know what was said about the subject.

I love this story!
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: drakensis on 26 December 2017, 15:45:55
New Haifa, Robinson
Draconis March, Federated Suns
24 June 2768

There might have been more obvious ambushes laid in history but Susan had trouble thinking of one.

“If you keep sitting me next to Jimmy Wolfe, then I may wind up punching him,” she warned her mother.

“Why would you do that?” Sarah Sandoval asked in bemusement. “He’s such a pleasant young man.”

Susan rolled her eyes. “Yes, as long as you don’t hear him tell the same joke over and over again. I’m aware the First Dragoons have a wolf on their banner but it’s not as if it really represents his family.”

“I’m sure you can break him of the habit without breaking his jaw,” Reuben offered. Another jaw of the trap was her brother being at home when she got here on her long-awaited leave. They hadn’t met since their unexpected clash during the GALAHAD exercises and she’d thought that the reshuffling of the March’s internal boundaries would be keeping him busy since his Eighth Chevaliers were stationed on Mayetta, command world for one of the new PDZs.

“It’s a very breakable jaw,” she said. “Look, I know keeping Woodbine sweet is important to Dad, but just sit one of us somewhere else. I’ve only got five more days before I head back to Goshen.”

Her mother and brother exchanged looks. “Susan, please don’t be difficult.”

With a roll of her eyes she set aside the magazine she’d been planning to take down to the beach. “Fair warning, mother. I’ll see you when I get back from surfing.”

“What happened to just lazing around this afternoon?” asked Reuben, “Didn’t you say that was your plan until dinner?”

“Yeah, well after lunch I have some aggression to work off. Better to take it out on the surf than father’s guests.”

The ducal manor at New Haifa had been the original home of the Sandovals. While formal administration had shifted inland during the reign of the Leightons and Rostovs who’d used Robinson as their capital during the era of the Terran March, the Sandovals kept their roots here. Reuben and Susan had been raised in the planetary capital but this was always their favourite retreat between school semesters.

Stepping off the path down to the boathouse, Susan ignored the grass whipping around her ankles and hiked up the hill where she could take cover behind the trees and look down on the estate. Up above her were the security posts of the perimeter, but even from only a few dozen metres up she had a sweeping view of the main house and the sprawl of guest-wings, staff-housing and other structures that she’d run and played amongst as a girl.

It disappointed her to see Count James Wolfe jogging up from the beach a few minutes later. That he headed for the boathouse rather than the main buildings just confirmed her suspicions.

Taking a deep breath she worked her way back down the hill to the small suite she’d claimed after graduating from Albion back in ’58. This wasn’t going to be a conversation she wanted to have wearing a sarong and a bikini.

It only took twenty minutes to change and track her father down in the library. Arguing with Reuben or mother wouldn’t get to the root of the problem. Even if Reuben had ostensibly invited James Wolfe, their father was the one who’d introduced him to the then heir to Woodbine, years ago. The friendship made sense to cultivate – Woodbine’s rulers carried weight in the outer reaches of the Draconis March, always a problem since the centre of power had shifted towards the Terran end of the region.

But this was a step further politically and there was no way that Reuben could have talked mother into playing along without at least consulting the Duke.

“Good afternoon, father.”

“Susan!” He looked up warmly from the map spread out on the library’s main table. “I don’t see you often in here. Finally run out of water sports to fill your days?”

“A change is as good as a rest.” She looked at the markings of the plastic-covered sheets. “Is that an old Terran Alliance map?”

“Yes, standard issue for Terran Alliance marines stationed here in the early twenty-third century,” he said cheerfully. “I think it might be the only authentic hardcopy left for Robinson. Fascinating to see what’s changed and what their cartographers simply missed.”

“Speaking of missing things, did Reuben forget to tell Jimmy Wolfe about the ‘no playing footsie where it might cause a scandal rule’ that you set down when we were old enough to notice the opposite sex? Or did someone waive that rule and not tell me?”

Her father removed his glasses and polished them with a cloth for a moment. “You’re closer to thirty than twenty now and your brother’s the far side of that. I do believe that you’re both capable of discretion.”

“And who do you mean by both of us? Me and Reuben, or me and…? Mother’s seating arrangements have been unusually fixed since I got here. Woodbine and Goshen are a long way apart so I’m not likely to see him again for years, if ever.”

The question hung between them and then he shifted his shoulders slightly and directed her to a chair. “Leftenant Colonel by twenty-eight is an accomplishment. I’m very proud of you,” Vasily told her. “But those who can do more are called to do more and it’s time for you to come home.”

“I’m a soldier, I follow my regiment.”

“I understand you wanted to make your own mark, and you have. I wouldn’t offer you this just as my daughter, but the Twenty-Second Chevaliers need a new Colonel.”

“The Twenty-Second are stationed on Woodbine?”

“Yes, they needed somewhere stable to rebuild and the First Prince has agreed that they won’t be redeployed for five years.”

“I only made Leftenant Colonel last year.”

“It’s more than within my discretion to arrange the promotion, and don’t pretend you’re not qualified. Don’t worry, I wouldn’t be looking over your shoulder – Woodbine’s actually further away than Goshen is.”

Sarah shook her head. “Five years is a long time, especially when there’s a war being fought.”

“Time to settle down; maybe – just maybe – have a family.” Her father shrugged. “I’m not forcing James on you, but it would help if you at least have a friendly relationship with the ruler of the world you’re stationed on.”

“Is Reuben getting the same treatment?”

“Your brother’s been short-listed for Brigadier-General, although I’d rather he didn’t learn that just yet.” Vasily smiled a little slyly. “I’m saving it for his birthday. Once that’s confirmed his next tour will be with the Clovis brigade of the March Militia.”

“I’m surprised you’re not offering me his regiment,” Susan joked.

Her father laughed. “No, that wouldn’t work. Putting you in his shoes never did and I know it.”

“Are you saying I’ve got big feet?”

“Well, not you but perhaps your ‘Mech,” he teased. “Ninety tons is a touch on the heavy side.”

“Thankfully I’ve been assigned a replacement,” she told him. “In order to simplify some of the issues supplying the SLDF, they’ve relaxed a few regulations and by the time I’m back on Goshen I should have a factory-fresh Cestus waiting for me. At long last a ‘Mech that can hit sixty without having to jump off something.”

Her father’s face tightened. “When I said the Twenty-Second need a colonel, I mean now. So you won’t need to go back to Goshen. The transfer can be approved by the end of the week and your promotion would be applied by the time you reach Woodbine.”

“That’s a little sudden!” Susan protested. “There are things to do back on Goshen. I’d be leaving the First without their exec after barely a year on the job.”

“Susan, you’ve had ten years away. The Chevaliers… the Draconis March… needs you. It’s time for you to answer that call rather than running off to the far corners of the Suns.”

“The Suns also needs me,” she said stubbornly. “And since Personnel are keeping me with the Dragoons it’s pretty clear where they want me. Or are you going to tell me that the Draconis March’s needs take priority?”

“For a Sandoval, absolutely! It’s our responsibility to serve the Federated Suns as the champions of the Draconis March against enemies external and internal. Not the Capellan March or the Crucis March, which have their own advocates.” Her father pushed his chair back. “Or does that duty mean nothing to you?”

“My duty means more to me than being your coin to buy Woodbine’s favour,” she snarled back. Her chair tipped backwards as she came to her feet. “How dare you ask me to abandon my comrades for your political gain?” Somewhere at the back of her head, alarm bells were warning that people outside the library might hear them.

“I would never put myself before you!” His face was florid with outrage. “We have responsibilities as well as privileges, Susan!”

“And you pulling strings to promote me isn’t a privilege?” She stabbed one finger towards him. “When I’m done wiping the asses of your toy soldiers I’ll be ready to spawn you some grandchildren, is that it?”

“Don’t you talk to me like that!”

Susan planted both hands on the table, not caring that she was putting pressure on the ancient plastic. “Fine.”

“Fine?”

“Fine,” she confirmed. “There’s clearly no use talking to you.” Pushing off from the table – and inadvertently sliding the map towards her father – she turned on her heel. It wouldn’t take fifteen minutes to have her bags packed and she could find somewhere else to stay if there wasn’t a place available on an earlier ship to Goshen.

.o0O0o.

Terra Prime, Apollo
Apollo Province, Rim Worlds Republic
5 July 2768

The body of Mohammed Selim had been removed from where Stefan Amaris’ unfortunate regent had been hung after a mob of Rim Republic Army-led citizens had stormed the government buildings.

That didn’t mean the mood of the capital had settled. Some were still hunting Amaris supporters’ hiding places but others had begun to wonder what would happen next. This wasn’t the first time the SLDF had come to Apollo with fire and fury, although on that occasion they’d been there to reinstate the rule of House Amaris, not to obliterate it.

Phillip Drummond found it darkly amusing that right now he was probably safer here surrounded by SLDF soldiers than he would have been in the little redoubt still waiting for him in the mountains. Such boltholes were exactly what hundreds of other officers and bureaucrats of the old regime were looking for and there were few lengths that the mobs would not go to in order to get hold of those people, particularly since popular legend had it that the former elite were taking small fortunes with them to finance new lives once matters had settled down.

Personally he doubted the last part. Amaris had even emptied the government vaults of germanium and other precious but less useful metals when he departed for the Hegemony.

There were two other men in the room, a SLDF Lieutenant with Logistics Command tabs and a bearded civilian who’d barely looked up from his noteputer when Phillip entered.

“Please come with me, gentlemen,” a voice invited from the door. The speaker was a sharply-uniformed woman wearing the unit patches of the Eighteenth Royal Mechanized Infantry Division on her uniform. As far as Phillip knew, no such unit was still operating as part of the SLDF forces in the city, predominantly II Corps of the Twelfth Army. Despite wearing dress uniform, she carried a very functional looking shotgun slung from one shoulder on an assault-rig.

“Don’t mention the patches,” the SLDF officer who’d been waiting with him advised quietly as they followed the woman through the building.

Phillip glanced sideways, annoyed that his attention had been picked up on. “Sore subject?”

“Twelfth Army consolidated two Corps together after they pulled out of the Magistracy last year. Out of nine divisions, only three were judged fit to be reconstituted. The Eighteenth Royals weren’t one of them – all that’s left is a regiment assigned to guard the General.”

There was no need to guess about who was meant by ‘the’ General and if that wasn’t enough of a hint, the woman threw open the doors to an ornate audience chamber typical of the Amaris palace and revealed the slightly-built Commanding General sitting at a desk poring over the data of a dozen holo displays. “General Kerensky, your guests.”

“Thank you, Teresa,” he said warmly, looking away from the screens. Pushing his chair back – a simple office chair rather than the pseudo-antique engraved wood that fit with the desk and was now pushed back into a corner where it supported a neurohelmet and a flak vest – Kerensky rose to his feet. “Please come in gentlemen, I apologise for the wait.”

“I’m quite literally at your disposal, General,” Phillip answered drily when neither of the other men responded verbally.

“That’ll be all, Teresa.”

“Sir,” the woman protested from behind them.

Unless the civilian was more dangerous than he appeared – unlikely, Phillip thought, looking at the posture and build – the concern was more than likely directed at him.

“If you’re concerned for my safety, Teresa, you can issue Major Drummond with a pistol. He’s quite the shot. Otherwise get some sleep, please. We’ve a busy few days and I’ll be relying on you in much more dangerous conditions than these.”

The door closed and Kerensky pushed his chair over to four others clustered around a steel and plastic coffee table that had obviously been salvaged from somewhere else. “Mr Blake, Lieutenant Karrige, Major Drummond. I have rather a task for you.”

“Involving HPGs, I assume.” The civilian made a depreciating face. “The station here will be fully functional within a fortnight so elsewhere?”

“That is correct, yes. To provide introductions, Mr Blake is from the Ministry of Communications, one of the top engineers available outside of the Hegemony. Lieutenant Karrige’s come here from overseeing battlefield salvage operations with Army Group Eleven and his last posting before then was New Syrtis, while Major Drummond recently joined us from the Rim Worlds Army, he’s also got an overlooked background in intelligence operations.”

“That sounds mysterious, sir,” Karrige said wryly.

“There’s a difference in nature between the courage to face the Usurper’s forces in open battle and to enter the heart of his power alone.” Kerensky gave Drummond a respectful look. “But the magnitude is no less. If you’d succeeded then we might be in a very different place right now.”

“If.”

Blake twisted his hands, seeming not to know what to do them. “I don’t follow.”

“If it wasn’t for a… well, ******-up is all I can call it – Stefan Amaris would have died in a dropship accident about a year ago.”

“It’s for the ability to survive such a ‘******-up’ that I’ve chosen you for this mission, Major. I trust that a transfer in your existing grade to the SLDF won’t be unwelcome.”

“Very welcome indeed.”

“Excellent, the paperwork will be ready when you leave.” Kerensky leant back in his chair a little. “While operations in the Republic are far from over and it will take time – a painfully long time – to prepare our forces for the main effort against the Hegemony, there are several issues that are already evident in communicating with the Army Group already engaged there.”

“Without the Hegemony’s stations, all contact has to loop through the other Member-States to reach us here. The length of those lines of communication will shorten once my headquarters leaves the Republic but only establishing a direct link through the Hegemony’s own worlds will remove our dependence upon the other states, and we must assume that HPG stations will be severely damaged in the process of liberating Hegemony worlds. That’s certainly been the case so far.”

“At this time, our relations with House Marik and House Kurita are… unpredictable. It isn’t impossible that our message traffic through either state may be compromised, either in security or delivery. There is a smaller, but existing threat of such problems within the Capellan Confederation and the Lyran Commonwealth.”

Karrige shook his head. “I don’t see the solution, but I assume that Mr Blake can provide one.”

“Automated relay stations,” the engineer replied absently. “I worked on some preliminary designs for a back-up military network independent of the civilian HPGs. The idea was considered in the 2720s but cancelled as no real need was envisaged. There was a design study ten years ago for more limited networks through the Periphery states but the funding wasn’t there.”

“Precisely so. The difficulty is that if even one such satellite is found and recovered intact then it would endanger the rest of the network and the Republic doesn’t have the facilities to build such devices.”

“I take it that we’ll be heading to the Suns then?” asked Drummond.

“Correct. Mr Blake will be in charge of devising the satellites and placing them in production. Lieutenant Karrige’s contacts should allow him to secure the materials needed without drawing attention and you, Major, are responsible for ensuring that the satellites are prepared without information about the leaking to either Amaris or the House Lords.” Kerensky paused. “That includes Lord Davion. While he’s certainly our supporter, letting him have direct access to HPG technology would likely alienate his peers. I don’t expect that he’ll look too closely, for that very reason, but not all of his people will be as scrupulous.”
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: drakensis on 26 December 2017, 15:46:10
Camp Jordan, Kilarney
Free Barony of Kilarney, Free Worlds League
19 August 2768

There was a bittersweet feeling in the area as Ethan Moreau’s class received their graduation papers and rank pins. Ordinarily the classes still undergoing training would have been marched in formation to stand witness as the class of ’68 formally completed both the Mechwarrior and leadership courses.

But there were no such classes.

The drain had begun the year before as facilities were closed down through the Camp. With the war in the Magistracy over and the Amaris Coup shifting, some adjustment was no doubt necessary but then instructors were replaced or simply reassigned without filling the vacancy. At the start of 2768, several courses were cut and entire classes part-way through their Mechwarrior training were informed they’d complete their training elsewhere.

It wasn’t until March that it was confirmed – the training base was to be shut down and all classes due to graduate after the end of the summer were being transferred. Some were going to training camps established in the newly liberated Rim Worlds Republic, others to schools still operating in the Suns but by the start of June only four classes remained at the once bustling school.

Already FWLM personnel were at work. Ethan still remembered the first sight of officers of the house military inspecting the facilities. It seemed that the base wasn’t even being simply closed down against future need. Instead it was being sold off entirely.

The last two months had seen the cadets and their last instructors all but confined to barracks and a single classroom block. The Mechwarrior training had ended, with three classes boarding a chartered transport – not even a SLDF dropship – and despatched to Sixth Army in the Hegemony as replacements. Surrounded on all sides by technicians stripping out equipment for use elsewhere and FWLM work crews repurposing stripped buildings, morale had been on the floor.

“Chin up, lad.” Lieutenant General Fletcher gave Ethan a pat on the sleeves. “This isn’t the end of the road, just a turning point.”

The young Mechwarrior forced a smile for the sake of the school’s director. Replacing another temporary commander for the last few weeks hardly seemed like a worthwhile endeavour, but the infantry officer had taken over the leadership classes himself, throwing open the floor to discussions of everything from small unit tactics to the politics of the entire League.

“There are more important things to worry about than one small facility in the corner of one Member-State,” he’d declared from the lecturer’s podium. “These are the times that test men’s souls. Does it gripe me that we’re selling this place off? A little, but what does that matter compared to the billions living in chains under Amaris’ rule? For better or for worse, you and I will be going to war soon. A war that will shape the next few centuries of human history. Don’t worry about what we can’t change, take hold of what you can and shape it as you must.”

Stepping aside, Ethan joined the small crowd of his class who’d already received their commissions.

“Moreau?” It wasn’t a loud voice, just carrying over the sound of the remaining presentations.

Looking for a source, he saw a single officer who wasn’t wearing then olive of the SLDF. A purple-trimmed white jacket and pants, gold over-trousers stretching up to the thighs - Ethan had to fight not to show his annoyance that an officer of the Free Worlds League Military had intruded even into this.

“Moreau,” the voice called again.

Turning back to the stage, Ethan tried to ignore the voice. It could wait, at least. There were only ten more personnel.

The third time the voice was closer. “Ethan Moreau.”

Gritting his teeth, the newly minted lieutenant looked sideways. “Yes?” he hissed.

“How’d you get through Mechwarrior training if you’re hard of hearing?” the man said quietly.

Around him, Ethan could practically feel the eyes of his classmates. “How did you get to Force Commander without any grasp of decorum?” he replied, just as quietly.

“You can blame your teacher for that. Made it real hard to speak to you.”

“Then you can wait until we’re done.”

The officer shrugged. “This is the one place I was sure I could catch you before you ship tomorrow.”

Ethan glared at him but the man at least fell silent until the last of the new officers had been sworn in. Then he grasped Ethan’s arm. “Now, come with me.”

“And where do you think you’re going with my officer?” Fletcher demanded, following the last graduate down towards his former students. “This is still our base until 1200 hours tomorrow and I can still throw you off it. And I do mean throw.”

“Just across the way. It’s in the lines of a civil affairs chat.”

Ethan pulled his arm free. “Whatever you have to say, say it here.”

“Very well. I don’t know if you’ve been keeping track but this is a courtesy visit to ensure you’re aware of the Abbey District Assembly have passed Amendment 14B6 of their Militia Act.”

“Which means…?” The Militia Act was the fundamental law behind the operation of the Abbey District Militia, the province’s native military force. Ethan wasn’t familiar with the amendment though.

The officer shook his head. “I see. Well, until now the ADM had a policy of offering all SLDF veterans from Abbey District enlistment at their final rank as of discharge and irrelevant of whether they hold reservist status or not.”

“Until now?” asked Fletcher warily.

“After the number of ADM personnel who’ve been recalled to SLDF service, Amendment 14B6 has struck down provision for SLDF personnel, reservists or otherwise, to serve with the ADM. Apparently the Assembly don’t feel they can rely on them to serve their province anymore.” The FWLM officer smiled thinly.

“I see. Is that all?” Ethan hid the sting of rejection. He’d always vaguely thought that if he lived to retirement, thirty or forty years from now, he might look for a place with the militia.

“And to let you know that if you are looking at your options down the road, the Free Worlds League Military won’t be passing such a short-sighted regulation.” The officer looked around at the other young lieutenants. “When you’re done with the SLDF you can always come home to us.”

.o0O0o.

Atreus City, Atreus
Marik Commonwealth Free Worlds League
10 October 2768

The new Captain-General hadn’t moved into his predecessor’s quarters in the executive wing of the Parliament complex. While Ewan Marik hadn’t used them much when he dealt with Parliament, preferring an estate outside of the city, the apartments had still been stripped and for a while there had even been talking about demolishing the building and constructing a new one in its place.

Edward Hughes could only feel sympathy for the Society for the Preservation of Historic Atreus. They’d saved the elegant building first erected for Juliano Marik and the other founders of the League, but the man they’d saved it from was vindictive by nature. Somewhere, somehow, they would be made to pay for thwarting him.

Kenyon Marik now made his lair on the uppermost floor of the building, which Edward remembered had been repurposed as office space by Brion Marik after he usurped the position of Captain-General from his brother Carlos. Before then they’d been guest suites for ‘companions’ of high ministers within the administration of the Free World’s League. It was possible that the young Kenyon was unaware of the original purpose… or perhaps he was all too aware.

“You’re here to talk about taxes again,” the man in question said abruptly from where he sat, framed by one of the arched windows. He had a book open in front of him, the binding matching that of other volumes shelved along with window-sill. Looking at the spines, Hughes saw without surprise that they were a collection of commentaries on Shakespeare’s plays. “Seeing what else you can squeeze out of my people.”

“An army is expensive to operate. I believe that would be why your predecessor agreed to levies upon the Periphery to find the expansion of the Free Worlds League Military.”

“The most expensive army in history.” The Marik flipped the page of his book, apparently dividing his attention. “SAFE tells me that the Rim Worlds is defended by only a handful of divisions but Kerensky needs millions of men to subdue them. Perhaps he should feed his men captured Republican rations. It seems to make his enemies fight with the strength of a hundred.”

“He is, of course, without your advice on the matter.”

Marik looked up sharply, brows furrowed. “Yes. He is. I can justify the expenditure of part of my budget to purchase SLDF bases as improvements to our own infrastructure, but Parliament has good reason to question why we should pay trillions of dollars to the Star League when we receive so little in the way of benefits.”

“I would point out, sir, that the current economic issues rest to some degree on the loss of trade with the Hegemony. Removing Amaris is an investment in redressing that situation and my office is asking for no more than the taxes that your nation’s worlds are due to pay.”

“My ancestors gave your League the option of having us collect the taxes for you but the Camerons preferred to send their tax collectors to each world without intermediaries. Surely what was good enough for such giants as Albert Marik and Ian Cameron must also be good enough for us. If your own system isn’t producing the desired results then that’s really the consequence of your own decisions and I would be wiser to give you free room to move. Perhaps you could ask General Watanabe to detach some of his regiments to act as your tax collectors. I’m sure that Parliament will be delighted to know that Star League soldiers are shaking down their homeworlds for money you’ll be spending in the Federated Suns.”

“Whatever gave you that idea, your excellency?”

The Marik closed his book abruptly. “Kallon Industries have extensive facilities in my realm, sufficient that I’m aware that their branch on Talon is building a new Wolverine model for the SLDF and the AFFS, just one example of the contracts being offered to Davion firms and yet I see no similar requests of Kallon’s branch here. And who funds all of this? The common taxpayer of the League. As their Captain-General, I must demand to know where their money is being spent.”

Hughes felt a surge of contempt. “Kallon is a branch of Earthwerks Incorporated, your excellency. If they haven’t reported and paid taxes on the rushed orders for more ‘Mechs from their Keystone factory then your accountants may wish to investigate. Similarly Irian BattleMechs and many other SLDF suppliers. You are correct though, that these investments are significantly lower than those in the Suns.”

“Aha!” The Captain-General slammed the flat of his hand against his desk. “I knew Kerensky was favouring his so trustworthy ally!”

“Administrator Green is able to fund more extensive activities in the Suns than any of my peers for two reasons, neither of which General Kerensky plays a part in,” Hughes told him. He held up one finger. “Firstly, the worlds of the Federated Suns continue to pay taxes to the Star League in full. While the economic conditions have reduced his income, it’s far closer to the levels of two years ago than any other state can claim. I’m far from the only one having to sell off Star League assets to maintain operations.”

“Yes, I heard that Barbara Liao has added ten destroyers to her fleet,” Marik noted with a scowl. “Ships that have been stationed along my border.”

“Obsolete ships that were being reconditioned for service in the Periphery. Contracts that might have been open to your own shipyards if they’d expressed an interest, but alas your own navy’s needs left them unable to take on the work.”

“Apparently they shouldn’t have bothered with all that hard work, just sat back and waited for the Star League to give me ships on a platter.”

There were many things Edward Hughes wanted to say in response. That the SLDF wouldn’t be giving up the destroyers if they had the slightest choice was only the first. They – and those in Combine yards – had effectively been confiscated by the Capellan Confederation Navy and Draconis Combine Admiralty respectively.

House Kurita had made a token payment to the SLDF at the time but the Chancellor had tried to claim they were in settlement of late payment of the repair costs until General Kerensky had sent a stern note, suggesting that if the laws of property were no longer in effect then the SLDF could restore order. How much of that was a bluff, Hughes was unsure. Presumably the Chancellor wasn’t sure either but she’d paid compensation in thousands of tons of badly needed supplies so the matter had been allowed to drop. The two House Lords had still managed to boost their navies by paying pennies on the dollar for the ships.

“The Federated Suns branch of the Bureau also doesn’t have to cover legal costs for thousands of lawsuits being brought against them. It seems that the First Prince is reaping the rewards of supporting Administrator Green in the current situation, whereas in other realms we’ve had no choice but to cut funding to hundreds of programmes and default on obligations just to maintain operations,” he continued, aware he was letting bitterness leak into his voice. “Apparently just because the planetary government of Manotick isn’t willing to pay taxes to the Star League doesn’t mean they’re unwilling to champion the men and women we’ve had to lay off because we don’t have the money to pay them.”

“You make it sound as if you’re hovering on the brink of bankruptcy rather than handling the second greatest budget in the Free Worlds League, second only to the national one.”

Hughes caught himself from saying something very unwise about how much of that budget was servicing short-term loans from banks House Marik had interests in, taken out to cover redundancy pay-outs incurred in the first half of 2767. “Then I’ve managed to convey our position, Captain-General.”

“I’m not unsympathetic, but I have my own budget to consider and with the SLDF focused on the Hegemony and the Republic, the FWLM has to stretch to cover the League against raiders.” Kenyon Marik seemed far smugger than he did sympathetic. “I will speak to Parliament and ask Members to pressure their governments to seek out-of-court settlements of the suits being pressed against your offices. That should at least allow you to cut the ongoing legal costs.”

At the cost of paying the settlements, which will probably wind up gutting the remaining administrative infrastructure, Hughes thought darkly. But however useful prime office buildings would be in reconstructing the Star League’s bureaucracy after the war, right now they were sitting empty and there were higher priorities for funding than keeping the utilities paid on them. “That would be beneficial, thank you.”

“Of course. Now if you’ll excuse me, the business of government…”

Hughes rose from his seat. “Good day, Kenyon Marik.”

He almost thought he imagined the murmur of “It truly is,” from behind him as he left. Almost.
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: ckosacranoid on 28 December 2017, 01:03:43
nice updates. boy is the captain a Berkeley for sure. nice to see mr blake seen in the story and how hanse will react to meeting the person behind comstar to start.
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: mikecj on 29 December 2017, 03:37:25
Ouch, destroyers to the CCAF & DCMA...
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: drakensis on 30 December 2017, 07:06:41
SLS Camino Real, Addicks Orbit
Lockdale Province, Terran Hegemony
4 November 2768

“We’ve done well in liberating six more worlds from Republican forces,” Admiral Brandt advised the council. She directed their attention to the map at the front of the briefing chamber. “With the experience on Addicks and Tigress, Fourth Army was able to reduce Angol’s Castles Brian well ahead of schedule and secure the rimwards flank of our operations.”

“So far, Amaris has restricted himself to probing at the defences of the liberated worlds. It seems that intelligence reports are correct and he’s continuing to direct a significant portion of his reserves towards reinforcing the core worlds and his other frontiers rather than committing to try to defeat our Army Group in isolation.”

“Under the circumstances, the possibility of pressing harder and wheeling up through the centre of the province to liberate the pocket between Tigress and Epsilon Eridani has been put before the strategic staff. After careful thought it’s been decided that we won’t do this, as we’re already leaning on Second Army for garrisons. Capellan behaviour doesn’t lead me to believe that the Fifth Army can be similarly weakened in the Confederation until we have more forces in theatre.”

“As such, our goals for the next year are going to shift focus to the worlds along the Combine border.”

All eyes went to the map and several eyebrows rose. General Chudzik was the one who voiced the obvious concern. “Are you talking about Al Na’ir, admiral?”

“I am,” she agreed unflinchingly. “Until now both we and Amaris have been working on the basis that the SDS systems make worlds effectively unassailable. While exercises have shown the defences to be substantial, that’s never really been put to the test.”

Brandt looked around the room. “We always knew the day would come when we’d need to take a world protected by these systems. Well, the time is here. Aside from liberating Al Na’ir and its resources, this will serve two purposes. Firstly, we’ll have data on how the defences operate under real world conditions that Kerensky will need before we engage the even heavier defences around Terra. Secondly, we’ll shake Amaris up. So far he’s been able to use systems with SDS as bastions to build his defences around. Now we’ll take that confidence away from him.”

“None of the systems we’ve taken are in jump-range of Al Na’ir,” the new commander of Sixth Army noted. “And there are three worlds between us. Will we be bypassing them and using a deep space staging area?”

“No, general.” Brandt zoomed the map in on the region. “The first stage of the operation will be the liberation of Towne, Pokhara and Murchison by your own command, along with the Seventh and Nineteenth Armies. Ideally Murchison will act as a staging area to reach Al Na’ir but if operations there don’t proceed well, either of the other two worlds will serve.”

