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Author Topic: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little  (Read 5095 times)

nerd

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #60 on: 14 May 2022, 08:37:14 »
Do fictional lostech hunters wear fedoras and carry whips?
M. T. Thompson
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EAGLE 7

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #61 on: 14 May 2022, 10:36:16 »
;D

  Well Freddie might now believe C* is more enemy than neutral. Which may be knowledge almost as valuable as the cache.

  C* reads your mail and passes it to your enemy.

Thought, use LIC. to send an encrypted message and use it to pull enemy troops out of position.
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Sir Chaos

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #62 on: 14 May 2022, 11:20:35 »
  Well Freddie might now believe C* is more enemy than neutral. Which may be knowledge almost as valuable as the cache.

It´s also something Max could have told him years ago.
"Artillery adds dignity to what would otherwise be a vulgar brawl."
-Frederick the Great

"Ultima Ratio Regis" ("The Last Resort of the King")
- Inscription on cannon barrel, 18th century

cawest

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #63 on: 14 May 2022, 12:45:27 »
they are going to need a lot of cargo lifters and loading equipment as well as escorts.  Freds main line of defense is going to be....this is max.  they guy LIC would not let in the same room as you for the last couple of years.  if they would have let him in, maybe you would have believed him and maybe you just would have had him fitted with an "i love Me" jacket. 

now they have almost proof or proof enough for LIC to start looking at leaks coming out of ComStar. 

Daryk

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #64 on: 14 May 2022, 12:51:50 »
It´s also something Max could have told him years ago.
My point exactly...  ^-^

paulobrito

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #65 on: 14 May 2022, 12:55:26 »
Well, Freddy is a competent commander, has a gigaton of SLDF hardware with him, and is in a Castle Brian. I dare say that can wait for the rescue forces without risk of being defeated.

Sir Chaos

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #66 on: 14 May 2022, 13:16:33 »
My point exactly...  ^-^

Though re-reading the last scenes, I do not see where it says he used ComStar to send a message.

We know from "The Price of Glory" that ComStar was aware of the existence of the Helm cache, just apparently not its exact location. So they probably have staff there watching out for enterprising LosTech hunters in case they are on to something - or really for *anything* unusual. If tell your staff to watch out for LosTech hunters on Helm, *somebody* is going to get wind that ComStar thinks there is LosTech hidden on Helm - most likely ComStar staff on Helm have standing order to report basically anything unusual happening to their higher-ups on Terra.

And, while Frederick is probably too smart to use ComStar for a message about something he´s trying to keep secret from ComStar, he probably didn´t tell this Margrave fellow exactly what´s so ****** secret about the Helm Cache, so somebody on *that* end might inadvertently have leaked something in the process of gathering the relief force for Frederick.

And/or, since Frederick has already found two caches of Star League goodies, they have orders out to report on his and his unit´s every move, and somebody noticed that his dropships showed up empty in their next port of call after the Helm raid, and put 2 and 2 together.
"Artillery adds dignity to what would otherwise be a vulgar brawl."
-Frederick the Great

"Ultima Ratio Regis" ("The Last Resort of the King")
- Inscription on cannon barrel, 18th century

Daryk

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #67 on: 14 May 2022, 13:23:38 »
It's here in post #57:
*snip*
The rest of the unit had hunkered down in the Castle Brian, with months of food and other supplies. Margrave Stephen Neil should at a minimum send the jumpship back to recover them. Losing an entire regiment of the LCAF would be a bit much for him to have to explain when they were only supposed to be passing through his theater. More probably he’d send a larger convoy, with an escort. Frederick had requested the latter by HPG (the signal sent to ComStar from the jumpship, encoded in the latest and highest priority military cipher) and being the Archon’s cousin should carry some weight. He’d added the importance that any escort should be chosen for their loyalty to Katrina as much as anything.
*snip*

Sir Chaos

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #68 on: 14 May 2022, 13:58:35 »
It's here in post #57:

I think I need new glasses.

Yeah, that was kinda dumb. Hiding and pretending you´re not there, while simultaneously telling the people with the #1 reason for finding you that you´re actually still there.
"Artillery adds dignity to what would otherwise be a vulgar brawl."
-Frederick the Great

"Ultima Ratio Regis" ("The Last Resort of the King")
- Inscription on cannon barrel, 18th century

mikecj

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #69 on: 14 May 2022, 14:17:05 »
At least we didn't see a ComStar WarShip show up...

The 25th is in for a surprise once the 7th starts using the other exits to raid them.  And we won't see the Red Duke this time  ;)

And considering the reaction in Pardoe's "The Heart of Dixie" (BattleCorps 2007), seeing LosTech machines should be very disheartening to the Mariks.  P41- The Fusiliers of Oriente were about to wet themselves seeing an operational 'Black Knight' and a Hussar in 3025.



----

Not really connected to the story but I wonder if Keeler deactivated the nukes or Kerensky specifically removed them before the Exodus or during the Hegemony Campaign.  They never seem to come up in the stories and SI's.
There are no fish in my pond.
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drakensis

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #70 on: 14 May 2022, 14:23:24 »
Max did tell Frederick not to trust ComStar.

Max also didn't trust Frederick about Helm until now.

Frederick doesn't take everything Max tells him as being perfectly reliable, because Max has made no secret that he has his own agenda.

He also put rather more faith in LCAF's encryption than Max did.
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Daryk

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #71 on: 14 May 2022, 14:30:45 »
I suspect if LIC get their hands on Max, he won't be talking to Frederick anymore...  ^-^

Sir Chaos

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #72 on: 14 May 2022, 14:33:12 »
Max did tell Frederick not to trust ComStar.

Max also didn't trust Frederick about Helm until now.

Frederick doesn't take everything Max tells him as being perfectly reliable, because Max has made no secret that he has his own agenda.

He also put rather more faith in LCAF's encryption than Max did.

Plus, as I outlined above, they did not need to have cracked the encryption - just to observe easily observable facts and then put 2 and 2 together.
"Artillery adds dignity to what would otherwise be a vulgar brawl."
-Frederick the Great

"Ultima Ratio Regis" ("The Last Resort of the King")
- Inscription on cannon barrel, 18th century

drakensis

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #73 on: 15 May 2022, 06:13:34 »
Chapter 9

Nagayan Mountains, Helm
Stewart Commonality, Free Worlds League
22 March 3011

“It’s time.”

Frederick was not known for lengthy or complicated orders - much less for inspiring speeches. Everyone knew - or should know - what to do. Thus Max only heard two words from the colonel before the Seventh Lyran Regulars leapt into action.

Max was amongst them. Every ‘Mech was needed.

There were a dozen more ‘mechs alongside his Orion as he emerged from cover and opened fire on the Marik scout force, focusing his fire on a Rifleman in the colors of the Twenty-Fifth Marik Militia. The LRMs spiraled through the air and obliterated patches of armor, but the enemy mechwarrior managed to sidestep in time to avoid Max’s autocannon.

He wasn’t the only one firing at the Rifleman - it was a heavy ‘Mech with impressive firepower but lacking armor or mobility, a sensible priority among the enemy force. However, Max’s Orion drew its fire in return. As if realizing that the odds were against surviving long, the Marik Militia mechwarrior held nothing back.

Lasers and autocannon bit into the Orion, though its thick armor soaked up the impacts. Even so, he struggled to keep up, particularly as a pair of hovertanks supporting the Marik ‘Mechs opened up on him, salvos of SRMs tearing into the shins and thighs of the heavy ‘mech.

