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Author Topic: Finished short story for future project - The Devil's Bargain  (Read 155 times)

Red Pins

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So, reading a lot of Cannonshop's Kowloon stuff led me to finish this early.  Since January, not much was done for it, and the old thread is kind of out of date because I enjoy editing more than writing.  It might need a epilogue, from the Clan POV, but I haven't finished editing and don't know the final size of the fiction I need, so I haven't written it yet.  If I need one, I kill off the former Khan, Angus, with a bullet to the back of the head so he isn't a potential intelligence leak.  He's dying from the radiation leaking from the Alamo, anyway, and the poor medical facilities can't help him any longer anyway.

  So, before I put it up, here's the intro I did for it last time;

Quote
So, working on a new project, and because the timeline didn't fill a full page, I needed something to fill it.  So I decided on a little sidebar fluff piece, something short, relevant, and to set the tone for the rest of the project.  So, the introductory piece will show the first diplomatic meeting between the representative of ComStar (billing themselves a religious order fleeing persecution!) and the 'representatives' of Clan Zombie Python of the New Clans.

Think psychotics in diplomat's clothing.  Spoiler, since its late and time for bed; The welcoming party is a former Khan and a bunch of Warriors dressed-up as farmers, and the airstrip is a trap with a nuke buried under it.  There are also remote-controlled A-P machine gun turrets and buried tank turrets with heavy mortars surrounding it, and cell-missile launchers (more homebrew tech) with a mix of Thunder mines, LRMs, and inferno SRM launchers if they decide to just wipe out the Interdictor and everybody aboard without releasing all that radiation into the atmosphere.

Comments and opinions welcome.

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Red Pins

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Re: Finished short story for future project - The Devil's Bargain
« Reply #1 on: 15 November 2020, 00:43:42 »
A DEVIL’S BARGAIN

(Sidebar A)

  The overcast sky hung low over the rural farmlands of Valhalla, with nothing but the echoing sound of DropShips in the distance to hint at the news that the New Clans had finally been discovered.

  “Do you think they suspect?”

  Angus didn’t take his eyes from the far end of the runway, watching though the overcast and light rain for the first glimpse of the new arrivals.  “No,” he said.

  “Good.”

  The silence stretched on, the rain beginning to clear somewhat as the landing lights on the massive runway suddenly came to life and the Doppler sound of engines began to fade in the distance.

  Reaching into his poncho, Angus was unsurprised when the small radio speaker forestalled his question with a status report.

  “Crater bombs are armed, mortars and turrets on standby.  Lawn darts incoming.”

  He grunted.  The DropShip in orbit operating as orbital traffic control had warned them the visitors appeared heavily armed, nor was it surprising they had the resources to provide an ASF escort into what may turn out to be hostile airspace.

  Clenching the squelch button twice, he turned back to the runway.

  The high-speed pass of an unrecognizable ASF at what must be maximum burn broke the monotonous cloud cover drawing the attention of both men for several seconds before disappearing once again.

  “Looks new.  White to black livery?  Isn’t that the religious nut jobs?”

  The low rumble of the sonic boom covered the sound of the rest of the welcoming party coming up behind him.

  “Medium to Heavy.  Interceptor, mostly lasers, centerline PPC by the look of it,” came the excited voice from behind him.

  A second ASF making a pass almost directly above them was gone in seconds, giving them a good glimpse of the glowing afterburners before seeming to turn off one side to throw off any ground fire.

  Angus scowled, making his own assessment.  “Veterans, probably Elite pilots.  Good equipment, well maintained.”

  The hammer of the sonic boom was far louder.  The tension seemed to rise slightly as the incoming DropShip finally descended under the cloud cover.  Somebody just had to give a low wolf whistle.

  Glistening white fading to dirty black.  Laser ports, barrels, and huge missile racks unmasked.  The pilot seemed uncharacteristically clumsy, giving a slight bob before correcting – but the bright flares of Jump Jets clearly marked the squad of Battlearmor dropping just short of the runway.

  Snatching at the radio again, he lifted the neck of the poncho slightly and turned to speak clearly into the handset.