“As soon as we have a staging area secured, Third Fleet will act as a spearhead to begin operations within the Al Na’ir system. For those unfamiliar, Al Na’ir itself is unterraformed and the cities there are enclosed. The wealth of the system is in mining operations scattered across the entire star system. While Republican forces are believed to only be garrisoning key nodes and defensive structures – including the SDS control centres – there’s a very real possibility we’ll need to secure mining operations across hundreds of asteroids and moons. For this reason, armoured and infantry units will be of limited use in ground operations. General Lucas?”

Jack Lucas rose. “The 123rd Jump Infantry Division has been bringing their exo-atmospheric training up to par over the last month in preparation for this operation, as have all fifteen ‘Mech regiments in the other Divisions of LXIX Corps. They’ll act as our first wave with the balance of Third Army acting as a reserve for operations on Murchison, Pokhara and Towne.”

“Fourth Army is primarily committed to protecting the liberated worlds during these operations but General Baptiste has agreed to reorganise and concentrate her six brigades of jump infantry in reserve. In the event that the 123rd requires further infantry support we can call on them for reinforcements. Hopefully there won’t be any further instances like Ankaa where extra infantry are needed in order to keep the peace.”

“At the least, I think the message that the AFFS aren’t here to invade seems to have sunk in,” Chudzik replied. “The relief convoys from the Suns have helped a great deal and we’re circulating news of damage done by the Rim Worlders on Ozawa as a case in point. Footage of Feddie volunteers working alongside the Ozawans to restore their space ports has done more the pacify Ankaa than another four infantry divisions would have.”

Lucas looked over at Admiral Dokovic, representing Third Fleet. While Brandt had commandeered Fourth Fleet’s flagship as her own after Admiral Marina Akkayev-Cameron had been confirmed as missing – she’d attended her distant cousin’s Christmas celebrations on Terra two years before and not been seen since – the bulk of the Star League Navy’s forces under the Army Group were built around Renata Dokovic’s Third Fleet, reinforced with myriad flotillas assembled from the garrison fleet. “Admiral, will Federated Suns warships be participating in the operation?”

Dokovic shook her head. “Prince Davion has confirmed that his navy are available for such operations, including the first wave if necessary -” If the jump points used were defended then the first wave of attack could be expected to take heavy losses. “- but they don’t have many heavy ships suitable for such operations and we haven’t had the opportunity to train alongside them yet. I’d be open to that in the future but right now I’m assigning the FSN squadron under Admiral Moore to escort Sixth Army’s transports over Pokhara.”

”They won’t be able to handle a major fleet operation if Amaris’ ships at Al Na’ir are sent after them.”

“That’s the same situation as if the Rimmers strike at Murchison or Towne,” she told him matter-of-factly. “We’ll be dividing Nineteenth Fleet between those operations. Eleventh Fleet is stretched to cover the rest of our area of operations so if Amaris does do that we’ll delay the Al Na’ir attack so that Third Fleet can reinforce the threatened system and destroy Amaris’ mobile forces while they’re outside the SDS defences. It would be an ideal opportunity.”

“A little rough on whoever gets bounced,” Baptiste muttered.

Brandt shrugged. “If we can’t take a joke we shouldn’t be doing this. And John Davion was all in favour of pulling Rim Worlders out of their defences so we needn’t expect any protests from him if Moore does draw such an attack.”

“You’re just predisposed to like her because her flagship is a carrier,” Dokovic said drily.

“Do you know how many fighters she has on that thing? A hundred and eighty with a full war load!” Brandt rolled her eyes heavenwards. “Why don’t we have ships like that?”

“We tried. It was one of the more notable debacles in navy history, since the damned thing broke down before it was out of its construction docks. At least a McKenna can defend itself once another warship is in weapon’s range, not to mention carry enough fuel and munitions to supply its fighter wings for a useful amount of time.”

.o0O0o.

SLS Camino Real, Al Na’ir System
Lockdale Province, Terran Hegemony
21 December 2768

“Multiple drive flares, relative direction 179 by 005.”

No fighter pilot could ever be sanguine about someone popping up ‘on their six’ and Joan Brandt was no exception. “Range? Numbers?”

“Correlating data from the fleet… approximately a million kilometres.” The sensor officer studied the data. “Numbers are high, one hundred warships minimum, at least as many dropships.”

The admiral gripped her seat. “And vector?”

“Intercept course. They’re making roughly thirty mps-squared.”

“Admiral Brandt?” her communications chief reported. “Admiral Dokovic for you.”

“Put her through.”

Third Fleet’s commander seemed calm on the screen. “It seems they want to catch us before we reach the inner system,” she noted blandly.

Due to the size of its star and the immense number of asteroids in the Al Na’ir system, many of them in orbits straying significantly above the orbital plane, jumping to transitory points was immensely hazardous and the standard jump points were three weeks from the one more or less habitable world at standard 9.8 mps-squared accelerations.

Moving at three times that made it clear who it was behind them – human crews could only accept that acceleration for a limited time span and very few SLDF ships could attain it, a number that didn’t include the battleships that the two Admirals were aboard. But however many Republican warships were in system, the primary defence of Al Na’ir was the fleet of drone warships and dropships stationed here. Autonomous save for strategic direction, there were no crews aboard that might protest the punishing acceleration.

“The Caspars might be able to hit that acceleration but they can’t keep it up forever. The on-board fuel stores are finite,” Brandt observed thoughtfully. “They must have been lurking behind the jump-point waiting for us to arrive and move away so they could cut us off from retreat.”

The other woman smiled coldly. “We didn’t come here to retreat.”

“Indeed not.” The sang-froid masked a degree of concern though – Third Fleet had only eighty-six warships and slightly more than twice as many assault dropships to escort the transports needed to liberate Al Na’ir. “Their tactics are predictable: after making up ground they’ll match velocity and try to wear down rearmost ships with slashing attacks.”

“I’ll deploy our screen accordingly,” Dokovic confirmed and then, as if waiting for a challenge. “The Camino Real will take up position with the van.”

Brandt’s eyes narrowed but she said nothing. There could be more ships ahead after all and one of the two Admirals should be kept out of the initial clash, even if it galled her to be placed in the position of guard-dog for the glorified ferries carrying Lucas’ ‘Mechs and infantry.

Seeing that Brandt wasn’t going to challenge her, Dokovic nodded. “As most of the drones don’t have capacity to carry fighters; this seems like an ideal situation to use our own. I request authorisation for nuclear payloads.”

“Authorisation confirmed. We’re well clear of civilians, I can think of no better time.”

.o0O0o.

The ten squadrons chosen for the strike were Rapiers, escorted in by an equal number of Hellcat IIs. As they flipped over and used their drives to begin bleeding off Third Fleet’s velocity and close in on the pursuers, dozens more fighters launched from cruisers and destroyers to maintain a combat patrol around the fleet’s formation. After all, they could be wrong about the prospect of drone-fighters.

Brandt watched on a repeater screen as the formations closed in. The Hellcats, with their advanced sensors, sent back a stream of data to refine that gathered already.

One hundred and forty-eight M-5 Caspar drones, exactly half of Al Na’ir’s reported strength, escorted by twice as many of the much smaller M-3 drones. The 4,000 ton drones were operating in squadrons of six and she was uncomfortably aware that they, like the Pentagon-class dropships of her own screen – had a thrust-to-mass ratio comparable to the fighters. And the drones had no crews to suffer accelerations of up to fifty-five mps-squared.

The M-3s showed that, pushing ahead of their capital ships to engage the fighters. That was fine – as much as Brandt wanted to get rid of the destroyer-sized M-5s, she’d agreed with Dokovic that thinning the M-3 numbers would probably be necessary first.

The Hellcats didn’t pull aside for the Rapiers, instead as the drones closed up they went to meet them, replying on their lasers to bleed the drones before the Rapiers made the killing blows.

As the attack developed, Brandt saw the fighters were already beginning to vanish from the display. Some of them briefly showed damage markers, but such cripples were quickly singled out for finishing shots by the computers aboard the drones.

“They’re being slaughtered!” someone exclaimed.

Then the Rapiers reached engagement range and the Hellcats had done their job, drawing fire to the point that only a single Rapier had been destroyed before it could fire.

Visible light and surges of microwave activity marked detonations as Alamo nuclear missiles exploded against the armoured hulls of the M-3s. Freed of their cumbersome external payloads, the Rapiers darted into evasive manoeuvres as they tried to escape the weapon brackets of the surviving drones.

There were far too many of those survivors, Brandt saw. While the remaining Hellcats could detect damage, only a dozen of the M-3s were adrift or had broken up. As many as half of the missiles must have missed, she realised. And worse – even those that succeeded in striking home had more or often than not failed to deliver complete kills.

The fighters clawed for velocity but the M-3 drones clung tenaciously to them. More than thirty Hellcats had been destroyed to get the Rapiers into range but the numbers continued to climb as the M-3s surged after them, ripping into the rear of the tattered formations. Behind them the M-5s were firing their drives and moving in pursuit – not as fast but their capital lasers had far more range than those of their escorts and even a single hit was fatal to the heavy fighters.

“They’re boring in.” Brandt could hear the sick certainty in her own voice. Physics was unforgiving and the Rapiers didn’t have the thrust to escape the pursuit. We didn’t give that enough consideration, she thought. I was too sure our fighters would have the agility advantage, but the drones don’t care that they’re throwing 4,000 ton dropships around like 40 ton fighters, it’s within the drive’s theoretical limits so why wouldn’t they do it?

Behind her, Dokovic’s line squadrons were turning to bring broadsides to bear on the inbound drones. The heavy turreted guns would reap a bloody harvest on the M-3s – she had six McKenna-class battleships (including her own flagship, SLS Iona) and three Cameron-class battlecruisers to anchor the rear-guard of the fleet, along with their escorting frigates and cruisers.

The clock reported that it took a full hour for the two fleets to reach gunnery range. Something deep inside the admiral attested that the clock lied. The agonising slaughter of the Rapiers and those Hellcats that had been too close to the M-3s as they mounted their pursuit seemed to play out interminably for her. Only when the shots at the scattered handful of survivors proved futile – so few, barely six squadrons left out of forty! – did the M-3s cut their drives and form up again as a bloodied but undaunted vanguard to the wall of Caspars behind them.

M-5 drones. Built on the hull frames of Lola-class fast destroyers. Without the need for life support or for the deep cargo holds required for long-range operations the weapon payload could be much heavier than their manned counterparts. And while the ships of Dokovic’s fleet were bound together by morale and training, the M-5s were tied into a single tactical network of super-computers.

First Lord Jonathan Cameron had ordered the creation of the M-series drones to finally devise killers more deadly than even mankind. The M-5 wasn’t the last of the series but it was without doubt the sharpened edge of that intent.

Now they would find out how it measured up.

Sixty-three never-wracking minutes after the fighter strike’s failure, Third Fleet opened fire into the squadrons of M-3 drones. Particle beams, heavy naval autocannon and nuclear warheads ten times more powerful than those a fighter could carry pulverised the dropships.

But moments later the M-5 drones were able to return fire and Renata Dokovic’s heavy ships were forced to switch their targets, leaving the smaller drones to destroyers, corvettes and even Pentagon-class assault dropships in favour of killing the real threat.

The rear of Third Fleet was engulfed in fire, a morass of indicators – friendly and hostile – dropping out of contact as they were destroyed or simply lost sight of in the storm of both intentional jamming and of the microwave pulses of nuclear detonation. Often the ships would be re-acquired moments later… but not always.

Ruthlessly calculating machines met grim and all too human determination…

Air-venting ships bucked under fantastic impacts. Mortally wounded vessels drove closer to fire one last salvo at suicidally close ranges, manned ships no less eager to sell their lives dearly than the drones.

...and after fifteen heart-wrenching moments, some cost-loss ratio was met within the advanced tactical network of the drones and the M-5s changed course and opened the range, still escorted by a fragmentary escorting wave of M-3s.

There were gaping holes in that formation. As the last shots struck or, more often, missed it was possible for the command systems of the Camine Real to calculate the price the SLDF had charged.

Ninety-seven M-5s were pulling away. Mostly undamaged, for the wounded among their fleet had acted as a suicidal rear-guard to let their comrades break contact. Only one hundred and four M-3s still played escort and few of them were as lucky.

“Orders, admiral?”

“Pull the heavy ships into the centre of the formation and push our dropships further out,” Brandt ordered. “I want a three squadron group of interceptors to shadow the drones from outside their weapons range, in case they try to get out of sensor-lock. There could be a resupply base in the asteroids where they can refuel and reload for another round.”

We’ve killed a third of their Caspars but this is only part of their defences and they’ve pulled back for a reason, she thought. And we’ve paid for that. Paid so much.

There had been thirty-one ships in the Twenty-First Strike Squadron and the Thirty-First Battle Squadron that had made up Dokovic’s line. Now only nineteen battered ships remained… and SLS Iona wasn’t one of them.
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: drakensis on 30 December 2017, 07:06:58
FSS Tancredi, Al Na’ir System
Lockdale Province, Terran Hegemony
18 January 2769

It had taken time to put together a relief force and there were only three squadrons in the grandly named Second Fleet. The original Second Fleet hadn’t survived the coup intact and surviving squadrons and divisions had been added to whatever other fleets they were nearest. Still, the designation was available and this was loosely what could be considered the old Second Fleet’s operational area.

Vice Admiral Furnshill’s Forty-Third Interdiction Squadron had been part of the pre-War Fourth Fleet, familiar with patrolling the Combine’s borders. With Al Na’ir positioned on the Hegemony’s border they’d at least visited the system within the last decade. That was more than could be said of the 112th Escort Squadron under Vice Admiral Willingham but they’d a lot of experience in the Hyades Cluster with asteroid-dense systems so Admiral Belleau had detached his own 192nd Escort Squadron to take over the convoy support role and put Willingham under Furnshill’s command.

And then there are us, Kenneth Jones mused.

FSS Tancredi was still Nike Moore’s flagship but a thin fourth band had joined the three broad ones already on her epaulettes after Ozawa, marking promotion to Admiral. In addition to the Arthur and Katherine Davion, two escort divisions had been placed under Moore’s command. Long obsolete, the four cruisers and two destroyers couldn’t possibly keep pace if Tancredi and her division maneuvered hard but there was no faulting the willingness of the crews.

“The enemy’s location is confirmed. We have contact with Admiral Brandt.”

“Understood,” Jones confirmed. He wasn’t privy to the communications yet, possibly not even Admiral Moore was yet, but the fact that contact had been established was enough to know that at least thus far, matters were following the plan. “Give me the plot.”

The tactical display lit up, showing Al Na’ir itself, two ominously crimson clouds of icons indicating the defenders – the remaining drone fleet, predominantly pulled from the jump-point used by Second Fleet to enter the system, and around half their number of manned warships.

Brandt had correctly predicted that the RWN had divided the drones between the two jump-points and brought the un-engaged half to reinforce the inner system once it was clear the half engaging her wouldn’t stop Third Fleet from reaching Al Na’ir. Left unguarded, there had been nothing to stop Second Fleet from arriving except a tiny picket force.

Admiral Furnshill’s solution to that had answered Jones’ questions about the Q-ships that he’d fought in the Ozawa system. The SLN called them Nightwing surveillance ships, pre-League starships equipped with hidden weapons and sensors that had acted as the Hegemony’s eyes and ears in the space ways of their neighbours for generations. As such ships became rarer in the Inner Sphere, the Star League had retired most and the few that remained had been out in the Periphery until lately.

Amaris had apparently pulled some out of the mothballed reserve fleet to supplement his own fleet. It was amusing to turn it back on him – the first hint that the pair of Bonaventure-class corvettes had received that all was not well with the new arrival who’d been using IFF signals obtained from the Ozawa wrecks was when jamming cut them off from Al Na’ir and the SLN commander had taken his tiny ship between the two of them, opening up with broadsides while the two of them dared not return fire in case they hit each other.

“Interesting that the Republican ships are staying clear of the drones.” Jones focused the display on them for a moment. “There are more than expected, too. And is that a Monsoon battleship in the middle of their formation? Amaris is digging every relic he can find out of mothballs.”

“Captain Jones.” Nike Moore’s face popped up on the flag-bridge display. “Admiral Brandt has decided on OpPlan Gradient. Are our fighters ready?”

Jones looked over at Weiss Plains’ position and then nodded. “I hope her ships are ready.”

“I’m assured of clear decks at their end.”

The Commodore winced at the implication of how depleted Third Fleet’s aerospace complement must be. “Then we can launch as soon as the word is given.”

“Do it.”

“Commodore Plains. Launch your birds for OpPlan Gradient.” The situation called for a little formality, in his view.

“Sir.” Plains adjusted her headset and gave the necessary commands. Almost immediately the tiny specs of friendly fighters began forming up ahead of not only the Tancredi but her escorts. Only two squadrons were being held back – the Baron-class destroyers FSS John Lennon and FSS William Shakespeare only carried six fighters each and it had been agreed that integrating them into the wings of other ships could cause confusion so they’d remain as a marginal combat aerospace patrol for the FSN squadron. Otherwise the combined aero-wings of all nine warships and twenty-two dropships were being committed.

Over six hundred Federated Suns fighters began to slowly pull away from their carriers as Moore’s squadron continued to decelerate from their run in-system. Furnshill’s own ships were launching their half of the operation, although even with their own Titan dropships, they couldn’t match the FSN’s contribution.

“All Song-class ships report no problems with the launches,” Plains reported.

“Not bad for their first big outing,” replied Jones. The Song-class was intended as one of a series of home-built battalion transports for the AFFS. Unfortunately production hadn’t been ready for the war and even the ships attached to Moore’s squadron weren’t complete – the desperate need for naval support during the initial liberation efforts had had the first dozen outfitted for carrier operations only and sent to the frontlines.

Some of those now in service were fully fitted out, but this would be the first time in Jones’ experience of using them that they’d managed to launch all their fighters without a catapult failure.

On the display, Third Fleet were manoeuvring to bypass Al Na’ir – OpPlan Gradient explicitly gave up on trying to reclaim the world for now – and the drones were moving to block them. The Rim Worlders were also moving, but much more tentatively.

“Those fellows don’t seem to want to get to grips,” Moore noted as they watched the fleets manoeuvre.

Jones waggled his head from side to side. “They’ve been told how massively superior the Caspars are to manned ships, but Third Fleet’s destroyed three of the drones for every warship they’ve lost. If I was them I’d want to finish grinding down the SLDF before getting to grips with myself.”

“It’s stupid – they’d lose most of their drones even if they won.”

“Better drones than their lives. After the last few weeks, the last thing they’d want to do is engage the SLDF with their current force strength – they don’t even have a two-to-one numerical advantage.”

The truth was that Brandt’s ships and their valiant crews were almost spent. Half her ships had been destroyed in combat or scuttled due to damage. According to her reports, not one warship had avoided damage over the continued clashes since entering Al Na’ir. Few battles had been as large as the first but a succession of smaller attacks had eaten away at ammunition and fuel as much as they had armour and drives. They had one fight left in them… maybe. And by the time the drones behind them had been destroyed, it had been easier to commit to punching through the inner system to the jump point beyond that than it would have been to turn around.

As ever in a large battle, time seemed to crawl. Jones kept one eye on the tactical display and pulled up routine paperwork. Some of it might not matter by the time this encounter was done with but better to have it out of the way. And besides, looking calm was part of his job now.

The defenders were treating the inbound relief force with lordly disdain – they were too far away, after all. Simply by slowing down to reach Al Na’ir in something approaching useful combat speeds they’d ensured they’d arrive well after Third Fleet. No, better to finish off the original enemy and then handle the new arrivals.

One advantage of the drones over manned warships was that unlike the Republican fleet they never neglected to watch all directions. Thus, they were the first to spot the inbound fighters and begin adjusting their screening elements.

It was too late of course, but they did manage it.

Moving well above normal combat speeds, more than a thousand aerospace fighters slashed through the drone’s formation, carefully drawn into position by Brandt’s manoeuvres. Whether it was the fault of the SDS command centre on the surface of Al Na’ir or the drones themselves, their positioning had turned out to be a little predictable.

At this huge closing speed, any shot that hit them was virtually guaranteed to destroy the fighters, but by the same virtue it was almost impossible for such a hit to be scored. And as they crossed the formation, each fighter launched the nuclear missile they were carrying.

Almost eighty percent of the missiles were off-target. Some were fired too soon, others too late. In the vastness of space, some simply didn’t lock onto the ship desired (although due to pilot error or sheer luck, four of the Caspars and one M-3 took direct hits from missiles not intended for them).

But that still meant that two hundred missiles did score hits and their targets were six ships that had subtly different electronic signatures. Third Fleet had had weeks to isolate those distinctions and the data had been sent via their on-board HPGs back to Second Fleet.

Six M-5C drones, carrying the computers that knit the drone fleet into a single cohesive whole, each struck by at least twenty nuclear weapons. In four cases at least one missile punched through the armoured hull and detonated inside the hulls, explosions tearing back outwards with all the subtlety of an axe. One was adrift – hull and weapons largely intact but the massive thruster array at the stern melted to uselessness by multiple warheads. And the last emerged from a cloud of wreckage, under power and fully armed despite the great craters blasted into its armour… but blind and helpless for every sensor and communications array across its hull had been scoured away the fury of the missiles.

Not stopping to see the results of their work, the fighters streaked onwards and only when they were well clear of the drones did they begin applying their thrusters to the vital task of slowing down to rendezvous with Third Fleet. Each fighter had been chosen for this – Sparrowhawks and Centurions that could provide the brutal seventy plus mps-squared delta-v necessary.

“Fourteen losses,” Plains reported quietly.

“Regrettable, but necessary.” Jones studied the screen. There was already raggedness to the formation of the drones. “They’ll still fight, they’ll fight hard. But now they’ll fight as individuals not as a co-ordinated force.”

Admiral Moore nodded. “And we’ll fight too. Admiral Furnshill has ordered her carrier dropships to form on us and to keep the range open. I’ve detached our escort divisions to support her in the main thrust.”

Third Fleet had altered course now, taking advantage of the drone’s disorder. Now they’d slingshot around Al Na’ir’s largest moon while Third Fleet used the planet itself. They’d briefly bracket the Rim Worlders between them and then be directed back outwards towards the jump point.

“After the return pass we’ll need to fall back on conventional strikes,” Jones warned. “Third Fleet can’t give our fighters the needed boost except during the slingshot.”

The M-5 drones were already recognising the changed circumstances, one at a time, and changing course. The M-3 drones escorting them apparently found a different solution and accelerated towards Al Na’ir’s moon to attempt an interception at during the sling-shot. Jones checked the direction of the Caspars and nodded. “Divide and conquer – the M-5 drones know they can’t intercept Brandt now, so they’re changing course to engage Third Fleet instead.”

Moore shrugged. “That’s an acceptable risk. Furnhill’s fleet is fresh and now they don’t have their command ships. Can they engage us?”

Jones didn’t have to run the calculations, he’d already checked. “Not if we move to fifteen or twenty mps-squared – which our ships can take easily. Crews won’t like it but…”

“Better than dead,” his commander shrugged. “Do it.”

.o0O0o.

Terra Prime, Apollo
Apollo Province, Rim Worlds Republic
29 January 2769

“Third Fleet made it out with thirty operational ships, by a very generous appreciation of operational,” DeChevilier reported grimly. “Nine of the losses were ramming by M-3 drones, including the Camino Real. Four thousand tons at that sort of closing speed isn’t survivable, even by a battleship.”

Kerensky nodded slowly. “We knew the Space Defense Systems would be a problem. I don’t think we appreciated quite how bad it would be. How about Second Fleet?”

“Twenty-seven ships and I think their repair estimates are more realistic.” The Deputy Commanding General made a face. “Six of the losses were FSN ships, two with all hands. It’s a fraction of the whole but…”

“That’s almost a tenth of their warship strength.”

“Seems to be a tradition. Remember Tentativa, back in the Reunification War?”

“Not the same at all,” the smaller man said sharply. “Tentativa was a defeat. This is a victory, albeit at terrible cost.”

“We didn’t take Al Na’ir. Fourteen battalions of troops destroyed aboard their transports – half a division in practical terms. Victory?”

“Losses have been worse against Castles Brian here and in the Hegemony.” Kerensky drew himself up and forced himself to add: “And they will continue to be high. Seventy-two warships destroyed and more than fifty in need of repairs is a high price to pay but the enemy losses were much higher. Almost three hundred M-5 drones and as many M-3s, the Republican fleet too battered to pursue.”

“They held the system,” DeChevilier chided him. “And Joan Brandt…”

“We cannot afford a defeat, so we cannot call it that.” The general rubbed his brow. “John Davion is familiar with… flexible objectives. This was a reconnaissance in force, a testing of the SDS so that we may prepare for operations in the future. In destroying so many drones and gathering invaluable intelligence data, Joan succeeded brilliantly.”

“…yes sir.”

“Posthumously, she will receive the Medal of Valour.”

“Her husband is on New Earth, by last report.”

“Yes, Admiral Peterson’s son. One of the old naval dynasties. Hopefully he has avoided Amaris’ commissars.”

DeChevilier thought of his own family. Intelligence from within the Hegemony had reported the creation of a new government agency, the Office of Policy and Doctrine. It was an innocuous name for a paramilitary force of nebulous mission. At least part of its purpose was rounding up SLDF personnel still at large on Amaris-held worlds – and they drew little line between active personnel, the retired… or dependent families. “So we all pray.”

They stood together, where Stefan Amaris or at least one of his high ministers must have stood at one time or another, sharing in that ugly mood without words.

“You’ve decided to leave Davion in command then?” asked DeChevilier mildly.

“He was her formal deputy and so long as he doesn’t try to take field command, I think he will do well. Baptiste will remain ground commander, after all.”

“And the navy? Belleau is senior.”

“He’s a good man, yes… I would like to promote Janos Grec but Belleau is ready for more responsibility.” Kerensky frowned. “It would not do to hold him back. You can manage him.”

“Me?”

“Yes. We will need a few months to finish reducing the last strongholds of the Republicans but the time has come to look towards opening a second front in the Hegemony. When that time comes, I want you to be in command of our thrust out the Suns.”

“I could take a ship now. Follow our supply lines as far as Skye and cut across Marik’s space with a battle squadron. He’d not dare stop me and we need to reinforce the fleets under Davion’s Army Group.”

“In time, yes. But firstly I need you here to help me prepare our strategy and we must consider how the SDS drones can be better dealt with. Even one ship for every four of them is a price we cannot afford – there were almost seven thousand M-5 drones across the Hegemony and production of M-3 drones is distressingly easy, Amaris could build almost any number of them.” Kerensky shook his head. “We must devise a method first and then… and then you will depart.”

“You’re trusting him with a quarter of the SLDF.” DeChevilier laughed bitterly. “Well, a quarter of what remains.”

“He is an honourable man.”

“So was Brutus.”

The Commanding General of the SLDF shook his head. “He is no Brutus, much less a Caesar, Aaron. His ambition, such as it is, are for the Star League first, his own realm next and only then for himself. He is a rare ally in these times.”

“Rare? Yes, I will agree that allies are rare birds these days. But that’s a low bar. We’ve almost had more help from the damned Taurians than we’ve had from Kenyon Marik and it’s been two years and Minoru Kurita hasn’t said a damn word to you. Not one word!”

Kerensky nodded wearily. “Yet nor has he hindered those who have come of their own will to help us. Remember that.”

“Oh yes, the ronin, the masterless men who’ve been duelling ours for a century and who the Kurita’s have piously protested they cannot restrain. Well, he’s no hypocrite, I’ll grant him that much. Who else is there? The Archon, who won’t help us for spite of you? The Chancellor, who won’t help us for spite of the First Prince.” DeChevilier seemed to run down. “I don’t know, Alek. I think he’s the best of a bad bunch, but I can’t help but think he’s known more about what was going in than he’s ever told us.”

“Let me name another for your list. Lucien Dormax, who is trying desperately to hold the Rim Worlds together for us.”

“And you don’t think he’s ambitious? He needs us. God, and when we embark for Terra what happens here? He’s only clinging to power because of us and the people who’ve joined us here don’t love the League, they just hate Amaris. If we pull out entirely there’ll be a firestorm.”

“We won’t pull out entirely.” Kerensky shook his head. “We’ll need the supplies from here, the facilities. The money, to be brutally honest. At least two armies will need to remain here to hold matters together.”

“You’re probably right, but that’ll mean we need to weaken some of the garrison armies to reinforce the troops on the frontlines.”

His commander gave him a wan smile. “That’s the thinking I need at my side right now. Twelve months, Aaron. John Davion will do us no wrong in that time. And if it makes Minoru Kurita and Barbara Liao nervous, that may not be such a bad thing. When they have done half so much for us as House Davion has in this terrible time, then I shall treat their complaints seriously.”
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: Daryk on 30 December 2017, 09:08:54
Brutal, and well told! O0
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: mikecj on 30 December 2017, 12:23:21
Nice analysis, worthy of the SLDF Commanding General.  wonderful writing D!
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: alkemita on 30 December 2017, 19:19:53
And so the price gets ever steeper.

Great writing, Drak.
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: snakespinner on 30 December 2017, 21:55:32
I love the smell of burning Caspars in the morning. O0
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: Zureal on 31 December 2017, 02:05:35
sweet, davion is in charge? the SLDF will have new found respect for the man no doubt. :)
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: DoctorMonkey on 31 December 2017, 07:24:27
sweet, davion is in charge? the SLDF will have new found respect for the man no doubt. :)


You mean "The Davions"? two heads are better than one, even if one is intangible
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: drakensis on 03 January 2018, 05:46:45
Army Group Eleven Headquarters, New Rhodes III
Lockdale Province, Terran Hegemony
20 February 2769

One advantage of the new, highly secret HPG satellites that the SLDF was beginning to seed the Hegemony with – the ones John was politely pretending not to know about – was that real-time contact was possible with the army and fleet commanders without actually recalling them from their respective headquarters.