He wasn’t confident of hitting the Rifleman at this range with his shorter-range weapons, even if its own comparable weapons were scoring hits. Instead, Max shifted targets to the nearer hovertank - a Pegasus. The lasers scored two glowing lines across the sleek vehicle’s hull and it side-slipped, escaping his return salvo of SRMs.

However, in so doing, the crew had opened the range enough that Max managed to lock on and his LRM racks cycled, seven of the ten missile scoring hits that ripped holes in the skirts of the Pegasus. It lost height and speed, struggling to stay ahead.

Max centered his crosshairs on it, intending to finish the tank off with his autocannon. However, the Rifleman wasn’t done with him. More shots hammered into his ‘mech and Max’s fire went wild as he tried to compensate for the impacts.

There was no third salvo from the purple Rifleman. Frederick had finished off the Wolverine that was his own initial target and now he turned and caught the Marik heavy ‘mech from the flank, exactly far enough around it to pour autocannon shells and LRMs into the paper-thin real armor.

The autocannon ammunition inside the Rifleman detonated, ripping the core out of the reactor and gyro. An instant before the explosion, the cockpit blew open and rockets threw the mechwarrior inside up and into the air.

They should have survived, but pure bad luck put the deploying parachute into the path of a stream of tracers from a Marik Hermes II.

Max imagined he could hear a despairing scream from the Militia mechwarrior but he had no time to deal with it because the shells were aimed for his Orion and they tore into the knee, breaking through armor plating already damaged by the earlier missile and shredding the knee actuator.

That was beyond Max’s ability to overcome and the ‘Mech fell face first onto the ground. All he could do was throw out the arms of the heavy ‘Mech to absorb some of the impact. Even so, it was tooth-rattling.

He rolled the Orion, to protect its own rear armor, and fought the controls to make it stand once more. However, he failed to gain traction and all that he managed was to cause more damage to his armor as the Orion fell for the second time.

Another short salvo of autocannon hit home against the Orion, causing minor damage to one of the LRM launchers. Only an amber light on the diagram… but that might be enough to cause the weapon to fail.

Fortunately, the short battle was over by the time he managed to get the Orion’s feet under it. The Wolverine and the Rifleman were the only enemy ‘mech casualties, but a full lance of Scorpion light tanks and a pair of LRM carriers had been destroyed. About half the Marik Militia and their support had escaped - two Hermes II medium ‘mechs and the faster ground vehicles such as the two Pegasus.

“Who’s down?” demanded Frederick.

“Just Mustermann, and he’s up again,” one of the Lyran Regulars reported.

“Anyone else?”

With no one else speaking up, Max checked his Orion’s condition. Almost a third of its armor was compromised, mostly across the legs, but the arms and back were flagged, and the knee actuator’s condition would slow the ‘mech down more than he liked. “I’m about conditional seven,” he reported.

“I’d have said six,” Frederick grunted. “You were a comparatively easy target, almost all of them were firing at you.”

Max took a deep breath. “Aha, my lame duck technique saved you all,” he declared with patently false bravado.

“Some people will do anything to get drinks,” another mechwarrior joked, and the command company’s tension drained.

“Max is cheap to buy for,” declared Frederick dismissively. “Mission complete, we’re going back to the tunnels. Can you make it, Max?”

“I’m mobile,” he confirmed. “Just don’t expect me to sprint.”

The attack hadn’t been strictly necessary, but the relief force had arrived in system and would be landing in just over twenty-four hours. By what was probably bad luck, three search groups were combing parts of the Nagayan mountains so there was no possible way that they could miss the dropships landing even if somehow the FWLM aerospace elements proved blind and radar coverage failed.

As such, Frederick decided that there was no point maintaining secrecy. Attacking now would give the Home Guards and the Marik Militia a little more time to gather their forces, but also allowed the possibility of reducing their numbers before they could do so. And in addition, they weren’t striking anywhere particularly close to the main entrance or to the landing zone that had been communicated to the dropships. Hopefully, that would at least direct the enemy forces to focus on the wrong part of the mountains.

Hopefully.

“You were lucky,” Frederick observed privately to Max. “You need more practice.”

“Lots more.” Or not getting into fights, but in the 31st century that could be hard to assure.

“Still, for your first battle, it wasn’t too bad. It was sensible of you to protect your rear armor. A bit more damage and you might have had to punch out.”

“I got a good view of how that can go wrong.” Max shook his head, thinking back to the mechwarrior in the Rifleman. “I’d be happier if this thing had a full-head ejection system.”

“A what?”

“It’s exactly what it sounds like. Rather than just ejecting the mechwarrior, the entire head takes off - it means you’re still inside the armored canopy the whole time.”

Frederick sounded bemused. “That can’t be as easy as it sounds, but I wish I had one too. Is there any data on it in the data core we recovered? What ‘mechs used it?”

“It hasn’t been invented yet. I believe it was Doctor Banzai of Team Banzai that came up with it in the 3020s for the Hatchetman, and later some other designs.”

“Something that even the Star League didn’t have? That’s hard to believe.”

“They were only men and women,” Max told him. “If they were infallible, the Star League would not have fallen. There are plenty of technologies that didn’t exist back then which will be developed in future decades. This was one of the sooner ones.”

“Perhaps we can develop some others. It would be something no one would expect,” Frederick mused. “Not even ComStar.”

“Finally prepared to believe me?”

Max could almost see Frederick’s face twisted in irritation. “I’d like to think there must be some merit to the organization, since I apparently chose to serve in it. Even if the joining wasn’t entirely my own idea from what you said.”

“And you had been hit in the head,” Max agreed. “Shot, in fact.”

“I definitely want one of those full-head ejection systems. One head injury was enough.”

Nagayan Mountains, Helm
Stewart Commonality, Free Worlds League
23 March 3011

The sky above the Nagayan mountains was alight with moving stars as dropships dove through the upper atmosphere, surrounded by squadrons of aerospace fighters trying to protect or destroy them. Almost seventy of those fighters were marked in purple on the holotable Frederick was looking at, a modest numerical advantage over the blue icons - which made this the largest clash of aerospace fighters he'd ever seen.

Fortunately, the edge in numbers didn’t appear to be decisive. Flight-pairs danced and feinted towards each other’s dropships but none seemed to be getting close enough to threaten the intensely valuable core force.

Up above, a trio of dropships were in geostationary above the mountains. Max was frowning at the icons. “They’re not landing?” he asked.

Frederick shook his head, realizing the older man didn’t recognise the codes. “One of our Vengeance-class dropships,” he explained - indicating the largest of the trio. “It can’t land, and it needs an escort. That was a pair of much smaller Achilles-class dropships. Fast, fleet craft that were taking up three precious collars on the jumpships… but without them, the freighters and the ground forces likely wouldn’t have made it to the surface against the Marik fighters.

Max hissed. “Well, Katrina’s taking you seriously.”

Frederick nodded. Very few of the dedicated aerospace carriers had survived the Succession Wars. It was irreplaceable… at least, unless the Helm data core contained information on how to construct them. “We’d be utterly doomed if she hadn’t,” he admitted. “I’ve never seen this many fighters in the air at one time.”

“There’s not going to be as many if this keeps up,” the ground control officer of the Seventh Lyran Regulars muttered. “They’re getting desperate.”

A squadron of Cheetahs expended themselves (in the sense that the five survivors fled, with damage markers made it clear that continuing to fight would mean joining their comrade in being shot down) in the process of drawing a similar number of heavier and slower Lyran fighters out of the way so that a handful of Eagles and Stingrays could break through the perimeter.