  “Battlearmor on the apron.  Scratch and cover.”

  Dropping the handset, he turned to leave for the converted bunker on the side of the runway.  The Word had lived up to their reputation so far.  Time to prove the Pythons were worth of their own among the New Clans.

  The clicking of the radio was a welcome sound as the rest of the party began to follow.  The sharp cracks of the mortar’s A-P rounds drowned out the sound of smoke rounds concealing the scouts and denying them the chance to secure the airfield.

(Sidebar B)

  The howl and shake of re-entry into Valhalla’s atmosphere was a welcome break to the monotony of the trip, heralding a long-awaited return to the open sky and fresh air soldiers and spacers always looked forward to.  In contrast, the short flight to the landing field was simply more of the same.

  “Do you think they suspect?”

  Berith glanced at the ground commander of his security team at the console beside him and shook his head.  “Unlikely.  These are one of the poorest groups of these ‘New Clans’.  Barely any weapons and trained personnel to go around.”

  He shook his head again, turning back to the screens and controls in front of him.

  “This is diplomacy.  The only ones that are going to have any fun are the locals, getting to see what front-line equipment looks like.  I’ll be lucky if they serve anything recognizable at the banquet welcoming us to the planet,” he said in resigned amusement.

  “Blake Flight, peel off.”

  The calm order of the Captain of the Blake’s Rage brought a rustle as the rest of the greeting party that didn’t have the Blessing of Blake’s enhanced hearing brought headsets up to listen in.

  “ETA in five.  Apron Team, stand by.”

  These heretics couldn’t do more than make faces at the Rage, but the 49th Shadow Division had a reputation to uphold and the prospect of a change of scenery was good for morale.  Seeing the cascade of video begin as the Rusalka ASF make a recon pass he stared at the screen, not trying to catch all of it, but noting the above Mach-1 fighter added an extra bob-and-weave intended to throw off ground fire and visually scan for pursuit or targets of opportunity on the ground.  Seconds later his wingman uploaded the same stream of imagery with the same maneuver from a different angle.

  Sophisticated filters highlighted terrain features of interest, buildings, vehicles, suspected weapons emplacements, and...  Sheep? Caught off-guard and frightened by the sonic booms of the escort flight.

  “Commencing final approach, crew, strap in.”

  They were committed, now.  Clearly the bridge crew shared his assessment of the risks here, choosing to ignore any irregularities as the rising howl of the Rage‘s engines made clear their agreement.  Manipulating the keyboard set into the console he began idly searching the surrounding area.  The patched but well-maintained airstrip was only the first question.  Why here?  Where were the supports every well-designed facility needed?  Where were the bars, the hotels, the people?  Other than a group of twenty or thirty people and what looked to be a pre-cast bunker and control tower, there was nothing here.

  The small, tell-tale change in cabin pressure was as good as the sudden drop to alert the Servants of Blake around him – Holy Blake, let me serve you in battle, again! – that the first of the apron security teams had dropped, relying on the Battlearmor’s Jump Jets to get them to the ground safely.

  Another waste of time – but the personnel behind the frightening visage of the Battlearmor on perimeter watch would be glad of the opportunity to escape the confining DropShip, and the habits of survivors trained in a harsh school would help keep them alive in the next fight.  Selecting a view from the exterior cameras to observe the dropped security team, he noted the well-executed landing, rapid spread to avoid presenting an attractive artillery target – and sparks in mid-air above them.  The sight brought him instantly to attention and he reached for the headset racked neatly on one side, but the second of the three security teams were already jumping to starboard as the crew remained focused on their tasks.

  “Smoke, smoke, smoke!”  “Mortar fire from 216!’”

  The Rage had passed the half-way point on the runway seconds before they could respond, and the high-pitched roar of the engines never faltered.  Coincidence? Or Overconfidence?  Slipping the headset on, his world narrowed to the professional, clipped voices of the crew and security teams.

  “Casualties?”

  “None, smoke and Anti-Personnel.  Minor damage.”