John did his best to keep a straight face as Hanse tried to tug on Jerome Blake’s short dark beard. “Blake’s beard!” the ghost declared loudly. “Literally, Blake’s beard!”

“It’s alright, Mr Blake,” John told the engineer, cutting off a convoluted and no doubt entirely fabricated explanation as to how this was allegedly being relayed. “I’m not a hyperspace physicist and I don’t really need to know how you’re doing this. You’ve assured me it’ll work and your expertise speaks for itself.”

“Ah. Well, I’ll… I’ll go oversee the uplink then.”

“Thank you for your hard work,” the prince told him and they shook hands before the engineer left. “Are you sure that’s the man who founded a religion?” he asked under his breath.

“Not founded, just inspired. No one much would remember Jesus if it wasn’t for Saint Paul and Blake would likely be a… well, not a footnote but a fairly short entry if it wasn’t for Toyama.”

“I’m fairly sure the first part of that was sacrilegious. When did you last go to confession?”

“Last Sunday, but the priest didn’t set me any penance.” The redhead winked. “Sometimes I’m not sure he’s even listening.”

The warning light lit up and John refrained from further comment. A moment later the camera presumably started working, for the holograms of officers began to appear along the table. In one case the projector hadn’t been aligned correctly, leaving General Lucas slightly overlapping Admiral Thomas Belleau. In another the relative positions hadn’t been accounted for, because General Simons and Admiral Moore greeted each other while appearing to both be addressing General Baptiste’s seat.

Still, they were all visible to each other. That was all that was really required.

“Ladies and gentlemen.” John tapped the table lightly with one finger and was pleased that the officers fell silent. “I’ve called you together to discuss our plans for the next few months.”

“Respectfully, sir, I hope that won’t be anything too ambitious. We’re a little limited in the available warships at the moment.”

“That, Admiral Belleau, is a question of what would be ‘too ambitious’. So let us set some boundaries. Admiral Brandt’s gallant actions over the winter have shown that we’re not yet ready to engage one of the worlds with a major SDS presence. It’s certainly possible that Al Na’ir itself has been reduced to a relatively soft target but I don’t wish to chance that until we have more information. I hope that you’re all comfortable with that decision.”

There were quiet murmurs of agreement.

“On the other hand, as much as General Kerensky may describe the outcome of the battle as a victory, there is no guarantee that Stefan Amaris will feel that way. He may in fact feel that he’s broken our momentum and that the time is ripe for a counter-attack.”

“Do you think that this is likely?” asked General Simons politely. The commander of the AFFS Expeditionary Corps was coming along nicely in the opinion of both John and Hanse.

“I don’t, but events have shown that Amaris and I don’t agree on everything. There is sufficient risk that I’m of the opinion that Third and Fourth Army will need to remain in reserve for the next few months to ensure the security of the liberated worlds. From what I understand, civil affairs are coming along well and the thirteen planetary governments no longer need day to day support from the SLDF but it’ll be a while before their militias are ready to defend them.”

Jack Lucas put both hands on the table. “Marshal Davion, the Third and Fourth are the strongest armies in your command. We’re the best suited to spearhead offensives.”

“That’s true, but you did exactly that on Addicks and Tigress, costing both of you troops and equipment that are still being worked up as replacements. When we resume the main offensive – which I fully expect to be before the end of the year – I will want you and General Baptiste in the lead, which requires giving your men time to rest and prepare. Believe me; you’ll have all the action you can ask for.” John gave the general a firm look and was gratified to see him subside.

“General Hallestrom?”

The officer straightened. “Sir.”

“The first of the operations we’ll be looking at is the liberation of Yangtze. Nineteenth Army did well on Towne and I’m entrusting them with this as their next mission.”

“Sir.” The stone-faced general nodded firmly.

“General Lucas’ Army will be taking over from you on Towne. Coordinate handing over your responsibilities there with him and arrange movement orders and a preliminary plan by the end of the month. I won’t hold your hand, I’m sure you and your troops know what to do without me trying to second-guess you at all times.”

There might have been a slight degree of appreciation on Hallestrom’s face, but perhaps not. It was hard to say and John decided to leave well enough alone.

“Yangtze is our objective for March, but we’ll need to keep the pressure on so the following month I’m tasking Seventh Army with taking Quentin.”

“That’s quite an aggressive move,” General Huong admitted forthrightly. “T here’s no Castle Brian to worry about but given the ‘Mech factory there, Amaris will have a strong garrison there.”

“While Third Army will be handling security, there’s at least a small hope that Amaris will think we’re shifting focus back to the left flank with Nineteenth Army taking Yangtze. We shouldn’t seriously expect them to lower their guard on Quentin though, since they’re only one jump from your current position on Pokhara. Sixth Army will be acting as a reserve.”

“March and April,” General Baptiste said lightly. “Do you have plans for May too?”

“Yes, that should be enough to persuade Amaris that any weakness on our part is a figment of his analysts’ over-active imaginations.”

“Well where is it? Deneb Kaitos?” asked Lucas.

“Nice place,” Hanse mused. “They joined the Federated Suns in our history, after the Exodus. Amaris had withdrawn his forces to shorten his defensive perimeter, but as they left they laid waste to the world.” His face tightened. “Among other things, using chemical agents to poison the farmlands. All they asked you for was to be fed.”

“Not just yet, unfortunately.” John had to force himself to keep from reacting. “Taking Quentin opens up a more strategic objective for us. One of the major contractors in the development of the SDS was Nirasaki Computers Collective, based – unsurprisingly given the name - upon Nirasaki. Until now we’ve confined ourselves to liberating worlds in Lockdale Province so there’s a very good chance that Amaris won’t expect us to extend our operations.”

“Do you think they’ll have a counter to the drones?” asked Belleau eagerly.

“I doubt there’s a perfect counter, save for the traditional methods, but there may be data we can use to reduce their effectiveness. As uncomfortable as it may make some of you -” John directed a wintry smile at the SLDF majority “- Admiral Grec is heading up a special project to develop and weapons and tactics to use against the drones, including the possibility of building limited capacity drones of our own.”

“You’d use those things?” asked Admiral Moore in horror.

“Admiral I will do anything I must to save the Star League. I’d even work with Liao or Kurita if they offered, although admittedly I feel fairly safe from having to follow through with that.”

.o0O0o.

Fort Sullivan, Cartago
Draconis March, Federated Suns
3 March 2769

“I’ve got a mix of news for you, Ken.”

The senior officer’s mess was nicely appointed but it just felt wrong to Jones. Something about the gravity, or possibly the floor to ceiling windows looking out on a lush garden. Anything that reminded him he was planet bound.

It took him a moment to register that Admiral Moore had used his first name. “Good and bad or staid and shocking.”

“I’d say just about all four.” She sipped her coffee and then set it down. “I’m sorry to say I’ll be losing you as my flag-captain.”

“Well we’ve been serving together a while now, Admiral. Nothing lasts forever in the navy.” He used the napkin to wipe the corner of his lips, using the gesture to cover for tweaking the end of his moustache. “Is that a transfer for me or for me?”

“Both of us, actually. With such heavy losses to the squadron I’ve been called back to New Avalon for a desk posting.” She made a helpless gesture. “I’m not being benched as such, but they want me on Admiral Grec’s joint committee about the drones and there are only so many squadron commands to go around.”

“I doubt this war will end quickly,” he observed quietly. “And I doubt the Prince would pass up an experienced commander when there’s another opening.”

“Thank you,” Moore agreed with less confidence than he’d hoped to instil. “We’ll see. Admiral Goto seems quite upset at no less than six ships vanishing from his operational planning.”

“I’d imagine with the shipyards ticking over that should be taken care of.” Ken thought back to the construction plans underway. “Just in the next two years we’ll have five more ships in service.”

“Which is still one down from where we were on the first of this year.” She shrugged. “Anyway, Tancredi and her squadron are rotating to the Draconis Squadron for the next tour and your crew is going to be raided for cadres I’m afraid.”

“Just when I had everything the way I wanted,” he sighed. “Well, I’ve not done that tour before.”

“Yes, well I’m afraid you won’t be going with her.”

Jones paused as he was about to lift the coffee cup. “I beg your pardon?”

“I made the point, quite sharply, that the four divisions being sent to replace us won’t have any field experience at all in their command post. I’m afraid I may have overplayed that point, because Admiral Goto decided that Commodore Plains is ready to move up and take over the Tancredi, leaving you free for reassignment.”

“A new ship? Well, I suppose it’s flattering to be considered to have useful experience.” The Tancredi’s crew had begun to feel like a family to him, albeit a sprawling and sometimes dysfunctional one. The ship and her fighters had been a smoothly functional instrument in their hands and he had to struggle for composure at the prospect of leaving. “Did he mention which ship?”

“I gather you’ll be aboard the FSS William D Porter.”

“The Wee Willie?” Jones stared at the coffee cup. “I think I may need something stronger.”

Among the oldest ships in the FSN, the William D Porter had been launched from a Terran shipyard in 2380 for service in the Terran Hegemony Navy. By all accounts she’d had a good, if not outstanding record with that service until she was decommissioned in 2531 as obsolete. Forty years in mothballs hadn’t done a thing for the Aegis-class cruiser though and since being re-activated and transferred to the AFFS during the Reunification Wars she’d become known for reasons that no one wanted to be associated with.

She had, for example, been escorting Prince Alexander’s son and grandson in 2596 when their jumpship inexplicably went missing between one system and the next, never to be seen again. And then there was the time her port-bow missile launchers had suddenly opened fire, emptying the magazines before anyone managed to shut them down. Thirty extremely expensive missiles had narrowly missed the battlecruiser transporting the then SLDF Commanding General, Killian Squarn-Turk. Given the incident was immediately following Edict of 2650, real suspicion had existed that the crew was involved in an assassination plot and every officer aboard had been beached for the rest of their careers.

“I think a drink is very much in order,” agreed Moore. She beckoned to the waiter. “Two whiskeys, neat.”

The service was just as excellent as the decoration and two glasses were procured in less than a minute. Jones raised his glass. “To the Wee Willie, may she vent her temper only on the enemy and not her blameless captain.”

Moore drank to that and then raised her own glass. “To the good fortune of the Porter now she’s a flagship, Admiral Jones.”

The glass was halfway back to his lips before he caught that and he paused to give her a very direct look.

“Oh, hahaha, you really thought we were dumping you off a fleet carrier to command that glorified frigate?” she asked. “No, the Porter is flagship of your division. Welcome to the admiralty, Rear Admiral Jones.”

.o0O0o.

Steel Valley, Quentin IV
Lockdale Province, Terran Hegemony
11 April 2769

As the fighting around the MechWorks died down, Ethan limped his Orion behind one of the sub-assembly buildings before taking his hands off the controls and stretching. He’d kill for a shower right now, but that wasn’t happening.

There wasn’t a part of his ‘Mech where the armour wasn’t in the amber on his data display and he was almost out of ammunition for his LRM launcher and autocannon. “Company check,” he called out. “Who needs armour patching and ammo?”

The reports from the other five ‘Mechs was fairly similar, except that he was the only one who’d had his rear armour targeted when Republican helicopters had risked a low pass over the factory, relying on the fact they were in Vectors, ubiquitous in SLDF use, to avoid suspicion until they dropped saboteur squads and opened fire.

The thought reminded him and Ethan switched channel to speak to the armoured support. “I’m calling in for fresh ammunition and repairs. Do you want me to call in the same for you?”

“Appreciated, Moreau,” Lieutenant Pritchard replied. “We could do with ten tons of cluster ammunition, five of LRMs and, ****** Koopman, yes I remember. We also need a fuel truck. I swear, who thought putting diesel engines in a tank was a good idea?”

Ethan had to bite back a grin. Pritchard was just as new as he was to the 225th BattleMech Division; the division had taken losses in the Periphery and again on Tigress. The second rebuilding had meant absorbing survivors of the Fourth Regimental Combat Team as well as fresh recruits like Ethan. He still wasn’t sure why the decorated tank commander had taken him under her wing but her griping about the replacement for her crew’s Demon was a familiar refrain. “I think it predates the fusion reactor, Pritchard.”

“I could believe it with this heap of Feddie crap.”

Privately, Ethan was quite happy to have the company of Culverins in the battle group. Entrenched in fighting positions, their twin autocannon were murderous and Pritchard’s tank alone had wiped out half the helicopter squadron, using the ramp of their fighting position to elevate their guns for the shots.

“I’ll put in a call,” he said, rather than challenging her.

“Thanks,” she said. “I know the griping’s getting old, kid, but if you lose your Orion, how would you feel about getting a… I dunno, some hand-me down from the AFFS stocks.”

“I’m pretty sure your Culverin’s fresh off the factory lines.”

“Not the point.”

There was a muffled sound from behind her.

“Yes, I know they’re starting to turn out Merkavas, Ranson. I don’t care if they have fusion reactors, those heaps were retired two hundred years ago.”

Ethan chuckled. “I’ll get back to you once I hear about the supplies.” Adjusting his radio he found the battle group’s staff channel. “Major Ericsson, this is Lieutenant Moreau. We’re quiet right now and could do with a re-supply if logistics can handle it.”

“Understood, Lieutenant,” the chief of staff confirmed. “We have a field repair team on their way back in, I’ll route them to you once they’re restocked. What do you need?

“Eight tons of LRMs, five tons standard class ten autocannon rounds and ten tons of cluster for the same. A fuel truck and some armour patching should set us straight.”

“What do you want a fuel truck for?” Ericsson demanded. “Your Orions don’t run on diesel, and I’m pretty sure none of them can fire cluster ammunition.”

“I’m batching Lieutenant Pritchard’s supplies with mine.”

“Pritchard? Oh right, Captain Gunnells got med-evaced, didn’t he? I’m surprised she didn’t put in for a dozen Demon tanks as well.”

Ethan snorted. “Do we have them in stock?”

“Not a chance, lieutenant. With Leopard Armor in Amaris’ hands, the only fresh Demons we’ll be seeing are in Republican hands. The intact armoured regiments are hanging onto theirs for dear life so stray battalions like the ones we have are out of luck.”

“I figured.”

“Ammunition though, we can provide. Expect trucks and techs in the next fifteen.”

“Thanks, sir.”

“It’s my job, lieutenant.” The major sounded tired. “If you live long enough, you’ll have to do some honest work too. In the meanwhile, keep your head. The Rimjobs are almost pocketed and we can’t rule out them trying some crazy break-out through the factories.”

“Through the defences here? They’d be crazy.”

“The factories we wouldn’t tac-nuke. If they concentrate for a push somewhere else, that option is on the table.”

Ethan blanched. “Sir, Quentin IV’s not exactly prime real-estate as it is. The locals won’t be happy if we start putting radioactive craters in the scenery.”

“That’s over your pay grade. Over mine too, but personally, if it means not rebuilding the Division a third time with strays and greenies – no offense – then I’m all in favour of some artificial sunshine.”
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: drakensis on 03 January 2018, 05:47:04
FSS William D Porter, Nirasaki
Lone Star Province, Terran Hegemony
15 May 2769

The M-3 drones were accelerating far faster than the Porter’s engines could possibly have propelled her. As Brandt’s unlucky heavy fighter wings had discovered, there were aerospace fighters that couldn’t handle like that in an exo-atmospheric environment.

Fortunately they weren’t trying anything quite that complicated and manoeuvring thrusters rolled the elderly cruiser on her side. “Targets entering broadside arc.”

Jones resisted the temptation to give orders. He wasn’t part of the crew now. For all his authority, a flag officer was a passenger in some respects.

There were sixteen autocannon along the Porter’s flank – older and smaller than the guns on modern combatants but the turrets blew three of the drones apart in a satisfactory fashion. A fourth spun wildly, guns still firing, after taking a hit from one of the laser turrets. The missiles missed wildly though. Something of a shame.

It was enough to disrupt the attack run though, the two intact drones had to adjust their course to avoid debris and that gave Porter’s escorts time to respond. FSS Reynard Davion wasn’t up to the standards of late model Davion-class destroyers – too old for the refits that had been carried out for the Arthur and Katherine Davion – but her captain had made the best of what he had and the prow autocannon were more of a brute force solution than a pair of 4,000 ton drones really required.

Not that Jones minded over-kill when it came to robotic killers intent on ramming the ship he was aboard.

“Good work,” he said quietly on the command channel. “But that was a side-show. The real fight is up ahead.”

The icons around Nirasaki were entirely too familiar – a Monsoon-class battleship surrounded by a mix of Rim Worlds and Terran hulls. More than half of the Rim fleet at Al Na’ir had still been ready for action when the ships of Second and Third Fleet withdrew. More than likely their damaged ships were still there but for whatever reason, forty ships had been pulled back here which meant that Nineteenth Fleet would have a fight on their hands before the ground forces could be landed.

Half of Nineteenth fleet, rather. The 192nd Escort squadron was still detached on convoy duty, the 191st was covering the transports and the 195th Reconnaissance squadron was currently probing Al Na’ir. That left two line squadrons – Belleau’s own 193rd and Hofmann’s 194th with twenty-nine ships between them – and the two six-ship squadrons of the AFFS attached to them.

“Jones.” The flag channel lit up, Admiral Paulette Benden was the senior of the two squadron commanders and Jones’ immediate superior. “Belleau’s given us responsibility for aerospace defence while his squadrons focus on shipping strikes. It’ll stretch our air groups so if any ships break past the Star League squadrons it’ll be up to you and Henderson’s divisions to cover us.”

“Aye, sir.” Jones understood the unspoken message: Belleau was putting his own squadrons on point and keeping the FSN in a secondary role, but at the same time he was tying FSS Pleiades and her sister ship FSS Kathil to stay in support range of the line squadrons. If they moved back to stay clear then they wouldn’t be able to rotate their fighters through a prolonged engagement.

Instinctively, the Star League Navy sought to hold their ships into a tight and mutually supporting formation. It was a sound doctrine, and it allowed them to deliver shattering blows, but it meant that the entire force would manoeuvre at the speed of the slowest ships.

Then Jones smiled depreciatingly. He was as responsible as anyone for the doctrine of the FSN, and now he was on one of those slower ships. “If that happens, my squadron will be ready.”

Neither of the two fleets was built for head on attacks. Their ships mounted their best firepower upon the flanks and thus they angled carefully towards each other, stacking ships in vertical slices – the heavier cruisers, battlecruisers and battleships, then the lighter destroyers, frigates and corvettes, finally the frontline of dropships screening them.

The SLN customarily pushed fighters out beyond that, but with the enemy clearly sighted, Benden had argued with and won her point – the FSN’s wings sheltered behind the dropships, waiting for a clear attack before they would move out and engage.

They didn’t have to wait long.

The Rim Worlds’ admiral could count – his flagship was the only battleship available to him, the bulk of his fleet’s firepower was a single over-sized squadron of Avatar-class cruisers and fully a quarter of their hulls were corvettes. An extended exchange of battery fire between the two fleets could have only one outcome.

As two fleets entered extreme weapons range of each other’s screening dropships, fighters began to stream from the Rim Worlds formation and Belleau ordered his own ships to respond in kind. Between them more than five hundred fighters headed into the ‘no man’s land’ between the two fleets, a region of space alive with missiles, fast moving explosive and kinetics, not to mention brief and invisible pulses of coherent light or charged particles.

Assault dropships added their own firepower to the mix, targeting the fighters just as enemy warships fought to suppress them and open a path for the fighters.

Fighters began to die, but dropships were being blasted too, tearing holes in the screens and Jones saw the Rim’s aerospace fighters punch through, towards the SLDF’s secondline. Darting from among the destroyers though were the first wave of fighters from the Pleiades and the Kathil. Only narrowly outnumbered, for the Rim Worlders had held part of their fighter force back to defend their own ships, they had the advantage of mobility over the missile-laden Rim fighters – and they weren’t trying to break through to engage the SLN’s heavy ships of the third line.

Either out of self-preservation or a last minute attempt to salvage part of the attack force, Rim fighters began to jettison missiles – or fire them off at any target in range – so they could turn and engage the Suns fighters… and the remaining wings of fighters were already launching from the carriers behind Wee Willie to join the fight.

Nuclear fireballs were beginning to mark the formations of warships, SLS Jules Verne blew apart – the unfortunate corvette had been nearest to the penetration of the first line and at least a dozen missiles had struck her.

Other SLN warships took hits and carried on, rolling their hulls to continue the engagement with the weapons and armour of unscarred flanks. Across the battlefield the Star League fighters unleashed their own missiles on corvettes and destroyers without trying to press further. Rim Worlds fighters slashed through their formations but numbers told, for here the defending fighters were outnumbered.

The clash was too intense and too distant for Jones to make out until the fury abated and almost two hundred SLN fighters roared back out of the maelstrom and into the space between the fleets. The dropships had reached their own engagement range now, much depleted by warship fire, and as capital weapons began to shift fire to warships, the surviving dropships turned their fire on each other, with little to spare for the fighters.

The Rim Worlds had claimed a second kill in the SLN lines, with the destroyer SLS Yeovil broken into three separate sections by missile hits. But less than thirty fighters lunged back for the safety of their own fleet, chased by more than a hundred FSN fighters… and the returning Star League fighters adjusted course to intercept them.

Jones didn’t see even one reach the questionable safety of their own lines and the Rim escort line had been brutally hammered by the fighter’s Alamo missiles. No more than twelve ships had survived that wave of attacks, bringing them to numerical parity with the SLN’s own escorts, and those survivors withered as the heavy ships closed in.

“Our first wave fighters are coming back to reload,” the airboss reported. Porter and her escorts could contribute no more than thirty fighters between them to the squadron’s aerospace strength and only twelve of them had been in the first wave. Now ten of those fighters returned slipping out from amid the formations returning to the Pleiades and the Kathil.

“Expedite them, we might need the cover.” The Rim fleet wasn’t trying to break off. The last pair of their destroyers formed up with the Monsoon-class – once SLS Thunderer she’d apparently been re-named AES Maxwell Rowe by the Usurper. To Jones’ amusement, the SLDF insisted on displaying the prefix as RWRS – Rim Worlds Republic Ship – rather than give any recognition to Amaris’ self-proclaimed empire by referring to the enemy vessels as Amaris Empire Ships.

Four Lola-class destroyers fell back behind Belleau’s main battle line and unlike the Rim fleet they didn’t attempt to maintain station. Already battered, the fast destroyers gathered what was left of the dropship wing around them and withdrew towards the FSN ships. They had no business in the brutal hammering of capital ships and unlike their counterparts they had somewhere else to go.

Anchored by the battleships Borodino and Pearl Harbour, the seventeen SLN warships – two more battleships, five Cameron-class battlecruisers and eight Sovetskii Soyuz heavy cruisers – opened fire on the Maxwell Rowe and the ten Avatar-class cruisers with her, not sparing the two battered Rim Worlds destroyers. The Rim warships returned their own broadsides and Jones grimaced – not even the entire FSN were it somehow assembled in once place, could have matched the intensity of this exchange.

Contrary to all expectations, the first warship to die was SLS Kharkov. The heavy cruiser had been singled out by the Maxwell Rowe and the battleship’s heavy autocannon smashed the smaller ship open from stem to stern.

The two Rim destroyers didn’t long survive the Star League cruiser but Jones saw that the Rim fleet were concentrating their fire on the heavy cruisers, ignoring the heavier ships in order to wear down the numbers of their adversaries. Kharkov’s sister-ship Kursk blew apart before the first of the Avatars died.

“And the Star League retired those ships?” Jones murmured in disbelief as the Rim heavy cruisers rolled to bring undamaged broadsides to bear.

Belleau’s own fire shifted and all four Star League battleships brought the Maxwell Rowe under fire, PPCs and lasers from the squadron tearing great glowing gouges in the hull as their autocannon shells smashed against it.

It seemed impossible that any ship could sustain that battering, but SLS Kiev too died to the Rowe’s broadside fire before finally, in a single cataclysmic detonation, the 1.3 million ton battleship met its end.

Leaderless, the Rim cruisers fire faltered. Two more of them blew apart as a pair of Cameron-class battlecruisers of the line closed in, relying on their heavier armour and the enemy focus on their own cruisers to survive the point-blank engagement.

The battlecruisers audacity succeeded in drawing the attention of the seven survivors and autocannon fire ripped into the flanks of the two ships as Belleau’s battleships and surviving cruisers moved up to outflank the remains of the Rim Worlds fleet.

All but forgotten amongst all the sound and fury, two wings of fighters from the Pleiades plunged into the fray and each had singled out one of the Avatars. Missiles lanced out, penetrating the damaged armour the cruisers were trying to shield from the Star League ships. Both cruisers burned from the inside out as nuclear warheads detonated within their hulls, two more battered to ruin came apart within a minute of the strike.

Before Kathil’s fighters could arrive for their own attack runs, the battle line completed its envelopment on the three remaining Rim ships. Englobed, the Avatars died defiantly, taking the battlecruiser SLS Saint John with them and reducing SLS Carlos Dangmar Lee, the other battlecruiser to dare their point-blank fury, to a bleeding wreck barely under power.

.o0O0o.

Army Group Eleven Headquarters, New Rhodes III
Lockdale Province, Terran Hegemony
15 June 2769

“One noteputer,” Gerik Chudzik reported bleakly. “We’d have done less damage to the NCC facilities if we’d had to fight for them. One of the most important computer research centres in the entire Hegemony and we could only recover one noteputer.”

“Amaris was thorough. That doesn’t surprise me,” John replied. “We cannot underestimate the man. I don’t know what I have to say to get this through people’s heads, but he is not stupid. Insane, possibly. Vicious, definitely. But not a fool. He knew just as much as we do that the drones are by far the most effective weapon in his arsenal.”

“As far as we can reconstruct, the site was stripped in ’67.” Chudzik shook his head. “Everyone there and every other computer was taken away, most likely to Terra. I shudder to think what they might develop for him.”

“I suspect that that would be a tertiary concern at best. Amaris would have been concerned first about restoring the SDS systems that were damaged in the coup, then about denying us potential access to the people who had the best chance of devising counters to the drones.” John shook his head. “And I doubt they co-operated.”

“Do you have a source of information?” asked Baptiste, who was physically present in his office unlike Chudzik.

“The noteputer we found was hidden deliberately,” explained Sixth Army’s commander. “A Doctor Glimp and several of her colleagues had realised that they were under observation and so they compiled everything they could think of that might be a vulnerability for the SDS systems they’d worked on. Hoping that it would be found after they’d gone.”

“I’d say that that’s a slim hope, but they were right. It has been found. Is there anything useful?” she asked hopefully.

John shrugged. “Their summaries don’t seem promising, but they’re the same people who brainstormed potential flaws during development to try to counter this sort of thing. A fresh set of eyes might find new approaches.”

“Like Admiral Grec’s team on New Avalon?”

“That’s one of them. I’ve told my son to round up the best minds in the Federated Suns to support the efforts. It’s a security hazard for you but General Kerensky has given his agreement that letting my people see data that might let us replicate the drones is worthwhile if it improves the chances of developing counter-measures.” John shook his head. “Anyway, we’re also sending a copy to the Rim Worlds for Kerensky’s own headquarters to look at. Admiral McTiernan agreed to let a courier use the hidden recharge stations so a dropship is on the way.”

“He protects those stations as if they’re his own children,” Chudzik noted.

Baptiste shook her head. “Those stations are vital for coordinating our spy ships and the supply missions to resistance groups. He’s right that they can’t be compromised until worlds near them are liberated.”

“I stand corrected. I assume a suitable officer is accompanying the data in case of trouble with the Steiners?”

“A Major Drummond, who’s been here on something I’m not cleared for.” John gave his ground forces commander a reassuring look. “Don’t worry, General. I’m not offended. Kerensky handpicked him to tell me ‘none of my business’ if need be, so I assume he’ll be more than capable of bulling through any LIC or LCAF interference.”

Chudzik frowned. “Drummond… the one who’s… ah…” He gave an embarrassed cough.

John pressed his hands over his ears. “I’m not listening, I’m not listening.”

“Please be serious,” Baptiste told him. “You certainly know more about that matter than General Kerensky wants you to know.”

“I might, I might not. Let’s just say there are certain technologies that I’d very much like the Federated Suns to have, but not at the expense of bringing Amaris down. And as long as General Kerensky can honestly tell the other Council Lords that, no I’m not being granted access to classified technologies that they don’t, then we have a much reduced chance of one of them coming off the fence in the wrong direction.”

“Respectfully, sir, the AFFS is getting access to things that they wouldn’t normally.”

John looked at the two generals and then shrugged his shoulders. “Of course, but that’s at Kerensky’s discretion, not a matter of me using my position to enrich the Federated Suns. Look at, oh, the salvage operations for battlefields in the Hegemony. Anything that can’t be put back into service quickly is shipped back to be warehoused in the Suns until engineers either do a full rebuild or strip useful parts off and scrap the rest. Every piece has to be accounted for because my peers would point and howl if some of that SLDF hardware wound up in my stores and not General Kerensky’s.”

“And none of it’s to make sure the AFFS gets it’s agreed on percentage?” asked Baptiste shrewdly. “I know there was bargaining back in ’65 over what share of salvage your units in the Periphery would get.”

“If it was just that then I’d take Kerensky’s word for the numbers. Spending money checking to see if that man’s being honest is just throwing it away. No, all that checking is to make sure that salvage made available for the AFFS is either our own damaged hardware or Rim Worlds wreckage.”

“And may I say that the salvage work is impressively thorough?” offered Chudzik. “My own techs are impressed at the… almost mania that your astechs have for putting damaged equipment back into service.”