Frederick felt his teeth grinding as he watched the aerospace fighters dive in. They wouldn’t make it back, that was assured, but thin-skinned and essentially unarmed freighters wouldn’t stand a -

Six new icons flashed into being amid the dropships where they’d apparently been lurking. They were a striking crimson on the display, subtly different from the scarlet of the Draconis Combine.

Four Shilones and a pair of Slayers, heavier than the Marik strike fighters, faced them head on and both sides opened up with everything they had.

“Kell Hounds!” Max exclaimed, connecting the dots.

Frederick nodded. For a moment it seemed that the twelve fighters would wipe each other in head-to-head collisions, none willing to break away and carry the brunt of the firepower of their enemies. But at the last moment the formations interpenetrated, and the combined air turbulence sent all twelve tumbling wildly, fighting to stabilize themselves and regroup before more fighters could arrive.

Only one Lyran fighter made it in time, a lone Lucifer that dropped in on the tail of a Stingray and stuck to it through wild evasive patterns. Then they were lost in the furball as Marik and Kell Hound fighters closed in.

Frederick took a deep breath and looked at the dropships. They were turning to bring their drives beneath them to cushion their landings. Trajectory predictions flashed across the display - his reinforcements would be coming down right outside the lower entrances to the caves, the Marik redeployment was split with their spheroid dropships converging out on the flats and a mix of aerodynes heading for Freeport where the old highways would probably provide a landing.

When he looked back, the six Kell Hounds were folding back into a defensive position, along with dozens of Lyran fighters. Their opponents were slipping away to cover the landings.

“We made it.”

Max nodded. “So far.”

“The aerowings from the Vengeance need to break off to regroup aboard her,” the air controller reported. “And we have seven ejected pilots.”

Frederick felt a chill. “Good job none of the Lucifers were lost,” he muttered. Then he saw Max reach into the holodisplay and indicate a glowing azure point that was the estimated landing point for one of the fallen pilots. “What?”

“It said LCF,” the secretary murmured. He glanced at their air-controller. “A Lucifer, ja?”

“Yes sir.”

“No, ******!” Frederick slammed his fist into the console. His knuckles split and bled. “Get me the name of that pilot!”

The air-controller was white-faced, he pressed one hand against his earpiece and muttered frantically into his microphone.

Forcing himself away, Frederick turned to Hickson. “Get the loading going. No change to the existing priorities. Every ‘Mech that can carry a load doing that, the rest out on the perimeter. We’re going to be seeing an attack across the flats.”

No cover for either side, but with the two battalions of the Kell Hounds added to what the Regulars could spare from the loading should be enough to keep the Mariks clear. Could. Should.

“Sir.” The air controller’s voice was admirably steady. “The Lucifer pilot w… she is Hauptmann-Kommandant Donna Steiner.”

For a moment Frederick wanted to scream out loud. He’d done everything he could to keep Donna away from Sevren, but now she’d been shot down here?! What good was Max’s help if he couldn’t even change that?!

Duty re-asserted itself, and some hope. At least she had an ejection seat ow. “What do we have for recovery?” he demanded.

“Three helicopters are heading out for the ones in the mountains,” the man informed him. “But the Hauptmann-Komamndant went down nearer to Freeport, inside their likely air defense perimeter. We’ll have to see what the scouts can manage.”

Staring at the holotable, he looked for any justification to taken ‘mechs out that way. But the simple fact was, between loading the dropships and keeping them safe from the Marik forces already on the flats… he didn’t have anything much to spare. A lot of his ‘techs were already in cockpits to help the loading but everything he could spare would be needed for skirmishing in the mountain passes.

Max slapped his shoulder. “Get out and defend the dropships,” he advised. “I’ll let everyone in the skirmish force know to keep an eye out for your sister while they slow the Mariks down.”

Frederick glared at him.

The older man gave a little shrug, the sort that meant he knew he was right. “My ‘mech’s on a flatbed waiting to be loaded. I’ve got literally nothing better to do than look for her for you.”

With a curt nod, the large blond turned away and headed for his Zeus. At least Donna had ejected. There was a good chance she was alive… and she could be ransomed.

Then he thought about the self-destruct mechanisms, which Sheppard was still convinced could be triggered by someone breaching the main doors of the Castle Brian, and a chill went down his spine.

Nagayan Mountains, Helm
Stewart Commonality, Free Worlds League
24 March 3011

“My dear family, I am doing something damned stupid,” Max acknowledged out loud as he drove up the Vermilion River valley. “All I can say is, it’s in a good cause.” Now all he needed was a family to tell that to.

The boxy Packrat scout-car he was driving was very much like that he’d learned to drive in - the eight rugged tires making easy progress over the rough terrain. It was disquietingly silent though, perhaps why he was talking to himself. Unlike those already in use by the Seventh Lyran Regulars, this one had been cached away here in Helm and used by the techs to check that they could get the reactors of the stored equipment active. Given the Packrat’s reactor had the same rating as that of a Stinger or a Wasp, it wasn’t surprising that the Regulars’ Packrats had long since had their reactors replaced by louder, larger and less efficient diesel engines.

The lack of engine noise was a real bonus for a scout vehicle though, and Max checked the map on his dashboard. It wasn’t all that great, but he’d applied a marker to indicate the best guess of where Donna Steiner might have landed. If he had the landmarks right, then he should be near that marker. And maybe even near Frederick’s sister.

If he didn’t then he might be a long way from the dropships when the time came for them to take off.

“If I get left behind, Frederick will kill me,” Max continued. “And if I get spotted by the Mariks, they’ll kill me. But if Frederick’s sister goes missing, he might do something really stupid.” The Packrat bumped over a ditch and he gripped the steering wheel. “I hate this century.”

Reaching a side-valley that had perhaps once contained a minor tributary of the no longer mighty Vermilion, Max slowed to a halt and then checked his map again. Probably this was right. So… According to one of the consoles, the prevailing wind was… up into the valley? Maybe.

The balding man had only learned to drive in a Packrat, the sensor systems were still somewhat outside of his understanding. Still, parachutes were blown by the wind he figured she might have wound up further that way than initially estimated.

Checking the clock, he decided that he would check all the way up this side-valley and then he’d better make his way back down towards the cache again. He didn’t fancy being anywhere in this part of Helm if someone did trigger the self-destruct. The Packrat was a pretty sturdy piece of equipment, but it probably wasn’t tough enough to survive that.

Opening the driver’s window, he put the scout-car back into gear and it rolled obediently into the valley. Max could hear the wheels on the ground now that the window was open, but hopefully that wouldn’t prevent him from hearing someone calling out for him. Donna Steiner, for example.

He’d never met the woman, but she was already complicating his life. This is why relationships were hard!

It was, oddly enough, a fairly nice morning. Max could have seen the mountains being a decent tourist destination for tours if there was any sort of local population. Then again, the area had been irradiated for a couple of generations - nothing like as badly as New Dallas, but enough that the people of Helm had gotten into the habit of avoiding this half of the planet. Vegetation had recovered a little but there wasn’t enough water for the agriculture that had once been the major industry of Helm to recover.

And without a much larger number of jumpships, bulk shipping of things like food was also unlikely to be economically viable, he thought.