  Berith leaned back, considering, as the Starboard Security team prepared themselves.  1.. 2.. 3.. 4.. 5.. 6.. 7.. 8.. 9..  He made it to 22 before the terse voices of the veteran BA troops began reporting the same attacks.

  “Abort the Port Security team, Captain.  Recall the security teams, leave a squad around the Rage on the tarmac,” he said thoughtfully.  “Where’s the greeting party?”

  “Moving into the bunker along the Port side of the runway, Precentor.”  He nodded.

  Running away?  He shook his head.  The fearsome reputation mentioned in the derelict’s database would never support such behavior.  Avoiding the possibility of friendly fire, rather.

  As the Rage rolled to a stop, he racked the headset again, watching the rear camera for the smoke to fade.  It didn’t.  Rather, the Djinn broke through the low-hanging smoke in mid-air to observe and report over the console speakers as they began to follow the DropShip to the end of the runway.

  “Rage, it’s a trap.  I see buried turrets coming up beside the runway - they look like buried tank turrets.”

  The remaining Djinn must have been in communication with their leader, as they undertook the same maneuver.  “Rage, there are some kind of pop-up missile turret further out past the turrets.”

  “Roger, Starboard, what type?”

  “Looks like a mix, SRM close up and centered around the AP turrets, LRMs further back with the heavy weapons..  No reloading method seen, I think these are single-shot.”

  Berith listened to the bridge crew for a moment, beginning the landing checklist to shut down the DropShip as bodyguards and diplomats began conferring.  Trap or not, without the assistance of a friendly ground crew, the Rage would find it difficult to maneuver on the narrow runway.

  He leaned back again to consider his options.  Staying put and waiting was cowardly – out.  Leaving without completing the mission – out.  The Rage was helpless, unable to even turn around on the narrow runway without help.

  Surrender – out.  The Pythons had clearly prepared for a massacre of whoever landed on this runway, but except for some livestock, the welcoming party entering the bunker and a few vehicles kilometers away nothing moved according to Blake Flight, now recalled to their carrier.

  Negotiate?  With who?  For what?  He mulled the possibilities over in his mind.  The decision had to be made promptly, or stalemate – in their favor – would ensue.  His decision made, he tilted the seat fully upright and came to his feet.

  “Negotiating team, prepare to disembark.”

(Sidebar C)

  Coming down the personnel deck of the DropShip on the near side of the runway to return the brisk salutes of the small security team a small party of diplomats, bodyguards, and advisors followed a tall man in what had to be a formal uniform, complete with robe.  Half-way across the apron a pair of the Blakist Battlearmor caught up and passed the greeting party, clearly moving to inspect the bunker.  The remainder of the apron security teams took their time, walking out of the smoke that was now dissipating to board the DropShip.

  Angus nodded to the man next to the wall screen.  The exterior cameras had caught their movement but there was no need to see more, and the screen blanked as the false wall began to come down, hiding the monitors and thick glassed window with the heavy-looking steel door beside it.

  At least the Blakists were prompt, Angus thought.  The passive hostility of Valhalla’s landing fields gave those uncertain of themselves enough time to realize just how much trouble they were in.  It said something about the man walking confidently towards the bunker to have responded so quickly.

  Men standing along the wall to watch the monitor began to move to collect some of the fragrant stew and stale bread from the small galley behind him to join their friends at the tables that filled the inside of the bunker.  Most of them were studiously paying strict attention to their meals when the first of the two Battlearmored troopers opened the heavy door to the bunker, scanning the room of scowling faces looking up from the tables before moving out of the doorway to allow the greeting party to enter.

  Keeping his gaze on the plate before him and taking another bite, he nonetheless noticed the sudden tension as the first of the robed figures entered the bunker.  The tableau stretched for another few seconds as the strangers entered the bunker, the heavy steel door closing with a heavy thud, before one of the robed figures ventured, “Mind if we warm ourselves up a bit before going back out again?”

  A rough chorus of grunts and murmured assent seemed to lessen the tension among the greeting party.

  “Quite the welcome you folk have.  I take it this is an ambush and your other assets are kept dispersed until you need them?”