“It’s a lesson we learned in the Border War. Re-learned, probably. Everything we can repair on the frontlines is something that doesn’t have to be shipped forwards. Logistics may not be everything in war, but it’s one of the biggest headaches, particularly if you let your attention slip.” John chuckled suddenly. “It can lead to some odd equipment selections though. The Fifth Crucis Dragoons have quite a lot of Capellan ‘Mechs we salvaged on Valexa seven years ago, including a lance of Liao assault quads pieced back together somehow. God only knows how long they’ll be able to keep them running.”

Baptiste blinked. “Goliaths? I thought they were licensed to Corean – don’t they have factories right on New Avalon that could provide parts? We were looking at buying some from the Brigadier Corporation to replace our losses in the Periphery,” she added when both men looked at her in surprise. “My staff suggested that if we needed spare parts we could order them locally rather than sending to the Hegemony or the Free Worlds League.”

“Well that would make sense, but they’re not Goliaths. I had to look this up, but apparently before Brigadier got involved in building quad-Mechs, Hollis Incorporated had a try. It doesn’t seem to have done either firm much good, really, but now we have some we may as well use them I suppose.”
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: ckosacranoid on 03 January 2018, 14:20:49
i have to wonder which quad that was being used by the new owners and that are being talked about. The setup with blake and hanse was funny and should have been a little bit more to it though...that is just crying for a extra cut scence with hanse meeting the good doctor and seeing him in the flesh.
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: SCC on 03 January 2018, 16:38:34
i have to wonder which quad that was being used by the new owners and that are being talked about. The setup with blake and hanse was funny and should have been a little bit more to it though...that is just crying for a extra cut scence with hanse meeting the good doctor and seeing him in the flesh.
Xanthos, there was a section dealing with them
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: nerd on 04 January 2018, 18:24:43
So you just killed what becomes the CWS Dire Wolf in the normal BTU. Nice  8)
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: drakensis on 08 January 2018, 07:45:07
FSS William D. Porter, Al Na’ir System
Lockdale Province, Terran Hegemony
22 August 2769

Reconnaissance had identified a hundred drones guarding each jump point, almost all of them smaller M-3s. There would be no jumping in without being spotted – it might be possible to jump in far enough out that immediate engagement wouldn’t result, but the data wasn’t that current. An HPG was just as obvious as a jump flare in some respects so the spy ships had to be very careful.

“It’s ironic,” Admiral Benden had told Kenneth Jones earlier. “Admiral Brandt wouldn’t have ordered us in on the first wave because it would look as if she was treating us as expendable. But now that the First Prince is in command he has to send FSN ships first or the reverse is true.”

“Some ships are more expendable that others,” he’d replied.

Non-essential personnel had been disembarked, not that a warship had many of those. Flight deck staff could be sent though – the chances of being called on to refuel or rearm a fighter were very slim. Most of Jones’ staff wasn’t needed either. The carriers had plenty of spare room for them – part of the redesign he’d ordered had ensured there was life support and barracks for hundreds of excess personnel – and neither of those was going to be sent in the first wave.

Six ships, manned by the bare minimum needed to fight them. And the admirals. Ramirez, aboard FSS Anjin Muerto, and Jones himself aboard Wee Willie. Strictly speaking, neither man was filling a role in operating the ships, but tradition was clear: their divisions were going into harm’s way, so it was their obligation to be aboard.

The brief moment of disorientation passed as they entered the system. Jones gripped the arms of the shock frame and watched. The flag deck was empty and silent without his staff so he’d relocated to the Combat Information Centre where at least he was not alone.

“Fighters away. Take us up thirty, starboard seven,” ordered Captain Toland from the navigational bridge.

They’d crammed forty fighters aboard somehow, loading them into shuttle bays and improvised a catapult arrangement that would launch two squadrons out of the cargo-bay doors – not exactly a dignified launch since it amounted to three cargo arms, each gripping a structural member that four fighters had been clamped to.

The tactical display cleared up after the interminable span of forty, maybe forty-five, seconds. Space around them was awash with crimson.

None of the other ships were in a position to support – they’d emerged pointing in all directions and the orders were simple – if drones were in range then engage them immediately, forcing them to focus upon the first wave and let the second wave of ships arrive and orientate themselves without an immediate threat.

Porter’s guns shook her elderly framework as they fired into the drones, the fighters scattering as they singled out targets from the swarming drones. The old cruiser’s power systems couldn’t manage both broadsides but everything from bow to stern along her port-side was firing.

Eight M-3 drones died under that battering but lasers, missiles and gauss slugs were clawing away at the Porter’s flank. Individually they were little threat, but as Jones had found at Tortuga, enough of them in time could do the job.

“Missiles!” someone shouted.

For a moment Jones wondered if they meant the fighters’ Alamos, which were already launched, or the Porter’s own launchers – responsible for two drones killed.

Then he saw the trace on the screen and backtracked it to the shark that had emerged from the M-3 minnows. One of the M-5s was still here and its bow guns were hurling fire after the missiles it had already fired.

The Wee Willie’s hull screamed as nuclear fire smashed against her prow. Jones was rattled in the shock-frame and the lighting flickered. He grabbed for his emergency mask but there was no scream of air, the compartment was still sealed.

Automatically he checked the repeater from the bridge. It showed only static. The ship status display…

Bridge, bow turret, even the forward missile launchers were dark.

“Roll the ship!” Two voices, his own and Major Kirkland’s as the XO took over responsibility for the Porter.

Jones lifted his hand in apology. “Your conn, Captain.”

“Perseverant and Belligerent are gone,” someone noted.

“Worry about that Caspar first,” Jones snarled. The little corvettes hadn’t had much chance of surviving this to begin with. Hopefully the crews had made it off.

The Porter’s roll was off-axis and the ship heeled wildly. Thruster damage, Jones noted.

“Stop swearing, Jackson. Stop trying to compensate too.” Kirkland unlocked her shock-frame and leapt across the compartment to direct the man. “We need to shield the bow – more shots into that could punch deep in, there’s so little armour left. Tactical, focus fire on the Caspar.”

Some gunners weren’t getting the new orders and both broadsides were firing now, engaging any M-3 drone that crossed their arc of fire, without regard to the limits of the power system. They’d carved a wedge out of the drone formation, but ships that had been engaging the corvettes were now swarming over the larger vessels. Two port-side turrets managed to lock-up the M-5 and six autocannon shells punched through her flank armour while three lasers smashed the drone’s bow particle projection cannon to pieces.

Then the M-5 brought her broadside to bear and opened up. A squadron of fighters dived into the gulf between the two behemoths, splitting into pairs to engage the capital missiles darting down on the Porter. Two of the missiles blew up, shots hitting their propellant. The third detonated short of the Porter – perhaps deliberately – and the pursuing fighters tumbled out of the explosion, pilots dead or dying from the radiation, control surfaces and instrumentation melted by the pulse of heat.

No miracle of bravery could prevent the autocannon from scoring hits though and eight hammer blows crashed against the cruiser’s dorsal hull, smashing their way along the Porter’s spine.

In CIC, Major Kirkland flew across the compartment, a chagrined expression on her face until her head hit the tactical display. Blood mixed with the holography in bizarre patterns as the woman went limp.

Shaken inside his frame, Jones shook his head trying to shake off the stunning effect of the Wee Willie’s pounding. Perhaps through sheer stubbornness, power stayed on and he looked around CIC. What was the chain of command now? “I have the conn,” he said flatly. “Medic to the bridge for Major Kirkland -” no longer the ship’s captain “- and get me a damage report.”

“Drives down,” a young leftenant reported. “Control runs are out. Primary power down for starboard broadside. Flight deck down, hell there’s a twenty metre hole between it and the cargo bay.”

“Keep your head, leftenant,” he ordered, forcing calm. “Have the laser turret crews shut their systems down and join damage control teams, we can aim and fire the autocannon and missiles off auxiliary power as long as we’re not trying to fire lasers off the same circuit.” He hoped he was right about that, the Tancredi could manage it but the Porter was much older. Can’t show doubt, he reminded himself. And right now nothing is in arc to fire on the Caspar anyway. “Handling thrusters?”

“Limited function, I can stop the roll.”

Jones checked the tactical display and then the ship systems display. “Don’t do that,” he said thoughtfully. The first hits had knocked out both the bow missile launchers but the port-bow launcher now showed as green. A fault? Maybe, but if not…

“Damage control, confirm status on the port-bow missile tubes.”

“Aye sir.” The leftenant turned back to his console and meanwhile Jones looked at the wider picture.

FSS Reynard Davion was no longer transmitting and the Anjin Muerto was bleeding air and fire. The Congress-class frigate was fractionally heavier than the William D Porter, but in trade off for more powerful engines, she had thinner armour and a lighter broadside. Somewhere beyond her FSS Robert Davion’s beacon reported that the destroyer was still fighting, but little else.

“Jump flares, sir, multiple flares…”

Half the M-3 drones were gone, the rest focusing on the three wounded survivors of the FSN squadron. It would take time for them to realign to engage the new arrivals, time that the second wave could use to form a defensive formation and co-ordinate their fire.

“Then our mission is complete. Now all we need to do is to survive.”

“Sir, damage control reports the tubes are intact. They were down because the muzzles were blocked by debris from the first strike. It’s been shaken free now.”

“Good.” There was just enough time. “Gunnery, those tubes will be in arc on the M-5 in thirty seconds. Make sure they’re loaded with Santa Anas and fire as they bear.”

The Senior Leftenant checked his board. “Load confirmed. Targeting solution…”

“Lifeboats departing the Anjin Muerto,” the sensor operators reported quietly.

On the tactical display, the roll brought the M-5 into the firing arc of the missile tubes, its own weapons cycling and ready for a coup de grace salvo before it retasked to handle the incoming warships.

“Firing.”

Three White Shark missiles leapt from the lamed cruiser’s nose – just as they must have at a startled SLDF general, more than a century before.

The first sailed past the M-5’s blunt bow.

The second detonated against one of the four engine nacelles and tore through armour into the systems beneath.

The third disappeared skimmed past an autocannon turret and detonated behind and below, outlining the Caspar in light for a moment. For a moment it seemed that the M-5 had escaped, but then the bow fell out of alignment with the engines and the drone tore in two as if its mid-section was mere paper, structural members violated behind their ability to support the massive power of the drives.

The first ships of the second wave, SLN heavy cruisers, burst through hyperspace one at a time. Between the first and second arrival, the Robert Davion’s transponder ceased to transmit.

.o0O0o.

Summer Palace, Sian
Sian Commonality, Capellan Confederation
4 October 2769

Leaving her precious art collection behind, the Chancellor had relocated to the gardens and held audience for visitors in a pavilion of white marble pillars wound around with vines native to Sian. At other times of the year they might flower but today they gave the construction a morbid air.

“I have erred,” she said with no small amount of frustration.

“Please mother.” Baltazar Liao wore a high-collared shirt and his trousers were bloused around the top of cavalry style boots in the latest court fashion. Tai Yang Gwak imagined they must be painful to walk in for any appreciable time; he’d certainly eschewed such boots unless he actually planned to ride a horse. “We’re in public, anyone could hear you.”

“Such as the fluttering courtiers who think that calling me Celestial Highness in public will buy more favour than practical service?” Barbara Liao snorted disdainfully. “They are wrong about both. Delusions of divine favour are a luxury our house cannot afford, Baltazar.”

“Perhaps her excellency would enlighten her servant as to her concerns so that all may be made right?”

Barbara eyed him thoughtfully and then jerked her head, indicating the bench at the side of the pavilion. “Sit, Gwak.”

Oh dear. This was unprecedented. Obediently, he seated himself with his back to one of the marble columns.

“The peacock of Atreus has been crowing again, boasting of how much of the SLDF’s property he has bullied them to sell to him and of how grandly his forces are now endowed,” the Chancellor murmured. “I doubt this pleases Robert Steiner who has Kerensky’s eyes fixed upon him as the SLDF redeploys across the Commonwealth.”

“It hardly pleases me.” Her young heir frowned, brow furrowed. “Although we have done much the same, have we not? The destroyers that were docked at Capella, for example.”

“Yes. And this is my error. Learn from this, son. I allowed my anger at John Davion blind me to his goal.”

“How could you not hate him? He took grandfather’s death as an excuse to invade us, killed thousands of our citizens and nearly stole three worlds away before the Cameron came of age.” Baltazar almost spat into the flowerbeds but recalled his manners. “I didn’t like the First Lord, but at least he saw justice done there.”

“Hate him? Of course I hate him. But I should never have despised him.”

Gwak nodded thoughtfully. “It is important to grasp an adversary’s strengths that they can be effectively undermined. You spoke of his goal…?”

“Few of House Cameron survive – distant kin with no useful claim for the most part. The closest relative to Richard left is his cousin, spawn of a bastard and a Davion.”

“Guerever Cameron is dead,” Baltazar noted. “Was that…?” He directed a questioning look at Tai Yang.

The aged Director shook his head. “She simply fell ill according to my sources. Had someone planned the matter, her children would also have been dealt with.”

“There is no question that Kerensky will triumph over Amaris. None. But what then?” the Chancellor shook her head. “That is the question that all of the Council are contemplating. There is no clear succession for the Terran Hegemony, and by extension, to the First Lord’s throne.”

“Ah.”

“Ah?” Baltazar looked over at Tai Yang. “What do you mean?”

“I must crave pardon. My own counsel should have uncovered this line of thought before.” He turned to Baltazar. “We have contemplated only that the decision of succession would lie within the Council, for the SLDF would put down any attempt to seize power by other means. Even weakened as they are…”

“But Davion has followed Amaris’ example. Rather than confront them directly, he has used his army to work his way within their defences and into their command structures. Into the confidence of their leaders. Kerensky has no desire to rule and no heirs to provide for; the man is almost a eunuch. But if he were to sway towards any Council Lord as kingmaker, or were a less principled leader succeed to the post of Commanding General then the SLDF could readily impose a First Lord of their choice.”

The young man stared at his mother. “But they had not, they would not! The SLDF stays out of politics.”

“So we have all believed. But that could change. And John Davion would have it change. Marik and Steiner crow at the fortunes they’re making at the SLDF’s expense but wealth does not spring from hoarding. The Star League is collecting full taxes in the Suns and spending them there.”

Tai Yang frowned. “The best source of economic data from other realms has always been that gathered by the BSLA, but that is no longer centrally available. My understanding is that Davion has seen his economy shrink as we all have, with the loss of trade to the Hegemony – and he was their largest trading partner. And yet… he has not suffered worse, in fact some worlds are rebounding.”

“That perfidious prince has been a step ahead of us the entire time. Playing the honourable man… well it must appeal to Kerensky.” The Chancellor shook her head, tiny bells in her headdress chiming. “A profound error on my part and one that must be dealt with.”

“We would never accept a Davion as First Lord!” Baltazar protested.

“With Kerensky’s regiments at his back? Oh yes, I would bow,” she told him grimly. “Better to accept him as First Lord and try to muzzle him through the Council than to have the SLDF turn their guns upon us. Even as matters stand they have eighty ‘Mech regiments upon our soil and Kerensky is popular – look at how many have flocked to enlist in the SLDF in its hour of need.”

Tai Yang bowed his head. “And many of them then trained across the border, where Kerensky can be sure that Davion will not interfere… overtly.”

“Oh yes. Davion may not claim the throne himself of course. He could advance a puppet easily enough. His own vote and a Cameron-Davion First Lord, then convince Marik or Steiner to throw in with him… the First Lord’s vote breaks ties after all. The Terran Hegemony and Federated Suns tied together would have vast economic power.”

“Can we stop him?” Her son rubbed his chin. “Not from outside, we don’t have the forces – even if the other Lords supported us, we’d just be painted as siding with Amaris. Kerensky’s too popular to openly oppose.”

“I’m glad you see that. I believe a case can be made that while the bulk of the SLDF was in the Periphery, the Confederation was too exposed to openly declare our opposition to Amaris. After all, our military strength is least amongst the Member States and our economy damaged by the loss of trade with the Hegemony. If we are not the first to offer aid, it is at least plausible that we had good reason to wait.”

Tai Yang rubbed his chin. “There is then the matter of what we can offer to him in support.”

“On the military front, even Davion has only sent the equivalent of two Divisions,” the Chancellor declared. “Since he dare not break the peace with us if we seem to be co-operating with Kerensky, we may withdraw equivalent forces from our shared border and offer them to Kerensky for service with the SLDF armies striking out of the Lyran Commonwealth.”

Baltazar nodded emphatically. “No one could expect our forces to fight under Davion’s command. Not after the Border War. Which -”

“Very good. It reminds Kerensky that his current ally has been an aggressor given the opportunity.” She frowned. “We have crewed the destroyers purchased from the SLDF with loyal crews, but they require experience. They can be placed at Kerensky’s service for escort duties. Since that was to be their role anyway, there would be no logic in their being expended in costly assaults such as the recent battle of Al Na’ir.”

Seeing that the Chancellor’s heir seemed puzzled, Tai Yang spoke up. “Lord Baltazar may not yet have been made aware that Davion succeeded in securing the system where Admiral Brandt did not. Of course, the defenders had been much reduced already by her unsuccessful attack, but it nonetheless heralded as a victory for the forces under his command. The Federated Suns Navy was committed to the first wave of warships seizing one of the jump points and five of their ships were destroyed, another will need at least a year of repairs.”

“Possibly he was over-confident,” Barbara Liao mused. “But that may not be the case. I will not under-estimate him a second time. It is possible he allowed such losses to underscore his claim of commitment to Kerensky’s cause.”

Tai Yang bowed. “The agents of your Maskirova will investigate further, your excellency.”

“Financially…” Barbara sighed. “I will address the House of Scions, make it clear that the SLDF… no, appeal to his pride, that General Kerensky needs support and that the taxes paid to the Star League are vital to his struggle. The withholding of League taxes can no longer be excused.” She made a dismissive gesture. “It will at least play well to the citizens who idolize ‘The Protector of the Star League’.”
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: drakensis on 08 January 2018, 07:45:24
Army Group Eleven Headquarters, New Rhodes III
Lockdale Province, Terran Hegemony
27 November 2769

“If the Marshal had known your schedule I’m sure he’d have delayed his visit to the frontlines,” Janos Grec said apologetically as he welcomed Aaron DeChevilier to the command centre.

“Is that what they call him? The Marshal?”

“Well it’s his rank – Marshal of the AFFS.”

“Yes, but -” There are echoes there of ‘the General’, the way men refer to Aleksandr, DeChevilier thought. He refrained from finishing thought out loud. “I’d expected his political rank, is all. He’s well thought of then?”

“By and large.” The admiral was almost ten years the Deputy Commanding General’s age. “Lucas is champing at the bit a little – he’s a fire-eater.”

DeChevilier smiled slightly – the commander of Third Army was one of his protégés. “Aggressive officers win wars.”

“He didn’t much like being held back on the defensive after Al Na’ir went poorly. Letting him go to Helen was like popping the cork off a bottle.”

“He hasn’t done anything reckless, has he?” DeChevilier settled into a chair at the conference table.

“No, just eager.” Grec grimaced. “The news from Quentin had been circulating.”

“I’ve been out of touch.”

The older man looked at him. “I’ll make sure you have the details later, but Amaris has been pushing military factories to meet impossible quotas. We’d not really encountered it so far, but when the MechWorks at Quentin hadn’t met their initial quota he had the workforce decimated.”

“That’s insane!”

“Oh yes. Twice, in fact. And then their families were rounded up and used as hostages, those who weren’t put to work replacing the executed workers.”

“That can’t possibly have worked out well.”

“The most frightening thing is that they were meeting the new quota – which had been increased, not decreased. Quality control had gone to shit – it’s not just battle damage that needs to be made good – but they were delivering something like a hundred and twenty assault ‘Mechs a year to Amaris’ forces until we liberated them.”

Aaron DeChevilier mapped that sort of demands across the industrial might of the Hegemony and had to hide a flinch. “John Davion was right then. The longer Amaris is allowed to entrench, the worse this will be.”

“That’s my own assessment, yes.”

“And he’ll be building drones the same way.” DeChevilier looked Grec in the eyes. “Do we have a counter for them?”

“Not exactly. They’re disturbingly capable. My team think we might be able build a jammer that could affect their performance, or at least their co-ordination. It’s a work in progress though and the systems are huge, even for warships.”

“Define huge?”

The admiral considered. “Something on the order of fitting a planetary HPG into a ship. It’ll be dockyard work just to fit them.”

“Whatever it takes. Castles Brian we can take care of, but those drones are murder. If we keep taking the losses from Al Na’ir then there won’t be a Star League Navy left by the time we reach Terra.”

“I’ll do everything I can. We’re refitting a pair of cruisers now but they’ll have to be tested.”

“I brought Twentieth Fleet with me. Once you’re ready, there’ll be a sufficiently large fleet that we can target a system defended by a SDS.”

Grec nodded. “Sometime around the start of the year,then. You’ll want to talk to Thomas Belleau about deployments. Even with FSN support, we’ve been stretched to cover the supply lines out to Nirasaki. And we can’t afford to let Amaris take a world back.”

“Absolutely not,” agreed DeChevilier. “God alone knows what that maniac would do to the population. But we’ll have to do without the FSN against the SDS in future.”

“I’m not sure that’s a good idea.”

“You can talk to General Kerensky if you want, but he’s given me firm orders. From now on, our ally’s warships are to focus on escorting convoys and other rear-area duties to free up our own ships for the frontlines.”

That got a scowl. “If this is a matter of trust…”

“Good lord, of course not! No one doubts their courage or their loyalty, but they’ve lost eleven ships out of the twenty-one that have been operating alongside us just in the last twelve months. They’re just not equipped for fighting the battles we’re seeing and I shudder to think what it’s doing to their morale.”

The admiral studied the table. “Their carriers are an immense advantage.”

“And how many of those fighters have died? Their casualty rates are getting near to those of the infantry brigades.” Urban fighting was chewing through the foot soldiers of the SLDF at an appalling rate. It said something that ship losses against the SDS were of greater concern than that. DeChevilier gave Grec a patient look. “Covering our supply lines is still important work, and if their carriers can do so much then that’ll just make them more effective there.”

Grec took a deep breath and then exhaled. “Just be diplomatic. They’re proud men and women, and not the sort of arrogance some of their MechWarriors have shown.”

“Absolutely. For god’s sake, I’m from the Suns myself! Went to Sakhara and Albion. We trust them at our backs; it’s just that that’s where we want them: covering our backs.” The general smiled broadly. “Actually, Kerensky’s sent a gift for them.”

“Do tell.”

“There was a pair of battleships under construction over Apollo when we took it. Neither has their armament fitted, but we were able to get the jump drives working and scratch crews brought them along with Twentieth Fleet. It doesn’t make up for the losses, but you know how few capital ships the FSN has. This should go a little way towards helping them. They might not be McKennas but they’re probably at least as good as the FWL’s Atreus-class.”

DeChevilier didn’t mention that getting the jump-drives working had mostly involved stripping out the Lithium-Fusion batteries that had been almost completely installed. Even the member-states had only a handful of ships fitted with that technology, but Richard had made a gift of it to Amaris.

Grec nodded. The Atreus-class were the only battleships built by the member-states that had ever seriously challenged the Terran Hegemony’s domination of naval affairs. Immense fortunes had been spent upgrading the Monsoon-class and Farragut-class ships that made up the backbone of the Hegemony’s might and it arguably wasn’t until the Edict of 2650 forced many of the ships into mothballs that Terran ship-builders had got over their (probably excessive) alarm. “That won’t hurt.”

.o0O0o.

Army Group Eleven Headquarters, New Rhodes III
Lockdale Province, Terran Hegemony
24 December 2769

The handover of command hadn’t been rushed by either of them men involved. DeChevilier needed to re-establish familiarity with soldiers and spacers who he’d not seen for years. As a matter of courtesy, he’d also asserted that the final military operation of the year, Nineteenth Army’s liberation of Hamal, should be completed before he took over.

“He’s bending over backwards to make it clear you’re not being replaced for dereliction,” Hanse said cynically as they exited the elevator that carried them down to the level of the base holding formal ballroom where the ceremony would take place.

“Mm.” John wasn’t really complaining. He’d gone to Hamal himself to get a first-hand look at what was happening on the ground. What he’d seen had haunted him at night ever since. “It’ll be good to get back to New Avalon,” he murmured, words that anyone listening could write off as spoken to himself.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t warn you.” The redhead seemed genuinely contrite. “Amaris had his claws deeper than I’d realised.”

‘Patriot Battalions’ had made up the core of the resistance to General Greene’s forces, but the worst of it had been ordinary Hegemony citizens who’d listened to Amaris’ claims that he’d ended Cameron tyranny. SLDF troopers hardened by fighting in the Taurian Concordat had been dumb-founded to find themselves facing the same sort of guerrilla fighting on a Hegemony world. Dumb-founded, but furious.

It had been hard for John and Greene to restrain their subordinates from responding brutally. Under the laws of war, they would have been completely justified in executing the guerrilla fighters as illegal combatants and more than a few outraged regiment or battalion commanders had started doing exactly that.

‘Didn’t they realise that we’re here to liberate them?’ they’d protested.

The only answer John could find for them was: ‘Then we must act like it.’ Fourteen very able officers had been reduced in rank over the issue before it was grudgingly accepted that only the leaders of such groups would face trial and, if convicted, the noose. Their followers were disarmed, interned and – well, John hoped they could be released after the world settled down. That wouldn’t be his decision though.

There was going to be a legacy of trouble on that world, and so many others. Neighbouring communities had begun to feud over the sides they’d taken and that was a poison that could take a long time to leach out of local politics.

“Sire.” A trim officer in AFFS uniform drew himself up, three broad bands marking the black epaulette that marked him as a naval officer.

“Admiral Jones.” The newly-minted vice-admiral had been serving as John’s aide since the last of his command returned to the Suns for reassignment and in the case of the one badly battered cruiser judged salvageable, for an extended stay in dock once a yard slip was available. “Looking forward to going home?”

“Home is a somewhat flexible term for naval personnel, sir. It’ll be nice to remind my wife of what I look like.”

Hanse chuckled. “Assuming she hasn’t seen him in the media.”

“Well you do have some leave coming.” John walked down the hall, Jones falling in behind him. “Your people took steep losses in Al Na’ir and Nirasaki. I hope I’m able to make it worthwhile.”

“They also won, sir. And more than that, they had your trust. It’s been almost two hundred years since the Navy’s been able to hold its head up as a fighting service… but you gave us that back.”

John paused and looked at the moustachioed Admiral. “The fighting won’t be over soon. Not even covering supply lines.”

“I suspect that some of my fellow officers will remember that decision too. And that it wasn’t you who made it.”

“Glory isn’t worth the price.”

“Something must be, or we shouldn’t be out there. And respectfully, sire, that part is your job.”

“I stand corrected Admiral.” They paused at the door. “You’re up for a staff posting, so I expect I’ll be seeing you again once you’re back from leave. Admiral Goto’s retirement will mean another shuffle of the naval staff.”

“Are you thinking Rike Moore’s old job at the Navy Design Bureau?” asked Hanse shrewdly. “It’s normally a Rear Admiral’s billet but with the Robinson refits and now these new capital ships, the job’s grown.”

“I have a position in mind for you,” John continued smoothly. “But we can deal with that once you’re back from leave.”

The double doors were flung open before them and a regimental band began to play. They’d been brought from the Capellan Confederation’s SLDF garrison, just one component amid twelve almost fresh divisions. Barbara Liao’s declaration of support for Kerensky had freed up Fifth Army to despatch two of its three Corps to reinforce Army Group Eleven and a similar drawdown of the SLDF deployments in the Federated Suns would leave only two Corps to guard the training facilities and factories that SLDF logistics depended upon. But those fresh troops were going to be needed now that Kerensky’s own Army Group Thirteen was positioned to form a second pincer.

John had rarely seen someone more relieved than Aaron DeChevilier when he discovered that the Corps that would remain within the Capellan Confederation would be XXIV Corps, in which his daughter Angela was serving. Her brother Roger had died fighting in the Outworlds Alliance and the general’s younger children – if they were still alive – were on Terra with their mother.

Who knew what had happened to them? The most that could be said for hope was that Amaris had made no attempt to use them as hostages against DeChevilier.

The hall was thronged with officers. A handful of helmeted men and women in the light grey of Capellan dress uniforms, the liaison officers DeChevilier had demanded even though the main force of the CCAF’s contribution would be placed under Kerensky’s command stood apart in a single block. But most of those present wore the olive of the SLDF and the dark green uniforms and golden half-breastplates of AFFS uniforms stood out intermingled among the olive.

“Commander, Army Group Eleven: General John Davion!” a sergeant major announced loudly and around the room several hundred men and women came to attention, snapping salutes.

John hesitated, having barely reached one of the points of the great Cameron Star that had been laser-cut into the floor, every groove filled with coloured glass and the whole then polished until it was mirror-smooth, flush against the floor. He was no stranger to formal occasions but this one was off-script. He’d been expecting a simpler announcement, alongside DeChevilier at the podium, before the necessary speeches framing the exchange of command. Also they’d given the wrong rank.

Alright, things happened. He returned the salute and finished crossing the floor. Hanse, unburdened by any need for decorum, sprinted ahead to where Aaron DeChevilier was waiting near the podium. He stared at something out of John’s sight and then gave him an approving thumbs up, stepping aside to join the front ranks of the crowd.

“General Davion.” DeChevilier said, eyes twinkling with rare humour. “Right on time. But you’re setting a very poor example to your juniors.”

“I’m terribly sorry to hear that,” he replied warily.