At the end of the valley, he’d still seen no sign of Donna. Hopefully someone else had found her - he knew there were six or seven small units out here, looking for signs of the advance of the Marik forces that had landed in Freeport. On the lengthy list of things that Frederick didn’t want, it was the unit on the flat acting as an anvil, holding the Seventh Lyran Regulars in place while the second force came around like a hammer.

Turning the wheel, Max drove the Packrat through a half-loop and aimed the nose back down the valley. He was about to open up the throttle - the scout-car was supposedly good for upwards of a hundred and ten kilometers an hour - when something banged off the roof.

“What was that?” he asked, as if anyone was likely to answer, and hit the brakes. Whatever it was skittered audibly off the flat roof and fell to the ground. A stone, about the size of a small plate.

“...the hell?” he wondered, and looked out the window into…

The muzzle of the pistol facing him was only about ten millimeters wide but it looked chasm-like when it was within inches of his face. He could see the rifling inside.

“Hands on your head,” the gray-eyed blonde holding it demanded. “Get out of the car.”

Max swallowed. “I can’t do both,” he pointed out. “I need at least one hand to open the door.” The lines of the face were familiar, he realized.

“Fine. One hand only. Try anything funny and I’ll ventilate your skull.”

“Are you Donna Steiner?” he asked, slowly lowering one hand towards the door hatch.

“No questions,” she barked, holding the pistol steady with both hands.

Max gently pushed the driver’s door open. “I’d really rather not be left on the side of the road,” he observed. “Can I give you a ride? I’d say anywhere but I’d really suggest to your brother…” He was speaking faster and faster, almost babbling.

“I said no questions.” But she frowned. “Wait, you know my brother.”

“If you’re Duchess Steiner, I work for him.”

Now, at last, the muzzle lowered slightly, and the woman looked at him. “Wait, you look like…” she stepped back slightly, raising the gun. “If you really work for him, why weren’t you at the Triad with him last time we met?”

“I don’t have the security clearance. LIC think there’s an outside chance I’m an ISF plant.”

“Oh god, you are him.” Donna lowered the gun. “What are you doing driving around with your window open?”

“I was listening for any sign of you.”

“You almost got shot!”

“Ja, that would have been a bit embarrassing.” He’d also come closer than he liked to wetting himself. Max pushed the door the rest of the way open. “Look, can you get in? We’re kind of on the clock.”

Donna gave him an old-fashioned look. “I’m not climbing over you, even if you are dicking my brother.”

“Are you aware,” Max asked her heavily as he climbed down and gestured for her to climb past him and into the passenger seat - probably intended to be for a commander - next to the driver. “Of the ancient wisdom of not sticking your dick into crazy?”

“I don’t have one of those, but I’m acquainted with the principle.”

“Your brother is crazy.” He raised his chin slightly. “And I have standards.”

She laughed and climbed past him. Now that he wasn’t focused heavily on the gun, he saw she was wearing a flight suit and had a small survival pack on her back. She peeled the straps off that as she scrambled past the driver’s seat and opened it to fit the gun inside.

Hopping back into the driver’s seat, Max closed the door - and the window - before strapping in, but with that done he opened the throttle.

“So when you said on the clock…?” she asked.

“If the Mariks try to breach the entrance to the cache we found, it’s probably still wired to do something unpleasant to everything within miles.”

“Miles? What did you do, find a strategic stockpile of nukes?”

“Yes,” he admitted. “Although I don’t believe that would be the problem in this case.”

“Aha, Frederick is making a habit of this. I figured when he sent word he needed freighters on Helm that he’d found the legendary SLDF storehouses. He’s got a nose like a bloodhound for that sort of thing these days.” Out of the corner of his eyes, he saw her looking at him thoughtfully. “No, that’s wrong. You’re the one with the nose.”

“Ja,” Max admitted. “Although not the nose exactly.”

“No wonder he’s so fond of you.”

“I would prefer to think it’s my no-nonsense personality.”

Donna smirked. “Yes, that would also appeal. Poor Frederick. I really wish Alessandro hadn’t put the thought of being Archon into his head. He’d be eaten alive.”

Max considered calling in that he’d picked up Donna, but he wasn’t entirely sure he could get a tight-beam signal going up to the dropships in orbit. A wide beam transmission would be too risky. “Did you ever consider making a claim to it?”

She laughed. “No, not I. I’m a damn fine pilot, but I don’t have the sort of military mind that he has. Or Nondi or Katrina. But it also takes more than just that.”

He nodded and then realized he was being a fool again. “Can you get a tight-beam radio link up with the dropships? Frederick’s just about killing himself with worry over you.”

“Brothers,” she said in disgust and started working on the radio.

Max kept the Packrat rolling. They weren’t far from the end of the valley, and he didn’t want to risk wrecking the twenty ton vehicle. Granted, it would probably take a lot more to manage that than the civilian cars he’d had accidents with back in… when… before…

His mind was still stumbling over that familiar discontinuity when he saw the glint of metal up ahead and glanced at the sensors. Then he turned the Packrat sharply and pulled behind one of the boulders that had probably been dislodged two hundred odd years ago when the nukes hit Freeport. It was big enough that even something the size of the armored fighting vehicle could hide.

“What the hell?” Donna demanded. “Aren’t we in a hurry?”

“Not that much of a hurry,” Max told her. He pointed at the sensors. “What does that look like to you?”

She reached over and flipped through three screens in rapid succession. “Lots of metal, heavy seismics… look at that IR bloom,” she muttered. “If I was in the air I’d be thinking of a strafing run.”

“Looks like we found the Marik’s advance,” he agreed. “Or part of it.” And they’re between us and our exit, he didn’t add. No need to be obvious. “How about the radio?”

“Just about done,” Donna assured him. She went back to it, a little more urgently this time and he watched the corner of the rocks, wondering if a ‘Mech might come along and take a look at the rock - or at least pick up the metal behind it. Then again, twenty tons was considerably less noticeable than several hundreds.

Connecting a headset to the radio, Donna pressed the push-to-talk switch. “Skana, this is Tybalt-Actual. I am Oscar-India-Zulu. I repeat, Oscar-India-Zulu. Over.”

Max raised an eyebrow.

Donna rolled her eyes. “Standard code for ‘recovered by friendly forces but not out of danger’. Don’t you know this?”

“I’m not a soldier,” he defended himself. “I just get dragged into danger by your brother every now and then.” Twice, so far, unless you counted politics.

“Tybalt-Actual,” the loudspeaker crackled out. “This is Skana. Good to hear, do you require assistance? Over.”

“Confirmed, we have hostile forces approximately eight hundred meters south of our position. Estimating one ‘mech battalion with support. Over.”

There was a pause. “Tybalt-Actual, can you disengage? Over.”

Donna glanced at Max who tapped the map and indicated the route back to the entrance of the cache. He hadn’t marked that, just for security. “Skana, if they keep this route, they’ll be between us and our exit path. Over.”

“Understood, Tybalt-Actual. Sit tight and we’ll give them something else to think about. Over and out.”

Max looked at the map and checked the scale. “I hope they don’t duck in here for cover.”

“There’s not much cover from aerospace fighters,” Donna told him. “And if so, they’ll have other things on their minds.”

They sat, watching the sensors. Time seemed to stretch out interminably. Max forced himself to let go of the wheel and folded his arms.

“What’s keeping the -” Donna began… and then a thunderous noise washed over them.

“Tybalt-Actual,” the radio crackled. “Use the smoke.”

The voice was familiar to both of them and Max grinned. “How do you feel about that over-protectiveness now?” he asked, backing the Packrat up before taking it around the boulder.