  This time the low laughter was far more amused, as one of the older men guffawed before responding in a dry voice, “Welcome to Valhalla’s Merchant Field Alpha.  Do you have anything to declare?”  The diplomat essayed a weak laugh and grin – he could only have been such, Angus judged, noting the man’s lack of a sidearm.

  The overly friendly man essayed a weak laugh and grin, making himself the instant focus of the suddenly grim-faced men across the room.  The embarrassed flush on the diplomat’s face – he could only have been such, Angus judged – struck him as the most amusing incident so far.  Letting an amused snort escape him as he stood and turned to move the short distance along the rough interior wall before bending to reach past the worn floor boards to pull upwards on the hidden catch, he guided the wall upwards to reveal the security monitors still centered on the Battlearmored troops and waiting DropShip, and the heavily shielded room behind the wall’s sole window.

  Visible through the thick glass were blinking indicators and status lights on the equipment behind it, and a second, much heavier looking door to one side had the kind of mechanical lock you expected to find on an airlock made it clear access was not something to take lightly.  A fact reinforced by the small plate visible on the bottom of the window frame, with the caption, “ALM-001-SP  25 Megaton”.
...Visit the Legacy Cluster...
The New Clans:Volume One
Clan Devil Wasp * Clan Carnoraptor * Clan Frost Ape * Clan Surf Dragon * Clan Tundra Leopard
Now with MORE GROGNARD!  ...I think I'm done.  I've played long enough to earn a pension, fer cryin' out loud!  IlClan and out in <REDACTED>!
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Red Pins

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Re: Finished short story for future project - The Devil's Bargain
« Reply #2 on: 15 November 2020, 00:44:26 »
(Sidebar D)

  “You look surprised, Blakies.”

  The well-trained men around him maintained their polite, noncommittal expressions at the scruffy welcoming party, none of them moving their eyes from their individual fields of fire to focus on the speaker.  Suddenly, Berith had had enough of the games these Clansmen were clearly playing with them.

  “Why am I here, old man?” Berith asked evenly, diplomats and bodyguards alike moving aside as he walked past them to confront the old man directly.  Clearly, there was some kind of channel for news and intelligence they had been unaware of, but the obvious trap had been sprung, and their hosts clearly wanted something, rather than just killing them out of hand or playing for time.

  “Because you lost,” the old man spat back.  “You lost, and you don’t have the resources to try again.  And when nowhere else was safe, you ran away to hide, and found us.”

  The old man’s voice had become a snarl.  “And here you are, pretending the atrocities you committed haven’t damned you in the eyes of people everywhere.  How about you, Blakie?  Why are we here,” he asked, waving at the rest of the room beside him.

  Turning and reaching up to pull the wall back down on the silent rollers, the old man gave him a moment of peace to consider the situation, looking around the room at the faces of the men in front of him, some still intent on their meals, others clearly expecting an answer.

  Berith found himself on unfamiliar ground, trying to assess the situation, watching the old man as he finished lowering the false panel and moved back to his seat.  He didn’t have a ready answer for the blunt old man, but felt a surge of optimism.  None of the several traps they had seen so far had been lethal, just shocking in their uncaring, blatant revelation.

  The old man hunched over his bowl, spoon in hand, before setting it aside once again to answer his own question.

  “We lost, Blakie.”, he said gruffly in a low voice.  “One of our own allies turned on us, and gutted us.”

  Sitting back, he continued.

  “What do you want?”

  Berith looked at the old man for a moment, considering his answer, deciding to answer him as bluntly as he had asked.  “Allies.”

  “So do we, Blakie.  What are you offering?”

  Berith was no longer taken aback by the obvious bitterness and spite of the old man – clearly shared by the rest of the men in the bunker opposite him.  He might have felt the same way, if the events detailed in the derelict’s logs had befallen the rest of the Word.

  “Revenge.”

  “And a knife in the back?”, the old man snapped.

  Berith gritted his teeth as the last clue fell into place.

  “Food.  Medical equipment.  Educational supplies.  Teachers.  Whatever you need.”