“I should think so too. An officer of the Star League Defense Force must always be suitably attired.”

John shot him a suspicious look. “While I would be very much honoured to be an officer of the Star League Defense Force, I’m fairly confident I’m wearing the uniform of the Federated Suns.”

“I’m pleased you feel that way, General Davion.” DeChevilier lifted two items from behind the podium, a SLDF officer’s cap and a sash. John had seen thousands like them; every SLDF soldier’s dress uniform included a sash with a specific pattern to mark their homeworld. This one represented New Avalon.

He wouldn’t! Kerensky would have had to give the orders and… and this was ridiculous… Was Hanse laughing? No, the bastard was cheering and whistling.

“John Davion of New Avalon.” The Deputy Commanding General was still smiling but more seriously now. “On the recommendation of no less than five flag officers of the SLDF and with the express endorsement of Commanding General Aleksandr Sergeyvich Kerensky, it is my great privilege to commission you into the SLDF with the rank of General, effective 8 November 2767.”

“I…” Words failed John and he mutely allowed the sash to be slipped over his head and shoulder. The three stars of a SLDF General were pinned to it, since they could hardly be pinned to the metal of his half-breastplate. Accepting the cap he donned it, hoping it was suitably straight. AFFS uniforms didn’t include headgear.

DeChevilier gave him a careful look and then nodded approvingly. “Now that’s more like it.” He turned to the podium and indicated John. “My fellow officers, I present General John Davion of the SLDF.”

Even more than the salutes, the applause that filled the room lifted John’s spirits. I can’t have done so very poorly if they’re willing to do that.

“Traditionally, a newly minted SLDF general is offered a command ‘Mech,” DeChevilier murmured under the sound of the crowd. “Gunslingers usually decline; we’re too attached to our usual rides. General Kerensky sent the Cyclops he was offered back in ’31 and hopes you’ll accept it as a mark of the esteem he holds you in.”

John nodded and as the clapping died down he shook DeChevilier’s hand. The other man ushered him forwards and, taking the podium, John glanced down at the cues for the speech he’d been expecting to make. It wouldn’t really work after this.

Instead he looked out at the assembled officers. “I’ve been told, more than once, that there’s no greater privilege for an officer than to have soldiers follow them. Eight years ago, when I first experienced military command I thought that I understood those words. It was not until I came here twelve months ago that I appreciated the true weight of them…”
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: alkemita on 08 January 2018, 18:04:02
That last part with John Davion's commissioning into the SLDF was awesome and heartwarming. Also melancholy. And there seems to be an unusual amount of dust in the air here...

Well done, mate. Look forward to more.
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: Daryk on 08 January 2018, 20:06:54
Well done indeed!  And Hanse's response was hilarious!

Also, I'm very pleased to see Admiral Jones was on the Aegis that survived Al Na'ir.  I was worried from the moment he'd been assigned to the Willie!
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: mikecj on 09 January 2018, 01:29:35
Wonderfully written as ever!
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: idea weenie on 12 January 2018, 22:12:00
A final bleep-you to the drone, and the Capellans are realizing what is going on while being self-aware to recognize their own issue.  This could make the Capellans much more dangerous in the future.

True about 'liberating' people who thought they had already been liberated.  Hopefully Blake and some of his techs can get a viral video planted in an HPG feed, that shows Amaris' rise as dictator and how he has been deceiving people.  It will make Amaris angrier at the Terran Hegemony worlds, but it will at least give people an idea of what is really going on.  And for those that doubt, watching Amaris deploy occupation troops will help them believe.
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: drakensis on 13 January 2018, 15:07:53
SLS Sevastapol, Lockdale
Lockdale Province, Terran Hegemony
17 January 2770

It had been more than eighteen years since Janos Grec had been aboard a warship heading into harm’s way. The heavy cruiser Sevastapol had already had some of the most advanced electronics of any ships in the SLDF – the Sovetskii Soyuz class post-dated the Caspar drones, after all. Now she and two of her sister ships had been crammed full of hundreds of thousands of tons of additional systems, their clean lines ruined with hundreds of antennae.

If the systems failed then the Star League Navy was going to have one hell of a fight on its hands. Lockdale was a provincial capital and in addition to M-3 and M-5 drones, it was known that there were thousands of automated fighters and a considerable number of orbital stations to support the drones’ activities.

“I wish we had those carriers,” he mused.

Admiral Belleau nodded. “It would have been my preference too, but orders are orders.”

“Almost four hundred more fighters…” Grec shook his head.

“And thirty shuttles for search and rescue,” the admiral agreed. “But we’d have to assign them escorts because the General is right about what happened to the other FSN ships. Other than a few ships, it’s a fleet of relics. Brave crews, but relics.”

“Not so many of those relics now,” conceded Grec.

Ahead of the combined forces of Nineteenth and Twentieth Fleet, the Republicans had assembled their drones around Lockdale itself. Unlike Al Na’ir, where there had been thousands of outlying mining operations to secure, here the prize was the world itself and so the defenders had concentrated their forces there, knowing that they would force any invaders to pay a heavy price for trying to liberate the heavily industrialised world.

“Will those ships work?” the younger Admiral asked seriously. “I don’t mean their effect,” he added hastily. “I know there’s no way to test that except in practise. But there won’t be another St Lo?”

Grec grimaced. There had been four prototypes for the systems that had been developed for what was called Project NIKE. SLS St Lo had been the first cruiser to have them installed. After leaving docks she’d gone to a space firing range in the outer reaches of the Kathil system and turned the jammers on, testing their effects without having to worry about causing billions of damage to civilian systems around the shipyards.

Thirty minutes later, Grec had received a signal from a lifeboat. The irate captain of the St Lo had been unable to use his ship’s own transmitters because the prototype systems had overloaded the entire electrical grid and forced the drives into emergency shutdown. The cruiser had had to be towed back to dock and the repairs would take months.

“I’m fairly sure we’ve solved that. We tried the systems on these three ships the same way and we didn’t have the same problems.” Which didn’t mean the systems were easy on the ships. Temperature spikes and temporary loss of some systems continued – nothing as devastating but the enormous power needed to counter the electronic warfare systems of the drones couldn’t help but to have secondary effects on even shielded military electronics that were a few tens or hundreds of metres away rather than thousands of kilometres.

“I hope you’re right. Anyway, we’re seeing movement from the enemy fleet now. Looks as if they’re going to be moving out to engage before we reach orbit. Good luck, Admiral.”

“Good luck to you.”

The screen went dark and Grec went back to dealing with the thousand and one issues that plagued his little squadron. He felt a distinct nostalgia for the days when he was just a wing commander and responsible only for his own life and a few score more fighter pilots out in space, chasing down unidentified raiders.

They weren’t the good old days, he told himself. Someone was having to worry about all this back then too. It’s just that now it’s my turn.

.o0O0o.

It was impossible to count the drones.

Too many drive flares in too dense a formation, ships moving back and confusing the count.

The best guess was a little shy of four hundred Caspars, more than twice as many – possibly three times as many – M-3 drones. The most that could reliably be said about the number of Voidseeker fighters is that some were definitely there.

Belleau and Caradan, the commander of Twentieth Fleet, had formed an aggressive formation. There were no transports with them – that lesson had been learned. Their one mission was to eradicate the drones. Landing troops and destroying the surface weapon batteries wasn’t even open to consideration while the Caspars and their escorts were still a threat.

“An old fashioned slugging match,” Grec noted grimly. The enemy vessels couldn’t absorb damage as well as crewed ships – however vulnerable individual crew-members might be, it was surprisingly difficult to destroy the crew of ship unless the entire hull came apart. The automated internals of an M-5 drone couldn’t carry out repairs that the crew of an equivalent destroyer considered routine.

Of course, off-setting that was the fact that the drones packed considerably more firepower than their size suggested.

“They’re beginning to enter the estimated range.”

“Wait,” he said quietly. Old instincts were beginning to sing. The enemy weren’t committed yet.

A wing of drones slashed down at the flank of the formation. At least a hundred M-3 drones, packed so tightly the tactical display suggested that a man could practically reach out from one and touch the next. Ridiculous of course, there were scores of kilometres between the hulls.

Well before the drones reached the effective range of their weapons, a division of destroyers had moved up and brought their particle turrets to bear. At this range they didn’t hit reliably and few of the shots that did strike killed the heavily armoured drones. But many of the hits were crippling, punching through armour to damage vital systems. As drones lost drives, sensors or occasionally even fuel tanks (without oxygen inside crew compartments it wouldn’t burn, but the leaks tended to act like reaction thrusters) the formation had to open their ranks to avoid collisions.

More weapons were opening up now – no one wished to empty their ready magazines with low probability shots this early in the battle so mostly lasers and particle beams. Forced out of their tight formations, the M-3 drones bored on sacrificially, intent on testing the SLDF defences even if it was at the expense of their own existences.

Achilles and Pentagon dropships of the screening force began to manoeuvre to avoid fire from the drones and return their own fire. Nibbling at each other, shots rarely enough for a kill on each other, the dropships and drones exchanged shots as the range closed.

Sevastapol was the closest of the NIKE-ships to the attack and Grec nodded. “Clear to engage with turrets, captain.”

Each broadside of the cruiser had two double turrets mounting PPCs and a triple turret with lasers. Where possible, the gunners went for damaged ships. Every ship unable to maintain thrust was one more that couldn’t ram.

“Sir, we could jam them.”

“And let them know we’re prepared for that? No, they might figure out a counter. Wait for the main force to engage.”

Finally the dropships reached the engagement range of the battleships behind the Sevastapol. For all the furious power of their capital autocannon, what made the Texas- and McKenna-class deadly were the twenty-four energy turrets along their broadsides. Every salvo that hit blew almost effortlessly through the drones.

At last confident that they could fend off this attack and replenishing ready magazines before engaging another attack, the destroyers began to open up with their autocannon and missile tubes. The M-3 drones’ numbers were cut by a half, then to a third. A wing of fighters armed with nukes made a fast pass, more than fifty aerospace fighters entering the fracturing formation and no more than thirty escaping… but twelve more drones died.

More salvos from the battleships and the surviving M-3 drones were cut apart. For a moment it seemed that none would survive… and that was certainly true but two at least broke through the fire and closed on SLS Wessex. The destroyer’s bow autocannon turret shredded one but the second rammed directly into the Wessex’s navigation bridge. The destroyer emerged from the debris, nose blunted and flanks trailing incidental scratches from the impact.

The damage done was a small return on the loss of more than a hundred drones… except that now the drones knew what they were facing and their computers were calculating how to counter the SLDF’s advantages.

Within minutes the drones were moving again and this time it wasn’t just a single wing.

This time they came like a tide, or perhaps a kraken of the deeps. The M-3 drones spread out, forcing the SLDF to spread their attention rather than focusing on the packs of M-5s moving up behind them.

“All ships,” Grec ordered quietly. “Divide up and move to support one cruiser squadron each. Wait until the M-5s are at least in effective range of our destroyers, then light them up. And don’t forget to spare the systems. They’re still fragile and they can burn out. If you have the time then shut them down and let the techs patch them up. If they’re on the edge of failing then do the same, better to lose ten minutes of coverage than the ability to provide any coverage at all.”

“We may not have time,” the captain of the Sevastapol warned.

“I know. And that’s why each ship is free to do so at their own discretion. I’m not going to micro-manage you and nor is anyone else. I am directly ordering you to preserve those systems even if squadron commanders are screaming at you not to shut down. You are the best judges of what your ships can take and I have General DeChevilier’s orders backing me up on this.” The admiral paused. “Whatever happens, the SLDF will smash the drones. We have the numbers for it. But if this works then far more ships will survive than we can expect otherwise. And that means keeping the jamming systems functional, not keeping them up 100% of the time. The lives of our fellow spacers are in our hands. And by my reckoning, they could not be in safer hands.”

One by one the captains saluted and then two of them winked out after Grec returned the gesture.

“Sir,” the captain offered, “If you’d prefer to observe the battle from the navigation bridge…”

“No, captain, although thank you for the courtesy. I have a whole squad of analysts to manage, trying to see if we can come up with better tactics to use. And you need to fight your ship, not worry about an old professor keeping his staff in line.”

“As you wish, admiral. Please be aware that you have the freedom of the bridge should you wish to make use of it.”

Grec nodded. “Duly noted, captain.” That was a kind gesture on the man’s part. In practical terms it would be a very bold captain who denied any flag officer access to any compartment, but it remained their right to so if the needs of the ship required it. To have that right pre-emptively waived was unexpected.

The attack – two attacks, really, for the SLDF force was moving aggressively itself – converged with spearheads of Caspars closing in towards the flanks. Most likely, Grec thought, they would be trying to weaken the escorting ships – the destroyers and frigates – rather than pressing in now. Thin the screening elements, keep the capital ships’ crews on edge and unable to rest. The killing blows would follow after hours had worn down the human minds behind the SLN’s ships. Computers would never weary.

For the moment Grec had freedom to observe, for Sevastapol had moved in response to an M-5 thrust that proved to be a feint. The other two NIKE-ships had each placed themselves to respond to what seemed to be the actual attacks though and the Caspars were closing towards the range he’d specified.

Initial shots were actually being fired before first one and then the second cruiser began jamming. The electronic signatures made it plain what they were doing but the behaviour of the Caspars would have given it away. Coordination broke up, restored, fractured again… ships that had been co-ordinating their fire with ruthless efficiency now scattered their fire across individual targets.

“Check which signals have the best effect,” Grec ordered as the analysts from his staff stared at the display in fascination. “Now!” he snapped when some didn’t take their eyes off it.

Like frightened animals the officers – engineers and scientists, some only holding military rank by courtesy – returned to their own consoles.

Grec shook his head but couldn’t help but sneak a long look himself as SDLF ships, now having the advantage of coordination over the drones, focused fire upon their adversaries. On one flank this wasn’t even a matter of targeting the Caspars themselves. Instead, freed of the immediate threat warships swept entire flotillas of M-3 drones aside so that fighter strikes could dive past without having to endure the massed fire of the escort drones and could deliver nuclear missiles to the Caspars.

All too soon though, the computers controlling the drones calculated the cause of this new circumstance. Even here the reactions weren’t uniform. Some drones increased or decreased their thrust, manoeuvring to try to find parts of the fleet that weren’t protected by the jamming fields.

Others found a new focus and goal. Seventeen M-3 drones and four M-5s shifted course and plunged headlong towards SLS Norfolk, the NIKE-ship in their sector.

“Cut the jammers,” Grec hissed under his breath. But he’d given the captain discretion so he didn’t transmit the order.

As he watched, the Norfolk twisted and turned, trying to evade the attackers and – sensibly – fall back among the battleships. Engaging the destroyer screen at close quarters as they passed, the M-3s were destroyed but the Caspars closed in and their bow guns ripped into the cruiser.

The jamming in the sector cut out in the same instant that the Norfolk ceased to manoeuvre or return fire.

“They’re intact,” one of the analysts noted. “Hurt, but that shouldn’t have crippled her.”

Grec tapped a control. “Captain, based on the Norfolk -” As he spoke escape pods were leaving the stricken cruiser. “- I recommend powering down the jammers before any heavy manoeuvring. I believe their power system overloaded.”

“Thank you for the information, sir.”

The Caspars managed a follow up salvo, now returning to their previous co-ordination that tore the Norfolk apart, autocannon shells breaking through the hull and smashing the structural members that held the centre of the ship together.

“There are twenty escape pods on the Norfolk and I think they all got away,” the analyst said with relief.

Grec decided not to tell the man that twenty pods would carry, at most, one hundred and twenty people. A Sovetskii Soyuz class heavy cruiser’s crew was over three hundred and full evacuation required use of shuttles. And without power to open the shuttle-bay doors…

“We’ll need more NIKE-equipped ships in future,” he observed instead. “Isolated ships are points of failure.” But the death of Norfolk and two destroyers had cost the Republicans more than twenty M-5 drones and at least five times that in M-3s.

As a kill ratio, that was far more acceptable than the losses at Al Na’ir. “We have our proof of concept,” he continued. “Now we need to work out the bugs so we can do this consistently.”

.o0O0o.

SLS McKenna’s Pride, Mizar
Federation of Skye, Lyran Commonwealth
18 February 2770

“What do you mean you’re not attacking Summer?” hissed Robert Steiner. “It’s perfectly placed to launch raids into the Commonwealth. It’s only two jumps from Skye itself!”

“And a single jump from my base of operations here,” Aleksandr Kerensky agreed calmly. “However, as much as I regret the circumstances, that has been the case for three years now. Have Amaris’ forces raided into the Commonwealth heavily? Or at all?”

“You know they haven’t,” the Archon exclaimed. “But that was before half the SLDF was mustering on my worlds, without so much as a by your leave. Naturally he’ll want to target your supply lines.”

“Under the Star League Accords, the SLDF has freedom to move its forces through any member-state without notice. I recall no such complaints when we were moving to protect your worlds from ‘bandits operating out of the Draconis Combine and Free Worlds League’.” By dint of great practise, the Commanding General kept a straight face when describing the border raiders everyone knew but could not prove were being carried out by deniable assets of the House Lords. House Steiner was no less guilty of that than the others.

He made a dismissive gesture. “In any case, Eleventh Army will remain within the Commonwealth to defend our supply lines. You may rest assured that with four Corps stationed along your borders, there are ample forces to also extend our protection to your people should Amaris be so bold as to commit an act of war against the Lyran Commonwealth.”

“I demand that you remove the Usurper’s bases along the border,” piped up Duke Lestrade indignantly.

Kerensky eyed the Duke of Skye as if he was a particularly impudent insect. Aldo Lestrade II’s bulging eyes and long, sweeping moustaches suggested something with mandibles. “Demand?”

“In the absence of a First Lord…”

“While I personally see little hope that Richard Cameron lives -” That poor, stupid boy. “- there is yet no confirmation of his death. Naturally, I hope for co-operative relationships with the Council Lords until the situation is resolved.”

There was a pause as the Lyrans parsed that sentence. No one could describe Robert Steiner’s relationship with Kerensky as co-operative.

“Do you intend a direct strike at Terra then?” Robert asked more civilly. “To bring Amaris to justice immediately.”

“Regrettably that is not yet feasible. The worlds around Terra are heavily fortified, many of them with large forces of drone warships. Moving them between systems is not a trivial affair, fortunately, but given the immense scale of Terran defences, it would take at least a year to liberate the homeworld, and much of the SLDF’s strength would have to be committed to the operation, allowing more than enough time for Amaris’ officers to gather up a vast fleet of drones, potentially thousands strong, that could grind the SLDF between a mobile force and the defences of Terra.”

“I see, but there are strong forces of drones over Summer – and at Zollikofen and Lone Star. Surely defeating them in detail would make sense as a first step.”

Kerensky nodded. “In good time. Rest assured that the forces on those worlds are merely receiving a stay of execution.”

Janos Grec’s own vessel was the only one of the three NIKE-ships to have survived the battle of Lockdale, but fewer than fifty SLN warships had been destroyed in all, thanks to the jamming. Fourth Army was still heavily engaged upon the surface, but armed with data gathered in the battle, shipyards in the Rim Worlds Republic and Federated Suns were already preparing more ships to house more compact systems, systems that would hopefully prove just as effective without exposing the vessels to crippling themselves simply by activating the jamming systems.

That would take time though, which was why Army Group Thirteen would be launching a three pronged attack on worlds that lacked heavy defences. Stefan Amaris would be given the choice between holding his forces back behind SDS systems and within Castles Brian, which would allow Kerensky to liberate twenty worlds, five of them on the edges of the core province, or to send ships and regiments out to be engaged under far more favourable terms to the SLDF.

The Terran Hegemony was shaped like an irregular diamond, shorter edges bordering the Lyrans and the Free Worlds League, longer edges bordering the Draconians and Capellans. The Federated Suns’ border with the Hegemony was the furthest tip of that diamond from Terra itself. As such, despite the herculean efforts of Joan Brandt and John Davion, Army Group Eleven was really no closer to the mother world than Kerensky’s own Army Group was.

Not to deny their efforts, he reminded himself. Billions of Hegemony citizens have been freed from Amaris’ tyranny.

“I suppose I have little choice but to acquiesce,” the Archon concluded, grudgingly. “Be assured though, I will hold you accountable for any damage done to worlds of the Commonwealth.”

“I can assure you, Archon, that the thought you might not hadn’t crossed my mind.”

As the Archon and his lickspittle were escorted courteously away from his office, Kerensky dismissed them from his mind and checked his message queue. Nothing from Aaron yet. Not surprising, given communications across Blake’s network of HPG stations remained a thin web across the Hegemony. To avoid notice, the stations transmitted only cautiously.

Somewhere on the far side of the Hegemony, Third Army were launching their attacks on Errai and Small World, pinning down troops that might otherwise be moved to support Lockdale’s defences.

The general’s eyes strayed to the map of the Hegemony, singling out a single star system no more than two jumps away from Mizar. Using its Lithium Fusion battery, the McKenna’s Pride could have him in the system by the end of the day.

“Katyusha,” he murmured, before iron discipline snapped back into place and he returned to the day-to-day affairs of managing five armies – a hundred and fourteen divisions – as well as the sprawling lines of supply and communication that trailed back to the edges of the Star League, consuming the resources of three more armies just to adequately secure them.
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: drakensis on 13 January 2018, 15:08:09
Crimson Springs, Lockdale
Lockdale Province, Terran Hegemony
1 March 2770

The Demon fired its Gauss Rifle and Ethan Moreau saw the slug smash through the armour over the Culverin’s right track, immobilising the fighting vehicle as it tried to turn around and bring its autocannon to bear.

With a cry of frustration, the Mechwarrior scrambled his ‘Mech up and over the ruins that had once been an apartment block, entering the street behind the wheeled Demon.

The Republican tank tried to reverse around him, but Ethan brought the Orion’s foot forward, hooking it under the edge of the side-armour. Raising the flat foot upwards, he forced the Demon up, throwing all the weight of his ‘Mech into the pivot.

Seventy-five tons of ‘Mech overpowered sixty tons of tank and the Demon rolled, the turret smashing open the glass front of the shop on the side of the road. The mass was too much for his gyro though and Ethan’s eyes widened as he realised he was past the point of no return. His Orion crashed down on its back.

“Ow.”

“Moreau, I could kiss you,” Pritchard yelled over the comms.

“Promises, promises.”

“Or Johann could, whatever floats your boat.”

“No, no I’m fine.” He braced the elbows of the Orion and started to right himself. “So why the effusions of gratitude? You didn’t take that much damage, did you?”

“It’s a Demon!” the armor officer explained. “And it’s basically intact.”

“Oh, of course.” ****** treadheads. And they said Mechwarriors were in love with their rides. “Charlie Company, rally on my position.”

There were confirmations across the radio as the ‘Mechs of his company worked their way through the city towards him. Gleason was dead, a gauss slug from another Demon had taken the head off his Orion. Chapman’s Orion was also down for the count but he’d managed to eject before the SRM ammunition bin’s detonation had blown a hole through the left side of his fusion bottle. Now he joined forces with Pritchard’s crew as they disembarked from their crippled Culverin and made their way towards the Demon.

Tiger-Free was in one of the Guillotines that filled out the company and she was able to jump through the worst of the wreckage, joining Ethan in threatening the Demon’s crew once he was upright again.

With a pair of heavy ‘Mechs menacing them, the Republican soldiers decided discretion was the better part of valour and disembarked, surrendering the vehicle to the tankers.

“Could you roll it back onto its wheels?” the lieutenant asked pleasantly as Ranson rushed back to the Culverin, returning with two spray cans of paint and a plastic stencil.

Ethan shook his head. “You’re going to keep fighting in a Republican vehicle?”

“We’ll paint some SLDF markings on it,” she assured him.

“I’m not sure we can, actually,” he admitted. Neither of the two ‘Mechs left in his command lance had hand actuators. In fact, as the two surviving ‘Mechs of his second lance moved up, he reflected that not one of the seven ‘Mechs left in Charlie Company had hands. Hooker’s Thug had been the only one that did, but the Lyran volunteer – a Nagelring graduate who’d deserted to join the SLDF in ’68 – had lost his Thug to a knee-capping by infantry the previous day and right now he was back in the regimental cantonment, waiting for a replacement.

“Oh come on, you kicked it over once. How hard can it be?”

“Well, I don’t suppose we’re worse off if we try.” He moved the Orion up against the wall of the building, Tiger-Free doing the same on the other side. Bracing one weapon arm each on the building (Ethan winced as a window broke) they each lifted a foot and carefully placed it against the upper edge of the Demon.

Just as they were about to push, Ethan saw movement behind Tiger-Free’s ‘Mech. “Look out!”

The other ‘Mechwarrior hesitated just a little too long and a PPC bolt smashed squarely into her rear armour. Laser fire followed, lighting up the smoky air of the city, and seventy-tons of ‘Mech crashed down onto the Demon.

The perpetrator was a Black Knight, a sleeker and more advanced ‘Mech than Ethan’s Orion, although about the same size. There were three of them in fact, another pair stalking into view and firing not at him but the fallen and vulnerable Tiger-Free. The advanced sensor probe fitted to Black Knights gave them an advantage in the confines of the city where magnetics and infra-red were almost useless.

“Hostiles sighted!” Ethan yelled, moving up to shield the fallen Mech with his Orion. He’d taken damage already but he could weather the storm of fire better than she could.

“On our way, sir!”

“Third lance,” he ordered, settling his crosshairs over the chest of the first Black Knight. “Move up the next street and outflank them.” The range was too close for his LRMs, but lasers, SRMs and autocannon blazed away, warming his cockpit and carving into the rounded armour plating covering the Black Knight.

In return the Black Knight’s large lasers battered at him. The initial salvos must have pushed their heat to the limit, forcing them to hold back some of their armament.

“I’m okay, sir.” Tiger-Free’s Guillotine struggled upright as second lance joined them. The Demon wound up back on its wheels as the seventy-tonner extricated itself. Unfortunately for Pritchard, the turret had been torn half-loose from the chassis as well.

A second volley of lasers set Ethan staggering. His autocannon loaded its last clip of ammunition as one leg buckled, knee half-severed. The young Mechwarrior speared the left arm of his Orion into the building, holding himself upright but taking the laser and the missile launcher in the arm out of play. He fired the autocannon and was pleased to see the shots tearing gaping holes into the Black Knight. Coolant flowed out from the penetrations like blood until valves closed off the ruptured piping.

The three Guillotines moved forward to close the distance – like the Black Knights they had formidable laser batteries most effective at short ranges. From around a corner, missiles and autocannon tracer began to flay the right-most Black Knight, severing one arm above the elbow.

Alright, we have this, he thought.

With an obnoxious blare, his radio sprang to life. “All stations, this is 225th Command. Code Charlie Omega. I repeat, Charlie Omega. Seal all hatches. Dismounted infantry mask up. Code Charlie Omega.”

Colour drained from Ethan’s face as he heard the warning of a chemical attack. Crimson Springs had had a population of over a million. The best estimate was that less than a quarter of them had evacuated and while there were sealed shelters for civil defence, they dated back to the twenty-fourth century and intel had reported Rim infantry using them as bunkers.

Scanning his surroundings he saw Pritchard’s crew had rushed back into their Culverin, dragging Chapman with them.

“Sir.” Tiger-Free’s voice was unnervingly calm. “My cockpit glass broke when I took that fall. I have negative seal.”

“Christ.” Ethan looked around for something, anything she could get into.

“Just give me some room.”

Tiger-Free’s Guillotine jumped towards the three Republican heavies. The Mech was off-balance, arms flailing wildly – she must have taken her hands off the controls.

Not even a city’s clutter could disguise the rapidly rising infra-red signature of the ‘Mech as it crashed down among the Black Knights, face to face with one of them.

The first explosion within was the SRM ammunition, tearing the Guillotine open at the waist. Cold city air rushed into the chest and encountered the reactor, building maximum power with all safeties off. The explosion had shredded the reactor shielding and seconds later the superheated air rushed out.

All four ‘Mechs vanished in the fireball of Tiger-Free’s funeral pyre.

.o0O0o.

Avalon City, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Suns
12 April 2770

“John, please turn that off. We need to talk.”

No husband wants to hear those words and John took them seriously, stopping the opera playing on the wall and rising to greet Edwina.

Hanse also stood. “I know when I’d be a third wheel,” he observed, stepping around the oblivious Edwina. “See you in the morning, John.”

Edwina let John kiss her cheek and then gestured to the chairs. “This might take a while.”

“I’ve always got time for you.”

“When I remind you, yes.”

“What?” he asked, thinking back over the last few days. Had he done anything to spark this? “I don’t understand.”

“That may not have come out right,” she conceded. “John, when was the last time you took a break?”

“Well I’m not working now.”

Edwina reached over and put her hand on the noteputer beside John’s chair. “So this is just loaded with recreational material? Not, for example, reports on the war? Or the refugee situation?”

The prince spread his hands slightly in surrender. “Just in case something came to mind.”

“Really.” She lifted her hand and cupped his cheek. “John, I don’t think you’ve taken two straight days off to rest since the coup. And not one since you went to New Rhodes more than a year ago! You’re burning yourself out.”

John frowned. That wasn’t right, was it? He’d… well, what was the last time he’d scheduled a break from his responsibilities? Nothing came to mind since news of Brandt’s death at Al Na’ir. Possibly not for a while before that, honestly. “The fact I have to think about it supports your position,” he conceded. “But with so much to do, it’s not really a good time for me to take a vacation. The work isn’t going to go away?”

“And who’s going to do it if you work yourself to the point of collapse?” she countered. “I’m worried about you. This war… perhaps longer than that. When you became Prince I knew you’d be burdened but now you act as if the full weight of the entire Star League is on your shoulders, as if only you can save it… I want Joshua’s children to have a grandfather who can spoil them, not a mausoleum they visit sometimes.”