Frederick’s sister grabbed the straps holding her in her seat. “What the hell is he doing?”

Max steered out into the valley, seeing the marks of artillery fire. More shells were falling but rather than high explosive, they were spraying smoke across the valley’s confines. “Seventh Lyran Regulars’ artillery battalion has over thirty guns,” he told her. “At a rough guess, Frederick’s using all of them to give them something else to worry about.”

Gray and red ‘mechs were scattering, several of them damaged and a column of tanks was trying to back into the valley that the two of them had just entered. The tiny Packrat was lost in the confusion and the boiling clouds of smoke. Shells hit the ground like firecrackers and Max almost had a heart-attack when one landed next to them but it was literally like a firework - sound and fury, no damage. He jammed the throttle wide open. Most ‘Mechs couldn’t move as fast as a Packrat, and he’d just have to take the chance of being spotted by one of the exceptions.

Also, the chance of hitting something.

Donna whooped as the Packrat went over a low rise and went airborne for half a second.

Freaking adrenaline junkie, Max thought. But then they were past the leading edge of the ‘mechs - Home Guards from the colors - and racing down the valley to get to the next turn.

His shoulders itched with anticipation of autocannon fire, LRMs or worse a PPC slamming into them. It was almost an anti-climax when they rounded the corner without any shots fired in their direction.

Max kept the throttle open though. The entrance wasn’t that far ahead. The Home Guards might be close enough to try forcing it within an hour if they knew where to go - and even if they didn’t, they were too close for comfort. He couldn’t risk going for it now, so that meant trying to make it down to the flats and the waiting dropships through the mountains.

“Tell Frederick we’re running very low on time,” he urged.

Donna reached for the push-to-talk and then paused. “Don’t tell him, but right now his overprotective streak feels pretty damn good.” Then she pushed the button. “Tiger-Actual, this is Tybalt-Actual. Your boyfriend says we’re running low on time, over.”

“He’s not my boyfriend, Tybalt-Actual,” Frederick growled.

“You knew who I meant though!” she shot back instantly.
"It's national writing month, not national writing week and a half you jerk" - Consequences, 9th November 2018

Daryk

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #74 on: 15 May 2022, 07:33:57 »
I like Donna even more now!  ;D

marauder648

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #75 on: 15 May 2022, 11:52:30 »
Excellent stuff :D
Ghost Bears: Cute and cuddly. Until you remember its a BLOODY BEAR!

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Cannonshop

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #76 on: 15 May 2022, 12:19:37 »
 :)

Donna Steiner is awesome.
"If ye love wealth better than liberty,
the tranquility of servitude
better than the animating contest of freedom,
go home from us in peace.
We ask not your counsels or your arms.
Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you.
May your chains set lightly upon you,
and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen."-Samuel Adams

Daryk

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #77 on: 15 May 2022, 12:43:01 »
It's official!  Donna Steiner has a fan club!  :D

paulobrito

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #78 on: 15 May 2022, 12:51:59 »
Yep, and the member numbers are growing fast.

cawest

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #79 on: 15 May 2022, 12:55:28 »
well she is down a the Lucifer but maybe the can find a Rapier in the cache

Grognard

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #80 on: 15 May 2022, 19:02:48 »
Great story!  looking forward to more of this Goodness.   :thumbsup:

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

mikecj

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #81 on: 15 May 2022, 21:56:22 »
“Miles? What did you do, find a strategic stockpile of nukes?”

“Yes,” he admitted. “Although I don’t believe that would be the problem in this case.”


Nicely done.  Addressed and cleanly dismissed.
There are no fish in my pond.
"First, one brief announcement. I just want to mention, for those who have asked, that absolutely nothing what so ever happened today in sector 83x9x12. I repeat, nothing happened. Please remain calm." Susan Ivanova
"Solve a man's problems with violence, help him for a day. Teach a man to solve his problems with violence, help him for a lifetime." - Belkar Bitterleaf
Romo Lampkin could have gotten Stefan Amaris off with a warning.

Daryk

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #82 on: 16 May 2022, 01:34:45 »
By the by, Skana needs to be smacked upside the head.  It's either "over" OR "out".  You never say both.  ::)

drakensis

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #83 on: 16 May 2022, 05:03:08 »
Chapter 10

Nagayan Mountains, Helm
Stewart Commonality, Free Worlds League
24 March 3011

Those members of Frederick’s command company not helping with the loading of the newly arrived dropships were carrying out the almost-as-important task of keeping unpleasant strangers from bothering him. Given that he’d expended all his LRMs and autocannon ammunition already, that was rather necessary. For that matter, the armor of his Zeus bore the marks of long-range fire exchanged with the Twenty-Fifth Marik Militia.

The Twenty-Fifth didn’t feel like the same unit he’d faced on New Dallas. They’d been raw then - brave, but poorly led and lacking the coordination of mechwarriors who’d trained as a unit. Just as the Seven Lyran Regulars had been polished up into a far more capable unit over that time, the Militia had obviously worked hard as well.

Breaking off ‘mechs to help load the dropships had been the right decision, he thought again. But it’s costing us.

The ranks of the Seventh Lyran Regulars were ragged, lances understrength and sometimes missing officers from their chain of command. It gave them the feel of having fought a hard campaign already, comrades missing and units consolidated temporarily with the teamwork not quite where it needed to be. In a handful of places, they were stiffened by reactivated SLDF ‘Mechs but most of those were being loaded or used by techs to help loading everything that wasn’t palleted conveniently for forklifts - they were too valuable to risk for the most part. The exceptions he’d authorized were a dozen durable assault ‘Mechs with standard armor plating, those likely to survive in repairable condition.

The reduced numbers and cohesion would have been a critical failure, if it wasn’t for the Kell Hounds. The red-and-black ‘mechs moved as a smooth unit even with their short career so far. The Kells’ ability to turn their recruits into a formed unit so quickly underlined how much of a loss they were to the LCAF.

“They’re where I need them right now,” Frederick muttered to himself. Some Kell Hound ‘mechs helped move supplies from the flatbed trucks into dropships, but the rest of their number fought like demons and there was no disorder to indicate that they were operating as fragments of their usual ordering.

The next flatbed to be unloaded was the one carrying Max’s damaged Orion. Comparatively small crates of spare parts were stacked around it and ‘Mechs scurried to shift them away before the crane of the Overlord lifted the Orion itself off the truck.

It wasn’t the only damaged ‘mech - at least a company’s worth of the Lyran Regulars had their ‘Mechs moved back aboard, too damaged to continue fighting or simply loaded first while their owners used SLDF ‘Mechs that boasted hands to work on the loading. Objectively the modern ‘Mechs were worth less than the SLDF equivalents, but Frederick couldn’t just hand those over so the mechwarriors would have been less than motivated if their ‘mechs - often passed down through the generations - were left behind. But Max’s Orion had been the last of the ‘mechs to be loaded. The older man had agreed it could be left behind in favor of more valuable prizes. It was a humbling degree of trust.

“Sir, Snord’s trying to reach you,” warned one of the dropship comm officers helping him to coordinate the defense.

Snord’s company was a small addition to the fighting strength on the planet, but they were also doing most of the skirmishing to keep the other Marik regiment away. “Patch him through.”

“General Steiner, is that you?” the mercenary demanded. At least he’d kept his word about not calling him Freddie.

“It’s me,” Frederick confirmed. “I’m guessing this isn’t good news.”

“It’s not. The Home Guard finally got fed up and used their LAMs.”