  “Better,” said the old man approvingly.  “And when you have what you want?”

  Berith was silent for another few seconds.  This was the crux of the matter, he realized.  In order to infiltrate and suborn the New Clans, they needed to gain the trust of one of them.  These Pythons had obviously been faced with the same question – and the strong took advantage of the weak.

“We take most of what we want and return to the Inner Sphere.”

  “Really?”  The old man smiled.  “Your plan is to give us a better life, take what you want, and leave?”

  He picked up the top of the stale bun on his tray and dipped it into the stew in front of him.

  “Good luck.”


(Sidebar E)

  Angus was getting tired of dancing with the Blakie.  The fool obviously expected to walk in, convince a few rubes to do as they were told, press-gang the population to build their weapons for them and brainwash them to throw them at an enemy most of the population had escaped from to arrive in the Cluster as refugees – some of them running from the same unrest they had provoked.  It was absurd.  There were holes in the story he could fly a DropShip into - blind, one-handed, and tied up in his bunk.  It looked like the Blakies were finally getting the point, though.  Some of the ones in the back looked thoughtful.

  He let silence return to the bunker while they worked it out.  Finally, the diplomat broke the stillness as he walked up beside their spokesman.

  “You have something we want – we have something you want.  Can we make a deal?”

  Angus nodded guardedly.

  “We need information.  What we have was enough to locate you, not enough to understand you-“

  “-You need a place to infiltrate and suborn before spreading across the Cluster, pretending to be us.  You need to learn how to pass as us, what the situation is in the rest of the Cluster, and our population to lord it over and brainwash to support your fantasies whole-heartedly while your army rebuilds from its losses before you try to take over.

  “And you knew enough about us to decide this would be the perfect place to start given how easy it should be to take advantage of people tossed aside by what passes for the government in this Cluster.”  Angus replied in the same even tone.  “HUMINT isn’t cheap.  And you won’t find a sucker like that on this rock.”

  Silence fell again.  This time, the Blakie leader broke it.

  “Who are you?” He asked bluntly.  “And what do you want?”

“Who’s asking?”  Angus smirked as the men around him guffawed.  Raising his hands in the air he mimed air quotes as he continued.  “I’m ‘Star Captain ‘Black’ Angus, the Solhama officer in charge of Merchant Field Alpha, Valhalla.  Former Khan of Clan Python, representing the Clan Council.’”

  “And we won’t be opening the door to welcome you in.  You can build it next door.  We take your equipment and build our own, train our own – separate chains of command, and we aren’t going to be doing your bleeding.  You want the booty, fight for it yourself, whoever you are.”
  “Precentor Martial Berith, Word of Blake.”  Berith said quietly.  “And I’m here to negotiate an alliance between the Clan and Primus Steiner-Davion.”

  “You can’t,” said Angus levelly.  “There’s no ‘Clan’ here.  Your information’s nearly a two centuries out of date.  This will be a military alliance between the people of Valhalla and the Word of Blake.”

  “We can’t be expected to negotiate under these circumstances,” the diplomat broke in.  “It’s clear you have the advantage here – give us enough information to take back to our DropShip and we can talk this out tomorrow, without ordering a nuclear detonation or slaughter.”

  “Done,” Angus said with finality.

  One of the other men in the bunker stepped forward, carrying a small wallet-sized leather case he presented to the diplomat before retreating to his seat.

  “Go back to your DropShip,” said Angus.  “We aren’t allies yet.”

(Sidebar F)

  “Opinions?  Precentor Hansen?” asked Berith.

  It had been another long night, and the normally adequate supply of Terran coffee had shown signs of running short again this morning.  It had been a grueling series of negotiations, but the steady stream of complaints and demands had tapered off over the last two weeks, local time.  Accustomed as he was to field rations and the tight quarters, it had been aggravating to see the world outside the viewports being enjoyed by the locals between sessions hammering out the terms between the two groups.