“Children? Is he seeing someone seriously?”

Edwina shook her head. “You even missed that? He’s courting the representative from Delphos – remember he introduced her to you.”

“I thought he was doing that because we’re family,” he replied in surprise. He had some recollection of the young woman, she’d seemed quite self-possessed. The sort of… Hanse’s amusement when John had mentioned that he hoped Joshua found someone like that to take an interest with suddenly fell into place. “Isn’t she married to Thomas Halder-Davion?” They’d agreed early on that the personal history of the next few generations of House Davion were off limits. He didn’t want to spend the rest his life counting down the days of his loved one’s lives.

“Thomas is Mary’s brother, John.”

He could imagine the chagrin on his face. “Oh. It’s a good thing I haven’t really spoken to her then. Not that I don’t want to talk to the young woman in our son’s life but…”

Edwina left her seat and knelt in front of him, taking his hands in hers. “The war isn’t going to end soon,” she told him sympathetically. “There are going to be more battles, more refugees and – God help us – more atrocities like Lockdale. That’s not your fault and it’s not your responsibility alone.” She smiled fondly. “I know better than to try to persuade you it’s not your responsibility at all.”

“I saw it coming,” John told her, the words bubbling out of him. “I tried to stop it, I tried to stop him. God, I sent an assassin after Amaris. And it’s not enough. It’s never enough. I look at the reports from the Hegemony and all I can think of is that if the League falls then our people will suffer the same way.”

He bent over in anguish and his wife enfolded him in her arms. “Oh John!”

They remained like that, half in and half out of the chair, until his breath steadied and he could bear to look her in the eyes again.

What he saw wasn’t condemnation but simply acceptance. “John, you can’t do this to yourself,” she murmured, pushing him lightly to shuffle aside in the chair. It wasn’t really large enough for two adults but they made it work somehow. “How long have you been bottling this up inside?”

“I… Demeter was the start.”

“Yes, that would make sense.” She rested her cheek against his shoulder. “Before then I could persuade you that rest meant more than cutting your workload to just two or three pieces of business.”

John snorted despite himself. He wasn’t that bad. Or at least he hadn’t been. More recently, perhaps. “I realised then that it wasn’t just that the Star League couldn’t act to save one of us if we were attacked, the Star League couldn’t save itself. Not without a Council willing to put the whole above our individual ambitions. Their… our hatreds.”

“You worked with Takiro to try to rein Richard in. That must have been hard.”

“Richard wasn’t the problem. We left him to be spoiled by his servants and alone for Amaris to get his claws into the boy. Simon died trying to remind us of how much the Star League mattered and he was barely buried before we forgot all about him.”

“You never forgot, John. Don’t say that. I remember how shocked you were at the news. Before then maybe. You put your people first when you took the throne. And after Simon died you threw your support behind Kerensky more than any of the other Lords.” Edwina still had his hands between her smaller ones. “And it’s working. Chancellor Liao has sent soldiers to support the SLDF. Kerensky is smashing every attempt that Amaris makes to retake the worlds being liberated.”

“And worlds still burn.”

“I know.” Lockdale was a dying world. The chemical agents unleashed on the SLDF spearheads hadn’t been the only damage done, or even the worst. Nuclear attacks on the factories that made the world valuable had sent clouds of radioactive dust soaring into the atmosphere. Between that and the aftermath of the chemicals, there was no longer enough farmland to feed even the diminished population – and it might be decades before that could be undone.

A trickle of refugees from the affected regions had become a flood as people saw the writing on the wall and tried to get their families – their children – to safety before exposure built up to dangerous levels. The refugees from the cities hit directly would be the last to be evacuated from the camps SLDF engineers had established for them. If any of them lived long enough, for even thousands of jumpships would take years to ferry the remaining populace away.

The remaining worlds of the Hegemony couldn’t absorb that sort of influx so John had opened the doors of the Suns. Spread across hundreds of worlds, some of them raw colonies desperate for labour, the Lockdalites could be accommodated – with the Suns’ industries struggling to not only supply the SLDF but also to replace tooling and machinery that they’d relied on Hegemony firms to build and maintain, the industrial workers would be welcomed.

But they wouldn’t be the last. They weren’t even the latest. Outnumbered by the SLDF, the Rim Worlds forces were fighting with vicious fury, heedless of the collateral damage. Or perhaps even courting it, knowing that every regiment providing relief to the civilian population was one that wasn’t shooting at them.

“If the Star League falls, then all the horrors on Hamal, on Lockdale… they’ll be here too. How can they not see that?” he whispered. “How can they all be so blind?”

“They won’t. Our worlds won’t suffer that,” she assured him. “You’ll see to that. But you need all your strength for that. All the brilliance – no, I’m not exaggerating. I know what the predictions were for the economy after the Hegemony’s trade was lost and you’ve steered us out of that disaster. All that, and your heart too. But you can’t do it alone, John. Let us in. Let me, Joshua, let us help you. Trust us, as we trust you, to carry our loads so that you can rest at times.”

John turned to look down at her, feeling her hair brushing against his chin. “I’ll try.”

Edwina squeezed his hands. “Come to bed and rest, love.”

“Alright.” He looked past her at the noteputer for a moment. “Just one thing.”

“John,” she said warningly.

He smiled and kissed her brow. “A message for Owen when he gets in tomorrow. To clear a day of my schedule sometime soon. I’m not sure I’m up to a week off yet, but perhaps I can work up to it.”
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: mikecj on 13 January 2018, 19:31:40
Two great pieces, thank you.

Love the armor crews reaction to the Demon
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: Zureal on 14 January 2018, 13:56:53
damn... epic funeral pyre  :'(
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: drakensis on 21 January 2018, 16:37:58
Brockton, North America
Terra, Terran Hegemony
14 May 2770

Ellen Davis didn’t pay much attention to the bell at the door of the bakery. It was a mark of the old world charm that her employer sought for the store that the store had a hinged door with a bell that rang to signal a customer’s arrival rather than an automatic sliding door like most shops in Brockton’s small shopping district.

The young woman was fully engaged in kneading dough. The bakery didn’t sell mass-produced loaves, like a general store or a supermarket. Every loaf was made fresh on site, which accounted for the significantly higher prices. What little Ellen’s school economics course she recalled had at first left her wondering how the shop survived.

Then she’d met the clientele and understood. The upwardly-aspiring families of Brockton, many of them commuting daily into one of the great urban metropolises of the East Coast, had their own brand of snobbery. Fresh bread, hand-made the same day it was eaten, was as much a mark of status as it was a foodstuff for them.

“Ellen.” James Baker was well-named for his trade. “Your young man’s here.”

She blinked, looked around and saw Dean standing on the other side of the counter. “Dean?”

He waved one hand. “I thought we could lunch together,” he offered. “I know I’m a little early but I’ve a picnic basket in the car.”

“Ah, to be young,” Baker laughed.

“I’m kind of in the middle -” Ellen protested, holding up her floury hands.

Her boss shook his head. “I think I can manage,” he assured her. “I know you’ve been pulling extra hours to cover for Diana while her sister’s ill, so take some time back for yourself.” Baker looked up at the clock – outside of Ellen’s view. “Take a long lunch today,” he told her. “Just be back for two. Mrs White will be here, and you know she loves those west coast manners of yours.”

Ellen shrugged in defeat. “Just let me wash up.” She headed for the sink.

Behind her – the store was open plan – she heard Baker asking Dean if ‘this was the big day’. It took the young woman a second to realise what he meant and then she flushed. Small town gossip was alive and well in Brockton. It wasn’t precisely a scandal that a man and woman were living together unmarried but she’d picked up enough hints to guess that token amounts of money were at stake over what happened first – buying rings together or maternity leave.

When she came out, Dean led her to the ground car. An older model, and one that she knew he’d been putting hours into at the workshop he was employed at. While not quite a junker, the car’s appearance didn’t betray the power and reliability of its working systems.

There was a basket in the back-seat as promised – but in the back, under a blanket, were the shapes she recognised as rucksacks. “Dean?” Ellen asked when the doors were closed.

Rafael pulled smoothly away from the curb, not looking aside. “We have to go, Helena.”

“What happened?” Helena Cameron asked, eyes flickering to the roadside, looking for OPD or Krypteria agents.

“It’s not us,” he assured her. “There was a bombing twenty minutes ago, an imperial supply convoy crossing the bridge. Brockton’s the nearest town so…”

Her face paled. “But Mr Baker… Diana, everyone else…?”

“There’s nothing we can do. Roadblocks will be in place everywhere before the hour’s out. We have to move now or we’ll be trapped.”

“But… couldn’t we at least have warned them?”

“You come first,” Rafael told her in a tone that wasn’t quite as flat as he intended.

Helena swallowed. “I’m not worth this.”

“Not worth what?” He glanced aside at her briefly. “Living?”

She saw his fingers were tight around the wheel as they crossed Brockton’s boundaries and he opened up the throttle. “No one wants another Cameron.”

“That’s Njari talking.” Samir Njari was Amaris’ minister for media, head of the organisation responsible for ensuring that the news channels reported favourably upon the Emperor and affairs of state. If the official reports were true, then Amaris was twice the saint that even Helena’s brother had thought him to be.

Brockton would be in the news today, something about how ‘more in sorrow than in anger’ the Amaris Empire had made the denizens of the town pay for their part in the attack on the convoy.

“Diana’s sister is with a resistance group,” Rafael added grimly. “She’s not really ill, after all.”

“She’s not?”

The Federated Suns officer gave her a grim smile. “I wasn’t associated with them, of course, too great a risk, but I kept an eye on locals who might help if we needed them. I don’t know if they were connected higher up the chain but there was some whispering about the idea that some Camerons have escaped Amaris. They seemed to think it was a good thing.”

Helena studied her hands. “What do they think a Cameron can do?” she asked wearily. “I’m a baker, not a soldier! I haven’t even been to college, what sort of leader could I be?”

“I can’t tell you what Prince Davion expects of you,” Rafael told her. “But when we were sent here, he told us there were three reasons to try to save the people we were sent for.”

“Like what?”

“Firstly, it’s a tactic. Everyone we were sent for is someone Amaris would want to have either dead or in his hands, so as long as some of you are kept from him he’ll be furiously diverting efforts to search for you, resources that might otherwise be used to fight Kerensky. And in pursuit of you, he’ll show his true colours to the Hegemony.”

“Like Brockton.”

“Yes, like Brockton. You know what the media’s been claiming, that Kerensky is burning entire worlds for refusing to surrender to him. But with rumours of what Amaris is doing here, who do you think people believe is really committing atrocities?”

Helena nodded slowly. “What else did your Prince say?”

“Secondly, he told us that everyone he sent us for could play a small part in saving the Star League. We can’t save everyone, but the more people who are working to save the League, the better the chances are of averting a larger, wider war.”

“Larger and wider than this?”

“The prince said, and I believe him, that if the Star League falls then all of humanity will face a new age of war, fought with the rage and fury of the fighting in the Periphery. If we can stop that, then we save millions upon millions of lives.”

“That’s hard to imagine.” She shuddered in the seat. Is that what being a ruler is, having to consider such things? Father in heaven, take this cup from me.

“And finally, he told us that while none of you were perfect, nor did you deserve to die for the hatreds and ambitions of Stefan Amaris. That makes protecting you a good and just thing to do, in a universe where it isn’t always clear what’s right or just, so we should take the chance presented to something that’s both.”

“He said that?”

“As near as I remember, that’s his exact words.” The soldier smiled self-disparagingly. “I have a fairly decent memory.”

“Frighteningly so, especially when it comes to household chores.” Until Rafael took her away, Helena had never once had to tidy up after herself, much less clean dishes or laundry. It had been an odd price for anonymity but she’d learned to enjoy being Ellen Davis.

And now Amaris had taken that away from her as well.

.o0O0o.

Charleston, North America
Terra, Terran Hegemony
18 May 2770

Not even the vast trans-oceanic tunnels could carry all the freight that travelled between Terra’s continents. Helena’s tutors had taught her that it was a never-ending struggle to move the necessary goods from where they were made or shipped in to the places that they were wanted by twelve billion citizens.

Goods too large for the tunnels and which didn’t merit the expense of an orbital hop by dropship – or going to destinations not convenient for either – still went by sea.

The sprawling off-shore docks of Charleston formed an artificial reef three kilometres offshore from the historic city. Surface and submersible freight-haulers docked along the outer edge, unlike cruiser liners that received places with a better view of the reclaimed coast.

Rafael had sold the car for cash to a dealer outside Philadelphia who’d asked what even Helena realised were suspiciously few questions. A quick haircut and a change of clothes had sufficed to change their identities to the man’s satisfaction before he rented an air car and flew as far as Atlanta.

Despite the temptation of the busy spaceport, they’d only stayed in the city overnight. Security on flights was far too tight to risk actually trying to board a dropship headed away from Terra, but the flow of people in and out of the city made the city an excellent place to cover their trails.

Rafael had been apologetic that the hotel room had only a single bed. It didn’t bother Helena to share, after three years of sharing a house to share a bed. Sleep hadn’t come easily and occasionally brushing against him didn’t make that easier, but it was at least reassurance that whatever happened she wasn’t alone. There was someone there who cared about her wellbeing, even if it was because his prince told him to.

Hair dye, more clothes… not from their bags this time but a second-hand store. Running them through a public laundry then digging out fresh luggage – harder to find second-hand so Rafael had bought cheap shoulder bags and they’d spent an hour scuffing them up – had taken most of a day.

The train from Atlanta had been overnight to reach here and Helen was feeling the ache of sleeping in a seat as she hauled her bag off the platform. This wasn’t the nicer terminal used by people expecting to embark on one of the liners. The train terminated here, out on the docks, one stop further and the small number of remaining passengers were dressed in hard-wearing waterproofs like those they wore.

“Where now?” she asked.

“Not much further.” He held his bag with an enviable ease. “A little bit of a walk.”

And so they walked along the dock, past what she guessed was the coast guard station – now flying the imperial flag and along the row of ships. Heavy haulers crawled along, barely at walking pace, moving parts of what Helena guessed might be a deep-water mining rig along. Even larger cranes were moving loads on and off the ships, sometimes unprotected machinery and other times crates the size of entire dropships.

“Here we are.” Rafael stopped opposite the dull-red hull of ship already loaded down with two such crates, a third being secured by a dozen men and women.

“Gatcham,” she read off the side. “What does that mean?”

“I haven’t the least notion, but it’s our destination.”

There was a walkway up from the dock to a door part-way up the side of the structure at the rear of the mammoth ship. The door was closed but a knock from Rafael had a young man, around her own age, pull it open.

“Yes?”

“Ian Ralphson and Greta Heller, we’re reporting aboard.”

“Reporting aboard?” the man said blankly. “First I’ve heard about it.”

“Why don’t you check with your captain,” Rafael said patiently.

The door closed and Helena gave her companion a concerned look. He shook his head and leant against the rail. Helena tried to mimic his lack of concern opposite, glancing down occasionally at the water. She hadn’t been near the sea since leaving Unity City.

It took five nerve-wracking minutes for the door to open. This time it was a woman, squatly built with her hair crammed up under a knit cap. “Ian, is it?”

Rafael cracked a smile. “Mike.”

“Shut up and come aboard.” The gruff response defused any momentary pang in Helena at Rafael’s warm – relatively – response to the woman. “Captain’ll see you.”

With the door shut, Mike glared at Rafael. “You’ve got a lot of nerve, coming here.”

“Limited choices. We almost got caught in a sweep after a resistance cell ran amok.”

“Why here, not Panama?”

“Yuri got picked up there, along with his package. I think that route’s busted.”

“Shit.” The woman looked at Helena. “Sorry, kid.”

Helena gave her a shrug, not sure she was getting an apology for.

Up two steep stairs, Mike gestured to a door. “I better get the load secured so we can get out of harbour before someone does a random check or something. Captain’s in there.” She rapped her knuckles on a door as she set off.

“Come in!”

Helena opened the door and entered cautiously. It was a cramped room, not much more than a bunk bed, the upper bunk crammed with cardboard boxes, a desk and three chairs crammed around it. The young man from earlier occupied the gap between desk and wall – bulkhead? – that was the only way around it, and a middle-aged woman in a woollen jersey was behind it.

“So you’ll be Helena,” the woman said warmly.

With a little shriek, Helena tried to back-pedal only to run into Rafael.

“It’s okay,” he assured her and then looked past her. “Ma’am.”

“Hmm. You’ve been as tight-lipped as Mike is.” She shook her head. “Benjy, go tell your sister that she’ll have a new bunk-mate for the next few weeks. Kristy will be in here with me.”

The young man – Benjy, obviously – gave the box-crammed bunk a dubious look.
“Well caught,” the captain said calmly. “Once you’re done, come back here and help me find places for all that. Out.”

There was an awkward little dance around the door as they made room for Benjy to leave, then the older woman waved them to the chairs. “You look like you could do with some hot chocolate,” she assessed, opening a cabinet to reveal a tiny coffee machine. “Don’t worry, Lady Cameron. I’ve as much, if not more, to lose if we’re caught than you do.”

“Please don’t call me that,” Helena said miserably.

“Ah, security. Yes, my bad there. In my defence, you don’t really look like a Greta. Call me Cynthia DeKirk, that’s what it says on my papers. Actually, call me captain. You’re supposed to be part of my crew, at least until we find a port to stash you.”

Helena nodded. “Yes, captain.”

“They’re all louts in the Federated Suns,” DeKirk added, with a sly look at Rafael. “I should know, I married one of the hicks.”

“Is he… okay, ma’am?”

“I assume so. Amaris would likely make a big fuss in the media if Aaron was killed. He certainly made enough of a fuss about Joan. I feel for her husband wherever he is.” The cup in the coffee maker filled with hot water and Cynthia dropped a tea-spoon into it before passing it over to Helena. “Give it a good stir and then we’ll thrash out what you’ll be doing aboard. Have to have some excuse to add the two of you to the crew. Do you have any useful skills?”

“I’m a baker?” she said tentatively.

“You can cook?” Cynthia brightened immediately. “Oh thank god, I am so sick of being the only one aboard who can do more than heat up a frozen dinner.”
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: drakensis on 21 January 2018, 16:38:14
Novals, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Suns
3 June 2770

Halfway around the globe from Avalon City but conveniently only a few hundred miles from Achernar MechWorks and the network of component manufacturers that fed the Federated Suns’ capital’s military-industrial sector, the new Lycomb facility was burrowed deep underground, the surface facilities just the tip of an iceberg.

“Please extend my condolences to Prince John and his family,” Perry Lycomb asked as he and Thomas Green-Davion sat opposite each other, laboriously checking clause after clause of the contracts they were about to sign.

Lawyers had studied the documentation first, of course. Many times, with the intensity of a major dissertation review. Dozens of changes had been made and then delivered for consideration and dispute by the other party’s experts. But at the end of the day, the entire crux of the deal that enabled this factory to begin operations would be approval from the two men that the documents they signed truly reflected the agreement between House Davion and Lycomb IntroTechnologies.

“I’ll be sure to do so.” This would have been among John’s first duty after a two week vacation in the New Hebrides islands, but fate had conspired otherwise. Ten days into his first holiday in almost five years, the First Prince had been called back the Avalon City – not by political trouble but by something more personal.

His mother Janet had suffered a sudden stroke overnight. At only seventy-five, it had been unexpected and by the time a dropship had dragged John back to the capital, it was too late for him to do more than set up a state funeral – to the private clucking of high society, whose finely-bred sensibilities had noted that as her husband hadn’t been First Prince himself, Janet wasn’t entitled to be treated as Princess Dowager.

That clucking was very very quiet, though.

At last, satisfied that the contract matched both his own recollection and the electronic copy beside him, Green-Davion signed the necessary block on the final page, confirming his assent on behalf of the First Prince and the Federated Suns.

It took a moment for the CEO to catch up and the two men exchanged the signed documents, beginning a second detailed study. In many ways it was stupid, painstaking and time consuming, but at the same time it was the one thing that could be counted on – because beyond the courts and legal procedure, the worth of the contract relied upon the honour of the men signing it and only an abject fool would put his name and word to a contract that he only had an adversary’s word, however cordial, for the content of.

“I’m glad that Prince Davion agreed to the clause about the SLDF preferential access,” Lycomb added as he checked his own copy. “We could have come to an agreement without it, but with General Kerensky in so much need of war material, some of the shareholders were quite insistent.”

“His highness is deeply committed to the cause of the Star League,” Green-Davion pointed out. “The exact wording of the clause might be considered a rebuke to the other Lords on the Star League Council.”

The executive ran his finger down the paragraph in question. “‘Insomuch as the Federated Suns is a loyal member state of the Star League, House Davion yields the right of refusal over all military production by Lycomb-Davion to the Star League Defense Force conditional on second refusal at the same prices is made available to the Armed Forces of the Federated Suns and under no circumstances to any agency or realm which may be deemed hostile to the interests of the Federated Suns.’ Oh yes, I can see how they might feel slighted. Still, it’s odd given how insistent he was on obtaining access to heavy fighters for the AFFS. He won’t get a single Stuka until the war is over, or so I suspect. Possibly not for years afterwards.”

“We’ll see.” Green-Davion turned the page. “His highness takes the long view and since you agreed to the security clauses, I think he feels that he can at least be assured that the Lycomb-Davion subsidiary will remain in operation even if hostilities should begin again around Demeter.”

“Oh surely they will not. After all, Chancellor Liao has thrown her support behind General Kerensky, so relations between the Federated Suns and the Capellans should thaw now that there’s a common cause.”

“One can always hope,” the field marshal agreed blandly. It was about as realistic as expecting that the entire SDS network of Terra would suffer a crippling and irreversible breakdown and start blockading the world for Kerensky in his opinion, but a warming of relations with Sian was at least theoretically possible.

This time the two men finished at around the same time and they signed their names, completing the contracts, together.

“That’s that, then.” Lycomb turned to his aide. “Issue the instructions to Demeter to start shipping the tooling here.”

Green-Davion consulted his watch. “Plenty of time to get today’s transmission batch,” he noted.

“Yes, the schedule works out nicely.” The other man offered his hand. “Twelve months to get a basic Stuka into production, maybe another six for the SLDF’s requested modifications. I imagine they’ll take the K5 models until we’re up to speed but if General Kerensky prefers to wait then the first runs will be there for the AFFS next July.”

They shook hands and Green-Davion put his copy away in his attaché case, handing it to his aide. “A lot can happen in a year, we’ll see how things stand. I doubt you’ll have issues selling Stukas, whoever the buyer.”

“Very true. Will you be going back to Avalon City today?”

“I’m catching the nine o’clock sub-orbital.” Which would leave him in New Avalon in the mid-morning, but it wasn’t as if he kept regular hours anyway.

“Perhaps I could offer you an early dinner then? My wife’s just expressed satisfaction that our house here is ready to entertain.”

The field marshal considered. “I’d be delighted,” he said at last. “I should make one last inspection of the security facilities before I leave, but if you’re sure it’s not an imposition…”

“Nothing of the kind.” The executive reached for his phone. “If we fly out of the heliport here at four we can eat at five and have you at the drop-port with time to spare.”

“I’ll place myself in your hands then.” Leaving the arrangements in the executive’s hands, Green-Davion left the office and looked at his attaché. “Hand that off to the courier and be back by four. Catch a nap if you have time, jet-lag’s got a way of sneaking up on you.”

“Thank you, sir.”

The security facility on site was what John had insisted upon in the contract – in case of any attack by terrorists such as the one that had rocked Demeter ten years before the entire site was ringed by intricate sensors. The command and control for this was buried beneath what seemed like simply another entrance to the underground complex, but in order to ensure that they were no threat to the technological secrets that Lycomb had brought to the jointly-owned subsidiary, the subterranean levels of the security facility didn’t interlink at all with the firm’s structures.

So much the better, thought Green-Davion as he was logged past the security checkpoints. The vehicle bays that housed the on-site tank company and the barracks for their infantry counterparts were only a tiny portion of the whole. The entire complex had been dug out by a construction company wholly owned by House Davion and the levels Lycomb-Davion would occupy were little more than half of their true extent.

An elevator carried the Field Marshal down to another check-point where he had to switch to a second elevator that would carry him the rest of the way. It would make regular deliveries of supplies difficult but the permanent staff here wasn’t numerous, merely very carefully chosen.

Behind the final checkpoint, he entered a corridor that circled the hidden facility buried under Lycomb-Davion’s new factory. Within the circle were the life support systems, not just air circulation but also living quarters for the scientists.

On the outside of the circle were the workshops and laboratories. The first door he came to was open and through it he could see a heavy industrial exo-skeleton, something that weighed almost as much as a small ground-car, laid out on its back as what he recognised as oxy-nitrogen bottles were attached. “Making a start already?”

Startled, the coverall-clad man overseeing the work looked over and then quickly moved over to Green-Davion, closing the door behind him. “Everyone’s very eager to begin, sir.”

“Even with the risks, Doctor Cole?”

“Pff.” The engineer saved his hand dismissively. “The previous incidence was because the teams were too intent on copying the Hegemony’s work slavishly. With so many parts and components being obtained that mirrored the actual pre-production it’s no surprise that their purpose was identified. What we’re doing is something new, something original that even the Hegemony hasn’t thought to try.”

Forty-five years before, when the Hegemony first completed their Nighthawk powered armour, they’d responded to attempts by the member-states to covertly duplicate their work with a series of commando raids, eradicating both the espionage cells responsible for stealing data and sample components and the labs working to extrapolate from this up to a completed copy. To the best of Green-Davion’s knowledge, no state had escaped that purge or dared to protest at being caught trying to circumvent the Technology-Transfer laws.

“The Hegemony, you see, they worked up.” Cole gestured upwards. “Starting from then human form, then building outwards with a new generation of exo-skeletal systems, more compact than anything seen before. We though, we are building down. Taking an exo-skeleton large enough to carry the armour and weapons required and then scaling them down into an integrated whole. What will their spies report? That the Federated Suns is purchasing more parts for the exo-skeletons already used for thousands of tasks across the Suns? The shock they will experience!” He shook his head. “Truthfully, Field Marshal, the vast majority of supplies we need will be mere rounding errors to the AFFS’ existing purchases of the kind. The state of the art has moved along over the last two generations.”

“Well, I hope you’re right. I don’t want be told one morning that everyone here has been found dead with a rat shoved down their throats.”

That thought seemed to shake the doctor of engineering a little, but he recovered his confidence almost immediately. “His highness’ concept for heavier battle armour, suitable for the tunnel fighting inside a Castle Brian, is brilliant. We will bring it to fruition for him.” The man paused. “The research is not the risk, you understand. It is when you start commissioning the full scale manufacture of components that we can scratch-build for our prototypes. That is when we might be revealed.”

“We have ways and means,” Green-Davion assured him. “Just get us to that stage, Doctor, and the Federated Suns will have a new weapon not shared with any other state. Not even with the SLDF.”

.o0O0o.

Ashanti, Small World
Lockdale Province, Terran Hegemony
29 August 2770

There were both advantages and disadvantages to having a company under her command now, Alexandra Davion thought. On the one hand she had more tools to deal with a problem. On the other she tended to be given bigger problems to deal with.

“It’s not that we can’t take them out,” Leftenant Martin explained a little sheepishly from his cockpit. “But we probably can’t take them all out without a lot of collateral damage.”

“Yeah, good call.” She was currently on a rooftop with a monocular unfolded so she could look at the current problem without getting any closer.

The issue were six industrial Mechs, each sporting cobbled together weapon packs. As a threat, she was fairly sure her infantry could take them out without any further support but that would take time and assumed that none of the Republican hold-outs were inclined to turn their weapons upon the school they were outside of.

Or for that matter, just missing a target and firing into one of the other buildings nearby by accident. The light commerce and residential buildings wouldn’t stand up too well to even light weapons fire and she doubted that the conversions had military grade targeting systems.

“The good news is that they don’t have fusion reactors. Even if they brew up they’ll likely just burn themselves, not everything within twenty metres. The bad news is that making them brew up will take a good bit of damage.” She closed up the monocular and started wriggling back out of view. “You did the right thing, Leftenant. Charging in with your ‘Mechs would have got a lot of civilians killed. Because of your restraint we have the chance to minimise those risks.”

Martin’s lance had been attached to her company as part of a general dispersion of the Fifty-Sixth Avalon Hussars to support garrisons all across the continent. Given the regiment’s inexperience – only formed up five years ago and pulled together from academy graduates plus a small cadre – they’d showed surprising professionalism. Perhaps they’d been caught before they could pick up bad habits.

“Ideally we want to pull them down the hill,” she mused. “That would mean the slope would backstop any stray shots. We probably can’t get them all down there but even if we were down to just four of them then your ‘Mechs could manhandle them out of the way.”

“Then we need some sort of bait?” the leftenant asked.

“Yeah, something that looks really pathetic but at the same time appealing. A really juicy target for a bunch of terrorist stay-behinds.”

Behind the cover she saw Sammy and Jack exchange looks. “Captain, that sounds like you have a really terrible idea,” the man asserted.

“What does?” she asked innocently.

“That tone of voice,” Sammy told her.

Danny fiddled with his shooting glasses. “Maybe if an APC went out with an officer on it. We could get a bullhorn – I mean, it the APC would have to be pretty quick getting away but if something runs it’s instinctive to chase and…”

“Danny, shut up.”

“Now Sammy, that’s unreasonable,” Alexandra told him pleasantly. “I think it’s a very good idea and I know just the officer who’d be irresistibly tempting to a bunch of terrorists.