He snarled at the reminder. The Home Guard’s position well behind the border had let them maintain a sizable number of Land-Air ‘Mechs - rare creations of the Star League that could transform between ‘mech and aerospace fighter. Earlier they had played a part in the battle for the skies, and he’d hoped that the enemy commander would be hesitant to risk them again. After all, the only factory that could still build them was hundreds of light years away, deep in the interior of the Draconis Combine.

“I take it that you can’t stall them long,” Frederick concluded.

“Hardly at all.” The fact seemed to gripe Snord. “We have drawn them off to an extent, but we can only go so far from our dropship or we will be marooned here. And Janos Marik would not have a warm welcome for me.”

“Rather too warm I think.” The Captain-General had a price on Snord’s head, after the way the merc had left his employ on Rochelle. Frederick wanted to shake his head, but the heavy neurohelmet made that uncomfortable. “Time and distance, everything comes down to that. Alright, can you buy me one more hour?”

The mercenary didn’t hesitate. “Give me first call on your artillery and I can. After that though, we will need to take to our dropship.”

“Agreed. Once you’ve done that, take off as fast as you can.”

“Oh?” Snord laughed. “It will be unhealthy then?”

“Very much so,” Frederick agreed and cut him off without further courtesy. Time was too expensive. Switching channels, he contacted Sheppard. “Warrant officer, make these loads your last.”

“Sir, the dropships aren’t much more than half-loaded.”

“Better half a load than none, Sheppard. Evacuate the facility. Don’t leave anyone behind.”

“That bad?”

He looked at the map where the purple of the Marik Militia was encroaching slowly upon the blue defensive perimeter. If it was just them, he could have held the landing zone all through the night. But not with the Home Guard moving around into his rear. “We can’t take it all anyway.”

“Sir, can I at least move the core? We can’t leave it for the Mariks!”

“We won’t. But are you sure you can remove it without triggering anything?”

The warrant officer hesitated. “Maybe fifty-fifty.”

“That doesn’t cut it,” he snapped. A mistake could destroy their dropships on the ground. “Don’t even try to touch it. We’re leaving with what we can take in this load.”

“Yes, sir,” she agreed reluctantly.

Frederick switched channels and warned his battalion commanders of the change of plans. An organized retreat was always the most difficult thing - as soon as it was noticed, the Mariks would start pressuring harder.

And where was Max? There wasn’t much time left for him to return with Donna.

As if on cue, Patrick Kell cut into the tactical conversation. “Tiger-Actual, do you know anything about a Packrat trying to sneak into our perimeter from the mountains?”

Frederick felt something unclench inside him. “It should be Typhoon-Actual rejoining us. Hold one, while I authenticate.”

Adjusting his radio, he transmitted on the frequency used before by Donna to report Max had found her. “Typhoon-Actual, this is Tiger-Actual. Respond.”

Donna’s voice, recognisable through static, “This is Typhoon-Actual. I’m a little short of air support for you, right at the moment.”

Frederick almost choked and then rasped out: “Yeah, you crashed the fighter I bought you and Max lost the knee of his Orion. I think you’re a bad influence on each other.”

Max cut in. “We’re in sight of the dropships. If I don’t wreck this heap, we’ll be there in thirty minutes.”

“I’ll get you some cover,” Frederick promised. “I want you aboard a dropship as fast as possible.” He said no more. Max would probably guess why. “Tiger-Actual, out.”

Nagayan Mountains, Helm
Stewart Commonality, Free Worlds League
24 March 3011

“Arcanist-Actual, please respond.”

Colonel Azi Ochambo would have paused his Hermes II behind cover if he could but out on the flats there was essentially no cover unless you made it. All he could do was pull back behind his command lance. “This is Arcanist-Actual. What do you have for me?”

He could see the enemy dropships in the distance. It wasn’t quite possible to identify them at this distance, but Ochambo knew for sure that one of the larger ones was the Retribution - the Excalibur-class dropship that had once been flagship of his own Twenty-Fifth Marik Militia.

Frederick Steiner had taken that dropship, along with a pair of Unions, during the skirmish on New Dallas that had opened up the route for Ochambo to rise to Colonel. Whatever lostech might be aboard it at the moment, Ochambo knew his regiment wanted the dropship itself more. Regaining it would recover their honor in ways that the strike at Wyatt had failed to.

Admittedly, killing or capturing Cranston Snord would also win Ochambo the favor of the Captain-General, but he had to be realistic. The man was on the far side of the battlefield and unlikely to come close to him. If Major General Lao Jarreau-Stewart’s Home Guard could bring the mercenary down, so much the better. Perhaps it was the general calling to boast of that now. It would be typical.

“Sir, General Steiner has opened communications and requests to speak to you. By name.”

Ochambo threw his Hermes II into a sudden reversal, something that threw his lance-mates off-stride but kept him from overbalancing after the way he twitched. His negotiations with Fredrick Steiner had not been a high-point in his career. Nothing left in the New Dallas cache had been worth the loss of equipment suffered - even discounting the dropships. Steiner had taken whatever there was of value and for the most part he'd left behind dross such as thousands of tons of obsolete armor plating.

If it wasn’t for the success on Wyatt, Ochambo knew that he’d still be a Major and someone else would have been promoted over him.

Bargaining with a Lyran was always a mistake! But he could hardly refuse to talk to the enemy commander. After all, he might be offering to surrender. Unlikely, but there was no reasonable way to find out without talking to him. Even if it was not, declining such a message was tantamount to shooting arrows at a medieval herald.

“Put him through,” Ochambo ordered, voice harsher than it usually was. As new background noises became audible, he continued: “General Steiner. You have my attention.”

“No doubt.” The Lyran’s voice had the usual clipped, germanic accent to his English. “I am offering you a warning. My forces will soon take off and we will leave nothing behind us except a wave of destruction. If you don’t wish to be lost in it, I suggest you pull off the flats.”

Ochambo’s eyes widened. He couldn’t be serious… if Steiner was about to take off then he’d have to pull his forces back. Pressure now was the best chance to get close and bring the dropships under fire. Then his eyes narrowed. Was this a bluff? “Why would you warn me?”

“Given the chance to destroy two of Marik’s regiments? By military logic I shouldn’t,” admitted Steiner. “And perhaps if I was fighting the DCMS, I’d consider it a job well done to see two regiments eradicated. But you were an honorable foe on New Dallas. And your raid on Wyatt was careful of our civilians’ wellbeing. At the end of the day, mass destruction is something to be handled with due respect.”

“Mass…” The colonel’s blood chilled. “...destruction?”

That was not a term to be used lightly, not among soldiers. Not after entire worlds had burned in the early Succession Wars. Like New Dallas. Like Helm.

Steiner’s voice was solemn. “You heard me.”

“You’re that intent on denying us the contents of the cache?” Ochambo demanded. If Steiner had emptied it entirely then there would be literally no reason to use nuclear weapons or whatever he had in mind. The message SAFE had decoded had suggested that the SLDF supplies there were enormous, enough to supply most of a military district for a year even if it was only comparable to modern equipment. If it was more sophisticated then the price was incalculable.

“Yes.”

That word alone.

“We made a deal on New Dallas. I may have gotten the worst of that bargain,” he offered, mind racing. “But rather than lose the salvage, we avoided conflict. Can we not find common ground once more?”

Steiner sighed audibly. “Honestly, I would be tempted. However, you misunderstand the contents of the cache. Beside the more conventional military equipment which I am taking, the Nagayan mountains contains a massive SLDF stockpile of nuclear weapons. Vastly more of them than were used by the Kuritas to devastate this world. I cannot in good conscience let anyone possess that arsenal.”