  The Valkans had been adamant on several issues holding up the rest of the negotiations, mostly technology transfers and training, both military and civilian, although their insistence on building a totally independent and separate industrial base with a total ban on immigration to Valhalla had come closest to ending the negotiations early on.  Their paranoia led them to truly outrageous demands, including categorically refusing to allow any sort of intermingling of populations based on ‘the proven treachery of the Word of Blake’.

  Still, their information had provided a major shock; having read the unredacted journals of Jerome Blake, the mere rumors of a “PROJECT PROMETHEUS” had been enough to set ComStar on a massive hunt for the fabled technical database as part of Blake’s Operation SILVER SHIELD.  To find it, here...  It explained a great deal of the Cluster’s atypical technological progress.  The documented proof of its existence and jealously guarded access by Clan Wolverine had shocked and elated him.

  “Gamma will contribute little, at first,” said the older man.  “Actions mean far more to their culture than diplomatic relations, as one might expect.  Encounters and friendships with less indoctrinated personnel performing tasks related to the alliance might be expected to persuade them over time, although I give no assurances on how long that would take.”

  The uniformed man beside him in the uniform of the Militia nodded before speaking.

  “The predominance of military equipment adapted to civilian use means they have a military-industrial complex able to produce and repair basic armored vehicles, and the technical information they provided has several interesting applications to consider for our own equipment.  Naturally, we would need to confirm the existence of these facilities, but they seem unlikely to agree to that before the Primus agrees to their conditions.”

  “The lack of facilities mean we must begin anew.  While we can move equipment forward from Elba and supplement that with material supplied by the Valkans and the Civil Government, their economic situation means such purchases will be limited unless their general situation improves – the need to conceal our presence in the Cluster precludes any sudden advances.”

  The Militia officer shrugged.  “At any rate, their most valuable resource is the number of potential converts to our cause.  The facilities their allies in the Cluster’s Civil Government control makes up for them, but compared to the other Clans they’re penniless.

  “ROM has little to contribute at this point,” the indiscriminate man next to him said.  “They will not agree to even allow our personnel to step off the runway – without approval for steps that would likely kick off a massacre, we have no source of intelligence other than the negotiations themselves.”

  “Similarly, I expect that to change when conditions relax and the agreement is ratified by the Primus, we will be allowed to confirm their assurances and arrangements will be made to ensure their continued cooperation.  For now, they remain unconvinced of our intentions.”

  Berith nodded agreement.

  Leaning forward, the ROM agent continued.  “Their technical capabilities remain unconfirmed at this point, although the main focus of these negotiations seems to be economic rather than military at this point.  Which leads me to a final note.”

  “A significant minority of the Valkans we have met so far would be excellent candidates for ROM – providing them the resources and materials they require to be effective allies will be extremely dangerous.  In essence, we will be shaping them in our own image.  The Primus – and ROM – should be extremely uneasy at the current situation.  There will be no second chances if they decide our leadership has acted in bad faith.  They will know a great deal of our plans and future intentions, to say nothing of what they could learn of our military and industrial capabilities.  Should they decide to abandon our agreement, they could become a significant threat to the Word as a whole.”

  Warning delivered, the agent leaned backwards in his chair.

  “They’ll be excellent allies – but never forget they are behind you.”

  “I agree,” said Berith.  “Outside allies are always a risk – something that fool, Cameron St. Jamis, forgot.  Very well.  Our Blessed Order will enter into a military alliance with the Valkans and Civil Government, with the eventual goal subjugation of the Cluster.  All of it.”

  “Agreed,” said the agent.  “We will have plans ready to deal with their betrayal long before they realize the Sword of Blake is raised against them.”

  Berith nodded.  “When the time comes, there will be no mercy.  Blake’s Will be done.”
...Visit the Legacy Cluster...
The New Clans:Volume One
Clan Devil Wasp * Clan Carnoraptor * Clan Frost Ape * Clan Surf Dragon * Clan Tundra Leopard
Now with MORE GROGNARD!  ...I think I'm done.  I've played long enough to earn a pension, fer cryin' out loud!  IlClan and out in <REDACTED>!
Glitter - the herpes of the craft supply world.