Jack smacked the flat of his hand against the younger jump trooper’s helmet. “Now see what you’ve done.”

“Leftenant Martin, we’re going to try pulling some of the ‘Mechs down and into a fire trap for Leftenant Aylesbury’s platoon. As soon as Aylesbury opens fire, your lance is to get up close and force them away from the school. Make sure they don’t fire up into the air – lord only knows where the ordnance would come down. Can you do that?”

The younger man sounded nervous. “Probably? I can’t guarantee…”

“Okay. I’ll take probably for this. First rule of battle is that things go wrong, but sometimes you need to take a chance.”

Alexandra jumped down from the roof, firing a short burst from her jet pack to manage her descent. Hitting the ground with the familiar shock that her knees did not enjoy, she crossed to where her APCs were parked along with her fire support, in the form of Aylesbury’s platoon.

“Brubaker!” she called, smacking the hatch of her command APC with her comm-gauntlet. “Find me a bullhorn. Leftenant Aylesbury! Got a job for you.”

“What do you want us to do, Captain?”

“We’re going to draw some of those ‘Mechs down away from the school. When they’re low enough for the slope to backstop your shooting, I want you to pop out and hammer then. How does that sound?”

“How many ‘Mechs are you talking about?”

“Depends how tempting I can make myself a target.”

“So all of them?”

“It’s adorable how highly you think of me, Leftenant. I’d settle for two but three seems like a better bet.”

“Three of those?” Aylesbury considered the direction of the school, as if he could see the industrial ‘Mechs through the building. “We should be able to drop them fairly fast, but it means getting them lined up.”

“Yeah, this could be messy,” she admitted. “But I really don’t want to give them time to get creative up there.”

He nodded. “You’re the boss.”

“Right, get to it.”

When she got to the APC, Brubaker was leaning on the side, holding out a bullhorn for her. “What’s the plan, captain?”

“We’re going to go out there and I’m going to demand their surrender.”

“Just our whole company?” he asked dubiously.

“No no, just you and me.”

“Ma’am, have you been taking any special medicine?”

“Uh… no?”

“Perhaps something could be prescribed? Because this sounds like the sort of plan that gets you shot by Rimjobs and me shot by a firing squad.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. No court martial in the AFFS would condemn you for letting an officer go into harm’s way,” she told the corporal. “Now mount up and drive out there so I can tell them off.”

With a groan he climbed into the driving compartment of the APC and Alexandra opened up the cupola, standing up in it with the bullhorn in her hands. The engine spun up and shortly the four-wheeled APC was in motion, moving up to end of the street facing the school.

“Turn right at the end,” Alexandra ordered. “If they start after us, head along the street and go for the intersection at the end.”

“It’d be faster to go for cover.”

“Brubaker!”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Satisfied, she raised the bullhorn. It was obvious that that the ‘Mech’s drivers had spotted her. Two were swinging weapons around to bear. “This is Captain Davion of the AFFS,” she declared, words booming out up towards the school and the terrorists threatening it. “Power down your ‘Mechs and surrender. I repeat, this is Captain Alexandra Davion. Surrender immediately or face the consequences.”

Whatever the Mechwarriors had been expecting, this clearly wasn’t it. Even their improvised ‘Mechs were individually more than a match for one APC – and there were six of them. One of them had a loudspeaker of their own. “How about you park that heap and you surrender?” he suggested.

“Don’t be ridiculous. I am the First Prince’s cousin,” she declared with the maximum ‘noble hauteur’ she could muster in her voice. “I suggest that you cease resistance lest you face severe consequences.”

While she couldn’t actually hear them discuss that – they did have decent security on their comms – she could pretty much imagine what they were thinking. Threatening school children would make a media splash but it was also something that would never be forgiven. A royal hostage though, someone even senior officers the SLDF might not be willing to risk…

The Rim Worlders came from the far side of the Inner Sphere. They might just possibly be aware that military service was all but obligatory within House Davion, but it was unlikely they knew that special privilege for members of the family was expressly prohibited under AFFS regulations.

One ‘Mech started down the slope.

Alexandra hammered her fist on the hatch. “Brubaker, hit it!” She kept her eyes on the ‘Mechs at the top. Come on, come on, one more…

The fact she was now in flight seemed to spur them into action and another pair of industrial Mechs – both modified construction ‘Mechs - started scrambling down the hill, cutting at an angle to intercept her. They were slow, lumbering beasts though. An APC could work up a very respectable speed on roads, especially in a straight line. Only because Brubaker was still picking up speed would they have a chance and…

The world seemed to explode around her. Alexandra dropped inside the hatch, instinctively covering her head as Aylesbury’s platoon opened fire.

While the four ‘Mechs of Martin’s lance added great mobility and flexibility to her company, the firepower came from a platoon of heavy tanks. At point-blank range within the streets, it was hard to imagine anything more deadly than the 18.5cm autocannon and each of the Alacorn Mk IV tanks had three of them in the turret.

Each of the tanks had focused on one of the ‘Mechs with the first down the hill unfortunate enough to receive the attention of two of the Alacorns. BattleMechs of the same size, covered in military-grade armour and multiply redundant control systems would have been crippled by the hits they took and at the point-blank ranges of street-fighting, only two of the twelve shots fired had missed.

The three ‘Mechs fell almost as one and jump packs roared to life as one of Alexandra’s platoons moved in to check the cockpits.

Having assured herself that despite the relatively close passage of the shells from one tank that she was in fact alive, Alexandra looked out again, this time up the hill.

One of the Industrial Mechs had crashed down the slope face first, a Phoenix Hawk sat on its back. Only on a second glance showed her that the BattleMech’s foot had become jammed into the back protection of the lumber ‘Mech. The Mechwarrior had apparently attempted a flying kick and succeeded in an inconvenient fashion.

A second industrial ‘Mech descended the slope in even less control – two of the Phoenix Hawks had seized it, one on each arm, and more or less thrown it away from the school. Weapon packs and other poorly secured components broke away as the ‘Mech rolled down onto the road at the bottom. Given the distorted shape of the cockpit, Alexandra doubted that the man or woman inside would be predisposed to fight – although if they were, the Alacorns were moving up and would take care of the matter.

There was a rush of missiles and Alexandra snapped her head around to look up the slope. The last of the terrorists was being wrestled away by Leftenant Martin’s Phoenix Hawk, but it still faced the school and the pilot had apparently concluded he had nothing to lose. SRMs spat out from the pack on his shoulder and detonated against the cockpit of the medium ‘Mech only metres away.

The Phoenix Hawk seemed to crouch and then its jump jets roared to life, the blast of their fire scorching the grass. With the ‘Mech still gripping the industrial ‘Mech they couldn’t achieve lift-off, but that wasn’t the goal. Instead the pair of ‘Mechs rocketed down the slope, the Phoenix Hawk spinning up and over the digger ‘Mech as it slowly lost its grip.

When the two crashed down, the elbow of the Phoenix Hawk’s left arm was speared through the terrorist cockpit, but Martin’s own cockpit had clearly also been blown open by the missiles.

“Get a medic to Leftenant Martin!” Alexandra shouted. And then, hating herself for the ruthless practicality of the thought, “And cut me a BattleROM of that.” Footage of an AFFS Mechwarrior taking hits to protect a school from a terror cell’s weapons would undercut the remaining pro-Amaris sentiment on Small World with rare effect she thought.
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: Sir Chaos on 21 January 2018, 18:05:14
I take it that this "Cynthia DeKirk" is Aaron de Chavillier´s wife?
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: PsihoKekec on 26 January 2018, 02:17:28
And the kids.
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: SCC on 26 January 2018, 02:57:40
Would I be wrong to guess that as the FedSuns this working on creating other weights of BA, the previous post that had them working on duplicating SL tech also has them expanding upon it? Wonder how General Kerensky would react to FS 'Mechs carrying Ultra/20's showing up before Terra falls.
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: idea weenie on 26 January 2018, 20:49:34
Would I be wrong to guess that as the FedSuns this working on creating other weights of BA, the previous post that had them working on duplicating SL tech also has them expanding upon it? Wonder how General Kerensky would react to FS 'Mechs carrying Ultra/20's showing up before Terra falls.

Pity it was before they were invented or you could have (dead) Davion suggesting the RAC/5 instead. Unless the theoretical concept was proposed and he heard of it?

So you'd have the following battlefield exchange:
Amaris forces (using regular AC): Boom, boom, boom

Kerensky forces (UAC): boom-boom-boom-boom

FedSuns (RAC): B-b-b-b-b-b-b-b (a slower brrrrrrrt (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NvIJvPj_pjE)) -clunk (it jams)
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: SCC on 26 January 2018, 23:35:54
Nope, too late, first prototype is 3060. However the first prototype coolant pod is produced in '49, so he should know about that, and XXL engines are a possibility (First Prototype is '55). I'm also surprised that they/drakensis used an ICE powerplant in the Culervin over a FCE.
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: drakensis on 27 January 2018, 04:39:45
Developing a FCE engine for the Culverin would have drawn out the design phase. It was more important to get it into production as fast as possible.




SLS McKenna’s Pride, Chara III
Alliance Core, Terran Hegemony
24 November 2770

While one of the richest agricultural worlds of the Terran Hegemony, Chara III – known to the locals as Pacifica – wasn’t somewhere Kerensky would have wanted to set down roots. A complete day was only fourteen standard hours and that swift rotation could send rainstorms sweeping across the entire planet.

Between that and the high water table, it was almost impossible to build the sort of massive fortifications that made some worlds such tough nuts to crack. Not anticipating such a rapid offense, the Rim Worlds commander had been caught off-guard and the SLDF had liberated the planet in less than a week.

Of course, then there had been three attempts to take it back. Despite the almost complete lack of strategic value Chara had in and of itself, it was within one jump of Terra. More than a hundred Rim Worlds warships and at least two divisions of troops had been thrown away in what even Amaris should have seen as a hopeless cause. Even if the two divisions’ transports had come close enough to the planet to drop, they’d have been outnumbered three to one by the Corps already on the surface.

“You’re sure?” Kerensky asked quietly.

Drummond nodded. “There are multiple sources of independent verification. Amaris has declared he’s ceding nine worlds to Combine governorship and protection. I can’t tell you what the Coordinator is going to do about it, but the orders to withdraw are definitely going out.”

“Which worlds?”

“Basically the entire Lone Star pocket – everything from Sabik to Deneb Algedi.” The Rim Worlds native scratched his beard. “I don’t think he’d give them to the Combine sincerely. It’s more likely that they’ll do the same thing to those worlds he’s done to worlds where he’s losing.”

“Like a spoiled child smashing a toy he’s been told to give up.” Kerensky ran his hand across his scalp. “And we cannot assume that Kurita will not accept such a claim.”

“Fourteenth Army is still monitoring DCMS movements.”

“Yes, but I have little reserve.” The Commanding General leant back in his seat and thought. “I can no longer afford to leave what remains of the Fourteenth in the Combine,” he concluded out loud. “Recruitment and supply there is dwindling and I need those soldiers.”

Drummond folded his papers. “Sir?”

“Yes, you are dismissed.” Kerensky rose to his feet. “Good work, Major. I appreciate your bringing this to me so rapidly.”

“I hope it helps, sir.”

Barely waiting for the door to close behind the Rim Worlds defector, Kerensky signalled the surface command post.

“Sir?” General Armand Surban had done well for himself so far, both in leading what had once been among the smallest of the SLDF’s armies and in welding it together with the remains of the Seventeenth without losing that edge.

“Prepare your troops to withdraw,” Kerensky ordered. “We’ll be stretched to cover your area but I need this to happen fast.”

“Just XXXI Corps or the entire army?” Surban asked bluntly.

Kerensky nodded. “Your full command, I’m placing you under General Baptiste although she won’t have the message yet.”

“Fourth Army, sir?”

“No, she’s getting her own Army Group.” Of all the available army commanders, he thought she had the right mix of diplomacy and drive to manage this. Unfortunate that her army wasn’t in position to participate in this operation, but she had good Corps commanders who could step up. “Army Group Fourteen will be moving into the Lone Star pocket. Plan on concentrating your troops over Imbros III but you won’t be able to land them to reorganise so load assuming that you’ll be combat dropping when they disembark.”

“Understood sir.” The general saluted.

Kerensky checked the available units. Aaron wouldn’t thank him for it but Sixth and Seventh Armies were the best placed from his area. That would force him to slow the push towards Terra Firma but this took priority and splitting the operation between multiple commanders would just cause confusion.

“Eighteen divisions from Fourteenth, twenty-four from Thirteenth, and thirty between Sixth and Seventh.” Two of them AFFS, he noted. John Davion would understand, but they’d just rotated fresh regiments in. Probably for the best if they hadn’t fully deployed yet. The general touched his comms panel again. “Please send Major Rand-Davion to my office.”

It only took a few minutes for the door to chime. “Enter.”

The man who entered seemed entirely too young for a Major’s rank pins – stripes rather, for he wore an AFFS working uniform. “How may I assist you, General?” Mark Rand-Davion asked pleasantly. Then again, many SLDF Majors were just as young, sometimes younger.

“I need to redeploy Sixth Army in something of a hurry. Will that be a problem with the regiments recently assigned to them?”

“The new brigade?” Rand-Davion considered. “Well they’ll not have put roots down yet, so I don’t see a problem there…”

“Major, I must speak frankly. You’re aware of the complaints I have received about AFFS Mechwarriors. I have copied them to you. Now I ask much of them, will they perform or will they misbehave?”

The young man made a face. “The Eleventh Loyalists are a solid unit. I’ve never worked with them but they’ve been trained intensively over the last couple of years to drum the… issues out. The Fifth Dragoons are new, but don’t worry about them.”

“No?”

“No. Their cadre came out of the First Dragoons and Uncle John gave Colonel Sandoval carte blanche on who to take with her.” The young Mechwarrior face was serious. “There will be no… no silly shit from them. She was on Valexa, twice, and she’s one of the best we have.”

“And that would leave the First Avalon Hussars under Colonel Perez.”

Rand-Davion hesitated.

“You know him?”

“I was with the Avalon Hussars. Word gets around. Colonel Perez has been… informally advised that he’s on his last chance. He’s a fine Mechwarrior and commander of Mechwarriors but his co-operation with other arms has been… unacceptable. I cannot promise there will not be a problem. I can promise you that his executive officer and the brigade commander have been given express orders to ensure that any problem is cut short.”

“That seems highly detrimental to good order and morale.”

“It’s not great. But it’s really on him – he’s not keeping his position through patronage. He’s brilliant… just…”

“I could carpet a planet with brilliant officers who have been unfit for other reasons.” Kerensky considered and then shook his head. “You have a direct channel to the First Prince. Please inform him that Colonel Perez must be recalled immediately. I will endorse whatever face-saving excuse is offered, even offer a suitably prestigious liaison posting if that is the best way to remove him. Your cousin will understand that I would not ask this of him unless it was of the utmost importance.”

The young Rand-Davion gave him a grave look. “I’ll pass that on, sir.”

“You think I ask too much?”

“I think you’re aware of where the lines of authority are, general.”

Kerensky nodded. “Yes, and I have crossed one. Thus I must ask you to pass it on discreetly. It is… it is too important in this instance. Perhaps I am wronging the man, but better that than thousands, perhaps many thousands, placed at risk.”

.o0O0o.

Avalon City Spaceport, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Suns
23 January 2771

“I still think we should have called them something more martial.”

John shrugged. “Think of it as another layer of the security. When we put on contracts for parts for a Song-class or a Grove-class, the first thought of any spies probably wasn’t ‘military transports’.”

“That and the size of them.”

The dropships lined up on the spaceport pads were making their formal debut for the biannual air show. While most of the crowds were focused upon smaller aircraft with their low passes, intricately planned demonstrations, or the sheer guts of pilots taking off in micro-lights that mostly weighed less than they did, the dropships got a fair few visitors too.

Certainly no military visitor would miss the chance to take a look and despite the tensions there were men and women in the uniforms of six different nations among the observers. Quite a number had cameras. That was fine with John and with Hanse. The time for security on this project had passed.

Admiral Goto lowered his binoculars and scanned the crowd. “I do believe that the Draconis Combine Admiralty’s representatives are eating their hearts out,” he said with some degree of smugness. “The name’s about the only thing their new Fang-class can claim over ours.”

Tomori Trans Industrial’s team seemed similarly discomfited, John thought.

“The Fang’s not a bad ship for what they’re doing,” Hanse conceded with a tight smile. “Twenty five ‘Mechs and a hundred and twenty-five troops is a pretty good raiding party and five of them will haul a couple of regiments easily enough for large deployments.”

“Well they had to work with the constraints of the existing design. Minister Reznick’s sources confirm that the Fang’s basically a scaled up Lion-class transport while we got to start with a fresh sheet.”

The Combine’s discomfort rested with the fact that the four dropships from Federated Suns yards dwarfed their Fang. The Fang was around the same size as the Overlord-class that was beginning to replace older BattleMech transports around the Inner Sphere.

Shipil’s design had been declined by the SLDF in favour of massive Lee-class, leaving the Lyran shipbuilders with development costs to pay off. If it wasn’t for the natural disruptions of Robert Steiner taking over from his father, the Lyrans might have retained sole access to the dropships but Shipil had decided to off-set their costs by licensing the design generously and the other House Lords had snapped them up quickly.

After the losses over Tortuga, John had commissioned the construction of a new class of combat transport, something closer to the massive Colossus and Lee that the SLDF was shifting towards. Several variants of a class, in fact. Other than the placement of their hatches, the four ships looked very similar from the outside and more than half their structures were identical on the inside as well. At fifteen-thousand tons each they weren’t cheap, but the extra armour and weapons would make it far less likely that loss of a full ‘Mech battalion of the First Avalon Hussars would be repeated.

“It’s a shame they can’t keep up with our new carriers and destroyers,” Goto said, looking back at the dropships. “But that might be for the best. Less chance of another Tortuga – keep them back with the Robinsons in a second wave.”

John nodded. “Yes, however good the defences are there’s no advantage to exposing them to fire from warships. The Songs don’t add enough fighters per hull for it to be worthwhile.”

Fully completed, unlike those sent to Al Na’ir, the Song-variants carried a twenty-strong wing of aerospace fighters as well as a vehicle deck that could hold either the auxiliary vehicles needed if the wing was deployed to a ground base or a light tank battalion. The FSN had argued in favour of adding bays for a fourth fighter squadron only to be undercut by their own flight engineers, who had strong feelings about trying to run field air-bases with commandeered equipment.

The Storm variants had an identical vehicle deck, suited for either light tanks or the armoured personnel carriers that the infantry battalion housed above them could need. There was even room for six shuttles, suiting the ship for carrying marines to orbital stations. The same bay on the Grove variant had space for an escorting fighter squadron but the bulk of the ship’s storage was to contain forty heavy tanks. And finally the Tower-class made room inside its hull – barely – for a BattleMech battalion.

“Not my decision anymore.” The admiral had put on a couple of kilos since his retirement. “I’m quite happy living off my pension cheques and the consultancy fees from Boeing.”

“Speaking of Boeing.”

“What, do you want me to spy on them?”

“Their head offices on Terra are under Amaris’ control,” the First Prince pointed out. “I’m not blaming them for that – there’s no indication I’m aware of that they were actively colluding with him – unlike a few other companies.”

“Some of them banks that are quite mad at you.”

“Word of that’s got out, has it?”

“It’s too good a story not to gossip about,” the retired admiral told him. “There were thousands of companies who’d borrowed money from those Terran sharks and you’re their champion for getting them out from those loans.”

“I’d think they’d be wary of doing business someone who reneged on loans.”

“Nonsense. Anyone who’s ever had a mortgage on their house has felt the urge to kick over the traces and tell the bank to take a long step off a short dock. There’s a natural admiration for someone who can do that and make it stick.”

“It was a unique situation.”

“Probably best that way but I wish I’d financed my house through one of those banks. Oh well, lost opportunities.” Goto looked back out over the crowds. “You think Boeing might be used to funnel information back to Amaris?”

“I’m sure he’d like to use them that way – a lot of SLDF ships go through the new yards and Galax is only a jump from New Avalon. Whether or not he actually is, I’ve no idea. I’m not asking you to actively look for anything, but if you do see anything suspicious, I’d be grateful if you’d share the information with Francesca Reznick’s people.”

“That I can do. I’m a little old for anything more active.”

.o0O0o.

SLS McKenna’s Pride, Asta
Alliance Core, Terran Hegemony
2 March 2771

Kerensky had moved his headquarters, partly to shorten communications with Baptiste and DeChevilier and partly in response to concerns that by staying on Chara so long he might be making himself and his staff too easy for the Republicans to target.

Asta was just as much on the frontlines, but alas not the springboard for further advances at this time. It was a lovely planet, a largely rural world. How long the globe beneath would remain green and blue was open to doubt though – the last Rim resistance had unearthed bio-weapons from somewhere. Not to target the population, but the ecology.

Without access to the central records, Kerensky feared that the personnel trying to determine counter-agents would take too long – vast forests that provided wood of unparalleled quality were beginning to rot and fishing vessels had reported waters covered with dead and rotting fish, stocks that had taken centuries to build up now liquidated in months. But they had to try.

“General Davion was correct that we must push the pace to liberate the Hegemony,” he said gravely, looking down upon the world below. “Increasingly this is what we will find. And yet we have no choice but to pause briefly and allow our forces to recover.”

“The men are eager, sir.” General Watanabe’s Eighth Army had sat out the Periphery Uprising entirely and been left in place to watch over the Free Worlds League until now.

“The men, yes. But our supplies have been drawn down and many units are well below effective strength. Your soldiers will help us hold the worlds we’ve freed so far, and take the lead as we resume the attack, but it will be months before we’re ready.”

“And then… Terra?”

“There is no order I would rather give, but no. We need not liberate all of the Hegemony before we move on Amaris directly but that operation will demand a vast force, firstly to deal with the system’s defences and then Terra itself.”

“Didn’t PERSUASIVE FORCE suggest that only three armies and fleets could be enough?”

Kerensky shook his head. “Actual experience has shown that the premise of those exercises were optimistic for the attacker. Amaris’ fleet – even with recent losses – is half again as large as the defenders were in that scenario. Worse, the behaviour of his troops when faced with defeat means we must be far more aggressive on the ground, throwing troops rapidly against strongholds and even into cities to secure them before Amaris’ fanatics can ravage the worlds. Lockdale has shown us the consequence of being too cautious in our advance. But such tactics cost our soldiers dearly in terms of casualties.”

“I had heard that some Corps have been reduced well below their pre-war strength,” Watanabe said cautiously.

“Entire armies. The original Nineteenth Army only exists because much of Fifth Army was transferred there. Of the twenty-one divisions they could boast eight years ago, six remain intact. The others were cannibalised of personnel and equipment to keep those six divisions and twelve more from Fifth Army operational.” Kerensky turned away from the window. “That consolidation is what other officers should have been doing, but too many have clung to the belief that men and machines will arrive as if it were peacetime, keeping units intact well past the point they can act with some semblance of their paper strength.”

“Tradition is a powerful force.”

“We no longer have endless coffers, nor are young men and women streaming into our ranks from academies and schools across the Inner Sphere. You yourself have seen how Marik has eaten away at such sources within the Free Worlds League.” The Commanding General exhaled slowly. “We must consolidate, however much I wish to press on. Your army and what remains of our forces in the Capellan Confederation will replenish our ranks to an extent, but any Corps unable to field at least five combat ready divisions is to be disbanded and its forces will be reassigned.” He paused. “I exclude your own III Corps as it is otherwise at full strength.”

“Thank you, sir.” III Corps had detached two divisions to reinforce the Periphery actions before the full scale of the crisis there had been established. After almost a decade, the Corps had grown accustomed to working with a larger number of independent regiments in lieu of the divisions.

“I am not doing you a favour, General Watanabe. For the last several years your army has effectively been a training command, in which you have done well. Now I must throw them into the inferno and you must be prepared. Of the fifteen armies still in service, yours is second only to the Eleventh in size and they are tied down guarding our supply lines across the Commonwealth. Your target is among the hardest we will face short of Terra itself.”

It didn’t take Watanabe long to spread out a mental map of the Hegemony. “Tyrfing,” he guessed.

“Correct. Not only the capital of a province, but also breaching the line of fortified worlds between our spearhead and Terra Firma province. If we are to complete the encircling of the Alliance Core, not to mention relieve at last the fortresses holding out on Carver V, then Tyrfing is vital as a base of operations.”

“Then we’ll take it back, sir.”

”Study Lockdale, general. Consider the fighting there and the damage to the world as the best-case scenario for what you will face. And steel yourself for heavy casualties.”
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: drakensis on 27 January 2018, 04:40:01
Nueva Asuncion, Deneb Algedi
Lone Star Province, Terran Hegemony
16 April 2771

“So walk me through what happened?”

“My crew and I went out for a quiet drink,” Captain Marge Pritchard began.

She was going to have a spectacular black eye tomorrow, Ethan thought. “Mmm,” he said, looking at the location the four of them had chosen for this quiet drink. By the mysterious alchemy that always took place, bars and other entertainment venues had sprung up around the 225th Division’s base, just as they no doubt had for the rest of the SLDF. Equally predictably a rough pecking order had emerged amongst these entertainments and Baroni’s wasn’t a place the young Major would have gone for a quiet drink.

“We did!” the captain protested with an air of offended innocence. “Anyway, we came across some of our fine comrades from the Sixtieth Jump Division…”

“They’re part of the 225th now, M- Captain.”

“Tell them that. Anyway, the fellow who looks like his mother was a Banshee made a comment about a Davion tank crew. So we asked where and they pointed at us.”

Ethan sighed. It wasn’t difficult to identify the lieutenant in question. Nor was it fair – Geordie Scott’s face did bear an unfortunate resemblance to the skull-like visage of ‘Mech in question but he hadn’t been born like that. Proper reconstructive surgery would have put him out of the fighting for at least six months and so, like many of his comrades from Hegemony worlds, he’d opted for just enough of a patch-job to be sent back to his unit.

In Scott’s case to a unit that had been disbanded almost as soon as he returned, the remaining elements of his division broken up to rebuild other units, such as the 225th BattleMech Division which had received over eighty Mechwarriors and two-thirds of an infantry brigade from the Sixtieth.

“I believe I can reconstruct the chain of events from there,” he said in a resigned tone. “Do you wish to take this further formally?”

Ranson shook his head vigorously and Steuben, perched on one of the few remaining bar stools, raised an eyebrow at the question. Huber Koopman would not be contributing to the conversation as he was one of the participants in the little incident being taken back to the base hospital.

“I don’t think that that’s strictly necessary, Major.” Pritchard didn’t stumble over his rank but Ethan was sure she was mentally substituting his name – it was bloody awkward he’d been promoted past his former mentor. And the fact that two-thirds of his battalion was made up of Mechwarriors from the Sixtieth didn’t help.

He shook his head. “Right. Half the bill for damages will be your crew’s responsibility. If you can’t cover it then the division will cover it and it’ll come out of your wages. Except when your duties require it, you’re confined to base for the next month.” By which time, hopefully, they’d be shipping out.

“Understood, sir.” She paused. “You know, this wouldn’t have happened if we had a Demon assigned to us.”

“I believe they run to a bit over two million dollars per unit,” Ethan shot back. “If we garnished your entire wages from now until we get to Terra, that still wouldn’t cover buying a new one – assuming the factory survives liberation.”

“One would hope that Terra will be liberated before 2850,” Steuben murmured, having apparently done the math.

“At least your tank was factory fresh.” Ethan’s replacement for his Orion was a Marauder that had once been at three distinct ‘Mechs destroyed in previous fighting. They hadn’t even all been the same model, the left arm and leg were from a MAD-1R while the torso and right leg came from two different MAD-2Rs. The smell of the last occupant of the cockpit had to be in his imagination though – that had been a complete rebuild with factory parts according to the documentation that had accompanied the ‘Mech from the salvage yards back on the edge of the Federated Suns.

“The good old days, eh?” Pritchard said philosophically. “When a scratch on the paintwork was enough to order a brand new tank all the way from Terra.”

“I assume that you’re exaggerating, although I wasn’t with the SLDF back then.”

“Just a little,” the tank commander admitted.

Ethan shook his head and then made a pushing gesture towards the door. “Okay, get moving before I have to ask the MPs for leg-irons.”

The three tankers obediently walked out and crammed themselves into the back of the jeep Ethan had driven out from the cantonment.

“Damned Muscovites, always sticking together.” The comment from one of the other brawlers, who were riding back to base in a MP van was just a bit too loud for Ethan to ignore.

Leaving the other three behind, he walked over. “Sergeant, what’s the unit patch on your uniform?”

There was a mumble.

“Yeah, Battle of Moscow division. The same as every other non-civilian here. If it wasn’t for the chip in your shoulder, I could load those three in the van with the rest of you and not have to drop more of you off at the hospital before we’re done.”

“Sir.”

“Now, have you changed your mind about bringing in formal charges rather than summary justice?”

“No sir.”

“Then take some comfort,” Ethan said sharply. “That they’re splitting their half of the damages four ways and not seven. Save the aggression for the Rimjobs.”

We could actually do with some of them, he thought to himself. A battle would be bloody but it’d give the troops someone other than each other to take their frustrations out on. And if we can get them fighting as a unit then maybe the division will act like one the rest of the time.

.o0O0o.

Avalon City, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Suns
4 May 2771

Felix Maltin gave John a stony look as he took his seat at the conference table. The Taurian ambassador’s expression might have been slightly warmer as he looked towards David Avellar – but perhaps not. The son of Allyce Avellar was barely out of his teens and John was pleased to see that he was able to keep his emotions more in check than his mother or – in the other direction – than the Taurian at the table.