Ochambo froze. That many nuclear weapons?! “You’re going to set them off? Are you insane?”

“We’re a nice long way from the remaining population centers,” the Lyran told him. “The water courses down into the Equatorial Sea shouldn’t hurt anyone either if they’re contaminated - that area’s as deserted as Freeport. And with a mountain collapsed on them, I’m confident those warheads won’t be usable.”

He expects the entire mountain to be destroyed? Twenty years of military discipline was all that kept him from gibbering. He couldn’t even calculate how wide the collateral damage might be. Somewhat akin to a volcanic eruption?

“Steiner, there has to be another way.”

“You have somewhat less than an hour,” the other man told him. “I believe you can get back to your dropships - perhaps even to call them in to make a fast pick-up for your forces. This isn’t a negotiation, colonel. It is a warning, one I feel is morally obligated. If you choose not to heed it, then that is your problem.” There was a click.

“Steiner… Steiner? Steiner!” Ochambo shouted into the microphone.

“Sir, he cut his transmission.”

“Blake’s beard.” The colonel wished he could rub his eyes. Unfortunately, his neurohelmet made that impossible.

The comms officer had clearly been listening in. “What do we do?”

He might be bluffing, Ochambo thought. He might be. But can I risk that? He swallowed. “Send word to every one of our dropships to warm up their drives and give me an estimate for when they can take off.” A deep breath and then he signaled his battalion commanders. “All units. Regroup, and await orders.”

“Sir, their lines are wavering.” Andrew Merrick still had the second battalion. “I think if we push hard…”

“They’re preparing to take off,” he told them.

“We should push them!”

“I told you to await orders,” snarled Ochambo.

He’d liked his career and it had just gotten back on track. Five or ten years from now, it could have been General Ochambo - purple braid on his shoulders. Whether Steiner was lying or not, that wouldn’t happen now.

“Comms,” he forced himself to speak with some semblance of calm. “Put me through to Jarreau-Stewart.”

A few seconds later and the unfortunately familiar drawl was in his ears. “This is Major General Jarreau-Stewart. We’re almost in their rear Ochambo, so let’s make this quick. I don’t want them getting away.”

Idiot. Did he think Frederick ‘the Hammer’ Steiner was just going to wait in place? And ‘Major General’ wasn’t even a real rank in the FWLM. Jarreau-Stewart just got away with it because the Stewart Dragoons were a provincial brigade, and he was a distant cousin of Earl Stewart.

“General, we have received a message from General Steiner, advising that he will be taking off shortly. His current movements support this.”

“Then push him, man! Do I have to tell you everything? And call in our aerospace - I’ll have my LAMs pincer their dropships from below while our fighters hit him from above.”

Ochambo was fairly sure that wasn’t how a pilot would put it, but whatever. The aerowing would likely nod, smile and translate into something in line with their capabilities. He was fairly sure even LAM’s weren’t just ‘Mechs capable of moving in three dimensions.

“The enemy general has also warned that he intends to employ means of mass destruction to ensure we recover nothing from the cache.”

“He’d never dare!” Jarreau-Stewart exclaimed. “If he did, the Captain-General would authorize retaliation on a Lyran world.”

“That wouldn’t be much comfort to our troops,” Ochambo pointed out. “I’ve dealt with General Steiner before, and he’s…”

“He’s a Leutnant-General, not a real general.”

It takes one to know one, Ochambo thought. “He’ll favor the letter of an agreement over its spirit,” he said out loud. “But he’s not called ‘the Hammer’ because he’s prone to misdirection or deception.”

“Why would he even have brought a nuke?”

“He wouldn’t have to. Kurita came here looking for a SLDF supply base and back then, Helm was what was left of a naval base. They likely had nuclear warheads in stock for use by warships.” He didn’t bother explaining what Steiner had said about a ‘vast arsenal’. “Not that it matters. If we back off - at least on the ground - and there isn’t a nuke then we can still take the base after he’s gone. Even if we push for the dropships now, he’s judged the time well - we can’t really get our ‘mechs close to them for long enough to do serious damage.” That was a lie, but one that would be hard to prove wrong. They were near enough he could taste it!

“Then push them harder, he’s got to thin his defenses if he’s loading his troops!”

He’s not listening, Ochambo thought in despair. “No sir.”

“What.” Jarreau-Stewart seemed confused, “What do you mean, ‘no’?”

“I have accepted this warning as genuine. I am withdrawing my forces until I am reasonably sure we aren’t going to be in the area of effect of several nuclear weapons.”

“Like hell you will! I am ordering you to press the attack, or you will be court-martialed for cowardice in the face of the enemy!”

Ochambo could almost see the provincial officer’s face swelling up with outrage. He snorted. “I may well be, but better that than for recklessly killing my men.”

“You will -!”

“You are not in my chain of command,” Ochambo cut the major general off, his voice low, clear and threatening. “I am required to coordinate with you, and I have done so. If you choose to ignore that and lose your cousin half or more of his favorite regiment, then I won’t be the only one facing a court-martial.”

Then he cut that channel and started ordering the Twenty-Fifth Marik Militia towards rallying points where their Unions could hop in and collect them. He tried very hard to avoid using the words ‘run’ and ‘away’. At least the mechanized infantry and light armor he’d had dug in around the dropships had already begun loading - they actually took longer per unit since ‘Mech bays were set up to lock a ‘Mech in place within seconds of the ‘Mech entering them.

Nagayan Mountains, Helm
Stewart Commonality, Free Worlds League
24 March 3011

Frederick wasn’t quite the last man to board a dropship - that would have been reckless in the extreme - but his command company was the last of the heavy ‘mechs to do so. The Retribution’s hatches closed up as he marched his Zeus into its bay and mechanical arms reached out to pin the eighty-tons into place.

On his tactical display, the last light perimeter guards were rushing up the ramps of their dropships. Up in the air, the aerospace fighters docked on the Vengeance were diving into the atmosphere to provide cover.

Also in the air was Snord’s dropship. The mercenary had elected to get the Union-class ship up into the sky without waiting for anyone else, which meant he was getting quite a bit of attention from some of the Home Guard’s Land-Air ‘Mechs. Presumably he found that risk less threatening than the potential end of the Castle Brian. He might be right.

A rumbling under Frederick told him that the Retribution’s engines were igniting and only a few moments later the massive spacecraft lifted, the force pushing Frederick down into his seat. There was nothing he could do to control things now. As galling as it was, the large, lumbering, thin-skinned and lightly armed dropship was now entirely responsible for his wellbeing. Everything he could do had already been put into place.

Forcing his hand to move, he typed a sequence of instructions and his Zeus linked up with the dropship’s external cameras. It was a functionality every ‘mech had in theory but as a senior officer he had the authority to actually use it whereas anyone else would have needed specific consent from the crew.

It took him a few tries to find the camera he wanted, glancing back and forth between that display and the tactical one.

Marik dropships were moving as well. Some had taken small hops and were finishing up their own loading, but most were arcing up and away from his own formation. Ochambo had taken the warning seriously, which was…

Well, on one level destroying the Twenty-Fifth Marik Militia would have been satisfying, Frederick admitted to himself. They’d raided Wyatt and caused considerable damage to Bowie Industries. But at the same time, for them to be gutted by an event like this would have also had repercussions. There would undoubtedly be voices in the Free Worlds League’s parliament calling for retaliation. It was a thin reed to lean on, but the fact he’d warned them to get clear might count for something in averting massive loss of life on a Lyran world.

Even so, some of them were cutting it fine.

All the Lyran dropships were up now, and their aerospace cover was pulling out of their dives, squadrons moving to cover against any attack.

For a moment he thought the LAMs and the more conventional fighter wings wearing the Marik eagle on their wings would close in and try to bring down his dropships, but their numbers making an approach remained low - he wondered why and then realized that almost twenty of the Marik fighters were holding back, distinct pairs forming a perimeter around the dropships of the Twenty-Fifth and their accompanying units.

The rest, out-numbered, didn’t press the attacks. Divided command perhaps? It was a not uncommon problem for the Free Worlds League.

The screen looking down on the mountains below still showed no change, so he looked at Freeport for the other Marik dropships. Presumably their commander would want his own aircover when they started taking off.

A ping drew his attention to a timer. Old-fashioned, but simple.

Down below, he knew that the main computer system of the Castle Brian would be getting a very simple instruction. One that it had been waiting for over two hundred years.

There was still no immediate movement. Not at the mountain. Nor, he noted, in Freeport. Weren’t those dropships going to take off? There was nothing he could do.

Slowly he took a deep breath, forced calm. God, give me the tools to do what I can and forbearance to accept what I cannot.

And then, below, the mountains began to shift.

Originally, he knew from Max, the water would have begun to geyser out of Freeport. But it didn’t have to. And if they were triggering the destruction intentionally, then he had some way of controlling how.

Centuries before, a fault beneath the Yehudan Sea had opened under the bombardment of the area, draining incredible quantities of water down below the Nagayan mountains - and more and more water had seeped into it over the years since, the fault ensuring that the dead flats remained exactly that.

At some point the water would have reached a natural limit, but so far that hadn’t happened. It was possible though, through the use - to be honest the misuse - of Star League technology, to impose an unnatural limit.

The principal fusion reactor of the Castle Brian had already tapped into the original subterranean water for its cooling. That system now had access to a much larger amount of water and while hot water was being vented back into the faultline, it would quickly dissipate that temperature into the cold water there.

But the change of a few valves had altered that, and the reactor was running up to maximum power, using that to generate even more heat, venting the boiling water and steam directly into the Castle Brian at a rate that was downright unbelievable.

Billions of gallons of water were erupting into the interior of the military base, and there was vastly more water in the fault than even that vast complex could accommodate.

The air inside compacted, the steam condensed, and still more and more water rushed in.

Something had to give.

The SLDF had built the complex to impressive standards. The pressure inside the Castle Brian was high enough that military hardware was already functionally destroyed - the tens of thousands of nuclear warheads were now utterly ruined.

And what gave, in the end, wasn’t the doors. Faults in the mountainsides themselves began to rupture and water sprayed out at speeds that would have torn a ‘mech apart.

Jets of water hundreds of meters long, slicing through anything in their path.

Chunks of the mountainside the size of dropships were blasted ahead of the water, disintegrating into small sections that would have still destroyed the Lyran flotilla if they hadn’t taken off.

And then, as Frederick watched the face of the mountains bulge, the charges left behind by the long dead SLDF engineers to deal with any interlopers who merely blasted their way in went off.

Every major structural member holding the caverns up ruptured as one.

Billions of tons of rock sank visibly and the water, still coming in faster than it was escaping, was compressed further.

Frederick’s face went white as a section of the mountains kilometers across was almost completely vaporized, erupting in a cloud of water, steam and liquifying stone that hit the Dead Flats and spreading out almost faster than he could follow it. He’d promised a wave of destruction and now a literal tidal wave was flooding across what had once been a seabed.

The last dropships of the Marik Militia were taking off - no fools, they had taken the rumbling as the final warning. A few ‘Mechs disappeared beneath them, but no more than a handful were left to their now inevitable demise. The white clouds engulfed the ovoid hulls for a moment but then the fusion torches blew back the water, raising more steam, and the trio of dropships emerged once more, hurtling themselves away from the apocalyptic violence.

The Vermilion River tried to drain some of the flow of water away, but while this sapped away some of the force of this sudden tidal wave, it was a tiny fraction of the whole and the torrent flowing back into the long dead river engulfed elements of the Home Guard and their support trying to use the riverbed as a road.

The wave of water that hit Freeport was over forty meters tall.

Frederick watched a Leopard trying to take off, accelerating down the improvised runway to build enough speed. The water caught its rear, hammered down on one stubby wing and sent nineteen hundred tons of dropship tumbling. The fuel store ruptured – hydrogen mixing with the air outside - and the heat of the dropship’s thrusters did the rest: the aft half of the Leopard exploded, adding to the destruction.

Other dropships were driven sideways into buildings. One Condor was tossed upside down. Entire buildings collapsed, their concrete and mortar driven as the leading edge of the continuing devastation.

As destructive as the nuclear bombing had been all those years ago, Freeport had still recognizably been a city in its form.

But when the tide’s fury was finally spent, all but the most inland suburbs of it had been razed to the ground. Only the hulks of shattered dropships remained as markers.

“Jesus wept,” Frederick whispered.

Steam clouds were forming and as the dropships ascended, he lost sight of the surface. But he would not forget. No, he would never forget this. Nor would anyone else.

“Sir?”

“Yes?”

The comms officer hesitated. “Message from the enemy commander.”

“Ochambo? Tell me?”

“He says… he says he’d have rather it was just nukes.”

Slumping back in his seat, Frederick finally wrestled his neurohelmet off. “The man’s a moron,” he muttered. “Then again, he got most of his troops out. More than the other commander down there thought to do for his unit.” The LAMs might have made it out, but that was a mixed brigade of the Stewart Dragoons that would be good for nothing for years to come.
"It's national writing month, not national writing week and a half you jerk" - Consequences, 9th November 2018

Motsognir

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #84 on: 16 May 2022, 05:45:32 »
Thank you for another excellent story drakensis. Great work. I am really looking forward to seeing how this all plays out and what changes await in the future.

paulobrito

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #85 on: 16 May 2022, 05:54:44 »
Now, we want a list of what is recovered - pretty please.

mikecj

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #86 on: 16 May 2022, 08:21:16 »
Very nice take on the destruction!
There are no fish in my pond.
"First, one brief announcement. I just want to mention, for those who have asked, that absolutely nothing what so ever happened today in sector 83x9x12. I repeat, nothing happened. Please remain calm." Susan Ivanova
"Solve a man's problems with violence, help him for a day. Teach a man to solve his problems with violence, help him for a lifetime." - Belkar Bitterleaf
Romo Lampkin could have gotten Stefan Amaris off with a warning.

ThePW

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #87 on: 16 May 2022, 08:36:26 »
one thing is for certain, one butterfly drowned, literally... The Helm core. IS. NO. MORE (unless some aspect was copied). This story does NOT end well for the Inner Sphere, when the Clans come knocking...

 :popcorn:

drakensis

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #88 on: 16 May 2022, 08:41:43 »
Multiple copies of the Helm core were extracted both with the initial dropships and then with the relief force.
"It's national writing month, not national writing week and a half you jerk" - Consequences, 9th November 2018

Starfox5

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #89 on: 16 May 2022, 14:24:42 »
Multiple copies of the Helm core were extracted both with the initial dropships and then with the relief force.

And that was clearly stated in the chapter before this. I don't know why so many, here and on SB, missed that.