“Thank you for visiting, gentlemen.” John rested his hands on the table top and refrained from mentioning it had taken three years to persuade the other two governments to re-establish diplomatic contact beyond the most basic levels.

“The Protector feels that the relief supplies your people provided ours at least merited turning you down face to face when you invite us back to the Star League,” Maltin replied bluntly.

Avellar cleared his throat. “I don’t believe that’s on the agenda that the First Prince provided, Ambassador.”

“Quite. Diplomacy is the art of the possible, after all.” John smiled drily. “As it happens I’m not empowered to make such an offer anyway, so we don’t need to waste time on the question.”

“Not that an invitation’s necessary – as far as the Star League is concerned their worlds are still part of the League,” Hanse added from behind Avellar where he was studying the young man’s noteputer. Not that it was likely the Alliance’s representative had brought any sensitive data but it might yield some insight into his thinking.

John considered and then leant back slightly. “Off the record, I can’t see the rest of Star League Council yielding the League’s claims to rule over your realms, but the SLDF is in no position to enforce that and won’t be for at least ten to twenty years. Quite possibly until the next century. I personally wouldn’t vote for invading you again…”

“Generous, considering you had troops on both of our realms.”

“I don’t deny that, nor do I deny that I profited by the taxes placed on your realms in ’53. But I try to learn from my mistakes.”

“Setting aside what we’re not here to discuss, perhaps we could begin the actual agenda,” suggested Avellar. “Most of which is economic in nature.”

Maltin nodded grudgingly. “Despite… yes, I admit, considerable help from the people of the Federated Suns, our infrastructure has been severely damaged by Kerensky’s soldiers.”

“The same is true on the worlds of the Outworlds Alliance,” Avellar admitted. “One suspects that we won’t be receiving many bids from Hegemony firms to rebuild, they have concerns closer to home.”

“Respectfully, gentlemen, your realms lack the tools to rebuild the infrastructure that’s been damaged. That means you need external trade to get out of the hole you’re in economically.”

“We lack the tools because of the Star League’s exploitation.”

“That’s true and I understand that the last thing you’d ever want to do, Ambassador Maltin, is to open your people up to that again. On the other hand, my own realm has its own economic problems. Mobilising capacity to supply the SLDF has at least let me put people back to work and build up our manufacturing base, but at the end of the day we had our own dependencies on the Hegemony when it came to manufacturing.”

“And I suppose you have a solution?”

“Maybe. Not a miracle, but something that might be a step in the right direction.” John tapped a control and brought up a display of both his guests’ home states and the broad expanse of the Federated Suns that lay between them. “What I’m suggesting is that we combine our efforts. There are things we all need if we’re to avoid economic collapse. If we’re all individually building up those industries then there’ll be a lot of redundancy. In the long run that means self-sufficiency but right now none of us can afford that. But if – just for example - the Concordat is willing to sell some of the fusion reactors they build to the Outworlds and to the Suns, that means the Outworlds can afford to neglect that for now and focus on water filters which they can sell to Concordat and the Suns.”

Maltin rubbed his chin. “And similarly we become a captive market for you in other areas. Because you won’t be dependent on us. Neither of us could supply enough goods for you to depend on.”

“That’s true. And eventually you’ll both want to develop your own capacities. But the trade would still help us, particularly in the less well developed worlds that border your realms. And trade between you would far easier for you if you can use trade routes through the Suns.”

“And profitable for you, again in your outlying worlds that would be on that route.” Avellar drummed his fingers on the table. “I don’t speak for Taurus but we can’t risk opening up our economy to the Suns or we’d be swamped.”

“I understand, but more limited trade, under your control, can get your economies started again. Once you don’t need the trade, you can scale back and even cut off those ties again.” John turned to Maltin. “There need to be controls – you must have seen that with the way losing the BSLA regulations left the Concordat’s worlds open to wider exploitation. But those controls need to be in your hands.”

“I’m unsure if our Executive Parliament would wish to impose such a degree of government control,” said Avellar thoughtfully. “We don’t have the centralised authority which your realms historically wield.”

“And you see how well that has gone for you?” Maltin shook his head. “If you don’t begin to rein on some of your dissidents, then independence from the League will lead to your disintegration.”

“I understand your point, Ambassador.”

The two periphery officials exchanged wary looks. “I trust you won’t take offense, Lord Avellar, if I point out that some of the issues are vested in your family.”

David Avellar’s eyes tightened and as the looks became glares, it wasn’t the younger of the two who looked away first.

“This one has steel in him. Not like his mother.” Hanse moved around and studied Avellar’s face. “He could be a valuable ally.”

“How you govern your people is your choice,” John pointed out in an indirect reminder to the Taurian. “There would be a lot of details to establish.”

Maltin folded his arms. “Including where we might be able to get the capital for the investments required for this. You can’t afford to loan us that sort of money, not with your own economy struggling and all your spare reserves supporting the SLDF. For that matter, you’re still on the Star League dollar and neither of us is.”

“Something that’s done its own damage,” Avellar admitted reluctantly.

“Our banks are prepared to recognise your currencies.” John looked at the youngest man at the table. “And we can mint coins and bank notes relatively easily if you’re willing to let us do that for you. Getting physical cash out into the hands of your citizens has been one of the problems you’ve been struggling with according to my financial advisors. If your people can go to banks and exchange their dollars for escudos then it should invest a little more confidence in their value.”

“And then we use those dollars to buy from you.”

“Until you have your own exports available – at that point we’ll need escudos to buy from you.” John snorted. “A lot of my economists have been digging out historical texts to study how to cope with multiple currencies.”

Maltin shook his head. “If he makes your money then he owns your money,” he warned.

“I’d be happy for the minting to be done somewhere like Tancredi IV, where Alliance military observers can ensure that the minting equipment is disposed of or even handed over once the agreed upon quantity has been produced. Details can be discussed.” John spread his hands. “I realise the Concordat doesn’t have the same problem but unlike the Alliance you still have some functioning military factories.”

“We need those to rebuild our Defense Force!” the ambassador protested.

“Ambassador, you can’t afford their output with the way your budget is stretched. And I have a great deal of influence over where the SLDF is spending its budget at the moment. General Kerensky is willing to look the other way about buying from your factories in order to get the supplies he needs – and that gives you an influx of capital you can spend on what you need to get your economy back on its feet.”

“Selling him the weapons he needs to subjugate us again.”

“Selling him the weapons he needs to defeat Amaris, just as Amaris sold you the weapons you used to draw the SLDF away from Terra.” John stared the Taurian in the eye. “There are still people crossing the border to enlist in the SLDF for the chance to take revenge on the Usurper. Nicoletta Calderon can sell this to your people as a short-term measure.”

Maltin frowned. “Perhaps…” he said grudgingly. “I suppose we have few choices but to do business with you.”
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: Sir Chaos on 27 January 2018, 06:24:10
Pity it was before they were invented or you could have (dead) Davion suggesting the RAC/5 instead. Unless the theoretical concept was proposed and he heard of it?

So you'd have the following battlefield exchange:
Amaris forces (using regular AC): Boom, boom, boom

Kerensky forces (UAC): boom-boom-boom-boom

FedSuns (RAC): B-b-b-b-b-b-b-b (a slower brrrrrrrt (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NvIJvPj_pjE)) -clunk (it jams)

Followed by:

Amaris: Ah, foolish Feddies, relying on crappy technology.

FedSuns: *unjams RAC*

Amaris: You are helpless before me. Now I will kill you.

FedSuns: dakka-dakka-dakka-dakka
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: drakensis on 27 January 2018, 11:08:55
SLDF Organisation 2765-2773

As of the mid-28th Century the SLDF Regular Army was made up of twenty armies spread across the ten member states. The five geographically smaller states were each garrisoned by a single army while the five larger states were each assigned three armies. The exact strength of an army varied depending on their specific responsibilities - armies deployed to the relatively compact Capellan Confederation were less than half the size of those in the sprawling and obstreperous Draconis Combine.

Each army comprised a number of divisions, comprising nine line regiments as well as support elements equivalent to at least three additional regiments (sometimes more). These divisions were grouped into Corps with specific geographical responsibilities. Both the Corps and Army level commands also included a number of independent regiments not associated with any division - typically this was where the majority of SLDF armored forces were concentrated. The number of divisions in an army gives a reasonable idea of their relative size and fighting power.

First Army (Terran Hegemony) 23 Divisions

Second Army (Federated Suns) 23 Divisions
Third Army (Federated Suns) 25 Divisions
Fourth Army (Federated Suns) 24 Divisions

Fifth Army (Capellan Confederation) 19 Divisions
Sixth Army (Capellan Confederation) 15 Divisions
Seventh Army (Capellan Confederation) 15 Divisions

Eighth Army (Free Worlds League) 22 Divisions
Ninth Army (Free Worlds League) 17 Divisions
Tenth Army (Free Worlds League) 19 Divisions

Eleventh Army (Lyran Commonwealth) 24 Divisions
Twelfth Army (Lyran Commonwealth) 19 Divisions
Thirteenth Army (Lyran Commonwealth) 19 Divisions

Fourteenth Army (Draconis Combine) 24 Divisions
Fifteenth Army (Draconis Combine) 34 Divisions
Sixteenth Army (Draconis Combine) 34 Divisions

Seventeenth Army (Magistracy of Canopus) 21 Divisions

Eighteenth Army (Outworlds Alliance) 21 Divisions

Nineteenth Army (Taurian Concordat) 21 Divisions

Twentieth Army (Rim Worlds Republic) 22 Divisions

In 2755, Richard Cameron ordered the SLDF to withdraw entirely from the Rim Worlds Republic. Over the course of three years, Twentieth Army redeployed gradually out of their traditional posting and into bases in the Lyran Commonwealth. No plan had been made for where they should go and many expected they would return as soon as the First Lord came to his senses. This did not transpire and it was decided in 2760 that they would be sent to the expanding Outworlds Alliance. As of 2765 this deployment had yet to be completed with divisions and regiments scattered across the Lyran Commonwealth and Draconis Combine.

The Periphery Uprising forced massive redeployment. The Seventeenth, Eighteenth and Ninteenth Armies were overwhelmed by the fighting and each of the three battlefronts received the attention of entire Army Groups. In addition to carrying out the long delayed redeployment of the Twentieth Army, ten additional armies were moved out of member-states,  leaving a single army responsible for each. As Pro-Periphery terrorism and inter-realm skirmishing was also on the rise, much of the First Army deployed out of the Terran Hegemony to support the other five Inner Sphere military regions.

All three army groups took heavy losses over two years of fighting, to which must be added the effective eradication of First Army's I Corps during the Amaris Coup.

Third Army (Army Group Eleven - Taurian Concordat) 15 Divisions
Fourth Army (Army Group Eleven - Taurian Concordat) 13 Divisions
Sixth Army (Army Group Eleven - Taurian Concordat) 7 Divisions
Seventh Army (Army Group Eleven - Taurian Concordat) 9 Divisions
Nineteenth Army (Army Group Eleven - Taurian Concordat) 11 Divisions

Ninth Army (Army Group Twelve - Magistracy of Canopus) 11 Divisions
Tenth Army (Army Group Twelve - Magistracy of Canopus) 11 Divisions
Twelfth Army (Army Group Twelve - Magistracy of Canopus) 12 Divisions
Thirteenth Army (Army Group Twelve - Magistracy of Canopus) 12 Divisions
Seventeenth Army (Army Group Twelve - Magistracy of Canopus) 9 Divisions

Fifteenth Army (Army Group Thirteen - Outworlds Alliance) 22 Divisions
Sixteenth Army (Army Group Thirteen - Outworlds Alliance) 20 Divisions
Eighteenth Army (Army Group Thirteen - Outworlds Alliance) 13 Divisions
Twentieth Army (Army Group Thirteen - Outworlds Alliance) 10 Divisions

First Army (Terran Hegemony) 15 Divisions

Second Army (Federated Suns) 23 Divisions

Fifth Army (Capellan Confederation) 19 Divisions

Eighth Army (Free Worlds League) 22 Divisions

Eleventh Army (Lyran Commonwealth) 24 Divisions

Fourteenth Army (Draconis Combine) 24 Divisions

Faced with the reality of the Amaris Coup, the SLDF further reorganised. In order to make good losses, the First and Twentieth Armies were disbanded and their troops reassigned to fill out more intact organisations. First Army units primarily joined Army Group Eleven while Twentieth Army troops were divided between the armies of the other two Army Groups. In order to control the borders of the Hegemony and protect SLDF infrastructure in the Inner Sphere, the other five garrison armies remained largely in place.

Army Group Eleven was assigned to return directly to the Terran Hegemony while Army Groups Twelve and Thirteen would carry out the conquest of the Rim Worlds Republic. Twelfth Army was transferred from Army Group Twelve to Army Group Thirteen due to their familiarity with the staging areas that would be used.

The Rim Worlds Republic was secured relatively rapidly but the logistical problems of sending the SLDF's forces there back to the Terran Hegemony would defer the opening of a second front until 2770. While the Federated Suns' resources aided greatly in this, they were primarily consumed by Army Group Eleven, which was already in action. Both Second and Fifth Armies had been reduced to half their previous size as personnel and equipment were transferred from them to replace battlefield losses.

When the time came for this operation, Army Group Twelve was functionally disbanded with Tenth Army merged into Ninth Army to garrison the Rim Worlds Republic while Thirteenth and Seventeenth Army joined Army Group Thirteen, which would carry out the actual invasion of the Terran Hegemony through the Lyran Commonwealth. Two Corps were also detached from Fourteenth Army to join Kerensky's operations and Seventeenth Army's survivors would be merged into the similarly depleted Thirteenth Army.

Third Army (Army Group Eleven - DeChevilier) 14 Divisions
Fourth Army (Army Group Eleven - DeChevilier) 13 Divisions
Sixth Army (Army Group Eleven - DeChevilier) 15 Divisions + 2 AFFS Divisions
Seventh Army (Army Group Eleven - DeChevilier) 13 Divisions
Nineteenth Army (Army Group Eleven - DeChevilier) 18 Divisions

Twelfth Army (Army Group Thirteen - Kerensky) 24 Divisions
Thirteenth Army (Army Group Thirteen - Kerensky) 24 Divisions
Fifteenth Army (Army Group Thirteen - Kerensky) 22 Divisions
Sixteenth Army (Army Group Thirteen - Kerensky) 20 Divisions + CCAF Auxiliaries
Eighteenth Army (Army Group Thirteen - Kerensky) 22 Divisions

Second Army (Federated Suns) 10 Divisions

Fifth Army (Capellan Confederation) 7 Divisions

Eighth Army (Free Worlds League) 22 Divisions

Ninth Army (Rim Worlds Republic) 22 Divisions

Eleventh Army (Lyran Commonwealth) 24 Divisions

Fourteenth Army (Draconis Combine) 18 Divisions

Further reorganisation became necessary following the sudden withdrawal of Amaris forces from the Combine border. In order to re-establish control of the region, General Baptiste was given command of the newly established Army Group Fourteen with whatever forces were nearest to her new area of operation.

At the same time, SLDF presence within the Free Worlds League, Capellan Confederation and Draconis Combine was finally abandoned since much of the SLDF's infrastructure in these states had been sold off and there was no longer a strategic value to the garrisons. Only the Federated Suns and Rim Worlds Republic were reliable sources of equipment and they, along with the supply lines across the Lyran Commonwealth, were soon the only SLDF presence outside of the Terran Hegemony.

Third Army (Army Group Eleven - DeChevilier) 17 Divisions
Fourth Army (Army Group Eleven - DeChevilier) 12 Divisions
Nineteenth Army (Army Group Eleven - DeChevilier) 18 Divisions

Eighth Army (Army Group Thirteen - Kerensky) 22 Divisions
Twelfth Army (Army Group Thirteen - Kerensky) 21 Divisions
Fifteenth Army (Army Group Thirteen - Kerensky) 18 Divisions
Sixteenth Army (Army Group Thirteen - Kerensky) 18 Divisions + CCAF Auxiliaries
Eighteenth Army (Army Group Thirteen - Kerensky) 21 Divisions

Sixth Army (Army Group Fourteen - Baptiste) 12 Divisions + 2 AFFS Divisions
Seventh Army (Army Group Fourteen - Baptiste) 12 Divisions
Thirteenth Army (Army Group Fourteen - Baptiste) 20 Divisions
Fourteenth Army (Army Group Fourteen - Baptiste) 18 Divisions

Second Army (Federated Suns) 10 Divisions

Ninth Army (Rim Worlds Republic) 22 Divisions

Eleventh Army (Lyran Commonwealth) 24 Divisions

The final reorganisation of the SLDF during the campaign took place in preparation for the liberation of Terra itself. This reorganisation provded drawn out but provided a total invasion force of 173 divisions divided between two Army Groups. The macabre reasoning was that if one command group was destroyed in the action that the other would be able to take on control of the entire invasion. A third, much smaller, Army Group would be responsible for garrisoning the liberated Hegemony and containing those worlds not yet freed from the control of Amaris' troops.

Soldiers, equipment and in particular officers - many of them rotated to rear areas to recover - were drawn from every possible reserve in order to provide for the supreme effort against Terra. Second Army was reduced to a shadow of itself with virtually no SLDF regulars, while both the Rim Worlds factories and the supply lines across the Commonwealth were only under the bare minimum protection that could be risked.

Third Army (Army Group Eleven - DeChevilier) 25 Divisions
Fourth Army (Army Group Eleven - DeChevilier) 20 Divisions
Sixth Army (Army Group Eleven - DeChevilier) 19 Divisions
Seventh Army (Army Group Eleven - DeChevilier) 22 Divisions

Eighth Army (Army Group Thirteen - Kerensky) 21 Divisions
Twelfth Army (Army Group Thirteen - Kerensky) 21 Divisions
Fifteenth Army (Army Group Thirteen - Kerensky) 19 Divisions
Sixteenth Army (Army Group Thirteen - Kerensky) 20 Divisions

Thirteenth Army (Army Group Fourteen - Baptiste) 20 Divisions
Eighteenth Army (Army Group Fourteen - Baptiste) 20 Divisions

Second Army (Federated Suns) 2 AFFS Divisions + 2 Volunteer Divisions

Eleventh Army (Rim Worlds / Lyran Commonwealth) 12 Divisions + CCAF Auxiliaries + 1 Volunteer Division
Title: Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
Post by: drakensis on 01 February 2018, 16:30:52
SLS McKenna’s Pride, New Dallas
Tyrfing Province, Terran Hegemony
24 June 2771

New Dallas should have had formidable defences, but the SLDF had found the SDS drones gone, the ground bases and Castles Brian smashed by orbital bombardment.

“They held out for weeks.” Kerensky wished that the dignities of his office would allow him to rest his face in his hands. “If their HPG had survived, they could have called on Eighth Army for help. Instead they were left alone and blockaded until Amaris could dispatch a fleet to crush their defences.”

Philip Drummond shook his head. “They were still holding out, General. The bases were destroyed, but you saw the welcome our troops had. Organised resistance never halted. These people kept the faith that you’d return and they were right.”

“Yes.” The general turned away from the view port. “Yes… they held on. As so many did not.”

“I know something about resisting Amaris when force of arms isn’t on your side,” the intelligence officer advised. “These people’s stories need to be heard. Everywhere that people are still clinging to the idea that the Usurper is the rightful Director-General, that he’s a reformer or the like – what happened here will show the Hegemony who he truly is.”

“I will take your advice.” Kerensky looked at his desk and then ran one hand back over his bare head. “Enough men and women are coming out of their ruined cities, out of hiding places in the mountains and forests, demanding to serve in fighting Amaris… Perhaps their words will even stir the Star League Council.”

“Let’s not let optimism get out of hand,” Drummond told him cynically.

“Perhaps you are right. You have heard that Robert Steiner has offered soldiers now?”

The Rim Worlder snorted. “With more or less strings attached than Liao’s offer?”

“More, although he offers more soldiers as well. Fifty regiments, almost a tenth of the LCAFs’ strength given the expanded size of their regiments. However, he offers them only to take over garrison roles on the Commonwealth and Republican worlds.”

“How typical. It’s easy for him to offer services for operations that offer little to no chance of ever facing Amaris forces. And if you station them on Republic worlds then you’re basically giving him permission to annex them.” Drummond gave the general a worried look. “Will you accept?”

“Either would give him the opportunity to strangle our supply lines, but at the same time, there are eight corps tied down defending those lines. I may need those forces if losses continue to climb.”

“Sir, the legitimacy of the provisional government is shaky enough as it is. If the Lyrans begin annexing worlds then the Republic could collapse into another civil war.”

“And I cannot afford that either. Hmm.” Kerensky sank into his chair. “So once again I must navigate between Scylla and Charybdis.”

“Pardon?”

“It’s a classical reference, Major. I will accept part of his offer then, handing over responsibilities for some sectors of the Commonwealth to the Archon’s regiments, but not our key supply lines. And since I am asking for fewer soldiers than he has offered, surely there can be no harm in requisitioning stores from his own bases in order to equip Lyran volunteers within the ranks of the SLDF.”

Drummond exhaled. “Thank you, sir.”

“Don’t thank me, young man. I can only compromise so far.” The old man – Kerensky was seventy and knew that he looked and felt half again the age – studied Drummond for a moment. “I have a new assignment for you.”

“Yes sir?”

“The prison camps. Our camps, you understand. Not Amaris’ concentration camps.”

The Rim Worlder nodded. Not every Rim regiment fought to the last. Some knew that they could expect no mercy from the vengeful SLDF or were too much under the thumb of political officers to offer surrender until the soldier’s blood was up and the opportunity was lost, but units caught out in the open sometimes ceased resistance before matters reached that point. Deaths among the commanders were common triggers – Drummond wouldn’t be surprised if some of those deaths hadn’t been at SLDF guns. Even the most reliable regiments had some soldiers who saw the writing on the wall.

Prisoner of war camps housed the captives and very few SLDF regiments enjoyed guarding them. Often the work was more about protecting the surrendering soldiers from impromptu revenge by armed civilians than it was about preventing escapes.

“Go through them, Drummond. Find officers and men willing to return to their homes and protect them. I won’t enrol such men in the SLDF but we can form…” He sighed. “Independent defence contractors are what the Federated Suns calls them. Regiments hired on for a specific mission.”

“Mercenaries.”

“Yes. We will send them home, pay them. Equip them, within reason. Not BattleMechs or heavy tanks but mechanised infantry and cavalry units. In return they must pledge to support Lucien Dormax and his government. Perhaps in time the seeds of an independent military force for the Republic.”

“Or the seeds of more conflict,” Drummond warned. “I’ll pick as carefully as I can, but a man who seems sincere here could find himself stirred to ambition once he’s on his homeworld with troops at his back.”

“As long as General Saayman is there, I believe such urges can be kept in check.”

The two men exchanged understanding looks. As long as Saayman and his twenty-two divisions are there… but if they need to be withdrawn…

.o0O0o.

Avalon City, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Suns
29 September 2771

“Small arms production is up,” Thomas Green-Davion reported. “Not just ammunition but military grade rifles as well. Are you sure you want to give the SLDF priority on laser weapons?”

John nodded confidently. “Our regular infantry regiments can call on the stockpiles built up over the last fifty odd years, the main demand we have for small arms at the moment is bringing the Planetary Guard regiments up to standard.”

“It’s always been traditional that those regiments are armed at the discretion of the planetary government,” warned Rita Hasek. The duchess of New Syrtis was making one of her regular visits to New Avalon. “A lot of them are going to complain that this is undermining local manufacturers and designers.”

“Unfortunately, that tradition has turned the logistics of supplying them into a snarl,” Green-Davion reminded her. “They’ll still have options, but by cutting it down to weapons firing specific ammunition we’re going to be in a much better place if we have to nationalise those troops or – even worse – call on them to reinforce a neighbouring world.”

“If they’re really worried about local firms, I believe the SLDF is currently offering to license the Mauser 960 to anyone who’ll contract to provide them,” John added drily. “It’s well within the rights of a planetary government to offer a grant or loan for re-tooling and if there’s any more lucrative option than selling the SLDF their standard infantry weapon then I don’t know what it is.”

Hasek chuckled. “And when – it’s such a relief not to be saying if – Kerensky finally has Amaris swinging from a gallows? Who’ll buy Mausers then?”

Hans Zibler raised his hand. “Four or five years from now we’ll have drawn quite heavily into our reserves,” he pointed out. “Unless there’s some sort of mass disarmament, I expect we’ll want a reserve of laser rifles and if it’s good enough for the SLDF’s infantry I have a hard job seeing it as being rejected by my department.”

“I’m not trying to stamp out local manufacture, Rita. But there’s never going to be a better time to get rid of some of the more... esoteric issue equipment that’s crept into inventories since Uncle Richard’s Preparedness Act. Militia armouries aren’t just for them to use. If necessary we might need to tap into their reserves to keep frontline forces in action. It’s all very well for an entire militia to be firing 12.7mm heavy sniper rifles, but if a jump infantry regiment needs 6.5mm rounds for their carbines then they’ll be out of luck trying to re-supply from that militia’s stockpiles. And I can just imagine how well carrying a long-barrelled sniper rifle would go with operating a jump pack.”

The duchess shrugged. “I’m just warning you that it won’t be popular.”

“Tell them they can sell off the excess of their more unique purchases,” Green-Davion pointed out. “There are more than enough security firms and noble retinues who’ve been complaining about the AFFS and SLDF buying everything their usual suppliers are building. Their logistics won’t be our problem.”

“I sincerely hope they don’t become our problem.” John thought about some of the ‘noble retinues’ that Hanse had described. The Stephensons of New Ivaarson had actually fielded two entire BattleMech regiments, or so the ghost prince had claimed. It sounded like a recipe for disaster to John. “Moving along… artillery?”

“Johnston has confirmed that they can give us priority on the Carronade,” Zibler told the group. “That’s their new self-propelled gun,” he added to Hasek.

“I’m familiar,” she told him. “Their heavier factories may be on Barstow and Kirklin but the Johnston’s home is on New Syrtis after all. I’m just surprised the SLDF doesn’t want them.”

John sighed. “Budget,” he explained. “Their artillery procurement is focusing on light artillery vehicles since that’s where they’re taking the steepest losses. The Carronade is a medium artillery piece, which they don’t need quite so much.”

“Well, why not build light artillery?”

“Because we need the medium artillery,” Zibler told her. “And we need it badly – practically our entire reserve is pre-Star League copies of Rivverson Technologies’ Ballistas and domestic production of spare parts ran into litigation something like a century and a half ago. Since then we’ve been eking out purchases from Rivverson, but since they’re based on Nanking in the Terran Hegemony…”

Hasek nodded. “So who does build light artillery?”

“Veridian Dynamics, at their Ozawa factory – which is back online at last – and starting next year they’ll be building the Vali and a variant that should compete with the Thumper or the Thor in a light tube artillery role on Torrence too.”

“Ah,” she said in satisfaction. Ozawa might be in the Hegemony but Torrence was deep inside the Crucis March – one of the founding worlds that had signed the original Crucis Pact. “And heavy artillery?”

“That’s not something we’re really looking at – at least in a self-propelled role,” John told her. “That’s where we get into fortress defence guns, really. The SLDF has their Long Tom mobile guns – and Amaris has them now I suppose – but they’re a bit too specialised for any sort of mobile warfare.”

“As long as the Crapellans and Draconians aren’t building them.”

Eric Pond shook his head. “Definitely not,” he assured her as John and Green-Davion exchanged looks at the crude ‘witticism’ the duchess had attempted.

“Where will we be assigning the Carronades?” asked Eis Moscoe. “The Davion Guards first?”

“Equal assignment between the Davion Guards and the Crucis Dragoons,” John decided. “The heavyweight ‘Mechs of the Dragoons should benefit from having a concentrated battery of medium artillery at their backs.”

“The Avalon Hussars usually receive second priority over the Guards,” noted Green-Davion. “As their Colonel-in-Chief…”

“Normally, yes. And they’re third for this – as well as having priority for any artillery being handed down by the Guards.” John waited for a nod before continuing. “Also, after discussing this with General Stopec, I’ve decided to raise a new Davion Guard regiment. Colonel Perez, until recently commander of the First Avalon Hussars, has been entrusted with selecting Mechwarriors from the Avalon Hussars, Robinson Chevaliers and the Syrtis Fusiliers to form the BattleMech regiment.”

“So that’s why he was recalled from the Hegemony!” Rita exclaimed. “I thought it seemed… odd.”

“The timing was a little unfortunate,” John conceded. “As we’re reorganising the Brigade of Guards into the new division structures, the time was right to form the Sixth Davion Guards. Along with the reorganisation, the brigade is being formally renamed the Davion Corps of Guards, with six reinforced divisions of four brigades each to accommodate the existing infantry, armour and other supporting arms.”

.o0O0o.

Hardship, Tyrfing
Tyrfing Province, Terran Hegemony
14 November 2771

General Watanabe had taken his words to heart, Kerensky thought. He’d hit the provincial capital hard, depending on orbital bombardment to neutralise the Castles Brian and other surface-to-orbit bases, then dropped his divisions as nearly on top of the Rim Worlds garrison as he could. Heavily entangled in the SLDF units, the Rim Worlds had been restrained – well, relatively restrained – in utilising WMDs against troop concentrations and been too focused on the fighting to make more than token efforts to destroy the civilian infrastructure.

That didn’t mean there had been no civilian casualties – the Rim Worlders had based themselves out of the major cities so that was where Watanabe had come down.

The military losses in the first week had been nightmarish, the civilian casualties unthinkable even four years before…

But when that week was over, Eighth Army had been able to focus on the remaining d